Tested > 2009 Porsche Boxster

Review: Amee Reehal

2009 Porsche Boxster: Rise up—Powder to the People! Opting for a 2009 Porsche Boxster as the vehicle of choice for a weekend trip to Banff, Alberta, amidst the worst snow storm to hit Calgary in nearly a year, may seem like a really bad idea. Perhaps even outrageous or ridiculous, particularly when your buddies are all sporting SUVs and 4x4s. But for this giddy journalist, it was all smiles.

The fact is Porsche products, including the entry-level’09 Boxster starting at $58,400, are very capable, safe winter machines. They’re engineered to be driven, not sleep in the garage. It’s like placing a gifted child in special ed. class. You just don’t do it, and unfortunately, most Porsche owners do exactly that, depriving their vehicles of its full potential.

Fortunately, Porsche Canada is working hard to encourage owners to leave the insurance running year round, invest in performance winter tires, and take full advantage of their products’ true capabilities, no matter the weather. As Joe Lawrence, President and CEO of Porsche Canada, puts it, “There is no rule against driving a Porsche in the winter! To the contrary, a Porsche performs strongly and safely whatever the season… While visiting Porsche dealers around Canada, I was amazed to hear how many owners put their Porsches away for the winter.”

Granted, the Boxster’s rear-wheel-drive may add skepticism, but when equipped with the right tires, this mid-engine car handles astonishingly well with amazing traction control coupled with the added benefit of the 7-gear PDK transmission’s quick shifts lending more or less torque and control as needed (and for those who are still on the fence, Porsche now offers 13 all-wheel-drive models in the 911, Cayenne, and Panamera ranges). Winter driving is empowering and adds a new level to the Porsche experience, not to mention a few extra months of driving! Check out the Winter Sports microsite at www.porsche.ca.

The 2009 Boxster’s 2.9-litre, 6-cylinder engine produces 255-hp and 214 lb/ft of torque. Paired to a standard 6-speed manual transmission with dual mass flywheel. The new double clutch 7-speed PDK version, as tested, is a $4660 option. Last years Boxster saw a 245-hp engine with a 5-speed standard tranny, so these upgrades are a welcome addition. Again, the mid-engine design equates to a well balance ride (not to mention 2 trunks, including a spacious one in the rear).

Exterior styling is notably different than the previous year (and looks notably sexier and sleeker than the 2008 model), with perhaps the LED front/rear headlamps the most obvious. The front and rear fascias are also redesigned lending a more refined look. The new headlights are available with the optional BiXenon Headlight with Dynamic Corning Package for $2130, as on this tester.

Though the top was never dropped, it was surprisingly unnoticed when cruising at highway speeds en route to Banff—virtuously no noise, no vibrations or impact on handling, or other annoyances that may come with softtop roadsters; feeling more like a hardtop Cayman, for all intents and purposes (and that’s a pretty big deal for those discouraged by a convertible and the impact it may have on drivability).

Standard wheels include 17” alloy wheels with 205/55ZR17 tires up front and 235/50ZR17 in the back. This tested model came with a very worthy $1690 upgraded 18” Cayman II wheel package, wrapped in Michelin Alpine Pilot PA2 winter rubber (priced separately). The interior is comfortable, remarkably spacious, and screams nothing that says ‘entry-level.’ As always, centre console/multimedia is laid out perfectly in a tight, limited area. Some of the buttons have been reworked from last year and for the better.

Overall, the extra 10-hp, standard 6-speed, and updated exterior styling cues are a few things that set the 2009 Boxster apart from the previous year, raising the Boxster’s‘ base model’ stock considerably, and in all the right places. You may not realize this now, but the 2009 Porsche Boxster is a perfect year-round sports car—drop the top in the summer, and shred the roads in the winter. Just winterize it, slap on the right tires and you’re good to go!

The Boxster is available in 3 trims: Boxster, Boxster -S, and now the all-new 2011 Boxster Spyder which recently debuted at the L.A. Auto Show and hitting Canadian dealers in February 2010 for $72,900.

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder: * Lightest Porsche in the lineup at just 1,275 kg * 10 more horsepower than Boxster S; sportier suspension setup * Manual two-piece top and stripped-out interior with sport bucket seats and fabric door pulls * 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds with PDK and Sport Chrono

Boxster Spyder photos:

Photos: Porsche

Event > Ford Fiesta Launch

Ford is reintroducing the Fiesta. That's right, that unassuming, boxy little car from the early Eighties. Except now, it's sleeker, more refined, and sports some Euro flair, hitting North American markets mid-2010.

I had a chance to attend the media launch in Vancouver last week and take the Fiesta for a rip. Its a small car with big promise, and will give subcompact car segment a run for its money.

For more info, click here.

Old School Fiesta, gotta love it! ...

Pirelli Photography Award ’09

...fortunate to win another award this year. above all, it's cool to get recognized by the judges who are acclaimed photographers, like Derek Shapton, who's work i totally admire ( http://www.derekshapton.com/ ) also, props to Greg Williams for winning the Julie Wilkinson Motorsport Journalism Award presented by Bridgestone/Firestone. (Greg and I contribute features to Inside Motorcycles magazine; his words, my shots).


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON - October 28, 2009

The Pirelli Photography Awards are presented to AJAC members each year honouring the best in automobile photographs in two categories: Published and Un-published

Photography is part of the Pirelli culture. The company has created one of the world’s most well known photographic traditions – the Pirelli Calendar.  The calendar was launched in 1963 from Pirelli’s London office as a gift for privileged customers, its concept a take-off on the pin-up popular with automobile manufacturers. But the subtlety of its images and the quality of its photographers made the calendar a coveted collector’s item.

Each year the large field of entries is judged by three of Canada’s leading photographers. The judges for the award are celebrated photographers Alana Riley of Montréal, Michael Van Leur and Derek Shapton of Toronto, all highly regarded professionals and award winners in their field.  It’s worth noting that the judging is done with the photographer’s name hidden.

Anthony Paulozza, Marketing Director of Pirelli Tire Inc presented this year’s awards in the Published category to Bradley Horn and a new AJAC Member submitting for the first time, Philippe Champoux. The 2009 winner in the Published category is Mark Toljagic, first-time winner of the Pirelli Award.

In the Un-Published Photography category, Amee Reehal, the double first place winner last year, and first time winner Graeme Fletcher are the runners up. The winner in this category is Bradley Horn.

The judges commented on the quality of all the entries with considerable praise for the six winners.

For their excellent photos, each category winner received a set of Pirelli Tires presented to them by Marco Zambianchi, President of Pirelli Tire Inc.

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For more information contact: Anthony Paulozza, anthony.paulozza@pirelli.com  or John Morris, John@marcovitchpr.ca

Lexus HS250h Launch

Last month, we covered the launch for the new 2010 Lexus HS250h, also shooting several of these unreleased hybrid sedans for Lexus' PR initiatives; 4 cars in 3 days, including sourcing locations, editing onsite, and turning the work around almost instantly. The press images ran in several papers across Canada, including this cover in the National Post:

photo: taken in Gimli, just outside Winnipeg.

Couple reviews on this car:  review and review

(Huge thx to my man Allan Chan in Winnipeg who helped us source locations and steered us in the right direction)

Few more pics...

Tested > “Spring” – 2009 Porsche CayenneGTS

2009 Porsche Cayenne GTS

Story & Snaps: Amee Reehal

Kicking ass. This is precisely what the Cayenne SUV has been doing since its introduction back in 2002. Despite the naysayers (and there were plenty) who questioned Porsche’s (very late) foray into the SUV segment, the Cayenne has become a flagship vehicle for the Stuttgart automaker. Hey, that’s impressive. Adding depth to their ass-whooping, Porsche introduced a few variations of the best-selling vehicle, including the entry-level Cayenne (and Cayenne Tiptronic), Cayenne-S, CayenneGTS (and GTS Tiptronic), and the unrivaled, otherworldly Cayenne Turbo-S (replacing the CayenneTurbo last year). But for now, we’re only concerned with the slick 2009 Cayenne GTS Tiptronic, and if you’re in the market, perhaps you should be too because pound-for-pound, in terms of pure performance, price-point, and enhanced styling, the GTS is arguably the best Cayenne available…with or without the Nordic Gold (orange) Metallic paint.

Propelling this 5000-lb plus rocket is a 4.8 liter V8, putting down a respectable 405-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque—well ahead of the sub-300-hp entry-level Cayenne, yet worlds apart from the 550-hp Cayenne Turbo-S older sibling. But in terms of refined, naturally-aspirated power, the GTS version is a true showcase of Porsche engineering. Slide into the cabin, turn the ignition, and enjoy the raw growl of the V8. It with certainly set the tone, literally, for the ride ahead. While the majority of GTS’ rolling off the plant floor come with an automatic transmission, a 6-speed manual is now available at no cost. Think about it, a stick shift luxury SUV? That’s pretty damn cool, and rare. Our auto tranny GTS tester came equipped with the 6-speed Tiptronic-S. Paying the premium for the Tiptronic version (opposed to non-Tiptronic automatic) will definitely be a personal choice—some may love it, some may find it more of a novelty. For all the driving enthusiasts, just get the stick shift.

Alright, let’s get the paint colour issue out of the way. Our press CayenneGTS arrived with the $4280 optional Nordic Gold Metallic paint, a.k.a. Orange. Whether cruising down The Red Mile in Calgary, pulling into the grocery store lot, or rolling up to the golf course, this GTS garnered a lot of attention. And the love-hate reaction was almost always the same: ‘love the colour man!’ or ‘are you gay?’ (mind you, the writers dead-on matching golf bag didn’t really help). Fortunately for the haters, others colours are available. Trivial issues aside, the CayenneGTS exterior styling is simply gorgeous. It exudes luxury, sophistication, and an extra dose of sports appeal, including an aerodynamic body kit with a pair of huge dual tailpipes that look as loud as they sound. And that’s a good thing.

Huge 21” light alloy wheels are standard, wrapped in 295/35 rubber. 13.8” vented rotors with 6 piston calipers occupy the front, with 13” vented rotors with 4 piston calipers in the rear. All mated to a permanent all-wheel drive system. The GTS also sees a 3-mode shock system (Comfort, Normal, Sport) adjusting the damper settings for various driving styles, but Sport mode is the only one that matters folks, because it literally drops the ride, tightens the suspension, and opens up the dual-exhaust pipes producing serious noise. Of course, the GTS sees a plethora of other technologies including Porsche Traction Management (PTM) and Porsche Stability Management (PSM), to name a couple.

The cabin is roomy, comfortable, and very black (black leather interior is an extra $4440). Overall, a great balance of sporty styling and luxury. The 12-way power adjustable leather front seats are snug and well-bolstered, while the 3-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel is fairly big yet feels good in the hands. Forking out the extra $2310 for the Bose Surround Sound System and another $4500 for the Porsche Multimedia System with navigation are wise choices. Some may find the centre console clean and uncluttered, while others may feel unimpressed, expecting more gadgets and stuff. But one thing is evident: the touch screen is nestled fairly low in the console (perhaps move the vents and raise the screen higher?).

Despite the dismal economic environment, Porsche is holding it’s own in Canada. Recent figures show an overall dip in Porsche sales this past year. Yet the company’s flagship 911 and Cayenne models continue to do well, carrying most of the weight. In fact, Porsche’s Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) sales are actually higher, reaching an all-time single month record with 76 CPO vehicles sold in May 2009. The CayenneGTS new sales were down almost half in May 2009 compared to May 2008, but over the year, GTS sales were down by a reasonable 20%. So despite the auto industry’s current state with all the bailout shenanigans, the Porsche Cayenne continues to plow through the shit storm.

Sharp: - the Nordic Gold Metallic paint - Enhanced styling (i.e. quad tailpipes, aerodynamic kit) - Powerful non-turbo V8 - Optional 6-speed manual stick shift

Dull: - the Nordic Gold Metallic paint - Centre console (debatable) - You’ll end up comparing to the Turbo-S, so don’t drive one, seriously

The Verdict: In Canada, the entry-level Porsche Cayenne Tiptronic remains the manufacturer’s top-selling SUV (starting at $60,190), followed by the CayenneS. While the GTS Tiptronic sits third, with a base price of $91,090 CDN, it is perhaps the best of the bunch, in terms of best bang for the buck. It’s priced a good $60k less than the expensive Turbo-S, yet worth every penny more than the step-down V8 powered CayenneS with 20 less horses and no cosmetic enhancements. Kick-ass, differentiated styling and raw power. What else does one need?

Also posted at Sharp Magazine Online

Tested > 2009 Lexus GS450h

2009 Lexus GS450h > Exceeding Expectations...

Story & Photos: Amee Reehal

Zero Compromise. This is one of those bold claims that can be thrown around pretty loosely these days, and the auto industry is no exception. Some auto manufacturers often preach their products are well balanced; that there exists ‘no compromise’ in terms of styling, performance, safety features, and cargo space; they offer ‘this’ without having to give up ‘that.’ With the advent of new technologies and engineering, and with exception of perhaps sports coupes and such, a large number of manufacturer are increasingly pulling this off…while others certainly are not.

Lexus, however, is one of these companies that just get it. In fact, they exceed expectations and the 2009 Lexus GS450h (hybrid) is a prime example. Every aspect of this performance luxury sedan is well thought out—the styling is luxurious yet sporty while the cabin offers a ton of features without being invasive, for instance.

Powering the GS450h is a new 3.5-litre V6-based Hybrid Synergy Drive engine boasting incredible fuel efficiency, low emissions, that still manages to put down a respectable 339-hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid system toggles between the gas-engine and electric motor, coupled with the large battery and energy management system. So, where is the ‘no compromise’ and ‘exceeding expectation’ part? This powertrain performs like a 4.5-litre V8 yet sips fuel like a compact car. That’s pretty good.

Taking this sedan on the open road, it’s clear how extremely smooth the engine behaves. The throttle responds quickly and power kicks in immediately when needed. The sequential multi-mode shifter (triptronic) almost seems pointless because it shifts so smoothly it is practically unnoticeable (and the extremely quite engine doesn’t really help either!). Regardless, the Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) is remarkable in that it replaces the usual fixed number of gears with essentially an endless number of gear ratios. So, the lack of gearshift lag is welcome but don’t expect a shift-stick style drive with the sequential shifting.

Despite being a fairly large sedan, the GS450h certainly doesn’t handle like one and does a great job feeling sporty. The ride comfort is consistently smooth, both on the highway and on the busy city roads. The wood, 3-spoke steering wheel is comfortable without feeling bulky and the turning radius is excellent. It can be annoying when manufactures feel the need to plaster a million controls on the steering wheel. Lexus avoids this by keeping things understated, only placing the important things and placing them well. Suffice to say, this sports sedan handles brilliantly; the low stance not only looks hot, it is great in the corners too.

Overall, the exterior styling is super sleek—it is elegant but has attitude with a good dose of sports appeal. Again, well balanced. The front grill is compact and clean, and the Lexus touch having the inside front lights integrated into the grill always looks cool. The headlights contouring the fenders coupled with the long, straight shoulderlines from front to back create a slender, sleeker look. The split-spoke, 18-inch alloy G-Spyder wheels ($901 upgrade) are sporty and the touches of chrome add some sophistication without looking tacky. The long, shallow rear window into the short deck lid prevents the GS450h from looking bulky in the rear. The classic 2-piece per taillight cluster is super-simple and unfussy. Inside, the cabin feels spacious without feeling ‘too big.’ The contoured interior is comfortable yet sporty and tasteful—not the easiest balance to find. Starting at $63,050 CDN, some standard interior features include premium leather surfaced front bucket seats with both driver and passenger 10-way power adjustable controls (both seats are heated with ventilation fans); woodgrain trim throughout with wood and leather wrapped shift knob; electrochromatic rear view mirror (dims at nights); side window defoggers; satellite radio ready; in-dash 6-disc CD changer with MP3; 10 speakers, and much more.

The Ultra Premium Package, as equipped in this test vehicle, brings the total price point to $68,400, adding AM/FM stereo cassette (yes, cassette), CD/DVD autochanger with 14 speakers, all from Mark Levinson Audio. The DVD based navigation system includes a backup camera, working with the clearance and backup sensors. Outside, the package adds a rear spoiler, and inside, added safety includes rear seat side airbags.  Aside from the abundance of cabin elegance and convenience appointments one would expect from a luxury sedan, it is how Lexus placed these things that is truly impressive. In other words, the cabin is uncluttered without having to eliminate the vital stuff…zero compromise. Buttons, knobs, dials, etc. are simply hidden within reach, opposed to the cheesy, gaudy approach. The centre armrest slides back to front, revealing some essential controls available only when needed (the seat temperature gauges, suspension mode, traction control, and power engine setting). There is also a hidden compartment left of steering wheel that pops out to reveal even more important but not-so-critical-in-your-face functions (i.e. mirror adjustments).

The 2009 Lexus GS450h proves that a performance luxury sedan need not compromise and that attention to detail, no matter how small, can help exceed one’s expectations.

For more info visit http://www.lexus.ca/lexus/experience/en/home/vehicles/BC96ST2009/veh_intro.jsp?model=BC96ST&year=2009

Also posted here: http://www.pasmag.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1252&Itemid=105

Tested > Road Trip Review: Yukon to Kokanee

2009 GMC Yukon 2-mode Hybrid 4WD

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal

Let’s face it, the full-size SUV gets a bad rep. Its popularity seemingly fading as David Suzuki and Al Gore keep preaching (good guys, by the way). Often carrying connotations of being these brawny, gas-guzzling, unsafe, monstrosities occupying our roads. Perhaps, some of this is true. And the advent of the more politically correct Crossover (CUV) hasn’t really helped either. That is…until now!! (thun thun thaaaan!) Seriously, GM has recently introduced a few hybrid full-sized SUV models, including the 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid, that not only defies what we’ve come to love (or hate) about these unappreciated gentle giants, but they’re redefining the segment altogether (in my humble opinion), introducing innovative technologies and award-winning features that consumers will value (and for the manufacturer’s sake, they better). GM has produced a very intelligent, fuel-efficient, full-sized SUV without compromise. Essentially, improving the new Yukon by trimming the fat (reducing weight and improving aerodynamics), introducing innovative technologies (2-mode transmission with hybrid setup), while retaining all the vital good stuff (towing capacity, payload capability, passenger space, cargo, and great beefy styling). An Obama-friendly, Weekend Warrior-worthy, Machismo-instilled SUV. Nice work.

Last year, a group of us set on a golf trip to the Kokanee Springs Golf Resort in British Columbia: 25 guys, 72 holes of golf, 3 days, and 13 hours on the road via a not-so-fuel-friendly 2008 Chrysler Aspen SUV. This year: more guys, more golf, a bit more debauchery, and new test vehicle to get us going: the 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid.

The hybrid powertrain uses a Vortec 6.0L V8 gas engine with Active Fuel Management (allowing the V8 to run on 4 of 16 cylinders to save fuel) paired to a 4-speed automatic transmission (electronic variable). The ‘2-mode’ pertains to the V8 and the two electric motors that allow continuous variable operation at various speeds, particularly, high and low speeds. Unlike many hybrids on the market, this 2-mode system (co-developed by DaimlerChrysler, BMW, and GM) creates efficiencies for both highway and city driving. The electric motors are both powered by a 300-volt battery which charges during braking and while cruising. The Hybrid Power Flow Display on the navigation screen is really cool, and does a great job indicating exactly where and when power is being distributed, as well as when the regenerative braking or cruising is charging the battery. While $1.20/litre gas prices this time last year coupled with our 5.8L V8 Chrysler Aspen SUV for an 1100-km mountainous trek certainly didn’t do our wallets any favours, the more reasonable sub-$1/litre prices along with outstanding hybrid vehicle (full-sized SUV, that is) was a welcome change this time around. EnerGuide rates the Yukon Hybrid at 10.5L/100km (27mi/gal) in the city, and 9.8L/100km (29mi/gal) on the highway. GM claims an estimated 50% savings in city fuel economy versus the non-hybrid version. Though, most of our driving was on the highway—the roads from Calgary, Alberta to our destination at the Kokanee Springs Golf Resort in B.C. consists of about 30% typical highway and maybe 70% ascending roadway (with a good 100km of pure uphill twisties). So, the throttle was engaged nearly the entire time; not much ‘charging’ going on (thank-you Display!). Even so, we burned through less than 3/4 of a tank on the 550km trek en route. Respectable for an engine this size…pushing 5600 pounds through The Rockies.

The Yukon feels great behind the wheel and handles very smooth on the highway. Despite the abundance of technologies doing their thing (electric power toggling with the gas motor, valves cutting out and kicking in when needed, 2-mode transmission balancing, battery charging, etc.), these transitions were virtually unnoticeable. Power was available when needed and when passing other vehicles; suspension was superb in the corners. The extremely quiet/silent motor is a bit eerie, almost unsettling at first, particularly behind the wheel of such a large sled, but the shock wears off. Actually, it’s a comforting silence; kind of cool when you’re traveling and chatting with friends in the back.

Standard interior features include rear seat audio controls, rear view camera system, 3-passenger 50/50 split bench seat and removable 3rd row, leather appointed heated front bucket seats, 6-way power driver and front passenger seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a rear 115v outlet, DVD-based touch screen navigation system with voice recognition paired to the Bose premium speaker system and XM satellite radio including 1st 3 months service, and the new-for-2009 Bluetooth for phone, to name a few. The only options are a sunroof and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system—the two things we could really have used on our trip, particularly with three guys sharing the middle bench. Unfortunately, the third row 50/50 rear seats do not fold flat into the floor, evidently, chewing into our much needed cargo real estate. Unfortunately, we didn’t think about removing them before the trip. Fortunately, we didn’t remove them because apparently these seats weight a ton, and we’re not that strong, and we managed to fit everything in the end.

The exterior styling is gorgeous; a large frame with chiseled features and strong, clean lines from front to back. Everything is well proportioned, from the large front grill to the taillight structure. The improvements in aerodynamics add to the cleaner styling as well: no fog lamps nor tow-hook openings, larger grill for better cooling, no roof rack rails eliminating drag, and tapered running boards for better air flow.

So is it worth forking out the extra funds for a Yukon Hybrid opposed to the gas-powered Yukon SLT? Or perhaps even a Crossover such as the Buick Enclave or GMC Acadia? Will the premium price investing in a hybrid offset fuel savings or perhaps offset your guilty plastic-bag using, water-wasting conscious?

Absolutely. GM is redefining the brawny SUV, in all the right (green) ways.

For Pricing & More Info on the 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid, visit http://www.gmc.com/yukon/hybrid/index.jsp

Tested > 2009 Ford F150 – SuperCrew 5.4L V8

2009 Ford F-150 5.4-litre V8 SuperCrew

Story & Photos by Amee Reehal

Ford’s most popular F-series model and Canada’s best-selling pickup for four decades straight, sees a considerable list of innovations and upgrades for 2009. Including a lighter yet strengthened frame, a boost in horsepower with an 8-percent average fuel economy improvement, additional cabin space to the SuperCrew model, and even more safety and standard features than the outgoing model.

The all-V8 powertrain lineup is available in three options: the 5.4-litre 3-valve Triton V8 (as tested), the 4.6-litre 3-valve V8, and the 4.6-litre 2-valve V8. The tested 5.4-l Triton produces 320-hp and 390-lb ft. of torque when running on E85 fuel—15-percent gasoline and 85-percent ethanol; providing a 12-percent improvement in fuel economy versus the previous model. A standard 6-speed automatic transmission is mated to the two 3-valve models. In addition to an upgraded hydraulic system enabling better idle speeds and improved converter clutch cycles, the new tranny has also been improved for higher torque capacities such as more vigorous clutch packs and bigger pump and output shaft. Greater towing capabilities include a new standard trailer sway control and a new integrated trailer brake controller. The Best-In-Class 11,300-lbs/5126-kg towing capability is also now available with every cab type. The Best-In-Class heavier payload capability offers 3030-lbs/1374-kg, new class-exclusive box side steps and tailgate steps, and a new stowable bed extender, to name a few.

The all-new interior styling sees minimalism with clean lines and stylish touches but still feels bold with large, chunky panels—a mix of styling cues that only Ford seems to successfully pull off. An advanced navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Ford SYNC provide convenience, while the all-new redesigned seats provide added comfort. For the SuperCrew model, Ford made huge strides to increase usable space for both utility and passengers, and upon entering the cabin, the vastness is immediately evident, due in part to a 6-inch stretch increasing rear seat legroom and cargo capacity.

The new one-touch 60/40 split rear seat allows easier loading/unloading as the mechanically articulated second-row seat flips up and folds against the back of the cab—a one-hand operations that is both easy and convenient while creating 57.6 cu.ft of usable cargo space behind the front seats. Driver visibility is also improved in the SuperCrew by way of longer front doors, thus pushing the B-pillar further back significantly improving peripheral vision. The 2009 F-150 features more advanced standard safety features than any other pickup in its class, including the AdvanTrac with Roll Stability Control and trailer sway control. In addition, the new safety cage built from ultra-high-strength steel receives top safety ratings. Other standard safety features include ABS, SafeCanopy side curtain air bags with roll-fold technology, Personal Safety System, and front seat-mounted side air bags.

Overall, the 2009 F-150 offers toughness and luxury, and plenty of both. The exterior is hard-hitting and bold, while the interior looks and feels more like a sedan! Plus, with all the innovations, increased capabilities, and standard safety features, it’s obvious why the Ford F-150 remains the most capable full-size pickup on the market.

For more info please visit http://ford.ca/app/fo/en/trucks/f150.do?modelYear=B90

This feature is also posted at http://www.pasmag.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1060&Itemid=

Tested > 2009 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

The 2009 Porsche Cayenne Turbo-S: Not an SUV

Story & Snaps: Amee Reehal

After all these years, I still remember the advertising tagline for the Porsche Cayenne when it was first introduced to North America in 2002: “It’s not an SUV. It’s a Porsche.” Priceless. This more or less sums it up. A) We realize we’re a little late to the segment; we’re not calling it an SUV. B) We’re Porsche. We build the world’s finest cars this side of Stuttgart. We don’t need to explain ourselves. Nor should they. Call it what you wish, sport utility or otherwise, Porsche has arguably created one of the world’s most impressive 4-door performance vehicles (with exception, perhaps, to the 2010 Porsche Panamera!)—marrying classic Porsche styling with craftsmanship, along with such audacious power and performance, the Cayenne Turbo-S’ nearest competitor is still stuck in The ‘90s. When Blazers, Tahoes, Escalades, and the like, had long inundated North American driveways turn of the century, Porsche was evidently M.I.A. Even the Europeans got in on the action with Mercedes-Benz releasing the M-Class in 1998 and BMW with the X5 in 2000. Sure, perhaps they were riding it out, assessing the SUV market before T-boning the competition for leftover sales. Or perhaps Porsche values craftsmanship over market share, going against the grain, building performance vehicles and not necessarily sport utility vehicles consumers seek.


Propelling this heavy 2360-kg rocket is a 4.8-litre twin turbo V8, producing a whopping 550-hp and 553-lb ft of torque, paired to a 6-speed Tiptronic-S transmission with the Hill Holder function, offering an extra 30-hp from the 2008 Turbo-S, sharing essentially the exact same displacement as the current model, the extra power comes by way of improved airflow via exhaust and intake, along with some engine revamping (and in case you were wondering, a 260-hp bump from the entry-level Cayenne…for an extra $100,000 or so, in case you were wondering this too). Clocking a zero to 60mph in 4.8 seconds with a top speed of nearly 280km/h, the Cayenne Turbo-S is fastest SUV available. Behind the wheel, the engine feels very smooth and clean. The V8 pushes this beast of a vehicle so effortlessly, you wouldn’t know this was an SUV until you got out gawked at it for a few minutes. Virtually, no noise or vibration—just pure Porsche refinement as one would expect.

Exterior Styling

Following the introduction of the first ever 2008 Turbo-S in 2007, the 2009 Turbo-S was introduced last year at the Beijing Auto Show. While both the ’08 and ’09 models are essentially the same, including the same powerplant, the latter does see some revisions with the more notable being extra horses. But hey, a few cosmetic changes second time around wouldn’t hurt, and if your friends can’t tell that you’ve traded up, the 21-inch SportPlus alloy wheels housed in wider fender flares should give it away. Other styling differences over the 2008 Turbo-S include an exclusive grey metallic paint option, body colour matched front intake grills and wheel arches, and Cayenne GTS style sporty aluminum quad tailpipes. If this doesn’t clear it up, it’s time for new friends.

The Cabin

The interior feels sporty with no compromise in luxury. The 12-way power front seats are well bolstered and comfortable. The unique 3-spoke multifunction wheel is wrapped in leather. The updated Porsche Communication Multimedia System Management (PCM) includes an array of things including navigation system and a 14-speaker surround sound Bose system. The touch screen is nestled in the middle of centre console, surrounded by an array of dials and buttons, sitting so low that toggling your view between the road and the screen is like watching a proper tennis match—except that this is both frustrating and dangerous. Perhaps relocate the vents and raise the entire centre console with the screen placed up top.

The Ride

The all-wheel drive is equipped with 38%/62% front/rear torque split, all sitting upon a fully independent air suspension system with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management). The slick yet useful suspension leveling and ride-height control offers a more fine-tuned drive. Other features include a Low Range gearbox with variable centre drift and the Porsche Stability Management (PSM). And for those who take the Cayenne’s ‘utility’ seriously, the towing capacity is rated at 7715-lb. More power deserves better stopping ability, especially in a vehicle this size. The 2009 Turbo-S comes with optional composite ceramic brakes paired to 14.5” vented rotors with 6-piston calipers up front, and 14.1” vented rotors with 4-piston calipers in the rear. The 21-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in 295/35 performance tires.


Some of the standard safety features include 2-stage driver and passenger airbags, side airbags integrated in the front seats, curtain airbags from the A to C pillars, 3-point front and rear seatbelts with pre-tensioners, encapsulated in a fully galvanized high strength steal body.

So, what was the holdup Porsche? What took so long getting into the SUV game? Frankly, who cares—today, the Cayenne is Porsche’s best selling product. And after spending one glorious week with the 2009 Cayenne Turbo-S, I can see why. Besides, when you’re behind the wheel of the Turbo-S, the past is quickly forgotten and the future is simply the open road ahead.

For more info on the 2009 Porsche Cayenne lineup visit http://www.porsche.com/canada/models/cayenne/

Tested > 2009 Lincoln MKS


Copy: Ford Canada; Snaps: Amee Reehal

Lincoln MKS is the all-new Lincoln luxury flagship, a dynamic and elegant vision of the Lincoln design DNA that is meticulously crafted with exclusive materials.

Lincoln MKS offers the largest selection of comfort and convenience technology features of any other luxury sedan in its class, including: Adaptive Cruise Control, Intelligent Access with Push-button Start, next-generation SecuriCode™ Keyless Entry, Adaptive HID headlamps with Auto High Beam, Rain-Sensing Wipers, Forward Sensing System, Rearview Camera System and Easy Fuel™ capless refueling.

Lincoln MKS connectivity technologies include SYNC™, Next-Generation Navigation with SIRIUS Travel Link™ and a THX® II Certified 5.1 Surround Sound Audio System

Available 20-inch wheels, a new six-speed SelectShift® automatic transmission and a Lincoln-exclusive 3.7-liter V-6 engine with 273 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque on non-premium fuel provide the Lincoln MKS responsive power and a smooth, connected ride.

Lincoln MKS features a robustly strong body structure that incorporates ultra-high-strength steels, plus safety technologies that include a new Adaptive Collapsible Steering Column, AdvanceTrac® electronic stability control and Safety CanopyTM, which offer side impact and rollover protection.

Lincoln MKS, the new full-size sedan, makes its production debut, continuing the momentum for Lincoln and offering customers dynamic, modern design and some of the most sophisticated safety, convenience and comfort technologies available on any car.

"The Lincoln MKS ensures a high level of comfort for all passengers, thanks to a class-leading interior package," said Brett Wheatley, Lincoln Mercury general marketing manager. "Abundant space, coupled with a comprehensive suite of features and technologies, delivers the luxury experience that Lincoln customers want and deserve."

First to Embody Lincoln Design DNA

Dynamic and clean-lined, the new Lincoln MKS is the first production vehicle to embrace the Lincoln design DNA introduced on the Lincoln MKR concept.

"The Lincoln MKS is a substantial car with a well-proportioned athleticism and several signature design cues we developed after carefully auditing the best Lincoln design elements over time," says Peter Horbury, executive director of Design, The Americas. "Lincoln design has always been more discreet, exuding a kind of understated luxury, and we've designed the this luxury sedan understanding that the Lincoln owner views the MKS as a reward for hard work, not simply an outward symbol of status."

The most striking exterior design feature is the double-wing grille, inspired by the 1941 Lincoln Continental. The grille sweeps up into the jewel-like high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps to form a single graphic element that further accentuates the face. A bright chrome Lincoln star rests prominently between the grille's wings.

Key design cues include the sculpted hood and fast-raked windshield, which forms a sleek roofline. The broad-shouldered Lincoln MKS also features a beltline that kicks up slightly over the rear wheels, another modern tribute to classic Lincoln design.

Elegant details include a polished stainless steel side window surround that finishes with a wide flourish at the front edge of the C-pillar – accentuating the tapered cantrail of the cantilevered roof. Stainless steel strips also run the length of the car, framing the available twin-panel moon roof and flowing into the tall decklid.

At the rear, exquisitely detailed LED taillamps are accented by a vertical white light strip that runs along the edge of the decklid, and a horizontal chrome strip is inset with a Lincoln star.

The Lincoln MKS Interior: Meticulous Detail

The meticulously detailed 2009 Lincoln MKS delivers a precision-crafted environment resplendent in hand-wrapped premium leather as well as real wood and metal accents.

Warm and inviting, it incorporates a more modern interpretation of the symmetrical instrument panel design that also is featured in the Lincoln Navigator, MKZ sedan and MKX crossover.

The instrument panel flows horizontally from door to door, its top portion is hand-wrapped in durable, eco-friendly leatherette with double-stitching. The instrument panel is divided into upper and lower portions by a stripe of sculpted wood highlighted by a line of chrome.

Trimmed at the top in real wood, the leather-wrapped steering wheel frames an elegant instrument cluster with gauges circled with delicate chrome rings. Details of the interior design also are accented in sculpted aluminum.

"There is nothing on the cockpit that is concentrated only on the driver," Horbury said. "With Lincoln, the business-class ride is a shared experience for all on board."

Elegant and flowing surfaces create the feeling that the interior has been sculpted, rather than constructed. The flow-through center stack is topped with an integrated information screen that also serves as the screen for the available navigation system. Standard leather seats are double-stitched and feature an exclusive Lincoln perforation pattern on the inserts.

Customers can choose from three distinct interior options, all set off by Lincoln's signature cool white lighting.

A philosophy of "guilt-free luxury" means Lincoln MKS uses materials and processes that reflect the finer things in life but not at the expense of the world around them, including:

Leather for the seats by Bridge of Weir, the same Scottish company that supplied hides for the iconic Continental Mark II. Chosen for its high quality and its organic, chromium-free tanning, this is the softest leather ever used in a Lincoln.

Ebony wood, used for some models, reclaimed from furniture makers and others sources to offer a beautiful and rare wood with minimal environmental impact. The MKS offers best-in-class interior volume of 105.9 cubic feet and best-in-class luggage space of 18.4 cubic feet, nearly four times larger than some competitors.

New Lincoln comfort seats, developed first for the Lincoln MKS, feature side bolster support designed for spirited driving. The standard heated and cooled, 12-way power driver and front passenger seats offer four-way lumbar (up, down, inboard and outboard) for added comfort on long trips.

Rear seat passengers also enjoy a luxury experience that begins as they enter the cabin, via the largest rear-door opening of its class. MKS also offers segment-exclusive standard heated rear seats.

Recessed into the front and rear door openings, cleverly designed hidden rocker panels allow for a lower step-over height, making it easier to enter or exit the vehicle. This design shields the rockers from the elements, reducing the likelihood of soiling shoes or trousers when entering or exiting the vehicle.

Largest Array of Comfort and Convenience Technology Features

The Lincoln MKS offers the largest selection of comfort and convenience technology features of any other luxury sedan in its class, including:

Adaptive Cruise Control, which allows the driver to set the car's speed and maintain it without using the accelerator pedal. The radar-based system also can monitor the vehicle in front (up to 600 feet) and adjust the speed of the Lincoln MKS to keep it a safe distance behind the lead vehicle, even in fog or heavy rain. Four settings allow the driver to set a desired distance, speed and the time gap between vehicles. Intelligent Access with Push Button Start, a first for Lincoln, allows the driver to enter the Lincoln MKS and start the engine without using a key. Drivers simply carry the special fob as they approach the vehicle, touch the keyless entry pad on the B-Pillar, open the door and with the brake pedal engaged, start the engine by pushing a button. Unlike some systems, the Intelligent Access key fob will work even if it is kept in the trunk, in a coat pocket or briefcase.

SecuriCode™ Keyless Entry Keypad, the next-generation version of a feature familiar to Lincoln owners. It allows access to the vehicle by unlocking the driver door using a five-digit code. The new system is now flush-mounted to the car's driver-side B-pillar, using technology similar to that found on portable MP3 music players to create heat-sensitive, backlit numerals that become visible once they're touched.

Adaptive Headlamps with Standard High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps enhance nighttime visibility by illuminating more of the road and reducing glare from oncoming traffic. Sensors monitor vehicle speed and steering wheel input engaging electric motors that pivot the left headlamp up to 5 degrees and the right headlamp up to 15 degrees to increase the driver's field of vision.

Auto High Beams coupled with the Adaptive Headlamps enhance nighttime visibility by switching to high intensity when no other vehicles are in range and automatically reverting to low beam intensity when they detect the headlamps or taillamps of other vehicles. Derived from sensing technology developed for NASA, the system can detect taillamps at a distance of more than 500 feet and headlamps at a distance of 2,000 feet. A patented filtering technique distinguishes street lights from vehicle light sources, preventing unnecessary dimming.

Rain-Sensing Wipers use an advanced optical sensing system to detect how hard rain or snow is falling and determine when to activate windshield wipers and how fast to run the wiper motor. An infrared beam "reads" the surface of the glass and sends information to a sensor mounted in the windshield shade band. Customers can program the system to their preference choosing from five different sensitivity settings.

The Forward Sensing System uses four hidden sensors mounted in the front fascia and audible beeps to help drivers determine how close they are to objects in front of their vehicle while parking. It can detect objects up to 1,500 feet away, plus objects at certain heights even out of the driver's view, such as parking blocks. It operates only below 8 mph.

The Rearview Camera System works in conjunction with the vehicle's reverse sensing system and uses the navigation screen as a display. A camera mounted beneath the Lincoln Star on the decklid is activated when the vehicle is shifted into reverse.

Easy Fuel™ Capless Fuel-Filler System is an industry-exclusive feature that provides customers a hassle-free, odor-free and more-consistent seal than a manual fuel cap. When fueling is completed and the nozzle is removed, the system automatically seals shut. The system has an invisible benefit, too – fewer evaporative emissions.

SYNC is standard on an array of 2009 Lincoln vehicles. The award-winning, industry-exclusive, voice-activated hands-free communications and entertainment system developed by Ford and Microsoft, fully integrates most Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phones and digital media players into the vehicle.

Voice-Activated Navigation System with SIRIUS Travel Link™ offers a host of convenient features including more than 150 hours of music storage. Users can browse the music juke box via touch-screen or by using voice recognition. The system also integrates the climate control and SIRIUS satellite radio into one easy-to-use, smudge-resistant, 8-inch touch-screen display.

Users can even upload personal pictures from CD to be displayed on the system's home screen. SIRIUS Travel Link™ provides users access to up-to-the-minute information including real-time gas prices at the closest stations as well as movie listings and sports scores through the vehicle's navigation system.

THX® II Certified 5.1 Surround Sound Audio System delivers true 5.1 surround sound from DVD movies and DVD-Audio music. A 12-channel, 600 watt "smart amp" delivers digital sound to the system's 16 specially-placed speakers, including a 10-inch subwoofer. The precision-tuned system uses state-of-the-art digital technology to turn the cabin of the Lincoln MKS into a theater or concert hall.

Quiet Comfort and Confident Driving Experience

The new Lincoln flagship sedan offers exceptional quietness and comfort and a confident driving experience, providing intuitive feedback to drivers along with a secure feeling behind the wheel.

The Lincoln MKS puts the driver in command. Its chassis provides isolation from road noise and harshness but doesn't isolate the driver from the road. Steering is precise and responsive, requiring little input from the cockpit.

The Lincoln MKS features a new, fully independent rear suspension (IRS) that has been designed and tuned to deliver a perfect balance of performance, handling and comfort.

A unique design places vertically mounted shock absorbers at the outboard end of the suspension arms, near the wheels. This configuration increases the motion ratio of the suspension allowing for a more precise tuning while also facilitating the larger wheels and tires that are desired by today's luxury customers.

"The setup significantly increases the efficiency of the dampers," said Jim Baumbick, Vehicle Development chief engineer. "This allows us to tune the suspension more finely across a wider range of attributes and deliver the optimum in both handling and ride comfort."

The MacPherson strut and rear-facing L-shaped lower control arm front suspension was designed to maximize suspension travel and tuned to work in harmony with the rear suspension. Together, the new front and rear suspension design can accommodate available, class-exclusive, 20-inch wheels and tires without compromising ride comfort.

Extensive development work also focused on creating the quiet isolation of the Lincoln MKS, befitting its new Lincoln flagship status.

The body structure of the Lincoln MKS was optimized for strength and stiffness. Along with noteworthy crash performance, the solid structure delivers the smooth, quiet ride luxury customers expect. Tire and bushing development focused on further tuning out low-frequency road noise and vibration.

The high-end sound package centers on a new technology that's a first for Lincoln and the MKS – an injection-molded rubber dash panel that runs from the floor, just under the carpet, up to the top of the dash and back over the cowl to block unwanted wind and powertrain noise. The same technology is used inside rear wheel wells.

A 6-millimeter-thick laminated windshield and laminated side glass, sound-absorbing carpeting and acoustic headliner round out the basic sound package.

Delivering a Smooth, Connected Driving Experience The Lincoln MKS is powered by a new 3.7-liter V-6 engine. This powertrain has been derived from the proven 3.5-liter V-6 found in the Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKZ, which was voted one of Ward's 10-Best Engines for 2007.

Both engines share the same strong, die-cast aluminum block and lightweight four-valve heads for smooth operation at high rpms. The 3.7-liter's larger cylinders contribute to the increase in horsepower and torque. This engine delivers 273 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque and does not require premium-grade fuel.

Technologies such as variable valve timing are utilized to deliver substantial torque at lower rpms while reducing emissions. The Lincoln MKS qualifies for U.S Federal Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions and California Emissions State ULEV-II emissions standards.

"This engine is tuned to maximize the increased torque to improve performance where the driver needs it most, in standing acceleration and passing," says Michael Celentino, Lincoln MKS chief engineer. "To help manage the extra torque, the Lincoln MKS's six-speed automatic transmission is equipped with a stiffer torque converter that delivers an immediate throttle response and a more connected feel."

The MKS uses a pair of technologies that help to improve fuel economy and further reduce emissions without compromising performance:

A two-speed fuel pump that alternates between two flow settings, running on a low setting, which requires less energy, whenever conditions allow.

Aggressive Deceleration Fuel Shut-Off (ADFSO) is a fuel-saving system that shuts off fuel flow to the injectors when the driver backs completely out of the throttle with the vehicle in fifth or sixth gear, such as exiting onto a freeway off ramp. The Lincoln MKS features a six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift® that delivers smoother shifts, better fuel economy and acceleration as well as enhanced performance feel. SelectShift, making its Lincoln debut on the new flagship sedan, allows the driver to select gears manually when desired.

An all-wheel-drive (AWD) system provides for a confident driving experience in all weather conditions. The unit uses a sophisticated system of clutches to quickly distribute torque between front and rear wheels – up to 100 percent in either direction – as needed, to avoid wheel slip.

"Drive the new Lincoln MKS and its engaging and rewarding driving experience is immediately clear," Celentino says. "The power is smooth and responsive, absolutely fitting the character of the new flagship Lincoln luxury sedan. This automobile creates an outstanding first impression and lives up to it."

The Lincoln MKS Safety Story

The 2009 Lincoln MKS builds on Ford Motor Company's safety leadership.

Using Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE), engineers and designers have developed the Lincoln MKS for optimal strength, stiffness and superb crashworthiness. Its energy-absorbing front structure – with octagonal front frame rails, tunnel rails and "shotgun" front structural members – is designed to absorb and redirect front crash forces away from the passenger compartment. The new sedan also features the class-exclusive Side Protection And Cabin Enhancement Architecture™ (SPACE) designed to optimize side impact protection.

The body structure features ultra high-strength boron steel in the B-pillar for added protection in a side impact and improves roof strength. The side impact door beams also have also been configured to provide optimal protection.

The Lincoln MKS is equipped with a comprehensive package of active and passive safety features, including dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags, seat-mounted side air bags, safety belt pretensioners and load-limiting retractors and driver seat positioning sensor. Other key safety features include:

Occupant Classification System – Using a sophisticated sensor, it determines via weight whether the front passenger seat is empty, occupied by a child seat or small, medium or large occupant and can deploy the air bag as needed.

Adaptive Collapsible Steering Column – In an impact, the column will collapse, dependent on the weight and belted status of the driver.

Safety CanopyTM – Ford's exclusive side impact protection system features side curtain air bags that help protect front and rear outboard passengers in both rollovers and side impact crashes.

AdvanceTrac® electronic stability control system uses sensors to monitor yaw, the vehicle's speed, throttle position and steering wheel angle and selectively applies individual brakes to help correct skids.

Ford's Belt-Minder®, a safety belt reminder technology for the driver and front passenger that takes over after the initial safety belt reminder stops chiming.

Tested > 2009 Ford Escape XLT

The 2009 Ford Escape: More Performance with Better Fuel Economy. Seriously.

story & snaps- Amee Reehal

The 2009 Ford Escape proves that ‘compact’ need not equate to ‘compromise’ or ‘less.’ In fact, Canada’s top-selling compact SUV now offers more power and better fuel economy—yes, that’s a bit of a paradox, but one consumers will gladly accept and dare not question!

As Ron Razzano, the Escape vehicle-engineering manager puts it, “With gas prices rising, we want to offer customers even more fuel-efficient vehicles…but more fuel efficient doesn’t need to mean reduced performance. We tried to give our customers more of both, so there wouldn’t be any compromise.” The powertrain for 2009 includes a new 2.5-litre I-4 engine producing 171-hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. That’s an 11-percent increase in power over the previous 2.3-litre, 153-hp engine.

While this new engine may provide more horses, it’s the introduction of the 6F-mid-range 6-speed automatic transmission that will save you money. The new 6-speed is calibrated for cruising fuel efficiency without sacrificing launch feel and performance in lower gears, proving to be 4 to 6-percent more fuel efficient than it’s 4-speed predecessor.

Another improvement over last year is the optional 3.0-litre V6 engine creating 240-hp, with new components including cylinder heads, intake and exhaust, cams, etc. Paired to the 6F-mid transmission, also generates 1-mpg better fuel economy for both city and highway.

Aerodynamic improvements, such as a redesigned front spoiler and new rear tire spoilers, coupled with tire technology, including cooperation with Michelin to develop new low-rolling resistance tires, also contribute to the Escape’s increased fuel efficiency.

Rick Gemin, the Escape’s marketing plans manager states, “The 2009 Escape also has a quieter ride and handles better, with an engaging character and fun-to-drive nature.” A revised shock absorber and addition of a new rear stabilizer bar, coupled with the retuned steering system and a better ABS system, all contribute to increased responsiveness and car-like drivability to the Escape—a welcome addition to any SUV.

The interior is roomy and comfortable, and scores points for being ‘green’ as well; the addition of comfort-designed seats not only feel good, they include soy-based foam that substitutes for petroleum-based products to conserve limited resources and reduce CO2 emissions. If that’s not ‘green’ enough for you, eco-friendly seat fabrics are also offered.

Safety features for the 2009 Escape include:

• AdvanceTrac with RSC • SafetyCanopy, a side air curtain technology offering protection for the first and second rows • PersonalSafteySystem: seven safety technologies including dual-stage front air bags and front passenger sensor system • A tire pressure monitoring system • Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system on rear seating positions

2009 Escape Hybrid

I had the opportunity to test both the 2009 Escape XLT w/ V6 engine and the 2009 Escape Hybrid; one week each, back-to-back. While this review is solely on the non-hybrid version, the Escape Hybrid certainly warrants some discussion. Driving from Ford’s Oakville head-office, to my brother’s place on Bay Street, to Niagara-on-the-Lake, back to Toronto, and everywhere in-between, I garnered countless Kms and barely used one full tank of fuel. All thanks to the new 2.5-litre, I-4 Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine with an engine processor that enables discreet transitions between gas and electric vehicle mode. Same as the non-hybrid version, the Hybrid’s new I-VCT technology provides improved fuel economy as well. For 2009, the packaged option includes six-spoke aluminum wheels and exterior chrome accents; standard AM/FM 6CD changer; chrome and ebony interior appointments; ambient lighting, heated front leather seating surfaces, a power moonroof and retractable cargo cover area, all part of the luxury & convenience package. SecuriCode keyless entry is also offered in this package.

For more info on the 2009 Ford Escape, visit http://www.ford.ca/app/fo/en/suvs_crossovers/escape.do?WT.srch=1;

This review is also posted at http://www.pasmag.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=947&Itemid=105

Tested > 2009 Ford Flex

2009 Ford Flex: Dares to be Different

Story & Photos: Amee Reehal

Ford is not one to shy from pushing the envelope. Whether creating new segments such as the SUT or simply challenging existing ones, Ford consistently dares to be different. The all-new 2009 Ford Flex is a true testament to this ideology. Dubbed a crossover, but more like a minivan without the minivan stigma, in my opinion, the Flex is a people-mover with style, sport, and brawn.

The design is provocative, to say the least: a sleek, low stance; an optional two-tone roof; beefy shoulderlines with signature side grooves running the length of the vehicle; just an overall boxy, yet clean, stretched appearance sets the Flex way apart. The interior is contemporary and luxurious yet relaxed and roomy. The space is very limousine-eque with business-class comfort, but the abundance of legroom and the overall cozy feel keeps things grounded and comfortable. So whether you're sporting a suit or beach wear, the Flex has no bias and lets you know it. So, come as you are, and bring some cold drinks while you're at it because the rear console is also an insulated refrigerator. The real cool thing about the Flex is how low is sits to the ground. Another inch or two higher and it would throw the entire look off. Equally as critical to this low stance styling is the impact it makes on the road, allowing the driver to really push the Flex in the corners: a crossover with a sports sedan feel, and with surprising less roll than you may expect from a such a hefty vehicle.

Powered by a 3.5-litre V-6 engine producing 262-hp at 6250-rpm and 248-lb.-ft of torque at 4500-rpm; paired to a 6-speed auto transmission, the Flex offers great performance with decent fuel efficiency.

The Flex design is without question innovative, but this doesn't end there. The Flex is teeming with innovative technology as well, including: •    FordSYNC: developed exclusively for Ford by Microsoft, an award-winning voice-activated, hands free in-vehicle communications & entertainment platform. •    Voice-activated navigation •    Reverse camera system •    EasyFuel capless fuel filter •    Class-exclusive refrigerated console: cools up to seven 12-ounce cans, four half-litre bottles, or two 20-ounce bottles •    Exclusive SecuriCode second-generation keyless entry keypad •    Ambient Lighting: seven different interior lighting colours

There's 'being different.' Then there's 'trying too hard.' What separates the two is how you pull it off; how confident you are in your own skin and the energy you put off. And though the Flex may not be for everyone, it doesn't really matter...because it stands with poise, confidence, and definitely pulls it off!

For more info on the 2009 Ford Flex visit: http://www.ford.ca/app/fo/en/suvs_crossovers/flex.do

This official review is posted at http://www.pasmag.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=887&Itemid=105

2009 Mazda6 Shoots

Client: Mazda Canada Inc.

Job: Press & Advertorial Photoshoots for the preproduction '09 Mazda6 GT and '09 Mazda6 G

Mazda Canada will soon be releasing their 2009 Mazda6 model, not yet for sale. This is a mid size car available in a GT and GS trim.

Toronto received record snowfall about a week or so prior to the shoots. So I was a bit concerned when sourcing locations. But the snow had melted, the weather was cold/tolerable, and most importantly, the two shoots turned out great.

We spent about a 2 days on pre-production and sourcing out locations. My man Mark Pereira, Senior editor at Performance Auto & Sound magazine, led me to an old army base with large airplane hangers for one of the jobs. The shipping yard was our second locale. Unbeknownst to me, loads of movies get filmed here and is governed by the Toronto Port Authority who hold their own jurisdiction, so securing this spot took some work.

Mazda will be releasing the images in their official press release for the Mazda6 launch. And they'll be using the images for their marketing as well. A confidentiality agreement prevents me from posting the final images (which explains the blurred out cars). So behind-the-scenes is the best I can offer for now!

Below: The TFX truck unloading the cars. This was the location of our red Mazda6 GT shoot. We shot the car against the large, green airplane hanger doors you see here. This was a nice red-green contrast.

Our white Mazda CX-7 was a great shooting vehicle. Our lights consisted of 3 Profoto 1200W 7B kits. I had never used the 7B's...absolutely love them: battery powered, great versatility:

Metering my camera for the front-end rolling shots. The SB-800 flash was mounted to a MagicArm-SuperClamp, and triggered with camera flash:

Myself, Sandra Lemaitre (Manager, Corporate Communications at Mazda), Rimy my P.A., and Brett from L.A. Detail:

The shipping yard for our silver Mazda6 GS shoot. We made good use of this place; shooting against the Toronto skyline, the ship, cargo containers, etc. The overcast day worked well, creating nice soft lighting...silver is always forgiving:

Pre-production chat with the Toronto Port Authority.

Mandatory (disgruntled) security guards watchin' our every move:

Panning with the Nikkor 70-200vr 2.8 lens:

Long panning shots of the silver Mazda rolling across the stretched out blue ship and yellow guard rails turned out well.