Tested > 2010 Porsche 911 Targa 4

2010 Porsche 911 Targa 4

Review & Photos: Amee Reehal ©

No turbo. No PDK. No paddle shifters nor a plethora of steering wheel controls. Just a 6-speed stick shift, glowering dark rims wrapped in fat-ass tires, a malicious exhaust note paired to an equally menacing near-black vehicle, all with a roof that opens up to the sky. Following a string of Porsche press cars showcasing the company’s latest and greatest offerings (and I’m not complaining), it was refreshing to test a something a little more nostalgic; something a little more familiar and fundamental, particularly in the stick shift. But at nearly $150,000 Cdn MSRP for this particular model, the 2010 Porsche 911 Targa 4 is anything but fundamental. With enough Porsche product options and OEM customization to make a grown man giggle, this 2010 Porsche 911 Targa 4 is built just right—understated and sexy yet overly capable.

While cabriolets may have a bad rep with the purists opting for nothing but a hardtop, the targa certainly closes that gap, providing the best of both worlds (arguably, best of all three). Gone is the cumbersome, removable hardtop targa first introduced in the 1960’s; thirty-years later into the late 1990’s, welcome the first retractable glass roof. Essentially, it’s an over-sized sunroof, and it’s awesome. When fully open, the glass roof panel slides back underneath the rear window. Visibility out the back is severely hindered, but hey, give and take people. A targa-top provides more than enough fresh air and sunshine without compromising any stability issues found in a drop top.

The 2010 Porsche 911 Targa 4 starts at $113,700 Cdn MSRP; this version with all options comes in at $142, 040 before taxes/fees ($149,875 final price excluding GST/HST, if you’re wondering). Powered by a horizontally opposed, 6-cylinder 3.6-litre engine, the 2010 911 Targa 4 makes 345-hp at 6500-rpm and 288 lb-ft of torque. The ‘4’ in the Targa 4 denotes an AWD system, with majority of the power at the rear wheels. The 6-speed manual transmission is standard, as enjoyed in this version, while the PDK is an optional $5560.

Drop a mere $3250 and you’ll find your 911 Targa 4 with a set of multispoke, retro-styled 19” Carrera Sport Wheels, opposed to standard 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/40ZR18 tires front and 295/35ZR18 rears, alongside 13-inch vented rotors. Porsche’s PASM electronic damping control system is an extra $2720, as found here, while the various other stability and safety features such as ABS, PSM, and ASR are standard. The PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) is brilliant, offering a ‘Sport’ button that does more than offer a slick Sport button—press this magic button and stiffen your suspension for harder damping and better, tighter control. And to make things really magical, and immensely giddy, press the Sports Exhaust System button ($3830 upgrade): a curious little control denoted by a little icon of twin tailpipes, producing loud, burly exhaust tones out the exhaust pipes. I still have no idea whether this impacts performance in any way, but it’s totally gnarly and worth the money just to wake up the neighbors (sorry people who live down the street on the corner).

Inside the cabin, the 2010 Porsche 911 Targa 4 is equipped with many valuable standards including a 235-watt, 9-speaker audio system; full climate control with active carbon filter; 3-spoke leather steering wheel; and leather seat surfaces, to name a few. All 911 Carrera and 911 Targa models find a standard PCM 3.0 system (Porsche Communication Management) adding a 6.5-inch touchscreen controlling all audio, navigation, and communications. This 911 Targa 4 saw optional black/sand beige interior ($5570); a gear/handbrake lever with aluminum look ($1470); power comfort seats with driver memory ($2120) along with seat ventilation ($1090); Bluetooth Phone Interface ($950); and nav module for the PCM ($2880). Nearly all Porsche products offer an optional Sport Chrono Package, enhancing and adding various features to the respective model. This 2010 911 Targa 4 finds the Sport Chrono Package Plus ($1310) delivering even sportier tuning of the engine and chassis. This package also adds the digital and analogue timer nestled on the upper dash, the Sport select function, and the performance display and personal memory function with the PCM system.

The Atlas Grey Metallic is a gorgeous exterior paint setting you back at $4280. A variety of other exterior features on this Targa 4 have been colour-matched (including the 19” Carrera wheels), at a premium, but the final result looks stunning, creating this furtive 911 Targa 4 certainly setting it apart. A speed activated rear spoiler is standard while self-dimming mirrors and dynamic cornering lights are optional ($580 and $940, respectively) as in my tester.

Clearly, each Porsche can be customized over and above, and this 2010 911 Targa is no exception. So, when evaluating a Porsche, the personal agenda should definitely be taken into account. While all Porsches are exceptional, they’re not all equal. Nor should they be. With nearly $150,000 to spend, there’s a few ways to do it. But this 2010 Porsche 911 Targa 4 is flawless (okay, maybe add the PCCB brake upgrade, but hey).

For more info on the 2010 Porsche 911 Targa 4, visit HERE

Tested > 2010 Chevy Camaro RS

2010 Chevy Camaro RS

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal ©

Arguably the sickest, best-styled rendition amongst the recent wave of throwback muscle cars introduced by American automakers, is the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. While the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger are equally as daring, and without any bias or at risk of drawing parallels to the originals released back in the 60s as many current die-hard enthusiasts rightfully have been doing, as far as curb appeal goes, this average dude finds the Camaro unquestionably the baddest and most fearless. And starting at only $26,995 Cdn MSRP, you'd be hard pressed to find a vehicle that can make such an impact at this price-point; turning Minivan-Dads into temporary rockstars.

My tester is the 2010 Chevy Camaro RS (1LT) starting at $28,065 Cdn MSRP; the second offering in a stable of five trims available. Earlier this year, GM invited me to Whistler, BC for a few days during their Chevy sponsorship at the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival, where I had the opportunity, along with fellow journalist Russell Purcell from Vancouver, to rip around the post-Olympic ski resort in a yellow 2010 Camaro SS--the cream of the crop, V8 behemoth that proved to be incredibly fun to drive, both on the highway and through the twisty village roadways. Though not quite the ominous SS, this RS is equally as stunning and the likely the front runner in sales, rolling off the dealer lots.

Powered by a 3.6-litre DOHC V6 engine, the RS puts down 304-hp and 273 lb-ft of torque; just enough RWD power, as I realized, to sustain a joyous grin. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard, and for an extra $1435 as in tester, add the 6-speed automatic tranny with steering wheel mounted tapshift shifters for a bit more control. Other notable standards on the RS includes a sport suspension, front multi-link strut suspension with coil springs, and dual exhaust with polished stainless steel exhaust tips, to name a few.

Aggressively chiseled from front to back, the Camaro RS looks absolutely menacing just sitting there. And the longer I gawked at it, the more I realized how incredibly dissimilar this 5th-generation Camaro is from the previous version as recent as 2002 when production on the Camaro ended (crazy to think it's only been eight years). Without question, the new Camaro is a true throwback in terms of exterior styling to the original introduced in the late 60s…not the IROC-Z in the 80s, nor the convertible in the 90s. Just a modern version of the original, the way it should be! Standard features include body coloured door handles and rocker mouldings; solar ray glass; fog lamps; halogen headlamps with auto on/off control, to name a few. 18-inch painted aluminum wheels are standard, but opt for the Rally Sport Package upgrade at $1995 as in my tester, adding 20" x 8" front and 20" x 9" rear flangeless painted aluminum wheels with a midnight silver finish wrapped in performance BSW tires; body coloured roof ditch moulding; a rear spoiler; and HID headlamps and unique taillights.

Again, I'm not a Camaro-aficionado but a quick look inside the cabin and it's evident Chevy retained some prominent styling attributes from the earliest version including the larger old-school analog styled, recessed gauges. Front bucket seats, cloth seat trim, a driver 6-way power seat and passenger 2-way manual adjuster/power recline are all standards in the RS. So is a long list of others including the driver information centre; remote keyless entry; two auxiliary power outlets in centre console; folding rear seat back with trunk pass through; outside temperature display, among others. This RS came equipped with the Convenience & Connectivity Package at $1050, adding a cargo convenience net; the leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel with audio controls; leather wrapped shifter knob; Bluetooth; wireless PDIM and USB port; and rear ultrasonic park assist.

Even with $5775 in options (frankly, not a huge premium considering all you get…bigger rims, enhanced exterior styling, upgraded cabin), this Camaro RS rings in at only $33,840 before taxes/fees. For a sports car with distinct styling, huge impact, and nostalgic flair hovering around the 30K price point, the 2010 Chevy Camaro RS can't be beat.

For more info on the 2010 Camaro, visit here.

Tested > 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster

2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal ©

Within the realm of sports coupes, Nissan's Z-car is arguably one of the most iconic brands. From the inaugural Datsun 240Z introduced in1969, to the prolific and timeless 300ZX in the mid-90s, to the wildly successful 350Z released in 2004, the Z-car spans 40 years of rich history, going down in history as the best-selling sports car series of all time (and as a Nissan fan myself, frankly, I'd love to get my hands on an old Datsun or 300ZX). The latest rendition is the 370Z, the sixth-generation Z-car released for the 2009 year; essentially, an updated version of its 350Z counterpart.

Late last summer, Nissan introduced the 2010 370Z Roadster, a convertible version of the coupe starting at $48,498 Cdn MSRP. Powered by a 3.7-litre, 24-valve DOHC V6, this rocket puts down 332-hp at 7000-rpm and 270-lb ft of torque. A 7-speed automatic tranny is standard, so are the paddle shifters. Downshift rev-matching, a multilink suspension both front and rear, 4-wheel power disc brakes, and a vehicle dynamic control system are also all standard.

The exterior styling is aggressive yet sleek with styling cues, particularly the hardtop/non-Roadster version, reminiscent of the 1969 240Z, at least in my eyes. From certain angles, looks like a bit of a throwback to the original. Standard features include the boomerang-style bi-functional xenon headlamps, heated power outside mirrors, cloth power folding roof in black, and a fixed glass wind deflector. This press 370Z model came with the $4000 Sport Package upgrade adding 19-inch Rays super-lightweight alloy rims wrapped in 245/40R19 rubber up front and 275/35/R19 in the rear, compared to the standard P225/50R18 front, P245/45/R18 rear setup. This package also ups the stopping assembly with huge 14-inch discs up front and 13-inch in the rear.

Inside, the cabin is totally stunning; undeniably sporty yet super refined. The Navigation Package upgrade on this Roadster will only cost you an extra $2500, unlike the most manufacturers often charging nearing double. This option finds the Nissan Navigation System, a 9.3GB music hard drive and USB, integrated interface for iPod, auxiliary audio/video input jacks, and a single in-dash CD slot. Frankly, sticking to the standard attire is suffice considering it includes the essentials like an 8-speaker audio Bose system, XM satellite radio, a bluetooth hands-free phone system, and an AM/FM with 6-CD in-dash changer, to name just a few.

Leaving the top up would be a shame. During my week with the 370Z, the days were warm and the evenings cool. Fortunately, this Roadster comes equipped (standard!) with heated and cooled seats, essentially pushing air through the perforated seats in the seatbacks and bottom cushions keeping your ass toasty at night and cool in the heat. The leather wrapped steering wheel, 8-way driver/4-way passenger seats, 3-bay centre gauges including trip computer, and leather/synthetic suede sport seats are all included.

The final price for this 370Z, with the $6500 in options, comes to $54,998 Cdn MSRP before taxes/fees.

For more info on the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster, please visit HERE

Tested > 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo

2010 Porsche 911 Turbo

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal ©

Juggling a 500-hp coupe – one of the world’s fastest production cars – the same week as the (unexpectedly early) birth of my first kid, proved to be not so daunting after all. Not that I really expected it to be, frankly, considering there were no car seats involved. Nor am I drawing parallels between the miracle of life and a raging, 2-door diabolical German freak of nature. I’m just saying, becoming a dad and ripping around in a 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo the same week is pretty f**king badass. Buying diapers has never been so fun.

Ah, the 911 Turbo. Where does one even begin with such a timeless, near flawless piece of debauchery? Let's start with performance, where 500-hp and 480 lb-ft of torque will slap you silly via a 3.8-litre twin-supercharged flat-six topping out at 312 kph track speed. The Sport Chrono Package with dynamic engine mount system includes a bundle of goodies like Launch Control, propelling this beast 0-100 km in just 3.4-seconds compared to 3.7-seconds otherwise. A 6-speed manual tranny is standard, but opt for the optional $6200 PDK 7-speed, as in this tester, and you'll experience the smoothest, most effortless, and unobtrusive power flow gear shifts imaginable using either the wheel mounted paddle shifters (extra $670 for the gearshift paddles, as in tester) or PDK Gear Selector (additional $1470 upgrade, also in tester) allowing super-quick, short-throw gear shifts up/down with the gear lever minus a foot clutch pedal.

I think it's important to note that, when combined with the PDK system, the 3-spoke steering wheel comes with gearshift switches standard on all 911 Turbo models. Whereas the gearshift paddles are the option. In the past, I've always opted for the gear selector as nearly all press cars came equipped the these shifter switches I wasn't fond of--basically, buttons nestled within the wheel; press with thumb to shift up, pull with index finger to shift down. Just didn't feel right. Alas, proper motorsport-style paddles on this 911 and life is good.

How does the 911 Turbo handle? Close your eyes and imagine this thing with a $12,050 ceramic composite brake upgrade with 380mm ceramic discs up front and 350mm in rear, and you'll find the answer (then open your eyes and realize I just said "$12,050 brake upgrade" and that this wasn't really make-believe time). Combined with an AWD system with map controlled PTM, rolling on 235/35ZR19 fronts and 305/30ZR19 rears, this 911 doesn't discriminate against the windy twisty roadways. It treats all pavement equally at nearly all speeds, no mater what size or shape. And of course there's a slew of other traction control attributes found inside, including the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM).

The interior of the 911 Turbo encompasses all that is stylish, ergonomic, comfortable, and sporty. Straightforward and sexy, no gimmicks found here. Full leather interior is standard; $590 extra for the Special Leather Cocoa, as seen here. Also standard, power tilt/sliding sunroof; Bi-Xenon headlamps with leveling and cleaning system; Porsche Communication System (PCS) with Navigation and touchscreen (yep, standard); MP3 equipped, CD player with Bose system; Full climate control; amoung others. Options found in this 911's cabin include Adaptive Sport Seats at $1560, providing enhanced support features over the standard Comfort Seats; $950 for Bluetooth phone interface (awesome); $600 for Universal audio interface (expensive, not awesome, should be standard); and colour matched floor mats for $210.

The sort of paradox, and pure brilliance, on the part of Porsche is their ability and desire to produce high-powered super sports cars while striving to improve efficiencies. If churning out 500-hp production cars wasn't enough, these tenacious Germans find ways to do so in the most streamlined, productive ways possible. Brilliant. And frankly, when one is willing to pay a starting price of $165,300 Cdn MSRP for this 2010 911 Turbo, its precisely these efficiencies in engineering one is paying for. Not necessarily the obvious or the tangibles found within the cabin, for instance, but imperceptible stuff like the 911's 500-hp engine made of alloy, reducing weight, thus fuel consumption.

Many stepped inside this 2010 911 Turbo (or any high performance coupe, for that matter) with a final price of $191,400 Cdn with all options before taxes/fees, and hastily asked “how much is this?” followed by “wow, is it worth it?” Absolutely. It’s one of those things; Porsche-loyalists aside, you’ve just got to experience it to really understand the value; to feel the engineering as you push the throttle; when you dive into tight turns at not-so-slow speeds; when you push that magical ‘Sport Plus’ button that actually, honestly does do something. Realizing value need not always equate to cosmetics or the obvious, but to dig deep and recognize that nearly 200K is in fact a reasonable price point for one of the most prolific sports coupes around. Personally, I’d take a 911 Turbo over a flashy Lambo Gallardo anyday.

…on that note, time for another diaper run.

For more info on the 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo, visit HERE.

Tested > 2010 Cadillac SRX

2010 Cadillac SRX AWD 4dr 2.8T Performance

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal

Arguably, one of the hottest CUVs on the market (going all Geek-to-Chic from last year’s version, Maury Povich styles), the 2010 Cadillac SRX will now certainly turn some heads, for all the right reasons. Renowned for their grandiose, full-size Escalade SUV, Cadillac’s SRX is the better option for those families looking for something a little more (ok, a lot more) scaled down with better fuel economy without compromising luxury and sufficient cargo. While the CTS wagon is certainly a compelling option, the SRX plays in a luxury segment that’s hitting home with most families these days.

This AWD turbo version starts at $55,870 Cdn MSRP and comes equipped with a decent list of standards all around. Add the two options you’ll likely want (as equipped on this tester), and the price jumps significantly to $62,445—including 20”x8” tech aluminum wheels over the standard painted cast aluminum version of the same size and a Navigation/Audio upgrade, both at $1190 and $5285, respectively. But you’ve got choices, nine SRX versions to choose from, to be exact, including the entry-level FWD 4-door model starting at $41,575 to the AWD 4-door 2.8T Premium at $62,770. Our SRX, the second highest of the bunch, is the AWD 4-door 2.8T Performance.

Fortunately, this second-coming of the 2010 SRX went under the knife, resulting in a bolder, sexier, much more confident styled version than the outgoing 2009 SRX, that was, frankly, an ambiguous half-wagon, half-truck, part hearse looking thing with a severe identity crises. With a completely restyled backend and retaining Cadillac’s iconic styling cues, our new Imperial Blue Metallic SRX is all grown-up sporting long, sleek lines with sharp cut edges from front to the dual chromed exhaust tipped back. The ultra-view double-sized power tilt/sliding glass sunroof with express open power sunshade is standard. Also standard, body-coloured power folding heated mirrors, Solar-Ray tinted glass with privacy tint on rear doors, and stunning LED tail lamps.

Exterior styling flows to the spacious cabin that finds heated leather seating surfaces; 8-way power driver and 6-way power passenger seats; automatic dual-zone climate control AC with air filtration and rear console vents; four auxiliary power outlets; auto-dimming rearview mirror with OnStar; and remote keyless entry with illuminated entry/exit lights, all standard in a long list of inclusions. No-charge entertainment includes Bluetooth for phone and voice recognition; USB port; roof-mounted hexband antenna; and CD/MP3 stereo mated to a 8-speaker premium Bose system. If luxury is really your thing, you’ll definitely look to upgrade to the HDD-based navigation system with pop-up nav screen, CD/DVD/MP3 stereo with a 10-speaker 5.1 surround setup. This’ll add nearly $5300 to the bottom line, but includes a plethora unmentioned upgrades (rear view camera, rear seat entertainment with screens, etc.) you’re SRX probably couldn’t live without.

The 2.8-litre SFI turbocharged V6 produces 300-hp—an optional engine on all AWD trims, with a 3.0-litre VVT direct injection V6 engine standard. The AWD finds a 6-speed auto transmission including driver shift control, down grade detection, and electronic limited slip differential. The sporty styling is matched by a sport-tuned suspension with continuous variable real time suspension damping. Standard safety features are plentiful, including traction control system, StabilTrak stability control system, trailer sway control, and OnStar in-vehicle assistance with a one-year service included, to name just a few.

For more info on the 2010 Cadillac SRX, please visit HERE

Tested > 2010 Porsche Panamera S

2010 Porsche Panamera S

story & snaps: Amee Reehal

Perhaps not as prolific as the recently tested, top-of-the-line Panamera Turbo, the 2010 Panamera S is no slouch. With a 4.8-litre V8 producing 400-hp of naturally-aspirated goodness and coming in at nearly 40k less than the Turbo ($155,000CAD Turbo vs $115,100CAD for the S), this Panamera S, one of three V8 versions available, is arguably the way to go. Like most things in life, there are needs and wants…or in the case of the V8 flavoured Porsche Panamera, wants and want-mores.

Porsche’s first 4-door saloon to ever hit the masses, the Panamera is available in three V8 trims, all sharing the same 4.8-litre V8 engine: the Panamera S, the Panamera 4S (AWD version), and the Panamera Turbo (AWD turbo version). But if your wants are a little more modest, Porsche just recently unveiled two new V6 models: the Panamera and the Panamera 4 (AWD). Both with a newly developed 3.6-litre engine putting down 300-hp.

Late July, the 25,000th Panamera rolled off the Leipzig factory:

Oddly enough, I personally had a more difficult time handing over the keys to this S than with the Turbo. Arriving in black-on-black (Espresso Natural leather, to be exact), all stealthed-out, this particular Panamera suited me just fine. And the good people at Porsche Canada (Tony Morris) allowed me to keep the car for a double extra days, and I savored every extra moment—arriving to soccer a little early, hitting the driving range a couple extra times, car pooling to dinner Saturday night, grabbing coffee at the third nearest Starbucks (which isn’t all that far, frankly); you know, just knocking off those errands from that weathered To Do list your wife handed over a year ago (fix toilets – done). Whereas the previously tested Turbo in Yachting Blue Metallic and two-tone cream leather interior seemed to be more on the ‘executive’ side (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), this blacked-out, non-turbo-just-as-awesome version seemed a bit more raw, a little more modest, if you will; encompassing all the fine German engineering you’d expect from Porsche (unreal handling, consistent power, etc) but without some of the frills (i.e. the $3110 Sport Chrono Pkg in the Turbo).

Starting at $115,100CAD, this Panamera S (before taxes/charges) comes in at $137,635CAD with all options, including: the Espresso Leather interior ($7040); heated steering wheel (290); 20-inch RS Spyder Design rims (4250); Alcantara Roofliner (2720); Bluetooth interface (950); BOSE audio system (1970); XM Satellite Radio (1030); upgraded floor mats (210); Walnut interior pkg (1360); and the Universal Audio Interface (600).

For a further read on the new Porsche Panamera, please check out my Panamera Turbo review HERE.

For more info on the Panamera, check out the manufacturer’s website HERE.

Tested > 2010 Toyota Venza V6 AWD

2010 Toyota Venza V6 AWD

Review: Amee Reehal; Photo: Toyota

The 2010 Venza is Toyota’s latest CUV offering—a stylish, roomy family-mover built on the proven Camry platform. Available in 4 versions, the Venza lineup begins with two 2.7-litre 4-cylinder models, in either FWD or AWD. Two additional versions include a hefty 3.5-litre V6, again in either FWD or AWD. My tester was the best of the bunch: the V6 AWD starting at $32,100. Including the optional $5,910 Touring Package, the final price on this Venza (before taxes/charges) rings in at $38,010.

Even at a $29,310 CAD MSRP for the entry-level Venza, the standard inclusions are impressive. Some standards found on all Venzas include a 6-speed auto transmission; stability control features such as the Advanced Traction Control System andHill-start Assist Control; electric power steering; and a fairly comprehensive climate control setup that includes A/C, dual zone auto climate control, a dust/pollen/deodorizing air filter, and rear seat heater ducts, to name a few.

Initially, I wasn’t too keen on the exterior styling (still not sold on the bulbous front grill). But the wagon-like, aggressive yet streamlined look grew on me quick. As with nearly all crossovers on the market, exterior design is often as ambiguous as the CUV segment itself, thus comparing the looks from one to the next is almost irrelevant. The Venza, however, does render that true crossover appeal—not quite a wagon nor minivan, certainly not a sedan, and nowhere near a full-sized SUV, the Venza looks like a sophisticated family ride at a reasonable price-point.

Adding a more sporty look, only to the V6 trims, are dual exhaust and huge 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped in P245/50R20 tires (19-inch found on the non-V6s). The Touring Package certainly adds to this CUV’s curb appeal, including a power rear door with jam protection; a backup camera; and panoramic glass roof; front door handle touch sensors lock/unlock feature; and chrome-accented door handles.

The cabin feels large and roomy, both in the front and for rear passengers. Overall styling, including the centre console, is kept fairly basic, appealing to a broader market perhaps. A 6-speaker CD/radio audio system with Bluetooth, integrated XM Satellite Radio, a roof mounted antenna, and USB input for MP3 is standard on all Venza’s…a welcome inclusion for the long-haul family vacations at no extra expense to the folks. Other standards found on all four versions, include 8-way power adjustable driver seat and power lumbar support; 3.5-inch LCD display; carbon fiber-style interior trim; and a 3-spoke steering wheel with audio controls, to name a few. The Touring Package adds a 4-way power adjustable passenger seat with lumbar support; leather seat surfaces; heated front seats; a sport push button start with a smart key system; the TFT customizable multi-info display; satin mahogany woodgrain-style interior trim; leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; synthetic leather door trim, plus a bunch of others.

At under 30k, the Toyota Venza is a great choice for any family. While the nearly 6k Touring Package will certainly add to the bottom line, the standards alone make this an affordable choice with little to no compromise in cargo, safety, performance, and comfort.

For more info on the 2010 Toyota Venza, visit HERE.

Tested > 2010 Ford Flex w/ EcoBoost

2010 Ford Flex Limited w/ EcoBoost

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal©

Innovation and risk-taking is nothing new to Ford. With no government bailouts, no string of recalls, and yet still making it to the top, the automaker is certainly doing things right, quickly leaving the competitors in the dust. And the 2010 Ford Flex Limited with the all-new EcoBoost engine is leading the way. When the award-winning Ford Flex first hit the streets a couple years ago (read my review HERE), this full-sized CUV with its distinctive, bold styling certainly made an impact, showcasing Ford’s ability to push the envelope within any segment. Now, with the introduction of the EcoBoost engine, the company has pushed these boundaries even further, distinguishing itself from the pack.

So what exactly is this EcoBoost engine? It’s an all-new 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 355-hp and 350-lb ft of torque. Essentially, a fuel-efficient V6 powerplant disguised as a powerful V8. It doesn’t get much better than this…not to mention, accelerating from 0-60mph in around the 7-second mark. The AWD Flex with EcoBoost, as tested, delivers 13.1-L/100km in the city and 9.2-L/100km on the highway.

But the EcoBoost moniker is more than an engine—the name exemplifies an overall strategy and on-going effort by Ford to produce fuel-efficient powertrain systems for a variety of their products. The automaker claims, by year 2013, more than 90-percent of their North American products will ship with EcoBoost.

Considering the Ford Flex is a family-mover, the newly introduced Class III Trailer Tow package is a worthy addition, offering 4500-lb towing ability, and working in conjunction with the Flex’s other advanced technologies (including AdvanceTrac and Roll Stability Control), the Flex offers even more safety and reliability for towing needs. Also new for 2010, Active Park Assist (yep, the Flex will parallel park….itself), and Paddle Shift. All three are new-to-segment features not yet found on the competition.

The 2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost, in the AWD Limited trim (as tested), offers a variety features, including: • Six-speed SelectShift Automatic™ transmission with Paddle Shift Activation • Sport-tuned suspension • SYNC® with 911 Assist™ • Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS), which enables Active Park Assist and Pull-Drift Compensation • Chrome dual-tip exhaust system • 19-inch polished aluminum wheels • Leather-trimmed seats • Sony® premium audio system with 12 speakers in 10 locations • Convenience package (includes adjustable pedals with memory, power liftgate, memory driver’s seat and mirrors, heated mirrors, puddle lamps and 110-volt inverter) • Lighting package ( includes HID headlamps, LED tail lamps and ambient lighting)

Overall, the 2010 Ford Flex is the ideal ‘mini-van’ without the mini-van stigma, offering abundant cargo space, a spacious and well-designed cabin including comfortable third-row seating, and a slew of safety features, all wrapped in a bold, low-stance body. Now with better towing ability and the all-new EcoBoost engine, part of Ford’s ongoing commitment to a greener future, the Flex continues to push the envelope and lead the way introducing new-to-segment features.

For more info on the 2010 Ford Flex AWD Limited EcoBoost, visit HERE.

Tested > 2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo

2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo -- Exceeding Expectations

Story & Pics: Amee Reehal

Speechless. Absolutely speechless. Porsche, the Stuttgart automaker with a rich history producing the worlds finest performance vehicles spanning sixty-one years, decides 2010 will be the year to unleash their first ever 4-door sports sedan, unveiled at the 2009 Shanghai International Automobile Show. And in true Porsche fashion, as they did with their long overdue foray into the SUV segment with the Cayenne, hit the ground running, producing perhaps the most prolific, unrivaled saloon on the market with their 2010 Panamera Turbo—a front-mounted V8 twin turbo AWD beast with all the luxury, comfort, and cargo you’d expect from a sedan…also with the most refined performance handling you would certainly expect from a $155,000 Porsche, but in way that will certainly exceed all your expectations once you hit the open road.

Why speechless? Attempting to write exactly how exhilarating the Panamera is to drive is as difficult as returning the keys after my week the car. You simply need to drive one to truly understand. And to be honest, when I heard Porsche would be releasing a sedan, I simply anticipated a Porsche with 4-doors—a sleek looking saloon with probably enough power. Man, was I wrong. The Panamera, particularly the Turbo, goes well beyond what I believe most people had in mind for the automakers first ever sedan.

Luxury sports sedans have been around for ages, and perhaps unbeknownst to many, Porsche is no stranger to the segment. Back in 1978, they introduced the 928 (Tom Cruise in Risky Business anyone?). Though not a 4-door, the 928 attempted to offer the luxury, comfort, and performance similar to that of a saloon. Then in 1988, Porsche finally played around with the idea of a proper 4-door with their 989, but never made it to production. Today, the Panamera is the accumulation and ultimate fruition of all those ideas—but this sedan is more for the Executive types (pubescent boys schlepping around in their underwear and Ray-bans need not apply).

The Panamera is available in 3 trims: the Panamera S starting at $115,100 CAD, the Panemera 4S at $120,300, and the Panamera Turbo (as tested) at $155,000. All three share the same 4.8-litre V8 twin-turbo powerplant. Essentially, the Panamera 4S steps it up with AWD, and the Panamera Turbo goes further with increased power, unleashing 500-hp at 6000 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque at 2250 rpm. Power is truly consistent across the entire rpm range and paired to the flawless 7-speed PDK double-clutch gearbox (the only one in its class), the Panamera accelerates so quickly and smoothly, you’ll be well beyond the speed limit before you know it, all four of you peeling yourselves from your seats. Super-responsive, super-quick, propelling to 100-kph in just 4.2-sec (and 4.0-sec with the Sport Chrono Package).

Sitting low and wide, the Panamera Turbo dives into the corners with ease, and pulls out effortlessly. Again, this rocket thrusts forward with such velocity yet with such ease and comfort, you’ll quickly forget this thing has four doors, negotiating the twisty roads with confidence. And nothing about its fairly large 1970-kg frame feels bulky, moving surprisingly light on its feet, handling brilliantly. Its obvious passenger ride comfort has taken precedence in Porsche’s first ever sedan, implementing a slew of their proven suspension features including Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Ditch the passengers and opt for either the Sport or Sport Plus modes for a sportier, stiffer ride. The sexy 20-inch RS Spyder Design wheels are an upgrade at $2130, wrapped in 255/40ZR front and 295/35ZR rear rubber. Stopping assembly includes a twin-circuit brake system with front/rear axle split including huge six-piston aluminum monobloc brake calipers measuring 390mm up front.

Love it or hate it, the Panamera’s exterior styling is classic Porsche—elongated headlamp cluster, beefy fenders peering well above the hood, sexy bulbous curvatures. In person, this sedan is larger than you may expect, measuring 4970mm in length and 1931mm wide…sitting even wider than its Cayenne cousin at 1928mm. From the front, the Panamera is pure Porsche, and from a distance can easily be mistaken for another model; the rear end is reminiscent of the old 928 with its long down sweeping rear roofline into the hatch. There is also a hidden rear spoiler built into the rear lid, deploying at 90kph (also a button on console), that looks hot when you whiz by motorists as your spoiler props out at the 90kph marker.

Inside the cabin, the centre console may appear busy. But step into any sedan, luxury or otherwise, and you’ll be greeted with a plethora of dials, knobs, and switches. The real difference, however,  is how everything is laid out; how well the console is organized. Fortunately, the Panamera’s cockpit makes sense and controls are within reach (and with so many features and technology, you’ll need to bust out the manual to get a better grasp on things). Plus, the Panamera steps it up with a refreshed, luxurious console design compared to other Porsches in the lineup, including the top-end Cayenne Turbo S. The beauty with Porsche, they don’t implement a bunch of needless novelty gadgets in their products; they include only the essentials, and they do it right. For instance, the roomy rear cabin finds both heated and cooled ventilation seat controls…no audio controls, no extra switches, just clean and simple (and the pop-out ash trays on either door are pretty slick). The vents located low on the B-pillars look great too. Worth noting, the five-gauge cluster on the dash includes a gauge with menu options that also incorporates the navigation route guidance map, working in sync with the primary system on the centre stack; a convenient little feature that also looks pretty cool.

But wait, there’s cargo too! The front-mount engine (one of 6 ever made by Porsche, by the way) makes way for a large rear space. Upon opening the rear hatch door, you’re greeted by 432-litres of trunk space; drop the rear seats and you’ve got an impressive 1250-litres of capacity. We put this space to good use on a golf trip, folding the larger seat (60/40 split) fitting three golf bags comfortably, and with third passenger equally as comfortable in his bucket seat. Also enough space for our camera gear. Some, however, may expect a little more storage capacity in the cabin of this sedan.

The price as tested for this Panamera Turbo comes in at $172,430 CAD with most of the upgrades found in the cabin, including: two-tone Leather Yachting Blue, $590; Park Assist with camera, $900; heated steering wheel, $290; front/rear seat ventilation, $2130; to name a few. Perhaps the two most significant upgrades are the Burmester high-end sound-system at $5440, providing 1000-watts of uncompromised audio through 16-speakers (yes, 16), and the Sport Chrono Package at $3110, adding a Sport Plus button for a stiffer ride, launch control feature, and a stopwatch situated on the upper-middle dash.

Some feel the Pamamera is a 911 Turbo with 4-doors. Others feel it’s simply an opportunity for the automaker to tap into the lucrative passenger market. Personally, I don’t read into it. The 2010 Panamera Turbo is classic Porsche, the sickest sedan on the market, and I’m loving everything about it (yeah, that includes the styling).

For more info on the 2010 Panamera Turbo, visit HERE.

Below: the key, shaped liked the car.

Tested > 2010 MazdaSpeed3

2010 MazdaSpeed3

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal

Dethroning the Honda Civic, the Mazda3 is now Canada’s top-selling passenger car. But if its performance you love, consider the sportier, 5-door hatchback version 2010 MazdaSpeed3. And starting at only $32,995 MSRP Cdn (before taxes/fees), there’s plenty to love.

First introduced in 2007, the MazdaSpeed3 is the all-out, performance version of the company’s flagship vehicle. The beauty is, at this sub-$33k price-point, nearly everything comes standard with really no need for anything else. Just swipe your card, roll-off the dealer lot, and you’re good to go.

Powered by a 2.3-litre DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder direct-injected turbo engine, this rocket produces 263-hp at 5500 rpm and 280-lb ft of torque at 3000 rpm. Behind the wheel, the 6-speed manual MazdaSpeed3 takes Zoom-Zoom to a whole other level, with sufficient power and loads of torque across the entire power band—despite suffering some torque-steer off the line (and considering this is front-wheel drive only), this has been improved compared to previous versions. The limited slip differential is unique to the Speed version.

Handling is awesome, and despite offering four passenger doors, without question, you’ll want to be driving this thing, not enjoying it from the back! The MazdaSpeed3 is fitted with a proper sport-tuned suspension, including coiled springs and stabilizer bars front and rear. Braking power is improved for 2010, including bigger discs brakes with oversized 320mm ventilated disc brakes up front and 280mm solid discs brakes in the back. The bright, finished 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/40R18 rubber look hot.

If at first, you’re a bit apprehensive about the extremely curvaceous, perhaps overwhelming, exterior styling of the new 2010 MazdaSpeed3, particularly the front end, you’re not alone. But seriously, it will quickly grow on you. Once you turn the ignition, experience all the car has to offer, the aggressive styling quickly starts to make sense, realizing the bold look matches the bold power and handling—Mazda paid equal attention to all aspects of this car, inside and out, producing a truly well-balanced ride. Overall, the styling is mean and lean…even the overbearing front end works with the overall design. Thankfully, no chunks of hard black plastic or glued on side-door guard things, the MazdaSpeed3 looks as though it were chiseled from a single block, with color-matched door handles and mirrors. Good move, Mazda. Few other notable things that distinguish the Speed from the regular Mazda3 are body colored features, including front grille, rear spoiler, side sills extensions, and bumpers. The hood scoop, Bi-Xenon HID headlamps, and updated bumperand fenders are all new styling cues for 2010, lending a little more Zoom-Zoom flair.

My brother-in-law owns the 2007 MazdaSpeed3, the first year it was introduced, so we took the time to compare the two. In three short years, this ride has seen a dramatic shift in design; the front end alone going through a kind of Michael Jackson-esque transformation (without the ‘just getting weirder-and-weirder’ part). Check it out, 2007 vs 2010:

The cabin retains the sporty vibe yet looks and feels very refined. You’ll find a plethora of buttons and switches up front but tastefully done and organized well—the cockpit feels tight and cozy so everything is within reach. Couple cool features include a tiny, vertical LED turbo boost readout front and centre between the two unique electroluminescent gauges, and the full-color navigation screen on the upper dash is really slick, not interfering with the console layout. Throughout, the interior sees leather touches with red stitching accents. Standard only with the MazdaSpeed3 model include bucket seats in cloth and half-leather; Piano Black finish on the center panel; unique floors mats, moulded cloth door trim, and scuff plates; a leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel and leather-wrapped shift knob; alloy foot pedals and foot rest; and the tri-mode electroluminescent gauges. Bluetooth and a brilliant 10-speaker Bose audio system are also exclusive to the Speed. The full list of standards is extensive, and again, Mazda has gone the distance at this price-point.

For more info on the 2010 MazdaSpeed3, visit HERE

Tested > 2010 Mazda CX-9 GT

2010 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD

Story & Snaps: Amee Reehal©

Back in the day, the choice for the ultimate family vehicle was simple: minivan. And before then, it was the station wagon. But in today’s market, the choices and product lines catering the family market have become increasingly staggering—where minivans are no longer in vogue and wagons are more like sport sedans; where gas-guzzling SUVs have made way for the more acceptable Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV), and the Crossover is either full-size or compact. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with choices, and seeing as the auto manufacturers are simply keeping up with the ever-changing definition of the “family institution” in today’s society, you can’t really blame them. However, the choices remain daunting and today’s MiniVan/Full-Size CUV Dad is faced with some hard decisions…compared to his dad, anyhow.

At the end of the day, the common denominator for the people-mover is always the same: a comfortable vehicle with abundant cargo and cabin space, loads of standard convenience and safety features alongside affordable options, decent performance and handling with excellent fuel-efficiency, all offered with great styling and design. If you’re in this market, the 2010 Mazda CX-9 full-size CUV will certainly fit the bill.

Available in two models, the GS trim with either FWD or AWD, starting at $37,995 CDN MSRP and $39,995, respectively (before taxes/charges), or the more sportier GT with AWD only (as tested), starting at $47,450, standard features with both versions include front active head restraints, heated front seats with high & low function, a bright finish on the interior door handles, a rear A/C display, and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Add to the entry-level GS, the active torque split All-Wheel drive system for $2,000, followed by the optional $2,395 Luxury Package offering power moonroof with one-touch open and close feature, leather trimmed upholstery, 4-way adjustable power front passenger’s seat, and power driver lumbar support. The GT trim finds additional standards including a 10-speaker premium BOSE audio system with 6 CD/MP3 changer and SIRIUS satellite radio, the very handy Blind Spot Monitoring system (indicates with sound and small LED on side mirrors when nearby vehicle is in your blind spot; especially useful when changing lanes), a rearview camera, an audio display screen, and Bluetooth with AudioProfile, to name a few.

Inside, the cabin is very spacious and the overall design from the driver’s seat is super simple yet functional with touches of high-quality wood trim. The centre console looks fairly basic and very straightforward with temperature controls placed below (dual control for driver/passenger) and the 7-inch navigation screen and controls up top (this GT version included the Navigation Package upgrade at $2,675; not including the Rear Entertainment System for an extra $1,520...coming in at $4200 total, your passengers better appreciate it!). In the cockpit, the leather wrapped tilt and telescopic steering wheel feels comfortable while the instrument panel looks smart and is easy to read. The centre armrest storage finds a unique dual-lid design, split down the middle north-to-south with each door hinged on the driver/passenger side, opening up like a book. At first, this seemed a bit awkward but later proved convenient providing driver with armrest while still allowing passenger access to storage with auxiliary input and 12 volt. Second-row seating provides ample room and the rear independent temperature control is a welcome feature. Access to the third-row is painless via the second-row folding seats and the space in the back row is remarkably generous, but probably best suited for children (the mini-sized cup holders would attest to this). Its worth noting that if you do plan on stuffing adults back there, legroom may be expectedly compromised, the headroom is not at all—the long, non-bulbous rear design of the CX-9 (opposed to many other CUVs on the market), allows for this extra space. The hefty 2,062kg AWD CUV also offers loads of cargo space with a respectable 487L with all seats upright and a vast 2,851L when the 50/50-split third-row and 60/40-split second-row seats are all folded down.

Event > 2010 Camaro-SS to the Telus WSSF in Whistler

Chevy CamaroSS road trip to the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival Story & Snaps: Amee Reehal©

  • Wrapping up its 15th year, Whistler, B.C., once again, played host to the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF)—North America’s largest annual gathering of winter sports, music, arts and culture. For ten days, April 16 – 25 this year, the WSSF offers the public a plethora of events and activities throughout the day, all week long. From the Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown and the 72hr. Filmmaker Showdown Second Cuts Screening to the World Skiing Invitational and the Schick Fashion Exposed fashion show, just to name a few.
  • George Saratlic, with Product Communications at GM Canada, mentioned this vague idea to me a few weeks, regarding the festival, the Chevy sponsorship and a way to expose it to various media; inviting some prominent Vancouver-based bloggers/social media folk along with some auto journalists to cover the event. I was all over the idea, and a few weeks later, George made it happen, finding myself, along with fellow journalist Russell Purcell, tearing up the Sea To Sky Highway departing Vancouver enroute to Whistler in our 2010 CamaroSS:

  • Along the way, we stopped by this joint in Squamish called Grilled Fromage, owned by this crazy, ex-Calgarian dude named Colin Bush, who serves up 57 different types of grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course, the place is adorned with ‘cheesy’ fixtures throughout:

...Colin takes these old Bob Ross type paintings and adds a little something extra to them. I tried to buy this 'General Lee hurdling a mountain river' painting from him, but he wouldn't part with it:

  • Chevrolet Canada, one of six main sponsors at the WSSF, arguably had the strongest presence and visibility, securing a stellar cul-de-sac locale within Whistler Village, enjoying consistent traffic. The setup included the Chevrolet Stage with live bands throughout the day, various Chevy vehicles on display with public access, Chevy tent offering promos and information, and a cool installment where local artists used the Camaro hood as their canvas. Chevrolet on Scene was also on deck, a crew of social media insiders covering the event from all angles.

PHOTO BELOW: Russell snapping a shot of the Chevy Girls with GM sponspored John Kucera, memeber of the Canadian Alphine Ski Team:

  • Just outside the Village, Chevrolet gave the public an opportunity to test their products on the open road, including the 2010 CamaroSS and the  2010 Tahoe Hybrid:

PHOTO BELOW (from L to R): Fred Lantenschlager, GM Sponsorship & Auto Show Manager; Russell Purcell, auto journalist; Myself; and Janice Avon, with MacLaren Momentum agency in Vancouver handling GM Sponsorhips programs, including the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey initiatve and the GMC Cup, to name a couple:

PHOTO BELOW (L to R): few bloggers also on the trip: John BollwittRebecca Bollwitt, aka Miss604, and John Biehler, all big in the social media/technology space:

  • Here, our blogger folks tweetin' it up during lunch, relaying the Chevy Road Trip and WSSF experience out to the masses...myself, I'm debating the Twitter thing, still on the fence but we'll see:

  • The Whistler Conference Centre was home to State of the Art, an exhibition of gritty, urban art…I caught the tail end as they were tearing down, but managed to snap some cool pieces:

  • We missed the Schick Fashion Exposed fashion show, unfortunatley, but blogger John Beilher was there and took a few shots:

  • Misc. photos around Whistler Village, capturing the vibe of the WSSF:

  • Overall, the entire WSSF event was awesome, the CamaroSS was unreal (a full review in the coming months), my blind date for the weekend with Russell Purcell was delighful, and Chevrolet's tie-in with the WSSF, replacing the outgoing Pontiac brand, is a brilliant one; and one that will certainly make a positive impact.  Hopefully, I'll make it out again for 2011...but this time, I'm bringing my snowboard!

Tested > 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Review: AmeeReehal; Snaps: Ford

Innovation is the driving force behind Ford’s current success. The company has recently taken reign as the top automaker in North America. Some may attribute this to the unforeseen, gradual demise of the competitors, i.e. the recall bonanza, but the reality is, Ford was well on its way to the top, introducing diversity and innovation to their products lines—frankly, taking engineering and design risks the competition wouldn’t dream of; risks that are now paying off. The all-new, fearless 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is just another example.

The Raptor is the result of Ford’s 20 years of off-road racing experience at events including the infamous Baja 1000 and the Championship Off Road Racing (CORR) series, collecting copious awards and accolades along the way—above all, collecting the knowledge and capacity to now produce the best purpose-built, high-performance off-road truck on the streets; one that finally addresses the needs of a fairly untapped, highly demanding market. As Mark Grueber, Ford Product Marketing Manger, puts it, “Most of the manufacturers have focused on on-road performance, so when we looked at what was available in off-road truck performance, it was somewhat limited. This was the perfect opportunity for Ford to further differentiate the F-150 from other trucks on the market.” Coupled with Ford’s well-established Special Vehicle Team (SVT), the Raptor is simply the F-150 on steroids; building upon a solid foundation with added performance while retaining the needs of the daily driver.

Powered by Ford’s proven 5.4-litre Triton V8 engine (as tested), the Raptor creates 320-hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. Want more? The Raptor is now available with the all-new 6.2-litre V8 engine designed specifically for the needs of an overzealous truck. Not convinced? Ford performed extensive testing to ensure this new engine was capable. Still not convinced? SVT used a specially designed, 62-mile durability loop in the desert of Borrego Springs, California, to replicate the challenging conditions of the Baja 1000 race, just to be sure.

As with any high-performance, off-road vehicle, the suspension setup is paramount, and the Raptor is no exception. In fact, the Raptor has likely set the bar for manufacturer equipped (OEM) off-road suspensions, teaming up with Fox Racing Shox to create the industry’s first internal bypass shock system for the street that allows the shock to become significantly stiffer as it travels, preventing bottoming out. This Ford-Fox collaboration ensures the perfect off-road, on-road balance without compromise. In addition, the whole front axle is different, with a new upper A-arm, lower A-arm, new tie rod, and new half-shaft joints; Ford claims this exceeds anything SVT has ever done with any of their vehicles. The Raptor also finds 13.4-inches of useable travel in the rear suspension and 11.2-inches in the front, rolling on 17-inch cast aluminum wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich All-Terrain TA/KO 315/70-17 heavy-duty tires. When off-road, the driver can select either Sport mode (which shuts off traction control) or Full Off-Road mode (shuts off all electronic stability programs and the ABS switches to a special off-road setting).

The Raptor’s menacing, chiseled look won’t go unnoticed, especially here in Alberta, the apparent World Truck Epicentre, where trucks, 4x4s and SUVs rule the land; where you’d be hard-pressed to make it 2-kms without at least another truck, usually an F-150 (and there are many), perilously weaving traffic just to catch up and get a glimpse of the scarce Raptor, honking their horn while flashing countless thumbs up; without budgeting at least 20-minutes at the pump to account for all the interest and conversation; without letting that guy at Quizzno’s spend a few minutes inside the truck because he spent 20 minutes outside hovering and gawking at it while you were having lunch; without feeling totally awesome and pimp every time you find an excuse, any excuse, to take the Raptor for a rip. And this is just in the city…can only imagine how exhilarating this beast is off-road.

Back to the exterior: some of the key cosmetic differences between the SVT Raptor F-150 and the conventional F-150 include a very distinctive, very cool black front grille adorned with a large, but not invasive, carved Ford logo below 3 small, slick orange LED lights; front bumper, vented hood, front fascia and fenders, functional hood extractors, fender extractors with ‘SVT,’ plus the Fox Racing Shox in plain sight. The Raptor is also more than seven inches wider.

The interior retains much of the rugged, utility styling from outside, but with a huge dose of refinement, including comfortable, stylish leather seats; black leather wrapped steering wheel with a molten-orange leather strip that serves as a centering sightline; an optional $1300 power moonroof, optional $2300 Sony navigation radio system, and an optional $500 rear view camera, all as tested, to name a few.

The all-new 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor illustrates, once again, the company’s ability to seek opportunities, innovate, and take chances, building on the foundation of the successful F-150 to deliver a high-performance vehicle that will appeal to both off-road mudslingers and on-road soccer-moms.

For more info on the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, including pricing and options, visit here

Tested > 2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i

2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal©

As with any entry-level vehicle in the $20,000 price range, expectations should be kept in check—so don’t expect a high-powered rally Subie here. Do expect, however, an AWD sedan with respectable handling and power, nice styling, and decent cargo at a suitable price. Minimalism is tough to pull off properly, and Subaru has done a great job here.

The Impreza is available in the 4-door or 5-door version, with either manual or auto transmission. Various trims begin with the entry-level 2.5i base (as tested), Sport Package, Limited Package, and the WRX or WRX Limited Package with manual tranny only. This base tester, a 2.5i 4-door automatic, starts at $22,095 MSRP ($20,995 for manual) and can reach the $36,395 MSRP price-point for the awe-inspiring WRX Limited Package 5-door version.

This Impreza comes with the 4-cylinder, 2.5-litre Subaru Boxer engine with I-Active Valve Lift System making 170-hp and 170 lb-ft of torque—just enough to get you out of trouble. The 5-speed (5MT) transmission is standard with the Hill Holder system or opt for the 4-speed Electronic Direct Control Automatic transmission with SportShift (4EAT-SS). At 1420kg curb weight and the 170-hp, coupled with Subaru’s renowned AWD system and handling, the Impreza performs brilliantly, feeling nimble and tight in the corners rolling on 16-inch steel wheels with Bridgstone Potenza all-season tires, standard. Also standard: Anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist, and traction control system, to name a few.

The exterior styling is overall long and sleek with clean lines stretched along the sedan’s 4580mm (approx. 15-feet) length. The elongated hood sweeps down towards a revised front grill, giving the front a dynamic appearance contoured to the projector beam hawk-eye headlights. Along the sides, side sill extensions have been modified for improved appearance while providing better durability to road debris and chipping. All Impreza models include roof-integrated crossbar mounts for improved versatility and easier crossbar installation. Contrast to the front-end, the rear is truncated but looks appropriate and works with the overall design—the decklid is super-short with the large taillights wrapping around to the sides, balancing the backend with shape and length.

The cabin feels compact yet comfortably spacious (yes, that’s possible)—a Subaru rally-inspired trait indeed. Design themes from the outside carry through inside with the clean, contoured lines. The analog gauges are easy to read. The centre console is very straightforward and streamlined; controls are logically placed and easy to navigate—no bells and whistles here, just the basics. You’ll also find a couple cup holders (plus bottle holder in each of the 4 doors), with a little, deep cargo spot under the controls, good for wallet, phone, etc., thought the armrest cargo housing the oversized auxiliary and 12volt outlets hog much of the already limited space. The steering wheel finds standard cruise-control functions though the wheel itself isn’t very comfortable, especially when hot. The rear seats (as with the front seats) are wrapped in Ebony cloth upholstery, feel comfortable, and fold flat 60/40 providing extra cargo, though the centre console rear on the floor could use some utility function, either a 12volt, small cargo space, or a cup holder for sure.

Safety and Subaru are synonymous, and the base Impreza is no exception. Dual front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags, whiplash-reducing front-seat head restraints and front seatbelt pretensioners are standard on all Subaru vehicles.

For more info on the 2010 Subrau Impreza 2.5i, visit here

Fair enough, it’s tough discussing the Impreza without pondering the potential of the WRX, despite not having officially tested it, thus not really warranted here, but lets get to it anyway (Sorry Subaru!). The highest spec WRX Limited Package, 5-door 2.5-litre DOHC Turbo sells for $36,395, propelled by a high-pressure turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder Subaru Boxer engine, unleashing 265-hp and 244 lb-ft of torque with the Performance-tuned suspension next to 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels with gun-metal coating wrapped in Dunlop SP Sport performance rubber. Aesthetics are obviously enhanced, including a low-profile rear spoiler with brake light; a large roofline spoiler also with brake light; the classic Subaru black stainless steel and mesh-type front grill; body-coloured rear liftgate trim; and aerodynamic side ground effects, to name just a few.

Tested > 2010 GMC Terrain

2010 GMC Terrain AWD

review & snap: Amee Reehal©

When the compact SUV first hit the market, manufacturers, collectively, felt this need to make them round, bubbly and delightful—probably a bit too feminine for the masses. Fortunately, in the past few years, they’ve realized ‘compact’ need not equate to ‘cute,’ introducing the more aggressive styling cues and key features of their larger SUV siblings. The all-new 2010 GMC Terrain perhaps best exemplifies this—a hard-hitting, premium Compact Crossover SUV with the right look (finally) at the right price.

The Terrain is available in a several trims with various features, in either FWD or AWD versions: SLE-1, SLE-2, SLT-1, and SLT-2 (as tested) models. Powered by a standard Ecotec 2.4-litre Direct Injected four-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing (VVT), the Terrain puts down 182-hp with impressive fuel efficiency via the driver-selected ECO-mode, surpassing even the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 (this applies to the FWD Terrain only). For the performance-minded, opt for the 3.0-litre V6 VVT with 264-hp.

Starting at $27,465 MSRP, the entry-level Terrain FWD with the standard 2.4-litre engine comes with a slew of key standard features including 6-speed auto transmission, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Panic Brake Assist, StabiliTrak traction control system, 4-wheel independent suspension, 17-inch wheels, a rearview camera system, 6 airbags, heated exterior power/folding mirrors, and a 6-speaker 80-watt sound system with CD and MP3 Usb port, to name a few. For little more money, AWD is available while still coming in at under $30,000.

The 3.0-litre V6 AWD Terrain comes equipped at the higher end with various options, starting at $38,805 MSRP (before taxes/delivery charge). Significant upgrades here include 18-inch machined aluminum wheels wrapped in P235/55R all-season rubber, a trailer-towing package, and an upgraded premium Pioneer 8-speaker 250-watt audio system with the rear seat entertainment setup, Bluetooth capability, and XM Satellite radio.

Inside, the Terrain is less rugged and more refined than you may expect; an overall contemporary design with a contoured feel. The centre control cluster is intuitive and logically setup with climate controls grouped below and audio buttons up top. The instrument panel includes analog gauges with a digital Driver Information Centre. The standard rear camera is a nice inclusion: pop the Terrain in reverse and view the scene in the rear-view mirror (or navigation screen, if upgraded). 4-way power driver’s seat comes standard, the top-line SLT-2 as tested finds 8-way power with optional perforated leather-appointed seating surfaces. Rear passengers enjoy the Multi-Flex second-row seat that adjusts backwards and forwards by nearly 8-inchs.

Some other exterior standard features on the SLT-2 trim include power sunroof; chrome roof rails and body colour fascia with chrome rear skid plates plus chrome accents to the headlamps, side windows, and liftgate; Solar-Ray tinted glass on windshield & front door windows, plus Solar-Ray deep tinted glass on the rear door, rear quarter, and rear window; power rear liftgate with fixed glass; front halogen fog lights; plus others.

All Terrain models offer the same standard safety features including dual-stage front, side-impact, and head curtain airbags; keyless entry with Panic feature; OnStar service with 1-year plan; anti-theft alarm; halogen, projector style headlamps; and the Ultrasonic rear view parking assist camera, to name a few.

The 2010 GMC Terrain is a great alternative to the larger SUV, offering ample cargo, aggressive styling, and powertrain options for both the fuel conscious and performance minded, blurring the line between Compact and Fullsize but without the heavy price-point.

For more info on the 2010 GMC Terrain, visit HERE

Tested > 2010 Cadillac CTS Wagon

2010 Cadillac CTS Wagon 5dr 3.6L Premium AWD

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal©

Two things come to mind when pondering the new 2010 Cadillac CTS Wagon. First, the wagon is such an underrated segment. Second, the Cadillac brand continues to be misunderstood amongst the GenX’rs in today’s market. Following a week testing this 5-dr, 3.6L Premium trim, AWD mover, it became even more evident that a sport-tuned wagon still offers the performance and handling of a sports sedan with the cargo and utility near that of a compact SUV, and that Cadillac continues to make huge strides breaking that ‘old man’ stigma currently plaguing the century-old automaker, reinventing its product line with innovative features and updated styling, finding that perfect balance to attract the ‘younger’ market while retaining the Cadillac heritage. Certainly, a challenge, but a quick look at their current products, coupled with the recent, hipper marketing initiatives, its clear Cadillac is on the right track…now, its up to the consumer to buy into it, so to speak.

Exterior styling is sleek and sexy with very sharp cut lines without looking too boxy—definitely one of the hotter wagons taking the streets today. The design retains nice, long lines from front to back along its 2880mm wheelbase with touches of chrome along the way, including air extractors up front, adding some performance flair but more importantly, as functioning parts of the cooling system. The front grill is beefy, adorned with the classic oversized Caddy emblem; front fenders open up to the large headlamp clusters with long, vertical styling. The same theme continues in the rear: extremely elongated LED tail lights running north-to-south above a chunky bumper and sporty, dual chrome exhaust pipes. This wagon attracts loads of attention with its gorgeous Crystal Red paint scheme, but expect to pay an extra $1295 or it. Overall, A-plus to Cadillac for retaining its traditional styling attributes while adding contemporary, updated features that can still appeal to the young guys.

Propelled by either 3.0L or 3.6L engine, both available with RWD or AWD in either manual or auto, the CTS Wagon offers no shortage of cultivated power. This AWD tester came with the 3.6L SIDI VVT V6 engine and 6-speed auto transmission, including the Driver Shift Control (similar to tiptronic)—the shift control felt remarkably refined and fairly responsive. The AWD system paired to the CTS’ sport-tuned suspension performed well in the corners, doing a decent job keeping the 4310-lb rocket glued to the road via 18”x8” premium multi-coat painted finish aluminum wheels wrapped in P235/50VR all-season tires.

Inside, the CTS offers precisely what you would expect from Cadillac: class, refinement, and quality. The cabin is contoured and well designed with ample space and touches of white-stitching and genuine Sapele Pommele wood trim throughout, though headspace at the rear seats is a little limited.  The centre cluster is super-clean and easy to navigate—the pop-up touch screen really contributes to this: when fully down, it sits flush to the dash yet still functional with touch-screen capabilities; when more menu options or navigation is required the screen shoots up higher without being invasive. The analog clock is a nice, traditional touch too. The instrument panel with analog gauges, again, very clean and classic and easy to read. Above, the Ultraview roof opens up to the sky, nearly twice the size of conventional sunroofs. The electric sunroof shade is nice, but keep in mind, the sunroof only opens halfway (conventional size); the rest is simply window, but hey, nobody’s complaining! Just a few of the other standard features include: heated/ventilated front bucket seats with 2-way power lumbar support; Keyless Access System, automatically unlocks doors as you approach vehicle with key fob; Bluetooth hands-free phone system; dual zone automatic climate control with air filtration; the list goes on. Technology and entertainment are abundant. An eight-speaker Bose sound system and XM Satellite radio come standard, but the jump up for the extra cash is well worth it and includes the Bose 5.1 cabin surround sound ten-speaker system with a 40GB hard-drive allowing you to import your own music, ability to pause/rewind live music, along with full iPod integration tapped into the entire system with screen and/or steering wheel controls. The rear standard power liftgate with preferred height settings opens up to 720-litres of welcome cargo space along with additional under-floor cargo space once upon lifting the flat, privacy door; drop the rear seats down flat for even further cargo space. Not enough? Strap your canoe to the roof via adjustable rail-mountable tie-downs for secured cargo.

The 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon is without question a sexy, sleek and very capable vehicle that really does offer all the essentials without compromise—loads of cargo space, technology, and safety features rolled into a luxury, performance 5-dr rocket that will appeal to a very wide gamut of people from young, successful men and women to soccer-moms to your 90-year old grandpa (I think). While these latter two are probably covered, its time for the younger generation to wake up realize Cadillac is more relevant and sultry today than ever. Take the CTS Wagon (or CTS Sedan, for that matter) for a spin, and be prepared to get knocked out.

For more info on the 2010 Cadillac CTS Wagon, visit  HERE

Tested > 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

Review: Amee Reehal

Remember the Taurus? The family sedan Ford originally introduced in 1986 that quickly spread like wildfire throughout suburban neighborhoods well into the nineties? Of course, you do! Because either your folks owned one or one of your neighbors did. And why wouldn’t they have? Before mini-vans and SUVs hit their stride, the Ford Taurus solidified its place as the family-mover of choice, offering cargo, styling, unparalleled technology, comfort and safety all rolled into one affordable vehicle.

Later discontinued, replaced with other models, and now finally reintroduced for 2010, Ford continues its legacy of innovation and quality with the all-new 2010 Ford Taurus, hoping to regain top spot in the family sedan segment. And having spent a week with this vehicle, in particular, the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO (Super High Output), there is good reason to believe they will.

First, lets establish the Taurus and the Taurus SHO are essentially very different sedans. Sure, they appear nearly indistinguishable to most, but put into context, they’re worlds apart. For instance: that innocuous, flesh-coloured car your friend’s mom schlepped you in to the school dance? That would be the Taurus (family sedan). And that badass, blacked-out, inconspicuous stealth car with undoubted performance you witnessed the police rolling around in? Yes, that’s the Taurus SHO (sports sedan). Introduced in 1989 with more than 100,000 sold before production ended ten years later, the Taurus SHO is considered by many to be the ultimate sleeper car—from grocery-getter to bad-guy-catcher.

Powered by a 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 engine, the SHO puts down an estimated 365-hp at 5500 rpm and 350 ft-lbs of torque at 3500 rpm. The EcoBoost is essentially a gasoline direct injection engine resulting in improved throttle response, reduced cold start emissions characteristics, and better fuel economy. In short, providing V-8 power at V-6 fuel economy…another Ford innovation.

On the open road, the SHO is responsive and rewarding, providing ample power across a broad torque band from 1500 rpm to 5500 rpm due to smaller twin turbo chargers, opposed to one large one, rendering less internal inertia and nearly no turbo lag. The high-capacity six-speed transmission is controlled via the conventional, boring automatic way, or the lively, performance-minded SelectShift with paddle controls way! Linked to a standard, torque-sensing All-Wheel Drive System and a refined sport-tuned suspension, the Taurus SHO provides confident handling with precise control in almost any condition.

At first glance, the Taurus SHO looks mean. A low, sporty stance sitting on premium painted wheels wrapped in standard 20-inch Michelin high-performance rubber alongside aggressive styling cues including a beefy domed hood and long shoulder lines, Ford has done a great job balancing a bold sports sedan while still retaining those ‘sleeper’ qualities that have made this sedan so infamously inconspicuous. The sports sedan that isn’t, if you will.

The quality and finish inside the cabin rivals any luxury sedan out there—refined, spacious, and well thought-out, yet still encouraging a performance aptitude. The 10-way power adjustable front seats are beyond comfortable; leather-trimmed with Miko Seude inserts, not to mention the Mulit-Contour with Active Motion feature providing a subtle but continuous rolling massage (that’s right, the seats massage your butt and lower back, ideal for the long haul driver/passenger), an industry first by Ford. Other interior appointments include a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel; aluminum trimmed gas and brake pedals; and unique SHO-specific aluminum touches throughout, to name a few.

Some of the standard convenience and safety features included with Taurus SHO include: • Ford SYNC®: the fully integrated, in-vehicle voice-activated communications and entertainment system standard on Taurus SHO.  The system combines 911 Assist.   SYNC connects to MP3 players, iPods, memory sticks and PDAs. • Ambient Lighting: allows the Taurus SHO driver to program interior lighting from a choice of five soothing colours to suit any character or preference. • Intelligent Access with Push Button Start: a new Taurus feature allowing drivers to enter the car and start the engine without using a conventional key.  Drivers simply carry the fob as they approach the vehicle, touch the SecuriCode™ keyless entry keypad, open the door and enter, apply pressure on brake pedal and push a button to start the engine. • Reverse Camera System: a unique SHO option, activates when reverse gear is selected providing the driver with additional rear visibility, projecting on the windscreen mounted rearview mirror. • Blind Spot Information System (BLIS™) with Cross Traffic Alert: consists of two multiple beam radar modules, one each per rear quarter panel.  When an adjacent vehicle enters the defined blind spot zone, and indicator alert provides driver warning in the corresponding sideview mirror. • Sony Audio System: offers 12 speakers, a digital amplifier, 390 Watts of continuous power (RMS), 115 dB of maximum bass sound pressure level and Dolby® Pro Logic® II surround technology.

Starting at $48,199 MSRP with dealer discounts, this tester with optional equipment and taxes (excluding GST/HST) comes to $53,449.

For more info on the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO AWD, visit Here

Tested > 2010 Mustang GT Coupe

A 45 year track record as one of North America’s favorite muscle cars, coupled with Fords engineering experience and attention to detail, has rendered a leaner, meaner, and more refined 2010 Mustang GT Coupe.

Arguably the best-looking Mustang of the modern era, the 2010 version gets a muscular yet lean and sculptured new design, including an aggressive front grille adorned with the first new Mustang emblem since the car’s introduction in 1964. Inspired by the 1970 version, the headlamps and turn indicators are comprised of one unit found on the completely redesigned front-end—front-ends that are slightly different on both the V6 and V8 GT trims. Another notable difference between the two includes fog lamps on the lower fascia on the V6, while slightly smaller and nestled in the upper grille on the V8. Rendering a cleaner look, the washer-fluid nozzles are tucked into the cowl and the antenna moved to the back, while the nostalgic aggressive styling is still very well alive, particularly in the rear with sharp angled corners and a sculptured decklid above the huge, menacing GT badge.

Jump into the cabin and the all-new interior with well-crafted materials will slap you in the face, and you’ll like it. Gary Morales, Interior Design Manager for Mustang, says it best, “That’s the difference between good enough and exceptional…we wouldn’t accept anything less than leadership design and world-class craftsmanship.”  The chromed-ringed gauges are a throwback to the old school, yet precisely crafted and positioned. Genuine aluminum-finish panels are found throughout and the one-piece instrument panel is clean and seamless. The seats and armrests have high-quality stitching and are super comfortable, due largely to softer materials. The new centre stack is bold in design yet not overwhelming—includes Ford’s latest version of Microsoft SYNC.

The suspension for the new Mustang has been completely retuned, including the spring, stabilizer bars, and shocks. Despite the brawny façade, this muscle car handles surprising well both in the corners and at higher speeds on the highway. The wheel/tire combos are now 1-inch larger, ranging from 17-inch to 19-inch; this test rolls on 18-inch spoke wheels. AdvanceTrac Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is now standard, complementing Mustang’s all-speed traction control and ABS.

Much of the inspiration for the new Mustang comes from the Bullitt model (Steve McQueen anyone?). Including the 4.6-litre V8, with increased power to 315-hp. Throw on a leather jacket, turn the ignition, and go for an ambition drive as you soak in the rumbling throaty signature Mustang exhaust note—you’ll feel like Lieutenant Frank Bullitt ripping through the streets of SanFran…just not as cool (like not even close). But it’s fun, and it’s badass, and that’s what really resonates with this new 2010 Mustang.

Unlike Bullitt, however, the new version is a bit safer. Including dual stage front driver and passenger air bags; front seat-mounted side air bags, and Ford’s Personal Safety System.

The 2010 Mustang GT Coupe starts at $36,999 Cdn. This tested model was equipped with many upgrades, bringing the total price (including upgrade options and fees/taxes excluding GST), comes to $44,729.

Marrying new technologies with long-standing heritage is a hard thing to pull off. But with the new 2010 Mustang GT Coupe, Ford proves it can be done with progressive new styling, a world-class interior, new technologies, and performance improvements, to name a few.  Womanizing, chain-smoking, badass attidude not included.

Review also posted at Performance Auto & Sound online