TechnoFile
| Car and tech rants from Jim Bray | Publishing online exclusively since 1995 |
Updated
March 16, 2017

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Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento a fine ride that outdoes some higher end SUV's

Though there's only been some minor tweaking done to the Kia Sorento for 2017, that isn't cause for any concern.

In fact, the undoubted rationale for maintaining the status quo is that the SUV/Crossover was already a darn fine vehicle, with lots of equipment stuffed into it, and even without a major overhaul it's still highly competitive in the crowded market niche of mid-sized utility vehicles.

This is the vehicle, after all, that drove away with the Best SUV/CUV ($35K - $60K) award after competing at the 2016 Canadian Car of the Year TestFest. It beat out the BMW X1, Ford Edge, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Tucson (conventional and Fuel Cell Electric), and the exquisite Lexus NX 200t (F SPORT) for the honours so, unless the collected auto journalists that voted on the category were collectively delusional - and I would never accuse them of that! - it's quite the vehicle. more...

Passengers is a thoughtful and better-than-expected 4K video experience

The sci-fi flick Passengers sure didn't stick around long in theatres, but that's good news if you're a home video aficionado, especially since the movie has been given a welcome 4K UHD release that's quite spectacular.

Even better, above and beyond its excellent home theatre credentials, Passengers also offers an interesting and thought-provoking story and terrific performances by lead actors Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt who play literally (well…) star crossed lovers who must cope with their own "Kobyashi Maru-type" of no-win scenario. more...

Honda adds an ugly but kind of fun hatchback to its Civic line

You could look at it as a return to form, an extra reason to give Honda's classic Civic a look if you're in the market for a mainstream car. And it is, somewhat, because Honda offered hatchback Civics in Canada for many years.

Alas, this isn't Civics of old and, as great as it is in so many ways, it's still a current Honda and that means it may drive you nuts as you drive.

There's something awry about today's Honda and it really has me scratching my head. Civics have always been cute, or at least inoffensive, but this current (tenth) generation - which includes sedan and coupe versions as well as this new hatch - is bloody ugly. And frustrating. Now, I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beer holder, and Honda is only one of the Japanese carmakers currently over styling their vehicles (some Lexus and Nissan models come to mind as well), but the new Civics are full of creases and bulges that look almost as if it were designed by a committee of people who never spoke to each other.

And that's just the exterior problems! more...

Canadians want reliability in their cars - so how does 2017's crop stack up?

Forget fine Corinthian leather, ultimate connectivity and high horsepower. It appears that Canadians are more interested in buying a vehicle that doesn't leave them stranded on the side of the road than they are in creature comforts or high technology.

That's according to a survey of Canadian men and women (or, to be inclusive "memen"), as reported by a GfK survey of over 22,000 Internet users in 17 countries, though only 1,002 of them were from the Once Great White North. It appears to be a "yuge" majority, too: more than eight in 10 women (83 per cent) and 77 per cent of men named reliability as the number one feature they seek out when they put down their hard-earned after-tax cash for a new set of wheels. more...

Time Sagas

Mitsubishi winter driving event helps teach control on snow

Winter may be on its way out soon, but there's still enough of the "old person" around to ensure that snowy Canadian roads will be challenging for at least a few more weeks. That means there's still ample opportunity for more skid-related fender benders before spring springs and the grass starts rizzing.

And to that end, Mitsubishi Canada has been on the road as well, bringing some professional drivers and some of their Outlander SUV/Crossovers to Alberta to not only showcase the "crummy weather capabilities" of their vehicles but to give some handy tips to attendees who find themselves oot and aboot when the white stuff sticks.

I love these events; they're not only fun but they can help you "navigate the neige" with more confidence and skill. I did a similar type of thing a couple of years back when Ford came through and will always show up for such events because you can never have too much practice - and it's a real hoot sliding around a snowy open area in someone else's vehicle (and they treat you really nicely, too). more...

Gump director makes a romantic WWII spy thriller

Robert Zemeckis has made a lot of interesting and innovative movies during his decades-long career and he has also pushed the state-of-the-moviemaking-art during that time. He's the guy who pushed the 3D IMAX envelope, starting with the exquisite The Polar Express, which means that such famed movie tech visionaries as James Cameron are really standing on his shoulders.

Zemeckis' Allied, his telling of a couple of World War II spies who fall in love and start a family back in England, sees him recreate the world of the day beautifully via his typical use of digital effects. The film is a bit of a change of pace for him as well: a romantic drama that's laced with more "F-bombs" than I can remember from any other Zemeckis film I've seen. more...

Toyota's 2017 Highlander a handsome and comfortable SUV

The popular Highlander SUV/Crossover is about mid-way through its current generation and Toyota has enhanced and upgraded it for the 2017 model year, making it an even more pleasant vehicle to be in.

In fact, I'd reckon that, after my week in Toyota Canada's sample Highlander XLE AWD model that it's an even nicer vehicle than its up market cousin, the Lexus RX 350. That's because, while it isn't as luxurious or, ahem, prestigious as the Lexus (which rides on the same basic platform), the sample was plenty luxurious enough, more handsome inside and out (with the usual "eye of the beholder" caveat) and easier to operate.

The ease of use comes mostly from Toyota's decision to put a touch screen in the centre stack and mount it within reach of even short people. And it's easy to fathom and to use. The Lexus has its screen mounted high and out of reach, forcing the company to put one of those damn mouse-like Remote Touch devices on the centre console, and as nifty as that sounds it's actually counterproductive if you're just trying to get stuff done because you're fiddling with the knob and menus all the time instead of just poking and choosing. more...

High tech gloves let you use your smart device without getting frostbite

Drivers and/or texters in climes where winter rears its ugly head repeatedly have an interesting new ally in their quest to operate smart devices without getting their hands cold.

Glider Gloves is a line of hand wear that promises to let you text, phone, and even operate vehicles' LCD screens without having to remove them, a promise that - given my history of trying to use my smart stuff while wearing gloves - seemed like a product that was simply too good to be true. more...

Volkswagen and Subaru drive off with Canadian Car of the Year honours

The best new car and utility vehicles in Canada for 2017 come from Germany and Japan and, while one is considered a car, both could be considered utility vehicles as well.

That's because the Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) overall winner, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, is not only a great car in its own right, it's also what once would have been known in these parts as a station wagon, a family-and-hauling-friendly vehicle that blends the best of both worlds while never forgetting that at heart, it's a Golf - which is a very good thing indeed.

The other side of the Car of the Year coin is Utility Vehicle of the Year, which for 2017 has gone to the Subaru Forester, which just happens to be my favourite Subaru year after year (though I must admit liked earlier ones better).

Still to be awarded is the Green Car of the Year, which will be named at the end of March - just as Canada is turning green again after a long winter. Somehow I don't think those greens are related… more...

Virtual reality demonstrations showcase a technology with plenty of potential

The term "virtual reality" has been around for years, and for about the same length of time we've been promised that it's the next big thing we'll have in our lives.

Like so many technological promises, however, it's been mostly vapourware when it comes to consumer products, with only a few baby steps taken on the journey to immersive virtual worlds for us to play in. But it appears to be coming, and if a couple of demonstrations I attended over the past couple of months are any indication, there should be some really cool stuff available over the next few years. more...

Honda moves in the right direction with the new CR-V

Maybe Honda is listening to its critics because this new CR-V is a nice step back toward Hondas of old, Hondas that weren't just great vehicles, but which didn't really annoy their owners at the same time.

I've been one of those critics over the past few years, though I can't imagine a small potatoes guy like me being responsible for Honda moving back toward the light - but it's sure good to see.  

The first indication of a potential turnaround in Honda's attitude is the return of a volume control knob to the centre stack of the new CR-V SUV/Crossover. The second is that the new CR-V is actually quite a handsome vehicle, much nicer than its predecessor. And that's a great start. more...

Vapourizers offer handy portable and/or party performance - usually

Late last year I did a column outlining in its most basic terms the issue of marijuana use, and in the process I introduced a few of the popular vapourizers available on the marketplace today. In that column I assembled a group of baby boomers I know, folks who've been "imbibing" the still-illegal substance for decades and who are (surprisingly to some folks, I'm sure) productive members of society who just happen to enjoy the odd toke. They provided me with valuable insight and opinions, most of which were very positive of the vaping experience.

On the heels of that column I was sent samples of a couple of other - and very different from each other - vapourizers, so over the past few weeks I reassembled my panel to get their impressions (and no, Rich Little wasn't one of them) of these new units, one of which had the potential to be the slickest little portable they'd seen. The other vapourizer isn't portable at all, but my panellists discovered it has its own joyful positives that made it a real, well, hit. more...


Lexus GS sport sedan a 'Lexurious' and fun drive

Lexus has been relentlessly, and passionately, pursuing automotive perfection since the brand first upset the luxury car market back in 1989. Does that mean its current line has reached that pinnacle of automotive excellence for which it has advertised its intent for so long?

Of course not. The only perfection in this world is my wife - followed closely by my grandson (and, yes, they made me write that) - and it isn't realistic to expect flawlessness in any mere product, especially since your idea of perfection is undoubtedly quite a bit different from mine (which, of course, means yours is wrong...).

But they keep plugging away, redefining and refining their line and building some of the most reliable vehicles on the planet year after year.

Their mid-sized GS sports sedan is reasonably sporty, too, though folks who look for a BMW-like experience with Lexus have been disappointed because the cars, while lovely and fun, still don't have that special "je ne sais quois" of a 5 series, not that much does. more...

LG makes a cool roll-up keyboard and a flexible cell phone

Continuing a theme from a couple of weeks ago, I've been playing with - I mean reviewing seriously - a couple of products that might be good places to drop some of that after-holiday cash you may have left over or received as a gift.

This time, it's a pair of products from South Korea's LG, which is probably best known for TV's and appliances, but which is also a big player in the mobile device market. And these two products fit securely in that niche: a nifty Bluetooth keyboard and a fully featured cell phone that even offers virtual reality capability (for an extra cost, of course). more...


Acura's biggest SUV gets rhinoplasty for 2017

The Acura MDX has traditionally been a very nice luxury SUV and this might explain why the 2017 version hasn't changed a lot from the previous year.

Probably the biggest change is to its front end, which now sports a new grille the company calls "diamond pentagon." I had no issues with the last schnozzola on the MDX - my issues with the vehicle stem more from an interior treatment that hasn't been changed significantly, and that's a shame.

Besides the new grille, the MDX gets a more sharply sculpted hood, front fascia and front fenders, new LED fog lights and the cool Jewel Eye headlights that are appearing on the company's inventory. There's also a new chrome rocker panel design, the rear bumper has been redesigned, and you now get twin tailpipes. It's a handsome exterior, indeed. more...

Ron Howard's Inferno features left wing loon as super villain

I never saw this one coming, and I have a feeling that Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, author Dan Brown and screenwriter David Koepp didn't either: Inferno, the third movie in the "Da Vinci" code series, features a megalomaniacal bad guy who's such a left wing whacko that non-whacko left wingers should take note of where their movement has gone in real life.

It's funny, because that's exactly the opposite of what these guys say on the new Blu-ray release's supplements, where they portray tech billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) as a really, really smart guy who just seems to have overstepped the rules of decency by devising his plot to kill half of the human race so the remaining half can rebuild. more...


Hyundai's popular big ute gets a 2017 freshening

It may not be particularly sporting when stacked up against the likes of the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace, but Hyundai's 2017 Santa Fe Sport costs a lot less and still manages to offer a lot of good stuff - including some fun - to its potential buyers.

The Sport - a moniker that distinguishes the two row, five seat Santa Fe from the three row XL version - is said to have "over 350 all-new parts with new features" as well as 11 per cent better fuel mileage and, of course, new standard equipment.

There's plenty that isn't new, of course, but that isn't because Hyundai has become cheap (well, I really don't know their motivation) but because the Santa Fe's current generation is a pretty darn compelling vehicle already - a vehicle that, like the company that builds it, has earned its success. more...

OPPO's new UDP-203 adds 4K Ultra HD to its universal player line

Oppo Digital is back with a new universal player and, in the company's grand tradition, it's a winner.

The UDP-203 takes all that was great about the company's BDP-103, and there was plenty, and adds 4K UHD and HDR capability. Along the way it also got a classy new interface and a remote control that, while it looks pretty much like the BDPs' that came before it, now lights up when you grab it - a really handy feature.

Oppo regularly knocks it out of the park with their products which, while priced higher than the average mainstream consumer might like to justify, are easily worth their weight in wampum if you're an audio and/or videophile. The stuff is built well, works great, and offers just about any feature you could want in such a device. more...


Toyota Camry hybrid a surprisingly nice drive

It's been called an appliance, a vanilla vehicle, boring, whatever. But the fact remains that Toyota's Camry is a model of greatness in its own right - a car that'll deliver comfortable and efficient driving for many years without fuss or hassle.

It's also one of the top-selling vehicles in North America and, though it may never quicken the pulse of driving enthusiasts, it delivers a better driving experience than those same enthusiasts might expect.

Even in its hybrid form, the topic of this piece. Oh, as a hybrid it's saddled with a noisy and whiny CVT and CVT's also generally sap a lot of the enjoyment out of the driving process, but even that couldn't kill my enjoyment during a recent week with the Camry hybrid SE. more...

Of routers and smart plugs and mice (oh, my!)

It's a new year and if you have any money left over from the Christmas giving season - or if you have some gift dollars burning a hole in your pocket - there are innumerable tech solutions on which you can blow the cash, from a new router to a new mouse, and lots in between.

Let's look at a couple of items I've been playing with for a while now, including the TP-Link AC3200 Wireless Tri-band Gigabit Router, whichlooks like a cross between an unidentified flying object and my home town's football stadium with its tall towers supporting a giant Bose speaker over the mid field stripe. more...


Honda's new Ridgeline improves an already interesting pickup

Honda's  odd-looking pickup truck of old is gone, replaced by a new generation - its second -  that brings a much more conventional demeanour to the marketplace.

And other than some "Honda-isms" that mar an otherwise great interior, it could be the perfect choice for people who need a pickup truck sometimes, but whose hauling needs aren't heavy duty and who refer the driving feel of an SUV or crossover to that of a "regular" truck.

Part of the reason for that different feel from other pickups is because the Ridgeline isn't a "regular" pickup truck at all. It features a unibody, er, body, which is more like today's cars and SUV's than the "body on frame" construction of the garden variety pickup. This makes the Ridgeline feel more like a Honda Pilot than, say, a Toyota Tacoma, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, as a "not a truck guy" kind of guy, I'd look to the Ridgeline before any other pickup truck on the market if I ever needed to buy a truck.

Well, except for the Honda-isms the company still hasn't figured out. more...

Audio-Technica cuts the cords on turntables

It doesn't offer a USB interface to let you rip your vinyl but, despite that, Audio-Technica's AT-LP60-BT turntable may be the most flexible platter spinner I've ever seen.

That's because it can be used wirelessly, thanks to its built in Bluetooth interface, and it also has its own built in phono preamp that lets you use it with receivers and/or preamps that may not have one built in.

Heck, if it had the USB interface it would probably be perfect! more...


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