Ford's F-150 truck line has been at or near the top of the vehicular sales heap for decades, and that's a laudable achievement in an ever-more-competitive automotive marketplace. Especially for a truck!
And even though the joy of a full sized pickup truck is nearly entirely lost on me, I just got to spend two weeks behind the wheel of two Ford F-150 samples, a fairly conventional (but quite loaded) F-150 Lariat edition and (drum roll…) the Mighty Raptor.
Trucks being not only big in size but in business as well, it's nice to slide the Bray buttocks into a representative sample periodically if only to see how the "other half" lives. So with that in mind, I tackled the Lariat and the Raptor with gusto - the former of which is likely to rope in many sales thanks to its all-around capabilities and goodness and the latter of which could very well cause rapture among those for whom its capabilities and goodness are aimed because it's not only a very capable truck, it's also a comparative blast to drive. It's also a "truck guy magnet," as evidenced by the number of people who wanted to talk about the Raptor during my week with it. And not just guys! more...
The good news is that Kong: Skull Island isn't as bad as I had feared it would be. The bad news is that it isn't as good as it could have been. However you slice it, however, it's an excellent example of how good home video can look and sound in 1080p HD.
Warner Brothers' latest take on the giant ape theme comes courtesy of some of the folks who made the last Godzilla remake, so if nothing else it shows they have a history of remaking "classics" for better or worse. Yet this Kong has very little to do with the "Kings Kong" that preceded it, which was one of the things that had me more than a tad scared going into this review (I thought they'd be painting a moustache onto the Mona Lisa). more...
Ah, the Mazda MX-5. Once called the Miata, the Japanese carmaker's little open top roadster has been around for nearly 30 years and during that time has evolved and grown like most cars.
But unlike some cars that get overstyled or "over-teched" or which lose their original mien over the years, Mazda has never lost the Miata's focus of delivering the kind of driving joy that used to be found on such cars as the MGB, but without leaving you on the side of the road every time it rains.
Okay, that may be an exaggeration about the old British sports cars, but I've owned three MGB's (in various states of repair from "on its last legs" to "brand new") and they all left me on the side of the road - so much so that I look back now, decades later, and find it hard to believe I could have been so stupid as to get kicked by that particular mule three times. What can I say? I was a kid. more...
It's a blast from the past, kind of, as the "classic" TV show CHIPS makes its way to moviedom thanks to writer/director/star Dax Shepard's remaking of the series. It's also foul mouthed in the extreme and so full of sexual talk and innuendo - hetero and homo - that kids should probably be kept far away from it.
Other than that, CHIPS would be a decent cop/buddy flick and it does boast good performances and some pretty cool stunting. Heck, I even liked Michael Pena's new Camaro, which is a really great looking muscle car - and I haven't found a Camaro particularly attractive since the 1969 model.
Pena's Ponch (as opposed to Bray's paunch, I suppose…) is an undercover FBI agent sent to smoke out some bad cops in the California Highway Patrol. He joins up with misfit CHP rookie Jon Baker (writer/director/star Shepard), whose only real skill is as a motorcycle stunter and who's trying to put his life together so his estranged wife will love him again, or respect him again, or something.
We get treated to lots of gunfire, a whole bunch of swearing and sex stuff, and a story that's better than I had expected going in. more...
I thought my pants would never dry!
The Lego Batman movie, now on Blu-ray from Warner Brothers, may not seem like something worth watching unless you're five year old, but it's full of laugh out loud moments young kids are likely to miss, which makes it a good movie to watch with said kids - you can not only explain some of the jokes but you can spend some quality time with the ankle biters without worrying about the latest Hollywood assault on their minds. Add a lack of sex and (other than comic book) violence, and even some personal growth that didn't really need to be there, and you have an enjoyable 104 minutes in the home theatre for the whole family. more...
It turns out that the phrase "Wankel rotary engine," unlike how it's described in an old Monty Python sketch, is no reason for embarrassment. Especially for Mazda, the only carmaker with the pluck to realize - and do its best to prove - that Wankels weren't just for wankers.
Sure, it hasn't worked out as Mazda may have liked - the last rotary Mazda was the now-defunct RX-8, a terrific sports car - but it isn't as if the technology doesn't work. It just may not work as well as the conventional internal (a.k.a, to greenies, as infernal) combustion engine, especially in this day and age of increasingly mandated fuel economy.
But 50 years ago as of May 30th, the Hiroshima-headquartered carmaker began its legacy of, as Mazda's press release celebrating the anniversary said, "doing what was said couldn't be done." Mazda wasn't unique, if my aging memory is still working. General Motors was also looking at rotary engines at one time, but I don't believe they ever followed through. That would make Mazda the only major carmaker to wish the Wankel onto the world, and the company did it not only via its sports cars (though never the Miata) but also via some very nice sedans and coupes. A coupe de grace, perhaps? more...
Think of it as a Juke that's less a joke, or as a little sibling to the RAV4 - but however you choose to gaze upon its little fullness, Toyota's latest SUV/Crossover is definitely an interesting little vehicle.
Whether or not it's blazing a new sales trail for Toyota will be known somewhere down the, er, road, but in the meantime, this is definitely - well, reasonably - another compelling vehicle from the land of the rising sun.
Just don't sit in the back!
Toyota, not surprisingly, hypes the C-HR as something really new and exciting (and they'd be pretty lousy marketers to do otherwise!). Here's how their PR stuff describes it: "When a deputy chief engineer who is passionate about motorsports is put in charge of turning a high-style concept model into a road-ready compact crossover, great things happen. Great things like the 2018 Toyota C-HR – an all-new, coupe-inspired crossover hitting the streets across Canada this spring." more...
Have you ever been stuck for gift ideas? Have you ever been bored by the generic computerized voice programmed into your vehicle? Well, folks, the free market has solutions for both of these vital issues and the world may be a better place because of them.
Or not. But they are interesting apps regardless of their overall impact on modern civilization, and I figured you might like to know about them. more...
It's pretty Spartan, all things considered, and it's about as much fun to drive as a hobby horse, but Toyota's 2017 Prius C hybrid hatchback is still a decent little car that does a lot with a little. And, at a starting list price of $21,975, it doesn't cost a huge amount of cash to save the Earth.
On the other hand, you could buy a gas-fueled 106 hp Yaris SE five door hatch with an automatic transmission for about $19,510, sans taxes, fees and other kilos of flesh. The Yaris probably won't get the excellent 4.5 litres per 100 km that I achieved in the Prius C (despite my lead foot), but Toyota claims 7.9/6.8 (City/Hwy) for the Yaris, which is still darn good. And the Yaris is a heckuva lot more fun to drive, if only because it doesn't come with a whiny continuously variable transmission.
Sure, you'll be poking the Al Gores, David Suzukis and "Science Guys" of the world in the eye, but how is that a bad thing?
Toyota Canada's sample Prius C, which is "designed for the city," according to Toyota's website, wore the Technology moniker, which adds to the mix stuff like a backup camera, Toyota Safety Sense C (Pre-Collision System, Automatic High Beams, Lane Departure Alert), a power moon roof, heated front seats and a smart key system with push button start/stop. The Technology raises the Prius C's base price to $26,980 CAD.
On the other, other hand, The Prius C Technology is equipped better than the loaded Yaris hatch, which is about the same size and market niche. I checked out Toyota's Canadian website and it looks like you can't get a moon roof or rear view camera at all on the Yaris, which is a darn shame. I think a rear view camera is a more important safety feature than air bags (you'll use the camera every day, but the airbags will hopefully never be used) and while I can live without a moon roof I certainly wouldn't want to. more...
If you like your comedy movie foul mouthed, mean spirited and populated with sexual predators, Fist Fight is for you. But if it's representative of today's comedy films, I weep for popular culture and the society it supposedly reflects. Rocky or Fight Club it ain't!
Fist Fight is set on the last day of school, also known as Prank Day, when the students perform pranks on the faculty. Judging by the pranks, these students put a lot more effort into this day than they do into their studies. On the other hand, I think if these folks were my teachers I'd have played hookey a lot more than I did in my misspent youth. more...
It's big and it only sports a four banger engine, but the Mazda CX-9 SUV/crossover is one of the best driving vehicles in the class.
In other words, it's a typical Mazda.
Mazda is a relatively small car company, and for the last few years the Hiroshima-headquartered Japanese carmaker has had to forge its own path without another carmaker having its back (Ford used to be a partner). Yet it consistently comes up with vehicles - sedans, SUV/crossovers and, of course, sports coupes - that are just plain fun, yet are also featured fully and exude an air of quality that makes them seem more expensive than they are.
The CX-9 is Mazda's biggest vehicle, but slip this baby into sport mode via the little rocker switch on the centre console and the vehicle seems to shrink a tad, just enough to make it sit up and take notice that you're looking to play. It still feels big, of course - even Mazda can't change the laws of physics - but it goes from feeling like a nice, big SUV to a nice, big Mazda SUV, and all the "Zoom-Zoom" that brings. more...
There've been battles of the network stars, the Battle of the Bulge, battles with city hall, and many other battles - but the one that predates them all, and still goes on today, is the so-called "battle of the sexes." Men are from Mars and Women are from Oz, or Middle Earth or something, and never the twain shall meet.
Except that the twain do meet, often and repeatedly, so it's best that we learn to get along. And of course to do this in today's society, men have to understand women. Women don't have to understand men because women are downtrodden and innocent victims of a patriarchal system and so if there's going to be any movement toward mutual understanding it'd better damn well be the men doing it. Right?
On the other hand now, thanks to an app, men can play women like a fiddle! And isn't that empowering for women? more...
It's been called vanilla, boring, bland, but what the Toyota Camry really is, is a fabulously designed and rendered sedan that gives a driver everything needed and most of what could be wanted - in an unassuming but handsome package that's as state-of-the-art as most people could want.
It also sells oodles (it's been one of the top selling cars for years now) and, judging by the Toyota logo and the number of old Camry still on the road, it'll probably run forever.
That, to me, makes it an automotive masterpiece.
The Camry has grown in looks, driving feel, and features - so much so that this current version (which will be replaced for 2018 with an even newer one) really is pretty much all one could want in a car. And it's even decent to drive!
Do I smell the ozone of a pending lightning strike at my head? more...
Big sound from a small box, with enough connectivity to please nearly everyone. That's what Bose's SoundTouch line of speakers offers, and the flagship of the series is a remarkable unit, indeed.
A while back I got to wondering if Bose had added any new features to the SoundDock 10 - specifically, I was looking for better connectivity options beyond its auxiliary input and the optional Bluetooth module I'd been using in place of an iPod docking mount. So I surfed by their website and, much to my surprise and chagrin, I noticed that Bose no longer offers the SoundDock 10 for sale at all!
Not to worry, however. Before I broke into tears, my contact at Bose reminded me that the newer SoundTouch series not only offers the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity I was seeking, but that the top line SoundTouch 30 actually uses the same audio engine that was in the wonderful SoundDock 10. So I begged them to let me review one. more...
It drives like a Volkswagen Jetta GLI, and it feels like a German car in its construction. But it's not German - it's from South Korea, proving once more that the "traditional" automakers had better be taking the Hyundai/Kia twins very seriously lest they end up on the government dole.
The car under discussion here is the Hyundai Elantra Sport, the winner of the Best New Sport/Performance car from AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year awards - an annual fall TestFest that also resulted in the more "pedestrian" Elantra winning its category as well. Quite a feat for a company whose cars used to be the butts of many automotive jokes (though that was a long time ago now!).
This means I have a certain amount of egg on my face - never a good thing when you have a beard! more...
The quest for the best TV picture possible has been a long one, stretching back to the early days of cathode ray tubes and muddy black and white pictures on small and, compared with even the worst of today's TV's, grainy screens.
Then we had colour and, decades later, high definition, both of which were game changers. The next game changer was the evolution from big, fat and heavy CRT's to liquid crystal, or LCD – the flat screens that have freed up space in our viewing rooms while also offering us better quality and larger pictures. LCD evolved to LED, which are really LCD panels with different "back lighting."
Now there are two new technologies vying for your after tax dollars, one of which is a logical next step in the high definition evolution – 4K – and one of which is an absolutely ground breaking leap in picture technology: OLED. more...
One's a truck that drives like an SUV; the other is an SUV that drives like a truck. Which one makes more sense?
Naturally, it depends on the task at hand. If you're looking for a small pickup truck that rides like more a car, the Honda Ridgeline is the clear choice. But if you want a brawny adventurer that'll be as comfortable off the asphalt as it is inside the city, the Toyota 4Runner is the winner.
And never will the twain meet, except perhaps in this column.
Honda's new Ridgeline - in the "Black Edition" livery of this review - is built on the same basic platform as the company's big SUV, the Pilot and, while it'll probably be fine for many off road excursions, it's more of a city folk vehicle than a backwoods brawler.
On the other hand, Toyota's 4Runner - in the "TRD PRO" livery of Toyota Canada's sample - is a tough off roader that shares DNA with the Tacoma pickup truck. And it's happy to bounce you along the paved roads before devouring happily its natural element, the great outdoors. more...
Kate Beckinsale is back and kicking werewolf butts in Underworld Blood Wars, which debuts from Sony on 4K UHD disc next week. And if you're tired of computer generated landscapes, blood and characters, Warner Brothers has a more classically animated superhero title that might catch your eye, though it isn't available in 4K as of this writing.
Teen Titans was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me, thanks to its Saturday morning cartoon look and feel - the type of superhero animation I used to watch with my kids when they were, well, kids. more...
Ford offers a long list of SUV's for sale, from the entry size Escape to the humongous Expedition, all of which face stiff competition from a huge number of SUV/Crossover models available. So how do the three most popular models stack up for the 2017 model year?
Pretty well, I'd say, though I haven't driven all of the competition recently. But after a week with each of the Escape, Edge and Explorer (with a week off between to fall under the spell of the exquisite new Lincoln Continental), I came away impressed with how well the vehicles drive, how easy they are to operate, and how nice they are overall.
I slid my prodigious posterior into the Edge first, Ford of Canada's sample wearing the Sport trim level that immediately caused my ears to perk up. Sure, it's a bigger SUV than I like (which makes the Explorer even more so…), but - at least in the Sport trim - it drives smaller than it looks, and that made a huge difference to my enjoyment.
Part of the reason for that, undoubtedly, is the adaptive steering feature Ford introduced to the Edge in 2016 and which is standard equipment on the Edge Sport (and optional on the Titanium). It's analogous to power steering, except that - according to the gentleman at a local Ford and Lincoln dealer - it's a system that's mounted right inside the steering wheel and uses an electric motor and gearing system to function. more...
A special TechnoFile rant.
Did you know that when you're watching your favourite TV program, your TV program could be watching you as well?
It's true, if you believe what a company called FlySwipe is selling. That's because, according to a press release coming from the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters convention, broadcasters and marketers now have the ability to know exactly who's watching a program thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology.
FlySwipe says they can use facial recognition and "big data" to help the broadcasters and advertisers figure out exactly which commercial a particular viewer should be shown, based on the viewer's age and gender. On the upside, perhaps, they say the technology can also limit adult-oriented ads while there are kids in the viewing room. more...
Hyundai's Ioniq green car is so new we don't even have a published price for it in Canada yet, but it's worth waiting for because the hybrid is so good to drive I kept forgetting it's an earth saver.
Heck, I liked driving the Ioniq so much that, after all my hybrid humour and hammering over the years, I figure I'm risking a lightning bolt from above just for saying I like this car. And isn't that ioniq, er I mean ironic?
The Ioniq may also be quite iconic in the world of hybrids, in that - according to Hyundai - it offers three variations on its theme: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric and, again according to the company, it's the only hybrid on earth that offers a dual clutch automatic transmission, in this instance a slickly-shifting six speed. This is especially interesting in a market niche dominated by continuously variable transmissions (CVT) that may help increase gas mileage but usually decrease the driver's involvement significantly.
Hyundai Canada's sample was of the straight hybrid variety, which means it (and the plug-in version) comes with a new Kappa 1.6 litre four-cylinder, direct injection engine. more...
In the war of competing cell phones, LG has just fired off a new shot, and if my very short time with a preproduction sample is any indication, it's a bullseye.
It also features a surprisingly large screen for a phone that still fits easily into my paw, a 5.7 inch QHD+ "FullVision" unit that's colourful and very easy on the eyes.
I also love how you can wake or put the phone to sleep merely by tapping on the screen twice with your finger. That might be a very small thing - and in the grand scheme of things it probably is - but it's a wonderful ease of use thing in a world or smart phones where there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to where a manufacturer puts the buttons. In this case, as with the last LG I reviewed, the power button is on the back, nicely out of the way but not as easy to access quickly as the double tap method. more...
It doesn't wallow, nor does it feel like a car my grandfather would drive. In fact, it looks as if Lincoln has thrown down a gauntlet with the 2017 Continental, announcing to the world that the famed marque is not only back, but capable of taking on the competitors head to head.
When was the last time you read that about a Lincoln Continental?
It's something I had never written before, let alone thought. Oh, I liked the MKZ I drove last fall a lot, but as nice as it was it still felt like a "gussied up" Fusion (which it is, really), whereas after spending a week in the grand new Continental I came away excited for the future of the famed nameplate, which had kind of gone to sleep as a major luxury brand.
Yep, the new Continental is that good! Welcome back!
It is quiet, and it is luxurious - but what really turned my crank about the new Continental was its exquisite interior design and its driveability. This, to rip off an old ad campaign from a competitor that no longer exists, is not your father's Lincoln. more...
Potterville is a marvelous place to visit. It's full of wonderful lives and interesting, nice people, with enough evil around them to make for good drama. And now it's an even better place to visit on home video, thanks to brand new 4K releases from Warner Brothers.
Potterville in this case isn't the renamed Bedford Falls of George Bailey's wonderful life "gift" from angel Clarence. No, this Potterville is a British place that kind of floats - via flying car or dragon, or broomstick - between Little Whinging and Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I speak of Harry Potter, of course, the boy who lived through enough books and cinematic stories to choke a centaur. more...
We welcome your comments!
TechnoFile: "The Tech Magazine for the Rest of Us!"
TechnoFile publisher Jim Bray's
print columns are available through the