| Car and tech rants from Jim Bray | Publishing online exclusively since 1995 |

Updated February 20, 2020
Mazda CX-5 Diesel

Award-winning Subarus bring Big Brother to some otherwise nice vehicles

Subaru, the Japanese car company, has won two Automobile Journalists Association of Canada "Best Car in Canada" awards, for its new Legacy and Outback, and on the whole they're very nice vehicles.

Though neither won the Best Car in Canada award for 2020 (that went to Mazda's terrific 3 sedan/hatchback), the Legacy took its category as Best Large Car in Canada for 2020, while the Outback was named Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2020. That's pretty good!

And then they went all Big Brother.

I'm talking about obtrusive nannies, a topic I address regularly in this column because I find some of them particularly annoying. Lane keeping assists are particularly vile because they aren't smart enough to tell if you're swerving uncontrollably or just having a bit of fun apexing a curve, while some blind spot monitors get all a-flutter when you're merely turning left at a dual turn intersection and there's someone else turning in the lane beside you.

To this mix, Subaru has now brought an entirely new level of obtrusiveness. It's called DriverFocus, is available on the Premier trim level – and it has actually won at least one award. The system uses facial recognition software and a camera pointed at the driver's face to put a 1984 Telescreen in your vehicle. more...

Mazda CX-5 Diesel

Mazda CX-5 adds diesel power to its lineup

How do you make a great SUV even more stimulating? Well, you could give it more oomph, or better fuel mileage – or, better still, both.

And that's what Mazda has done with the CX-5 Diesel, a new model in the company's SUV line, and it's a pretty compelling piece of automotive stuff.

Mazda's famous "Zoom-Zoom" slogan isn't just advertising hype; it's actually true. In fact, over the past decade or so I've gotten more speeding tickets while behind the wheel of a Mazda than I have any other brand, including supposedly higher end sports vehicles. Can't blame Mazda for self-inflicted wounds, but such is the effect Mazda vehicles have on me. It isn't horsepower or torque, it's just an overall feel – and I love it!

I've always liked the CX-5, though its initial offering from several years ago was a tad underpowered. Since then, Mazda has upped the engine offerings to include a 2.4 litre Skyactiv four-cylinder engine rated at 187 hp and 186 lb.-ft. of torque (which is slightly more than adequate), as well as a delicious turbo four (227 hp, 310 lb.-ft. of torque, with regular gasoline) the same engine that's available in the excellent, and larger, CX-9 and the Mazda6 sedan).

Now comes the diesel, arriving in the marketplace on the heels of the Volkswagen group having abandoned this niche. I loved VW's diesels and were I in the market would seek one out despite the "powers that are's" assault on them. Why? Torque and fuel mileage. more...

Terminator: Dark FateNew Terminator more remake than reboot and not the best 4K disc

Paramount's reboot of James Cameron's Terminator franchise is a wasted opportunity to breathe new life into a classic sci-fi concept that should have been left terminated.

That means it joins such movies as Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a reasonable tale that could have been a contender, but instead is basically just a rehash. The producers of both TFA and DF probably thought they were treading new ground, since true creativity seems in short order in today's Hollywood, but instead of taking risks and making a real continuation of the original story (or, even better, a brand new story, as in the first of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies), they've merely rehashed the original Terminator and its first sequel, both of which are far better movies than this attempt to resuscitate a moribund franchise.

That said, there's plenty of nifty stuff here, and at the beginning there's also the best example I've seen to date of special effects being used to recreate younger versions of the now-older main characters. But  other than that, instead of going somewhere new, they've just made the movie bigger, the special effects more outrageous (and, sometimes, more obvious) and relegated the male characters to the background. more..

Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger a solid mid-sized truck in the vein of big brother F-150

Are you looking for a pickup truck that'll haul your stuff and get you where you want to go, yet not take up your entire driveway the way a full-sized truck might?

If so, you might be a prime target of Ford's new Ranger. It's a pickup that, like the legendary F-150, offers a lot of truck goodness, but which is aimed at those in the market for a smaller pickup.

In my last vehicle-related column I looked at the Jeep Gladiator, which is arguably a more serious off-road fun machine, but the Ranger will also take you off of the asphalt and undoubtedly do a fine job – though if you're looking for a more "civilized" ride on paved roads, you might find the Ranger ticks your boxes better.

As I mentioned in my Gladiator column, however, I must remind you that these opinions are coming from a non-truck person, so take my tirades with a grain of salt, knowing that this isn't my area of supposed expertise.

That said, after spending a week with each of these trucks I found that I preferred the Ford Ranger, not only because it was a lot easier for me to get into and out of, I also liked its driving experience better. That said, the Jeep got more "ooohs and aaahs" from onlookers and passersby when I had it – not that the Ranger wasn't received well – but the Gladiator appeared to be the "sexy" choice, whereas the majority of the comments I heard about the Ranger were from people who were glad to see that it's back – potential customers as opposed to "not so secret admirers?". Time will tell, based on each model's sales, I guess.

Ford of Canada's sample was a 4x4 CrewCab version, and to me if felt basically like a small F-150 (if equipped comparably, of course). It came with Ford's 2.3 litre four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, and its 270 horsepower and 310 lb/ft of torque seemed just fine for driving around with nothing in the bed – and would probably be fine with stuff there as well. I didn't notice any lag from the turbos, either. more...

Joker 4K

Gemini Man is an incredible video feast – and a decent movie, too

A funny thing happened on the way to reviewing director Ang Lee's Gemini Man: I went in looking specifically to experience and review the high frame rate video presentation, but found to my delight that it's actually a pretty good movie in its own right.

What an unexpected bonus!

Gemini Man pits Will Smith against a digitally "youthed" Will Smith in this tale of intrigue in United States' intelligence circles. He, the elder, is a professional hit man – er, hit person – who's the best in the business. But he's had enough of that life and wants to retire in peace – kind of like Bruce Willis' character begins the movie RED.

Alas, such is not to be because he's too dangerous to be allowed to live, so the powers that be send someone after him to take him out. And there we have our story.

Director Lee has crafted an enjoyable movie that's made even more enjoyable in its 4K disc incarnation because Paramount has released it with a high frame rate that more than doubles the 24 frames per second in which most movies are shot – especially film-based ones – to a marvellously real and involving 60 frames per second.

And that's why I wanted to see Gemini Man on 4K disc. 60 frames per second is common if you surf by the 4K stuff available on YouTube – drone footage, game previews, and the like – but it's rare in the cinematic universe. But it does promise the potential for incredible video images.

Ang Lee himself has done this before, but long before that, special effects guru/film director Douglas Trumbull introduced his innovative Showscan technology that actually filmed at 60 frames per second with 70 millimetre film. more...

Joker 4K

Joker movie is no laughing matter – but it looks and sounds great on 4K disc

So, can we now expect a loving, forgiving fawning "origin story" of Jeffrey Dahmer?

Todd Phillips' Joker turns old fashioned storytelling on its head to give us the back story to one of the DC comics universe's most infamous villains – probably the most infamous. While most comic book-based movies deal with the heroes, because that only makes sense, this film takes the other tack, giving us a backstory for the Clown Prince of Crime, trying to make him a sympathetic character and basically glorifying his victimhood.

Guess that's what happens when you cast the charisma-less Ben Affleck as Batman; there's a void to fill in the Batman universe…

Hmm. Is there a Lex Luthor "biopic" in the offing, too?

Joaquin Phoenix turns in a spectacular performance as Joker, nee Arthur Fleck, and he deserves the kudos he's getting. The movie, however, is an ordeal to sit through, a story that focuses not on how its protagonist faces his many challenges and rises above them to become a better person, but one in which he wallows in his victimhood, using it as an excuse for his execrable actions.  

Let's face it, he's a loser, a mass murderer and a thug and there's not much to glorify in that.

Arthur has mental issues and is on prescriptions that are meant to help keep him on an even keel. He does have aspirations – he aspires to be a stand-up comic, though he isn't particularly funny. In the meantime, he's working as a clown for hire, one of several working out of a Gotham City office; his job is to go to parties (or whatever) and entertain the folks there.

But he's very much a misfit – and not much of a clown either. And he suffers from a syndrome that causes him to laugh madly and inappropriately. And that's no joke! more...

Roku Premiere

New Rokus update the product's line with better performance and prices

If you're looking to turn your dumb TV into a "smart" one, without having to throw out a perfectly good TV that's serving you well, maybe you should take a gander at what Roku is offering this Christmas season.

Roku isn't the only such device out there, of course – Apple has offered such things for years, as has Google and others, but the Rokus are my favourites because they're so flexible, affordable, and cool.

You can get into a Roku for as little as 40 Canadian dollars! Now, for that price you're not going to get 4K performance, but you will get 1080p and that's probably all an older TV is capable of showing anyway. But if you do want 4K, you only have to spend 50 bucks for a Roku Premiere with HDR or $70 for the Streaming Stick+, which also offers 4K HDR performance.

It's a cheap way to not only open up a world of high def (or Ultra high def) free streaming, it's also a kind of "one stop shopping" place to get other premium streaming services such as Amazon Prime, CBS All Access or the recently-added Disney +. It also comes with stuff like Netflix and YouTube built in.

And get this: I received notice yesterday from the folks at Roku that they're offering an extra sweet deal this Christmas season. Here's what they said: "With Christmas and Boxing Day fast approaching, Roku is lowering the price on a couple of their best players for a limited time. …until January 4, shoppers can save $5 on the new Roku Premiere and it will be available to consumers for $44.99. In addition to that, the Roku Streaming Stick+ will have $10 discount and retail for $59.99."

Not only that, but "as a bonus, when consumers purchase a Roku player, they will receive a three-month complimentary subscription to CBS All Access where they can stream classic shows like the original and rebooted Twilight Zone along with other original shows like Star Trek Discovery, The Good Fight and coming soon Picard." more... 

Dr. Dabber Switch

Vapourizers offer a real 'pot-pourri' of choices for discerning users

Looking for a Christmas season gift for the cannabis user who has everything? Vapourizers offer a supposedly healthier way to imbibe than smoking the stuff – and there's almost as wide a variety of these devices as there are stars in the sky.

That's probably why the folks at Dr. Dabber, Arizer,,  Cloudious 9 and some others got in touch with me to see if I'd be interested in doing an update to some of the vape columns I wrote a couple of years ago, back in the dark ages when using the stuff in Canada could see you rot in jail, if not burn in Hell.

In those columns, I gathered together a kind of "pot panel" to review various vapourizers, a group of (mostly) senior citizens who admit to having used marijuana for decades, from the dark days of prohibition to the supposed nirvana that legalization was supposed to be for the Canadian people. These are people who know their weed and, to be honest, aren't particularly impressed with how it has been legalized in the country.

That's because the greedy government, combined with "marijuana-trepreneurs" who've had visions of financial sugar plums dancing in their heads, have combined to knock the wheels off of a free market system that – while illegal – supposedly worked well and left everyone except the Powers That Be happy. So, while there are plenty of legal outlets (I've never been in one, but they're all over the place), my panellists tell me that all legalization has done for them is raise prices substantially: one friend told me the $200/ounce he still buys from "the friendly stranger" can cost well over $300 now (depending on the stuff and where you get it, of course).

This could explain why, according to media reports (which are always true, right?), legal marijuana isn't turning out to be the cash cow folks may have wanted or expected (maybe they should have invested in MAGA paraphernalia instead…).

This column isn't about the legality or morality of legal cannabis, it's about some of the newer vapourizers on the market – and as mentioned there's a bunch. There are big ones, little ones, portable ones, ones designed for use with "oil" or "wax" and – the first one here – big, party-centric ones that will do both. more...

Jeep Gladiator

Jeep Gladiator a serious off-road fun machine

Are you a serious off-roader looking to haul stuff into the outback and have a blast of a time communing with nature while you do it?

The Gladiator is supposedly based on the Wrangler, which is a good place for a serious off-roader to start. It features a four-door cab with a box for hauling your stuff, serious off-road tires, prodigious suspension parts and, of course, it's a 4x4.

Gladiators start at $47,245 CAD (Jeep Canada's Overland sample had a base price of $51,245, however, and there's a Rubicon model that starts at just shy of 55 grand), and are powered by a 3.6 litre "Pentastar" V6 (I think that means they're built by werewolves) that puts out 285 horses and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. That power gets to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts well and seems like a good match here.

The Gladiator is longer than its Wrangler cousin, with a longer wheelbase as well, and this helps create lots of interior space. It also features skid plates for the gas tank and transfer case, and a part time 4x4 system whose settings can be changed via a big lever near the shifter. That lever works fine once you get used to it, but right off the bat I had a heckuva time getting the darn lever to move at all. Once I figured out its "nuances" I had no issues with it at all, however.

Steering is trucklike – you think? – as is the suspension feel. And as you'd expect in such a vehicle, its lousy weather performance is very good indeed. I had the Gladiator during some, shall we say, less than optimal driving conditions and it never left me feeling insecure or in danger of sliding somewhere I didn't want it to slide.

Thanks to the late-year conditions I didn't try to "flay" the vehicle by taking off its removable body panels but, if you want to, you can take off stuff like the doors and the roof, to make that Serengeti adventure into the Lions' pride lands even more exciting.

The Gladiator's interior is all Jeep/Fiat Chrysler and that means you get a reasonably straightforward cabin with controls and features that will be familiar to aficionados of the brands. There's stuff like push button start/stop, a rear back up/parking system (I love these things!), leather-wrapped steering wheel with secondary audio/etc. controls Bluetooth, etc. And of course, that's just the beginning. more...

Ford Mustang GT

Enhanced Mustang offers a lot of performance and a great soundtrack

How do you not have a barrel of laughs driving a Ford Mustang?

Well, you could get one that's souped up nicely, even to Recaro seats, then stick ultra wide and slickish race track tires on it that are quite impractical on chilly autumn roads in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

That's what I spent a week doing recently, and even though the road and weather conditions made it virtually impossible for me to enjoy the 'Stang as much as I'd have liked to, I still managed to come away with a big, muscle car smile on my face – as well as many stares from onlookers who heard me coming and undoubtedly were wondering at the ancient oaf and his mid-life crisis.

I think this current generation of Ford Mustang is the most attractive ever. My favourite was the 1967-68 fastback (though the early 00's reboot was plenty fetching as well) and this one not only captures its stylistic feel, it also upgrades it to modern car status while retaining that Mustang magic that's been so popular for the past 55 years.

So, when Ford offered me a chance to spend a week in the 2019 Mustang GT Coupe Premium, I jumped at the chance even though I knew that its optional rubber was going to "rubber" me the wrong way at this time of year. And it did, though those 305/30 19-inch tires would certainly be a blast at other times. more...

Ford EcoSport

As its name suggests: Ford EcoSport displays a split personality

Ford's entry-level SUV – or crossover, if you prefer such a designation – is an interesting beast. It's small, can be equipped very well in its upper trim level(s), and offers some of the stuff I appreciate most about Ford, such as its Sync 3 touch screen interface.

Yet it also leaves quite a bit to be desired. It doesn't "sport" a lot of power, its fuel mileage (during my week of relatively lead-footed driving, so I could review it "apples to apples" compared with other such vehicles in this class that I've driven) is unremarkable, and it had one of the worst conventional automatic transmissions I've ever sampled – and since I generally hate CVT's (and this isn't one) that says something!

It also has a tall seating position I couldn't get just right for my legs (which barely reach the ground when I'm standing), a seat narrow enough that my prodigious posterior threatened to ooze over its sides, and a wheelbase short enough to make speed bumps seem even worse than in other vehicles with more space between the front and rear axles.

That wheelbase issue isn't unique to the EcoSport, of course, and is shared by other SUV/Crossovers in this niche. It's more the nature of the beast – and it certainly isn't as jarring as taking speed bumps in something even smaller, such as the purportedly Smart car. more...

Infiniti QX60

Infiniti QX60 tries gamely to keep up with the competition

Folks looking for a three-row luxury SUV have plenty of choices, so many in fact that, regardless of its many virtues, Infiniti's QX60 may be getting lost in the shuffle.

That's because Nissan's 30-year-old luxury division has kind of been dwarfed by the roaring success of Lexus and, to a lesser extent, Acura over the three decades in which the "Big Japanese Three" went head to head with the best from around the world. It's too bad, because Infiniti has made some very nice vehicles over the years - though, alas, they've also made some pretty forgettable ones.

I give the QX60 three row SUV/Crossover as evidence of both the nice and the forgettable. There's nothing really wrong with it, and it's quite comfortable and decent to drive, but there's so much else out there that's either newer or nicer (this, of course, being my never humble opinion) that I'm not sure it's keeping up – though to be fair this QX60 has been out for a few years and is due for an upgrade.

I don't wish Infiniti ill at all and, in fact, I owned an original Q45, Infiniti's first flagship, bought well-used and mostly ignored by previous owners. I liked it a lot (once I got the timing chain guides replaced so the engine wouldn't tear itself apart) and kept it for several years, during which it served my family well.

Yet that car, which came out at the same time as Lexus' far more successful LS 400 sedan, never caught on the way the Lexus did, even though it was more of a driver's car than the big Lexus. more...

Hyundai Palisade

Hyundai Palisade makes a big and bold statement

If you're looking for a large, three row SUV, you really owe it to yourself to check out Hyundai's new big SUV, the Palisade.

And, as it did when I reviewed its "kind of stablemate", the Kia Telluride, this advice is also aimed at people who are looking for a big (well, some call it "midsized") luxury SUV. That's because, in my never humble opinion, the South Korean siblings are at least as compelling to drive and tricked out very nearly as luxuriously as supposedly higher end machines such as Lexus' RX 350L, the Acura MDX and many more. 

Methinks Hyundai may be taking a page from Mazda's playbook, with its terrific CX-9.  

It's pretty difficult to argue about its pricing, too. Hyundai Canada's sample Palisade Luxury AWD version of the Palisade lists at just over $50,000 Canadian (the "ultimate" model is $53,999), but the lowest trim level starts at just shy of $39K, which is a pretty compelling number all things considered.

Compare that to a base RX 350L ($66,250), a base MDX ($56,591.25), and even the entry level Audi Q7 ($66,300). Obviously, these aren't true apples-versus-apples comparisons (and apply best to the top line version); the point I'm making is that the Palisade is a terrific value for shoppers in this market niche. more...

It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life gets a new lease on life in 4K

Frank Capra's classic It's a Wonderful Life is back on disc yet again, but this time it sports a new 4K restoration and remastering that has this movie masterpiece looking and sounding better than it ever has on home video.

The film has earned a well-deserved place in the hearts of millions and has become a Christmas season staple, even though only a small part of it is actually set at Christmas, and this new package not only contains the new, 4K version, there's also a colourized Blu-ray in the package for those who just can't bear to see the movie the way it should be seen.

As you undoubtedly know by now, it's the story of George Bailey, a bright young man with lots of potential and ambition whose life keeps getting sidetracked by reality. It's a tale that takes its many characters – and the audience – on a journey that goes from the heights of joy to the depths of despair and back again.

Life is pretty good for George overall, though he doesn't appreciate that fact until one fateful Christmas eve where it seems his entire not-so-wonderful life comes crashing down around him, and it looks as if the reward for his years of selfless hard work and dedication will be disgrace and a jail sentence over $8000 that was misplaced – not by him but by his idiot uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell). more...

Mazda 3 Sport AWD

Mazda's new 3 offers all wheel drive for the first time

Mazda's 3 series not only has a new generation for 2019, it has also added a new, all-wheel drive option of its popular compact car. But no matter how you configure it, the new 3 is a wonderful car that offers fun, technology and refinement in a package that belies its mainstream market niche.

And it still offers plenty of Mazda's special "Zoom-Zoom."

That "Zoom-Zoom" tends to get me into trouble, though. Most of the speeding tickets I've earned over the years have come when I'm behind the wheel of a Mazda, whether it be one of their cars or one of their SUV's (even the big CX-9 hasn't left me immune from such "imperial entanglements"). Not even my most beloved nameplate, Porsche, has bitten me in the butt as badly as has Mazda. It's weird.

I love Mazdas for their wonderful driving feel and I loved the 3 even back when it was the Protégé. This fourth generation of the 3, however, is not only a terrific upgrade, it (obviously, in my never humble opinion) sits atop its market niche when compared with the other mainstream compacts I've driven. This includes other cars I love, such as the VW Jetta and the Hyundai Elantra, and cars I merely respect such as the Toyota Corolla and the egregiously styled Honda Civic.

And as with other recent Mazdas, the company has done such a great job of equipping it (in its higher trim levels, anyway), that I think it can compete head to head with more luxurious models such as the Acura ILX or Infiniti Q50. more...

Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest returns to Blu-ray for its 20th anniversary

The best Star Trek parody is back, in a new steel box edition to mark its 20th anniversary.

Yep, Galaxy Quest has returned and if you're a sci-fi fan – especially if you're a Trekkie with a sense of humour – it's a definite "must see." Heck, it's a definite "must own" as well.

Alas, I don't believe this new, limited "Never Give Up, Never Surrender" collectors' edition is any different from the original Blu-ray release, other than its cool package, but it's a pretty good Blu-ray, so if you don't have it already, it's worth having.

Tim Allen plays an actor who performed the role of Commander Taggart, the "Captain Kirk" of an "Enterprise-like" starship on a long since cancelled weekly TV show. Sigourney Weaver is his communications chief whose chief function on the show is decorative; Alan Rickman is the ship's alien doctor – and he hates that fact; Tony Shalhoub is the ship's (non-Scottish) engineer, and Daryl Mitchell is the whiz kid helmsman – now all grown up. more...

Lexus UX

Lexus UX: a small luxury SUV that makes a big statement

Lexus has a new entry level model, and it's a huge leap from some of the company's earlier attempts at "entry level" luxury.

It's the UX, in this case the UX 250h AWD, a "cute ute" that follows on the heels of the bland and uninteresting HS 250h sedan and the nice but boring CT 200h wagon. I didn't think much of the HS, but thought that if Lexus had released a non-hybrid version of the CT – perhaps one that uses the lovely little turbo four available on the NX. I have no idea if it would be practical to engineer such a vehicle, but if they could, I figured they'd have had a nice little wagon that could go head to head with the Audi A3, though the A3 is no longer available here as a wagon.

But Nooooooo! That boring little, but very cute, CT is now history, undoubtedly due to slow sales. Fortunately, Lexus had a few other tricks up its corporate sleeve and blended the basic underpinnings of the creasy Toyota CH-R with Lexus luxury trimmings to create a vehicle that's not only quite handsome, but which is surprisingly nice to drive.

The UX 250h, with the h denoting that it's a hybrid isn't nearly as busy-looking as some other current Japanese vehicles); even that silly "spindle grille" that looks more like a jet intake or a vacuum cleaner's input, isn't as bizarre on the UX as on some other Lexi – though it's still bizarre. more...

Hyundai Veloster N

Hyundai Veloster: the long-dead Scoupe becomes a burning hot phoenix!

Remember the Hyundai Scoupe? It was a pretty bland little "sports coupe" Hyundai sold back in the late 1980's and 1990's. According to the sometimes-accurate Wikipedia, it was based on the old Excel (now the Accent, kind of) and oozed a mighty 81 horsepower out of its 1.5 litre Mitsubishi-sourced inline four. But it was an honest-to-goodness coupe!

Then, eventually, came the Veloster, Hyundai's strange little three-door sedan/coupe/hatchback. Calling it a sedan/coupe/hatchback may hint that the car seems to have a bit of a personality disorder, but if you can get around the weird side door configuration you might just have as much fun behind the wheel as you would in some other and better-known hot hatches.

I'm talking about cars like the VW Golf GTI, which (with its higher end brother, the Golf R) is supposed to be the gold standard of hot hatches (though there are surely some Honda aficionados who'll want a pound of my flesh for saying so).

I love the GTI – but after spending a week having the 2020 Veloster N put a broad smile on my face, I can say without equivocation that this new hot hatch is capable of competing with the more established hot hatches. more...

TCL 65 inch 4K TV

BMW M340i Xdrive is a fast and luxurious drive

It may not be the fully blown sports sedan known as the M3, but BMW's M340i is still a very compelling vehicle for those who value performance and the driving experience.

It's also a fine-looking sports sedan, returning the iconic vehicle to the handsome roots it kind of eschewed during the Chris Bangle design reign of terror. Alas, it's still a bit of a dog's breakfast when it comes to its interfaces, but at least it offers so much choice in its customization abilities that you could spend quite a bit of time tweaking the vehicle so it best fits your driving style.

That said, either I'm finally getting used to the BMW interfaces or they're getting better at making it understandable to mainstream humanity without forcing trips through the owner's manual to learn how to operate the stuff.

Still, I love driving BMW's. Their "the ultimate driving machine" may not be quite as true as if someone like Porsche had snagged the slogan, but it's certainly nicely descriptive of what it's like to be behind the wheel of one of the German company's offerings. I've enjoyed driving every BMW I've ever tried, because they're nimble, usually quite fast, and they have the same ability to put a smile on the driver's face as other performance-and/or-sport-oriented brands do. more...

TCL 65 inch 4K TV

TCL makes a big and affordable statement in the 4K TV market

Consumers looking for a 4K smart TV that won't break the budget, yet offers a big "WOW!" factor, should check out the offerings from TCL.

I've been using their 65-inch 65S425-CA for the past few weeks and, though it's definitely not up to the levels that video snobs might require – something like an OLED, QLED, etc., it offers a big and mostly very good picture, as well as the smart features so popular on TV's these days.

Even more interesting, the smart TV aspect comes from the TV's use of Roku as an operating system, which not only allows you to access your various audio and video sources but which also brings to the TV the Roku streaming apps that offer an amazing selection of streaming apps, from Netflix and YouTube to, well, just about anything.

I'd seen Roku TV's on display in local stores and always wondered how they would work. And I like how they work; the TV's interface is not only as smart as you want it to be, it's also very easy and straightforward to operate, even if you don't live and breathe home video equipment. That's the Roku factor. more...

Honda Insight

Honda's innovating Insight is reborn as a nice hybrid sedan

The Honda Insight may not be a household name, but the original version was a ground-breaking vehicle in that it was the first "mainstream" hybrid vehicle offered for sale in North America.

That car was an underwhelming achievement, however, a little two-seater that looked like a squashed ladybug and boasted the acceleration of a bicycle (okay, I may be exaggerating a bit). It was focused clearly on saving gas, with the driving experience secondary (if the designers thought about it at all!). Heck, its performance was such that when I reviewed one back around the turn of the century, my wife and I drove it to the Columbia Icefields in the Rocky Mountains and on some of the steeper hills it almost felt as if we should get out and push.

Supposedly based on the Civic, the car actually looks and feels more like a current Accord, though it isn't as big. But if you just give it a quick look you might confuse the two – and that's a good thing considering how ugly the current generation of Civics is. more...

We welcome your comments!

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