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

Updated December 5, 2019
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.

And I loved it!

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...


Toyota Corolla

Toyota's all-new Corolla goes hybrid for the first time

One of the most classic Japanese sedans is back with a new set of clothes, and it's not only a darn fine car, it's also quite comely, eschewing as it does some of the recent Japanese design trends that makes many of that nation's cars as full of ugly creases and weird-looking stuff as possible.

And if you want to save some gas over what you can already expect to spend on fuel with a compact economy car, you can even get a hybrid version for 2020.

If you've read the title to this piece you know I'm talking about the new Toyota Corolla, the new hybrid version of which I got to spend a week with recently. And it's a fine car, a handsome car, a car that's undoubtedly cheap to run and that will possible outlive you. more...

Rocketman, Godzilla and EndgameRocketman and Godzilla: flamboyant and fun fantasies in 4K

A couple of guilty pleasures premiere on 4K disc this week, and both are well worth your home theatre time if you're into the wildly different types of movie they represent.

More than a mere biopic, "The Elton John Story" is kind of a cross between a conventional biopic and something that perhaps could have been crafted by someone like the late Ken Russell. And Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a pretty cool hat tip to the old Japanese monster movies of decades past. Add to the mix Avengers Endgame, and you have a lot of compelling content for a long weekend!

Rocketman is more than just the story of the early years of Reggie "Elton" Dwight and his musical career. It's also a reasonably fully blown, old fashioned Hollywood musical that's teeming with production numbers and wild visuals. And of course, a shout out for homosexuality, if not exactly for the agenda of the "gaystapo" that we see being rammed down our throats (no pun intended) these days. more...

Toyota Prius

Toyota adds all-wheel-drive to its stable of Prii

Hybrids have come a long way since the first Honda Insight crawled into the marketplace like a partially squashed ladybug a couple of decades ago. And that has caused me to become, if not a hybrid owner then at least a hybrid tolerator. And this 2019 Toyota Prius is a prime reason why.

Hybrids are a segment that used to be mostly bland and boring, and gutless to drive, but that segment, at least as personified by the four hybrids I'll be reviewing over the next while, has evolved to the point where you don't have to put your boy racer pants back in the drawer to enjoy the fuel savings. Well, mostly.

And those fuel savings can be quite substantial. I spent a week driving the 2019 Prius Technology AWD-e as if it were a Porsche Cayman, using its "power" mode almost exclusively because it makes the car more interesting and rewarding to drive. Yet during that time, I managed to get 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres combined, which is even better than Toyota's estimate and works out to just under 63 miles per Imperial gallon (and about 53 miles per U.S. gallon).

That's pretty remarkable. It makes me wonder how much less gas I could have used if I had merely gotten with the program and driven the Prius in a more sedate and serene manner. more...

Shazam!

Shazam! is a better than expected pro-family superhero flick

You could look at it as a Superman meets Big. In fact, that's how the filmmakers refer to it in the supplements that accompany Warner Brothers' new superhero release, Shazam! But however you look at it, Shazam! is both fun, and worth a view.

Movies from the DC comic universe has been spotty at best, but there are a few nuggets to be found in the collection, in recent years, starting with Wonder Woman and including Aquaman. And that's about it, for quality and highly enjoyable comic book flicks among the DC flicks I've seen. Until now.

Shazam! isn't in the same league as Wonder Woman, or even Aquaman, but on the whole it's a worthy entry, enjoyable and reasonably intelligent. It also sends a real pro-family message (though not necessarily "nuclear family") that seems kind of out of place in Hollywood these days. It deals with young people from broken – or no, I assume – homes who want to feel like part of something, even if they may not initially know it. more...


Kia TellurideKia Telluride a big eye opener in the three row SUV market

Kia's new big SUV, the Telluride, is a great vehicle and if you're looking for a large, three row model such as this, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

This advice also applies to folks shopping in the luxury SUV market – vehicles such as the Lexus RX 350L, Acura MDX and the rest of the competition from Asia, Europe and North America. The Telluride doesn't pretend to be a "luxury crossover," and it doesn't sport the amount of niceties you can find in the "higher end" models – but it's plenty luxurious enough for me (and possibly someone else…) and drives as well as or better than the competitors I've been lucky enough to spend time in.

It reminds me of the Mazda CX-9 in this regard, except I may just like the Kia a bit better.

It's priced right, too, assuming any vehicle these days is. You can get into a loaded one for $53,995 Canadian – compared to $66,250 for a base RX 350L, $56,591.25 for a base MDX, $66,300 for the entry level Audi Q7. A CX-9 Signature Edition (the top end one) is about the same price as the Kia.

Sure, there's some apples-versus-oranges comparison in there, but my point is to showcase just how great a value the Telluride is (and the Mazda, too).

And if that's too dear, the Telluride starts at $44,995 for the base, EX AWD version. more...

Jeep Cherokee

Jeep Cherokee – a classic off roader still relevant in the present

Most people, it seems to be the consensus, never take their SUV/Crossovers off the road, preferring them as more "garden variety" family and stuff haulers for their duties on asphalt wherever it may be found.

Nothing wrong with that, of course; after all, we're supposed to embrace diversity, right? Most people probably never haul building materials or furniture in their pickup trucks, either, yet they're the top selling vehicles on this continent. And it's nobody's business what someone else drives.

Some people do choose to go into the great open spaces with their SUV/Crossovers, too, and that's just fine. But these folks need something a tad more, shall we say, robust in their off-asphalt capabilities, something that will take them up the side of Mount Everest one trip, then to the side of the drive through window at Harvey's the next.

Fortunately, the relatively free market allows for such diversity of vehicle and there are plenty from which to choose. There are vehicles from Japan (i.e., the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder) and Germany (such as the Mercedes-Benz G class) and England (do the names "Land Rover" and "Range Rover" sound familiar?).

And for those who choose to drive vehicles whose companies call North American home (well, mostly, since the subject of this column is kind of Italian in ownership) there is probably no name more familiar than Jeep. Jeep hearkens back to World War II and the Willys GP (General Purpose) that was the "car" of the military. more...


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