Telluride. For a skier, the name conjures up visions of a wild west town in Colorado ski country, known for deep powder and epic parties.
I have never skied at the legendary Colorado resort, but I did stay there once. For one night. The town has matured from the party town I grew up reading about, to a modern corporate resort town, with cookie cutter type upscale hotels being the norm. Not a hot tub party in sight.
Three beers. That was all I had. The combination of those three beers and 8,750′ of elevation made for one of the worst hangovers of my life. My head was huge and my lungs were an absolute mess. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one in the group and after a full day spent above 10,000 feet, a few drinks destroyed those of us who live at sea level.
Some might say that the less mature, cronologically, among us fared better. Like a certain ski town, some of us had become somehow softer, perhaps even pedestrian, with our middle-age creep.
It is interesting then that Kia elected to name it’s largest ever vehicle after a Victorian era silver mining town where the ghosts of past riches have been forgotten in favour of the amenities demanded by modern tourists with too much disposable income. I mean, hasn’t Kia become known as typically a value brand?
Well, sort of.
Kia has built a reputation for offering more bang for the buck, particularly in the modern infotainment amenities arena, than any other manufacturer.
Over the past few years however, as the brand has matured, so have their vehicles. Their interiors in particular have evolved to become somehow more American, in a good way, than at least two of the three traditional North American manufacturers.
Let’s face it, if you are looking at buying any of the three row SUVs on the market, then you really don’t give a fig about driving. You are buying an appliance which allows you to sit up high above the normies in cars, while carting your herd of spawn and their flotsam, with the misguided feeling that you are somehow safer because you are driving the biggest vehicle on the road.
What you likely do care about is the way the overall experience makes you feel when you look at the vehicle and especially once you are inside. This, is where the Kia Telluride stands head and shoulders above much of the competition, with a value added bottom line.
Let’s get pricing out of the way. A base Telluride can be had for forty five thousand bucks, while a fully loaded, every option known to human kind is just nine grand more.
To put that into perspective, a jammed Pilot is $57K. A Durango Citadel V6 is $61K. They aren’t competitors, but it is worth mentioning that if you drop a V8 in a Durango, you can be north of 70 in the blink of an eye.
Typically, traditional domestics aren’t lumped in with traditional imports when it comes to comparisons, but there is a direct link between the Telluride and the Durango which makes them a natural comparison. Dodge is that one company I alluded to above that builds interiors that feel, well, American. I mean that in the best, highest quality way. The crazy thing is that while the Telluride offers a somewhat different flavour of that feel, it too feels like the most American thing on the road.
From wood inserts to real stitching, the Telluride feels like it was inspired by a Doctor’s lounge in an old mountain town. Unfortunately, looking through my photos, I have to say that my shots simply do not do the space justice. The interior of the Telluride is nice.
Centre row passengers were happy to be coddled by their own seat heaters and we were amazed at the number of device charging options. There are no fewer than 6 USB ports and a wireless charger that actually worked with my Samsung Galaxy S9. I mention that because many of the vehicles I have tested this year did not. It is worth checking before you buy any vehicle if wireless charging is important to you.
On the tech driver aid front, the our tester offered pretty much every nanny imaginabile, packaged into a system dubbed “Kia Drive Wise” Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS).
Smart phone users who are so inclined can use an app that Kia calls UVO to control door locks, act as a remote starter and access climate controls. It also allows the user to create road trip data on their phone and then send that plan to the vehicle’s navi system if equipped.
A regular customer in The Garage Cafe, who drives a Stinger GT warns that the UVO app is a data hog, particularly when using the mapping feature, which does not automatically disconnect itself from the vehicle once it pushes the trip info to the vehicle.
Naturally, the Telluride moves people well and with all of the seats down, you could pretty much land a small aircraft in it. Or, you could do what we did and use it to haul enough stuff to feed a couple of hundred holiday partiers.
Our week with the Telluride semi-ironically (given the direction of my story) included the first two snow storms of the season. Fortunately, our tester was shod with a full set of Yokohama iceGUARD G075 Winter tires.
This guy has driven a LOT of vehicles through Winter storms in Ontario over the years, so take note of the following statement. This combo made for the most sure footed vehicle I have ever driven in the snow. Period. The Yoko equipped Telluride offered absolutely exceptional grip on acceleration, but more importantly it also excelled under braking and while turning. Simply amazing.
With 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft, the Telluride has more than enough oomph for dailt driving and is rated to tow 5,000 lb. Our tester was not equipped with a trailer hitch, so we were not able to see how it tows.
Transport Canada rates the Telluride for 12.5/9.6 L/100km . In a mix of city & highway driving, we saw an average of 12 L/100KM. Not bad considering that it also included two snow storms.
Even if your ski trips involve dropping the kids off at the local terrain park and not heading to the mountains, the Telluride’s bang for the buck, combined with sure footed performance on the road and American style luxury make it a must drive for shoppers looking for a substantial family hauler.
There are some vehicles in which you expect to receive an abnormal level of attention while driving. Some of them, like sports cars, are fairly predictable. The Bullitt edition Mustang I drove a few months ago comes to mind. Others, like the Kia Stinger GT I drove earlier in the year are less predictable, and yet generate crazy reactions from the public simply because it is so gorgeous and most people have no idea what it is.
The 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD-Pro that we drove last week falls somewhere in between and while the whole package, bathed in a bright blue hue known as Voodoo Blue, is pretty damned sexy, there was one feature in particular which drew an unbelievable level of attention: the snorkel.
The most frequent commentary came in the form of a question which surprised me greatly: “What is that black thing sticking out of the hood of your truck?” It came from guys and girls, some of them were people I thought would know.
I guess I have been around the truck world for too long, because I sort of assumed that everyone knew what a snorkel was.
The next comment was of the “sweet truck, love the snorkel” variety. There were lots of those.
A few asked why the exhaust came out of the hood.
Then there was the snarky, smart-ass off roaders who threw jabs like “nice fake snorkel dude”.
And here lies the connundrum with the Taco’s most recognizable feature. The snorkel is not fake, but it also isn’t what an Ontario 4X4 enthusiast needs.
First off, for those who may not know, allow me to explain what a snorkel is. Starting at the beginning, I will remind you that along with a fuel source such as diesel or gasoline, an internal combustion engine requires a specific quantity of air, fresh, clean, atmospheric air, to run. That air has to come from outside the vehicle, which in most vehicles is accomplished through an air intake box somewhere down near the front bumper, behind the grille.
That is not the optimum position in many off road situations, such as when crossing a body of water, when the liquid may reach far enough up the vehicle to be sucked into the air intake. At best, this condition can potentially cause an engine to stop running. At worst, it can cause a catastrophic failure of the engine. The solution then is to add a tube which brings the air intake up above any reasonable water level that one might expect to successfully drive through.
How then, is the TRD snorkel a fake? It isn’t. It is just a different kind of snorkel.
Toyota has a long, illustrious history at the legendary Baja 1000 race, at the hands of Ivan “Ironman” Stewart, dating back to 1983. The current crop of TRD-Pro equipped trucks, including the 4Runner, Tundra and of course Tacoma, have been fitted with equipment suitable for driving at speed in the desert.
In the case of the Tacoma, that means under body skid plates, FOX Racing shocks with remote reservoirs and TRD springs in the front and back. It also include the addition of a free-flowing stainless steel TRD spec exhaust and a TRD “high mount desert air intake”, among a host of subtle branding cues.
Remembering that the internal combustion engine requires clean air to operate, the high mount air intake is an important thing for those running in the desert, where dust from previous vehicles can hang in the air, being sucked into conventional air intakes, clogging up air filters and robbing power.
While the Taco’s snorkel is in no way fake, desert style dust isn’t a concern for most Ontario buyers, but to be brutally honest, who cares? How many of those who buy and build off road trucks are actually making deep water crossings? For those who are, I am sure the aftermarket has a simple solution. For the rest of us, this snorkel simply looks badass!
Hell, I even saw some dude taking a selfie with it!
It has been over a year since I first drove this truck, in the wilds of Northern Ontario and truth be told, that was more like a play date than a road test. I didn’t really get to experience the truck on the road for more than a few kilometers.
Knowing that the Tacoma loves to play in the dirt, this time around, we put the truck to work to see how it fared out in the real world.
The biggest challenge that most potential Tacoma buyers will face is the seating position. Toyota’s mid-sized truck has a unique seating position which some have called “sitting on the floor”. It is kind of a love-it or hate-it situation, which Toyota truck fans have loved since the dawn of trucking. Those who don’t dig it had best look elsewhere.
Beyond that, the Tacoma is an unapologetically old school truck and there are no surprises when driving it. The truck simply feels like it is ready to take on anything you might throw at it.
There are however, a couple of TRD-Pro specific observations that some buyers might want to think about before choosing that package.
Bear in mind that at 52 years old, I still have a teenage obsession with noisy vehicles. The internal combustion engine, especially a normally aspirated V-6, is a glorious thing and deserves to be heard and the TRD exhaust sounds fantastic, if maybe even a bit too quiet for my liking around town. The challenge is that when towing even a light trailer on an undulating highway, the Tacoma’s transmission often shifts down to fourth gear, spinning the engine at just the right speed to create a constant droning noise. It isn’t terrible, but is just enough to be an annoyance.
The other observation has more to do with the desert racer spec than it does about the Tacoma. The soft rear springs required for jumping berms in the desert are not the best choice for towing, causing the back end to sag, the moment a trailer is loaded up. I have experienced the exact same condition with the even more racy Ford Raptor. For light towing, it is fine, but when images are posted on social media, inevitably some troll comments that the truck is weak or that you have overloaded it.
If you are smitten with this truck, there is a problem. The TRD-Pro version of the 2019 Tacoma had super limited availablity and the Voodoo Blue version was even more rare. Most of them were likely snapped up before they even hit dealer showrooms. For 2020, the hot colour is called Army Green with white, black and grey being the only other options. If last year’s sales are any indication, anyone wanting to buy the current model had best hurry and don’t plan on trying to haggle the $57,000 price.
Never one to miss out on an opportunity to have some fun, I decided to take advantage of the recent ice storm in Ontario to do a bit of top down motoring in the 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF. I mean, after I consistently give my colleagues a hard time about driving convertibles with the top up, so I didn’t really have a choice. What I found was that Winter is no match for Mazda’s all season sportster.
This will not be your usual new car review. It has been said in recent years that there are no bad cars any more. It is more about individual taste. Like just about every car built these days, the Chevrolet Cruze is a good car. The good car, a close cousin of the nice car, can be very difficult to write about, as there is nothing much that sets it apart from the rest of the good cars. The addition of a diesel engine gives the Cruze an economically geeky edge over some of the other small sedans on the market. So what I am writing about?
Well, perhaps the answer is not so much what, but where.
As I write this, I am sitting in a random parking lot in south Oshawa, with my tablet wedged between the steering wheel and my ample belly. Writing an automotive story.
I just took a little break from working to watch an episode of Colony on Netflix on my tablet. Great show.
I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that where modern vehicles from The General, including the Cruze, shine more than the competition is in their ability to improve one’s productivity. You see, part of the modern OnStar functionality is the ability to offer 4G WIFI access in the car. This isn’t any spotty, unreliable public space type WIFI either, OnStar offers super strong, consistent signal. Strong enough that watching shows on your tablet is a very happy experience.
GM products are not the only cars on the market which offer WIFI, as several others are beginning to jump on the bandwagon, but GM was the first and has perfected the technology. While the functionality is beginning to appear on other product lines, it does tend to be on more expensive brands and models, whereas GM has stuffed it into just about everything. That is good news for buyers of entry and mid-level cars.
For comparison sake, I recently tested the WIFI offerings of a 2018 Lincoln MKZ (starting MSRP $42,300 versus $16,395 for Cruze) and couldn’t even check email without the signal stuttering. Netflix was a no-go. The router signal was strong, but the data supply was poor. Your experience may vary.
Some number of years ago now, I visited Sweden to learn more about autonomous vehicles. While I had previously thought that the whole self-driving car thing was all about safety, I quickly learned that automakers believed that modern consumers care more about multi-tasking than they do about safety. Autonomy is about allowing drivers to remain productive and for that to work, the WIFI has to be consistent and strong! We are a long way from seeing fully autonomous vehicles on our roads, but that doesn’t mean that the car can’t improve our ability to be productive.
Chevrolet uses a stronger antenna than cell phones carry to receive signal that powers a 4G LTE wireless hotspot whenever the ignition is turned on. Another cool aspect is that the service works across North America, which means that cell phone data charges don’t need to be an issue on long road trips.
Data can be purchased monthly or in one time blocks as needed:
The Chevrolet Cruze proves that, one doesn’t need to drive an expensive car to make use of the most important innovation in working from home since the invention of the internet!
There has been a lot of fretting going on around The Garage these past few weeks as we try to decide what our best approach to creating a new BBQ event rig for the 2018 BBQ season. A press release notice from Nissan today makes it clear that we need to up our game a bit!
Created for The Work Truck Show in Indianapolis this weekend, the “Smokin’ TITAN” might just be the ultimate mobile BBQ station!
Beginning with a 2018 Nissan Titan XD, Smokin’ Titan features a flatbed style work space with built in coolers, a fridge/freezer, a six burner stove, cutting boards and a sink with running water. The original bed has been moved back onto a a trailer, where it is fitted with a smoker/grill and storage for smoker pellets and wood chips.
Naturally, a variety of off-road accessories and a smokey graphics package have been applied to round out the look!
Nissan says the rig will be touring outdoor events throughout the Summer. We are hoping it makes its way to Toronto so we can get our hands on it!
I always knew that actor Verne Troyer, who will forever be known as Mini Me from the Austin Powers movies was cool, but until I discovered his massive collection of web videos, I had no idea how active he is in today’s media. I also didn’t know that he was totally into cars and food, two of my greatest passions!
In this recent episode of his web series, Troyer takes delivery of his new Tesla, a Verne sized roadster!
The highlight has to be when he drifts the little red rocket around his garage.
With a massive season of BBQ events, you could say that 2017 was the year of the truck around here, as we hitched the DCS Appliances event trailer to what seemed like dozens of trucks. Naturally, with so many varieties of F-Series models in Ford’s line-up, we had the opportunity to put several different versions to work.
As the top selling trucks on the Canadian market for more than half a century, the F-Series is the undeniable king of the road. The only question for many potential buyers is: Which F-Series is right for them?
The F-150 is the top selling passenger vehicle on the continent. Not just the top selling truck, but the top selling vehicle. As consumers’ love affair with light trucks continues and the traditional car segment shrinks, Ford showrooms continue to churn out F-150s at an unbelievable rate.
Newly revamped for the 2018 model year, the F-150 is close to being the “nice car” that many auto scribes fear. A vehicle which does everything it is supposed to do, with no surprises. It gets decent fuel economy, works hard and keeps its occupants comfortable. Despite being new, driving the F-150 somehow feels like hanging out with an old friend, which goes a long way towards explaining its ongoing sales success.
The previous model Eco-boost 6-cylinder model suffered from poorer fuel economy than most buyers expected, when driven in the real world. The 2018 model has received a new 10-speed automatic transmission which allows the 2.7L V6 to consume about 11 L/100 Km (22 MPG) in combined city and highway driving. Our testing confirmed that this is a real world number, even when towing our small event trailer with the bed loaded with coolers. On the road, the transmission shifts so smoothly that it is barely noticeable.
A trio of power options are available, allowing buyers to choose the best towing capacity for their needs, right up to 13,200 pounds (5,988 kg) which surprisingly comes from the 3.5 V6 and not the 5.0 V8 as many would expect.
Creature comforts abound, from available seat massagers to audio & video options, all using the latest version of Sync, which has proven itself to be a user friendly infotainment hub. Like the folks at GMC and Chevy, Ford now offers a WiFi hotspot in its trucks.
Driver aids have become the modern battlefield as automakers work to protect unskilled and inattentive drivers from themselves and the pickup market is not immune. To that end, Ford has made a wide range of technology available in the new F-150, including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Information System which works with trailers up to 33′ in length and lane keep assist. A 360 degree camera aids drivers while backing into a spot and is super helpful when connecting a trailer.
We haven’t tried it, but reports from some colleagues say that the available Pro Trailer Backup Assist system is a game changer for those who are not confident backing up with a trailer.
F-250 Super Duty
Drive by pretty much any farm or construction site these days and you will see a line up of F-250 Super Duty trucks. For the old school truck fan, this is what we used to call a 3/4 ton truck. A big boy. That said, the days of the rough and tumble 3/4 ton beater are long gone. Today’s F-250 buyers can choose to option in all of the creature comforts and luxury items available on the F-150.
The big difference comes in the amount of work the vehicle is capable of. Depending on configuration, the F-250 Super Duty can tow up to 17,562 lbs. (7,983 kg.), half again as much as an F-150. Sitting a bit higher than the F-150 and having a stiffer ride than its smaller sibling, the F-250 also boasts a more imposing exterior look.
While it does ride higher that the F-150, it was not so much taller that we needed to resort to an extended drop hitch in order to haul the event trailer.
There was one negative that we discovered with the F-250 and surprisingly that was a towing feature. This model was equipped with dual pane mirrors, aimed at making it easier to back up a trailer. I’m sure it works fine with a large trailer, but with a small utility type trailer the convex portion of the mirror creates a weird situation when backing up, especially in the dark. The turning movement of the trailer can’t be seen until the trailer has “over” rotated. I guess what I mean is that every single time I backed the rig up, I could not keep it in a straight line and took multiple attempts to get the trailer where I wanted it.
F-350 Super Duty
This is where things get serious! After helping with the weekly press-car swap, my daughter was excited to report that she was at eye level with drivers of moving trucks while sitting stopped in traffic. In other words, the F-350 is a seriously large truck. Our tester was an F-350 Lariat, which is kind of a mid-range model. Full of most of the mod-cons mentioned above fitted to a vehicle with a cabin more spacious than some overseas hotel rooms.
This beast is powered by a 6.7L V8 Turbo Diesel which generates 440 horsepower and an inconceivable 925 lb-ft of torque which is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. When configured correctly, the Super Duty can tow up to 21,000 LB!
The height was so great that we would have needed a 6″ drop hitch to tow the event trailer with this truck, so we used it for hauling refreshments instead. We filled the bed with 30 cases of water, 20 cases of pop and a cooler with close to 100 lbs of smoked pork ribs. Nowhere near the 3,461 kg payload rating, the extra 230 kg weren’t even minutely noticeable behind the wheel.
Height is not the only thing one notices about the drive experience. All of that capability means that the F-350 has seriously tough underpinnings and that means a ride that is beyond stiff. If you are spatially challenged in a parking lot, a vehicle of this size is not for you. If you do need a truck with heavy duty work credentials however, the F-350 may be right up your alley.
Ford F-150 Raptor
With all of this talk about work, it might be easy to forget about the fun side of Ford’s F-Series. Powered by a twin-turbo V-6 descended from the mighty Ford GT, the Raptor has the soul of a desert racer. It gets the fantastic fuel economy expected of a winning endurance racing legend in the making, while also boasting hoon-tastic off-road performance. You can read our full review of the Raptor here.
Loads of choices
It is pretty easy to see why the F-Series has an ongoing grip on consumers, as the model line-up really does offer pretty much something for everyone from families and weekend warriors to farmers, construction crews and those who need to tow the biggest loads around.
For some weird reason, I don’t think I ever drove the first generation GMC Terrain. As a result, I had it in my head that it was one of those tiny little crossovers, so when I picked up our 2018 Terrain tester last week, I was truly surprised by the generous size of the vehicle. The Terrain is not a space deprived little crossover.
When GMC introduced their current design language a few years back in a press conference at Detroit, the design guy explained how the brand would be different from Chevrolet in that all GMC vehicles would convey a visual that was reminiscent of the job site. GMC vehicles would look like work vehicles. I remember thinking at the time that this was fine for the pickup trucks, but wondered how they would translate that industrialized message to the family haulers in the line-up.
Unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, the 2018 Terrain answers that question with bold styling which looks tough without the imposing edge that some might see in pickup truck design. Add in the fact that the Canadian model is available with a diesel engine and the brand’s working heritage is well represented.
Previously built in Ontario, production of the latest version of the Terrain has been moved to Mexico. The new model is definitely an improvement over the outgoing model, with interior materials boasting higher quality to the eye and touch, with one small exception. The leather (pleather?) wrap on the steering wheel, which felt great to the touch, was puckered differently on the corners of the lower spoke of the wheel. It was a small flaw, but one that irked me every time my thumb crossed it while parking.
Whether this was due to accountants putting the screws to parts suppliers or a result of inattentive quality control in Mexico is irrelevant. Attention to small details are what marks the difference between the interiors of traditional domestic automakers and those from traditional imports. Beyond that however, the inclusion of materials like real aluminum are welcomed.
Where the Terrain has a distinct European feel is in the drive experience, thanks to the 1.6L diesel powerplant. The twin-cam four cylinder diesel generates 137 horsepower and a more than healthy 240 lb-ft of torque. That grunt is fed through a 6-speed automatic transmission which makes short shifts at lower speeds, giving the Terrain the purposeful feel of a Euro transporter on acceleration. Once up to highway speeds, there is no perceptible sound from the drivetrain, contributing to a wonderfully quiet cabin.
For our family, the most important part of a CUV type vehicle is Utility. These days, with all three kids having their own cars, the rear row of seating isn’t used much, if at all. The ability to swallow mass amounts of cargo with ease however, is key. Just as the visuals have been designed to look like they belong in a work setting, GMC has paid extra attention to making the Terrain’s interior functional. The best feature for our use is the flat folding floor, which makes for easy packing. Beneath that floor lies a series of hidden cubbies, perfect for hiding smaller objects.
Of course the reason that most auto journalists proclaim their love of a good diesel is the ability to offer fantastic fuel economy without sacrificing performance. On that end, the Terrain did not disappoint. During our week with the Terrain, it was driven around town, then driven to cottage country with a full load, all in sub-zero temperatures. By the end of the week, it had achieved 6.5 L/100 KM, which is truly remarkable for an all-wheel-drive vehicle of this size.
The 2018 GMC Terrain begins at $30,295 for a gas powered, from wheel drive model. A fully loaded Denali version rings in at $41,695. Our tester, an SLE Diesel, sits in the middle at $36,595.
From a pricing perspective, the Terrain sits at the upper end of the small crossover niche, with several models from other manufacturers with starting prices which are several thousand dollars less expensive. Where GMC’s entry may become the best value choice in the segment is with the availability of a diesel engine. Not only is diesel fuel typically cheaper at the pumps, but factor in the fantastic fuel economy and it is very likely that the Terrain will save owners money over the life of the vehicle as compared to a gas powered competitor.