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.
Some readers may recall that I am one of the co-chairman of the Automobilie Journalists Association of Canada’s Canadian Car of the Year Awards. My co-chair partner in crime, Justin Pritchard, has made himself known for his fast talking video reviews from northern Ontario. The time has come to begin sharing Pritchard’s videos.
The first one we’ll be sharing is actually a step away from the usual auctioneer speak, instead using text to talk about how the 2017 Audi Allroad Quattro handles the white stuff.
Source: Justin Pritchard
Winter’s first blast of the 2016/2017 season came on the very same day that we were scheduled to drive two thirds of the way across the Greater Toronto Area to join the good folks at Nissan Canada for an early VIP screening of the new Star Wars franchise flick Rogue One. We left our driveway with a couple of hours to spare, figuring that this would leave us sufficient time to deal with the slowdowns caused by the pre-Christmas storm.
“Cool, it looks like we are making the jump to light speed in the Millenium Falcon”, I exclaimed to my oh so tolerant missus as we accelerated onto the highway, as the QX60’s gorgeous LED headlights lit up the rapidly falling snow. You see, Mrs. Grant is not a particular fan of the Star Wars films and would have been happier to be catching up on season 8 of Dexter in front of a roaring fire.
Our test vehicle had been shod with a set of Toyo Observe GSi5 Winter tires, descended from the Toyos that we used to rely on during Winter rallies more than twenty years ago, so I had high hopes that the overall package would be competent in the white stuff. What I didn’t expect was for the package to conquer Old Man Winter like a Yeti scaling Mount Everest.
Maybe ten kilometers into our drive, four lanes wide became three and traffic slowed to a reasonable 60 km/h, so I eased the Infiniti over into the right lane, which was no longer being used. The transition between hard pack snow to deep ruts and then just deep snow were barely noticeable behind the wheel, as the QX60 simply went where I asked it to, with no drama whatsoever. Inside the cabin, the heated seats and steering wheel kept the humans toasty.
Soon, traffic came to a standstill and four lanes became five, as patience waned and motorists tried everything to somehow escape the traffic. With 45 minutes remaining until curtain time, we had covered about a third of the distance to the theatre and there was no way we were going to make it to showtime. A decision was made and we exited the highway in search of dinner.
Avoiding traffic clogged main streets for a while, we chose twisty side roads, which had been untouched by snow removal machinery. As any self respecting Canadian boy should, I switched off the stability control and began to explore the limits of traction. Simply for research sake of course, so that I knew what my vehicle would do if presented with an emergency situation!
Normally, I am not a big fan of CVT transmissions, but the unit in the QX60 flawlessly transmits the 3.5l V-6’s 295 horsepower to the all wheel drive system flawlessly and adds to the cocoon effect we were feeling in the Infiniti’s cabin. While looking sleek and sporty, the seven passenger QX60 is still quite a large vehicle, but the powertrain offers just the right level of oomph for a bit of Winter play. When asked, the all wheel drive system sends just enough power to the rear wheels to allow for long, gentle and easily controlled drifts.
We found a pub North of the city and sat down to enjoy a meal before heading home. By the time we had finished dinner and headed out onto some rural highways, there were next to no vehicles on the road. As our speeds rose to the dry norm, the QX60 was simply unfazed by the road conditions. The Toyos offer an unbelievable level of grip, the limits of which are gentle and easily taken in stride by the Infiniti’s stability control system. We ventured onto a new section of toll highway with long, sweeping ramps and found that even at elevated speeds, the QX60 was equally as stable as it was at lower speeds.
One of the challenges that Nissan has faced in the past decade or so on the passenger car side of the market is overlap between models which leaves consumers somewhat confused. Maxima was a mainstay in the Nissan fleet for years, until the G35 was introduced. Suddenly, the company had two very cool, competitively priced sporty sedans. As the G has evolved into the Q, Maxima remains somewhat in limbo, which is a shame, as it is a great car. What does this have to do with the QX60? The reality is that the QX is a gussied up Pathfinder. While the Pathy model line begins at just over 32 grand here in Canada, the QX60 starts at close to 48K. Our review unit rang in at more than $63,000, not including the Winter rubber.
Quite frankly, the QX60 feels worth every penny. The interior fit and finish, comfort and performance easily equal or better anything from more expensive luxury brands, like say Land Rover. I can’t help but wondering however, if it is worth so much more than its Nissan sibling. We’ll be driving a Pathfinder in a couple of weeks to answer that question.
With the proliferation of all wheel drive systems and advanced active driver aids, good Winter driving performance is not uncommon in today’s family utility vehicles. The way in which the QX60 conquers Winter is different than most though, as it is completely unfazed by changing conditions. In a market full of talented players, the QX60 is simply the most confident family hauler I have ever driven in adverse conditions. In a time when driving safely is more important than ever before, that confidence alone is worth the price of admission.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared a video of some ice racing action in Minden, Ontario. Some may think that the Minden Fairgrounds are the only place in Ontario to have a bit of Winter racing fun, but they would be wrong. Minden is where the Southern Ontario crowd goes to play. Further to the North, the Thunder Bay Autosport Club hosts a very active series on the ice each year. My buddy Russ Bond came across this video of a weekend back in 2004 when he and a bunch of Ontario racing personalities went north for some fun on the ice.
Source: YouTube via Painkillerz
Thanks to Hollywood, most people think a car crash creates a glorious, explosive noise coupled with fireballs and flying objects. In reality, it is typically more of a dull thwack, as metal and plastic crumple sections do their job. It is actually a rather sickening sound once you have heard it a few times in real life. You are about to hear it a bunch of times.
Yesterday afternoon an icy Hwy. 55 in Minnesota, became the scene of a 61 car pile-up, as car after car slammed into the stopped vehicles in their path. The incident began when a tractor trailer jack-knifed and blocked the road. One of the early “arrivals” got out of his car and started shooting video with his phone before trying to help out fellow motorists. Typically it is safer to remain in your car, but in this case there was a wide sidewalk behind a barrier and our camera guy helps people over the barrier before running up the road to attempt to slow traffic down.
I know that all of us are waiting for Winter to finally go away, but the folks at Mobil 1 have just released this short that is a bit of a primer on ice racing. The sport is good fun, even if it is crazy cold in Ontario cottage country. Now that the season is over, it might be a good time to pick up a slightly used ice racer for a couple of hundred bucks and start beating panels ahead of next Winter.
There are few things that are more annoying than impatient drivers. Add in a dose of stupidity and you have the makings of either frustration or humour depending on where you are sitting.
As the motorists in the video below are struggling to deal with an altercation caused by an icy hill, a police cruiser pushes past and tries to climb said hill and ignore the incident. From there it looks more like a slapstick comedy, as Mr. Policeman succumbs to the laws of friction and gravity.
For the folks shooting video from an upstairs window, this is pretty funny. For those on the road, not so much.
Winter may have been a bit of a bust here in Southern Ontario this year, at least as far as snowfall goes, but other parts of the continent have not gotten off so lightly. As Winter tire advocates for years, we are always the first to point out that cold temperatures and icy roads pose as much of a challenge to all season tires as the deep, white stuff does.
Despite the fact that Winter driver training options abound, some drivers continue to be caught out by the challenges of the season. In Quebec, and a couple of other provinces, the use of snow tires is mandatory during the Winter months. Sadly, other provinces like Ontario still don’t require their use.
For years, Michelin’s X-Ice lineup has been the cream of the crop of Winter boots. For the 2012 season, Michelin launched the X-Ice 3, the latest addition to their stable of snow season tires. To get the word out about, Michelin brought us to the incredible Mecaglisse winter driving facility in rural Quebec. On this trip, we stayed at the magnificent Esterel Suites hotel, which served up a mean burger when I arrived early the day before.
In the years since we first drove the Nissan Rogue back in the Fall of 2007, it has been a favorite around The Garage every time one is in our test fleet. Each time we’ve reported about how much we love Nissan’s little suv. Now that we’ve spent a week with the 2011 version, we still love it.
Perhaps we continue to love it because the revamp it received for the 2011 model year was essentially a face lift rather than a complete going over. The Nissan press material says:
Among the many enhancements for the fourth year of Rogue production is a redesigned exterior featuring a new front fascia and grille, front chin spoiler, rear spoilers, new chrome side door guard molding trim accents, new front and rear tire deflectors and a new chrome license plate finisher. Also added for 2011 are available 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, new lower rolling resistance tires (available with the 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels) and a new under-body cover.
The cosmetic stuff is nice and all, but the reality is that the core vehicle just fits so well into our family’s lifestyle. The Rogue is comfortable and versatile, with a tactile feel that rivals that of vehicles costing much more money. Add in the outstanding reliability record and Nissan has a golden package on their hands.