The new Toyota Mirai is now on sale. But sadly, not here.

Not yet.

Toyota’s second-generation hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai, was unveiled at last fall’s Tokyo Motor Show. Seldom have I seen an unveiling that was more breathtaking, or which more accurately foretold the future of the automobile. We weren’t allowed to drive it then.

But just last week, it officially went on sale in Japan, and Toyota’s U.S. web site is showing it as being available down there too. The U.S. price is given as $58,550.

Toyota Canada’s web site says the car will be available here in “late 2020”. It doesn’t get much more “late 2020” than this weekend; I can only assume COVID-19 must bear some of the blame for the delay.

But it is coming, although no Canadian price has been announced as of yet. Mirai means “future” in Japanese. A better name they could not have chosen. Unlike its rather ungainly first-gen sister that I have driven, the new car is gorgeous. It’s also more spacious than before.

The “stack” of fuel cells essentially converts hydrogen into electricity, which is fed into a lithium-ion battery that replaces the nickel-metal hydride unit of the previous Mirai. The only “exhaust” is water. Compared to the powertrain in the first Mirai, the new one weighs less, takes up less room, produces more power and has greater range than before, over 800 km. Diesel may finally have a competitor on that metric. And it takes no longer to fill the tank than a petroleum car.

Perhaps most important, the cost of the fuel cell stack has been cut by some 70 per cent.

Initially, Mirai will likely be used in fleets within the petro-chemical industry, where hydrogen will be more available.

For widespread use, we will have to wait for the development of a hydrogen delivery infrastructure. At the moment, there isn’t one, although there are glimmerings of progress in that area, in Japan, Germany, and even in Canada.

And what about that cost?

Professor Katsuhiko Hirose, who until last October headed Toyota’s fuel cell program, said that with improvements in fuel cell technology, and in both the production and storage of hydrogen, fuel cell cars could be price-competitive with hybrids by 2025, and maybe even cheaper than fuel-powered cars by the end of this decade.

When you consider how far gasoline/electric hybrids have come in the past 20 years, the prospects for hydrogen don’t look so daunting.

Personally, I can barely wait.Toyota Mirai

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Manual transmissions have pretty much gone the way of the dodo bird.

They used to account for over half of all new car sales. That number has dropped to low single digits, as automatics not only offer more ease of driving, but with more ratios – up to 10 speeds – they now often deliver better fuel economy and performance too.

But dedicated SIY’ers – Shift It Yourself-ers – still exist, and for them, Toyota offers a manual gearbox on their popular Corolla sedan and hatchback. It’s not just on their cheapest models either, or only in the sedan body style, like the Corolla Hybrid I tested a while back. This time I was in a Corolla sedan in base “L” trim, which is as low as you can go in a Corolla. Pricing starts, and my tester pretty much ended, at $19,150.

This brings a 1.8-litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine generating 139 horsepower at 6,100 r.p.m. and 126 lb-ft of torque at 3,900 r.p.m. Want even more? Upgrade to the higher trim levels with the 2.0-litre four and you get 30 more ponies pulling you along.

Despite this being the entry-level model, Toyota doesn’t scrimp on safety gear. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard, bringing such things as collision avoidance and/or mitigation, vehicle and pedestrian detection in daylight and low-light situations, and cyclist detection in daytime.

It offers compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and automatically dimming high beam headlights. It even has a back-up camera.

It also has a bunch of driving assistance systems, like lane keeping and blind-spot monitoring. If you wish, you can shut these off. Speaking of shutting off, I first feared this car had the dreaded beeper that warns you to shut the headlights off when you shut the car off. The car should just shut the headlights off automatically. I discovered that if you ignore this warning on the Corolla and just walk away, the car does it for you after 30 seconds.

Something we are seeing less often now, but was here in the Corolla, is a proper ignition key. That mean fewer worries about dropping today’s modern ignition keys down between the seats, or having your partner drive off with the key still in your pocket and they can’t restart the car when they get home. Sadly, the Corolla L offers neither heated seats nor heated steering wheel, although they do come in pricier models. I sometimes wonder why Transport Canada does make heated seats mandatory in Canada. Winter gets mighty cold in some parts of this vast country.

The 1.8-litre engine has more power than the Hybrid, and offers surprisingly good performance.

It’s also commendably quiet, even as revs rise above five grand. At first I found clutch engagement pulling away from rest a bit tricky and the throttle return spring very light. So its best go easy. I can say that this became better with a bit of practice.

Review 2021 Toyota Corolla L

Review 2021 Toyota Corolla L

The gearbox itself is excellent – light, direct and precise. This car would be a good one in which to learn how to drive a stick, in my opinion.

Because this model doesn’t have the heavy battery and electric motor of the Hybrid, the car’s suspension doesn’t have to be beefed up to handle the extra load, which amounts to about 80 kg. My recollection is that the Hybrid rode more harshly than the base car, which was also carrying the handicap of having winter tires. There was more road and wind noise than I recall from the Hybrid. Again, the tires might have been at least partially responsible for the former, and the quiet engine may have allowed more of the latter to sneak through.

The seats are a bit short in cushion length, but the fabric upholstery looked and felt good.

There’s decent room in the rear for two riders, three in a pinch, and the trunk is spacious.

I folded down the rear seats as I also do in my own VW, to improve rearward visibility. The thus-expanded cargo hold does not offer a flat floor, but hey – it’s not a pickup truck.

While this may not be the most thrilling ride you can buy, it will give you solid and reliable service for a long, long time.

Not a lot wrong with that.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

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History hasn’t been kind to Chrysler over their decision to use the goodwill earned by their most popular brand to dress up their most lowly. The execrable  “mall-rated” Dodge Caliber-based Compass and Patriot represent a low point in Jeep’s storied history and one best consigned to the scrap heap. So you’d think Ford would have taken note of this when bestowing the iconic Mustang badge upon their four-door, electric powered crossover.

If you ascribe to the theory that “no publicity is bad publicity” well then, the new Mustang Mach-E’s launch certainly didn’t go unnoticed. Marketing minions aren’t known for subtlety when it comes to capitalizing on past successes, but surely “Mach-E” was a pretty cool name on its own. Was it really necessary to saddle a new vehicle with 55+ years of history and the collective anger of generations of fans?

Nevertheless, the very first Ford designed on an electric-only platform has generated a lot of interest among prospective buyers looking for a Tesla alternative. There’s a lot of pressure on the Mach-E to succeed, as it will test the waters for an eventual all-electric F-150 debut. Brand loyalty may make it difficult to accept such a radical departure from traditional gasoline power–particularly when it comes to trucks–or it may just make the transition easier for the die-hard faithful.

Ford’s serious enough about the Mach-E that it’s available in five models and nine different trims. There are two battery options; a standard 75.7 kW hour, or an extended-range 98.8 kWh. The Mach-E has an official maximum range of 475 kilometres if configured with extended range battery and rear wheel drive. Spec the same vehicle with the smaller battery, and the range drops to 355 km. Adding all-wheel drive reduces range to 340 km or 425 km with the extended range battery. However, testing conducted by the U.S. Environmental Act proves those numbers are actually on the conservative side by about 15 km per model. A 459 hp GT model will arrive later, whose 0-100 km time of 3.5 seconds makes it the second fastest Mustang next to the GT500.

Aside from a similar topline and Mustang-inspired taillamps, the Mach-E shares absolutely nothing with its namesake. A rounded, compact crossover, the Mach-E has the arched, swooping roofline that would have a German car company insisting it’s a coupé. I have to admit that the alien “grill-delete” look is starting to grow on me.

My tester is an AWD model with 346 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. I’m reminded that it’s a pre-production model when I ask about the range readout of 347 km at 100 per cent charge and that the software calculations aren’t entirely accurate.

The interior is comfortable and pared down. Two freestanding screens interrupt the stacked planes of the dash, a horizontal one behind the wheel replacing traditional gauges, and an enormous 15.5-inch vertical infotainment screen dominates the centre stack. Embedded in the bottom of the massive touchscreen is an honest-to-goodness rotary volume knob. Ford’s revised SYNC 4 connectivity interface can apparently learn each driver’s preferences, and allow them to create a unique profile instead of having to navigate menus to launch apps or functions. It also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Mach-E comes with Ford Co-Pilot360 2.0, a suite of active safety features, including intelligent adaptive cruise control, blind spot information, and pre-collision assist.

Like most of its ilk, the Mach-E moves forward effortlessly, gathering momentum in a linear whoosh. The suspension feels firm, but not rigid and absorbs bumps and road imperfections.

First Drive 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

First Drive 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

The cabin is quiet and feels well insulated, if not the same level of refinement as the Germans, it’s at least on par with competitors Tesla Model Y, Hyundai Kona, or Kia Niro EV.  There’s ample head and legroom, and backseat legroom is near the top of its class. The battery pack’s placement under the vehicle’s floor leaves cargo space uncompromised: trunk space is 821 litres, increasing to 1688 litres with rear seats folded. The front trunk, or “frunk” is a useful 136 litres.

Steering feels on-centre and well-weighted, but delivers little feedback. There are three driving modes: Whisper, Engage, and Unbridled, accessed through the touchscreen, and these alter steering feel, accelerator response and ambient lighting. “Engage” is the Normal, everyday mode, infusing the cabin with serene blue lighting and encouraging efficient driving via the dynamic cluster’s EcoMode display.

“Unbridled” takes the place of Sports Mode, with sharper steering, a boosted performance sound, orange lighting, and enhanced throttle response with G-force and acceleration in the driver’s display.

“Whisper” is akin to Comfort Mode, with light steering, smooth throttle response, brake traction control on wet or slippery road surfaces, and a low gear for easier deceleration on downward inclines without overusing the brakes. A One Pedal Drive toggle is available in all three modes, lifting at the lights to come to a stop while conserving the brakes.

First Drive 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Mach-E’s base price of $50,495 makes it a pretty compelling choice, priced thousands lower than Jaguar I-Pace or Audi E-Tron, while offering more range. The similarly priced Tesla Model Y will probably be its closest competitor and has the advantage of an established charging network. Ford’s promise of an Auto-Pilot like hands-free system to be available soon via download, takes aim squarely at Tesla’s “self-driving” claims.

Unfortunately, the Mach-E’s base price is greater than the $45,000 required to qualify for the federal green incentive, however, it’s still eligible for a $3,000 rebate in British Columbia, and $8,000 in Quebec.

The Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro are both smaller and slower, however, their inclusion of a lower priced gasoline model in the lineup qualifies them for the federal incentives.

Still, for long-time fans of the Blue Oval, the Mach-E just might be the vehicle that finally nudges them to take the plunge into EV ownership.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

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Mitsubishi Canada will be entering 2021 with an updated and refreshed Eclipse Cross that will bring to Canadian drivers a refined and more elegant design and retuned to provide greater handling and control.

The new 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is part of Mitsubishi Motors larger transformation plans that will see a major transformation of the automaker’s entire vehicle line over the New Year.

The 2022 Eclipse Cross will sport a restyled exterior with extended front and rear overhangs, along with a new front facia design. This new Eclipse Cross will come with twin-oval headlamps that will sit where the previous Eclipse Cross had its fog lamps. The rear has also been redesigned to bring a larger rear window and contoured taillights.

The interior will be roomier, as the 2022 Eclipse Cross will get a bit of a size increase, and one gets a choice of leather, synthetic leather and fabric seats. The leather option also brings a heated steering wheel, as well as driver, front and rear passenger seat heaters.

The horizontally arranged instrument panel allows for a driver to easily find what they need without distractions. A larger infotainment screen is now part of the package as well – 8-inches, up from the previous 7-inches – and comes with improved touchscreen operability as well as convenient tuning and volume knobs. A first for Mitsubishi, TomTom navigation now comes included, as well as support for the popular Apple CarPlay and Android Auto applications.

A 1.5-litre turbocharged, direct injection 4-clinder engine will sit under the hood and come with MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control) to improve fuel economy. The engine produces 152 HP @ 5,500 r.p.m. with 184 lb-ft of torque locked onto an 8-speed CVT with Sport Mode. Handling is improved with the electronically-controlled four-wheel-drive system that is combined with Mitsubishi’s S-AWS system.

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross base ES S-AWC trim will start at $28,598; The SE S-AWC will come in at $31,218 and the SEL S-AWC level, will start at $34,218.  The GT S-AWC level will come in at $36,998.

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It makes you wonder where the brains are in Formula One. Actually, now that I’ve looked at that line in print, I have come to the conclusion that there are no brains in F1.

In just about every major league sport in the world, the league has medical staff on duty to determine if athletes are well enough and strong enough to play. As we’re Canadians, we are particularly familiar with the NHL’s rule that if a player appears woozy, they have to spend time in a “quiet room” and then are questioned and tested by doctors before being allowed to return to play. They don’t have to be checked into the boards, either. Guys with the ‘flu have been checked out.

So here we have the case of Lewis Hamilton, who finished third in Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix behind the winner, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, and second-place finisher Valtteri Bottas, his teammate at Mercedes. In an interview he gave a reporter on Saturday, Lewis talked openly about his bout with COVID-19 and how he’d lost a lot of weight in the two weeks since he tested positive and that he felt very tired.

And yet the very next day, they let him strap into a Formula One car and drive 200 miles an hour (in places) around a tight and twisty circuit for about two hours. Did it not dawn on anyone that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea? What if he became so fatigued or dehydrated that he couldn’t drive the car properly and inadvertently caused a crash? What if he’d hurt himself? I could go on.

Hamilton said he was feeling the respiratory effects of the virus (COVID attacks the lungs) and that he felt drained. “So I’ve been trying to sleep as much as I can but recharging is not as easy as it has been in the past,” he said Saturday. “I lost a good amount of weight so I’m not 100 per cent the same as I was the last time I raced.”

Hamilton, of course, went on to say that he would give it his best shot Sunday anyway. Most drivers will talk through walls of fire to race. But what was the point? He’d already won the world championship and led the team to its usual constructors’ championship so it didn’t matter if he was out there or not. By sitting out, Lewis would have helped his body to recover, George Russell would have gotten another shot in a good car and Jack Aitken could have had another drive filling in for Russell at Williams.

But no. His ego, frankly, wouldn’t let him sit out. He’s Lewis Hamilton and he’s the best and he’s Superman, don’tcha know? By insisting on going out there, Hamilton treated COVID like it was a bad cold. But it’s more than that. People look to him because he’s world champion. They are influenced by what he says and does.

That’s why other sports take those sorts of decisions out of the hands of the athletes.

Toto Wolff, his employer, should have taken the initiative and kept him out of the car. If Hamilton had refused to listen, Wolff should have called in the FIA medical delegates who are always on the scene. They are there, primarily, to treat drivers in case of an emergency but they could have declared his state of health an emergency and ordered him to bed.

Prof. Sid Watkins, the pioneer of motorsport medicine who died a few years ago, would have done that.

Why? Because this is what Hamilton said after the race: “I’m destroyed. I didn’t feel good in the car, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so blown. I’m just thankful it’s over.”

Does that sound like somebody who should have been out there?

Nope.

Talking of no brains, the F1 drivers took their usual two or three minutes before the race Sunday to kneel (some of them) and pay tribute to minorities, stressing that everyone in the world must be treated with respect.  I wonder if they knew the gulag wasn’t far off, where the UAE political prisoners are kept.

The UAE (United Arab Emirates, of which there are seven), the most liberal of the Middle East dictatorships, is still an autocracy. The Royal families make the rules and woe be anyone who speaks out against them. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press is almost non-existent. If you keep your nose clean, you can lead a fairly normal life. But if you do or say anything out of line, you can be thrown in jail where solitary confinement and torture is the norm and you are not allowed legal counsel and your family can be threatened.

Saudi Arabia is the worst, of course, and is where F1 is scheduled to race in 2021. Will the drivers hold their pre-race ceremony there? And if they do, what really will they be saying? Thank goodness the W Series, the all-woman single-seat series launched two years ago with the aim of getting a female driver into F1, took a pass on Saudi Arabia. The W. Series will race in support of eight F1 events next season and were invited to Riyadh but said no. That might be because the woman who petitioned the dictators in Saudi Arabia two years ago to allow women to drive there has been in prison ever since.

Verstappen won the pole Saturday, with Bottas second and Hamilton third. That is how the race started on Sunday and how it ended. Our Lance Stroll of Montreal was 10th while Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi was 17th. More about Latifi in a moment.

Meantime, for a complete story on the race, please click here

NOTEBOOK JOTTINGS 

This will be my final online auto racing column of 2020. I traditionally take a break at this time of year but will be back in late January for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Daytona 500 before easing off in anticipation of March, when all the series will have their seasons up and running. My Top Ten auto racing stories of 2020 will be published in Toronto Star Wheels on Sat., Dec. 26. Another motorsport reporter is also taking some time off. My old friend Erik Tomas of Raceline Radio fame wound up his live broadcasts for the year this weekend and now has four programs lined up with Year-in-Review-type reports, including some of his best interviews. You can hear them on Dec. 20, Dec. 27, Jan. 3 and Jan. 10. Raceline is heard across Canada, so listen to those special shows on your favourite radio stations at the usual times.

At Abu Dhabi, Charles Leclerc wore a helmet with a sign on it that thanked Sebastian Vettel, who left for Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point) after the GP. Why? . . . . . The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marked the final race for Chase Carey as CEO of Formula 1. He will remain chairman of the company but hands over his CEO role to Stefano Domenicali. . . . It was the last race in F1 for Kevin Magnussen, who was dropped by Haas and has signed to go sports car racing in the United States. Romain Grosjean is also finished, as are Sergio Perez/Alex Albon (one will drive for Red Bull next year, but which one?) and Daniel Kvyat (again)Oh, and if Bottas hadn’t performed well, after being shown up by Russell last week, he might have been out on his ear too . . . . .  Perez, who won the GP at week ago, lasted about a lap Sunday before a gearbox issue eliminated him. . . . . . Silverstone  in England is naming its front straight after Lewis Hamilton . . . . . Helio Castroneves has been inducted into the Penske Racing Hall of Fame. . . . . McLaren is selling off another part of the team, this time to American investors. McLaren finished third in the constructors’ championship Sunday, which means money but not as much as other years. But that team needs an audit and then an independent accounting firm to handle the cash flow. They’re spending way too much money. . . . . I know that I am a glass half-full kind of guy (which is what 55-plus years in the newspaper business will do to you) but last week Audi dropped out of Formula Electric and this week it’s BMW. The rest will be soon be following and Formula E will be finis. . . . . . The Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals will go ahead in Tulsa, Okla., Jan. 11-16. Eight million midgets and drivers turn up and it takes them four nights and most of Saturday to cut the field down to 24 for the A-Main Saturday night. NASCAR drivers, one or two IndyCar drivers, drag racers – everybody shows up. The Chili Bowl can be seen in Canada on any cable system that carries REV-TV . . . . . The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle races set for May 29-June 12, 2021, have been cancelled. Guess why? . . . . . Donald Davidson, historian at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will retire on Dec. 31. . . . . . Quebec’s Mario Gosselin, who’s been an owner in NASCAR for years, will move back behind the wheel next February at Daytona when he straps in for the Xfinity race there . . . . . .  Colton Herta will drive the Gainbridge-sponsored IndyCar for Andretti Autosport next season. This is the car that our James Hinchcliffe raced in the last three events of the 2020 season . . . . . The Auto Club Speedway round of the  NASCAR Cup season won’t be held in California in 2021. That track is being reconfigured into a short oval so their race will be moved to the Daytona Speedway road course for one year only. . . . . Juan Montoya will drive in the Indianapolis 500 for Arrow McLaren SP. It will be a one-off. . . . . .

The Hoosier Hundred is back on the USAC Silver Crown (Dirt Champ Cars) schedule again. It will be held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds May 27, three days before the 500.  Two years ago, the series got the bum’s rush when the Indiana State Fair Board decided to turn the mile track into a course for horse racing only. Because of this problem and that, the race has been extended twice now. Hopefully, we can get across the border by then. I’d like to take it in one more time. . . . . . Speaking of the border, the NASCAR modified tour will visit New York’s Oswego Speedway twice in 2021, on June 12 and again on Labour Day weekend. It would be nice to take in at least one of those shows. . . . . Tony Stewart’s Superstar Racing Experience, a six-race series that will be seen on the CBS Sports Channel, will race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis and Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Ohio next summer and feature Stewart, Tony Kanaan, Paul Tracy, Helio Castroneves, Bobby Labonte, Willy T. Ribbs, Mark Webber and Bill Elliott. Four tracks remain to be named. Stewart is running the series in partnership with Ray Evernham.

A household name in both Ontario and Maritimes racing circles, Jim Hallahan, a member of the Maritime and Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame, has died. He was 90. Hallahan started racing jalopies in the 1960s and was two-time modified champion at Pinecrest Speedway near Toronto in 1958 and ’59. He went late-model racing in a Studebaker but when it wouldn’t run, he chopped off the front end and welded on a Chevrolet’s. He then won the Pinecrest late-model championship in his ”Studelet.” Ivan Forbes, who owned Forbes Chev-Olds in Dartmouth, offered Jim a job selling cars during the week and a stock car to race on the weekends. Forbes would pay the expenses and Hallahan could keep his winnings, so Jim moved the family to Nova Scotia. He raced for years, helped his children launch their careers and was instrumental in the creation of the MASCAR touring series and the Carquest Pro stock tour. He was also a tireless worker for charity. R.I.P., Jim.

Jim Bray of Brantford, named to the Motorsport Hall for induction in 2021 – he was the second Canadian to make the field for the Daytona 500 and continues to field cars for others to race in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series – called to complain about my Toronto Star Wheels column a week ago in which I suggested that everybody 80 and over should have to take a driver’s test every two years. Jim said he had to take a driver’s test five years ago, when he was 83, after he had the “audacity to pass a cop on the 403. He gave me a speeding ticket, which meant I had to take a test. I got in the car with the examiner and I drove two blocks and the guy said, ‘What are you doing here? Turn around and go back. You’re fine to drive.’” Jim was also proud to point out that a year ago, when he was only 87, he passed the in-air test needed to renew his pilot’s licence. Way to go, Jimbo.

Jim Hallahan

LATIFI GIVES HIMSELF AN 8 (OUT OF 10) 

Williams F1 made Latifi available before and after each Grand Prix this year via Zoom. Post-race on Sunday was the last session of the season. The F1 rookie said that he won’t be coming home to Canada but would be heading to the Caribbean with his family for some R & R. Asked about the race, in which he finished 17th, ahead of the Haas duo and Perez, he said:

“It was a very difficult Grand Prix. As a team we didn’t have the pace today and we weren’t as competitive as we have been in other races. I was struggling a lot with the balance in the opening stints, but as the race went on it settled down. The last stint was fun, putting on a fresh set of medium tires on lap 35 and pushing flat out to the end. It is a shame as it’s not how we wanted to end this season but coming into this weekend we knew that this track didn’t suit our car. That is my first full season in Formula One done and it’s been a big learning year; I can’t wait to get started next year.

Asked to rate his season, in which he failed to score a point, Latifi broke it into two – racing, which he thought was worth an eight and qualifying, with would be, in his mind, a five.

He essentially said the car wasn’t very good (he was right about that), that he’d driven well but had some learning to do.

“Over all, it’s been a good year,” he said in an interview Thursday. “It wasn’t what I expected in certain regards, obviously everything going on with COVID and how it affected how the season has been. All of the stuff alongside the actual driving of the racing car, the travelling.  I learned a lot about how careful we’ve had to be – all the extra stuff that you wouldn’t normally have to worry about or deal with.

“From the actual driving side of things, I learned a lot this year but it highlighted some areas that I definitely need to improve, We’ve spoken a lot about the Saturdays (qualifying), about how we have to put everything together in that qualifying session. That has to be the focus next year.

“Some things were good – race pace, the handling of the tires, tire degradation, managing that. It was a big learning year. I’m really excited about gong into 2021 and building on foundations I’ve built this year to make another step forward.”

He said he thought his best race was the first one held at Silverstone in England but that his worst was the first race of the year in Austria.

“It was one of my weaker ones. I was just driving around. I think the best thing I did in that race was staying on the track.”

By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca

The post Racing Roundup: Hamilton was Sick, Shouldn’t have Raced  appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

The GMC Sierra is the latest model from General Motors to be tagged for the Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance tech, and it’ll come to the Denali versions of the Sierra 1500 starting in late model-year 2022. Able to drive hands-free (but eyes on the road) on more than 320,000 km of compatible highways in the U.S. and Canada thanks to LiDAR, cameras, and GPS. The latest update to the system will give the Sierra the ability to go hands-free while towing a trailer, the first to offer that trick. The photo from GMC also shows an all-new all-digital gauge cluster as well as our first (small) look at the Sierra’s new interior as you can just catch a glimpse of what looks to be a volume knob on the right-hand side. Expect the refreshed cabin to follow what GMC has done with the latest Yukon.

Hyundai Canada has launched a new at-home test drive service with 199 participating dealers to start, the brand calls it the first nationally available feature of its kind. Recognising that many Canadians are unable or uncomfortable going to a showroom during the pandemic, this lets customers book a date and time for an at-home drive and the local dealer will drop off and pick up the buyer’s chosen Hyundai. At-dealer appointments are also available to be made online. Hyundai dealers will follow the brand’s Safe and Sound program that’s designed to help them do business safely during the pandemic including sanitising vehicles before and after drives and encouraging showroom appointments to avoid crowding.

Hyundai Home Test Drive

While the Maritime provinces have done well to install Level 3 fast-chargers along key highway corridors, travel to or around the more rural parts of the area in an EV still lead to finding one of the rare Level 2 charging stations, with often just one plug in a county seat, at the arena or town hall. Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan announced last week a $495,000 investment out of a total cost of $1.1 million with Saint John Energy to build 99 EV Level 2 fast-chargers around the Maritimes. Locations for the chargers will include Edmundston, Perth-Andover, Mahone Bay, Antigonish, Summerside, and more. The funding, provided through the Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, is expected to help boost EV adoption in this part of Canada. The Fall Economic Statment also contained $150 million for ZEV infrastructure starting in 2021-2022 and $287 million in vehicle purchase incentives to make ZEVs more affordable.

Hyundai Home Test Drive

Both the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing models will offer a six-speed manual when they arrive, Cadillac says, thanks to 3D printing techniques that let the automaker make stick-specific parts like HVAC ducts and an electric harness bracket more affordably and with less waste. In addition to the six-speed stick (a class-exclusive for CT4-V Blackwing), a 10-speed automatic will be optional. Interestingly, in a recent poll done for the brand, 66 per cent of American adults said they could drive a manual and close to half of those who couldn’t were interested in learning. The interest is highest in those with higher incomes and in younger drivers, suggesting the clutch pedal may not yet be dead.

Hyundai Home Test Drive

Mazda has announced pricing for the 2021 MX-5 roadster and MX-5 RF, and it’s up just $100 this year to a base of $33,200. Changes for 2020 include a new blue colour on GT models as well as the addition of wireless Apple CarPlay to that spec. The 181 hp 2.0-litre four is unchanged. GT models can be had with a new white Nappa leather interior, while the model, set to hit dealers in February, is also offered with a limited-quantity 100th Anniversary edition finished in Snowflake White with Garnet Red Nappa leather seats and a Dark Cherry soft top with 100th AE logos spread inside and out.

Hyundai Home Test Drive

More vehicle news and reveals available here: Reveal Roundup

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2021 sees the third-generation of the Lexus IS receive yet another facelift, having also received one for the 2016 model year. This facelift, though, is much more comprehensive than previous.

We’ll get to that in a minute but first, it’s nut n’ bolts time.

The 2021 Lexus IS starts at $42,950 for the rear-wheel-drive IS 300 model, which is the only way to get turbo power and RWD; the IS 300 AWD models ($43,400-$49,500) and the IS 350 F Sport ($53,300; $58,000 as tested) come with naturally-aspirated V6 power and all-wheel-drive.

Every IS gets wider fenders and comes with unique detailing such as a full-width light bar ‘round back, newly-styled and much more aggressive headlamp lenses and a lower, wider version of Lexus’ signature hourglass grille. When seen from head-on, those fenders coupled with that grille serve to lower and widen the car quite noticeably. It’s undeniably “Lexus” but it fits well within the line-up and that’s a big achievement since so many of the IS’ siblings – ES, LS, RX – have had full redesigns more recently than the IS has. This is a good-looking exterior, especially when finished in the gorgeous Matador Red Mica that my tester was.

The interior is also notable in the styling-sense not because it’s changed so much, but because it’s hardly changed at all; you still have the same drive mode selector, the same climate controls, the same shift lever and the same gauge cluster.

Indeed, when I first picked up my tester I had to get out and double-check to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, that I was actually in the 2021 car. Back inside, I eventually did notice the addition of an optional new 10.3-inch infotainment display (an 8-inch is standard) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, new wood finish sprinkled on various cabin bits and the addition of a touchpad infotainment controller as opposed to the joystick we used to have. The system is still somewhat janky and could be more intuitive, though; much of the competition does a better job in this regard.

I am, however, a fan of how the dash rises up around the driver and how the seats are super supportive and comfortable; the seat design remains one of the best in the segment, right up there with the Zero Gravity Seats found in the Infiniti Q50 and ultra-supportive examples you get in the BMW M340i. The view out is also spot-on and seeing those widened fenders extending ahead of you looks great and makes the IS that much easier to place on the road and during parking manoeuvres.

Like the interior, the powertrain hasn’t changed much past the “Lexus Intake” that brings a little more engine noise into the cabin (it does sound quite good at higher revs, almost Toyota GR Supra-like). The V6 in the IS 350 is rated at 280 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque – same as before – fed to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic box that comes with paddle shifters. Four-cylinder models, meanwhile, get an eight-speed.

First Drive 2021 Lexus IS

First Drive 2021 Lexus IS

The engine isn’t super-keen to rev, but the power delivery is smooth and devoid of the peakiness you might get from a turbocharged ‘plant. It makes forward progress brisk but its attitude is a little more “grand tourer” than “all-out sports sedan”; indeed, with just six gears, the gearing is long so there’s a little more time spent between shifts than you’d get in the likes of the BMW or Genesis G70. Once at speed, though, the IS rides a nice wave of torque so you do get the power you need for highway passing and so forth. You’ll never get the hair-on-fire thrills you would get from other, more focused sports sedans, though.

While the powertrain returns mostly unchanged from 2020, the chassis has been given a proper once-over in an effort to give the IS that much more athleticism, especially in IS 350 F Sport Series 3 spec seen here.

They’ve stiffened up the chassis with better welding, lightened a number of components including the springs and anti-roll bars and that’s not all; they’ve also added the Dynamic Handling Package which adds adaptive dampers, special 19-inch BBS alloys, carbon fibre spoiler and mirror caps, Torsen limited-slip differential and to top it all off, a Sport + drive mode that sharpens steering, throttle and transmission response. And gives the tach a cool white bezel.

This is all thanks to the development of a new test facility in Japan that Lexus says has been designed to reflect certain portions of the Nurburgring Nordschleife. So while this hasn’t been tested at the ‘Ring, Lexus will say that it has done at the next best thing.

First Drive 2021 Lexus IS

They aren’t just whistling dixie, either. I always found the older IS to feel just a little heavy through the bends and they’ve done well to sharpen things up. You can’t feel a whole lot through the wheel but you can through the seat of your pants, and that’s a fine compromise, far as I’m concerned.

Even thought the front end is wider, it responds well to steering inputs and provides reduced body roll all at the same time. Of course, the dampers also have something to do with that but to me, the bigger add from those adaptive dampers is just how well they kept each individual wheel in check. On one of my favourite test routes, ruts and tarmac sags that are jarring in many cars were almost completely neutralized by the IS, making for some incredibly confidence-inspiring progress. Lexus is a brand that creates impeccably riding luxury cars, and you can tell that was not lost on those that designed and engineered this latest IS evolution.

Which is what it is, really: an evolution. They’ve done a number on the chassis, but leaving the powertrain untouched (and the interior, but that doesn’t bother me so much) as they have does deaden the impact of that. A new engine and maybe a faster-shifting transmission would to a whole lot, here, but it looks like we’re going to have to wait for an all-new IS for that.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

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During the golden age of advertising it was the jingles that sold cars and not the other way around.

When Fiat Chrysler Automobiles asked Interscope Records to create a song that would draw Millennials to an all-new subcompact Jeep, the chief marketing officer was presented with the tailor-made song Renegades just days later.

The tune, by a little-known indie band called the X Ambassadors, was reportedly already in the works when FCA came calling. With lyrics such as: “long live the pioneers, rebels and mutineers, go fourth and have no fear, come close and lend an ear,” the song had all the makings of an indie hit.

Rather than rely on radio play, the record company had the promotional power of one of the world’s largest automakers to feature the song in its commercials. While no indie band wants to be known as a sellout, the notion that the X Ambassadors wrote a hit based on a marketing brief is inspired thinking.

Too bad the actual car couldn’t carry much more than a tune.

Although it’s marketed as an American sport utility, the Renegade subcompact crossover is actually a Fiat wearing Jeep styling cues. The littlest Jeep is almost mechanically identical to the Fiat 500X crossover hatchback, both of which are assembled in Melfi, Italy, and not in Jeep’s historic factory in Toledo, Ohio.

Built on FCA’s Small-Wide 4×4 platform – a modified version of the Small Wide platform that underpins other Fiat Chryslers like the short-lived Dart – it’s fortified with enhanced structural rigidity and standard Koni shocks that work well with the four-wheel independent suspension. The wee Jeep’s taller stance gives it longer suspension travel with 17 centimetres of ground clearance on front-wheel-drive models, while the off-road-oriented Trailhawk 4×4 model provides 22 cm of clearance.

Its tall phonebooth profile pays dividends inside with plenty of headroom, and front-seat occupants have good legroom. Rear passengers aren’t so lucky leg-wise, but three-across seating is possible thanks to the generous width. The rear cargo hold offers just 18.5 cubic feet with the seats up, an unexceptional space bested by competitors like the Honda HR-V and Kia Soul.

“The interior is incredible: Grey leather seats with orange and brown accents. Leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, heated seats, an AC outlet in the back seat,” reads a review by a happy owner. Imagine the brio of offering interior colours other than black or carbon grey. Et tu, Toyota?

The base engine was a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, tied to a six-speed manual transmission only. Optional, and vastly more popular around here, is Fiat’s 2.4-litre “Tigershark” four-cylinder that makes 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque, paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission exclusively.

All models can be either front-wheel or four-wheel drive, except the Trailhawk, which uses an advanced 4WD system with low-range gearing for true off-road capability. When equipped with the larger engine and tow package, a Renegade 4WD can pull 907 kg (2,000 lbs).

The Renegade didn’t receive any notable updates, beyond some tweaks to the well-liked Uconnect infotainment system, until 2019. That’s when a new engine arrived: a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 177 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque – a welcome improvement over the retired 1.4-litre four.

Buying Used Jeep Renegade

The new engine represents a step up from the 2.4-L four – which is the base engine as of 2019 – but, curiously, it’s slower than the big four and thirstier than the outgoing 1.4-L turbo. At least it works with the automatic, since the manual gearbox was unceremoniously dropped.

In addition to the fresh engine, the 2019 models benefited from some exterior styling changes, a revised instrument cluster and newly available features such as LED lighting and adaptive cruise control. All 2020 versions come with new telematics and a free one-year subscription that allows owners to remotely unlock and start the Renegade with the Uconnect smartphone app.

Driving the Renegade is an exercise in moderation. Regardless of which engine resides under the stubby hood, it’s a slow drive punctuated by an intractable automatic transmission known for its harsh shifts. For those who can operate a manual stick (both of you), the 1.4-litre turbo is the fun one; power delivery is smooth and it feels more responsive than the big four. But it’s still a weakling: zero to 97 km/h comes up in an underwhelming 8.7 seconds.

Most Renegade owners will have the 180-hp 2.4-L Tigershark underhood, wedded to the German nine-speed automatic transmission. Equipped with 4WD running gear, it makes for a heavy subcompact crossover as the stopwatch reveals a somnolent acceleration time of 9.1 seconds to highway velocity. Opt for the newer 1.3-litre turbo and the performance is virtually identical at 9.0 seconds.

“Big problem for me was the acceleration getting on highways and trying to pass. I love Jeeps, but the Renegade engine is lacking in any pickup and even hesitates to downshift when you need it,” observed one owner online.

Thanks to the Renegade’s tidy size and quick steering, front-drive versions feel very car-like and even a little sporty for those who can row a manual gearbox. Four-wheel-drive models sit a little taller (the Trailhawk is higher still), which contributes to body lean around curves, yet the Renegade never feels unstable. The boosted ride height adds to the genuine off-road competence, something that a Chevrolet Trax could never match.

While there are some attempts at refinement – triple door seals, an acoustic laminated windshield and an isolated rear-suspension cradle help quiet the cabin – the Jeep’s blocky profile makes wind noise a nuisance, owners noted. Then there’s the subcompact’s rather poor fuel efficiency, averaging 10.8 litres/100 km (26 mpg) in real-world driving. Another pain: holding just 48 litres, the fuel tank is minuscule and requires frequent fill-ups.

Owners talk reliability

Fans could count on Jeep to create a subcompact crossover that emulates the best traits of America’s off-road brand while delivering car-like qualities and ease of ownership. It’s nimble around town and easy to park, while four-wheel-drive models, especially the Trailhawk, offer best-in-class trail capability. Plus it’s cute as a button. What’s not to like?

A lot, apparently. Most notably, it uses the same ZF nine-speed automatic transmission that exhibits jerky shifting, stuck gears, vibration, surging, stalling and transmission-warning lights seen in other models that feature it. A computer reflash doesn’t always take, and entire transmissions have been replaced in considerable numbers. Those opting for the manual transmission may uncover a worn-out clutch – a common Fiat failing not covered by the warranty.

The transmission headaches may have diminished after the 2016 model year, but other powertrain issues persist. Fiat’s four-cylinder engines can spontaneously lose power on the highway, fuel fittings can start a fire, and there are numerous electrical faults affecting everything from starting to non-functioning accessories. The cooling fan may fail, which can cause the engine to overheat and warp the head gasket. The 2.4-litre Tigershark engine is notorious for consuming oil, which can lead to engine failure.

Buying Used Jeep Renegade

Owners have also reported malfunctioning door locks, broken air conditioners, frequent brake service and a plethora of electronic glitches that include blank rearview camera displays and Uconnect issues. The windshield can crack at the slightest provocation, owners warn.

Needless to say, this little Jeepster is more than a handful when it comes to maintenance and repairs. CarComplaints.com awarded the 2015 Renegade its Beware of the Clunker seal of disapproval for good reason. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of other used subcompact and compact crossover SUVs that play a happier tune.

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Toyota’s goal of having an electrified variant of every model they produce by 2025 is well underway. The brand new Toyota Venza and Sienna minivan only come in hybrid guise now, and it will only take an extra $2000 (in most cases) to transform your Camry or RAV4 into a hybrid. They’re making it difficult for you not to buy one.

But hybrid tech isn’t exactly cutting-edge anymore. Toyota has long perfected it since first offering it on the Prius over 20 years ago. Then in 2012, they introduced the Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid that had a bigger battery, an electric-only drive mode, and could travel nearly 900 km on a tank of gas. That was Toyota’s first plug-in hybrid and now there’s another—the 2021 RAV4 Prime.

Using Toyota’s best-selling model to launch another plug-in makes complete sense and with the successful Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the newly launched Ford Escape plug-in hybrid, the timing is right.

The good news is that I can easily tell you that the RAV4 Prime is an excellent vehicle. The bad news is you might not be able to get your hands on one just yet. Limited availability will see most of the first batch going to Quebec and then B.C., due to higher demand there.

If you have to have one you’ll likely be waiting till next year and it will qualify for the $5000 federal EV incentive with the Prime SE ringing in at $44,990. It’s still decent value for what you’re getting even though Ontario doesn’t offer any provincial incentives like they do in Quebec and B.C.

The Prime XSE ($51,950 before incentives) adds unique 19-inch wheels, a 9-inch touchscreen, a black roof, a power tailgate, and a black interior with sporty red stitching.

A premium technology package can be added to the XSE, equipping it with a panoramic moonroof, an excellent JBL audio system, adaptive front lighting, and heated and ventilated front seats. You also get a head-up display, and a bird’s eye view camera system.

My XSE tester with the tech pack rang in at a lofty $59,215 after freight and fees, a lot for a RAV4. The upcoming Escape plug-in and the current Outlander PHEV are both cheaper to start. Although, it should be noted that both of them are down nearly 100 hp to the Toyota, which has nearly double the electric range of the Mitsubishi.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE

The Prime’s powertrain starts with the familiar 2.5-L 4-cylinder found in the RAV4 Hybrid but tuned for higher output. The front motor is larger at 134kW while the one on the rear axle remains the same size. Total power output is 302 hp—83 more than a standard RAV4 hybrid.

A much larger 18.1 kWh battery pack, cooled with refrigerant from the A/C, supplies power to the EV motors and also gives the RAV4 68 km of electric, emission-free range—the most in its class. Combine that with the gasoline in the tank and the RAV4 can travel nearly 1000 km between fill-ups.

Charging via a typical 110V household plug point will take 12 hours. If using a more powerful 240V charger that drops to around 4 ½ hours while the Prime XSE can charge fully in 2 ½ hours using its 6.6 kW onboard charger.

From behind the wheel, the experience is nearly identical to the regular RAV4 Hybrid with a few notable differences: it stays in EV mode much longer and there’s a glut of power that’s unexpected in this class of vehicle.

If you start your day with a fully charged battery and only have a short commute that falls within the 68-km threshold you could theoretically get away without ever using a drop of fuel.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE

On electric power alone the RAV4 prime is hushed and remarkably smooth with ample torque off the line and a top speed that’s limited to 135 km/h. Kick down hard on the throttle pedal, however, and the 2.5-L 4-cylinder will spring to life and help punt this compact crossover down the road with enough force to push you back into your seat. In one instance a quick stab of throttle actually chirped the tires.

You can also force the Prime into EV mode and it will not ignite the gas engine no matter how hard you hit the throttle; you can run it exclusively in hybrid mode, much like the regular RAV4 hybrid, or you can leave it in Auto and let the computers decide on the best blend of gas and electric power for your trip. Like other plug-in hybrids there’s also a mode that will charge the battery pack using the engine if you don’t have access to a plug point and still want to run in EV mode. Without the opportunity to plug in every day I still achieved a remarkable average of 5 L per 100 km over the course of a week.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE

Toyota states that with a 0-100 km/h time of just 6 seconds, the Prime is the second quickest vehicle in their lineup beaten only by the Supra. But unlike that dedicated sports car, the RAV4 Prime is anything but sporty. Dull, lifeless steering and a general disconnect between the road and driver isn’t going to inspire anyone to look for twisty roads. Brakes are initially soft but then quite grabby as you push the pedal further down and take a bit of getting used to.

The Prime is a pleasant drive with excellent seats and a spacious, thoughtfully designed cabin. Big rubberized knobs, quality materials, and ample storage make this a great place to spend time. The extra batteries and hybrid components don’t take away any space from passengers but the cargo area suffers a small hit. With the exception of a few ergonomic niggles like the tuning knob that’s a bit of a reach, the RAV4’s interior space is one the best in this segment.

The biggest hits against the Prime are its lack of availability and the fact the regular hybrid is also an excellent choice. But one thing is for sure, in the super-competitive compact crossover space, the RAV4 Prime is one of the most impressive entries and is sure to be a hit—if you can get your hands on one.

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“You were drag racing… in a Prius?” asked the incredulous officer in the Jason Bateman comedy Horrible Bosses, staring down the sheepish suspect. His classic comeback: “I don’t win a lot.”

Clearly, in the 20 years since the Toyota Prius hybrid has been sold in North America, it has gained a well-earned reputation for not-very-dynamic performance. But the gas-electric hatchback has long been known for its fuel-efficiency, reliability and its environmental sensitivity too.

Yet right around the time that movie came out in 2011, back when Hummers were thirsty internal combustion V8 brutes, the Prius also arguably lost its long-time environmental pedestal as well.

That was the year that the all-electric Nissan Leaf hatchback appeared on the Canadian market, soon to be followed by other similar-sized five-door EVs with no tailpipes. Environmentally conscious buyers therefore had a few zero emissions options, ones with much smoother and quieter powertrains, zippier acceleration, and at least back then in the three most populous provinces, an EV government rebate that helped reduce their extra cost (though not quite down to Prius levels).

Fast forward to now, and, Toyota has somewhat shifted its approach in its latest generation now of hybrid models. The company has moved away from offering different sizes of the Prius (RIP Prius-V and small -c) to widening the availability of its hybrid system onto many of Toyota’s mainstream models, including its popular RAV4 crossover, Sienna minivan and Corolla, on top of Camry and Highlander Hybrids launched long ago. The Prius family is now down to the regular front-wheel drive Prius, the plug-in Prius Prime that offers up to 40 km of all-electric range, and now the all-wheel drive AWD-e, as tested here.

For 2021, the AWD-e system is available in either the base $28,650 Prius, for roughly another $1,040, or on the $32,050 Technology models, which also adds rain-sensing wipers and wireless phone charging to the standard heated front seats and smart key entry. Android phone users take note: these two trims are newly compatible with Android Auto software for 2021. But if you opt for the top Advanced AWD-e option package, it deletes Android Auto compatibility, for some reason.

That’s unfortunate, because this Advanced AWD-e option package makes the Prius almost as space-age inside as it looks outside, but in a more upscale, positive way. It makes the centre screen a massive vertical 11.6-inch tablet, adds a Heads Up Display (HUD), a garage door opener, adaptive headlights, and an automatic parking system. Thus equipped, this tester came out to an as tested price after freight, options and other mandatory costs of $37,472.

Even outside the lack of Android Auto for this top model, there are some other head-scratching feature decisions with the Prius AWD-e. Want a power driver’s seat in your top-of-the-line Prius? Sorry, not available in the all-wheel drive model. Power sunroof? Ditto. But both are available on front-wheel drive Prius Technology models, perhaps to justify its identical $32,050 MSRP to the Technology AWD-e model.

The Prius comes in a compact body style that’s slightly shorter and narrower than a Corolla Hybrid, but officially provides mid-size interior room. This translates to almost double the cargo space (697 litres) to that Corolla (371), and more passenger room in general than the more upscale Lexus UX 250h hybrid crossover. Granted, rear seat legroom is more generous in the Corolla Hybrid, but otherwise, the Prius AWD-e lines up just ahead in interior space to its distant Lexus hybrid cousin, but below the new Ford Escape Hybrid AWD.

The unique dash-mounted shifter, heated steering wheel and wireless charge pad also help afford a high-tech sheen to the Prius, as does the complete silence once the car’s started. Sadly, this silence doesn’t last long, especially with winter temperatures, when you’ll be lucky to get out of your driveway before the raucous engine roars to life.

Review 2021 Toyota Prius AWD-e

It’s this loud engine noise that kept coming up again and again in my notes, and is the predominant takeaway of driving the Prius. Sure, there’s a nice bit of silence at stop lights, and occasionally while you’re rolling through the drive-through. But this idle silence contrasts even more with the hoarse engine note, to the point where I’m convinced that no base Corolla or Corolla Hybrid would be make this much racket – and both of those start at thousands less than the Prius.

It’s not like I was thrashing it either. At 121 total horsepower generated between the Atkinson-cycle 1.8-litre, 95 hp four-cylinder engine and the small electric motor, and 105 lb-ft of torque, there’s obviously not much straight-line grunt. What’s more disappointing is the other aspects of driving the Prius: the occasionally wooden brake pedal feel, the loosely connected steering, the roughly jarring ride over bumpy urban streets, and the comical lean angles when even mildly entering a highway ramp corner.

Granted, Prius buyers will likely be more impressed with its overall 4.8 L/100km overall fuel efficiency, which is just a touch lower than the similar 4.5 L/100km city/highway combined figure of the front-wheel drive ’21 Prius (and the ’21 Corolla Hybrid, incidentally).

Also impressive is the amount of standard safety equipment on all Prius models. A full-speed dynamic radar cruise control system, with lane departure alert with steering assist and lane tracing functions, pre-collision system with pedestrian and animal detection, plus automatic high beams all work very well together to help avoid crashes on the road.

The all-wheel drive system is a slip and grip arrangement that works primarily from rest to help you get going, adding an extra degree of urban confidence in slippery conditions, though the drivetrain acts mostly in front-wheel drive to help minimize fuel efficiency reductions. When crashes can’t be avoided, there are eight airbags including one for the driver’s knee, plus frontal whiplash protection.

Review 2021 Toyota Prius AWD-e

In the end, the 2021 Prius AWD-e offers plenty of interior room and technology, under the hood and inside, but ranks lower on overall refinement, driving dynamics or engine noise insulation. The Prius is just one of many well-known stars that appear in the still-worthwhile Horrible Bosses, some barely known at the time, including a former royal, and multiple Canadian connections. But even if it added to its launch grip, the slightly heavier Prius all-wheel drive model still wouldn’t much improve Bateman’s drag racing odds.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

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