Look only at the range figure, and very little separates the Ford Escape PHEV and the Toyota RAV4 Prime. Only eight kilometres. How each one got to that range figure, though, is a very different story, one that can completely change the economics of each one based on where you live. We’ll get into that disparity, along with the other differences between these two popular plug-in crossovers.

Powertrain, Performance, and Economy

Starting with those plug-in electric powertrains. The RAV4 Prime relies on a 2.5-litres gas engine that makes 176 hp. Pair it with one electric motor that drives the front wheels and another that drives the back and you have 302 hp in total, enough to make the RAV4 Prime the second-quickest vehicle in the company lineup. On paper, at least. While it is quick on the road, it never feels quite as quick as the figures suggest it should, likely because much of that power is reserved for the last bit of pedal travel and compact crossovers don’t exactly encourage foot-to-the-floor behaviour.

Ford also uses a 2.5-litre four, this one with 165 hp. Just one electric motor drives the wheels here, and that means two very important things. One, it makes just 221 hp in total and two, the Escape PHEV doesn’t offer all-wheel drive. Ford says it might down the road, but for now the automaker felt that efficiency was more important to buyers than AWD, and that there’s still a strong market share for front-drive crossovers.

The Ford driveline feels only slightly less powerful on the road while being slightly noisier when the gas engine is on. Both are similarly CVT-driven and the best we’ll say here is that the torque of an electric motor does a great job of smoothing out CVT feel.

Ford’s driveline feels more conventional than the RAV4, with a less pronounced transition into gas power and smoother regenerative brake operation. It’s splitting hairs, though, and both perform well using electric power.

Between charges, Ford’s efforts to push efficiency have paid off. Its 14.4 kWh is significantly smaller (thus lighter and cheaper) than the RAV4’s 18.1 kWh pack, but delivers a 60 km estimated range to Toyota’s 68. When you’re using gas instead of electrons, it wins again, 5.8 L/100 km city vs 6.0. In our real-world driving conditions, which means well below freezing and winter tires, both managed around 40 km indicated on a full charge.

That 14.4 kWh pack will punish Ford in the value game, though, and we’ll come back to it.

Toyota’s overly-boosted steering feels odd compared with Ford’s more traditional weighting. Especially when you’re parking, when it’s easy to slam the RAV4’s wheel onto the steering stops, which is jarring to the vehicle and your hands. Both ride smoothly, and I’d say the Escape has a slightly softer ride, but both are comfortable and quiet, especially in electric modes.

2021 Ford Escape


On paper, these crossovers are very similarly-sized, but Ford’s cabin feels much more spacious. Significantly more headroom, at least a pompom’s worth on your toque in the front, makes the Escape more pleasant front and rear. We found Escape’s larger (and flatter on top) door openings easier to get in and out of for driver and passenger both short and tall.

If you’re looking for small stuff storage, phones, wallets, and the like, the RAV4’s pair of dashboard shelves are a lifesaver, and we appreciate the clever detail Toyota has added.

Ford has given the Escape extra legroom for rear passengers by letting you trade knee space for cargo room. Have tall passengers and no gear? Slide the seat rearward. All cargo and short passengers, then slide it forward for more room in the back. Around 20 cm of slide makes quite a difference to adjust for your priorities.

Slide Ford’s second-row back and you get 869 litres of space, slide it forward for 974, and fold the seats for 1,852, all accessed through a large opening. Toyota’s cargo space is similarly easy-access and gives you 949 litres of room, making it largely a draw between the two. How much cargo the RAV4 carries with the seats folded is a mystery – Toyota doesn’t like to print that figure for its models.

2021 Ford Escape

2022 Toyota Rav 4


Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have been must-haves for a few years now, and both of these crossovers offer them. They have WiFi hotspot access available as well for data sharing. Ford’s 8.0-inch screen is an inch smaller than Toyota’s, but the thin bezel (versus Toyota’s excessively austere buttons surrounding the screen) makes it look larger. Ford’s Sync3 system isn’t the brand’s newest, but it’s still a generation ahead of Toyota’s. It’s brighter, more intuitive to use, and is much smoother and quicker in operation. The difference is as stark as dragging out a smartphone from 2010 and holding it to a new iPhone.

Both have the usual plug-in features like preconditioning, and while Ford’s is slightly easier to use on-screen, the app is a better way to set it up for both. Neither did much to help you find charging infrastructure through the onboard navigation, leaving you to your own apps for some juice.

Both offer a head-up display if you climb the options list, along with an opening roof (Ford’s is bigger). Both give you a heated steering wheel, too, but only Toyota offers ventilated seats to keep you chill in the summer.

On the active safety side, both get pre-collision systems with pedestrian detection as well as lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise, and blind spot alerts. All of the basics are on both, but Escape offers active park assist that can parallel or perpendicular park for you, they also offer Ford’s Co-Pilot360 Assist+ that adds lane centreing to the assistance suite for highway driving along with Evasive Steering Assist, a last-chance assistance feature that can help you steer around a potential collision if there’s not time to brake.

2022 Toyota Rav 4

2021 Ford Escape


It’s hard to go in two more different styling directions than Ford and Toyota have here. Toyota has leapt on the rugged styling of its 4Runner and Land Cruiser SUVs and applied that to the smaller package that is the RAV4. Chunky fenders and sharp lines translate to the interior where you’ll find volume knobs with a tractor-tire-like coating. Toyota has also gone with sombre for the inside, which is available in black and black, with some dull-finish silver trim.

Ford gives you the option of brightening up with a sandstone cabin option. Faux maple wood trim is also offered, again adding some warmth to the Escape. Ford’s interior feels more open than does Toyota’s, we also found most controls easier to access and operate.

On the outside, Ford has abandoned the rugged styling of the original Escape models and leaned on making it less boxy and curvier. The Porsche-like styling is appealing, and Ford has the Bronco Sport (though not offered as a PHEV) for buyers wanting to look tough. We like Escape’s styling, a friendly face in a world of increasingly (and overly) aggressive small crossovers.

2022 Toyota Rav 4

2021 Ford Escape


Value is, ultimately, the tricky part with these two plug-in crossovers and their very different missions. Ford’s choice to go for efficiency over ultimate range paid off and gave the Escape an electric range close enough for the difference to be negligible to the Toyota’s in everyday driving while offering a lower sticker price and better fuel economy.

What Ford missed out on, by about half a kilowatt-hour, is the big government incentives. Toyota qualifies for an $8,000 incentive in Quebec and $5,000 federally. Ford misses out on the (especially arbitrary) 15 kWh battery size cutoff and so qualifies for just $2,500 from the feds and $4,000 from Quebec.

So even though an Escape SE PHEV starts from just $38,449 to the RAV4 Prime’s $44,990, after incentives that Ford could end up being $31,949, the RAV4 would then be $31,990. That’s for Quebec buyers, who benefit from the largest incentives in the country, so it’s a best-case scenario (or worst case if you’re Ford) in that province.

Buyers in Ontario (and most of the rest of the country) would see the Escape PHEV remain thousands cheaper than the RAV4 Prime, more than enough to put on the best winter tires to negate the Escape’s front-wheel drive and pay for years of gas and electricity.

Ignore incentives, which can change at a campaign trail’s whim, and a tarted-up Escape PHEV Titanium stickers for less than a base RAV4 Prime, offering much more equipment for that money. If you’re in a hurry to get your PHEV, price might not even matter. We’ve heard that the popularity of the RAV4 Prime, along with a lack of supply, means there aren’t any to be found and wait times are in the months or longer to get one, meanwhile plenty of dealers have Escape PHEV models on the lot.


Toyota’s extra power and all-wheel drive appeal to our enthusiast sides, but Ford offers a much lower price – again depending on incentives – almost as much EV range, and better fuel economy when the power runs out. Tipping the scales in favour of the Escape, its interior is a much nicer place to sit and its infotainment offering is miles ahead. Give this one to the Ford, but either way, we’d pick these PHEVs over their gas and conventional hybrid counterparts.

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

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Death is a part of life. That’s a fact we may choose to ignore, or even at times fight against. But the cruel reality is that everything has a spring, and a winter. And it’s looking more and more like we’re heading for a winter of the V8 engine.

I love V8s. I grew up hearing sermons preached from the muscle car mound by my barely literate elders. They boasted the unbeatable, barely tameable nature of god’s only truly righteous creation; the V8 engine. Subconsciously, my bias was taught to me.

Sure, I went through a rebellious phase in college, where I experimented with rotaries and four-cylinders. And now, as a post-hip, liberal, urban 30-something, I like to think of myself as open-minded enough to try anything at least once. But if I’m really honest with myself, V8 engines are my true north.

It’s sort of like when someone gives you a really nice glass of wine. Sure, you can appreciate it. Even enjoy it for what it is. But if you’re being honest with yourself, you sort of wish you were drinking Jack Daniels. It’s hard to change who you are in your heart of hearts.

The V8 is flawed. In terms of power, there are many, many replacements for their displacement. And there are certainly more economical engines. Hell, there’s even a case to be made that a V8 is something of an engineering misstep — it’s inherently unbalanced when compared to something like an inline-six.

But in terms of character, presence, and noise, nothing beats a V8. A V8 is violent and raucous. It’s empowering and menacing and primal. A V8 engine represents everything that’s good and fun about cars.

And in 2022, the V8 has never been better. Offerings from Ford, GM and of course Dodge are able to give customers previously inaccessible, untamable levels of power. The Lexus 5.0 seems like it has literally perfected the V8.

Which is why it’s perhaps even more sad to see the V8s go. But the V8s are too thirsty, too inefficient, too dirty. And there are simply better, smarter paths to power in our future.

These are the ones that are soon to be on the chopping block. And the ones you should buy now, while you can.

Ford Mustang 5.0 and Shelby GT500

Leaked images have already revealed the upcoming Mustang refresh for 2023 — the rumored “S650”. There are all kinds of rumors and speculation of what new power plants will make their way into this updated chassis, including a twin-turbo V6, hybrid V8 and a full electric system.

Ford has committed to continuing the production of V8 engines for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those engines will be without the aid of a hybrid electric system.

Even if the new S650 Mustang does launch with a traditional 5.0-litre V8, there’s no guarantee the engine won’t eventually be phased out during the lifespan of the chassis and replaced by a more powerful and efficient alternative, such as a twin-turbo V6 or full electric system.

As for the 5.2-litre, supercharged “Predator” V8 powering the Shelby GT500, there’s been no indication it will continue past 2023, and as both GM and Dodge are ditching their own high-performance, supercharged V8s, it can only be expected that Ford will follow.

Camaro SS and ZL1

Ready for sadness? The Camaro in its current form will die in 2024, to be replaced by an electric sedan. At least, that’s the big rumor currently circulating.

When you look at Camaro sales lagging behind the Mustang and Challenger, as well as take into consideration the whispers that GM doesn’t want the Camaro to cannibalize sales of the Corvette (and vice versa), the performance capabilities of electric power, and how Dodge was able to find success by reviving the Charger as a four-door family saloon — this fundamental rethink of the Camaro doesn’t exactly seem out of the question.

Still, for the purists out there, these are likely the last few years to buy the Camaro as you know it — as a two-door, V8-powered muscle car.

2021 Chevrolet Camaro

Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing

The general consensus is that this is the last V8-powered sedan Cadillac will ever make.

But what a way to go out — with a screaming, supercharged, 6.2-litre V8 producing 668 horsepower. Oh, and you can have it with a manual gearbox because, amazingly, Cadillac of all brands is one of the few nameplates who still understands the concept of “fun” in the year 2022.

There’s no telling when GM will pull the plug on the CT5-V Blackwing, so get yours while they’re hot.

2022 Cadillac CT5

Dodge Scat Pack and Hellcat

 By now, most muscle car enthusiasts are aware that the Hellcat will die in 2023 as Dodge enters a new era, pursuing more efficient and modern performance routes — namely, the pursuit of the world’s first “electric muscle car”.

While there hasn’t been any confirmed death for the beloved and excellent “392” 6.4-litre, HEMI V8, the outlook is not so good as upcoming Dodge products will likely share a chassis with other Stellantis products — and will probably adopt some of their more efficient, smaller displacement drivetrains as well. Though, with Ram certainly not going anywhere, a 5.7-litre hybrid HEMI doesn’t seem out of the question.

Still, if what you crave is a supercharged Hellcat, now may be the best time to buy. You can only imagine how coveted they’ll be in the private market once the production line has stopped.

2021 Dodge Charger

2021 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack

Mercedes-Benz V8

Grain of salt here.

But Mercedes-Benz has canceled sales on all V8-powered cars for 2022, including those for AMG products, apparently because of a “supply chain” issue. That’s up to 17 different Mercedes models which no longer have a V8 option for 2022, and 10 AMG models which are simply unavailable.

Already ordered your 2022 Mercedes-Benz with a V8 engine? You’ll need to speak with your dealer and rework your order.

It’s unclear what the next steps for Mercedes-Benz are here, if the plan is to resume V8 production as normal, if it will resume in limited capacity to service V8-specific models like the AMG-GT and G-Class, or if this is just a hard stop.

Either way, it’s probably a safe idea to scoop yourself up a 2021 model, just in case.

2022 AMG GT

The post V8-Powered Cars You Should Buy Now appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

For many Canadians, the northern parts of the Prairie provinces and B.C. are a vast and mysterious land of forest, marshes, and snow. For Matt Sager and his team, it’s a place filled with classic and antique cars just waiting to be rediscovered, and he’s ready to bring you into the search with Lost Car Rescue on History Canada. We spoke with pilot and searcher Sager, along with bodywork expert and team member Dave Mischuk about the show and their ability to dig up Forza Horizon-style barn finds in the real world.

Sager and his team look for classic and antique cars and trucks in some of the most remote regions of the country, but instead of driving around and hoping for the best, they’ve taken a different approach. “The vantage point of a bird’s eye view was something that no one really had done before,” says Sager. “It was a bit of a labour of passion just to fly, then the cars just started presenting themselves, as Dave and I like to say.”

On the hunt

Behind the yoke of his 1948 Stinson airplane, Sager and fellow pilot Jessica James come in low over fields, forests, and marshes, looking for a glint of chrome or the patina of rusted sheet metal that marks a lost car in need of rescue.

“We probably see a hundred cars before we see one that really catches our eye, or really is rare or rare to the automotive world,” says Sager, of looking for vehicles in the wild. “But there are thousands of cars out there. It’s really hard to believe for anybody who doesn’t see it.”

Who left the cars out?

Mischuk explains that while the land may be sparsely populated today, that wasn’t always the case. “In Saskatchewan, for example,” he says, “at one point there was a farmer [and a family] on every quarter [160 acres] of land.” While many of those farms were later bought up by larger interests, “that’s where you find the cars,” he says. “We had a rich resource of families living in the areas that we hunt now.”

“We’re hunting lineage or family,” Sager says. “We’re going after those families because it’s the families that left the cars behind, not the mining. So, it’s where people lived that we’re actually hunting for.  They could be there because of mining, could be there because of farming. It could just be one family and they’re there for their own reasons, or we can be hunting for a town that used to exist and now it’s no longer there. But it’s the family and the people that were actually hunting.” For many, putting an old car with the rest of the retired fleet somewhere on the back 40 made more sense than transporting what was then just another old car thousands of kilometres to the nearest scrapyard.

Where the partnership began

“My mom claims that I was born with a toy car in my hand,” says Mischuk, starting a lifelong passion that lead to 42 years of autobody work in Saskatchewan. West coaster Sager says he’s had “that bug to unearth relics” since the age of around 10. The two started working together six years ago when Sager found Mischuk while spotting.

“I was out hunting cars. I had two days off from work,” Sager adds. “It wasn’t in the plane. Initially, I drove by Dave’s, where he lives, and we’re talking like David doesn’t live near many people. We were hours and hours and hours on a country road driving to one of these remote towns that we had researched. We ended up sleeping on the side of the road, and we woke up in the morning and the sun’s just cresting. We’re driving by Dave’s place and it was like a satellite dish shining,” he said about the beacon calling him to Mischuk’s

Sager says “it was actually a car that Dave has up on a hill, and the chrome on the car was just shining in the morning sun and it was so cool. So, we had to pull it in because it was what we’re all about. We ended up hitting it off. First go and it was one of those things where you knew that it was going to be something more.” The car was a 1970 Volkswagen. How the rest of the team joined up is part of the series.

Lost Car Rescue

Barnstorming brings friendship

What do you do when you spot a vehicle from your plane? The perk of light aircraft is that you can just land and have a chat. Driveway? Field? No problem for Sager and James, but it’s not that simple.

“I always approach it with the utmost amount of respect. You don’t want to scare animals and you don’t want to go too low. There’s a way of approaching being over someone’s farm or dwelling, and I’ve never had a bad scenario. It’s always been met with sheer wonder of what just happened,” Sager says.

“‘Why is there a plane landing on my driveway?’ ‘Oh, that was you buzzing the farm?’ Sometimes people will joke about shooting at us or something, which [the joking, not the shooting] is not uncommon. But it’s always been met with people [who] just love that we’re out there doing something that we’re passionate about. They lose sight of the whole plane being annoying or being low or whatever you would think the negative draw would be,” he adds.

Mischuk says that “I think too that it’s the personality of Matt and myself. I think it’s a big influence, they’re more than willing to open the doors to us and we’re quite pleased with that situation. It’s a win-win game when you go there. You mention cars and every farmer knows their trucks, their cars, and whatnot. They’re more than happy to give you that information.”

“These people throughout Northern B.C., and Saskatchewan, Alberta, where we go,” said Sager, “They are the most generous and giving people because they are kind of an older soul group where they are very community-oriented and very family…very open arms. So, if you’re approaching them with that respect, they welcome you to the family almost instantly.”

Searching starts when the snow melts

Rescue season starts early in the year this far north. “The best time is springtime,” says Mischuk, “we have an opportunity to go up with the airplane and spot stuff. Being spring there are no leaves on the trees. It’s wide open.”

“As soon as I get the plane to Dave’s house in the spring the better,” says Sager. “Sometimes we may even store it there ready for that spring season.”

If they make finding a vehicle sound easy and finding one worth investigating just a bit more time-consuming, they don’t sugar-coat the job of turning a car from find into rescue. Some may be in a backyard or even a barn, but others need to be extracted from decades of neglect. That’s where the rest of the team, including crane operator Lee Brandt and mechanic Steve Sager, come into play, along with custom tools and vehicles to deal with the unique terrain. “I hope people can see the tools as well,” says Sager. “My brothers and I rebuild them all. There’s a passion there for saving anything.”

Lost Car Rescue

Both Sager and Mischuk are excited to share their passion for finding vintage vehicles on the show. “I think it’s nerve-racking to see how other people respond to our passion,” Sager adds. “We lived it, it’s our lives. People are just getting a window into our lives. So I’m excited for everybody to watch it, I think. And, yeah, I think people will hopefully get inspired by what they see.”

“Lost Car Rescue gave us that privilege,” Mischuk says. “We’re looking for an audience that brings fathers, mothers, daughters, sons together, and, maybe attempt to restore something.” He called it his dream for the show to “help bring some of that family feeling back together.”

Lost Car Rescue airs Thursdays at 9:00pm ET on History, making its debut January 13th. It’s also available to stream live or on-demand via StackTV or the Global TV app.

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The crew at Nokian Tyres, a Finnish-based company with an earned reputation for building stout winter rubber, is venturing further into all-terrain conditions – both literally and figuratively. Called the Outpost, this new family of tires are targeted at owners who tend to use their vehicles for typical daily duties but also toss their rigs into adventure situations on the weekend.

Starting with the Outpost AT, we find a symmetrical and non-directional all-terrain tire with an aggressive tread pattern designed for use on large SUVs and light trucks. The tread design of these tires incorporates features like the cleverly named Canyon Cuts, a biting edge which form at the intersection of the tread blocks and tire shoulder to make the most of that area and add grip. Nokian has engineered aramid (think Kevlar, but without the trademarked name) into the sidewalls of its tires in the past, but the Outpost AT will incorporate that material underneath the tread surface as well. This should provide great puncture resistance for those times when you fail to see those sharp rocks littering your favourite off-road trail. Speaking of sidewalls, that bold outward-facing pattern offers some tractive properties in certain aired-down situations in addition to bringing a style that customers in this segment seem to enjoy. This variant is set to be available in LT-metric and P-metric sizes, ranging from 15- to 22-inch wheel diameters.

Next up is the Outpost APT, designed for owners of crossover vehicles and SUVs who want a comfortable commute but also enjoy hitting some off-road adventures on the weekends. Its tread pattern includes trick Gravel Guards in its centre channels, for example, designed to fling away small rocks and prevent what’s known in the industry as stone drilling. Aramid fibres appear in the sidewall on this tire, while the tread block and sipe designs are intended to provide stability in foul conditions without beating you up on dry pavement. Like its brother, it wears the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol. In a neat twist, the Outpost APT has two different sidewall designs – one fairly muted and the other more expressive – allowing owners to choose their own adventure in terms of how ‘off-roady’ they want their vehicle to look.

Here’s a Canadian connection: part of the five-year development of these tires included some long-term testing in the northern regions of British Columbia, putting an exclamation point on the notion that Nokian is bent on producing tires which are a good fit for this market and not simply brought part-and-parcel from what they produce for other regions. It’s a smart play, since these tires – particularly the AT – will appeal to customers looking for replacement rubber on vehicles like overlanding rigs, an increasingly popular off-road pastime on which enthusiasts are not afraid to spend money.

Nokian has plans for the Outpost to be produced at its North American factory in Tennessee at some point in the future and aims to double its sales in our market within the next five years. By extending its technology and marketing chops to the popular all-terrain segment, they’ve a good chance of achieving that goal by drawing in new customers and capitalizing on popular buying patterns. Nokian Outpost tires shop.

Nokian Tires

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TOKYO – The Tokyo Auto Salon celebrates both Japan’s new vehicle manufacturers and the strong aftermarket scene the country offers. That means that the country’s big manufacturers show up with concepts and reveals that wouldn’t really fly elsewhere. We’re not talking ultra-small city cars (though those are there too), we mean brand new race cars from Subaru and Toyota, along with loads more. So, here are some of the best reveals from Tokyo 2022.

Toyota Gazoo Racing GR GT3

The GR GT3 concept comes from Toyota and Gazoo Racing and it’s a stunningly sleek racer. Built under the goal of “making better cars starting from motorsports,” the idea is to enter the FIA GT3 category, a ruleset used by more than a dozen series around the world. The tricky part of that ruleset is that you have to build a few real cars for the road, which leaves us wondering if Toyota GR plans to actually build a few of them.

Mitsubishi Vision Ralliart

Mitsubishi’s Vision Ralliart concept looks like an Outlander that’s ready for trouble. A look at what the automaker’s race team can do, it has big chunky fenders and a closed-off front grille. With the flat black paint, it’s like an Outlander tried to become a Lamborghini Urus, and, frankly, that seems to be something that would sell well. There are some changes under the skin, including six-pot brake calipers hiding underneath the 22-inch wheels. While Mitsu wasn’t big on details, it did say this has motors plural, meaning electric power is doing at least some of the work. Mitsubishi also had more production friendly Ralliart Outlander and Eclipse Cross models that were painted in bright white with red and black Ralliart liveries.

Tokyo Auto Show

Subaru STI E-RA Concept

Subaru’s STI E-RA Concept is a “near-future motorsport study” from the brand’s performance arm. Looking ready for Le Mans, this car was designed with one goal in mind: To lap the Nürburgring in under 400 seconds. For reference, that six-minute 40 second lap would make it one of the fastest vehicles to ever lap the circuit, ahead of any road-legal cars that have made the attempt. The goods? 1,088 hp from a four-motor electric driveline that uses a special gear made for “hyper EV” by Yamaha as well as a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery. STI says it plans to use the lessons learned here for its future road and motorsports vehicles, and that the Ring run should happen next year after home-track shakedowns in 2022.

Tokyo Auto Show

2023 Honda Civic Type R

Though still well camouflaged, the 2023 Honda Civic Type R made an appearance at the salon. There’s no hiding that massive wing, and it should add real downforce to the car. Honda revealed no new information, though we can see the styling is clearly toned down from the old Type R, but the company did give us this cool video of the car in action on the Suzuka circuit.


Tokyo Auto Show

Mitsubishi Delica Tough x Tough

Mitsubishi also brought the Delica Tough x Tough, and that’s just a great name for any vehicle. Forget four-by-four, this one’s tough-by-tough! The vehicle is the tiny Delica van, but it’s loaded with Ralliart parts that make it super cool, including the grille, overfenders, and red mirrors. More usefully, it’s got a lifted suspension, 16-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, and big steel bumper guards front and rear. There’s a roof-mount tent, but you can also turn the second and third-row seats into a fully flat bed, making this tiny off-roader surprisingly practical.

Tokyo Auto Show

Liberty Walk C8, Orochi

You probably know the Liberty Walk name for its mad over-the-top widebody kits for some of the world’s quickest cars. True to form, the company brought such a kit to Tokyo fitted to the all-new C8 Chevrolet Corvette. That’s not the one that has our attention, though. The company also showed up with a version of the Mitsuoka Orochi. Mitsuoka is a Japanese car company that makes modern vehicles that are “inspired” by older models like an MX-5 turned into a C2 Corvette. The Orochi was a model exclusively the company’s own, and working for LED headlight company Sphere Light, Liberty Walk has transformed the oddball into what is either the coolest car you’ve ever seen or the worst you’ve ever seen. We’ll let you decide.

Tokyo Auto Show

Lexus LX Offroad

Lexus brought the LX Offroad to the show, a new LX 600 that’s been gone through by longtime 4×4 and SUV tuner Jaos. The LX 600 Offroad gets fitted with lightweight carbon fibre parts including the front and rear bumper skid plates plus the fender flares. We’re not sure how well CFRP stands up to off-road girding, but Jaos seems confident. Lacking in modified mechanical parts, it helps show off just how capable the factory LX really is.

Tokyo Auto Show

Subaru Solterra STI/ Toyota bZ4X GR Sport

Subaru and Toyota were on the same page with their shared Solterra/bZ4X EVs. Each one brought a version from its performance arm, STI and Gazoo Racing respectively. Both were cosmetic exercises rather than performance changes, though, with the Subaru getting STI’s blue and red and the bZ4X GR Sport Concept getting larger wheels, sports seats, and matte black paint.

Tokyo Auto Show

The post The Coolest Reveals of the 2022 Tokyo Motor Salon appeared first on WHEELS.ca.

The 2022 North American Car, Truck, and Utility of the Year awards were given out last week. The winner for Car of the Year was the Honda Civic with the Ford Maverick taking home Truck of the Year and the Ford Bronco named Utility of the Year. All eligible new or significantly changed vehicles are driven and voted on by 50 judges from the U.S. and Canada.

Toyota revealed a new flagship version of its Tundra pickup. The 2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone comes standard with the i-Force Max hybrid driveline delivering 437 hp and 583 lb-ft, as well as boasting 22-inch chrome wheels. The cabin is trimmed with semi-aniline leather in a Capstone-only two-tone pattern on the seats, while the dash is adorned with open-pore walnut and includes a walnut-surround logo that illuminates on entry. Acoustic glass is fitted to the front doors of the Capstone to help quiet the truck. Power running boards and a special grille treatment plus chrome mirror caps complete the pickup that will aim for other luxury half-ton pickups including Ford’s F-150 Platinum and the GMC Sierra Denali. The truck will arrive in spring, but Toyota has not yet announced pricing.

Honda teased an all-new HR-V subcompact crossover. The littlest Honda is getting a heaping serving of aggressive in the nose, with a CR-Z-like gaping grille, large air intakes, and decidedly angry headlights. At the back, the taillights are closer to Honda’s Civic hatchback, but the sketches still show a crossover with a much more cohesive design than the current HR-V. They also show that the HR-V’s hidden rear door handles are gone. While an all-new HR-V is on sale in Japan and Europe, this North American model will be unique, and Honda has said it would be tailored to our market’s needs. That most likely means it will be bigger. It won’t be the only new crossover from Honda this year, with a new CR-V and an all-new Honda Pilot expected before year’s end.

Honda HRV

Stelco has announced an agreement that would put it into the EV battery recycling game in Canada. The announcement, made earlier this month, would see the company use technology from Primobuis that would allow it to recycle up to 18,400 tons of nickel, manganese, cobalt, lithium hydroxide, and other important parts of lithium-ion batteries, allowing those metals to be used to make new cells. It would also collect up to 40,000 tons of scrap steel that the company would recycle into its steelmaking. The proposed site would be at Stelco’s Lake Erie Works south of Hamilton, ON, and initial operations are targeted for next year.


Ontario is making changes to its driver licensing to help reduce a backlog of waiting drivers as more than 420,000 driving tests have been cancelled as a result of the pandemic. DriveTest, which administers the testing, has already opened six temporary test sites and expanded the hours of 18 while hiring 167 new driving examiners. The latest changes will make test routes shorter and will also remove elements from the G-level (a full license) that are already part of the G2 graduated license stage. These elements include parallel parking three-point turns, and roadside stops. The changes are expected to be temporary, helping to ease the backlog of testing.

Car of The Year

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Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we’ll let you know. If not, we’ll recommend one – or the required options – that earns a passing grade.

When the BMW Group re-introduced the MINI brand about twenty years ago, it was capitalizing on the then-lucrative retro craze which saw multiple automakers either revive names and shapes from the past (VW New Beetle) or craft an historical homage to the past out of existing cheap platforms (Chrysler PT Cruiser). In the intervening couple of decades, MINI has grown into a brand with several models, including all-wheel drive crossovers and all-electric hatchbacks.

Its 3-Door, the model which rebooted the show back in the Y2K era, remains a staple. It starts at a reasonable $24,490 plus freight, representing a Civic-like launching point in terms of price for luring new customers to the quirky brand. Under its hood is a turbocharged triple, good for 134 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is its milieu, of course, with factory rear-drive MINIs relegated to the pages of history.

We must note that industry-wide supply chain hiccups are hampering much of the car industry, so don’t be surprised if a Canadian MINI dealer requires customers to select a Premier or Premier+ package on top of the base car. They’re not cheap – costing $5,700 and $8,600 respectively – representing a significant percentage of the 3-Door’s base price. In fact, the latter package would be like if an automaker required shoppers to take a mandatory $22,000 option on a $65,000 pickup truck.

Nevertheless, landing in a Premier-equipped MINI Cooper 3-Door nets a well-equipped car. Its front-row of leatherette seats are heated, dual climate control permits the creation of two weather zones in this little cabin, and a heated steering wheel keeps hands toasty when cold Arctic air invades southern parts (or any part) of the country. A panoramic sunroof gives a great view of the sky above while the infotainment system is laden with all the tools you’d expect such as real-time traffic information and smartphone integration. It was a smart decision on the part of MINI designers to use the brand’s trademark round centre display (which was once reserved for a speedometer and secondary gauges) as a place to house its in-car tech. Driving aids like frontal collision warning and lane departure tools are also part of the deal.

What We’d Choose

The sole $0 paint hue is the entreatingly named Moonwalk Grey but selecting a MINI with uninteresting paint is like visiting an exotic location and staying in the hotel room to watch TV. Better to spend $590 on Chili Red or Island Blue, as irritating as those extra charges may rankle. At least selecting a white roof and mirror caps is no charge.

About the only other change we’d make to the spec is a $350 expenditure on piano black exterior trim. It swaps most exterior brightwork for trim dipped in inky black paint, creating a stealthier appearance especially when paired with darker colours such as Midnight Black Metallic.

2022 MINI Cooper 3-Door

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If you are the owner of a used car and looking to sell it, there’s never been a better time to do it because there’s a shortage of them on the market.

James Hancock, director of OEM strategy and analytics at Canadian Black Book, which values new and used vehicles, said a four-year-old used vehicle with about 100,000 kilometres would normally be worth about 40 to 50 per cent of its original sticker price, taking into account depreciation.

But in the current climate, with a shortage of supply because of manufacturing issues caused by a shortage of semiconductor chips, a similar car could be worth 85 per cent of its original sale price.

“This is kind of a historical thing that I haven’t experienced in the past of doing this research,” said Hancock, who has been in the automotive business for 15 years. “Across the board all segment prices of used cars have increased. Insofar as the gap between a used car and a new car, the depreciation seen in the past has definitely seemed to have really shrunk.”

Hancock said the used car prices began to increase in October 2020, when the new car supply was initially affected by the semiconductor shortage. But he said it really started to soar in the fall of 2021.

Andrew King, managing partner of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, said used car prices have risen because people can’t necessarily get the new car they want and are opting to buy a used car instead.

“It’s because of the chip shortage and a big flow of used cars has gone to the U.S. because they are scrambling to get cars, too,” King said. “With the Canadian dollar being low the last few years, there’s been big volumes going to the U.S. – around 300,000 units a year. That’s pretty much driven by the U.S. exchange rate. They can literally pay full retail prices on our product and sell it there and still make money. It’s a big part of the market.

“When the Canadian dollar was at par in 2008, there was actually cars flowing the other way, about 150,000 units a year.”

Hancock said the new vehicle inventory in the U.S. is down about 67 per cent, which has increased the American interest. “Their supply has been hurt more than us,” Hancock said. “They are definitely looking for more cars because our cars are very similar in spec and are easy to export into the U.S. We’ve seen known exporters being very aggressive at the auction channels and buying up as many cars as they can to take them down to the States because the price differential is so significant right now.”

He said it is easy to trace the American purchasers because of data that tracks the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) and shows where cars purchased in Canada are eventually listed for purchase.

Robert Stein, president of Plaza Auto Group, which has six locations in Ontario, said this is a unique time in the automotive industry because the used car market has become so prominent.

“We’ve never had that before,” he said. “When new cars aren’t selling the volume (dealerships) are used to, you are going to have less volume of trades. This situation has definitely impacted the used car market, without a doubt.”

Greg Carrasco, vice-president of operations and general manager of Oakville Nissan and Oakville Infiniti, said the situation with the used car market is crazy. “In every commodity, the price of the goods reflects the intensity of the demand,” he said. “It’s not that the demand has increased because there is no more demand for cars. You still have the same number of people buying those cars. We just have the same number of people to buy the cars for which there is no production. So now those people are fighting for those vehicles.”

Jim Matthews, whose company LeaseBusters has been helping individuals to break their leases since 1990 for a fee of $300, said his business has traditionally operated for customers (Torstar, the parent company of the Toronto Star, owns an interest in LeaseBusters). But he said with the used car shortage it has now become a market influenced by dealers and private buyers.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’ll probably stay in place until the beginning of (the third quarter of the year) in 2022 based on everything I’ve read,” Matthews said. “In regular times, dealers refer (people with leases) to us. Now dealers and private buyers are competing for our private-seller deals. We’re getting crushed in a bad way.

“We would normally list three times as many vehicles, but we’re not getting those opportunities because the dealers are buying them out from the customer or the leasing company before we’re even seeing those people.”

Matthews said his company is trying to educate consumers to list with LeaseBusters to attract a wider number of offers and avoid losing out on thousands of dollars if the vehicle is sold back to the dealer without exploring the broader marketplace. He said it is comparable to the hot housing market in which the price listed to sell the property will likely be pushed significantly higher because of multiple offers to buy it.

“The smart dealer will pay for the vehicle and make it seem like they are doing the customer a great favour, which they are, but it’s no different than real estate,” Matthews said. “If you’re asking $1.2 million for your house and somebody offers $1.2 million, do you think the Realtor is going to take that? They will say, ‘thank you for your offer, we’ll get back to you’ and keep accepting bids. That’s what we are trying to relay to the customer looking to get out of their lease.”

He said dealers are paying huge for late-model used cars – generally ones that have been driven only between 7,500 and 30,000 kilometres – and, in turn, finding buyers because there is a significant portion of the market that needs a vehicle right now.

“That market includes all those people who just wrote off their vehicle at a total loss – be it accident, theft, whatever the case may be – and are in a position where they weren’t planning to buy a car and need something right away,” Matthews said. “And there’s other people whose cars cannot be repaired and those people who are just getting out of their lease and go to their local dealers for a replacement and are told to get in line. That’s what’s driving prices up big time.”

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Back when music thrived on vinyl records, I had a three-hit rule: I could justify buying the album if it had three hit songs on it. Today the same guideline applies to my daughter’s long-suffering 2009 Pontiac Vibe. After three hits, it’s worth getting the body fixed. Let’s just say it’s known to the body shops in our area.

I don’t ask about new dents anymore. My daughter, Julia, is a coach and sometimes drives her athletes to the subway after practice. The athletes can be careless with their equipment and the Vibe bears the brunt of it. Still, the latest dent was a big bruiser on the driver’s door above the character line, so it caught the sun every time.

Rather than go to a body shop, I looked into a few dent removal services in the Greater Toronto Area. One featured an online estimator, so I punched in the information to get the cost for one door dent: $320. Not nearly the $100 to 150 these places often advertise.

I began watching the do-it-yourself dent removal videos on YouTube and looked at the kits you can buy on Amazon. The tutorials made it look easy – and I’m a pretty quick draw with a glue gun. So, I pulled the trigger on a Paintless Dent Removal (PDR) kit for $63.

My kit arrived 24 hours later in an impossibly small carton. Inside was a “dent lifter” tool, a tiny hot-glue gun, glue sticks, some plastic tabs, two plastic scrapers and a small hammer. There are cheaper kits, but I liked the solid metal lifter because it seemed to provide more finesse when pulling steel back into shape.

PDR involves gluing a plastic tab in the centre of the dent and using the tool to pull the metal out of its depression. It’s almost impossible to do it in one yank. Usually, the glue lets go and you have to remove the residue with 95 per cent alcohol, glue another tab and use the tool to pull again. And again.

Done correctly, PDR is a great solution because there’s no messy body filler, sanding or painting involved. You can vanquish a small dent in an hour once you get the hang of it. But there are caveats, as I soon discovered.

Dent Removal

A dent can happen anytime, including the nasty half of the year when the days are short and the weather frigid. Being November, I waited for a mild Sunday and washed the car so I could examine each blemish. The smallest was a horizontal dent on the front fender. I decided to attack it first while learning to use the puller.

I chose a small, elongated tab and topped it with hot glue before quickly sticking it on the small depression and waited five minutes for it to solidify. I adjusted the lifter, making sure the tab’s knurled end fit properly in the tool, then adjusted the feet to splay over the dent with room to spare. The tool should mount vertically so that it pushes against the curve of the fender — and not perpendicular to it – to avoid new dents.

By squeezing the spring-loaded handles, the tool pulled the tab outward bringing the metal with it. The videos often show the user squeezing and releasing the tool in rapid bursts, coaxing the metal to move into shape. The other option is to do it in one hard pull – not recommended when the dent is shallow.

Dent Removal

In my case the glue let go, but not before pulling the dent maybe 70 per cent of the way out. I repeated it two more times – after cleaning the dried glue each time – until I was satisfied the dent was essentially gone.

To be honest, my definition of successful dent removal is not what the pros would consider a job well done. I could make out a tiny ripple where the bent metal expended its energy after being forced back into shape. However, nobody would notice the ripple except a pro. Let’s face it: the Vibe is a $3,000 car.

I moved to the second dent at the rear quarter panel, where it meets the plastic bumper cover. This was a larger elongated dent, complicated by the fact it bent part of the fender flare over the rear wheel. To my surprise, the big tab I used held on for dear life and it took a good minute of forceful pulling before the glue let go.

The result was surprisingly good; I restored about 60 per cent of the dent with one pull. But my early success was thwarted when I failed to fix any more of the dent, despite applying different-sized tabs four more times. I was wasting a lot of time cleaning the dried glue, and I hadn’t even come to the main event yet.

The door dent was 10 centimetres long and also deep, but what really made it a challenge was the crease in the middle. I couldn’t affix a big tab over the crease and expect a good grip because it was not a flat surface. I tried gluing on either side of the crease, but the dent was stubborn.

The tool I had did not lend itself well to this kind of dent. I used four different large tabs, and not one of them moved the metal noticeably. Bigger dents respond better to traditional dent pullers, those steel rods with a sliding weight that yanks on the metal in one violent motion before the adhesive lets go.

After four hours of futzing on the driveway dark rain clouds rolled in, prompting me to collect my tools and head inside. It was getting cold anyway. It dawned on me that I was going to need help.

Juderaj Anthony is a 15-year veteran of the dent removal trade and proprietor of Auto Dent Solutions. He greeted me outside of his nondescript industrial unit in Scarborough and ran his hand over the door dent. “You don’t use a glue puller for this. I have $15,000 worth of tools to do the job properly,” Anthony said. Quiet and unassuming, I immediately warmed to the guy.

Anthony used to work at a car dealership detailing vehicles. Every so often, he’d see someone come by with some steel rods and work the metal from the underside of a door skin or hood and magically push out the dents and dings from a vehicle on the lot.

Dent Removal

“He would get paid $100 for an hour’s work – I had to work a long day to make that kind of money,” Anthony said. He decided to trade his sponges and polish for a new set of tools.

Anthony practised a long time to learn the technique, mastering the long hook-like rods that descend down the inside of the door and gingerly push against the steel skin to work the dent out from behind. The inevitable high spots are remedied with knock-down tools frequently tipped with plastic or even leather.

Anthony became a mobile dent artist, travelling from dealership to dealership, fixing both new and used vehicles marred by unsightly dings. The promised land is apparently Alberta, where a skilled tradesperson can make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why there?

“Hailstorms,” Anthony said.

I left the hapless Pontiac in Anthony’s good hands the next morning, and by lunchtime he had called me to collect it. He charged me $150 for the repair, a reasonable fee I was happy to fork over.

The door looked flawless in his garage, though when I brought it out into the sunshine, I could make out the faintest ripple where the dent had been. I was not disappointed. It was, after all, a high-mileage Pontiac Vibe. It would live to get hit another day.

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It’s been said that one of the most important purchases a person will make in their life – second only to buying a home – is a car. And though the reasons that go into it vary, the one common denominator among Canadian consumers is price, specifically affordability.

A report published last year by AutoTrader – Canada’s largest online automotive marketplace for new and used vehicles – in conjunction with Angus Reid Group, surveyed more than 1,000 Canadians who had purchased a car in the last two years or intend to buy one in the next two years. The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of the perceptions and priorities of consumers throughout the car buying process.

One thing it found was that 77 per cent of respondents listed price as an important factor in their decision.  It’s a notion that goes back to a person’s first car purchase.

“In Canada, your first vehicle purchase probably has a lot to do with price, more than anything else, depending on age and income,” said JD Ney, director of the automotive practice at J.D. Power Canada, a market research firm that surveys people on their car purchases and ownership experiences.

“You see a lot of first-time car buyers purchasing used vehicles.”

Ney said used vehicles have an inflated value in the current marketplace because of the global semiconductor shortage, which has limited the manufacturing of new cars.

Vito De Filippis, a vice-president of account management with Environics Analytics Research Group, which works with several auto manufacturers, said the current climate of limited new and used vehicles has changed the consumer mentality toward purchasing cars.

“If there is something available, they buy it,” De Filippis said. “That’s kind of been the story for the last few months. That’s the big challenge we have with a lot of our clients. We help them with marketing, but the truth is what they’ll tell us time and time again is marketing is great in normal times, but today it’s, ‘Do I even have the car? Or do I have to make them wait a year to buy it?’”

Robert Stein, president of Plaza Auto Group, which owns eight locations in Ontario, said that affordability for consumers changes after that first car purchase when they are earning a greater annual income.

“A lot of them will buy what they can afford at the beginning and then they buy a logo after that – a BMW, a Mercedes-Benz. It’s a sign of success,” he said.

Leasing versus buying

Ney said financing and leasing represent the “lion’s share” of purchasing, and that only an extremely small portion of consumers come into a dealership and buy their vehicles outright. Stein said generally only about five to eight per cent of consumers will do so.

“I think it’s more based on the brand,” Stein said. “A Hyundai is a high percentage of leasing, and Subaru is a high percentage of leasing and a very high percentage of cash buyers.”

Ney said for the consumer the first new vehicle purchase often has a lot to do with monthly payment and price point. “I don’t think many Canadians view their vehicle (costing an average price of) $40,000,” he said. “They really just view it as being $500 a month.” He said long-term financing “keeps the monthly payment in a zone where people are more comfortable.”

Financing vehicles has been around in Canada for a long time, but what has changed is the term, said Ney. Prior to the tail end of the recession in 2008 and 2009, the average finance term for a new vehicle was 48 months, maybe 60 months. After that, Ney said, there was an “absolute explosion” in the percentage of Canadians financing their cars over a period of 84 to 96 months, something no one in the industry had seen before.

Stein said the trend to long-term financing happened when many manufacturers stopped leasing because of a financial crisis between 2009 and 2011 that rocked the industry.

“I believe it changed to 72- and 84-month financing to compensate for the lack of leasing and to lower the payments for customers,” he said.

Some people prefer having the car financed because they want to own it outright after the end of the payments, Stein said, while others prefer leasing because they want a new car every four years.

Ney said that over the last few years, Canadians have shifted from the traditional small-sedan segment and into the sport utility vehicle (SUV) and crossover utility vehicle (CUV).

“Those are more expensive vehicles, and in order to keep the monthly payment around the same spot or something more palatable, the option to extend that financial term has proven to be convincing,” Ney said.

John Shmuel, director of content and strategy at Ratesdotca, Canada’s largest digital platform for insurance and money, said when individuals are seeking insurance on their newly purchased vehicle the broker wants to know if the customer is financing the vehicle, leasing it or buying it outright.

“We see that financing is overwhelmingly the most popular option that people go for,” he said. “The very long financing model is absolutely becoming more popular.”

He said when you factor in regional and demographic data, it lines up with affordability.

“In Ontario, the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla are the most-quoted cars (for insurance) for all generations,” Shmuel said. “Once you get into the older generations (60 and over), you start to see more (expensive) cars quoted because they have a larger budget. But if you go to Alberta, across the board, except for the very youngest generation – Gen Z – you see a preference for larger vehicles and pickup trucks. The Ford F-150 is almost unanimously the most popular vehicle across that segment and we don’t see a Honda Civic in the top five, but we do see the Honda CR-V and SUV.”

Paying full sticker price – even for used

As mentioned by said JD Ney, director of the automotive practice at J.D. Power Canada, a lot of first-time buyers purchase used vehicles. With new vehicles in short supply because of a global semiconductor shortage, there’s a premium on used vehicles – and it is driving up the value.

Canadian Black Book, which values new and used vehicles, said the price of used vehicles has increased for 20 straight weeks because of declining inventory. “For first-time car buyers, the buying experience has changed, gone (for now) are the days of negotiating with the salesperson,” said James Hancock, director of OEM strategy and analytics at Canadian Black Book. “As the new car supply shortages continues, buyers must be willing to accept that some options may not be available, and they must be willing to pay full sticker price for a vehicle that they will have to wait one to four months for delivery.”

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