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June 29, 2015


Amazing Space
Space may or may not be the final frontier, but it's still an awesome frontier and one about which we may never learn all there is to know. more...

Interstellar
Christopher Nolan's first movie since his epic Batman trilogy is an epic science fiction adventure. more...

Star Trek TNG 7
All good things must come to an end eventually. more...

Hercules
Hercules tries hard to be a fantastic cinematic spectacle. more...

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Lincoln MKC a small but major step forward for automaker

If you've been wondering where Lincoln has gone, you may not be alone.

The company is still around, of course - it has never gone away - but in recent years it seems to have developed a low profile that's only now being raised thanks to new products such as this little SUV, the MKC. And if my week in the version that sports the larger of the two engines offered is any indication, they've come up with a real winner in the "cute ute" market niche.

The MKC shares a lot of its underwear with the current Ford Escape, which isn't a bad place to start. more...

AutoTrader survey finds road rage worst in New Brunswick, least in Quebec

How much does it take to make you want to flip off or shoot the person in the other car? Do you get upset when other drivers text, or change lanes without signalling, or drive with their knees while applying makeup or playing the fiddle?

According to a recent AutoTrader.ca survey of "over 1,500 Canadians," if you live in New Brunswick, it appears you may be in the least "tolerant of such stuff" region of the Great White North. The poll not only broke down road rage by region, it also pointed out what peeves people in particular. more...

Mercedes and Lexus offer very different takes on little wagons

One's a turbo, the other's a hybrid, and both of these "little wagons" offers car buyers an interesting if not completely satisfying driving experience.

The B-Class is the smallest Mercedes-Benz offered in Canada currently, while the CT 200h is Lexus' entry level hybrid. They both offer the storage and practicality of a wagon and/or hatchback as well as the luxury that buyers of premium automobiles expect. And they're both priced fairly similarly: they start at just over $31,000 Canadian, though of course you can option them up from there: a nearly loaded B-Class will set you back about $42,500, while the optioned up CT 200h F Sport will drain about the same amount from your wallet.

This isn't a completely apples-to-apples comparison because the options are different in each case and because the up market B also has 4MATIC all-wheel drive, a feature that isn't available on the little Lexus. Of course, four wheel drive may not be important to you, in which case the point's moot. more...

CasaTunes can make your whole house sing

Music streaming is nothing new, nor is whole house audio - where a single source supplies your tunes to whatever room you have a compatible audio system set up. And it only makes sense. Digital files are replacing physical media and they offer incredible convenience compared to "old fashioned" discs, tapes or records. Why wouldn't you want to keep all your music in one place and be able to access them from virtually anywhere?

I've been trying a system from the Colorado-based CasaTunes, who sent me their CT-4+ Multi-room Musical System to try. It's really overkill for my installation, but I thought it would make for an interesting test and, as it turned out, I was right. CasaTunes' system is pretty cool and very flexible, and you can use it to supply tunes just about anywhere in the home you'd want. more...

Time Sagas

Kia Sportage offers good power, features, value

It doesn't have a lot that's new for 2015, but Kia's Sportage "cute ute" SUV/crossover remains a compelling and competitive model in this crowded market niche.

The Sportage is Kia's small SUV – as opposed to its big brother Sorento – and it goes head to head with such competitors as Hyundai's Tucson, the VW Tiguan, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape etc. etc. ad nearly nauseam. It offers a lot of bang for your buck, as well as a good driving experience.

And isn't that what it's supposed to do?

Kia Canada's review sample wore the SX trim level, which is the top of the line and that means it's pretty well loaded with stuff. more... 

Amazing Space offers amazing Hubble views; and an Epson service update

Space may or may not be the final frontier, despite what Kirk, Spock and Picard – and countless others – have said, but it's still a heckuvan awesome frontier and one about which we may never learn all there is to know.

As the box for the new Blu-ray/DVD/CD Amazing Space says, "space is not 'out there somewhere.' We are in the midst of it. We are a part of it - from the physical world around us to the smallest cells within, we are interwoven into one vast, living ocean of consciousness." Or as Carl Sagan once said: "We are all star stuff."

A few weeks back I did a column praising Epson for their excellent customer service when my home theatre's front projector developed what C3PO might describe as "a mild flutter." I wrote the column the day I actually sent back the old unit, so I hadn't even tried the replacement then, but I had no reason to think there'd be a problem. I promised to write again if things didn't turn out as planned - and they didn't. more...


Jaguar XJ sedan a classy and engaging beast

Visiting southern Ontario is made much more palatable when you have a great car in which to do it. And to that end, Jaguar's magnificent XJ sedan certainly did more than its part to coddle and entertain my automotive and aesthetic sensibilities during a recent trip to the so-called centre of the universe.

The XJ is the big Jag, a car that goes toe to toe with contenders such as the Audi A8, Mercedes Benz S class, BMW 7 series, Lexus LS, and I suppose the Hyundai Equus as well. The car has been around in various generations for, well, generations, but this latest iteration is as modern as those it battles with in the marketplace.

It starts with aluminum, which is everywhere and allows a bigger car to have lower mass, which makes it lighter on its paws. You'll never forget you're in a big sedan, but activate the Sport and Dynamic modes and it almost seems as if the car shrinks perceptibly, making it feel more sprightly and, well, cat-like than when you're using the big feline to just cruise along serenely and comfortably – which it also does extremely well. more...

Entry level Honda gets an annoying update

The Honda Fit is a great little car – inexpensive and decent to drive. Unfortunately, it has also been tweaked for 2015 in a manner sure to bother its front seat passengers, if not its drivers.

The Fit has been around for several years now and fills a niche opened up for Honda as the once-entry-level Civic grew in size and features. This is hardly unique to Honda, of course; you could also look at the Toyota Yaris as a response to the Corolla's inevitable growth, and that's only one other example.

So you might think that driving a Fit is reminiscent of driving an old Civic – and you'd be right to a certain extent. more...


Mercedes-Benz shows off its remarkably capable 4x4 Sprinter

It's a utility vehicle a mudder can love!

That's the impression Mercedes-Benz gave media attendees at its fascinating introduction to the new 4x4 Sprinters, an event at which the company made it clear that neither rain, sleet, snow nor even deep and wet mud can prevent the vans from performing their appointed rounds.

Maybe Canada Post bought their letter carriers the wrong equipment… more...

Flawed projector shows warranties can work when companies care

What happens after you buy someting can be just as important as the sale – how the company treats its customers when something goes awry. We've all heard the horror stories about customers being left adrift by companies who hide behind loopholes or make customers jump through hoops to get any satisfaction.

That's why I was prompted to write this column outlining my experience with a major company: Epson. Now, my experience is still unfolding, but the important part of it is over and I've been extremely impressed with how they handled my complaint. Well, it actually was more of a query than a complaint, but it led to Epson's customer service folks jumping quickly to attention in manner I hadn't expected. more...


Toyota Prius c and v offer fuel economy, low emissions and not much else

It's hard to argue that Toyota's Prius family has been the most successful crop of hybrid cars since Honda first inflicted the Insight on the world more than a decade ago.

The reasons may be many, but chief among them must be high gas mileage, perhaps coupled with the perception that they emit less foulness than the average car (foulness being in the eye of the beholder, perhaps?). This is in an era in which gas mileage is going up all over the automotive marketplace while emissions are going down – and "global warming" is being exposed as the hoax it always was.

Over the past couple of years, Toyota has expanded the Prius range to include the smaller Prius c and the small wagon Prius v, both of which I cover in this column. more...

Acura TLX: blending two cars into a different type of hybrid

Take two long in the tooth Japanese luxury sports sedans and toss them into a blender and what do you get? A single replacement that takes bits of both parents and puts them into an attractive new package.

So is the whole of the Acura TLX more than the sum of its parts?

I think so, at least as far as Acura Canada's review sample is concerned. The TLX is the replacement for both the TL and the TSX, the former of which was originally a very nice mid-sized luxury sedan while the latter was originally a very nice but more "entry level" luxury sedan. And the resulting "hybrid" version of the two cars into one turns out to be a pretty nice car. It isn't a traditional hybrid, in that it isn't a gas/electric vehicle, but it's a hybrid in that it blends two quite different cars into a single entity. more...


CorelDraw X7 adds more power, flexibility, to design tasks

The latest version of Corel's graphics suite is an evolutionary step up from previous versions, offering not only new features and capabilities but a tweaked interface that should make the product easier to use than before.

CorelDraw may not be the most well-known of illustration and photo manipulation packages, that honour going traditionally to Adobe for its Illustrator/Photoshop apps and its Creative Suite. But the Canadian-based Corel company's offering has sported similar capabilities for many years now and there are a lot of compelling reasons for designers to look at it when they're shopping for a new powerhouse app. more...

Porsche Macan Turbo: fast family hauler

Sport utility vehicles are a dime a dozen these days, but it seems as if utility is found more universally in the niche than is sportiness.

Nothing wrong with that, of course; flexibility of use is one of the things that make SUV's and/or crossovers so great, and so popular.

But what if you want as much sport in your sport ute as you do ute? That narrows the list somewhat and may help lead to a perception that these "tall cars" are anything but sporty – and that they may even be prone to rolling if you try inflicting some enthusiastic driving on them. This is poppycock, of course.

Now Porsche has invaded a new SUV/Crossover niche with the Macan, a downsized – nearly "cute ute" – sport utility vehicle that's very nearly as much a tall sports sedan as it is a small Cayenne. more...


OPPO Digital's HA-2 a high end audio solution to low end portable sound

What do you do if you're an audiophile who's forced to pry his/her or its buttocks out of the listening chair and go out into the world of sunshine and lollipops?

If you're like most of us – forgive the generalization – you sally forth with your smart phone or portable music player and a set of ear buds or other headphones, and maybe a USB cable or Bluetooth to connect to your car.

This works, and it works fine for the most part, but the fidelity can be spotty depending on the device and its connections. Let's face it, even if your car has a high end audio system, it's limited by the "garbage in-garbage out" (GIGO) phenomenon, which means it's only as good as the digital files you're playing. It's also limited by the quality of the output device – smart phone or whatever. more...

Toyota Yaris gets a 2015 tweaking

It doesn't have a lot of power, or creature comforts, but Toyota's entry level car has been nipped and/or tucked nicely for 2015 and continues to be a compelling little car.

Available in three or five door versions, the Yaris is the successor to the Echo which was the successor to the Tercel, making the Yaris the latest in a long line of wee winners from the world's biggest car maker. Toyota Canada's sample was of the five door persuasion, in LE trim with few options. There's a higher end SE trim level as well, and the base three door model also comes in CE trim. Prices start at $14,545 for the lowest end Yaris, going up to $17,665 for the five door SE. The LE trim of the sample starts at just shy of 16 grand. more...


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