TechnoFile
| Car and tech rants from Jim Bray | Publishing online exclusively since 1995 |
Updated
April 22, 2017

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Ford Edge

Honda and Toyota offer wildly different visions of Crossover styles

One's a truck that drives like an SUV; the other is an SUV that drives like a truck. Which one makes more sense?

Naturally, it depends on the task at hand. If you're looking for a small pickup truck that rides like more a car, the Honda Ridgeline is the clear choice. But if you want a brawny adventurer that'll be as comfortable off the asphalt as it is inside the city, the Toyota 4Runner is the winner.

And never will the twain meet, except perhaps in this column.

Honda's new Ridgeline - in the "Black Edition" livery of this review - is built on the same basic platform as the company's big SUV, the Pilot and, while it'll probably be fine for many off road excursions, it's more of a city folk vehicle than a backwoods brawler.

On the other hand, Toyota's 4Runner - in the "TRD PRO" livery of Toyota Canada's sample - is a tough off roader that shares DNA with the Tacoma pickup truck. And it's happy to bounce you along the paved roads before devouring happily its natural element, the great outdoors. more...

Latest Underworld is 'gore-geous' in 4K - while Teen Titans storm onto Blu-ray

Kate Beckinsale is back and kicking werewolf butts in Underworld Blood Wars, which debuts from Sony on 4K UHD disc next week. And if you're tired of computer generated landscapes, blood and characters, Warner Brothers has a more classically animated superhero title that might catch your eye, though it isn't available in 4K as of this writing.

Teen Titans was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me, thanks to its Saturday morning cartoon look and feel - the type of superhero animation I used to watch with my kids when they were, well, kids. more...

Ford SUV's offer good driving and plentiful technology for 2017

Ford offers a long list of SUV's for sale, from the entry size Escape to the humongous Expedition, all of which face stiff competition from a huge number of SUV/Crossover models available. So how do the three most popular models stack up for the 2017 model year?

Pretty well, I'd say, though I haven't driven all of the competition recently. But after a week with each of the Escape, Edge and Explorer (with a week off between to fall under the spell of the exquisite new Lincoln Continental), I came away impressed with how well the vehicles drive, how easy they are to operate, and how nice they are overall.

I slid my prodigious posterior into the Edge first, Ford of Canada's sample wearing the Sport trim level that immediately caused my ears to perk up. Sure, it's a bigger SUV than I like (which makes the Explorer even more so…), but - at least in the Sport trim - it drives  smaller than it looks, and that made a huge difference to my enjoyment.

Part of the reason for that, undoubtedly, is the adaptive steering feature Ford introduced to the Edge in 2016 and which is standard equipment on the Edge Sport (and optional on the Titanium). It's analogous to power steering, except that - according to the gentleman at a local Ford and Lincoln dealer - it's a system that's mounted right inside the steering wheel and uses an electric motor and gearing system to function. more...

Big Brother really is watching you - and he ain't a commie!

A special TechnoFile rant.

Did you know that when you're watching your favourite TV program, your TV program could be watching you as well?

It's true, if you believe what a company called FlySwipe is selling. That's because, according to a press release coming from the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters convention, broadcasters and marketers now have the ability to know exactly who's watching a program thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology.

FlySwipe says they can use facial recognition and "big data" to help the broadcasters and advertisers figure out exactly which commercial a particular viewer should be shown, based on the viewer's age and gender. On the upside, perhaps, they say the technology can also limit adult-oriented ads while there are kids in the viewing room. more...

Time Sagas

New Hyundai hybrid an interesting and rewarding drive

Hyundai's Ioniq green car is so new we don't even have a published price for it in Canada yet, but it's worth waiting for because the hybrid is so good to drive I kept forgetting it's an earth saver.

Heck, I liked driving the Ioniq so much that, after all my hybrid humour and hammering over the years, I figure I'm risking a lightning bolt from above just for saying I like this car. And isn't that ioniq, er I mean ironic?

The Ioniq may also be quite iconic in the world of hybrids, in that - according to Hyundai - it offers three variations on its theme: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric and, again according to the company, it's the only hybrid on earth that offers a dual clutch automatic transmission, in this instance a slickly-shifting six speed. This is especially interesting in a market niche dominated by continuously variable transmissions (CVT) that may help increase gas mileage but usually decrease the driver's involvement significantly.

Hyundai Canada's sample was of the straight hybrid variety, which means it (and the plug-in version) comes with a new Kappa 1.6 litre four-cylinder, direct injection engine. more... 

New LG G6 worth getting hung up on

In the war of competing cell phones, LG has just fired off a new shot, and if my very short time with a preproduction sample is any indication, it's a bullseye.

It also features a surprisingly large screen for a phone that still fits easily into my paw, a 5.7 inch QHD+ "FullVision" unit that's colourful and very easy on the eyes.

I also love how you can wake or put the phone to sleep merely by tapping on the screen twice with your finger. That might be a very small thing - and in the grand scheme of things it probably is - but it's a wonderful ease of use thing in a world or smart phones where there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to where a manufacturer puts the buttons. In this case, as with the last LG I reviewed, the power button is on the back, nicely out of the way but not as easy to access quickly as the double tap method. more...

New Continental puts Lincoln firmly back on the map

It doesn't wallow, nor does it feel like a car my grandfather would drive. In fact, it looks as if Lincoln has thrown down a gauntlet with the 2017 Continental, announcing to the world that the famed marque is not only back, but capable of taking on the competitors head to head.

When was the last time you read that about a Lincoln Continental?

It's something I had never written before, let alone thought. Oh, I liked the MKZ I drove last fall a lot, but as nice as it was it still felt like a "gussied up" Fusion (which it is, really), whereas after spending a week in the grand new Continental I came away excited for the future of the famed nameplate, which had kind of gone to sleep as a major luxury brand.

Yep, the new Continental is that good! Welcome back!

It is quiet, and it is luxurious - but what really turned my crank about the new Continental was its exquisite interior design and its driveability. This, to rip off an old ad campaign from a competitor that no longer exists, is not your father's Lincoln. more...

Visiting Potterville in 4K - now with Fantastic Beasts

Potterville is a marvelous place to visit. It's full of wonderful lives and interesting, nice people, with enough evil around them to make for good drama. And now it's an even better place to visit on home video, thanks to brand new 4K releases from Warner Brothers.

Potterville in this case isn't the renamed Bedford Falls of George Bailey's wonderful life "gift" from angel Clarence. No, this Potterville is a British place that kind of floats - via flying car or dragon, or broomstick - between Little Whinging and Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I speak of Harry Potter, of course, the boy who lived through enough books and cinematic stories to choke a centaur. more...

Whether in rear or all-wheel drive, Lexus' IS sedans are luxurious and fun

The Lexus IS has always been a nice and sporty sedan - with various levels of sportiness - and for 2017 Lexus has upgraded its interior and exterior styling, while adding more stuff and upgrading its technology.

I guess you could say it's the "IS-ing on Lexus cake…"

The IS has been my favourite Lexus sedan for quite a few years and - full disclosure - there's an original generation IS in my family, where it serves loyally and enjoyably. I'm still more than a tad ambivalent about the current exterior styling, especially the cowcatcher-like "spindle grille" and the pinched taillights, but overall it's an eye catching and modern-looking vehicle. And inside it's even nicer.

For 2017, the IS "sports" a redesigned front fascia with bigger air intakes in the bumper and revised headlamps that now feature LED's on all IS's (I guess that's the way it "IS"!). The taillights have been restyled as well, with a more pronounced (but not more attractive) L-shape, and cool new rectangular chrome exhaust tips that hint at the vehicle's purportedly sporty nature. Non F SPORT models get new wheel designs as well.

There are several enhancements inside, too, including tweaks to the audio and HVAC control panels, a new dashboard-mounted analogue clock, new stitching on top of the instrument panel's hood and new cup-holders. more...

Arizer offers big vape from relatively small devices

I had no idea there were so many different ways to vape - so many solutions for using a product that in most jurisdictions is still capable of getting you into trouble with "The Man" (or is it "The Person"?).

As before, I assembled a panel of friends and acquaintances to test the units. These are people who've been partaking of pot for decades, responsible citizens who happen to enjoy marijuana when the workday is done - just like they enjoy beer, or wine, or whiskey (or all of them at once!). I introduced them to the vapourizers I was sent, they provided the insights and I took the notes.

The two vapourizers that are the focus of this piece are variations on the same theme. The larger one, the Arizer Solo, has apparently been around snice 2011, while the smaller one - the Arizer Air - is a more recent addition to Arizer's line. Both are great vapourizers! more...

Kia Sorento a fine ride that outdoes some higher end SUV's

Though there's only been some minor tweaking done to the Kia Sorento for 2017, that isn't cause for any concern.

In fact, the undoubted rationale for maintaining the status quo is that the SUV/Crossover was already a darn fine vehicle, with lots of equipment stuffed into it, and even without a major overhaul it's still highly competitive in the crowded market niche of mid-sized utility vehicles.

This is the vehicle, after all, that drove away with the Best SUV/CUV ($35K - $60K) award after competing at the 2016 Canadian Car of the Year TestFest. It beat out the BMW X1, Ford Edge, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Tucson (conventional and Fuel Cell Electric), and the exquisite Lexus NX 200t (F SPORT) for the honours so, unless the collected auto journalists that voted on the category were collectively delusional - and I would never accuse them of that! - it's quite the vehicle. more...

Passengers is a thoughtful and better-than-expected 4K video experience

The sci-fi flick Passengers sure didn't stick around long in theatres, but that's good news if you're a home video aficionado, especially since the movie has been given a welcome 4K UHD release that's quite spectacular.

Even better, above and beyond its excellent home theatre credentials, Passengers also offers an interesting and thought-provoking story and terrific performances by lead actors Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt who play literally (well…) star crossed lovers who must cope with their own "Kobyashi Maru-type" of no-win scenario. more...


Honda adds an ugly but kind of fun hatchback to its Civic line

You could look at it as a return to form, an extra reason to give Honda's classic Civic a look if you're in the market for a mainstream car. And it is, somewhat, because Honda offered hatchback Civics in Canada for many years.

Alas, this isn't Civics of old and, as great as it is in so many ways, it's still a current Honda and that means it may drive you nuts as you drive.

There's something awry about today's Honda and it really has me scratching my head. Civics have always been cute, or at least inoffensive, but this current (tenth) generation - which includes sedan and coupe versions as well as this new hatch - is bloody ugly. And frustrating. Now, I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beer holder, and Honda is only one of the Japanese carmakers currently over styling their vehicles (some Lexus and Nissan models come to mind as well), but the new Civics are full of creases and bulges that look almost as if it were designed by a committee of people who never spoke to each other.

And that's just the exterior problems! more...

Canadians want reliability in their cars - so how does 2017's crop stack up?

Forget fine Corinthian leather, ultimate connectivity and high horsepower. It appears that Canadians are more interested in buying a vehicle that doesn't leave them stranded on the side of the road than they are in creature comforts or high technology.

That's according to a survey of Canadian men and women (or, to be inclusive "memen"), as reported by a GfK survey of over 22,000 Internet users in 17 countries, though only 1,002 of them were from the Once Great White North. It appears to be a "yuge" majority, too: more than eight in 10 women (83 per cent) and 77 per cent of men named reliability as the number one feature they seek out when they put down their hard-earned after-tax cash for a new set of wheels. more...


Mitsubishi winter driving event helps teach control on snow

Winter may be on its way out soon, but there's still enough of the "old person" around to ensure that snowy Canadian roads will be challenging for at least a few more weeks. That means there's still ample opportunity for more skid-related fender benders before spring springs and the grass starts rizzing.

And to that end, Mitsubishi Canada has been on the road as well, bringing some professional drivers and some of their Outlander SUV/Crossovers to Alberta to not only showcase the "crummy weather capabilities" of their vehicles but to give some handy tips to attendees who find themselves oot and aboot when the white stuff sticks.

I love these events; they're not only fun but they can help you "navigate the neige" with more confidence and skill. I did a similar type of thing a couple of years back when Ford came through and will always show up for such events because you can never have too much practice - and it's a real hoot sliding around a snowy open area in someone else's vehicle (and they treat you really nicely, too). more...

Gump director makes a romantic WWII spy thriller

Robert Zemeckis has made a lot of interesting and innovative movies during his decades-long career and he has also pushed the state-of-the-moviemaking-art during that time. He's the guy who pushed the 3D IMAX envelope, starting with the exquisite The Polar Express, which means that such famed movie tech visionaries as James Cameron are really standing on his shoulders.

Zemeckis' Allied, his telling of a couple of World War II spies who fall in love and start a family back in England, sees him recreate the world of the day beautifully via his typical use of digital effects. The film is a bit of a change of pace for him as well: a romantic drama that's laced with more "F-bombs" than I can remember from any other Zemeckis film I've seen. more...


Toyota's 2017 Highlander a handsome and comfortable SUV

The popular Highlander SUV/Crossover is about mid-way through its current generation and Toyota has enhanced and upgraded it for the 2017 model year, making it an even more pleasant vehicle to be in.

In fact, I'd reckon that, after my week in Toyota Canada's sample Highlander XLE AWD model that it's an even nicer vehicle than its up market cousin, the Lexus RX 350. That's because, while it isn't as luxurious or, ahem, prestigious as the Lexus (which rides on the same basic platform), the sample was plenty luxurious enough, more handsome inside and out (with the usual "eye of the beholder" caveat) and easier to operate.

The ease of use comes mostly from Toyota's decision to put a touch screen in the centre stack and mount it within reach of even short people. And it's easy to fathom and to use. The Lexus has its screen mounted high and out of reach, forcing the company to put one of those damn mouse-like Remote Touch devices on the centre console, and as nifty as that sounds it's actually counterproductive if you're just trying to get stuff done because you're fiddling with the knob and menus all the time instead of just poking and choosing. more...

High tech gloves let you use your smart device without getting frostbite

Drivers and/or texters in climes where winter rears its ugly head repeatedly have an interesting new ally in their quest to operate smart devices without getting their hands cold.

Glider Gloves is a line of hand wear that promises to let you text, phone, and even operate vehicles' LCD screens without having to remove them, a promise that - given my history of trying to use my smart stuff while wearing gloves - seemed like a product that was simply too good to be true. more...


Volkswagen and Subaru drive off with Canadian Car of the Year honours

The best new car and utility vehicles in Canada for 2017 come from Germany and Japan and, while one is considered a car, both could be considered utility vehicles as well.

That's because the Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) overall winner, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, is not only a great car in its own right, it's also what once would have been known in these parts as a station wagon, a family-and-hauling-friendly vehicle that blends the best of both worlds while never forgetting that at heart, it's a Golf - which is a very good thing indeed.

The other side of the Car of the Year coin is Utility Vehicle of the Year, which for 2017 has gone to the Subaru Forester, which just happens to be my favourite Subaru year after year (though I must admit liked earlier ones better).

Still to be awarded is the Green Car of the Year, which will be named at the end of March - just as Canada is turning green again after a long winter. Somehow I don't think those greens are related… more...

Virtual reality demonstrations showcase a technology with plenty of potential

The term "virtual reality" has been around for years, and for about the same length of time we've been promised that it's the next big thing we'll have in our lives.

Like so many technological promises, however, it's been mostly vapourware when it comes to consumer products, with only a few baby steps taken on the journey to immersive virtual worlds for us to play in. But it appears to be coming, and if a couple of demonstrations I attended over the past couple of months are any indication, there should be some really cool stuff available over the next few years. more...


Honda moves in the right direction with the new CR-V

Maybe Honda is listening to its critics because this new CR-V is a nice step back toward Hondas of old, Hondas that weren't just great vehicles, but which didn't really annoy their owners at the same time.

I've been one of those critics over the past few years, though I can't imagine a small potatoes guy like me being responsible for Honda moving back toward the light - but it's sure good to see.  

The first indication of a potential turnaround in Honda's attitude is the return of a volume control knob to the centre stack of the new CR-V SUV/Crossover. The second is that the new CR-V is actually quite a handsome vehicle, much nicer than its predecessor. And that's a great start. more...

Vapourizers offer handy portable and/or party performance - usually

Late last year I did a column outlining in its most basic terms the issue of marijuana use, and in the process I introduced a few of the popular vapourizers available on the marketplace today. In that column I assembled a group of baby boomers I know, folks who've been "imbibing" the still-illegal substance for decades and who are (surprisingly to some folks, I'm sure) productive members of society who just happen to enjoy the odd toke. They provided me with valuable insight and opinions, most of which were very positive of the vaping experience.

On the heels of that column I was sent samples of a couple of other - and very different from each other - vapourizers, so over the past few weeks I reassembled my panel to get their impressions (and no, Rich Little wasn't one of them) of these new units, one of which had the potential to be the slickest little portable they'd seen. The other vapourizer isn't portable at all, but my panellists discovered it has its own joyful positives that made it a real, well, hit. more...


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