Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Updated: November 23, 2023

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Ford Mach E

Are cars a good investment? We look at the top and bottom models and types for depreciation

Do you look at your car purchase as a way to get from Point A to Point B? Do you look at it as a way to make money on your automotive investment? Or do you just want a vehicle that won't depreciate ridiculously the moment you drive it home?

However you slice it, it seems the only way you're going to not lose much moolah on a car purchase is to drive it long enough – while keeping it in pristine condition – to have it qualify as a classic suitable for auction. And that's a crap shoot anyway.

That said, some vehicles depreciate worse than others.

According to an iSeeCars study, which they say in a press release analyzed over 1.1 million vehicles sold from November 2022 to October 2023 to determine five-year depreciation rates, depreciation was lower "across all major segments than in 2019, with the average used car holding its value 10.8 percent better than it did pre-pandemic." That may be good news for those who want to sell their used car, but it's bad news for those looking for a bargain in a used vehicle. Depending on the vehicle, of course.

The worst segment for depreciation? Those electric cars governments are trying to push us into. What a surprise!

According to iSeeCars Executive Analyst Karl Brauer, "while all used cars hold their value better than they did pre-pandemic, electric cars still lose about half their value after five years, far more than any other vehicle type." Brauer noted, however, that hybrids are among the best cars at retaining value, which suggests that "consumers appreciate their combination of high fuel efficiency and zero range anxiety."

Indeed, hybrids have come a long way from the days of the original Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, both of which offered good gas mileage as long as you were willing to drive more slowly than you could walk.

Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but I remember driving those old hybrids and they were bloody awful if you cherish the art of driving. But I digress. more...

Gran Turismo

Scrooged makes it to 4K disc in time for Christmas – while Roll Ranger unsticks tape

A modern, well 1980's, take on Dickens' A Christmas Carol debuts on 4K disc this week, and it's a pretty good package of a pretty good movie.

And in a different vein, I've been trying an interesting new gadget that promises to help take the frustration out of finding the end on a roll of tape.

I'd never seen Scrooged before Paramount sent me the new 4K disc package, but I wanted to see it when I noticed it was directed by the late Richard Donner, who helmed one of my desert island discs, the original. 1978 Superman. That wasn't his only claim to fame, of course: Donner also directed The Omen, The Goonies, Ladyhawke, the first four in the Lethal Weapon series, and Mel Gibson's Maverick.

And that's just part of his legacy.

Of course, many people will undoubtedly want to see Scrooged because it stars Bill Murray, ex-Saturday Night Live dude and popular movie star since then, with such flicks as Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Stripes, and many, many others. I'm not really a Murray fan, but he is a good actor.

Anyway, Scrooged updates the classic tale – while simultaneously kind of ripping it off thanks to a TV production in which Murray is in charge. He's a TV executive, you see, and he's obsessed with ratings and not particularly interested in his employees, one of whom (Bobcat Goldthwait) he fires at the beginning of the movie. Why, he's so mean he won't even let his secretary and right hand, er, woman (Alfre Woodard) spend time at home with her family on Christmas Eve. If he works, so does she is the way he thinks.

Frank Cross (Murray) thinks the key to Christmas ratings isn't warm and fuzzy Yuletide cheer, but rather on-screen mayhem, and he uses that theme in his network's Christmas promos.  About the only thing he doesn't seem to have in common with Ebenezer Scrooge is that he doesn't throw "Bah, Humbugs" around. Of course, he doesn't need to: his actions speak louder than his words.

Speaking of Christmas, what better time to find a gadget that's designed to help you find the end of your roll of tape. I mean, I usually end up leaving a bit of a folded over tab on my tape rolls – especially packing/shipping tape – because the stuff sticks to itself and that makes it really hard to find the end. more...

Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo is a Walter Mitty-like fantasy in 4K; Blue Beetle bombs big time

Movies based on video games are nothing new, and some work well on the silver screen.

One that works particularly well is Columbia Pictures' new 4K disc release of Gran Turismo, which is based on a "driving simulator" that has been around for years now. More than just a game, GT truly can give you a head's up on fast driving on a dizzying variety of race tracks and other circuits.

I've been a GT fan for years, and I currently am on version 6, which has been out forever but which is upstaged now by its new, 4K version for the PlayStation 5 platform. I don't have a PS5 (I suffer through life with a PS3), but after having experienced the movie of GT (and seen trailers online for the sim) I'm salivating at the prospect of Santa Claus bringing me the new system when he flies his sleigh around the world on Christmas eve.

And though I didn't expect much going in, I loved the Gran Turismo movie. This isn't just a game ported over to a different medium, it's actually a true-life story of a gamer (well, "simulator") who was able to take the driving skills he honed in front of a video screen and port them over to real life racing.

Very cool indeed. And I'm extremely jealous!

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, of District 9 fame, the film follows the fortunes of Jann Mardenborough, a Welsh kid who seemed to live for GT, much to his parents' chagrin. Then, as a way to promote his company's cars, Nissan's Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) founded GT Academy, offering video gamers a way to compete head-to-head on their platforms, with the best of them being offered the chance to compete in real life, racing in Nissan GT-R's (though in the real world, they were 350Z's).  Talk about a Walter Mitty-like fantasy!

Then there's Blue Beetle which, alas, isn't even remotely about an old Volkswagen.

No, it's a minor entry from the DC comics universe, one I'd never heard of before despite growing up as a DC comics fan in the 1960's.

Having seen this mishmash of a film based on that series, I can see why I never noticed Blue Beetle before.

Yikes, this is a bad movie! more...

Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible delivers predictable thrills in 4K

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning part 1 is a rollicking ride in the home theatre.

It's also very much like cotton candy – fun to consume but with little nutritional value – not that that's necessarily a bad thing. And, as is traditional in this series, it's a lot of fun to watch and full of really nifty action, stunts, and locations.

The film takes 163 minutes to set up Part 2, and it succeeded in making me anxious to see how it all ends.
Hopefully, the second section of the flick will be even more interesting, though that's a pretty high bar.

The movie not only delivers exactly what you expect going in: big action, big stunts, big excitement, but it also appears (assuming Part 2 doesn't change everything, which is a distinct possibility) to be a bit of a cautionary tale about the dangers of artificial intelligence.

And that makes it particularly timely, since AI seems to be the buzzword of the year. Well, that and Hamas…

As with Skynet and Colossus in movies that came before this one, the enemy this time is "uber AI", and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his band of little IMF member friends (Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, etc.) are tasked with tracking down this frightening new weapon that threatens to wipe out all of humanity.

My goodness: it sounds even worse than COVID!

As often happens in Mission Impossible movies, certain questions are raised and, perhaps, dealt with. Stuff like "Who can you trust?" "Are things really what they seem to be?" and of course "How are they going to get out of this one?"

Well, that latter question will have to wait for the second part but we do get quite a look at the first two questions as Hunt and his gang travel the world trying to get to the bottom of things before all heck breaks loose.

Well, all heck is breaking loose already, to be fair, and the 163 minutes (including credits) is spent trying to put a lid on it. And boy, do they try! But, as should be obvious to anyone who realizes this is Part ONE, they definitely do not succeed. Otherwise, why save up your shekels for Part Two? more...


Blockbuster Barbie 4K disc is better than expected

The good news is, it's safe to watch Barbie even if you aren't a chick, or a raving lefty.

Okay, now that I've pissed off the usual suspects, I can get down to reviewing the new 4K disc release I received from Warner Brothers. Barbie was 2023's biggest blockbuster in theatres, and apparently Warners' biggest movie ever. Doesn't that seem a bit weird?

Yet I did enjoy it, far more than I expected to.

Barbie is one of those movies that I really, really didn't want to see – believing "without evidence" (as the lying left-wing media would say) that it would be a feminist circle jerk (if there can be such a thing). And while there is some of that, Barbie is also much more than just that.

Barbie is funny (I laughed several times), sweet in places, with a really great look and even some darn good production numbers that kind of hearken back to the classic movie musicals of days gone by.

Regarding the latter, I thought upon watching the story that the musical numbers seemed a tad weird and out of place, showing up as they do in a silly romp such as Barbie is, but upon watching the extras I learned that this was deliberate: director/co-writer Greta Gerwig wanted to hearken back to such "fantasy dance" numbers of decades past, mentioning by name Oklahoma! and Singing in the Rain, both of which are among my favourite movie musicals.

And, yes, there's a certain amount of "girl power" stuff but while it's a tad heavy handed (though not as much as I – "without evidence" – expected), it's overshadowed by the rest of the story. I was hooked by then anyway: I really loved the opening "homage" to 2001: a Space Odyssey, which was funny and done extremely well. And it isn't the only cool homage in this film.

Barbie (the original "stereotypical" version of which is played wonderfully by Margot Robbie) lives in BarbieLand, a perfect place to hang out if you're a Barbie. And, boy, are there Barbies! Besides Robbie's version, there are many other Barbies populating the land, from the political class right down to a handicapped Barbie, an overweight Barbie and even a transgender Barbie (who is obvious and inevitable, I suppose, but never mentioned as such).

Then there are the Kens, led by Ryan Gosling as "stereotypical" Ken. There's also a ton of these guys, including black Kens and an Asian Ken, etc. etc. etc. I didn't notice a trans Ken, though. more...

Ford Mach E

Are Canadians really ready for Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles are supposedly languishing on dealers' lots, as the great unwashed masses apparently eschew electrified autos in favour of the evil gas-powered ones.

Why do you think this may be?

Well, according to a survey done for BrokerLink, a subsidiary of Intact Financial Corporation – which claims to be one of "Canada's largest property and casualty insurance brokerages" – it's because those great unwashed don't know what's good for them.

That may not quite be fair, but the survey does suggest that Canadians "need more education around EV ownership, insurance and infrastructure requirements." In other words, we're just not trying hard enough!

Actually, having read the press release touting the survey, it seems to these eyes that the Canadian people may just be a little smarter than those trying to usher them into the supposedly wonderful world of EV ownership.

"As it stands, Canadians seem to need more information about crucial aspects of EV ownership, such as infrastructure requirements and insurance implications," the press release reveals.

Here's a hint:

Eighty-nine per cent of respondents have concerns about the availability of charging infrastructure, while 84 per cent expressed range anxiety. That's as it should be, in my never humble opinion, because those are extremely valid concerns.

Only a quarter (24 per cent) of Canadians are currently familiar with EV auto insurance policies, while 82 per cent believe the type of car they drive affects their insurance premiums more than whether it's electric or gas-powered. I'm with them. I have no idea, either, and won't care until I'm shopping for an EV, which means probably never.

The survey also revealed that 71 per cent of Canadians who own gas-powered vehicles are reluctant to give them up. And, might I add, with very good reason. "Yet, six in ten (59 per cent) (of) Canadians, who don't currently have an EV, are excited to drive one in the future." Does that mean they want to own them, or just to experience them? I don't know.

I mean, you might want to date a famous athlete or supermodel, but do you want to marry him/her/it? more...


New on 4K disc: Beastly Transformers makes for nonsensical fun – while Rosemary's Baby never looked scarier

Paramount Pictures' latest kick at the Transformers cat, er can, is more fun than I expected, and it's an interesting counterpoint to the studio's other major release for this week: Rosemary's Baby.

As with Bumblebee before it, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a throwback in time, this time to the 1990's, before the Michael Bay-driven original set of movies were supposed to have happened. This time, the Autobots are tasked with saving the earth from some new threat that could wipe out the entire planet, taking the hero Transformers out as well as the human race these Autobots have yet to discover can be allies.

It's also a nifty globetrotter, with some particularly beautiful and spectacular scenes shot in Peru, including the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu – and if you thought these places looked lovely before, wait until you see them in glorious 4K with HDR! There's also some very neat scenes set in New York City (a lot of which was apparently shot in Montreal).

The story includes Autobots, Maximals, Predacons, and Terrorcons and a new nemesis, Scourge. The humans who end up along for the ride are Noah, an intelligent but rebellious kid from Brooklyn, and scientist Elena, played respectively by Anthony Ramos and Dominque Fishback. As one of the new Transformers says later in the film, about the humans: "They're more than meets they eye."

The Transformers (I wonder if they'll get their own "trans" flag…) get thrust into a working relationship/friendship with the humans after Elena discovers an ancient device that's kind of a cosmic key that can open a portal that allows through a nasty Terrorcon whose sole purpose is to eat planets, kind of like the planet eater in the old Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine."

In a way, it's kind of an origin story, in that Optimus Prime and his big little friends aren't yet the team kids of all ages have come to know and love, but they do begin to form those relationships over the course of the movie.  more...

Winter Edge Tire

New MotoMaster winter tires promise an affordable and safe snowy drive

My son has just retired.

Not from his job, mind you (though I'm willing to bet he'd love that as well!), but from his aging winter tires to a brand new – and surprisingly affordable to these eyes – set of full winter tires from Canadian Tire. The new rubber appears to be a sequel to an earlier model because the folks at Canadian Tire have named them "MotoMasterWinter Edge II" so I assume these are an upgrade to an earlier version.  

I haven't dealt with Canadian Tire for auto service in many years, though we do shop their local stores quite often. It's interesting to see just how they've expanded their offerings, too, from "tires" to an amazing assortment of home and garden stuff, small appliances, you can just about name it. About the only thing I haven't noticed in a Canadian Tire store is a full grocery section like you'd see in places like Walmart. And that's okay with me.

Then Canadian Tire's PR folks got in touch to tout the new tires, even going so far as to offer me a complimentary set to try. That said something to me about their confidence in the new product, but unfortunately neither of our vehicles is close to needing new rubber. My son, however, really needed some for his 2002 Lexus IS 300, so I asked if that would work and they agreed it would!

Anyway, the new MotoMaster Winter Edge II "builds on the success of MotoMaster's original Winter Edge tire by maintaining its excellent snow performance and improving its ice performance." Ice performance is really important to Calgarians because our City Idiots have a policy of snow removal by Chinook, which means they wait until one of our famous Chinook winds raises the temperature around here to above freezing, thereby allowing the snow to melt by itself and allowing them to spend the money they save on bike lanes and "Pride" crosswalks, etc.

Alas, the Chinooks only melt some of the snowand the rest turns to ice upon the end of the Chinook, making our streets more like hockey or curling rinks than actual thoroughfares. more...

Giant Gila Monster

Obscure giant critters get a new lease on life thanks to new film restoration and distribution company

Talk about a couple of monster hits!

Well, they may not have been huge box office successes, though the supplements accompanying this two-disc Blu-ray set say the producer made his investment back multiple times over, but The Giant Gila Monster and The Killer Shrews are well worth your "guilty pleasure" time even though they have never gained the kind of adoration of such contemporaries as Forbidden Planet, or even Them!

Still, if you have a short attention span (the longer of the two films is only 74 minutes!) or just enjoy slumming in the home theatre with a couple of "better than you might think" titles, this new release from Film Masters could be right up your alley.

Both films came out in 1959, and were made outside the traditional Hollywood studio system. Of the two, I preferred The Giant Gila Monster the best, but both have their moments – quite a few of them, actually.

The Giant Gila Monster is the "A" list title here and has not only been upgraded to high definition, Film Masters also gave it a new, 4K restoration – and it shows! But no 4K disc, alas.

Both films were the brainchild of Texas entrepreneur and radio giant Gordon McLendon and they were released as a double bill that was ideal for the drive-in movie crowd (remember drive-ins? They were great ways to catch films when you had small kids, or just wanted to make out with your girlfriend if you didn't care about the films).

But let's talk about the movies themselves.

The Giant Gila Monster, arguably the better of the two, tells the tale of – believe it or not – a giant Gila monster that suddenly shows up and starts terrorizing a small town and its environs. more...

TechnoFile drives the 2023 Lexus RX 350

Lexus downsizes its RX 350's power and upsides its annoyances

Lexus' top-selling mid-size SUV has received a new set of clothes, a new engine, and new interfaces for its current generation. I only wish I could say they're all good things.

I've always liked the RX 350 and the 300 and 330 that preceded it. It's luxurious, comfortable and will probably outlast its owners. But it has never been particularly fun or sporty, despite some versions wearing Lexus' "F Sport" badging that's usually more extra trim and toys than extra oomph and enjoyment.

In fact, in about the mid-2000's I drove a RX 330 while I was working part time as a Lexus customer shuttle driver, and I liked it a lot. It had an automatic transmission that featured a good manual mode and, for sitting in eight hours a day, you couldn't really beat it.

That was then.

Lexus still uses the 350 designation, which once meant it came with the company's really nice, really smooth and really torquey 3.5 litre V6. The mad stampede to save Parent Earth, however, regardless or whether or not it's really warranted, is causing many, if not most, carmakers to downsize their engines, with turbo fours displacing (no pun intended – well, not much of one, anyway) the V6's of the world.

And that's the case here.

So, this fifth generation RX now comes with a 2.4 litre four-cylinder turbo, which actually makes 20 fewer horsepower (275) than the 3.5-liter V6 (295 horsepower) that preceded it. I loved that old engine. The new one, meh.

Oh, there's enough power on tap, but there's also turbo lag now that was never there before, and that helps make the new RX seem a tad more reluctant to take off than it did before. Once you're going it's fine, though. But surely the folks at corporate giant Toyota/Lexus could have figured out a way to get rid of the lag. more...

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Top Hughes and Wyler films make their way onto 4K disc

Paramount has released another round of popular titles to their growing library of 4K discs and, while they may not be the most spectacular examples of the 4K disc medium, they both shine on the ultra high-definition discs and are well worth seeing and/or owning.

Ferris Bueller's Day off was a bit of a change of pace for writer/director John Hughes. He spent a lot of the 1980's making teen flicks from "The Breakfast Club" to "Sixteen Candles," but "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is bit of an anomaly, in that rather than featuring an ensemble cast telling their own stories, it concentrates on one fellow – Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) – a smart and popular kid who goes through life as if it's set to music.

One particularly beautiful Spring day he decides that life, whether set to musical accompaniment or not, is too short to spend slaving over books at school. He decides to cut class, dreaming up and putting into motion a well-planned "sickness" alibi – his ninth, apparently, of that particular school semester.

Roman Holiday, meanwhile, is yet another great film from the great William Wyler, who had already made a number of classics, from Wuthering Heights to The Best Years of Our Lives, and would go on to make even more, including the 1959 masterpiece Ben-Hur. Roman Holiday is a 1953 romantic comedy starring Gregory Peck and a young up and comer named Audrey Hepburn, whose performance ended up winning her an Oscar, one of three such statuettes the classic "fish out of water/star-crossed lovers" tale took home that year.

Roman Holiday may not be quite the stature of those above-named films, but that does not by any means indicate that it's a slouch. No, indeed, it's a great movie as well. more..

Ford F-150 Raptor R

Ford Raptor R – R stands for Reality-challenging!

Forgive me if I write this column while hunkering down under my desk, because I'm afraid I might get struck by lightning for actually liking a full-sized pickup truck.

Of course, Ford's F-150 Raptor R isn't your garden variety pickup truck. No, indeed. It's an outrageously in your face vehicle that lets you cut a swath through traffic while also waking the neighbourhood with its outrageous exhaust bellow.

And it's an absolute blast!

And all this truck goodness and fun – all 700 horsepower of it – can be yours for a paltry $150,000 CDN, if you can find one for that price. Apparently, there's a waiting list and the trucks are selling for much more than list. I haven't heard that officially, but I was told that by someone who would know.

Anyway, Ford's Raptor has been around for several years now, but to compare that original Raptor with this one isn't really fair. This is an "UberRaptor" that eschews the regular Raptor's EcoBoost V6 (which works very well) with a big, supercharged V8 – the sort of engine you might imagine in a high-end Mustang (and where I imagine it would be even more of a blast!).

As Ford says, it's "the fastest, most powerful, most extreme high-performance off-road desert Raptor yet."

I didn't go anywhere near off road, let alone off pavement, so my comments deal with having the truck on city streets and paved highway. And as such, it provided the most fun I've had in a pickup truck. Not only is that supercharged V8 powerful and loud, you can tweak it via buttons on the steering wheel to make it "sporty" and that can tighten up the suspension and steering (there are other settings, too, such as for off road and just plain "comfort") as well as make that outrageous exhaust blat even blattier, if there's even such a word.

I wonder if that's why my next-door neighbours suddenly decided to list their house... more...

Rio Bravo

Warner Bros. releases sparkling new versions of a classic western – and a classic "eastern" – on 4K disc  

One of the great westerns of all time, Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, has made the transition to 4K disc, and it was worth the wait.

Ditto for "East of Eden," Elia Kazan's take on John Steinbeck, a movie I didn't like very much but which many others seem to think is equally classic to Rio Bravo. Those people are wrong, of course, but at least fans of the film now have a much more state-of-the-art version to be bored by. 

Rio Bravo tells the story of Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne), his burned out drunk of a friend and deputy, Dude (Dean Martin) and deputy-sidekick Stumpy (Walter Brennan), along with hotshot new kid/fast draw in town Colorado (Ricky Nelson). The story follows the four of them (Four for Texas?) as they await the consequences of Chance arresting a lowlife, but connected, hood for gunning down an unarmed man.

Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) is that small-time low life, but since he's the no-good brother of a no-good Bigwig – and blood is blood - brother Nathan (John Russell) wants to save his sibling's neck from being stretched by the gallows. And he has plenty of time and resources to do it: Chance is holding Joe in a cell at his sheriff's office, waiting for the federal Marshall to show up a few days down the road. So, Nathan basically lays siege to the town, while sending in hired killers to, if not exactly spring Joe, at least to intimidate Chance and make life as difficult as possible.

Kind of like the Biden DOJ…

It's a great story, though as such character-driven stories tend to, it does tend to meander at a leisurely pace. more...

Mazda CX-90

Mazda's big new SUV bucks trends as well as embracing them

Is Mazda's all-new CX-90 three row SUV another "Mazdapiece" from the Japanese manufacturer?

I'd say yes, having just spent two weeks in two different versions of the vehicle. Now, I'm a Mazda fan anyway, thanks to their Japanese reliability and Mazda's famous "Zoom-Zoom" fun to drive quotient. Even a big SUV like this – formerly called the CX-9 – was more fun to drive than it had any right to be. They don't use that little kid's Zoomy utterance any more, alas, but the vehicles still embody the concept well.

Now, along comes the company with a new and supposedly improved model that, in typical Mazda tradition, marches to its own tune, thumbing its corporate nose in a manner of speaking at the competition for their penchant for downsizing as a way to keep on the good side of the Gaia gurus.

Mazda says the CX-90, its new flagship, is built on its "all-new large platform" and is wider, longer, and features "more aggressive proportions that perfectly blend its high-performance appearance with world-class refinement". It's also available in two "electrified" versions, a new and turbocharged inline six (the nose thumbing version) as well as a plug-in hybrid that toes the eco line in a more conventional manner.

My first week behind the wheel of the CX-90 was in the top line Signature version with the inline six. I was salivating at the thought of an inline six – especially now that much of the competition is eschewing sixes of any persuasion in favour of turbocharged four bangers. Indeed, I'm a fan of that number of cylinders, whether they be mounted in a line, a V, or a "boxer" configuration.

A six is a return to form for Mazda, too, since the CX-9 started life as a V6 and then – like much of the competition – they downsized the cylinder count and added a turbocharger. That turbo four is a peach, and offered plenty of torque for such a large vehicle. Now, that turbo is available in smaller Mazdas, too, such as the CX-5 and CX-50. My best friend has it in his CX-5 and loves it. more...

Jim Bray at his most oafish

Keeping your wheels turning on summer roads requires only some common sense

a special TechnoFile rant

Now that summer is here and many folks are preparing for their vacation road trips, it might make sense to ensure your vehicle will get you where you want to go.

This might seem like a "duh" moment, but it's easy to forget to take a few seconds to give your vehicle the once over – twice, if necessary – to see that it's up to snuff and the chances are minimized that you won't get to your destination, let alone back again.

What can a motorist do without having to break the bank by heading over to your favourite mechanic's?

Well, wouldn't you know, the British site Road Angels, which says its raison d'etre is making "Britain's roads safer through educating and empowering motorists to make more informed decisions about their driving," has come up with a quick list of six things you can do – and if you decide to surf by their site and partake of their various offerings of dashcams, radar detectors, parking aids and the like (available on their site in various currencies including whatever pittance the Canadian dollar may be worth these days), they'd probably be even happier.

Meanwhile, here's what the Road Angels (as opposed to Road Apples, I imagine) recommend, with my comments added. It deals with basic maintenance – stuff so basic that even I could do it, and I'm about as tech-challenged as most people; heck, I can barely check the oil in my A4 thanks to its weird dipstick. But I digress.

First up, they point out that "keeping an eye on oil levels and engine coolant throughout the sunny days will help ensure cars remain cool and prevent them from overheating." This is usually straightforward unless you have a weird dipstick and only requires a paper towel or two and an ability to read the scale on the dipstick.

Now, some cars don't have dipsticks and do the check electronically (I remember some Porsches were like this), so if you're poring over the engine compartment and the dipstick's location doesn't leap out at you (it's generally right on the engine and fairly obvious), you might have one of these vehicles. In doubt? Check your owner's manual. more...

National Lampoon's Vacation

Warner Brothers unpacks National Lampoon's Vacation for 4K disc

Director Harold Ramis unleashed Chevy Chase and his family's first cinematic vacation on an unsuspecting public back in 1983 and now Warner Brothers, as part of its 100th anniversary celebration, is unleashing it again, this time on 4K disc.

The movie, which if movies can do such things, is also celebrating its 40th anniversary and it was a pretty big hit when it came out. I have to admit, however, that I didn't find it particularly funny back then, despite having been a fan of the National Lampoon magazine and the original Saturday Night Live. And Harold Ramis, of whom I'd been a fan since his days with SCTV.

I'm glad Warners sent me this new 4K disc to review, however, because upon seeing the film decades later, I found it a lot funnier than I had remembered.

In fact, I laughed out loud several times during the opening half of the movie – though I also think it kind of runs out of comedic steam toward the end and I didn't laugh much during later scenes. On the other hand, I experienced extreme jealousy seeing Chase and the "family" joined by the late John Candy on a whole bunch of neat roller coasters when the finally got to Wally World. I'd have volunteered for that!

The movie was written by John Hughes before he was "John Hughes" (by which I mean the famous director), apparently based on a short story of his. It tells the tale of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), an ordinary guy who's planning a special, once in a lifetime (unless there are sequels…) family vacation, driving in their brand new (and awful) car from their Chicago home to California's Wally World, a typical but in this case imaginary theme park.

The Griswolds are a nice family. Clark means well, which is all that matters to liberals, but he's rather inept. Ellen is a good wife and mother, though the trials and tribulations through which she and the family go are enough to strain the strongest of relationships.

They finally get to Walley World, but of course their troubles don't end there. more...

Honda Accord

New Accord continues Honda's flagship car's overall excellence

Honda's Accord has been a winning choice for car consumers for decades, and this new, 11th generation promises that great ride in the marketplace of life will continue for at least a few more years.

That's a good thing, especially in an environment where some companies are phasing out their cars completely, moving to the SUV market alone. I think this trend is stupid – some companies are abandoning the car vehicle market to the competition, which seems like a pretty lame marketing idea considering pendulums tend to swing both ways and once people are buying cars again some manufacturers will be forced to play catch up.

Honda doesn't have to worry about that, so the Accord and Civic still await discerning customers who prefer their drive to be a little less top heavy than they can get with an SUV.

Anyway, this new Accord is a peach – and I was prejudiced enough by previous Honda experiences to think going in that I'd hate the new generation. Not that previous Accords weren't great cars, it's just that – like many other previous Hondas and some current cars from other manufacturers – I was afraid it was just going to annoy the heck out of me, with their constant and intrusive nannies and the like.

But within a couple of hours, I was loving the Accord – in this case, the hybrid model wearing the "Touring" trim level. Had I had a lobotomy? Had Honda had an epiphany?  Dunno – well, I haven't had a lobotomy to my knowledge – but this new Accord is a great car.

Naturally, it isn't perfect and I found a couple of funny things about it to point out. So, you might as well keep reading!

Besides the great new look inside and out, the Accord is fine to drive, loaded with convenience features (some of which I must admit I could do without), and will probably outlast its owners. more...

Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline Black a nifty small pickup truck

Honda's Ridgeline is a very interesting pickup truck; it's really a mid-sized, two row SUV whose rear cargo area has been replaced by a pickup truck bed/trunk combo that Honda undoubtedly believes makes it the best of both SUV and small truck worlds. 

You could call it a crossover, if that term hadn't already been stolen to describe what are basically SUV's that don't go off road. And since its original launch more than a decade ago, it pretty much had this "near truck" market to itself.

That's until Hyundai and Ford threw down their corporate gauntlets in slow response to the existence of the Ridgeline with, respectively, the Santa Cruz and the Maverick, both of which are also unibody trucks rather than the body on frame types you find with nearly every other pickup truck you can buy.  

It's a pretty neat vehicle, too, if you don't need a "real" truck, and Honda has also stuffed it with handy features such as a lockable trunk that's built into that bed, so you can store stuff you don't want stolen from the bed while you're in the mall. Assuming that stuff fits into the trunk, of course.

You can also fill the trunk with ice and beer, or whatever, for tailgating or picnicking or just travels on the road. It's very cool.

There's also a "dual action" tailgate, reminiscent of the tailgates on those huge domestic station wagons of the 1960's era: you can lower it as if it were a regular tailgate, but it can also be swung sideways in a nice bit of flexibility that I found makes it easier to load stuff into the bed without having to reach across the tailgate – perfect for the paunchy.

In all, it's a well-thought out and comfortable package with a smooth ride and lots of places inside the cabin to store stuff. more...

TechnoFile publisher Jim Bray's print columns are available through the
TechnoFile Syndicate.
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