Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Updated: December 2, 2022

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Roku Ultra

New Roku Ultra – and new Roku services – up the platform's already-substantial offerings

Roku, the streaming device company that's becoming a real power in the streaming services department as well, has a new top of the line player that ups the ante over its predecessor. It also has raised the stakes on its own streaming services, including offering its first "made for Roku" productions.

I'm a fan of Roku stuff and recommend it often to my friends and family when they're looking for a way to cut ever more out of their cable bills. You can get into a Roku for well under a hundred dollars, depending on sales, etc.; their entry level Streaming Stick 4K is on sale right now, according to the Roku home page on the device, for a paltry 50 dollars. I've reviewed this device in the past and found it an excellent performer at a great price even when it sold for $70CAD.

And while it's really all you need, the new Ultra (which, oddly enough, replaces the old Ultra) offers even more performance and features. It lists currently on Roku's Canadian website for $129.99. For that you get a more self-contained unit than with the Streaming Stick (you sit it on a shelf or whatever as opposed to merely plugging it into a vacant HDMI port on your TV). This might sound a little more complex, but it isn't really (other than the shelf space required) because you need to have access to its little box so you can use its USB port to recharge the remote control.

If you're happy with your existing Ultra, this might not be enough of an update for you, but if you're shopping and want a fast and powerful streamer that plays 4K HDR at up to 60 frames per second, this might be your cup of tea.

As always, installation is a breeze. You just unpack it (well, duh!), sit it near your TV, plug it into a power source (a wall plug or power bar, not your TV's USB port) and the TV's vacant HDMI port – and then you fire it up and follow the directions. These directions include having you log onto the company's website to either set up an account or add the new unit to your existing one. And that's about it!

Well, you'll have to add a credit card when you create your account, in case you decide to access premium content such as Netflix, Amazon and innumerable other ones. This raised my hackles way back when I first fired up a Roku, but in the several years since then I've never had a charge on my credit card, cheap bugger that I am, so now I trust the company not to screw me over.

Let's hope that isn't famous last words! more...

War of the Worlds

Paramount releases more classic sci-fi titles on 4K disc

Paramount studios continues to enhance nerdom with a slate of 4K releases culled from classic and near classic franchise films. And in the process, they've given Star Trek fans a healthy dose of new 4K versions of the original series-related movies.

The ones I wanted to see the most were the original George Pal War of the Worlds, and the supposed Director's Cut of Star Trek the Motion Picture. Fortunately, I also got to take a look at the 4K versions of Star Trek V – the Final Frontier, and Star Trek VI – the Undiscovered Country.

Oh, and because Paramount kindly bundled a Blu-ray of George Pal's great When Worlds Collide in the War of the Worlds package, we finally get to see a good hi definition (not Ultra, alas) of this earlier classic.

Let's tackle War of the Worlds first – and I apologize to Paramount and you readers (you know who both of you are!) for the delay. These titles have been out for a while now, but life intruded and I had to take a couple of months away from the home theatre to deal with family issues.

But I'm back now, and loaded for bear – or at least aliens!

War of the Worlds was one of the great sci-fi classics of the early 1950's. George Pal and Byron Haskin's adaption of Barre Lyndon's screenplay diverges a lot from H. G. Wells' original novel, for example it's set in "present day" (1950's) America instead of Victorian England. It also plays with some of the other aspects; for example, the Martian war machines' tripod legs are eliminated in favour of war machines that float over the surface of the earth as if by anti gravity.

That latter is probably as much attributable to the special effects capabilities of the time (it's easier, I imagine, to float the things than to animate three legs on each one – Ray Harryhausen's prodigious talent notwithstanding – and he wasn't involved here). And it isn't as if Pal's war machines aren't terrifically cool anyway.

Anyway, this WOTW is still a classic and I'm glad Paramount saw fit to send it to 4K rather than merely Blu-ray (and why didn't they do this with the accompanying When Worlds Collide, which is arguably just as good a movie, even if it isn't as famous?).

There's probably no need to rehash a plot practically everyone is familiar with by now, either via this film or Spielberg's very good remake, various TV movies and series, record albums, and of course Orson Welles' fantastic radio broadcast that's included here in the supplements.

Quick diversion: I'm really glad they included the Welles broadcast here. I hadn't heard it for many years and upon listening to it again I was struck by just how masterfully he'd pulled it off. The radio play is structured like news reports interrupting an evening of dance music, and I can see how people freaked out about it if they missed the beginning (in which Welles makes it very clear it's basically a Halloween prank). more...

Mazda CX-50

Mazda ups its SUV ante while Jeep supersizes an old friend

Whether you like your SUV and/or crossover to be big and luxurious, or small and sporty, there's an abundance of models from which to choose. And two carmakers famed for either sportiness or utility are offering brand new iterations of the old SUV/Crossover theme.

They are Mazda, with the CX-50 and Jeep, with its new Wagoneer. The first is a sporty little beauty whose existence I don't understand while the second is a huge and hedonistic land barge whose existence I don't understand, either. I'm sure profitability enters the discussion somewhere with either company, however, and that's fine.

Let's look at the Mazda first. I'm a huge Mazda fan (though there aren't really any "huge" Mazdas – the closest you can get is with the terrific, three row CX-9) and regularly recommend them to friends and anyone else who asks because I love their combination of Japanese style and quality and – though they apparently don't use this phrase anymore – "Zoom-Zoom", which means every Mazda can really be considered as a driver's car – even if it's an SUV.

The CX-50 is no different. It's based mostly on the exquisite CX-5, but it "sports" a lower and more aggressive mien. Alas, it also "sports" ugly plastic cladding that makes it seem more utilitarian than fun, even though it isn't, really. But its lower apparent stance than the CX-5 cries out "Zoom-Zoom" more than its brother does, even though that brother is no slouch by any means.

The Jeep Wagoneer, meanwhile, is a huge, V8-powered beast that's guaranteed to have the Thunberg crowd curling up in fetal position. And for that we should all be grateful!

The Wagoneer is an all-new version of a long gone Jeep and, while it may not be as "off-road compatible" as some other Jeeps, it's certainly a substantial urban cruiser. Jeep Canada's sample was a 2022 Wagoneer Series II 4x4, with an initial sticker price (before options) of $80,995. That's a pretty substantial amount of lucre just to get into a Wagoneer but Jeep's sample also contained abundant options that swelled its sticker to $93,175.

The V8 is the standard engine and, besides its lovely noise, it's a, well, substantial power plant as well. Jeep says the 5.7L V8 engine with eTorque cranks out 392 horses and a maximum of 404 lb.-ft. of torque. That's pretty potent power, but you must also remember it's propelling a vehicle that's about the size of a small school bus and can tow up to 10,000 pounds, supposedly. more...

Top Gun Maverick

Top Gun Maverick soars onto 4K disc

This past summer's theatrical blockbuster is now available on a 4K disc, and if you're a fan of the Top Gun franchise, aviation in general, and/or Tom Cruise movies, this one is a must have for the 4K home theatre.

More than 30 years after the late Tony Scott put the original Top Gun into service, Cruise and a group of producers, friends and, I assume, acquaintances revisited the concept. It would have been easy to rehash the original film – just look to such sequels as Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens, for a fairly recent example – but instead Cruise and the producers went for an all new, kind of, story that takes into account the star's age and the changing geopolitical and technological scene.

And for the most part they've done a really fine job of pulling it off. Oh, sure, I found the mission for which the pilots were training was a pretty blatant rip off of the Death Star trench battle from the first (or is it fourth?) Star Wars – which itself was a pretty blatant rip off of the mission in The Dam Busters, but if you can over look that, you're in for a fun ride.

So, I choose to overlook it, though in fairness I must note it.

In this version of Top Gun, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise, of course) is still flying for the U.S. Navy, still a Captain instead of having climbed the ladder in the intervening years. He's a captain because he's a loose cannon, of course, but mostly – we get the impression – because he lives to fly and promotions would saddle him with a desk, as happened to his former colleague Iceman (Val Kilmer).

Fortunately, however, Iceman is still around because Maverick – who's now a test pilot, which makes sense – gets grounded and told he'll never fly again (because of his latest indiscretion). But Iceman bails him out with a gig at the Top Gun school, training the best of the best (though still not as good as him, of course) for an important mission against a rogue enemy's soon-to-be-nuclear facility.

So, he takes on the task, reluctantly, training twice the number of pilots who'll undertake the mission in a kind of "The Apprentice" type of thing where the ones that don't make the cut are, in effect, fired from the mission. more...

Toyota Tundra

New generation Toyota Tundra eschews the V8 for a gutsy turbo six

It's big and it's brawny and its downsized power plants mean it's supposed to offer better gas mileage than before. But is the 2022 Toyota Tundra half ton pickup a big enough step forward to snag sales from a Big Three dominated by Ford's F-150?

Time will tell, obviously, but after my initial week in the all-new Tundra I was left feeling as if it's doubtful.

Now, full disclosure – I've said many times that I'm not a truck guy and this vehicle illustrates why: for a little guy like me, it's hard to get into and out of, and it drives more like a truck than a car or SUV (well, duh!). Not necessarily truck-related are issues such as the trouble I have seeing around its gigantic side-mounted rear-view mirrors, and the Tundra's new LCD screen interface nearly drove me nuts, a testament to today's trend toward eschewing user-friendly simplicity in favour of ever more complex and confusing interfaces that emulate smart phones.

This isn't necessarily a Toyota thing; it's widespread throughout today's carmakers.

But if you have to have a full-sized half ton pickup, this one's worth a look. You can no longer get a V8, like you still can with the North American competition, but its twin-turboed 3.5 litre V6 is a peach. Toyota rates it at "up to" 389 horses, with 479 lb.-ft. of torque and it really does feel like a V8. It even sounds like a V8 (artificially, supposedly, but effectively). There's also a hybrid version available that ups the oomph ante even more.

Both versions come with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It shifts well, but I think a couple fewer gears would make for a better driving experience (though it might cost you some gas mileage).

I didn't actually haul or tow anything during my week with Toyota Canada's sample Tundra CrewMax Platinum L (starting MSRP of $73,350 CAD, and the sample also had the $1,200 Platinum 1794 package), but Toyota claims it'll tow up to 12,000 pounds – a 17.6 per cent increase over the last generation of Tundra – and you can stuff up to 1,940 pounds into it, which Toyota says is up more than 11 per cent compared to the outgoing model.

One thing I liked – though it didn't prevent the Tundra from driving like a pickup truck – is the new multi-link rear suspension. Traditionally, pickups have come with leaf springs "out back", so this more "car-like" method is quite welcome, as is the double wishbone configuration up front. more...

Battle of the Worlds

Battle of the Worlds Blu-ray an interesting example of 'Fettu-cine'

Everyone's heard of spaghetti westerns, but did you know there was also a genre of Italian sci-fi flicks as well?

If not, I point your attention to Battle of the Worlds, a 1961 entry by Antonio Margheriti that stars the late great Claude Rains, star of such legitimate classics as Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia, The Invisible Man, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and so many others. Rains, near the end of his long career, is said in the essay notes that accompany The Film Detective's new Blu-ray, to have taken this role on the financial advice of his wife and, though he does tend to chew the scenery more than a tad in his portrayal of a somewhat mad (or at least antisocial) scientist, he definitely does not phone in the performance.

He's the best thing about this movie which, try as they might, the supplements (an interesting documentary about the filmmaker, a commentary track, and the liner essay), isn't nearly the masterpiece its defenders would like us to think it is.

It's definitely worth seeing at least once, and performs its role as a guilty pleasure quite well. Add to that surprisingly great special effects and some legitimate humour and you get an 82-minute experience in the home theatre that just may make you glad you invested that time.

The story, or at least the science of it, is absolute twaddle. It's kind of a mishmash of When Worlds Collide and Mars Attacks!, with a dose of "First Men in the Moon" thrown in for good measure.

The story sees Dr. Fred Steele (Umberto Orsini) and his main squeeze Eve Barnett (Maya Brent) working together at some unknown astronomical station on some tropical island. They plan to leave together the next day to start a life together, but suddenly appears in the sky a rogue planet – nicknamed The Outsider – that's on a direct collision course with Earth.

Except it isn't, according to scientific patriarch and general old fart Profession Benson (Rains). He said it's only going to pass by Earth and leave it unharmed. Naturally, no one else believes him – until suddenly the planet confounds the lot of them by entering orbit around the Earth. Benson figures the Outsider must be under alien control and he calls on the world's leading bureaucrats to blow it out of the sky while they have the chance. more...

Ford Maverick

Ford hopes to garner new sales with its Maverick truck

Ford has long been the "king of trucks'", at least when it comes to overall sales of its long-time top seller F-150. But the company is heading in a new direction with its brand-new Maverick, a pickup truck that isn't built like most other pickups.

The Maverick is more like Honda's Ridgeline than the F-150, or its smaller sibling the Ranger. This means that, rather than being built "body on frame" the way most pickup trucks are, it's a more car-like unibody arrangement that may not be as robust as the "dedicated" pickup trucks, but which brings its own delights to the equation – for instance, in overall driveability.

It's a rare combination in pickup trucks. Besides the Maverick and the Ridgeline, I can only think of one other such truck/car combo and that's Hyundai's new Santa Cruz, which I haven't had a chance to see – let alone drive – yet.

So, the Maverick competes in a small niche. How does it do?

I thought it was terrific. Now, I'm not a truck guy and never will be, but within about a minute of having picked up Ford of Canada's sample Maverick, I was impressed mightily by how it drives. It drives more like a car – or, I guess, an SUV – than a truck, and to me that's a really good thing.

Most of the "regular" pickup trucks in which I've had seat time don't drive nearly as well as the Maverick. Plus, the full-sized ones are hard for me to get into (and out of without face planting) unless they come with running boards – and, once you're inside, you'll find that most of them chitter along, the rear end sliding over frost heaves, speed bumps, and the like. It isn't a great driving experience – but it does boast a lot of utility. So, if you need lots of "heavy duty" utility, the Maverick probably won't be your cup of tea.

But if your hauling needs aren't as robust, or as frequent, you might find a truck like this could be just what the doctor ordered.

Assuming you still trust doctors… more...

Toyota 4RunnerToyota 4Runner TRD shows its true off-the-asphalt worth in Elk Valley jaunt

If you're heading out to the boonies, away from civilization – or even pavement – a vehicle like Toyota's famous 4Runner can help ensure you get where you're going – and then back again.

And this off-road-averse writer and a trio of others just proved it.

Utility vehicles aren't my favourite type of conveyance (better than public transit, though!), but I recently had an opportunity to learn just how great that utility can be under the right circumstances. And before I get to recounting our adventure, I'd like to thank the folks at Toyota for stepping up and lending me a vehicle for the purpose. 

It was the 4Runner with the TRD Sport option package, a vehicle I had reviewed previously here, a $53,480 atavism that may not be the most compelling or modern vehicle for city or highway driving, but which sure felt its oats when we left the pavement and headed out to recreate a trip we'd made nearly 40 years ago.

That 1985 trip, made when we lived in Elkford, B.C. and owned and operated a restaurant in the area, was to celebrate my 33rd birthday with a lovely family-and-best-friend picnic at the gorgeous Elk Lake Park in southeastern British Columbia.

This beautiful place features a mountain lake below a glacier and is one of the most picturesque places I've ever been. Kind of like a much smaller and less accessible (and unspoiled) version of Lake Louise.

We had a wonderful day there but, on our way out, ended up bottomed out and stuck in a big mud hole, where we were forced to spend the night, listening to the howls of wild beasties while my youngest son, five years old at the time, bleated "can we go home now?" or words to that effect. That tore at our heartstrings but, being stuck and immobile, there wasn't much we could do about it till the next day when my friend and I started walking back out until we found some campers with a winch on their truck and begged them to save us.

Fortunately, they did, and we're here to tell the tale. more...

Dumbledore etc.

Dumbledore's secrets reveal their 4K glory in new disc release

The Potterverse is back with the third in the "Wizarding World" movies in a new 4K disc package from Warner Brothers. I'm not sure why (other than profitability reasons) these "prequels" exist, but they do and that's that.

So, we have Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, where it appears the long-time Hogwarts' headmaster (though he isn't yet in that position) has put together a kind of Justice League-type group of witches/wizards/muggle to help fight for truth, justice, and the Wizarding Way.

It appears that Grindelwald plays a part eerily similar to that of Lord Voldemort in the Potter stories – the evil wizard who wants to take over the world, including attacking the world of muggles and bringing them under his tyrannical rule. He's like a Bond villain with magical abilities. Kind of appropriate that Mikkelson (le Chiffre in Casino Royale) was cast.

Hence Dumbledore (Jude Law) and his rag tag band of little friends riding to the eventual rescue – but not before Grindelwald steals his way into power via a fixed election thanks to some corrupt "magical movers and shakers" in a manner reminiscent of how Biden was installed in the real world. In fact, there are some delicious homages – whether intentional or not – to today's real-world situation, though fortunately we don't get beaten over the head with Hollywood ideology. more...

Audi A4In praise of older cars

I have a soft spot for older cars, simpler cars, cars that are more fun – and less annoying – than many, if not most, of today's. Does that make me an atavism, or a Luddite?

Maybe. But if so, I wear those badges proudly. Here's why:

Cars today may positively bristle with lots of new features and the like, but I think they've also lost something, and that means they're not giving as much enjoyment as they could to those who truly love to drive and who don't particularly want to be beaten over the head with the technology.

It's a shame, but it also may be leading people to hold onto their older cars longer. And I think that's great, in a sad way.

I love driving cars. That's why I started writing about cars in the first place, so I could live, Walter Mitty-like, the fantasy of driving a wide range of vehicles of different makes and class.

And it's been great! One thing I've noticed over the past several years, however, is that carmakers are making their vehicles less compelling – to me, anyway. By this I mean they're adding so much crap – nannies, connectivity options, supposed safety systems, and the like – that I'm finding it less and less interesting driving many of today's supposedly state-of-the-art vehicles. I want to drive, not be driven nuts. Well, more nuts. more...

Toyota RAV4 TRD

Toyota's top selling RAV4 gets an off-road update for 2022

One of the first "cute utes" has, after decades, shed the "cute" aspect and is apparently upping the "ute" ante to make the vehicle an even more compelling choice for those who eschew asphalt periodically.

It's the RAV4 TRD, which stands traditionally for "Toyota Racing Development," not something one would necessarily connect with a compact ute like the RAV4, but Toyota has a long history of adding TRD trim to a variety of its sporty and non-sporty vehicles. And with varying results of sportiness.

And that's on top of an abundance of other RAV4 trim levels, from entry level to hybrid – 16 of them in all!

The RAV4 has been a top seller for the Japanese brand as the marketplace, alas, moves from cars to utility vehicles. Through its successive generations it has matured into an excellent vehicle that – as is typical of Toyotas – may outlive its owners.

My wife and are haven't been immune to its charms, either. Full disclosure: we own a 2013 RAV4, which is early in the previous generation and, while I'd rather be driving something a tad more fun (regular readers know I rant about Mazdas) and in this niche the CX-5 would be my go-to SUV, except that at the time we were shopping we couldn't find one in our price range that wasn't bagged. But my wife wanted a RAV4 anyway, so, we have one and are very happy with it. more...

The Batperson

The Batman and The Untouchables – two crime fighters arrive on 4K disc

Who would you want protecting your city: the Caped Crusader or a G-Man and his team?

Well, I suppose it depends on the movie in which you find yourself, which brings up a couple of new 4K disc titles, each of which is worth seeing for mostly different reasons.

First up is The Batman, the hot new title sent to me by Warner Brothers. Yeah, they've taken another dive into the stuff whose rights they own, bringing a whole new Batman and a whole new feel to the guy.

The other is The Untouchables, director Brian De Palma and writer Douglas Mamet's cinematic version of the old TV series starring Robert Stack. I never saw that series, but I do like the movie – very much. In fact, between these two, I'd pick Untouchables every time. It's a tad more graphic in its depiction of violence, but overall a better story and a better movie.

Not that The Batman, directed and co-written by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes reboots), isn't worth your time – even though, at 176 minutes, it's going to require a lot of it – too much, in fact. more...

The Man Who Shot Lilberty Valance

Paramount releases a Classic John Ford western on 4K disc

This is not your average Western! And it isn't your average 4K disc package, either.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a classic western from John Ford, one of the last major outings for the four-time Oscar winning director (at least, that's what they say in the generous extras that come on the included Blu-ray disc). It features a cast of big names and small names – journeyman actors all, and all combine to create a believable and compelling drama. Warts and all.

Yet nowhere in the movie or its supplements – except for a brief teasing mention at the end of the original theatrical trailer – does the Gene Pitney hit song appear. I almost cried myself to sleep!

Anyway, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance pairs James Stewart with John Wayne, apparently for the first time together. Stewart plays Ransom Stoddard, Attorney-At-Law, a wet behind the ears dude who follows Horace Greely's advice to "Go West, Young Man" and heads to the town of Shinbone to hang out his shingle.

Before he gets there the stagecoach on which he's riding is attacked by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin, in a deliciously evil performance) and his gang, and Stoddard is beaten up and given his first lesson in the law of the jungle that prevailed in the territory at that time. Once in Shinbone he's befriended by most of the locals, including the lovely Miss Hallie (Vera Miles) who just happens to be the girlfriend of rugged Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), the only man who seems able to stand up to the vicious thug Valance.

This movie has nearly everything. more...

Acura RDX

Acura's RDX a lovely thing to drive

The 2022 Acura RDX is a mostly terrific mid-sized luxury SUV that goes head-to-head with some pretty high-powered competitors from around the world.

The vehicle, now in its third generation, balances luxury and style with performance, while adding Honda/Acura's usual annoyances that try very hard to suck out any of the joy the driving experience might otherwise bring you.

And that's too bad. I've always liked the RDX – it's more my size of vehicle than its big brother the MDX, for example, more like a Porsche Macan compared to a Cayenne. Not that I want you to think the RDX can go head-to-head with that lovely SUV (well, to be fair, I haven't driven a Macan since the model first came out, so Porsche may have ruined it as well, though I doubt it), I'm just putting it into market perspective.

Actually, a better comparison might be to Lexus' brand new, second generation NX, which I reviewed here. It's ironic, in a "there's just no pleasing some people" kind of way because I liked driving the RDX better than the Lexus, but I'd rather live with the Lexus.

A big part of the reason is the damn trackpad Acura has decided to inflict upon its owners – just as Lexus starts getting rid of its version of the abomination. Trackpads are finicky and require you to take your eyes off the road far too much.

Oh, sure, there's voice recognition and activation, but I think it's going to take several more years for such systems (not just Acura's, but most – if not all – of them) to really become useful.

Why not just make things simple? more...

Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline - a niche pickup truck that's getting some competition

Honda's Ridgeline, Black Edition, is the top trim level of Honda's pickup truck, and it continues the company's tradition of offering an unconventional, car-based choice in a market dominated by "body on frame" trucks.

It must be working, because after over a decade of being alone in the marketplace, the Ridgeline is finally getting some competition for your pickup truck budget: Ford's Maverick and Hyundai's Santa Cruz. I haven't driven either, but I've driven the Ridgeline several times, in both of its generations, and have always liked it a lot.

Oh, it suffers from the Honda-isms that drive me nuts these days (stick around and I'll whine about them yet again), but on the whole it's a great vehicle – a modern-day interpretation, you could say, of such oldies but goodies as the Rancheros and El Caminos. Except it's also a real truck rather than just a two-seat car with a bed.

Now, I'm not a pickup truck guy and never will be, which may be one of the reasons I like the Ridgeline: it's more of a car/SUV than a traditional truck. Think Honda Pilot with a bed. That means that, unlike the old Rancheros et al, you get seating for five. It also means that, unlike traditional pickup trucks, you still get a real, live trunk – and a lockable one at that. In this case, it's in the bed, back near the tailgate.

There isn't a lot that's new about the 2022 model compared to 2021, but there were many changes and upgrades last year and the only things I could think of for them to upgrade would be the nannies and other stuff I've grown to hate about a car company whose products I have traditionally loved. Things like no tuning knob for the audio system and an LCD screen on the centre stack that's busy, hard to fathom, and insensitive enough to the touch of a human finger that I mulled bringing in a ball peen hammer to help. more...

Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5 ups its already great ante with new features

Mazda's great CX-5 SUV/Crossover continues to get even better with some upgrades for 2022 that up the performance and comfort antes.

It's my favourite model of the ones in this niche that I've driven – and even in some higher niches in which it doesn't pretend to compete, such as the luxury market. In fact, if you drove it back-to-back with some higher end product such as Lexus, Infiniti and the like, you might just find that the Mazda offers nearly as much luxury, but is easier to live with and more fun to drive.

How can that be a bad thing?

For 2022, those ante updates include adding its i-Activ all-wheel drive across the line, from the base model right up to the one of Mazda Canada's sample, the Signature Edition.

Fans of the CX-5 may notice that for 2022 the vehicle has also received a freshening of its already handsome exterior, with tweaked front and rear ends (wish I could tweak MY rear end!), with the front fascia getting a new "signature wing" extending out from the new grille. The head and taillights are also new, each of the lights featuring horizontally spaced, rectangular LED lights. New aluminum alloy wheels also enhance the vehicle's stance. 

Opt for the GT trim level and the 2022 version also gets you the option of a "sport appearance package" with gloss black finishes and an interior with red accents and stitching. Not a big deal, for sure, but still nice.

The Signature model also ups the appearance ante, with body coloured exterior cladding with bright silver-finished wheels. The interior is appointed with premium quality materials such as Nappa leather and real wood. more...

The Godfather

Newly redesigned Lexus NX 350 a larger and nicer luxury SUV

I may have a new favourite Lexus and, risking being struck by lightning, it's an SUV!

Last year I was impressed mightily by the new IS 350, which is a really nice sports sedan as long as you don't drive it like a sports sedan. And, being a car guy and not particularly an SUV guy, I really wanted to love it. If Lexus updates it with the new stuff they've crammed into the NX, I might love it again.

But in the meantime, wow, this is one really nice SUV and, unlike some other Lexi I could mention, it's also a relative blast to drive, with an honest to goodness Sport (and, even better, Sport +) modes.

And even better: they've dumped that horrible trackpad on the centre console that I've complained about ever since they introduced it several years ago. more...

The Godfather

Toyota Sienna minivan continues to impress

Can a minivan be sporty?

Well, I guess it depends on your definition of "sporty," but the current Toyota Sienna comes as close to being a "sports van" as any I've driven over the years. Oh, Porschefiles and aficionados of stuff like "Zoom-Zoom" may not find it truly sporty, and in the grand scheme of things it probably isn't, but I find it quite amazing just how driveable this minivan is.

Even with a damn CVT transmission!

Sportiness is probably not something most minivan shoppers seek out, but if you can get it and you enjoy the art of driving, why not? more...

The Godfather

Coppola's Godfather trilogy gets a new birthday suit for its 50th

Paramount Pictures has given one of the most honoured films in Hollywood history – and its two sequels – a new lease on life thanks to a meticulous 4K restoration of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy. And, especially if you don't own the movies already, it's definitely worthy of your time.

I'm not going to get into the storylines of the films, which have been discussed ad nauseam, but rather I'll go over this terrific new five disc set (four 4K discs and a Blu-ray full of mostly great extras) so you can know what to expect from it.

I didn't remember the third movie that well, and it seems as if a lot of people had a really good time dumping all over it when it came out so many years after we assumed the saga had ended. I remember thinking it was better than many folks had made out – of course, one person's feast being another's famine – but it wasn't as memorable as the first two.

Now, however, Paramount has given Coppola a chance to rethink that third feature and the result is the re-edited The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, which is now the "official" third film in the trilogy's set. more...

Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester Premier a very nice vehicle – but it isn't without its annoyances

The Subaru Forester was arguably the company's first SUV, though it may have seemed more like a tall wagon than a Sport Ute. Since then, the company has expanded its SUV offerings, but the Forester is still around and there are still a lot of things to like about it.

It's still my favourite Subaru, in fact, one which I would have put one on my short list back in the day had I been in the market. And the stuff that made that Forester so compelling then are still there: symmetrical all-wheel drive, good ground clearance, plenty of storage/hauling space and good driving dynamics.

This current model is the fifth-generation of Forester and Subaru unleashed it on the marketplace in 2019. Typically, this means it's time for a mid-cycle refresh and that's exactly what Subaru has given it. There isn't a lot that's new, but the tweaks include a new bumper and headlights, a redesigned panel under the rear bumper and new trim around the rear window.

You also get some new materials and colours – at least you can on the top-line Premium trim level of Subaru's sample.

But this stuff is really just gilding the lily – and adding marketing opportunities for Subaru – for what was already very nearly a great car, er, SUV. more...

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