Be­tween the cars we’ve driven and the trends we’ve seen, they can’t all be win­ners

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - DRIVING.CA -

It’s time to pick ve­hi­cles that stood out among the hun­dreds we drove, in this case, the ones that sucked. OK, there are not a lot of cars that are truly ter­ri­ble, but the hype ma­chine is so per­va­sive that we ex­pect ev­ery car to have the ac­cel­er­a­tion of a De­mon, the han­dling of a Porsche, the feel of a Mi­ata and the ef­fi­ciency of a Bolt. So when some­thing is de­cid­edly be­low ex­pec­ta­tions, it can be a huge dis­ap­point­ment and some­thing we have to share.

David Booth: I’m go­ing to sound like a bro­ken record with this choice, but the Tesla Model X I drove didn’t live up to my ex­pec­ta­tions. Ac­tu­ally, check that. It was ex­actly what I ex­pected, the is­sue be­ing that my ex­pec­ta­tions were fairly low.

Be­fore cas­ti­gat­ing Lord Elon again, let’s first ac­knowl­edge the big Tesla’s key strengths. First off, as pretty much ev­ery­body knows, the Tesla is plenty peppy, its in­stan­ta­neous torque pro­duc­tion is to know un­abashed stop­light su­pe­ri­or­ity. It’s not just fast for an elec­tric vehicle or for an SUV. It’s just plain fast.

It’s also pretty darned lux­u­ri­ous, the in­te­rior built with the best of ma­te­ri­als and a keen eye for style. Yes, I know, for the price Tesla is ask­ing, it should be. But darned if it doesn’t fail to im­press none­the­less.

The is­sue is that while the in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als are ex­cel­lent, its in­di­vid­ual bits of ex­cel­lence don’t come to­gether par­tic­u­larly well. My tester, for in­stance, had some tape hold­ing one of the rear doors’ trim bits to­gether. Yes, on a test car for jour­nal­ists. I won­der how many of my fel­low auto scribes — many of them closet Musk fans — failed to men­tion that lit­tle faux pas.

In fact, our tester’s build qual­ity, in gen­eral, wasn’t great. Nor was the han­dling. Yes, the Model X is pretty darned fast in a straight line, but it re­mains as pon­der­ous, if not more so, as any un­gainly gas-pow­ered ute.

The most dis­ap­point­ing thing about the Model X was that I was hop­ing that I’d be at least a lit­tle sur­prised by the Model X. Un­for­tu­nately, it wasn’t to be. If you want a bat­tery-pow­ered sorta-ute, get a Jaguar I-Pace.

graeme Fletcher: The big­gest dis­ap­point­ment of 2018 for me was the front-drive Ford EcoS­port. Any­thing with a name that sug­gests per­for­mance should at least have a hint of some! The EcoS­port has very lit­tle when pow­ered by its light­weight 1.0-litre tur­bocharged three-cylin­der en­gine. It sounds like a bag of ham­mers when pushed to­ward red­line and wheezes when forced to run down a fast on-ramp. It also con­sumes more fuel than its larger sib­ling. The Ford Es­cape with a 1.5-L turbo-four has a posted high­way econ­omy of 7.8 L/100 km; the EcoS­port re­quires 8.1 L/100 km.

Now, if that were the ex­tent of its short­com­ings it could be viewed as be­ing al­most palat­able. Sadly, the not-so-good list touches too many other facets. The plas­tics give plas­tics a bad name and us­ing Ap­ple CarPlay ren­ders the na­tive nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem in­op­er­a­tive, so you must pick one or the other. Most com­peti­tors al­low the use of both. At the back, the side­hinged tail­gate is heavy and if any­one parks within a half-me­tre of the back bumper there’s not enough space to open it. All of this speaks to the fact the Ford EcoS­port was al­ready ag­ing when it was launched in Canada.

Derek Mcnaughton: The sin­gle most sad­den­ing devel­op­ment in 2018 has to be the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana and the po­ten­tial im­pact it will have on driv­ing. Dur­ing a time when so many driv­ers are still grossly dis­tracted us­ing their phones be­hind the wheel — a prob­lem that has yet to be min­i­mized even with the in­tro­duc­tion of stiffer penal­ties — we now open the door to an­other po­ten­tial prob­lem. While drink­ing and driv­ing has been sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced since the mid-1980s (down 65 per cent, ac­cord­ing to Trans­port Canada), the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties in­volv­ing drugs alone is dou­ble those in­volv­ing al­co­hol, ac­cord­ing to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driv­ing). And cannabis, the most com­monly found drug, is present in al­most half of drug-pos­i­tive fatal crashes, the group says.

Last year, the OPP said that more fatal ac­ci­dents were caused by dis­tracted driv­ers than any other factor in 2016. Ab­so­lutely, more re­sources need to be de­voted to dis­tracted driv­ing. And with the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana, more will be needed to com­bat yet an­other form of im­pair­ment on our roads.

Jil Mcintosh: My big­gest dis­ap­point­ment in au­to­mo­tive news is that Ford won’t be bring­ing the Rap­tor ver­sion of the Ranger to our shores. I love the Rap­tor; it’s just so glo­ri­ously over­done, built for high-speed rac­ing across desert dunes or glop­ping through the most chal­leng­ing of off-road cour­ses. And the Ranger Rap­tor would be twice that, be­cause it would be smaller, nim­ble, and prob­a­bly even more fun. C’mon, Ford, let us try it!

As for cars driven, I didn’t have any ve­hi­cles that re­ally let me down, but there are some trends I wasn’t happy to see. One of them is elec­tronic in­fo­tain­ment and cli­mate con­trollers, which re­quire you to take your eyes off the road for too long to find the right screen and icon. Prob­a­bly the worst is Lexus’s Re­mote Touch, which uses a touch­pad to move a cur­sor around the cen­tre screen. It’s tough enough when you’re sit­ting still, but try op­er­at­ing that puppy on a bumpy road. It just ain’t hap­pen­ing.

And I don’t like push-but­ton gearshifts. They were a flop when the Ed­sel had them and they’re not much bet­ter to­day. They re­quire too much of your at­ten­tion, when a shift lever or dial can be op­er­ated quickly and in­tu­itively. And take all those elec­tronic shift levers and kill them with fire. I should not have to push up for Re­verse, nor find a but­ton for Park. I saw a lot more ve­hi­cles in 2018 with these damn things mush­room­ing up from the con­sole, and I know there’ll be even more in 2019, which is even worse.

Peter Bleakney: Here’s a vehicle that Acura should have deep-sixed years ago: the ILX. Acura used to do a de­cent busi­ness sell­ing gussied-up Honda Civics, but the game has moved on. The ILX lux­ury com­pact sedan, based on the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion Civic, tries hard but is about as rel­e­vant as a Black­Berry. Sure, it looks OK, has a de­cent amount of lux­ury kit, and sports a zippy nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 2.4-L four-cylin­der en­gine, but with the new Honda Civic be­ing such a quan­tum leap ahead of this, why pay over $35,000 for a noisy, cramped, stiff-rid­ing relic, no mat­ter how much lip­stick it is wear­ing? I re­al­ize Acura keeps flog­ging the ILX be­cause, well, it’s around and it fleshes out the mar­que’s lineup, but that’s no rea­son for any­one to buy it. clay­ton Seams: The big­gest let­down of the year for me was the need­lessly harsh ride of the Jaguar F-Pace. All the Jaguar ads will tell you that even its most cud­dly CUVs are in­fused with sports-car DNA. Well, I guess I wasn’t aware that the DNA in­cluded the sports car­like ride. I was ex­pect­ing the large-ish CUV to be fairly com­fort­able, but in­stead it rode more like a paint-shaker than a Lexus. I mean, sure, it han­dles bet­ter than any tall hatch this side of a Ma­can, but is it re­ally worth it? In some cars a firm ride is sporty and jus­ti­fied, but in my oth­er­wise splen­did Jaguar it just felt need­lessly harsh. ni­cholas Maronese: I didn’t drive a whole lot of cars this past year, and most, in­clud­ing the 2018 Mazda3 Sport GT, were pretty fan­tas­tic. But if I had to file one com­plaint, it was with the “rec­om­mended gear” in­di­ca­tor on that car’s in­stru­ment panel.

My stick-shift skills are al­ready in need of prac­tice, and the dash­board telling me to shift up one or two gears more than I had to wasn’t any help at all. I’m not alone in this griev­ance, either; while try­ing to search for the of­fi­cial name of this fea­ture, all I could find was fo­rum post af­ter fo­rum post ask­ing “How can I turn that thing off?”

nick Tra­gia­nis: Pretty much ev­ery­one will tell you these days that no au­tomaker makes a truly ter­ri­ble car. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean all cars are in­dis­tin­guish­able. This is why we com­pare them. En­ter the BMW 430i Gran Coupe and Kia Stinger GT.

This par­tic­u­lar eval­u­a­tion was clear cut. Both cars — two en­try-level sport sedans with hatches that put style and per­for­mance ahead of most ev­ery­thing else — were well matched on pa­per. But as we dug deeper, one thing be­came crys­tal clear — to me, at least. BMW might be known as the pur­veyor of the “ul­ti­mate driv­ing ma­chine,” but the 430i fell far short of the Stinger in one key area: price.

As equipped, the Bim­mer fetched just over $60,000 for some­thing with four cylin­ders, 241 hp, driv­ing dy­nam­ics that just ain’t what they used to be, and a lack­lus­tre in­te­rior. But the Stinger, pump­ing out 365 hp from its twin­turbo V6, of­fers vastly bet­ter per­for­mance and in­cludes a long list of fea­tures and giz­mos for just over $50,000, though I will grant that in cer­tain spots the in­te­rior could’ve been a bit more re­fined com­pared to the 430i.

Still, that’s a $10,000-plus dif­fer­ence be­tween the Korean un­der­dog and the Bim­mer. I stand by my choice. Jonathan Yarkony: I drove a lot of fairly or­di­nary cars this year, and while each one mostly de­liv­ered on its mis­sion, there were a few things that re­ally stuck in my mind as dis­ap­point­ing. But one car en­tirely failed to de­liver on its prom­ise.

The GMC Ter­rain sounded ter­ri­ble, was too slow, and had some ques­tion­able in­te­rior pieces for way too much money. The Smart fortwo EQ cabrio ac­tu­ally uses more elec­tric­ity per 100 km than a Nis­san Leaf, Chevy Bolt or even a Tesla Model 3, all of which are big­ger and more pow­er­ful. And the Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tor has in­cred­i­bly un­com­fort­able seats for some­thing that can ad­just in a ba­jil­lion ways.

But those were all mi­nor gripes com­pared to the Lexus RX 350L, which is es­sen­tially a com­plete waste of a model spinoff. Start­ing from the ex­cel­lent and spa­cious five-seat RX, Lexus stuck in an un­us­able third row of seats that eats up a ton of cargo space, takes away quite a bit of the sec­ond-row legroom, and takes for­ever to fold down or raise be­cause of slow mo­tors. It’s the worst ex­e­cu­tion of the one thing that dif­fer­en­ti­ates it from the ex­cel­lent RX 350, which is de­servedly a best­seller.

Ford photo

The an­nounce­ment that the Ford Ranger Rap­tor isn’t com­ing to North Amer­ica was one of 2018’s dis­ap­point­ments.

Nick tra­Gia­Nis

Jaguar F-Pace.

Graeme Fletcher

2018 Ford Ecos­port.

AN­drew mc­credie

Tesla Model X.

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