Our Bi-annual trip to the EMDA Motor Show

Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 18:14
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About every other year or so, K and I like to go to the EMDA Edmonton Motor Show to see what's up. I'm sort of vaguely looking for potential replacements for our two primary vehicles and I always enjoy gawking at the cars in the fantasy category.

Chris's car is an 04 Acura TSX that she has absolutely adored from day one. Her comment after the test drive was "I want this one. Go inside and buy it now". And that's pretty much how it's been; despite looking at newer cars, she's never found one she likes better. It's a good car, lots of doodads for the money and very tidy handling for a 3400 lb FWD car. But it has upwards of 250,000km on it now and it hasn't been as reliable or inexpensive to maintain as its predecessor, a Honda Accord we had for 12 years. Our dealership experiences have ranged from OK to condescending and annoying (I'm looking at you, Southview Acura!) The new Acura styling is definitely not growing on me and their current interior designs are inferior to their past work, so the brand doesn't have much appeal for a replacement for the TSX.

The main complaint we have with the TSX is that the back seat is too cramped. The replacement will have to have a bigger back seat for sure. While nosing around the show today, K and I came up with the same list of potential replacements for the TSX:

  1. Lexus ES350 ($54K) - The most expensive of the group, but also the nicest interior with incredibly soft leather interior and beautiful finish and a feeling of quality to every surface you touch. Being a Lexus, it's handling will be squishy and not nearly as taut as the Acura, but for a step up to a more luxurious and comfortable car, this would be a good choice. 
  2. Hyundai Genesis ($42K) - I've heard and read so many good things about this car, I was anxious to see one in person. Without driving it, what I saw was indeed a worthy competitor to the Lexus. Not quite as elegant inside, but the styling and comfort is an unequivocal hit in my book. Driving reviews I've read are all very positive about this car. Yes "Hyundai" is certainly a wild card in the entry level luxury category, but as a company they are doing everything right these days.
  3. Mazda 6 ($38K) - I really like this car. I debated a long time between the previous 6 and the TSX. Mazda's competition experience really showed through in the 6 and in some ways it handled better than the TSX. The new 6 only improves on that. The TSX won out because I thought that the styling would stay "fresh" longer (I think I was right), the TSX 6-speed manual was superior to the 5-speed in the 6 and because my wife said so.  It looks great (are you paying attention Honda?), making nice use of the current Mazda "design language" and has tons of room inside. All reports are that performance is improved over the previous generation as well. I'd choose this one for the fun factor alone. The interior isn't as nice as the Genesis and well off the standard set by the Lexus, but it's also at lot less dough and truthfully, it's more than "good enough". 

The Suburban is what it is. A big roomy vehicle that can carry all our people and stuff and tow big things behind as well. It's built like a tank and has survived several collisions that have killed off the opponents. It's reliable, cheap to maintain, cheap to insure and still running fine after 375,000km. But the body is getting a bit weary and the interior which was only mediocre when new, has seen better days. 2 of 8 stereo speakers are still working, various little plastic bits are broken and/or lost, etc. So someday it would be nice to update that one as well.

We also managed to come up with a list of three potential replacements for the Suburban. The big question that remains is whether or not we need towing capacity. We sold our travel trailer last spring and don't currently need to tow anything, but another travel trailer or a car hauling trailer is always a possibility.

  1. Chevy Suburban ($60-72K) - Really, it still does the job better than almost anything. The big wins are the amount of rear seat room and the amount of storage space behind the third row seats. Decent towing capacity and OK looks. My big beef on the exterior (and this is true for almost everything now) is that it has huge plastic bumpers where our old truck has heavy steel ones. The old one has been rear-ended 3 or 4 times with no damage. That certainly won't be the case for the plastic ones which will also get all scratched up when you move stuff in and out of the back. Interior is still "meh" but like the old one, I'm sure it will last a long time.
  2. Toyota Sequoia ($60K) - This is a terrific truck. Toyota quality and thoughtfulness in design and execution. Interior room is equal to the Chev and is much more attractive and shows good attention to detail. Third row seat is roomier and easier to get into. Front cockpit area is comfortable and well-laid out. My only negatives with this one are that there's slightly less room behind the third row seats and the exterior styling (esp. the rear) is quirky. I could probably live with that, esp considering it comes better equipped for about $10K less than the Chev.
  3. Ford Flex ($54K) - This is the oddball choice for sure and not just because of the styling which is admittedly ummm... highly subjective. It's the only one of the three that isn't suitable for towing (2000 lb limit - useless) and the only one that is a unit-body style FWD- oriented construction, although AWD is available. That said, for a family travelling/vacation weekend vehicle it has tons of room, clever details like individual rear seat dvd player and seat folding options like a fold-flat front passenger seat. K hates the styling, I think it tilts to the cool side of funky and not the goofy side. With a body colour roof and not white, I could live with it. 

So there we have it. Interestingly the list of  Suburban successors is almost the same as it was two years ago when we picked the Suburban and Sequoia. The thing is that the one we've got just won't die and I have a really hard time giving up on a vehicle that won't give up on me. Maybe in another two years.

ASA Winter Autocross 24-01-10 in-car video

at 11:09

Finally! My first time autocrossing with the BMW 325iX. More snow would have been nice, but I'm starting to get the feel of driving an AWD car in anger. Good learning experience.

This is an in-car video I made with my iPhone from our first ASA Winter Autocross. Despite the recent snow, a good amount of it had blown off the runways. This video is from the afternoon fun runs session; by this time the previous session had cleaned off the racing line so there was good traction available if you stayed in the groove.

The actual video came out better than I expected for an iPhone and considering that my high-tech camera mounting system consisted of attaching it to my rear-view mirror with a bungie cord. That type of improvisation may be spelled "ghetto" but it's pronounced "grassroots". ;)

Car! RedBull Racing nails it again.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 19:36
I'm really pleased that F1 is coming back to Canada this year. I think having a stop in N.America again is good for the sport and I think that hosting an F1 race is good for Canada. For the first time, I'm seriously considering a long weekend in Montreal to take in the race.

Now those genius marketing kids at RedBull are at it again. They recently created and released this video highlighting the return of F1 to Montreal. It's really a nice piece of work that captures the flavour of winters in Canada, showcases Montreal, captures the excitement of racing and promotes their product. Good move.

The only possible complaint is that it features Buemi and his car and not the infamous Kate's Dirty Sister.

Anyway, make sure you view one of the higher resolution versions of this great little video ad.

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