The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada recently held its annual TestFest, a three-day session of driving, analyzing, and rating new vehicles on the Canadian market.
For 2019, the event was once again held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and involved 77 vehicles in 12 distinct categories, ranging from small cars to premium electric vehicles. AJAC journalists from across Canada rate the vehicles, and when the tabulations are completed, AJAC will announce its Car of the Year, Truck of the Year, and Green Vehicle of the Year.
There was something for everyone’s taste and pocketbook at TestFest and listed here are some highlights.
Situated in the Sports-Performance category, GM’s Ponycar was represented by an RS model coupe with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. Obviously not as quick as its V8 brothers, the 275-horsepower four provided adequate power and with the turbocharger engaged offered smooth acceleration. The car handled and stopped well with its heavy-duty braking and suspension with the optional track performance package and 20-inch wheel/tire package.
Inside the Camaro came with a flat-bottomed steering wheel, well-placed controls, and comfortable seating. Although the car’s windows are small, vision was good except for at the rear, and there was no wind buffeting with the windows down at speed.
A sensible package for everyday driving, the Camaro RS listed out at $35,510.
The I-Pace is the British auto-maker’s answer to the Tesla. With blinding acceleration and typical Jaguar handling and brakes, this car (cross-over?) offers a driving range of close to 400 kilometers.
But as with any Jaguar, the I-Pace is meant to be driven, and this spirited driving will certainly drain the batteries. A pair of lithium-ion batteries provides the juice to two electric motors with a combined power output of 394 horsepower and 512 lb-ft of torque. The acceleration is outstanding – smooth and never-ending. The I-Pace rides on 22-inch rims and weighs in at 4700 pounds. This is the car used in the single-make eTrophy Series which tours with the Formula E open-wheel series.
With dramatic but subdued styling, the I-Pace is smooth and quiet. The front of the cabin is roomy for two, but back-seat passengers will suffer. Vision out the rear window is quite limited. Fit and finish is typical of Jaguar Land Rover – restrained and elegant. The car has won many awards since its introduction in 2018. Base price is $96,500, and the tester at AJAC came with a price tag of $114,790.
The much-anticipated Jeep Gladiator pickup is now available. This is a four-door, five-passenger truck which takes its looks like the present Jeep Wrangler and comes off appearing somewhat like a mini Hummer. The Gladiator name has been resurrected by FCA, which was a full-size pickup built from 1962 until 1988 by Willys, Kaiser, and AMC before FCA took over the iconic Jeep brand.
On hand at TestFest was the off-road ready Rubicon version, and with its Jeep DNA, proved once again that there is nothing like a Jeep for off-roading adventures. With a 285-horsepower V6, the Rubicon tackled everything thrown at it on some rough and muddy snowmobile trails. The Rubicon looks aggressive but can walk the walk. It is certainly Jeep tough, and to go along with that toughness is a hard ride, plus getting in and out was not easy.
Inside the sight lines are adequate, the dash and console are very busy with gages and controls, and the package offers a quasi-military ambiance. Base price is $52,495, with a price tag of $68,000 for the Rubicon tested.
There are several entries into the expensive sports-car-based SUV market, but the Cayenne is the benchmark for the Range Rovers, Maserati Levantes, and others. Introduced in 2002, the German-bred SUV has been continually updated and refined.
Porsche provided TestFest participants with a Cayenne S, powered with a twin-turbocharged V6 of 2.91-liters, 434 horsepower, and 406 lb-ft of torque. Transmitting this power to the all-wheel drive system is an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission. Even with a weight of 2020 kg (4453 pounds), the Cayenne offers all you will ever need for power. The throttle response is excellent, the shifting is seamless both up and down, and the braking and handling are tight, refined, and befitting of the make’s sports car heritage.
Inside, the driver position is excellent as is the roomy passenger space in a cabin offering subdued quality. Visibility is not the best, and the controls and switchgear are very daunting. The center console is intimidating with many buttons and knobs for operating the vehicle. The S version starts at $92,000, and as tested here listed out at $121,260.
Volvo V60 Polestar Engineered
This may seem to go against the corporate grain, but the V60 Polestar provides the typical family-oriented, safety-conscious, solid-as-a-rock characteristics we expect from Volvo. But
under the hood of this cleanly-styled hybrid station wagon lies a 2.0-liter engine with both a supercharger and a turbocharger. Adding to this is an electric motor and the combined power plants can produce 415 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque.
So, with this car you can have both worlds – eco-friendly driving on the lithium-ion batteries for about 20 miles before a charge is needed, and spirited road driving in what you would expect from an Audi or BMW sedan.
The Volvo’s engine drives the front wheels and the electric motor the rear wheels, and with 22-inch rims and Polestar-engineered suspension and Akebono brakes, this wagon is a great package of performance, quality, and versatility. Base price for the V60 is $82,300, and $84,350 as tested.