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APA at the AJAC Car of the Year TestFest 

Held in October at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, the Auto Journalists of Canada (AJAC) TestFest gathered the 34 individual new or significantly updated new models submitted by manufacturers for consideration for the title of Car or Truck of the Year. This year, sixty-five AJAC members attended the four day event and submitted ballots which will be compiled to determine which cars win the individual vehicle categories and the overall Car and Truck of the Year titles.

Here are some impressions of the most significant new vehicles driven by the APA's Ron Corbett during TestFest.

 

Sharp new Cruze hatchback. The building in the background held the treasure trove of keys for TestFest 

This year the Cruze adds a hatchback body style to its model range which adds an element of versatility to what is already a very competent car.  

 

The Impreza is all new for 2017

The redesigned Impreza is built on an all-new platform that will underpin all future Subarus. Production has moved from Japan to the U.S. for this newest version of the model. Styling and performance are similar to the outgoing model and the cabin is roomy, comfortable and nicely finished.

This Fiat 124 Spider is built in Japan by Mazda

Built by Mazda in Japan, the 124 is a spin-off of Mazda's MX-5. The name, and some exterior styling details echo the iconic Pininfarina-designed 124 Spider that debuted for 1966. Except for some unique elements, like the gauge shroud, the cabin is straight from the MX-5.

Fiat’s 1.4L turbo four needs to be revved to generate meaningful speed, but sounds great. Just like the MX-5, the steering is perfectly weighted, quick and faithfully telegraphs road surfaces back to the driver. Handling is impressive and the ride is firm but not punishing. Driven with the top down on a cold autumn day, the powerful heater and toasty seat heaters kept the driver warm.

 

The Ford Focus RS is one HOT hatch 

The RS is Ford’s aggressive response to the Volkswagen Golf R that is at the top of the hot hatchback class. The 350 horsepower 2.3L turbo four accelerates with gusto and the car has incredibly direct responses and impressive agility. The cabin features a number of unique touches, including elaborate leather and Alcantara trimmed sports seats that favour the ultra slim. 

Bigger wheels and discreet side skirts add a bit of visual elan to the Elantra Sport 

The Elantra Sport is not wild but is less mild than the mainstream versions of the car. Its 1.6L turbo four needs to be wound up to deliver its best, but it revs willingly and moves the Sport along energetically. The more direct feel of the steering, handling and braking don’t come at the expense of any undue harshness and should be adopted as the standard settings on the mainstream car. Sports seats and a number of cosmetic tweaks outside round out the Sport package.

 

The Golf Alltrack receives the "Outback" treatment

The Golf Alltrack is essentially an all-wheel-drive Golf wagon with Subaru-like body cladding and a higher ride height. It is powered by the 1.8L turbo four found under the hood of most Golfs but power reaches all four wheels via VW’s DSG rather than a conventional automatic.

The yellow tape represents the outside boundaries of the Off Road track designed to test the rough-terrain capabilities of the crossover vehicles participating in TestFest 

 

The Buick Envision and Mercedes-Benz GLC

Buick Envision
A harbinger of things to come, the new Envision is the first vehicle assembled in China to be sold by GM in Canada. It shares the architecture that underpins the Cadillac XT5 and GMC Acadia. The 2L turbo four is quick and quiet and the vehicle exhibits a good ride-handling balance. Except for a large swath of overly faux simulated wood on the dash, the cabin is elegant and roomy; cargo volume is less than it is in some competitors.

Mercedes GLC300 4Matic
The GLC is a significant improvement over the GLK it replaces. The 2L turbo four is energetic and impressively refined; it's hooked up to a slick nine-speed automatic transmission. The ride-handling compromise is very well judged. Road and wind noise are higher than some buyers in this segment expect. The cabin is much roomier than the GLK, especially for those in the back seat. Some drivers will find the front seat cushions to be too narrow, surprising as there is ample room in the cabin to make them wider.

The Cadillac XT5 is edgy and elegant, the Lexus RX350 F Sport 3 is just edgy 

Cadillac XT5
The XT5 replaces the underwhelming SRX in Cadillac’s lineup. It's quick and feels agile, but is not as quiet as it should be. The interior is both stylish and luxuriously finished.

Lexus RX350 F-Sport 3
The direct-injected 3.5L V6 sends power to the wheels via a crisp-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. Though it handles well, the ride is on the firm side and refinement, a Lexus hallmark, is lacking. The heavily bolstered front seats on the F-Sport 3 are confining and the space allocated to the driver feels narrow. The rear seat however, is comfortable, with excellent legroom.

The Maserati Levante S is powered by a Ferrari built twin turbo V6 

The Levante is the first crossover utility vehicle built by Maserati. It is designed to compete in a segment populated by vehicles from luxury-sport manufacturers that have hit the jackpot by offering upscale crossovers. The Levante is based on the Ghibli sedan and is powered by a Ferrari-built twin turbo V6 that is fast and sounds great. The air suspension performs admirably, with a supple ride and able handling. The cabin is comfortable and very elegant. The cargo area is a touch narrow but there will be plenty of space to hold your Louis Vuitton luggage 

 

The imposing Genesis G90 is in the foreground, with the elegant Volvo S90 in the background

Genesis G90
Like Toyota with Lexus, Hyundai decided to create a totally new luxury brand for its high-end vehicles. With the Genesis G90, Hyundai has created a sedan so competent that it will alter customer expectations in the segment. However, the G90 enters a carriage class market landscape dominated by high-end crossovers and one where the sedan side of the segment has been totally disrupted by the Tesla Model S, which is now the dominant player.

For the G90 itself, its attributes include vivid acceleration, near total silence, a supple ride without a trace of wallow, and a sumptuous cabin with impressive space -- all offered at a price significantly lower than the competition.

Volvo S90
The second vehicle in Volvo’s surprising resurgence, the S90 is a timelessly elegant luxury sedan powered by a radical engine. The 2L turbocharged AND supercharged four is quick, but lacks the refinement expected at this price. The S90 exhibits a pleasant ride and competent handling. The supple leather, piano black, bright accents, and open-pore walnut trim inside the S90 all combine to define modern Scandinavian luxury. Rear seat legroom is disappointing for a car this big.