Mazda3, over Hyundai Elantra Touring and Kia Forte Koup (and yes, that IS the way they spell it).
John Cox - "Coxy" to everyone who knew him - passed away earlier this week.
On Monday, he had headed down to the lobby of the Colonnade in mid-town Toronto where he lived to buy a newspaper and a coffee, when he collapsed. He died later that day due to an aneurism. As his son Bradley says, "He was always in a hurry to get somewhere."
Coxy was born in London England on May 18, 1931. Prize-fighter, military policeman, male model, race car driver, father, grandfather and party-thrower extraordinaire, he was best known to most as perhaps the ultimate car salesman, flogging everything - literally - from Lada to Rolls-Royce.
But Jaguar was his first love. At various times he owned and/or managed some of the biggest and most successful Jaguar retailers in Canada.
We'll have more on this remarkable man in Wheels next week.
Meanwhile, friends are encouraged to attend what son Brad is calling a "Cockney Wake" (competes well with the Irish version) to be held, he says, in "our" honour tonight - Friday October 30 - at Prego Restaurant, 150 Bloor Street West at Avenue Road, starting at 7 p.m. and ending - well, whenever.
"Flowers are not welcome, tears are understood and laughter is mandatory!" says Brad.
The more, the merrier.
At Test Fest, we basically jump from one car to the next, and drive them on a prescribed route back-to-back within the categories, to make sure we compare them as fairly as possible.
Which means each of us gets into a car after one of our colleagues has driven it.
And two things are really bugging me this week.
First, virtually every car I get into has its side-view mirrors adjusted incorrectly.
Regular readers know the drill; for newbies, you crank them WAY farther out than they taught you in high school driver's ed.
"See the side of your own car," you were told. Why? You know perfectly well where the side of your own car is - IT'S RIGHT THERE WHERE YOU FOUND IT THIS MORNING.
It hasn't moved. No need to keep track of it.
It's what's BESIDE the side of your own car in the adjacent lane that you need to watch out for.
Anyway, apparently most of Canada's car 'experts' don't know this simple rule.
BTW, it isn't just me any more. The Society of Automotive Engineers did a paper a few years ago proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is how to do it.
Second, and this applies to their personal cars as well as their test cars - it's
stunning how many of these 'experts' don't know enough to back into parking spots. This is best because you can see if anything is in the spot as you drive past it to prepare to reverse into it; it is much more dangerous to back out of the spot when you don't - often cannot - see what's coming behind you.
C'mon, AJAC members - get it together.
Tokyo (Motor Show) last week, the Niagara on the Lake Regional Airport (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada Car/Truck of the Year Test Fest) this week.
This past weekend, I didn't know what day it was, let alone what time.
I'm going to try and file tidbits from here as we proceed through what is by far the most exhaustive and comprehensive annual car evaluation process in the universe. Internet access from the site hasn't always been perfect, but we'll give it a try.
There are no airline tickets issued in my name to anywhere in said universe next week; I REALLY promise to use that time at home to catch up on your comments, and to dial up some more umbrage over idiocies like this counter-productive truck speed limiter nonsense.
Fortunately, our various levels of government provide me with endless fodder!
...to newly-crowned World (well, Formula One) Driving Champion Jenson Button, and the entire Brawn team for winning the Constructors' Championship as well.
In their first season as a team? Remarkable.
The story has been well-told, both right here in Wheels and elsewhere, but that doesn't diminish the enormity of what they have accomplished.
A few short weeks before the season started, team owners Honda decided to pull out of the series. I had dinner just this evening with Takanobu Ito, president and CEO of Honda Motor Corporation (name-dropper, name-dropper) and as much as he loves motorsport, he said that at the time it was absolutely the right thing to do, and he has no regrets. His first obligation is to the company, and in the financial situation Honda found itself at the time, no other decision was viable.
Honda did pull off some as-yet undetailed financial fiddle that allowed team manager Ross Brawn to continue to operate the team with a somewhat reduced staff and, of course, no engine.
Brawn - one of the most impressive people it has ever been my pleasure to meet, at last year's Montreal Grand Prix (name-dropper, name-dropper) - somehow convinced Mercedes-Benz to sell him some engines, stitched together a team, and proceeded to blow the field away during the early part of the season, starting with a one-two qualifying and finish at the first race in Australia.
Button piled up an (as it turned out) insurmountable lead in the first half of the season, and while he seemed to have lost the plot at that halfway point, generally being out-driven by his older teammate Ruebens Barrichello, Button still snagged a point here and a couple of points there until clinching the title with that fifth place in Brazil.
Prior to this year, many thought Button was already yesterday's man. He came onto the scene in a blaze of glory as a very young man, but seemed to succumb to the mythic lifestyle of Formula One racing.
The steady and sometimes firm hand of Ross Brawn seemed to do the trick, and Button, always smooth, never seeming to be that fast yet also pretty easy on his car, has rewarded that nurturing.
Mercedes-Benz racing boss Norbert Haug put an interesting spin on the results, noting that for the second year in a row, an Englishman driving car number 22 with a Mercedes-Benz engine finished fifth in Brazil to win the world title. Last year of course it was Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren, except in that case Hamilton had to snatch fifth on the very last corner of the race - the very last corner of the entire season - to secure his title. Button still had another race to go in Abu Dhabi, if he needed it.
Credit must also go to the largely forgotten Honda. Obviously, the team was a lot stronger than its results up until this year had indicated. Brawn himself told me at that Montreal dinner last year that he had been very surprised at the calibre of people that were in place when he arrived. He likened his role to that of a symphony conductor who 'simply' had to get all those talented people on the same page, and turn them into a real team instead of a collection of sub-optimizing individuals.
Big chunks of the US infrastructure are in decay.
Big chunks of the huge government 'stimulus' package are being directed towards fixing this.
But from the 'credit where credit's due' file, kudos to whoever looks after the rest areas (one northbound, one southbound) on Interstate I-94 between Port Huron Michigan and Detroit.
OK, the southbound one is located just north of a prison (roadside signs warn against picking up hitchhikers).
And they consist of just a couple of washrooms with some vending machines.
But the facilities are beautifully maintained, surgically clean, and the hot air hand dryers bearing the brand name 'ExtremeAir' actually blow air in sufficient quantity, at sufficient velocity and of a sufficiently high temperature that your hands actually get dry, although the signs on them aren't as much fun as those on the hand dryers in Tokyo's Narita Airport: "Place wet hands into below pocket. Fully automatic warm air blow gives an instant speedy dry up."
These places absolutely put the corresponding commercial service centres on our side of the border to shame.
The state of Michigan has been hit harder than most in the current economic crunch. But somebody somewhere has the budget and/or the energy to do a great job here.
Some readers have asked about the source of the research upon which I base my contention that hands-free cell phones are no safer than hand-held. Here's one report:
This report in Psychology Matters cites different, newer studies from a variety of sources which essentially come to similar conclusions, although one study differentiates conversations by their 'complexity' - simple calls won't cause the same degree of distraction as more complicated ones, which makes some intuitive sense.
One study mentioned here also delivers the first evidence I've seen so far which does in fact assert that conversations with in-car passengers also cause driver distraction of a dangerous degree.
Now, to show you that we are as always balanced and fair, there is a website that claims hands-free IS in fact safer than hand-held. My reading of their report makes me believe that their conclusions are not based on actual research data, but on their assumptions about what goes on in a car. They also quote a CNN TV report as as source. Hmm-mm - I think I'll stick with Drs. Redelmeier and Tibshirani.
I did my annual presentation to the Canadian Automotive Institute students at Georgian College in Barrie yesterday.
I just gab on about the state of the industry, their prospects for a career,
advice-from-the-graybeards sort of thing.
CAI is pretty much the place to go if you're interested in a career in the automotive business in this country.
Founded in 1985, it was initially the school of choice mainly for sons and daughters of car dealership owners to learn how to manage the family business.
There are still quite a few 'dealership' kids there, but the student body is remarkably diverse, in age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and life experience.
One thing they have in common is a love of cars and a desire to work in the business. Based on the intelligence, enthusiasm and engagement I see there every year, that is a good omen.
One disturbing tidbit came up in the post-presentation free pizza lunch session. The most enthusiastic students (or maybe the ones who either have all their homework done or are skipping classes...) stick around and we chat for another hour or so. Two of the most entertaining and interesting young men were talking about the ban on hand-held cell phones. One mentioned that 'texting' per se was not included in this ban (is that true?) while the other noted that when he texted (is that a verb?) he always held the device up at arm's length over the steering wheel so it remained in his line of sight.
I hope they saw the distraught and disgusted look on my face.
Here are a couple of the brightest hopes for the future of the industry in Canada - in a more general sense, for the future of our country. And they see no problem in texting while driving.
Well, they DO see a problem - they know it isn't the right thing to do.
But they do it anyway.
It brought back to mind what Larry Burns, vice president for Research and Development at General Motors said at a dinner at this past January's Detroit Auto Show: "Young people don't see their personal communications interfering with their driving; they see it as driving interfering with their personal communications."
Is that the modern definition of 'generation gap' or what?
I don't know if any law can top that.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador was the first in Canada (2003) to ban hand-held cell phones, subsequently joined by Nova Scotia, Quebec, and now Ontario. Newfoundland and Labrador's government research suggests the ban has been successful - "distracted driving" as a cause of crashes was down 23 percent in the three years following the ban, according (of course) to the government which instituted the ban.
Studies in jurisdictions in the US however indicate that such drops are temporary, and that as soon as the initial advertising and enforcement blitzes die down, cell phone use rises Phoenix-like to pre-ban levels.
Can Ontario expect to do any better?
The demise of Pontiac put an end to the short life of the big rear-drive G8. At least for a while, they were giving them away at Pon-Pon stores - probably was a great deal, but I bet they're all gone now.
This was bad news for General Motors' Holden division in Australia, because that's where they were built.
A correspondent in New Zealand - yep, do have 'em - sent along this link, which suggests that Holden may get a lifeline.
In case you cannot connect, in sum the story says that the "Holden Caprice" as they call the big long-wheelbase sedan down there has been outfitted as a police car, and presented to North American police forces as an alternative to the soon-to-die Ford Crown Victoria.
Apparently, this represents something like a 70,000 unit per year market, and while fleet discounts do apply, it might mean the difference between keeping a plant open and forcing it to close.
Chevrolet unveiled the Caprice to the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Denver, Colorado last week. It now goes through an evaluation process by various agencies to see if North American cops will find it suitable.
Our (wo)men in blue have always preferred huge rear-drive sedans for their work; they'd love Tahoes even better like the cops on TV get to use, but they're just too expensive for most cash-strapped public jurisdictions.
I've often wondered how police in other countries get by with the smaller cars they all use. Maybe our perps are bigger?
And if the police like it, how far behind will the taxi companies be? You'd have to think that New York City alone would keep a small factory busy.