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Entries in Driving (17)


Memorable Driving Moments

Have you ever noticed that some driving moments even after countless years remain fresh and crisp in your memory bank. Often these moments lasted for a few minutes, which at the time seemed much longer.

If you are of a certain age, you perhaps remember that Renault had a modest assembly line in St.Bruno on the south shore of Montreal. If by chance back then you were commuting to the south shore of Montreal the 30 (autoroute 30) was in the process of being constructed. But the stretch heading west from the 20 to St.Bruno and Chemin Chambly was completed at the time.

Stretch of highway going nowhere, hardly any traffic at any time, and no urgency to clear snow in winter.

On winter mornings that it had snowed, going from the 20 to the 30 was an interesting experience, of finding the 30 not cleared yet, with literally a tire trail in the snow and a wide expanse of white. It was simple, follow the single tire trail in the snow, and stay a good distance from the vehicle in front of you, while driving in a cautious, safe fashion.

Driving a GM product the tire trail was right sized, driving a Renault the tire trail was slightly wider than the Renault.

There is an appealing aspect to driving in a good amount of fresh, fluffy snow at a reasonable speed, some will blow over the hood, while there is a cloud of snow behind the car.

This particular morning...with fresh unplowed snow on the 30.

There is a Renault in the 30 on ramp in front of the GM car, on the 30 as the cloud of snow behind the Renault is distancing itself from the GM car. The individual in the Renault is gaining speed perhaps to increase the momentum to overcome the narrower track of the Renault or just to have fun.

The Colonel in the GM car gathers more speed to keep up with the cloud of snow of the Renault in front of him in the tire trail.

The thought process:

Going reasonably fast in a tire trail, no other vehicles on the road, stay a distance from the cloud. If anything happens to that narrow tracked Renault in front of you that you can't see, ideally you don;t want to hit it.

As this thought process is evolving, suddenly the cloud of snow in front of The Colonel gets appreciably bigger.

Something happened to the Renault in front of you, get off the gas, don't even think of braking, you have no clue what is under this snow, stuck on a deserted highway in the middle of fields is not much fun.

Whatever happened...the Renault is no longer on the road, in the tire trail, its in the median. The reason for the bigger cloud of snow as it flew off the road.

Back then cellular phones were a figment of the imagination. The Colonel reaching his office called Renault in St.Bruno to advise them that probably one of their employee was in the median of the 30 a few kilometers from the plant.

Keep in mind that bias belted tires of the day were incredibly slippery on snow compared to radial tires of today.




The Art of Driving

If you remember way back in the day, when cars compared to today were outright dangerous.

Back in the day when seat belts, collapsible steering columns did not exist yet.

Back in the day when if an accident did occur people in the car would go flying all over the interior, risk being impaled by the steering column, or go through a windshield.

Compared to today driving was dangerous, you would put yourself in harms way.

If you remember the demise of muscle cars, was primarily due to insurance companies refusing to insure them. In addition to dropping the compression ratio in 1971.

Back then folks had this innate sense that if anything untoward would occur in a car, you would get hurt, you might go flying out of the car, an encounter with a windshield or dashboard was a real possibility.

The ability to drive, the art of driving was the first defense in being safe in a car.

Fast forward to today...

Vehicles are dramatically safer, with seat belts, air bags, ABS brakes, collision warning, to name a few. In addition to crush zones to absorb the energy of a collision.

It almost begs the question..."how do you get hurt in a vehicle in 2015?" vehicles have become safer, the quality of the driving has progressively deteriorated (being polite) to the point where at times it becomes genuine Wow moments of human inaptitude (being polite again).

Way back in the day there was a mantra "Safety does not sell"...referring to a padded dash. Folks did not want to pay a premium for a padded dash.

Fast forward to today, between the ongoing talk of self driving vehicles, the plethora of safety features in any vehicle, the high demand for safety features. Have we reached the point that "Driving does not sell".

Is driving especially in major metro areas becoming an after thought?

A lost art?



Winter Tires - Revisited

Its that time of year again, its brisk, its fall, and we all know what is coming our way.

Have you noticed that a few manufacturers are already advertising winter conditions to promote the capabilities of their various "utility" vehicles.

Pundits are getting on the winter tire bandwagon for another season, and perhaps we are doing the same thing again.

While the ongoing discussion of rear, front, all wheel drive endures for another season.

Do you need winter tires?

Whatever vehicle you have, you absolutely need winter tires to avail yourself of the best traction in snow and ice.

With all the technology on modern vehicles...

More so that you need winter tires to reap all the benefits of the technology, from ABS, traction control, stability programs.

You are the traction manager...

Absolutely, not the vehicle, you manage the traction of your vehicle...its that simple.

Seeking more information...

Take a look at our search feature for winter tires.

Winter tires mounted on wheels...

Its the easiest way to go from summer to winter tires, as a gearhead you probably have an hydraulic jack and it can turn into a fun exercise to convert from summer to winter at this time of year.




The Joys of Driving

If you are of a certain age you have certainly enjoyed driving, while refining and honing your driving skills. Usually in a car that offered rudimentary safety features at best accompanied by basic handling capabilities.

There was a fun factor about driving such a car, and enjoying the moment.

Back in the day the "wishful thinking" that cars would be better, driving would be safer, and the even more wishful thinking of going faster. Back then you could go pretty fast in a car that would do a good job trying to kill you if anything untoward would happen.

The envelope around the car was "free spirited" a level of creativity was tolerated in most instances. If you can think back to the actual era of muscle cars, where the power under the hood overcame most other components in the car. You can just imagine that some of the activities going on would be interpreted today as speeding, stunt driving, reckless driving, street racing, and so on. 

Lets fast forward to today....

Technology has enabled dramatically safer cars, higher horsepower, better handling, and so on. While the envelope around the car is increasingly "congested / legislated" with little tolerance for creativity.

Did we forget that in our road environment most folks have little interest in actual driving.

With little to no joy...




Driverless Vehicles - 1

We are not fixated on driverless cars, but having the opportunity to travel on the same road with an old school cruise control is a unique way to make intellectual comparisons.

Two weeks and a few days after going down the 401 with an adaptive cruise control, we have done the same road trip with an old school cruise control. One experience being fresh in the memory bank, its almost instinctive to make comparisons.

Here is the deal

  • From our perspective with an adaptive or old school cruise control obvious that you need to be more aware with the old school cruise control.
  • At one point a straight truck as we were starting to pass started moving into our lane, brake to scrub off speed, honk the horn, and finally the truck gets back in its lane. Good chance the driver of the truck dozed off momentarily. You have to wonder if an adaptive cruise control would have caught the truck moving over?
  • At another point a small car without checking its rear view mirrors abruptly pulls into our lane to pass a truck. We scrub off speed which an adaptive cruise control would have done. What do you do after a vehicle almost jumps in front of you to pass a semi. The "monitored" adaptive cruise control is now being controlled by the vehicle that jumped in its lane. The old school "driven" cruise control would probably make sure that the car that jumped in front got a clear message.

With a monitored car (adaptive cruise control)

  • Easier to let the vehicle deal with the traffic bubble around it.
  • Some sort of reassurance that you will not rear end anyone.
  • Not as easy to create passing opportunities when there is lane congestion.

With a driven car (old school cruise control)

  • Much easier to pass since the driver controls the distance not the technology.
  • A higher sense of control than being controlled by the envelope around the vehicle.
  • Easier to create passing opportunities when the lanes are congested. 

These drives are usually uneventful which is the ideal monitored car mode, when events out of your control do happen, its almost instant. Still wondering if the technology in a monitored car would have caught the truck changing lanes with the car in the next lane?

We could entertain an interesting discussion, and perhaps even lenghty. It struck us doing the same travel on the same road we should share our thoughts and observations.



The Strada Walk 

Are we on to something new with a walk around, especially that one increasingly hears about having really important meetings while talking a walk...walking.

Lets see what is on our minds this morning.

Triple Crown

Yes we have an affinity for horsepower, and it was exciting to see American Pharaoh win the Triple Crown at Belmont on Saturday. Fascinating that Penny Chenery was in the stands. If you watched the previous 2 races, Espinosa the jockey changed strategy for Belmont, take the lead, and extend the lead in the stretch.


Its surprising that no one has yet caught up to whatever advantage Mercedes has, all the talk about Ferrari having a additional horsepower. Agreed Montreal was buzzing all of last week with a ton of F1 activities.


By now you know that we have a Ram Big Horn with an Eco Diesel. This pick up is very economical, surprisingly economical. The thought that crossed our minds "If Mercedes-Benz actually builds a pick up it will be a close to this Eco Diesel"

Behind Closed Doors

These past few days we have been reminded of all the activities that go on Behind Closed Doors, and how discreet everyone is about the decisions and out comes. You have to ask pointed questions and even then...


Way back in the days of "mechanical cars" being a good driver was an aspiration. Today with vehicles full of technology, driving is a required evil to get around. Yes...self driving cars might do a better job.




How Cars Drive

Over the past few years we have reviewed over 100 different vehicles, be it cars, SUV, CUV, pick ups.

They are all good vehicles, although we might find something that is not to our taste, other folks will find it to their liking, we are all different. They are all good...each vehicle in its own way is a good vehicle.

As individuals we all have our personal preferences on how a vehicle should drive, and we have our own preferences on what we appreciate in the way a vehicle drives.

This morning The Colonel is with us lets see if he will share his own personal preferences on how a vehicle should drive.

Q: Colonel, what do you expect from a vehicle, what do you like.

A: I like them all, and they all drive well. Incredible how vehicles are engineered today. know that ABC will drive this way, and that XYZ will drive that way.

Q: We know...but what inspires you?

A: Guys you know that already, a sense of power, a V8 will inspire me the most, a V12 will fire up my imagination. Lately a V6 with a couple of turbos that feels like a V8 is very interesting.

Q: We know that you have a a preference for sedans.

A: Yes I do, they are practical. Although a sportier car is also fun.

Q: So it would be a V8, sedan, with an automatic, with a good feel...can you define good feel?

A: What do I understand as a good feel. They all drive well, the car with the V8 is usually a little heavier, its rear drive which makes it balanced, and it has a level of "waftability" not how fast it is in acceleration, but how much power it has when you need it for whatever reason.

Q: Its starting to sound like a luxury sedan or darn close to a luxury sedan.

A: Precisely

Q: You want to leasurely cruise down the highway with power to spare.

A: It must be totally effortless...I really mean effortless, comfortable, reassuring.

Q: What do you expect when you get in "apex" mode.

A: Being pragmatic "apex" mode last less than 60 seconds, the entire car must come together instantly and perform flawlessy.

Q: Its sounds like a tall order...

A: It is...but most cars will come together, and perform...agreed some better than other.

Q: You have a thing about brakes.

A: Simple...if there is X under the hood, the brakes have to be at least 2X, and must remain at 2X for a consistent period of time.

Q: As a personal preference you want a sedan with a V8, that is an effortless highway cruiser and becomes a good performer in apex mode.

A: Its that simple, and that complex.

Q: Are you impatient when a car does not perform.

A: What do you think, impatient, unforgiving too. While realising that they are my expectations, my preferences, what inspires me.

Q: Unforgiving...

A: A while back we had a 4 cylinder, turbo, performance sedan, with a manual transmission. The car that most enthusiasts rave was a cool car. I had this feeling that the brakes were not 2X, the moment I confirmed that they were not know the answer.

Q: You persist in saying that cars drive well.

A: Absolutely, a FWD 4 cylinder econobox drives well for what it is...would it make me happy...we know the answer. Surprisingly most cars also keep their composure on rough pavement.

Q: Is it the reason you endure Walter.

A: Put it this way...Walter has a V8, its real wheel drive, it has vented discs in the back, would love to cruise all day long at 2,600 RPM, has a great sound system too. instantly gets in apex mode.




Winter Driving

Last week for the first time this winter season we had an appreciable snowfall on Thursday. We all know the routine, school closures, school bus cancellations, and municipalities to save money perform selective plowing.

You can probably undrestand the selective plowing on the premise that more and more folks are driving around with SUV/CUV/AWD/Pick Ups that plowing should not be an issue.

In addition everyone is going around with an arsenal of technology to improve the winter performance of any vehicles.

While the winter constants remain the same year after year.

Lets look at a few of these:


Obvious that during a sustained snowfall, if municipalities plow once the snow stops they save money while making everyone's driving experience more challenging. Especially when its the snow that packs easily to increase the challenges.


Although most vehicles are full of technology to enable driving in winter conditions, most folks have a limited knowledge of how this technology actually works.


What works best in serious snow conditions is "tall and skinny", what is on most vehicles is "low and wide" you can arrive at your own conclusions. Even with winter tires "low and wide" loses an advantage when roads are not plowed.


We are increasingly reading about self driving vehicles. In the meantime we are not there, and in winter conditions the individual driving is the most important factor. We often seem to forget that the Brain on Board is the most important safety feature.


There are all kinds of snow, the light and fluffy is easy to deal with, the unrelenting fine version which lasts for hours and hampers momentum is more difficult to negotiate. In today's commute realities any snow is totally unproductive.




Managing Winter Driving

A couple of days ago, at the first appreciable snowfall in the GTA, here we are thinking about driving in winter again. 

Lets qualify this, in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) a snowfall of 10 cm turns into a major news event, while the snow becomes apocalyptical...or close. In other parts of Canada, snow, cold, being ready for winter is perfectly normal. Yes...10 cm is not enough snow to even talk about it.

It usually starts the day before, with the habitual warnings of incoming snow, colder weather, wind chill, and it gains momentum as the snow gets closer. 

In the meantime the more motorists are advised and warned of incoming snow, the more AWD vehicles are sold every year, the more disconnected its getting. Its winter, its cold, its snow, its Canada, its normal. 

Earlier this year we shared our thoughts on Winter Tires, and Snow and Technology, so why are we again writing about snow?

Here is the deal:

Most folks seem to forget that its not the vehicle that has an understanding of the medium that its operating in, its the driver that increasingly must manage the capabilities of the vehicle. We reiterate, the driver must manage.

Vehicles are bristling with technology, they can literally control their speed, stop by themselves, however vehicles have no conception or understanding of the prevailing conditions, and what they are driving on. The challenge is that even with all the warnings, most folks remain oblivious to driving conditions, and managing their driving accordingly.

It gets even more interesting when municipalities wait for a specific snowfall prior to clearing the streets. Think about this, if more AWD vehicles are sold, or what looks like all wheel drive vehicles, perhaps it encourages municipalities to clear snow later.

It seems that most folks lose sight that an element of friction is required between the vehicle and the surface its operating on the enable all the technology to function correctly.

Perhaps many folks remain oblivious to understanding, to subsequently be in a position manage the vehicle and their driving in winter. The laws of physics have not changed, a vehicle requires a coefficient of friction between the tires and the surface to be able to steer, stop, and accelerate. 

The driver manages the interface between the vehicle and the prevailing conditions, and surface, not the vehicle, not the technology, the driver manages.





Vroom Room

Good Morning!

from The Atlantic the famous comments from JFKIts Friday, its the Vroom Room, come in make yourself comfortable as usual we have cappuccino and biscotti, join the conversation.

Yes...its also Black Friday and perhaps like us, you are growing tired of the entire Black Friday story line.

One thing is certain we are rapidly progressing towards Christmas.

From when folks would drill holes to lighten components and vehicles, or use smaller gauge tubes like the Birdcage Maserati, or the slow evolution from cast iron/steel to aluminum. At some point carbon fiber became the "unobtanium" to save weight.

Its refreshing to see BMW make the commitment to make carbon fiber an obtainable component.

Fascinating when it snows to notice all the CUV's that are FWD (front wheel drive), must be that the station wagon is alive and well morphed into a FWD CUV (goota love the acronyms).

The other day we bumped into a casual conversation with folks doing business in one segment of the auto industry, and after the usual connecting a few dots here and there. We asked what we thought was a simple question about the product these folks sold. Interesting enough never got an answer, so much for product knowledge. 

In the same conversation "We own our used inventory" and "We floor plan new inventory for 6 months, then we pay it off". What a great way to manage inventory...think about this. Reminds you of the "car business" from close to a couple of generations back.

Just in case you missed "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Beth Hart with Joe Bonamassa, also catch the original by Etta James.

Have you seen the "pundits" rear their heads on how old is old enough to drive a vehicle. The thought vector is that at some point folks are too old and too stupid to stop driving, and that "somebody" should do something about it...since its dangerous.

One one side there are self driving vehicles that can stop by themselves, steer by themselves, and so on, and on the other side there are folks that are too old to drive self driving vehicles. Makes for a fascinating discussion.

Impressive photo gallery and results from the Art of the Automobile auction.