AJAC EcoRun 2018 showcases latest green vehicles


AJAC EcoRun sign This year’s EcoRun featured 19 green vehicles and several hundred kilometres of driving through New Brunswick. Photos by Benjamin Yong.

The wave of pure electric, hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles continues to get bigger, as evidenced by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada seventh annual EcoRun event held in June.

Taking place for the first time in Atlantic Canada, the intention of EcoRun is to showcase the newest green wheels on sale in dealerships, as well as comparing real-world fuel consumption to statistics published by manufacturers and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

AJAC EcoRun 2018 opening ceremony

“It’s a true joy to be in Moncton today, as this event wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. New Brunswick has obviously embraced eco-friendly vehicles with a lot of charging infrastructure throughout — it’s been the fastest growing electric vehicle market in the country, and one that’s fully connected,” says co-chair David Miller, referencing the availability of not only Level 2 but also Level 3 fast chargers capable of bringing battery energy level from zero to 80 per cent in 30 minutes.

“But this event isn’t just about pure electrics and plug in hybrids. Automakers are doing an admirable job in lowering fuel economy throughout their product lineups, and that’s despite a lot more SUVs and trucks.”

Indeed, the segments represented ran the gamut and included a total of 19 entries comprised of subcompacts, full-size sedans, crossovers and even a minivan. Journalists were assigned six models each, one for every leg of the 570-kilometre journey taking participants from the starting point in Moncton, through several cities, and eventually to Fredericton. Below are three standout examples I had a chance to drive over two days.

2018 Lexus LS 500h

2018 Lexus LS 500h

Lexus’ flagship entered its fifth generation this year, more luxurious than any iteration previous. The hybrid version is especially cutting edge, using a powertrain derived from the LC 500h coupe combining a 3.5-litre V6 gasoline mill and two electric motors to produce a net 354 horsepower.

NRCan rates the LS 500h at 9.1 L/100 km in mixed city and highway conditions, and drivers cumulatively managed 8.0 L/100 km.

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Plus

The plug-in was the third and final piece to arrive in Hyundai’s trio of Ioniq cars that also feature standard hybrid and pure electric offerings. The 1.6-litre internal combustion engine and electric motor are mated to a sporty six-speed double-clutch transmission with optional paddle shifters, giving a bit of an extra kick to the combined 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque output. In zero emissions mode, this Ioniq can travel nearly 50 kilometres on a full charge.

NRCan rates the plug-in at 3.35 Le/100 km in mixed city and highway conditions, and drivers cumulatively managed 3.0 Le/100 km.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Transformed from sensibly styled to sexy new four-door for 2018, the Camry is lower and wider than before and highlighted by a fresh lower grille dominating most of the front fascia. The next-gen Toyota Hybrid System and 2.5-litre four-cylinder Dynamic Force Engine work together to generate 208 total horsepower, and a continuously variable transmission boasts a sport setting that can use battery reserves to boost performance.

NRCan rates the Camry Hybrid at 5.1 L/100 km in mixed city and highway conditions, and drivers cumulatively managed 4.8 L/100 km.

Overall, among all the vehicles journalists managed to achieve an average of 1.59 L/100 km better than NRCan’s official numbers.

Lexus to usher in new era of ES this fall

Pair of 2019 Lexus ES

The 2019 Lexus ES is bigger, lower and improved in almost every way compared to the outgoing model.

The Lexus ES, short for Executive Sedan, has long been admired for its comfort, elegant looks and luxury. Performance and cutting edge style, however, aren’t usually in the conversation when talking about the vehicle. Lexus aims to change this when the sixth iteration of the model is ushered in during the fall, complete with the addition of, for the first time, an F SPORT variant in the lineup.

2019 lexus es side view

Built on an all-new global GA-K platform, the mid-size four door sizes up growing 65 millimetres longer and 45 millimetres wider, while dropping five millimetres in height and gaining a wider track front and rear. The hood is lower and the roofline significantly raked, altogether resulting is a silhouette that is much more vibrant and youthful than the one it replaces.

2019 lexus es grille

The front end is characterized by thin, sharply designed headlamps and a choice of two different spindle grilles depending on the trim level. The 350 and 300h hybrid models receive a vertical-slatted unit, the F SPORTs a blacked out mesh grille made up of a repeating pattern of “L” shapes instead. The latter also adds a rear spoiler, lower diffuser, 19-inch wheels and an exclusive Ultra Sonic Blue Mica paint colour.

2019 lexus es f sport interior

The cabin of the 2019 ES is purposefully driver focused, the central display, instrument panel and head-up display all placed in a way to promote easy viewing without having to shift attention away from the road. F SPORT interiors feature special “Hadori” metallic trim, influenced by traditional Japanese sword making. The alloy has a wavy, 3-D appearance to it highlighting the premium level of detail applied to the car.

Compared to the outgoing chassis, the GA-K is stiffer and lighter yielding a better feel of the road and a quieter ride as well. An Adaptive Variable Suspension, like the one on the LC coupe, is offered as optional equipment.

2019 lexus es driver

“We knew that this ES had to feel responsive and easy to drive, no matter what kind of road it was on and that can only be achieved with a solid foundation,” said chief engineer Yashuhiro Sakakibara.

2019 lexus es 300h badge

Two powerplants are available. The ES 350 utilizes a 3.5-litre V6 producing 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, and the ES 300h takes advantage of a fourth-generation Lexus Hybrid Drive system delivering 215 net horsepower and a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of approximately 5.3 L/100 km.

Be on the lookout for the 2019 Lexus ES in dealerships come September.

2019 Lexus ES rear

Best car tech from CES 2018


CES is the biggest trade show of its kind in the world, with the spotlight on automotive innovation growing larger each year.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is on right now in Las Vegas, highlighting the latest and greatest innovations in consumer gadgetry. In recent years, cars have taken up greater exhibition space as the lines between auto and tech become increasingly blurred — CES itself describes the event as “a turbocharged Detroit,” taking a small jab at the Motor City’s big show taking place immediately after. Have a peek at some of the top reveals from 2018.

Toyota e-Palette

Toyota e-Palette Concept

This self-driving battery electric concept vehicle is designed as a customizable, and scalable, mobile solution for businesses. Indeed, Toyota has already announced partnerships with the likes of Amazon, Mazda, Uber and Pizza Hut (think autonomous pizza baking and delivery). The e-Palette will be open source so partner companies can implement their own driving systems tailored to specific needs. Real world testing is planned for 2020.

Honda 3E-D18

Honda 3E-D18

Focusing on robotics and artificial intelligence at this year’s CES, Honda showed off the 3E-D18, an autonomous AI-enabled off-road device designed to support people in a broad range of work activities. The product of Honda R&D Americas, the 3E-D18 is powered by an electric drivetrain and is modular, meaning it can be outfitted with a variety of attachments to make tasks like search and rescue, fire fighting and agriculture safer and more efficient. 

Toyota Platform 3.0

Lexus LS 600hL Platform 3.0

Although the above long wheelbase hybrid LS doesn’t necessarily look like the newest automated driving research vehicle produced by the Toyota Research Institute, dubbed Platform 3.0, that’s kind of the point. One of the goals of the project was to engage “intelligent minimalism,” eliminating the unattractive bolt-on equipment commonly seen on such test cars. The sensors and cameras have all been hidden as much as possible, for example some being relocated into available space in the sunroof compartment.

Toyota Platform 3.0 Lexus LS 600hL

Despite the streamlined appearance, the advanced sedan features long-range 200-metre perception in 360 degrees. 

Best vehicles for Halloween candy runs

Make trick or treating go smoother this year with one of these Halloween-approved vehicles. 

Boo! It’s almost that time again to dig out the decorations and costumes for the scariest day of the year. And something else you may need is a proper vehicle for tasks such as shuttling kids to a trick or treating destination, or transporting friends and family to a Halloween party. We’ve put together a top three list of the perfect models to accompany All Hallow’s Eve.

lexus nx 200t lava orange

Lexus NX 200t F SPORT

This subcompact crossover by Lexus was built for Halloween: the gaping mesh grill, sharp headlights and metallic bumper spoiler all look like they were modelled after the alien from the Predator films. Oh, and it also comes in bright Lava Orange. Kidding aside, the NX 200t is great for candy runs since there are four compartments underneath the cargo floor to stash valuables out of sight, and lots of storage space up front in the large glove and console boxes, as well as the door pockets.

2017 hyundai elantra

Hyundai Elantra

The streets will be littered with kids and grownups alike on Oct. 31, making driving potentially more dangerous than usual. Being behind the wheel of a proven safe car — for example the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ 2017 Hyundai Elantra — would be a wise choice. In addition to performing well in crash tests, the compact car has hands-free technology for making and taking calls, and an optional automatic emergency braking system capable of detecting pedestrians.

2017 toyota sienna

Toyota Sienna

Kids can be messy — especially kids with a bag full of candy. But why wait to get home to tidying up crumbs and dirt when you can do it on the road? Toyota’s best-selling minivan now features an available on-board vacuum cleaner for on-the-go cleaning. Stowed neatly away in the rear of the vehicle, the hose can reach any part of the cabin, and the unit is operable whether the engine is on or off. Three attachments are included for getting into nooks and crannies.

Spicier F SPORT version of Lexus LS 500 flagship sedan announced

The front grille, wheels and brakes are just three areas to receive tweaks on the F-SPORT variant of the Lexus LS 500.

Only a short while after wowing the automotive world with the announcement of the totally redesigned Lexus LS 500, the luxury brand has already taken the wraps off the F SPORT version of the flagship sedan featuring an edgier exterior, interior and better performance. Let’s take check out all the highlights.

A big talking point about the new LS is its spindle grille that’s much more intricate than ones found on other models, made up of some 5,000 individual surfaces. The expanded blacked-out example on the F SPORT has an even finer mesh constructed of a staggering 7,100 unique surfaces. Not just for looks, the upgraded grille increases cooling properties. Other darkened details include the garnishes below the front air vents as well as on the rocker panel and sides of the rear bumper.

2018 lexus ls 500 f sport front grille

Venturing inside the vehicle, Lexus has upped the sporty feel of the cabin installing bigger-bolstered front seats covered in a repeating grille pattern stamped in leather, bringing a touch of continuity with the exterior. Aluminum has tactfully been added to select trim pieces and the pedals. The instrument cluster features a motorized information ring lifted straight from the LFA supercar.

All LS 500 F SPORTs receive special 20-inch split spoke wheels shod with sticky 245/45 (front) and 275/40 (rear) tires. Poking out from underneath the big rims are larger brake calipers than those found on the standard grade: six-piston and four-piston units for the front and rear, respectively. The engine remains the same 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, producing 415 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, mated to the first 10-speed automatic transmission found in any luxury sedan.

2018 lexus ls 500 f sport rear angle

Drivers can kick things up a notch by selecting from one of three powertrain settings. Normal is the default mode, while Sport S and Sport S+ both enhance throttle response and volume of the exhaust note for an even more dynamic and enjoyable experience behind the wheel.

The F SPORT package will be available on gasoline-powered LS 500 variants only when it launches later this year.