Top 5 highlights from AJAC Canadian Car of the Year, Day 3-4The great thing about driving so many cars in such a short span, is how, as the week goes on, you begin to better appreciate the details that help make these unique from one another.
The great thing about driving so many cars in such a short span, is how, as the week goes on, you begin to better appreciate the details that help make these unique from one another; indeed, it’s these details that you rely on to help yourself understand which cars stand out, which cars are the best at doing what their modus operandi says they’re supposed to.
The way the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen Alltrack is a crossover without actually being oneThe Alltrack is actually the top Sportwagen trim in Canada – it’s a model line-up unto itself in the US – and the features it gets are befitting of a car at the top of the ladder. Standard leather seating, Apple CarPlay, automatic transmission, AWD – all good stuff. The best part, though? It remains a Golf, so even though it has a higher ride height and some butchy body cladding, it handles itself remarkably well on the tarmac. So, the drive to the dirt road that leads to the cabin is a rewarding one, while the last leg – the unpaved one – can be undertaken with remarkable composure.
The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport’s chassisYes; the Elantra Sport’s turbocharged powertrain is good, but it’s the way the Elantra – a front-driver, of course – feels more like a rear-wheel drive car than it should that really impresses. You can thank tuned steering, new rear suspension and stickier tires for the improved handling. While it’s good the steering has been improved, Hyundai hasn’t forgotten that the way you’re connected to the rack is important, too. The wheel is chunkier than the item in the standard Elantra, and it’s been given a flat bottom, too. The seats have also been modified to better hug your ribs for when you start to really test the Elantra’s handling.
The 2017 Maserati Levante’s interiorMaserati is aiming directly at the Porsche Cayenne with its first-ever SUV offering, and if we start with the interior, they are in good shape. The driver’s seating position is right on point, the seats themselves are wonderfully supportive and can be finished in all manner of colours – pretty sure the red seen here is how I’d have mine – and the materials are all top notch. It would all be window-dressing, of course, if the Levante wasn’t capable. Luckily, it is; it’s rear-biased, Ghibli-based chassis is great on the road, while its ability to raise itself higher and transfer power to the front wheels instantaneously (there’s even a hill-descent system) means it actually works in the mucky stuff, too.
The 2017 Toyota Prius’ prowess…on the track?You heard that right; while the Prius’ powertrain in never going to light anyone’s hair on fire, the way it handles itself in the tight confines of AJAC’s handling course is quite remarkable. Turn-in is quick, the brakes, while down on feel, are strong and since it’s so easy to see out of, placing it on the track is rarely a problem. While few people are going to track it, all that translates to a car that’s easy to thread through cramped city streets, where Prius drivers spend most of their time.
The 2017 BMW M2’s exhaust noteA small, insignificant detail? Absolutely not. While the Mercedes-AMG C63 S we discussed in our day 2 highlights package is perhaps a little louder, the M2 is the more distinctive sound. The high-pitched, at once a growl, at once a banshee shriek report from its twin exhausts is an excellent indicator of the most performance-focused of the 2 Series line-up. AJAC’s testing grounds at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is aligned in such a way that the manufacturers all have RV-based offices trackside; you can bet that whenever the M2 roared past, a content smile would appear on each member of the BMW team.