01-10-18

THIS HIGH-PERFORMANCE SPECIAL EDITION IS THE MOST POWERFUL TAHOE EVER

2018 tahoeBy Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - Enormous size, stump-pulling power and comfortable trappings used to be enough for fans of these rolling behemoths.  Who knew that a full-size SUV that sprints from 0-to-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds while still maintaining the ability to tow up to 8,400 pounds was what they really wanted?

Introduced at the New York Auto Show earlier this year, the Chevrolet Tahoe RST - which stands for Rally Sport Truck - starts with an appearance package and builds all the way up to a bad-ass performance truck with powertrain and suspension components borrowed from the Camaro ZL1.

With 49.3 per cent of the market share, the full-size SUV segment is an important market for GM: one out of every two sold is either a Tahoe or Suburban.  A three-row, eight-passenger, body-on-frame vehicle available in either rear- or all-wheel drive, the Tahoe competes against the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia, sister vehicle GMC Yukon and its biggest rival, the Ford Expedition.  Tahoe sales are nearly double that of the Expedition's in the U.S., but in Canada it trails the Ford by a few hundred vehicles.  While the rest of the segment is powered by big V8 engines, the Expedition has a twin-turbo V6, and near-premium luxury features.

For 2017, the Tahoe lineup received more equipment and interior features, and a Premier model to replace the LTZ as the top trim level.  New standard equipment includes the Teen Driver System (allowing parents to monitor their youngster's driving habits), back-seat reminder, active grille shutters and an updated MyLink infotainment system.  The options list was also expanded, with an upgraded rear entertainment system, more USB ports, automated emergency braking, the illuminated bow-tie grille emblem from its pickup siblings, new 22-inch rims and a Midnight Edition appearance package.

And now the most powerful Tahoe ever: the RST.

While the base RST starts as a dechromed appearance package available on mid-level LT trims, retaining the standard 5.3-L V8 and six-speed powertrain and adding blacked-out grille and 22-inch rims, the top-spec Premier model can add the 6.2-L Performance Package, available on both rear- and all-wheel-drive Tahoes.  The package consists of the L86 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque mated to the same 10-speed automatic transmission found in the Camaro ZL1.  Available are six-piston Brembo brakes, and the Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension system, which can assess road conditions and respond within milliseconds.

A 30-mile loop of not-very-inspiring Fort Worth suburban landscape is all we've got to evaluate our fully loaded Tahoe RST.  There's no RST badging anywhere on the vehicle: a glimpse of red Brembo calipers peeping from behind the spokes of the blacked out, 22-inch wheels, and two steely black tips from the optional Borla exhaust (which reportedly offers a 28 per cent improvement in flow) are the biggest visual clues.

Inside is a low-key leather interior: functional, comfortable but not particularly memorable.  There are other colours available that are more striking than our tester's black.  The infotainment screen is somewhat small in these days of panoramic display.

Seating is comfy, with room for seven or eight, depending on whether you opt for a second-row bench or available captain's chairs.  Our tester features the optional power release that easily drops the second-row seat for easier access to the third row, a rather cramped but admittedly useful space.  In all, there is a maximum of 2,681L of cargo space.

Despite its bulk, the Tahoe has very good road manners.  It is quiet and composed over bumps, without allowing any disturbances to enter the cabin.  It's fairly quiet until you tromp the gas pedal, when the small-block EcoTec3 V8 roars to life and the Borla exhaust answers with a deep-throated rumble.  This is the first time this engine has been available in the Tahoe, and if it doesn't quite offer Corvette-style performance, it does move the nearly 6,000-lb (2,720-kg) vehicle along with surprising swiftness.

We weren't able to confirm the sub-six second 0-to-100 km/hr sprint time, but suffice it to say the RST is pretty quick.

The Brembo brakes do a great job of reining it back in.  Once off the freeway, we travelled over some rather ratty pavement.  Although the big rims were wrapped in performance rubber, the suspension absorbed most of it without any harshness, yet at the same time the vehicle felt nicely planted without exhibiting any wallow.

Our U.S.-spec vehicles were rated at 17 mpg city/22 highway (13.8L/100 km city/10.7 highway) but featured active cylinder management, shutting down half the cylinders when not under heavy load and effectively converting it into a more efficient four-cylinder.

So, is there really a demand for such a special-edition, high-performance utility vehicle?  Well, in addition to the Tahoe RST we just tested, and its sibling the Suburban RST, Mercedes has been relentlessly churning out new AMG-badged crossovers, Chrysler has a 700-hp Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk powered by a Hellicat engine, and its new Dodge Durango boasts 475 hp, launch control - and a towing capacity of 8,600 lbs.  Suddenly the Tahoe RST sounds almost reasonable.

Available now in Canadian dealerships, the 2018 Tahoe starts at $64,045 for the LT 2WD, $67,345 for LT 4WD and $75,070 for the Premier 4WD ($1,795 destination/freight charge included).  The RST appearance package is $2,995.  The RST 6.2-L Performance Package is an additional $3,395, for a total of $6,390.  Add $4,130 for the Brembo Brake Package, and $1,620 for the Borla Exhaust.

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08-18-16

‘LITTLE’ MISTAKES THAT CAN ENDANGER YOUR LIFE

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By Brian Turner, Your Corner Wrench, PostMedia - We've all seen more than a few examples of drivers piloting rides that really shouldn't be on the road, or doing something to their chariot that's sure to lead to an unhappy ending, but some of us just need a little knowledge to avoid being one of those.  When you consider the wide range of personality types behind the wheel, there really isn't anything you can accurately name a "no-brainer", since there's almost always someone who didn't realize something was unsafe.

Temporary spares really are just temporary:  this has to be one of the most committed sins in the driving handbook.  We've all seen vehicles sharing the roads with us, driving on small temporary spares, but it would surprise you to know how many of those have been tooling around for weeks on that little donut.

Their size and limited tread contact with the road makes them very risky.  In the event of any type of panic maneuver, such as hard braking or steering, they're very likely to cause a loss of control.  As well, their much small circumference (as compared to the full-sized tires on the vehicle) can cause expensive damage to drive-lines if they're left on too long.  How long is too long?  Anything more than the time and distance it takes to get from where the tire went flat to the nearest tire store.

And don't be smug just because your vehicle has a 12-volt compressor and tire sealant can in place of a spare.  If you add any type of tire sealant liquid to your flat tire, it will need to be removed as soon as possible.  At any speed the liquid inside the tire will throw it wildly out of balance and if you let that wheel shake long enough it can stress and damage things like wheel hub bearings or steering linkages.

Missing lug nuts?  This scenario is really common during seasonal tire change times.  Usually someone has lost a nut either because they didn't keep track of them during a DIY change-over or one fell off because it wasn't properly tightened.  With many small cars using only four lug nuts per wheel, having one missing means reducing your safety by 25 percent.  This one makes less sense than most when you consider you can get replacement lug nuts at almost any auto parts store for just a few dollars.

Is your door ajar?  I guess if you've got the heavy-metal turned up loud enough to drown out the wind noise and door warning chimes, you might be excused for this.  But in a collision, any door only fastened by its secondary catch is bound to fly open leaving passengers exposed to a world of nasty.  If your door refuses to latch and simply rebounds open when you slam it, check to see if the latch on the door is already in the closed position.  On most vehicles it will show as a small metal loop blocking off the area where the door striker pin (on the body's opening-frame) has to locate itself when the door is closed.  If this is the case, take a pen to the exposed latch on the door's edge and with the door handle held in the release position, flip the latch bar to the open position and try re-latching it.

What's that gassy smell?  With most vehicles now having tethers to keep you from forgetting the gas cap on the station pump, this one's not as common as it used to be, but it still happens.  Those tethers are usually made of plastic and can wear out.  Of course the first reminder you'll get when you forget a gas cap is a check engine light on your dash, but that usually won't come on until the next day.  The biggest risk you run is having a fire, especially if you've just tanked up the vehicle on a hot day with little wind.  The fuel coming out of a gas station's underground tanks is usually much cooler than the ambient temps on a hot day.  This means the fumes can vent out of the filler neck and if there's a smoker around, boom!  Note:  replacement fuel caps aren't expensive (less than $30) and most new ones come with a new tether.

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THE CAMARO'S NEW TURBO-FOUR IS THE FINAL KEY TO ITS TRANSFORMATION FROM MUSCLE CAR TO SPORTS CAR

2016 camaroBy Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - Death Valley, California - It wasn't until we'd gotten a few hundred yards into the picturesque canyon road that we realized there was no turning back.  Always in search of the perfect photo op, I failed to see the "one way" sign posted at the mouth of "Twenty Mule Canyon", a roughly two-mile serpentine trail used by mule teams to haul Borax through Death Valley at the turn of the century.

"It looks like Mars," said Cheryl Pilcher, my drive partner and GM's produce manager for the new Chevrolet Camaro.  "Can you imagine bringing wagons across this?

Actually, I could - a lot more readily than I could picture our bright blue sports car on this dusty pathway hacked into the alien landscape.  And clearly, judging from the looks cast our way, the occasional 4x4 folks we passed along the way agreed.

But we emerged unscathed from the canyon's mouth and back onto the blacktop, though coated from nose to tail in a thick layer of yellow dust.  The Camaro certainly felt more at home on the pavement, looping around iron-red and ochre-rock cuts on our gradual descent into the valley, 86 metres below sea level.

It wasn't that long ago that the idea of a turbocharged four-cylinder was enough to horrify traditional muscle car fans.  But German sports car manufacturers have long embraced these lighter, more efficient powerplants and even the original pony car, the Ford Mustang, now boasts one in its lineup.  Pilcher believes the new engine will expand the Camaro's customer base by appealing to the tuner and performance market.

Purists can take heart - the 2.0-litre engine is a far cry from the detuned, 90-horsepower "Iron Duke" of the 1980s, an engine so woefully underpowered that the car struggled to make it from rest to 100 km/h in 20 seconds.  With 275 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, the turbo-four Camaro can make that run in just over five seconds - just like the mighty 427-powered Camaros in the halcyon days of big-block horsepower.

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the sixth-generation Camaro has evolved from straight-line bludgeon to a lithe and lean, genuine sports car.  We sampled the V6- and V8-powered cars at the new Camaro's debut in Belle Isle last year, but this is the first drive for Camaro's very first turbo-four.  And we're happy to say that, far from being the compromise choice for those penalized by high insurance rates, the 2.0-litre turbo is a smooth, sweet-running powerplant that never feels underpowered.

It helps that this car, thanks to the use of more high-strength steel and smaller engine, is 170 kilograms lighter than V6 models of the previous generation.  It's also shorter, narrower and leaner looking.

"We were tired of the 'scarlet letter of mass' of the fifth-gen," said Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser.  As well, the engine's peak torque is available at 2,100 rpm for immediate responsiveness off the line.

The new platform features 11 modular components and is designed to adapt to each powertrain in a variety of global markets - in other words, the 2.0-litre coupe's chassis isn't penalized with the additional weight needed to support the big V8 in the SS, and the convertible gets the extra reinforcement it needs.

At Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, we drove the 2.0-litre back to back against the last-generation Camaro - and the current Mustang V6, for good measure.  If the last generation was a huge departure from the crude muscle cars of yesteryear, the new Camaro is its final incarnation as a genuine sports car.

The new car is based on the same platform that debuted with the Cadillac ATS.  Extensive use of high-strength steel and aluminum have produced a structure that's not only light, but extremely stiff.  Within the first lap, the difference is immediately apparent - the 2.0-litre Camaro is tight, extremely flat and well-sorted.  There's none of the heaviness associated with the previous generation, and the lighter engine translates into a nice sense of balance.  This car not only turns well, it actually rotates through the hairpins.  Electric power steering delivers a solid feel that's comparable to a hydraulic setup.

While our experience with the six-speed manual was limited to a couple of racetrack laps, we're happy to say that the eight-speed automatic transmission is quick, smooth and displays no lag, even with aggressive downshifts.  Seating is low, and while taller drivers will approve of the extra headroom, those of shorter stature will have to raise the seat to avoid that "sitting in the bathtub" sensation.  Visibility, the last generation's biggest fault, is much improved and the extra headroom reduces the feeling of claustrophobia.

Swapping our 2.0-litre coupe for a V8-powered SS Convertible, we had the roof stowed in a matter of seconds thanks to a key fob-operated automatic top-down function that works up to 48 km/h.  It tucks away beneath a hard tonneau for a neat, finished appearance.

It's a much more refined environment than the garish cockpit of its predecessor, with nicely stitched leather, soft-touch materials and a grippy, flat-bottomed steering wheel.  Thankfully, the silly rectangular gauges just ahead of the shifter are gone, and the overall design is cleaner and less cluttered.

Tech features included Apply Car Play, 4G LTE WiFi, a limited-slip differential and a heated steering wheel.  The cabin has also been redesigned to reduce noise and turbulence, and indeed, during our 144-kilometre drive we were easily able to hold a conversation - without the wind whipping our hair into tangled masses.

The SS features the Magnetic Ride adjustable dampers, as well as the selectable drive modes.  Throwing it into Track mode not only gives the steering a sizeable heft, but the exhaust pipes erupt in a throaty roar when the throttle's pinned before settling down to a contented rumble.  There's no discernible cowl shake and overall, the convertible feels as tight as the previously driven coupe.

Due to arrive later this spring, the base 2016 turbo-four Camaro will start at $28,245 - $2,575 less than the 2015 model.  While there were no prices yet for the convertible, base 2015 LT models started at $37,030, so the new models should be roughly the same.

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