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Next 15 Columns

Networked Devices Spread Your Photos, Music Around
 By Jim Bray

Media servers are becoming popular in this age of wireless home networks, delivering audio and video content from a computer or the Internet to whatever device you may want to use, within reason.

I usually use such devices to stream music, because most of the videos I watch are on Blu-ray and no matter how much hype you hear about downloads taking over, there are still bandwidth and file compatibility issues. I admit reluctantly to accessing YouTube and its ilk for some casual viewing sometimes, but media servers are increasingly playing back music in other rooms of my house.

New Technology Proves Illuminating for Drivers
 By Jim Bray

Driving or working at night can be tough enough without having to worry about what’s lurking in the dark. Fortunately, today’s modern lighting fixtures are doing a better job than ever of not only banishing the darkness, but of ensuring that you can be seen by those around you as well.

Some of today’s brightest ideas are advancing the state of the art in LED’s, or Light Emitting Diodes. Solid-state LED’s are not only super bright, they’re also getting quite intelligent, allowing their owners to do more things with fewer fixtures.

Ford Mustang V6 Convertible – Ponying Up Topless Fun
 By Jim Bray

When it comes to having fun in a Mustang, you don’t absolutely need a V8 engine.

Okay, an “eight banger” does up the oomph ante substantially, but with today’s six cylinder engines now putting out power that was once reserved for eight or more cylinders, it’s amazing to see just how quickly you can go from zero to “Oops, sorry Officer” in a V6.

Six cylinders also offer the advantage of generally using less gasoline than eight, so there’s not only the initial savings you can achieve by buying the more “entry level” engine, but the ongoing costs at the pump.

Ford Transit Connect Delivers
 By Jim Bray

Ford’s new little delivery van really does “deliver the goods”, as it were.

Depending on the type of business you own, the Transit Connect might be just what the doctor ordered. It’s small for such a vehicle and the fact that it doesn’t offer a huge amount of power may limit its practicality, but for what it is, it’s very good.

Ford Flex Gets an Eco-Boost for 2010
 By Jim Bray

Ford’s Flex has a new heart this year, new motivation for both the vehicle and perhaps for those interested in buying it.  It’s Ford’s Ecoboost technology, which includes the company’s new twin turbo 3.5 liter V6 that Ford says delivers V8 power with V6 fuel economy. It’s a peach of a system and it produces 355 horsepower, which Ford says is 35 percent more than that of the base Flex’s V6, and 350 ft.-lb. of torque, up 41 percent.

Ford F-150 Raptor a Real Attention Getter
 By Jim Bray

Judging by the reception I got during my week with Ford’s outrageous SVT pickup truck, the company is causing much lust among truckophiles.

I kid you not; of all the vehicles I’ve driven over the past decade or so, none got as much attention from neighbors, strangers and passersby as the Molten Orange (which looks like red to me) Raptor. Not Porsche, not Mercedes Benz, not Lexus; none of them had people gather in front of my house or in parking lots or on the streets, peeking into the Raptor like kids pressing their faces against a candy store window.

Ford’s Hot Taurus Sedan – It’s SHO Time!
 By Jim Bray

Ford’s new Taurus SHO is another welcome sign the company may be making a comeback, product-wise at least, avoiding the government takeover to which its domestic competitors succumbed.

It deserves to sell. I spent a week in a loaded SHO (as opposed to “loaded in an SHO”) and liked it a lot – much more than I thought I would. Even its exterior, which had seemed bland, even frumpy, in my brief glances previously, grew on me.

Honda’s Hot New Hybrid a Blast from the Past
 By Jim Bray

Anyone who remembers the Honda CRX fondly will probably find a soft spot in his or her heart for the new CR-Z sport hybrid.
Honda bills the CR-Z as “the world’s first sport hybrid” but, first or not, what really matters is that this is a nifty little car, cute as a bug’s ear, fun and efficient – and priced reasonably to boot.
For what more could anyone ask?

Honda invited a gaggle of writers including me to a special introduction of the car in Edmonton, Alberta, timed to coincide with the Honda Indy Edmonton, which made for a wonderful and exciting long weekend. Before hanging out at the race, we were given the opportunity to drive the CR-Z on a variety of roads and even on a large karting track they’d taken over for the purpose.

Honda Accord Crosses Over
 By Jim Bray

Well, if you smashed in the front and rear ends you might call it an “Accordion,” but perhaps more relevant is the new Accord Crosstour, a crossover/SUV-type beastie that raises Honda’s immensely popular car to new heights.

The rather bulbous-looking Accord Crosstour may be an answer to a question few have asked: How do you make a highly functional, if stylistically-challenged, vehicle even more functional – and stylistically-challenged? Honda has done this by creating a vehicle that works well, is nice to drive and which lets you haul more stuff than you can in a garden variety Accord.

Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla Still Good Choices for Economy Cars
 By Jim Bray

What used to be both companies’ entry level – and bread and butter – vehicles have grown up over the decades, getting bigger in every way and far more sophisticated. And that isn’t a bad thing; technology advances. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that endearing simplicity and ease of use that Honda once used in its commercials: “We Make It Simple”.

Both companies still do, at least in the lower end of the marketplace. And that’s great!

Focusing on a Ford and a Honda you Really “Odyssey”
 By Jim Bray

“Fun to drive” may not be everyone’s priority, but if an everyday vehicle also has some of that factor built in it can certainly make life with it more pleasant.

Such is the case with a couple of 2009 vehicles I drove recently that, while nowhere near “all new” or “all fun” are still worth a look if you’re shopping for a compact sedan or minivan.

CR-V, GS 450h: Not New, but Still Relevant in ‘09

 By Jim Bray

One’s a great example of the “cute ute” genre, and the other’s a luxurious and eco-friendly road rocket.

And while neither the Honda CR-V and Lexus GS 450h features major upgrades for 2009, both of them continue to be excellent vehicles in decidedly different niches. I got to some quality time in each vehicle recently, which reaffirmed that both are my favorites of the vehicles I’ve driven in their respective “cute ute” and “hybrid” markets.

Honda’s Ridgeline Keeps on Trucking
 By Jim Bray

Well, many people do, actually, and thank goodness for them or Detroit’s big three might have dug themselves into an even deeper hole than they have, if such a thing is possible. But many people’s hauling and towing needs don’t require a vehicle larger than some homes, and for them there’s a wide variety of smaller-but-still-capable pickups.

Honda’s entry into this fray is the Ridgeline, a homely but homey vehicle that’s not only a pretty capable truck, but which also showcases some nifty innovative thinking – as well as some creative mimicry the type of which the Japanese did so well back in the days when they were playing catch-up in the car market.

Variations on an Automotive Theme: Honda Civic Hybrid, Acura CSX Type S
 By Jim Bray

What’s even better than a garden variety Honda Civic? How about a gas-sipping hybrid or a souped up, luxurious version.

The hybrid is a straightforward adaptation of Honda’s terrific little sedan, with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist system added on for “even greener” performance.

The souped up, more luxurious version is the Canadian-spec Acura CSX Type S, a little rocket that’s mostly analogous to the Civic Si sedan, but with different logos, grille, tail light treatment and other goodies thrown in to send the up market Civic a little bit more up market.

Lexus HS 250h – an Easy to Like Hybrid
 By Jim Bray

It’s the Lexus HS 250h, the luxury car maker’s first four cylinder model, and at heart it’s a luxury hybrid. It’s also a very nice car that would undoubtedly be easy to live with.

And it’s so green, regardless of which color you order it in, that it could drive you nuts. Not only is it supposed to sip gas (Lexus claims a mileage rating of 41.3 mpg or 5.7L/100 km, though I never got that), but it’s also supposedly equipped with an interior that’s nearly one third populated by “sustainable ecological plastics” whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean.

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