Sunday, 22 February 2015

Winter Driving Tips

Top Winter Driving Tips from Ford
Guest Post by Tyler Dubetz
To set some context, I have never attended a driving event such as the Ford winter driving event before, and I am not a professional driver or in the automotive industry.  But, being a typical male, I of course assume that I am the best driver on the road and would be a Formula One champ if only given the chance.  I drive a 2004 Subaru STi, which is a very capable car and handles great, but it does not have electronic stability control although it does have anti-lock brakes.  So I was really looking forward to seeing how the electronic stability control systems affected the handling of the vehicles.
Winter driving tips

The event put on by Ford was really well run in general.  It started out with some good generic winter driving advice – generic in the sense that it is applicable to all drivers and vehicles.  Certain things seemed pretty common sense to me but worth mentioning, such as leave extra space between vehicles, especially traveling up hill; simply moving over a few inches in your lane to get your tires on a fresh patch of road when approaching intersections where the traffic has worn in polished bobsled like tracks into the snow/ice; and to keep an emergency road-side kit in the car.  They stressed the importance of winter tires, which I am a big proponent of, but what was news to me was the explanation of how All-Weather tires achieve their winter rating by having a softer compound on the outermost layer only.  Therefore after a couple seasons, those All-Weathers are essentially now an All-Season and probably not up to the task of our Canadian winters.
Then the driving instructor got into some of the safety features on the new Fords such as electronic stability control (ESC) and anti-lock brakes (ABS).  They explained the basics of how these systems work, what to expect with them, and what to do to make the car go where you want it to.  While they were clearly focusing on their cars and products, it did not really have a ‘sales pitch’ feel to it and they specifically mentioned how these features are required on all cars manufactured after 2011.  I thought this was an honest and transparent touch to what I previously feared may have been a glorified sales pitch.
Winter driving tips

When we got to the course at Canada Olympic Park, they had a local Ford technician discuss some of the points to ensure your vehicle is winter ready, and then we moved on to the driving course.  They had two different models: the Fusion and the Escape, and four different driving instructors.  The quality of the instruction was really impressive, where I believe all of them are or were NASCAR drivers, and some are currently professional driving instructors as well.  Probably the main point of focus that all the instructors stressed was the importance of your vision and making a point of looking well in front of where you are going.
I started with the Fusion and followed the instructor’s comments to test out the car’s safety features – which actually felt surprisingly fast for the conditions and the tightness of the corners.  This definitely increased the ‘fun factor’, and testing out the safety features was a primary point of the event, but it showed that these safety systems likely wouldn’t be something that would kick in under regular driving conditions, just under severe situations.  When the ESC kicked in, it was rather seamless and worked great.  As long as you point the car where you wanted to go, the car made sure you went there or more specifically didn’t go somewhere else.  The ESC would selectively brake specific wheels to pull the car into the corner or maintain the direction you were trying to go.  So even if you went into a corner much faster than you should, the ESC could be vigorous enough to essentially bring the car to an almost-stop.  And that’s why I say it keeps you from going somewhere else – it’s not going to steer you through a corner at race car speeds but it is going to keep you within the lines even if it needs to slow you way down to do so.  My initial reaction was “well that’s not very fun”, but the point of the system in real-life use (as opposed to a snow covered closed-course) is not to have fun spinning the tires in the snow, but to keep you from hitting the ditch or worse.  It really was much more dramatic than I expected it to be, and it is a very interesting system.
Winter driving tips

The ABS was much more familiar to me, as I’ve driven several vehicles equipped with it.  There was only a couple of important points in my mind regarding the ABS – keep the pedal depressed (don’t pump it or anything like that) and you can still steer even with the ABS engaged, so once again, point the car where you want it to go.
The Escape was much the same as the Fusion, but with a little more weight, a little more power, and a higher centre of gravity, the stability systems felt a little less dramatic.  Almost like if you really pushed it to the limits you could get the back end to swing outside of the pylons, yet it always seemed to pull the vehicle back in the lane.  I wished I had a couple more laps to see if I truly could push it outside of the lanes, but really it still gave me the confidence that as long as I pointed the vehicle where I wanted to go, it would prevent me from getting too far off course.
I really appreciated the opportunity provided by Ford to test these features in an extreme winter driving situation, and was quite impressed by them.  However, whether I liked them or not is sort of a moot point if all new production vehicles are required to be equipped with them.  I would like the opportunity to have a similar test with other makes to see if there is much difference between various manufacturers’ implementation of ESC systems or if they are mostly the same.  I also wish I had the chance to take my car on the course to see how a capable car without ESC would fair on that course to really gain some perspective on how much impact these systems really do make when pushing a car to the limits.
Winter driving tips

Thank you to Tyler for attending this event on behalf of Ruff Ruminations and writing about it :D

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Chevrolet Tahoe - a review

Tahoe - Takes us on a 32 hour Journey 2000 km

As you know we recently traveled to Vancouver for the 102nd Grey Cup, Chevrolet was generous enough to loan us a 2015 Tahoe LTZ for the trip. Here is our (mostly Brian's) review on the vehicle. Over all we both really liked it but definitely agreed Mud and Snow rated tires were not enough for Calgary to Vancouver winter roads!

Interior Positives:

Friday, 28 November 2014

How to get a family across Canada’s highway to hell in one piece for Grey Cup 102

Chevrolet Tahoe – How to get a family across Canada’s highway to hell in one piece for Grey Cup 102
When Brian was presented with the opportunity to purchase a Grey Cup 102 ticket, we thought why not? At the very least he would have a great weekend away with buddies. Then the wheels started turning and Grady got wind of “Vancouver” and soon it turned into a family trip. But since the airlines are far too smart for us peons and ticket prices for flights were insane unless we were going to hone in on the hospitality of our friends (at Family Fun Vancouver) for a whole week, we were driving.
This was set to be our first epic road trip as a family, so far since Grady was born the most we have driven in one go is about 8 hrs when we headed to Sandpoint Idaho last year for camping.  Travelling the Coquihalla or as my husband says “tackling the highway to hell” is a bit daunting for less seasoned road trippers such as ourselves. Then Chevrolet generously offered to let us test drive the Tahoe for the nearly 2000km round trip journey. 12+ hours in a swank SUV (or do you call it a truck?) how could we say no?
When I told Brian about the Tahoe, he said it was just the kind of vehicle that would be great to test drive on such a journey. And I agree, I think there are some really great features that will help us on this mega road trip. So far I am most looking forward to:

Animals ready to go!

-          Fold flat 2nd and 3rd rows – this may seem like a fairly boring feature but when you have an easily bored 6 year old on the trip you anticipate having to use more tricks that you are used to fill a very long day in the car. Grady loves to be in the 3rd row of our current vehicle and finds it a big treat so I know that the chance to sit in a variety of configurations will stave off boredom to a certain extent until the next stop when he can play musical chairs again!
-          Up to 6 USB charging ports and 6 power outlets including one 110 volt – this means we will be able to charge our devices and keep ourselves entertained. I bow down to you parents that can complete a journey like this without the tech but I am not ashamed to admit it is a tool I am going to use.

What other tricks and tips am I employing to make our trip as smooth as possible?
11)      A bag full of novel games, toys and activities: I’ve picked up a magnetic chess board as Grady is obsessed with learning the game, a spiderman disappearing ink activity book and a portable light bright. But I don’t plan to tell him about any of them so I can whip them out as a surprise when the boredom monster strikes.
22)      Snacks – I love fresh fruit and veg on a trip as it keeps me from snacking on the not so great stuff. Of course we will still have some of that too because what’s a good road trip without a few treats?
33)      Movies – I will have to check out what is newly out on DVD so we have something novel to watch and maybe I will go into the back seat for part of the trip and we can watch Harry Potter 5 together as we have been slowly working our way through each movie.

How about you? Any tips for our upcoming trip? Snack suggestions? Favorite ways to beat the boredom?

We are actually 13hrs into the journey and only half way there, please give me your ideas for the return trip!