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2013 Nisan Sentra (Nissan)
2013 Nisan Sentra (Nissan)

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All-new Sentra trades power for fuel economy, refinement Add to ...

The all-new Nissan Sentra may look much more like its similarly new Altima mid-size sedan big brother, but the compact Sentra is veering away from Mazda3 fun territory and straight toward the mass of mainstream Civic sedan buyers, with a smaller 1.8-litre engine that is less powerful but more fuel-efficient than before.

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Compared to the 2.0-litre four it replaces, the new Sentra puts out 130 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque, down 10 hp and 19 lb-ft respectively, though this deficit is mitigated somewhat by the car being 5 per cent lighter. A six-speed manual transmission will be available in base S and next-up SV models, but most Sentras will come standard with an efficiency-tuned CVT.

The new Sentra promises the best fuel economy of any non-hybrid or diesel compact, at an overall 5.8 litres/100 km average in optimistic Canadian fuel economy ratings. It also offers a number of higher-end features, such as standard LED lighting front and rear, available integrated turn signals, a hands-free text message to speech function in the optional navi system, leather and heated (front) seats, wood-tone trim, and a rear-view monitor.

The “sporty” Sentra is now the SR, though sadly it is a cosmetics package only. It adds 17-inch alloy wheels, lower front, rear and side sills, and a rear spoiler. More power? No. Better handling? Strike two. Throatier exhaust note at least? Sorry. At least the company didn’t call it an SE-R, a hallowed designation among Nissan’s relatively few sport compact enthusiasts. Plus, it leaves hope for an actual sportier Sentra model to come after the staid sedan’s debut in showrooms this fall.

No have been announced yet, but don’t expect it to fall far from the Civic and Corolla’s base prices in the $15,000 range.

Ritzy debut for Mp4-12C Spider

The McLaren MP4-12C Spider convertible had its swanky Canadian debut recently at the Ritz Carlton hotel in downtown Toronto, courtesy of McLaren Toronto, which has quickly become one of the top-selling McLaren dealers in the world.

The new 12C Spider was parked nose to tail with a Formula One practice car from last year belonging to Lewis Hamilton, just outside the hotel’s main entrance, with curious passersby as well as invited guests crowding around the car for a look, and a seat. The lucky (or patient) ones got a chance to raise the dramatically up- and forward-swinging doors, with at least a few deposit holders sitting in the cars for the first time; customers will start receiving cars start at the beginning of 2013.

Dealer principal Christopher Pfaff said McLaren Toronto was the best-selling McLaren dealer in the world in April, 2012, when it opened, thanks in part to pent-up demand, but also due to the good sports car timing. “I haven’t seen the sales numbers for other dealers the rest of the year, but at least they haven’t told us about [being top] any other months.”

Pfaff also has a McLaren dealership in Vancouver where the weather is more moderate, which will keep them busy when the car arrives in the winter, he noted, though the GTA is still the largest market for McLaren in the country.

The mid-engine 12C Spider starts at $287,200, and comes with a quickly folding power metal hardtop, just like its main rival, the Ferrari 458 Spider. Both also share similar flying buttresses behind the two seats, although the McLaren Spider provides a welcome view of its V-8 engine, as opposed to the Ferrari Spider, courtesy a small peekaboo glass panel behind the folding top’s well. That engine is the same 3.8-litre turbocharged V-8 that powers the coupe, putting out 616 hp, all put to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch paddle-shift transmission.

The McLaren Spider features a 0-100 km/h time exactly the same as the coupe, says the company, at a blazingly fleet 3.1 seconds, its top speed and quarter-mile times trimmed by only three (to 329 km/h) and 0.2 (to 10.8 seconds), respectively.

Base B-Class turbo coming in November

The all-new Mercedes-Benz B-Class will now offer a more powerful, yet more fuel-efficient, turbocharged engine as standard equipment, and be priced at the same $29,990 starting price as the last naturally aspirated four.

The new B will arrive in November, and contrary to earlier predictions, will not be sold in the United States, at least at launch. Therefore, only Canadians or border-hopping Americans will be able to experience the new B250’s new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo that promises to make even the previous spritely Turbo feel anemic, never mind the base 134-hp four. The new engine puts out 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the latter figure impressing especially, as that’s as much low-end oomph as the uplevel 3.5-litre V-6 in the larger and pricier C- and E-Class sedans.

It has been an awkward year-long wait for the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class hatchback to arrive in Canada, after the departure of the last one at the end of 2011. Mercedes-Benz insiders admit the pregnant pause was likely a screw-up on someone’s part, but was related to a delay in production for this engine.

Other notable upgrades for Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level model (not counting the Smart two-seaters) include a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, a start/stop system, 11 airbags, collision prevention assist, and rain-sensing wipers, all standard equipment. Optional niceties will include a self-steering automatic parking system, panoramic sunroof, plus blind spot and lane keeping assist systems borrowed from pricier Benz models.

Tesla Model S among fastest sports sedans

Elon Musk’s personal Model S helped cement it among the world’s elite sport sedans, with enthusiast magazine Motor Trend being the first to report instrumented acceleration times with it, and nailing a sub-4.0-second, 0-60 mph time. This places it amongst the fastest sedans on the planet, with the others being top models from Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

The Model S tested was the most powerful, and priciest, Signature Performance model, so it actually cost more than the BMW M5 that’s also on that list ($114,300, versus the M5’s $101,500). But it costs significantly less than the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 and the Porsche Panamera Turbo S that MT says are the only other sport sedans available in North America than can pull off such performance.

SiriusXM offers free satellite radio preview

Satellite radio giant SiriusXM confirmed this week that a free preview of its channels happening now to Sept. 11 will also be available to Canadian drivers.

A limited selection of about 60 satellite stations will be available during this period, including popular stations such as ESPN, NASCAR talk radio, Hits1 and stations dedicated to each decade from the 1940s on up to now. So if your subscription lapsed a while ago and you’re curious to see what’s new on the service, you have a few days left to find out.

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