Including an inside look at Hotel Zed’s 1978 Shaggin’ Wagon

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Welcome to our roundup of the biggest breaking stories on from this past week. Get caught up and ready to get on with the weekend, because it’s hard keeping pace in a digital traffic jam.

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Here’s what you missed while you were away.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander debuts with “adult size” third row

The stretched version of Toyota’s midsize SUV Highlander debuted the night before the Chicago Auto Show opened and remained on the floor for the world to get a good first look. We were at the show to sit in the Grand Highlander’s “adult” seats, including in that now-larger-than-ever third row, which is really the whole reason for the Grand’s existence. 

The 2024 Grand Highlander is available with the option of three powertrains and three trim levels, including a Hybrid Max that, at 362 hp, is the most powerful midsize Toyota SUV engine ever. Plenty of USB ports and large water bottle holders are found throughout the cabin, which now features a standard 12.3-inch multimedia display screen on the dash and the ability to receive over-the-air updates. 

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Pricing and sales dates will be announced this summer, but in the meantime you can get the trim details right here

A Ferrari Roma fell down a dealership elevator

A Ferrari Roma in a Florida exotic-car dealership's elevator shaft
A Ferrari Roma in a Florida exotic-car dealership’s elevator shaft Photo by Palm Beach County Fire Rescue /Facebook

An exotic car dealership in Florida recently experienced a rather tragic failing of its elevator last month. Luckily, nobody was hurt in the accident, but a $225,000 Ferrari Roma sports coupe was badly damaged

Apparently, workers at Ferrari of Palm Beach were there to watch the car tumble two stories when the elevator failed. They called authorities once gas started to spill out into the shaft. Sounds like an eventful day at work. First responders cut the power and brought in a big hose in case of fire, and then called in a towing company with a 45-foot boom and 50,000 winch to extricate the exotic auto. 

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First drive in the 2023 Accord Hybrid Touring

2023 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
2023 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Photo by Chris Balcerak

Honda doesn’t sell too many Accords anymore. Just 2,618 units found new homes in the country last year, in fact, but that doesn’t make the eleventh-generation Accord unworthy of your attention. Seasoned reviewer David Booth’s first drive of the sedan details its improvements in power, design, and luxury, and refers to it as “good, honest transportation.” 

There’s more size in the new Accord, for one, thanks to a 70mm stretch in wheelbase and a total of 2,911 litres of cabin room. It’s more luxurious — especially in the top Touring model tested — with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and Piano Black details on the dash. And it’s got a simplified powertrain setup (R.I.P. to the 2.0-litre Turbo) with improved efficiency enabling up to 900 km of driving on a tank of gas. 

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2024 Subaru Crosstrek revealed in Chicago

2024 North American Subaru Crosstrek
2024 North American Subaru Crosstrek Photo by Coleman Molnar

Subaru recently pulled the sheets off of the North American version of the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek at the Chicago Auto Show, revealing a third-gen SUV with added tech, performance, and fewer transmission options. The manual transmission is gone for the new model year for the first time in 12 years, with all new Crosstreks operating with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission that’s “smoother and quieter.” It connects to one of the two engines that remain the same as the outgoing models’. 

Other changes include new seat designs, updated climate control, and Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist technology, now with a wider field of view. Look for the new 2.0L-engine Crosstrek at Canadian dealers this spring, followed months later by the 2.5L option. Pricing to follow. 

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J.D. Power names Lexus and Kia as top dependability options

2023 Sportage HEV
2023 Sportage HEV

The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is in and it names Lexus as the most dependable premium brand and Kia as the most dependable among mainstream models. By looking at 2020 model-year vehicles from 30,000 buyers who’ve had them for three years, the organization noted an industry average of 186 problems per 100 units (PP100), which is better than last year’s measurement by six PP100. Overall, vehicles are improving in dependability, but issues still arise from technology and infotainment systems. Specifically, the study found that infotainment is the most likely to misbehave with an average of 49.9 PP100. 

Lexus earned special mention thanks to an average of 133 PP100, a full 53 units lower than the industry average of 186 PP100. And a number of Kia models were ranked as the top options in their segments, making that Korean automaker also stand out. Further dependability details in the link above. 

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Hotel Zed’s Shaggin’ Wagon is available for rent on Valentine’s Day

A Tofino-based hotel is offering a by-the-hour hook-up special for Valentine’s Day, including the option for some romantic moments in one of the company’s retrofitted vans. The Nooner Package has been part of funky hotel brand Hotel Zed’s business practice for over a decade, as have its collection of vintage vans. 

“I am slightly addicted to,” says Mandy Farmer, CEO and president of Hotel Zed and Accent Inns. “I saw it on the website and I had to buy it. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I had to buy it. It’s gorgeous.”

The Tofino location’s 1978 Chevrolet conversion van boasts a record player, some games for lovers, as well as period-correct shag carpet on the walls, floor, and ceiling. Because nothing says romance like shag carpet. 

Coleman Molnar picture

Coleman Molnar

Coleman Molnar learned to drive in his family’s rusty farm pickup as a teenager and continues the forearm-strengthening tradition today from behind the wheel of his 1983 Volkswagen Westfalia. Spot him in the slow lane, or on Instagram @Lietco


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