Gardiner Expressway, Toronto
Gardiner Expressway, Toronto. Click image to enlarge

Article by Steven Bochenek

Earlier this year, a cabbie who’d recently emigrated from Pakistan said on CBC radio that Toronto’s roads are worse than Karachi’s. Hurray! Indeed, it’s not quite accurate to say that we have lots of potholes here in the GTA; more like we have a little bit of tarmac between them. And from what we hear, Montreal and Edmonton aren’t far behind.

If potholes concern you, here’s what you and the Karachi cabbie should look for in your next ride: 1) agility to dance around the gaps when possible 2) comfort without sacrificing the feel of the road 3) and quickness in traffic.

And here’s why. First you want maneuverability because the best way to deal with potholes is to avoid them. So agile handling is de rigeur. And of course you want some comfort for those times when you simply can’t avoid the sudden gaps in tarmac. Overly sporty suspension will rattle your bones and age your car. But you also want some decent power for quick escapes, because potholes mean more than unexpected bounces. They make driving less predictable because they can expand significantly from day to day and you never know when the city crew will arrive to ‘fix’ them. However, you can bet the timing will be awful.

The following all fulfill the criteria, though each does some things better than others. Finally, since we’re talking within the realm of reality (a pothole story is a far cry from the sort of auto porn where drivers race Veyrons at Nürburgring) each pick has the car’s opening price, which helps narrow choices.

Mazda6, from $24,995

I recently drove this sleek sedan in Montreal, whose potholes make Karachi look like the Autobahn. For a middle-class sedan, it’s definitely not middle of the road. There’s an option for standard transmission or you can have automatic with a paddle- and knob-shifting mode. (Selecting gears increases your feeling of control, something we’d all love more of in city traffic.) The Skyactiv-G 2.5L four-cylinder engine is impressively responsive. The suspension is sportily tuned but not so much that it’s uncomfortable, or that you fear for your investment. The eight-way power driver’s seat with power adjustable lumbar support – that’s only in the Grand Touring trim line – is deliciously comfortable without robbing too much of the feel of the road, just the feel of the potholes.

2014 Mazda62014 Mazda62014 Mazda6
2014 Mazda6. Click image to enlarge

Audi A8L 3.0T, from $97,400

Between Audi’s famous Quattro all-wheel drive and the tiptronic transmission, you have the grip to suddenly react and avoid deep holes. Between the 333 ponies and 325 lb-ft of torque from the supercharged six-cylinder engine, you have the energy to launch yourself wherever you need to be sooner than most others in traffic.  The air suspension, symphonic in its subtlety, provides superb feedback without bite. The craftsmanship throughout is sensational, literally. You’ll love touching the surfaces. And the soundproofing is excellent. So you can enjoy that ‘symphonic’ comfort amid concert hall acoustics.

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