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The Canadian Automobile Association plans to upgrade its useful Ecochoice car cost calculator.


The Canadian Automobile Association plans to upgrade its useful Ecochoice car cost calculator – which currently allows visitors to its website to compare the fuelling costs and emissions levels of two new 2012 vehicles – to include insurance, service and even relevant transit costs by this fall.

The CAA also hopes to include electric vehicles in the cost calculator's major overhaul, as it couldn't include vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf because the program didn't have an easy way to convert the kilowatt hours of electricity "fuel" costs, said CAA officials at the recent AJAC Brighton to London Eco-Run.

The Ecochoice calculator, which is in the "Environmental Considerations" section of the website's Auto section, allows drivers to calculate out which vehicles will cost them the most to fuel up over a one- to 10-year time span. The site helps visitors to see the difference not only in base prices, greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy between two cars, but to adjust for your own city versus driving patterns, option choices, overall clicks driven in a year, the price of fuel, or what you estimate gas will average out to over a decade from now – up to a gulp-inducing $3/litre.

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So, if you were interested in finding out whether there's a cost or greenhouse gas advantage to run say, a diesel VW Golf TDI five-door or a Toyota Camry Hybrid, it could tell you. The answer, assuming 20,000 km of driving per year (split equally between highway and city driving), with fuel at an average cost of $1.30 per litre, is the Golf TDI by a hair, or $13 per year, says the site. Using those same parameters except changing that mileage split to 70/30 highway versus city kilometres, the cost savings jumps 10-fold, to $1,220 over a decade in favour of the Golf TDI.

Interestingly, though, the Camry Hybrid will still produce slightly fewer (7 per cent less) greenhouse gas emissions, according to the calculator, which uses Natural Resources Canada's annual fuel consumption and emissions statistics to make its projections. Generally, greenhouse gas emissions of mainly carbon dioxide are directly proportional to fuel consumption figures, but the federal government uses a higher emissions multiplier for every litre of "ultraclean diesel" fuel burned, to account for diesel's higher particulate emissions and health-harming pollutants.

The CAA calculator has its limitations as a new car-buying tool, however, since many 2012 vehicles are missing. A brief search showed that no 2012 information was available on Ford, VW or Nissan vehicles, so the above calculations are based on 2011 information. Most current Chevrolet models are listed, as are some – but not nearly all – 2012 Dodge models, so the calculator seems most relevant if you're in the market for a slightly used 2010 or demo 2011 model.

Get the calculator here.

Lexus drops slow-selling HS 250h

The Lexus HS 250h hybrid has been quietly discontinued in North America, though the luxury compact will still be sold in Japan, a Toyota Canada representative confirmed this week.

There may still be some models lingering on dealer lots, but the more stylish CT 200h compact hatchback and the soon-to-arrive ES 300h that's closely based on the new generation Camry Hybrid will carry on the entry-level luxury gas-electric hybrid torch.

Production of the ES 300h will reportedly start in July in Japan, so although there's no price or specific release date yet, it should become available this summer. On the Toyota side, the entry Camry Hybrid starts at about $3,000 more than the base Camry.

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But both of those Camrys are four-cylinder models, and the ES hybrid's main Lincoln rival in the U.S. has already priced its MKZ Hybrid at the same price as Lincoln's standard MKZ V6 model, though in Canada it's still slightly higher. The current Lexus ES 350, which comes standard with a V6, starts at $42,150, a major jump up from the $30,950 starting price of the CT 200h.

Between that, the Lexus ES hybrid's 300 designation, and the demise of the HS, look for the new hybrid to be come in at or possibly below the new ES 350's starting price.

Chevy SS to become GM’s NASCAR entry

A Chevrolet V-8 sport sedan simply called the SS will go on sale next year in the U.S., and will also be used by NASCAR Sprint car teams starting with the 2013 Daytona 500, but won't be available in Canada.

GM Canada spokesman George Saratlic said there is no plan to bring the Chevy SS to Canada. GM confirmed in a brief note last week that the SS would come to the U.S., saying that the SS will arrive as a limited production model based on the Australian Holden Commodore VF performance sedan – which shares a rear-wheel drive platform with the Oshawa, Ont.-built Chevy Camaro. It will arrive in late 2013 as a 2014 model, the first time in 17 years that Chevrolet will offer a RWD sedan, with the boat-ish Caprice SS.

"The Chevrolet SS is a great example of how GM is able to leverage its global product portfolio to deliver a unique performance experience that extends beyond the track," said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, in the statement.

Tesla S Beta tour continues

The fully electric Tesla Model S is on display in Toronto until May 27, before its unique roving boutique hits Calgary – yes, Tesla hopes to sell some gas-free, rebate-less cars in the heart of Canada's oil patch – and Vancouver by mid-June.

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Tesla's "pop-up store" car and battery display is currently at Sherway Gardens mall in Etobicoke, Ont., then travels west to Calgary's Chinook Centre mall June 6-10, and Vancouver's Pacific Centre mall from June 13-17. That's within a week of when the first deliveries of the Model S will start in the U.S., while Canadian deliveries are set to start in September.

Interested visitors can sit in the cockpit of the prototype Model S Signature edition, which comes with the largest battery pack and a unique red tint paint, for its princely launch price estimated to be in the mid-$90,000 range. As of last November, more than 325 Model S Teslas have been reserved, with at least 200 of the priciest launch edition models.

Canadian prices haven't been finalized, but with each battery upgrade to cost about $10,000, expect the Model S to start in the mid-70s, before the provincial rebates of $8,500 in Ontario, $8,000 in Quebec, and $5,000 in British Columbia.

Correction: A previous online version of this story contained incorrect figures for fuel savings. This has been amended.

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