Let’s face it. The current Z car is old. How old? In automotive years, ancient. In fact, it’s oldest design currently being offered in North America. The only older vehicles include a truck and a commercial van, the former being Nissan’s own Frontier and the latter GM’s Chevy/GMC Express/Savana cargo and shuttle vans. This said, there’s new hope on the horizon.
Nissan recently took the wraps off of a new concept car dubbed Z Proto, and while “Proto” obviously stands for prototype, it appears as close to production trim as any fantasy show car the Japanese brand has ever revealed.
It’s sheet metal actually looks picture perfect for a seventh-generation Z, combining many of the original 240’s design cues with some from the much-loved fourth-generation Z32, while its slick looking interior is as dramatically modern as the current model is as awkward and backwards, yet comes infused with plenty of retro touches.
As is almost always the case, new Z will be larger than the outgoing model is this prototype is anything to go by, with the Z Proto measuring about five and a half inches longer from nose to tail. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will weigh more than the 370’s base 3,232 lb (1,466 kg) curb mass, or lose any of the current car’s driving capability, but more likely due to greater use of modern lightweight materials and the inclusion of a smaller 3.0-litre engine block, down 700 cubic centimeters, will actually weigh less.
The new Z will once again share platform architectures with its pricier Infiniti Q60 cousin, which bodes well for its overall structural integrity and build quality. The new prototype now reaches 4,381 mm (172.5 in) from front to back, which is exactly 141 mm (5.6 in) longer than the current 370Z, but take note it’s actually a fraction of a fraction narrower (1 mm) at 1,849 mm (72.8 in), or identical to the Q60’s width, and 10 mm (0.4 in) lower at 1,310 mm (51.6 in).
The current Z uses a lot of aluminum already, so expect the upcoming version to also use the lightweight alloy for its hood, door skins, and rear liftback, while it will without doubt also utilize aluminum suspension components and an aluminum-alloy front subframe, engine cradle, plus forged aluminum control arms (upper and lower in the rear), steering knuckle, radius rod, and wheel carrier assembly, all found on the current car, which is beyond impressive for its $30,498 base price.
As you may have guessed from the engine noted above, the new Z will feature Nissan/Infiniti’s award-winning twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre VR30DDTT V6, which not only improved on performance, but makes a big difference at the pump over today’s 3.7-litre mill. The current Q60 offers both 300 and 400 horsepower versions, the latter causing many in the industry to dub the next-gen sports car 400Z, but this said it would be a shame not to offer a more affordable variant named 300Z, especially considering the model’s much-loved and sought after 1989–2000 second-generation (Z32) 300ZX. This tact would allow the Z car to be sold in a similar fashion to Porsche’s 911, with various stages of tune from the 300 horsepower 300Z, to a 350 hp 350Z, possibly a 370 hp 370Z and top-line 400Z. Who knows? Maybe there’s a market for a lower-powered $30k Z car to compete head-on with the upcoming redesigned 2022 Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. That car will be available with a 2.5-litre H-4 making 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, so 240 hp turbo-four under the hood of a Z car would make a nice rival, wouldn’t it? Can’t imagine what they might call it. I think Nissan would have a lot of fun bringing out special editions of that engine with 20 hp bumps in performance. Of course, we’re only speculating, but hopefully Nissan has something like this in mind as it would be marketing genius (if we don’t say so ourselves).
Of course, rear-biased all-wheel drive will be optional if not standard, and a six-speed manual will probably get the cut in the base car, with at least seven forward gears in the optional automatic version.
The Proto’s interior comes fitted with the manual, incidentally, while anyone familiar with any Z car cabin would immediately know that it’s a modernized version of Nissan’s most revered sports car. Along with trademark giveaways like the trio of dials across the centre dash top and the sloping side windows, not to mention the classic Nissan sport steering wheel with its big stylized “Z” on the hub, this prototype pulls from the current 370Z’s parts bin with respect to the ovoid door handles, their integrated air vents, and the side window defog vents on each corner of its dash. These similarities may end up only being found on this prototype, and used for the sake of expediency and cost cutting, but it is possible Nissan will carry some less critical features such as these forward into the new interior design.
Today’s 370Z is actually quite refined inside, at least in upper trims, with plenty of leather-like, padded, soft-touch surfaces with stitching on the dash, centre console sides and doors, all of which appear to be carried forward into the new concept. It’s likely Nissan will likely upgrade some other areas that are now covered in hard composite, the new car probably featuring more pliable synthetics in key areas that might be touched more often.
The so far unmentioned elephant in the room (or cabin) is the impressive array of high-definition electronic interfaces, the primary gauges shown being fully digital and very intriguing, plus the centre stack-mounted infotainment touchscreen display appearing amongst the best Nissan currently has on offer. We can expect all the latest tech such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a large rearview camera with potential an overhead, surround-view option, and this being a performance model, sport features such as a lap timer, g-meter, etcetera.
The centre stack also shows a simple triple-dial automatic HVAC interface that oddly doesn’t include dual-zone functionality, so it’s likely this was merely pulled over from the current car and will be updated in the future production Z.
Seen the new Z yet? The Z Proto (photo below) was introduced just a month ago, and while it might not yet be in full production trim, the car’s amazing attention to detail, particularly inside, makes it look very close to reality. So, where does that leave the current 370Z?
Let’s just call it a modern-day classic to be nice. Today’s Z is in fact the oldest generation of any car currently on the market, having been with us for over 11 years. The only non-commercial vehicle to beat that seasoned tenure is Nissan’s own Frontier pickup truck with 16 years to its credit, while GM’s full-size Chevy Express and GMC Savana commercial cargo/passenger vans are oldest of all, having dawned in 1995 and been refreshed in 2003. While old doesn’t necessarily mean bad, much has been learned in the decades that have passed, and therefore each could certainly be a lot better.
On the positive, this is the Z car’s 50th anniversary, and while I wish I had a special 50th Anniversary model to show you, complete with big, bold, diagonal side stripes, the Nismo is the best of the 2020 370Z crop, so I can hardly complain. To be clear, the anniversary car doesn’t provide the Nismo’s 18 additional horsepower and 6 extra pound-feet of torque, being limited to 332 and 270 respectively, instead of 350 and 276, but you can get it with the available paddle-shift actuated seven-speed automatic, the Nismo only available with a six-speed manual. Then again, it could be considered a moral crime to purchase the most potent version of this car with an autobox anyway.
Under the 370Z’s aluminum hood is a 3.7-litre V6 with a sensational looking red engine cover and an equally exciting reinforced three-point front strut tower brace hovering over top. Nissan should rightly celebrate this potent and dependable six-cylinder mill, and fortunately has provided an engine bay worthy of exposure at weekend parking lot car enthusiast meet-and-greets.
It doesn’t cost a lot to do it right, by the way, the base 370Z coming in at just $30,498, which is a hair over the much less powerful Toyota 86. Rather than get pulled into a comparison, which is oh-so easy with these two, I need to quickly point out that no amount of OEM options or packages can push the little Toyota sport coupe’s price up to my 370Z Nismo’s $48,998 MSRP.
For that money the 2020 Z gets some unique red and black trim accents around the its circumference, plus really attractive 19-inch Nismo Rays forged rims surrounded by a set of 245/40YR19 front and 285/35YR19 rear Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT600 performance rubber, not to mention a Nismo-tuned suspension featuring increased spring, dampening and stabilizer rates, front and rear performance shocks, a rear underbody V-brace, and the reinforced three-point front strut tower brace noted a moment ago. Oh, and that engine sends its wasted gas through a Nismo-tuned free-flow dual exhaust system with an H-pipe configuration.
As awesome as all that sounds, the 370Z Nismo’s black leather and perforated red Alcantara Recaro sport seats will probably get noticed first, especially because of the racing-style five-point harness slots on their backrests. There’s no shortage of red thread around the cabin either, and special Nismo logos elsewhere, such as the gauge cluster.
Plenty of comfort and convenience features get pulled up from lower trims, too, a few worth mentioning including automatic on/off HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lamps, proximity-sensing entry with push-button start and stop, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror that houses a tiny reverse monitor for the backup camera, a HomeLink garage door opener, micro-filtered single-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system with detailed mapping and SiriusXM NavTraffic capability, a great sounding Bose audio system with available satellite radio, a USB charging port, etcetera.
If we put age aside, this 2020 370Z Nismo looks like an excellent value proposition. After all, when compared directly to key rivals from Toyota, the fully-loaded $34,450 86 GT only makes 205 horsepower on its best day, while the 382-horsepower turbocharged BMW 3.0-litre inline-six-powered Supra (I’d love to be living with that car out of warranty, not) will set you back a cool $67,690. Certainly, you can get a BMW-sourced 2.0-litre turbo four in the new Supra instead, but even that 255-hp mill is much pricier than the Z at $56,390.
The top-line Supra can be launched from standstill to 100 km/h in the low to mid four-second range, which is a considerable improvement over the 370Z Nismo’s high four-second to low five-second sprint time. The 86 hits 100 km/h in the mid seven-second range, and tops out at just 226 km/h (140 mph), not that any sane person would ever try that on a Canadian road. Still, bragging rights are bragging rights, allowing owners of straight-six-powered Supras to boast about its 263 km/h (163 mph) terminal velocity, which is plenty of fun until the guy standing in front of his 370Z Nismo at the aforementioned meet-and-greet mentions his comparatively geriatric rival maxes out at 286 km/h (178 mph), a whopping 23 km/h (15 mph) faster.
Of course, it’s not all about straight-line power. Anyone who’s spent time in a fast car knows that braking performance matters a lot more than acceleration, but don’t worry, Nissan has stopping power covered too. Up front, 14- by 1.3-inch vented rotors get the bite from four-piston opposed aluminum calipers, while the 13.8- by 0.8-inch rear discs are bound via two-piston calipers. Zs also receive high-rigidity brake hoses and R35 Special II brake fluid. The brakes are so strong, in fact, that I recommend doing so in a straight line when needing to scrub speed off quickly, because the Z’s 1,581 kilograms (3,486 lbs) of heft has been known to make its rear end a bit squirrely when getting hard on the binders mid-corner. I’ve experienced this myself, one time becoming especially uncomfortable just ahead Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew, and you don’t want to enter that one sideways.
Fortunately, getting out of trouble fast is Z car hallmark, the current 370’s double-wishbone front suspension and four-link rear setup being wonderfully balanced most of the time. It gets stiffer roll calibrations and increased damping levels in Nismo trim, plus a 0.6-inch wider track, yet drives quite smoothly nonetheless. All Z’s utilize a carbon-fibre driveshaft to shave off pounds and improve throttle response, plus a viscous limited slip differential for putting power down to the ground via both rear tires.
If you think all of this sounds good, and it should, wait until you’ve downshifted with the Z’s SynchroRev Match equipped six-speed manual that automatically blips the throttle mid-shift to match the upcoming gear ratio. You’ll be sounding like you’re a pro at heel-toe shifting, when you might not even know what I’m talking about. More importantly, SynchroRev Match ideally makes sure that shifts transition smoothly, thus minimizing drivetrain jolt. The shifter feels great too, thanks to a nice and tight, notchy feel and engaging response, while the clutch take-up is smooth yet engaging, and the arrangement of all aluminum pedals is great for the aforementioned heel-toe technique.
As you might expect in a modern sports car, there’s much more aluminum to go around than just the foot pedals, with plenty of bright and brushed metalwork elsewhere in the cabin. Then again, calling the Z a modern sports car is giving it much more respect than it deserves, particularly with respect to the interior’s design and execution. Its red on black colour theme is nice enough, but even this top-tier Nismo variant almost makes the 86 seem fresh.
Don’t get me wrong, because the Alcantara seat and door inserts are pretty plush, as are the same faux-suede armrests and lower centre stack sides, not to mention the nicely padded stitched leatherette dash top and door uppers. More contrast red stitched leather-like material flows around the shifter, and not just the boot. In fact, Nissan dresses up the top surface of the lower console in what comes across like leather, giving it some of the Maxima’s premium flair.
Even the sportiest Maxima SR doesn’t come close to offering seats as completely enveloping as the 370Z Nismo’s, their aggressive side bolstering and shoulder harness holes nodding to the car’s track potential and their maker, Recaro, renowned for producing some of the best performance seats in the business. They’re manually eight-way adjustable to save weight (the passenger gets four adjustments), and while the side dials aren’t as easy to modulate as levers, they’re infinitely adjustable and remain steadfast once set. While this is good, not providing any telescoping reach from the steering column is a massive fail, especially for those of us with longer legs than torso. The result is a need to crank the seatback into an almost 90-degree angle to comfortably and safely grip the steering wheel, which while the ideal position for the track isn’t exactly the most enjoyable on the road.
Now that I’m griping (and you’d expect complaints about an interior that’s into its third decade), the 370Z’s electronic interfaces are downright archaic. I have zero quibbles about the analogue gauge cluster, because I happen to love analogue dials for cars and watches, being a bit of a throwback myself, the car’s trio of ancillary gauges atop the dash one of its most loved design details. I even appreciate the digital clock that harks back to my teenage era, my watch collection including a few these as well, but modern it’s not. The multi-information display left of the tachometer is more of a simple trip computer that’ll have old-school PC users conjuring up memories of pre-Windows MS-DOS video games like Digger and Diamond Caves, not to mention the unusual rows of orange dots above and below for the respective fuel gauge and engine temp. It’s so old that it’s almost cool… almost.
In comparison the Z’s main infotainment touchscreen is mind-blowingly advanced, but of course it’s rather dated compared to most anything else currently on the market. Navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and other function are included, but its graphics are yesteryear, processing speed lethargic, and display resolution quality only slightly more up-to-date than the car itself. It all works well enough, nonetheless, so if you can live with merely adequate electronics, or don’t mind swapping them out for an aftermarket alternative, they’ll do fine.
Of course, this being a two-seat sports coupe, the 370Z isn’t big on cargo capacity either. You can stuff enough bags for a weekend getaway for sure, but the 195 litres (6.9 cu ft) on hand won’t allow for much more. Again, compromises are always required when opting for such a track-ready sports car, so consider this a simple reminder.
In summary, you can get into a new 2020 370Z for less than $30,000, and while not as fancy or powerful as this Nismo variant, it comes reasonably close and you won’t lose as much when driving off the lot. Either way you’ll get a fantastic performance car with a reasonably refined interior, just not a very modern one. If you’re fine with that, it’s hard to beat the base 370Z’s starting price.
We just can’t get enough of 2018’s Porsche 935 reissue or the sensational 911 GT2 RS it’s based on, so we thought we’d shed some light on an impressive entry in this year’s Pikes Peak hill climb, not to mention the man at the wheel, racing legend Jeff Zwart.
Zwart, with 16 Pikes Peak hill climbs to his credit, celebrated his 17th entry with an impressive run up the 20-km uphill course of just 09:43.92 minutes. He later admitted to going easy on the 700 horsepower, $780,000 USD rear-wheel drive car (which equaled exactly 1,025,000 CAD at the time of publishing), due to it belonging to a personal collector, but he nevertheless ended up fifth overall and second in his Time Attack 1 class, which only allows track and race cars based on production models. Zwart may have been a bit rusty too, having not driven the course in five years, but he certainly had high praise for the modern-day 935.
“It’s the most comfortable race car I’ve ever driven,” stated Zwart after his run. “The combination of the turbo, the bodywork and the motorsport chassis is wonderful.”
Weighing in at just just 1,380 kilos (3,042 lbs), the 935 reissue is one of just 77 created after being introduced at the historic “Rennsport Reunion” motorsport event at California’s Laguna Seca Raceway on September 27, 2018. It’s a race-prepped single-seater riding on Porsche’s 991-generation 911 GT2 RS platform, but features special 935-like body panels from nose to tail, the latter boasting a longer rear section (just like the original) for increasing downforce.
The car used in the hill climb is owned by Porsche collector Bob Ingram, while its livery included support for his son Cam’s Porsche restoration shop. It sported white, grey and red paint with Pegasus branding on its rear fenders thanks to sponsorship from Mobil 1.
Clint Vahsholt, who drove a Formula Ford in the Open Wheel category, achieved the fastest overall time in this year’s event, managing only 09:35.490 minutes, whereas the quickest Porsche was a GT2 RS Clubsport piloted by David Donn, who, also in the Time Attack 1 category, achieved a 9:36.559-minute time.
The Pikes Peak road course in Colorado is officially 19.99 kilometres (12.42 miles) long and features 156 turns, while climbing 1,440 metres (4,720 ft) of elevation averaging 7.2-percent grades. The uphill race starts at Mile 7 on the Pikes Peak Highway before ending at the 4,302-metre (14,115 ft) elevation. Multiple vehicle classes take part in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb every year, making it very popular in the motorsport community.
If someone were to ask you to name a serious sport sedan a few will probably come to mind in an instant. At the lower end of the four-door performance spectrum the VW GLI and Subaru WRX might immediately come to mind, but within premium circles BMW has been the go-to, go-fast brand for longer than any competitor this side of Maserati, and ‘60s era Quattroportes were astronomically priced. It was BMW that brought super-sedan performance to the masses, with the M5 initiating the entire category.
Sadly I’ve never owned an M5, although I came mighty close to purchasing a mid-‘90s E34 back in ’96. It was beautiful, brilliantly quick, and garnered near-exotic levels of respect amongst those who knew. These days the M5 is legend, with no one questioning why you’d want sports car performance in mid-size five-seater. Now that I’m thinking of it, the world we live in now seems to revere high-end sport sedans as if they were supercars, with most buyers in this class gravitating to taller super-SUVs like BMW’s own X5 M and X6 M.
As fabulous as BMW’s sportiest crossovers may be, I’ll take an M5 any day of the week. As it is, I’ve owned everything from a mid-‘70s Bavaria to a late-‘80s E34 525i and plenty of roundel-badged models in between, with none as entertaining as any M5, but fortunately I’ve been able to spend weeks at a time in BMW’s best sport sedan since the fabulous V8-powered E39 arrived on the scene, and must admit the Bavarians certainly know how to make a big four-door sedan move down the road quickly.
Looking back, the M5 first mentioned made a mere 340 horsepower, which seemed unfathomable when compared to the first M5’s 256 hp, but if lined up beside the comparatively otherworldly 600-plus horsepower M5 available now, it might as well have been a Camry (said with respect to Toyota’s impressive new Camry TRD). The 2020 M5 hits 100 km/h from standstill in a blisteringly quick 3.4 seconds, although if that’s not quite fast enough a Competition model will knock another 0.1 second off the clock for a 3.3-second sprint to the same speed. Either time makes it fastest amongst every direct competitor.
It takes more than mere straight-line speed to make a full-fledged sport sedan, of course, but fortunately the M5 earned its legendary status by managing corners with adroit agility, and the new model is no exception to the accepted rule. In fact, it feels easier than the previous F10-bodied M5 to fling through corners, albeit not quite as light and tossable as the now classic E39 referred to earlier. The now standard carbon fibre roof panel slices about 45 kilos (100 lbs) from the very top of the car, helping to lower its centre of gravity, while the car’s rear-biased all-wheel drive does more than just help out on slippery road conditions, making even drying pavement more controllable.
Likewise, the new F90 M5’s eight-speed gearbox shifts a helluvalot faster than you might expect from a conventional automatic, but if you want it to perform its duties even quicker, bright red “M1” and “M2” buttons on the steering wheel spokes can instantly trigger pre-set sport modes as well as personalized settings for your specific driving style. For instance, I was able to combine a more compliant suspension setup mixed with quicker shifts and higher engine revs for the M1 position, ideal for zipping down bumpy backroads that would cause a stiffer setup to be airborne more often than optimal, while I set the M2 switch for a more firmly sprung suspension with even faster D3 shifting speed, not to mention the DSC system turned off, perfect for smooth stretches of asphalt. The two buttons allowed me to immediately switch between settings as smoother or rougher sections of pavement approached, necessary for making time on the patchwork quilt of backcountry roads in my area.
During my various performance tests, I never attempted to prove the M5’s 305 km/h (190 mph) top speed, as you may have guessed, this more of a bragging right than anything potentially possible on Canadian roads or even any publicly available tracks I know of, but suffice to say it’s more than capable of shredding your license if you try anything so silly. I’m more about straightening ribbons of circuitous two-laners anyway, something the M5 executed with greater ease than anything so luxuriously appointed, accommodatingly sized, and accordingly hefty should be capable of. Fortunately, along with the speed this Bimmer delivers a wonderfully comfortable ride and superb refinement, especially when it came to blocking out wind and road noise.
Don’t worry, plenty of delectable sound emanated from ahead of the firewall (as well as the audio system’s speakers, artificially), the turbo-V8 never letting my ears mistake it for one of the car’s less potent sixes, yet when not pushing it for all it was worth the serene cabin allowed for full enjoyment of the just-noted 16-speaker, 1,400-watt, 10-amplified-channel Bowers and Wilkins surround sound audio system, even more impressive when turned down for calmer, ambient pieces as when cranked up.
Speaking of a fully engaged experience, the new M5 features a fully digital gauge cluster, albeit wrapped up in an analogue design. To achieve this, BMW encircles the tachometer and speedometer displays with beautiful aluminum rings, and while this doesn’t allow navigation map, per se, to completely cover the screen, does provide a unique look with an amply large multi-info display at centre. The MID is filled with utile functions, all controllable via steering wheel switchgear, while the cluster’s graphics and resolution quality is superb.
Looking to the right, the centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen is excellent, although be forewarned it gets better for the new 2021 model, increasing in size by more than two inches for a new diameter of 12.3 inches. And yes, it’s a touchscreen, thus providing the usual smartphone- and tablet-like finger gesture controls. Still, BMW lets those who’d rather control its iDrive system with easier-to-reach lower console-mounted switchgear do so, a spin of a rotating dial or the press of nearby quick-access buttons often preferable to tapping, swiping or pinching.
Also important, the BMW delivers one of the best quality cabins in the M5’s super-sedan class too, thanks to high-end materials and impressive attention to detail. The aforementioned Bowers and Wilkins audio system featured gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles, these combined with no shortage of beautiful metalwork elsewhere in the interior. Some accents were finished in brushed aluminum while others glistened like chrome, although my favourite upgrades were the high-gloss carbon-fibre surface treatments and stunning stitched leatherwork.
Much of that leather can be found on the M5’s sensational front seats, which were two-tone light grey and charcoal in my tester, with perforated inserts and solid tops on the lower bolsters. Brightly coloured M5 appliques enhance each headrest, a fitting garnish for these comfortable, supportive and fully adjustable buckets, the lower cushions even extendable. Gone are the days that BMW limited rear seating to just two, the accommodating 2020 M5 sporting a wide bench seat with a folding centre armrest housing pop-out cupholders, while detailing in back is as good as that up front. The rear seats can be folded in the optimal 40/20/40 configuration too, allowing long cargo such as skis to fit down the middle while two rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable, heated window seats.
The current M5 has been quite popular over its three-year tenure, much thanks to its eye-catching styling. This said the 2021 will get a refresh that may turn off some lovers of this version, due to a larger more rectangular grille, updated headlamps and taillights, and a few other design tweaks. Those not impressed with the updates should snap a 2020 up while they can, although take note there’s currently no penalty for choosing the 2021. In fact, our 2020 BMW M5 Canada Prices page shows up to $1,500 in additional incentives for both model years. Additionally, make sure to check out how the CarCostCanada system works, and while you’re at it visit the Apple Store or Google Play Store to download our free app, where you can learn about any available financing and leasing deals, manufacturer rebates, and dealer invoice pricing for any car you’re interested in, even while perusing your local dealer’s lot.
You can get into the 2020 M5 for $115,300 (plus freight and fees) and the more powerful 617 horsepower Competition version for $123,000, whereas the 2021 M5 will only be available in Competition trim, albeit with a slightly less expensive $121,000 listed price. Performance remains the same, which means the M5 blasts into 2021 as one of the quickest four-door sedans available anywhere. That it’s so well built, nicely equipped and easy to live with is just a bonus.
Are esports really sports? They certainly require focus, stamina and a lot of hand-eye coordination, plus in the case of e-motorsports, foot coordination too, but most serious sports fans would probably rank them beside video games, which in fact they are. Still, esports are incredibly popular, which means that automakers would be missing out on a great opportunity to connect with their fans, especially automakers already involved in motorsports.
Porsche has a long history in motorsports, competing soon after the engineering company was founded in 1931. In fact, the car most historians credit as the first Porsche, the Type 64, which was based on the Volkswagen Beetle that Ferdinand Porsche designed, housing a 50-horsepower flat-four mounted in the rear, was solely meant for racing. That car was set to be entered in a Berlin to Rome race scheduled for September 1939, but for reasons you can probably guess the event was cancelled, and thus the car never saw the track until a restored example, brought back to life by the one and only Battista Farina of Pininfarina fame in 1947, went on to win the Alpine Rally in 1950 when driven by then-owner and Austrian motorcycle racer Otto Mathé. By then the new Porsche 356 was already in production and within a year was taking class victories, the first at the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Fast forward through countless contests and numerous championships to the point that Porsche became the winningest brand at the annual Le Mans 24 Hours weekend, its 919 hybrid having become the circuit’s overall winner for three consecutive years from 2015 through 2017. Porsche contests many other sports car categories too, plus the performance brand is now deeply involved in Formula E, the FIA-sanctioned 100-percent electric racing series.
History’s race drivers would have benefited greatly from modern-day race simulators, or for that matter regular gaming consoles that racing fans use every day from the comfort of their homes. As it was this year, due to our health crisis professional drivers spent the first half of the year racing each other digitally, while Porsche Canada witnessed this trend and made it possible for fans to race each other in the same way via the Porsche Esports Sprint Challenge Canada one-make virtual race series.
Launched last May in concert with online games company iRacing.com, which is best known for its “Grand Prix Legends” and NASCAR 2003” games, the Esports Sprint Challenge Canada series pitted 30 virtual drivers at the wheel of one 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport car apiece, resulting in Lindsay, Ontario’s Brandon Hawkin winning every single race.
“The series was organized very professionally and it was a pleasure to race with everyone – what a fantastic experience,” said Hawkin. “It will be extremely memorable based on how competitive the series was with lots of track battles.”
While the series trophy would have probably been enough of an award, Hawkin was also given the opportunity to join Porsche Canada on the track for the Porsche Experience program, an opportunity of a lifetime for any performance car fan.
“Driving a Porsche on track is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child,” continued Hawkin. “I’m so excited and thankful that I’ll now get that chance and join the Porsche Track Experience program!”
The series runner up was William Levesque, while Giovanni Romano took third. Both will receive consolation prizes along with the other 27 contestants, plus iRacing threw in some online game credits allowing those at the back of the pack to hone their skills.
“It was incredible to see the group of talented sim racers we have across Canada push each other in the virtual racing world,” said Marc Ouayoun, President and CEO, Porsche Cars Canada, Ltd. “Congratulations to all the competitors, especially to Brandon Hawkin, as he will have the chance to bring his skill sets to life at Porsche Track Experience in the very near future.”
To learn more about the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, check out our 2020 Porsche 718 Cayman Canada Prices page that shows Porsche factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent. CarCostCanada provides members with rebate info and dealer invoice pricing too, both capable of saving you thousands during negotiations, while you can also download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Store or Apple Store, allowing you to have all of our money-saving info at your fingertips when you need it most, at the dealership.
Say hello to Thing 1 and Thing 2. They’re not very pretty, but they can shoo, shoo, shoo, shoo!
Ok, Dr. Suess we’re not, but you’ve got to give us some credit for having a little fun with BMW’s two new cartoonish cars. The 2021 M3 sports sedan and M4 sport coupe were unveiled Tuesday, September 22, after which the world’s performance car netizens let their feelings be known in (mostly) unsatisfied ways. Artist’s renderings soon popped up showing how BMW should have designed the oft-criticized duo, which certainly isn’t the best of initial signs.
Of course, plenty of pandering professional pundits were merely calling the new M cars “bold” or “dramatic”, which probably shows more kindness than the polarizing cars deserve, but to each his or her own, as the saying goes, so whether we like BMW’s new styling approach or not, we can at least revel in their engineering prowess.
Certainly, BMW is reaching back into its storied history for inspiration, possibly pulling new M3 and M4 frontal design cues from the original mid-‘60s 2000 C and 2000 CS sport coupes that eventually became the much-loved and highly collectible 1968 to 1975 E9 CS series of coupes, not to mention much earlier 1930s and ‘40s-era 300 series cars that wore then-typical tall and narrow radiator grilles. Either way the Bavarian automaker has the automotive world abuzz, which isn’t such a bad thing on its own.
The new M3 (G80) and M4 (G82) are the products of BMW design head Domagoj Dukec, who made sure everything rearward of the massive vertical dual-kidney grille is sleek and acceptably stylish, not dissimilar to the F80, F82 and F83 compact M cars that came before. Even these models were more aggressive than any previous M3 (the M4 only came into existence with the F models), featuring subtler bodywork that more easily slid past the radar.
Now the new M3 and M4 look as fast as they are. Both are capable of sprinting from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds in their most basic “core” trims, plus 80 to 120 km/h in only 4.1 seconds when their standard six-speed manual transmission is placed in fourth gear, and on to a top speed of 250 km/h unless upgraded with an M Driver’s Package that pushes their terminal velocity to 290 km/h.
As is now part of the M business model, upgraded Competition models can be had that chop the M3 and M4’s zero to 100 km/h time by 0.3 seconds to a mere 3.9 seconds, while the two cars’ 80 to 120 km/h passing capability gets axed by a whopping 1.5 seconds resulting in just 2.6 seconds to accomplish the feat, or so says BMWblog.com.
BMW’s 3.0-litre TwinPower Turbo inline six-cylinder engine, now internally dubbed S58, has been upgraded for its new application, with two mono-scroll turbochargers boasting quick-reacting electronically-controlled wastegates, plus ultra-efficient air-to-water intercooling. Like the old S55 twin-turbo I-6, the new engine is built upon BMW’s B58 engine architecture introduced five years ago.
The entry-level engine used in M3/M4 core models produces 48 additional horsepower over its predecessor for a maximum of 473 hp at 6,250 rpm, whereas the even more potent Competition version puts out 59 more hp for a max of 503, also at 6,250 rpm. Redline is a lofty 7,200 rpm, impressive unless comparing it to the 2007-2013 E90/E92/E93 M3 that stuffed an absolutely brilliant V8 behind its subtler grille, which easily wound up to 8,400 rpm and delivered an auditory sensation second to few.
The two M models’ quad of 100-millimetre diameter tailpipes should blat out an enticing soundtrack nonetheless, thanks in part to electrically opening/closing flaps controlled by an M Sound button. This lets drivers reduce exterior sound levels when driving through quiet neighbourhoods or merely wanting a more refined experience, or alternatively adding more sound when pushing the envelope, which requires opting for SPORT or SPORT+ modes.
Wire-arc sprayed cylinder liners lower friction and weight for a more free-revving engine, while a lightweight forged crankshaft reduces rotating mass further. Both are attached to a rigid closed-deck engine block, while the engine’s cylinder head boasts a 3D-printed core to provide better coolant flow-through along with less weight.
The core models’ torque rating is identical to the previous M3 and M4 at 406 lb-ft between 2,650 and 6,130 rpm, with Competition cars getting 73 lb-ft more for a new maximum of 479 lb-ft between 2,750 and 5,500 rpm.
In place of the core model’s standard six-speed manual gearbox, which features a rev-matching Gear Shift Assistant that makes any driver sound like a pro when downshifting, Competition model buyers need to accept BMW’s eight-speed M Steptronic automatic with Drivelogic. Drivelogic features three drive settings including “ROAD”, “SPORT” and “TRACK”, the latter only available after selecting the cars’ M Drive Professional setting. The autobox can be shifted with steering wheel paddles, which is par for the course in this class, but take note that it will remain in its chosen gear without automatically upshifting when in manual mode.
The M3 and M4 once again arrive standard with a rear-wheel drivetrain, although now new Competition trim can also be had with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive. The system is rear-wheel biased under normal conditions to promote BMW’s classic driving feel, but an Active M Differential apportions some of that torque to the front wheels when those in the rear experience slip.
When the aforementioned Sport mode is selected, however, additional power will be directed to the wheels in back for a more enjoyable driving experience, even so much that the rear end of the car will be able to slip sideways for some tail-wagging fun. This said, driving experts can shut off traction control entirely in order to utilize oversteer to their advantage. The M Traction Control system controls it all, with 10 different settings from near total intervention to wholly unchecked.
Considering the eyeball-pulling power of the new M3 and M4’s front grille design, you may not have noticed the longer wheels that extends 45 millimetres past the outgoing car’s axle separation, while it also includes slightly wider track for what should resulting in better ultimate road manners. A beautiful carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) roof panel is now standard, helping to lower the car’s overall centre of gravity. Lastly, the new M3 and M4 are weight-balanced front to rear ideally at 50/50.
If you think all good things happen in threes (or was that bad things?), the M3 and M4’s transmission isn’t the only component with preset driving settings. The cars’ chassis also gets three preset settings to optimize varying road conditions through an electronically-controlled Adaptive M suspension that features Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes. Together with a progressively stiffening setup, the M Servotronic steering system increases sharpness for better response, while 275/40ZR18 front and 285/35 ZR19 rear performance tires benefit core and Competition model handling with their rear-wheel drivetrains. Alternatively, all-wheel drive Competition trims get a set of 275/35ZR19s up front and 285/30ZR20s in back.
Braking performance has been enhanced to mirror the two M cars’ engine and suspension improvements too, with new six-piston fixed-caliper binders clamping down on 380 mm rotors in front and single-piston floating calipers biting into 370 mm discs at the rear. The brand’s M Carbon ceramic brakes are also available, featuring bigger 400 mm front and 380 mm rear rotors for even shorter stopping distances and reduced fade, enhanced thermal stability, and longer overall life. They’re easy to differentiate thanks to gold-painted calipers in place of standard blue or optional black or red. An electric “integrated braking” actuator helps improve braking response further, no matter which brakes are chosen.
Notably, the M Carbon ceramic brakes are available as a standalone option or as part of the M Race Track Package that also adds light-alloy wheels and lightweight M Carbon front seats. The M Drive Professional upgrade package, which comes standard on Competition models and is optional with core cars, features an M Drift Analyzer that records oversteer as well as opposite lock events, including the timed duration, line and drift angle. Your personal results are rated from one to five stars.
BMW Canada is promising 2021 M3 and M4 deliveries to start next spring, with pricing set to $84,300 for the sedan and $85,100 for the coupe (plus freight and fees), while pricing and details for the 2021 M4 Cabriolet should arrive sometime within now and then. Competition trim seems to be excellent value at just $4,000 extra, so therefore we think it will be most buyers’ first choice.
Just a final thought before signing off, anyone wanting the performance of the new M3 or M4 yet uncomfortable with the attention-getting grille might want to check the cars out in all-black trim. Sure it’ll be a scratch, dirt and dust magnet, but a photo of one that emerged as part of BMW’s simultaneous Performance Parts catalogue launch shows the four-door version in a much more appealing light. The digital catalogue promoted a Darth Sith-like red and black version too, which was even more over the top than the dayglow yellow and soylent green launch models, as were the counter table-sized rear wing and triangular quad of exhaust pipes. A white M4 wearing traditional M-striped BMW livery was pretty good looking though, so it appears some of the grille’s initial wow-factor can be downplayed with a subtler colour choice.
Exactly why Ford chose to offer this fabulous mid-size truck in nearly every other market than Canada and the U.S. for eight years before bringing it here is difficult to surmise, but rather than beat them up for handing their previous lead in this market segment off to competitors like Toyota’s Tacoma and General Motors’ Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, let’s celebrate that Dearborn’s decision makers finally came to their senses.
They’re not alone after all, the powers that be in Auburn Hills still waffling on whether or not to bring back the once class-leading Dakota (it was supposed to be here by now, but crickets). Maybe the final decision is stuck in Fiat’s Turin sede centrale or possibly les bonnes gens du Groupe PSA— Citroën, DS, Peugeot et Vauxhall-Opel—in Rueil-Malmaison), the leadership of semi-domestic automaker having been in regular flux, but either way the Ram Dakota seems to be a no-brainer, while on the other hand Nissan’s 16 year-old Frontier is an automotive zombie that should’ve mercifully been put down or replaced a decade ago.
Despite Nissan trudging along in the mid-size pickup segment during all the years Ford escaped (the Frontier still sells better than Honda’s Ridgeline, which is a sad testament to its Japanese rival), the two automakers actually share similar short-term small truck histories. Two years after Ford killed its then 14-year old third-generation compact Ranger in its domestic market in 2012, and introduced the current third-gen T6 to international buyers in 2011, Nissan offered up a redesigned Navarro to international customers. That attractive model was good enough to serve as the base for Mercedes-Benz’s now-defunct X-Class pickup as well as Renault’s Alaskan (not to mention Dongfeng’s oddly named Rich 6), but for some reason Nissan’s North American operations couldn’t figure out a way to bring it here, and alas they’ve been marginalized out of contention.
Nissan and its Frontier don’t have anywhere near the name brand recognition, marketing clout, or dealership real estate to relaunch a new small truck, whereas Ford had unwittingly built up an army of ready and willing loyalists that quickly pushed the 2019 Ranger into high volume Canadian sales of 6,603 units, slotting into third place after the Tacoma that managed 12,536 deliveries throughout calendar year 2019, and the Colorado with 8,531 (when GM’s Chevy and GMC sales are combined it was number one with 14,067 units down the road last year. That’s pretty decent for its first year (and a partial-year at that), boding well for even greater future success.
It also says a lot for the truck’s initial design. After all, it’s no spring chicken, having arrived on international markets nine years ago and only undergoing a refresh for last year’s introduction. Compare this to the full-size F-150, which probably gets more updates than any other model in Ford’s lineup, plus trim levels and special editions infinitum, and the Ranger’s initial showing on 2019’s sales charts is pretty impressive (although it has a long way to go before nudging the F-Series off its top pedestal that saw 145,210 examples delivered in 2019). Even both GM trucks couldn’t touch that (they totaled 94,683 units), just barely passing Ram’s 89,593-unit pickup total.
The new Ranger fits into the mid-size pickup truck segment ideally, being that it’s quite a bit larger than the old compact version and significantly smaller than the F-150. By the numbers, the 2020 F-150 SuperCab 4×4 with its 6.5-foot box is 536 mm (21.1 in) longer with 462 mm (18.2 in) more wheelbase, plus 167 mm (6.6 in) wider, and about 155 mm (6.1 in) taller than a similarly optioned 2020 Ranger SuperCab 4×4, whereas the F-150 SuperCrew is a whole lot bigger.
Specifically, the Ranger is 5,354 mm (210.8 in) long with a 3,221-mm (126.8-in) wheelbase, 1,862 mm (73.3 in) wide (without mirrors), and 1,806 or 1,816 mm (71.1 or 71.5 in) tall for the SuperCab or SuperCrew, which makes it slightly shorter than the aforementioned Tacoma (and much shorter than the long-wheelbase Toyota), while its also narrower and a smidge taller.
My tester was in XLT SuperCrew 4×4 trim and attractive Lightning Blue paint, which when combined with an available Sport Appearance package and FX4 Off-Road package, looked great, if not as ruggedly handsome as the Ranger Wildtrak if first saw in Asia, and the newer international-spec Ranger Raptor I’ve only seen in celluloid form (and hopefully here at some point in the near future).
The domestic-market Sport Appearance package includes a darker grille surround and Magnetic-Painted (dark-grey) 17-inch alloys, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. Power-folding side mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are included too, with the latter two also part of the 302A package, while a Bed Utility package adds a drop-in bedliner and 12-volt in-bed power adaptor, and the FX4 package provided my tester’s stylish red and grey/black decals to the rear corners of the box.
There’s quite a bit more to the FX4 package than two decals, like uniquely tuned off-road monotube shocks, tough 265/56 Hankook Dynapro AT-M tires, an electronically locking rear differential, Trail Control that allows you to set a given speed between 1 and 30 km/h to crawl over rugged terrain via throttle and brake management, and a Terrain Management System that, via Grass, Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, or Sand settings, utilizes the Ranger’s many off-road technologies to lay waste to all types of trails, from light-duty to extreme. What’s more, the FX4 package features a steel front bash plate under the front bumper, and skid plates covering the electric power steering system, transfer case, and fuel tank. Finally, the FX4 package provides pitch, roll and steering angle monitoring from the driver’s seat.
Unlike some 4x4s, setting the Ranger’s high/low gearing ratios requires no tugging on secondary shift levers, but rather only needs the subtle twist of a rotating dial on the lower console next to the shift lever. When set to its most capable off-road setting, you shouldn’t have any problem overcoming all types of rocks, roots and what-have-you, thanks to 226 mm (8.9 inches) of ground clearance, plus approach and departure angles equalling 28.7 and 25.4 degrees. For reference, the Tacoma offers more ground clearance at 239 mm (9.4 in), while its approach/departure angles range from 29 or 32 degrees up front to 23 degrees in back.
The Ranger’s generous suspension travel provides a comfortable ride for a truck, and I must admit it felt quite good through high-speed corners too, within reason. Even better, the new Ranger’s powertrain is really fun to dig your right foot into, and the 10-speed gearbox (with more forward speeds than any competitor) was plenty smooth and quick shifting, even providing a rocker switch on the side of the shift knob for flicking through the gears manually.
If things are sounding sporty, that wasn’t by accident. Ford increases performance further via a Sport setting that allows the engine’s revs to rise higher between shifts, while the transmission even holds onto a given gear when the engine arrives at redline, welcomingly unusual.
Helping add to that sporty feeling through corners, plus improving at-the-limit safety, Ford utilizes Curve Control for detecting when a driver enters a curve too quickly, and then makes automatic adjustments to the Ranger’s speed by lowering engine torque, adding braking power, and increasing the stability control function.
Along with that easy-going ride I spoke of a moment ago, my Ranger XLT 4×4 tester provided good comfort and sizeable cabin space from front to rear. The SuperCrew cab is the Ranger’s largest, and features regular front-hinged doors in back, plus additional rear legroom than the smaller base SuperCab model. Both configurations are available in XL and XLT trims, while the top-line Lariat is only offered as a SuperCrew.
The base SuperCab body style includes a longer six-foot bed, while my SuperCrew tester had a shorter five-foot bed. The Ranger is good for 707 kilos (1,560 lbs) of payload too, which is considerably better than the Tacoma’s 425- to 520-kg (937- to 1,146-lb) payload maximum. This same scenario plays out for towing capacity as well, with the Ranger capable of 7,500 lbs (3,402 kg) of trailer compared to the Toyota’s 502-kg (1,107-lb) rating. Trailer sway control is standard with the Ranger, too.
Without a trailer in tow, and being mindful of your right foot it’s possible to achieve a class-leading fuel economy rating of 11.8 L/100km in the city, 9.8 on the highway and 10.9 combined, this partially thanks to standard auto start-stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling.
The base Ranger XL SuperCab starts at $32,159, by the way, plus freight and fees of course, which makes it $1,090 pricier than the same model last year, while the XLT SuperCab now starts at $36,529. The as-tested XLT SuperCrew sees an increase of $890 since last year for a new price of $38,329, while the top-line Lariat SuperCrew only goes up by $230 for a new price of $42,619.
As for features, the 2020 Ranger Lariat adds more chrome detailing to the exterior, plus LED headlamps, front parking sensors (to the rear sensors already on the XLT), proximity-sensing entry, pushbutton start/stop, illuminated vanity mirrors, a universal remote, three-way heatable front seats with eight-way powered adjustment, leather upholstery, and more.
Yet unmentioned features on the XLT include 17-inch alloys (instead of the 16-inch steel wheels found on the base XL model), fog lamps, carpeting and carpeted floor mats (the base truck gets rubber flooring), a six-speaker stereo, automatic high beams, lane keep assist, plus more, while you can add a Technology package featuring a navigation system and adaptive cruise control.
Finally, the base XL includes auto on/off headlamps, a four-speaker audio system, a USB charging port, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, a capless fuel filler, and a pre-collision system that includes automatic emergency braking along with blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
Although my Ranger XLT test model was only a mid-range offering, it was nicely finished inside and well-constructed. The seat and armrest upholstery was a nice woven black cloth with creamy-grey contrast stitching for a sporty effect, while interior trim included the usual assortment of brushed and bright metallic surfaces, but no padded soft-touch synthetics.
The front seats are comfortable, with the driver’s featuring two-way power lumbar support that fit the small of my back nicely, while I found my XLT’s driving position good due to plenty of reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column. The steering wheel gets a comfortably soft leather-wrapped rim, and all interior controls were within easy reach. s
The Ranger’s instrument cluster is mostly analogue with nicely backlit needles and indices, the former sporting an attractive aqua-blue colour for dramatic effect, while a full-colour, high-resolution 4.2-inch multi-information display is more advanced than the majority of Ford’s competitors.
The just-noted gauge cluster needles match up with the sky-blue background of Ford’s 8.0-inch Sync 3 centre touchscreen nicely, this upgraded system coming standard in XLT and Lariat trims. While this system has been on the market for many years, it’s still a good-looking layout that works well. It even includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus loads of audio features including satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, while my tester featured an accurate navigation system, as well as XM travel link, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, and a backup camera with active guidelines.
Looking rearward, my Ranger SuperCrew tester’s rear bench seat was plenty spacious and adequately comfortable, particularly in the outboard positions, but it didn’t include the types of features I expected to see, not even rear air vents. XLT and Lariat buyers can expect two USB-A charge ports on the backside of the front centre console, as well as a convenient 110-volt household-style power outlet.
The Ranger is devoid of those handy integrated bumper steps found on GM trucks, that are really useful for climbing up on the bed, but fortunately my test model featured a kick-down step from Ford’s accessories catalogue that worked very well.
All in all, I really like Ford’s new Ranger. It looks good and comes across as a rugged, well-made mid-size truck. Its cabin is roomy and comfortable, includes very good electronics, and it’s really fun to drive. Ford should start offering some higher priced trim levels to compete with the Tacoma’s Limited, for instance, not to mention bring us the aforementioned Ranger Raptor that could go head-to-head with the Tacoma TRD Pro and Colorado ZR2. Even now, however, the Ranger’s three trim levels offer a lot of variety with competitive pricing, and should do even better on the sales charts as would-be buyers learn about their availability.
When someone says “age is just a number” they’re usually being positive about making the most of one’s retirement years, but in the case of Chloe Chambers, a talented young kart racer from New York, the feel-good story is in her lack of years.
Competitively driving karts since the tender age of 11, the now experienced 16-year old moved up from open-wheel racing to a luxury-lined production Porsche 718 Spyder in order to take on the Guinness World Record for quickest slalom time.
The number worth remembering in this instance is 47.45 seconds, or 0.66 if you’re wanting to count the difference between her time and how long it took the previous record-holder, China’s Jia Qiang, to snake through 50 cones at the wheel of a Chevrolet Camaro two years ago.
“It looks easy, but it’s really not – to weave between 50 cones as fast as possible, trying to beat a record time and knowing I couldn’t touch a single one for the run to count – I definitely felt the pressure,” stated Chambers. “Everything came together on my final run; the car worked beautifully and I found the grip I needed. Thank you to my family and to Porsche for supporting and believing in me.”
Another number that stands out is the 718 Spyder’s 414 horsepower, this impressive total the result of a specially tuned, horizontally opposed 4.0-litre six-cylinder “boxer” that redlines at 7,600 rpm. Combined solely with a six-speed manual gearbox, the 718 Spyder shares its powertrain and underpinnings with the 718 Cayman GT4, both of which feature Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with adaptive dampers, helper springs on the rear axle, and 30 millimeters (1.18 inches) shaved off the regular 718 models’ ride heights. With an engine mounted just in front of the rear axle for near perfect front-to-back weight distribution, all Porsche 718s provide superb road-holding performance.
“We couldn’t be more proud that Chloe set the record,” commented Klaus Zellmer, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America. “From the whole Porsche family, we send our heartfelt congratulations – we’re pleased to have been able to support Chloe with her ambitious record attempt and share her relief that it was successful.”
Take note that Porsche is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on the 2020 718 Spyder, 2020 718 Boxster and 2020 718 Cayman (the latter including the GT4). Be sure to visit each model’s price page to learn more, and don’t forget that a CarCostCanada membership will not only provide available financing and leasing info, but information about rebates and all-important dealer invoice pricing, which could save you thousands on your new vehicle purchase. Also, download our free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Store, so you can have all of our money-saving info at your fingertips when you need it most.
Want to drive an icon? Or maybe you’re just satisfied with a car-based crossover that’s little more than a tall station wagon with muscled-up, matte-black fender flares? I thought not. You wouldn’t be here if you merely wanted a grocery-getter, unless those groceries happen to necessitate a fly rod or hunting rifle to acquire.
Toyota’s 4Runner is idea for such excursions, and makes a good family shuttle too. I’d call it a good compromise between city slicker and rugged outdoorsman, but it’s so amazingly capable off-road it feels like you’re not compromising anything at all, despite having such a well put together interior, complete with high-end electronics and room to spare.
To be clear, I’m not trying to say the 4Runner is the most technically advanced 4×4 around, because it’s actually somewhat of a throwback when it comes to mechanicals. Under the hood is Toyota’s tried and true 4.0-litre V6 that’s made 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque since 2010, when this particular 4Runner generation arrived on the scene. That engine was merely an update of a less potent version of the same mill, which was eight years old at the time. The five-speed automatic it’s still joined up with hails from 2004, so mechanically the 4Runner is more about wholly proven reliability than leading edge sophistication, resulting in one of the more dependable 4x4s currently available, as well as best in the “Mid-size Crossover/SUV” class resale value according to The Canadian Black Book’s 2019 evaluation. Still, while the 4Runner might seem like a blast to the past when it comes to mechanicals, this ends as soon as we start talking about off-road technologies.
I’m not talking about the classic second shift lever that sits next to the auto shifter on the lower centre console, this less advanced than most other 4x4s on the market that simply need the twist of a dash- or console-mounted dial to engage their four-wheel drive systems’ low ratio gears. The 4Runner’s completely mechanical setup first takes a tug rearward to shift it from H2 (rear-wheel drive) to H4 (four-wheel drive, high), which gives the SUV more traction in inclement weather or while driving on gravel roads, but doesn’t affect the speed at which you can travel. You’ll need to push the same lever to the right and then forward in a reverse J-pattern when wanting to venture into the wild yonder, this engaging its 4L (four-wheel drive, low) ratio, thus reducing its top speed to a fast crawl yet making it near invincible to almost any kind of terrain thrown at it.
My test trail of choice featured some deeply rutted paths of dried mud, lots of soft, slippery sand, and plenty of loose rock and gravel, depending on the portion of my short trek. For overcoming such obstacles, Toyota provides its Active Trac (A-TRAC) brake lock differential that slows a given wheel when spinning and then redirects engine torque to a wheel with traction, while simultaneously locking the electronic rear differential. The controls for this function can be found in the overhead console, which also features a dial for engaging Crawl Control that maintains a steady speed without the need to have your right foot on the gas pedal. This means you’re free to “stand” up in order to see over crests or around trees that would otherwise be in your way. Crawl Control offers five throttle speeds, while also applying brake pressure to maintain its chosen speed while going downhill.
Moving up the 4×4 sophistication ladder is the 4Runner’s Multi-Terrain Select system, which can be dialed into one of four off-road driving modes that range from “LIGHT” to “HEAVY” including “Mud, Sand, Dirt”, “Loose Rock”, “Mogul”, and “Rock”. Only the lightest mud, sand and dirt setting can be used in H4, with the three others requiring a shift to L4.
Fancy electronics aside, the 4Runner is able to overcome such obstacles due to 244 millimeters (9.6 inches) of ground clearance and 33/26-degree approach/departure angles, while I also found its standard Hill Start Assist Control system is as helpful when taking off from steep inclines when off-pavement as it is on the road. In the event you get hung up on something underneath, take some confidence in the knowledge that heavy-duty skid plates will protect the engine, front suspension and transfer case from damage.
While I personally experienced no problem when it came to ground clearance, my Venture Edition tester came with a set of standard Predator side steps that could get in the way of protruding rocks, stumps or even crests. They hang particularly low, and while helpful when climbing inside (albeit watch your shins), might play interference.
For $55,390 plus freight and fees, the Venture Edition also includes blacked out side mirrors, door handles (that also include proximity-sensing access buttons), a rooftop spoiler, a windshield wiper de-icer, mudguards, and special exterior badges. Inside, all-weather floor mats join an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink garage door remote controls, a powered glass sunroof, a front and a rear seating area USB port, a household-style 120-volt power outlet in the cargo area, active front headrests, eight airbags, and Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of advanced driver assistance systems, including an automatic Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Options not already mentioned include a sliding rear cargo deck with an under-floor storage compartment.
The Venture Edition also features an awesome looking Yakima MegaWarrior Rooftop Basket, which allows for extra cargo carrying capacity on top of the SUV. While really useful for camping trips and the like, it’s tall and can make parking in urban garages a bit tight to say the least. In fact, you may not be able to park in some closed cover parking lots due to height restrictions, the basket increasing the already tall 4Runner Venture Edition’s ride height by 193 mm (7.6 in) from 1,816 mm (71.5 in) to 2,009 mm (79.09 in). The basket itself measures 1,321 millimetres (52 inches) long, 1,219 mm (48 in) wide, and 165 mm (6.5 in) high, so it really is a useful cargo hold when heading out on a long haul.
Heading out on the highway in mind, my Venture Edition tester’s 17-inch TRD alloys and 265/70 Bridgestone Dueller H/T mud-and-snow tires did as good a job of managing off-road terrain as they held to the pavement, making them a good compromise for both scenarios. In such situations you’ll no doubt appreciate another standard Venture Edition feature, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that reduces body lean by up to 50 percent at high speed. This is important in a body-on-frame SUV that’s primarily designed for off-road, and thus comes with lots of wheel travel and a relatively soft suspension that’s easy on the backside through rough terrain. It’s a heavy beast too, weighing in at 2,155 kg (4,750 lbs), so KDSS really makes a difference on the highway, especially when the road gets twisty and you want to keep up with (and even exceed) the flow of traffic. It’s actually pretty capable through curves thanks to an independent double-wishbone front suspension and a four-link rear setup, plus stabilizer bars at both ends, but don’t expect it to stand on its head like Thatcher Demko did on the Canuck’s recent Vegas Golden Knights’ playoff run, or you’ll likely be hung upside down like the rest of the Vancouver team were when physicality overcame reality.
Physicality in mind, the 4Runner’s powered driver seat was very comfortable during my weeklong test, even when off-road. I was able to adjust the seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel to a near ideal position for my somewhat oddly proportioned long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, allowing comfortable yet fully controlled operation, which hasn’t always been the case in every Toyota product, and some other brands’ I should add.
It’s also comforting its other four seats, the Venture Edition standard for five occupants while other 4Runner trims offer three rows and up to seven passengers. I’ve tested the latter before, and let’s just say they’re best left to kids or very small adults, although this five-seat model provides plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and head room in every position.
Even without the noted basket on top, the 4Runner provides 1,336 litres (47.2 cu ft) of cargo space behind its second row of seats, which I found more than ample for carrying all my gear. I tested it during the summer so didn’t find reason to use the 20-percent centre pass-through portion of its ultra-handy 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, but this would be a dealmaker for me and my family due to our penchant for skiing. When all three sections of the rear seat are lowered the 4Runner offers up to 2,540 litres (89.7 cu ft) of max storage, which again is very good, while the weight of said payload can be up to 737 kg (1,625 lbs). Also important in this class, all 4Runners can manage trailers up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) and come standard with a receiver hitch and wiring harness with four- and seven-pin connectors.
You won’t be able to achieve the 4Runner’s claimed 14.8 L/100km city fuel economy rating when fully loaded with gear and trailer, mind you, or for that matter its 12.5 L/100km highway rating or 13.8 combined estimate. My tester was empty other than yours truly and sometimes one additional passenger, so I had no problem matching its potential efficiency when going light on the throttle and traveling over mostly flat, paved terrain in 2H (two-wheel drive, high). If it seems thirsty to you, consider that it only uses regular fuel and will give you back much of its fuel costs in its aforementioned resale/residual value when it comes time to sell, as well as dependability when out of warranty.
One of the reasons the 4Runner holds its value is lack of change, although Toyota wholly improved this 2020 model’s infotainment system for a much better user experience and lots of advanced features. The 8.0-inch touchscreen incorporates Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and more, while I found its Dynamic Navigation with detailed mapping very accurate. The stock audio system decent as well, standard satellite radio providing the depth of music variety I enjoy (I’m a bit eclectic when it comes to tunes), while the backup camera only offers stationary “projected path” graphic indicators to show the way, but the rear parking sensors made up for this big time. Additional infotainment functions include Bluetooth phone connectivity, a helpful weather page, traffic condition info and apps, meaning that it really lacks nothing you’ll need.
The primary instruments are somewhat more dated in appearances and functionality, but they still do the job. The Optitron analogue dials offer backlit brightness for easily legibility no matter the outside lighting conditions, and the multi-information display in the middle includes the usual assortment of useful features.
My 4Runner Venture Edition interior’s fit, finish and general materials quality was actually better than I expected, leaving me pleasantly surprised. All of its switchgear felt good, even the large dash-mounted knobs, which previously felt too light and generally substandard, are now more solid and robust. Tolerances are tight for the other buttons and switches too, and therefore should satisfy any past 4Runner owner.
The overall look of the dash and door panels is rectangular, matching the SUV’s boxy exterior style. That will probably be seen as a good thing by most traditionalists, its utilitarian appeal appreciated by yours truly, at least. I was surprised to see faux carbon fibre-style trim on the lower console, and found the dark glossy metallic grey surfacing chosen for the centre stack, dash trim and door panel accents better than shiny piano black plastic when it comes to reducing dust and scratches. Padded and red stitched leatherette gets added to the front two-thirds of those door panels, by the way, the same material as used for the side and centre armrests, while Toyota adds the red thread to the SofTex-upholstered seat side bolsters too, not to mention some flashy red “TRD” embroidery on the front headrests. Again, I think most 4Runner fans should find this Venture Edition plenty luxurious, unless they’re stepping out of a fully loaded Limited model.
Being that we’re so close to the 2021 model arriving, take note it will arrive with standard LED headlamps, LED fog lights, and special Lunar Rock exterior paint, while new black TRD alloys will soon get wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler A/T tires for better off-road traction. Additionally, Toyota has retuned the 2021 model’s dampers to improve isolation when on the trail. Word has it a completely new 4Runner is on the way for 2022, so keep this in mind when purchasing this 2020 or one of the upgraded 2021 models.
Nissan’s Rogue has long been a top-seller in Canada’s compact crossover SUV segment, and the all-new, ultra-stylish, well-equipped 2021 version could push it even further forward as a key frontrunner.
The Smyrna, Tennessee-built sport utility will soon be in its third generation (we covered all the most important details in a recent story), the current model having been with us since 2013 and its predecessor, which replaced the 2005-2006 X-Trail in Canada (a name that it still goes by in many other markets), dating back to 2007. While the current Rogue has been extremely successful for the Japanese automaker, sales have been slowly slipping while the entire SUV sector has been experiencing a significant growth spurt.
The new 2021 Rogue should help Nissan Canada claw back some of the model’s lost ground, thanks to a more rugged design, a more upscale interior environment with newer, higher-end electronics, more standard features, and plenty of additional upgrades. This said, the new Rogue will cost entry-level compact SUV buyers $1,000 more than last year’s model, with a new base price of 28,498 plus freight and fees.
The sizeable price hike was due to a major load of new standard features, including LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with standard shift paddles, Intelligent Key remote entry, a six-way driver’s seat with standard power lumbar, and more.
Some of the latter items include additional advanced driver assistance features from the previous model’s standard allotment, that 2020 SUV including Intelligent Emergency Braking, Intelligent Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert in all trims. Now, the 2021 Rogue gets most Nissan Safety Shield 360 tech upgrades like a more advanced Intelligent Emergency Braking system including Pedestrian Detection, plus Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist, and Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking.
The updated 2021 Rogue also comes standard with Nissan’s Rear Door Alert (RDA) system that was standard last year too. When arriving at your destination, RDA alerts the driver if someone or something was placed in the rear seating area before leaving, while on top of this the renewed utility features an Intelligent Driver Alertness system across the line. Finally, the new 2021 Rogue gets 10 airbags as standard equipment.
Of course, important technologies like NissanConnect with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard in the 2021 Rogue too, as is a reverse camera and satellite radio, but the main touchscreen that these features are displayed on increases in size from 7.0 to 8.0 inches in the base S and mid-range SV trims, while the top-line Platinum gets a 1.0-inch enhancement as well, up from 8.0 inches to 9.0. Nissan also adds a powered USB-C port to the centre stack for a total of two, while all trims include Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity with audio streaming, hands-free text messaging assistance, pushbutton start/stop, plus more.
The Rogue continues into 2021 with the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine as last year’s model, still making 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft or torque. Additionally, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) combines the ease of an automatic with more efficient fuel economy. Base S and SV trims come standard with front-wheel drive, while an extra $2,300 adds Nissan Intelligent All-Wheel Drive to either trim, along with a drive mode selector complete with Terrain, Snow, Normal, Eco and Sport settings. When Eco mode is selected the new Rogue gets a 9.6 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 8.7 combined rating with AWD, or 9.1 L/100km, 7.1 and 8.2 respectively with FWD.
Aforementioned SV trim starts at $31,998 with FWD or $34,298 with AWD, and adds 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, body-colour door handles, roof rails, remote engine start, proximity keyless access for the rear doors, UV-reducing solar glass, Nissan’s 360-surround Intelligent AroundView Monitor, Intelligent Cruise Control, Intelligent Blind Spot intervention, Intelligent Lane Intervention, ProPilot Assist partial-self-driving, an eight-way power driver’s seat, two more audio speakers for a total of six, a power panoramic moonroof, two rear USB charging ports, Wi-Fi, plus a security system. If you still want more, an SV Premium Package (exclusive to the AWD model) adds Prima-Tex leatherette seat upholstery, sunshades on the rear door windows, heated rear outboard seats, and a power liftgate.
The majority of features just noted are standard on the Rogue Platinum that starts at $39,998, other than the 18-inch alloys that grow to 19 inches in diameter, the dual-zone automatic climate control system that includes rear controls for three zones, the power driver’s seat that adds memory, the leatherette upholstered seats that get upgraded to quilted semi- aniline leather, the power liftgate that adds motion detection, the main touchscreen that (as noted earlier) increases its diameter to 9.0 inches while adding Nissan’s “Door-to-Door” navigation, Navi-link to the ProPilot Assist system, and four more Bose speakers to the audio system.
The 2021 Rogue Platinum also improves forward lighting with LED fog lamps, while adding front parking sensors to those in the rear, interior ambient lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, tilt-reversing side mirrors, an state-of-the-art 12.3-inch “Digital Dashboard” primary instrument cluster, a premium-level 10.8-inch head-up display that projects key info onto the windscreen, Traffic Sign Recognition (that might save you from getting an expensive speeding ticket), an ultra-convenient wireless charging pad, a driver seat-mounted front-centre supplemental airbag, a four-way power front passenger seat, a remote folding rear seat, and an updated Divide-n-Hide storage system in back.