Decades ago Porsche was criticized for not making entry-level models that measured up to the much mightier 911, examples being the now 50-year-old ‘69-‘76 mid-engine 914 and ‘76–‘88 front-engine 924, but since the mid-engine Boxster convertible and Cayman coupe arrived on the scene, complainants haven’t been anywhere near as vocal.
Just the same, the brand’s new line of turbocharged flat-four powerplants that arrived in the current fourth-gen 718 series models have had their share of naysayers, yet while these engines’ barks aren’t quite as vicious sounding as the flat-six 911’s meatier growl, the 2.5-litre mill’s bite has kept most critics silent, particularly when tuned to GTS heights.
With respect to the 986, 987, 981 and today’s 982 platform architectures, the Cayman and Boxster were near perfect performers from the very beginning thanks to their relatively light curb weights and inherently well-balanced mid-engine layouts, and every generation became even better at managing high-speed road and racetrack performance.
As with the previous-gen Boxster and Cayman, the 718 series’ many more fans should also be happy to know that 2020 models are about to be built in their most formidable production trims yet, the upcoming 718 Spyder and 718 Cayman GT4 even capable of sprinting away from and outmaneuvering some 911 models.
To fill you in on some background information, the 718 Cayman (currently on sale from $63,700), can be had in base 300-horsepower Cayman trim that’s capable of zero to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds, or 4.9 seconds when hooked up to its optional paddle shift-operated dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission, or a speedy 4.7 seconds with the PDK and the car’s available Sport Chrono Package, while if you keep its right pedal planted it can hit a top track speed of 275 km/h.
The entry-level coupe can also be upgraded to 350-horsepower Cayman S trim ($78,600), which can spirit away from standstill to 100km/h in only 4.6, 4.4 and 4.2 seconds respectively, plus it tops out at an even higher 285 km/h, while lastly the 365-horsepower Cayman GTS ($92,600) is capable of running from 0 to 100km/h in 4.6, 4.3 and 4.1 seconds respectively, while it claims a top speed of 290 km/h.
The just-noted 718 Cayman GT4 arrives at the top of this pecking order, just like the previous version did when introduced in 2015. Where the old Cayenne (and Boxster) had flat-six engines throughout its range, the new GT4 replaces the 718’s 2.0- and 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four engines with a downgraded (but still amazing) version of the wonderfully high-revving naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre H-6 from the 911 GT3, producing a generous 414-horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, which is a 29-hp bump over the previous GT4 due in part to a sonorous 8,000-rpm redline, while it’s solely conjoined to a six-speed manual transmission just like the 911 GT3, all combining for a zero to 100km/h sprint time of 4.4 seconds, plus a terminal velocity of 304 km/h.
As for the 718 Spyder, which also updates a previous 2016 model, it shares all of the same mechanical bits as the Cayman GT4. This means it’s 39 hp more potent than the outgoing Spyder, resulting in the same 4.4-second 100-km/h sprint time as the Cayman GT4, although its top speed is fractionally lower at 301 km/h. Unlike the GT4, mind you, the open-top Spyder is quite different than the model using the Boxster nameplate, despite housed in its basic tub.
As noted earlier, the two new cars’ utilize a six-speed manual gearbox, which isn’t all that unusual in the class, but interestingly this transmission includes downshift rev-matching, or rather what Porsche refers to as an “Auto Blip” function, which automatically matches a given cog to engine speed when dropping a gear. Fortunately, Porsche makes this feature optional, in that a driver can individually activate or defeat it via a button. Also standard, both new models feature a totally new and exclusively designed sport exhaust system that works its way around the cars’ complex rear diffusers while making the most of the “exciting flat-six sound of the engine,” noted Porsche in its press release.
With respect to the two models’ outward designs, some key elements of the 718 Spyder appear like they were pulled from the 918 Spyder, not to mention the more recently introduced 911 Speedster. The 918 may have helped to inspire the 718 Spyder’s lower front fascia and similar, albeit much more pronounced, double-hump rear deck lid buttresses, while the new 911 Speedster may have influenced the 718 Spyder’s aggressive frontal treatment and double-bubble rear deck “streamliners”, as well as the new convertible’s vented hood, the “Spyder” lettering on its shortened B-pillars (which read “Speedster” on the 911), the similarly sculpted automatically-deploying rear spoiler, and the working rear diffuser.
The new 718 Cayman GT4, on the other hand, pulls forward a number of similar styling cues and aero details from its 2016 predecessor, including the aggressively shaped front fascia, the horizontal black strip of hood venting, the large fixed rear wing, the wind-cheating rear diffuser, and the uniquely designed alloys, all developed with a focus on minimizing weight and maximizing downforce. The fact Porsche even painted both GT4 launch cars in a seemingly identical yellow hue is no coincidence either, just like they once again coated the latest 718 Spyder launch model in white.
With an eye looking back to aerodynamics, each and every 718 Cayman GT4 exterior upgrade combines for 50 percent greater downforce with no negative affects on drag. Most of the aero advantages can be attributed to the new diffuser and rear wing elements, the latter feature good for 20-percent greater aero-efficiency than the outgoing GT4 wing. At the other end of the car, a deep lip spoiler joins up with air curtains to each side, this helping to channel air around the front wheels.
Now with our focus on the 718 Spyder’s aero upgrades, its adaptive rear wing automatically powers upwards at 120 km/h, but unlike the conventional 718 Boxster’s retractable fabric roof, the Spyder’s top doesn’t benefit from electrical assistance, but instead requires manual removal and stowage below the rear deck cover. When replaced on top of the passenger compartment, Porsche promises a roof that can manage the Spyder’s high top speed without issue, providing full protection from wind, rain and more.
Behind the scenes, both new models integrate a lightweight, high-performance chassis design that’s capable of keeping the engine and aero capabilities in check. Porsche leaned on its extensive motorsport heritage in order to achieve an ideal balance for the new Spyder and GT4, choosing to equip both with a model-exclusive rear axle, and a front axle adopted from the 2018 911 GT3.
Additional standard features include Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), providing a 30-millimetre ride-height reduction when compared to regular 718 models, this lowering the new models’ centre of gravity, thus improving overall handling. Still, owners have the ability to manually adjust the suspensions’ camber, toe, ride-height and anti-roll bar settings, important for those who regularly hone their skills on the track.
The now legendary 911 GT3 also provided the two new models’ braking setup, including their larger 380-mm cast iron rotors and fixed aluminum calipers, while buyers of either car can choose to upgrade to a set of ceramic composite brakes if desired, these 50-percent lighter and featuring discs that measure 410 mm up front and 390 mm in the rear. Additionally, the 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4 feature specially tuned ABS, electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control (TC) systems that enhance the cars’ performance, with these ESC and TC systems capable of being switched off via a two-stage process.
Yet more upgrades include a standard mechanical limited-slip differential with Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), plus unique 20-inch alloy rims shod with 245/35ZR20 front and 295/30ZR20 rear UHP rubber.
As you may have noticed, the many performance upgrades mentioned up to this point don’t necessarily make the new 718 Spyder or 718 Cayman GT4 quicker off the line than GTS versions of either model, but both are faster on the track, and therefore should be better for everyday driving, at least when pushing the limits. With respect to racetrack limits, Porsche claims its new 718 Cayman GT4 is capable of lapping the Nürburgring Nordschleife “more than ten seconds faster than its predecessor.”
Making the two new models more enjoyable to live with are upgraded interiors that include a special 360-mm GT Sport steering wheel with a cool yellow top-centre “marker” in Cayman GT4 trim. Additionally, both 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4 receive a 20-mm shorter shift lever that provides a “more direct and crisp feel” when changing gears. What’s more, a new Sport Seats Plus package comes standard, boasting seats with larger side bolsters to enhance lateral support, plus suede-like Alcantara inserts to improve backside grip. Alcantara also gets applied to a lower portion of the instrument panel, as well as the shift knob and boot, and the previously mentioned steering wheel rim.
On top of this, some cabin accents include body-colour trim for the 718 Spyder, and brushed aluminum details for the 718 Cayman GT4, while Porsche offers plenty of available décor upgrades as well. What’s more, you can opt for a set of full bucket seats or an 18-way power-adjustable Adaptive Sport Seats Plus package, but take note you won’t be required to pay more for air conditioning or the brand’s newest Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system that also features Sound Package Plus. This said, a navigation system and Porsche Connect, featuring Apple CarPlay, are optional.
Also noteworthy, the 718 Spyder can be ordered with a Spyder Classic Interior Package that includes two-tone Bordeaux Red and Black leather upholstery, extended Alcantara, GT silver metallic interior trim, and a two-tone black and red fabric top, the latter “reminiscent of historic Porsche racing cars” says Porsche. Alternatively, red, silver, or yellow contrast stitching is available.
However you’d like to order yours, I wouldn’t recommend waiting too long as Canada’s allotment will soon be spoken for. They’re currently available to order, with pricing beginning at $110,500 for the 718 Spyder, and $113,800 for the 718 Cayman GT4, plus a freight charge and other fees of course.
While you’re waiting for your new 2020 718 Spyder or 718 Cayman GT4 to arrive, make sure to check out all the videos Porsche provided below:
The new Porsche 718 Spyder. Perfectly irrational. (1:03):
The new Porsche 718 Spyder. Product highlights. (2:25):
The new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. Product highlights. (2:13):
The new Porsche 718 GT4. Perfectly irrational. (1:01):
Some brands are so small they don’t really get the press they deserve, and Mini fits into that mould both figuratively and literally.
Ok, I just had a little fun with a small play on words. The just-used term “literally” was straight-forward, in that Mini’s lineup of cars and its single crossover are made up of subcompacts and compacts (they’re small), while the word figuratively should actually be used as a substitute for metaphorically, but instead I improperly chose it for its root word “figure” in order suggest that Mini’s sales figures reside on the smaller side of the scale as well (they only delivered 4,466 3-Door Hatch, 5-Door Hatch, Convertible and Clubman models last year). Clever? Not really. Grasping at straws for a witty opener? Guilty as charged.
In reality, however, I almost completely forget Mini exists as a brand until checking my schedule on a given Sunday evening, at which point I’m reminded that one of their cars will be in my weeklong possession starting the following day. That’s when I get giddy with excitement and start planning my week to make sure I have time to drive somewhere unpopulated on the side of a body of water (ocean, lake or river), a mountain, or anywhere else with ribbons of winding black asphalt.
Truly, their cars are so much fun they’re addictive, especially when the model loaned out is tuned to “S” specification or better, and has its hardtop replaced by a slick power-operated retractable cloth top. Such is the car before you, the 2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible, which is upgraded further with this year’s special $2,900 Starlight Blue Edition Package, meaning that it receives a special coat of stunning Starlight Blue Metallic paint, as well as unique 17-inch machine-finished Rail Spoke alloys featuring black painted pockets on 205/45 all-season runflat rubber, piano Black Line exterior trim replacing most of the chrome, including the front grille surround plus headlamp, taillight and outside mirror surrounds, etcetera.
The “more” that I just noted includes rain-sensing automatic on/off LED headlights with active cornering, LED fog lamps, piano black lacquered interior detailing, a two-zone auto HVAC system, an accurate Connected Navigation Plus GPS routing system housed within Mini’s already superb infotainment system, a wonderful sounding Harman Kardon audio system, Sirius/XM satellite radio, stylish Carbon Black leatherette upholstery, and heated front seat cushions, while my test model’s only standalone option was a $1,400 six-speed automatic transmission, with all of the above upping the Mini Cooper S Convertible base price of $33,990 to $38,290, plus a destination charge and additional fees.
To be clear, you can purchase the new 2019 Mini Cooper Convertible (sans S) for as little as $29,640 before any discount, or you can spend the slightly pricier amount noted above for my tester’s sportier and more feature-filled “S” trim. Alternatively, you could choose a base 3-Door Hatch (hardtop) for as little as $23,090, while other models in the Mini lineup include the Cooper 5-Door available from $24,390, a six-door Clubman that starts at $28,690, and the Countryman crossover that can be had for as little as $31,090, plus destination charges of course.
Incidentally, all 2019 Mini prices, including trims, options and standalone features, were sourced right here on CarCostCanada, where you can also get otherwise difficult to find manufacturer rebate info, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Before I share what makes this Cooper S Convertible and all Minis so enjoyable to live with, I need to focus on the quality of the Mini product overall. Mini’s acceptance as a premium brand is questionable, which makes sense when you can buy one for a mere $23k, but nevertheless quality of materials, fit and finish and features found in each Mini model is much better than average when comparing most subcompact and compact rivals, especially when discussing mainstream brands.
Just the same, the majority of high-volume compact models have been on a refinement trend as of late, with the most-recent Mazda3 getting closest to premium status without raising its pricing into the stratosphere, but like its compact sedan and hatchback competitors (such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, et al) the 3 is quite a bit larger than all Mini models this side of the Clubman and Countryman, and therefore when comparing a regular Cooper to any top-selling mainstream subcompact rival (like a Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris), the Mini’s finishing and performance is on a much higher scale.
The Cooper S Convertible before you, for example, is very well made, from its outer fit to its inner detailing. The paint finish is excellent and other exterior embellishments impressive, from my tester’s eye-catching LED headlamps and Union Jack-emblazoned taillights, to its nicely crafted leather-clad steering wheel and stitched leather-wrapped shift knob, as well as its primary instrument pods hovering overtop the steering column, the ever-changing circle of colour lights rounding the high-definition 8.8-inch infotainment display, the row of brightly chromed toggles and red ignition switch in the middle of the centre stack, and the similarly retrospective line of toggles overhead, it’s a car that completely separates itself from everything else on the market. Those who love retro-cool designs and brilliantly artistic attention to detail will adore today’s Minis.
As grand as everything about this car sounds so far, the Mini Cooper S Convertible is at its best when in its element, on the road—prefe¬rably a winding road. S trimmed Coopers begin with a sonorously high-revving 16-valve twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, which is a sizeable 55 hp and 45 lb-ft more than the base Cooper’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged powerplant. This allows the S to slice 1.6 seconds off of the base model’s 0 to 100km/h acceleration time, dropping it from 8.8 to 7.2 seconds with the manual, or from 8.7 to 7.1 with my tester’s six-speed automatic transmission.
If more speed is still required you can ante up for the John Cooper Works Convertible, which reduces its zero to 100km/h time down to 6.5 seconds by way of a more formidable 228 horsepower version of the 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine, featuring a much more robust 236 lb-ft of torque. It starts much higher up the affordability ladder at $41,490, yet thanks to sport suspension improvements that include larger wheels and tires, plus more standard styling, luxury and convenience upgrades, most Mini fans will find it well worth the price of entry.
Then again, even the mighty John Cooper Works won’t cause Honda Civic Type R drivers to quiver from fear in their form-fitting Recaro racing seats, but lower the roof and drop the clutch of a JCW or this Cooper S Convertible and you’ll quickly be enjoying your drive much more than you might expect, while never worrying about draining the bank account at the pump.
Mini claims a very reasonable fuel economy rating of 10.2 L/100km city, 7.4 highway and 9.0 combined with the manual, or 9.4, 7.2 and 8.4 respectively with the automatic when upgraded to S trim, while the base Cooper Convertible manages a mere 8.4 L/100km in the city, 6.3 on the highway and 7.5 combined with its manual, or 8.8, 6.8 and 7.9 respectively with its autobox.
Together with the performance upgrade, going from base to Cooper S adds some performance-focused items like default “MID”, “GREEN” and “SPORT” driver-selectable modes, the latter perfect for boosting takeoff and enhancing responsiveness all-round, while Mini also provides this trim with sportier front seats featuring heated cushions. And just in case going topless isn’t your thing, hardtop Cooper S trims receive a big panoramic sunroof as standard equipment.
That just-noted Sport mode does a great job of increasing the Cooper S Convertible’s get-up-and-go while enhancing the quick-shifting nature of its transmission, while take note that its front-wheel drive system is never overpowered from torque steer, even when pounding on the throttle from an angled standing start. Those who read me often will know that I’d rather have any Mini with the brand’s wonderfully notchy manual gearbox, but nevertheless this automatic delivered strong performance while its manual mode, despite only being swappable via the gear lever, is plenty responsive.
Yes, that means it has no steering wheel mounted paddles, which is strange for this sportier S model. The current JCW autobox doesn’t come with paddle-shifters either, but reportedly Mini will rectify this shortcoming in 2020 with respect to the Clubman and Countryman JCW models, which are said to be fitted with a new eight-speed auto and much quicker 301-hp 2.0-litre engine making 331 lb-ft of torque, so it’s possible that in time we’ll see paddles on lesser trims as well. As it is, I left the autobox to its own devices more often than not, being that it shifts smoothly and was therefore ideal for congested city streets. Still, when the road opened up and consecutive curves arrived I found that manual mode significantly increased the fun factor, while helping to increase control.
Just like with all Minis, the Cooper S Convertible comes standard with a brilliantly sorted fully independent front strut and multi-link rear suspension setup that can humble most front-drive rivals, other than those enjoying the aforementioned Civic Type R. Still, it slices and dices up serpentine tarmac like it’s some sort of front-drive BMW, jest intended.
Those in the know (yes, we car nerds) will already be aware that second-generation Minis share UKL platform underpinnings with some modern-day BMWs. To be clear, however, the UKL platform is divided into UKL1 and UKL2 architectures, the former only used for Minis thus far (including the 3- and 5-door F56 Hatch plus this F57 Convertible), and the latter for larger Minis (the F54 Clubman and F60 Countryman) as well as the global-market BMW 1 Series Sedan (F52), 1 Series 5-door hatch (F40), 2 Series Active Tourer (F45), 2 Series Gran Tourer (F46), X1 crossover SUV (F48), X2 crossover coupe (F39) and Brilliance-BMW Zinoro 60H (a Chinese-market X1/F48 crossover with unique sheetmetal).
We don’t have the 1 Series or 2 Series Active Tourer here in Canada, and so far I haven’t been able to get behind the wheel of these two while parked in my second Manila, Philippines home, so I can’t say anything useful about their driving dynamics compared to counterparts from Mini, but I truly don’t believe they could be much better than a Cooper 3- or 5-Door Hatch or Clubman. I can attest to the Countryman S and the new Countryman S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid being more planted at high speeds than the latest BMW X1 xDrive28i, however, the latter seeming to have been designed as more of a comfort-oriented, practical alternative.
The Cooper S Convertible, on the other hand, is hardly as big and accommodating inside or out, its rear passenger area and luggage compartment actually the tightest in the entire Mini line. The back seats are probably best used for smaller adults and/or children, whereas the trunk measures 160 litres when the divider is moved lower and top is down, or 215 litres with the top up and moveable divider raised. It’s only accessible through a smallish opening too, but on the positive loading is assisted thanks to a really useful wagon-style folding tailgate that provides a temporary shelf for placing cargo before shifting it inside, while you can expand on cargo capability via 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks when hauling longer cargo such as skis or snowboards is required. All in all, the Cooper Convertible’s passenger/cargo capability is fairly flexible when put up against most rival ragtops, especially similarly priced roadsters like the Mazda MX-5 or Fiat 124 Spider.
Of note, Mini’s cloth top is a very well insulated “3-in-1” design that’s truly quiet, not to mention capable of retracting or closing in just 18 seconds via an almost completely automated process (you just need to keep holding the overhead toggle switch). When opening, it first stops halfway to form a big sunroof, which is perfect for those times when totally dropping the top isn’t ideal. Pressing and holding it again causes the roof to completely retract, while repeating the same two-step process in reverse powers the top upwards. The convertible can be opened or closed while driving up to 30 km/h, so don’t worry about how much time you have while waiting at a stoplight. Additionally you can open or close the roof from your key fob while outside, handy if you left the interior exposed in your driveway when it unexpectedly starts to rain.
The Cooper S Convertible isn’t without competition, the soon to be discontinued Volkswagen Beetle Convertible and cute little Fiat 500 Cabrio (which is available in sporty Abarth trim) being the closest four-seat rivals, but most would agree that the car on this page offers more luxury and performance than either European challenger.
In short, Mini’s drop-top is a comparatively roomy four-place convertible with decent stowage, premium-like interior refinements, excellent onboard electronics, agreeable fuel-efficiency, and a fun-to-drive personality that’s hard to beat, all for a competitive price when adding up all its positive attributes. Those who simply want to own a really well made car that’s an absolute blast to drive each and every day will likely love the Mini Cooper S Convertible.
The Colorado ZR2 is one wicked looking pickup truck. Chevrolet got the design just right, and together with its beefy styling and rugged suspension, GM’s most popular brand has brought one impressive off-road race replica to market.
To be clear, Chevy wasn’t first to this market sector and certainly won’t be the final entry. While there are probably others I should mentioned, Dodge’s Power Wagon was one of the street-capable off-road race truck initiators, although today’s 4×4 fans will likely point to the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor as first on the scene, as far as OEM custom off-roaders go.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) Ram brand has tried to answer back with its 2016 to present 1500 Rebel, which is much like previous Power Wagons with bolder frontal styling, while Toyota arrived a few years ago with its Tundra and Tacoma TRD Pro packages, the latter recently adding a snorkel-style air intake that makes it appear like it can swim across rivers, through mud holes, or any other deep, liquid barrier.
Right about now I should also draw your attention to the fresh new 2020 Jeep Gladiator, which when suited up in Rubicon trim might be the most credible 4×4 in the mid-size pickup category (it’s definitely has good roots), while delivering payload and trailering capacities that compete well too.
While I’m covering all of these trail-rated cargo (and family) haulers I need to mention Chevrolet’s recently re-skinned Silverado that can be specified in new Trail Boss trim with a two-inch lift kit, improving off-road capability over its GMC Sierra Elevation cousin, but other than this the Trail Boss is mostly about cosmetics, whereas Nissan offers tough Pro-4X trims on its aging Frontier and more up-to-date Titan half-ton and heavy-half Titan XD models. Lastly, Honda offers its Ridgeline with a Black Edition and… well… it’s no CRF250X, let alone ZR2 rival.
The Gladiator Rubicon and Tacoma TRD Pro are the only mid-size ZR2 competitors capable of whacking through the wilderness (GMC’s Canyon doesn’t provide anything quite as 4×4-worthy), and the Chevy can be made even more capable with its Bison upgrade package, yet all of the above deserve comment (including the 2018 to present Ford Ranger Raptor that’s now getting snapped up by wealthier off-road enthusiasts in Asia).
Obviously size matters, with the North American Raptor, the Rebel (Power Wagon), the Tundra, and the Silverado/Sierra fraternal twins being full-size models, and the Tacoma, Ranger, Frontier, and this Colorado (plus the Canyon) more compact in their mid-size proportions.
Another big differentiator is the powertrains on offer, and being that this review is about a mid-size model I’ll focus on its key rivals, with most incorporating four-cylinder and (when equipped to compete off the beaten path) V6 gasoline-powered engines. The two GM mid-size trucks do likewise, but they also buck tradition by adding a high-torque, fuel-efficient turbo-diesel mill.
So, let’s focus in on the standard and optional ZR2 powertrains and how each measures up when compared to its Jeep and Toyota challengers, and then factor in some of their 4×4-related features. For starters, I spent a week with each engine, starting with a greyish Deepwood Green Metallic painted one that’s in fact a 2018 model (I’ll talk about the differences later in this review). This optional colour was cancelled for 2019, but the superb 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder under its bulging hood remains. It makes 181 horsepower and a best-in-segment 369 lb-ft of torque from a mere 2,000 rpm, and comes paired to a strong six-speed automatic transmission.
It’s fuel-efficient compared to rivals thanks to a 12.5 L/100km city, 10.7 highway and 11.7 combined Transport Canada rating, but whether or not its stingy enough to justify its lofty $4,090 price tag will depend on the number of years and kilometres you plan to employ its service, or if you really want to take advantage of its efficiency for travelling farther into the wild yonder than gasoline-powered 4×4 owners dare go, or if you appreciate the tractability of its massive torque when trekking into said wilderness more than the immediate power its V6 offers.
Behind the blackened grille of the Kinetic Blue Metallic painted (a $495 option) 2019 ZR2 is the standard 3.6-litre V6 that produces 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque from 4,000 rpm. Just like the diesel, the V6 powers the rear axle or both diffs via part-time four-wheel drive, but unlike the diesel the standard engine’s gearbox is an even more economical eight-speed unit. The combo results in an estimated 15.0 L/100km in the city, 13.0 on the highway and 14.1 combined, partly due to cylinder deactivation when less performance is needed, and while decent it’s hardly the GM engine of choice for driving past pumps.
The Gladiator, on the other hand, only comes with FCA’s 3.6-litre V6, which makes 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That’s off by 23 horsepower and 15 lb-ft when compared to the base ZR2 V6, although it offers up a standard six-speed manual (no such luck with the ZR2) or alternatively an eight-speed auto, plus part-time 4WD, and comes with a Transport Canada rating that ranges between 10.4 and 14.1 L/100km city/highway combined depending on trims and transmissions.
As for the Tacoma TRD Pro, it’s standard with Toyota’s well-proven 3.5-litre V6 that puts out 276 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, which is down some 32 horsepower and 10 lb-ft of torque on the V6-powered ZR2, and mates up to a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto plus part-time 4WD, while achieving city/highway combined fuel economy ranging from 11.9 to 12.9 L/100km, depending on transmissions and cabs.
All of the above V6s will outrun the Duramax turbo-diesel by significant margins, something I immediately noticed when setting out in the 2019 Colorado, but the advantage of the diesel’s 109, 104 and 94 lb-ft of torque advantage when compared to the Gladiator, Tacoma and ZR2 V6 respectively, gives the diesel big advantages on the trail, plus of course its 11.7 city/highway combined fuel economy that can only be beaten by one single Gladiator trim (and I’d be shocked to witness the FCA V6 winning out in real-world back-to-back tests).
Engine torque is important when off-road, but there are other factors that are even more important when leaving pavement, such as ground clearance, front and rear overhangs, and wheelbase length to name a few. The Tacoma provides the shortest wheelbase at 3,236 mm (127.4 in), but its 5,392-mm (212.3-in) nose-to-tail length means its overhangs are more pronounced, resulting in a truck that won’t hang up as easily when scaling sharp crests or other obstacles, but will probably scrape its front and rear bumpers when approaching a steep incline or levelling off after a radical decline. By comparison, the Colorado’s wheelbase is nearly as short at 3,258 mm (128.3 in), but improves on approach and departure angles with the shortest overall length of 5,347 mm (210.5 in), whereas the Gladiator has the longest wheelbase by far at 3,487 mm (137.3 in), plus it measures a limousine-like 5,537 mm (218.0 in) from front to back (ok, not quite as long as a limo, but you get my drift).
To clarify, I’ve only tested the 2018 and 2019 ZR2 models plus a 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro (it now includes the aforementioned snorkel and a number of other improvements), so I can’t offer a full critique of the latest TRD Pro or the Gladiator. As noted earlier, I had a version of the 2018 ZR2 with the Duramax Turbo-Diesel for a week, plus spent a week with a 2019 V6-powered variant, and mostly drove them around town and within suburban, rural areas on tarmac, but also took both out on the trail, the latter deep diving in hood-high standing water. I tested the previous Tacoma off-road too, and I had no trouble negotiating the chosen trail, but being a different location and a long time ago (two years is eons in vehicle development time), a direct comparo wouldn’t be fair.
On that note I hope to test a Gladiator Rubicon this summer, and you can bet I’ll be getting it as dirty as possible when I do. It features a disconnecting front sway bar to help with articulation (something I first experienced in a Ram Power Wagon, and is now also part of the Ram 1500 Rebel upgrade), plus it uses the Wrangler’s solid front axle that’s considered an improvement over the independent front suspensions used by the ZR2 and most other modern pickup trucks. Of course, I’ll make sure to use experiences from my ZR2 tests as part of my future Gladiator review.
Like the first 2017 Colorado ZR2 and the greenish-grey 2018 turbo-diesel model partially reviewed here, the newest 2019 ZR2 receives the same substantial increase in ride height, and therefore gets the same 50-mm (2.0-inch) increase in ground clearance, while any high-speed handling negatives are offset by 90 mm (3.5 inches) of increased front and rear track, plus stiffer new cast-iron lower front control arms, and a unique set of 8- by 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road rubber.
What’s more, a 1.0-inch-diameter solid anti-roll bar replaces the usual 1.5-inch hollow one, improving suspension articulation, while last but hardly least are special Multimatic DSSV Position Sensitive Spool Valve Damping Performance shocks that help cushion the otherwise jarring impacts of rocks, roots and other obstacles you might find along an ungraded back road or trail (the TRD Pro utilizes Fox-sourced shocks, by the way, which are rated highly as well).
The skid plates below and tubular rocker extensions at each side are easier to see, both having been designed to protect vulnerable components beneath as well as low hanging bodywork, but the ZR2’s matte black grille and even more aggressive black domed hood make it even more noticeable to onlookers, not to mention its rugged black bumpers that get abbreviated at each corner to improve approach and departure angles, and extended black fender flares that make room for its all-terrain rubber.
The local 4×4 park chosen is one I test trucks and SUVs on regularly, so I’m familiar with its plentiful obstacles. While difficult for many presumed off-roaders, most of its challenges are a cakewalk for the ZR2, but were still intimidating without a spotting crew to guide me through. During the diesel’s mostly dry afternoon I was able to drag the rear-mounted spare tire over some deep rutted knolls plus up and down some steep terrain, once again finding ground at the rear (but not the front), while I was able to lift the left rear into midair and leave it there spinning (a silly thing some 4×4 fans do for kicks), and while there was a lot more skill remaining in this truck than my dirt playground could not fully extract, I was able to prove that the ZR2 is capable enough for serious off-road duty, yet still plenty comfortable.
The second off-road adventure with the 2019 ZR2 came mid-winter, on a particularly cold and rainy day. Rain means mud at best and massive pools of standing water at worst (or maybe best, depending on how you look at it). The steep grades that were child’s play before required locking both front and rear differentials now (just like with the Gladiator, albeit not so with the Taco TRD Pro that only includes lockers at the rear), but doing so allowed easy control all the way up and all the way down. Even better, partway into a 50-foot puddle my heart started to race when the truck’s front end slipped deeper into a set of ruts, forcing dirty water across the top of the hood and even onto the windshield, but a steady foot on the throttle allowed the meaty tires to keep momentum up, and the ZR2 pulled me to the other side without fanfare (other than my pounding heart). At that point I was wishing I’d had the TRD Pro’s snorkel, but obviously the ZR2 didn’t need it, this time around at least.
The thought of swamping an engine (which would void the warranty) makes the $6,980 need for the ZR2’s Bison package seem cheap. Of course, the Bison package wouldn’t have necessarily helped in this situation (it really should include a snorkel, if not just for style points), and I can’t say I’d want the ZR2 in Red Hot paint (I’d rather have the option of colours), but it gets design points for its bold “CHEVROLET” emblazoned grille (similar to the Raptor’s “FORD” grille replacement), unique AEV (American Expedition Vehicles) front and rear bumpers (the one up front capable of accepting a winch), the beefier black extended fender flares, special 17-inch AEV alloy wheels, fog lights, contoured front and rear floor liners, and about 90 kilograms (200 lbs) of super-strong boron steel AEV skid plates (front, transfer case, fuel tank, and rear differential) to better protect its vital components.
Of course, the ZR2 is still extremely capable without Bison upgrades, and quite a standout in the styling department too. The regular Colorado a bit tame to my eyes, at least when compared to most competitors, specifically the latest Tacoma and new Gladiator, but the ZR2’s bulging domed matte black louvered hood, redesigned matte black front bumpers and rear bumpers, exposed skid plates, robust tubular rocker protectors, and other trim upgrades give it a tougher look. Look beyond the machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels with black-painted pockets and you’ll be able to see the bright yellow Multimatic dampers, unless they’re covered in dirt.
The ZR2’s lack of side steps might look good and not hang up on protruding trail debris, but it hampers access for shorter folk like me. There aren’t any Corner Steps on the back bumper to provide a leg up to the bed either, these issues being the only complaints I have against this special model.
Once inside I enjoyed the view provided by the aforementioned ride height and the Colorado’s inherently great sightlines in all directions. This helps in traffic, of course, possibly even giving you the edge needed to find your way up to the front of the pack. There’s where you’ll enjoy V6 performance, the larger of the two being a good choice for those wanting power over fuel efficiency. The V6 delivers a decided jump off the line and then keeps up the pace right up to legal highway speeds and beyond, while the diesel only jumps off the line initially, and simply can’t maintain the same level of forward thrust as its revs rise. This will be just find for diesel enthusiasts like me, because the engine helps it feel more like a work truck capably going about its business, and of course it pays big dividends when it comes time to fill up.
Colorado ZR2 buyers won’t have to make a choice about handling, fortunately, because both engines manage corners equally well. Even with its increased suspension, or possibly because of it, the ride is fairly smooth and quite comfortable, unless jumping curbs. Those slightly firmer Multimatic dampers, which work so very well off-road, also help to reduce body roll at higher speeds on pavement, resulting in a truck that’s surprisingly athletic through high-speed serpentine curves, unless you’re attempting to go quicker than anything so top-heavy and obviously 4×4-focused is supposed to go. Braking is pretty good too, but once again we shouldn’t get in over our heads. The ZR2 weighs in at 1,987 kg (4,381 lbs), and more when upgraded with the aforementioned Bison package, so judge stopping distances accordingly.
As per usual I only pushed the ZR2 hard during testing, and no matter the surfaces driven over or the speeds attained, the driver’s seat was comfortable and supportive. I especially appreciated the lateral support provided by its big side bolsters, which stopped me sliding sideways on what could have otherwise been slippery leather.
The upholstery was dyed black as usual, albeit highlighted with a red embroidered “2” as part of the otherwise black “ZR2” insignia on the headrests. The ZR2’s steering wheel receives no such name recognition, but it has a meaty rim that’s wrapped in soft and comfortable leather, with grippy baseball-style stitching in the middle. Other than its four-spoke design it appears more like the type of sport steering wheel you’d find in a performance car, and thanks to the generous reach of its standard tilt and telescoping steering column I fit in perfectly. I was able to sit upright with the steering wheel perfectly positioned for my long-legged, short torso, five-foot-eight, slight-build body, safely and comfortably with my hands at the optimal nine and three o’clock positions, further allowing an easy reach to the pedals below and once again, great visibility all-round.
The rear seating area of this Crew Cab, short box configured ZR2 (the ZR2 can also be had with an Extended Cab and a long box) is roomy for adults (and kids) of all shapes and sizes. When the driver’s seat was positioned for my height, there was still about five inches in front of my knees and more than enough room for my feet, plus I had another three to four inches over my head, and five inches from my shoulders and hips to the door, plus I’d guess you could seat a smaller person comfortably between the two outboard positions. With only two in back, more comfort can be accessed via a wide centre armrest filled with large cupholders that include rubber grips to hold cups or bottles in place. Other handy features include twin rear USB ports and a 12-volt charger.
If you want to keep your gear dry and safe from theft, the rear seat headrests fold forward and the backrests tumble flat so you can lay your belongings on top, or instead you can lift the lower seat cushion up to expose a storage compartment underneath, this complete with every tool you’ll need to lower the spare tire from below the bed and then change the wheel.
Seats and armrests aside, the ZR2 doesn’t offer any soft, pliable composite surface treatments in the rear, but back up front the dash top receives a nice soft paint to absorb sound and make it more appealing to touch, as does much of the instrument panel. It should also be noted this isn’t the priciest trim in Chevy’s Colorado fleet, due to being optimized primarily for off-road purposes, but it was certainly nice enough for this class of truck. On the positive are some attractive metal-like accents around the centre stack and lower console, plus the door handles and armrests. The door handles inside are chromed too, as are the centres of some knobs on the centre stack.
The primary gauge cluster is legible in all lighting conditioned thanks to bright background lighting and good shielding from sunlight. It’s filled with the usual tachometer to the left and speedometer on the right, with a fuel gauge and engine temperature meter topping off a fairly large 4.2-inch high-resolution colour multi-information display just below at centre.
The latter is controlled with a pad of four arrows on the right-side steering wheel spoke, which when pushed provides a bright menu of multicoloured functions including info, audio, phone, navigation, options, and more, while the navigation system provides directions within the gauge cluster’s multi-info display where they can be seen more easily without removing eyes too far from the road ahead, with more detailed mapping shown on the large 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen over on the centre stack (this 8.0-inch display is now standard with all Colorado trims except the base Work Truck or WT that still does ok with its new 7.0-inch touchscreen).
That larger touchscreen includes Chevy’s well laid-out, bright, and colourful HD menu display that seems as if it was inspired by Apple’s iPhone/iPad, which I think is a good thing, but if you want something even more inline with Cupertino you can plug your phone into a specified USB to access the standard Apple CarPlay app, or alternatively Android Auto (although I don’t like it anywhere near was much). I’m glad that Chevy gives us these smartphone connectivity alternatives, while also featuring an audio system that can be easily connected to a phone with Bluetooth wireless streaming, or alternatively you can listen to satellite radio, plus all the classic AM/FM/HD radio stations.
The navigation system worked well, with accurate routing and nicely detailed mapping that was easy enough to sort out. I only wished that it warned me of a turn sooner, but instead it gave instant notice and even then the directions were in black and white and fairly small, making them hard to make out. Larger, brighter and in colour would’ve been ideal, and saying something like “Turn right in 50 meters”. I liked that the infotainment system received text messages and provided a number of stock responses for communicating safely while driving, while other useful apps include OnStar, traffic info, and shopping (not sure about that last one while driving though).
Along with navigation, the ZR2 includes a fabulous high-definition backup camera with active guidelines (but in need to inform you the Gladiator’s reportedly has front and rear trail cams that can even be cleaned via the infotainment system), with some other standard ZR2 features including a phone charging pad placed just in front of the centre armrest (standard with Z71 trim and above), plus a USB port inside the armrest if your phone needs wired power. Chevrolet also provides two more USB ports (one supporting new USB C-type devices) and an aux port, plus an available SD card reader, within another storage bin at the base of the centre stack, allowing you and your devices to be well cared for. Finally, the latest Colorado includes a second microphone mounted closer to the front passenger to improve the voice quality of Bluetooth hands-free connected phones, while a personal favourite had nothing to do with connectivity, but rather the ZR2’s heated steering wheel that warmed my hands on some cold winter mornings, this now standard with all trims above the LT.
Speaking of warmth, standard ZR2 features include GM’s superb heated front seats that not only warm up the lower cushion and backrest together, but can be adjusted to only heat the latter, which is great for people like me who occasionally suffer from lower back pain and just want some temporary relief. This in mind, the ZR2 only includes single-zone automatic climate control, not the expected dual-zone design provided to top-line versions of the Tacoma and Gladiator.
I think most of us could live without such a luxury, but I really appreciate having proximity-sensing entry and a pushbutton ignition system. The ZR2 doesn’t get a sunroof either, which might bother those wowed by Jeep’s removable roof. I appreciated the padded sunglasses holder on the overhead console, and the reading lights were decent enough, but they’re only incandescent lamps, not LEDs. The centre mirror is auto-dimming, however, plus along with OnStar it includes a button for voice activation as well as an “SOS” one to reach out for help when required.
A row of useful switches can be found on the centre stack too, including one for turning off the stability control, plus a bed light, hill descent control, an exhaust brake that’s useful when towing, a hazard light, and finally two individual toggles for the front and rear differential locks noted before.
Trailering in mind, the ZR2’s towing capacity is rated at 2,268 kilos (5,000 lbs) no matter which engine is being used, while its payload is a sizeable 500 kilograms (1,100 lbs) with the four-door short-bed or 528 kg (1,164 lbs) with the extended-cab long-bed. The Tacoma TRD Pro, on the other hand, is capable of a 2,900-kg (6,400-lb) tow rating and a payload of 454 kg (1,000 lbs), whereas the Gladiator Rubicon (the closest to the ZR2) can trailer up to 2,040 kg (4,500 lbs) and haul a payload of up to 544 kg (1,200 lbs) with the manual, or drag 3,175 kg (7,000 lbs) of trailer weight or carry 526 kg (1,160 lbs) on its backside when equipped with its automatic.
You may have noticed that I haven’t covered all of the ZR2’s comfort and convenience features in this review, but take note they’re easily available on the Chevrolet retail website or right here at CarCostCanada, where I sourced all 2019 Colorado pricing info including trims, packages and standalone options, not to mention money-saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing. Suffice to say it’s well equipped for its $46,100 Extra Cab base price, or $47,600 when opting for the Crew Cab, plus freight and fees of course.
No matter the Colorado ZR2 powertrain you choose, you’ll be getting a well-designed mid-size pickup truck that can overcome nearly any obstacle on or off the road. I’d opt for the diesel with the Bison upgrade and find an aftermarket snorkel, but hey, it’s easy to say that without following through on a payment plan. It’s great that Chevy provides so many options, allowing plenty of opportunity to personalize.
During the introduction of the FT-1 concept at the 2014 Detroit auto show, Toyota president Akio Toyoda issued a companywide decree for “no more boring cars,” and this C-HR is a direct result of this type of thinking, at least with respect to styling. Do you think it embodies Toyoda’s hopes for a level of “style that stirs peoples’ emotions and makes them say ‘I want to drive this’?”
Toyoda obviously does, as he would’ve approved the initial design and given the go-ahead for this production model. Being just 63, he’s still very much in charge of his grandfather’s car company, and I must say the namesake Japanese brand’s newest SUV is just one of many dynamic designs to arrive on the scene in recent years.
I won’t comment on CH-R styling in detail, first because my taste isn’t your taste, and secondly because I’m a fan of unorthodox designs like Nissan’s Juke and Cube, as long as the proportions are right and there’s some sort of balance to the overall look. The CH-R fits nicely into that category, pushing the limits in some respects, but probably acceptable enough to the masses to maintain reasonable resale values.
It’s more important that Toyota finally has something to compete in this subcompact SUV class, and I give them high marks for courage, being that the majority of rivals already enjoying success here did so by focusing more on things practical than eye-catching design. It was as surprise that Toyota showed up with this sportier looking, slightly smaller than average alternative that seems to put style ahead of pragmatism.
A rundown of class sales leaders shows that passenger and cargo spaciousness and flexibility rules the roost, with long-term top-sellers include the innovative Honda HR-V, funky yet practical Kia Soul, and larger than average Subaru Crosstrek, while a couple of newcomers doing well include the cheap and sizeable Nissan Qashqai, as well as the all-round impressive Hyundai Kona. It’s like this new C-HR said hello to the same type of buyers that were lamenting the loss of the recently cancelled Juke (replaced by the new Kicks), although missing the AWD Juke’s stellar performance. Go-fast goodness may also help propel Canadian sales of the Mazda CX-3, not to mention its arguably stylish design.
This is model-year two for the new C-HR, and all things considered it’s a commendable subcompact crossover SUV. My test model was tarted up in new Limited trim, which reaches higher up the desirability scale than last year’s XLE, which I tested and reviewed last year. Altogether I’ve tested three C-HR’s, and each provided impressive comfort with the same level of features as comparatively priced competitors, plus amply capable performance, and superb fuel efficiency.
One of the C-HR’s strengths is interior refinement, although I wouldn’t say it’s the segment’s best when compared to the previously noted CX-3 in its top-tier GT trim, which gets very close to the luxury subcompact SUV class, and that’s even when comparing Mazda’s best to this top-level Limited model. I did like the C-HR Limited’s nicely detailed padded, stitched leatherette dash-top, plus the large padded bolster just underneath that stretches from the right side of the instrument panel to the front passenger’s door, while a smaller padded section adorns the left side of the primary gauge package. Each door upper receives the same premium-level soft touch synthetic surface treatment, while all armrests get an even softer, more comfortable covering.
Those who thrill at the sight of plentiful piano black lacquered plastic will be overjoyed with all of the dark shiny trim strewn around Toyota’s smallest crossover. I’d personally like it if there were less, and not due to its addition to interior design, but instead because it attracts dust something awful and scratches way too easily. I like the diamond-textured hard plastic on door inserts and lower panels, however, which are truly unique, look great and feel durable enough to last the test of time. It certainly doesn’t feel as cheap as the usual hard plastic found in these areas in this segment, plus the diamond pattern complements the unusual assortment of diamond-shaped reliefs stamped into the overhead roofliner.
Before I take a deep dive into the C-HR’s interior design and quality, I should mention this 2019 model received a few upgrades that should allow it to find more buyers while improving it overall compared to last year’s version, starting with a new base LE trim that eliminates more than $1,000 from the 2018 C-HR’s base window sticker. This said $23,675 isn’t as approachable as some competitors noted earlier in this review, the Qashqai now available from $20,198 (just $200 more than last year’s version despite plenty of new equipment), and the new Nissan Kicks starting at a mere $17,998, thus making it the most affordable SUV in Canada. Nevertheless, the C-HR’s list of standard goodies is hard to beat, so stay tuned in if you’d like to learn more.
Something else going against this new C-HR’s success is the significantly larger and much more accommodating Nissan Rogue that only costs $3k or so more, while the completely redesigned 2019 RAV4 begins at just $27,790 (check out all the latest pricing details for all makes and models including this C-HR, the Rogue and RAV4 right here at CarCostCanada, with additional info on trims, packages and available options, plus otherwise difficult to get rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
A positive for this 2019 C-HR LE is Toyota’s new Entune 3.0 infotainment system that now comes standard across the line. It features a much larger 8.0-inch touchscreen and supports Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, plus Toyota’s superb in-house smartphone integration app. I like this infotainment system a lot, and I like Toyota’s Entune smartphone app even more than Android Auto, no matter whether I’m setting my drive route up in my house via my Samsung S9, or controlling it via the C-HR’s touchscreen. The new display also features a standard backup camera, which might not sound like much of big deal unless you had previously been forced to live with last year’s ultra-small rearview mirror-mounted monitor. Now it’s much easier to use and of course safer thanks to the larger display.
The route guidance mentioned a moment ago comes via a Scout GPS app downloadable from your smartphone’s online store. Like I said, you can set it up before going out via your phone, and then when hooked up to your C-HR it displays your route on the touchscreen just like a regular navigation system. I found it easy to use and extremely accurate, while Toyota also supplies the Entune App Suite Connect with a bundle of applications for traffic, weather, Slacker, Yelp, sports, stocks, fuel and NPR One (a U.S.-sourced public radio station).
The base C-HR LE also receives standard automatic high beam headlamps, adaptive cruise control, remote entry, an acoustic glass windshield, auto up/down power windows all-round, a leather-clad shift knob, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge package, an auto-dimming interior mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, two-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker audio system, the aforementioned piano black lacquered trim, fabric seat upholstery, front sport seats, 60/40-split rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all the expected active and passive safety features plus a few unexpected ones like a driver’s knee airbag and rear side thorax airbags, etcetera, which is downright generous for the base trim level of a subcompact crossover SUV, and therefore should relieve those concerned about its base price being too high.
Last year the C-HR was only available in XLE trim, so it’s good that Toyota kept this model as a mid-range entry while it expanded the lineup with two more trims. The XLE now starts at $25,725 thanks to the new Entune 3.0 Audio Plus system, plus it also includes automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance SOS button, and enhanced roadside assistance to enhance its safety equipment, plus 17-inch alloys, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, nicer cloth upholstery, heated front seats (which should really be standard in Canada), and two-way power lumbar support for the driver’s seat.
On top of this you can add on an XLE Premium package that increases the price to $27,325 yet includes larger 18-inch rims, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, heated power-retractable outside mirrors with puddle lamps, blindspot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist.
Lastly, new top-tier Limited trim starts at $28,775 and adds rain-sensing wipers, a very helpful windshield wiper de-icer (especially considering the frigid winter and spring most of us endured this year and last), ambient interior lighting, and attractive textured leather upholstery in either black or brown.
Look under the hood and you’ll something that hasn’t changed for 2019, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that might cause some potential buyers to feel as if the C-HR’s performance doesn’t quite reach up to meet its sporty styling. The engine puts out a reasonable 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, which isn’t bad on its own, but the only gearbox it comes mated to is the belt-and-pulley-inspired continuously variable type, a.k.a. CVT, which makes a difference at the pump, but isn’t exactly designed to thrill off the line. What’s more, the C-HR is a front-wheel-drive-only offering, making it the type of SUV you’ll be forced to chain up when hitting the slopes if your local mountain(s) have a policy that requires chains on all vehicles without AWD.
Still, as noted it’s a thrifty little ute, capable of just 8.7 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 8.2 combined according to the powers that be at Transport Canada, which thanks to new carbon taxes and other interprovincial and geopolitical issues is critical these days.
Also important, the C-HR’s wide footprint and low roofline make it reasonably well balanced, which results in handling that nearly adheres to Mr. Toyoda’s “no more boring cars” credo. Nearly is the deciding word, however, as the C-HR is no CX-3 or Kona, but its fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone/trailing arm rear suspension is plenty of fun when quickly slaloming through a twisting backcountry two-laner or hightailing through town, plus I found its ride quality amongst the segment’s best.
While we’re on the subject of comfort, the C-HR’s front seats are excellent, and its driving position is a considerable improvement over some other Toyota models. To be clear, I have longer legs than torso, which means that I’m required to shove my driver’s seat more towards the rear than most others measuring five-foot-eight, and then adjust the steering column as far rearward as possible. A number of Toyota models simply don’t provide enough steering wheel reach to comfortably allow me a good, safe grip of the wheel with my arms appropriately bent, so I was thrilled the C-HR does.
How about rear roominess and comfort. Even after pushing my driver’s seat as far rearward as necessary for my gangly legs, there was approximately four inches left over ahead of my knees when seated directly behind, plus about three inches over my head, which should be good enough for the majority of tallish passengers. I also had ample side-to-side space, although three abreast might feel a bit crowded.
Oddly there isn’t flip-down armrest between the two outboard rear positions, and while not quite as comfortable I’m glad Toyota remembered to include a cupholder just ahead of the armrest on each rear door panel. Also good, the rear outboard seats are comfortable and supportive, especially against the lower back. On the negative, rear seat visibility out the side windows is horrible due to the C-HR’s strangely shaped doors that cause rear occupants to look directly into a big black panel when trying to see out. I’m guessing that kids big and small won’t appreciate this, so make sure you bring the young’uns along for the test drive before you buy.
Cargo capacity might also be a deal-breaker for those who regularly haul a lot of life’s gear, because the C-HR’s sporty rear roofline slices into its vertical volume. The result is a mere 538 litres (19.0 cubic feet) of maximum luggage space aft of the rear seatbacks, which is a bit tight when put up against the class leaders. Folding the C-HR’s 60/40-split rear seats flat improves on available cargo space with 1,031 litres (36.4 cu ft), although once again this doesn’t come close to the largest in this segment.
Rather than leave this review on a negative note, I’ll make a point of highlighting the C-HR’s impressive five-star NHTSA safety rating, and should also bring attention to Toyota’s excellent reliability record on the whole. I’m sure such talk isn’t what Toyoda-san would want me relating when wrapping up a review of such a non-boring design exercise, but in truth the C-HR is more about comfort, convenience, economy and dependability than go-fast performance, and while this might seem a bit dull and wholly Toyota-like, it’s also why so many Canadian consumers go back to the world’s most successful Japanese automaker time and time again. For this reason I’d difficult for me to argue against the new C-HR, so if this new subcompact SUV’s styling, size and drivability work for you, by all means take one home.
Admittedly, I like Volvo a lot. Specifically the new, reimagined Volvo that arrived on the scene in 2015 with the introduction of the 2016 XC90. Its styling first attracted me, followed by a new level of interior design and quality, which I became aware of once familiarized with the model firsthand. This including improvements made to its Sensus electronics interfaces, and carried forward the Swedish company’s advanced drivetrain philosophy that was initiated in previous models, albeit with greater focus on performance and efficiency via optional plug-in hybrid technology. Of course, safety has always been a Volvo priority, evidenced by its most recent model, this XC40 being reviewed here, which already received a best-possible Top Safety Pick + rating from the IIHS.
The need for full disclosure and honest journalism makes it important for me to mention that the XC90 didn’t earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating for 2019, or for 2018 either. You’ll need to search all the way back to 2016 to see that, while in 2017 it only achieved a Top Safety Pick rating without the “+”, this having everything to do with the IIHS’ continually more challenging standards than anything Volvo has done to detract from XC90 safety. In fact, in 2016 Volvo had five + rated models, with that number having dropped to three in 2017, the missing two having lost their + ratings despite the S80 having transformed into the S90. Model year 2018 saw all five of the same vehicles only given Top Safety Pick ratings, even though the all-new XC60 joined the lineup, and while it seems like a bonus to finally receive another Top Safety Pick + rating for the new XC40 shown on this page, the only other model to even get a Top Safety Pick so far this year is the just noted XC60.
Possibly more important to Volvo and you, this XC40 is the only vehicle in its class to earn a Top Safety Pick + rating, while only two others, BMW’s X2 and Lexus’ new UX, managed to be named Top Safety Picks, excluding the +, so therefore if safety is number one on your list and you want a compact luxury SUV, look no further than this impressive little unit.
Then again, there are many other reasons to consider an XC40, which incidentally earned 2018 European Car of the Year status, and has become Volvo’s second best-selling model globally (after the larger XC60). The XC40 hits the market with a wonderfully unique and handsome design, particularly in its two-tone exterior colour combos. I spent a week with one in entry-level Momentum trim that I’ll review in in the near future, coated in pretty Amazon Blue with a white roof (arguably more appealing to feminine tastes, but what does that say about me because I really liked it), and I must say it caused a lot of looky-loos to take notice. This Crystal White Pearl Metallic dipped R-Design model, featuring a black-painted rooftop that comes standard with this trim, caused nearly as much ado, plus I must admit that it would be my choice thanks to its sportier, more masculine appearance.
Climb inside any XC40 trim and you’ll quickly find out the XC40 includes all of the premium-level luxury most expect in this fast-growing category. Each front roof pillar is wrapped in high-quality woven cloth, the dash-top and the upper half of each door panel are finished in soft composites, while each armrest gets padded and covered with stitched leatherette, whereas the insides of each door pocket is carpeted (that’s an unusual yet welcome addition), plus they’re big enough to fit a 15-inch laptop plus a large drink bottle. Returning to the pliable plastic surface treatments, there aren’t any below the interior’s midsection, including the front centre console that does include soft painted surfaces above carpeting which covers its lower extremities. Additionally, look upward and you’ll find the same woven fabric used for the front pillars on the ceiling, this wrapped around a big panoramic sunroof featuring a power-actuated translucent sunshade.
The instrument panel typifies modern-day Volvo, which means that it’s a tasteful design with only the most necessary controls included, but this said its designers gave it a bit of unorthodox funk by incorporating four retrospective-style vertically-positioned satin-silver finished aluminum vents, enhanced with stylish textured aluminum trim placed between as well as on the door panels. All of the metal is beautifully finished, particularly the knurled aluminum edging around the circular vent controls, as well as a similar treatment given to the audio volume control knob. All of the XC40’s other knobs, buttons and switches are up to snuff too, even surpassing some of its closest competitors.
In the same way, this XC40 R-Design’s special contrast-stitched and perforated leather-wrapped sport steering wheel is impeccably finished, even getting some of the aforementioned satin-silver detailing too, while a similarly upscale level of near handmade detail was provided to the electronic transmission’s shifter, as well as seats’ fabulous looking leather and suede-style Nubuck upholstery. Volvo also added a sharp looking set of metal and rubber pedals in the driver’s footwell, making this R-Design the perfect choice for buyers who want a little more sport during their daily commutes.
I found the driver’s seat particularly comfortable, thanks to larger than average side bolsters and an extendable lower cushion that cupped ideally below my knees. The rear seating compartment was comfortable and generously proportioned too, even capable of large six-foot-plus occupants with space to spare. Rear passengers are further comforted with a fold-down centre armrest that doubles as a pass-through for loading in long cargo.
I found the luggage compartment sizeable enough for my requirements throughout my busy week, its 586-litre (20.7 cubic-foot) proportions easily fitting my daily gear, and its 917-litre (32.4 cubic-foot) capacity more than enough when the need came to expand on its abilities. I even tested it out by placing a set of ultra-long 190-cm boards down the middle (used when the need for speed beckons), and had no problem stuffing them inside.
Even better, the 60/40-split rear seatbacks can be lowered by pressing power-release buttons on the cargo wall, while yet more utility can be added by pulling the cargo floor upwards at centre, which forms a handy divider that’s even topped off with a trio of helpful grocery bag hooks. Alternatively the cargo floor can be contorted into a small shelf when the need to increase loadable surface space arises.
The XC40’s convenience-feature theme continues with a hidden hook that flips out from within the glove box, plus a waste bin within the centre console that can be removed for cleaning, an optional storage box below the driver’s seat, a parking pass holder that butts up against the driver’s side windshield pillar, and gas/credit card slots integrated within the instrument panel just to the left of the driver’s knee.
What’s more, the bottom portion of the centre stack gets a large rubberized platform for holding big smartphones, capable of being upgraded with wireless charging, while there’s room enough to stow sunglasses on either side. Volvo has also included the requisite 12-volt charger (although I can’t remember the last time I used one of these) and a duo of USB ports, one dedicated for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and the other just for charging (three USB ports come standard). The XC40 is easily the most conveniently thought out SUV in its subcompact luxury class.
While most of the items just mentioned don’t require much in the way of technical advancements, the XC40’s standard digital gauge cluster is the epitome of modernity. Its 12.3-inch diameter provides a lot of information, while its high-definition display is bright, colourful and crystal clear, plus it comes filled with functions such as optional navigation mapping that fills out most of the centre-mounted multi-information display. Its rivals don’t offer anything as advanced in their standard trims (except the new Lexus UX, but it’s only 7.0 inches in diameter), with most not even providing a digital gauge upgrade at all. This gives the XC40 a serious lead when it comes to electronics.
Even better, Volvo’s award-winning nine-inch Sensus infotainment touchscreen sits vertically atop the centre stack, making it look and work more like tablet than anything else in the class. It responds to touch gestures just like an iPad or Android-based device, including tap, pinch and swipe, plus it does so for more functions than usual. Along with the navigation map, you can also adjust temperature settings with a vertical readout per frontal zone that pops up on the appropriate side of the screen, letting you or your partner slide a finger up or down in order to set ideal heating or cooling.
The touchscreen also allows control of all audio functions including streaming Bluetooth, satellite radio, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, plus more, while my Samsung S9 connected easily, both via Bluetooth and when plugging it in for previously noted Android Auto. It’s an nicely designed interface that’s minimalist on graphics, yet nevertheless one of my favourites, and thanks to being no more difficult to use than a regular smartphone should be easy enough for anyone to operate.
Also on the centre stack, a thin row of premium quality switchgear allows fast prompts to key climate controls, plus a couple of audio functions including the previously noted knurled aluminum-trimmed volume knob, as well as the hazard lights, and lastly a drive mode selector featuring Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Individual, and optional (not available with the Momentum) Off-road settings.
As noted, navigation isn’t standard either, but rather is optional for $1,000, but the XC40’s standard features menu is long just the same, including most everything mentioned up to this point, as well as LED headlights, roof rails, remote ignition, pushbutton start/stop, a leather-clad multi-function steering wheel rim, an electric parking brake, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, single-zone automatic climate control, voice activation, heatable front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support and memory settings, genuine aluminum trim, as well as a bevy of active safety features like forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and mitigation, plus more, all of which is once-again enough to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating mentioned earlier. At just $39,500 plus destination, the XC40 is one of the best values in its luxury crossover category.
The sporty looking XC40 in the photos is an R-Design, which begins a bit higher on the food chain at $44,100. It incorporates all the previously-noted gear as well as a larger set of 19-inch alloys (although my test model was shod in available 20-inch rubber) rolling on a sport-tuned suspension, while additional upgrades including a special front grille with glossy black trim, blackened skid plates, gloss-black mirror caps, and additional black-chrome outer trimmings, plus the black-painted roof top mentioned earlier.
Also, the R-Design gets active cornering headlamps, fog lights, exposed twin exhaust pipes instead of the hidden tailpipes used for the Momentum, unique aluminum front treadplates, nicer carpets, more cabin illumination, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, the aforementioned cushion front extensions, the previously-noted panoramic sunroof, a black roofliner and pillars (instead of tan), aluminized cargo sill trim, and more.
Volvo upgraded my test model with a Premium Package as well, including the wireless charging noted before, plus the underseat storage box and grocery bag holders I also mentioned, as well as headlamp washers, power-retractable and auto-dimming outside mirrors, heatable wiper blades, a heated steering wheel rim, heatable rear seats, a power-actuated tailgate, plus Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, all for just $1,750.
Lucky for me, Volvo also added a $2,000 Premium Plus Package that featured an overhead 360-degree “Surround View” parking camera system, a HomeLink universal remote, dynamic cruise control, Volvo’s proprietary Pilot Assist semi-autonomous Driver Assistance System (which is a hands-on semi-self-driving system that aids highway driving nicely), the semi-autonomous Park Assist Pilot parking system featuring Park Assist front and rear sensors, and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area; plus the previously noted $1,000 navigation system was included too, along with a superb sounding 600-watt, 14-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio system for $950.
Before Volvo initiated its brand-wide overhaul in 2015, its new powertrain strategy started showing up in then-current models. Dissimilar to any other premium brand, or any major carmaker for that matter, the Chinese-controlled Swedish firm based its entire model lineup on one turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, and then retuned it with both turbocharging and supercharging for mid-range models, and, as introduced with the current XC90, a turbocharged, supercharged and plug-in hybrid variation on the theme, good for 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque.
While a 400-horsepower XC40 sounds like a blast, an announcement made back in February promised a plug-in version with making 184-net-kW (247-net-hp) and 328 net-lb-ft of torque due to an electric motor combined with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder gasoline engine driving the front wheels, dubbed the T5 Twin Engine. Reportedly, this should be followed by an XC40 housing an even thriftier T4 Twin Engine, but I’m guessing we’ll only see the more formidable one on this side of the Atlantic… er… the Pacific. Of note, in March Volvo announced that it will reveal a full battery-electric version of the XC40 before the end of this year, which will be part of an initiative for having 50 percent of its worldwide sales comprised of EVs by 2025.
Back in the here and now, Volvo’s second best-selling model globally (after the XC60) is motivated by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Next model year (2020) we’ll have the choice of a new base four-cylinder engine, however, still displacing 2.0 litres, once again turbocharged, and continuing to use the eight-speed auto and AWD, but named T4 and making just 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. R-Design and Inscription trims will keep the current T5 engine as standard, once again boasting a healthy 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
I have no idea how the new T4 will perform, but my test model’s T5 powertrain is a perfect match to the lightweight XC40, resulting in a quick, well-sorted subcompact crossover SUV. Of course, it’s not the fastest in this category, the Jaguar E-Pace and Range Rover Evoque R-Dynamic siblings housing 296 horsepower under their uniquely shaped bonnets, the new BMW X2 M35i upping the ante with 302 horsepower, and the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 45 leading the performance war by a country mile thanks to 375 horsepower behind its three-pointed star.
Just the same, the new XC40 has a lot of jump off the line, and despite its eight-speed automatic being a tad frustrating to use, due to the need of having to shift twice before it will engage Drive or Reverse, once underway it responded well, with quick, immediate gear changes, especially when set to “Dynamic” sport mode and when using my R-Design model’s steering wheel-mounted paddles to shift, while it certainly feels confidence-inspiring at speed.
Without doubt my tester’s more performance-oriented 20-inch rubber played its part in gluing chassis to pavement, not to mention this R-Design’s sport suspension upgrade, which is otherwise a fully independent design featuring aluminium double wishbones in front plus a special integral-link setup, with a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring, in back. This meant it hunkered down nicely when pushed quickly through fast-paced curves, and together with its excellent visibility, made point-and-shoot driving a breeze around town.
Being a little SUV, the driver’s seat is positioned taller than what you’d find in a regular car, so along with all the sizeable panes of glass around the greenhouse it made for superb visibility in all directions. That height made it lean a bit more than a car would through corners, but for testing purposes I was traveling much faster than most owners would, and therefore you shouldn’t find this unsettling at all. Also on the positive, the XC40’s brakes are quite strong, responded with stability in regular and panic situations.
The little Volvo’s ride quality is good for such a compact crossover too, and I really didn’t feel any difference in suspension comfort from the base Momentum model I tried with 18-inch alloys, plus the standard “Dynamic” suspension setup, than this sport-tuned model shod in 20-inch rims. I should also note that Volvo offers up an adaptive Four-C Chassis for another $1,000, but truly I don’t think it’s required unless you spend a lot of time on gravel roads.
In a nutshell, the XC40 comes across as if it’s a larger, more substantive vehicle than it truly is, its doors and liftgate shutting with the sound and solidity of much bigger luxury utilities, plus it’s very quiet inside and exudes impressive build-quality when riding over broken pavement, potholes, bumps, and other obstacles.
Another bonus is fuel efficiency, and not just because it’s a subcompact SUV. It gets a 10.3 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.0 combined Transport Canada rating, which only looks a bit thirsty when compared to a much less powerful, front-wheel drive-infused crossover like the new Lexus UX (which makes a mere 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque), which achieves 7.2 L/100km combined city/highway with its non-hybrid powerplant. A better comparison to the XC40 is the Mercedes GLA 250 4Matic, which gets an identical combined city/highway rating, while the XC40 is thriftier than BMW’s X1 (9.3 combined), quite a bit better than Jaguar’s base E-Pace P250 (9.8 combined), and a major upgrade over the new Audi Q3 (10.6 combined). Most of the above, including the XC40, utilize auto start/stop technology that automatically turns the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, saving fuel and reducing emissions.
As you can probably tell, this little Volvo SUV impressed me. Despite having other vehicles at my disposal during my test week, I spent more time in its driver’s seat than all the others combined, and couldn’t find much to fault it on. Instead, I believe it’s one of the best compact luxury SUVs in its class, and thoroughly worthy of your close attention.
Mercedes-Benz plans to have a carbon-neutral new model lineup within just 20 years, this 2039 date being touted as extremely aggressive compared to its luxury sector peers.
It already offers a considerable fleet of environmentally-conscious Mercedes-Benz models, such as the 48-volt hybrid EQ-Boost CLS, E-Class Coupe, E-Class Cabriolet and upcoming GLE 580 4MATIC, plug-in hybrid models like the GLC 350e 4MATIC, S560e, and others, plus it will follow up on these shortly with the all-electric EQC mid-size crossover luxury SUV, as well as a smaller compact BEV based on the 2018 Concept EQA, so expanding the lineup doesn’t seem to be too far fetched.
Mercedes calls the new plan Ambition2039, but nine years before that date it’s still targeting 50 percent of its new vehicles to be electrified, with this lineup comprised of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and 100-percent plug-in electric vehicles.
“Let’s be clear what this means for us: a fundamental transformation of our company within less than three product cycles,” said Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars since the mantle was passed over to him by his predecessor, Dieter Zetsche on May 22nd, 2019. “That’s not much time when you consider that fossil fuels have dominated our business since the invention of the car by Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler some 130 years ago. But as a company founded by engineers, we believe technology can also help to engineer a better future.”
It was only last year that Mercedes committed to electrifying its entire new vehicle lineup with a sizeable investment of $11.7 billion USD ($15.8 billion CAD), adding a promise to initially build more than 10 BEVs, before its entire range gets electrified.
Ahead of achieving this inspirational target, Källenius promised to work with all Mercedes partners in a holistic effort to reduce electric vehicle production costs and make improvements to the range and performance of its EV lineup, while the German automaker also promises to add more EV powertrains to its commercial vans, trucks, and buses.
What’s more, Mercedes plans to continue investing in alternative technologies such as fuel cells, which it uses already in its GLC F-CELL, a world-first that combines a fuel-cell and plug-in battery within the powertrain, and plans to incorporate within larger commercial applications such as urban-use buses.
This said, take its new car lineup to new carbon-neutral heights only deals with part of the problem, the other area needing carbon neutrality being the production process. Fortunately Mercedes is well on the way to greening its assembly plants, being that it already puts renewable energies to use in its Sindelfingen, Germany based Factory 56, the result being a CO2 neutral facility.
“In ‘Factory 56’, we are consistently implementing innovative technologies and processes across the board according to the key terms ‘digital, flexible, green’,” commented Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain. “We create a modern workspace with more attention to individual requirements of our employees. All in all, in ‘Factory 56’ we are significantly increasing flexibility and efficiency in comparison to our current vehicle assembly halls – and of course without sacrificing our top quality. In this way we are setting a new benchmark in the global automotive industry.”
Mercedes also added that every European factory would be carbon-neutral by 2022, highlighting its engine factory in Jawor, Poland that’s already an example of greater environmental and economical efficiencies, thanks to its comprehensive renewable energy usage.
Additionally, the Mercedes is changing from a value chain to a value cycle, the automaker citing a Mercedes lineup that already achieves a potential-recycling ratio of 85 percent. Daimler will also use its experience to help each of its suppliers reduce their carbon footprint.
“We prefer doing what our founders have done: They became system architects of a new mobility without horses,” stated Källenius. “Today, our task is individual mobility without emissions. As a company founded by engineers, we believe technology can also help to engineer a better future.”
Last year, Porsche celebrated its 70th anniversary by producing the one-off 911 Speedster Concept, a beautiful modernization of its first-ever model, the 356 ‘No. 1’ Roadster from 1948. This sent the motoring press and many fans of the brand into an uproar about future production, resulting in the 2019 911 Speedster seen here.
The Speedster is now available to order from you local Porsche retailer for just $312,500, a mere $149,200 more than the 911 GT3 Coupe that it’s based on. And yes, that means the all-new Speedster rides on outgoing 991 hardware, not the upcoming 2020 911 (992) that’s been top of the news headlines lately.
We’re guessing the exclusive club of 1,948 buyers receiving their limited edition Speedsters toward the end of 2019 won’t care one whit about which chassis it rides on, chiefly because the Speedster is gorgeous and 991 underpinnings have been arguably Porsche’s best yet, at least when uprated to GT3 or GT2 guise.
Also notable, the renewed GT3 Coupe won’t arrive in 992 form for quite some time, and therefore the only way you’re going to get your hands on a 500-plus horsepower 4.0-litre flat-six crammed aft of the rear axle, capable of a screaming 9,000-rpm redline and generous 346 lb-ft of torque, is to opt for a current GT3 or choose the instantly collectable 911 Speedster, the newer model in fact good for a minor increase to 502 horsepower thanks to throttle bodies added from the GT3 R race car.
The results of all this go-fast tech is a 4.0-second run from zero to 100km/h, which is just 0.1 seconds off the GT3’s pace, while its terminal velocity is 310 km/h, a mere 10 km/h slower than the GT3, despite not having its massive rear wing.
What’s more, when you factor in that the Speedster only provides Porsche’s GT Sport six-speed manual transmission, which is also pulled from the GT3 and shaves four kilos from the seven-speed manual used for the regular 911, that standstill sprint to 100km/h score is even more amazing, because Porsche’s paddle shift-actuated dual-clutch PDK automated transmission is always quicker.
Together with the GT3 powertrain, which comes with dynamic engine mounts from the GT3 by the way, the Speedster utilizes the supercar-beating model’s uprated chassis that incorporates a uniquely calibrated rear axle steering system, although this is where similarities between the two Porsche models end, because body mods are so significant that it’s hard to tell whether the two cars have much of anything in common. These include lower cut front and side windows, twin “streamliners” shaped from carbon fibre on the rear deck, these completely consuming the rear seating area, carbon fibre composite front fenders and hood, front and rear fascias formed from polyurethane, plus a lightweight manual fabric top.
It was smart for Porsche to upgrade the roof for easier day-to-day usability, as the concept only featured a button-down tonneau cover that would’ve caused nothing but aggravation to its potential owners, while the automaker also deleted the “X” markings on the headlamp lenses that stylistically reminded history buffs about the tape once used to make sure broken glass didn’t end up on the racetrack to puncture tires; the removal of the 1950s-type aluminum fuel filler cap on the concept’s hood for fast refueling of the gas tank below; plus replacement of the Talbot mirror housings that were popular back when the 356 was around, to stock side mirrors.
Fans of that now highly collectible classic 356 will no doubt be happy that Porsche left the gold-coloured “Speedster” lettering on the thick B-pillars and rear engine cover unmolested, but this said you’ll need to add a special upgrade package (see below) to get them.
All the carbon fibre mentioned earlier should make it clear that Porsche wanted its Speedster to be as light as possible, with the premium brand even going so far as to delete the stereo and air conditioning in base trim (they’re optional), but with a focus on performance they added a standard set of beefed up, lighter weight carbon ceramic brakes, boasting bright yellow six-piston aluminum monobloc fixed calipers in the front and four-piston aluminium monobloc fixed calipers at back, these slicing a whopping 50 percent of weight from the regular 911’s cast iron rotors. Ringing those brakes are centre-lock Satin Black-painted 20-inch alloy wheels on Ultra High Performance (UHP) tires, aiding grip even further.
Looking inside, the Speedster includes lighter weight door panels with storage nets and door pulls, plus the standard black leather can be improved with red stitching on the instrument panel and headrests with embroidered “Speedster” lettering. The door pulls come in red with the upgrade, while Porsche adds a unique GT Sport steering wheel infused with a red centre marker at the 12 o’clock marker. The Speedster interior also features a beautiful carbon fibre shift knob, and carbon fibre doorsill kick plates with “Speedster” monikers.
Those attracted to the new 911 Speedster for its classic proportions and design can opt for a special Heritage Design Package that comes much closer to last year’s concept and ‘50s-era 356 Speedsters. The upgrade adds white front bumper and fender “arrows” on top of GT Silver Metallic paint, while this is how you get the aforementioned gold Speedster lettering too, plus classic Porsche crests. Also, the door-mounted racing-style number stickers can be removed if you don’t like them, but then again if you choose to keep them you can also include your own personal number. Lastly, the upgraded Heritage interior gets two-tone leather with classic Porsche crests sewn onto the headrests, plus body-colour trim gets added to the dash and seatbacks.
If the new 911 Speedster sounds like your kind of car, be sure to call your local Porsche dealer quickly, and while you’re waiting for delivery of this ultimate drop-top, enjoy a couple of videos below:
The new Porsche 911 Speedster: First Driving Footage (1:13):
The new Porsche 911 Speedster: Highlight Film (2:10):
In a luxury car market that’s given up a lot to crossover SUVs, Infiniti’s Q50 has been more or less holding its own until recently. Canadian premium buyers were hard on BMW’s 3 Series and Audi’s A4 last year, with sales down 19.5 and 20.3 percent respectively, while others like Acura’s TLX, Cadillac’s ATS, and Jaguar’s XE lost even more ground, but the Q50 gained 6.8 percent throughout 2018, a fine showing by comparison.
This said, the first three months of 2019 have been brutal on all of the above including the Q50, with the Japanese sport-luxury sedan’s sales having fallen by 36.3 percent, a figure that looks about as bad as bad can get until compared to BMW’s 37.7 percent 3 Series losses and Audi’s 39.9 percent A4 carnage. Even the mighty Mercedes-Benz C-Class is down by 34.5 percent, while sales of the Lexus IS (which lost 10.9 percent last year) are now off by 45.5 percent, and Jaguar XE by 78.1 percent (its sales were only down 27.8 last year).
I should end this review right here, tell you to go check out my story on the impressive new Infiniti QX50 compact luxury SUV, and call it a day, but seriously, there were still 2,576 Q50 sedan buyers in Canada last year, and another 517 at the close of Q1 2019, so there are plenty of good reasons to review what I truly believe is a very good choice in the compact luxury D-segment, even if sport-luxury sedans aren’t exactly the hottest commodity these days.
To bring you up to speed, Infiniti gave its only relevant sedan (they still make the Q70, but sales are truly dismal) a mid-cycle refresh last year, updating the Q50’s grille, front fascia, headlights, taillights, rear bumper and more, so this 2019 model doesn’t see any visual changes at all, other than a new Canadian-exclusive standard “I-LINE” cosmetic treatment specifically for the now renamed I-Line Red Sport 400 model.
Just like eyeliner, the I-Line upgrade, which was actually derived from “Inspired Line,” blackens the grille surround in the same fashion as last year’s glossy black fog lamp bezels and diffuser-style rear bumper, while the rear deck lid spoiler gets upgraded to high-gloss carbon fibre, and wheel wells are filled with a special “custom imported” glossy black set of 19-inch alloys. I-Line trim further helps to visually differentiate Infiniti’s sportiest 400-horsepower Q50 from lesser trims in the lineup, a smart move considering the $7,700 leap from the already quick 300 horsepower Q50 3.0T Sport AWD.
To clarify further, both 300 and 400 horsepower versions of the Q50 source their power from the same turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine in different states of tune, while the other big change for 2019 is the elimination of the Mercedes-Benz-sourced 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in Canada, which continues to make 208 horsepower in other markets where it’s still offered, like the U.S.
All remaining trims utilize Infiniti’s seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and downshift rev-matching, the latter a rarity in this class and really enjoyable to use, while Infiniti’s “Intelligent” rear-biased all-wheel drive system comes standard as well.
Fuel economy has improved since Infiniti moved to the new turbocharged 3.0-litre engine, although with the loss of the four-cylinder the base Q50 no longer wows with 10.7 L/100km in the city, 8.6 on the highway and 9.7 combined, although 12.4 city, 8.7 highway and 10.8 combined is very good considering all the power on tap.
All the above changes noted, the 2019 Q50’s most significant upgrade is the inclusion of Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW) and Forward Emergency Braking (FEB) across the entire Q50 line, which means these critical accident avoidance systems are now part of the Luxe model, Luxe being the base trim level in the Q50’s recently revised grade structure.
Without going into too much detail about each trim, the Q50 3.0T Luxe AWD starts at $44,995 plus freight and fees, while the Q50 3.0T Signature Edition being reviewed here starts just a hair higher at $46,495. The upper mid-range of the lineup is filled by the aforementioned Q50 3.0T Sport AWD, which enters the picture at $48,495, and the newly revised I-Line Red Sport 400 that begins life at $56,195, which is still very affordable considering all that’s being offered.
All prices quoted in this review can be found in detail, along with trims, packages and options, right here at CarCostCanada, where you can also find important manufacturer rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
I said base a moment ago, but there’s nothing remotely base about the twin-turbo V6 behind the Q50’s trademark grille. For starters, none of its competitors offer 300 horsepower, or the direct-injected engine’s equally impressive 295 lb-ft of torque (well, almost equally impressive). I’ve waxed poetic about this engine before, not to mention gone on at length about the seven-speed autobox and AWD system it’s connected to, so rather than delve into the technologies that make them great I’ll give you more of an experiential explanation.
First off, it feels quicker than the numbers suggest, not that 300 ponies and 295 lb-ft of twist is anything to sneeze at. It simply has more jump off the line than most cars offering similar output, this likely due to its twin-turbos providing all of that torque from just 1,600 rpm all the way up to 5,200 rpm, which is much sooner than a normally aspirated engine would, and a very wide maximum torque band overall.
Amazingly, those turbos whirl at speeds of up to 240,000 rpm, something I have a hard time getting my mind around, especially considering their near silent operation and total reliability. Also notable, the lightweight mostly aluminum powerplant has been a Wards “10 Best Engines” winner since inception, just like its predecessors were, so it’s not just me singing its praises.
Press the ignition button on the instrument panel, toggle the “DRIVE MODE” switch on the lower console to select “SPORT” instead of “STANDARD” (SNOW, ECO and PERSONAL modes are also included), slot the leather-clad contrast-stitched gear lever into “D”, then tug it slightly to the left for manual mode, at which point you’d better prepare to shift the old fashioned way because steering wheel paddles can only be found on the 3.0T Sport and I-Line Sport 400. Not a problem. Certainly I’d love to find paddles all the way down the line, but the Signature Edition is a more luxury-oriented Q50 trim after all, despite its rapid acceleration and athletic agility through fast-paced turns.
The Signature Edition comes standard with the same 245/40R19 all-season run-flat performance tires as the Sport, but alas my tester was purposely shod in winters that no doubt affected lateral grip on dry patches. Then again, Infiniti didn’t skimp on the rubber, shoeing its standard triple-five-spoke alloys in a set of Pirelli Sottozeros that proved you don’t need an SUV to trudge through winter conditions effectively. In fact, it was so capable in wet West Coast snow that the Q50 became my go-to car for those soggy, cold winter weeks Vancouver is famous for, and a particularly enjoyable companion thanks to its quick reacting steering, agile suspension, and smooth, comfortable ride.
Some Signature Edition upgrades you might find interesting include the exact same performance-oriented exterior styling details as the Sport, including the sharper gloss black lip spoiler and deeper black fog lamp bezels up front, plus a less aggressive version of the black and body-colour diffuser-infused rear bumper cap mentioned earlier, while both models make use of the same more conventional silver-painted 19-inch alloy wheels noted a moment ago, which is an upgrade over the base Luxe model’s 18-inch rims on 225/50 all-season run-flat performance rubber.
Lastly, both trims receive silver “S” badges on the front fenders, but strangely the Signature Edition features a unique rear deck spoiler just above its own scripted “Signature” badge, whereas the Sport makes do with no rear spoiler at all, although it gets a silver “S” badge next to its Q50 nomenclature.
Inside, Signature Edition and Sport trims also feature the same Sport Type seats with driver-side powered lumbar support and powered torso bolsters, plus manual thigh extensions for both front occupants. The driver’s seat was incredibly comfortable while providing excellent lateral support, and honestly was another reason I chose the Q50 over some other options in my garage during my test week. Lastly, the surrounding decorative inlays in both Signature Edition and Sport models are finished in genuine Kacchu aluminum, which feels substantive and looks very nice.
So what separates Signature Edition and Sport trim? Most every other feature is shared with the base Q50 Luxe model, which is why there’s only $1,500 between the two trims. Therefore, along with all of the items already noted, the Q50 Signature Edition includes standard auto on/off LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps and front turn signals, LED brake lights, aluminum “INFINITI” branded kick plates, proximity-sensing keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, Infiniti’s “InTuition” for storing climate, audio and driving preferences within each “Intelligent Key”, welcome lights on the front exterior door handles, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door opener, micro-filtered dual-zone auto climate control, Infiniti InTouch infotainment with a bright, clear 8.0-inch upper display and an equally impressive 7.0-inch lower touchscreen, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a nice sounding six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite audio system with HD playback, RDS and speed-sensitive volume, two USB charging ports, a heatable steering wheel (that really responded quickly), heated front seats (ditto), powered front seats, a powered moonroof, and more.
Of note, with the move up to the base V6 powerplant a number of features that were previously optional are now standard, including remote engine start, Infiniti’s accurate InTouch navigation with lane guidance and 3D building graphics, the Infiniti InTouch Services suite of digital alerts and remote services, voice recognition for audio, SMS text and vehicle info, power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver, and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through.
At the other end of the trim spectrum, the only real changes to previously noted Sport trim are actually performance oriented, such as those steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters I lamented about not having on the Signature Edition earlier, a unique sport-tuned dynamic digital suspension, and identical sport brakes to the Red Sport 400, which boast four-piston front calipers and two-piston rear calipers, while the two sportiest trims also get exclusive front seat-mounted side-impact supplemental airbags.
Speaking of features not available with this Signature Edition, only Sport trim gets the option of electronic power steering, while Infiniti’s exclusive drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) system is available on all trims except for the Signature Edition, as is the auto-leveling adaptive front lighting system (AFS) with high beam assist, a power-adjustable steering column with memory, an Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), premium 16-speaker Bose Performance audio with Centerpoint technology, front and rear parking sensors, Intelligent Cruise Control with full speed range (ICC), Distance Control Assist (DCA), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) with Active Lane Control, and Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA).
Features not available with the Signature Edition, optional with the Sport and standard with the Red Sport 400 include auto-dimming side mirrors with reverse link and memory, plus Infiniti’s Advanced Climate Control System with auto-recirculation, Plasmacluster air purifier and Grape Polyphenol Filter.
All of this places the Q50 Signature Edition in a unique value position, offering plenty of Sport trim features yet limiting its choice of options to colours, which are the same five offered in Sport trim including Liquid Platinum silver, Graphite Shadow grey, Black Obsidian, Majestic White, and my tester’s elegant Iridium Blue; plus interior themes, which just like the Sport can be had in Graphite (black) and Stone (grey). Incidentally, the base model also offers a Wheat (tan) interior, while dark-stained gloss maple hardwood provides a more traditional luxury ambiance, plus you also lose the option of Pure White or Mocha Almond (brown metallic) paint when moving up into the sportier Q50 trims, but you can’t get Iridium Blue, whereas Red Sport 400 buyers get the option of exclusive Dynamic Sunstone Red.
Along with the generous supply of features, the Q50’s interior is beautifully finished no matter the trim. My tester benefited from stitched leather right across the dash top, the instrument panel, each side of the lower console, and the upper two-thirds of all door panels, while the glove box lid was also soft to the touch. The finishing is excellent too, from that leather trim to the beautifully upholstered leather seats, to the lovely Kacchu aluminum inlays, the tasteful assortment of satin-silver accents, and other surfaces, while all of the switchgear feels substantive, is nicely damped, and fits together snuggly.
Likewise, the Q50 is wonderfully hushed inside, whether touring around city streets or cruising the highway, and it’s certainly roomy enough. Bringing more size to the value equation has being part of Infiniti’s modus operandi since day one, and it results in a near mid-size competitor that offers a more spacious interior then some D-segment rivals. I’m only five-foot-eight with a smaller build, and despite having longer legs than torso, which can sometimes make it difficult to reach the steering wheel comfortably, even when its telescopic reach is extended as far rearward as possible, I found its adjustability excellent and the resultant driving position ideal. There’s so much seat travel and headroom that it should be good for taller folk too, while the adjustable torso, lumbar and thigh support really added support to my backside and comfort below the knees.
For testing purposes I slipped into the back seat directly behind the driver’s seat, and found more than enough room to be comfortable too. Specifically, I had about five inches ahead of my knees, plenty of room to put my big winter boots under the driver’s seat, and more than enough space from side to side, while there was also about three inches over my head. The rear quarters are just as nicely finished as those up front, with amenities including a folding centre armrest with integrated cupholders, reading lights overhead, and air vents on the backside of the front console.
The trunk should sizable enough for most owners’ needs, but at 382 litres (13.5 cubic feet) it’s certainly not anywhere near the largest in the class. Also, its standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks aren’t as flexible as the usual European 40/20/40 division, but Infiniti compensates with a centre pass-through that provides almost as much room for loading longer items such as skis down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable outboard window seats, a real bonus with active lifestyle families.
Yes, the Q50 could be a bit better here and there, but this is also the case for every car it competes against. Fortunately its value proposition, excellent reliability record, impressive interior, handsome styling, and superb performance solidly make up for this one downside. After all, if you need more trunk space and greater passenger/cargo flexibility Infiniti has a QX50 you’d probably enjoy just as much, not to mention a QX60, QX80 and others. If you’re dead set on buying a sport-luxury sedan, you could do a lot worse than this new Q50 Signature Edition or one of its other impressive trims.
Despite looking identical to both 2017 and 2018 Qashqai models, especially in its official launch colour of Monarch Orange, this 2019 version gets a lot of impressive new goodies under the sheetmetal.
For starters, all Qashqai trims now include Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and Nissan’s smart Rear Door Alert (RDA) system, which reminds if you’ve left something or someone in the back seat, while the subcompact SUV’s instrument panel now boasts a fresh, new standard NissanConnect centre touchscreen that’s 2.0 inches larger at 7.0 inches in diameter, and features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, live navigation, plus mobile apps and services, while the same base Qashqai also includes a second USB port within the centre console, as well as Nissan’s ultra-useful Divide-N-Hide cargo system in the storage area.
That’s a lot of new gear for a little crossover that’s otherwise unchanged. Nissan even managed to keep the base price as close as possible to last year’s unbelievably low $19,998 window sticker, the new model available for just $200 more at $20,198, which still makes it the second-most affordable SUV in Canada behind Nissan’s own $18,298 Kicks.
And it’s not like the base Qashqai is devoid of standard features either, with a list that includes items like projector headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, power windows and door locks with a switchblade-style remote, an electromechanical parking brake (which oddly reverts to a foot-operated one on S CVT and SV CVT trims), a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a colour TFT multi-information display, variable intermittent wipers, sun visors with extensions and vanity mirrors, overhead sunglasses storage, micro-filtered air conditioning, a rearview camera that’s now easier to use thanks to the larger centre display, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, text message read and response capability, Siri Eyes Free, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with illuminated steering wheel controls, speed-sensitive volume, Radio Data System (RDS), Quick Comfort heatable front seats (that really do heat up fast), a rear-seat centre armrest, a cargo cover, six cargo area tie-down hooks, tire pressure monitoring with Easy Fill Tire Alert, all the expected passive and active safety and security features, plus much more.
The 2019 Qashqai once again comes in three trims, including the aforementioned base S model, plus the SV and SL, the former two offering optional all-wheel drive and the latter making it standard. That top-line trim is how my tester came, complete with an even fancier Platinum package as well, but before I delve deeper into all of that, take heed the $26,198 SV is a great choice for those not wanting the pay the price for premium-level pampering brought on by the SL.
The SV features an attractive set of 17-inch alloys, which replace the base model’s 16-inch steel wheels with covers, plus auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, high beam assist, rear parking sensors, illumination added to the vanity mirrors, a powered moonroof, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob, cruise control, two more stereo speakers, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear passenger air vents, etcetera, while a bevy of new advanced driver assistance systems get added as well, such as enhanced autonomous Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with Intelligent Lane Intervention, and Rear Intelligent Braking (R-IEB).
My tester’s top-line SL trim starts at $31,398, but it really comes across like a mini luxury ute thanks to standard 19-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, the electromechanical parking brake again (the only trim that mates it to the CVT), a 360-degree Intelligent Around View Monitor, navigation with detailed mapping, voice recognition, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar, and a front driver’s seatback pocket, while Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), Moving Object Detection (MOD) to enhance the R-IEB, and ProPilot Assist semi-automated self-driving capability, which can help maintain your lane and ease driving stress while on the highway, are new to the SL’s standard features list.
Lastly, as noted earlier my tester included the $2,000 SL Platinum Package that adds LED headlights for much brighter night vision, an auto-dimming interior mirror with an integrated Homelink garage door opener, a great sounding nine-speaker Bose audio system, and NissanConnect Services, which is filled with advanced mobile apps to make life with your Qashqai easier and more productive.
Incidentally, all pricing for the 2019 Qashqai, including trims, packages and individual options, was sourced right here at CarCostCanada, where you can also find money saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Along with an impressive load of features no matter the trim, the Qashqai provides a surprisingly refined cabin. I drove a base model last year, and it was very good for its $20k price point, but my current tester’s SL Platinum trim feels even more upscale. Features like a soft-touch dash and padded composite front door uppers are common across the Qashqai line, but as noted the lovely contrast-stitched perforated leather upholstery is unique to the SL, as is the lower console that also gets leatherette-wrapped padding with contrast stitching to each side. This protects your inside knee from chafing against what would otherwise be hard plastic, and it looks really attractive as well.
Some other notable SL details include piano black lacquer surfacing across the instrument panel, the centre stack, around the shift lever, and highlighting the door panels, this topped off with a tastefully thin strip of satin silver accenting. Nissan adds more satin silver on the steering wheel and around the shifter, and then throws splashes of chrome brightwork around the rest of the cabin to highlight key areas. Needless to say, it’s an attractive environment.
Back to that front centre console, the transmission connected to the leather-clad lever is Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), which joins up to a strong 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. The CVT will likely be preferable to the majority of Qashqai buyers, but you may very well enjoy the six-speed manual that comes standard in base S trim. I tested it last year and came away smiling, as it’s a nicely sorted manual gearbox that adds a lot of performance back into this utility’s character, which as tested here is more about smooth, quiet, comfort.
Continuously variable transmissions get a fair bit of flack from auto scribes and enthusiasts alike, but after testing three Qashqais with this autobox and plenty of other Nissan models with a variation of the same type of CVT, I find it perfectly suitable to SUV life. Of course, it doesn’t provide the same level of performance as the manual, actually getting a bit buzzy when digging deep into the throttle due to a CVT’s inherent nature to hold onto revs longer than a conventional automatic, but Nissan includes a manual mode via the shift lever that lets you force the transmission from its high-rev zone to more audibly agreeable lower revs, a process that will eventually happen on its own, but why wait. At normal everyday speeds I found the transmission was best left to its own devices, where it’s actually quite smooth and fully capable.
On that note, the Qashqai gets up and goes quickly enough without needing to push the engine too hard, plus it rides well for this class thanks to a version of the same fully independent suspension as the Rogue, incorporating front struts and a rear multi-link setup with stabilizer bars at both ends. It nicely balances the firmness needed for its commendable handling with ample comfort, but don’t expect it to deliver ride quality to the levels of a Rogue or Murano, as the little SUV is just not substantive enough. Its standard four-wheel disc brake setup stops quickly, however, helped along by Intelligent Engine Braking that comes standard SV and SL models.
It delivers better fuel economy than a larger SUV could too, with a claimed Transport Canada rating of 10.0 L/100km city, 8.1 highway and 9.2 combined with the FWD manual, 8.6 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined with FWD and the CVT, or 9.1, 7.6 and 8.4 with the CVT and AWD.
Its fuel efficiency may differ slightly when loaded up, and believe me you can get a lot of gear in a Qashqai. Behind its standard 60/40-split rear seatbacks are 648 litres (22.9 cubic feet) of available cargo space, which puts it right near the top of its class, while the 1,730 litres (61.1 cubic feet) available when folding those seats flat is even harder to beat.
As for passenger room and comfort, the leather seats offer nice sculpting up front that cups the backside ideally, and the driver’s seating position was perfect for my five-foot-eight smallish frame, allowing ample adjustability matched by a tilt and telescopic steering column that was able to be pulled far enough rearward to accommodate my longer legs and shorter torso. If I can find a negative it’s the two-way “HI” and “LO” seat heater settings, because more temperature variables would inevitably be able to provide greater comfort, but it’s tough to be overly critical in this class, especially when everything else about the Qashqai is spot on.
You won’t be finding derriere warmers in back, but the rear outboard positions are comfortable enough and usable for larger sized teens and adults. As usual I set the driver’s seat for my height and still had about five inches ahead of my knees when sitting behind, plus another four over my head, which should make it ok for someone over six feet. Side-to-side room is plentiful too, optimal for two but capable of three, while my outside shoulder and hips benefited from about three to four inches of free space. As for fancy stuff, nice padded and stitched leatherette armrests on each door join a folding centre armrest with dual cupholders, while dual vents on the backside of the front centre console keep rear passengers aerated.
Roomy for small families, empty nesters or just active lifestyle folks and all their stuff, plus well made, filled with features and fun to drive, the Qashqai delivers much more than its paltry price suggests, while it keeps giving long after its initial purchase thanks to superb fuel economy and good expected reliability. It’s no wonder Qashqai sales have been so strong in Canada and around the world. The Qashqai truly is a smart choice in the subcompact SUV class.
Let me guess, that even if you live in one of Canada’s more established neighbourhoods you don’t often lay eyes on a Jaguar XF, let alone a lot of XE or XJ sedans. While once prolific in luxury crowds, four-door cars from Coventry are becoming rare sightings indeed.
Thanks to the stunningly beautiful Mk II and extremely elegant XJ Series I, II and III that followed, not to mention the B-Type, C-Type and E-Type sports cars that were inspirational for today’s sensational F-Type, the Jaguar brand grew legendary, but this day and age it seems that luring luxury customers into anything lower to the ground than a crossover SUV is becoming much more difficult, and it’s not for a lack of styling.
When the current XJ was completely reimagined for 2009, its wholly original, beautifully proportioned design set the stage for an entirely new lineup of Jaguar sedans and crossovers, but other than the latter lineup of SUVs, which are selling fairly well, it hasn’t exactly followed that bases-loaded homerun with an encore hit.
The second-generation mid-size E-segment XF being reviewed here arrived in 2015 as a 2016 model, and is beautifully sculpted too. Like the XJ and almost every Jaguar vehicle it’s formed from aluminum panels and composites, but only the XF can claim the brand’s best-ever drag coefficient of 0.26.
So it’s beautiful, lightweight and hails from an iconic brand, but that still doesn’t make it popular. It almost seems as if you need to be a curator of curious collectibles before stepping up and taking ownership of a car like the XF, but then again exclusivity has its privileges. It’s not like you’ll see one driving down the neighbourhood lane every day, or every other week for that matter. Crowd pleasers won’t like this one whit, but those who choose to be unique in order to stand out from that crowd will find the XF’s rarity a bonus. After all, while the XF is scarce, it’s hardly unusual in the way it goes about pleasing driver and occupants, combining a high level of old school charm with strong performance and plenty of highly advanced tech gear.
Jaguar actually improved the XF’s technology for this 2019 model, so that all XF trims now incorporate the brand’s updated 10.0-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment touchscreen, which provides a larger display area to appreciate its completely new and wholly simpler graphics package (the classic red British telephone box ahead of a pastoral background and other scenes are now gone), easier visibility of the rearview camera, greater detail of the navigation mapping, plus plenty of other enhancements. If the more minimalist, arguably more sophisticated digital interface is not up to your standards, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration provide a new look when attached to your device, plus add proprietary features. Being that I’ve been an Android convert for the past few years (after getting fed up with lame iPhone batteries) I chose to use Jaguar’s stock system that’s much more appealing to look at. Incidentally, features like navigation and voice recognition are available in the XF’s second-rung Prestige trim and above.
Moving from tech to luxury, Jaguar’s super-soft Suedecloth is now standard on all XF roof pillars and headliners, as are aluminum treadplates with illuminated Jaguar branding, plus premium carpeted floor mats, metal foot pedals, chromed power seat switchgear, and a classy looking frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Speaking of standard, the base 2019 XF is the $59,100 Premium, while other trims include the $64,500 Prestige, and $67,800 R-Sport when opting for the 247 horsepower 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo four-cylinder; the $67,000 Prestige, $70,300 R-Sport, $72,300 300 SPORT and $79,100 Portfolio when choosing the 296 horsepower version of the same gasoline-powered mill; the $66,500 Prestige and $69,800 R-Sport when hooked up to the 180 horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel; and finally $75,300 for my tester’s 380 horsepower 3.5-litre supercharged V6-powered model’s sole S trim. These prices and trims, incidentally, plus packages and standalone options can be found right here at CarCostCanada, where you can also choose to save thousands by learning about available rebates and otherwise difficult to access dealer invoice pricing.
The diversity of available XF engines is actually quite amazing and rare, but all of these engines focus their energies on one tried and tested eight-speed automatic gearbox, no matter the trim. The quick yet smooth transmission boasts an innovative rotating gear selector that automatically powers upwards after startup from an otherwise flush placement on the lower console between the front seats, this system requiring standard paddle shifters for utilizing the Jaguar Sequential Shift manual mode, while all-wheel drive is also standard.
Further improving control no matter the driving situation, all XF trims come fitted with Jaguar Drive Control featuring Standard, Eco, Dynamic (sport), and Rain/Ice/Snow driving modes, each making a considerable difference to comfort, performance and all of the above, while Torque Vectoring by Braking (TVBB), and hill launch assist further aid drivers in mastering most road conditions.
Specific to my XF S tester, Adaptive Surface Response (AdSR) plus Configurable Dynamics and Adaptive Dynamics allow the choice of personal engine, suspension, steering, and transmission settings. All made a big difference to how this Jaguar responded to inputs, from being a comfortable, relaxed luxury car one moment, to a seriously responsive sports sedan the next.
Together with all items already noted, the top-tier XF S shown on this page receives beefier 350-mm front brake rotors and red calipers all around, as well as 20-inch alloy wheels, the latter upgrade improving performance and styling measurably.
Staying on the styling theme, the XF S also receives a unique “S” body kit that dresses up the car with a sportier front bumper, glossy black side sills and a gloss-black rear valance, plus a subtle rear deck spoiler. When stepping inside you’ll bypass special metal treadplates finished with unique “S” branding, while great looking Dark Hex aluminum inlays improve the instrument panel, rich Luxtec leatherette covers the dash top, and superbly comfortable, ultra-supportive “S” embossed 18-way powered sports seats ensconce driver and front passenger.
On top of everything already mentioned, the XF S also includes proximity keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, an acoustic layer windshield, auto on/off headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, an electronic parking brake, a powered tilt and telescopic steering wheel, auto-dimming, power-folding, heated side mirrors with approach lamps and puddle lights, memory for those mirrors as well as the front seats, front seat warmers, mood lighting, a universal garage door opener, a backup camera, navigation, InControl Apps, Pro Services, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB port, two-zone auto HVAC, front and rear parking sonar, and more.
Additionally, along with the segment’s usual active and passive safety systems, the XF S arrives standard with autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blindspot monitoring, closing vehicle sensing, reverse traffic monitoring, driver condition monitoring, etcetera.
Over and above the standard XF S items already listed, my test car was upgraded to include a stunning Rossello Red paint job for $670; beautiful glossy black twinned five-spoke alloy wheels for $770; a special Black package featuring a glossy black mesh grille insert and surround, glossy black side vents, and the same inky treatment for the trunk garnish for $460; a Comfort and Convenience package for $2,200 that adds a overly excitable gesture-control system for the trunk’s powered lid (I’ll explain this in a moment); plus soft closing doors, three-way active cooled/ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats; a Technology package for $1,030 featuring a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, Pro Services, and a CD/DVD changer; a Driver Assistance package for $3,680 incorporating an overhead surround camera system, a forward-facing camera, 360-degree Park Distance Control, Park Assist semi-autonomous self-parking, dynamic cruise control with Queue Assist, blindspot assist, and traffic sign recognition with an intelligent speed limiter; a $1,330 head-up display system; a $410 heated windshield and heated washer jets package; plus $210 satellite and HD radio.
Only the $2,230 Premium Interior Upgrade package was missing or my XF S would be deemed fully loaded, the improvement otherwise adding four-zone auto HVAC with an air quality sensor and auto air re-circulation, plus a cooled glove box, side window sunshades, a powered rear sunshade, and configurable mood lighting; plus I might have enjoyed one of the optional interior décor trims more too, particularly the carbon fibre; yet even the way Jaguar provided it, the XF S was sensational and its asking price of $85,850 quite reasonable, this $10,550 more than the base XF S.
All of the features just noted are fastened to a lightweight and extremely rigid bonded and riveted aluminum body shell that I happen find extremely attractive, while the interior is very well made from some of the industry’s nicest leathers, woods and metals. My test car featured an Ebony (aka black) leather and Light Oyster (grey) contrast-stitched cabin that also boasted gorgeous Grey Figured Ebony veneers throughout. While impressive, especially when compared to Jaguar’s smaller XE sedan, I won’t go so far as to claim that the XF leads its class when it comes to fit, finish, materials quality, digital interface supremacy, feature superiority, ultimate roominess, or any other superlative. Still, it gets a good grade for all noted categories, while its completely unique look, feel, and overall impressive performance warrants your undivided attention.
Just like the more compact XE and full-size XJ, the XF actually drives like a smaller, lighter and more engaging car than its long, mid-size dimensions suggest, and most competitors can offer. Its previously noted 380 horsepower V6 responds with immediate energy that’s easily attributed to its sizeable displacement and aforementioned supercharger, which helps all 332 lb-ft of torque hit the ground running from launch, while its standard all-wheel drive makes wheel spin yesterday’s news in snow, rain or dry conditions, and the aforementioned ZF eight-speed clicks through its cogs with speed and precision.
The XF’s performance is its key calling card, from its steady, formidable (albeit exhaust-muted) 5.3-second zero-to-100km/h straight-line acceleration, to its sublime handling and excellent ride that’s brought about by a lightweight double-wishbone front suspension and integral link rear setup, the combination perfect for pushing the envelope through hard-pressed switchbacks at unmentionable speeds, or alternatively hauling down the highway or taxiing through town at more relaxed paces. The XF S is a sport-luxury sedan that can do it all.
This said I had a few issues with my test car, particularly the fact that my top-tier model didn’t even include remote engine start on the otherwise fancy key fob. It’s available as part of the InControl Remote App you can download onto your smartphone, but there were plenty of disgruntled iTunes and Play Store owners who said it only worked 25-30 percent of the time, and being that I only tested it for a week and was never even informed of the app prior to the test so I could download it, wasn’t able to pre-warm the interior in winter (or hypothetically pre-chill the cabin in summer).
Temperature settings in mind, I didn’t appreciate not having an auto mode for the heatable seats and steering wheel. Each needed to be switched on upon startup, and Jaguar only includes one ultra-hot setting for the steering wheel rim, forcing me to turn it on and off throughout my drive.
Another quibble focuses on the overhead sunglasses holder that doesn’t even properly fit smallish wire rim glasses like my Ray-Ban aviators. I had to turn them upside down in order to stuff them inside and shut it closed, which meant their lenses were left rubbing against the harder side of the lid.
On a more positive note, the dash corner vents whisk open in wonderful silence, which is equally cool to how the gear selector rises into place, but all the hard plastic found on the glove box lid, lower dash surfacing, console, and lower door panels didn’t impress anywhere near as well.
Finally I get to that trunk lid I mentioned earlier in the review. Hyperactive might be a better term than overly excitable, but either way it was a convenience feature gone wrong. Let me explain: Basically it opens up whenever anyone with the key fob in purse or pocket walks past. Other carmakers that use this type of hands-free trunk opener, such as Hyundai and its Genesis luxury division, cause you to stand next to the back bumper for at least three seconds before it activates the automatic trunk lid, but my XF tester’s trunk kept popping open immediately upon sensing the key fob. Once, after pulling up at a shopping centre, the trunk sprang open as I walked past on my way toward the mall. Unfortunately this gave a nice preview of my valuables to any miscreant eyes nearby, which is certainly a security risk. Another time I kept the engine running (for less than a minute) while delivering something to an office I have regular business with (don’t worry, their parking lot/entrance is totally private), and voila, while walking past the XF’s backside the trunk lid popped open once again. It performed the annoying ritual while pumping gas too, and on other occasions.
Fuel in mind, the XF achieves a Transport Canada rating of 12.0 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 10.4 combined, which is actually pretty decent for such an enthusiastic drivetrain strapped to such as generously proportioned luxury sedan, although I must point out that buyers willing to forgo some accelerative force for thriftier economy can choose the aforementioned turbo-diesel that gets a superb 7.8 city, 5.8 highway and 6.9 combined rating. Diesel is often significantly cheaper than gasoline too, and allows you to drive greater distances per tankful.
While that trunk kept popping open I was continually reminded just how large it is. It measures a generous 541 litres (19.1 cubic feet), and better yet provides ultra-convenient 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats that let you lay longer items like skis down the middle while outboard rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable, warmer window seats.
The XF is spacious for front and rear occupants as well, this due to a wheelbase that was lengthened considerably when the second-gen car arrived. By the numbers you’ll have 1,055 mm of legroom in front while your rear passengers will benefit from 957 mm, so you shouldn’t hear complaints from tagalongs when it comes to roominess.
At the end of my weeklong test I wouldn’t say I was in love with the 2019 XF S, but certainly grew to appreciate its many qualities despite its few quirks. Yes, it’s nowhere near perfect, but its larger touchscreen and other improvements make it better than ever, while its performance was excellent for all but those (like me) that have experienced this car with a supercharged V8. That in mind, I’d consider the XF even more seriously with one of its four-cylinder alternatives, for its economical and environmental benefits. Either way, Jaguar has most bases covered with the XF, making it a credible choice in this highly competitive mid-size luxury category.