The 2021 Car of the Year went to Hyundai’s redesigned Elantra, which might cause pause amongst blue-oval product planners questioning whether or not they might’ve enjoyed a three-way win if the much-lauded European-spec Focus was still offered on our shores.
Interestingly, the Truck of the Year finalists just mentioned were only significantly upgraded trims of models previously available in 2020, making the category-winning F-150 as the only winner to be completely redesigned.
To learn more about these NACTOY-winning vehicles, be sure to click on the associated link. It will send you to the correct CarCostCanada pricing page, where you can find out about any manufacturer incentives, average member savings (when available), special factory leasing and financing rates (when available), manufacturer rebates (when available), and (always available) dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next new vehicle purchase. Find out more about how the CarCostCanada system works, and remember to download our free mobile app at the Google Play Store or Apple Store so you can have access to all of this critical info whenever you need it.
I want a new Blazer. Yah, you heard me right. There’s just one problem. The Blazer I want is a 4×4-capable compact/mid-sizer capable of going toe-to-toe with Ford’s new Bronco and Jeep’s legendary Wrangler, not an all-wheel drive soft-roader designed primarily for hauling kids. Fortunately for Chevy, most buyers want the latter, resulting in the new Blazer crossover being very popular.
Granted, General Motors’ best-selling bowtie brand would’ve had a hit on its hands if they’d called it something else, like Malibu X. Ok, that last comment, while mostly true, was a jab right into the solar plexus of the just-noted blue-oval brand that once did something near identical with its mid-size Taurus nameplate, which just happened to share underpinnings with their renamed Freestyle crossover SUV. In all seriousness, though, I would’ve rather seen Chevy bring out a new Colorado-based SUV wearing the Blazer badge than anything riding on the back of GM’s mid-size platform (although the Blazer’s C1XX architecture is actually a somewhat modified crossover variant of the Malibu’s E2XX platform). Now, if GM has a change of heart, wanting to take advantage of rough and rugged 4×4 popularity, they won’t be able to use the classic Blazer nameplate. At least Jimmy is still available for GMC.
The General has made a lot of mistakes in the past and this latest misnomer may one day be perceived as a significant missed opportunity that simultaneously sullied a once-great name, but for now the majority of thirty- to forty-something parents buying this new five-seat Chevrolet will be happy it looks like a bulked-up Camaro (and wasn’t actually named Camaro… ahem, another knock on Ford that dubbed its two-row crossover SUV the Mustang Mach-E) and leave it at that.
The RS I spent a week with is the most Camaro-like trim of the lot, particularly in red. Like it or lose it, this SUV is an attention-getter. This said, no one should expect its rectangular dual exhaust to bark like a ZL1, let alone an LT1 with the upgraded V6. What’s more, the Blazer’s spin on Chevy’s 3.6-litre V6 doesn’t put out the Camaro’s 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque either, but in this fairly staid consumer-driven category its 308 horsepower and 270 ft-lb of torque is impressive. It manages a zero-to-100 km/h sprint of 6.5 seconds too, and while this is half-a-second off Ford’s Edge ST, at least the Chevy looks quicker.
The Blazer boasts an extra forward gear as well, counting in at nine compared to eight for Ford’s mid-size alternative, while both use all-wheel drive systems that are best kept on pavement, or light-duty gravel at worst.
Not all Blazers receive this upmarket V6, by the way, with lesser trims incorporating GM’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that also comes in the base Camaro. Can you see a pattern here? Like the V6, the base Blazer’s output is detuned from the sporty muscle car’s, making 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque instead of a respective 275 and 295, but that’s better than the U.S.-spec base model’s naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre engine that only manages 193 literal ponies and 188 lb-ft (ok, they’re not literal ponies, but they’re much smaller horses). As for the Edge, it’s base 2.0-litre turbo-four makes 250 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque in both markets, which is what we’d call competitive.
The Blazer’s nine-speed autobox mentioned a moment ago doesn’t include steering column-mounted paddle shifters, even in this sporty RS trim line, but Chevy does include a thumb-controlled rocker switch directly on the shift knob, which isn’t any more engaging than pushing a gear lever to and fro. At least the transmission is a soothingly smooth shifter, if not particularly quick about the job at hand. Yes, once again this Blazer RS is no Camaro crossover, in spirit at least, but it’s highly unlikely the majority of its buyers would drive it like it was stolen, so it’s probably a moot point.
More importantly, this SUV is easy on fuel. Chevy claims estimated mileage of 13.1 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.4 combined for this V6-powered version, achievable because its part-time all-wheel drive system pushes all of its power to the front wheels when extra traction isn’t required. When needed, simply rotate a console-mounted knob from x2” to “x4” and Bob’s your uncle. The same dial can be used to select sport mode as well, or for that matter a towing mode.
With the former mode chosen, the Blazer RS really moves off the line, almost completely fulfilling the promise made by its fast-when-standing-still styling. If only the nine-speed automatic’s response to shifts was quicker, the smooth and comforting transmission needing more than two seconds to set up the next shift. I suppose it’s more fun to row through the gears than the majority of CVTs, but only just. It kicks down well enough for passing procedures, and there’s plenty of power and torque afoot, so the engine makes up for the gearbox once engaged. Even better, the Blazer RS handles.
Yup, this SUV can snake through corners with ease, with some thanks to the sizeable 265/45R21 Continental CrossContact all-season tires attached to the ground below. I made a point of seeking out some favourite curving riverside two-laners and a relatively local mountainside switchback to be sure of its capabilities, and was rewarded with confidence-inspiring poise under pressure. Even when pushing harder than I probably should have, the Blazer never deviated from my chosen lane and hardly seemed to lean much at all. Even more important in this class, suspension compliancy was just right, always smooth and comfortable and never harsh.
Comfort’s where it’s at in this mid-size SUV segment, and to that end Chevy has done a good job finishing off the Blazer RS interior. Style-wise it’s no walnut-laden, camel-coloured leather luxury ute, but instead once again does its best impersonation of a tall, five-seat Camaro. Of course, I only mean that when it comes to interior design, as this Chevy RS is a lot more utile than any 2+2 muscle car, thanks to generous front and rear seat room for all sizes in all seating positions. It’s cargo area is accommodating too, complete with 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to expand on its usefulness when needed.
As far as luxury accoutrements go, Chevy made sure to infuse the cabin with padded surfaces aplenty. Most composites and leathers were in a dark anthracite bordering on black, with red being the highlight colour, as if you couldn’t have guessed without looking inside. I say most composites because the design team chose to ring each dash-mounted air vent with a red bezel, the bright splash of colour at least not clashing with the red and blue heating and cooling arrows positioned nearby. There’s a tiny drop of red plastic on the gear shift lever too, providing a backdrop to the “RS” logo, and no shortage of red thread throughout the rest of the cabin, not to mention some red dye visible through the leather seats’ perforations. It all looks appropriately sporty, with fit, finish and materials quality that matches most others in the segment.
I will give a special nod to Chevy’s mostly digital primary gauge cluster and centre-mounted infotainment display, however, which are a touch above most rivals. The former, which includes an 8.0-inch multi-information display at centre, features stylish, tasteful graphics and plenty of bright colours, plus clear, high-resolution screen quality, and a solid collection of useful functions. Over to the right, the infotainment display is a touchscreen for easy use, especially when using smartphone/tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures, and once again its graphically attractive and filled with functions, such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, accurate navigation, a good backup camera, etcetera.
The RS comes equipped with some other notable features too, such as a big panoramic glass sunroof up above, a heated steering wheel rim and heatable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a hands-free powered liftgate, a sportier front grille, and 99.9-percent of its exterior chrome trim replaced by glossy black (the “RS” logo gets trimmed in metal brightwork for tradition’s sake).
After everything is said and done, Chevy’s Blazer RS will either make you race over to the brand’s website to deliberate over colours before checking out local dealer sites in order to see what’s in stock, or leave you questioning how the heartbeat of America could’ve missed such a great opportunity to bring back a real off-road capable SUV. Sure you can still step up to a full-size Tahoe or Suburban, both worthy 4x4s in their own rights, but something smaller to compete with the Broncos, Wranglers and even the Toyota 4Runners of the world would’ve been nice… and smart.
Style. Some have it, and others just don’t. A small handful, on the other hand, are not only in style, but in fact set the trends. Audi has long been one such brand, often lauded for its leadership in design and execution, while the new Q8 has become one of the automaker’s key style-setters.
While hardly an initiator in the SUV coupe category, the Q8’s edgy lines and sleek, low-slung profile has certainly made up for lost time. As you may already know, it shares hard points with a number of other Volkswagen group crossover utilities, namely Porsche’s Cayenne Coupe and Lamborghini’s Urus, while its MLB platform underpinnings can be found in Audi’s own Q7, plus the regular Cayenne, Volkswagen’s Touareg (in other markets) and at the other end of the spectrum, Bentley’s Bentayga.
This means that along with its dashing good looks it’s an SUV that can run with the best in the industry, and believe me the Q8 can hold its own on a curving backroad. The Q8 plays alongside BMW’s X6 and Mercedes’ GLE Coupe, the former being the first-ever SUV coupe, while most others in this sector are much higher priced alternatives such as Maserati’s Levante (which is more of a regular crossover SUV despite being very sleek), Aston Martin’s DBX, and soon Ferrari’s Purosangue.
The Q8 is not only more affordable than the exotics just mentioned, but my tester’s Technik 55 TFSI Quattro trim line is considerably more approachable than the mid-range SQ8 or top-line RS Q8. Our 2021 Audi Q8 Canada Prices page shows suggested pricing of $91,200 plus freight and fees, which adds $8,650 to the price of a base Q8 Progressiv model, while Audi is currently offering up to $4,000 in additional incentives on both 2021 and 2020 models, and average CarCostCanada member savings are $3,875.
The Q8 arrived for 2019, by the way, and other than an assortment of tech features that have been added to the base Progressiv trim since its initial year, 2019, 2020 and 2021 versions are mostly the same. The Q8 Technik shown on this page is pretty well fully loaded, so it’s pretty well the same vehicle as a 2021.
Obviously the Q8’s base price makes its placement within Audi’s SUV hierarchy clear, the sporty mid-sizer positioned above the Q7, the two Q5 models, and of course the Q3, at least as far as non-electrics go. Audi has a lineup of EVs now, including the E-Tron and new E-Tron Sportback (Audi-speak for an SUV Coupe), while the second Q5 I just mentioned is another Sportback, making a total of three SUV coupes in the Ingolstadt brand’s lineup.
SUV coupes are arguably better looking, unless you’re more of a traditionalist, but there is a trade-off. It comes in the way of rear headroom and cargo capacity, the second row more than adequately sized for most adults, but the Q8’s dedicated luggage space down significantly from the Q7 and even some of the regularly proportioned five-passenger SUVs it might be up against. Even the GLE Coupe offers more room behind its rear seats, but the Q8 edges out the X6.
Now that we’re talking about practical issues, the base Q8 powertrain delivers decent fuel economy. Driven with a tempered right foot you’ll be able to eke out 13.8 L/100km in the city, 11.7 on the highway and 12.7 combined, but that’s probably not how you’re going to want to drive it.
Sorry for the yawn-fest, but I needed to get the mundanities out of the way before talking performance. Fortunately for enthusiasts like us, Audi chose not to go all pragmatic with its Q8 powertrains, leaving the Q7’s 248 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder off the menu and instead opting for its 335 horsepower V6 in base models. That’s a healthy dose of energy for any SUV, but even more for a lighter weight five-passenger ute like the Q8. It pushes out 369 lb-ft of torque as well, all from a 3.0-litre V6-powered with a single turbo, so off-the-line acceleration is strong and highway passing manoeuvres are effortless.
Not as effortless as passing would be in a 500 horsepower SQ8, mind you, or for that matter the near Urus levels of straight-line power offered up by the 591 horsepower RS Q8. These two put 568 and 590 lb-ft of torque down to the tarmac respectively, so launching from standstill would be exhilarating to say the least. Is 3.8 seconds to 100 km/h good enough for you? That’s as quick as Bentley’s W12-powered Bentayga, and only 0.2 seconds off the Urus’ 3.6-second sprint. The mid-range SQ8 is fast too, but 4.3 seconds from zero to 100 km/h is not quite as awe-inspiring, while the 55 TFSI Quattro’s 6.0-second run is definitely quick enough to leave most traffic behind when the light goes green.
Speaking of fast, the Q8’s ZF-sourced eight-speed auto is both silky smooth and wonderfully quick-shifting when pushing hard, while Quattro continues Audi’s advanced tradition in all-wheel drive, delivering superb traction in all conditions. Adding to the experience, Audi provides Comfort, Auto, Dynamic (sport), Individual and Off Road “drive select” modes, the sportiest enhancing the Q8’s direct electromechanical steering design and nicely-tuned five-link front and rear suspension setup, resulting in a luxury SUV that’s comfortable when needed, and plenty of fun through the curves.
Comfort is the Q8 55 TFSI Quattro’s primary purpose, however, and one look inside makes this immediately known. Its interior design typifies Audi’s contemporary minimalism, while the quality of materials is second to none. My test model’s cabin was mostly done out in a subdued charcoal grey, other than the large sections of piano black lacquered trim running across the instrument panel and lower console. These perfectly bled into the numerous electronic displays, while Audi added some stylish brown details to visually warm up what could come across as a cold grey motif. Yes, even the open-pore hardwood inlays were stained grey, although ample brushed aluminum trim and the big panoramic sunroof overhead helped to lighten the mood.
The aforementioned displays brightened the gauge cluster and centre stack too, with attractive graphics and brilliantly clear high-definition resolution. The former, dubbed “Audi Virtual Cockpit,” is 100-percent digital and wonderfully customizable, plus can be modded so that the centre-mounted multi-information display takes over the entire screen via a “VIEW” button located on the steering wheel spoke. My favourite choice of multi-info functions for this full-size view is the navigation map, which looks fabulous and frees the centre display for other duties, like scrolling through satellite radio stations, while multi-zone heating and ventilation controls can be found on a separate touchscreen just below.
The previously noted “drive select” modes can be found on a thin strip of touch-sensitive interface just under the HVAC display. Also included is a button for cancelling traction and stability control, turning on the hazard lights, and selecting defog/defrost settings. This switchgear, plus all others in the Q8’s well laid out interior, is impressively made.
Of course, we’ve all come to expect this level of detail from Audi, as is the case for cabin comfort. Of upmost importance to me is any vehicle’s driving position, due to a torso that’s not as long as my legs, therefore once my seat has been powered rearward enough to accommodate the latter, I often require more reach from the telescopic steering column than some models provide in order to achieve maximum control while comfortably holding the rim of the wheel. If that reach isn’t there, I’ve got to crank my seatback to a less than ideal vertical position, which is never a good first impression. In the Q8’s case, nothing I just said was even necessary, other than to point out that its driving position is near perfect.
Of course, the amply adjustable driver’s seat had much to do with that. It includes an extendable lower cushion that nicely cups under the knees, a favourite feature, while together with the usual fore/aft, up/down, recline and four-way lumbar support functions was a wonderful massage feature that gently eased back pain via wave, pulse, stretch, relaxation, shoulder, and activation modes, not to mention three intensity levels. Industry norm three-temperature heatable cushions were combined with three-way cooling, making a very good thing just that much better.
With my seat pushed back far enough to fit my long-legged albeit still short five-foot-eight frame, I still had more than enough space in all directions, while I could nearly stretch out fully when sitting behind the driver’s seat in the second row. With only two seated in back, the Q8’s wide, comfortable centre armrest can be folded down. It features the usual twin cupholders, plus controls for the power-operated side-window sunshades, which can be operated by someone seated on either side of the rear bench. A climate control interface allows adjustment of another two zones in back, for a total of four. This is where you’ll find buttons for the rear outboard seat heaters.
I’ve already mentioned the Q8’s cargo volume, so rather than going down this memory hole one more time I’ll just reiterate that most should find it adequate. It’s very well finished, as you might expect, with full carpeting and a stylish aluminum protective plate on the hatch sill, plus bright metal tie-down hooks at each corner, not to mention a useful webbed storage area to the side. I especially appreciation folding rear seatbacks split in the optimal 40/20/40 configuration, which allows for longer items like skis to be stored down the middle while rear occupants benefit from the more comfortable heatable window seats.
I’ve already mentioned pricing and likely discounts, but you’ll need to go to CarCostCanada to find out how to access the deals. Their very affordable membership gives you money-saving info on available manufacturer rebates, factory financing and leasing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that’s like having insider information before negotiating your best deal. Find out how a CarCostCanada membership will save you money on your next new vehicle, and download their free app too, so you can access critical info when you need it most.
All said, the Q8 would be a good way to apply all knowledge you’ll gain from a CarCostCanada membership. While practical and fuel efficient, it’s drop-dead gorgeous from the outside in, includes some of the best quality materials available, comes equipped with an impressive assortment of standard and optional features, is wonderfully comfortable in every seating position, and delivers strong performance no matter the road conditions.
Those fortunate enough to have attended a major auto show (remember those?) will know that some of the most exciting new reveals are concept cars and prototypes, yet for some reason Porsche has hidden away most of its non-production gems, until now that is.
As part of a new “Porsche Unseen” project that includes a hard cover book and website, Porsche dusted off 15 of its previously hidden concepts, showing some that were clearly inspired by the brand’s motorsport success and others that influenced today’s production models. There’s a number of gorgeous modernized historical recreations too, not to mention others that pay tribute to the brand’s previous rally racing triumphs. All were organized into four appropriately named categories, including Hypercars, Little Rebels, Spin Offs, and What’s Next? So without further ado let’s delve into each one in order to see all that Porsche has been hiding from us over the past decade-and-a-half.
Hypercars: Will any of these concepts influence Porsche’s next supercar?
The Hypercars category is by far the largest, incorporating six concepts that’ll easily get your head spinning. The first arrived in 2013 and the most recent was created in 2019, with the result being six glorious years of would-be supercars. Before we start complaining about none in this six-pack getting the green light for production, we should remember the brilliant 918 Spyder that was actually being produced during much of this era. Still, how we’d love to see production runs of some of these others. At the very least, these concepts will inspire future designs, which might have to be good enough.
2013 Porsche 917 Living Legend: Gorgeous race car for the street
We covered the stunning 917 Living Legend at length previously in these pages, as it was the only car from this collection to see daylight thanks to Porsche’s 50th anniversary “Colours of Speed” exhibition that took place at the brand’s museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany in 2013. If the name didn’t give it away, its modernized take on the legendary 917 KH race car makes its heritage known immediately.
The famed model was responsible for Porsche’s first Le Mans win (that now total 19) in 1970, so it’s only appropriate that the concept wears a revised version of the original’s Salzburg red-and-white paint scheme. The 1:1 industrial plasticine model fittingly marked Porsche’s return to the top-level LMP1 class of FIA-sanctioned sports car racing.
2015 Porsche 906 Living Legend: Once again pulling inspiration from motorsport
Following a motorsport theme, the 906 Living Legend was heavily inspired by Porsche’s 906 race car that took part in the 1966 Targa Florio road race. Specifically, the 906 Living Legend’s front lighting elements can be seen in the cooling ducts, not unlike those on the original, while its red and white livery references the classic racer too.
“The design process for such visions is very free,” stated Porsche’s Chief Designer, Michael Mauer. “It is not necessary to keep to pre-defined product identity characteristics. For example, the headlights were positioned in an air intake as a futuristic light source. When we were later developing an identity for our electric models, we took another look at these designs. The radical idea of simply integrating a light source in an opening instead of a glass cover seemed appropriate for us. We are now approaching this ideal.” Additionally, Mauer said, “Modern hypercars are greatly dependent on their aerodynamics and openings resulting from the enormous ventilation requirements.”
2017 Porsche 919 Street: From racetrack to perceived public roads with little modification
The 919 Street, created in 2017, is in fact a road-going 919 Hybrid LMP1 race car, in 1:1 clay model form at least. The track-only 919 Hybrid, which laid waste to all LMP1 sports car challengers, achieving four consecutive FIA World Endurance Championships from 2014 to 2017, was an ideal starting point for any road-going hypercar.
Therefore, Porsche kept the basic design of the race car’s bodywork and underpinnings intact, including its carbon-fibre monocoque and 900 PS hybrid drivetrain, not to mention its overall dimensions including its track and wheelbase, which are identical. It’s hard to imagine why Porsche didn’t build this beast, as every example would’ve been snapped up by collectors in minutes.
2019 Porsche Vision 918 RS: This one owes its existence to the 918 Spyder supercar
Porsche was seriously considering producing the 918 RS, however, having moved the concept along all the way to the development stage. As you may have guessed (or read in the title), this 1:1 hard model rides on the backbone of Porsche’s hybrid-powered 918 Spyder, but unlike the ultra-fast roadster this one wears a permanent roof.
The fixed head coupe profile wasn’t the only original bit of bodywork either, with as plenty of other upgrades were made to give the 918 RS its own unique look. Is this the future of Porsche hypercars? Being one of the most recent, we think it provides a hint of what the Stuttgart brand has in store.
2019 Porsche Vision 920: A future LMP1 car?
The Vision 920 is more about looking into the future than the past. Hopefully it’s imagining something track-ready for Porsche’s next foray into sports car racing, as the car looks armed and ready for FIA LMP (Le Mans Prototype) sanctioned events. In true dedicated race car fashion, the solo driver occupies the centre position behind a wraparound jet-fighter like windshield.
Likewise, all the aerodynamic ducting and exposed suspension hardware make this motorsport concept appear like a future series champion, so let’s hope they build it and head back to Le Mans.
2019 Porsche Vision E: Is this Porsche’s future?
Porsche left sports car prototype racing to focus on the all-electric Formula E series, which is probably why the Vision E concept exists. It’s powered by an 800-volt, fully-electric power unit, although unlike Formula E cars this more road-worthy alternative is fully-enclosed to had its single occupant from the elements.
Tiny motorcycle-like fenders make it kind of legal, theoretically, although being that it was just a 1:1 hard model we’ll never know. Porsche did move it all the way up to the development stage, mind you, but so far nothing similar has shown up in any future model section of the German brand’s website.
Little Rebels: These are the little cuties we know you want most
Few brands pay greater tribute to past triumphs than Porsche, but then again, few brands have such storied pasts to draw upon. The Little Rebels category pulls design elements from a few Porschephile favourites, so make sure to let us know which one you’d like to have in your driveway.
2013 Porsche 904 Living Legend: Autocross star in the making
Can we get a vote? Is the 904 Living Legend your favourite so far? It certainly ranks high on our list of cars we’d love to see Porsche build, even if it’s already eight years old. Interestingly, this retrospective sports car was actually based on the VW XL1 streamliner, a fuel-economy-focused diesel-powered (are we allowed to mention that word anymore?) prototype.
Porsche dug into a different VW group brand to source the 904 Living Legend’s engine, however, resulting in a high-revving Ducati V2 motorcycle engine that no doubt has little problem moving this 900-kilgram two-seater like a rocket.
While our fingers are crossed something similar gets created with Porsche’s fabulous turbocharged four-cylinder stuffed into the engine compartment, resulting in a German interpretation of Lotus’ Elise, or more accurately a modernized version of the late great 1963 Porsche Carrera GTS (it’s inspiration after all), we’re not ponying up down payments just yet.
2016 Porsche Vision 916: Beautiful, fast and clean
The Vision 916 might look like supercar, but in reality, the sleek two-seat coupe is a lot more down to earth. In fact, the Vision 916 features a 100-percent electric battery and hub-motor drivetrain, combining for blisteringly quick acceleration and zero emissions.
Porsche says it was inspired by a six-cylinder-powered version of the ‘70s-era 914, dubbed 916, which was never produced for mass consumption, but we can’t see much of a resemblance to the squared off mid-engine model.
2019 Porsche Vision Spyder: Boxster of tomorrow?
The more rectangular Vision Spyder, on the other hand, has 914 written all over it, and we’re hoping it influences the next 718 Boxster. Yes, Porsche’s entry-level roadster still looks great, but every model needs updates, and pushing 718 series design in the Vision Spyder’s direction certainly wouldn’t hurt.
The 1:1 hard model receives a classic silver, red and black motorsport livery that would cause any Porschephile to be hopeful for a potential spec racing series, or at least provide some happy thoughts about future weekends at a local autocross course.
Just like today’s 718 series, this Vision Spyder receives its ideal handling balance from a mid-engine layout, while some styling highlights can be traced back to the 1954 550-1500 RS Spyder. As noted, we’re also eyeing some 1969-1976 914 in this design, particularly in its angular elements and fabulous looking roll hoop.
Spin-Offs: These ones are closer to reality
When you think of spin-offs, what comes to mind? Normally the term conjures up the next Star Wars prequel or sequel, or perhaps another Marvel comic strip coming to life. In Porsche-speak, however, it’s all about modifying an existing model to the nth degree, so that its purpose becomes expanded beyond its original scope.
2012 Porsche 911 Vision Safari: The ultimate rally car?
Those who’ve loved Porsche for multiple decades may remember the phenomenal 959, which when after debuting in 1986 became the fastest production car in the world. Being four-wheel drive, Porsche went about raising and beefing up its suspension in order to take the car rallying, which resulted in immediate first, second and sixth place finishes in the 1986 Paris-Dakar rally—7,500 of the most grueling miles any car could endure.
Seeing something similar based on the even more attractive 991 body style is even better, especially when factoring in that it probably wouldn’t set its buyer back anywhere near the $6 million USD needed to pick up a race-experienced 959.
Of course, this one-off concept would be worth a fair penny if Porsche decided to sell it, but that’s not likely to happen. Instead, they might want to combine an updated version based on the latest 911 Turbo with a spec off-road series. Hey, we can hope.
2013 Macan Vision Safari: Porsche should build this awesome 4×4
While an off-road capable 911 sounds awesome, a 4×4-ready Macan makes more sense from a sales perspective. If that sounds too farfetched to contemplate, stretch your mind back to when the original Cayenne arrived. It was actually quite handy off-road, so we know Porsche isn’t against getting dirty when it needs to.
Despite being based on the first-generation Macan, this Vision Safari concept shows just how amazing a muscled-up version of Porsche’s entry-level SUV could be. Look a little closer and you might notice that this 1:1 scale hard model isn’t only about big tires and bulky body-cladding, it’s also been transformed into a two-door coupe. We’d like it with four doors too, so hurry up and build it, Porsche.
2014 Porsche Boxster Bergspyder: the perfect mid-engine track star
Back on tarmac, Porsche’s 2014 Boxster Bergspyder would be better suited to smooth surfaces than anything unpaved. Based on Porsche’s lightweight roadster, with yet more mass removed via a barchetta-style permanently open roof, the elimination of the passenger seat (two’s a crowd anyway), and substitution of critical components with lighter weight composites, the Bergspyder has track star written all over it.
Additional updates include 911 Speedster-like shorten windscreen pillars along with cool dual roll hoops ahead of a Carrera GT-style double-bubble rear deck lid for a truly exotic look. The cabin’s primary gauge cluster comes straight out of a 918 Spyder, while a useful helmet shelf sits where the passenger would have previously.
If you thought dropping the Boxster’s weight down to a featherlight 1,130-kilos was good news, the inclusion of the Cayman GT4’s high-revving 3.8-litre flat-six is pure icing on the cake.
2016 Porsche Le Mans Living Legend: this is the one we want the most
The Le Mans Living Legend is a Boxster/Cayman-based sports coupe that pulls memories from the ‘50s. Inspired by the stunning 1953 550 Le Mans racing coupe, this one-off boasts a mid-mounted V8 with “excessive sound development,” or so says Porsche. It’s mated to a manual transmission, which is surprising yet ideal, and without doubt would clean up on any competitors that would dare to race it.
The divided rear window is a design element we’d love to see somewhere in Porsche’s future lineup, not to mention the classic exposed fuel cap mounted smack dab in the centre of the hood. Beautiful is an understatement, so let’s hope Porsche has plans to build it.
What’s Next? One that’s already here and another only displaying technology
The Vision Renndienst (Race Service) and Vision Turismo are the only two concepts that fall under the “What’s Next?” menu, but don’t let the name of this category make you think we’re about to be inundated with little electric delivery vans wearing Porsche badging.
2018 Porsche Vision Renndienst: It’s what’s underneath the skin that matters
A Porsche minivan? While this cute little runabout wears Porsche’s famed crest up front (albeit a faded grey version with a transparent background), the Vision Renndienst is more about the all-electric skateboard platform design it sits upon.
Styled after the race service vans used in early racing programs, the Vision Renndienst has accommodations for six occupants, with the driver up front in the middle, either facing forward or rearward for relaxing while being driven autonomously.
A neat concept that would probably be better accepted with a big VW badge on the front panel, the Vision Renndienst nevertheless points the brand toward an electric future, a common theme these days.
2016 Vision 960 Turismo: Meet the Taycan’s early prototype
The Vision 960 Turismo is an all-electric four-door coupe, looking for all purposes like a 918 Spyder supercar in front and a Panamera in the rear. The 1:1 scale model looks fabulous, although so does the Taycan in a much more modern way, so therefore it appears Porsche made the right decision to look forward with its first electric, rather than backward.
The 15 “Unseen” Porsche prototypes are currently on display at Porsche’s museum in Stuttgart, while a 328-page “Porsche Unseen” hardcover book that includes photos from Stefan Bogner with accompanying text by Jan Karl Baedeker, can be purchased in the Museum gift shop. It’s published by Delius Klasing Verlag and made available at Elferspot.com (ISBN number 978-3-667-11980-3) too.
As for now, sit back, relax and enjoy the “Porsche Unseen: Uncovered” video below that follows.
The 1960s and early ‘70s was the era of cheap, affordable sports cars, with today’s entry-level offerings few and far between. Fortunately for car enthusiasts, our Japanese friends haven’t given up on the sportiest market yet, with Subaru having finally silenced doomsayers projecting the demise of the BRZ and its Toyota 86 clone, by introducing the fully redesigned second-generation coupe.
Currently, every BRZ/86 competitor is Japanese except for Fiat’s 124 Spider that’s based on Mazda MX-5 underpinnings (powertrain excluded), which is like overhearing Japanese spoken with an Italian accent while eating cannelloni flavoured sushi (hmmm… that might actually be good), and while today’s Nissan 370Z can be bought for a song in its most basic form, chances of a $30k 400Z are unlikely. For those not requiring as much forward thrust in order to have a good time, mind you, the upcoming 2022 BRZ could be the ideal answer.
The completely reengineered Subie will arrive with more power, however, bumping engine performance up from 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque to 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft, which is an increase of 23 and 28 respectively. That won’t placate grumblers vying for the WRX STI’s 310-hp mill, or even the regular WRX’ 268 hp, but it’s respectable for this class.
The increased power comes from a new naturally aspirated 2.4-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder, which is 400 cubic centimetres larger than the outgoing 2.0-litre powerplant. No turbo is attached, but keep in mind this is the same basic engine as used for the mid-size Legacy, Outback and three-row Ascent SUV, which with turbocharger attached makes of 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Therefore, a more potent performance model is once again possible for Subaru or mechanics with tuning chops.
More important than straight-line power in this category is low mass, and to Subaru’s credit only 7.7 kilograms (17 lbs) were added to this larger and more technologically advanced car, the 2022 BRZ weighing in at 1,277 kg (2,815 lbs) in base trim. Exterior measurements increase by 25 mm (1 in) to 4,265 mm (167.9 in) from nose to tail, while the 2,575-mm (101.4-in) wheelbase has only increased by 5 mm (0.2 in).
The change is the result of its Subaru Global Platform-sourced body structure, which makes the new model 50 percent stiffer than the old BRZ. In a press release, Subaru claims that key areas of strengthening included “a reinforced chassis mounting system, sub-frame architecture and other connection points,” while the car’s front lateral bending rigidity is now 60-percent more rigid, saying to “improve turn-in and response.”
Despite all the upgrades, the BRZ’s general suspension layout stays the same, with front struts and a double-wishbone setup in back, but the new model gets updates aplenty nevertheless, and now rolls on standard 17-inch alloy wheels with 18-inch rims optional, wearing 215/45R17 and 215/40R18 rubber respectively.
As was the case with the outgoing BRZ, a short-throw six-speed manual transmission will come standard with the 2022 model, while the same six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles and downshift rev-matching is part of the 2022 package too. A standard limited-slip differential remains standard issue for the new BRZ too, so hooking up all that power won’t be an issue.
Performance aside, what do you think of the new look? So far, critics have been mostly positive, appreciating the 2022 model’s more aggressive character lines, while the interior has received universal praise. Yes, the current car has aged reasonably well, but it’s been nearly a decade so any modernization would likely be an improvement. Along with a complete instrument panel redesign, a 7.0-inch digital colour display has been integrated within the all-new primary gauge cluster, while over on the centre stack is a new 8.0-inch touchscreen housing Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, plus the usual assortment of entertainment and information functions.
Just in case you’re having a déjà vu moment, rest assured that you previously read an article on this site about Porsche E-Hybrid battery improvements, but at that time we were covering Panamera variants and now it’s all about the electrified Cayenne.
Like last year, both the regular Cayenne crossover SUV and the sportier looking Cayenne Coupe will receive Porsche’s E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid power units, but new for 2021 are battery cells that are better optimized and improve on energy density, thus allowing a 27-percent increase in output and nearly 30 percent greater EV range.
The new battery, up from 14.1 kWh to 17.9, expands the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s range from about 22 or 23 km between charges to almost 30 km, which will force fewer trips to the gas station when using their plug-in Porsches for daily commutes. Likewise, the heftier Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid gets an EV range bump up from approximately 19 or 20 km to 24 or 25 km.
Added to this, Porsche has reworked how these Cayenne plug-ins utilize their internal combustion engines (ICE) when charging the battery. The battery now tops off at 80 percent instead of 100, which in fact saves fuel while reducing emissions. Say what? While this might initially seem counterintuitive, it all comes down to the E-Hybrid’s various kinetic energy harvesting systems, like regenerative braking, that aren’t put to use if the battery reaches a 100-percent fill. Cap off the charge at 80 percent and these systems are always in use, and therefore do their part in increasing efficiency.
Additionally, the larger 17.9 kWh battery can charge quicker in Sport and Sport Plus performance modes and default or Eco modes, making sure the drive system always has ample boost when a driver wants to maximize acceleration or pass a slower vehicle.
Net horsepower and combined torque remain the same as last year’s Cayenne plug-in hybrid models despite the bigger battery, with the 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid retaining its 455 net horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque rating, and both Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid body styles pushing out a sensational 670 net horsepower along with 663 lb-ft of twist.
Standard Cayenne E-Hybrid models can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.0 seconds when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package, before maxing out at a terminal velocity of 253 km/h, while the Sport Chrono Package equipped Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe requires an additional 0.1-second to achieve the same top speed. Alternatively, both regular and coupe Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid body styles catapult from standstill to 100 km/h in an identical 3.8 seconds, with the duo also topping out at 295 km/h.
The 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid starts at $93,800 plus freight and fees, while the Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe is available from $100,400. After that, the Turbo S E-Hybrid can be had from $185,600, and lastly the Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe starts at $191,200. You can order the new electrified Cayenne models now, with first deliveries expected by spring.
Few vehicles ever earn “icon” status. They’re either not around long enough, or their manufacturers change them so dramatically from their original purpose that only the name remains.
Case in point, Chevy’s new car-based Blazer family hauler compared to Ford’s go-anywhere Bronco. One is a complete departure from the arguably iconic truck-based original, whereas the other resurrects a beloved nameplate with new levels of on- and off-road prowess.
Land Rover has done something similar with its new Defender, yet due to radically departing from the beloved 1990-2016 first-generation Defender 90 and 110 models’ styling (which was based on the even more legendary 1948-1958 Series I, 1958-1961 Series II, 1961-1971 Series IIA, and 1971-1990 Series III) it runs the risk of losing the nameplate’s iconic status.
In fact, a British billionaire eager to cash in on Land Rover’s possible mistake is building a modernized version of the classic Defender 110 for those with deep pockets, dubbed the Ineos Grenadier (Ineos being the multinational British chemical company partly owned by said billionaire, Jim Ratcliffe). That the Grenadier was partly developed and is being produced by Magna Steyr in its Graz, Austria facility, yes, the same Magna Steyr that builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Class being tested here, is an interesting coincidence, but I digress. The more important point being made is that Mercedes’ G-Class never needed resurrecting. Like Jeep’s Wrangler, albeit at a much loftier price point, the G-wagon has remained true to its longstanding design and defined purpose from day one, endowing it with cult-like status.
The G-Class was thoroughly overhauled for the 2019 model year, this being the SUV’s second generation despite more than 40 years of production, so as you can likely imagine, changes to this 2020 model and the upcoming 2021 version are minimal. The same G 550 and sportier AMG G 63 trims remain available, but the more trail-specified 2017-2018 G 550 4×4 Squared, as well as the more pavement-performance focused 2016-2018 AMG G 65 haven’t been offered yet, nor for that matter has the awesome six-wheel version, therefore we’ll need to watch and wait to see what Mercedes has in store.
The 2019 exterior updates included plenty of new body panels, plus revised head and tail lamp designs (that aren’t too much of a departure from the original in shape and size), and lastly trim modifications all-round. The model’s squared-off, utilitarian body style remains fully intact, which is most important to the SUV’s myriad hardcore fans.
While I’m supposed to be an unbiased reporter, truth be told I’m also a fan of this chunky off-roader. In fact, I’m actually in the market for a diesel-powered four-door Geländewagen (or a left-hand drive, long-wheelbase Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series diesel in decent shape), an earlier version more aligned with my budget restraints and less likely to cause tears when inevitably scratching it up off-road. Of course, if personal finances allowed me to keep the very G 550 in my possession for this weeklong test, I’d be more than ok with that too, as it’s as good as 4×4-capable SUVs get.
While first- to second-generation G-Class models won’t be immediately noticeable to casual onlookers, step inside and the differences are dramatic. The new model features a totally new dash design and higher level of refinement overall, including the brand’s usual jewel-like metalwork trim, and bevy of new digital interfaces that fully transform its human/machine operation. Your eyes will likely lock onto Mercedes’ new MBUX digital instrument cluster/infotainment touchscreen first, which incorporates dual 12.3-inch displays within one long, horizontal, glass-like surface.
The right-side display is a touchscreen, but can alternatively be controlled by switchgear on the lower centre console, while the main driver display can be modulated via an old Blackberry-style micro-pad on the left steering wheel spoke. Together, the seemingly singular interface is one of my industry favourites, not only in functionality, which is superb, but from a styling perspective as well.
The majority of other interior switchgear is satin-silver-finished or made from knurled aluminum, resulting in a real sense of occasion, which while hardly new for Mercedes is a major improvement for the G-Class. Likewise, the drilled Burmester surround sound speaker grilles are some of the prettiest available anywhere, as are the deep, rich open-pore hardwood inlays that envelope the primary gauge cluster/infotainment binnacle, the surface of the lower console, and the trim around the doors’ armrests.
The G isn’t devoid of hard composites, but centre console side panels that don’t quite meet pricey expectations aren’t enough to complain about, particularly when the SUV’s door panel and seat upholstery leatherwork is so fine. My test model’s interior also featured beautiful chocolate brown details that contrasted its sensational blue exterior paint well.
Driver’s seat bolstering is more than adequate, as are the chair’s other powered adjustments, the only missing element being an adjustable thigh support extension. Still, its lower cushion cupped below my knees nicely enough, which, while possibly a problem for drivers on the short side, managed my five-foot-eight frame adequately. At least the SUV’s four-way powered lumbar support applied the right amount of pressure to the exact spot on my lower back requiring relief, as it should for most body types. Likewise, the G 550’s tilt and telescopic steering column provided plenty of reach, resulting in a near perfect driving position despite my short-torso, long-legged body.
As part of the redesign, Mercedes increased rear seat legroom to allow taller passengers the ability to stretch out in comfort. What’s more, those back seats are nearly as supportive as the ones in front, other than the centre position that’s best left for smaller adults or kids.
All of this refinement is hardly inexpensive, with the base 2020 G 550 priced at $147,900 plus freight and fees, and the 2021 version starting at an even heftier $154,900. This said, our 2020 and 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Canada Prices pages are currently reporting factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, which could go far in making a new G-Class more affordable. The zero-interest rate deal seems to apply to the $195,900 2020 G 63 AMG as well, plus the $211,900 2021 G 63 AMG, so it might make sense to buy this SUV on credit and invest the money otherwise spent (I’m guessing commodities are a good shot considering government promises of infrastructure builds, inflated currencies, runaway debt, market bubbles, etcetera, but in no way take my miscellaneous ramblings as investment advice).
Anytime or anywhere in mind, the G 550 can pretty well get you everywhere in Canada, anytime of the year. There’s absolutely no need to expend more investment to buy aftermarket off-road components when at the wheel of this big Merc, as it can out-hustle most any other 4×4-capable SUV on the market. While I would’ve liked even more opportunities to shake the G-Class out on unpaved roads, I certainly enjoyed the number of instances I did so, and can attest to their greatness off the beaten path. I’ve waded them over rock-strewn hills, negotiated them around jagged canyon walls and between narrow treed trails, coaxed them through fast-paced rivers and muddy marshes, and even felt their tires slip when dipped into soft, sandy stretches of beach, so my desire to own one comes from experience. Just the same I didn’t want to risk damaging my G 550 test model’s stylish 14-spoke alloys on pavement-spec 275/50 Pirelli Scorpion Zero rubber, so I kept this example on the street.
The G 550’s ride was sublime even with these lower-profile performance tires, which goes to show that car-based unibody designs don’t really improve ride quality, as much as at-the-limit handling. The G-Class’ frame is rigid after all, as is its body structure, while its significant suspension travel only aids ride compliance. Therefore, it made the ideal city companion, its suspension nearly eliminating the types of ruts and bridge expansion joints that intrude on the comfort levels of lesser SUVs, while its extreme height provides excellent visibility all around.
Those who spend more time on the open highway shouldn’t be wary of the G 550 either, as its ride continued to please and high-speed stability inspired confidence. I would’ve loved to have been towing an Airstream Flying Cloud in back to test its 7,000-lb rating (and given me more comfort than my tent), but I’m sure it can manage the load well, especially when factoring in its 2,650-kg (5,845-lb) curb weight.
Despite that heft, the G 550 performs fairly well when cornering, the previously noted Pirellis proving to be a good choice for everyday driving. I’ve previously driven the AMG-tuned G 63 on road and track, so the G 550’s abilities didn’t blow me away, but it certainly handles curves better than its blocky, brick-like shape alludes.
Braking is strong for such a big, heavy ute too, and while the G 550’s 416-horsepower 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 can’t send it from standstill to 100 km/h at the same 4.5-second rate as the 577-hp G 63, its 5.9 seconds for the same feat is nonetheless respectable, its 450 lb-ft of torque, quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, and standard four-wheel drive aiding the process perfectly, not to mention a very engaging Sport mode.
Engaging might not be the best word for it, mind you. In fact, I found the G 550’s Sport mode a bit too aggressive for my tastes, bordering on uncomfortable. It helps the big SUV shoot off the line with aggression, but the sheer force of it all snapped my head back into the seat’s pillowy headrests too often for comfort’s sake, but only when trying to move off the line in particularly quick fashion. When first feathering the throttle, as I usually drive, and then shortly thereafter dipping into it for stronger acceleration, it worked fine. I wish Mercedes’ had integrated a smoother start into the SUV’s firmware, but the requirement to use skill in order to get the most out of it was kind of nice too. All said, at the end of such tests I just left it in Eco mode for blissfully smooth performance and better economy.
Fuel sipping in mind, no amount of technology this side of turbo-diesel power (how I miss those days) can make this brute eco-friendly, with Transport Canada’s fuel economy rating measuring 18.0 L/100km city, 14.1 highway, and 16.3 combined. It’s not worse than some other full-size, V8-powered utilities, nor does it thirst for pricier premium fuel, but this might be an issue for those with a greener conscious.
Speaking of pragmatic issues, the G-Class is a bit short on cargo capacity when comparing to some of those full-size SUV rivals just noted, especially American branded alternatives such as the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. Then again, the G fares better when measuring up to similarly equipped European luxury utes, with the 1,079-litre (38.1 cu-ft) dedicated cargo area a sizeable 178 litres (6.3 cu ft) greater than the full-size Range Rover’s maximum luggage volume. Interestingly, both luxury SUV’s load-carrying capacity is an identical 1,942 litres (68.6 cu ft), which is ample in my books.
After my week with Mercedes’ top-line SUV, I can’t complain. Certainly, I would’ve liked a larger sunroof or, even better, something along the lines of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s new Sky One-Touch Power Top that turns the entire rooftop into open air while still maintaining solid sides and back with windows, but this might weaken the G’s body structure and limit its 4×4 prowess. I also would’ve liked a wireless phone charger, and would have one installed if this was my personal ride.
Hopefully my next G-Class tester will be more suitable to wilderness forays, possibly as an updated gen-2 G 550 4×4²? Previous examples included portal axles like Mercedes’ fabulously capable Unimog, but in just about every other respect I was thoroughly impressed with this well-made luxury utility, and glad Mercedes stayed true to this model’s iconic 4×4 heritage. To me, the G-Glass is the ultimate on-road, off-road compromise, and I’d own one if money allowed.
Only last year we were wondering when Hyundai Motor’s new Genesis luxury division would enter the profitable crossover SUV sector, and now we not only have the GV80 mid-size model, but an all-new GV70 compact is on the way as well.
The GV70, which will be introduced for the 2022 model year, should arrive towards the end of this year, and if any of the brand’s other new models are a sign of things to come, it’ll be worth the wait.
If you were expecting anything other than a shrunken GV80 you’ll be disappointed, because the new GV70 merely takes Genesis’ latest design language to more affordable proportions. Squarely fitting within the compact luxury crossover SUV category, to duke it out with such stalwarts as Mercedes’ GLC, Audi’s Q5, Acura’s RDX, BMW’s X3 and the like, the GV70 proudly wears Genesis’ now trademark twinned horizontal LED headlamp clusters and similarly straked LED taillights at the rear, albeit forgoes the GV80’s front fender garnishes that follow the same pattern (there was likely no room to fit them into the smaller SUV’s design). We think the design looks cleaner without them, but no doubt many will disagree.
While the engine vent-style fender trim is a minor differentiator, the GV70 takes some significant departures from the GV80 inside, where the entire lower portion of the instrument panel appears inspired by surfboarding. The oval interface sits just under the gauge cluster before stretching across to the centre stack area, houses a bevy of controls that would normally be found on separate panels to the left of the driver’s knees and further down the centre console, but instead are placed on this horizontal housing. The design works aesthetically, and appears to follow a traditional layout as far as control placement goes, with the overall appearance being the only departure from the norm.
Up above, a fully digital instrument cluster can be found in the usual spot ahead of the driver, plus a large centre display is placed upright atop the dash, with infotainment and driving controls beautifully integrated within the lower console. The interior succeeds in making everything next to Mercedes’ GLC look outdated, which is a good way to cause newcomers to take notice of the Genesis brand.
Following compact luxury SUV tradition, the new GV70 shares underpinnings with the sporty G70 compact sedan, so it will no doubt be a lot of fun for its driver and require good seat bolstering for any passengers that come along for the ride (the GV70 seats up to five), as Genesis’ entry-level car is one of the better handlers in its highly competitive class.
As far as engines and transmissions go, we expect the base powertrain to be Genesis’ 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 290 horsepower and 310 and lb-ft of torque in G70 trim, while an updated V6 will probably power higher priced GV70 models, the current six-cylinder putting out 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque in the GV80.
Speaking of new, Genesis has promised two new models per year until they fill up their lineup, so we can expect an even smaller subcompact luxury SUV as well as a smaller entry-level car, mostly likely along the lines of Audi’s popular A3 (it is the top seller in its class after all), but no one knows how many market segments (and niches) the brand will attempt to fill.
If you haven’t considered the XC40 before, you’re in for a treat. It’s the smallest Volvo available, fitting into the subcompact luxury SUV segment and therefore going up against BMW’s X1, Mercedes’ GLA and B-Class, Lexus’ UX and others, plus due to the Swedish brand no longer offering a compact hatch (the C30 was discontinued in 2013 and its V40 successor was never imported), this little crossover is now its entry-level model.
I, for one, am a big fan of this little SUV. It’s stylish, fun to drive, thrifty, well made, and as innovative as crossover sport utilities come. In case you didn’t know, the XC40 has been around since the 2020 model year, and full disclosure forces me to let you in on the fact that this test model is actually a 2020. Fortunately, changes to the 2021 XC40 are minimal, with my tester’s Amazon Blue exterior colour choice unfortunately being discontinued this year.
As much as I like it, Amazon Blue won’t be popular with manly men, as it’s a bit on the feminine side. This said, I’ve seen a few around and they’re quite catching. In fact, this metrosexual boomer had no issue being seen in the powdery blue SUV, especially when push came to shove and I was able to scoot away from stoplight oglers as if they were standing still.
Yes, the XC40 is mighty quick thanks to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in as-tested T5 trim, its eight-speed automatic shifting gears quickly yet smoothly, its all-wheel drive completely eliminating tire slip, and its lightweight mass making the most of the available energy output. This is a really fun SUV to drive, the optional 2.0-litre turbo-four always willing to jump off the line or say so long to slower moving highway traffic. This said, my test model’s Momentum trim comes standard with a less potent version of the same engine, the T4 model powering all wheels with 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which should be good enough for all but the most enthusiastic of speed demons.
The eight-speed auto includes a gas-sipping auto start/stop system that aids the T4 in achieving a 10.2 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.0 combined fuel economy rating, whereas the T5 gets a claimed 10.7 in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 9.4 combined. I recommend Eco mode for extracting the most efficiency, of course, but default Comfort mode is quite thrifty too. Volvo also includes a Dynamic sport setting when needing to get somewhere quickly, whereas an Individual mode can be set up for your own personal driving style.
While I really like the as-tested Momentum model, especially with its upgraded 235/50 all-season Michelin tires on 19-inch wheels that certainly improve performance over the base model’s 18-inch 235/55s, I’d put my own money on an XC40 R-Design for the paddle shifters alone (although it also comes standard with the T5 all-wheel drivetrain, and is the only trim that can be had in new Recharge P8 eAWD Pure Electric power unit), these helping to make this sporty little SUV a lot more engaging at the limit.
That’s where the so-equipped XC40 really shines, its handling fully capable when pushed hard and overall grip surprisingly steadfast, especially when considering its excellent ride quality. Even when slicing and dicing this little cutie through some local mountain backroads it never caused concern, while in-town point-and-shoot manoeuvres were a breeze made even easier thanks to the SUV’s generous ride height. It’s all due to a fully independent suspension with front aluminium double wishbones and an integral-link rear setup, composed of a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring.
Even better from a luxury standpoint, the XC40 feels like it was honed from a solid block of aluminum alloy, the body’s structural integrity never in doubt. I appreciated the SUV’s quiet, hushed, big SUV experience despite its diminutive size, this cocooning quality complemented by properly insulated doors that thunk closed in an oh-so satisfying way, and refinement that goes a step above most subcompact luxury SUV peers.
For a moment, pull your eyes away from the exterior’s classic crested Volvo grille, stylishly sporty Thor’s hammer LED headlamps, sharply honed front fascia, and uniquely tall “L” shaped LED tail lamps, not to mention the satin-silver accents all-round, and instead focus on this little crossover’s luxuriously appointed interior. Keeping in mind this is the XC40’s most basic of trims, Momentum gets very close to R-Design materials quality, featuring such premium staples as fabric-wrapped roof pillars, a soft, pliable dash-top covering and equally plush door panels, stitched leather armrest pads, and carpeted door pockets (that are big enough to slot in a 15-inch laptop along with a large drink bottle).
Don’t expect such niceties below the waistline, but Volvo uses a soft-painted harder composite that feels nice, while the woven roof liner looks good and surrounds an even more appealing panoramic sunroof featuring a powered translucent fabric sunshade. You’ll find controls for the latter on a nicely sorted overhead console, otherwise filled with LED lights hovering over a frameless rearview mirror.
Following Volvo tradition, the driver’s seats is wonderfully adjustable and wholly comfortable no to mention supportive, with more than adequate side bolstering plus extendable lower cushions that cup under the knees nicely (a favourite feature of mine). The leather used to cover all seats is above par, by the way, and they come with the usual three-way warmers up front, plus a steering wheel rim heater.
Most body types should fit into this little ute without issue, whether positioned front or back, while the rear seats expand the relatively generous cargo hold—from 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) to 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet)—via the usual 60/40 division. This said a highly useful centre pass-through provides stowage of longer items like skis when two rear passengers want to use the more comfortable window seats.
While all this is very good, Volvo wasn’t merely satisfied to provide the expected luxury, performance and styling elements to their entry-level ute and call it a day, but instead went the extra measure to include a lot of handy innovations that make life easier. Being that I left off in the cargo compartment, I might as well star this section of the review off by noting the useful divider housed within the cargo floor. Once lifted up into place to stand vertically, I found it especially helpful for stopping groceries from escaping their bags, particularly when using the three bag hooks on top to keep them in place.
Moving up front you’ll find another handy hook within the glove box, which can be pivoted into place when wanting to hang a purse, garbage bag or what-have-you, while just to the left of the driver’s knee are two tiny slots for stowing gas cards. The XC40 can be had with all the segment’s best electronic helpers too, like a powered rear hatch that automatically lifts when waving a foot under the rear bumper, automated self-parking, and all the latest driver aids like autonomous emergency braking for the highway and city, lane change alert with automated lane keeping, etcetera, but some might find the XC40’s standard gauge cluster even more compelling.
It’s fully digital right out of the box, measuring 12.3 inches and sporting a graphically animated speedometer and tachometer plus a big centre information display featuring integrated navigation mapping with actual road signs, phone info and the list goes on. Like some competitive clusters, the multi-information display can be set to take over the majority of the driver display, thus shrinking the primary instruments. It’s a superb system that I almost like as much as Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system.
The latter is comprised of a 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen that comes closest to mimicking a tablet than anything else in the auto industry, especially when utilizing Apple CarPlay (not so much for Android Auto). Being that I currently use a Samsung, I keep the Volvo interface in play at all times, and absolutely love the audio “page” that not only shows all SiriusXM stations nicely stacked in sequence, but real-time info on which artist and song is playing. This way you can quickly scan the panel and choose a station, never missing a favourite song.
The base audio system is impressive too, as is the active guideline-infused parking camera, especially if the overhead version is included, and nav directions are always spot on, while the as-tested dual-zone climate control interface is ultra-cool thanks to colourful pop-up menus for each zone’s temperature setting and an easy-to-use pictograph for directing ventilation.
A list of standard Momentum features not yet mention include remote start from a smartphone app, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sonar with a visual indicator on the centre display, Volvo On Call, all the expected airbags including two for the front occupants’ knees, plus more, all for only $39,750 plus freight and fees.
No matter the price you pay, the XC40 is a compact luxury SUV worth owning. It combines a higher level of refined luxury than most peers and superb performance all-round, with plenty of style and practicality. This is a crossover I could truly live with day in and day out, even painted in my tester’s playful powder blue hue.
Let’s face it. The current Z car is old. How old? In automotive years, ancient. In fact, it’s oldest design currently being offered in North America. The only older vehicles include a truck and a commercial van, the former being Nissan’s own Frontier and the latter GM’s Chevy/GMC Express/Savana cargo and shuttle vans. This said, there’s new hope on the horizon.
Nissan recently took the wraps off of a new concept car dubbed Z Proto, and while “Proto” obviously stands for prototype, it appears as close to production trim as any fantasy show car the Japanese brand has ever revealed.
It’s sheet metal actually looks picture perfect for a seventh-generation Z, combining many of the original 240’s design cues with some from the much-loved fourth-generation Z32, while its slick looking interior is as dramatically modern as the current model is as awkward and backwards, yet comes infused with plenty of retro touches.
As is almost always the case, new Z will be larger than the outgoing model is this prototype is anything to go by, with the Z Proto measuring about five and a half inches longer from nose to tail. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will weigh more than the 370’s base 3,232 lb (1,466 kg) curb mass, or lose any of the current car’s driving capability, but more likely due to greater use of modern lightweight materials and the inclusion of a smaller 3.0-litre engine block, down 700 cubic centimeters, will actually weigh less.
The new Z will once again share platform architectures with its pricier Infiniti Q60 cousin, which bodes well for its overall structural integrity and build quality. The new prototype now reaches 4,381 mm (172.5 in) from front to back, which is exactly 141 mm (5.6 in) longer than the current 370Z, but take note it’s actually a fraction of a fraction narrower (1 mm) at 1,849 mm (72.8 in), or identical to the Q60’s width, and 10 mm (0.4 in) lower at 1,310 mm (51.6 in).
The current Z uses a lot of aluminum already, so expect the upcoming version to also use the lightweight alloy for its hood, door skins, and rear liftback, while it will without doubt also utilize aluminum suspension components and an aluminum-alloy front subframe, engine cradle, plus forged aluminum control arms (upper and lower in the rear), steering knuckle, radius rod, and wheel carrier assembly, all found on the current car, which is beyond impressive for its $30,498 base price.
As you may have guessed from the engine noted above, the new Z will feature Nissan/Infiniti’s award-winning twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre VR30DDTT V6, which not only improved on performance, but makes a big difference at the pump over today’s 3.7-litre mill. The current Q60 offers both 300 and 400 horsepower versions, the latter causing many in the industry to dub the next-gen sports car 400Z, but this said it would be a shame not to offer a more affordable variant named 300Z, especially considering the model’s much-loved and sought after 1989–2000 second-generation (Z32) 300ZX. This tact would allow the Z car to be sold in a similar fashion to Porsche’s 911, with various stages of tune from the 300 horsepower 300Z, to a 350 hp 350Z, possibly a 370 hp 370Z and top-line 400Z. Who knows? Maybe there’s a market for a lower-powered $30k Z car to compete head-on with the upcoming redesigned 2022 Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. That car will be available with a 2.5-litre H-4 making 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, so 240 hp turbo-four under the hood of a Z car would make a nice rival, wouldn’t it? Can’t imagine what they might call it. I think Nissan would have a lot of fun bringing out special editions of that engine with 20 hp bumps in performance. Of course, we’re only speculating, but hopefully Nissan has something like this in mind as it would be marketing genius (if we don’t say so ourselves).
Of course, rear-biased all-wheel drive will be optional if not standard, and a six-speed manual will probably get the cut in the base car, with at least seven forward gears in the optional automatic version.
The Proto’s interior comes fitted with the manual, incidentally, while anyone familiar with any Z car cabin would immediately know that it’s a modernized version of Nissan’s most revered sports car. Along with trademark giveaways like the trio of dials across the centre dash top and the sloping side windows, not to mention the classic Nissan sport steering wheel with its big stylized “Z” on the hub, this prototype pulls from the current 370Z’s parts bin with respect to the ovoid door handles, their integrated air vents, and the side window defog vents on each corner of its dash. These similarities may end up only being found on this prototype, and used for the sake of expediency and cost cutting, but it is possible Nissan will carry some less critical features such as these forward into the new interior design.
Today’s 370Z is actually quite refined inside, at least in upper trims, with plenty of leather-like, padded, soft-touch surfaces with stitching on the dash, centre console sides and doors, all of which appear to be carried forward into the new concept. It’s likely Nissan will likely upgrade some other areas that are now covered in hard composite, the new car probably featuring more pliable synthetics in key areas that might be touched more often.
The so far unmentioned elephant in the room (or cabin) is the impressive array of high-definition electronic interfaces, the primary gauges shown being fully digital and very intriguing, plus the centre stack-mounted infotainment touchscreen display appearing amongst the best Nissan currently has on offer. We can expect all the latest tech such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a large rearview camera with potential an overhead, surround-view option, and this being a performance model, sport features such as a lap timer, g-meter, etcetera.
The centre stack also shows a simple triple-dial automatic HVAC interface that oddly doesn’t include dual-zone functionality, so it’s likely this was merely pulled over from the current car and will be updated in the future production Z.