Buying a car, even if it’s not your first, is a big decision. You have a lot to think about and you want to make sure you don’t forget anything. Most of all, you want to make sure you pay the right price for what you really need.
Making the right decision can be easier and save you thousands of dollars just by using CarCostCanada. In fact, they offer free price reports that help most Canadians negotiate when buying a new car. Canadians across the country are now sharing their stories to show how anyone can save thousands of dollars on their next new car purchase by using CarCostCanada’s services.
This week, let’s take a look at Mike’s story and find out how he saved over $5,000 on his new Audi S4 with CarCostCanada’s free price report.
Saving more even on a high end car
Mike is a 28 year old active man from Toronto, Ontario. He works in finance and is often on the road meeting new clients. However, he also enjoys playing baseball on the weekends and getting together with friends for a beer after work. Mike is single, has no children.
Following a recent promotion, Mike wanted a new car to match his success. So, to make sure he was making the right decision, Mike decided to shop around with the help of CarCostCanada. A friend of his told him about the online price reports of CarCostCanada and said it would not only help him find the perfect car, but also save him a lot of money.
Getting the best price on a new car in 3 easy steps
In 3 easy steps, he was able to build his price report online. First, he built and priced his new car using CarCostCanada’s free report tool, just as he would have done on the manufacturer’s website.
Once the price report was generated, he obtained the best price formula for his specific model by taking the dealer cost minus the incentive plus the dealer margin to see what the best possible price would be.
Finally, the tool helped him find the nearest dealer and meet with one of their professional representatives to get the best price and an exceptional buying experience.
Mike was looking for a car that would make a good impression when he met new clients and went out with his friends. He decided to go with the Audi S4, the car of his dreams, which is a young and good looking car, just like him.
Finally, in the process of buying his new car, Mike was able to save over $5000.
No matter whether on the road or at the track, Porsche makes a habit of performing at the front of the pack. After the sports car brand managed to attain the highest position possible in the Canadian Black Book (CBB) “2021 Overall Brand Award – Luxury” category for three consecutive years, it once again achieved the top spot in the latest 2021 study.
Porsche actually scores well in all of its categories, with the Panamera retaining the highest percentage of any competitor in its Prestige Luxury Car segment, a feat it’s attained for the past eight years. Similarly, the Macan, which earned the highest score in its Compact Luxury Crossover division yet again, has owned this position for three years in a row, while the legendary 911 has been on top of the Premium Sporty Car class for two years as of the 2021 CBB study.
“We are honoured and delighted to accept the Overall Brand Award – Luxury as well as three model accolades from Canadian Black Book this year,” noted Marc Ouayoun, President and CEO, Porsche Cars Canada, Ltd. “Consumers have many available choices in the market and we welcome these recognitions, which provide an additional reason to consider the brand. These outstanding acknowledgments by the leading authority highlight strong value retentions which ultimately benefit the customer.”
The Canadian Black Book study ranks vehicles on the retained percentage of their manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) after four years. Holding on to a high value means that ownership will cost less when it comes time for reselling or trading in for a new model, so this is a very important metric.
As the years start to stack up and there’s more of them behind you than ahead, to hear you’re aging gracefully is quite the compliment. Such could be said of Buick’s current Enclave, a three-row crossover SUV that’s now been with us in its current second-generation form for four years. Certainly, that’s not long by human standards, but it’s a full product cycle in automotive years, albeit not compared to the first-generation Enclave that, despite a mid-cycle refresh in 2013, lasted for an entire decade.
The SUV being reviewed here was as up-to-date as possible when being tested, but as it happens, 2021 is the Enclave’s last model year before getting a fairly comprehensive makeover. Its underpinnings will remain the same, but its styling will look a lot fresher, and not unlike the much sleeker and more modern looking second-gen Chinese-market version that’s been available since last year.
Sure, you can wait for a 2022, which actually gets reduced by $300 at the base level, but there’s opportunity to take advantage of end-of-lifecycle savings if you choose a 2021 over the new 2022 model, so as long as you don’t need to have the latest and greatest styling, the outgoing Enclave is still one very attractive family hauler. It’s also a very affordable one, at least when comparing it to longstanding luxury brands that it more or less competes against. To be clear, three-row SUV buyers won’t likely be shopping the Enclave against BMW’s X7 or Mercedes’ GLS, simply because their price points are nowhere near each other.
A base Enclave Essence starts at $48,398, or $51,398 with as-tested all-wheel drive. That’s similar pricing to fully loaded alternatives from Honda, Hyundai, Kia or Toyota, which arguably offer more features (and sometimes more luxury) for the money, but none of these rise up to $70k, which is possible when adding all the options to the Enclave Avenir. That’s around where a base Audi Q7 starts, and plenty of other premium-branded three-row SUVs, although an equivalent entry-level GLS will set you back an astonishing $101,900, just a bit less than what you’ll need to pay for the least expensive X7, which starts at $102,900.
This in mind, Buick, and its Enclave fall into the entry-level luxury sector, along with competitors like the $48,995 Infiniti QX60, $56,405 Acura MDX, and possibly the $59,700 three-row Lexus RX 350 L (which is only meant for small kids in the third row), although if we’re moving all the way up to the $60k starting point, we should probably include GM’s own Cadillac XT6 that rides on the same stretched C1XX platform (more or less) as the Enclave (and the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia), yet starts at $57,998. Everything else in this class retails over the $60,000 threshold, and while that’s about where the aforementioned Enclave Avenir can be had ($62,298), this Enclave Essence is the model Buick gave me to test, and therefore targets a different entry-level luxury client.
I don’t know if that last exercise was done more for my own clarification of where Buick fits into the scheme of luxury things, or as a way for you to come to grips with the same, but in any case, it’s good to understand that Buick fills an important niche in the middle of the automotive class hierarchy, and its relatively strong sales more or less prove that reality.
Despite only offering five models (the 2020 Regal Sportback of which has already been sent off to that great four-door sedan graveyard in the sky—it’s a five-door really, as its trunk is actually a hatch), Buick managed to rank sixth amongst premium brands in Canada thanks to 15,957 units being sold last year, which puts it only 755 sales behind Acura, plus more than twice as much as Lincoln (7,155) and almost three times as many deliveries as Infiniti after a particularly gutting year. What’s more, as of Q2 2021’s close, Buick’s 8,277 delivery total had already blasted past Acura’s rather sluggish 7,465 tally, although Cadillac’s XT6 appears to be on a roll with 8,402 examples out the door, so therefore Buick maintains its sixth position.
The Enclave wasn’t quite as strong in its mid-size three-row luxury SUV category last year as the Buick brand, but amongst dedicated premium three-row family haulers it ranked seventh out of 11 competitors with 1,773 deliveries (I’m not including Bentley’s Bentayga on this list for obvious reasons). This said, so far this year it’s doing a bit better with 1,270 units down the road already, placing it ahead of Mercedes’ GLS (1,148), Lincoln’s Aviator (926), and Infiniti’s QX60 (687) that’s getting an even more dramatic redesign for 2022.
Cadillac’s XT6 (973) lagged a bit behind the Enclave over the first six months of this year, as did BMW’s X7 (522), Lexus’ GX (161), and Land Rover’s Discovery (103), which seems to be getting killed by the new Defender (1,057). Tally all this up and it’s easy to understand why the Buick brand and this Enclave model are so important to General Motors (a total of 3,264 combined Enclave and XT6 sales puts GM close to Acura’s MDX), but after factoring in their even greater strength in the U.S. and yet stronger presence in China, this information might also help build confidence that Buick isn’t about to leave our market anytime soon—unfortunately I can’t confirm that for Infiniti.
The upcoming 2022 Enclave refresh should further improve the model’s sales when it arrives later this year, as long as Buick doesn’t dump any leftover 2021s on the market before the new one gets here. The fact Buick is only offering customers up to $1,000 in additional incentives is a good sign they have inventories in check, but stay tuned to CarCostCanada for any further discount info. Also, take note that CarCostCanada members who purchased a new 2021 Enclave saved an average of $2,625 thanks to knowing the SUV’s dealer invoice price before negotiating their best deal, which means it’s a good idea to find out how their very affordable membership works, and how easy it is to use from anywhere via their free app that can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
As for the 2021 Enclave Essence being reviewed here, my tester was not only upgraded with AWD, but also received a stylish $1,495 Sport Touring upgrade package that includes a sporty black mesh grille, glossed-black Pitch Dark Night lower accent trim, and 20-inch alloys instead of the standard 18s. This gets added to a base model that also features automatic on/off LED headlamps and heated power-folding exterior mirrors, on the outside, plus proximity access to get you inside.
Once seated, pushbutton ignition gets the engine going, while additional standard features include an auto-dimming centre mirror, a 4.2-inch colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch touchscreen at dash-central, integrating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 10-speaker Bose audio system, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a universal garage door opener, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a Safety Alert driver’s seat that uses vibrations to warn, perforated leather seat upholstery, three-way heatable and ventilated powered front seats with four-way lumbar support, two-position driver memory, three-zone auto HVAC with a set of rear controls, heatable second-row captain’s chairs resulting in seven-passenger capability (a bench for the second row resulting in a total of eight occupants is available), a power-folding 60/40-split third row, a hands-free powered liftgate, a 120-volt power outlet, remote start, etcetera.
All Enclaves include the Buick Driver Confidence Plus package of advanced driver assistance and safety technologies as standard too, which includes a Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Automatic Emergency Braking and Front Pedestrian Braking, as well as Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, front and rear Park Assist, and IntelliBeam auto high beam assist headlights.
Believe me, I never once felt like I was slumming it in this Buick, even in its base trim. Actually, standard features like cloth-wrapped A, B and C pillars gave it a true premium feel, as did better-than-average soft composite materials on top of the dash and atop the front and rear side window sills. It’s also impressive across the front of the instrument panel, and the lower section of that IP ahead of the front passenger, which extends below the infotainment touchscreen and along the right side of the lower console. Buick made a point of stitching nicely padded leatherette on the sides of that centre stack and lower console, the left side of which is padded further to protect the driver’s inner knee from chafing, while this pampering surface treatment extends down to the armrest as well. These areas were done out in a particularly attractive caramel brown in my tester, perfectly matching the seats and door inserts that were also stitched, the former also featuring perforated leather inserts.
Additionally, the seat surface leather is suppler than some others at the Enclave Essence’s price point too, plus those aforementioned heated front cushions warm up to near therapeutic levels. Warmth in mind, the climate control interface, while appearing a bit rudimentary, did its job well, and while it could be a bit more upscale to look at my eyes were more easily pulled toward the centre display overtop, which has to be one of the simplest to use in the segment.
I generally like General Motors’ infotainment systems, and while I appreciate Chevrolet’s more colourful Apple-inspired interface even more than this classier design from Buick, they both work identically and utilize a full colour palette for graphically stimulating controls. I found this latest version responded to inputs quickly, which was particularly notable when jiggling the navigation map around with my fingertips. I should also note that GM’s navigation/GPS system has never once led me astray either, so a big hand to the automaker’s tech department that does infotainment very well. Important also, the rearview camera was clear and its moving guidelines useful, while the standard Bose audio system was very good.
As for the Enclave’s primary gauge cluster, it’s not very enticing. The chrome trimmed analogue dials are ok, these placed bookending another set of chrome-edged gas and engine temp meters above, but the tiny square multi-information display kind of looks like an aftermarket add-on. This comes at a time that competitors are arriving with fully digital clusters that show virtual gauges one minute and giant maps the next. Some brands are even including rear-facing camera monitors in their clusters, so Buick needs to up the ante in this respect. Fortunately, even this base Enclave’s steering wheel is excellent, with high-quality leather and an impressively sporty feel, while the spokes’ switchgear well-made and works as it should.
Looking up to the overhead console could be summed up as a trip back to yesteryear too, although it’s functional and happily includes a sunglasses holder, as well as LED reading lights and switches for the universal remote, OnStar, SOS, plus more. You won’t find a power sunroof button, as this base trim doesn’t include a sunroof, and I have to say it’s weird not seeing a sunroof in a roof this large.
Nevertheless, I found it easy to find an ideal driving position thanks to a manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel with loads of rearward reach, while the seats were comfortable, although without much lateral support, therefore if you’re looking to use this Enclave to snake through fast-paced corners, you’ll probably want to find something other than the steering wheel to hold on to. This is only worth mentioning because the Enclave handles well, partially due to the 20-inch wheel and 255/55 tire upgrade noted earlier, so it might be a good idea for performance fans to look upstream to a fancier trim line in order to find more aggressive seat bolstering.
Similarly, the Enclave Essence model’s second-row captain’s chair backrests are almost totally flat, although rear passengers can fold down their individual centre armrests to hang on. The second-row seats are mostly comfortable, however, with good legroom when slid all the way rearward. Those in the second row will also appreciate the previously mentioned rear climate control panel on the backside of the front console, which includes seat warming switchgear. This is where you can also find a set of USB chargers, but oddly no air vents. Don’t worry, though, as these are intelligently integrated within the roof, as are another set of vents for third-row passengers, and likewise for the LED reading lamps.
It’s easy to flip the second-row seats up and out of the way for getting into the very back, only necessitating a mild pull on a handle atop the backrest, while another lever below flips them down for storage. Before getting into cargo capacity, rear occupants enjoy separate USB charging ports, not to mention fairly large rear quarter windows for good outward visibility. I found the third-row seats comfortable too, not to mention reasonably roomy. Buick left good space for legs and feet, especially when the second-row seats are pulled slightly forward.
As for cargo, they fold down relatively flat, as does the second row, providing more storage capacity than most of their peers. In fact, I was able to load up a double-wide Ikea Pax wardrobe inside, including its rather bulky glass sliding door system, with room left over. By the numbers, the Enclave can manage up to 2,764 litres of what-have-you behind the front seats, 1,642 litres aft of the second row, and 668 litres in back of the third row.
Even when loaded up with gear the Enclave was no slouch off the line, its 3.6-litre V6 making a healthy 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque for plenty of straight-line performance. It’s conjoined to a nine-speed autobox that not only aids fuel economy with a fairly good rating of 13.0 L/100km city, 9.1 highway and 11.2 combined with FWD, or a respective 13.6, 9.6 and 11.8 in as-tested AWD, partially thanks to standard idle start/stop technology, but it also provides wonderfully smooth shift up and down the range.
Then again, engaging manual mode and its steering wheel-mounted paddles transform this calm, sedate traveler into a much sportier canyon carver, or at least it was much more enjoyable than I initially expected. BMW doesn’t even go so far as to hold the X5 or X7 engine’s redlines before upshifting, so a big hand for Buick’s engineers that give the Enclave such strong performance. The V6 also makes a nice growl at full throttle, although I wouldn’t take that to mean it’ll outshine those BMWs as far as engine auditory tracks go.
I think ride quality will matter more to most Buick buyers than all-out performance, however, and to that end the Enclave’s driver and many passengers will be nicely isolated from exterior elements no matter the speeds being traveled or environment outside. Although I found there was more wind buffeting on the highway than expected. It wasn’t the side windows (I checked), but it may be something specific to my test model’s door seals. Buick prides itself in providing near tomblike silent interiors, so it could also be possible that more of Buick’s “Quiet Tuning” technologies get added to upper trims. Either way, make sure you look for this on your test drive.
Even if the Enclave Essence is a bit noisier at highway speeds than it should be, it’s hard to argue against its sub-$50k price point. That it competes so well against others that cost thousands more should be taken into consideration, but then again it also gets out-muscled for features and refinement by some newcomers in the volume-branded mainstream category. This is a very competitive market segment, and the upcoming 2022 Enclave should address some of my minor complaints.
On that note, I don’t think any of my grumblings should put you off testing a 2021 Enclave, and at least comparing it to its rivals, especially when factoring in Buick’s enviably high ranking in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, where it sits fifth overall and just third amongst luxury brands.
After first spending a week with Honda’s then-new Insight in its top-line Touring trim a couple of years ago, I really felt the Japanese automaker had a winner on its hands.
The compact sedan’s conservative good looks should have appealed to an even greater number of consumers than the edgier Civic it shares underpinnings and hard points with. Even better (to my eyes at least), its classy front fascia pulled some grille details over from the larger Accord mid-size sedan, while its tidier taillights stopped short of wrapping overtop most of the trunk lid.
Don’t get me wrong, as the outgoing Civic was a styling tour de force when it arrived in 2015 as a 2016 model, but the more subdued Insight gave… ahem… insight to the Civic’s future design direction, particularly at the hind end where those just-noted taillights look like positive precursors to those on the much more conventional 2022 Civic sedan.
Still, as it was and still is, Honda failed to properly launch this 2019–present Insight within Canada, where it suffers incredibly slow sales, not even surpassing 500 units last year. In fact, the dismal number was 496, while the first quarter of 2021 has seen just 91 examples roll out of Honda showrooms. When compared to the Civic’s class-leading 50,805 sales-total in 2020, and 7,158 units delivered during Q1 of this year, which puts the Insight just under 1 percent of Civic deliveries during 2020, and nearly 1.3 percent for Q1 of 2021, Honda’s dedicated compact hybrid can only be seen as a complete dud. But why?
After all, the two models’ sales ratio in the U.S. is much better, although still not anywhere near as evenly weighted as I initially expected, with the Insight finding 15,932 buyers south of the 49th in 2020, and 3,859 as of the end of March this year, compared to 261,225 Civics sold last year and 55,903 for Q1 of 2021. That represents 6.1 percent of Civic sales in 2020 and 6.9 percent for the first three months of 2021, which probably isn’t even good enough to justify any sort of business case for keeping the model alive.
It comes down to pricing. With a base price of $28,490 (plus freight and fees), the Insight finds itself $3,400 more expensive than the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which starts at only $25,090. If the Insight were 10-percent more car it might make sense, but, as I already pointed out, consumers have spoken load and clear with their wallets, plus I’ve personally driven both, and that’s not the case.
My Insight tester’s top-line Touring trim was even pricier at $32,190, and once again it wasn’t any more appealing than the top-tier Corolla Hybrid with its Premium package, which costs just $27,090. This means Canadian Insight Touring buyers will need to take a $5,100 hit just to see a stylized “H” badging in all the usual places, a questionable bonus they obviously don’t desire all that much.
So why would Honda sabotage its chances of winning over important Canadian hybrid buyers just ahead of the entire market turning to electric vehicles (whether we want to or not)? Obviously, Honda’s Canadian division would love to import the Insight (or for that matter the CR-V Hybrid, which is currently not available here) for less money, but their American affiliate that produces it, can’t seem to make it cheap enough.
Honda does bring us the Accord Hybrid, however, but the Marysville, Ohio-built mid-size sedan doesn’t do as well as Toyota’s Camry Hybrid for similar reasons. Its base price is $35,805, whereas the Camry Hybrid is advertised at $30,790, and similarly to the Insight’s fancier Touring trim line, the top-level Accord Hybrid Touring starts at a lofty $42,505, which compares poorly to a fully loaded Camry Hybrid XLE that’s priced at only $39,690.
It doesn’t take a economics major to figure out that Honda Canada needs to deal with this problem if it wants to grow hybrid sales, but so far no Alliston assembly plant upgrades have been announced. If Honda Canada were able to produce the CR-V Hybrid north of the 49th, it might be able to compete with Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid (although not the plug-in RAV4 Prime) or Hyundai’s new Tucson Hybrid, but coming up with a business case to put such a plan into action might not make any sense in our market, which is just 10 percent of America’s population.
Even if such a plan made sense, the very fact Honda’s Insight is a dedicated hybrid with a number of totally unique body panels and trim, puts the smaller of these two Japanese automakers at another disadvantage. Where Toyota can theoretically produce its Corolla Hybrid at multiple plants without modifying major body stamping equipment, Honda would need to upgrade more than just the drivetrain portions of any alternative assembly plants to allow for more Insight production.
Currently, the Insight is built at Honda Manufacturing of Indiana in Greensburg, which also produces the Civic and previously pushed out the popular Civic Hybrid. If, alternatively, Honda chose to create a hybridized version of the new Civic, its many global assembly plants that are already pushing out versions of its venerable compact sedan could adapt more easily to hybrid production. Applying this (admittedly theoretical) logic to Canada’s Alliston assembly plant, might mean a Civic Hybrid could be built for Canadian consumption, thus resolving Honda’s inability to move many Insights in the great white north. As it is, Honda is fast losing its electrification edge in our market.
All said, is the Insight any good? Absolutely. If you’ve made it this far into this review, you’ll already know this Insight is nothing less than a gussied up Civic sedan, which everyone should appreciate is a very good compact car. It’s so good in fact, it consistently outsells every other car made, and we should all remember that the audience is always right (at least by “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” standards).
Behind its large, blackened grille opening is Honda’s well-proven 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor assistant, the latter powered by a 60-cell lithium-ion battery. All totalled up, the combination makes 151 net horsepower and an even stronger 197 lb-ft of torque. While off-the-line performance and passing power is certainly important, in the Insight’s compact class, hybrids are more about fuel economy, and the Insight delivers with a claimed rating of 4.6 L/100km city, 5.3 highway, and 4.9 combined, which will be good enough to wow most Civic owners that can only manage to eke out 7.9 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.1 combined when driving the model’s most efficient variant. Still, Toyota’s previously noted Corolla Hybrid is not only less expensive at the time of purchase, but keeps giving at the pump with an estimated rating of 4.4 L/100km in the city, 4.5 on the highway and 4.5 combined. Ouch!
Still, a small number of Canadian consumers, who are faithful to Honda and therefore willing to pay more initially and continually, choose the Insight over the Corolla Hybrid, or for that matter the all-new Hyundai Elantra Hybrid, which incidentally improves on both Japanese models’ fuel economy thanks to a claimed rating of 4.5 L/100km in the city, 4.2 on the highway and 4.4 combined, plus adds insult to injury with a starting price of just $24,699 and arguably more attractive (or at least fresher) styling. So, for those willing to pay more for less of what hybrids are supposed to be about, the Insight delivers extremely smooth operation from its continuously variable transmission (CVT), an equally calming ride and a well-organized, reasonably high-quality interior.
Before delving into the latter, the just-noted CVT isn’t designed for performance enthusiasts, so Civic Si buyers need not apply, but rather becomes annoyingly buzzy when pushing hard on the throttle for extended periods. Of course, such driving negates the car’s purpose, so I can’t see many Insight buyers doing so very often. I merely did for testing purposes, and have long experienced similar results from other CVT-equipped models in the class, such as the Corolla Hybrid. Nevertheless, despite its economy-first mission, Honda decided to include a Sport setting along with its expected Comfort, Econ and EV powertrain modes, which really says a lot about the much-loved brand itself.
Another positive advantage benefiting Insight buyers over those living with a Corolla Hybrid, is an EV mode that allows traveling at posted city speeds, something not possible in any non-plug-in Toyota hybrid that engages its ICE over 20 km/h. While enjoyable to run around town in near silent bliss, this feature doesn’t necessarily aid fuel-efficiency, as pointed out earlier, so it won’t like matter to most buyers.
As for that smooth suspension, it really is good. My city’s streets are mostly agreeable, although like in any urban area there are roadways that desperately need upkeep and only limited funds and workers to maintain them. Despite its compact size, the Insight’s relatively long wheelbase and nicely tuned fully independent suspension made bumpy patches of tarmac easier to endure, while simultaneously providing capable road-holding when choosing to rev out its noisy powertrain. Fortunately, the much of the Insight’s motive mass hides below the rear seat, which aids its centre of gravity, providing decent handling characteristics. Again, Civic Si enthusiasts need not apply, but hybrid buyers would be pleasantly surprised if they chose to test one out.
For such situations, the aforementioned Sport mode is ideal, enhanced by the ability to use steering wheel-mounted paddles to shift its CVT through a number of artificially stepped “gears”. Those who prefer shifting with a traditional gear lever are out of luck, because Honda infused the Insight’s lower console with its pushbutton gear selector. I’m just fine with that thanks to those paddle-shifters, and honestly, I only used the latter for one short stint throughout my weeklong test, due to the harshness of the drivetrain when doing so. Again, while its cool that Honda added DIY paddles, they’re not all that useful in a car like this, making me wonder if the investment might have been better spent on something else, or possibly eliminated altogether in order to lower the price?
As for the pushbutton (and pull-tab for reverse) gear selector, it looks appropriately modern and frees up arm space above the console, which otherwise is fitted with a big rubberized tray for holding your oversized smartphone. Honda includes two USB charge points plus a 12-volt power supply just above, all of which come together at the base of a centre stack that’s also laid out well, with a stylish dual-zone auto HVAC interface, a slim strip of switchgear for turning on the three-way heated front seats, recirculating air, and defog/defrost functions.
The centre stack is topped off with a large enough 8.0-inch touchscreen, which will be all-too familiar to current Civic owners. It features colourful, user friendly digital controls that are organized in an attractive tile design, with some of its functions being Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a navigation system (in my Touring tester) that proved very accurate, a fun-to-watch engine/battery power flow indicator, audio functions for a great sounding stereo, and the list goes on.
Of course, the display uses smartphone- or tablet-like finger gestures, so you can tap, swipe or pinch to your heart’s content, while Honda also framed this touchscreen with some useful switches for accessing key info quickly. The left-side row features a button for the home screen, plus one for returning back to the previous function, and another for transitioning between day and night modes. There are also two for browsing radio stations or MP3 tracks, while a rotating volume knob joins a volume controller on the left-hand steering wheel spoke. All of the infotainment system’s quick-access buttons receive backlit names just underneath, but makes sense until using them at night, when pressing the lighted name does nothing at all. Instead, you need to press the little, narrow button on top of the name, which is invisible in the dark. Yah, not the smartest application of an otherwise intelligent concept.
The Insight’s primary instrument experience is all positive, on the other hand. Honda was early to adopt a fully digital driver’s display, the arching cluster incorporating a multi-information display (MID) featuring useful hybrid info, such as a battery charge indicator, on the left, and a speedometer and gas gauge combo to the right. Well-made, smartly organized steering wheel switchgear controls the MID, which is par for the course with Honda products. Above everything is an overhead console integrating two incandescent reading lights, plus an emergency assist button, a HomeLink remote garage door opener, and the usual powered moonroof rocker switch. And yes, I would have rather seen an oversized glass sunroof in place of the Insight’s smallish opening, but some electrified cars don’t offer sunroofs at all, so I’d best not complain.
Back to positives, the Insight’s cabin approaches Acura ILX levels of fit, finish, and materials quality, with a dash top surfaced in nice pliable composites, plus a padded and French-stitched leather-like bolster ahead of the front passenger that flows across the instrument panel and down the sides of the centre stack. Certainly, I would’ve appreciated if Honda had finished the driver’s compartment as nicely as the front passenger’s, but at least both sides of the lower console gets the same soft-touch pampering treatment, which perfectly matches the sliding armrest in the middle.
The front door uppers get the same premium covering as the dash top, by the way, while the door inserts just below receive a similar stitched leatherette to that on the instrument panel bolster. Most everything looks and feels like it was produced by an entry-level luxury brand, like Acura, but I should say that Honda isn’t alone in raising the level of refinement in its compact models.
Honda has produced some of the better seats in the industry for a long time, however, and this Insight Touring’s driver’s perch is no exception. It provided excellent inherent support and no shortage of adjustability, resulting in a very comfortable office chair, while the tilt and telescopic steering column just ahead proved extendable enough to reach my shorter arms and torso when the lower cushion was pushed back far enough to make room for my longish legs. This ideal driver setup is not always possible from other compact models, and would be something I’d be willing to spend hundreds if not thousands for, so kudos to Honda for getting this right.
Along with excellent positioning, my tester’s steering wheel rim felt nice and meaty, with comfortable indents for thumbs and an overall performance-oriented feel. It’s as if Honda pulled it out the aforementioned Civic Si, rather than something designed to blissfully cruise past gas stations. All-round, the cockpit area is comfortable, spacious and lends a sense of control, which is exactly what most in this class are looking for.
Rear passengers should be nearly as comfortable, and despite not covering the tops of each window sill with soft-touch synthetic like those up front, the rest of the door panels were near duplicates, and a reasonably large armrest topped off by unreasonably small cupholders made things comfier for those stuck in back. Likewise, two-way rear seat warmers added wintertime heat to the outboard cushions, but there were no air vents next to the rocker switches on the backside of the front console or anywhere else in back, nor for that matter reading lights overhead.
The trunk’s 416-litre (14.7 cu-ft) volume should be large enough for most peoples’ needs, while extra gear can be placed below the cargo floor if small enough. This is where Honda stows the Insight’s tire repair pump, which is necessary for fixing a flat, being that no spare is offered. Expanding on the trunk’s usefulness are 60/40-split rear seatbacks, and no centre pass-through for loading longer items such as skis down the middle.
If an Insight seems like the car for you, keep in mind that Honda is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives. You can learn more about this discount on our 2021 Honda Insight Canada Prices page, which also provides comparative trim pricing, plus the ability to build the car with all available options. While you’re there, be sure to check out how the CarCostCanada system works, so you can utilize dealer invoice pricing to save even more when negotiating your best deal, plus download the free CarCostCanada app so you can have all of this valuable information on-hand when you need it most, whether at a Honda dealership pushing for a more agreeable Insight price, or walking across the street to a Toyota or Hyundai dealer in order to check out their electrified Corolla and Elantra offerings.
As far as alternative fuels go, hydrogen shows a lot of long-term promise, particularly when used to create electricity via a fuel cell. This allows for a virtual rolling electric power plant that charges up a battery and then drives the wheels through electric motors, just like a regular electric car.
The technology has actually been in the works for decades, with one of the first automotive applications being the Ford Focus FCV that I drove in 2005. That was when Ford was working alongside Daimler-Benz and Ballard Engineering, the latter firm specializing in hydrogen fuel cells. At the time I felt hydrogen would quickly supplant regular plug-in electric cars that hadn’t really taken off yet, because it only made sense that people wouldn’t want to live with the inconvenience and downtime of hours-long recharging. Little did I realize at the time how infrastructure challenges would put H2 technology on hold for decades, with 2021 seeing just three refueling stations spaced around my city.
It actually ended up taking another decade and a half before I could schedule a weeklong test with a hydrogen fuel cell-powered car, that innovator being Toyota’s unusual looking Mirai sedan. It’s a slightly larger than Prius-sized sedan that, similarly to my previous experience, worked exactly like a regular electric vehicle until it came time to fill it up. Back then, however, Toyota took care of refueling because the aforementioned H2 refuelling stations hadn’t been retrofitted yet (they all sell gasoline too), so I was only told about how convenient it was. More recently, with the very Hyundai Nexo on this page, I was able to pump my own H2.
The zero-emissions Nexo took about five minutes to fill up, incidentally, and while a bit more complex than pumping gasoline into a car, a few attempts would get most anyone up to speed. As for the price, it seemed comparable to regular unleaded, although it would take more data and plenty of time to calculate whether life with a Nexo provides any financial advantages. Up to this point it hasn’t really been about pump savings anyway, but more so about the practical development of an alternative fuel that only emits water vapour yet is as easy to live with as a conventional combustion powertrain.
One thing I really appreciate is Hyundai stuffing all of its advanced H2 hardware into a body style and compact size most will find agreeable, not to mention styling it so as not to offend the majority of buyers. That might sound like a no-brainer, but if so, we wouldn’t have cars like the aforementioned Mirai and Honda’s equally divisive Clarity running around. The compact crossover SUV body style meant it would be immediately acceptable to consumers all over the world, while its extended wheelbase and mid-size length made certain that its battery and other electronics wouldn’t impinge on second-row passenger room and cargo volume.
For comparison’s purposes, the Nexo is 190 mm (7.5 in) longer than the outgoing Tucson, but it’s near identical in width and height. While increasing interior spaciousness, the extra length also aids ride quality and highway stability, plus arguably looks a bit leaner.
Styling is a personal thing, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide which Hyundai SUV looks best, but I find the Nexo plenty attractive, unlike the two visually offensive competitors noted a moment ago. It features a slightly older version of Hyundai’s latest grille design, and a set of LED headlamps that seem inspired by the popular Kona subcompact SUV, while the sheet metal from front to back is ultra-smooth, especially when seen in my tester’s stylish matte grey paint scheme.
A few interesting details include a thin accent strip between the grille and hood that lights up at night, plus a set of Land Rover-inspired pop-out door handles that keep the body lines flush in order to lower drag. Lastly, the 19-inch five-spoke alloys don’t look aerodynamically wonky, like so many others in this class.
Take a seat inside and you’ll immediately appreciate that this SUV was designed to be a forerunner for Hyundai’s electronics when introduced two years ago. Ahead of the driver is a similar twin-display instrument cluster/infotainment system as Mercedes-Benz’ MBUX (which has just been completely updated in the new S- and C-Class models). A digital gauge cluster sits on the left side of a long, horizontally-positioned display, controllable with steering wheel-mounted switchgear, while a touchscreen rests to the right. Anyone who’s peeked inside a modern Mercedes will quickly see the similarities, and while I wouldn’t go so far to say Hyundai’s is better, they deserve commendation for including left- and right-side rearview cameras within the gauge cluster, which come into action by flicking the turn signal stalk. These are now commonplace features in both Hyundai and Kia vehicles, setting them apart from most rivals.
While the gauge cluster and infotainment display is about as advanced as this sector gets, the sloping centre stack comes across a bit more antiquated thanks to being filled with switchgear, including P, N, D and R buttons that engage the SUV’s 120-kW (161 hp) electric motor. That thrust is complemented by 291 lb-ft of twist, all of which gets pulled from a 40-kWh battery. While it looks like an SUV, only FWD is available, although Hyundai would probably find a way to add AWD if the Nexo were to go mainstream.
The 95-kW fuel-cell stack provides electricity production on route, as noted earlier, so therefore recharging is continuous, as long as there’s enough hydrogen in the tank. Depending on conditions, the EPA claims the Nexo is good for approximately 570 to 610 km (355 to 380 miles) when topped up.
As noted earlier, the Nexo drives like an electric vehicle, although the normal silence was interrupted by a subtle vacuum-sucking sound when pushing hard on the throttle. I only went for the gusto while testing, mind you, so for most commuting I found it nice and quiet.
Nevertheless, when a fast getaway was needed the Nexo provided plenty of get-up-and-go, taking off from a standstill as enthusiastically as dispatching slower moving highway traffic. What’s more, it went about its business in a wholly refined fashion, never interrupting the bliss with any jarring responses. Ever so smoothly it whisked from zero to 100 km/h around 8.5 seconds (I used my Seiko chronograph to time it, so don’t hold me to the exact number), which is a half-second faster than Hyundai managed, but the difference may have more to do with my less than scientific method, combined with their usual conservativism. While this won’t likely impress too many Tesla owners (or for that matter Chevy Bolt owners), but it had no problem staying ahead of most surrounding traffic.
Handling was the Nexo’s more pleasant surprise. I veered off a local freeway onto a serpentine backcountry road that winds along a river near my home, at which point it was evident that Hyundai’s engineers took advantage of the SUV’s low centre of gravity. This is due to battery being housed below the floorboards, and thus it really hung on through fast-paced curves, while its electrically-assisted rack and pinion steering system was quite responsive for its compact crossover class.
I found the Nexo’s ride quality even better, with much credit going to its conventional front Macpherson strut and rear multi-link suspension layout, plus nicely sorted tuning. This meant that potholes, frost-heaves, bridge expansion joints and other road intrusions hardly impacted those within, which all resulted in one of the better ride/handling compromises in this segment; especially notable when factoring in its large 245/45HR19 all-season rubber.
The Nexo feels well-made and rock solid too, with absolutely no body creaks despite benefiting from a large glass sunroof above, while wind or road noise was kept to a minimum too. Again, I was pleasantly surprised by this compact SUV’s refinement.
I’m guessing that the focus on refinement is why Hyundai didn’t include a sport mode. Alternatively, selecting Normal is the default performance mode, while Eco makes everything even smoother and more fuel-efficient.
On this note, the two paddles on the steering wheel aren’t for shifting gears, but rather the one on the left is for applying the brakes and sending regenerative kinetic braking energy to the battery simultaneously. The Nexo comes to a full stop when continuing to pull this paddle back, as long as you’re not moving too quickly before application. Also, the strongest of the system’s three settings needs to be chosen first, but that’s the job of the right-side paddle, along with cancelling any rolling resistance by easing the regenerative brakes off. Most electric cars use such systems, so anyone that’s driven a popular EV will quickly acclimatize to this hydrogen-powered SUV.
Like those just-noted EVs, the Nexo is filled up with features to help offset its higher price point. Together with the superb digital gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen mentioned earlier, my Nexo tester came with a surround-view overhead parking camera, an accurate navigation system with nicely detailed maps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a wireless charging pad, plus more.
As for luxury, we shouldn’t expect too much now that Hyundai Motor also has its Genesis premium brand, but the mainstream brand did cover the dash top in a nicely textured soft-touch composite, just like the front and rear door uppers, plus the door inserts and armrests.
I like that it included a heatable steering wheel, while its powered driver’s seat was comfortable and provided three-way heatable and cooled cushions. The powered lumbar support was only two-way, but fortunately it found the right spot on my lower back to relieve my traffic stress.
The longer wheelbase I mentioned before makes a big difference when it comes to legroom, while the Nexo’s width is reasonable for the compact SUV segment. Three could probably sit across the rear bench if needed, but two would be more comfortable, and that would mean inside elbows would benefit from its folding centre armrest with two integrated cupholders, as well as the outboard seat warmers. There’s a three-prong household-style power outlet on the backside of the front console too.
As for cargo, the dedicated space behind those rear seats is good for up to 850 litres (30 cu ft) of gear, plus it can be expanded to 1,600 litres (56.5 cu ft) when those 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded down. I would have preferred a 40/20/40 split rear seat, for stowing longer items such as skis down the centre, but such conveniences are rare in this class. I appreciated its mostly level load floor as it was, not to mention the slim storage compartment below the carpeting.
So, what’s it all cost? This is where I recommend you get yourself a stiff coffee, or possibly something stronger, because Nexo’s entry price might induce sticker shock. How does $71,000 (plus freight and fees) sound to you? Yah, there’s a price for being an early adaptor, which is made steeper when factoring in that you’re not really saving anything at the pump. At least a $52,000 Tesla Model Y will let you say goodbye to gasoline forever, or for that matter Hyundai’s own Ioniq Electric, which will only set you back $41,599.
My Ultimate-trimmed tester was actually a bit pricier at $73,500, which I learned by checking the 2021 Hyundai NEXO Canada Prices page right here on CarCostCanada. While you’re looking, be sure to check out the other models mentioned in this review by following the links connected to their names.
Also, find out about how a CarCostCanada membership can leave more money in your wallet when buying a new vehicle. A membership will help keep you up to date on factory rebates, manufacturer leasing and financing deals, and most importantly provides you dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating your best deal. Remember to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store too, so you’ll always have this vital info on hand.
It shouldn’t be a shock that Porsche once again earned highest honours amongst luxury brands in J.D. Power 2021 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study. This is the second time in three years the Stuttgart-based automaker took top spot amongst its premium competitors, and this only a month since winning “most trouble-free new car overall” status for its 911 sports car, in the same third-party analytics firm’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), the large owners survey resulting in Porsche’s Macan (top photo) achieving the highest podium for its “Premium Compact SUV” category.
“Our dealers worked hard for our customers throughout the initial lockdowns of the past year and subsequent social distancing and health measures to make sure they could rely on Porsche,” stated Kjell Gruner, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (PCNA). “We are continually striving to not just meet, but exceed the high expectations of our customers – and it’s vital that the quality of service must live up to that vision.”
J.D. Power’s CSI Study measures “customer satisfaction with service for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of 1- to 3-year-old vehicles,” states a press release, with its latest data collection period being from July through December of 2020. Over 62,500 new vehicle owners responded to a survey, which allowed for a comprehensive list to pull results from.
Porsche received 17 more points over the 2000 CSI study, by the way, with the latest 2021 results combining for an 899-point total out of 1,000 possible points. The brand’s retail dealerships ranked in either 1st or 2nd place in each of the survey’s five classifications, which included Service Facility, Service Advisor, Service Initiation, Service Quality, and Vehicle Pick-Up.
Following any of the linked models to our Canada Prices pages shows that Porsche is currently offering each model with leasing and financing rates from zero percent, so check out each links to remind yourself what they look like, figure out trim and pricing details, plus configure the one you’re interested in with colours and options. Also, be sure to see how your CarCostCanada membership helps you access dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when you’re negotiating your next deal, plus remember to download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you’ll have all of this important info when you need it most.
As anyone who’s spent days at a time driving around in a mid-engine supercar will tell you, there’s more to a car than just being able to go fast. Hence the new age of four-door coupes, Porsche’s fully electric Taycan EV being the latest of such wonders to hit the road. Now, just as it did with its more conventionally-powered Panamera four-door coupe’s transition into the Sport Turismo, Porsche is introducing an extended sport wagon version of the Taycan to expand its practicality without detracting from its performance-oriented nature.
The new Taycan Cross Turismo is Porsche’s answer to Audi’s E-tron (or the new E-Tron Sportback), Jaguar’s I-Pace, and Tesla’s Model X, for the time being at least. No doubt, the Stuttgart-based firm will eventually reveal a purely electric SUV, but for now EV fans with more pragmatic leanings will need to settle for an elongated four-door coupe, not that opting for a Taycan Cross Turismo could ever be considered hardship.
By the numbers, the new Cross Turismo provides 793 litres (28.0 cu ft) of added cargo space for a new maximum of 1,200 litres (42.4 cu ft), which is a great leap forward from the regular Taycan’s 407-litre (14.4 cu-ft) trunk. This doesn’t include the Taycan’s 81-litre (2.8 cu-ft) “frunk” (front trunk) either, which is standard in both cars. If you still require more luggage capacity, Porsche has a bespoke roof-top cargo carrier on offer that’s capable of clinging in place up to 200 km/h.
Yes, the Cross Turismo is no different than the regular Taycan coupe when it comes to performance, with top track speeds varying from 220 to 250 km/h depending on trim. Both body styles feature identical 800-volt battery-electric plug-in power units, complete with a lithium-ion Performance Battery Plus good for 93.4 kWh of power, which makes the car capable of approximately 320 km of range before a recharge, depending on exterior temperatures conditions, road conditions, driving style, etcetera.
Especially helpful, up to 100 km of range is available after a mere five minutes of being hooked up to a DC fast charger, which should be enough for most people to top up and get on their way. Of course, if plugged into a regular 240-volt charging station it will take significantly more time to reach that level of range.
Charging times will also be reflective of the chosen Taycan model, as will the Cross Turismo’s zero to 100 km/h performance. The slowpoke of the litter is the base Taycan 4 Cross Turismo, which nevertheless zips past the 100 km/h mark in a rapid 5.1 seconds due to its 375-hp dual-motor electric power unit. An upgrade to the 4S Cross Turismo will chop an entire second off that standstill to 100 km/h sprint time, thanks to 482 hp flowing through to all four of its wheels.
Porsche oddly uses its “Turbo” nameplate for top-level Taycan trims, but even if those around chuckle at the thought of a turbocharged EV, you’ll be last to laugh as you blast past. To that end, the Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo puts out a formidable 616 hp, resulting in just 3.3 seconds from naught to 100 km/h, whereas the even quicker Turbo S Cross Turismo provides 750 hp for an otherworldly 2.9-second run to 100 km/h, when launch control is employed.
Porsche provides all Taycan Cross Turismo models with the same chassis and adaptive suspension system, which is shared with the regular Taycan coupe, while all-wheel drive is standard to improve four-season capability. Better yet, Porsche includes a standard “Gravel Mode” too, this setting adjusting the model’s throttle response and chassis control to optimize adhesion to less than ideal road surfaces.
If you want even more off-road prowess, an optional Off-Road Design package raises the Cross Turismo’s ride height by 30 mm (1.2 in), plus provides more protection to paint surfaces that might otherwise get chipped without mud flaps. Additional rugged-looking upgrades give this EV more of a crossover look. s
Appearances in mind, the Cross Turismo is already tougher looking than a regular Taycan, thanks to SUV-style matte black body cladding circling the wheel cutouts, yet more along the rocker panels, and of course more rugged black stuff end-to-end, while the front and back bumper caps are further enhanced with stylish silver undertrays.
Deliveries of the new Taycan Cross Turismo will start this summer, so make sure to give your local Porsche retailer a call if you’d like to get your hands on one. Pricing begins at $119,900 for the entry-level Taycan Cross Turismo 4, and grows to $126,800 for the Taycan Cross Turismo 4S, $178,000 for the Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo, and lastly $218,000 for the top-tier Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo S.
Notably, the Cross Turismo’s base power unit is not available in the regular Taycan coupe, which is why this crossover-wagon variant is a bit more affordable. Specifically, the 2021 Taycan 4S can be had for $120,500, but it incorporates the Cross Turismo’s stronger 4S power unit. Therefore, a direct price comparison should be made against the $126,800 Taycan Cross Turismo 4S, which requires $6,300 more than the four-door coupe variant. Even better, Cross Turismo Turbo and Turbo S trims only cost $3,000 more than their regular Taycan equivalents.
If you’re considering a performance SUV, I have four words of advice: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Despite being compact in size, or maybe because of it, the feisty Italian is one of the fastest production utilities ever created.
How fast is it? It’s evenly matched against Mercedes-AMG’s similarly sized GLC 63 S off the line, both holding title to quickest in their compact luxury SUV class, while it edges out the segment’s second-fastest BMW X3 M Competition by 3 km/h at 283 km/h (176 mph) compared to 280 (174). Possibly more important from an all-round performance perspective, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio has earned more fastest lap records than any SUV available new today.
It doesn’t hurt that it shares racing pedigree limelight with the aforementioned three-pointed star brand, even if Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN is no Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Afla’s just older, wiser and cooler than Merc, the Italian brand having been formed in 1915 compared to Mercedes’ 1922 (a technicality, but it’s F1 and I’m running with it). Likewise, I’d rather hang out with Alfa’s older, wiser and cooler driver and F1 champion Kimi Räikkönen than seven-times world champ Lewis Hamilton too. Kimi’s chill and hilarious, while Lewis is always so serious, and so political… but I digress.
Or did I? After all, when we buy a premium branded car, especially a performance model with awesome street cred, most of us buy into the company that builds it as much as the vehicle itself. Whether we want to admit it or not, branding sells, and while Alfa Romeo doesn’t reach as many luxury buyers are Mercedes-Benz, I’m willing to wager a bet the majority of those who buy into Alfa do so with more enthusiasm. Maybe it’s an Italian thing. Alfa is all about red-blooded passion.
That Alfa Romeo is infused with more racing pedigree than most of its competitors doesn’t hurt matters either, the brand even fielding a Formula One team, which can’t be said for all of its key competitors except Mercedes-AMG—Aston Martin’s larger and much pricier DBX isn’t a direct competitor. You don’t buy one of these things because you’re being practical. Sure, a Stelvio is easier to stow things inside than a Giulia or any other premium sedan, and it seats four large adults in comfort or five in a pinch, but you can do that in a RAV4, and go pretty quick to boot, if it’s the new plug-in hybrid.
Pretty quick is one thing, but the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s top track speed is only beaten by Aston Martin’s new DBX amongst SUVs, the little Alfa managing 283 km/h (176 mph), as noted earlier, with the Aston whisking past at a heady 291 km/h (181 mph). The Quad is actually quicker from standstill to 100 km/h, leaving the exotic super-SUV behind as if it’s standing still, the two brands’ official 0-100 km/h times claimed to be 3.8 seconds to 4.5. That’s not even in the same ballpark, let alone on the same track (although the DBX looked fabulous pulling up behind the Merc, Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, AlphaTauri, Alfa, Alpine, Williams, Haas, and yes, Aston F1 cars as the official medical car at the Bahrain GP last weekend).
Aston will likely follow up the current DBX with a stronger performing version at some point, just like Porsche does with its various Cayenne trims. The German brand’s Turbo S E-Hybrid is monstrous, while Bentley’s massive Bentayga Speed completely defies physics, but at least for now we can’t deny the hard numbers. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is even quicker from zero to 100 km/h than those just-noted uber utes. It’s not the quickest of all, mind you, this honour going to Lamborghini’s phenomenal Urus, which is capable of jettisoning from standstill to 100 km/h in a ferocious 3.4 seconds, while independent testers have claimed even quicker times.
I’ve driven some of the above and each were crazy fun, but all said there’s something extraordinarily special about the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It feels lighter and nimbler than most, and the music made from its snarling sextet of pistons and rambunctious quartet of tailpipes is like nothing else this side of the fabulous Giulia Quadrifoglio. Combined with accompanying G forces bashing my backside into a perfectly formed leather- and Alcantara-covered driver’s seat, not to mention similar forces trying to expel me beyond that seat’s sizeable side bolsters when pushing the envelope through twisting backroads, this SUV is shockingly good.
Trust me, I did my best to drive slowly. I truly did. In fact, I more or less succeeded in maintaining posted limits around the city and along rural highways, especially where joy-sucking regulation enforcers have been known to drink coffee and eat donuts while poking radar guns out windows of less inspirational Ford Explorers, but I failed miserably when beyond my city’s outer perimeter, where ideal strips of perfectly aligned pavement stretched diagonally across farmland to connect minuscule communities with circuitous secondary backroads and even quicker-paced byways. This is where Alfa’s Quadrifoglios were designed to run freely, and where I quickly learned how otherworldly this little utility is to drive.
Spin its DNA drive selector to the “d” position for sportier Dynamic mode, or turn it one position farther for “RACE”, which results in even more intense performance, and prepare for ridiculous levels of speed, not to mention one of the most enticingly exhaustive snap, crackle and pop cacophonies to ever emanate from the rear of a vehicle.
Alfa Romeo wraps a beautiful set of 20-inch alloys in 255/45R20 front and 285/40R20 rear Pirelli P Zero performance rubber, which can cling to most any kind of road surface. The specially-chosen tires combine ideally with a smartly sorted chassis that feels as if it could run rings around any competitor.
My driving position was excellent. Alfa slightly squared-off the Quad’s leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, which was just large enough to feel substantive without being cumbersome. It features nicely formed thumb spats for a good grip, these just ahead of long alloy paddle shifters that are attached to the steering column instead of the wheel. This means they’re always where they’re supposed to be, even when the wheel’s rotated in a given direction multiple times. The steering column’s tilt and reach adjustability is generous as well, with the latter matching excellent seat adjustment. My long-legged, short-torso frame fit in well, not always the case with some rivals, which resulted in good control and much-appreciated comfort.
No wonder Alfa Romeo’s team of professional drivers have had no issue setting global track lap records. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio leads every SUV made at Britain’s famed Silverstone (2:31.6) racetrack, not to mention Donington Park (1:21.1), and the Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch (55.9), but to be fair I must admit its record-setting 7:51.7-minute lap around the Nürburgring Nordschleife was recently broken by the aforementioned GLC 63 S, the hyper-Merc laying down a wickedly quick lap time of 7.49.369 minutes.
Both are faster in one lap of the 20.832-km mountainside racetrack than the next-best Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, however, which did the deed in 7:59.7 minutes, while the Range Rover Sport SVR could only manage the course in 8:14 minutes. Until one of the previously mentioned super-SUVs chooses to take these two little compacts on at the ‘Ring, they’ll likely remain top of the “Green Hell” podium.
Back to my need for fairness, the Urus nabbed the title from this Stelvio Q at one of my favourite racecourses, California’s Laguna Seca. It makes sense for the 641-horsepower super-ute to beat the little Alfa, especially when factoring in the latter SUV’s comparatively bargain-basement price, but its 1:40.9-minute record lap wasn’t all that much better than the Stelvio’s 1:43.5-minute trip around the ultra-challenging track.
It doesn’t matter which premium branded super SUV you opt for, its interior will come stuffed full of contrast-stitched leather with ultra-suede accents, brushed and polished metals, plus glossy carbon-fibre trim, and more, while high-grade pliable composite surfaces are used where one of the above coverings won’t work. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is no exception. That said, at just under $100k it’s not going to blow away a Bentayga owner, but its interior design is nevertheless alluring, quality of workmanship excellent, and overall sense of luxury impressive.
I was happy to learn of its updated infotainment system too, the interface more user-friendly and graphically inspiring than a four-cylinder Stelvio I drove before. Its drag and drop tile/widget design made it more customizable too, while it can do most anything its competitors can, plus compile performance statistics via various “pages” showing boost, torque, lateral Gs, etcetera.
I was surprised, but not disappointed that a fully-digital gauge cluster wasn’t included, being that the analogue dials and sporty circular shrouds looked fabulous and worked well. A large speedo and tach bookended a big high-definition multi-information display in the middle, this screen complete with the usual functions.
Along with the impeccably finished cabin and outrageous performance, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is plenty practical too. It’s an SUV after all, and therefore came with a comfortable, sizeable second row with three seatbelts across, as well as three-way outboard seat heaters, two USB-A charge ports on the backside of the front console, great rear ventilation, and overall refinement as nicely finished as the front seating area.
The cargo compartment was similarly impressive, and roomy enough for the majority of peoples’ requirements. An especially useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatback expanded on its cargo carrying capacity further, while Alfa also included an smartly engineered aluminum track system for strapping down items that might otherwise fly about (for those moments when you temporarily forget you’re supposed to be carting cargo and start driving like Mario).
Alfa Romeo is currently offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, by the way, so be sure to check out our 2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Canada Prices page where you can also configure your Stelvio with every available colour and option. A CarCostCanada membership will also provide information about available manufacturer rebates when available, plus dealer invoice pricing that can make sure you pay the lowest price possible during negotiations. Learn how the CarCostCanada system saves you money, and remember to download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store so you can have all of this critical info immediately available.
To reiterate, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is up against some very worthy premium competitors, but the fact that you’ll need to spend more than $250k in order to get something capable of outrunning it says everything you need to know. Mercedes’ fastest GLC is a more direct match and should be up for consideration, but its twin-turbo V8 doesn’t provide the same kind of high-strung audio track as Alfa’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, making the Italian more like watching (and listening to) classic F1, and the Merc more akin to today’s fast yet dull sounding hybrid machinery.
We also need to consider standard features and options. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes mostly loaded up with features, other than approximately $4k worth of add-ons, whereas the AMG GLC 63 S can be had for slightly less in base form, but the German model needs to be optioned up with more than $26k of extras to come in line with the Italian SUV. This probably makes the Stelvio Quadrifoglio the wiser choice financially, even though you probably won’t care what it costs once behind the wheel.
Lovers of small hatchbacks like Nissan’s Micra and Versa Note will have noticed a disturbing trend in recent years, their cancellations.
The same has happened with most manufacturers, with Toyota having dropped its Yaris, Honda having nixed its Fit, Ford having axed its Fiesta (and Focus), and the list going on. All of the above have increased their allotment of small crossover SUVs, however, which on the surface seems as if we’re not all that concerned about fuel economy after all.
Fortunately, most of these new crossover SUVs are merely front-wheel drive economy cars on steroids. The various brands have slightly raised their suspensions and rooflines, sometimes making them more accommodating inside, but all come standard with front-wheel drivetrains and equally efficient powerplants, some not even offering all-wheel drive at all.
For that extra $500, Nissan has grafted a big, imposing grille on the front of its smallest crossover, and for the most part we feel it looks quite good. Its chromed surround flows elegantly upwards and outward toward sharply chiselled headlamps, while a fresh set of LED fog lights are located just beneath, at least when viewing the Kicks’ sportiest top-line SR trim. Updates aren’t as noticeable at each side or hind end, the former featuring a new set of LED turn signals within revised side mirror housings, and the latter adding a reworked bumper cap.
The slight price increase also includes new standard features such as auto on/off headlamps, heated exterior mirrors, and a rear wiper/washer, while changes to the cabin include a new standard 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. When moving up to mid-range SV and top-line SR trims, the display gets upsized to 8.0 inches in diameter, with additional features including a leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob, a single-zone auto HVAC system, and a Bose audio upgrade.
The Kicks’ 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine makes a reasonably peppy 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, which means it wasn’t changed as part of the refresh. Likewise, its continuously variable transmission (CVT) remains standard too, resulting in the identical a fuel economy rating to last year: 7.7 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.2 combined with its sole front-wheel drivetrain.
The 2021 Kicks also comes well equipped with advanced standard safety and convenience features such as automatic emergency braking, rear auto braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and auto high-beam assistance. The move up to SV or SR trims includes driver alert monitoring plus a rear door alert system that warns the driver when something (or someone) may still be in the rear seating area after parking, while top-tier SR Premium trim adds an overhead camera system.
Porsche’s Boxster is arguably the most successful new sports car to arrive on the scene in the past 25 years. It debuted in concept form at the 1993 North American International Auto Show to much fanfare, and was followed up in production trim for the 1997 model year. The rest, as they say, is history.
To mark its silver anniversary, Porsche is offering a 718 Boxster 25 Years edition for 2021 in (you guessed it) silver, but the classic colour wasn’t only chosen to represent its quarter century celebration. In fact, the original show car actually wore the same hue, as well as a similar red interior treatment. It should be noted that black and white exterior paint are also available, while gold trim complements the front fascia, side engine vents, and “25” year badge added to the rear bumper next to the usual “Boxster” script.
Such details are similar to the original prototype, with Porsche even painting the alloy wheels in the special gold tone. Sadly, the racing-style aluminum gas cap is hidden from view under a cover, instead of being fully exposed like on the original concept.
At least the new commemorative car’s power-retractable cloth roof is dyed in red like the original show model. Embosses on each front outside section is the “Boxster 25” script that also shows when the top is lowered, at which point its red interior adds to the classic look. The leather seats are red, of course, as are the door panels, with Porsche even going so far as to finish off the cabin with red carpets and floor mats that feature the “Boxster 25” insignia. Additionally, a “Boxster 25” plaque gets added to the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger, featuring 0000/1250 numbering.
Below the classic looking skin is Porsche’s ultra-advanced 718 Boxster GTS 4.0, which means that it’s powered by a 911 GT3-honed naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre six-cylinder capable of 394 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque when conjoined to its standard six-speed manual gearbox, or 317 lb-ft of twist when fitted to the optional seven-speed double-clutch PDK.
Sport Chrono Package enhanced, the paddle-shift prompted model can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.0 seconds, whereas the manually geared car will need another half-second to complete the task. Similarly, the 718 Boxster manual blasts from zero to 160 km/h in 9.2 seconds, while the optional PDK variant can manage the feat in 8.7 seconds, all before topping out at 293 and 288 km/h respectively.
While the new 718 Boxster 25 Years edition might seem as if it’s too good to be true, there is one negative in that Porsche has limited production to just 1,250 examples. For this reason, you shouldn’t expect to get a discount, if you can find one at all. You may be able to qualify for zero-percent financing, however, which Porsche is currently offering on all models including the 718 Boxster and its 718 Spyder variant. Check out our 2021 Porsche 718 Boxster Canada Prices page for more info, and remember to download the free CarCostCanada app so you can access dealer invoice pricing and all of our other money saving info whenever you need it.
The new 2021 718 Boxster 25 Years is available from $106,500 plus freight and fees, while the base 718 Boxster starts at just $68,800.
Boxster 25 Years: Walkaround (6:29):
Boxster 25 Years: Forever Young (1:37):
The Boxster at 25: An Homage to its Inception (4:59):