2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
The new XC40 provides a new fun and funky take on Volvo’s usual elegantly edgy styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Admittedly, I like Volvo a lot. Specifically the new, reimagined Volvo that arrived on the scene in 2015 with the introduction of the 2016 XC90. Its styling first attracted me, followed by a new level of interior design and quality, which I became aware of once familiarized with the model firsthand. This including improvements made to its Sensus electronics interfaces, and carried forward the Swedish company’s advanced drivetrain philosophy that was initiated in previous models, albeit with greater focus on performance and efficiency via optional plug-in hybrid technology. Of course, safety has always been a Volvo priority, evidenced by its most recent model, this XC40 being reviewed here, which already received a best-possible Top Safety Pick + rating from the IIHS. 

The need for full disclosure and honest journalism makes it important for me to mention that the XC90 didn’t earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating for 2019, or for 2018 either. You’ll need to search all the way back to 2016 to see that, while in 2017 it only achieved a Top Safety Pick rating without the “+”, this having everything to do with the IIHS’ continually more challenging standards than anything Volvo has done to detract from XC90 safety. In fact, in 2016 Volvo had five + rated models, with that number having dropped to three in 2017, the missing two having lost their + ratings despite the S80 having transformed into the S90. Model year 2018 saw all five of the same vehicles only given Top Safety Pick ratings, even though the all-new XC60 joined the lineup, and while it seems like a bonus to finally receive another Top Safety Pick + rating for the new XC40 shown on this page, the only other model to even get a Top Safety Pick so far this year is the just noted XC60. 

Possibly more important to Volvo and you, this XC40 is the only vehicle in its class to earn a Top Safety Pick + rating, while only two others, BMW’s X2 and Lexus’ new UX, managed to be named Top Safety Picks, excluding the +, so therefore if safety is number one on your list and you want a compact luxury SUV, look no further than this impressive little unit. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
The XC40 looks great from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Then again, there are many other reasons to consider an XC40, which incidentally earned 2018 European Car of the Year status, and has become Volvo’s second best-selling model globally (after the larger XC60). The XC40 hits the market with a wonderfully unique and handsome design, particularly in its two-tone exterior colour combos. I spent a week with one in entry-level Momentum trim that I’ll review in in the near future, coated in pretty Amazon Blue with a white roof (arguably more appealing to feminine tastes, but what does that say about me because I really liked it), and I must say it caused a lot of looky-loos to take notice. This Crystal White Pearl Metallic dipped R-Design model, featuring a black-painted rooftop that comes standard with this trim, caused nearly as much ado, plus I must admit that it would be my choice thanks to its sportier, more masculine appearance. 

Climb inside any XC40 trim and you’ll quickly find out the XC40 includes all of the premium-level luxury most expect in this fast-growing category. Each front roof pillar is wrapped in high-quality woven cloth, the dash-top and the upper half of each door panel are finished in soft composites, while each armrest gets padded and covered with stitched leatherette, whereas the insides of each door pocket is carpeted (that’s an unusual yet welcome addition), plus they’re big enough to fit a 15-inch laptop plus a large drink bottle. Returning to the pliable plastic surface treatments, there aren’t any below the interior’s midsection, including the front centre console that does include soft painted surfaces above carpeting which covers its lower extremities. Additionally, look upward and you’ll find the same woven fabric used for the front pillars on the ceiling, this wrapped around a big panoramic sunroof featuring a power-actuated translucent sunshade. 

The instrument panel typifies modern-day Volvo, which means that it’s a tasteful design with only the most necessary controls included, but this said its designers gave it a bit of unorthodox funk by incorporating four retrospective-style vertically-positioned satin-silver finished aluminum vents, enhanced with stylish textured aluminum trim placed between as well as on the door panels. All of the metal is beautifully finished, particularly the knurled aluminum edging around the circular vent controls, as well as a similar treatment given to the audio volume control knob. All of the XC40’s other knobs, buttons and switches are up to snuff too, even surpassing some of its closest competitors. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
The LED headlights are standard, but the fog lamps, R-Design styling upgrades and 20-inch alloys are not. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In the same way, this XC40 R-Design’s special contrast-stitched and perforated leather-wrapped sport steering wheel is impeccably finished, even getting some of the aforementioned satin-silver detailing too, while a similarly upscale level of near handmade detail was provided to the electronic transmission’s shifter, as well as seats’ fabulous looking leather and suede-style Nubuck upholstery. Volvo also added a sharp looking set of metal and rubber pedals in the driver’s footwell, making this R-Design the perfect choice for buyers who want a little more sport during their daily commutes. 

I found the driver’s seat particularly comfortable, thanks to larger than average side bolsters and an extendable lower cushion that cupped ideally below my knees. The rear seating compartment was comfortable and generously proportioned too, even capable of large six-foot-plus occupants with space to spare. Rear passengers are further comforted with a fold-down centre armrest that doubles as a pass-through for loading in long cargo. 

I found the luggage compartment sizeable enough for my requirements throughout my busy week, its 586-litre (20.7 cubic-foot) proportions easily fitting my daily gear, and its 917-litre (32.4 cubic-foot) capacity more than enough when the need came to expand on its abilities. I even tested it out by placing a set of ultra-long 190-cm boards down the middle (used when the need for speed beckons), and had no problem stuffing them inside. 

Even better, the 60/40-split rear seatbacks can be lowered by pressing power-release buttons on the cargo wall, while yet more utility can be added by pulling the cargo floor upwards at centre, which forms a handy divider that’s even topped off with a trio of helpful grocery bag hooks. Alternatively the cargo floor can be contorted into a small shelf when the need to increase loadable surface space arises. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
Like its exterior styling, the XC40’s interior is more playful than other Volvo models, but still filled with top-tier features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The XC40’s convenience-feature theme continues with a hidden hook that flips out from within the glove box, plus a waste bin within the centre console that can be removed for cleaning, an optional storage box below the driver’s seat, a parking pass holder that butts up against the driver’s side windshield pillar, and gas/credit card slots integrated within the instrument panel just to the left of the driver’s knee. 

What’s more, the bottom portion of the centre stack gets a large rubberized platform for holding big smartphones, capable of being upgraded with wireless charging, while there’s room enough to stow sunglasses on either side. Volvo has also included the requisite 12-volt charger (although I can’t remember the last time I used one of these) and a duo of USB ports, one dedicated for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and the other just for charging (three USB ports come standard). The XC40 is easily the most conveniently thought out SUV in its subcompact luxury class. 

While most of the items just mentioned don’t require much in the way of technical advancements, the XC40’s standard digital gauge cluster is the epitome of modernity. Its 12.3-inch diameter provides a lot of information, while its high-definition display is bright, colourful and crystal clear, plus it comes filled with functions such as optional navigation mapping that fills out most of the centre-mounted multi-information display. Its rivals don’t offer anything as advanced in their standard trims (except the new Lexus UX, but it’s only 7.0 inches in diameter), with most not even providing a digital gauge upgrade at all. This gives the XC40 a serious lead when it comes to electronics. 

Even better, Volvo’s award-winning nine-inch Sensus infotainment touchscreen sits vertically atop the centre stack, making it look and work more like tablet than anything else in the class. It responds to touch gestures just like an iPad or Android-based device, including tap, pinch and swipe, plus it does so for more functions than usual. Along with the navigation map, you can also adjust temperature settings with a vertical readout per frontal zone that pops up on the appropriate side of the screen, letting you or your partner slide a finger up or down in order to set ideal heating or cooling. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
A fully-digital 12.3-inch gauge cluster comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The touchscreen also allows control of all audio functions including streaming Bluetooth, satellite radio, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, plus more, while my Samsung S9 connected easily, both via Bluetooth and when plugging it in for previously noted Android Auto. It’s an nicely designed interface that’s minimalist on graphics, yet nevertheless one of my favourites, and thanks to being no more difficult to use than a regular smartphone should be easy enough for anyone to operate. 

Also on the centre stack, a thin row of premium quality switchgear allows fast prompts to key climate controls, plus a couple of audio functions including the previously noted knurled aluminum-trimmed volume knob, as well as the hazard lights, and lastly a drive mode selector featuring Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Individual, and optional (not available with the Momentum) Off-road settings. 

As noted, navigation isn’t standard either, but rather is optional for $1,000, but the XC40’s standard features menu is long just the same, including most everything mentioned up to this point, as well as LED headlights, roof rails, remote ignition, pushbutton start/stop, a leather-clad multi-function steering wheel rim, an electric parking brake, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, single-zone automatic climate control, voice activation, heatable front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support and memory settings, genuine aluminum trim, as well as a bevy of active safety features like forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and mitigation, plus more, all of which is once-again enough to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating mentioned earlier. At just $39,500 plus destination, the XC40 is one of the best values in its luxury crossover category. 

The sporty looking XC40 in the photos is an R-Design, which begins a bit higher on the food chain at $44,100. It incorporates all the previously-noted gear as well as a larger set of 19-inch alloys (although my test model was shod in available 20-inch rubber) rolling on a sport-tuned suspension, while additional upgrades including a special front grille with glossy black trim, blackened skid plates, gloss-black mirror caps, and additional black-chrome outer trimmings, plus the black-painted roof top mentioned earlier. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
Volvo’s Sensus touchscreen is a cut above most rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Also, the R-Design gets active cornering headlamps, fog lights, exposed twin exhaust pipes instead of the hidden tailpipes used for the Momentum, unique aluminum front treadplates, nicer carpets, more cabin illumination, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, the aforementioned cushion front extensions, the previously-noted panoramic sunroof, a black roofliner and pillars (instead of tan), aluminized cargo sill trim, and more. 

Volvo upgraded my test model with a Premium Package as well, including the wireless charging noted before, plus the underseat storage box and grocery bag holders I also mentioned, as well as headlamp washers, power-retractable and auto-dimming outside mirrors, heatable wiper blades, a heated steering wheel rim, heatable rear seats, a power-actuated tailgate, plus Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, all for just $1,750. 

Lucky for me, Volvo also added a $2,000 Premium Plus Package that featured an overhead 360-degree “Surround View” parking camera system, a HomeLink universal remote, dynamic cruise control, Volvo’s proprietary Pilot Assist semi-autonomous Driver Assistance System (which is a hands-on semi-self-driving system that aids highway driving nicely), the semi-autonomous Park Assist Pilot parking system featuring Park Assist front and rear sensors, and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area; plus the previously noted $1,000 navigation system was included too, along with a superb sounding 600-watt, 14-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio system for $950. 

Before Volvo initiated its brand-wide overhaul in 2015, its new powertrain strategy started showing up in then-current models. Dissimilar to any other premium brand, or any major carmaker for that matter, the Chinese-controlled Swedish firm based its entire model lineup on one turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, and then retuned it with both turbocharging and supercharging for mid-range models, and, as introduced with the current XC90, a turbocharged, supercharged and plug-in hybrid variation on the theme, good for 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
Nice seats! They’re comfortable too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While a 400-horsepower XC40 sounds like a blast, an announcement made back in February promised a plug-in version with making 184-net-kW (247-net-hp) and 328 net-lb-ft of torque due to an electric motor combined with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder gasoline engine driving the front wheels, dubbed the T5 Twin Engine. Reportedly, this should be followed by an XC40 housing an even thriftier T4 Twin Engine, but I’m guessing we’ll only see the more formidable one on this side of the Atlantic… er… the Pacific. Of note, in March Volvo announced that it will reveal a full battery-electric version of the XC40 before the end of this year, which will be part of an initiative for having 50 percent of its worldwide sales comprised of EVs by 2025. 

Back in the here and now, Volvo’s second best-selling model globally (after the XC60) is motivated by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Next model year (2020) we’ll have the choice of a new base four-cylinder engine, however, still displacing 2.0 litres, once again turbocharged, and continuing to use the eight-speed auto and AWD, but named T4 and making just 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. R-Design and Inscription trims will keep the current T5 engine as standard, once again boasting a healthy 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. 

I have no idea how the new T4 will perform, but my test model’s T5 powertrain is a perfect match to the lightweight XC40, resulting in a quick, well-sorted subcompact crossover SUV. Of course, it’s not the fastest in this category, the Jaguar E-Pace and Range Rover Evoque R-Dynamic siblings housing 296 horsepower under their uniquely shaped bonnets, the new BMW X2 M35i upping the ante with 302 horsepower, and the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 45 leading the performance war by a country mile thanks to 375 horsepower behind its three-pointed star. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
This panoramic sunroof comes standard in R-Design trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Just the same, the new XC40 has a lot of jump off the line, and despite its eight-speed automatic being a tad frustrating to use, due to the need of having to shift twice before it will engage Drive or Reverse, once underway it responded well, with quick, immediate gear changes, especially when set to “Dynamic” sport mode and when using my R-Design model’s steering wheel-mounted paddles to shift, while it certainly feels confidence-inspiring at speed. 

Without doubt my tester’s more performance-oriented 20-inch rubber played its part in gluing chassis to pavement, not to mention this R-Design’s sport suspension upgrade, which is otherwise a fully independent design featuring aluminium double wishbones in front plus a special integral-link setup, with a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring, in back. This meant it hunkered down nicely when pushed quickly through fast-paced curves, and together with its excellent visibility, made point-and-shoot driving a breeze around town. 

Being a little SUV, the driver’s seat is positioned taller than what you’d find in a regular car, so along with all the sizeable panes of glass around the greenhouse it made for superb visibility in all directions. That height made it lean a bit more than a car would through corners, but for testing purposes I was traveling much faster than most owners would, and therefore you shouldn’t find this unsettling at all. Also on the positive, the XC40’s brakes are quite strong, responded with stability in regular and panic situations. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
No one should complain when seated in back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The little Volvo’s ride quality is good for such a compact crossover too, and I really didn’t feel any difference in suspension comfort from the base Momentum model I tried with 18-inch alloys, plus the standard “Dynamic” suspension setup, than this sport-tuned model shod in 20-inch rims. I should also note that Volvo offers up an adaptive Four-C Chassis for another $1,000, but truly I don’t think it’s required unless you spend a lot of time on gravel roads. 

In a nutshell, the XC40 comes across as if it’s a larger, more substantive vehicle than it truly is, its doors and liftgate shutting with the sound and solidity of much bigger luxury utilities, plus it’s very quiet inside and exudes impressive build-quality when riding over broken pavement, potholes, bumps, and other obstacles. 

Another bonus is fuel efficiency, and not just because it’s a subcompact SUV. It gets a 10.3 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.0 combined Transport Canada rating, which only looks a bit thirsty when compared to a much less powerful, front-wheel drive-infused crossover like the new Lexus UX (which makes a mere 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque), which achieves 7.2 L/100km combined city/highway with its non-hybrid powerplant. A better comparison to the XC40 is the Mercedes GLA 250 4Matic, which gets an identical combined city/highway rating, while the XC40 is thriftier than BMW’s X1 (9.3 combined), quite a bit better than Jaguar’s base E-Pace P250 (9.8 combined), and a major upgrade over the new Audi Q3 (10.6 combined). Most of the above, including the XC40, utilize auto start/stop technology that automatically turns the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, saving fuel and reducing emissions. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test
A spacious, accommodating cargo area. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As you can probably tell, this little Volvo SUV impressed me. Despite having other vehicles at my disposal during my test week, I spent more time in its driver’s seat than all the others combined, and couldn’t find much to fault it on. Instead, I believe it’s one of the best compact luxury SUVs in its class, and thoroughly worthy of your close attention. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum Road Test

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
The 2019 Qashqai looks much the same as previous years, even in top-line SL Platinum trim, but Nissan has made significant changes under the skin. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Despite looking identical to both 2017 and 2018 Qashqai models, especially in its official launch colour of Monarch Orange, this 2019 version gets a lot of impressive new goodies under the sheetmetal. 

For starters, all Qashqai trims now include Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and Nissan’s smart Rear Door Alert (RDA) system, which reminds if you’ve left something or someone in the back seat, while the subcompact SUV’s instrument panel now boasts a fresh, new standard NissanConnect centre touchscreen that’s 2.0 inches larger at 7.0 inches in diameter, and features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, live navigation, plus mobile apps and services, while the same base Qashqai also includes a second USB port within the centre console, as well as Nissan’s ultra-useful Divide-N-Hide cargo system in the storage area. 

That’s a lot of new gear for a little crossover that’s otherwise unchanged. Nissan even managed to keep the base price as close as possible to last year’s unbelievably low $19,998 window sticker, the new model available for just $200 more at $20,198, which still makes it the second-most affordable SUV in Canada behind Nissan’s own $18,298 Kicks. 

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
Now three year into its tenure, the Qashqai offers sporty styling in a tidy subcompact package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

And it’s not like the base Qashqai is devoid of standard features either, with a list that includes items like projector headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, power windows and door locks with a switchblade-style remote, an electromechanical parking brake (which oddly reverts to a foot-operated one on S CVT and SV CVT trims), a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a colour TFT multi-information display, variable intermittent wipers, sun visors with extensions and vanity mirrors, overhead sunglasses storage, micro-filtered air conditioning, a rearview camera that’s now easier to use thanks to the larger centre display, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, text message read and response capability, Siri Eyes Free, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with illuminated steering wheel controls, speed-sensitive volume, Radio Data System (RDS), Quick Comfort heatable front seats (that really do heat up fast), a rear-seat centre armrest, a cargo cover, six cargo area tie-down hooks, tire pressure monitoring with Easy Fill Tire Alert, all the expected passive and active safety and security features, plus much more. 

The 2019 Qashqai once again comes in three trims, including the aforementioned base S model, plus the SV and SL, the former two offering optional all-wheel drive and the latter making it standard. That top-line trim is how my tester came, complete with an even fancier Platinum package as well, but before I delve deeper into all of that, take heed the $26,198 SV is a great choice for those not wanting the pay the price for premium-level pampering brought on by the SL. 

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
SL trim with the Platinum package includes LED headlamps, fog lights, 19-inch alloys, and much more. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The SV features an attractive set of 17-inch alloys, which replace the base model’s 16-inch steel wheels with covers, plus auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, high beam assist, rear parking sensors, illumination added to the vanity mirrors, a powered moonroof, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob, cruise control, two more stereo speakers, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear passenger air vents, etcetera, while a bevy of new advanced driver assistance systems get added as well, such as enhanced autonomous Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with Intelligent Lane Intervention, and Rear Intelligent Braking (R-IEB). 

My tester’s top-line SL trim starts at $31,398, but it really comes across like a mini luxury ute thanks to standard 19-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, the electromechanical parking brake again (the only trim that mates it to the CVT), a 360-degree Intelligent Around View Monitor, navigation with detailed mapping, voice recognition, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar, and a front driver’s seatback pocket, while Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), Moving Object Detection (MOD) to enhance the R-IEB, and ProPilot Assist semi-automated self-driving capability, which can help maintain your lane and ease driving stress while on the highway, are new to the SL’s standard features list. 

Lastly, as noted earlier my tester included the $2,000 SL Platinum Package that adds LED headlights for much brighter night vision, an auto-dimming interior mirror with an integrated Homelink garage door opener, a great sounding nine-speaker Bose audio system, and NissanConnect Services, which is filled with advanced mobile apps to make life with your Qashqai easier and more productive. 

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
The Qashqai SL interior is much more refined and feature-filled than most will expect in this class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Incidentally, all pricing for the 2019 Qashqai, including trims, packages and individual options, was sourced right here at CarCostCanada, where you can also find money saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

Along with an impressive load of features no matter the trim, the Qashqai provides a surprisingly refined cabin. I drove a base model last year, and it was very good for its $20k price point, but my current tester’s SL Platinum trim feels even more upscale. Features like a soft-touch dash and padded composite front door uppers are common across the Qashqai line, but as noted the lovely contrast-stitched perforated leather upholstery is unique to the SL, as is the lower console that also gets leatherette-wrapped padding with contrast stitching to each side. This protects your inside knee from chafing against what would otherwise be hard plastic, and it looks really attractive as well. 

Some other notable SL details include piano black lacquer surfacing across the instrument panel, the centre stack, around the shift lever, and highlighting the door panels, this topped off with a tastefully thin strip of satin silver accenting. Nissan adds more satin silver on the steering wheel and around the shifter, and then throws splashes of chrome brightwork around the rest of the cabin to highlight key areas. Needless to say, it’s an attractive environment. 

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
New for 2019, all Qashqai trims get this 7-inch touchscreen, seen here with optional navigation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Back to that front centre console, the transmission connected to the leather-clad lever is Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), which joins up to a strong 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. The CVT will likely be preferable to the majority of Qashqai buyers, but you may very well enjoy the six-speed manual that comes standard in base S trim. I tested it last year and came away smiling, as it’s a nicely sorted manual gearbox that adds a lot of performance back into this utility’s character, which as tested here is more about smooth, quiet, comfort. 

Continuously variable transmissions get a fair bit of flack from auto scribes and enthusiasts alike, but after testing three Qashqais with this autobox and plenty of other Nissan models with a variation of the same type of CVT, I find it perfectly suitable to SUV life. Of course, it doesn’t provide the same level of performance as the manual, actually getting a bit buzzy when digging deep into the throttle due to a CVT’s inherent nature to hold onto revs longer than a conventional automatic, but Nissan includes a manual mode via the shift lever that lets you force the transmission from its high-rev zone to more audibly agreeable lower revs, a process that will eventually happen on its own, but why wait. At normal everyday speeds I found the transmission was best left to its own devices, where it’s actually quite smooth and fully capable. 

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
Leather upholstery comes standard with the SL, but seat comfort is standard across the line. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

On that note, the Qashqai gets up and goes quickly enough without needing to push the engine too hard, plus it rides well for this class thanks to a version of the same fully independent suspension as the Rogue, incorporating front struts and a rear multi-link setup with stabilizer bars at both ends. It nicely balances the firmness needed for its commendable handling with ample comfort, but don’t expect it to deliver ride quality to the levels of a Rogue or Murano, as the little SUV is just not substantive enough. Its standard four-wheel disc brake setup stops quickly, however, helped along by Intelligent Engine Braking that comes standard SV and SL models. 

It delivers better fuel economy than a larger SUV could too, with a claimed Transport Canada rating of 10.0 L/100km city, 8.1 highway and 9.2 combined with the FWD manual, 8.6 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined with FWD and the CVT, or 9.1, 7.6 and 8.4 with the CVT and AWD. 

Its fuel efficiency may differ slightly when loaded up, and believe me you can get a lot of gear in a Qashqai. Behind its standard 60/40-split rear seatbacks are 648 litres (22.9 cubic feet) of available cargo space, which puts it right near the top of its class, while the 1,730 litres (61.1 cubic feet) available when folding those seats flat is even harder to beat. 

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
The rear seating area is very spacious and the seats quite comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As for passenger room and comfort, the leather seats offer nice sculpting up front that cups the backside ideally, and the driver’s seating position was perfect for my five-foot-eight smallish frame, allowing ample adjustability matched by a tilt and telescopic steering column that was able to be pulled far enough rearward to accommodate my longer legs and shorter torso. If I can find a negative it’s the two-way “HI” and “LO” seat heater settings, because more temperature variables would inevitably be able to provide greater comfort, but it’s tough to be overly critical in this class, especially when everything else about the Qashqai is spot on. 

You won’t be finding derriere warmers in back, but the rear outboard positions are comfortable enough and usable for larger sized teens and adults. As usual I set the driver’s seat for my height and still had about five inches ahead of my knees when sitting behind, plus another four over my head, which should make it ok for someone over six feet. Side-to-side room is plentiful too, optimal for two but capable of three, while my outside shoulder and hips benefited from about three to four inches of free space. As for fancy stuff, nice padded and stitched leatherette armrests on each door join a folding centre armrest with dual cupholders, while dual vents on the backside of the front centre console keep rear passengers aerated. 

2019 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum
Qashqai cargo space is very generous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Roomy for small families, empty nesters or just active lifestyle folks and all their stuff, plus well made, filled with features and fun to drive, the Qashqai delivers much more than its paltry price suggests, while it keeps giving long after its initial purchase thanks to superb fuel economy and good expected reliability. It’s no wonder Qashqai sales have been so strong in Canada and around the world. The Qashqai truly is a smart choice in the subcompact SUV class. 

 

 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Trevor Hofmann

2019 Jaguar XF S Road Test Review

2019 Jaguar XF S
It’s hard to argue against the 2019 Jaguar XF S’ styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Let me guess, that even if you live in one of Canada’s more established neighbourhoods you don’t often lay eyes on a Jaguar XF, let alone a lot of XE or XJ sedans. While once prolific in luxury crowds, four-door cars from Coventry are becoming rare sightings indeed. 

Thanks to the stunningly beautiful Mk II and extremely elegant XJ Series I, II and III that followed, not to mention the B-Type, C-Type and E-Type sports cars that were inspirational for today’s sensational F-Type, the Jaguar brand grew legendary, but this day and age it seems that luring luxury customers into anything lower to the ground than a crossover SUV is becoming much more difficult, and it’s not for a lack of styling. 

When the current XJ was completely reimagined for 2009, its wholly original, beautifully proportioned design set the stage for an entirely new lineup of Jaguar sedans and crossovers, but other than the latter lineup of SUVs, which are selling fairly well, it hasn’t exactly followed that bases-loaded homerun with an encore hit. 

The second-generation mid-size E-segment XF being reviewed here arrived in 2015 as a 2016 model, and is beautifully sculpted too. Like the XJ and almost every Jaguar vehicle it’s formed from aluminum panels and composites, but only the XF can claim the brand’s best-ever drag coefficient of 0.26. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
Gorgeous from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So it’s beautiful, lightweight and hails from an iconic brand, but that still doesn’t make it popular. It almost seems as if you need to be a curator of curious collectibles before stepping up and taking ownership of a car like the XF, but then again exclusivity has its privileges. It’s not like you’ll see one driving down the neighbourhood lane every day, or every other week for that matter. Crowd pleasers won’t like this one whit, but those who choose to be unique in order to stand out from that crowd will find the XF’s rarity a bonus. After all, while the XF is scarce, it’s hardly unusual in the way it goes about pleasing driver and occupants, combining a high level of old school charm with strong performance and plenty of highly advanced tech gear. 

Jaguar actually improved the XF’s technology for this 2019 model, so that all XF trims now incorporate the brand’s updated 10.0-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment touchscreen, which provides a larger display area to appreciate its completely new and wholly simpler graphics package (the classic red British telephone box ahead of a pastoral background and other scenes are now gone), easier visibility of the rearview camera, greater detail of the navigation mapping, plus plenty of other enhancements. If the more minimalist, arguably more sophisticated digital interface is not up to your standards, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration provide a new look when attached to your device, plus add proprietary features. Being that I’ve been an Android convert for the past few years (after getting fed up with lame iPhone batteries) I chose to use Jaguar’s stock system that’s much more appealing to look at. Incidentally, features like navigation and voice recognition are available in the XF’s second-rung Prestige trim and above. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
Sharp lines, stunning curves, LED headlights, 20-inch alloys, the XF S has it all. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Moving from tech to luxury, Jaguar’s super-soft Suedecloth is now standard on all XF roof pillars and headliners, as are aluminum treadplates with illuminated Jaguar branding, plus premium carpeted floor mats, metal foot pedals, chromed power seat switchgear, and a classy looking frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror. 

Speaking of standard, the base 2019 XF is the $59,100 Premium, while other trims include the $64,500 Prestige, and $67,800 R-Sport when opting for the 247 horsepower 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo four-cylinder; the $67,000 Prestige, $70,300 R-Sport, $72,300 300 SPORT and $79,100 Portfolio when choosing the 296 horsepower version of the same gasoline-powered mill; the $66,500 Prestige and $69,800 R-Sport when hooked up to the 180 horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel; and finally $75,300 for my tester’s 380 horsepower 3.5-litre supercharged V6-powered model’s sole S trim. These prices and trims, incidentally, plus packages and standalone options can be found right here at CarCostCanada, where you can also choose to save thousands by learning about available rebates and otherwise difficult to access dealer invoice pricing. 

The diversity of available XF engines is actually quite amazing and rare, but all of these engines focus their energies on one tried and tested eight-speed automatic gearbox, no matter the trim. The quick yet smooth transmission boasts an innovative rotating gear selector that automatically powers upwards after startup from an otherwise flush placement on the lower console between the front seats, this system requiring standard paddle shifters for utilizing the Jaguar Sequential Shift manual mode, while all-wheel drive is also standard. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
The LED taillight design is tastefully discrete. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Further improving control no matter the driving situation, all XF trims come fitted with Jaguar Drive Control featuring Standard, Eco, Dynamic (sport), and Rain/Ice/Snow driving modes, each making a considerable difference to comfort, performance and all of the above, while Torque Vectoring by Braking (TVBB), and hill launch assist further aid drivers in mastering most road conditions. 

Specific to my XF S tester, Adaptive Surface Response (AdSR) plus Configurable Dynamics and Adaptive Dynamics allow the choice of personal engine, suspension, steering, and transmission settings. All made a big difference to how this Jaguar responded to inputs, from being a comfortable, relaxed luxury car one moment, to a seriously responsive sports sedan the next. 

Together with all items already noted, the top-tier XF S shown on this page receives beefier 350-mm front brake rotors and red calipers all around, as well as 20-inch alloy wheels, the latter upgrade improving performance and styling measurably. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
The XF S interior wins on design and most materials, but comes up a bit short due to hard plastic surfaces. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Staying on the styling theme, the XF S also receives a unique “S” body kit that dresses up the car with a sportier front bumper, glossy black side sills and a gloss-black rear valance, plus a subtle rear deck spoiler. When stepping inside you’ll bypass special metal treadplates finished with unique “S” branding, while great looking Dark Hex aluminum inlays improve the instrument panel, rich Luxtec leatherette covers the dash top, and superbly comfortable, ultra-supportive “S” embossed 18-way powered sports seats ensconce driver and front passenger. 

On top of everything already mentioned, the XF S also includes proximity keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, an acoustic layer windshield, auto on/off headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, an electronic parking brake, a powered tilt and telescopic steering wheel, auto-dimming, power-folding, heated side mirrors with approach lamps and puddle lights, memory for those mirrors as well as the front seats, front seat warmers, mood lighting, a universal garage door opener, a backup camera, navigation, InControl Apps, Pro Services, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB port, two-zone auto HVAC, front and rear parking sonar, and more. 

Additionally, along with the segment’s usual active and passive safety systems, the XF S arrives standard with autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blindspot monitoring, closing vehicle sensing, reverse traffic monitoring, driver condition monitoring, etcetera. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
The cockpit and dash certainly looks good, and the driver setup is excellent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Over and above the standard XF S items already listed, my test car was upgraded to include a stunning Rossello Red paint job for $670; beautiful glossy black twinned five-spoke alloy wheels for $770; a special Black package featuring a glossy black mesh grille insert and surround, glossy black side vents, and the same inky treatment for the trunk garnish for $460; a Comfort and Convenience package for $2,200 that adds a overly excitable gesture-control system for the trunk’s powered lid (I’ll explain this in a moment); plus soft closing doors, three-way active cooled/ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats; a Technology package for $1,030 featuring a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, Pro Services, and a CD/DVD changer; a Driver Assistance package for $3,680 incorporating an overhead surround camera system, a forward-facing camera, 360-degree Park Distance Control, Park Assist semi-autonomous self-parking, dynamic cruise control with Queue Assist, blindspot assist, and traffic sign recognition with an intelligent speed limiter; a $1,330 head-up display system; a $410 heated windshield and heated washer jets package; plus $210 satellite and HD radio. 

Only the $2,230 Premium Interior Upgrade package was missing or my XF S would be deemed fully loaded, the improvement otherwise adding four-zone auto HVAC with an air quality sensor and auto air re-circulation, plus a cooled glove box, side window sunshades, a powered rear sunshade, and configurable mood lighting; plus I might have enjoyed one of the optional interior décor trims more too, particularly the carbon fibre; yet even the way Jaguar provided it, the XF S was sensational and its asking price of $85,850 quite reasonable, this $10,550 more than the base XF S. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
The fully digital gauge package is very well done. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All of the features just noted are fastened to a lightweight and extremely rigid bonded and riveted aluminum body shell that I happen find extremely attractive, while the interior is very well made from some of the industry’s nicest leathers, woods and metals. My test car featured an Ebony (aka black) leather and Light Oyster (grey) contrast-stitched cabin that also boasted gorgeous Grey Figured Ebony veneers throughout. While impressive, especially when compared to Jaguar’s smaller XE sedan, I won’t go so far as to claim that the XF leads its class when it comes to fit, finish, materials quality, digital interface supremacy, feature superiority, ultimate roominess, or any other superlative. Still, it gets a good grade for all noted categories, while its completely unique look, feel, and overall impressive performance warrants your undivided attention. 

Just like the more compact XE and full-size XJ, the XF actually drives like a smaller, lighter and more engaging car than its long, mid-size dimensions suggest, and most competitors can offer. Its previously noted 380 horsepower V6 responds with immediate energy that’s easily attributed to its sizeable displacement and aforementioned supercharger, which helps all 332 lb-ft of torque hit the ground running from launch, while its standard all-wheel drive makes wheel spin yesterday’s news in snow, rain or dry conditions, and the aforementioned ZF eight-speed clicks through its cogs with speed and precision. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
Jaguar updated its centre stack with this standard 10-inch touchscreen for 2019, complete with a new graphic interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The XF’s performance is its key calling card, from its steady, formidable (albeit exhaust-muted) 5.3-second zero-to-100km/h straight-line acceleration, to its sublime handling and excellent ride that’s brought about by a lightweight double-wishbone front suspension and integral link rear setup, the combination perfect for pushing the envelope through hard-pressed switchbacks at unmentionable speeds, or alternatively hauling down the highway or taxiing through town at more relaxed paces. The XF S is a sport-luxury sedan that can do it all. 

This said I had a few issues with my test car, particularly the fact that my top-tier model didn’t even include remote engine start on the otherwise fancy key fob. It’s available as part of the InControl Remote App you can download onto your smartphone, but there were plenty of disgruntled iTunes and Play Store owners who said it only worked 25-30 percent of the time, and being that I only tested it for a week and was never even informed of the app prior to the test so I could download it, wasn’t able to pre-warm the interior in winter (or hypothetically pre-chill the cabin in summer). 

Temperature settings in mind, I didn’t appreciate not having an auto mode for the heatable seats and steering wheel. Each needed to be switched on upon startup, and Jaguar only includes one ultra-hot setting for the steering wheel rim, forcing me to turn it on and off throughout my drive. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
The XF is roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Another quibble focuses on the overhead sunglasses holder that doesn’t even properly fit smallish wire rim glasses like my Ray-Ban aviators. I had to turn them upside down in order to stuff them inside and shut it closed, which meant their lenses were left rubbing against the harder side of the lid. 

On a more positive note, the dash corner vents whisk open in wonderful silence, which is equally cool to how the gear selector rises into place, but all the hard plastic found on the glove box lid, lower dash surfacing, console, and lower door panels didn’t impress anywhere near as well. 

Finally I get to that trunk lid I mentioned earlier in the review. Hyperactive might be a better term than overly excitable, but either way it was a convenience feature gone wrong. Let me explain: Basically it opens up whenever anyone with the key fob in purse or pocket walks past. Other carmakers that use this type of hands-free trunk opener, such as Hyundai and its Genesis luxury division, cause you to stand next to the back bumper for at least three seconds before it activates the automatic trunk lid, but my XF tester’s trunk kept popping open immediately upon sensing the key fob. Once, after pulling up at a shopping centre, the trunk sprang open as I walked past on my way toward the mall. Unfortunately this gave a nice preview of my valuables to any miscreant eyes nearby, which is certainly a security risk. Another time I kept the engine running (for less than a minute) while delivering something to an office I have regular business with (don’t worry, their parking lot/entrance is totally private), and voila, while walking past the XF’s backside the trunk lid popped open once again. It performed the annoying ritual while pumping gas too, and on other occasions. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
You can really stretch out in the comfortable back seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Fuel in mind, the XF achieves a Transport Canada rating of 12.0 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 10.4 combined, which is actually pretty decent for such an enthusiastic drivetrain strapped to such as generously proportioned luxury sedan, although I must point out that buyers willing to forgo some accelerative force for thriftier economy can choose the aforementioned turbo-diesel that gets a superb 7.8 city, 5.8 highway and 6.9 combined rating. Diesel is often significantly cheaper than gasoline too, and allows you to drive greater distances per tankful. 

While that trunk kept popping open I was continually reminded just how large it is. It measures a generous 541 litres (19.1 cubic feet), and better yet provides ultra-convenient 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats that let you lay longer items like skis down the middle while outboard rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable, warmer window seats. 

The XF is spacious for front and rear occupants as well, this due to a wheelbase that was lengthened considerably when the second-gen car arrived. By the numbers you’ll have 1,055 mm of legroom in front while your rear passengers will benefit from 957 mm, so you shouldn’t hear complaints from tagalongs when it comes to roominess. 

2019 Jaguar XF S
That’s one big trunk. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

At the end of my weeklong test I wouldn’t say I was in love with the 2019 XF S, but certainly grew to appreciate its many qualities despite its few quirks. Yes, it’s nowhere near perfect, but its larger touchscreen and other improvements make it better than ever, while its performance was excellent for all but those (like me) that have experienced this car with a supercharged V8. That in mind, I’d consider the XF even more seriously with one of its four-cylinder alternatives, for its economical and environmental benefits. Either way, Jaguar has most bases covered with the XF, making it a credible choice in this highly competitive mid-size luxury category. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS Road Test

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Last year’s WRX updates made an already great looking sport sedan look even better, and it even look more aggressively stylish in Sport-tech RS trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Can a non-price-related case be made for someone actually choosing to purchase the regular WRX over a WRX STI? After a week with the 2019 WRX Sport-tech RS I say yes, and I wasn’t even driving the automatic. 

That last point is a clear differentiator between regular WRX and STI, being that the latter can only be had with a six-speed manual gearbox. Therefore, anyone using their WRX as a daily driver, who wants more convenience and relaxation during their commutes, along with the usual high level of performance the WRX has become legendary for, whether blasting up circuitous backcountry roads during weekend road trips or just pushing Gs around freeway cloverleaves on their way to work, can pay a mere $1,300 more to do so with any one of the regular WRX trims, except this particular WRX Sport-tech RS that can only be had with a manual. 

To be clear, the WRX Sport-tech can be optioned out with the autobox, but you’ll need to replace the RS suffix from its trim designation with EyeSight. This won’t provide an identical model with different transmissions, but the similarities between the two should be close enough for those seeking a compromise between all-out performance and everyday ease. 

Before delving into those similarities and differences, not to mention itemizing features available with the other WRX trims, I wanted to touch on a few details of this very Sport-tech RS tester being reviewed. First off, I was delighted with its coat of World Rally Blue Pearl exterior paint, which while the same as the near identical Sport-tech RS I tested last year, remains a personal favourite colour thanks to its vibrant blue hue and its historical motorsport significance as the base livery of Subaru’s World Rally Championship winning glory years. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
While the Sport-tech RS model’s rear deck lid spoiler is discreet, its diffuser-style bumper cap and quad of tailpipes looks anything but. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All good and well, but why would Subaru give me a seemingly identical WRX test car within a given year? As I have learned, the company has updated the 2019 WRX infotainment system; the centre-mounted display now becoming one of the most important features in any new vehicle. The first improvement I noticed was the completely redesigned graphic interface, which is much more attractive and now in line with other updated models across the Subaru lineup (new 2020 Outback and Legacy aside). It’s highlighted by colourful smartphone/tablet-style circular candy drop digital buttons surrounded by squarish floating tiles on a star-speckled night sky-like deep blue 3D background, an attractive image for sure, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration are now part of both the base and top-tier systems. 

Our tester comes standard with the latter, the touchscreen still measuring 7.0 inches diagonally for a half-inch gain over the base display, and once again getting touch-sensitive quick access buttons down each side, which include Home, Map and Apps to the left and Info just above two sets of track seeking arrows on the right. The system also includes near-field communication (NFC) for faster phone connectivity (if your smartphone offers it), a Micro SD card slot, HD radio, new glossy black topped audio knobs, navigation mapping and routing, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, plus more. I find this new interface much easier to use, while the display’s clarity and depth of colour is excellent, easily matching the best in the mainstream business, and surpassing many. 

As for the rest of this WRX Sport-tech RS and its non-STI compatriots, they remain unchanged for 2019, meaning this model still features last year’s extensive styling updates, chassis improvements, and other refinements, not to mention the a safety feature. Let me go into more detail. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The WRX looks especially attractive when digging into the details. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Regarding styling, Subaru reworked the WRX front grille and bumper design for 2018, as well as the door trim inside, while a new electroluminescent primary gauge cluster boasting a really attractive high-resolution colour TFT centre display was added too. Additionally, the 5.9-inch colour multi-information dash-top display received new graphics that look fabulous. This sporty interface, which pays homage to the secondary ancillary turbo, temp and oil pressure analogue gauges of past performance cars in both its placement and functionality within, is also completely unique in this class, adding that special custom allure to the WRX that’s missing from many rivals. 

What’s more, rear passengers continue to benefit from last year’s new fold-down centre armrest with integrated cupholders, while all occupants can now enjoy easier conversations thanks to better insulation and other refinements that result in reduced noise, vibration and harshness levels, plus an improved ride from a retuned suspension setup, and lastly the car is made better overall from a stronger battery. 

While all of the above are obvious improvements, I personally really like the new grille design too, especially its blackened borders and black mesh insert, plus the racing-spec-style multi-component lower front fascia with its matte black centre vent looks menacingly intimidating, just like a formidable sport sedan should, as do the larger, squarer matte black fog lamp bezels. Lastly, this Sport-tech RS model’s twinned five-spoke gunmetal grey-painted cast aluminum alloys on 245/40 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx RT performance tires framing red brake calipers look superb—base and Sport models come fitted with grey 15-spoke 17-inch alloys on the same tires measuring 235/45. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Gotta love the dark-grey alloy wheels under swollen fenders with integrated rear venting. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All of the above, combined with everything else upgraded last year, like the massive hood scoop, redesign headlamps, and race-inspired matte black rear diffuser with quad chromed tailpipes, plus everything that appears to mostly be pulled forward from the 2015 through 2017 version, such as the coke-bottle fenders with integrated engine vents bearing chromed “WRX” appliques, subtle rear deck lid spoiler (that I like much more than the STI’s gigantic wing—the smaller lip spoiler can be had with the STI too), etcetera, look fabulous. 

Also carryover (but who’s complaining), non-STI WRX variants once again include Subaru’s brilliant 2.0-litre direct-injection twin-scroll turbocharged boxer four, making a healthy 268-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s getting pretty close to the STI’s 310 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, and considering you can get into the former for just $29,995 plus freight and fees, or $38,995 as tested, which is much more affordable than the latter model’s $41,995 base price, or the more comparable $47,295 STI with its Sport-tech package, the regular WRX starts to look like a very smart choice. Then factor in that most of its similarly priced challengers don’t measure up with respect to performance, while also not offering Subaru’s standard Symmetrical-AWD (or any AWD at the WRX’ price point), and it makes a sound case to Canadian performance enthusiasts. 

As noted, connecting engine to driveline is a standard as-tested six-speed manual, but many are not aware that the optional automatic is actually a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the bane of gearheads everywhere. This said, CVTs have come a long way in recent years, and Subaru’s Sport Lineartronic design is quite impressive thanks to quick-shifting steering wheel paddles that prod both six- and eight-speed manual modes, plus the benefit of Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE). I know, it’s difficult to hear the words WRX and CVT being used in the same sentence, let alone learn they’re being incorporated into the same car, but after testing one in 2017 I was positively surprised. This doesn’t mean I’d opt for one if my personal money was on the line, but I certainly wouldn’t criticize anyone for choosing to. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Here’s a close-up of the diffuser-style bumper cap, and one set of the twinned exhaust system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

More importantly to WRX purists, the manual gearbox I tested received a new shift lever along with improved shifter and clutch feel as part of last year’s redesign, and the former remains as wonderfully smooth and accurate as last year’s update made it, while clutch weight is ideal and take-up more responsive without being grabby. 

As you may have guessed, there’s no change in straight-line acceleration from the identically powered 2018 model, with the manual still good for a claimed zero to 100km/h run of 5.4 seconds, and the CVT capable of achieving the same feat in a respectable 5.9 seconds. Neither time is the stuff of legend, of course, but I can’t see many driving enthusiasts being underwhelmed with the regular WRX’ off-the-line performance, while those that opt for the CVT will surprisingly own bragging rights to the fastest top speed specs, the autobox adding 8 km/h to the manual’s terminal velocity with a nice round total of 240 km/h compared to 232. 

As I said last year, most modifications were about refinement, and included improved steering feel and a more compliant ride that doesn’t compromise at-the-edge handling. Being that my aging body appreciates having a bit more comfort now than when younger, as is the case for many WRX owners, this friendlier suspension setup is a very good thing. It was during regular errand runs around town that I most appreciated the improvements, yet when opportunity provided an empty lane on a winding rural road the new WRX’ firmly damped fully independent suspension remained as resolute to pavement as it’s always been, especially over broken and uneven tarmac that didn’t unsettle the chassis one iota. 

While WRX performance is commendable, those seeking out a four-cylinder compact model for fuel-efficiency can only take a modicum of solace in a Transport Canada rating that’s only better than the STI’s 14.3 L/100km city, 10.7 highway and 12.7 combined rating, because with a claimed rating of 12.6 L/100km city, 9.6 highway and 11.2 combined when mated to its standard manual gearbox, or 11.3, 8.5 and 10.0 respectively with the CVT, it’s not exactly the thriftiest sport model in its compact class. In fact, plenty of more powerful alternatives deliver much better economy, yet fortunately for Subaru this is hardly the priority of most WRX buyers. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The Sport-tech RS gets these superb leather and microsuede covered Recaro seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now that we’re talking practicalities, the WRX remains a pragmatist’s sports car. It’s capable of seating four to five in comfort, plus houses plenty of life’s gear in its 340-litre (12-cubic-foot) trunk, plus more when expanding its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. Also, a trunk provides a great deal more security than available to the WRX’ hot hatch competitors that are more susceptible to break and entry crime. 

I was once again impressed by the WRX’ interior quality too. For instance, its instrument panel is wholly formed from premium soft-touch synthetic, across the very top of the dash and all the way down to the halfway point of the centre stack, while the door uppers are comfortably pliable from front and back as well, plus filled with cushion-backed leather-like inserts and padded armrests, that were all stitched in red no less. 

Red in mind, I like that Subaru took the tasteful route when highlighting the WRX interior, unlike some of its less experienced rivals that look as if their red embellishments were smeared on by a tweenager over-applying rouge and lip gloss (Civic Type R, I’m talking to you). The WRX Sport-tech RS model’s just noted red stitching also covers the door inserts, steering wheel rim, shifter boot, and bolsters of the seats that are also emblazoned with a thick strip of red leather, which is a nice contrast to the black leather and microsuede material found elsewhere. Lastly, a stylish circle of red piping wraps around the centre of the seat like a frame for the white embroidered “RECARO” logo, this nicely matching the red piping around the headrest just above. The interior’s finishing touch is a splash of carbon-fibre style trim across the dash. 

Most of what I’ve just described is specific to the Sport-tech RS as noted, which incidentally was new last year, but keep in mind there are plenty of other WRX trims worth investigating. Along with the sub-$30k base model and $39,095 Sport-tech EyeSight already mentioned, Subaru offers $33,195 Sport trim and a Sport-tech without the $2,300 RS upgrade for $36,495. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The WRX gets a sporty cockpit, with a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, metal pedals, and plenty of other stylish details. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, a special $40,995 雷雨 Raiu Edition was added for 2019, featuring one really attractive exclusive Cool Grey Khaki colour. It adds a number of STI-style exterior details such as a sharper front lip spoiler, extended side skirts and a much larger rear wing spoiler, plus big 19-inch alloys encircling the STI’s yellow-painted Brembo six-pot front and two-pot rear brake calipers over ventilated and cross-drilled rotors. Some additional 雷雨 Raiu Edition features include the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) that incorporates blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist, plus it also gets a powered moonroof, a 10-way powered driver’s seat including lumbar, the same ultrasuede-enhanced sport seats as in the RS, plus red seatbelts. 

Incidentally, all 2019 WRX trim, package and option prices were sourced right here on CarCostCanada, where you can also find important info on manufacturer rebate programs and otherwise hard to find dealer invoice pricing that could actually save you thousands of dollars. Make sure to check this out thoroughly before you buy. 

Specific to the WRX Sport-tech RS tested here, a set of uprated Jurid brake pads clamp down on a standard set of 316 mm front and 286 mm rear rotors via the red brake calipers noted earlier, while the cabin features the luxurious black and red partial-leather/ultrasuede upholstery also mentioned before (ad nauseum), while the driver’s seat is downgraded from 10-way power to just eight adjustments due to the much more inherently supportive Recaro sport seats that my backside happened to love. 

On top of this, my tester’s Sport-tech RS trim added proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, the larger 7.0-inch centre touchscreen filled with the updated system graphics noted earlier, plus Subaru’s StarLink app, additional apps such as Yelp, Best Parking, Glympse, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stock market info, and a 320-watt nine-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system that sounded awesome, plus two USB ports. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The top multi-information display was updated last year and looks great, while the lower touchscreen is totally revised for 2019, and is a major improvement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Items pulled up from Sport trim include wiper-integrated automatic LED headlights with new steering-responsive cornering, LED fog lamps, LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, welcome lighting, a tastefully discreet rear deck lid spoiler, plus the aforementioned powered glass sunroof and SRVD blindspot safety upgrade. 

Lastly, base model features pulled up to Sport-tech RS trim include a quad-tipped high-performance exhaust, integrated roof rack brackets, a windshield wiper de-icer, a well-designed leather-wrapped and red-stitched multifunction flat-bottom sport steering wheel, single-zone automatic climate control, heatable front seats, StarLink smartphone integration (including Aha radio), a backup camera, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, aux and USB ports, voice activation, and more. 

While Sport-tech RS trim doesn’t come standard with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistive systems, I need to mention exactly what this is just in case you want your WRX with as much active safety and convenience as possible. As noted, you can upgrade the WRX Sport-tech with EyeSight, and when you do it becomes one of the most technologically forward-thinking cars in its class, thanks to automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lead vehicle start alert, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, reverse automatic braking, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and lane keeping assist. 

So equipped the WRX earns a best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating, the “+” rather hard to get in the small car class and only shared with three other brands, none of which compete directly with the WRX. Even more impressive, Subaru has four models that can be equipped to meet this high grade of advanced safety, more than any other automaker in the small car segment. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Most sports cars don’t offer a comfortable, accommodating rear seat, but the WRX is not like most sports cars. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Even better, Subaru has more IIHS Top Safety Pick + rated vehicles than any other mainstream volume manufacturer, including more mid-size models with the coveted safety rating, and the same status for every vehicle it produces other than the Toyota co-designed/built BRZ, for a total of eight models. No other brand even comes close, with Toyota only elevating two of its models to this rarified height, Honda just one, and Nissan with none. This, when combined with the extra all-weather safety provided by these models’ standard Symmetrical all-wheel drive, is as good as it gets. 

So while the WRX isn’t exactly a leader in fuel-efficiency, it’s ahead of the pack in almost every other way, and makes a strong case for itself when compared to its key performance-focused competitors as well as when put up against the pricier STI. If money were no object my choice would be the latter, but I can totally understand why someone might feel compelled to choose a regular WRX, especially when it’s as nicely equipped as this Sport-tech RS. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

All-new Mercedes CLA promises big improvements when it arrives this fall

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Say hello to the fabulous looking new 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Since arriving on the subcompact luxury scene six years ago, the Mercedes-Benz CLA has been in a constant sparring session with Audi’s A3, but when the challenger from Ingolstadt said so long to its conventionally-powered five-door hatchback and we all said hello to an entirely new four-door sport sedan, the four-ringed brand has enjoyed a slight sales lead over its sporty four-door coupe competitor. 

Of course, M-B and Audi aren’t the only two battling it out for entry-level premium car customers, with Mercedes’ very own B-Class MPV luring in plenty each year from its faithful following, not to mention Acura with its ILX sedan, BMW with its 2 Series coupe and convertible, etcetera, but the problems facing this class aren’t as simple as a handful of rivals doing their best to one-up each other anymore, but rather getting noticed in a luxury market that’s a lot more about SUVs than anything that hugs the pavement so closely. 

For this reason we’ve all got to give Mercedes a round of applause (or maybe a standing ovation) for courageously hitting back with myriad car models in most every luxury segment while others are fleeing. In fact, Mercedes will soon offer more models within the subcompact luxury sector than some competitors have cars, period. Perhaps we can chalk this up to being in the automotive industry longer than any rival, a reality that provided experience through plenty of changes in market sentiment, or possibly it’s just plain stubbornness, but whatever the reason, this German brand not only offers six sedans, two wagons, seven coupes, and six convertibles for a total of 21 different body styles you can purchase right here in Canada, right now, but on top of these the Stuttgart-based marque will be adding the A-Class sedan later this year, bumping its car count up to 22, a mind-blowing pavement-hugging lineup in an auto market that’s supposedly only purchasing high-riding SUVs these days. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With completely new styling from front to back, the new CLA provides a more aggressive new look that’s bound to excite compact luxury buyers. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Of course Mercedes-Benz, Canada’s number one-selling luxury automotive retailer, is capable of filling nearly every niche anyone can conjure up because of its enviable brand equity. Build it and they will come, or so the paraphrased saying goes, and for the most part it’s true. Just look at this subcompact luxury car sector that most brands aren’t even participating in. Mercedes’ B-Class has been attracting entry-level buyers since 2005 when it arrived as a 2006 model, while the same Canadian M-B retailers have been selling the CLA since 2013 (check out pricing and more for the current CLA-Class right here on CarCostCanada now), and the new A-Class hatchback since January. 

Through the first two months of 2019, Mercedes’ collective subcompact luxury sales (including the B-Class) tallied up to 606 units, which dwarfed the 350 Audi A3s sold into the same market, let alone BMW that only managed to sell 139 2 Series and i3 models during the same two months, and as noted we haven’t even seen sales from the lower priced M-B A-Class sedan kick in, or for that matter this entirely new CLA four-door coupe that will hit the streets this fall, building on a success story that’s been pretty impressive so far. 

“With the first CLA we celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 vehicles and created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe in the compact class,” says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
These are by far the most complex LED headlamps in the subcompact luxury sector. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Interestingly, more than two thirds of Canadian CLA buyers were new to Mercedes during that model’s peak sales stint, while it’s also critical to point out that these new M-B owners were seven years younger than the brand’s usual average age of clientele. Later this year Canadians will be given the choice of four recently updated or completely new subcompact models (five if you divide the A-Class into its current hatchback and upcoming sedan body types), with this CLA being the most expressive, and sportiest in the collection, and plenty of these newfound Mercedes owners will more than likely stay with the brand when it comes time to trade in and escalate up to fancier more profitable models within the lineup, as their income increases with age and experience. 

“The new CLA is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” continued Seeger. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets a new benchmark for the entire class.” 

There’s a very big reason Mercedes chose the Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to debut its new CLA last January, the massive Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment interface that, together with its integrated digital instrument cluster, spans much of the car’s instrument panel, but its attractive new styling caused more of an initial crowd. 

Most should agree the new CLA looks more mature due to its seemingly stern forward-slanting sport grille design, which Mercedes claimed is “reminiscent of a shark’s nose” in its press release. Found in front of a lengthier hood highlighted by sculpted “powerdomes”, the new grille is bookended by a more angular set of LED Multibeam headlights incorporating 18 individually-controllable LED elements, all hovering above a more intricately detailed lower front apron. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Like the headlights, the new CLA’s LED taillights are hardly short on signature lighting elements. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Additionally, the new CLA boasts muscled up side panels with flared fenders, while its entire roofline has been positioned farther toward the rear for a more traditional GT design. The more conventional look continues at the back thanks to a rectangular trunk cutout between totally new LED tail lamps that, like the lenses up front, are narrower and laid out higher and more horizontally for a wider overall appearance. Not only fresher and arguably better looking, the extensively wind tunnel-tested 2020 CLA is now much slicker through the air resulting in a 0.23 coefficient of drag. 

“As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’. It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear with a strong distinctive ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “In short, the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.” 

The updated CLA’s interior is obviously focused on a younger customer, the vivid orange highlights of the show car and sizeable conjoined digital displays right out of the iPad, Surface and Galaxy Tab playbooks. The fixed-freestanding widescreen combination includes a gauge cluster to the left, which removes the need for an instrument hood altogether, and an infotainment touchscreen to the right, the latter controlled by Mercedes’ trademark palm-rest and new touchpad (the scrolling wheel is gone) on the lower console. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA’s dash design makes everything else in the subcompact luxury segment look old. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Do-it-yourself shifting comes via a set of paddles behind the 9 and 3 o’clock positions of the beautifully detailed leather-clad flat-bottom sport steering wheel, while above the previously noted infotainment controller is an elegantly thin climate control interface. Lastly, if that mammoth display didn’t first tug at your eyeballs, the stunning turbine-style circular HVAC ducts across the dash certainly should have. 

Back to the mother of all in-car electronic interfaces, which was actually introduced in the new A-Class a year ago and E-Class before that, the graphically stimulating multi-information display and surrounding digital dials sits next to Mercedes new high-resolution MBUX infotainment system as noted earlier. Along with fully customizable displays, Augmented Reality navigation that reportedly provides a much more realistic mapping system plus more, the new system’s computing power is greatly enhanced over the CLA’s outgoing system, and even features software that can “learn and respond to natural speech,” said Mercedes-Benz. 

If you’ve ever struggled to get a voice activation system to understand your prompts you may be glad to hear this next bit of news, because M-B’s new voice assistant is said to communicate more closely to Amazon Alexa, with the simple prompt of “Hey Mercedes” leading to more capability than any other in-car voice system offered thus far. What’s more, it’s intelligent enough to recognize the speech patterns of the individual asking the question, even when others are engaged in a different conversation. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The MBUX system’s graphics are so mesmerizing you might just find yourself driving off the road. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“The latest version of voice control for MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries,” said Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. “What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passenger’s conversations. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.” 

Additionally, Mercedes says their new MBUX voice assistant can even recognize and respond to more complex indirect questions, such as “Find Italian restaurants with at least four stars that are open for lunch but exclude pizza shops,” for example. It can also manage a greater assortment of subjects, with other press release-cited examples including “Hey Mercedes, How did the Toronto Raptors play?” when referencing sports news, or “How has the Apple share price performed compared to Microsoft?” for its take on business news. If you need a quick calculation, MBUX can do that for you too, with the example given being, “What is the square roof of 9?” while Mercedes provided the questions “How big is Texas?” and “What is the fat content of avocados?” for the general knowledge category. 

While some potential buyers may ante up for the new CLA just to for MBUX alone, plenty of others will appreciate the car’s larger overall size. It now measures 48 millimetres (1.9 inches) longer at 4,688 mm (184.5 in), while its wheelbase has been stretched by 30 mm (1.2 in) at 2,729 mm (107.4 in). Additionally, it spans 53 mm (2.1 in) wider at 1,830 mm (72.0 in) without the side mirrors, and finally its roofline is 2 mm (0.1 in) lower at 1,439 mm (56.6 in). 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With infotainment that rivals the best of today’s tablets, the new CLA should appeal to younger buyers and the young at heart. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

As you can guess it’s more accommodating inside, but while those up front enjoy 17 mm (0.6 in) of additional headroom, and rear passengers get 3 mm (0.1 in) more space overhead, whereas shoulder room has been improved by 9 mm (0.3 in) up front and 22 mm (0.8 in) in the rear, plus front to rear elbow room grows by 35 and 44 mm (1.4 and 1.7 in) respectively, front legroom has actually shrunken by one millimetre, while legroom in the back seat lengthens by just a single millimetre as well. 

The cargo compartment is smaller too, but just by 10 litres (0.3 cubic feet) to a still-sizeable 460 litres (16.2 cu ft), while on the positive the new CLA’s squarer trunk lid width increases by a whopping 262 mm (10.3 in), plus the load floor was widened by 113 mm (4.4 in) wider and deepened by 24 mm (0.9 in). 

Lift the opening at the other end and you’ll once again find a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine underneath, and while Mercedes hasn’t shared performance figures for its most affordable CLA 250 variant yet, it will likely measure up to the new A 250 Hatchback, which makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque for a 13 horsepower gain and identical twist. Putting power down to the front wheels or 4MATIC all-wheel drive is Mercedes’ in-house 7G-DCT twin-clutch automated gearbox, with a beefed up version of the transmission and standard AWD expected to be included in the (finger’s crossed) AMG variant, the current performance model good for 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
An elegantly thin HVAC panel floats above the CLA’s minimalist lower console, replete with an all-new touchpad infotainment controller. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

An increased dimension not yet mentioned is track width, which is up a healthy 63 mm (2.5 in) at the front wheels and 55 mm (2.1 in) in the rear, while the CLA also benefits from a lower centre of gravity, all of which should combine for a big improvement in overall performance. Additional chassis improvements include a Direct-Steer system and hydromounts up front, while the rear suspension includes a decoupled multi-link axle that reduces NVH, plus bigger stabilizer bars for reducing body roll. Lastly, 18-inch wheels shod in 225/45 tires should come standard, while 19-inch alloys wearing 225/40 rubber will be available. 

And what about advanced driver assistance and safety systems? Standard with the CLA will be Active Brake Assist, while Active Lane Keep Assist, which helps to centre drivers within their lane and prevents them from unexpectedly veering off the road, will be optional by choosing the Intelligent Drive Package that also incorporates Pre-Safe Plus with rear traffic warning and an automatic backup braking system. 

Also notable, the Intelligent Drive Package, which debuted in Mercedes’ flagship S-Class, can pilot the CLA autonomously in certain circumstances, but Mercedes is quick to point out that this semi-autonomous system still needs “cooperative driver support,” or at least it will until its many advanced functions are allowed to work on their own. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
M-B adds a lot more width to new CLA’s interior. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Produced in Kecskemét, Hungary, the redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA should help increase Mercedes’ command of the subcompact luxury car market when it joins the new A-Class sedan for autumn 2019 availability (find new A-Class Sedan and Hatchback pricing and more right here on CarCostCanada now), not to mention the A-Class Hatchback, GLA-Class subcompact crossover SUV and who knows what else (but according to Mercedes more are coming), and by so doing secure an entirely new generation of three-pointed star devotees. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Road Test

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Stylish enough for you? Volvo is now one of the more attractive brands, no matter the segment it competes in. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Let’s face it. If a given compact luxury car isn’t stamped with a three-pointed star, a set of four intertwined rings, or a blue and white roundel it’s going to have a difficult time getting noticed anywhere in Canada. Mercedes-Benz’ C-Class, Audi’s A4 and A5, plus BMW’s 3 and 4 Series pretty much own this highly contested market segment, which therefore leaves a slew of bit players squabbling over leftovers, but then again the models just noted are no longer the premium sector powerhouse combination they once were. 

Now the majority in this class are beleaguered by their own compact luxury crossover SUV brilliance, or more specifically, despite year-over-year sales of the BMW X3, for instance, being up a sizeable 48.6-percent from calendar year 2017 to 2018, deliveries of the once bellwether 3 Series were down 19.5 percent last year, and the significantly lower volume 4 Series off by 5.4 percent during the same 12 months. 

Not every D-segment car bled red ink, mind you, with the just noted C-Class up by 6.5 percent, the Infiniti Q50 gaining 6.8 percent of additional ground, and Audi’s A5 improving its sales by an astonishing 25 percent, albeit after a complete overhaul relieved pent-up demand. As you may imagine, some other some rivals experienced a great deal more contraction than the BMW 3 Series during 2018, including the Lexus RC that saw its sales plummet by a shocking 37.9 percent, plus the Jaguar XE which fell by 27.8 percent, the Cadillac ATS that was off some 25.4 percent, the Acura TLX that dropped 25.2 percent, the Infiniti Q60 which was under water by 24.2 percent, and the Audi A4 having slipped backward by a surprising 20.3-percent. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
It’s sleek styling does more than just look good, it provides excellent aerodynamics too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such massive losses make the two Volvo 60 series models’ slight downturn of 5.1 percent appear much less significant, and to shed yet more light on why they dropped in year-over-year popularity, the V60 sport wagon experienced such amazing growth from 2016 through 2017 (the old S60 sedan was part of these numbers as well) at 99.7 percent, dipping slightly the following year was inevitable. 

Still, measuring success in this segment has less to do with modest gains in sales percentages as it does with sales volume, and to that end both 60-series Volvos were only able to lure in 1,245 Canadian buyers collectively through all of 2018, which pales in comparison to the 11,556 C-Class sedans, coupes, convertibles and wagons sold into this country, or the 10,173 Audi A4 sedans and crossover wagons, that number also including A5 convertibles plus two- and four-door coupes, and lastly the 9,733 BMW 3 Series sedans and wagons, and 4 Series’ convertibles plus two- and four-door coupes. 

All others were a far cry less popular, with Infiniti’s two models combining for 3,424 units, the duo of Lexus cars (excluding the ES) managing to attract just 3,163 takers, the Acura TLX earning only 2,397 deliveries, and the soon to be discontinued Cadillac ATS luring in 1,615 new buyers, while far below the Volvo 60 series cars was the new Genesis G70 that found 967 new owners, the Jaguar XE with 571 out the showroom door, and finally the Alfa Romeo Giulia with just 510 units down the road. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
R-Design trim includes plenty of unique exterior styling upgrades, including this modified grille. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such talk might possibly cause you to forget about any other D-segment brands than Mercedes, BMW and Audi, but I recommend taking a step back and considering some of the others on offer, because just being popular doesn’t necessarily translate into better. In fact, you may find the new 2019 Volvo S60 matches your personal taste and fulfills your lifestyle to a much greater degree. 

There was once a time that Volvo was respected first and foremost for safety, followed by stalwart durability, and while such worthy traits are still high on the luxury brand’s list of attributes, the former most recently verified by IIHS Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus ratings for two of its more recently redesigned models, as well as its host of standard advanced driver assistance features such as Driver Alert Control, automatic front collision warning, full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, lane keeping assist, and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, plus all the expected active and passive safety items, even including a driver’s knee airbag, front whiplash protection, and pyrotechnical seatbelt pretensioners in all seating positions, there’s a lot more to the brand’s desirability now than ever before. 

Before getting into that, I wanted to point out what Oncoming Lane Mitigation is referring to. If the new S60 sedan’s sensors detect a head-on collision, the new oncoming braking system will automatically activate full braking force a mere two-tenths of a second before impact, resulting in vehicle speed reduction of 10 km/h before impact, says Volvo, which could potentially save lives, or at least minimize injuries. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Fashionable LED headlights, sharp lower fascia trim, and these optional 19-inch alloys helped my tester stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

On top of the S60’s list of non-safety and durability attributes is styling, but this said I’m not going to delve into design very much this time around, because the new model’s full LED “Thor’s Hammer” headlamps have been discussed ad nauseum in all of my recent Volvo road tests and news stories, as have the “hook” or C-shaped LED tail lamps now framing the backside of Volvo’s two new sedans. My personal preference with respect to overall styling leans more toward the sportier S60 when put up against the previously reviewed S90, but I think both Volvo four-door models look great, measuring up to, and in some ways surpassing their aforementioned rivals. 

So how does the new S60 fit into its D-segment dimensionally? It’s been given a dose of steroids compared to the second-generation 2010–2018 model it replaces, now measuring 133 millimetres (5.2 inches) longer from front to back at 4,761 millimetres (187.4 inches), while its wheelbase has been lengthened by 96 mm (3.8 in) to 2,872 mm (113.1 in). This said the new car’s width is down some 15 mm (0.6 in) to just 1,850 mm (72.8 in), plus its roofline has been lowered by 53 mm (2.1 in). 

Rear legroom is the direct benefactor of the longer wheelbase, resulting in a back seating area that’s much more spacious than it was before, with room to move around and wonderfully comfortable outboard seats boasting superb lumbar support. The comfort quotient is even more pronounced up front, where my R-Design trimmed tester was fitted with six-way power contoured sport seats featuring four-way power-adjustable lumbar that easily found my lower back’s sweet spot. What’s more, the driver’s seat includes a power-activated extendable squab that ideally cupped under my knees for even more support and comfort. Standard two-way memory made it easy to get back to a previously chosen seat setting, but one of my favourite R-Design seat features was the Fine Nappa leather covering all positions from front to back, highlighted by sporty contrast stitching that matched yet more off-white thread throughout the rest of the cabin. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
No rival has LED taillights that look like these. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As sharp as the seats look I don’t think they’ll be first to grab your attention when sitting behind the wheel, because the S60 R-Design interior is so impressive you’ll be more likely to get distracted by its contemporary yet classically luxurious take on design, not to mention all the brilliantly detailed metal accents and plush surfaces. 

Unique to the R-Design is a three-spoke leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, metal sport pedals, R-Design branded floor mats, and R-Design etched metal door sills, while additional interior highlights include a black headliner, a large 12.3-inch TFT gauge package, a sizeable vertically-positioned centre touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, and more, plus four-zone automatic climate control with nicely sorted rear controls, and the list goes on. I really like the R-Design’s unique Metal Mesh accents, and some of that switchgear mentioned earlier is downright jewel-like, particularly the sparkling ignition dial and rotating drive mode selector cylinder, the latter of which let’s you choose between Comfort, Eco and Dynamic settings. Truly, the eye-arresting opulence found in the new 2019 S60, which mirrors most new Volvo models, will be sure to wow anyone moving up from their old S60, let alone one of the cars it competes against. 

As mentioned in my V6 sport wagon review, I was fortunate enough to have it in my possession for three weeks over the Christmas holidays. It was kitted out in top-tier Inscription guise, which while a bit pricier than this R-Design, whether we’re talking that V60 or this S60, doesn’t get many more features. Inscription trim is simply a more luxuriously styled version of any Volvo model, whereas the R-Design designation reveals sport themed styling and performance, which leaves the Momentum as the base entry-level model, albeit very nice just the same. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The S60 R-Design provides one of the nicest interiors in its class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I expect Volvo will make its T8 AWD Polestar performance trim available for the S60 sometime soon as well, which in other models includes a plug-in hybrid powertrain that’s good for 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque thanks to its internal combustion engine being this S60 R-Design’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder. 

Both R-Design and Inscription models come standard with this top-line T6 AWD powertrain, while this potent combination is made optional with Momentum trim, which otherwise comes with Volvo’s standard T5 FWD powertrain in base guise. The lesser engine features the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine sans the supercharger, resulting in 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, whereas the T6 AWD provides a more robust 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. 

Each powertrain is made standard with automatic idle start/stop, a technology that helps minimize tailpipe emissions while reducing fuel consumption by temporarily killing the engine while the car is standing still idling. Together with a number of other efficiency features it helps the T5 FWD model receive a rating of 9.9 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 8.4 combined, while this T6 AWD version is capable of 11.1 in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 9.4 combined. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Beautiful design and high quality materials come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I don’t know about you, but I was a lot more interested in how the S60 R-Design drove than how little fuel I could get away with using, despite what seem like never-ending fuel price increases in my part of the world. Rest assured that it’s a lot more fun to pilot down a twisting two-lane country back road than my V60 Inscription tester was, not that the stylish sport wagon was a slouch by any sense of the imagination. Still, the S60 felt quicker in a straight line, thanks to fast-reacting all-wheel drive making the most of its sticky optional 235/40R19 Pirelli all-season rubber. Those meaty tires immediately found grip, allowing the potent little 2.0-litre powerplant to ramp up speed quickly, its eight-speed automatic gearbox an ideal compatriot, especially with Dynamic sport mode engaged. Despite its quick-shifting capability, the transmission was wonderfully smooth, while its steering wheel paddle shifters provided enough go-fast connectivity to keep my fingers in play. Adding to the fun, the S60 R-Design’s exhaust creates sonorous notes from behind when the throttle is pegged, yet is otherwise silent like the car’s well-insulated cabin. Truly, the S60 R-Design does a nice balancing act between sport and luxury. 

Likewise, the S60 R-Design does a commendable job straightening curves, due partially to lowered sport suspension that includes firmer shocks for stiffer, flatter handling through quick corners, resulting in a stable, predictable sport sedan even when hurled nonchalantly into hairpin curves, some of these corners off-camber and surfaced with uneven tarmac. I’ve taken some of the S60’s challengers through these sections and not all proved as agile, the S60 R-Design not getting unglued when flung back and forth through continual left, right, and left turns either. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The R-Design’s standard gauge cluster is a TFT panel that measures 12.3 inches. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

If you weren’t aware, the new S60 sits on Volvo’s SPA, a.k.a. it’s Scalable Product Architecture, which underscores the brand’s S90 luxury flagship sedan as well as the majority of its new models. SPA features aluminum double wishbones up front and a unique integral link design in back, the latter incorporating a transverse lightweight composite leaf spring. Additionally, the S60 includes driver-selectable low, medium and high personal power steering settings to aid feel, while the car’s brakes are a good match to its handling prowess and accelerative force, providing good binding power when stomped upon, as well as smooth progression no matter how hard, or soft, the centre pedal is pressed. Still, as capable as the S60 R-Design was at heightening my senses when extracting its full performance potential, it always kept its luxury sedan roots intact due to impressive ride quality and the superbly comfortable driver’s seat noted earlier. 

Ride and handling in mind, the S60 R-Design, priced at $52,400 plus freight and fees, normally rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels, while yet unmentioned features pulled up from its $42,400 base Momentum T5 FWD trim include rain-sensing wipers, Road Sign Information (RSI), an auto-dimming centre mirror, a powered panoramic sunroof, a Clean Zone Air Quality system, a humidity sensor, rear parking sensors, a backup camera with active guidelines, voice recognition, two USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio, Volvo On-Call featuring remote start and vehicle tracking, a 170-watt 10-speaker audio system, Sirius/XM satellite radio, heatable front seats with aforementioned driver’s side memory, a 120-volt three-pronged household-style power outlet in the rear console, power-folding rear seat headrests, plus more on the inside, while the exterior features dual chromed tailpipes across the entire line, plus this model gets a special R-Design front grille, auto high beams and active bending for the LED headlamps, fog lamps with active bending, glossy black exterior trim (including the side mirror housings), puddle lamps under the door handles, proximity keyless entry, etcetera. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Awesome surround camera was really helpful. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I particularly liked my test car’s beautiful coat of Fusion Red Metallic paint, an option well worth the extra $900. It’s one of five available colours and a single no-cost standard Black Stone hue, while all R-Design trimmed cars receive a Charcoal black interior theme. If you were to choose the base Momentum, the exterior paint selection grows to seven colours and available interior themes widen as well, while the Inscription upgrade gives you a choice of eight outer colours yet fewer cabin combinations, but take note the Momentum model’s upgradable upholstery options don’t cost anything at all when moving up to Inscription trim. 

The previously lauded 19-inch alloys were a $1,000 improvement by the way, while my tester’s additional options included a graphical head-up display that projected key info, such as route guidance directions, onto the windscreen for just $1,150; while its Bowers & Wilkins stereo came with 15 sensational speakers and 1,100 watts of over-lording power, making it a great way to spend $3,750. 

Additional extras included a Climate Package with heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats for $1,250; a Convenience Package sporting Volvo’s superb Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system, Adaptive Cruise Control, and a Homelink garage door opener plus compass integrated into the centre mirror for $1,500; and lastly a Vision Package incorporating a wonderfully useful 360-degree surround parking camera, easy-to-operate Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, always appreciated front parking sensors, even more welcome auto-dimming power-retracting side mirrors, plus blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert for $1,800. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Love these Nappa leather-covered sport seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those curious about the S60 Inscription should note that it includes almost all of the R-Design model’s features for just $53,900, except for the sporting items spoken of earlier in this review. Unique to this model is an elegant chrome waterfall-style front grille, bright metal window surrounds, special 10-spoke 18-inch alloys, gorgeous matte Driftwood Décor interior trim, a tailored dash top and instrument panel featuring more stitched soft padded surfaces than other models, whereas the seats are upholstered in rich perforated Nappa leather, and come ventilated up front. 

By the way, all pricing was pulled from right here at CarCostCanada, where you can also source individual trim, package, and standalone option pricing, plus rebate information and money-saving dealer invoice pricing that’s otherwise hard to get. 

Speaking of hard, the new S60 made it difficult to find anything to gripe about, but I would’ve appreciated somewhere to stow my sunglasses, and there wasn’t enough room on the lower console to rest my Samsung S9, which was likely part of this company’s safety-first plan from the onset, so I probably shouldn’t complain. I nevertheless placed it in one of the S60’s two cupholders, which are otherwise covered under a beautifully detailed retractable lid, with the other cupholder was amply large to securely hold a sizeable water bottle that almost never leaves my side. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The rear seating area is more accommodating than its predecessor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I should also note that the trunk, which at 391 litres (13.8 cubic feet) is average for this segment, was big enough for all of my daily gear, but its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks only included a centre pass-through instead of a more accommodating 40/20/40 opening, so while I could probably fit a couple of sets of skinny skis through I wouldn’t be able to squeeze in a duo of fat powder boards or enough skis for four passengers. Still, even this narrow pass-through is a big improvement over most of its Japanese challengers that simply provide 60/40-split seatbacks with nary a centre slot to be seen at all. 

In summary, if you’re contemplating a car in the compact luxury D-segment you should seriously consider this all-new Volvo, as the S60 is now a commendable contender that provides attractive styling, serious performance, leading-edge technology, impressive safety, and a level of comfort that really needs to be experience to be appreciated. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
I would’ve preferred a full 40/20/40 split instead of a centre pass-through. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

What’s more, the new S60 is totally unique in this class, which has to account for something, right? After all, who wants to be seen in a car that everyone else drives? I certainly appreciated not witnessing exact duplicates of my ride passing by day in and day out, and enjoyed the quick head-turns and positive smiles my S60 R-Design tester received throughout my test week. Truly, if I were in this market, I’d have a hard time turning this wonderful car down, but alas, like most everyone else these days I’m trying to decide between SUVs. What can I say? I’m a product of the times. If instead you’re into something more exclusive, check out this all-new Volvo S60. I highly recommend it. 

 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD Road Test

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The Rogue has maintained its styling since its 2017 mid-cycle makeover, but it still looks good. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s déjà vu all over again, or at least that’s how I felt when picking up my 2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD tester. I’d spent a week with an identical model less than a year prior; even down to its top-line trim level and most popular Pearl White paint. 

Then I got inside, however, and was reminded of a near identical model I test drove the year prior in lovely Scarlet Ember livery, and therefore also remembered that last year’s SL Platinum wasn’t fully loaded, missing this SUV’s $500 SL Platinum Reserve Interior Package that includes a stylish stitched leatherette dash pad and replaces the regular Charcoal black or Almond beige leather upholstery with special quilted leather in an even richer looking Premium Tan hue, which comes across more like caramel or saddle brown. Either way it looks great, and ideally complements the white exterior paint, although the upgrade package is no longer available with the special metallic red exterior paint, or for that matter Nissan’s beautiful Caspian Blue. A shame. 

Not to start this review out on a negative, because there’s very little to fault this popular compact crossover SUV on. As noted, the Rogue is Nissan Canada’s most popular model, and one look should make it easy to understand why. It was refreshed for the 2017 model year with Nissan’s wider, more U-shaped Vmotion 2.0 grille that I happen to like a lot more than the original V, while its then-new quad-beam headlamps with LED daytime running lights, and its updated LED brake lights added premium-level sophistication to the design. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Looking right at home in nature, the little crossover SUV makes a good companion for summer camping trips and winter getaways. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That face-lifted 2017 model included additional styling tweaks on the outside plus updates within, a personal favourite being its flat-bottom steering wheel that still makes a sporty statement in the otherwise elegantly appointed top-line 2019 Rogue SL Platinum Reserve model. So equipped, that steering wheel is leather-wrapped with a heatable rim, a much appreciated mid-winter feature, as are the Quick Comfort heated front seats that come standard across the entire Rogue line, albeit the Platinum’s perforated leather upholstery is exclusive to this model. 

There’s actually more to the SL Platinum Reserve Interior’s seat design than quilting and the caramel colour change. The quilting is only used for the centre inserts, with perforated leather added to the inner bolsters and contrast-stitched black leather on top of those bolsters for a little more of a sport look mixed in with the luxury. The seats’ upholstery is complemented by the same Premium Tan on the door armrests, centre armrest, padded knee protectors on each side of the lower centre console, and even the aforementioned dash facing, which incorporates a similarly classy looking stitched leatherette pad ahead of the front passenger. 

Icing on the proverbial cake comes in the form of Piano Black interior door inlays surrounding the usual chromed door handles, which match up nicely next to the same glossy black treatment rimming the dash vents, centre console, gear lever surround and otherwise leather-wrapped shift knob. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Large machine-finished 19-inch alloys are exclusive to SL Platinum trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As you may have guessed, the latest Rogue SL Platinum Reserve doesn’t just look like a premium crossover SUV, but in addition its standard feature set is replete with top-drawer gear that one-ups plenty of luxury brands. For instance, the official name given to this trim level is Rogue SL Platinum with ProPilot Assist, the latter technology standard with all SL Platinum models and really quite impressive. It’s a semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system, which means it has the ability to completely drive itself, but due to safety concerns only lets you remove your hands from the steering wheel for about eight seconds at a time—it warns you to put your hands back on the wheel after that. Still, it’ll impress your friends and might be useful to those who find highway driving intimidating, as it helps keep the Rogue centered within its lane and, along with its Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Intelligent Lane Intervention systems, may even help avoid an accident. 

These latter two advanced driver assistance systems get pulled up to the SL Platinum from mid-range SV trim, as does Intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control, while high beam assist, rear parking sensors, Moving Object Detection (MOD), backup collision intervention and rear autonomous emergency braking join ProPilot Assist as options with the SV and standard equipment with the top-line SL Platinum model. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The optional SL Platinum Reserve package replaces the usual black or beige interior colour scheme with this saddle brown motif. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with all the usual active and passive safety features, some advanced tech incorporated into upper trims from the base Rogue S include Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with a display showing individual tire pressures and an Easy-Fill Tire Alert, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), plus two features normally relegated to top-line trims, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), while Rear Door Alert is an oddly named albeit very welcome feature that actually warns against leaving something or someone in the back seat unattended after turning off the engine, by remembering that you opened a rear door before setting off on your drive. Now that’s smart. 

As cool as some of this tech is, especially watching the Rogue drive itself, applying hands to said wheel while on the highway, and then winding through some twisting backroads after tooling through town is my usual course of action. As always the Rogue didn’t disappoint, but let me insert a caveat here, I’ve never set my performance expectations too high. This is an SUV built primarily for comfort rather than all-out speed, and to that end it delivers in spades, with a nice compliant ride, smooth, progressive acceleration, and an easy, controlled demeanor on the open freeway. It can manage curves too, and provides strong braking when needed, but if you’re looking for performance there are sportier SUVs in this class, yet few are smoother than the Rogue, such refinement its specialty. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Navigation comes standard in SL Platinum trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Behind that V-motion grille is the Nissan’s dependable 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, which continues to make a totally acceptable if not breathtaking 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while its standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) is one of the reasons behind that just noted smooth factor. It’s also partially responsible for the Rogue’s commendable Transport Canada fuel economy rating that comes in at 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 8.7 combined with its as-tested all-wheel drivetrain, or 9.1 city, 7.1 highway and 8.2 combined when opting for front-wheel drive. 

As is mostly the case in this class, all-wheel drive is more about tackling slippery pavement than anything off-road, although traveling to campsites over logging roads or light-duty trails can benefit from AWD, as well as its various electronic all-weather features, such as Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS). This said others in the class are starting to broaden their appeal, with the latest RAV4 Trail featuring some real 4×4-like go-anywhere technologies, and the Subaru Forester long offering its X-Mode for extracting itself from rougher situations. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Like the majority of Nissans, the Rogue uses a smooth operating CVT for “shifting gears”. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Back to earth, or rather asphalt, the Rogue is ideal for slogging through Canadian winters, hitting the slopes, or alternatively heading out on that summer camping vacation. It can tow a small camp trailer or lightweight boat weighing up to 500 kilos (1,100 lbs), plus it can carry plenty of gear in back, up to 1,112 litres (39.3 cubic feet) in the dedicated cargo area and 1,982 litres (70.0 cubic feet) when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat. That rear bench is made more passenger and cargo friendly via a centre pass-through that doubles as a centre armrest with cupholders, which allows longer items like skis to be stuffed down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the benefit of the window seats, although take note they might be grumbling on the way back from the ski hill due to a surprising lack of available rear seat heaters. 

Along with all of the features already mentioned, the $37,398 top-line SL Platinum gets a lot of premium-level upgrades that really make a difference when it comes to performance, safety, convenience and luxury, such as AWD, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated leather steering wheel rim and leather-wrapped shift knob, memory for the six-way powered driver’s seat and side mirrors, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a powered panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a surround parking monitor, great sounding Bose audio with nine speakers including two subs, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a gesture activated liftgate, and more. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Rear seating and storage is accommodating. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t tire you by scrolling through lists of everything that gets pulled up to SL Platinum trim from the other two grades, but some highlights from both include remote engine start, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, LED turn signals within the side mirror caps, roof rails, the aforementioned six-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar, a retractable cargo cover and more with the $29,098 SV, plus variable intermittent wipers, overhead LED map lights and sunglasses storage, a colour multi-information display, a 7.0-inch centre touchscreen, NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM Traffic, hands-free text messaging assistant, Bluetooth, mood lighting, and more with the $26,798 base Rogue S. Incidentally, all pricing was sourced right here on CarCostCanada, where all the trims, packages and individual features are itemized, plus otherwise hard to find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing is provided. 

For the most part our 2019 Rogue SL Platinum Reserve was well equipped, especially when it came to advanced driver assistance systems, plus it provided more than enough performance, a smooth, quiet ride, great fuel economy, and a fairly luxurious and comfortable cabin, while it was extremely accommodating for driver, passengers and cargo. I like the way it looks, especially as my tester was kitted out, which, along with all of the above, is likely why it’s such a strong seller, and also why it’s easy to recommend.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann  

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay

Acura marks 15 years of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive

2005 Acura RL SH-AWD
Acura marks 15 years of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, and looks back to the advanced torque vectoring technology’s beginnings with the 2005 Acura RL SH-AWD. (Photo: Acura)

Acura rolled a few eyes when introducing its somewhat wordy Super Handling All-Wheel Drive back in 2004, but as soon as the automotive press drove the brand’s then-new 2005 RL flagship luxury sedan all snickering stopped, it really was super. 

A decade and a half later the Japanese luxury brand is now celebrating a significant milestone, the 15th anniversary of its industry-leading torque-vectoring SH-AWD technology. To mark the event, Acura has produced a video (see below) highlighting the advanced all-wheel drive system’s history and capability. 

SH-AWD actively and continually distributes engine torque between the front and rear wheels, from 70 percent to the front and 30 percent to the rear, or 30 percent to the front and 70 percent to the rear, while additionally up to 100 percent of rear twist could be distributed to either the left or right wheel to reduce understeer and therefore aid high-speed cornering. Of course, SH-AWD has improved with each new generation, and now is either standard or available in five of Acura’s six models. 

2019 Acura RDX Prototype
The 2019 Acura RDX ushers in the fourth-generation of SH-AWD. (Photo: Acura)

The latest version of Acura’s mechanical SH-AWD, now in its fourth generation, debuted on the new 2019 RDX last year, with 40 percent greater torque capacity at the rear axle, quicker front-to-rear torque transfer, plus 30 percent faster torque transfer between the left and right rear wheels. 

Looking toward the future, the 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid, the second-generation 2017 NSX, and the 2017 MDX Sport Hybrid came equipped with the most advanced iteration of SH-AWD yet. The new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system incorporates electric motor torque for a more immediate application of four-wheel performance as well as much greater efficiency. 

The mid-engine NSX supercar utilizes a unique design with three electric motors, two of which form a Twin Motor Unit (TMU) that distributes torque to each front wheel individually, whereas the RLX and MDX reverse the process with the gas-electric hybrid engine up front and TMU in back, distributing torque between each rear wheel, just like with the mechanical SH-AWD system. Despite the different layouts, the supercar, sport sedan and three-row SUV that feature Acura’s electrified Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system apply identical technologies and use many of the same components. 

2017 Acura NSX, RLX and MDX with Sport Hybrid SH-AWD
This cutaway shows the NSX, RLX and MDX (left to right) with their unique versions of electrified Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. (Photo: Acura)

Also notable, later this year Acura will be celebrating another milestone, one million SH-AWD-equipped vehicles sold worldwide. Past models equipped with SH-AWD have included the RL (2005-2012) that utilized the first-generation system, the MDX (2007-2015), RDX (2007-2012), TL (2009-2014), and ZDX (2010-2013) that incorporated the second-generation system with Hill Logic, VSA and TCS, the TLX (2015-present) and MDX (2016-present) that feature the third-generation system with a 25-percent lighter rear differential and more, RDX (2019-present) that boasts the fourth-generation system with a more compact and quicker responding design, and lastly the RLX Sport Hybrid (2015-present), NSX (2017-present) and MDX Sport Hybrid (2017-present) that feature the electrified Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system. 

Make sure to check out our photo gallery above to see images of all the aforementioned Acura models past and present, plus remember to watch the “What is Acura Super Handling All-Wheel Drive?” video below that details out the history and capability of Acura’s SH-AWD system: 

What is Acura Super Handling All-Wheel Drive? (6:23):

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD Road Test Review

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Volvo’s new V60 takes styling cues from the rest of the Swedish brand’s renewed lineup and mixes in a few of its own elements for a stunning new design. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

If you think the auto industry has given up on cars and is only relying on SUVs to turn a profit, look no further than the thoroughly reinvigorated Volvo brand and its wonderfully renewed lineup of sport wagons and crossover-styled variations on the same five-door theme. 

The first to arrive was the beautiful new V90 and V90 Cross Country duo, both having respectively replaced the old V70 and XC70 for the 2017 model year, albeit the former hasn’t been with us for a decade or so. Fast forward to 2019 and Volvo’s wagon lineup just expanded with all-new 2019 V60 and V60 Cross Country crossover models, and thanks to Volvo’s Canadian PR team leaving the sportier of the two in my driveway for three weeks last month we’ll be starting off closer to the ground. 

I suppose referencing the more conventional V60 as sportier may not sit well with those who consider a trip down a gravel road with a kayak strapped to the top of the V60 Cross Country T5 AWD a more sport-oriented exercise than fast-tracking through a curving two-lane highway at the wheel of our V60 T6 AWD Inscription, not that the former car can’t manage the latter activity quite well, or vise versa. It’s just that the regular V60 is quicker when upgraded with its as-tested turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, and as noted a moment ago sits a bit lower to the ground for better pavement-hugging handling, whereas the raised ride height of the Cross Country allows for greater ground clearance when traversing less hospitable backwater roads and trails. Either way, Volvo has you covered. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The V60 is unmistakably Volvo from behind, yet there’s nothing else quite like it on the road. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk powertrains, being that both V60 models incorporate Volvo’s innovative 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, the T5 featuring turbocharging and the T6 adding the just-noted supercharger to the mix. The former makes a laudable 258 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque for thoroughly enjoyable performance from standstill up to highway speeds and beyond via eight quick-shifting automatic gears and standard all-wheel drive, whereas the latter puts 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque down to the road via the same all-wheel drivetrain. 

By the numbers, the V60 T5 AWD allows for an energetic zero to 100km/h sprint of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph), whereas the T6 AWD cuts standstill acceleration runs down to 5.7 seconds while upping maximum velocity to 249 km/h (155 mph). 

Volvo’s T6 engine seems to make a more sporting note at full throttle than I last remember, while the zero-to-100 times quoted a moment ago feel as good as they look. The drivetrain is especially engaging when set to Dynamic sport mode via the jeweled switch on the lower console, which heightens the performance of all controls. Bend it into a sharp, fast-pace curve and the V60 immediately takes on the role of unflappable sport wagon, providing an adept level of poise that almost seems too capable when simultaneously taking in its luxurious Inscription-trimmed surroundings. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The V60’s finer details look even better up close, especially in top-line Inscription trim and wearing these optional 19-inch alloy wheels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The V60’s cabin is absolutely stunning, which caused me to leave the drive mode selector in Comfort more often than not, and Eco when I was paying attention, which together with auto engine start/stop provided best-possible fuel economy at a claimed 10.9 L/100km city, 7.7 highway and 9.5 combined with the as-tested T6 AWD, or alternatively 10.2, 6.8 and 8.7 for the less potent T5 FWD, and made the most of the impressively smooth ride and wonderfully quiet cabin, ideal for such resplendent accoutrements. 

As already executed to near perfection in the crossover SUV classes, Volvo once again creates the D-segment leader for interior design and execution thanks to the highest grades of materials and the finest attention to detail. From its myriad soft-touch surfaces above the waistline and below, including plush perforated leathers, to its beautifully executed decorative metal accents and matte hardwood inlays, the V60 Inscription provides a richness and elegance that’s been sorely missing from this more compact five-door luxury category. 

Then there’s comfort, which has always been Volvo’s strength. The Inscription seats are superb, and that’s even before making the myriad adjustments they allow for. The seat squabs extend forward, cupping below each knee, while the backrest side bolsters power inward or outward to fit most any body type, whether you want a snuggly hug or more relaxing support. Support in mind, four-way powered lumbar means you can position extra lower back pressure just about anywhere you want it, but surprisingly not all models the V60 competes against offer four-way powered lumbar. Then again some offer powered steering columns, which is not available with the V60, so therefore the Inscription’s two-way memory settings don’t affect the steering wheel, but if it were one or the other I’d optimize seat comfort and control. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The V60 Inscription’s cabin is exquisitely finished, not to mention wonderfully comfortable and plenty spacious. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Driver setup in mind, the V60’s tilt and telescopic steering column offers ample rake and reach for all bodily forms, my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight medium-build frame fully capable of clasping the leather-wrapped steering wheel rim with elbows optimally bent while my legs were easily within reach yet not too crowded by pedals, while plenty of small adjustments remained for tweaking during long road trips. 

Looking forward, the gauge cluster is digital, which is nothing new for the V60 that along with its S60 sibling was one of the first cars in its class to offer a colour TFT display in place of the usual analogue primary instruments. Still, this 12.3-inch driver display, upsized from the base Momentum trim’s 8.0-inch unit, is a much more advanced bit of kit than the old V60’s. In fact, it takes up all available space below the instrument hood, and even better it defaults to the navigation system’s colour map that features 3D building block graphics that are fabulous fun to watch when tooling amongst the high-rises of any downtown core. 

Of course, that map can be shown over on the V60’s standard 9.0-inch vertical centre touchscreen, Volvo’s Sensus interface continuing to be one of the best in the industry. It’s not that it wows with bright colours and exciting graphics, but rather because it’s more tablet-like than any of its rivals and therefore is easier to figure out. It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, all of the usual gesture controls, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, responds 50 percent faster than earlier versions, although my tester’s otherwise excellent 360-degree surround parking camera was a bit lethargic at startup resulting in fashionably late appearances after I’d finished reversing out of my driveway when leaving in a rush, and thanks to an upgrade to the $3,750 optional 19-speaker 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system provided sensational sound quality, while the satellite radio colour album cover graphics were wonderful. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The available 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster doubles as a 3D navigation map. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, that B&W stereo does more than just sound good, it improves the interior design thanks to a lovely little tweeter at dash central, featuring a stylish aluminum grille, while the similarly drilled aluminum door speakers let you see through to coloured cones within. 

Those speaker grilles are surrounded by some of the only hard composite in the entire car, the rest of each door panel soft touch synthetic from top to bottom, excepting the armrest that’s covered in contrast-stitched leather. Likewise for the centre armrest/bin lid, the front edge of the dash top, and the instrument panel just below, which is why I was a bit miffed that Volvo chose not to finish the glove box lid to the same standard, leaving it hard plastic in a segment that normally softens this surface. Volvo leaves the sides of the centre console hard plastic too, but this is more than made up for by a beautiful set of satin-silver framed matte hardwood scroll-top lids for the connectors, tray and cupholders below. 

Volvo chose not to add the same wood to the doors, but surrounding the steering column and just ahead of the front passenger are lovely sculpted sections next to an equally artistic inlay of flowing satin-silver aluminum, the V60’s interior design coming across much more zen-like than anything from Japan, or Germany for that matter. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Infotainment touchscreen’s don’t come much better than Volvo’s Sensus system, while the V60’s surrounding dash design is stunning. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I could continue on about cabin styling, the volume dial, vent controls, rotating ignition switch and cylindrical drive mode selector rimmed in a grippy diamond-patterned bright metal that sparkles as jewel-like as in any Bentley, while those aforementioned seats are as eye-arresting as sore back-alleviating, but there are still some as yet unmentioned details to cover. 

For one, the V60 is spacious. In fact, I think the new V60 is targeting previous V70 customers just as much as those who loved the outgoing V60, thanks to 124 mm (4.9 inches) more length overall, plus a 9.6-mm (3.8-inch) longer wheelbase that results in the most spacious rear seating area in the luxury D-segment. The new model is 51 mm (2.0 inches) lower than its predecessor too, which adds to its long, sleek visual stance, but nevertheless it provides ample headroom and legroom for a six-foot passenger behind a six-foot driver, although I wasn’t able to substantiate this claim due to my previously noted five-foot-eight height. Nevertheless, I can attest to an obvious increase in cargo space, the new V60 boasting 20 percent more than the outgoing car. 

Reason enough for its growth is Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that also underpins the larger V90 sport wagon, not to mention everything else in today’s Volvo lineup other than the compact XC40 crossover. Everything riding on SPA gets regularly praised by owners and auto pundits alike, with aforementioned ride-quality and quietness given near universal accolades, so it only makes sense the V60 delivers to the same high level. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Bentley? No, just a modern-day Volvo. The V60’s cabin is truly a cut above. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve touched on features throughout this review, but have yet to go into trim details, so without further adieu the base 2019 V60 Momentum T5 FWD starts at just $43,900 plus freight and fees, which is only $50 above than last year’s base V60 yet includes standard LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated front seats with driver’s memory, a powered liftgate, power-folding rear seat headrests, power-folding rear seatbacks with controls in the cargo compartment, a semi-automatic cargo cover that conveniently slides up and out of the way when opening the tailgate, and much more. 

Of course, plenty of safety gear comes standard too, including standard City Safety automatic front collision warning with full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, plus Driver Alert Control, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, and more. 

Of special note, the new V60 introduces an Oncoming Braking system that, if sensing an imminent head-on collision will automatically actuate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. This is said to reduce vehicle speed by 10 km/h before impact, which could potentially save lives and certainly minimize injury. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The V60’s driver’s seat is one of the most comfortable and supportive in the industry. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t go into all standard and optional features available with Momentum or $55,400 Inscription trim, although if interested feel free to check out my previous story that covered everything in detail, but suffice to say the latter as-tested model gets a special chromed waterfall grille, cornering headlights, fog lamps, a really nice leather-wrapped and metal edged key fob, Power Steering Personal Settings with low, medium or high assistance, the gorgeous Driftwood decor inlays, digital gauge cluster and four-way powered lumbar noted earlier, Nappa leather upholstery that’s perforated for allowing through forced ventilation up front, etcetera. 

Option out a V60 Inscription T6 AWD and you can have the same $1,000 19-inch multi-spoke alloys as seen on my test car, the previously noted audio upgrade, $1,300 massaging front seats and a $1,150 graphical head-up display. Additionally, my tester included a $1,250 Climate Package with heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a much-welcome heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system that uses the Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Aid and other advanced driver assistance features to keep the V60 within its chosen lane, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass; plus an $1,800 Vision Package with the aforementioned 360-degree surround parking camera, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, front parking sensors, auto-dimming side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. 

And by the way, all 2019 Volvo V60 pricing was sourced right here on CarCostCanada, where you can find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new vehicle sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Rear seat roominess and cargo capacity is class leading. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The only V60 attribute that arguably outshines all of the above is exterior styling, which to my eyes makes it the best-looking sport wagon in the compact luxury D-segment, and possibly the most attractive combination of new Volvo design elements to date. I love the shape of the new grille and the way the headlamps flow rearward over the front fenders, not to mention the motorsport-inspired wing strut design of the lower front fascia. Yet most of all I like this wagon’s profile, culminating at two of the most unorthodox taillights on today’s market, the V60’s sharply cut L-shaped lenses paying obvious tribute to Volvo’s recent past, but all-new and totally unique as well. 

It won’t be hard for you to tell that I really like the look of this car, and I must admit to liking everything else about it too. It made the recent holiday season all the more enjoyable and helped ring in the first week of 2019 with style, comfort and all-round class.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.