2019 Kia Forte EX Limited Road Test Review

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Kia knows a thing or two about style, this made very apparent with the new Forte. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I must admit to really liking the new 2019 Forte sedan’s styling, as its lines are clean and modern instead of abstract like the more visually complicated Honda Civic or new 2020 Toyota Corolla. It’s not that I don’t like the latter two cars, but generally find the Forte easier on the eyes, and believe if placed in a row next to the two other cars with badges were removed, would be chosen more often than not. 

Of course, the Civic and Corolla were highly successful long before their current designs were known, because they’ve always been very good cars, while their current shapes are obviously acceptable enough to the Canadian masses or they wouldn’t sit one and two in popularity, both selling within Canada’s top-ten, including trucks, crossover SUVs and vans. I just happen to like the Forte’s visual design more than these two segment leaders. 

The Forte’s styling strengths include a longer looking, leaner, lower, more sweptback profile, which doesn’t require as much plastic body cladding to make more appealing. It does get a number of stylistic enhancements from front to rear, but I found the sporty bits on my top-tier Forte EX Limited improved its overall look instead of detracting from it. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Clean, attractive lines come standard, although the Forte is shown here in EX Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It starts off with Kia’s chrome-edged, glossed-black notched oval grille at centre, which hovers above more glossy black-detailed air induction venting within the lower front fascia, which gets highlighted by nicely angled corner vents housing rectangular LED fog lights. A truly interesting set of “X” accented LED headlights are positioned above, offsetting conventionally shaped taillights at the other end, these infused with interestingly patterned LEDs. There’s a thin strip of reflective material spanning the two rear lamps, while just above on the rear deck lid is an integrated spoiler that no doubt aids aerodynamics. The rear bumper is formed into a diffuser-like shape, but I can pretty well guarantee it does nothing to improve airflow, although its inky black paint looks sporty enough, and matches the gloss-black triangular bezels at each corner, housing rear fog and backup lights. Lastly, my Forte tester rolled on sweet looking 17-inch double-five-spoke machined alloy wheels with black pockets. 

The new Forte is even more impressive inside, besting the outgoing model as well as a number of compact rivals. Like its exterior design, its cabin comes across more tastefully conservative than some in this class that offer up less serious, funkier atmospheres. It’s also quite refined, with much of the upper dash and instrument panel finished in premium-like soft-touch composites. This pliable application covers the front door uppers, door inserts and armrests too, the latter items also transferring to the rear passenger compartment. It’s a really upscale environment, but I won’t go so far as to say the Forte is nicer than its competitors with respect to materials quality, fit and finish, etcetera, but they were one of the first brands to include such premium-like niceties to the compact segment. As it is, most of the Forte’s challengers’ interiors are now up to snuff. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Kia does details very well, not overwhelming the design, but instead enhancing it. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Adding to my EX Limited model’s refinement quotient are perforated leatherette seats that feel a lot more like genuine hides than most rivals pull off, the aeration, incidentally, necessary for my tester’s three-way ventilation up front. This top-line trim also includes rear outboard seat heating, while three-temperature front seat heating is standard across the line, as is a leather-wrapped heatable steering wheel rim. 

Yes, that wasn’t a typo. The Forte comes standard with a leather-clad, heated steering wheel. I want you to consider for a moment, that Toyota’s much pricier Camry doesn’t even offer Canadians such a highfalutin option, even when fully loaded. Optioning out a Camry would add almost $24k to the Forte’s $17,195 base MT MSRP, or alternatively $13k to this $28,065 Forte EX Limited, yet no heated steering wheel, plus it would also not provide cooled front seats or heated rear seats (be sure to learn about all 2019 Kia Forte pricing, including trim levels, packages and options, right here at CarCostCanada, plus don’t forget that you can save a lot by finding out about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing, also available right here at CarCostCanada). 

After the last few Canadian winters, I would certainly rather live with a heated steering wheel than a cold leather rim first thing in the morning (if only they could find a way to heat the shifter knob too), and it would be nicer for my rear passengers to warm their behinds, just like my front passenger and I were able to. I enjoy cooling my butt mid-summer too, so if you’re like me, consider a Forte for such comforting features (and also take note that the 2020 Corolla sedan provides a heated steering wheel as part of an upgrade package, but then again no cooled front seats or heatable rear cushions). 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The graphic work on the LED taillights is very nice. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back to the 2019 Forte’s upgrades, Kia improved its automatic shifter with a great looking leather-wrapped and satin-silver knob design, while a stitched-leatherette skirt tapers outward as it meets up against yet more satin-silver surfacing. My Forte used this stylish silver treatment for its steering wheel spokes as well, plus some decorative trim across the instrument panel and the corner vent bezels, not to mention the inside door handles and power window/side mirror switchgear decoration, and lastly the thumb release button on the manual handbrake. 

Say what? Agreed, a complete ground-up redesign that doesn’t come standard with an electric parking brake seems a tad old school this day and age, but truthfully it didn’t bother me one iota during my extended two-week test. Actually, I only noticed it on my last day when taking notes. Kia left this technological anachronism in the new design because of the car’s standard six-speed manual transmission, a gearbox that I only wished was available in my top-line trim, or at least in a dedicated sport model like Kia’s sister company Hyundai offers with its 200-horsepower Elantra Sport, a serious Civic Si rival that also improves its suspension and styling. 

News flash (well, not exactly news as it was introduced last November): Kia will introduce a new Forte GT for the 2020 model year that’s pretty well an Elantra Sport in black-oval drag, and it looks fabulous with its 18-inch rims and even sportier design details, while it should drive brilliantly if it’s anything like the Elantra Sport, that I raved about in my road test review last year. Along with the 201-hp 1.6-litre turbo-four and short-throw six-speed manual gearbox (or optional paddle shift-actuated seven-speed dual-clutch automatic), it’ll get a sport-tuned fully independent suspension with a multi-link setup in the rear. Soon Kia will have the same kind of Civic Si Sedan fighter it’s always needed, along with a new five-door Forte5 GT. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Kia delivers a high-quality Forte interior that’s packed full of standard and optional features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As it is, this 2019 Forte only comes with one engine, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder making 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. It’s a fairly competitive mill in this category, but other manufacturers provide a lot more variety and (until the 2020 model debuts) will therefore attract a greater number of performance, and/or green buyers. Toyota, for instance, offers up the choice of three engines in its latest 2020 Corolla sedan, including a hybrid, while Honda’s Civic Sedan offers three powerplants as well, the aforementioned Si boasting 205 horsepower, while the Insight, which is a Civic Hybrid other than mild styling revisions and a new name, features gasoline-electric hybridization as well. 

Interestingly, the outgoing second-gen Forte four-door provided Canadians with two engines, the more advanced direct-injected version of the current model’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder, previously named “2.0 GDI”, no longer available despite its more engaging 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. I initially thought we’d see this more formidable engine as a late arrival, possibly when the redesigned Forte5 showed up, but a quick visit to the “Upcoming Vehicles” section of the automaker’s Canadian retail site makes evident this all-new five-door hatch will go on sale this fall as a 2020 model, and shows no sign of the sportier GDI engine. Instead it will get the sedan’s “2.0L MPI” engine in base trim and the same optional 1.6-litre turbo-four used in the gen-two 2018 model (which is still available, by the way), good for 201 horsepower, 195 lb-ft of torque, and mated to the same paddle-shifted seven-speed twin-clutch automatic as noted above. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
This supervision LCD/TFT primary instrument cluster comes standard with second-rung EX trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All this said, Kia’s reasoning behind simplifying the Forte’s engine lineup has to come down to 2018 calendar year sales that only reached 14,399 units (including the Forte5), this dropping some 12.1 percent from the previous year. If it pulled in more buyers, like the Corolla’s 48,796 customers throughout 2018, and the 69,005 Canadians who opted for the Civic over the same 12 months, Kia might even go back to offering a two-door sports coupe like they used to. 

Right about now I should make note of Hyundai Elantra sales as well (which will soon be all-new for 2020), as it far outpaces the Forte’s numbers at 41,784 through 2018, and that was a 9.4-percent decline from 2017. 

I expect another reason Kia chose its solo engine for 2019 is price related, both at the onset of the initial sale and afterwards at the pump. Canadians are ultra price-sensitive in this small car category, which would negatively impact sales if the more powerful engine caused the Forte’s price range to jump higher. What’s more, if the 2.0 GDI was the car’s sole offering its fuel economy wouldn’t measure up to the best in this class, and therefore would hamper acceptance of the entire Forte line. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The new eight-inch infotainment touchscreen is excellent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Instead, the 2.0 MPI engine being used is considerably more efficient, with a glance back at 2018 Transport Canada fuel economy numbers showing a rating of 8.0 L/100km city, 6.1 highway and 7.1 combined, alongside the more potent GDI’s respective rating of 9.4, 6.8 and 8.3. That would’ve been a big gap to overcome. 

Also notable, Kia’s made a lot of headway with the 2.0 MPI engine’s fuel economy in the new 2019 model too, with a new Transport Canada rating of 8.6 L/100km in the city, 6.4 on the highway and 7.6 combined when suited up in six-speed manual base trim, compared to 9.4, 6.8 and 8.3 respectively in the previous year. Additionally, the Forte’s completely new Hyundai/Kia-designed continuously variable transmission (CVT) is easier on fuel when put up against last year’s six-speed automatic, with the new model getting a 7.7 L/100km city, 5.9 highway and 6.9 combined rating, and the outgoing car only good for 8.0 in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.1 combined. 

This CVT, dubbed Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT), adds $2,500 to the Forte’s base LX trim and comes standard with all other models. It does a pretty good a job of putting power down to the front wheels, which is high praise for any CVT incidentally, this one of the best of its kind in my opinion, and easily good enough for a compact car that makes comfort its first priority. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Two-zone auto HVAC is standard on EX Premium trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Forte is quick enough off the line and plenty smooth as well, its engine and transmission offering up nice linear performance, with untoward noise, vibration and harshness kept to a minimum. Kia includes a slew of Drive Mode Select settings including Normal, Eco, Sport and Smart, the latter being where I left it most of the time thanks to its ability to automatically adjust between each mode in order to optimize fuel economy and performance. 

Along with the Forte’s smooth powertrain is a comfortable ride, while its cornering prowess is quite responsive considering its rather low-rent torsion beam rear suspension setup. By comparison the Civic and new 2020 Corolla incorporate independent multi-link rear suspension systems, which give them an edge when pushed even harder over broken pavement, especially mid-turn, but just the same I found the Forte nimble enough for most high-speed handling situations, while its undercarriage was wonderfully compliant over rougher pavement in a straight line. The upcoming GT should be even better. 

Maintaining control in all weather conditions is this segment’s usual assortment of active safety equipment, including electronic stability and traction control, while some other near-standard features (when upgrading to the CVT) include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), and Driver Attention Alert (DAA). 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Cooled seats? Yah baby, you can’t get that on a Corolla. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Both manual and CVT endowed LX models also get auto on/off projector headlights, splash guards, body-colour mirror housings and door handles, heated outside mirrors, the heated leather-clad steering wheel rim noted earlier, heatable front seats, air conditioning, a truly impressive new tablet-style 8.0-inch touchscreen display with tap, pinch, and swipe gesture controls (plus really quick response to inputs), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a backup camera with helpful active guidelines, an AM/FM/MP3 radio, Bluetooth hands-free with steaming audio, USB inputs, cruise control, Hill-Assist Control (HAC), 60/40-split rear seatbacks that fold down to make the 434-litre (15.3 cu-ft) trunk more accepting of longer cargo like skis, plus more. 

Those who want alloy wheels can upgrade to $20,995 EX trim, which replace the base model’s 15-inch steel wheels and covers with sharp looking 16-inch machine-finished rims, while this trim grade also receives LED headlights, LED DRLs, LED positioning lamps, side mirror turn signals, a glossy black grille treatment with chromed accents, chromed window surrounds, aeroblade windshield wipers, a chromed exhaust finisher, the satin-chrome interior door handles noted earlier, a supervision LCD/TFT primary gauge cluster, a wireless smartphone charger, rear climate vents, a folding rear centre armrest, tire pressure monitoring, Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), etcetera. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Kia’s “SOFINO” leatherette upholstery feels real, and the seats are comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Moving up to $22,495 EX+ trim adds everything above plus 17-inch machined alloys, LED tail lamps, LED interior lights, plus a powered glass sunroof, while $25,065 EX Premium trim further adds High Beam Assist (HBA) to the previously mentioned LED headlamps, as well as proximity-sensing keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, dynamic cruise control, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, “SOFINO” leatherette upholstery, two-zone auto HVAC, XM/SIRIUS satellite radio, UVO Intelligence connected car services, Advanced Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), a proximity-sensing trunk lid that automatically opens when someone with a key fob stands behind the car for three seconds, plus more. 

Finally, my $28,065 EX Limited test model came standard with all of the above plus those ventilated front and heated rear seats noted before, as well as an enhanced multimedia infotainment interface with very accurate and user-friendly navigation, and lastly an impressive Harman/Kardon premium audio upgrade. 

The driver’s seat was very comfortable for this class, while its two-way powered lumbar support thankfully fit the small of my back perfectly. Even better, when I adjusted the Forte’s standard tilt and telescoping steering column to fit my long-legged five-foot-eight frame, I was left comfortably in control. This isn’t always the case no matter the class of car, particularly with Toyota models, including the now outgoing 2019 Corolla. That car didn’t allow for enough telescopic steering column reach, either leaving the pedals too close or steering wheel uncomfortably far away, but fortunately I had no such issues with this Forte sedan. 

2019 Kia Forte EX LimitedAfter setting up the driver’s seat for my body type, I sat directly behind in order to test rear seat roominess. The result was loads of space for my feet, plus about five inches in front of my knees, another three and a half or so over my head, about five beside my outer shoulder, and four next to my hip. In other words, the Forte provides a lot of room for rear passengers, and plenty of comfort too. 

The rear centre armrest was nicely positioned for my arm and included the usual dual cupholders, while a webbed magazine pocket behind the front passenger seat looked nicer than the bare seatback ahead of my legs. Still, I could hardly complain about not having a webbed magazine pocket behind the driver’s seat thanks to my butt and backside being warm and comfortable from those seat warmers noted earlier, plus I also appreciated the small rear quarter windows that allowed for a bit more light and outward visibility than some cars in this class provide. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The Forte provides plenty of trunk space, plus the ability to extend it via 60/40-split rear seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That’s a nice positive thought to leave the 2019 Kia Forte review on, isn’t it? While not best in class due to a lack of optional power and less capable rear suspension, it’s easily the best Forte four-door ever created. These shortcomings help keep pricing nice and low, however, plus allow Kia to offer plenty of comfort-oriented features that I’d rather have in a city car anyway. The Forte also doesn’t come up short on styling, space, comfort or safety, and let’s remember that Forte buyers who want stronger performance can choose the old Forte5 and soon will have the GT and redesigned 5 for options. 

Kia will soon have its bases covered two renewed body styles and truly sporty variants of both, while today’s 2019 Forte sedan makes an excellent case for affordable commuting comfort. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Road Test

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 looks great and can go just about anywhere. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Colorado ZR2 is one wicked looking pickup truck. Chevrolet got the design just right, and together with its beefy styling and rugged suspension, GM’s most popular brand has brought one impressive off-road race replica to market. 

To be clear, Chevy wasn’t first to this market sector and certainly won’t be the final entry. While there are probably others I should mentioned, Dodge’s Power Wagon was one of the street-capable off-road race truck initiators, although today’s 4×4 fans will likely point to the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor as first on the scene, as far as OEM custom off-roaders go. 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) Ram brand has tried to answer back with its 2016 to present 1500 Rebel, which is much like previous Power Wagons with bolder frontal styling, while Toyota arrived a few years ago with its Tundra and Tacoma TRD Pro packages, the latter recently adding a snorkel-style air intake that makes it appear like it can swim across rivers, through mud holes, or any other deep, liquid barrier. 

Right about now I should also draw your attention to the fresh new 2020 Jeep Gladiator, which when suited up in Rubicon trim might be the most credible 4×4 in the mid-size pickup category (it’s definitely has good roots), while delivering payload and trailering capacities that compete well too. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Classic pickup truck styling is joined by rugged off-road capability. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While I’m covering all of these trail-rated cargo (and family) haulers I need to mention Chevrolet’s recently re-skinned Silverado that can be specified in new Trail Boss trim with a two-inch lift kit, improving off-road capability over its GMC Sierra Elevation cousin, but other than this the Trail Boss is mostly about cosmetics, whereas Nissan offers tough Pro-4X trims on its aging Frontier and more up-to-date Titan half-ton and heavy-half Titan XD models. Lastly, Honda offers its Ridgeline with a Black Edition and… well… it’s no CRF250X, let alone ZR2 rival. 

The Gladiator Rubicon and Tacoma TRD Pro are the only mid-size ZR2 competitors capable of whacking through the wilderness (GMC’s Canyon doesn’t provide anything quite as 4×4-worthy), and the Chevy can be made even more capable with its Bison upgrade package, yet all of the above deserve comment (including the 2018 to present Ford Ranger Raptor that’s now getting snapped up by wealthier off-road enthusiasts in Asia). 

Obviously size matters, with the North American Raptor, the Rebel (Power Wagon), the Tundra, and the Silverado/Sierra fraternal twins being full-size models, and the Tacoma, Ranger, Frontier, and this Colorado (plus the Canyon) more compact in their mid-size proportions. 

Another big differentiator is the powertrains on offer, and being that this review is about a mid-size model I’ll focus on its key rivals, with most incorporating four-cylinder and (when equipped to compete off the beaten path) V6 gasoline-powered engines. The two GM mid-size trucks do likewise, but they also buck tradition by adding a high-torque, fuel-efficient turbo-diesel mill. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The Duramax diesel powered ZR2 looks identical, other than some subtle badging. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

So, let’s focus in on the standard and optional ZR2 powertrains and how each measures up when compared to its Jeep and Toyota challengers, and then factor in some of their 4×4-related features. For starters, I spent a week with each engine, starting with a greyish Deepwood Green Metallic painted one that’s in fact a 2018 model (I’ll talk about the differences later in this review). This optional colour was cancelled for 2019, but the superb 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder under its bulging hood remains. It makes 181 horsepower and a best-in-segment 369 lb-ft of torque from a mere 2,000 rpm, and comes paired to a strong six-speed automatic transmission. 

It’s fuel-efficient compared to rivals thanks to a 12.5 L/100km city, 10.7 highway and 11.7 combined Transport Canada rating, but whether or not its stingy enough to justify its lofty $4,090 price tag will depend on the number of years and kilometres you plan to employ its service, or if you really want to take advantage of its efficiency for travelling farther into the wild yonder than gasoline-powered 4×4 owners dare go, or if you appreciate the tractability of its massive torque when trekking into said wilderness more than the immediate power its V6 offers. 

Behind the blackened grille of the Kinetic Blue Metallic painted (a $495 option) 2019 ZR2 is the standard 3.6-litre V6 that produces 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque from 4,000 rpm. Just like the diesel, the V6 powers the rear axle or both diffs via part-time four-wheel drive, but unlike the diesel the standard engine’s gearbox is an even more economical eight-speed unit. The combo results in an estimated 15.0 L/100km in the city, 13.0 on the highway and 14.1 combined, partly due to cylinder deactivation when less performance is needed, and while decent it’s hardly the GM engine of choice for driving past pumps. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The Colorado ZR2 is one of few off-road kings available today. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Gladiator, on the other hand, only comes with FCA’s 3.6-litre V6, which makes 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That’s off by 23 horsepower and 15 lb-ft when compared to the base ZR2 V6, although it offers up a standard six-speed manual (no such luck with the ZR2) or alternatively an eight-speed auto, plus part-time 4WD, and comes with a Transport Canada rating that ranges between 10.4 and 14.1 L/100km city/highway combined depending on trims and transmissions. 

As for the Tacoma TRD Pro, it’s standard with Toyota’s well-proven 3.5-litre V6 that puts out 276 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, which is down some 32 horsepower and 10 lb-ft of torque on the V6-powered ZR2, and mates up to a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto plus part-time 4WD, while achieving city/highway combined fuel economy ranging from 11.9 to 12.9 L/100km, depending on transmissions and cabs. 

All of the above V6s will outrun the Duramax turbo-diesel by significant margins, something I immediately noticed when setting out in the 2019 Colorado, but the advantage of the diesel’s 109, 104 and 94 lb-ft of torque advantage when compared to the Gladiator, Tacoma and ZR2 V6 respectively, gives the diesel big advantages on the trail, plus of course its 11.7 city/highway combined fuel economy that can only be beaten by one single Gladiator trim (and I’d be shocked to witness the FCA V6 winning out in real-world back-to-back tests). 

Engine torque is important when off-road, but there are other factors that are even more important when leaving pavement, such as ground clearance, front and rear overhangs, and wheelbase length to name a few. The Tacoma provides the shortest wheelbase at 3,236 mm (127.4 in), but its 5,392-mm (212.3-in) nose-to-tail length means its overhangs are more pronounced, resulting in a truck that won’t hang up as easily when scaling sharp crests or other obstacles, but will probably scrape its front and rear bumpers when approaching a steep incline or levelling off after a radical decline. By comparison, the Colorado’s wheelbase is nearly as short at 3,258 mm (128.3 in), but improves on approach and departure angles with the shortest overall length of 5,347 mm (210.5 in), whereas the Gladiator has the longest wheelbase by far at 3,487 mm (137.3 in), plus it measures a limousine-like 5,537 mm (218.0 in) from front to back (ok, not quite as long as a limo, but you get my drift). 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Plenty of modifications separate the ZR2 from regular Colorados. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

To clarify, I’ve only tested the 2018 and 2019 ZR2 models plus a 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro (it now includes the aforementioned snorkel and a number of other improvements), so I can’t offer a full critique of the latest TRD Pro or the Gladiator. As noted earlier, I had a version of the 2018 ZR2 with the Duramax Turbo-Diesel for a week, plus spent a week with a 2019 V6-powered variant, and mostly drove them around town and within suburban, rural areas on tarmac, but also took both out on the trail, the latter deep diving in hood-high standing water. I tested the previous Tacoma off-road too, and I had no trouble negotiating the chosen trail, but being a different location and a long time ago (two years is eons in vehicle development time), a direct comparo wouldn’t be fair. 

On that note I hope to test a Gladiator Rubicon this summer, and you can bet I’ll be getting it as dirty as possible when I do. It features a disconnecting front sway bar to help with articulation (something I first experienced in a Ram Power Wagon, and is now also part of the Ram 1500 Rebel upgrade), plus it uses the Wrangler’s solid front axle that’s considered an improvement over the independent front suspensions used by the ZR2 and most other modern pickup trucks. Of course, I’ll make sure to use experiences from my ZR2 tests as part of my future Gladiator review. 

Like the first 2017 Colorado ZR2 and the greenish-grey 2018 turbo-diesel model partially reviewed here, the newest 2019 ZR2 receives the same substantial increase in ride height, and therefore gets the same 50-mm (2.0-inch) increase in ground clearance, while any high-speed handling negatives are offset by 90 mm (3.5 inches) of increased front and rear track, plus stiffer new cast-iron lower front control arms, and a unique set of 8- by 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road rubber. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The ZR2’s Multimatic shocks are key components to its off-road and on-pavement prowess. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

What’s more, a 1.0-inch-diameter solid anti-roll bar replaces the usual 1.5-inch hollow one, improving suspension articulation, while last but hardly least are special Multimatic DSSV Position Sensitive Spool Valve Damping Performance shocks that help cushion the otherwise jarring impacts of rocks, roots and other obstacles you might find along an ungraded back road or trail (the TRD Pro utilizes Fox-sourced shocks, by the way, which are rated highly as well). 

The skid plates below and tubular rocker extensions at each side are easier to see, both having been designed to protect vulnerable components beneath as well as low hanging bodywork, but the ZR2’s matte black grille and even more aggressive black domed hood make it even more noticeable to onlookers, not to mention its rugged black bumpers that get abbreviated at each corner to improve approach and departure angles, and extended black fender flares that make room for its all-terrain rubber. 

The local 4×4 park chosen is one I test trucks and SUVs on regularly, so I’m familiar with its plentiful obstacles. While difficult for many presumed off-roaders, most of its challenges are a cakewalk for the ZR2, but were still intimidating without a spotting crew to guide me through. During the diesel’s mostly dry afternoon I was able to drag the rear-mounted spare tire over some deep rutted knolls plus up and down some steep terrain, once again finding ground at the rear (but not the front), while I was able to lift the left rear into midair and leave it there spinning (a silly thing some 4×4 fans do for kicks), and while there was a lot more skill remaining in this truck than my dirt playground could not fully extract, I was able to prove that the ZR2 is capable enough for serious off-road duty, yet still plenty comfortable. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The Colorado’s cab is well organized in any trim, but the ZR2 offers a suitably upscale experience. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The second off-road adventure with the 2019 ZR2 came mid-winter, on a particularly cold and rainy day. Rain means mud at best and massive pools of standing water at worst (or maybe best, depending on how you look at it). The steep grades that were child’s play before required locking both front and rear differentials now (just like with the Gladiator, albeit not so with the Taco TRD Pro that only includes lockers at the rear), but doing so allowed easy control all the way up and all the way down. Even better, partway into a 50-foot puddle my heart started to race when the truck’s front end slipped deeper into a set of ruts, forcing dirty water across the top of the hood and even onto the windshield, but a steady foot on the throttle allowed the meaty tires to keep momentum up, and the ZR2 pulled me to the other side without fanfare (other than my pounding heart). At that point I was wishing I’d had the TRD Pro’s snorkel, but obviously the ZR2 didn’t need it, this time around at least. 

The thought of swamping an engine (which would void the warranty) makes the $6,980 need for the ZR2’s Bison package seem cheap. Of course, the Bison package wouldn’t have necessarily helped in this situation (it really should include a snorkel, if not just for style points), and I can’t say I’d want the ZR2 in Red Hot paint (I’d rather have the option of colours), but it gets design points for its bold “CHEVROLET” emblazoned grille (similar to the Raptor’s “FORD” grille replacement), unique AEV (American Expedition Vehicles) front and rear bumpers (the one up front capable of accepting a winch), the beefier black extended fender flares, special 17-inch AEV alloy wheels, fog lights, contoured front and rear floor liners, and about 90 kilograms (200 lbs) of super-strong boron steel AEV skid plates (front, transfer case, fuel tank, and rear differential) to better protect its vital components. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
This simple, straightforward gauge cluster includes a 4.2-inch colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, the ZR2 is still extremely capable without Bison upgrades, and quite a standout in the styling department too. The regular Colorado a bit tame to my eyes, at least when compared to most competitors, specifically the latest Tacoma and new Gladiator, but the ZR2’s bulging domed matte black louvered hood, redesigned matte black front bumpers and rear bumpers, exposed skid plates, robust tubular rocker protectors, and other trim upgrades give it a tougher look. Look beyond the machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels with black-painted pockets and you’ll be able to see the bright yellow Multimatic dampers, unless they’re covered in dirt. 

The ZR2’s lack of side steps might look good and not hang up on protruding trail debris, but it hampers access for shorter folk like me. There aren’t any Corner Steps on the back bumper to provide a leg up to the bed either, these issues being the only complaints I have against this special model. 

Once inside I enjoyed the view provided by the aforementioned ride height and the Colorado’s inherently great sightlines in all directions. This helps in traffic, of course, possibly even giving you the edge needed to find your way up to the front of the pack. There’s where you’ll enjoy V6 performance, the larger of the two being a good choice for those wanting power over fuel efficiency. The V6 delivers a decided jump off the line and then keeps up the pace right up to legal highway speeds and beyond, while the diesel only jumps off the line initially, and simply can’t maintain the same level of forward thrust as its revs rise. This will be just find for diesel enthusiasts like me, because the engine helps it feel more like a work truck capably going about its business, and of course it pays big dividends when it comes time to fill up. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The standard high-definition backup camera is ultra-clear. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Colorado ZR2 buyers won’t have to make a choice about handling, fortunately, because both engines manage corners equally well. Even with its increased suspension, or possibly because of it, the ride is fairly smooth and quite comfortable, unless jumping curbs. Those slightly firmer Multimatic dampers, which work so very well off-road, also help to reduce body roll at higher speeds on pavement, resulting in a truck that’s surprisingly athletic through high-speed serpentine curves, unless you’re attempting to go quicker than anything so top-heavy and obviously 4×4-focused is supposed to go. Braking is pretty good too, but once again we shouldn’t get in over our heads. The ZR2 weighs in at 1,987 kg (4,381 lbs), and more when upgraded with the aforementioned Bison package, so judge stopping distances accordingly. 

As per usual I only pushed the ZR2 hard during testing, and no matter the surfaces driven over or the speeds attained, the driver’s seat was comfortable and supportive. I especially appreciated the lateral support provided by its big side bolsters, which stopped me sliding sideways on what could have otherwise been slippery leather. 

The upholstery was dyed black as usual, albeit highlighted with a red embroidered “2” as part of the otherwise black “ZR2” insignia on the headrests. The ZR2’s steering wheel receives no such name recognition, but it has a meaty rim that’s wrapped in soft and comfortable leather, with grippy baseball-style stitching in the middle. Other than its four-spoke design it appears more like the type of sport steering wheel you’d find in a performance car, and thanks to the generous reach of its standard tilt and telescoping steering column I fit in perfectly. I was able to sit upright with the steering wheel perfectly positioned for my long-legged, short torso, five-foot-eight, slight-build body, safely and comfortably with my hands at the optimal nine and three o’clock positions, further allowing an easy reach to the pedals below and once again, great visibility all-round. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
This wireless charging pad comes standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The rear seating area of this Crew Cab, short box configured ZR2 (the ZR2 can also be had with an Extended Cab and a long box) is roomy for adults (and kids) of all shapes and sizes. When the driver’s seat was positioned for my height, there was still about five inches in front of my knees and more than enough room for my feet, plus I had another three to four inches over my head, and five inches from my shoulders and hips to the door, plus I’d guess you could seat a smaller person comfortably between the two outboard positions. With only two in back, more comfort can be accessed via a wide centre armrest filled with large cupholders that include rubber grips to hold cups or bottles in place. Other handy features include twin rear USB ports and a 12-volt charger. 

If you want to keep your gear dry and safe from theft, the rear seat headrests fold forward and the backrests tumble flat so you can lay your belongings on top, or instead you can lift the lower seat cushion up to expose a storage compartment underneath, this complete with every tool you’ll need to lower the spare tire from below the bed and then change the wheel. 

Seats and armrests aside, the ZR2 doesn’t offer any soft, pliable composite surface treatments in the rear, but back up front the dash top receives a nice soft paint to absorb sound and make it more appealing to touch, as does much of the instrument panel. It should also be noted this isn’t the priciest trim in Chevy’s Colorado fleet, due to being optimized primarily for off-road purposes, but it was certainly nice enough for this class of truck. On the positive are some attractive metal-like accents around the centre stack and lower console, plus the door handles and armrests. The door handles inside are chromed too, as are the centres of some knobs on the centre stack. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The Colorado provides a large, spacious interior, and the ZR2’s leather-covered seats are very comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The primary gauge cluster is legible in all lighting conditioned thanks to bright background lighting and good shielding from sunlight. It’s filled with the usual tachometer to the left and speedometer on the right, with a fuel gauge and engine temperature meter topping off a fairly large 4.2-inch high-resolution colour multi-information display just below at centre. 

The latter is controlled with a pad of four arrows on the right-side steering wheel spoke, which when pushed provides a bright menu of multicoloured functions including info, audio, phone, navigation, options, and more, while the navigation system provides directions within the gauge cluster’s multi-info display where they can be seen more easily without removing eyes too far from the road ahead, with more detailed mapping shown on the large 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen over on the centre stack (this 8.0-inch display is now standard with all Colorado trims except the base Work Truck or WT that still does ok with its new 7.0-inch touchscreen). 

That larger touchscreen includes Chevy’s well laid-out, bright, and colourful HD menu display that seems as if it was inspired by Apple’s iPhone/iPad, which I think is a good thing, but if you want something even more inline with Cupertino you can plug your phone into a specified USB to access the standard Apple CarPlay app, or alternatively Android Auto (although I don’t like it anywhere near was much). I’m glad that Chevy gives us these smartphone connectivity alternatives, while also featuring an audio system that can be easily connected to a phone with Bluetooth wireless streaming, or alternatively you can listen to satellite radio, plus all the classic AM/FM/HD radio stations. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The rear seating area is large and accommodating too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The navigation system worked well, with accurate routing and nicely detailed mapping that was easy enough to sort out. I only wished that it warned me of a turn sooner, but instead it gave instant notice and even then the directions were in black and white and fairly small, making them hard to make out. Larger, brighter and in colour would’ve been ideal, and saying something like “Turn right in 50 meters”. I liked that the infotainment system received text messages and provided a number of stock responses for communicating safely while driving, while other useful apps include OnStar, traffic info, and shopping (not sure about that last one while driving though). 

Along with navigation, the ZR2 includes a fabulous high-definition backup camera with active guidelines (but in need to inform you the Gladiator’s reportedly has front and rear trail cams that can even be cleaned via the infotainment system), with some other standard ZR2 features including a phone charging pad placed just in front of the centre armrest (standard with Z71 trim and above), plus a USB port inside the armrest if your phone needs wired power. Chevrolet also provides two more USB ports (one supporting new USB C-type devices) and an aux port, plus an available SD card reader, within another storage bin at the base of the centre stack, allowing you and your devices to be well cared for. Finally, the latest Colorado includes a second microphone mounted closer to the front passenger to improve the voice quality of Bluetooth hands-free connected phones, while a personal favourite had nothing to do with connectivity, but rather the ZR2’s heated steering wheel that warmed my hands on some cold winter mornings, this now standard with all trims above the LT. 

Speaking of warmth, standard ZR2 features include GM’s superb heated front seats that not only warm up the lower cushion and backrest together, but can be adjusted to only heat the latter, which is great for people like me who occasionally suffer from lower back pain and just want some temporary relief. This in mind, the ZR2 only includes single-zone automatic climate control, not the expected dual-zone design provided to top-line versions of the Tacoma and Gladiator. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The rear seats flip down for storing cargo. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I think most of us could live without such a luxury, but I really appreciate having proximity-sensing entry and a pushbutton ignition system. The ZR2 doesn’t get a sunroof either, which might bother those wowed by Jeep’s removable roof. I appreciated the padded sunglasses holder on the overhead console, and the reading lights were decent enough, but they’re only incandescent lamps, not LEDs. The centre mirror is auto-dimming, however, plus along with OnStar it includes a button for voice activation as well as an “SOS” one to reach out for help when required. 

A row of useful switches can be found on the centre stack too, including one for turning off the stability control, plus a bed light, hill descent control, an exhaust brake that’s useful when towing, a hazard light, and finally two individual toggles for the front and rear differential locks noted before. 

Trailering in mind, the ZR2’s towing capacity is rated at 2,268 kilos (5,000 lbs) no matter which engine is being used, while its payload is a sizeable 500 kilograms (1,100 lbs) with the four-door short-bed or 528 kg (1,164 lbs) with the extended-cab long-bed. The Tacoma TRD Pro, on the other hand, is capable of a 2,900-kg (6,400-lb) tow rating and a payload of 454 kg (1,000 lbs), whereas the Gladiator Rubicon (the closest to the ZR2) can trailer up to 2,040 kg (4,500 lbs) and haul a payload of up to 544 kg (1,200 lbs) with the manual, or drag 3,175 kg (7,000 lbs) of trailer weight or carry 526 kg (1,160 lbs) on its backside when equipped with its automatic. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The ZX2 can do most anything a regular pickup truck can, plus conquer almost any trail. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

You may have noticed that I haven’t covered all of the ZR2’s comfort and convenience features in this review, but take note they’re easily available on the Chevrolet retail website or right here at CarCostCanada, where I sourced all 2019 Colorado pricing info including trims, packages and standalone options, not to mention money-saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing. Suffice to say it’s well equipped for its $46,100 Extra Cab base price, or $47,600 when opting for the Crew Cab, plus freight and fees of course. 

No matter the Colorado ZR2 powertrain you choose, you’ll be getting a well-designed mid-size pickup truck that can overcome nearly any obstacle on or off the road. I’d opt for the diesel with the Bison upgrade and find an aftermarket snorkel, but hey, it’s easy to say that without following through on a payment plan. It’s great that Chevy provides so many options, allowing plenty of opportunity to personalize. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited Road Test Review

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The Toyota C-HR is no wallflower, really living up to Akio Toyoda’s desire for more exciting designs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

During the introduction of the FT-1 concept at the 2014 Detroit auto show, Toyota president Akio Toyoda issued a companywide decree for “no more boring cars,” and this C-HR is a direct result of this type of thinking, at least with respect to styling. Do you think it embodies Toyoda’s hopes for a level of “style that stirs peoples’ emotions and makes them say ‘I want to drive this’?” 

Toyoda obviously does, as he would’ve approved the initial design and given the go-ahead for this production model. Being just 63, he’s still very much in charge of his grandfather’s car company, and I must say the namesake Japanese brand’s newest SUV is just one of many dynamic designs to arrive on the scene in recent years. 

I won’t comment on CH-R styling in detail, first because my taste isn’t your taste, and secondly because I’m a fan of unorthodox designs like Nissan’s Juke and Cube, as long as the proportions are right and there’s some sort of balance to the overall look. The CH-R fits nicely into that category, pushing the limits in some respects, but probably acceptable enough to the masses to maintain reasonable resale values. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The C-HR might look even more daring from behind. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It’s more important that Toyota finally has something to compete in this subcompact SUV class, and I give them high marks for courage, being that the majority of rivals already enjoying success here did so by focusing more on things practical than eye-catching design. It was as surprise that Toyota showed up with this sportier looking, slightly smaller than average alternative that seems to put style ahead of pragmatism. 

A rundown of class sales leaders shows that passenger and cargo spaciousness and flexibility rules the roost, with long-term top-sellers include the innovative Honda HR-V, funky yet practical Kia Soul, and larger than average Subaru Crosstrek, while a couple of newcomers doing well include the cheap and sizeable Nissan Qashqai, as well as the all-round impressive Hyundai Kona. It’s like this new C-HR said hello to the same type of buyers that were lamenting the loss of the recently cancelled Juke (replaced by the new Kicks), although missing the AWD Juke’s stellar performance. Go-fast goodness may also help propel Canadian sales of the Mazda CX-3, not to mention its arguably stylish design. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The C-HR provides plenty of interesting details when seen up close. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This is model-year two for the new C-HR, and all things considered it’s a commendable subcompact crossover SUV. My test model was tarted up in new Limited trim, which reaches higher up the desirability scale than last year’s XLE, which I tested and reviewed last year. Altogether I’ve tested three C-HR’s, and each provided impressive comfort with the same level of features as comparatively priced competitors, plus amply capable performance, and superb fuel efficiency. 

One of the C-HR’s strengths is interior refinement, although I wouldn’t say it’s the segment’s best when compared to the previously noted CX-3 in its top-tier GT trim, which gets very close to the luxury subcompact SUV class, and that’s even when comparing Mazda’s best to this top-level Limited model. I did like the C-HR Limited’s nicely detailed padded, stitched leatherette dash-top, plus the large padded bolster just underneath that stretches from the right side of the instrument panel to the front passenger’s door, while a smaller padded section adorns the left side of the primary gauge package. Each door upper receives the same premium-level soft touch synthetic surface treatment, while all armrests get an even softer, more comfortable covering. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
This interesting door handle provides access to the rear quarters. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those who thrill at the sight of plentiful piano black lacquered plastic will be overjoyed with all of the dark shiny trim strewn around Toyota’s smallest crossover. I’d personally like it if there were less, and not due to its addition to interior design, but instead because it attracts dust something awful and scratches way too easily. I like the diamond-textured hard plastic on door inserts and lower panels, however, which are truly unique, look great and feel durable enough to last the test of time. It certainly doesn’t feel as cheap as the usual hard plastic found in these areas in this segment, plus the diamond pattern complements the unusual assortment of diamond-shaped reliefs stamped into the overhead roofliner. 

Before I take a deep dive into the C-HR’s interior design and quality, I should mention this 2019 model received a few upgrades that should allow it to find more buyers while improving it overall compared to last year’s version, starting with a new base LE trim that eliminates more than $1,000 from the 2018 C-HR’s base window sticker. This said $23,675 isn’t as approachable as some competitors noted earlier in this review, the Qashqai now available from $20,198 (just $200 more than last year’s version despite plenty of new equipment), and the new Nissan Kicks starting at a mere $17,998, thus making it the most affordable SUV in Canada. Nevertheless, the C-HR’s list of standard goodies is hard to beat, so stay tuned in if you’d like to learn more. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Distinctive design elements can be seen all around. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Something else going against this new C-HR’s success is the significantly larger and much more accommodating Nissan Rogue that only costs $3k or so more, while the completely redesigned 2019 RAV4 begins at just $27,790 (check out all the latest pricing details for all makes and models including this C-HR, the Rogue and RAV4 right here at CarCostCanada, with additional info on trims, packages and available options, plus otherwise difficult to get rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

A positive for this 2019 C-HR LE is Toyota’s new Entune 3.0 infotainment system that now comes standard across the line. It features a much larger 8.0-inch touchscreen and supports Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, plus Toyota’s superb in-house smartphone integration app. I like this infotainment system a lot, and I like Toyota’s Entune smartphone app even more than Android Auto, no matter whether I’m setting my drive route up in my house via my Samsung S9, or controlling it via the C-HR’s touchscreen. The new display also features a standard backup camera, which might not sound like much of big deal unless you had previously been forced to live with last year’s ultra-small rearview mirror-mounted monitor. Now it’s much easier to use and of course safer thanks to the larger display. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Toyota carries the C-HR’s unorthodox styling characteristics inside too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The route guidance mentioned a moment ago comes via a Scout GPS app downloadable from your smartphone’s online store. Like I said, you can set it up before going out via your phone, and then when hooked up to your C-HR it displays your route on the touchscreen just like a regular navigation system. I found it easy to use and extremely accurate, while Toyota also supplies the Entune App Suite Connect with a bundle of applications for traffic, weather, Slacker, Yelp, sports, stocks, fuel and NPR One (a U.S.-sourced public radio station). 

The base C-HR LE also receives standard automatic high beam headlamps, adaptive cruise control, remote entry, an acoustic glass windshield, auto up/down power windows all-round, a leather-clad shift knob, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge package, an auto-dimming interior mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, two-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker audio system, the aforementioned piano black lacquered trim, fabric seat upholstery, front sport seats, 60/40-split rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all the expected active and passive safety features plus a few unexpected ones like a driver’s knee airbag and rear side thorax airbags, etcetera, which is downright generous for the base trim level of a subcompact crossover SUV, and therefore should relieve those concerned about its base price being too high. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The C-HR’s sporty gauge cluster is easy to read in any light. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Last year the C-HR was only available in XLE trim, so it’s good that Toyota kept this model as a mid-range entry while it expanded the lineup with two more trims. The XLE now starts at $25,725 thanks to the new Entune 3.0 Audio Plus system, plus it also includes automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance SOS button, and enhanced roadside assistance to enhance its safety equipment, plus 17-inch alloys, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, nicer cloth upholstery, heated front seats (which should really be standard in Canada), and two-way power lumbar support for the driver’s seat. 

On top of this you can add on an XLE Premium package that increases the price to $27,325 yet includes larger 18-inch rims, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, heated power-retractable outside mirrors with puddle lamps, blindspot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist. 

Lastly, new top-tier Limited trim starts at $28,775 and adds rain-sensing wipers, a very helpful windshield wiper de-icer (especially considering the frigid winter and spring most of us endured this year and last), ambient interior lighting, and attractive textured leather upholstery in either black or brown. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The larger centre screen now incorporates the rearview parking camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Look under the hood and you’ll something that hasn’t changed for 2019, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that might cause some potential buyers to feel as if the C-HR’s performance doesn’t quite reach up to meet its sporty styling. The engine puts out a reasonable 144 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, which isn’t bad on its own, but the only gearbox it comes mated to is the belt-and-pulley-inspired continuously variable type, a.k.a. CVT, which makes a difference at the pump, but isn’t exactly designed to thrill off the line. What’s more, the C-HR is a front-wheel-drive-only offering, making it the type of SUV you’ll be forced to chain up when hitting the slopes if your local mountain(s) have a policy that requires chains on all vehicles without AWD. 

Still, as noted it’s a thrifty little ute, capable of just 8.7 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 8.2 combined according to the powers that be at Transport Canada, which thanks to new carbon taxes and other interprovincial and geopolitical issues is critical these days. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
These are comfortable leather-covered seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Also important, the C-HR’s wide footprint and low roofline make it reasonably well balanced, which results in handling that nearly adheres to Mr. Toyoda’s “no more boring cars” credo. Nearly is the deciding word, however, as the C-HR is no CX-3 or Kona, but its fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone/trailing arm rear suspension is plenty of fun when quickly slaloming through a twisting backcountry two-laner or hightailing through town, plus I found its ride quality amongst the segment’s best. 

While we’re on the subject of comfort, the C-HR’s front seats are excellent, and its driving position is a considerable improvement over some other Toyota models. To be clear, I have longer legs than torso, which means that I’m required to shove my driver’s seat more towards the rear than most others measuring five-foot-eight, and then adjust the steering column as far rearward as possible. A number of Toyota models simply don’t provide enough steering wheel reach to comfortably allow me a good, safe grip of the wheel with my arms appropriately bent, so I was thrilled the C-HR does. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
The rear seats should be roomy enough for most owners’ needs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

How about rear roominess and comfort. Even after pushing my driver’s seat as far rearward as necessary for my gangly legs, there was approximately four inches left over ahead of my knees when seated directly behind, plus about three inches over my head, which should be good enough for the majority of tallish passengers. I also had ample side-to-side space, although three abreast might feel a bit crowded. 

Oddly there isn’t flip-down armrest between the two outboard rear positions, and while not quite as comfortable I’m glad Toyota remembered to include a cupholder just ahead of the armrest on each rear door panel. Also good, the rear outboard seats are comfortable and supportive, especially against the lower back. On the negative, rear seat visibility out the side windows is horrible due to the C-HR’s strangely shaped doors that cause rear occupants to look directly into a big black panel when trying to see out. I’m guessing that kids big and small won’t appreciate this, so make sure you bring the young’uns along for the test drive before you buy. 

2019 Toyota C-HR Limited
Not the roomiest cargo area in its class, the C-HR should nevertheless satisfy most subcompact SUV buyers’ requirements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Cargo capacity might also be a deal-breaker for those who regularly haul a lot of life’s gear, because the C-HR’s sporty rear roofline slices into its vertical volume. The result is a mere 538 litres (19.0 cubic feet) of maximum luggage space aft of the rear seatbacks, which is a bit tight when put up against the class leaders. Folding the C-HR’s 60/40-split rear seats flat improves on available cargo space with 1,031 litres (36.4 cu ft), although once again this doesn’t come close to the largest in this segment. 

Rather than leave this review on a negative note, I’ll make a point of highlighting the C-HR’s impressive five-star NHTSA safety rating, and should also bring attention to Toyota’s excellent reliability record on the whole. I’m sure such talk isn’t what Toyoda-san would want me relating when wrapping up a review of such a non-boring design exercise, but in truth the C-HR is more about comfort, convenience, economy and dependability than go-fast performance, and while this might seem a bit dull and wholly Toyota-like, it’s also why so many Canadian consumers go back to the world’s most successful Japanese automaker time and time again. For this reason I’d difficult for me to argue against the new C-HR, so if this new subcompact SUV’s styling, size and drivability work for you, by all means take one home. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition Road Test

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
Infiniti refreshed the Q50 last year, and it still looks fabulous in its sporty Signature Edition styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In a luxury car market that’s given up a lot to crossover SUVs, Infiniti’s Q50 has been more or less holding its own until recently. Canadian premium buyers were hard on BMW’s 3 Series and Audi’s A4 last year, with sales down 19.5 and 20.3 percent respectively, while others like Acura’s TLX, Cadillac’s ATS, and Jaguar’s XE lost even more ground, but the Q50 gained 6.8 percent throughout 2018, a fine showing by comparison. 

This said, the first three months of 2019 have been brutal on all of the above including the Q50, with the Japanese sport-luxury sedan’s sales having fallen by 36.3 percent, a figure that looks about as bad as bad can get until compared to BMW’s 37.7 percent 3 Series losses and Audi’s 39.9 percent A4 carnage. Even the mighty Mercedes-Benz C-Class is down by 34.5 percent, while sales of the Lexus IS (which lost 10.9 percent last year) are now off by 45.5 percent, and Jaguar XE by 78.1 percent (its sales were only down 27.8 last year). 

I should end this review right here, tell you to go check out my story on the impressive new Infiniti QX50 compact luxury SUV, and call it a day, but seriously, there were still 2,576 Q50 sedan buyers in Canada last year, and another 517 at the close of Q1 2019, so there are plenty of good reasons to review what I truly believe is a very good choice in the compact luxury D-segment, even if sport-luxury sedans aren’t exactly the hottest commodity these days. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
A great looking design from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To bring you up to speed, Infiniti gave its only relevant sedan (they still make the Q70, but sales are truly dismal) a mid-cycle refresh last year, updating the Q50’s grille, front fascia, headlights, taillights, rear bumper and more, so this 2019 model doesn’t see any visual changes at all, other than a new Canadian-exclusive standard “I-LINE” cosmetic treatment specifically for the now renamed I-Line Red Sport 400 model. 

Just like eyeliner, the I-Line upgrade, which was actually derived from “Inspired Line,” blackens the grille surround in the same fashion as last year’s glossy black fog lamp bezels and diffuser-style rear bumper, while the rear deck lid spoiler gets upgraded to high-gloss carbon fibre, and wheel wells are filled with a special “custom imported” glossy black set of 19-inch alloys. I-Line trim further helps to visually differentiate Infiniti’s sportiest 400-horsepower Q50 from lesser trims in the lineup, a smart move considering the $7,700 leap from the already quick 300 horsepower Q50 3.0T Sport AWD. 

To clarify further, both 300 and 400 horsepower versions of the Q50 source their power from the same turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine in different states of tune, while the other big change for 2019 is the elimination of the Mercedes-Benz-sourced 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in Canada, which continues to make 208 horsepower in other markets where it’s still offered, like the U.S. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
Some of the Q50 Signature Edition details are exquisitely executed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All remaining trims utilize Infiniti’s seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and downshift rev-matching, the latter a rarity in this class and really enjoyable to use, while Infiniti’s “Intelligent” rear-biased all-wheel drive system comes standard as well. 

Fuel economy has improved since Infiniti moved to the new turbocharged 3.0-litre engine, although with the loss of the four-cylinder the base Q50 no longer wows with 10.7 L/100km in the city, 8.6 on the highway and 9.7 combined, although 12.4 city, 8.7 highway and 10.8 combined is very good considering all the power on tap. 

All the above changes noted, the 2019 Q50’s most significant upgrade is the inclusion of Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW) and Forward Emergency Braking (FEB) across the entire Q50 line, which means these critical accident avoidance systems are now part of the Luxe model, Luxe being the base trim level in the Q50’s recently revised grade structure. 

Without going into too much detail about each trim, the Q50 3.0T Luxe AWD starts at $44,995 plus freight and fees, while the Q50 3.0T Signature Edition being reviewed here starts just a hair higher at $46,495. The upper mid-range of the lineup is filled by the aforementioned Q50 3.0T Sport AWD, which enters the picture at $48,495, and the newly revised I-Line Red Sport 400 that begins life at $56,195, which is still very affordable considering all that’s being offered. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The Q50’s interior is beautifully finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All prices quoted in this review can be found in detail, along with trims, packages and options, right here at CarCostCanada, where you can also find important manufacturer rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

I said base a moment ago, but there’s nothing remotely base about the twin-turbo V6 behind the Q50’s trademark grille. For starters, none of its competitors offer 300 horsepower, or the direct-injected engine’s equally impressive 295 lb-ft of torque (well, almost equally impressive). I’ve waxed poetic about this engine before, not to mention gone on at length about the seven-speed autobox and AWD system it’s connected to, so rather than delve into the technologies that make them great I’ll give you more of an experiential explanation. 

First off, it feels quicker than the numbers suggest, not that 300 ponies and 295 lb-ft of twist is anything to sneeze at. It simply has more jump off the line than most cars offering similar output, this likely due to its twin-turbos providing all of that torque from just 1,600 rpm all the way up to 5,200 rpm, which is much sooner than a normally aspirated engine would, and a very wide maximum torque band overall. 

Amazingly, those turbos whirl at speeds of up to 240,000 rpm, something I have a hard time getting my mind around, especially considering their near silent operation and total reliability. Also notable, the lightweight mostly aluminum powerplant has been a Wards “10 Best Engines” winner since inception, just like its predecessors were, so it’s not just me singing its praises. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The Q50 cockpit is 50 percent sport and 50 percent luxury. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Press the ignition button on the instrument panel, toggle the “DRIVE MODE” switch on the lower console to select “SPORT” instead of “STANDARD” (SNOW, ECO and PERSONAL modes are also included), slot the leather-clad contrast-stitched gear lever into “D”, then tug it slightly to the left for manual mode, at which point you’d better prepare to shift the old fashioned way because steering wheel paddles can only be found on the 3.0T Sport and I-Line Sport 400. Not a problem. Certainly I’d love to find paddles all the way down the line, but the Signature Edition is a more luxury-oriented Q50 trim after all, despite its rapid acceleration and athletic agility through fast-paced turns. 

The Signature Edition comes standard with the same 245/40R19 all-season run-flat performance tires as the Sport, but alas my tester was purposely shod in winters that no doubt affected lateral grip on dry patches. Then again, Infiniti didn’t skimp on the rubber, shoeing its standard triple-five-spoke alloys in a set of Pirelli Sottozeros that proved you don’t need an SUV to trudge through winter conditions effectively. In fact, it was so capable in wet West Coast snow that the Q50 became my go-to car for those soggy, cold winter weeks Vancouver is famous for, and a particularly enjoyable companion thanks to its quick reacting steering, agile suspension, and smooth, comfortable ride. 

Some Signature Edition upgrades you might find interesting include the exact same performance-oriented exterior styling details as the Sport, including the sharper gloss black lip spoiler and deeper black fog lamp bezels up front, plus a less aggressive version of the black and body-colour diffuser-infused rear bumper cap mentioned earlier, while both models make use of the same more conventional silver-painted 19-inch alloy wheels noted a moment ago, which is an upgrade over the base Luxe model’s 18-inch rims on 225/50 all-season run-flat performance rubber. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
This gauge cluster is for those who prefer classic analogue over new-edge digital. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lastly, both trims receive silver “S” badges on the front fenders, but strangely the Signature Edition features a unique rear deck spoiler just above its own scripted “Signature” badge, whereas the Sport makes do with no rear spoiler at all, although it gets a silver “S” badge next to its Q50 nomenclature. 

Inside, Signature Edition and Sport trims also feature the same Sport Type seats with driver-side powered lumbar support and powered torso bolsters, plus manual thigh extensions for both front occupants. The driver’s seat was incredibly comfortable while providing excellent lateral support, and honestly was another reason I chose the Q50 over some other options in my garage during my test week. Lastly, the surrounding decorative inlays in both Signature Edition and Sport models are finished in genuine Kacchu aluminum, which feels substantive and looks very nice. 

So what separates Signature Edition and Sport trim? Most every other feature is shared with the base Q50 Luxe model, which is why there’s only $1,500 between the two trims. Therefore, along with all of the items already noted, the Q50 Signature Edition includes standard auto on/off LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps and front turn signals, LED brake lights, aluminum “INFINITI” branded kick plates, proximity-sensing keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, Infiniti’s “InTuition” for storing climate, audio and driving preferences within each “Intelligent Key”, welcome lights on the front exterior door handles, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door opener, micro-filtered dual-zone auto climate control, Infiniti InTouch infotainment with a bright, clear 8.0-inch upper display and an equally impressive 7.0-inch lower touchscreen, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a nice sounding six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite audio system with HD playback, RDS and speed-sensitive volume, two USB charging ports, a heatable steering wheel (that really responded quickly), heated front seats (ditto), powered front seats, a powered moonroof, and more. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The top display houses navigation, backup camera, and other functions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of note, with the move up to the base V6 powerplant a number of features that were previously optional are now standard, including remote engine start, Infiniti’s accurate InTouch navigation with lane guidance and 3D building graphics, the Infiniti InTouch Services suite of digital alerts and remote services, voice recognition for audio, SMS text and vehicle info, power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver, and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through. 

At the other end of the trim spectrum, the only real changes to previously noted Sport trim are actually performance oriented, such as those steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters I lamented about not having on the Signature Edition earlier, a unique sport-tuned dynamic digital suspension, and identical sport brakes to the Red Sport 400, which boast four-piston front calipers and two-piston rear calipers, while the two sportiest trims also get exclusive front seat-mounted side-impact supplemental airbags. 

Speaking of features not available with this Signature Edition, only Sport trim gets the option of electronic power steering, while Infiniti’s exclusive drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) system is available on all trims except for the Signature Edition, as is the auto-leveling adaptive front lighting system (AFS) with high beam assist, a power-adjustable steering column with memory, an Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), premium 16-speaker Bose Performance audio with Centerpoint technology, front and rear parking sensors, Intelligent Cruise Control with full speed range (ICC), Distance Control Assist (DCA), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) with Active Lane Control, and Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA). 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The lower touchscreen features HVAC controls, audio, etcetera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Features not available with the Signature Edition, optional with the Sport and standard with the Red Sport 400 include auto-dimming side mirrors with reverse link and memory, plus Infiniti’s Advanced Climate Control System with auto-recirculation, Plasmacluster air purifier and Grape Polyphenol Filter. 

All of this places the Q50 Signature Edition in a unique value position, offering plenty of Sport trim features yet limiting its choice of options to colours, which are the same five offered in Sport trim including Liquid Platinum silver, Graphite Shadow grey, Black Obsidian, Majestic White, and my tester’s elegant Iridium Blue; plus interior themes, which just like the Sport can be had in Graphite (black) and Stone (grey). Incidentally, the base model also offers a Wheat (tan) interior, while dark-stained gloss maple hardwood provides a more traditional luxury ambiance, plus you also lose the option of Pure White or Mocha Almond (brown metallic) paint when moving up into the sportier Q50 trims, but you can’t get Iridium Blue, whereas Red Sport 400 buyers get the option of exclusive Dynamic Sunstone Red. 

Along with the generous supply of features, the Q50’s interior is beautifully finished no matter the trim. My tester benefited from stitched leather right across the dash top, the instrument panel, each side of the lower console, and the upper two-thirds of all door panels, while the glove box lid was also soft to the touch. The finishing is excellent too, from that leather trim to the beautifully upholstered leather seats, to the lovely Kacchu aluminum inlays, the tasteful assortment of satin-silver accents, and other surfaces, while all of the switchgear feels substantive, is nicely damped, and fits together snuggly. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The front seats are multi-adjustable and very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Likewise, the Q50 is wonderfully hushed inside, whether touring around city streets or cruising the highway, and it’s certainly roomy enough. Bringing more size to the value equation has being part of Infiniti’s modus operandi since day one, and it results in a near mid-size competitor that offers a more spacious interior then some D-segment rivals. I’m only five-foot-eight with a smaller build, and despite having longer legs than torso, which can sometimes make it difficult to reach the steering wheel comfortably, even when its telescopic reach is extended as far rearward as possible, I found its adjustability excellent and the resultant driving position ideal. There’s so much seat travel and headroom that it should be good for taller folk too, while the adjustable torso, lumbar and thigh support really added support to my backside and comfort below the knees. 

For testing purposes I slipped into the back seat directly behind the driver’s seat, and found more than enough room to be comfortable too. Specifically, I had about five inches ahead of my knees, plenty of room to put my big winter boots under the driver’s seat, and more than enough space from side to side, while there was also about three inches over my head. The rear quarters are just as nicely finished as those up front, with amenities including a folding centre armrest with integrated cupholders, reading lights overhead, and air vents on the backside of the front console. 

The trunk should sizable enough for most owners’ needs, but at 382 litres (13.5 cubic feet) it’s certainly not anywhere near the largest in the class. Also, its standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks aren’t as flexible as the usual European 40/20/40 division, but Infiniti compensates with a centre pass-through that provides almost as much room for loading longer items such as skis down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable outboard window seats, a real bonus with active lifestyle families. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
Roomy rear quarters are good for tall passengers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, the Q50 could be a bit better here and there, but this is also the case for every car it competes against. Fortunately its value proposition, excellent reliability record, impressive interior, handsome styling, and superb performance solidly make up for this one downside. After all, if you need more trunk space and greater passenger/cargo flexibility Infiniti has a QX50 you’d probably enjoy just as much, not to mention a QX60, QX80 and others. If you’re dead set on buying a sport-luxury sedan, you could do a lot worse than this new Q50 Signature Edition or one of its other impressive trims. 

 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: 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 Infiniti QX50 Sensory Road Test Review

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50 looks fabulous, especially in near top-line Sensory trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Hey good lookin’! Yes, Infiniti’s been slow cookin’ its redesigned QX50 recipe for years, but now that the all-new 2019 model is on the road and looking sensational, I can only see success in its future. 

The proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and now with this new model’s first partial year in its rearview mirror, and YoY Canadian sales growth up 59 percent as of December 31, plus an even more impressive 113.7-percent two-month gain as of February’s final tally, it’s clear that Canada’s compact luxury crossover buyers like what they see. 

These newfound QX50 buyers are no doubt falling for the entire QX50 package as much as for its inspiring styling, plus its considerably more modernized and therefore more appealing interior design, its higher quality materials, as well as its wholly improved electronics interface package, and while the original was particularly good on pavement, this second-generation redesign is no slouch off-the-line or around corners either, which is critically important in the premium sector. But does it fully measure up? 

Now that the much-loved FM platform, having served 11 years in the outgoing model, is done and dusted in this category, much to the chagrin of performance-focused drivers who loved its rear-drive bias and wonderful overall balance, this small but ardent following is reluctantly forced to say hello to a totally new front-wheel drive based layout, which while standard with all-wheel drive here in Canada, provides a different feel that may cause some previous QX50 owners a moment of pause. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Stylish from all angles, the new QX50’s design is one of its best attributes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Still, with most manufacturers moving away from rear-drive architectures due to interior packaging restrictions, something Audi and Acura have known for more than a decade and likely one reason their compact SUVs continually outsell most competitors, with this layout configuration also being adopted by BMW for its latest X1, it was only a matter of time that Infiniti’s second-most popular model adapted to changing times. 

So what’s the result of Infiniti’s wholesale change in QX50 direction? Think QX60, only smaller. What I mean is, this latest version of Infiniti’s compact crossover provides a more comfortable ride than its predecessor, that floats more smoothly over bridge expansions and other pavement imperfections, and similarly delivers greater quietness inside (due in part to active engine mounts plus acoustic windshield and side window glass) for a more refined overall luxury experience, but it’s certainly nowhere near the performance SUV the outgoing model was. 

Where the rear-drive-biased first-gen 2008–2017 (there was no 2018 model) QX50 (née EX35) felt like a performance-oriented sport sedan in a taller crossover body, which essentially it was, this new version feels more like the Nissan Altima/Murano-based front-wheel drive-derived design it’s based on, despite having all the hardware (and software) boxes checked, such as a fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, and standard Active Trace Control that automatically adds brake pressure mid-corner to help maintain a chosen lane. Still, it’s a bit less rooted to the tarmac at high speeds, especially around bumpy corners, and also somewhat less confidence inspiring when pushed hard down the open freeway. There’s a reason the world’s best performance vehicles are based on rear-wheel drive platforms after all, and the QX50’s swap to a front-wheel drive biased architecture makes this truth clearly evident. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Infiniti has found a distinctive look that sets it apart from its rivals, in a very good way. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The new variable compression turbo engine is superb, however, with a lot more usable power from its diminutive displacement than most competitors’ base engines. Its 2.0-litre size is identical to the majority of rivals, yet its 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque is considerably more potent than the entry four-cylinder from the compact luxury SUV market segment’s best-selling Mercedes-Benz GLC, for example, which puts out just 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, or the next most popular Audi Q5’s 248 hp and 273 lb-ft (or the base Porsche Macan that uses the same engine as the Q5), or for that matter the third-place BMW X3’s 248 hp and 258 lb-ft, while it’s easily more formidable than Lexus’ NX that’s only rated at 238 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, not to mention Cadillac’s new XT4 that merely musters 237 hp and 258 lb-ft, but this said it’s a fraction off the new Acura RDX that makes 272 hp and 280 lb-ft, as well as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio that leads the segment’s base powerplants with 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque. 

The WardsAuto 10 Best Engines-winning VC-Turbo’s technology took Infiniti’s engineering team a full four years to develop, and incorporates special connecting rods between its pistons and crankshaft that vary the compression of the fuel and air mixture, less for increasing power output when needed and more during lower loads like cruising and coasting for improving fuel efficiency. 

Another 2019 QX50 differentiator that might miff previous owners, unless they’re from the left coast where pump prices are soaring sky high, is the new fuel-friendly continuously variable transmission (CVT). Before getting your back up about the QX50 losing its mostly quick-shifting seven-speed automatic, take note this isn’t any ordinary run-of-the-mill CVT, but rather an all-new shift-by-wire design that includes manual shift mode, steering wheel paddles, Downshift Rev Matching (that blips the throttle to match a given gear ratio with engine rpms), plus dual transmission fluid coolers, and I must say it’s one of the more normal feeling CVTs I’ve tested to date. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Sensory trim results in a higher grade of LED headlamps, plus these stunning 20-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It only exposes the artificial nature of its stepped gears when pressing hard on the throttle, a process that spools up power and torque quickly, albeit allows revs to hold a little too high for a bit too long, which hampers performance, refinement and fuel economy. This said it responds quite well to input from those just noted paddle shifters, and feels especially energetic in Sport mode, but I won’t go so far as to say it’s as engaging as its predecessor’s gearbox, nor as lickety-split quick as competitor’s traditional multi-speed automatics. 

Then again when driven more modestly, like most of us do with our family haulers, it’s a silky smooth transmission that provides the QX50 with more than enough day-to-day performance plus much better claimed fuel economy at 10.0 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.0 combined, compared to 13.7 city, 9.8 highway and 11.9 combined for the previous V6-powered model, which incidentally is a 30-percent improvement. 

Back on the negative, Infiniti’s Eco mode continues to be my least favourite in the industry, due only to the Eco Pedal that annoyingly pushes back on the right foot to remind you not to press hard on the gas pedal. The problem with this intrusive-nanny solution is that people like me, who hate it, simply won’t use Eco mode at all (you can’t turn the Eco Pedal off separately), which defeats the purpose of having an Eco mode in the first place. So therefore, I only used the QX50’s Eco mode once for testing purposes, and after realizing the Eco Pedal was just as intrusive as it’s always been, immediately turned it off, whereas if I were driving a Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi A5, BMW X3 or anything else in the class, I would have left Eco mode on more often than not in order to save fuel and reduce emissions. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
LED taillights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Eco mode, and all driving modes are set via a nicely crafted “D-MODE” labeled metal rocker switch on the lower console, just behind the QX50’s completely new electronic shift lever, a small stub of its previous self, yet very well made from satin-silver aluminum and contrast stitched leather. Thank goodness it’s not a row of confusing buttons like some rivals, other than a small “P” for park when arriving at your destination. 

Switchgear in mind, a beautifully detailed knurled metal-edged rotating infotainment controller is placed just above the shifter on a separate section of the lower console, while the door-mounted power window switches receive attractive metal adornment too. All of the cabin’s other buttons, knobs and switches are quality pieces made from densely constructed composites and metals, while they’re also well damped with tight tolerances, the new QX50 easily living up to this premium class status and beyond when it comes to these details and some of the other surface treatments too. 

For instance, an assortment of satin-silver aluminum trim can be found decorating the rest of the interior, the geometrically drilled Bose speaker grilles especially rich, while gorgeous open-pore natural maple hardwood inlays (exclusive to this Sensory model) joined plush black ultrasuede (also a Sensory exclusive) across door uppers, the latter two treatments added to the instrument panel, centre stack and lower console, plus the front seat bolsters, while contrast-stitched leather was also placed next to the ultrasuede in all of the same locations for truly opulent surroundings. Infiniti even wrapped the first and second set of roof pillars, and lined the ceiling in the same soft yet durable suede-like fabric, the latter also benefiting from a large dual-panel powered panoramic glass sunroof. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50 Sensory interior is ultra-luxe. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All in all the new QX50’s interior is one of the best in its class, with mostly pliable synthetics above the waist, including soft-touch paint used for the glove box lid. Infiniti didn’t gone so far as to finish the bottom portion of the centre console or the lower door panels in such pampering pliable plastics, or for that matter the lower portion of the dash ahead of the driver, with the compact luxury segment’s usual hard composite surfaces starting just underneath the hardwood trim on the left of the steering wheel, and below the leather padding to the right. Still, it’s an interior both Infiniti and you can be proud of, beating many of the industry leaders at their own ultra-luxe game. 

As the kinesthetically-inspired trim designation implies, this $56,490 Sensory model is mostly about creature comforts, and while including all features already noted it also adds premium-grade semi-aniline leather upholstery, two-way front passenger powered lumbar support, three-way ventilated front seats, advanced climate control, extended interior ambient lighting, rear side window sunshades, a motion activated liftgate, and metallic cargo area finishers, while exterior upgrades include 20-inch dark tinted alloys on 255/45 all-season run-flat tires, plus unique cube design LED high/low beam headlamps with adaptive cornering capability. 

There is one trim above Sensory, but the $57,990 Autograph won’t be to everyone’s tastes due a special blue-hued ultrasuede replacing the black found in the Sensory model, plus white surfacing used for much of the instrument panel, centre console sides, door inserts and seats, the centre inserts of the latter boasting diamond-quilted semi-aniline leather, plus blue piping between the white leather and blue ultrasuede. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50’s gauge cluster is nice, but where’s the fully digital system? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Both Autograph and as-tested Sensory models pull plenty of equipment up from $52,990 ProActive trim, such as automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with full speed range and hold, distance control assist, lane departure warning and prevention, blindspot intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, backup collision intervention, steering assist, ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous self-driving, Infiniti’s exclusive steer-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system (a first for an Infiniti SUV) that works very well (other trims use vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering), a head-up display, and a 16-speaker Bose Premium Series audio system. 

Likewise, a host of features from the $48,990 Essential enhance our Sensory model too, including rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, reverse tilting side mirrors, Infiniti’s superb 360-surround Around View parking monitor with moving object detection, navigation with detailed mapping, tri-zone automatic climate control with rear-seat switchgear (upgraded from the base model’s dual-zone auto system), a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, plus memory for that steering wheel as well as for the front seats and side mirrors. 

Finally, the $44,490 base Luxe model adds LED fog lamps, LED integrated turn signals on outside mirror housings, LED taillights (it comes standard with LED low/high beam headlights too), chrome-accented exterior door handles, dual chrome exhaust tips, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, the aforementioned drive mode selector with standard, eco, sport, and personal settings, the powered panoramic glass sunroof including a powered sunshade, a powered liftgate, predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blindspot warning, and more. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
No one should complain about the QX50’s new dual display infotainment system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Take note that all 2019 QX50 pricing for trims, packages, and standalone options were sourced right here on CarCostCanada, and don’t forget that we can also provide you with money-saving manufacturer rebate information, plus otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when it comes time to negotiate your deal. 

Also standard with all QX50 trims is Infiniti’s new InTouch dual-display infotainment system featuring a beautifully bright and clear high-definition 8.0-inch monitor on top and an equally impressive 7.0-inch touchscreen below that, plus InTouch safety, security and convenience services, etcetera. This is an easy system to use, with all hands-on functionality found within the bottom screen and the top monitor mostly dedicated to the navigation system and backup/surround camera system, which displays both for optimal safety. 

Digitization in mind, I was a bit surprised that Infiniti stuck with its mostly analogue gauge cluster in this entirely new model, being that most competitors are now anteing up with fully digital designs in top trims. Then again the QX50 partially makes up for this shortcoming with a large colour multi-information display that’s full of useful functions, controlled by an easily sorted array of switchgear on the steering wheel spokes. 

While I’m talking up the positives, I’ve got to give Infiniti kudos for removing the intrusive nosepiece from their sunglasses holder. I never understood why the previous version was too large to hold a regular set of glasses in place, but fortunately this new one is much more accommodating because it doesn’t including a nosepiece holder at all. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
It’s hard to fault the new electronic shifter, but the CVT isn’t as engaging as the previous 7-speed auto. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now that I’m getting down to the nitty-gritty practical stuff, the new QX50 is also much roomier, especially for rear passengers that now benefit from quite a bit more leg and headroom. In fact, Infiniti claims that its rear seat space is greater than the previously noted Audi Q5 and BMW X3, while those back seats now slide fore and aft for more cargo space or better legroom respectively. 

I found the rear seat extremely comfortable, with plenty of room for my knees, at least eight inches when my seat was set up for my five-foot-eight long-legged, short-torso frame, plus adequate floor space to move around my feet when wearing boots, although not much of a gap below the driver’s seat. I could definitely feel the compact QX50’s width compromise, with not a great deal of air space next to my left knee, but at least the door armrest was padded, and there was ample room for my outboard shoulder. Your adult rear passengers may find the centre armrest a little bit low, but it should be ideal for kids, and there’s a slot for a cellphone as well as two rubberized cupholders that should hold drinks in place. The aforementioned rear climate control panel, which only includes a tiny monochromatic LCD display and colour-coded rocker switch for adjusting the temperature, is joined by a USB device charger and 12-volt socket, but strangely omits rear seat heaters that aren’t available with the QX50 at all. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This is one fabulous set of seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, this is a strange omission in a market that has been experiencing colder winters over the past two years, and could potentially turn off some buyers that want their kids and/or parents to be as comfortable as possible year-round. 

It’s cargo capacity won’t be a negative, however, being that it’s grown by 368 litres (13.0 cubic feet) to 895 (31.6 cu ft) behind its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, even when they’re pushed all the way rearward, while sliding the back bench as far forward as possible adds another 153 litres (5.5 cu ft) of gear toting capacity for a total volume of 1,048 litres (37.0 cu ft) when both rows are occupied. Fold the second-row seats flat and cargo space expands to 1,822 litres (64.3 cu ft), and by the way, Infiniti provides handy levers on the sidewalls for doing just that. Why all this is difficult to fault, I would have appreciated a centre pass-through for loading longer items such as skis down the middle, leaving the two more comfortable window seats available when heading to the slopes. Better yet, Euro-style 40/20/40-split rear seats would allow even larger boards between rear occupants; food for future Infiniti thought. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Rear seat roominess is improved, but where are the heated rear seats? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The powered liftgate is programmable for height, which is a good thing if you live in a parking garage that requires such things, but not so good if you keep smacking your head into it and don’t take the time to reprogram (not Infiniti’s fault), while the cargo compartment is finished quite nicely, with an aluminum sill guard and the usual carpeting up the sidewalls and on the backside of the seats, plus the floor of course, the latter removable to expose the audio system’s amplifier and subwoofer plus a bit of space in between, and another shallow compartment just behind, for stowing smaller items. 

As practical, wonderfully crafted, efficient and quick as the new QX50 is, styling will be the determining factor for most would-be buyers, at least initially. I find its front end especially attractive, with Infiniti’s double-arch grille positioned below a long, elegantly sculpted hood, and flanked by an eye-catching set of signature LED headlamps over a clean, sporty lower fascia. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Plenty of room for gear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Organically shaped panels flow rearward down each side, passing by a nicely detailed chrome engine vent garnish on the upper front fenders, a metal brightwork adorned greenhouse finalizing with Infiniti’s trademark kinked rear quarter windows, and around the back where a particularly appealing rear end design features nicely shaped LED taillights, while a variety of 19- to 20-inch alloy wheels round out the design depending on trim. For me it’s a winner, but time will tell whether it manages to conquest enough new buyers away from rival brands to truly deem it an unqualified success. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2018 Porsche Macan Road Test Review

2018 Porsche Macan
Porsche hasn’t changed the 2019 Macan much when compared to this 2018 model, the latter still available new from your local Porsche dealer. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I was a bit surprised. After all, it was mid-March of 2019 when Porsche handed me a set 2018 Macan keys. Realizing the 2019 model was still en route and that plenty of 2018s were left on Canadian dealer lots due to the refreshed version arriving quite late in the year, I figured I might as well extend my usual past model-year writing deadline to Q2, the furthest I’ve ever pushed it out before. Fortunately for me the 2019 Macan isn’t a wholesale redesign, with the new model only receiving some styling, mechanical and infotainment mods that I’ll share toward the end of this review. 

Most should agree the Macan is one of the premium SUV segment’s sportier performers, whether we’re talking 2018 or 2019 model. Of course, it’s up against some formidable competitors, but thanks to a bevy of turbocharged engines and some sublime suspension tuning, few rivals come close to matching the fun factor of Porsche’s most affordable model. 

Even this base Macan provides a more engaging experience than most challengers, its growly engine and exhaust note making this immediately clear upon leaving my pickup location, and the wonderfully quick and precise response from its paddle-shift actuated seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission, transforming what appears to be a totally normal compact crossover SUV on paper into a rarified sports model in real life. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Depending on your personal taste, the subtler taillights from the 2018 Macan might even be more to your liking. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

In base trim the Macan includes a turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, which like I just said is about average for the segment, at least when comparing the first number. Still, along with its sportier than average feel it manages to zip from zero to 100km/h in just 6.7 seconds, or 6.5 seconds when optioned out with the available $1,500 Sport Chrono Package, which includes Sport and Off-Road modes, as well as launch control and a unique performance display inside the infotainment interface. Part of the Macan’s off-the-line prowess can be attributed to standard Active all-wheel drive, which adds considerable control no matter the road or weather conditions. 

My Macan tester not only left the Sport Chrono Package off its build sheet, it didn’t include the available $1,560 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system either, which features an electronically variable active damping system incorporating Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes, nor the yet more upscale $3,140 Air Suspension that features PASM too, or for that matter a few other performance upgrades that could’ve also been included, but just the same it was a blast to drive, with strong acceleration and fabulous road-holding when pushed hard through high-speed curvy stretches of roadway, its standard aluminum double-wishbone suspension up front and multi-link setup in back doing a commendable job of respecting the legendary Porsche name. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The 2019 includes standard LED headlights and a revised front fascia, while these 19-inch alloys are optional with this 2018 model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Featured found on my test model included a $790 Lane Change Assist system, which warns when leaving a given lane, veering off the side of road, or when another car pulls alongside when flashing a turn signal. An additional $790 bought Lane Keeping Assist, which automatically takes over at speeds of 65 km/h or greater when such just noted instances occur, while my test model also had $1,650 dynamic cruise control, the feature I prefer most of all due to often driving long distances to see family. 

Additional options included a gorgeous $2,230 Garnet Red leather package that also included $1,960 memory-equipped 14-way power-adjustable front seats. I should also mention these improved-upon seats (in black) are part of the $7,250 Premium Package Plus which was also featured on my test model (which can be further upgraded to include $430 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats) that features proximity entry with push-button start, auto-dimming outside mirrors, a large panoramic moonroof, 3-way cooled front seats, 3-way heated rear seats, great sounding Bose surround audio (or alternatively you can get an awesome 1,000-watt 16-speaker Burmester surround system for $5,370 in the same package), HID headlamps with the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) (or you can add $1,340 more for LED headlights), while my tester also included $1,890 19-inch Macan Turbo alloys clad in 235/55R19 Pirelli rubber, and finally $440 black roof rails, with all the extras adding up to $14,250 for a final tally of $68,350 plus freight and fees. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Even the base Macan’s interior is thoroughly impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, this being a Porsche I haven’t come close to sharing everything that’s available if you choose to go for the gusto, or for that matter everything issued as standard fare with the $54,100 base model, the latter including 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, LED taillights, an electric parking brake, one of the best heated leather multifunction steering wheels in the luxury business (its ultra-thin spokes and excellent switchgear way above average), a colour multi-info display within the gauge cluster that provides a navigation map when selected, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a garage door opener, 3-way heated and 8-way powered front seats, three-zone auto HVAC, a 7.2-inch centre touchscreen with navigation and a reverse camera featuring dynamic guidelines, front and rear parking sonar, HD and satellite radio, a powered tailgate, etcetera. 

The Macan’s cargo compartment is sizeable at 500 litres (17.6 cubic feet), but I appreciate its highly functional 40/20/40 split-folding seatbacks even more as it long times like skis at centre when all four seats are taken, while both rear passengers can enjoy the benefit of the aforementioned rear bum warmers. Remove the standard cargo cover, lower the rear seats, and 1,500 litres (53.0 cubic feet) of gear-toting space becomes available, meaning this ultimately sporty compact SUV is plenty practical too. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Most every surface is soft-touch or high-quality composite and genuine metal. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yes, I know it’s hard to put one’s pragmatist hat on when talking about a Porsche, especially considering how beautifully finished the Macan’s interior is. The dash top, which was detailed out in a lovely black leather with red stitching, looked fabulous, and the quality of the pliable composite used to wrap the lower portion of the instrument panel and all surfaces under the dash, glove box lid and lower console sides included, was superb. As you might expect the Macan’s doors are surfaced with a combination of leather and premium synthetics, from the very top of their uppers to their lower extremities, while classy satin-silver aluminum accents can be found just about everywhere. 

The Macan thoroughly comfortable as well, this partially due to the aforementioned 14-way powered seats that provided all the adjustments needed, including 4-way lumbar support and lower seat cushions that extend to cup below the knees. Ample steering column reach and rake put me in total control too, not to mention absolute comfort despite my long-legged, short torso frame. I found the rear seats comfortable too, especially with respect to the lower back. They were carved out nicely at each window position, ideal for lateral support when the Macan’s driver decides to push the limits. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The standard three-gauge cluster gets a TFT colour multi-information display in its right-side dial. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Performance driving in mind, buyers that want stronger acceleration can opt for the Macan S, which includes a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 that’s good for 340 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, plus standstill to 100km/h in a mere 5.4 seconds, or 5.2 when upgraded to the Sport Chrono Package. If that’s not enough, the Macan GTS gets an additional 20 hp and 30 lb-ft for a whopping 360 and 369 respectively, which reduces its zero to hero time to 5.2 seconds, or 5.0 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package. 

The Turbo (Turbo only referring to model specification, being that all Macans incorporate turbocharged engines) ups the ante with a 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged V6 capable of 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, resulting in 0 to 100km/h in only 4.8 seconds, or 4.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package. 

If more is yet needed, consider the Performance Edition that includes the Sport Chrono Package as standard equipment while adding an extra 40 horsepower and 36 lb-ft of torque for a shocking 440 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque for an ultra-quick 4.4-second 0 to 100km/h sprint. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The biggest change for 2019 is the centre stack, which exchanges this 7.2-inch touchscreen for a much larger 10.9-inch version. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I’m going to guess most in the Turbo league won’t care so much about fuel efficiency, but those who purchase a base model probably will now that the fed’s new carbon pricing scheme is in full force. Standard with all Macan trims is fuel-saving and emissions reducing auto start/stop with coasting ability, which turns the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, this doing its part to assist the Macan toward its estimated 11.6 L/100km city, 9.3 highway and 10.5 combined Transport Canada rating. I’d be fine with this result, particularly when factoring in how fun it is to drive. 

If you choose to purchase the 2019 Macan, real-world fuel economy shouldn’t differ at all, but this said the entry-level four-cylinder has been detuned by four horsepower, while second-rung Macan S trim increases its output by eight horsepower. I don’t think such nominal numbers will cause buyers to go one way or the other, but the new Macan is said to deliver a better ride and with even greater agility, which is kind of difficult to believe when factoring in how wonderfully capable this 2018 version is, so rather than speculate I’ll let you know what I experience after I test it. 

2018 Porsche Macan
These upgraded 14-way seats are fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I think more will be drawn to the new model for its outward design, which while only nominally changed up front is now sporting standard LED headlamps, while in back it’s a whole new look due to a similar one-piece three-dimensional LED tail lamp system as found on the recently updated Cayenne. Even more important is the completely revised centre stack found inside, now featuring a much larger standard 10.9-inch high-definition infotainment touchscreen. It gets much of the same standard features as with the current version, but boasts new graphics for updated features that are now larger and easier to use (the navigation map and backup camera especially benefiting), plus it includes a quicker operating processor as well as the new Porsche Connect Plus app suite with a Wi-Fi hotspot. 

What’s more, the updated Macan offers a new driver assist system which, through dynamic cruise control, can apply the throttle, brake and make steering adjustments to maintain its lane at speeds under 60 km/h amidst traffic, the semi-autonomous system moving Porsche closer to full self-driving. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The Macan is wonderfully practical. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

So which one do you want? An already discounted 2018 Macan like the one tested in this review, or the refreshed and updated 2019 version starting to arrive at Canadian Porsche retailers now? There’s no bad decision here, with both options resulting in a great looking luxury crossover capable of impressive performance, top-tier refinement, and no shortage of space, while Porsche’s expected reliability plus resale and residual values are hard to beat as well. Just remember, if you’re leaning toward the former, the time to act is now. 

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

2019 Acura TLX Tech Road Test

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The new TLX looks good in Tech trim, which doesn’t add any exterior upgrades to the base model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Acura does well in almost every Canadian market segment it competes in. As calendar year 2018 ended the RDX sat within the top three of 15 compact luxury SUV competitors, while the MDX was fifth out of 21 mid-size premium crossovers and number one amongst dedicated three-row rivals. What about cars? The ILX was mid-pack in its entry-level luxury segment, and surprisingly the top-line RLX Sport Hybrid mid-size four-door was just one of two cars to show positive sales growth in a sector that’s been getting hammered by the aforementioned SUVs, although its actual final sales tally placed it second to last out of 17 competitors. Truly, Acura’s best sales success in Canada’s car sector is summed up in the TLX. 

A total of 17 models compete in the compact luxury car D-segment, led by such notable names as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Tesla Model 3 (if you can trust their sales numbers that seem very suspect), BMW 3 Series, and Audi A4, which makes the TLX’ eighth position quite credible, albeit not as good as its previous best-of-the-rest status. Despite a thorough facelift last year, some of the shine has come off this car in recent years, or at least the Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50 have now passed by on the sales charts. The latter Japanese sport-luxury sedan is one of a handful that grew sales last year, the other direct four-door competitor being the C-Class, which means other than the Jaguar XE that slid rearward by 27.8 percent, the TLX’s loss of 25.2 percent made for the worst backward move in its four-door compact luxury segment. Yikes! 

If you remember, I started this review by claiming that Acura does well in almost every Canadian market segment it competes in, not all. And to be honest, I thought this was going to be a positive story that would look good on the car and brand, because in previous years the TLX always held a solid fourth place behind the C-Class or 3 Series (depending on which one came first) and the A4, but to see it slide to sixth amongst its four-door sedan rivals was a shocker. Rather than analyze possible reasons why, I’ll steer away from that rabbit hole and instead talk about my experience with the car at hand, at which point maybe you’ll understand why I’m perplexed at its shaky sales results. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Long and lean, the TLX Tech provides a lot of style for the money. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The TLX has only been with us since 2014 when it arrived as a 2015 model. It came about by combining the smaller TSX with the larger TL, in spirit at least, resulting in a just-right-sized D-segment sedan. What I mean by that is it’s still a bit larger than most competitors, measuring 61 millimetres (2.4 inches) longer than its nearest challenger at 4,844 mm (190.7 in), albeit coming up 74 mm (2.9 in) short in wheelbase length when compared to that Q50, which was the longest next to the fractionally (0.1 mm) longer wheelbase of the C-Class. Its 1,854-mm (73.0-in) width (without mirrors) is widest in its class by 12 mm (0.5 in), while its 1,447 mm (57.0 in) height is tallest by a hair, or rather 4 mm (0.15 in). So if you want more luxury car for similar money, or more precisely quite a bit less money, the TLX should be high on your list. 

The 2019 TLX starts at just $34,890 plus freight and fees, which is closer to the entry-level models of all brands just mentioned than anything sized and equipped like this Acura. Some quick comparisons have the segment’s next most affordable Cadillac ATS starting at $37,845, the Audi A4 at $39,800, the Lexus IS at $41,050, the Volvo S60 at $42,400, the Jaguar XE at $43,900, the Infiniti Q50 at $44,995, the Genesis G70 at $45,500, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class at $46,100, and the BMW 3 Series at $49,000, or in other words the TLX has every competitor beaten on price by a long shot. 

By the way, all pricing was sourced right here at CarCostCanada, which not only provides all trims, packages and standalone options, but also lets you know about available rebates that might help you save money when it comes time to make a deal, plus even better, you can access dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The base 17-inch alloys look good, but you can’t upgrade the TLX tech with larger rims unless opting for A-Spec trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Just in case you’re thinking that Acura’s most basic D-segment entry must shortchange its owner something awful for under $35k, the base TLX gets full LED headlamps with automatic high beams, remote engine start, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a colour TFT multi-info display, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low Speed Follow, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an excellent multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-way power driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar, remote-linked two-way memory for the driver’s seat, side mirrors and climate control, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, an 8.0-inch On Demand Multi-use Display (ODMD) above a 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, seven-speaker audio, satellite radio, active noise cancellation, a Homelink universal garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and much more. 

On top of that impressive list, all TLX trims boast standard AcuraWatch advanced driver assistance systems including Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Heads Up Warning, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with steering wheel haptic feedback, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), plus the segment’s usual array of active and passive safety features, including an airbag for the driver’s knees, while Blind Spot Information (BSI) with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor come as part of my tester’s second-rung Tech trim. 

That’s right. We were able to test a less equipped trim this time around, ideal because plenty of buyers choose this well equipped model that still manages to slip under the base price points of most competitors at $38,590. Along with the safety upgrades, Tech trim adds rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, an accurate navigation system with detailed mapping, voice recognition, the AcuraLink connectivity system, great sounding 10-speaker ELS Studio audio, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, an always welcome heatable steering wheel rim, heated rear outboard seats, and last but hardly least perforated Milano leather upholstery replacing the standard leatherette. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
Last year’s mid-cycle refresh didn’t change the interior design, although the two-tier infotainment system was upgraded. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Features in mind, I was disappointed that TLX buyers are forced to step up to Elite trim, which is only available with a V6 and all-wheel drive, to access a number of fairly basic luxury items such as auto-dimming side mirrors, rear parking sensors (that come packaged with the front sensors included), and a wireless smartphone charger, while LED fog lamps only come standard with the Elite and sportier A-Spec models, the latter made available with the four-cylinder and front-wheel drive for 2019. Offering these optionally would be beneficial to those who prize fuel economy more than performance, and Acura could package in the Elite model’s excellent surround view camera and ventilated front seats too. 

My tester’s interior was finished in classic Ebony black, needless to say a good match to its $500 coat of optional Platinum White Pearl exterior paint, making for an elegantly sporty four-door thanks to tastefully applied bright metal and glossy black detailing outside plus plenty of satin-silver accents and grey woodgrain inlays inside. Take note that Parchment tan interior could have been selected at no extra charge, so if a lighter interior is more to your liking Acura has got you covered. 

Despite its entry-level luxury asking price the TLX Tech interior’s fit, finish and materials quality is fully up to par with its D-segment peers, thanks to a soft-touch dash top that wraps down around the instrument panel, even to the lowest edges of the centre stack. Likewise, front and rear door uppers are finished with the same premium padded material, while the long, curving door inserts are nice stitched leather, as are the armrests side and centre. Acura even finishes the glove box lid off with the same pliable surfacing, only coming up a bit short on the sides of the lower console and each lower door panel, all areas that many rivals also apply harder plastic. Of course, all pillars are fabric-wrapped, and the roofliner is nicely finished in a high-grade woven fabric. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The TLX’ gauge cluster is effective, but looks a bit yesteryear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The primary gauge cluster is a nice straightforward combination of metal-rimmed dials with a colour multi-info display at centre, the latter rather simple by today’s standards, but this more classic driving-focused cockpit is more than made up for in digital display acreage by Acura’s two-tiered infotainment system on the centre stack, the larger top monitor controlled by a big knurled metallic knob and row of surrounding buttons just below the smaller display, which is a touchscreen as noted earlier. 

This second-generation dual-screen system was updated last year and now processes inputs 30-percent faster while also including the aforementioned branded smartphone integration, but be aware that a couple of features that function best with a touchscreen’s tablet-like pinch and swipe gesture capability, notably the navigation system’s map interface as well as both CarPlay and Android Auto, are shown up high on the larger display and therefore controlled more clumsily by the rotating knob and buttons below, while features like the climate control system, heatable front seats, and audio functions are found within the lower hands-on unit. 

Other than the navigation map, the upper display’s graphics are rather drab with a basic grey/blue font and not much else to look at, while the screen resolution isn’t quite as fine as some others in the class, but this made me glad that Acura chose the more colourful map as the default function. The touchscreen’s graphics are certainly more appealing and also benefit from a higher resolution display with richer colours and deeper contrast. 

Of note, you can adjust some of the climate functions via the narrow row of buttons and rocker switches just below the screen, and these are some of the tightest fitting, best damped switchgear in the business. This pretty well sums up most of the controls in the TLX’ cabin, although the buttons for the power windows and locks on the door panels seem like afterthoughts and therefore aren’t quite up to the same standard. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The navigation system’s route guidance works well, but the display is lower in resolution than some rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Adjusting the power side mirror controller on the same panel provided good rearward visibility, which when joined by plenty of glass in every direction, plus the auto-dimming rearview mirror and aforementioned multi-angle rearview camera, results in a car that’s easy to drive through congested city traffic and tight parking lots. 

The multi-adjustable driver’s seat is very comfortable too, although I would have preferred four-way lumbar support to press more accurately against the small of my back, plus extendable thigh supports for cupping under the knees would’ve been nice as well. Still, the tilt and telescopic steering column extended the steering wheel far enough rearward to provide a comfortable seat distance for my legs while leaving my elbows properly bent for maximum control when resting the hands at 9 and 3 o’clock, plus all controls were within easy reach. 

The rear seating area offers plenty of space too, plus excellent lower back comfort in the outboard positions. A large folding armrest provides a nice place for inside elbows when only two are seated abreast, plus the usual twin cupholders and a tiny open bin for holding snacks or what-have-you. Acura adds a couple of vents to the backside of the front console to keep rear passengers aerated, while providing three temperatures for the rear seat heaters is better than the usual two. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The touchscreen is a big improvement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The TLX’ trunk provides a decent amount of space as well, measuring 405 litres (14.3 cubic feet) thanks to the car’s extra length mentioned earlier. Pull tabs release the 60/40 split seatbacks if you want to lower one side or both for longer cargo, but unless you’ve got something strong enough to push them forward with, like a set of skis, you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors to drop them down anyway. Another shortcoming is the 60/40 split itself, which doesn’t include a centre pass-through and therefore limits the use of the seat heaters when transporting said skis or snowboard equipment—cue one whining tweenager now. 

Cranking up the aforementioned ELS stereo might be a good way to drown out rear seat complainants, mind you, but then again you might find the sound of the high-revving base 2.4-litre engine more to your liking. This engine is right out of the previous-generation Civic Si, so that sonorous song and rorty exhaust note ideally complements its ability to rev all the way to 6,800 rpm. I’m not sure whether I like this V-TEC-infused mill more than the aforementioned 3.5-litre V6, and if it weren’t for the larger engine’s advanced SH-AWD, the FWD version might even be the sportier choice. 

Don’t get me wrong as the V6 spits out a naughty growl of its own when getting hard on the throttle, but my nod in the four-cylinder’s direction has more to do with the excellence of its quick-shifting paddle-shift actuated dual-clutch eight-speed automated transmission than its 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. Certainly the extra 84 horsepower and 85 lb-ft of torque would be had to pass up, but that engine’s nine-speed automatic kills its fun-factor, taking far too long between shifts to feel remotely sporty. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The seats are comfortable and finished in perforated leather, but more adjustment would be helpful. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Getting the most out of the TLX drivetrain is Acura’s four-position “Dynamic Mode” driver settings, featuring default Normal, thrifty Econ, Sport and Sport + modes. The latter two really make a difference when pushing the envelope, but I left it in Econ mode when dealing with city traffic, as it was best for eking the most from a tank of fuel. Acura claims 10.0 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.7 combined with the four-cylinder model, while the V6, that gets an engine idle stop-start system, does pretty well at the pump as well with a rating of 11.4, 7.7 and 9.8 respectively. 

Another bonus with the smaller engine is less weight over the front wheels, so it feels nimbler when pressed hard through corners and is less likely to understeer, or push out the front wheels and drive straight when the tires break traction in the middle of a turn. On this note it’s pretty hard to upset the TLX’ nicely sorted front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, despite the car’s smallish standard 17-inch alloy wheels and 225/55 all-season tires, but this brings up another shortcoming with both base and Tech trims, Acura doesn’t offer any wheel and tire upgrades. These lesser tires are easier on the wallet when it comes time to replace, however, and they help the TLX deliver a nice compliant ride. High-speed stability on the freeway is good too, with the car tracking nicely and wind noise kept to a minimum. 

Once again, four-cylinder fans who want more can now opt for the TLX Tech A-Spec, a car I hope to cover in an upcoming review because it combines what I think is this model’s sportiest drivetrain with a sweet looking set of 19-inch rims on stickier 45/40 rubber, plenty of aerodynamic styling upgrades, and other niceties inside. 

As it is, the 2019 TLX Tech is an attractive car thanks to last year’s refresh, highlighted by the brand’s now trademark “diamond pentagon grille,” tidier lower fascia, and sharper looking rear apron. It already included some of the best-looking LED headlamps and an attractive set of LED taillights, the former nicely revised, while its overall profile is long and sleek. Still, those updates were added to a car that was already three years into its lifecycle and now that it’s heading into its fifth will soon require a complete overhaul in order to keep its loyal followers from looking elsewhere. 

2019 Acura TLX Tech
The rear seating area is spacious and very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That thought in mind, one reason for the TLX’s recent sales decline could be the introduction of Acura’s all-new RDX, which has no doubt lured away more than a few would-be sport sedan buyers. It truly is better than most rivals and therefore worthy of its success, which bodes well for an upcoming redesign to this TLX. A new version should arrive sometime next year, so fingers crossed they build on all that’s good with this current version, mix in much of what makes the new RDX great, and end up with a new TLX that at the very least reclaims best-of-the-rest status. 

Until then, you can do a lot worse than the 2019 TLX, especially when factoring in expected reliability and stronger than average resale values that come from such a competitive value proposition at time of purchase. The TLX Tech is a very good car for a superb price, and even when loaded up with maximum performance and features the TLX Elite SH-AWD A-Spec slips under the $50k affordability barrier and therefore undercuts most competitors by thousands, let alone tens of thousands. You should consider it seriously.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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.