Stunning new Prophecy Concept EV offers window into Hyundai’s future

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
We certainly like what we see. Hyundai’s new Optimistic Futurism design language looks to the past as well.

As new vehicles are turning into little more than rolling computers for transporting people and their gear, they’re in fact becoming less complicated than their predecessors, at least from a driving and styling perspective.

Hyundai’s new Prophecy Concept EV is a good example of minimalism meets modern-day tech thanks to the automaker’s new Optimistic Futurism design language that’s been created with the purpose of connecting consumers more completely with their vehicles, or so says the head of Hyundai’s global design center, SangYup Lee, as part of the electric’s car’s press release.

“We have brought to life yet another icon that establishes a new standard for the EV segment as well as pushing Hyundai’s design vision to even broader horizons,” commented Lee. “A part of that expansion is what we call Optimistic Futurism, a design concept embodied by ‘Prophecy’. With Optimistic Futurism, our aim is to forge an emotional connection between humans and automobiles.”

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
Would Hyundai be able to sell its Prophecy if built today?

Developing emotional ties between buyers and products is a top priority of every effective brand, and this in mind Hyundai should do well with whatever comes of its new Prophecy, or at least the design language behind it. With the Prophecy, the Korean automaker’s namesake brand has created a styling exercise that’s both retrospectively minimalist and brilliantly detailed, resulting in a look that pulls cues from some iconic rivals, yet sets off on its own course too.

Yes, the complex curves that make up its outward design could have just as easily been concocted by Porsche for a future Panamera or even the new Taycan EV, not that it appears like either, but this said few automakers dare attempt to style a car with as many rounded edges as Porsche, let alone a grille-less front end like Tesla’s Model 3.

This said its seemingly vented rear end styling, which pulls attention from the large transparent acrylic rear wing resting above, reminds of the post-war Tucker 48, also particularly aerodynamic for its time, while mixed in with its pixelated 3D elements are LEDs for a set of protruding tail lamps. A similar pattern can be seen in the headlamp clusters up front, which use the same transparent acrylic as the rear spoiler and in the camera monitoring system, but the two headlights look a great deal more conventional than the eye-catching taillight design.

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
These taillights are wild!

All of the features above improve aerodynamics, of course, which is why forerunning EVs have chosen their own unique variations of the Prophecy’s familiar design theme, but Hyundai’s propeller-inspired alloy wheels, which direct air down each side of the car’s body, are unique.

Hyundai hasn’t released any exterior or interior dimensions, but an open set of clamshell doors makes its mid-size four-door coupe layout clear, while the only available technical specifications depict a 100-percent electric power unit with a battery housed under the passenger compartment floor. Therefore, we expect it will ride on a completely new architecture that could provide multiple body styles on top.

The Prophecy’s interior features tartan-patterned upholstery that pays yet more homage to Porsche, particularly its 1975-1980 911, 924 and 928 models with blue-green being a popular colour combination at the time, yet nothing the Stuttgart-headquartered performance marque has ever done managed to achieve the eyeball-popping wow factor of Hyundai’s new creation, and not only because the South Koreans use the aforementioned Scottish kilt pattern for the seats’ side bolsters as well as their central insets.

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
The Prophecy’s interior is ultra-future think.

The Prophecy’s sizeable wraparound digital display, which frames the windshield’s base, isn’t all that impressive these days either, but the pop-out primary instrument cluster is, yet even that won’t upstage the car’s driving controls. Obviously missing is a steering wheel, which has been replaced by a pair of pivoting joysticks, this ode to gaming apropos in a car that’s designed to be driven autonomously.

Of course, we won’t ever see the Prophecy on the road, its existence designed only to show new car buyers that Hyundai has an exciting future styling direction. If produced as is, we think Hyundai would have a hit in their hands. 

 

Hyundai | “Prophecy” Concept EV Unveiling (16:04):

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo and video credits: Hyundai

New Taycan electric now available with Exclusive Manufaktur enhancements

2020 Porsche Taycan Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur upgrades include new front and rear fascias with more aggressive styling.

Back in 1983, a Porsche skunkworks division transformed a 409-horsepower Type 935 racecar into a hand-built, slant-nose, massive winged, one-off road-ready super car crammed full of cream-colour leather upholstery and handcrafted hardwood trim. It was made-to-order exclusively for Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) owner Mansour Ojjeh, his company now known best for the popular TAG Heuer line of luxury wristwatches.

The specialized team of crafts people soon became known as the Porsche “Personalisation Programme.” It continued building special versions of its legendary 911 sports car for individual customers, one such client a wealthy sheikh that purchased six identical customized 959 supercars, while the division also built low run special editions before being renamed Porsche Exclusive in 1986 and Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur in 2017. Along the way the team produced a special Panamera Exclusive series, a modified Macan, a unique version the new Cayenne Coupe, plenty of special 911s, and others. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
Special paints can be had too, plus unique interior treatments.

Big changes are afoot at Porsche, however, thanks to the introduction of the all-electric Taycan four-door sports car, so it only makes sense to produce Exclusive Manufaktur upgrades for this all-new model. So far the division is offering 90 customization options and three different Sport Design packages.

The three packages “differ with respect to the inlays in the lower front apron, in the sill panels and in the side fins of the diffuser,” stated Porsche in a press release. A larger aero section than shown before can be seen below the headlights in the photos, while the Exclusive Manufaktur equipped Taycans also included more sculpting to their front fascias. Porsche also says that each car’s side fins can be painted in body-colour or left in woven carbon fibre, depending on which package is chosen.

2020 Porsche Taycan Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
These 21-inch wheels feature special carbon aeroblades.

Also available from Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur are LED matrix headlights “with a three-dimensional circuit board graphic in the headlight housing as well as daytime running light elements in Glacier Ice Blue or other colours,” added Porsche in the same press release, while the headlights also include Dynamic Light System Plus. Making the Taycan’s exterior design look even better, it can be had with a sensational set of 21-inch Exclusive Design wheels with eye-arresting aeroblades formed from forged and milled carbon, these taking 3.2 kg (6.6 lbs) of weight from each standard alloy wheel.

Along with all the exterior modifications, Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur provides upgrades for the Taycan’s cabin as well, one being a Carbon Interior Package that can be had in a wide variety of contrasting colours, seatbelts available in eight special colours including Blackberry, Bordeaux Red, Crayon, Graphite Blue, Lime Beige, Meranti Brown, Slate Grey, and Truffle Brown, plus matte carbon fibre accents on the front and rear doors plus the centre console.

2020 Porsche Taycan Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
Putting the finishing touches on a Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur enhanced Taycan.

In order to keep up with demand, Porsche is expanding the Exclusive Manufaktur facility by one third over its once 2,000 square-metre (21,528 sq-ft) footprint, the larger floor plan adding four new lifting platform workstations, more storage space, and a direct line to the finished-vehicle loading platform.

If you’d like to have Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur enhance your new Taycan, or any other model offered by the German automaker, make sure to let your local Porsche dealer know.

To find out more about 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo pricing, plus source detailed information about any other new model in Porsche’s lineup or any other brand’s portfolio, check out our individual CarCostCanada model pages like this one on the new 2020 Taycan. We also provide info on manufacturer rebates, in-house financing and leasing deals, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when it comes time to negotiate.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Porsche

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4 Road Test

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The Countryman is in its second-generation, but still looks every bit a Mini.

There are certain market segments an automaker wants to do well in. Obviously, higher end models like large sedans, SUVs and sports cars present the opportunity for higher profits, and are therefore important to any brand’s bottom line, while larger compact and mid-size models are critical for volume, but if you’re not able to pull buyers into the fold early on, when they’re moving up from pre-owned to new, or from a mainstream volume brand to luxury, then it’s more difficult to sell those higher end models later on. Or at least that’s the theory.

One might say BMW group owns the subcompact luxury SUV category in Canada. After all, together with the segment’s most popular X1, which found 4,420 entry-level luxury buyers last year, this Mini Countryman that was good for 2,275 slightly less affluent up-and-comers, and the sportiest (and priciest) BMW X2 that earned 1,383 new customers of its own, its total of 8,078 units sales more than doubled what Audi or Mercedes-Benz could deliver in Canada last year.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
It looks small from a distance, but the Countryman is actually quite roomy inside.

While BMW would no doubt like to eventually pull Mini customers up into its namesake brand, and some now doubt do make the progression, it really exists on its own. What I mean is that Mini has a completely unique character that car enthusiasts aspire to, and not kept around merely as a gateway brand. If a Mini owner was fortunate enough to trade in their Countryman for a larger, pricier SUV, they might just as well choose a Range Rover Velar instead of an X3 or X5. Then again, it’s probably just as likely they’ll stick with their Mini, choosing instead to move up within the brand to a John Cooper Works trim level or maybe even this top-line Countryman S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid.

The Countryman was one of the first subcompact luxury SUVs on the market, arriving way back in 2010. Mini made major improvements for its 2017 redesign, so now this second-generation model has been with us for four years if we include the 2020 model. If you looked at a 2020 and this outgoing 2019 model you wouldn’t be able to notice many changes. Some wheel designs have been changed, a normal occurrence every now and then, with the big updates found under the skin, and then only impacting buyers wanting a manual transmission. Yes, it’s been axed for 2020, mostly because Mini’s U.S. division swapped it out for a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox in front-wheel drive models not available here, so it’s almost entirely the previously optional eight-speed automatic across the Countryman line in Canada, whether DIY enthusiasts like it or not.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
This Countryman S E ALL4 came as-tested with LED headlights, LED fog lamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Almost entirely? Yes, the very Countryman S E ALL4 hybrid on this page uses a six-speed Steptronic automatic driving the front wheels via a 136-horsepower 1.5-litre three-cylinder Twin Power Turbo engine. The ALL4 in the name designation denotes all-wheel drive, but unlike the other ALL4s in the Countryman lineup, this model’s rear wheels are solely powered by an 88-horsepower (65kW) synchronous e-motor via electricity stored in a 7.6 kWh Li-Ion battery.

Like with most all-wheel drive systems, power can be apportioned front or back, with the wheels in the rear employed fully in EV mode, or partially when the Countryman detects front slippage and needs more traction. That means it feels as if you’re driving a regular hybrid, with each axle using its motive power sources seamlessly as needed, all working together harmoniously via Mini’s drivetrain management system. The S E ALL4’s electric-only range is a mere 19 km after a complete charge, but who’s counting.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
Mini interiors combine fun retro character traits with high-quality premium materials and finishing.

Not even 20 km? Ok, that is pretty minuscule, and many of my colleagues are reporting real world results of 12 and 13 km. Thank goodness Mini made another change to the Countryman line for 2020, a larger batter for a 30-percent gain in EV range for 29 km in total. While this will hardly cause BMW i3 fans to shift allegiances, the added range allows the Countryman S E ALL4 to be used as a regular commuter without the need to recharge until you get to work, as long as your daily commute falls within most peoples’ average. If you really want to go green you can stop along the way for more energy, and it won’t take too much time for the new 10-kWh battery to recharge.

It’s probably not a good idea to use EV mode all the way to work if you need to take the highway, unless it’s bumper to bumper all the way. While the Countryman S E ALL4 can achieve speeds of up to 125 km/h with just its e-motor, you’ll drain the battery in minutes if you try. Instead, you can use its hybrid mode on the highway (up to 220 km/h if you’re feeling frisky) and switch back to EV mode when traveling slower, which maximizes a given charge. The regenerative brakes help to charge up the battery when coming to stops or going downhill, doing their part to maximize zero emissions driving.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The Countryman’s cockpit is ideally set up for both comfort and performance driving.

I made the point of recharging the battery whenever possible during my weeklong test. I’d grab a coffee at McDonalds and give it a quick charge outside, drop by the local mall and do likewise, and one time stayed a little longer at Ikea’s restaurant in order to fully top it up, plus of course I charged it overnight. Being that it takes quite a bit of effort to find somewhere in public to charge it that’s not being used, the novelty quickly wears off when the battery runs out of juice in a matter of 20 or 30 minutes. Still, its fuel economy is good even when not charging it up all the time, with an 8.4 L/100km rating in the city, 8.8 on the highway and 8.6 combined. Plugging it in more often can give you an equivalent rating of 3.6 L/100km combined city/highway, however, so it’s obviously worth going through the hassle.

At least as important for any Mini, the Countryman S E ALL4 is fun to drive. I can’t think of many hybrid SUVs that include a manual mode shifter, let alone a Sport mode (that actually does something), but all you need to do is slide the switch at the base of the gearbox to the left and this PHEV shoots away from a stoplight with plenty of energy, taking about seven seconds to reach 100 km/h thanks to a total of 221 net horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque (the electric motor puts out an immediate 122 lb-ft of twist by itself), and while it can’t quite achieve the 301-hp John Cooper Work’s Countryman’s ability to get off the line, the JCW managing just over 6 seconds to 100 km/h, this 1,791-kilo cute ute still feels quick enough.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The Countryman’s centre display is high-resolution, graphically stimulating and packed full of features.

The S E ALL4 is even more sporting around fast-paced curves, with the kind of high-speed handling expected from a Mini. It’s not as firmly sprung as a JCW, but then again it provides a more comfortable ride. Likewise, the Countryman S E ALL4 is a complete pleasure on the freeway, tracking well at high-speed and excellent at overcoming unexpected crosswinds, my test model’s meaty 225/50R18 all-season tires providing a sizeable contact patch with the tarmac below.

A fabulously comfortable driver’s seat made longer stints behind the wheel easy on the back, my test model’s boasting superb inherent support for the lower back and thighs, with the former benefiting from four-way lumbar support and the latter from a manually extendable lower cushion to cup under the knees (love that). It’s spacious too, both up front and in the rear, with the back seats roomy enough for big adults as long as the centre position stays unoccupied. A wide armrest folds down from middle, housing the expected twin cupholders, while two vents on the backside of the front console keep fresh air flowing. A 12-volt charger has me wondering when Mini plans to modernize with USB charging ports, while no rear seat heaters were included in this trim. At least there was a wonderfully large power panoramic glass sunroof up above, making the Countryman’s smallish dimensions feel bigger and more open.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The centre stack controls are very well done, particularly the row of toggles at the bottom.

I’ve read/heard a number of critics complain about the Countryman not offering enough cargo space, however, but this little Mini’s cargo compartment design has me sold. Of course it’s relatively small compared to a larger compact or mid-size luxury utility, which is par for the course when choosing a Mini, its dimensions measuring 487 litres behind the rear seatback and 1,342 litres when lowered, but it’s the folding centre section I appreciate most. This allows longer items like skis to be laid down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable window seats. The Countryman’s 40/20/40 rear seat split is the most convenient in the industry, while the seats’ folding mechanism feels very well made with everything clicking together solidly. The rear compartment is finished well too, with high quality carpets most everywhere. It all helps Mini make its argument for premium status.

Some buyers don’t consider Mini a premium brand, while those in the know place it alongside (or slightly below) BMW, at least when it comes to the Bavarian automaker’s entry-level models, like the X1. Of course, the X1 xDrive28i starts at a lofty $42,100 when compared to the $31,090 Countryman, but this fully loaded S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid, featuring upgrades like the previously noted sunroof, plus LED cornering headlights and fog lamps, a head-up display, navigation, real-time traffic info, superb Harman/Kardon audio, a wireless device charger, and more, will set you back more than $50k (the S E ALL4’s base price is $44,390), so Mini is in the same league. This pricing spread makes it clear that Mini sits well above most other mainstream volume branded subcompact SUVs, which range in price from $18,000 for the most basic to $35,000 for something fancier in full dress. 

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
This is one of the best driver’s seats in the subcompact luxury SUV class.

By the way, you can find out all about 2019 and 2020 Mini Countryman pricing right here on CarCostCanada, with details about trims, packages and individual options included, plus you can also access money saving manufacturer rebate info, the latest deals on financing, and best of all dealer invoice pricing that could help you save you thousands when it comes time to negotiate. CarCostCanada provides all this and more for every volume mainstream and luxury model available in Canada, so make sure to go there first before stepping into a dealership.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The Countryman’s rear seating area is spacious and comfortable.

The base S E ALL4 is well equipped too, by the way, including 18-inch alloy wheels on run-flat tires, puddle lamps, a keyless toggle start/stop switch, a sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, well bolstered sport seats with leatherette upholstery, adaptive cruise control, park distance control, two-zone automatic climate control, a large high-definition centre touchscreen with excellent graphics, and more.

Additionally, all of the high-end features just mentioned are housed in an interior that’s finished to premium levels, or at least it’s premium for this compact luxury SUV category. This means it includes fabric-wrapped roof pillars and plenty of pliable composite surfaces, while the switchgear is nicely made too, not to mention brilliantly retrospective with respect to the chromed toggles on the centre stack and overhead console.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
A flexible cargo configuration makes the Countryman especially useful.

All in all, the Countryman S E ALL4 might be a fuel-efficient hybrid, but it’s also a Mini, which means it lives up to the performance expectations the British brand’s loyal followers want, while also providing a high level of style, luxury, features, roominess, and more. That it’s possible to drive emissions-free over short distances is a bonus, as is access to your city’s high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, plug-in parking spots closer to the entrance of shopping malls, stores, etcetera, and better than average fuel economy whether using EV mode or just its hybrid setup. It’s a bit pricey, but the Countryman S E ALL4 delivers a lot for the money asked.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology Road Test

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C remains a good looking subcompact hatch thanks to its 2018 refresh.

Toyota Canada stopped providing individual sales figures for its smallest hybrid back in 2017, even though the numbers weren’t much lower than in previous years. The car had been available for over five years without many updates after all, so deliveries probably should’ve slowed even more, but those of us outside of Toyota’s inner circle will never know how far they fell.

I have to admit to being curious about how the 2018 model year refresh impacted those sales results when it arrived during the same year, but unfortunately a “Prius Family” category was created for monthly Prius, Prius plug-in, Prius V and Prius C sales statistics in Canada, which meant learning how far sales had fallen through 2017, 2018 and the C’s final year of 2019, in order to question why Toyota discontinued it, became difficult.

Its cancellation may have nothing to do with sales, mind you. The Prius C shared underpinnings with the 2019 (and previous) Toyota Yaris subcompact hatchback, both having ridden on the Toyota B platform, and with the Toyota-built Vitz-based Yaris no longer available in North American markets at the close of 2019, this model now replaced by a Mazda2-based Yaris hatchback in Canada and the U.S. for 2020 (and as a Yaris sedan exclusively south of the 49th), it was probably a good idea to say sayonara to the Prius C as well.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
Large LED taillights, a narrow rear window, a sporty bumper and sharp alloy wheels make the 2019 Prius C Technology stand out.

Yes, I know about the new 2020 Yaris Hybrid offered in Japan and other world markets, and I’m well aware of the even more compelling 250-plus horsepower 2020 Yaris GR (Gazoo Racing), which could’ve completely taken over from Ford’s fabulous little Fiesta ST (RIP) if Toyota had chosen to go bold, so let’s hope the new 2020 Yaris Hatchback is more enticing than the Mazda2 was when it couldn’t gain much sales traction during its mostly forgettable summer of 2010 through winter of 2016 run.

As for the outgoing 2019 Prius C, it’s a very good car now in short supply. New 2019 models are still around, plus plenty of low mileage demos and pre-owned examples. I know this because I searched across most of Canada to find the majority of new C’s in the Greater Toronto Area and in Greater Montreal (there were no new ones left in Vancouver, as they were probably scooped up by the British Columbia Automobile Association’s Evo Car Share program that primarily uses the Prius C), while the model’s highly efficient hybrid electric drivetrain will continue being produced in the aforementioned (JDM) 2020 Yaris Hybrid and upcoming (for Asia and Europe) C-HR Hybrid.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
LED headlamps, fog lights, and 15-inch alloys come standard with Technology trim.

Back to the here and now, Toyota Canada is currently trying to lure in prospective 2019 Prius C buyers with zero-percent factory lease and financing rates, while all of the examples I found online were seriously discounted. These are two good reasons to consider a Prius C, but I should also point out (this being a road test review) that the little hybrid is a great little subcompact car too, all of which makes a fresh new review of this 2019 model relevant, even though we’re already so far into the 2020 calendar year (what happened to the new year?). On this note I’d like to say so long to a car that I actually enjoy spending time in, and consider its demise saddening for those of us who enjoy the fun-to-drive nature, easy manoeuvrability, and excellent efficiency of small cars.

The Yaris is a fun car to drive too, which makes sense being that both models ride on Toyota’s B platform architecture. It also makes sense for their exterior measurements not to be all that different, with the Prius C’s wheelbase stretching 40 mm (1.6 in) more than the Yaris’ to 2,550 millimetres (100.4 inches), and its overall length a significant 114 mm (4.5 in) longer from nose to tail at 4,059 mm (159.8 in). Additionally, the Prius C’s 1,715-mm (67.5-in) width makes it 20 mm (0.8 in) wider, while its 1,491-mm (58.7-in) height is actually 9 mm (0.3 in) shorter from the road surface to the topmost point of its roof.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C’s cockpit places the primary instruments atop the centre dash.

Thanks the Prius C’s renowned Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, which consists of a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder internal combustion engine, or ICE, incorporating variable valve timing plus an exhaust heat recovery system, a 19-kWh nickel metal-hydride battery, a 45kW (60 hp) electric motor, and auto start/stop that automatically turns the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, before restarting it upon brake pedal left-off. While the C’s ICE likely weighs similarly to the 1.5-litre four in the Yaris, all of the other gear adds a quite a bit of mass to this subcompact car. In fact, a similarly equipped 2019 Yaris SE 5-Door Hatchback with its antiquated four-speed automatic hitting the scales at just 1,050 kilos (2,335 lbs) compared to 1,147 kg (2,529 lbs) resulting in 97 kg (214 lbs), while its 99 net horsepower rating (the combination of a 73 horsepower ICE and the aforementioned electric motor) is slightly down on the regular Yaris’ 106 horses, but the electric motor’s 125 lb-ft of instant torque, combined with the ICE’s 82 lb-ft, plus the lack of mechanical drag from the Prius C’s continuously variable transmission, more than makes up for its increased mass.

Remember way back at the beginning of this review when I mentioned the Prius C is fun to drive? It’s plenty quick off the line and quite agile through fast-paced curves, feeling much the same as the sporty Yaris hatchback, but this hybrid’s ride quality might even be better. It’s actually quite refined, with a reasonably quiet cabin, even at high speeds, and good comfort over rougher pavement like inner-city laneways and bridge expansion joints.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The update centre touchscreen is a big improvement, and includes navigation in Technology trim.

As you might expect the Prius C is ultra-respectful at the pump too. Transport Canada rates it at 5.1 L/100km for both city and highway driving (and therefore combined too), which compares well to all rivals including Toyota’s own Yaris Hatchback that manages 7.9 L/100km city, 6.8 highway and 7.4 combined. 

The car in front of you is in its second model year since a major refresh, and I particularly like the changes made to a car that was already pretty decent looking. When compared to the outrageous styling of its bigger, elder brother, the regular Prius, this refreshed C is more conservative. It features new front and rear fascias including revised LED headlights and reworked LED tail lamps, plus renewed wheel covers and available alloys, while the cabin was updated with a new steering wheel, revised primary instrument cluster, and a renewed centre stack. The new infotainment touchscreen includes a standard rearview camera, this necessary to comply with then-new regulations that mandate backup cameras for safety’s sake.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C incorporates the Prius’ trademark blue shift knob.

Speaking of staying safe, 2018 and 2019 Prius Cs incorporate Toyota’s Safety Sense C suite of advanced driver assistive systems as standard equipment, including automatic high beams, pre-collision warning, and lane departure alert. Additionally, the Prius C has nine airbags instead of the usual six, while direct tire pressure monitoring is now part of the base package.

As far as features go, Toyota eliminated the Prius C’s base model for 2019, which pushed the price up from $21,990 to $22,260 (plus freight and fees), but for only $270 they added everything from the previous year’s $900 Upgrade package including soft synthetic leather to the instrument panel, premium fabric upholstery, additional driver seat adjustments, cruise control, two more stereo speakers (totalling six), a rear centre console box, and a cargo cover to an ample assortment of standard equipment such as power-adjustable heated side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, steering wheel audio and HVAC controls, a 4.2-inch multi-information display, single-zone auto climate control, 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment, Bluetooth, an exterior temperature gauge, etcetera.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C’s driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive, plus covered in Toyota’s leather-like SoftTex upholstery in Technology trim.

During my search for new Prius Cs still available for sale I noticed a good mix of both trim levels, the Technology model shown on this page replacing the base car’s 15-inch steel wheels with covers for an attractive set of 15-inch alloy wheels, and the fabric upholstery swapped out for Toyota’s Softex breathable leatherette. Additionally, Technology trim enhancements include LED fog lights, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, more sophisticated Touch Tracer controls on the much nicer synthetic leather-wrapped steering wheel, navigation, voice recognition, Gracenote connectivity, satellite radio, heated front seats, a power glass sunroof, plus more.

The 2019 Prius C Technology can be had for $27,090, which is an increase of just $140 from last year, representing great value when compared to any new hybrid. This becomes even more of deal when factoring in all the discounts I saw while searching online, not to mention the zero-percent financing Toyota is currently offering, and any other manufacturer rebates that may be available, so seriously consider snapping up a new Prius C before they’re all gone.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C’s roomy rear quarters provide comfortable accommodations for most body types.

Incidentally, I sourced the financing rate and pricing right here on CarCostCanada’s 2019 Toyota Prius c Canada Prices page. CarCostCanada provides trim, package and individual option pricing on every mainstream car, SUV and truck sold in Canada, plus manufacturer rebate info, details about financing, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that will give you an advantage when it comes time to negotiate your deal.

Interestingly, the Toyota model that probably put the final nail in the Prius C’s coffin is the entirely new 2020 Corolla Hybrid, which can be had for a reasonable $24,790 (plus destination and fees). It’s arguably a better car, but this said if you truly want or need a hatchback I can only imagine Toyota would be happy to put you into its bigger 2020 Prius, its entry price arriving at $28,550, and now optional with eAWD. The 2020 Prius Prime plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is available from $32,990 (take note that the Prime qualifies for some government rebates), while additional electrified Toyotas include the 2020 Camry Hybrid at $31,550, 2020 RAV4 Hybrid from $32,350, and the completely redesigned 2020 Highlander Hybrid from $45,490.

2019 Toyota Prius C Technology
The Prius C doesn’t give up much to Toyota’s own Yaris when it comes to cargo space.

Even without the Prius C, Toyota has a lot of hybrids on offer, but take note that a new RAV4 Prime plug-in will hit the Canadian market later this year, while the awkwardly styled Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle that ended production last year is set to arrive later this year in renewed form as well, and the photos I’ve seen were much easier on the eyes.

With respect to Toyota’s plans for plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEV), such as the Nissan Leaf, in June of 2019 Toyota announced a plan to add 10 new BEV models to its worldwide fleet during the first half of this current decade, all based on a single e-TNGA platform. By 2025 the Japanese company says that each of its models will include an electrified variant, so even something like the new Supra sports car will offer a hybrid drivetrain. This is bound to become very interesting. 

Until all of these innovative new models hit the market, you might want to take advantage of the great deals to be had on this 2019 Prius C, however, as it’s a very good little car that provides superb fuel economy, decent levels of refinement, a fairly spacious cabin, plus Toyota’s impressive reputation for producing durable electrified vehicles.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Subaru plans a 100-percent electric lineup within 15 years

2020 Subaru Crosstrek
The Crosstrek will likely to be first to adopt Subaru’s upcoming hybrid drivetrain, as it already has a built-in ownership base ready to trade up.

With the current U.S. administration loosening new vehicle emissions restrictions, it might not seem prudent to announce an all-electric vehicle strategy, but the European Union, China and many other markets are tightening emissions regulations, with respect to vehicles at least. Europe will soon be warming its homes and powering businesses with new fossil fuel pipelines from Russia, while China seems to be building coal-fired electric power plants (to no doubt fuel such electric cars) faster than anyone can keep count.

This said it only makes sense that Subaru would want to continue selling into these markets once internal combustion engines (ICE) are no longer allowed, thus it’s planning to soon offer battery power to its lineup, with the eventual result being 100-percent electric.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek
A Forester hybrid would be ideal to go up against Toyota’s popular RAV4 Hybrid.

The electrification process will start off with a new hybrid-electric drivetrain with motive electric components sourced from Toyota, which holds 16.5-percent of Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) stock (Subaru’s parent company). The 2014-2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid was the first hybrid-electric project the two automakers undertook, but with few buyers it was cancelled after just three years.

A move to hybrids and then electric powertrains is a risky move for any automaker, with the risk even greater for small, niche brands like Subaru. The quirky brand has made a name for practical yet fun-to-drive cars and crossover SUVs powered by its unorthodox horizontally opposed “boxer” engine. While other brands like Volkswagen, with its Type 1 Beetle, Type 2 van, Type 3 and 4 sedan/coupe/wagon, and Type 14/Type 34 Karmann Ghia, or Porsche with its 911/912, 914 and 718 models, and even Ferrari with its 1973-1976 Berlinetta Boxer, 1976-1984 BB 512, 1984-1991 Testarossa, 1991-1994 512 TR and 1994-1996 F512 M), have offered this unique engine type as well, the Italian supercar maker and VW no longer do, while Porsche only provides it in its sports car range which makes up much fewer sales than its sedan and SUV lineup.

2020 Subaru Ascent
The Ascent could use a boost of electrified power.

Speaking of model lineups, the best-selling Subaru in Canada last year was the Crosstrek subcompact crossover SUV at 15,184 units, followed by the Forester compact SUV with 13,059 deliveries, the Outback mid-size five-passenger crossover with 10,972 new sales, the Impreza compact sedan and hatchback with 9,065 new buyers, the Ascent mid-size seven-passenger crossover SUV with 4,139 new sales, the WRX/STI performance sedan with 2,707 new customers, the Legacy mid-size sedan at 1,752 clients, and the BRZ compact sports coupe with 647 new sales last year. To find out more about these cars and crossover SUVs, including their trim, package and individual option pricing, plus available rebate information, financing/leasing promotions, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, click directly on their names.

2020 Subaru Impreza
Would an Impreza Hybrid b a good competitor for Honda’s Insight or Toyota’s new Corolla Hybrid?

All of the unique models just mentioned makes it clear that retaining as much of its distinctive brand character as possible while moving into the brave new world of automotive electrification is important for Subaru, yet the horizontally opposed engine configuration will eventually have to go if it’s plans for full electrification materialize. Fortunately all-wheel drive (AWD being standard with most of its models) can stay for both its future hybrid and electric cars and SUVs.

The short-lived Crosstrek Hybrid came standard with AWD, while incorporating Toyota’s hybrid technologies and Subaru’s 2.0-litre boxer engine. This allowed it to perform and sound like other Subaru models, keeping its brand identity intact. Subaru doesn’t want badge-engineered cars in its lineup, such as the Toyota/Subaru co-developed Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S/Toyota 86, or for that matter the Yaris Sedan that was merely a Mazda2 with a Toyota front fascia and Toyota badging. Doing something similar with such a niche automaker would run the risk of diluting its hard-won brand image.

2020 Subaru Outback
An electrified Outback sounds perfect for its market base, especially if it can be plugged in.

“Although we’re using Toyota technology, we want to make hybrids that are distinctly Subaru,” commented the brand’s chief technology officer, Tetsuo Onuki, to Reuters news agency. “It’s not only about reducing CO2 emissions. We need to further improve vehicle safety and the performance of our all-wheel drive.”

While Onuki-san was clear to point out that all-wheel drive would continue as a key Subaru character trait while it adapted to hybrid and electric technologies, AWD is becoming more common with its main rivals. Nissan and Mazda recently introduced redesigned passenger cars with optional AWD (the Mazda3 now providing an AWD alternative to Subaru’s Impreza, while Nissan’s Altima now makes AWD standard in Canada and therefore becomes a key rival to Subaru’s mid-size Legacy), and even though Subaru’s trademarked “Symmetrical AWD” is believed to be more capable in inclement conditions than challengers’ AWD systems, it’s not known if its even power delivery can be achieved effectively with an electric powertrain. What’s more, AWD often comes standard with electric vehicles, so it’s quite likely the AWD traction advantage Subaru cars currently enjoy won’t be unique in 15 years, making the Japanese automaker no more unique than any other brand.

2020 Subaru WRX
How would a hybridized WRX perform? Or how about a purely electric WRX STI?

On the subject of electric vehicles, Subaru and Toyota are in the process of co-developing an electric powertrain that will result in an electric vehicle per brand sometime this decade, with additional models to follow. Subaru is saying that hybrid and fully electric models will make up 40 percent or more of its annual worldwide production by 2030, with the hybrids no longer available five or so years after that.

In today’s fast-paced world, particularly in the automotive sector, 2030 is a long way off, and of course a lot can happen with respect to battery development, advancements in other alternative fuels, progress with car/ride sharing, etcetera, as well as geopolitical concerns that are completely out of an automaker’s influence (much of which can be negative), so changes to Subaru’s plans will be more than likely.

2020 Subaru BRZ
Will there still be a BRZ around in 10 to 15 years? We hope so, or something even more exciting.

This said, the positive for Subaru is its ability to garner green accolades right now without having to take much initial action, which can make its customers feel as if their chosen brand is well on its way toward electrification, yet the ultimate target is so far off into the future that its long-term plans can be changed anytime along the way. Of course, some new hybrid models are likely within the next few years, plus at least one EV, so there is forward progress being made. 

It should be noted that Subaru isn’t alone in making such long-term electrification plans, with GM having pitched a U.S. national environmental program in 2018 designed to motivate all carmakers to make at least 25 percent of their lineups into zero-emissions vehicles; Ford introducing $11.5 billion worth of new spending toward a dozen new hybrid and EV models by 2022; Toyota, as part of its Environmental Challenge 2050 program, pledging to lower vehicle life-cycle emissions by 25 percent plus by 2030, while targeting 2050 for eliminating 100-percent of their carbon emissions; Mercedes-Benz vowing to make at least half of its passenger car lineup electric by 2030, plus achieve full carbon neutrality within the next two decades.

2020 Subaru Outback
Subaru may want to change up its Outback media photos if it’s planning an electrified version, as high-voltage and water don’t mix well.

Volvo may be vying to become the world’s greenest automaker, however, due to its commitment for half of its passenger cars to become electric by 2025, plus also make sure each cars’ life-cycle carbon footprint is reduced by 40 percent in five years time as well. It also wants the carbon output of its entire global operations (including suppliers) to be lowered by 25 percent by 2025, and finally has a plan to use a minimum of 25-percent recycled materials in its vehicle production by this very same year.

While Subaru’s plans aren’t quite as ambitious as Volvo’s, the Japanese automaker’s announcement marks a major step for such a niche automaker, and could be seen as a significant risk if electric vehicle take rates don’t improve enough to overcome investment costs.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Subaru

Porsche introduces affordable new Taycan 4S

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
New 4S trim brings the new 2020 Taycan down to a more palatable level of affordability. (Photo: Porsche)

Porsche revealed two final production Taycan EVs last month, but without doubt some potential buyers found the Turbo and Turbo S models’ respective $173,900 and $213,900 price tags a bit too rich for their budgets. Of course, the Stuttgart, Germany-based performance brand promised more affordable versions to follow, and therefore the $119,400 Taycan 4S is upon us. Priced much closer to the $108,990 base Tesla Model S, this is the EV “volume” model Porsche needs.

So what does the $55k (or $95k) buy you? Performance. Wheels aside there’s no obvious difference to exterior or interior design, or materials quality for that matter, but in place of the Taycan Turbo’s 671 horsepower, 627 lb-ft of torque, and launch control-assisted 3.2-second run to 100 km/h sprint from standstill to 100 km/h, or the Turbo S model’s even more outrageous 750 horsepower, 774 lb-ft of torque, and 2.8-second second run to 100 km/h, the new 4S uses makes due with “just” 522 horsepower, 472 lb-ft of torque and a 4.0-second dash to the 100-km/h mark.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
Great looking and brilliantly quick, the new Taycan 4S should be a popular EV. (Photo: Porsche)

A Performance Battery Plus package is available, boosting output to 562 horsepower and torque to 479 lb-ft for a nominal difference in naught to 100 km/h sprints (although Porsche rates it at 4.0 seconds as well), yet this upgraded Taycan 4S’ shoots from standstill to 160 km/h in a scant 8.5 seconds instead of dawdling along at just 8.7 seconds. Both 4S power units limit the Taycan’s terminal velocity to 250 km/h, which incidentally is 30 km/h less speedy than the Turbo or Turbo S.

Under the Taycan 4S floorboards are 79.2 kilowatt-hours of high-voltage lithium-ion battery capable of 407 km (253 miles) of estimated range, as per the European WLTP rating system, while the enhanced 93.4-kWh Performance Plus battery provides about 463 km (288 miles) of range. This compares well with next to the Taycan Turbo’s 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) claimed range and the Turbo S’ 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) estimates.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
These unique LED headlights set the Taycan apart. (Photo: Porsche)

No matter the trim, the Taycan uses an industry-first 800-volt electrical architecture that makes for faster recharging due to a charge-rate of 225 kW with the Performance Battery or 270 kW for the upgraded Performance Battery Plus, making 22.5-minute 5-to-80-percent refills possible with all power unit specs. Regular 400-volt high-speed DC recharging happens at 50 kW, but an available booster can increase the charge-rate to 150 kW. You can also use the standard AC charge system at any J1772-compatible charging station, or plug it in at in at home, but charging times will be considerably longer.

Topping the Taycan up is made easier via Porsche’s new Charging Planner, which allows you to plot your route by mapping out ideal charging stations along the way. For instance, it will choose a quicker 270-kW station that can save you time when compared to a regular 50-kW DC charger, even if the quicker charger necessitates a detour from the shortest route. The Charging Planner also preconditions the battery to 20 degrees Celsius, which is best for the fastest possible charge-rate.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The singular body-wide tail lamp is standard fare on Porsches these days. (Photo: Porsche)

Like the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S, the new 4S incorporates an all-wheel drivetrain featuring front and back axle-mounted permanently excited synchronous motors plus a two-speed transmission in the rear. Additionally, Porsche’s centrally networked 4D Chassis Control system provides real-time analysis and synchronization for the Taycan’s standard electronic damper control Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) enhanced three-chamber adaptive air suspension, which should result in impressive road-holding capability.

What’s more, Taycan customers should enjoy improvements in reliability over Tesla Model S owners, thanks to Porsche designing a completely new hairpin winding technique for the electric motor stators’ copper solenoid coils, this allowing for a copper fill factor of 70 percent compared to 45 percent when wound using the conventional method, all of which results in stronger performance and less heat.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The Taycan is family friendly thanks to four doors. (Photo: Porsche)

Monitoring the Taycan’s mobility status is a wholly digital primary gauge cluster filled with colourful high-resolution graphics and integrated within a free-standing, curved binnacle that pulls styling cues from the brand’s legendary 911. Just to the right, the Taycan 4S’ standard 10.9-inch high-definition capacitive infotainment touchscreen sits atop the centre stack. Most will also want the optional front passenger display that was introduced last month with the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S, this innovative addition extending the graphical experience across the rest of the instrument panel.

Features in mind, the Taycan 4S receives standard Black or White exterior paint, a unique front fascia design, a glossy black painted rear diffuser and side skirts, LED headlamps with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS Plus), 19-inch five-spoke Taycan S Aero alloys, red-painted six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers (instead of the yellow-painted calipers found on the two Turbo models) biting down on 360-mm front and 358-mm rear discs, regenerative brakes (with a maximum regenerative force of 0.39 Gs and recuperation of up to 265 kWh), proximity keyless entry, ambient interior lighting, partial leather upholstery, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s side memory and more, but take note this base model won’t go into production until June, 2020. Before then, the $1,690 panoramic glass sunroof replaces the standard aluminum roof, while the optional Porsche Mobile Charger Plus isn’t available yet either, which leaves the standard Porsche Mobile Charger Connect system for early adapters.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The Taycan 4S comes well equipped. (Photo: Porsche)

Available Taycan 4S options include a bevy of $910 metallic exterior colours, including the Taycan’s Frozen Blue launch colour shown in the photos, plus bright Mamba Green and deep Gentian Blue, as well as one $3,590 special colour, Carmine Red. Additionally, Porsche is offering two sets of optional 20-inch alloys and three 21-inch wheels, all ranging from $2,710 to $10,010, while the car’s black partial leather cabin can be upgraded to $4,710 black or multiple $5,360 two-tone leather, $7,490 solid or $8,150 two-tone Club leather, or alternatively $4,710 solid or $5,360 two-tone leather-free Race-Tex, the latter Porsche-first incorporating recycled materials that reduce the Taycan’s impact on the environmental.

The new Porsche should be near silent at speed too, due to an amazing Cd of 0.22, plus this ultra-aerodynamic design also minimizes energy use.

Porschephiles wanting a taller SUV model instead of this road-hugging four-door coupe will be glad to know that a crossover coupe dubbed Cross Turismo is on the way next year. It’s designed to go up against the Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla Model X and whatever else comes down the pike by then, so we can all look forward to that.

You can order the new 2020 Taycan 4S right now, however, just like its Turbo siblings, while its arrival date is set for summer 2020.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Porsche

2019 Lexus ES 300h Road Test

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Lexus totally redesigned its popular ES luxury sedan for 2019, and it looks fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Model year 2019 marks three decades of Lexus ES availability, and while the car’s primary purpose hasn’t changed one iota, today’s seventh generation wouldn’t be recognizable by those who created the original.  

The comparatively humble ES 250 was brought to market in 1989, and made no bones about its even more proletariat Toyota Camry roots. It was actually rushed to market so Lexus wouldn’t be a one-model brand, the full-size LS 400 making up the other half of the lineup. The ES, which was actually based on the Japanese market Camry Prominent/ Vista, was a good looking, well built, and fairly potent V6-powered mid-size luxury sedan, and thanks to that did reasonably well considering the all-new brand behind it. 

Lexus has produced six ES generations since that first example, releasing this latest version last year for 2019, and while each new update improved upon its predecessor, this new model is by far the most dramatic to look at, most refined inside, and best to drive. 

Lexus has done such a great job of pulling the ES upmarket, that it’s going to be a lot harder to justify having two mid-size sedans in its lineup. The two cars look pretty similar and are quite close in size, with the new ES’ wheelbase a mere 20 millimetres (0.8 inches) longer at 2,870 mm (113.0 in), and 4,960 mm (195.3 in) of nose-to-tail length more of a stretch due to another 110 mm (4.3 in). The ES is also 25 mm (1.0 in) wider than the GS, spanning 1,865 mm (73.4 in) from mirror to mirror, but at 1,445 mm (56.9 in) tall it’s 10 mm (0.4 in) lower in height, the ES’ long, wide and low design giving it stylish proportions that are arguably more attractive than the sportier, pricier GS. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Lexus has made major strides when it comes to styling, and the new ES 300h is no exception. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be fair, the GS not only provides stronger performance, especially through curves but also off the line, and particularly in fully tuned GS F trim that’s good for 467 horsepower, but it feels more substantive overall due to 66 kg (145 lbs) of extra curb weight in base trim and 185 kg (408 lbs) of added heft as a hybrid, plus a rear wheel-drive architecture shared with the smaller IS series sedan and coupe, a more rigid, sport-tuned suspension design, and other enhancements justifying its significantly pricier window sticker. 

On that note the 2019 Lexus GS ranges between $63,800 and just over $100,000, compared to only $45,000 to $61,500 for the ES (check out pricing for all new and past models right here at CarCostCanada, including trims, packages and separate options, plus find out about rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

Behind the big new ES grille is a 302 horsepower version of Lexus/Toyota’s well-proven 3.5-litre V6, those numbers down a mere 9 horsepower and 13 lb-ft of torque from the base GS engine, yet 34 hp and 19 lb-ft of torque more capable than the outgoing ES 350, while Lexus now joins it up to an eight-speed automatic transmission instead of the six-speed gearbox found in the 2018 ES 350 and this year’s pricier GS. 

The ES 300h hybrid, which starts at $47,000, now gets an improved 176 horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with 163 lb-ft of torque, plus a 67 horsepower (50 kW) electric motor and 29.1-kWh nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, resulting in 215 net horsepower and an undisclosed amount of torque (the outgoing ES 300h’ net torque rating was 206 lb-ft). This fourth-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive system once again features a wonderfully smooth electronically controlled continuously variable transmission that works well in its luxury role, while minimizing fuel consumption. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The new ES design is all about visual drama. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Fuel efficiency is the ES 300h’ strongpoint thanks to an amazing 5.5 L/100km city, 5.2 highway and 5.3 combined rating, which despite the aforementioned performance improvement makes last year’s 5.8, 6.1 and 5.9 respective ES 300h rating look merely so-so by comparison. 

The 2019 ES 300h also does better than Lincoln’s MKZ Hybrid, the domestic luxury sedan only capable of 5.7 L/100km in the city, 6.2 on the highway and 5.9 combined, while some additional comparisons worth noting include the regular ES 350 that manages a respectable 10.6 in the city, 7.2 on the highway and 9.1 combined, the same car with its F Sport styling enhancements that’s capable of 10.9, 7.5 and 9.4, and the regular GS 350 AWD with its 12.3, 9.1 and 10.9 rating. Last year’s GS 450h hybrid managed a fairly decent 8.0 in the city, 6.9 on the highway and 7.5 combined, incidentally, but it’s no longer offered so this point is moot unless you can still source a new one or don’t mind living with a pre-owned version. 

Finding a used GS might be a tad difficult being that they’re rare beasts. In fact, Lexus has only managed to deliver 82 examples in Canada up to August 31st of this year, compared to 1,445 ES units. This latter tally is actually the mid-size luxury sedan category’s second-best result, behind Mercedes’ E/CLS-Class, plus it’s also the segment’s best growth at 55.54 percent over the same initial eight months of 2018. Only two challengers saw any positive growth at all, including the same E/CLS-Class (that also includes a coupe and convertible) that saw its sales increase by 1.24 percent, plus the Audi A6 and A7 with 18.87 and 24.28 percent growth respectively, but these two models were only able to find 441 and 430 new buyers each so far this year. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
A tall wing-like rear deck lid and beautifully detailed taillights make the rear end design stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Just in case you were questioning, the GS (with sales down 43.84 percent) didn’t find itself in last place thanks to Jaguar’s XF having nosedived some 52.89 percent with just 57 deliveries, while Acura’s RLX did even worse with just 40 sales after a drop of 24.53 percent, and finally Infiniti’s Q70 only sliding down by 2.56 percent but nevertheless managing just 38 units down the road. Purely from a percentage perspective, the mid-size sedan segment’s biggest loser is Lincoln’s Continental that lost 56.88 percent over the same eight months, whereas the car that came closest to entering positive territory but narrowly missing out was the G80 from Hyundai’s new Genesis brand with a slip of just 0.44 percent (sales information sourced from GoodCarBadCar.net). 

Such sales carnage in mind, it would be easy to forgive Lexus for eventually dropping the GS in favour of the ES, and while I’d personally be a bit glum after learning the brilliantly fun GS F was gone, I’d certainly support a CEO that chose to make good, sound business decisions over one simply wanting another super-fast sport sedan in the lineup. I know there’s a reasonably good case for having image cars in a brand’s fleet, but Lexus is already losing money with its sensational LC coupe, and that bit of low-slung eye-candy does a lot more to bolster Lexus’ brand image than a four-door sedan very few will ever see. So let’s pay attention to what Lexus does with these two models as we approach the upcoming decade. 

One thing’s for certain, the ES will continue to fulfill its unique calling in the luxury marketplace for years to come, and on top of that will soon have fewer challengers. The previously noted Continental is slated for cancellation, as is Lincoln’s more directly competitive MKZ that’s also offered as a hybrid electric. Cadillac will soon drop its front-wheel drive XTS and CTS luxury four-door models, whereas deliveries of its newer CT6 sedan are so slow they hardly rate. The only rivals not yet mentioned include BMW’s 5 Series, Volvo’s newish S90, and Tesla’s aging Model S, while some in the ES’ market might also consider Buick’s LaCrosse (also to be discontinued soon), Chrysler’s 300 (likely to be phased out), and possibly the impressive Kia Stinger, plus big mainstream luxury sedans like Toyota’s own Avalon that shares underpinnings with the ES, and finally Nissan’s Maxima, which also gets close to premium levels of performance and quality without a pricier premium nameplate. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
An entirely new level of pampering awaits 2019 ES owners, especially in top-line Ultra Luxury trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Just the same, the ES has sold in bigger numbers than most of these potential rivals despite its Lexus badge and often-pricier window sticker, and this brand new redesigned model should keep momentum up for many years to come. As mentioned before, the ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid are totally redesigned for 2019, and no matter whether it’s trimmed in base ES 350 form, enhanced with cooler ES 350 F Sport styling, or clothed in classy as-tested ES 300h togs, Lexus’ front-wheel drive four-door now provides a completely new level of visual drama to its exterior design. 

Lexus’ trademark spindle grille is bigger and much more expressive, while its origami-inspired LED headlamp clusters are more complex with sharper edges. Its side profile is longer and sleeker too, with a more pronounced front overhang and a swoopier sweep to its C pillars that now taper downward over a shorter, taller rear deck lid. Its hind end styling is more aggressive too, thanks to a much larger crescent-shaped spoiler that hovers above big triangular wrap-around LED tail lamps. 

The overall design plays with one’s mind, initially flowing smoothly from the front grille rearward, overtop the hood and down each sculpted side, before culminating into a clamour of dissonant creases, folds and cutlines at back. It all comes together well nevertheless, and certainly won’t cause anyone to utter the types of criticisms about yawn inducing styling that previous ES models endured. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Lexus is now a design leader, while the ES feature set is also impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I could say the same about the new ES cabin, which instead of showing sharp edges now combines plenty of horizontal planes and softer angles with higher-grade materials than the outgoing model, not to mention a few design details pulled from the LFA supercar, such as the black knurled metal pods protruding from each side of the instrument hood, the left one for shutting off traction control, and the knob on the right for choosing Normal, Eco or Sport modes. 

In between these unusual pods is a standard digital instrument cluster that once again finds inspiration in the LFA supercar, plus plenty of lesser Lexus models since. This one provides real-time energy monitoring via a nice flowing graphic just to the left of the speedometer, while the big infotainment display over to the right, on top of the centre stack, measures 8.0 inches at the least, up to 12.3 inches as-tested, yet both look larger thanks to all the black glass bordering each side. The left portion hides a classic LED-backlit analogue clock, carrying on a Lexus tradition I happen to love. The high-definition display includes stylish graphics and deep, rich contrasting colours, plus it responds to inputs quickly. 

When choosing the as-tested ES 300h hybrid, the infotainment system now features standard Apple CarPlay, but I recommend integrating your smartphone to Lexus’ own Enform connectivity system. Enform is arguably more comprehensive and easier to use than the Android Auto interface my Samsung S9 is forced to use, although Android isn’t included anyway, while the list of standard Enform 2.0 apps includes fuel price updates, traffic incident details, and info on weather, sports, stocks, etcetera, while it’s also bundled with the Scout GPS Link navigation system, Slacker, Yelp, and more. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
This fully digital gauge package comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The new ES 300h also includes a new Remote Touch Interface trackpad controller on the lower console, which allows you to use smartphone/tablet-like gesture controls such as tap, pinch and swipe, and it works much better than previous versions, with more accurate responses, particularly when inputting via taps. Additional standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, Bi-LED headlights, LED tail lamps, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, rain-sensing windshield wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, a 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a deodorizing, dust and pollen filtered two-zone auto HVAC system, comfortable 10-way power-adjustable front seats with three-way heat and three-way forced cooling, NuLuxe breathable leatherette upholstery, all the usual active and passive safety equipment including 10 airbags, plus plenty more. 

Speaking of standard safety, the new ES 300h includes Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 that boasts autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and road edge detection, new Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) automated lane guidance, auto high beams, and full-speed range adaptive cruise control. 

The just-mentioned 12.3-inch infotainment display is part of an available $3,800 Premium package that also includes blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse tilting mirrors, front and rear parking sonar, a heated steering wheel rim (which along with the heatable front seats turns on automatically upon startup), front seat and side mirror memory, a navigation system with ultra-detailed mapping and accurate route guidance, plus Enform Destination Assist that includes 24/7 live assistance for finding destinations or points of interest. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The optional 12.3-inch infotainment display is superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Alternatively, you may want to opt for the even more comprehensive $10,600 Luxury package that includes everything from the Premium package while adding 18-inch alloy wheels, extremely bright Tri-LED headlamps, an always appreciated wireless smartphone charger, leather upholstery, and a powered rear window sunshade. 

Finally, the $14,500 Ultra Luxury package found on my tester combines everything in the Luxury package with a special set of 18-inch noise-reduction alloys, soft glowing ambient interior lighting, a really helpful 10-inch head-up display unit, an overhead surround-view parking camera system that makes parking a breeze, a fabulous sounding 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, softer semi-aniline leather upholstery, rear door sunshades, and a touch-free gesture control powered trunk lid. 

This $61,500 ES 300h was the most luxuriously equipped version of this car I’ve ever tested, while along with its resplendent interior it totally stepped up its all-round performance as well. Like with previous generations its ride quality cannot be faulted, with this newest version actually improving thanks to revisions to its fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension system. Newly developed Dynamic Control Shocks now feature an auxiliary valve next to the main damper valve so as to respond more quickly to smaller movements. The front suspension was reworked too, aiding both comfort and stability, while rear trailing arm and stabilizer bar mounting point adjustments helped minimize body lean during hard cornering, all of which resulted in an ES that feels a lot more agile through tight, twisting corners. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The driver’s seat is excellent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, this latest ES 300h is actually a lot of fun to drive. Lexus even included a set of steering wheel paddles for swapping the continuously variable transmission’s simulated gears. It mimics the feel of real gears fairly well when set to Sport mode, while this edgier setting also increases torque at low speeds for better acceleration, and places a tachometer right in the middle of the digital gauge cluster. Owners concerned more about economical or environmental issues may prefer Eco mode, which helps to reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions, whereas EV mode allows the ES 300h to crawl silently through parking lots, slow moving traffic, and other low speed situations for short periods of time. 

Another efficiency enhancer is new Auto Glide Control, which lets the ES to coast more freely upon throttle lift-off, instead of being slowed automatically via the automatic regenerative braking system. 

No matter how fast or slow you’re traveling, the slippery ES is extremely quiet due to a doubling of structural adhesive, which improves NVH levels, while it also features sound-deadening front fender liners and underbody covers, plus insulation covering 93 percent of the new ES 300h’s floor pan, which is a significant increase when compared to the outgoing model’s 68 percent of floor pan coverage. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Rear seat roominess and comfort is top notch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The previously noted battery, which is now positioned below the rear seat instead of the trunk, is smaller than the one used in last year’s hybrid, but impressively it’s more powerful. Its new location not only improves front/rear balance, but also allows for more cargo space. In fact, the ES 300h’ trunk is now identically sized to the conventionally powered ES 350 at 473 litres (16.7 cu ft). The redesign provides access for a centre pass-through too, which is large enough for skis or other long items, so therefore rear passengers can now enjoy the more comfortable outboard seats, which are incidentally even nicer than the previous model’s rear seats. 

All interior finishings are better than the outgoing model’s appointments, by the way, with the improvements including higher quality soft synthetic surfacing, plus more of it. The lower door panels remain hard shell plastic, as do the sides of the centre console, but most everything else is soft to the touch. I like that Lexus positioned its wireless device charger below the armrest within the centre console bin, as my phone was less of a distraction. 

Additionally, all switchgear has been improved over previous generations, with some notable details including those cool metal pods I mentioned earlier, which stick out each side of the instrument cluster, plus the tiny round metal buttons on the centre stack are nicely finished, these used for controlling the radio, media, and seek/track functions. The temperature control switches are particularly stylish and well made too, and, while not switchgear, the Mark Levinson-branded speaker grilles and surrounds on the upper door panels are really attractive as well. The hardwood trim feels real because it is, and comes in Striated Black, Linear Dark Mocha or Linear Espresso, while the metallic accents are nicely finished and not overdone. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The new ES 300h hybrid’s trunk is now just as large as the conventionally powered ES 350’s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I’ve spent plenty of weeks behind the wheel of various Lexus ES generations over the past 20 years or so, in both conventionally powered and electrified forms, and now that I’ve spent yet another seven days with this entirely new 2019 ES 300h I can confidently predict that ES lovers will without doubt like this version best. It incorporates all the ES qualities you’ve grown to appreciate, yet steps up every aspect of quality, refinement and performance. Truly, this is one of the best entry-level luxury sedans I’ve ever tested. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

The new Porsche Taycan is finally here and its top-line 750-hp Turbo S is awesome

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The 2020 Taycan Turbo S redefines electrified performance. (Photo: Porsche)

Not many cars have been as enthusiastically anticipated as the new Porsche Taycan, and now production model has finally arrived at the 2019 IAA in Frankfurt, Germany. 

To say that it’s powerful seems as bizarrely understated as merely calling it quick. Take a deep breath and then consider that its most formidable variant makes an outrageous 750 horsepower and even more mind-blowing 774 lb-ft of torque, its collective force allowing for a 2.8-second blast from zero to 100 km/h. 

Such performance is nothing new to Tesla aficionados, the California brand’s Model S P100D good for a 0 to 100 km/h run of only 2.6 seconds, but how it achieves that feat with just 613 horsepower and 686 lb-ft of torque available is beyond me (although the fact that its heaviest curb weight of 2,250 kg/4,960 lbs is lower than the Taycan’s 2,295-kg/5,059-lb unladen weight probably has something to do with it). Then again, Porsche has a tendency to understate performance specifications; this brewing up to be an epic drag race that every credible cable and YouTube automotive show will be covering. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The Taycan sports a stunning new design that will influence future Porsche models for years to come. (Photo: Porsche)

This said, Porsche’s faithful care more going fast around corners than merely burning up the asphalt in a straight line. To prove the Taycan’s dominance through tight twisting curves, Porsche took a pre-series example to the legendary Nürburgring-Nordschleife racetrack and quickly set an EV lap-record of 7:42 minutes, which just so happened to obliterate the last Tesla Model S P85D’s 8:50 lap time by over a minute. A minute off the pace around any racetrack is downright embarrassing, making us willing to bet that Tesla will soon show up in Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate with its more recently introduced P100D, plus a complete crew and an experienced driver. 

In Tesla’s corner is price, because any 2020 Taycan Turbo is much more expensive than even a fully featured Model S P100D. The 2020 Taycan Turbo, which makes 671 maximum horsepower in launch mode, 627 lb-ft of torque, and can achieve a 3.2-second run from zero to 100 km/h, is now ready to order for $173,900 plus freight, whereas the new top-tier Taycan Turbo S is available from $213,900. Making matters more interesting, these two models aren’t even fully loaded, with Porsche’s many pricey options capable of driving its price up and over $250,000, which is a range normally associated with Aston Martin Rapides, Bentley Flying Spurs and Rolls-Royce Ghosts (ok, maybe a used R-R). 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
While straight-line acceleration is important in this class, the Taycan’s forte is high-speed control around corners. (Photo: Porsche)

None of the super sedans above are capable of completing the 100-yard dash as quickly or scaling a mountain pass with the level of fleet finesse as a Taycan, however, while none will get the job done without chugging down a tanker’s full of premium unleaded gasoline. Back to electrics, a new 2019 Model S can be had for a comparatively bargain basement $108,990, while its sportier Performance trim line will set you back a mere $134,990 before creeping up to $155k when all options are added. Still, that seems like chump change next to a Taycan Turbo or Turbo S. 

If you’re starting to feel like Porsche has forgotten simpler folk that can barely afford anything into six figures, we can take a little comfort in knowing that these super-fast Turbo variants (in name only, as there are no turbos at play) are merely being introduced first for their jaw-dropping wow factor. Later this year additional less powerful trims will be added to bring the price down from their current cirrus-pheric levels to mere stratospheric realms, but the upcoming Cross Turismo crossover coupe, which will directly take on Jaguar’s I-Pace toward the end of 2020, will no doubt have a full range of more and less accessible window stickers. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The new Taycan’s interior looks very inviting. (Photo: Porsche)

While performance matters, styling will probably play a bigger role in consumer choices when opting for either the Taycan or Model S. The new Porsche is completely new and inarguably good looking, whereas the Model S has been in production for seven years with very few changes. Fit, finish and interior refinement isn’t exactly a Model S strong point either, but expect only the industry’s best materials and workmanship within the new Porsche, while Stuttgart’s various on-board electronic systems are as good as digital displays get. 

To that end the Taycan includes a fully digital pod-like gauge cluster that appears to float on its own behind the steering wheel. The black background of its classic Porsche curved oval area gets filled with colourful high-definition graphics that should appeal to both experienced EV users as well as long-time Porsche owners, while the two touchscreens that span the centre and right-side of the dash, the second display in front of the passenger, and the third capacitive touchscreen atop the sloped centre console (a la Range Rover), are digital eye candy and ideal for optimal control of the car’s myriad functions. 

One of those screens no doubt includes animated power-flow graphics that show a permanent-magnet synchronous motor powering each axle, combining for the previously noted output numbers depending on the model chosen, although it should be noted that both make 616 horsepower when not in launch mode. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The fully digital gauge cluster takes its overall oval shape from classic Porsche models. (Photo: Porsche)

With that overboost setting switched back on, the slower of the two Taycan models can launch from standstill to 200 km/h in a scant 10.6 seconds, while this car’s standing quarter mile arrives in just 11.1 seconds. Do the same with the more formidable Turbo S and the 200-km/h mark arrives in just 9.8 seconds, while the quarter mile zips past in only 10.8. Both trims top out at 280 km/h (161 mph), an electronically limited top speed. 

To achieve such performance the new Porsche incorporates some ultra-sophisticated tech, such as a single-speed front transmission and a larger two-speed rear gearbox. The latter transmission incorporates one gear for acceleration and another taller one for higher speed cruising. It chooses between rear gear sets automatically by monitoring a driver’s style, but it can also be done manually by selecting one of five drive modes. Just like it sounds, Range mode optimizes efficiency and therefore employs the taller second gear as often as possible while temporarily shutting down the front motor, whereas Normal mode makes the second gear the priority, yet uses the first gear a bit more. Sport mode, on the other hand, prioritizes first gear up to about 90 to 100 km/h, although it shifts to the second gear whenever throttle pressure is eased, and then goes back to first when needed. The Taycan also includes Sport Plus and Individual driving modes. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Taycan infotainment is divided between three touchscreens, two across the top and one on the lower console. (Photo: Porsche)

Anyone who’s owned a Tesla knows about overheating, the Model S notorious for it, especially when trying to execute consecutive full-power standing starts. Rather than grandfather this problem onto new Taycan buyers, Porsche has designed cooler running electric motors that feature a special hairpin winding technique to the stators’ copper solenoid coils. The result is a copper fill factor of 70 percent compared to 45 percent when those coils are wound the traditional way, giving the Taycan better more reliable performance. 

In order to prove its point, Porsche endurance-tested the new Taycan in ultra-hot climates (of 42°C with a track temperature of nearly 54°C). A pre-production model circled Italy’s high-banked Nardò Ring oval racetrack at speeds ranging between 195 and 215 km/h for 24 hours straight, the marathon including six test drivers covering 3,425 km (2,128 m). Following up this punishing test program was another test that saw the new Porsche undergo 26 back-to-back launches from standstill to 200 km/h of less than 10 seconds each, with an average of 0.8 seconds variance between fastest and slowest acceleration times. Then we have the Nürburgring event noted earlier, with performance that should completely set the Taycan apart from the Model S. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The four-place interior appears plenty practical. (Photo: Porsche)

Below the floorboards of both Taycan Turbo models is a 93.4-kilowatt-hour high-voltage lithium-ion battery sourced from LG, with enough stored energy to drive for 381 to 450 km (237 to 280 miles) based on the European WLTP rating system. The more quicker Turbo S also offers more range, its expected distance from fully topped up to near empty being 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 miles). 

Making all this happen is an industry-first 800-volt electrical architecture, this also providing for faster recharging when an appropriate 270-kW charge station can be found (or installed in your home). How fast can it be refilled? How does five to 80 percent in just 22.5 minutes sound? Sure that’s a long wait for those used to filling up at a gas station, but anyone familiar with an electric car will know this is incredibly quick. 

Porsche’s Charging Planner makes the process of charging even easier, or at least can maximize one’s efficiency when traveling. For instance, when it charts a given route it factors in the best places to recharge along the way, even if it driving a bit farther out of the way for a quicker 270-kW charge station (which will save a lot of time over a regular 50-kW DC charger) is needed. What’s more, the Charging Planner will precondition the battery to 20°C for faster recharging. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Its 800-volt architecture means a 270-kW charger can fill its battery from 5 to 80 percent in just 22.5 minutes. (Photo: Porsche)

As noted earlier, the new 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo and Turbo S are now available to build and order from Porsche Canada’s retail website, or you can place an order through your neighbourhood Porsche dealer, but you’ll want to act quickly if being amongst the first in your city to own one matters. This is the first electric car ever capable of truly taking on Tesla’s quickest Model S, making it about as important as any EV built within the last seven years. 

And while waiting to take delivery of your new Taycan, or simply hoping for those lottery ticket numbers to match the bouncing balls on TV, enjoy the complete album of gallery photos above and generous supply of Porsche-sourced videos below: 

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann  

Photo credits: Porsche

World Premiere Porsche Taycan (40:33):

 

The new Porsche Taycan – Designed to enliven (1:28):

 

The fully electric Porsche Taycan accelerates 0-90-0 mph on the USS Hornet (0:59):

 

Onboard Lap – Porsche Taycan Sets a Record at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (8:09):

 

New Porsche Taycan sets a record at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (0:58):

 

Taycan Prototype Convinces at Endurance Run in Nardò (0:57):

 

The new electric Porsche Taycan proves its repeatability of power before upcoming World Premiere (1:05):

 

A thank you to electricity: The Porsche Taycan (0:45):

 

2019 Lexus LC 500h Road Test

2019 Lexus LC 500h
Stunning from every angle, the gorgeous Lexus LC 500h stands out from the crowd. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Luxury automakers have some models that sell in high volumes, thus providing much needed income and profits, others they’d like to do better, and one or two image vehicles that increase brand visibility and hopefully cause prospective buyers to choose something more affordable and/or practical in the lineup. Once in a while a vehicle achieves both objectives, but such isn’t the case with the stunning new Lexus LC 500 and LC 500h. 

Lexus leans on its NX and RX compact and mid-size crossover SUVs for mass volume, and hopes its new UX will soon add to its popularity. To lesser extent its sedans add volume too, especially the compact IS and mid-size ES, but its GS mid-size performance sedan and beautiful LS full-size luxury sedan don’t do well at all, while its RC sports coupe struggles too. Lexus also offers a GX mid-size sport utility that hardly gets noticed, but its LX full-size SUV pulls respectable numbers from a market segment that’s smaller by nature, albeit profitable, actually managing to pull itself up to sixth place within the Lexus lineup, right behind the just-noted EX. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
Dramatic rear styling appears like some sort of automotive cyborg, but a very beautiful one. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

By comparison, the LC could be seen as a runaway success next to the LFA, Lexus’ previous image car. That near-exotic sport model was purposely limited to a mere 500 examples globally over two model years between 2010 and 2012, of which 10 came to Canada. The LC, on the other hand, after launching in 2017 for the 2018 model year, is closer to a sales homerun thanks to seven units driven out of Lexus Canada dealerships last month alone, not to mention nine the month before that. Altogether, Lexus sold 55 LC 500 and 500h models through the first seven months of this year, making it second-to-last for popularity in Japanese premium brand’s arsenal, right next to the last-place LS and its lacklustre 51-unit total. On the positive, the LC was hardly the slowest selling sport/luxury car in the country. 

Poorest of the poor goes to the rather rich Maserati GranTurismo, which found just 14 takes this year so far, while this LC also improved on the Acura NSX’ 17-unit tally, plus the Nissan GT-R’s total of 36, and the 54 Audi R8 examples sold. Nevertheless, Mercedes-Benz found 99 SL-Class customers so far this year, while BMW pulled in 160 buyers for its all-new 8 Series, Jaguar attracted 181 newcomers to its latest F-Type, Mercedes wowed everyone with 258 AMG GT deliveries (superb sales for a $170k car), and Porsche won over 587 new clients for its outgoing 2019 911. Interestingly, that last number (587, not 2019 or 911) represented a 31.74-percent downgrade in popularity for the quintessential Porsche sports car when compared to the first seven months of 2018, due to most customers waiting for the completely redesigned 2020 911 that’s now in the midst of arriving. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
There’s nothing at all like the Lexus LC on the road. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Incidentally, the iconic Porsche wasn’t the only sports car to lose sales, with the R8 plummeting some 70.97 percent, the GranTurismo plunging 48.15 percent, this LC deep diving 48.11 percent, the F-Type caving 29.30 percent, the GT-R pulling back 21.74 percent, and the SL dipping 16.10 percent. The AMG GT was the only car in its glass to gained year-over-year sales, up 55.42 percent over the same seven months, while the new 8 Series will need to wait a year for comparison. I also got a kick out of learning that Lexus’ parent brand, Toyota, found 66 new $65k-plus Supra buyers during the same period. 

Of course, other cars compete in this class, but some, such as the BMW i8 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, have their sales numbers combined with other models in their respective lines (the i8 paired up with the i3, and the S-Class Coupe with the S-Class Sedan), while the Aston Martin DB11, Bentley Continental GT, and Rolls-Royce Wraith are much pricier models. Blue-oval fans will appreciate hearing that Ford found three customers for its Markham, Ontario-assembled mid-engine GT supercar, while Dodge even pulled in one lucky buyer for its now two-year deceased Viper, and speaking of American supercars, the Corvette pulled in 840 new clients so far this year, and I’m willing to bet the slightly more expensive mid-engine C8 will shortly be flying out of Chevy showrooms, making it even harder for great cars like the LC to gain any sales traction. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The fabulous carbon-fibre roof is optional with the LC 500 and standard with the 500h. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

When a car doesn’t gain much popularity, like this LC, I find it a good idea to point out that not doing well on the sales chart doesn’t necessarily reflect its good qualities or bad issues. The way I see it, the very fact it’s a Lexus should bring it respect, and other than the aforementioned fourth-generation LS luxury sedan, which incidentally is only the second model to ride on Toyota’s New Global Architecture or TNGA (specifically TNGA-L or GA-L), the LC is by far the most impressive Lexus ever created. 

Its greatest asset has to be its styling. The LC takes the Lexus’ trademark spindle grille to new depths and widths, but the look becomes even more abstract to each corner, with headlights that seem as if they’re alien-implanted mechanical growths, albeit the actual lighted areas are small and filled with threesomes of neatly stacked LED bulbs. All the unusual appendages are just glossy black trim, other than the “arrowhead” daytime running lights just underneath. 

More Lexus trademark styling cues can be found toward the rear, with the LC’s C-pillars getting a similar blacked-out “floating roof” design to that found on other models such as the previously noted RX SUV. It’s further adorned with premium polished nickel brightwork, while sharply edged tail lamp prongs closely resemble the so-called “L-shaped” headlights, albeit infused with 80 separate LEDs per corner instead of just three. Lexus shares some of the LC’s taillight design with the previously noted LS sedan, not to mention the iconic Toyota Prius and category topping Camry in its XSE trim line. While each element appears a bit strange on its own, the package on the whole melds together in one wonderfully elegant and intensely attractive whole. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
Each taillight comes filled with 80 individual LED lighting elements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

You know something? I almost never comment on styling, unless the design team managed to get something especially right or horribly wrong. Fortunately the Newport Beach, California-based Calty Design Research centre’s team got the LC very right. We can thank studio boss Ian Cartabiano, as well as Edward Lee who was responsible for the sensational exterior design, plus William Chergosky and Ben Chang where were in charge of the interior, albeit not specifically of the LC, but rather the LF-LC Concept that inspired it. The LC was near perfectly transformed from jaw-dropping prototype to equally gorgeous LC 500 and LC 500h production models with hardly a change made to the exterior design, the final result quite possibly the nearest any road-going model has ever resembled its conceptual beginnings. 

The production LC’s cabin underwent a total redesign, mind you, although it maintained some of the concept’s general styling cues including its LFA-like pod-shaped digital gauge cluster, its horizontally penned instrument panel incorporating a recessed widescreen centre infotainment display, its driver-centric cockpit that’s partially enclosed by a buttress-type centre console extension that doubles as a front-passenger grab-handle in the production car, the downward-flowing alcantara suede door panels, the deeply bolstered set of front sport seats, the similarly styled sport buckets in back, plus more. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The LC interior is richly appointed and beautifully crafted. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lexus’ effort was quickly rewarded by the LC’s placement on the WardsAuto 10 Best Interiors list after it arrived in 2017, and I certainly can’t argue against that. It’s a fresh, contemporary design that deliveries big on refinement, luxury and high-tech wizardry, all of which should be expected at its $102,750 starting point in 2019 LC 500 trim, or $103,050 in upcoming 2020 form, or alternatively $118,850 as the 2019 LC 500h hybrid shown on this page, or $118,950 in 2020 LC 500h trim (learn about Lexus LC 500 and 500h pricing right here on CarCostCanada for both the 2019 and 2020 model years, plus find out about available rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

There are no major changes from the 2019 model year to 2020, except for cancelation of the $14,800 Inspiration Series package with Flare Yellow semi-aniline leather upholstery and more for the LC 500, plus a new Bespoke White interior theme that’s also added to the conventionally powered model. All six exterior colours remain the same no matter the powertrain, with Infrared being the sole paint option at $650, whereas all three remaining interior colour themes continue forward as well. 

In case you were wondering, Lexus priced my 3.5-litre V6-powered hybrid LC 500h test model higher than the 5.0-litre V8-powered LC 500 version, despite adding 113 horsepower to the eight-cylinder engine, and no doubt providing a more dramatic exhaust note, plus fitting it with a faster shifting, more engaging gearbox than the hybrid’s electronic continuously variable transmission (E-CVT), because of all the extra features that come standard, starting with the regular LC 500’s $13,500 Performance package. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The primary gauge cluster is purely electronic. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This means that four-wheel active variable gear ratio steering is standard, as is a Torsen limited slip differential, a set o f 21-inch forged alloy wheels on Michelin performance tires (that replace standard 20s), a carbon-fibre roof panel instead of a standard glass roof, an active rear spoiler, carbon-fibre reinforced polymer kick plates, an alcantara suede headliner, more heavily bolstered sport seats, and an eight-way powered driver’s seat in place of the LC 500’s base 10-way design, and lane change assist, which gets added to a comprehensive menu of standard driver assistive technology on both trims including a pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, auto high beams, and adaptive cruise control. 

This is a good time to run over a shortlist of standard convenience and luxury highlights, including LED cornering lamps within the triple-LED headlight clusters mentioned before, a tidy little credit card-sized intelligent key for cabin access via proximity sensing, a head-up display unit to go along with the full digital gauge package noted earlier, power-folding outside mirrors, a heated steering wheel that even allows for temperature adjustment, a power-adjustable steering column that connects through to the front seat memory, ventilated front seats (plus, of course, heatable front seats), partially-automated self-parking, etcetera, etcetera. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The centre stack is filled with most everything someone buying into this class expects. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, a 10.3-inch high-resolution centre display comes standard too, complete with a dynamic guideline-infused backup camera, a navigation system with very accurate route guidance, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration (yes, Android Auto users are out of luck), a brilliant 13-speaker Mark Levinson high resolution surround-sound audio system, satellite radio, two USB ports, traffic and weather information, the Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0 featuring Slacker, Yelp, Sports, Stocks, plus Fuel apps, the Enform Destination Assist app with a single-year subscription, and Enform Safety Connect with Automatic Collision Notification, a Stolen Vehicle Locator, an Emergency Assistance / SOS button, and Enhanced Roadside Assistance with a four-year subscription. 

You’d need to stretch a long way in order to touch the centre display, so Lexus doesn’t bother with a touchscreen at all. Instead, the brand’s Remote Touch Interface touchpad gets added to the lower console, and while it works well enough once acclimatized, thanks to some quick-access buttons and audio controls around the touchpad, I can’t say it’s my favourite infotainment system. On the positive, there were many other reasons to appreciate this LC. 

For one, it’s pretty large and fairly roomy, at least up front. As noted earlier, it’s based Toyota’s TNGA-L platform architecture, which is the same as the full-size LS luxury sedan, but take note the LC is quite a bit smaller unless measuring width. It spans across an additional 20 mm (0.8 in) at 1,920 mm (75.6 in), and you’ll immediately notice how spacious it is from side-to-side, especially if someone’s sitting next to you. The LC’s wheelbase is abbreviated by 255 mm (10.0 in) to 2,870 mm (113.0 in), however, whereas its nose-to-tail length is a significant 475 mm (18.7 in) shorter, plus it’s nowhere near as tall, the LC lower by 116 mm (4.5 in). 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The infotainment graphics are quite nice, and the system mostly up to snuff. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for how it measures up to its competition, it’s not only a lot smaller than Mercedes’ S-Class Coupe, the LC is actually smaller than the German brand’s mid-size E-Class Coupe too, except for its width. The Lexus comes closer to the BMW i8 and Aston Martin DB11 in overall dimensions, with slightly greater wheelbase, length and height than the shapely German and more exotically branded Brit, but a bit less width this time around. 

The LC’s longer length and wheelbase results in a car that can house four adults, but I’d make sure you don’t try to stuff someone too tall into the rear seats. I’m only five-foot-eight with longer legs than torso, but I was forced to kink my neck over to the side in order to fit in, with my head still pushing up against the back glass. The seats are comfortable enough, and I had enough space for my legs and feet, plus my shoulders and hips, which made it a shame that medium-sized adults won’t be able to ride in the rear. 

How about trunk space? The LC 500h is smaller than the non-hybrid LC 500, providing just 132 litres (4.7 cu ft) instead of 153 (5.4 cu ft), so therefore you’ll need to stow a second set of clubs in the rear seating area when taking a friend along to the golf course. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The big square on the right is the touchpad needed for controlling the infotainment system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Just in case you don’t fully understand the personal luxury coupe market segment, being able to take more than one set of golf bags to the course that is a critically important make-or-break factor, so it’s quite possible that, together with its lack of rear seat room, LC sales are being hurt by its lacklustre practicality. This Lexus isn’t a pureblooded performance car anyway, particularly in as-tested hybrid form, but instead is a luxurious personal coupe that just happens to ramp up speed quickly and manage corners with deft prowess. This makes the LC more like BMW’s i8 than anything else in the class. It takes off well enough and handles like a well-mannered sports car, but it’s built more for luxury than slaying the cones on weekend autocross course. When it comes to comfort, its suede-like alcantara-clad driver’s seat provides wrap-around comfort and good support all over, while was fully adjustable and complete with ample side bolstering for keeping me in place during aggressive manoeuvres. 

Initially I was scheduled for a week in both the LC 500 and 500h, but someone did something naughty to the V8-powered version just ahead of receiving it, so instead of enjoying its 467 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque firsthand, not to mention its reportedly quick-shifting 10-speed automatic, I was moved into something else for that week, never to experience the LC 500 at all. Sad as that may be, soon I got into this LC 500h, which is a bit more docile with just 354 horsepower at the rear wheels, but it still felt plenty potent under full throttle. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The 500h hybrid gets upgraded sport seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The V6 portion of its hybrid power unit makes just 295 horsepower and 257 lb-ft of torque, which is in fact less than the same engine produces in the Toyota Camry XSE, but before I criticize Lexus for utilizing such a seemingly plebian engine in its most alluring model, consider that a more tautly strung version of this mill makes 430 reliable horsepower in the mid-engine Lotus Evora, so at least it’s in well respected company. 

Of course, the lithium-ion battery and electric motor fulfill their torque-rich purpose too, the latter capable of a near immediate 177 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, for a net 472 horsepower and, er, well let’s not even try to calculate its combined internal combustion and electric output, because net horsepower and net torque don’t exactly compute that way. Lexus officially estimates 354 horsepower while other testers are claiming approximately 370 lb-ft of torque. I believe they’re being ultra-conservative, being that the regular V8 shoots from zero to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds and this hybrid takes just 0.5 seconds longer resulting in a sprint time of 5.6, and this is despite the 500h adding 77 kilos (170 lbs) to its 2,012-kg (4,436-lb) curb weight over the 1,935-kg (4,266-lb) 500. 

No matter which model you’re driving, make sure to choose the standard Drive Mode Select system’s most entertaining Sport S+ setting, which may not be as edgy as the sportiest mode in one of BMW’s M cars, or Lexus’ own RC F for that matter, but it nevertheless provides higher engine revs between shifts ahead of swapping cogs faster than it otherwise would. Lexus includes a set of large metal steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters for the latter, which worked ideally in Sport mode as well, but unlike most cars I test I actually kept it in Sport S+ mode more often than not. Along with its increased performance and better feel, the rorty noises emanating from the engine bay and exhaust pipes were downright addictive, particularly when revs rise, and the transmission’s “gear changes” felt considerably more direct. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The rear seating area is only meant for very short adults or kids. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This was one of the most engaging continuously variable transmissions I’ve ever tested, although even factoring in its sophisticated 10-speed Simulated Shift Control technology, which includes a conventional-type multi-gear box within, it can’t completely eradicate all CVT tendencies. Yes, even in its sportiest drive mode its shifts come on so fast between intervals, albeit without the expected positive engagement otherwise experienced in most sport-tuned automatics and dual-clutch automated gearboxes, that it’s almost like nothing has happened at all, plus the V6 makes a habit of whining up and down with the same rubber band effect in between. In a nutshell, if you’re a serious performance fan you’ll want to opt for the V8-powered LC 500, which leaves folks who want to make their environmental mark choosing this hybrid, because let’s face it, anyone paying $100,000-plus for a personal luxury coupe isn’t going to care about saving fuel for the sake of saving dollars. 

On that note, the LC 500h’s claimed fuel economy rating is very good for the class, coming in at 9.0 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.1 combined, compared to 15.1 in the city, on the 9.5 highway and 12.6 combined for the regular LC 500. 

No doubt the lighter LC 500 aids agility through fast curves when compared to the LC 500h, but either way the long, wide, low and fairly large coupe is a great handler, taking up plenty of real estate yet able to manage corners with precise skill. This is its strength, the LC delivering the same type of relaxed high-speed confidence-inspiring stability found in a big Mercedes-Benz coupe, yet with its own Japanese luxury flair. Its wonderfully balanced chassis is nice and easy on one’s backside too, with ride quality that’s much more comfortable than its large wheels, performance tires, and sporty low-slung design suggests, while its also serenely quiet when the aforementioned driving mode selector is switched from Sport+ or Sport to Comfort or Eco. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The LC’s trunk is pretty small, and the hybrid’s smaller. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

There’s no question whether the Lexus LC is worthy of a premium luxury coupe buyer’s attention or not, but no matter what I think its sales numbers don’t lie. As impressive as this car is, the people have spoken and the result is less than ideal. Even in the U.S., where Lexus is amongst the strongest selling luxury brands, the LC only attracted 764 sales since the January 1, 2019, which slightly better per capita than here in Canada, but nothing to get excited about either. Talk about a new stronger performing LC F model arriving later this year or early next could help pull more eyeballs toward this somewhat forgotten nameplate, as will an stylish new convertible version that’s beginning to be teased online, but who knows? The beautiful LC might just end up as another image-building car that never enjoys much sales traction, good for making Lexus’ well-respected brand name even more desirable, but incapable of making profits on its own. 

All said, the LC makes for an especially exclusive example of rolling artwork, which i must say caused more attention from passersby than plenty of pricier cars with more prestigious branding that I’ve driven this year, pulling more long stares, causing more pointing fingers, and resulting in more gaping mouths from astonished onlookers than I was able to count, not to mention an unabashedly overcome German tourist that just had to have me take a photo of him next to it. 

Unlike the types of exotic machinery that normally cause such an emotional outpouring, mind you, the LC provides impressively dependable performance as well, which just might be the type of priceless feature that makes owning one worthwhile. If you’d like something undeniably beautiful, that’s also totally unique in the premium marketplace, look no farther than this Lexus LC. Whether suited up in V8-powered 500 or 500h hybrid trim, it’s one thoroughly impressive personal luxury coupe. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

Sensational EXP 100 GT Concept provides hint at future Bentley coupe

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
After seeing the EXP 100 GT Concept, most Bentley enthusiasts should feel comforted knowing the illustrious brand is in good hands. (Photo: Bentley)

It hasn’t been all that long since Bentley launched its latest third-generation Continental GT, but they’re already showing us what’s possibly in store for the not too distant future. 

The new EXP 100 GT Concept “reimagines the Grand Tourer for the world of 2035,” states Bentley in a press release, the swoopy new design exercise boasting a large grille surrounded by big circular headlights, a long elegant hood, a two-door coupe body style with a sweptback roofline, much like the current Continental GT, but the prototype’s grille is illuminated almost as brightly as the dazzling headlamps, its eye-shaped taillights are reminiscent of today’s GT albeit much larger and detailed in OLEDs, and its hind end protrudes much farther rearward than anything we’ve seen from Bentley since the 1950s-era R-Type Continental. 

Today’s Continental GT uses a lot of aluminum highlighted with carbon-fibre in some trims, but the EXP 100 GT is mostly carbon-fibre and aluminum, while its uniquely sculpted body panels come coated in “paint made from recycled rice husks,” adds Bentley. It no doubt takes a lot of rice husks to cover 5.8 metres (19.0 feet) of car, not to mention 2.4 metres (7.9 feet) from side-to-side, but Bentley wasn’t about to make a small statement as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Swoopy enough for you? The EXP 100 GT has ultra-long rear overhangs. (Photo: Bentley)

Hence the “100” in the EXP 100 GT’s name, the automaker having come to life in North London during 1919. 

“Today, on our Centenary, we demonstrate our vision of the future of our Marque, with the Bentley EXP 100 GT – a modern and definitive Grand Tourer designed to demonstrate that the future of luxury mobility is as inspirational and aspirational as the last 100 years,” said Bentley Chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark. “Bentley has, and will continue to enhance and enrich every single journey and the lives of every single person who travels in, or has the honour to be a part of creating our extraordinary products.” 

As visually captivating as the EXP 100 GT is, there’s a lot more going on than just dramatic styling. Indeed, it represents much of the advanced ideas and ideals that Bentley hopes for its future. The car is all-electric, expected of future-think concept cars these days, although instead of the usual single battery and one or two electric motor combination the EXP 100 GT’s “Next Generation Traction Drive” system mounts a single electric motor in each of its four wheels, which provide electronic torque vectoring while combining for an astounding 1,100 pound-feet of torque (1,500 Nm). 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
The eye-like taillights are similar in shape to the current Continental GT’s, but they’re larger and made from OLEDs. (Photo: Bentley)

Bentley claims standstill to 100km/h in “less than 2.5 seconds,” which is shockingly quick when factoring in just how big this car is. Some of this can be attributed to a relatively light curb weight of only 1,900 kg (4,189 lbs), which is a lot less than today’s Continental GT that hits the scales at 2,244 kg (4,947 lbs), much thanks to previously noted lightweight materials usage, while Bentley projects a maximum range of 700 km (435 miles), which would presuppose it wasn’t cruising at its 300 km/h (186 mph) top speed. 

This impressive range and performance is due to “future battery technology” with “intelligent power and charge management,” says Bentley, which will provide “five times the conventional energy density,” thus recharging the battery from near empty to 80 percent in just 15 minutes. Incidentally, optimal charging gets taken care of automatically by the Bentley Personal Assistant, a bit of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) tech that acts like a personal valet for all EXP 100 GT occupants. 

“The Bentley EXP 100 GT represents the kind of cars we want to make in the future,” commented Stefan Sielaff, Director of Design. “Like those iconic Bentleys of the past, this car connects with its passengers’ emotions and helps them experience and safeguard the memories of the really extraordinary journeys they take.” 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
This advanced roof emits natural and synthesized light. (Photo: Bentley)

Another high-tech advancement promised in the EXP 100 GT is autonomous self-driving ability, transforming this driver’s car into a commuter’s dream. It’s cabin is just as pampering as any current Bentley offerings, with amply sized seats for two or four, plus all the leather, fabrics, glass, wood and metal expected from one of the most luxurious brands the world has to offer. 

This said, while Bridge of Weir once again provides the EXP 100 GT’s hides, they’re an alternative material made from 100-percent bio-based winemaking byproducts, whereas the embroidered door panels are recyclable too, and made by UK-based Hand and Lock employing “traditional techniques that date back to 1767 and are used on Royal and Military Dress uniforms.” What’s more, the car’s interfaces aren’t covered in glass, but rather Cumbrian crystal, while 5,000-year-old peat bog-, lake- and river-sourced Copper Infused Riverwood is used for the interior’s trim, along with real aluminum and copper, this last combo apparently paying homage to an alloy developed by W.O. Bentley for the BR1 Aero engine piston, which played a major aeronautical role during World War 1. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
This gorgeous interior is filled with unusual sustainable materials. (Photo: Bentley)

The mostly clear rooftop seen in photos is used for naturally harvested light, but the innovative roof also synthesizes light via “prisms that collect light and transfer it into the cabin using fibre optics.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll want to remove your shoes and socks just to wiggle your toes within the deep British Farmed Wool carpets, while embroidered cotton interior surfaces add to the recycled and recyclable atmosphere, making the EXP 100 GT a rolling test bed of sustainability. 

Additional tech includes seats that incorporate intelligent, adaptable three-way biometrics, with positions that depend on whether you’re doing the driving or being driven. Yet more biometric sensors monitor the automatic climate control system as well, plus the passengers’ positions, and the exterior environment’s conditions before providing ultimate comfort, while additional biometric sensors are embedded throughout the cabin in order to track eye and head movements, blood pressures, etcetera in order to deliver a level of in-car comfort that far exceeds anything Bentley, or anyone else, currently offers. The cabin is even capable of automatically aerating its atmosphere with a sandalwood and moss fragrance. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Synthetic leather made from winemaking byproducts? We’ll drink to that (although not while driving). (Photo: Bentley)

Whether we’ll be able to experience this particular Bentley coupe by 2035 or not can’t be known outside of Bentley’s inner circle, but we should remember that automaker’s have to plan their upcoming models decades into the future, so something quite similar may be in the books. 

The EXP 100 GT is certainly a vision of distinctive beauty that should be welcomed by car enthusiasts of any era, and is much truer to Bentley’s brand heritage than the kind of electrified, autonomous, monobox SUV/MPV-thingy they’re more likely to offer in 15 years’ time. Until we find out what’s actually coming down the line, make sure to check out our complete gallery above and nice collection of videos below. 

Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept Car Reveal Highlights | Bentley (0:49):

 

Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept car reveal Livestream | Bentley (28:49):

 

The Bentley EXP 100 GT: The Future of Grand Touring | Bentley (2:52):

 

24 Hours to go before Bentley reveals the Future of Grand Touring | Bentley (0:41):

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Bentley