It helped that Genesis’ earliest two models were already in production as the Hyundai-branded Equus and Genesis Sedan, one of two cars, including the Genesis Coupe, that carried the new brand’s name for eight years before its steering wheel hub and trunk lid removed Hyundai’s stylized “H” for Genesis wings (which were already displayed proudly above the front grille), and “GENESIS” lettering was replaced by G80 badging at back.
Since then, all three early cars have been updated with fresh new styling, including a new pentagonal “Crest Grille” plus double-slatted LED “Quad Lamps” fore and aft, and heavily reworked interiors, resulting in a wholly cohesive design language to at least rival its key Japanese rivals, while the new G80 will soon be available with a two-motor pure electric drive system.
Granted, Genesis has a long way to go before it starts matching Lexus sales in Canada, with 1,737 units sold at the close of Q2 2021 compared to 12,405, but it’s closing in on Infiniti’s 3,189 total after the first six months of this year, and has already bypassed Jaguar’s 1,204 deliveries and Alfa Romeo’s 434. Lincoln is also in target with only 3,629 units sold as June ended, and this comes before any GV70 deliveries get added to the Genesis mix.
Interestingly, the sporty 2022 GV70 is not the least expensive compact luxury SUV on the market, a tactic often chosen by upstart luxury brands trying to attract new buyers by providing all the bells and whistles for a better price. Instead, the new model gets an all-inclusive price of $49,000, including freight and delivery fees (or $49,150 all-in as shown on GV70’s retail website landing page).
The new GV70, in fact, is ninth most expensive in a compact premium crossover segment that’s now 16 competitors strong. That places it near the mid-point, although it’s important to point out that most competitors don’t include destination/delivery fees or the $100 A/C tax in their advertised prices. Therefore, after factoring in the latter (and using an average of $2,500 for those brands that made it difficult to locate this information on their retail websites), the new GV70’s retail price is more competitive thanks to a ranking of seventh most affordable.
By the numbers, alternatives priced lower than the new GV70 include the $44,298 Cadillac XT5 (plus $2,500 in fees for a total of $46,798), $44,505 Acura RDX (plus $2,475 in fees for a total of $46,980), $44,600 Lexus NX (couldn’t find their fees so adding $2,500 for $47,100), $45,495 Infiniti QX50 (plus $2,220 for $47,415), $45,200 Lincoln Corsair (plus $2,250 for $47,450), and lastly the $46,550 Audi Q5 (plus $2,395 for $48,945).
Genesis’ willingness to let eight brands advertise lower pricing in such a highly competitive market is a bold move, but it just might be calculated one, in that its mid-pack pricing could cause loftier perceptions of its brand identity, and therefore leave cheaper alternatives looking like they’re not good enough. After all, parent company Hyundai has long been seen as a value brand amongst its more established mainstream rivals, and while that’s changing because of impressive entries such as the Genesis and Equus models that came before, plus today’s Santa Fe, Palisade and the list goes on, it’s still important for Genesis to not allow such a more-for-less mindset and instead develop its own brand desirability.
An approximate $20,000 price gap, from least expensive to priciest, is a sizeable chasm for compact luxury SUV shoppers to cross, but it should be mentioned that any one of the compact luxury utilities named above comes close to the revered Velar’s starting price when amped up with options, while even the cheapest on this list can go much higher. What’s more, some boast more equipment in their various base trims than others, not to mention stronger performance, greater interior room, etcetera. In other words, it’s not a direct apples-for-apples comparison.
For around $50k, the 2022 GV70 2.5T Select AWD arrives standard with Quad LED headlights, LED tail lamps, 18-inch alloys, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start/stop and remote engine start, fingerprint authentication, an 8.0-inch LCD digital gauge cluster, a big 14.5-inch HD multimedia display incorporating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, navigation, wireless device charging, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar, an eight-way power front passenger seat, heated front seats, rear occupant alert, a hands-free tailgate, plus more.
Additionally, the GV70’s standard Highway Driving Assist II driver assistance and safety technology suite adds High Beam Assist, Lane Follow Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist to all the usual active and passive safety features.
As is often the case in this category, AWD is standard, while the GV70 also includes Terrain Mode Select. The base powertrain is a 2.5-litre turbo-four good for 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, while a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 capable of 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque is available. An eight-speed automatic transmission also comes standard, as do steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
As for exterior colours, Uyuni White, Vik Black, Himalayan Gray, Savile Silver, Adriatic Blue, Cardiff Green, Barossa Burgundy, and Mauna Red are no-cost options, while base models can only be had with “artificial leather” upholstery in Obsidian Black (Genesis might want to reconsider the name it’s using for leatherette).
For $55,500 (including freight and fees), the 2022 GV70 2.5T Advanced AWD ups the ante with 19-inch alloy wheels, power-folding exterior mirrors with puddle lamps, a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, genuine leather seat coverings (in Obsidian Black, Vanilla Beige, Havana Brown/Ocean Wave, Pine Grove/Ocean Wave, and Slate Gray/Velvet Burgundy, depending on the exterior colour), a power panoramic glass sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, plus a fully automatic rear climate control system.
For $59,000, Advanced Plus trim continues adding features such as a driver’s head-up display (HUD), a Surround View parking monitor, a Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM), an 18-speaker Lexicon sound system upgrade, manual rear side sunshades, and a household-style 110-volt AC power outlet for the rear cargo compartment.
Further up the range, the $63,000 GV70 2.5T Prestige AWD includes a Sport Appearance package featuring metal foot pedals, upscale Nappa leather upholstery with suede-like micro-fibre inserts (in Obsidian Black, Sevilla Red or Ultramarine Blue, depending on exterior colours), a psuede headliner, a driver’s seat power extension for the lower cushion as well as power side bolsters that cinch up in sport mode, Smart Posture Care, Parking Collision Avoidance-Assist Rear (PCA-R), and Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA).
For $68,500, the GV70 3.5T Sport AWD trim line combines 2.5T Advanced AWD features with the larger, more powerful engine, as well as some of the just-noted Prestige items like the Sport Appearance package, HUD, power seat cushion extension, bolsters and Smart Posture Care, Lexicon audio system, and 115-volt power outlet, not to mention 21-inch alloys, special aluminum sports trim, enhanced monobloc brakes, an improved Electronic Control Suspension with Road Preview, plus Sport leather seating.
Finally, $75,500 GV70 3.5T Sport Plus AWD trim adds an electronic limited slip differential, a bigger 12.3inch 3D TFT LCD digital instrument cluster, carbon fibre interior trim, plusher Nappa leather upholstery with stitched quilting (in all the same colours as Prestige and Sport trims), a micro-fibre headliner, and laminated acoustic rear door glass, plus the previously-noted surround parking monitor, BVM, PCA-R, RSPA, and rear sunshades. Of note, this segment’s most affordable Cadillac XT5 reaches the same price point when fully optioned, as do most of the others.
Together with the premium finishings, arguably attractive design, no shortage of features and impressive performance numbers, Genesis provides owners with at-home/work valet pick-up and drop-off concierge service, complete with a complimentary courtesy vehicle, when complimentary scheduled maintenance or other repairs are required during the first five years of ownership, or the SUV’s first 100,000 kilometres of use.
On top of this, GV70 owners benefit from Genesis Connected Services featuring map updates and more for the extent of the SUV’s five-year comprehensive warranty (with an unlimited km extension for map updates and roadside service). The five-year or 100,000-km comprehensive warranty is an entire year longer, and an average of 20,000 km greater than most premium competitors’ comprehensive coverage, plus it’s an additional two years or 40,000 km better than the majority of competitive powertrain warranties.
Still, the compact luxury SUV market is deep with capable offerings, giving Genesis’ newcomer big challenges to overcome. How it’s received is anyone’s guess, but we’ll be certain to report on its success after it’s been around long enough to do so, and of course we’ll review it as soon as a test model becomes available.
Home alone with your kids? That’s hardly an unusual situation for most Canadian parents these days, but take heart that Porsche has something that might keep them happily occupied for days.
The new Porsche 4Kids website provides a host of online and downloadable games for the entire family, plus fun challenge videos and virtual Porsche museum tours, a kid’s fitness program, dad jokes (the kids will like them too), and a page for downloading crafts such as a build-it-yourself paper 911, fill-in comics, colouring pages of your favourite street and racing Porsche models, and the list goes on.
Two animated characters named Tina Turbo and Tom Targa will guide you and your children through the Porsche4kids.com website (you can even download and print their employee name tags for your kids), while actual Porsche employees help administer the museum tour plus more. When our world finally returns to normal (finger’s crossed), your family can also join Tom and Tina at one of the Porsche 4Kids Game Stations (they’re kind of like mobile science/driving/amusement parks) in Germany (and elsewhere).
The new Porsche 4Kids website is great fun for the whole family, as it was developed for kids aged 5 to 13 years old, as well as teens, parents and grandparents, so make sure to visit Porsche4kids.com for some quality entertainment.
If you’ve been reading my latest reviews here, you’ll know that I scour Canada’s retail auto network before putting fingers to the keyboard, as it wouldn’t make much sense to write about a new vehicle that’s no longer available. As it is, plenty of 2019 Ford Flex examples are still very much available despite being a discontinued model, so for those enamoured with its unusual good looks I recommend paying attention.
I’m guessing your local Ford dealer will be happy to give you a great deal on a Flex if he happens to have one still available, while CarCostCanada is claiming up to $5,500 in additional incentives for this final 2019 model.
The Flex has been in production for more than 10 years, and while it initially got off to a pretty good start in Canada with 6,047 units sold in calendar year 2009, 2010 quickly saw annual deliveries slide to 4,803 examples, followed by a plunge to 2,862 units in 2011, a climb up to 3,268 in 2012, and then another drop to 2,302 in 2013, 2,365 in 2014, a low of 1,789 in 2015, a boost to 2,587 in 2016, and 2,005 in 2017. Oddly, year-over-year sales grew by 13.4 percent to 2,273 units in 2018 to and by 9.6 percent to 2,492 deliveries in 2019, which means three-row crossover SUV buyers are still interested in this brilliantly unorthodox family mover, but it obviously wasn’t enough to make Dearborn commit to a redesign, and in hindsight this makes perfect sense because three-row blue-oval buyers have made their choice clear by gobbling up the big Explorer in to the point that it’s one of the best selling SUVs in its class.
The Flex and the outgoing 2011–2019 Explorer share a unibody structure that’s based on Ford’s D4 platform, and that architecture is a modified version of the original Volvo S80/XC90-sourced D3 platform. Going back further, the first D3 to wear a blue oval badge was Ford’s rather nondescript Five Hundred sedan, which was quickly redesigned into the sixth-generation 2010–2019 Taurus and only cancelled recently, thus you can save you up to $5,500 in additional incentives on a Taurus as well (see our 2019 Ford Taurus Canada Prices page to find out more). If you want to trace the Flex back to its roots, check out the 2005–2007 Freestyle that was renamed Taurus X for 2008–2009.
Those older Ford crossovers never got the respect they deserved, because they were comfortable, well proportioned, good performers for their time, and impressively innovative during that era too. The Freestyle was the first domestic SUV to use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), at least as far as I can remember, and it was one of the biggest vehicles to do so up that point (Nissan edged Ford out with its Murano by a couple of years). Interestingly, Ford soon stopped using CVTs in its large vehicles, instead choosing a six-speed automatic for the Flex and the fifth-generation Explorer, which is a good thing as it has been a very dependable gearbox.
Mechanicals in mind, the Flex continues to use the same two versions of Ford’s popular 3.5-litre V6 that were offered in the original model. To be clear, the base Duratec engine, which produced 262 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque before 2013, after which output increased to 287 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. The base engine pushes the three-row seven-passenger crossover along at a reasonably good pace, but the turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 that became optional in 2010 turned it into a veritable flyer thanks to 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, while an additional 10 horsepower to 365 has kept it far ahead of the mainstream volume branded pack right up to this day.
That’s the version to acquire and once again the configuration I recently spent a week with, and it performed as brilliantly as it did when I first tested a similarly equipped Flex in 2016. I noticed a bit of front wheel twist when pushed hard off the line at full throttle, otherwise called torque steer, particularly when taking off from a corner, which is strange for an all-wheel drive vehicle, but it moved along quickly and was wonderfully stable on the highway, not to mention long sweeping corners and even when flung through sharp fast-paced curves thanks to its fully independent suspension setup and big, meaty 255/45R20 all-season rubber. I wouldn’t say it’s as tight as a premium SUV like Acura’s MDX, Audi’s Q7 or BMW’s X7, but we really can’t compare those three from a price perspective. Such was the original goal of the now defunct Lincoln MKT, but its styling never took off and therefore it was really only used for airport shuttle and limousine liveries.
Like the MKT and the many three-row Japanese and European crossover utilities available, the Flex is a very large vehicle, so no one should be expecting sports car-like performance. Combined with its turbo-six powerplant is the dependable SelectShift six-speed automatic mentioned earlier, and while not as advanced as the 7-, 8-, 9- and now even 10-speed automatics coming from the latest blue-oval, Lincoln and competitive products, it shifts quickly enough and is certainly smooth, plus it doesn’t hamper fuel economy as terribly as various brands’ marketing departments would have you believe. I love that Ford included paddle shifters with this big ute, something even some premium-branded three-row crossovers are devoid of yet standard with the more powerful engine (they replace the lesser engine’s “Shifter Button Activation” on the gear knob), yet the Flex is hardly short on features, especially in its top-tier Limited model.
The transmission is probably best left to its own devices if you want to get the most out of a tank of fuel no matter which engine you choose, and to that end the Ecoboost V6 is the least efficient at 15.7 L/100km in the city, 11.2 on the highway and 13.7 combined, but this said it’s not that much thirstier than the base engine and its all-wheel drivetrain that uses a claimed 14.7 city, 10.7 highway or 12.9 combined, which itself is only slightly less efficient than the base FWD model that gets a rating of 14.7, 10.2 and 12.7 respectively.
The 2019 Flex comes in base SE, mid-range SEL and top-tier Limited trims, according to the 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page found right here on CarCostCanada. This is where you can see all the pricing and feature information available for the Flex and most other vehicles sold in Canada. The 2019 Flex is available from $32,649 plus freight and fees for the SE with FWD, $39,649 for the SEL with FWD, $41,649 for the SEL with AWD, and $46,449 for the Limited that comes standard with AWD. All trims come standard with the base engine, but the Limited can be upgraded with the more powerful turbocharged V6 for an extra $6,800 (it includes other upgrades too).
Before adding additional options the retail price of a 2019 Flex Limited Ecoboost AWD is $53,249, and along with its aforementioned performance enhancements it gets everything standard with the regular Limited model, such as 19-inch silver-painted alloy wheels wrapped with 235/55 all-season tires, HID headlamps, fog lights, LED tail lamps, a satin-aluminum grille, chrome door handles, bright stainless steel beltline mouldings, a satin aluminum liftgate appliqué, a powered liftgate, bright dual exhaust tips, power-folding heated side mirrors with memory and security approach lights, rain-sensing wipers, reverse parking sonar, and I’ve only talked about the exterior.
Ford provides remote start to warm it up in winter or cool it down in summer, all ahead of even getting inside, while access comes via a keyless proximity system or the automaker’s exclusive SecuriCode keypad. Likewise, pushbutton start/stop keeps the engine purring, Ford MyKey maintains a level of security when a valet or one of your children is behind the wheel, while additional interior features include illuminated entry with theatre dimming lighting, a perforated leather-clad steering wheel rim with real hardwood inlays, Yoho maple wood grain inlays, power-adjustable pedals with memory, perforated leather upholstery for the first- and second-row seat upholstery, a 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, a six-way power front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming centre mirror, an overhead sunglasses holder, ambient interior lighting with seven colours that include (default) Ice Blue, as well as soft blue, blue, green, purple, orange and red, plus Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, excellent sounding 12-speaker Sony audio, satellite radio, two USB charging ports in the front console bin, two-zone auto climate control, rear manual HVAC controls, four 12-volt power points, a 110-volt household-style three-prong power outlet, blind spot information with cross-traffic alert, and more.
For a ten year old design, the Flex looks fairly up to date as far as electronics go, thanks to its Cockpit Integrated Display that incorporates two high-resolution displays within the primary instrument cluster (it was far ahead of its time back in 2009), while the just-mentioned Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen is still impressive too, due to updates through the years. It incorporates a big, graphically attractive and well-equipped display with quick-reacting functionality plus good overall usability, its features including accurate available navigation as well as a very good standard backup camera with active guidelines, albeit no overhead camera even in its topmost trim. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is standard, however, plus the ability to download more apps, etcetera.
On top of the Limited trim’s standard features a $3,200 301A package can be added with features such as a heated steering wheel, truly comfortable 10-way power-adjustable front seats with three-way cooling, dynamic cruise control, Collision Warning with autonomous emergency braking, and Active Park Assist semi-autonomous parking capability, but note that all of the 301A features come standard already when choosing the more powerful engine, as does a special set of 20-inch polished alloy wheels, a powered steering column, a one-touch 50/50-split power-folding third row with tailgate seating, and an engine block heater.
As you may already noticed, my tester’s wheels are gloss-black 20-inch alloys that come as part of a $900 Appearance package which also includes additional inky exterior treatments to the centre grille bar, side mirror housings, and rear liftgate appliqué, plus it adds Agate Black paint to the roof and pillars, while the cabin receives a special leather-clad steering wheel featuring Meteorite Black bezels, plus an unique graphic design on the instrument panel and door-trim appliqués, special leather seat upholstery with Light Earth Gray inserts and Dark Earth Gray bolsters, as well as floor mats with a unique logo.
My test model’s Vista panoramic multi-panel glass roof has always been an individual option, adding $1,750 to this 2019 model, but I found it a bit odd that voice-activated navigation (with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link) as a standalone add-on (navigation systems usually bundled as part of a high-level trim line), while the gloss-black roof rails can also be individually added for just $130, but the roof rails, which are also available in silver, come as part of a $600 Cargo Versatility package too, which combines the otherwise $500 Class III Trailer Tow package (capable of up to 4,500 lbs or 2,041 kg of trailer weight) with first- and second-row all-weather floor mats (otherwise a $150 option), resulting in more four-season practicality.
Over and above items included in my test model, it’s also possible to add a refrigerated centre console for $650, second-row captain’s chairs with a centre console for just $150 (but I prefer the regular bench seat as the smaller portion of its 60/40-split configuration can be auto-folded from the rear), inflatable second-row seatbelts for $250 (which enhance rear passenger safety), and two-screen (on the backs of the front headrests) rear entertainment for $2,100.
Of course, many of the Limited trim’s features get pulled up from base SE and mid-range SEL trims, both being well equipped for their price ranges too, I should also mention that the Flex’s interior isn’t quite as refined as what you’d find in a new 2020 Explorer with the same options, per say. Then again I remember how impressed I was with the Flex’s refinement when it arrived 10 or so year ago, which really goes to show how far Ford has come in a decade, not to mention all of the other mainstream brands. The latest Edge, for example, which I tested in its top-tier trim recently, is likely better than the old Lincoln MKX, now replaced by the much-improved Nautilus, whereas the Flex’s cabin is more like the old Edge inside.
Therefore you’ll have to be ok with good quality albeit somewhat dated details, such as its large, clunky, hollow plastic power lock switches instead of Ford’s newer models’ more upscale electronic buttons, while there’s a lower grade of hard plastic surfaces throughout the interior too. This said its dash-top receives a fairly plush composite covering, as does each door upper from front to back, whereas the door inserts have always been given a nifty graphic appliqué, just above big padded armrests.
As you might imagine, the Flex is roomy inside. In fact, its predecessor was designed to replace the Freestar minivan back in 2007, so it had to have minivan-like seating and cargo functionality. This said the Flex’s maximum cargo volume of 2,355 litres (83.1 cubic feet) when both all rear seats are tumbled down doesn’t come close to the brand’s once-popular minivan that managed a total of 3,885 litres (137.2 cu ft) of luggage volume in its day, but it’s generously proportioned for a mid-size crossover. In fact, the Flex can manage 42 additional litres (1.5 cu ft) of total storage space than the outgoing 2019 Explorer, which was one of the biggest SUVs in its three-row segment. That said the new 2020 Explorer offers up to 2,486 litres (87.8 cu ft) of maximum cargo capacity, which improves on both of Ford’s past SUVs (Flex included).
The rear liftgate powers upward to reveal 426 litres (15.0 cu ft) of dedicated luggage space aft of the rearmost seats, which is in fact 169 litres (6.0 cu ft) less than in the old Explorer, but if you lower the second row the Flex nearly matches the past Explorer’s cargo capacity with 1,224 litres (43.2 cu ft) compared to 1,240 litres (43.8 cu ft). A nifty feature noted before allows the final row to be powered in the opposite direction for tailgate parties, incidentally, but make sure to extend the headrests for optimal comfort.
Total Flex passenger volume is 4,412 litres (155.8 cu ft), which results in a lot of room in all seating positions, plus plenty of comfort. Truly, even third row legroom is pretty decent, while headroom is lofty everywhere inside thanks to a high roofline. Ford made sure there was enough space from side-to-side too, this due to a vehicle that’ quite wide. The aforementioned panoramic sunroof adds to the feeling of openness as well, and its three-pane construction is pretty intelligent as it allows for better structural rigidity than one large opening, which is particularly important for a vehicle with such a large, flat roof. Additional thoughtful features include large bottle holders within the rear door panels, these wholly helpful at drive-thrus.
I’m guessing you can tell I like this unusual box on wheels, and must admit to appreciating Ford for its initial courage when bringing the Flex to market and its willingness to keep it around so long. I know it’s outdated, particularly inside, plus it’s missing a few features that I’d like to see, such as outboard rear seat warmers and USB charging ports in the second row, but it’s difficult to criticize its value proposition after factoring in the potential savings Ford has on the table. I’m sure that opting for this somewhat antiquated crossover might be questionable after seeing it parked beside Ford’s latest 2020 Explorer, but keep in mind that a similarly equipped version of the latter utility will cost you another $10,000 or so before any discounts, while the domestic manufacturer is only providing up to $2,000 in additional incentives for this newer SUV. That’s a price difference of more than $13,000, so therefore a fully loaded Flex might make a lot of sense for someone looking for a budget-minded luxury utility.
A month or so ago, before we all became aware of the COVID-19 outbreak, I would’ve probably recommended for those interested in buying a new Flex to rush over to their local dealer and scoop one up before they all disappeared forever, and while they certainly will be gone at some point this year I recommend you find one online like I did, and contact the respective dealership directly via phone or email. Still, doing your homework before making the call or sending the message is a good idea, so make sure to visit our 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page first, where you can learn about every trim and price, plus find out if any new manufacturer discounts, rebates and/or financing/leasing packages have been created, while don’t forget that a membership to CarCostCanada provides otherwise difficult to access dealer invoice pricing (which is the price the retailer actually pays the manufacturer for the vehicle). This will provide you the opportunity to score the best-possible deal during negotiation. After that, your Ford dealer will ready your new Flex for delivery.
So therefore if this unorthodox crossover utility is as appealing to you as to me, I recommend you take advantage of the tempting model-ending deal mentioned earlier. The Flex might be an aging SUV amongst the plethora of more advanced offerings, but don’t forget that this aging crossover still comes across as fresh thanks to its moderate popularity (you won’t see a lot of them driving around your city), while its long well-proven tenure means that it should be more dependable than some of its newer competitors.
Thank you Volkswagen. You’ve made my job so much easier today. While researching the 2019 Passat for this review, I learned that it’s only available in a single, solitary, one-size-fits-all trim line for this stopgap year, the Wolfsburg Edition getting very close to last year’s top-tier Passat Highline (which replaced the Execline from 2016). This allows me to spend more time on other details such as styling, cabin quality, comfort, driving dynamics, etcetera.
The Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Passat (originally named Dasher in our market) has been with us since 1973, initially delivering an upscale Audi-inspired look in five-door hatchback and wagon body styles, the former replaced by a regular sport/luxury sedan dubbed for its second B2 generation. The B3 redesign that arrived in 1988 finally applied the Euro nameplate to North American models, and while I really liked this third-gen Passat, particularly in its most potent VR6 trim, as well as the B4 that followed, my heart went out to the 270 hp 4.0-litre W8-powered AWD B5 version most earnestly. Earlier B5s were also the first Passats I tested as an automotive journalist newbie in the early 2000s, back when this German brand impressed me like no other.
That was a time when Volkswagen was comparable to Audi for its performance and overall refinement, the amazing Bentley-based Phaeton luxury sedan arriving the following year with a choice of 335-horsepower V8 or 420-horsepower W12 behind its unassuming grille, not to mention $96,500 and $126,790 respective prices, while not long after that the brand’s 309-hp Touareg V10 TDI was on the scene, putting out a shocking 553 lb-ft of torque. Volkswagen appeared to be vying for luxury brand status during those years, a strategy that kind of made sense in Europe where parent automaker VW AG also owned lesser brands Skoda and Seat to pull in entry-level buyers, but not here where the iconic Beetle manufacturer was known more for economy cars.
By comparison, today’s VW-branded cars and crossover SUVs still deliver some premium features not often available with every competitor, like cloth-covered roof pillars (albeit only the A pillars these days), full high-definition TFT primary gauge clusters, and the convenience of a rear seat centre pass-through for stowing long cargo (or better yet, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats), soft pliable composite surfaces aren’t as plentiful, switches, knobs and buttons can now be less dense and therefore cheaper feeling, and rear suspension systems aren’t necessarily independent anymore (unlike most rivals that are now IRS-equipped, the latest Jetta has reverted to using a rear torsion beam setup).
I think the Passat looks good though, particularly in my tester’s attractive Tourmaline Blue Metallic. It’s one of six exterior paints for 2019, which include white, black, grey and silver, plus a beautiful Fortana Red Metallic, all no-cost options, while sporty R-Line outer trim comes standard this year too. Additional standard features include automatic on/off LED headlights with LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lights, and fabulous looking silver-painted twinned five-spoke 19-inch Salvador alloy wheels encircling 235/40 all-seasons, and that’s just on the outside.
To my eyes the cabin looks even better due to VW’s communications team choosing gorgeous Cornsilk Beige for my test car’s interior (it can be had in black or grey as well, depending on the exterior colour chosen), the creamy colour offset by a contrasting black dash top, door uppers and carpets. VW has been producing this rich light beige and black interior motif for decades, including the horizontal ribbing on the leather seat upholstery. It looks sensational, complemented by sophisticated looking textured metal, brushed aluminum, chrome and piano black lacquer elsewhere.
Standard features include proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel rim with shift paddles, a colour multi-information display/trip computer, a leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake lever, brushed stainless steel foot pedals, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heatable washer nozzles, two-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a power sunroof, three-way heated front sport seats, an eight-way powered driver seat with two-way power lumbar, driver’s side memory, heatable rear seats, front and back LED reading lamps, an Easy Open trunk, 60/40-split rear seatbacks with a centre armrest and centre pass-through, plus more for $32,995.
That seems like a reasonably good deal already, but it gets better due to a $2,000 no-haggle discount that comes as a parting gift of sorts. Find out about this discount and any other rebates right here at CarCostCanada, and while you’re learning more you can also access dealer invoice pricing, which will make it as easy as possible to meet your budget requirements.
I should also go into some detail about the Passat’s infotainment system, which measures 6.33 inches and even includes proximity sensing, which means a row of digitized buttons rise up from the bottom of the touchscreen when your fingers get near. While the display is relatively small compared to most competitors’ top-line systems, it process info quickly, includes tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture functions, which are especially useful when using the route guidance-system’s map, and even includes MirrorLink smartphone integration, along with the usual Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Bluetooth is also standard, of course, with audio streaming for listening to music or podcasts from your personal device, while additional standard infotainment features include voice activation, an SD card slot, and one of the worst backup camera systems I’ve used in a long time. Why? Much of the display’s top section was cut off in a semicircular due to a wide-angle lens that was probably trying to provide more visibility, but it actually made things a lot worse, plus VW didn’t include active guidelines either.
The six-speaker Fender premium audio system is good enough for this class, however, with nice deep bass from its subwoofer, while satellite radio stations came in clearly, the inclusion of a CD player will be appreciated by many, and the single USB audio/charging port made me grateful VW wasn’t still trying to promote Apple, although I’m hoping the next-generation has a few more. Speaking of new, the I hopped into the latest 2020 GTI after giving the Passat keys back and am now hopeful that its considerably larger touchscreen, along with its superb resolution and excellent depth of contrast and colour make it into the 2020 Passat, or something similar.
Moving downward on the centre stack, past the HVAC interface that incidentally suffered from loose rotating dials, there’s a lidded compartment for stowing and charging a smartphone. It has a rubberized base, like usual, but oddly it wasn’t big enough for my average-sized phone, which kind of made me glad VW hadn’t installed a wireless charging pad. It did include the just noted USB-A port and as well as an auxiliary connection next to an old-school 12-volt plug, so you should be able to charge multiple devices at any given time (with the help of an aftermarket USB adapter).
Close by, to each side of the shift lever, is a row of “buttons”, or at least they all look like buttons. One deactivated the front and rear parking sonar, while another turned on the semi-autonomous self-parking system, but the other four were merely dummy buttons that made the car look as if it was missing some key features. I noticed it was devoid of a heatable steering wheel, something I appreciate on cold winter mornings, a problem made worse when the flat-bottom leather-wrapped sport steering wheel in question is so incredibly good. The front seats weren’t ventilated either, a function I’m getting more and more used to finding in top-line competitors’ trims.
The Passat’s standard menu of safety enhancements impresses, however, with items like automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, driver assistance, park distance control and park assist adding enough high technology to the driving experience as to almost forget about those missing buttons. Better yet, the way these systems chose not to intervene until absolutely necessary had me liking the Passat even more. No one likes over-sensitive technology, especially with respect to safety equipment capable of taking over the wheel, and fortunately the Passat’s were hardly noticeable throughout my test week. It was only when I tried to exit the highway without using my turn signal that the side-assist system fixated on the white line, pulling me back into my lane. I quickly turned my blinker on and was able to move over, and no doubt could have forced it over if I’d wanted to, but VW gets high marks for making advanced driver assistance systems that are only there when absolutely necessary.
Previously in this review I mentioned that Volkswagen’s cabin materials aren’t as high in quality now as they used to be, so I should probably go into some more detail about how this affects the Passat. For the most part it’s equal to most competitors, but this makes the car seem less than ok being that it was much better than average years ago. Right up until this US-made seventh-generation model arrived nine years ago, the Passat provided a much greater percentage of premium-level soft padded surfaces than any rival, but now it’s noticeably below average. It’s as if VW AG, the parent company, didn’t want its namesake brand stealing any sales from Audi, so therefore purposely made the Passat’s interior worse than it needed to be, just to be sure. To be clear, some parts are extremely good, like the soft composites used for the dash top and door uppers, but the lower dash panels and glove box lid, plus the centre stack sides and lower door panels are made from lower grade hard plastics, and upstaged by most competitors. This leaves some areas better than average and others not quite measuring up, and depending on whether you see your glass half full or half empty, you’ll either be thrilled with all that’s good or left feeling flat about the car’s weaknesses.
I felt much the same about the Passat’s sole 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. Its 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque comes close to matching most rivals’ base powerplants, but it’s hardly a base model despite the aforementioned discount. Last year’s 3.6-litre V6 upgrade provided an option for those wanting more, but no such luck for this year’s performance fans. Fortunately its modest torque figure feels stronger than it looks, probably due to arriving at its maximum at only 1,500 rpm, so takeoff is fairly energetic off the line and there’s ample passing power for most manoeuvres, but a model that once offered 4Motion all-wheel drive now solely gets driven by those up front, and the transmission that sends the engines output to the front wheels only has six forward speeds, which might have been a big deal fifteen years ago, but doesn’t sound all that advanced when put up against today’s eight- and nine-speed automatics.
The 2020 Passat will remedy the latter problem with an eight-speed of its own, but no AWD or manual transmission for that matter, two features enthusiasts would love to see, but the current model’s paddle shifters got everything out of the engine it had to give, just like the future one will make the most of even more available torque, resulting in a really enjoyable car to drive.
I appreciated the extra control, because this mid-size family hauler can dance with more grace than most four-door sedans in this class, even at high speeds. Of course its suspension is fully independent, with struts up front and a multi-link setup in back, plus a stabilizer bar at each end, and it’s all very well sorted for a bit more grip at the limit and better balance than the segment average. It will understeer when pushed too far, which is a good thing in this category, and its ride should keep all aboard happy, despite being slightly firmer than average.
Fuel-efficiency is quite good at 9.3 L/100km city, 6.5 highway and 8.1 combined, no doubt why Volkswagen chose the four-cylinder for this model’s sole power unit in place of the V6. Such practicality in mind, you won’t need to worry about anything that might go wrong with the Passat for a year longer than most rivals thanks to an almost comprehensive four-year or 80,000 km warranty, although it’s powertrain warranty is shorter than average by a year or 20,000 km.
Now that we’re being pragmatic, the Passat’s front seats and surrounding area is amply roomy for big folks, while the driver’s seat is comfortable, but like the suspension it’s a bit firmer than most in this class. It features two-way powered lumbar support that just so happened to ideally match up to the small of my back, while its lower cushion stretched forward enough to support nicely below the knees.
The rear seating compartment is roomier still, and plenty comfortable, while a 450-litre (15.9 cubic-foot) trunk should be more than adequate for most owners’ needs, especially when considering its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks have the advantage of a centre pass-through for loading in longer items like skis.
These are some of the 2019 Passat’s worthy attributes that I hope are carried forward into the new model, but in the same breath I’m also wishing Volkswagen steps up with more competitive interior quality so that it at least matches the refinement of this segment’s sales leaders. After all, it’s the slowest selling mid-size four-door sedan in Canada by a long shot, so arriving in today’s highly competitive marketplace with a lukewarm update wouldn’t be the best of ideas. Let’s hope they get it right. Until then, the 2019 Passat does some things very well and others not so much, but it’s currently priced right and the deal could be made even sweeter by finding out its dealer invoice price here on CarCostCanada before talking to your local Volkswagen retailer.
Hyundai’s Sonata has been around for decades. Just over three actually. During its 31-year tenure the South Korean brand has given it a fairly even mix of dramatic designs and comparatively less expressive styling, the latter seeming to win more buyers.
A quick glance back into the rearview mirror shows the 1998 through 2004 fourth-generation and 2009 through 2014 sixth-generation models offering particularly daring designs, with a comparatively conservative 2004 through 2009 fifth-generation filling the gap. I might end up throwing my “dramatic” styling equals success theory out completely as that relatively modestly sedan sold very well, and while I spent at least one week with all of the above generations and every one since, all of which impressed, I actually had a V6-powered top-tier version of the latter car in my position as a long-term test car for more than a year, and experienced no problems while totally enjoying its comfort and performance (as my weekly reports confirmed).
Today’s 2014 through 2019 gen-seven model is the best Sonata yet, but before its extensive 2018 mid-cycle update it was amongst the least visually inspiring generations. Don’t mistake my lack of excitement for criticism, as the 2014 through 2017 Sonata was still attractive enough for plenty of mid-size four-door family sedan buyers, but we’d best not call this level of reconstructive surgery a facelift.
Both 2018 and 2019 Sonata models, which are identical, include a totally reworked grille that completely said goodbye to the front fascia’s sharply angled hexagonal design, a somewhat yawn-inducing generic look if I can be so bold, substituted by a more organically shaped opening that’s helped to visually separate Hyundai and its new Genesis luxury brand. Genesis, which merely rebadged Hyundai’s Genesis Sedan as the G80 as part of its transformation, appears to be keeping more of the outgoing Hyundai grille design while adding a “V” shape to the centre bottom, much like the side view of a brilliant cut diamond as revealed on its new full-size 2020 G90 luxury sedan.
Back to the current Sonata, its curvaceous new grille is bookended by a nice complex set of headlamp clusters filled with ovoid projector beams (LEDs in my tester) surrounded by attractive LED daytime running lights, these hovering above a neatly stacked set of six LED fog lamps on the lower front corners.
My tester’s sportier Ultimate trim gets stylish darkened chrome around the otherwise black gloss grille, lower fascia, and headlight surrounds that smartly continue rearward along the front fenders and the entire shoulder line along the side windows before wrapping up and around the greenhouse before meeting back up at the base of each A-pillar. This unique signature design element began with the aforementioned sixth-gen Sonata way back in 2009, and will once again make its dramatic statement for the upcoming 2020 model, a car that take all of the styling cues shown here and expands on them in drama and actual size, while completely redoing rear styling. There’s plenty more dark chrome and loads of glossy black trim on this Ultimate example too, the diffuser style rear apron nicely matching the front fog light bezels, all of which mirror the all black glass and high-gloss roof, this partially because of its panoramic sunroof. I have to admit, the 2018 update made a rather ho-hum Sonata into a great looking mid-size sedan.
Of course, it needs to be in order to survive. Not only is it up against some very stiff competition thanks to Toyota’s latest Camry being downright seductive in its sportiest XSE trim line, the latest Honda Accord providing a lot more premium-like presence than ever before, an all-new Nissan Altima improving styling while offering standard all-wheel drive, plus plenty of other brands tempting consumers with high performance or fuel-efficient hybrid and plug-in alternatives, not to mention Kia and Volkswagen complementing their respective Optima and Passat family sedans with sporty four-door coupe variants dubbed Stinger and Arteon, but the entire car sector under serious threat from crossover SUVs.
Out of the 14 mid-size sedans currently vying for your attention, only four saw an increase in year-over-year Canadian sales through the first three quarters of 2019, and the Sonata isn’t one of them. The segment-leading Camry’s 11,579 deliveries are up 4.18 percent since the close of Q3 2018, growth that pales in comparison to the third-place Ford Fusion’s 33.43-percent gain, although its total sales are only 7,280. The two others in positive territory are marginal players to say it kindly, with Honda’s Clarity plug-in hybrid up 12.37 percent to 890 units, and Buick’s Regal having increased its take-rate by a whopping 48.71 percent, albeit only to 635 deliveries.
The biggest loser is Volkswagen’s Passat down 78.24 percent to just 570 units, but Kia’s Optima didn’t fare much better with sales of 1,363 units resulting in a 52.09-percent downturn. A quick glance at some others like the Altima that lost 43.34 percent for 2,568 units despite its recent redesign, and Mazda6’s that took a 42.76-percent nosedive to 1,130 units, doesn’t make the Sonata’s mere 14.18-percent reversal look that bad, while the 3,346 units Hyundai delivered puts it in a strong fifth place, behind the Camry, Accord, Fusion and Malibu, yet ahead of the Altima, Optima, Subaru Legacy, Stinger, Mazda6, Clarity, Regal, Passat, and Arteon. Announcement of the Fusion’s upcoming demise might make it easier for those remaining, although it’s also a sobering sign of this once mighty category not being as essential to carmakers as it once was.
All this said, the review you’re reading is more of a respectful adieu to the outgoing 2019 Sonata ahead of ushering in the all-new 2020, and therefore some of us can appreciate a car that helped define Hyundai’s new styling direction over its two-year tenure, while others are deciding if it will soon grace their driveway. I have a lot of good to say about this particular Sonata Ultimate tester, continuing on from my styling overview to its very impressive interior filled with upscale finishings and more features than you’re likely to find in any one of the competitors mentioned above.
A tasteful array of high-quality, soft-touch composites in all the usual places join textured and brushed metal-like trim and inky piano black detailing throughout, while the medium-grey cabin sports a classy set of identically coloured seats in perforated leather upholstery with light-grey piping around their edges, which matches light-grey stitching on the bolsters, with the latter complementing light-grey stitching found elsewhere around the interior, particularly on the door panel inserts, on the shifter boot, and in baseball-stitched style around the inside of the leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel rim.
That steering wheel not only looks the part of a performance car, but its thick padded rim, nicely indented thumb spats, and overall meaty feel comes across a lot more Veloster N than Azera (RIP, in Canada at least), while the placement of the paddle shifters is so ideal they really enhance the overall driving experience. All is combined with ample steering column rake and reach, plus an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way lumbar, both allowing my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame to get completely comfortable while providing ideal control of directional duties, unlike some in the class that don’t fit me as well.
During the same week I also had Toyota’s new Camry XSE, which by all styling inferences appears to be the sportiest new mid-size sedan on the market. It’s a significant improvement over the previous model in every way including steering column reach, but it still doesn’t fit me as well. What’s more, the steering wheel doesn’t come close to feeling as sporty or allowing as much control as this Sonata’s, even from a styling standpoint. Don’t get me wrong as Toyota has done a commendable job with the new Camry interior, making its finishing more refined and its overall look a bit more upscale than this Sonata, but as far as real hands-on performance goes, it doesn’t come anywhere near close. What’s more, the Sonata’s steering wheel is heatable from its mid-range up, while Toyota doesn’t even offer a heated steering wheel in the Camry.
The most notable Camry XSE and Sonata Ultimate differentiators are the seats, with the latter model featuring two of the best front sport seats in the family sedan class. Not only are the embossed with cool “Turbo” insignias up top, and detailed out with all the niceties mentioned earlier, but their deep side bolsters do an excellent job of holding butt and torso in place during hard cornering. You’ll need to hang onto something other than the steering wheel if you want to stay put in the Camry’s driver’s seat while attempting the same lateral Gs, because Toyota’s seats leave you sitting on top of their cushions rather than ensconced within. I didn’t find the Camry’s seats comfortable either, not even in the more luxurious XLE version, but the seats in the Sonata Ultimate are wonderful, and fully supportive in every way you’d want from a sport sedan. The Sonata’s three-way front seat heaters also get toastier than the Camry’s in their top temperature setting, plus the Hyundai includes three-way front seat ventilation that won’t be available to top-line Camry buyers until the 2020 model arrives.
Even the Sonata’s rear seats offer two-way derriere warmers next to the windows in mid-range Preferred trim and above, not to mention nicely carved out support that makes them feel great on the backside, albeit not so much to render the centre position useless. Side window sunshades, found in Luxury and Ultimate trims, can’t be had with a Camry either, while rear seat passengers benefit from plenty of other features like LED reading lights overhead, individual air vents, a nice wide folding centre armrest with integrated cupholders, deep door pockets with bottle holders, and more. A panoramic sunroof on Luxury and Ultimate trims makes the rear passenger compartment feel more open and airy than it would otherwise be, although even less opulent models are hardly short on side window visibility.
It’s roomy in back too, with plenty of knee space, enough legroom to almost completely stretch out my legs while wearing winter boots, four to five inches to the door panels, plus I still had about three and a half inches above my head, so taller folks should fit in without problem.
The trunk is large at 462 litres (16.3 cubic feet), while the lid can be opened with a button on the dash or automatically by standing behind the car with the ignition off and proximity-sensing key in pocket. It’s nicely finished with carpeting all the way up the sidewalls, including the trunk lid, while each side of the carpeted seatbacks fold forward in the usual 60/40-configuration via pull-tabs just underneath the rear shelf.
Everything mentioned so far comes standard in top-line Ultimate trim, including a sharp looking set of 18-inch double-five-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45R18 Michelin all-season tires (replacing 16- or 17-inch Kumhos) directed via special rack-mounted motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS) with a dual-pinion steering rack, an exclusive twin-scroll turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with dual continuously variable valve timing and two-stage variable induction making 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque (replacing the base 2.4-litre four with 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque), an eight-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters (instead of a six-speed automatic), as well as the special leather sport seats noted earlier, plus the aforementioned 3D Three-dimensional Overlay Method (T.O.M) metallic inlays.
I’m itemizing the majority of each trim’s standard features because value for money has always been one a great way to judge any Hyundai against its peers, and considering this 2019 Sonata Ultimate goes for just $37,199 plus freight and fees, it’s hard to argue against it. After all, a similarly powered Camry with fewer features tops $41k, about 10 percent more than this full-load Sonata, while it’s also a couple of thousand pricier at its lowest end too. That base Essential trim can be had for just $24,899, while at the time of writing Hyundai was offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives. You can find out more right here at CarCostCanada, right on the same page that gives you detailed 2019 Sonata pricing, including trims, packages and individual options, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Yet more features pulled up to this Ultimate model from the $34,899 Luxury trim include the aforementioned LED headlamps with adaptive cornering and auto high beams, the cooled front seats, the rear window sunshades and powered panoramic sunroof, plus aluminum treadplates, chromed inner door handles, an electric parking brake, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink universal garage door remote, a six-way powered front passenger seat, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, an 8.0-inch high-resolution infotainment touchscreen with navigation, an excellent sounding 400-watt nine-speaker Infinity audio system, wireless device charging, rear seat heating/ventilation/AC ducts, rear parking sensors, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.
Features pulled up to the Unlimited from mid-range $28,799 Preferred trim include the stitched leatherette door inserts, heated steering wheel rim, rear seat heaters, and proximity trunk release mentioned before, as well as two-zone auto climate control, satellite radio with a rooftop shark antenna, remote engine start, and BlueLink connectivity, while the $27,699 Essential Sport model provides its sport grille, dark chrome and sportier exterior detailing, sport-tuned suspension, LED tail lamps, front door handle welcome lighting, proximity-sensing keyless entry, sport-style Supervision instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch TFT LCD multi-function display, shift paddles, eight-way power driver’s seat, and aluminum pedals.
Lastly, standard features included with this Ultimate model from base Essential trim are as follows: automatic on/off headlamps, LED daytime running lights, powered and heated exterior mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, speed-sensitive variable intermittent windshield wipers, heatable front seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone integration, Bluetooth with streaming audio, micro-filtered air conditioning, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, the usual active and passive safety gear, plus plenty more.
To be fair to the Camry, which has taken quite a beating while being compared directly to the Sonata Unlimited throughout this review, the mid-size Toyota provides a more sophisticated primary gauge package thanks to a more advanced multi-information display (MID) boasting a bigger, more modern looking TFT screen that neatly curves around the outside of each analogue dial, plus it also comes with more functions. Just the same, the Sonata’s MID is bright, clear and hardly short on features.
The car’s centre stack is more vertical than the Camry’s, which is a more modern horizontal layout, not that it matters from a functional standpoint, but it theoretically allows for a larger display (the top-line Camry’s 8.0-inch touchscreen isn’t any larger though) and more room for switchgear around it (the 2020 Sonata makes up for this in a big 12.3-inch way), and therefore the Sonata’s dash design appears more conventional than the Camry’s as well, but once again this has more to do with the 2019 Sonata’s end of lifecycle issues than not technically measuring up (upcoming reviews of the new 2020 Nexo and 2020 Palisade SUVs will expose Hyundai’s infotainment leadership in more detail). I like how the current Sonata’s touchscreen sits high on the centre stack, making it easy to read while driving, and its clear, high-resolution display provides good depth of colour and nice graphics. Its operating system is quick as well, while all functions are generally easy to sort out.
I found the quality of Sonata switchgear good too, particularly the steering wheel controls and array of buttons, knobs and switches on the centre stack, some of this latter group detailed out with an attractive aluminum-like finish. The upper row of these aluminized toggles is set aside for audio and infotainment system functions, while the bottom row is for the automatic heating and ventilation system, plus the heated and cooled seats as well as the heated steering wheel rim. Under this is a rubberized tray for your smartphone that doubles as a wireless charging pad, while yet more connectivity sits just above on a panel integrating two 12-volt chargers, a USB port, and an aux plug (we can expect more USB ports and fewer old tech as part of the 2020 redesign).
With the thick, flat-bottom, paddle shifter-enhanced steering wheel rim in hands, and the nicely bolstered driver’s seat underseat, the Sonata Ultimate felt considerably more fun to drive than the Camry XSE, even without the latter car’s more powerful V6. The top-tier Camry is quite a bit quicker in a straight line, shaving about a second and a half off the Sonata Ultimate’s mid-seven-second 0-100 km/h sprint, as long as you manage to stop the front wheels from spinning too much, but straight-line acceleration only one performance criterion, and certainly not most important to me.
Sure, making surrounding traffic almost instantly disappear in the rearview mirror can be fun while behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 Turbo or something equally fast, but trying to do so in a Sonata or Camry simply makes you look juvenile. I found the Sonata Ultimate’s 2.0-litre turbo moved me out of the starting blocks fast enough, while its eight-speed automatic swapped gears quicker than the Camry’s eight-speed gearbox, particularly when its Drive Mode Select system was switched from Comfort, past Eco, into Sport mode, each of these making adjustments to steering, engine, and transmission responses. For my tastes, the high-revving top-level Sonata engine was a great deal more enjoyable than the Camry’s V6 when pushed hard at speed, while having less weight over the front wheels made for nimbler high-speed handling with less understeer.
Yes, the Sonata Ultimate manages fast-paced corners better than the Camry XSE, the Hyundai reacting quicker and feeling more stable. The Toyota had a tendency to push its front tires out of its lane when driven similarly over the same circuitous roadway, while becoming its rear tires didn’t feel as hooked up either, and this is in spite of coming equipped with bigger 19-inch alloys on 235/40 all seasons. Throw the Sonata Unlimited’s driver seat superiority into the mix and it’s no contest.
As for fuel economy, you’d think Hyundai’s 2.0-litre turbo-four would annihilate Toyota’s old 3.5-litre V6, but the Sonata Ultimate’s claimed rating of 10.4 L/100 km city, 7.4 on highway and 9.1 combined is only a fraction better than the Camry XSE’s 10.7 city, 7.4 highway and 9.2 combined rating. Another nod to Toyota is the inclusion of the eight-speed automatic throughout the Camry range, which helps its less formidable four-cylinder trims walk away with an ultra-thrifty 8.1 city, 5.7 highway and 6.9 combined rating, which is far better than the 2.4-litre equipped Sonata’s stingiest rating of 9.2, 6.8 and 8.1.
Now that I’m griping, the Sonata’s proximity-sensing automatic trunk opener doesn’t seem to work when the car is already unlocked, and with no button in back to open it manually you’ll want to remember to do so from the driver’s position before getting out. The Camry’s approach, which includes a button on the trunk lid that unlocks by proximity sensing, is easier to live with. I also like the Camry’s heated front seats, which turn on (or stay off) automatically upon restarting the car, and stay set at the previous temperature. The Sonata’s heatable front seats require your attention each time you climb inside.
Of course, a lot of other qualities keep the Camry on top of the mid-size sedan class hierarchy, and I promise to cover these in a future road test review, while there’s no shortage of credible competitors in this segment either, as mentioned at length before, yet if buying into this category you’d be wise to spend some time with the Sonata before choosing something else.
If you think the auto industry has given up on cars and is only relying on SUVs to turn a profit, look no further than the thoroughly reinvigorated Volvo brand and its wonderfully renewed lineup of sport wagons and crossover-styled variations on the same five-door theme.
The first to arrive was the beautiful new V90 and V90 Cross Country duo, both having respectively replaced the old V70 and XC70 for the 2017 model year, albeit the former hasn’t been with us for a decade or so. Fast forward to 2019 and Volvo’s wagon lineup just expanded with all-new 2019 V60 and V60 Cross Country crossover models, and thanks to Volvo’s Canadian PR team leaving the sportier of the two in my driveway for three weeks last month we’ll be starting off closer to the ground.
I suppose referencing the more conventional V60 as sportier may not sit well with those who consider a trip down a gravel road with a kayak strapped to the top of the V60 Cross Country T5 AWD a more sport-oriented exercise than fast-tracking through a curving two-lane highway at the wheel of our V60 T6 AWD Inscription, not that the former car can’t manage the latter activity quite well, or vise versa. It’s just that the regular V60 is quicker when upgraded with its as-tested turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, and as noted a moment ago sits a bit lower to the ground for better pavement-hugging handling, whereas the raised ride height of the Cross Country allows for greater ground clearance when traversing less hospitable backwater roads and trails. Either way, Volvo has you covered.
I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk powertrains, being that both V60 models incorporate Volvo’s innovative 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, the T5 featuring turbocharging and the T6 adding the just-noted supercharger to the mix. The former makes a laudable 258 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque for thoroughly enjoyable performance from standstill up to highway speeds and beyond via eight quick-shifting automatic gears and standard all-wheel drive, whereas the latter puts 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque down to the road via the same all-wheel drivetrain.
By the numbers, the V60 T5 AWD allows for an energetic zero to 100km/h sprint of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph), whereas the T6 AWD cuts standstill acceleration runs down to 5.7 seconds while upping maximum velocity to 249 km/h (155 mph).
Volvo’s T6 engine seems to make a more sporting note at full throttle than I last remember, while the zero-to-100 times quoted a moment ago feel as good as they look. The drivetrain is especially engaging when set to Dynamic sport mode via the jeweled switch on the lower console, which heightens the performance of all controls. Bend it into a sharp, fast-pace curve and the V60 immediately takes on the role of unflappable sport wagon, providing an adept level of poise that almost seems too capable when simultaneously taking in its luxurious Inscription-trimmed surroundings.
The V60’s cabin is absolutely stunning, which caused me to leave the drive mode selector in Comfort more often than not, and Eco when I was paying attention, which together with auto engine start/stop provided best-possible fuel economy at a claimed 10.9 L/100km city, 7.7 highway and 9.5 combined with the as-tested T6 AWD, or alternatively 10.2, 6.8 and 8.7 for the less potent T5 FWD, and made the most of the impressively smooth ride and wonderfully quiet cabin, ideal for such resplendent accoutrements.
As already executed to near perfection in the crossover SUV classes, Volvo once again creates the D-segment leader for interior design and execution thanks to the highest grades of materials and the finest attention to detail. From its myriad soft-touch surfaces above the waistline and below, including plush perforated leathers, to its beautifully executed decorative metal accents and matte hardwood inlays, the V60 Inscription provides a richness and elegance that’s been sorely missing from this more compact five-door luxury category.
Then there’s comfort, which has always been Volvo’s strength. The Inscription seats are superb, and that’s even before making the myriad adjustments they allow for. The seat squabs extend forward, cupping below each knee, while the backrest side bolsters power inward or outward to fit most any body type, whether you want a snuggly hug or more relaxing support. Support in mind, four-way powered lumbar means you can position extra lower back pressure just about anywhere you want it, but surprisingly not all models the V60 competes against offer four-way powered lumbar. Then again some offer powered steering columns, which is not available with the V60, so therefore the Inscription’s two-way memory settings don’t affect the steering wheel, but if it were one or the other I’d optimize seat comfort and control.
Driver setup in mind, the V60’s tilt and telescopic steering column offers ample rake and reach for all bodily forms, my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight medium-build frame fully capable of clasping the leather-wrapped steering wheel rim with elbows optimally bent while my legs were easily within reach yet not too crowded by pedals, while plenty of small adjustments remained for tweaking during long road trips.
Looking forward, the gauge cluster is digital, which is nothing new for the V60 that along with its S60 sibling was one of the first cars in its class to offer a colour TFT display in place of the usual analogue primary instruments. Still, this 12.3-inch driver display, upsized from the base Momentum trim’s 8.0-inch unit, is a much more advanced bit of kit than the old V60’s. In fact, it takes up all available space below the instrument hood, and even better it defaults to the navigation system’s colour map that features 3D building block graphics that are fabulous fun to watch when tooling amongst the high-rises of any downtown core.
Of course, that map can be shown over on the V60’s standard 9.0-inch vertical centre touchscreen, Volvo’s Sensus interface continuing to be one of the best in the industry. It’s not that it wows with bright colours and exciting graphics, but rather because it’s more tablet-like than any of its rivals and therefore is easier to figure out. It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, all of the usual gesture controls, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, responds 50 percent faster than earlier versions, although my tester’s otherwise excellent 360-degree surround parking camera was a bit lethargic at startup resulting in fashionably late appearances after I’d finished reversing out of my driveway when leaving in a rush, and thanks to an upgrade to the $3,750 optional 19-speaker 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system provided sensational sound quality, while the satellite radio colour album cover graphics were wonderful.
Incidentally, that B&W stereo does more than just sound good, it improves the interior design thanks to a lovely little tweeter at dash central, featuring a stylish aluminum grille, while the similarly drilled aluminum door speakers let you see through to coloured cones within.
Those speaker grilles are surrounded by some of the only hard composite in the entire car, the rest of each door panel soft touch synthetic from top to bottom, excepting the armrest that’s covered in contrast-stitched leather. Likewise for the centre armrest/bin lid, the front edge of the dash top, and the instrument panel just below, which is why I was a bit miffed that Volvo chose not to finish the glove box lid to the same standard, leaving it hard plastic in a segment that normally softens this surface. Volvo leaves the sides of the centre console hard plastic too, but this is more than made up for by a beautiful set of satin-silver framed matte hardwood scroll-top lids for the connectors, tray and cupholders below.
Volvo chose not to add the same wood to the doors, but surrounding the steering column and just ahead of the front passenger are lovely sculpted sections next to an equally artistic inlay of flowing satin-silver aluminum, the V60’s interior design coming across much more zen-like than anything from Japan, or Germany for that matter.
I could continue on about cabin styling, the volume dial, vent controls, rotating ignition switch and cylindrical drive mode selector rimmed in a grippy diamond-patterned bright metal that sparkles as jewel-like as in any Bentley, while those aforementioned seats are as eye-arresting as sore back-alleviating, but there are still some as yet unmentioned details to cover.
For one, the V60 is spacious. In fact, I think the new V60 is targeting previous V70 customers just as much as those who loved the outgoing V60, thanks to 124 mm (4.9 inches) more length overall, plus a 9.6-mm (3.8-inch) longer wheelbase that results in the most spacious rear seating area in the luxury D-segment. The new model is 51 mm (2.0 inches) lower than its predecessor too, which adds to its long, sleek visual stance, but nevertheless it provides ample headroom and legroom for a six-foot passenger behind a six-foot driver, although I wasn’t able to substantiate this claim due to my previously noted five-foot-eight height. Nevertheless, I can attest to an obvious increase in cargo space, the new V60 boasting 20 percent more than the outgoing car.
Reason enough for its growth is Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that also underpins the larger V90 sport wagon, not to mention everything else in today’s Volvo lineup other than the compact XC40 crossover. Everything riding on SPA gets regularly praised by owners and auto pundits alike, with aforementioned ride-quality and quietness given near universal accolades, so it only makes sense the V60 delivers to the same high level.
I’ve touched on features throughout this review, but have yet to go into trim details, so without further adieu the base 2019 V60 Momentum T5 FWD starts at just $43,900 plus freight and fees, which is only $50 above than last year’s base V60 yet includes standard LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated front seats with driver’s memory, a powered liftgate, power-folding rear seat headrests, power-folding rear seatbacks with controls in the cargo compartment, a semi-automatic cargo cover that conveniently slides up and out of the way when opening the tailgate, and much more.
Of course, plenty of safety gear comes standard too, including standard City Safety automatic front collision warning with full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, plus Driver Alert Control, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, and more.
Of special note, the new V60 introduces an Oncoming Braking system that, if sensing an imminent head-on collision will automatically actuate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. This is said to reduce vehicle speed by 10 km/h before impact, which could potentially save lives and certainly minimize injury.
I won’t go into all standard and optional features available with Momentum or $55,400 Inscription trim, although if interested feel free to check out my previous story that covered everything in detail, but suffice to say the latter as-tested model gets a special chromed waterfall grille, cornering headlights, fog lamps, a really nice leather-wrapped and metal edged key fob, Power Steering Personal Settings with low, medium or high assistance, the gorgeous Driftwood decor inlays, digital gauge cluster and four-way powered lumbar noted earlier, Nappa leather upholstery that’s perforated for allowing through forced ventilation up front, etcetera.
Option out a V60 Inscription T6 AWD and you can have the same $1,000 19-inch multi-spoke alloys as seen on my test car, the previously noted audio upgrade, $1,300 massaging front seats and a $1,150 graphical head-up display. Additionally, my tester included a $1,250 Climate Package with heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a much-welcome heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system that uses the Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Aid and other advanced driver assistance features to keep the V60 within its chosen lane, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass; plus an $1,800 Vision Package with the aforementioned 360-degree surround parking camera, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, front parking sensors, auto-dimming side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.
And by the way, all 2019 Volvo V60 pricing was sourced right here on CarCostCanada, where you can find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new vehicle sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
The only V60 attribute that arguably outshines all of the above is exterior styling, which to my eyes makes it the best-looking sport wagon in the compact luxury D-segment, and possibly the most attractive combination of new Volvo design elements to date. I love the shape of the new grille and the way the headlamps flow rearward over the front fenders, not to mention the motorsport-inspired wing strut design of the lower front fascia. Yet most of all I like this wagon’s profile, culminating at two of the most unorthodox taillights on today’s market, the V60’s sharply cut L-shaped lenses paying obvious tribute to Volvo’s recent past, but all-new and totally unique as well.
It won’t be hard for you to tell that I really like the look of this car, and I must admit to liking everything else about it too. It made the recent holiday season all the more enjoyable and helped ring in the first week of 2019 with style, comfort and all-round class.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press