Few vehicles ever earn “icon” status. They’re either not around long enough, or their manufacturers change them so dramatically from their original purpose that only the name remains.
Case in point, Chevy’s new car-based Blazer family hauler compared to Ford’s go-anywhere Bronco. One is a complete departure from the arguably iconic truck-based original, whereas the other resurrects a beloved nameplate with new levels of on- and off-road prowess.
Land Rover has done something similar with its new Defender, yet due to radically departing from the beloved 1990-2016 first-generation Defender 90 and 110 models’ styling (which was based on the even more legendary 1948-1958 Series I, 1958-1961 Series II, 1961-1971 Series IIA, and 1971-1990 Series III) it runs the risk of losing the nameplate’s iconic status.
In fact, a British billionaire eager to cash in on Land Rover’s possible mistake is building a modernized version of the classic Defender 110 for those with deep pockets, dubbed the Ineos Grenadier (Ineos being the multinational British chemical company partly owned by said billionaire, Jim Ratcliffe). That the Grenadier was partly developed and is being produced by Magna Steyr in its Graz, Austria facility, yes, the same Magna Steyr that builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Class being tested here, is an interesting coincidence, but I digress. The more important point being made is that Mercedes’ G-Class never needed resurrecting. Like Jeep’s Wrangler, albeit at a much loftier price point, the G-wagon has remained true to its longstanding design and defined purpose from day one, endowing it with cult-like status.
The G-Class was thoroughly overhauled for the 2019 model year, this being the SUV’s second generation despite more than 40 years of production, so as you can likely imagine, changes to this 2020 model and the upcoming 2021 version are minimal. The same G 550 and sportier AMG G 63 trims remain available, but the more trail-specified 2017-2018 G 550 4×4 Squared, as well as the more pavement-performance focused 2016-2018 AMG G 65 haven’t been offered yet, nor for that matter has the awesome six-wheel version, therefore we’ll need to watch and wait to see what Mercedes has in store.
The 2019 exterior updates included plenty of new body panels, plus revised head and tail lamp designs (that aren’t too much of a departure from the original in shape and size), and lastly trim modifications all-round. The model’s squared-off, utilitarian body style remains fully intact, which is most important to the SUV’s myriad hardcore fans.
While I’m supposed to be an unbiased reporter, truth be told I’m also a fan of this chunky off-roader. In fact, I’m actually in the market for a diesel-powered four-door Geländewagen (or a left-hand drive, long-wheelbase Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series diesel in decent shape), an earlier version more aligned with my budget restraints and less likely to cause tears when inevitably scratching it up off-road. Of course, if personal finances allowed me to keep the very G 550 in my possession for this weeklong test, I’d be more than ok with that too, as it’s as good as 4×4-capable SUVs get.
While first- to second-generation G-Class models won’t be immediately noticeable to casual onlookers, step inside and the differences are dramatic. The new model features a totally new dash design and higher level of refinement overall, including the brand’s usual jewel-like metalwork trim, and bevy of new digital interfaces that fully transform its human/machine operation. Your eyes will likely lock onto Mercedes’ new MBUX digital instrument cluster/infotainment touchscreen first, which incorporates dual 12.3-inch displays within one long, horizontal, glass-like surface.
The right-side display is a touchscreen, but can alternatively be controlled by switchgear on the lower centre console, while the main driver display can be modulated via an old Blackberry-style micro-pad on the left steering wheel spoke. Together, the seemingly singular interface is one of my industry favourites, not only in functionality, which is superb, but from a styling perspective as well.
The majority of other interior switchgear is satin-silver-finished or made from knurled aluminum, resulting in a real sense of occasion, which while hardly new for Mercedes is a major improvement for the G-Class. Likewise, the drilled Burmester surround sound speaker grilles are some of the prettiest available anywhere, as are the deep, rich open-pore hardwood inlays that envelope the primary gauge cluster/infotainment binnacle, the surface of the lower console, and the trim around the doors’ armrests.
The G isn’t devoid of hard composites, but centre console side panels that don’t quite meet pricey expectations aren’t enough to complain about, particularly when the SUV’s door panel and seat upholstery leatherwork is so fine. My test model’s interior also featured beautiful chocolate brown details that contrasted its sensational blue exterior paint well.
Driver’s seat bolstering is more than adequate, as are the chair’s other powered adjustments, the only missing element being an adjustable thigh support extension. Still, its lower cushion cupped below my knees nicely enough, which, while possibly a problem for drivers on the short side, managed my five-foot-eight frame adequately. At least the SUV’s four-way powered lumbar support applied the right amount of pressure to the exact spot on my lower back requiring relief, as it should for most body types. Likewise, the G 550’s tilt and telescopic steering column provided plenty of reach, resulting in a near perfect driving position despite my short-torso, long-legged body.
As part of the redesign, Mercedes increased rear seat legroom to allow taller passengers the ability to stretch out in comfort. What’s more, those back seats are nearly as supportive as the ones in front, other than the centre position that’s best left for smaller adults or kids.
All of this refinement is hardly inexpensive, with the base 2020 G 550 priced at $147,900 plus freight and fees, and the 2021 version starting at an even heftier $154,900. This said, our 2020 and 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Canada Prices pages are currently reporting factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, which could go far in making a new G-Class more affordable. The zero-interest rate deal seems to apply to the $195,900 2020 G 63 AMG as well, plus the $211,900 2021 G 63 AMG, so it might make sense to buy this SUV on credit and invest the money otherwise spent (I’m guessing commodities are a good shot considering government promises of infrastructure builds, inflated currencies, runaway debt, market bubbles, etcetera, but in no way take my miscellaneous ramblings as investment advice).
Anytime or anywhere in mind, the G 550 can pretty well get you everywhere in Canada, anytime of the year. There’s absolutely no need to expend more investment to buy aftermarket off-road components when at the wheel of this big Merc, as it can out-hustle most any other 4×4-capable SUV on the market. While I would’ve liked even more opportunities to shake the G-Class out on unpaved roads, I certainly enjoyed the number of instances I did so, and can attest to their greatness off the beaten path. I’ve waded them over rock-strewn hills, negotiated them around jagged canyon walls and between narrow treed trails, coaxed them through fast-paced rivers and muddy marshes, and even felt their tires slip when dipped into soft, sandy stretches of beach, so my desire to own one comes from experience. Just the same I didn’t want to risk damaging my G 550 test model’s stylish 14-spoke alloys on pavement-spec 275/50 Pirelli Scorpion Zero rubber, so I kept this example on the street.
The G 550’s ride was sublime even with these lower-profile performance tires, which goes to show that car-based unibody designs don’t really improve ride quality, as much as at-the-limit handling. The G-Class’ frame is rigid after all, as is its body structure, while its significant suspension travel only aids ride compliance. Therefore, it made the ideal city companion, its suspension nearly eliminating the types of ruts and bridge expansion joints that intrude on the comfort levels of lesser SUVs, while its extreme height provides excellent visibility all around.
Those who spend more time on the open highway shouldn’t be wary of the G 550 either, as its ride continued to please and high-speed stability inspired confidence. I would’ve loved to have been towing an Airstream Flying Cloud in back to test its 7,000-lb rating (and given me more comfort than my tent), but I’m sure it can manage the load well, especially when factoring in its 2,650-kg (5,845-lb) curb weight.
Despite that heft, the G 550 performs fairly well when cornering, the previously noted Pirellis proving to be a good choice for everyday driving. I’ve previously driven the AMG-tuned G 63 on road and track, so the G 550’s abilities didn’t blow me away, but it certainly handles curves better than its blocky, brick-like shape alludes.
Braking is strong for such a big, heavy ute too, and while the G 550’s 416-horsepower 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 can’t send it from standstill to 100 km/h at the same 4.5-second rate as the 577-hp G 63, its 5.9 seconds for the same feat is nonetheless respectable, its 450 lb-ft of torque, quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, and standard four-wheel drive aiding the process perfectly, not to mention a very engaging Sport mode.
Engaging might not be the best word for it, mind you. In fact, I found the G 550’s Sport mode a bit too aggressive for my tastes, bordering on uncomfortable. It helps the big SUV shoot off the line with aggression, but the sheer force of it all snapped my head back into the seat’s pillowy headrests too often for comfort’s sake, but only when trying to move off the line in particularly quick fashion. When first feathering the throttle, as I usually drive, and then shortly thereafter dipping into it for stronger acceleration, it worked fine. I wish Mercedes’ had integrated a smoother start into the SUV’s firmware, but the requirement to use skill in order to get the most out of it was kind of nice too. All said, at the end of such tests I just left it in Eco mode for blissfully smooth performance and better economy.
Fuel sipping in mind, no amount of technology this side of turbo-diesel power (how I miss those days) can make this brute eco-friendly, with Transport Canada’s fuel economy rating measuring 18.0 L/100km city, 14.1 highway, and 16.3 combined. It’s not worse than some other full-size, V8-powered utilities, nor does it thirst for pricier premium fuel, but this might be an issue for those with a greener conscious.
Speaking of pragmatic issues, the G-Class is a bit short on cargo capacity when comparing to some of those full-size SUV rivals just noted, especially American branded alternatives such as the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. Then again, the G fares better when measuring up to similarly equipped European luxury utes, with the 1,079-litre (38.1 cu-ft) dedicated cargo area a sizeable 178 litres (6.3 cu ft) greater than the full-size Range Rover’s maximum luggage volume. Interestingly, both luxury SUV’s load-carrying capacity is an identical 1,942 litres (68.6 cu ft), which is ample in my books.
After my week with Mercedes’ top-line SUV, I can’t complain. Certainly, I would’ve liked a larger sunroof or, even better, something along the lines of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s new Sky One-Touch Power Top that turns the entire rooftop into open air while still maintaining solid sides and back with windows, but this might weaken the G’s body structure and limit its 4×4 prowess. I also would’ve liked a wireless phone charger, and would have one installed if this was my personal ride.
Hopefully my next G-Class tester will be more suitable to wilderness forays, possibly as an updated gen-2 G 550 4×4²? Previous examples included portal axles like Mercedes’ fabulously capable Unimog, but in just about every other respect I was thoroughly impressed with this well-made luxury utility, and glad Mercedes stayed true to this model’s iconic 4×4 heritage. To me, the G-Glass is the ultimate on-road, off-road compromise, and I’d own one if money allowed.
I once had a girlfriend that hated fur. She wasn’t long out of college where she’d been influenced by well-meaning animal rights advocates, and therefore wouldn’t even consider wearing something made from the skins of little rodents. Having spent way too much time up north where humans have used animal furs to keep warm for eons, I had no such misgivings, so I took her downstairs to one of my spare bedrooms that was filled with long mink, sable, fox and yet other valuable fur coats that I was in the process of selling for a client, and proceeded to wrap her in each of them. Seeing her initial disdain immediately transform into guilty pleasure was something I’ll never forget, making me wish I had a radical environmentalist to take for a spin in the latest Dodge Durango SRT.
I can just imagine the Greta-like sneer turning into a devilish giggle before all-out laughter started mixing in fear as the big, bellowing, brutish, anti-green SUV guzzled back gas as quickly as Elizabeth May downs drinks at press gallery dinners; yes, the Durango SRT is that corruptible. Then again, it’s not as Mephistophelian as Jeep’s ridiculously fast 707 horsepower Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk. Instead, the Durango SRT gets motivated by the same comparatively sedate 6.4-litre (392 cubic inch) Hemi V8 that motivates the regular Grand Cherokee SRT, although tame as it may seem this 475 horsepower mill is no lightweight.
With a formidable 470 lb-ft of torque going down to all wheels, the 2,499-kilo (5,510-lb) beast launches from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds, its SRT Torqueflite eight-speed automatic transmission delighting with quick shifts all the way from standstill to highway speeds and beyond, whether actuated by its steering wheel paddles, console-mounted shift lever, or simply left to do its own thing. What’s more, it will continue forward with a 12.9-second quarter mile time, and keeps going to a top track speed of 290 km/h (180 mph), which is equal to the Jeep Trackhawk, and in an entirely different universe when compared to other so-called “performance” SUVs.
And to think all of this go-fast goodness resides in a practical three-row family hauler that seats seven adults in total comfort while stowing their luggage in a big 487-litre (17.2 cubic-foot) dedicated rear cargo compartment, and can even tow a 3,946-kilo (8,700-lb) trailer (which is 1,500 lbs more weight than the 5.7-litre V8-powered Durango can tow, and 2,500 lbs more than the V6).
The only Durango SRT negative is fuel economy, which is more than a tad thirsty at a claimed 18.3 L/100km city, 12.2 highway, and 15.6 combined, plus slightly less off-road ability due to a bit less ground clearance, and this said who would want to ruin the SRT’s extended bodywork or 20-inch double-five-spoke black-painted alloy wheels on stumps or rocks anyway, the SUV’s three-season Pirelli Scorpion 295/45 ZRs much more suited to gripping asphalt as it is.
The SRT’s black mesh grille is turned down in a menacing frown, while its tri-vented hood, aggressive lower fascia, extended side skirts, and chrome dual tailpipe-infused rear bumper makes a strong visual statement that’s impossible to ignore. Nothing has changed since the Durango SRT arrived in 2017 as a 2018 model, and it’s been carried forward into 2019 unchanged too, plus will so again for the 2020 model year, with only the Durango’s lower trims getting small improvements.
As a backgrounder, the third-generation Durango arrived in 2010 for the 2011 model year, and along with the complete redesign were plenty of curves to help us forget the less loved, ultra-angled second-generation model, and remind us of the muscular Dakota-based SUV that brought Dodge into the mid-size SUV fold way back in 1997 (when are you bringing back the Dakota, Dodge… er Ram?).
Plenty of premium-like cabin materials were brought back as well, with each trim that I have tested being very well finished. Such is particularly true of this SRT, which receives a rich microfibre/suede-style Alcantara covering for its roofliner and A pillars, plus contrast-stitched leatherette over the entire dash top and most of the instrument panel, even down the sides of the centre stack, while both front and back door uppers are made from a padded leather-like synthetic, and armrests detailed out in contrast-stitched leatherette. As anyone familiar with this class likely expects, all surfaces from the waist downward are constructed from hard composites, but it all looks good and feels durable enough.
The steering wheel feels even better thanks to a combination of perforated and solid leathers, this ideally contrasted with baseball-style stitching around the inside of the rim for added grip, while each spoke features a nicely organized, well-made set of controls plus the paddle-shifters mentioned before, as well as Chrysler group’s novel audio volume control and mode switches on the backside of those spokes. The rest of this Durango’s buttons, knobs and toggles are well executed for its mainstream mission too, with the big volume, tuning and fan-speed dials on the centre stack trimmed in chrome edged in rubber for extra grip.
Just above, the infotainment touchscreen measures a very sizeable 8.4 inches in diameter, features a fairly high-resolution display and is really easy to use. I appreciate the simplicity of Chrysler group touchscreens, specifically those found in Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models as they’re quite different than those offered by Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. The two premium Italian brands definitely provide higher definition, the Alfa Stelvio I most recently tested equipped with a very impressive (albeit smaller) display, but this Durango SRT interface is more straightforward and extremely well equipped.
Together with individual displays for audio, automatic climate controls (that include digital buttons for the heated/ventilated front seats and heatable steering wheel), navigation system (that features nicely detailed maps and accurate route guidance), phone connectivity and features, plus various apps, the SRT adds its own set of Performance Pages displaying power torque history, real-time power and torque, timers for laps (and more), as well as G-force engine and dyno gauges, separate oil temperature, oil pressure, coolant temperature and battery voltage gauges, many of which are duplicated over on the primary instrument cluster’s multi-info display, providing this SUV with a level of digital capability few rivals come close to matching.
I appreciated having somewhere close by to stow my smartphone when not in use, Dodge providing is a rubberized pad at the base of the centre stack that should be large enough for most any device. Still, I was disappointed to learn there was no wireless charger underneath the rubberized pad, but instead an old-school 12-volt charge point and aux plug resides above, plus two much more useful (for my needs) USB chargers. An additional 12-volt charger and a Blu-Ray DVD changer can be found below the centre armrest/lid, while the standard 506-watt, nine-speaker Alpine stereo is impressive, as is the even nicer 825-watt, 19-speaker, $1,995 Harman/Kardon system.
Then again, the deep, resonating sound of the Durango SRT’s Hemi V8 makes such audio equipment discussion seem a bit irrelevant, whether it’s thumping like a big Harley at idle or disrupting world order at full throttle, while its reactions to prods from the right foot are much more immediate than expected from such a big SUV. It doesn’t exactly jump off the line, but it’s hardly listless either, launching from standstill without any hesitation before distancing itself from legal speeds, all within seconds.
The upgraded eight-speed automatic does a great job of putting all that power down to the wheels, all the while providing smooth, quick shifts. I left it to its own devices more often than not, although when trying to extract as much performance as possible its paddle-actuated manual mode proved ideal, particularly when diving into deep, fast-paced curves, the big Durango SRT’s agility in the corners downright baffling.
You might actually be surprised at the Durango’s handling overall, even lesser trims plenty of fun when the road starts to wind, but rest assured the SRT takes things up a notch or three. The SRT utilizes the same fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension as all Durangos, but Dodge tweaks it with some “SRT-tuned” components like a Bilstein adaptive damping suspension (ADS) instead of the regular SUV’s gas-charged, twin-tube coil-over shocks, and hollow stabilizer bars in place of solid ones, the result being a flatter stance when pushed hard through tight serpentine stretches, and excellent high-speed tracking. What’s more, the Durango’s electric power steering gets special tuned while stopping performance is enhanced with a set of powerful Brembo brakes, resulting in binding power that’s almost as exciting as accelerative forces. A compliant suspension setup, good visibility all-round, and ample manoeuvrability makes for an easy driving SUV through town as well, and due to less width than most full-size SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe or Ford Expedition, the Durango is less of a problem to park.
To clarify, the Durango is 120 millimetres (4.7 inches) thinner than the Tahoe and 104 mm (4.1 in) narrower than the Expedition, but rest assured that it delivers size where it matters most. In fact, its 3,045-mm (120.0-in) wheelbase is 99 mm (3.9 in) lengthier than the Tahoe’s, and a mere 67 mm (2.6 in) shorter than the Expedition’s wheelbase, which means that can fit adults comfortably into all three rows.
Of course, this means there’s a bit less interior room from side-to-side, but it’s still plenty wide within, and should be spacious enough for full-size folks. The driver’s seat is excellent, and like the others (other than the rearmost row) gets an “SRT” logo imprinted on its backrest. My tester’s seats were coloured in attractive “Demonic Red” with white contrast stitching to match the decorative thread used elsewhere around the cabin, while the seats’ centre inserts are perforated for adequate natural and forced ventilation. The leather itself is ultra-soft and therefore feels very upscale, while the seats’ side panels even felt as if they were trimmed in the same high quality hides, albeit in black. The instrument panel and doors get attractive patterned-aluminum inlays that feel like the real deal, while additional chrome embellishment brightens other key points around the cabin. If you want a bit more bling, you can opt for the SRT Interior Appearance Group that swaps out the aluminum inlays for real carbon-fibre while upgrading the instrument panel with a luxurious leather wrap, which might be a fine way to spend $3,250.
Like the front seats, the SRT’s standard second-row captain’s chairs are really comfortable and quite supportive all-round, while Dodge has added a useful centre console in between housing a set of cupholders and a stowage bin below the armrest. Second-row occupants can also access a panel on the rear portion of the front console incorporating two USB charge points, a three-prong household-style 115-volt charge plug, and toggles for two-way seat heaters, plus overhead there’s a three-dial interface for controlling the tri-zone auto HVAC system’s third zone, plus with a separate set of dome and reading lamps.
You can acquire the 2019 Dodge Durango SRT for only $73,895 plus freight and fees, while CarCostCanada members are currently saving an average of $6,500 on all 2019 Durango trims, with up to $5,000 in available incentives alone. You’ll want to check out the 2019 Durango page right here at CarCostCanada to find out more, at which point you can see trim, package and individual option pricing, as well as money saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
My test model was also equipped with a $950 Technology Group that adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, advanced brake assist, forward collision warning with active braking, plus lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, while a $2,150 rear Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system boasts two screens that can be flipped upward from the backside of each front headrest. Dodge includes a set of RCA plugs plus an HDMI input on the inner, upper side of each front seat, providing connection for external devices like game consoles, all capable of turning the Durango SRT into the ideal choice for a family road trip.
And there lies the beauty of this one-of-a-kind SUV. The Durango SRT is easily one of the fastest seven-passenger SUVs available, yet it’s comfortable for all, is capable of carrying a full load of passenger as well as their stuff, can tow a big trailer with ease, and do plenty more. I’d go so far to say it’s the best possible choice for fast-paced Canadian families, but you’ll need to exchange its three-season performance tires for a set of proper winters at some point in the fall (or sooner if you live on the Prairies), at which point it might be the ultimate ski resort parking lot doughnut machine.
If you’ve ever wondered how large the front grille of a car could get, you’re looking at it. It certainly doesn’t appear as if the new 2019 Avalon’s grille could get any larger, as it nearly covers the entire front fascia, but no doubt some will like this a lot more than the already gaping maw offered with the outgoing model.
The grille looks bigger in my tester’s entry-level XSE trim due to a glossy black surround in place of top-tier Limited trim’s chrome, while gloss-black mesh grille inserts appear darker and therefore more aggressive than the pricier trim’s matte-black horizontal strips. Following the XSE’s sporty theme rearward, Toyota adds glossy black door mirror caps plus a black lip spoiler on the trailing edge of the trunk, which is discreet in size albeit quite obvious when the car is painted in a lighter coating than my tester’s elegant Brownstone metallic.
Even my XSE tester’s base LED headlights look meaner than the Limited model’s enhanced triple-beam LEDs, while its previously classy tail lamps have been swapped out for a body-wide combination of angular lenses filled with LEDs, which rest overtop a sporty matte-black diffuser-style lower apron highlighted by four circular chromed exhaust pipes with the XSE, or two larger rectangular tailpipes for Limited trim. Additionally, the XSE rolls on machine-finish 10-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels with black-painted pockets for a more assertive look than the more premium looking Limited model’s silver multi-spoke 18-inch alloys.
One thing we can surmise from the Avalon’s 2019 redesign is their unwillingness to quietly watch their flagship luxury sedan get eaten alive by SUV sales, even if those utilities were RAV4s and Highlanders. A brand’s flagship needs to garner a certain amount of respect, and after decades of somewhat forgettable designs the Av’s dramatic new styling should allow it to do just that.
In my opinion, the 2005–2012 fourth-generation Avalon was the most attractive ever. It was an elegant sedan that delivered surprisingly good performance than previous iterations as well. It wouldn’t be right to call it a sport sedan, but the big Av has continued to get better as the generations and refreshes passed, and now this fifth-generation, especially in base XSE form, is the most capable off the line and around curves yet.
Before filling you in on its driving dynamics, some background info: My tester’s base XSE trim line is not the least expensive version in North America. OK, let me be more specific. If you take the U.S. base price of $35,800 USD and then convert it into Canadian dollars you’ll in fact need to pay $47,128 CAD, or $4,338 more than our base price that’s actually a much better equipped model. South of the 49th the Avalon is available in XLE, XLE Hybrid, XSE, Touring, Limited and Limited Hybrid trims, which is three times as many trims as offered here in Canada. Of course, the hybrids aren’t available here, Toyota choosing to leave electrification to Lexus and its ES 300h (basically the same car as the Avalon Hybrid under the skin).
Interestingly, the pricier ES 350 and ES 300h combine for about five times as many buyers than the Avalon, but possibly even more interesting is the fact that both Lexus models are 35 times more popular in the US than in Canada, while Americans purchase the Avalon 100 times more often than Canadians, at least based on sales figures since the beginning of this year. So far, year-to-date Avalon deliveries are a paltry 212 in Canada compared to 22,453 in the US, whereas Lexus Canada’s ES sales reached 1,081 units compared to 37,896 across the line. When factoring in that the US is less than 10 times the population of Canada, it’s easy to see how much more popular these two cars are Stateside.
So either you’re American, enjoying a Canadian journalist’s point of view about your favourite car, or you’re a very, very, very rare Canadian considering a very good car that doesn’t get enough attention (you could also be an anything-car-related-junkie getting your fix on the new Av, but that’s just weird). Either way, the Avalon has exclusivity in its corner, which has an appeal of its own. Unless you’re the kind of person who likes to nod at all the folks driving Camrys as if you’ve got something special in common, you might just appreciate having Camry drivers (and everyone else) looking over at this very interesting luxury car they may have never seen. You’re unlikely to see one pulling up to the stop sign across the street, or find one parked beside you after the game, and that’s a shame as Camry XSE and XLE owners (the most obvious candidates) won’t know what they’re missing (not to mention that they can get into an Avalon for little more than they paid for their Camry).
This new generation is more likely to get noticed than any previous iteration, but everything said the current trajectory for large sedan sales is down. Even the dominant Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 twosome that achieved 4,704 combined sales over the same three quarters endured a fairly steep 14.15 and 39.31 percent slide respectively, while General Motors’ Chevy Impala and Buick LaCrosse, which pulled in 2,075 collective sales over the same time period saw their numbers fall 16.96 and 15.13 percent apiece, which without doubt made those within GM’s inner circle feel better about their cancellation. Nissan’s 710 year-over-year Maxima sales were off by 7.07 percent, which isn’t all that bad compared to every other car in this category; Toyota’s previously noted 212 Avalon deliveries resulting in a 17.19-percent downturn. And then there’s Kia that only managed to find 19 new Cadenza owners since January 1st, resulting in the category’s harshest 54.76-percent deep-dive to near oblivion. One has to wonder why Kia hasn’t discontinued the Cadenza for the Canadian market (it recently did so with the K900), and wonder more why they’re audaciously introducing an entirely new 2020 model as I write. Brave or foolish? You be the judge.
All of the cars in this class are worthy of attention, with most having served as their various brands’ flagships. This means they’re usually well stocked with all of the features offered in lesser models, and for the most part this is true for the $42,790 base Avalon XSE. Its standard features menu includes plenty, such as the previous mentioned LED headlamps and LED taillights, as well as 235/40R19 all-season tires, proximity keyless access, pushbutton start/stop, a power tilt and telescopic steering column, a leather-clad multifunction steering wheel, a 7.0-inch multi-information display, a 9.0-inch centre touchscreen with Toyota’s own Entune along with Apple CarPlay smartphone integration (but no Android Auto), SMS/text- and email-to-speech functions, advanced voice recognition, decent sounding eight-speaker audio with satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, a handy wireless smartphone charger, four USB charge ports, a power glass sunroof, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a six-way power front passenger seat, breathable Softex leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a remote garage door opener, two-zone automatic climate control, plus more.
Entune Safety Connect is standard as well, including automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance (SOS) button, and enhanced roadside assistance, while standard advanced driver assistance and safety systems include auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning, plus all the expected active and passive safety features including two airbags for the front occupants’ knees, etcetera.
The Avalon’s multi-information display mentioned a moment ago sits within an otherwise analogue gauge cluster, hardly anything unusual about that, but rather than just a glorified trip computer it also provides in-depth infotainment functions such as route guidance instructions exactly where needed. Atop the centre stack, the large touchscreen also shows navigation mapping in a high-resolution display, the only truly colourful application, and while Toyota’s new Entune interface is a bit drab its proprietary smartphone integration is excellent, even better than Android Auto in my opinion. You can connect to numerous functions, plus music and additional info such as traffic conditions, fuel stations, weather forecasts, stocks, etcetera via plenty of apps including Scout GPS, Yelp, Slacker, NPR One and more.
Those still needing more will want to go for the $47,790 Limited model, which includes smaller more comfort-oriented 235/45R18 all-season tires, the previously mentioned triple-beam LED headlights, more sophisticated LED tail lamps, ambient interior lighting, a 10-inch colour head-up display unit with customizable settings, a heated steering wheel, four-way power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, driver-side memory, semi-aniline leather upholstery, cooled front seats, heatable rear seats, a surround-view bird’s-eye parking camera system, navigation/route guidance, 1,200-watt 14-speaker JBL Clari-Fi surround-sound audio, Toyota Premium Audio Connected Services, a three-year subscription to Scout GPS Link, front parking sensors, autonomous rear cross-traffic braking, plus more.
The list of premium-level features above is impressive, but truly some should be standard in the base XSE I was driving. After all, the base model is getting close to $43k, so charging Canadians $5k more for a heatable steering wheel doesn’t seem right. Of course, you’ll receive a bevy of additional features with that warming wheel, but it’s hard to designate any car a “luxury” offering without this feature when so many lesser models (including Toyota’s new Corolla) offer one optionally, while some brands are even doing so as standard equipment (Kia’s $16k Forte).
As for interior refinement, the Av provides plenty soft, pliable surfaces above the waist, including the entire dash top plus both front and rear door uppers, and the middle portion of instrument panel that features an even softer padded and stitched surface treatment, while just below is a lovely textured metallic inlay and wonderfully stylish three-dimensional metallic and black horizontal section that extends into the corner vents. The lower portion of the dash, glove box lid included, gets the segment’s usual hard plastic treatment, this spreading over to the lower door panels as well, although each door’s middle section, just under the aforementioned soft composite upper, gets a soft-touch synthetic treatment of its own, plus ultrasuede and stitched leatherette.
Outdoing the previous model’s centre stack was a tall order, and I can’t say they made the new version more appealing than the old car’s metal-finished surfacing and hollowed-out hockey stick-shaped switchgear that was totally unique and quite fabulous, but the new model’s gloss-black, glass-like design is certainly more modern and up-to-date, the upper portion standing upright like a fixed tablet while melding seamlessly into the centre infotainment touchscreen, and appearing to be held up by side buttresses that allow access to a big wireless device charging pad resting under a retractable bin lid, whereas the lower section provides digital HVAC controls including a neat row of narrow aluminized buttons, plus more. This satin-silver highlighting actually frames most of the centre stack, as well as the shift lever and cupholder surrounds plus elsewhere in the cabin, while comforting stitched and padded leatherette wraps the edge of the lower console. While shared such niceties, that should also include fabric-wrapped A-pillars, with a few premium-grade shortcomings, most should be impressed with the Avalon’s refinement.
Just in case you were wondering whether or not to move up to an Avalon from the barely smaller Camry, which incidentally shares Toyota’s TNGA-K (GA-K) platform architecture with the Avalon, as well as Lexus’ previously noted ES, the namesake brand’s flagship sedan is 100 mm (4.0 in) longer from front to back, with a 50-mm (2.0-in) longer wheelbase, plus it’s 10 mm (0.4 in) wider and only slightly lower by 10 mm (0.4 in) as well. The new Av takes up more real estate than its outgoing generation too, with its length increased by 20 mm (0.8 in) to 4,980 mm (196.0 in), its wheelbase longer by 50 mm (2.0 in) to 2,870 mm (113.0 in), its width having grown by 15 mm (0.6 inches) to 1,850 mm (72.8 in), and its overall height down by 20 mm (0.8 in) to 1,440 mm (56.5 in), the end product therefore looking longer, wider and lower for a more athletic stance.
Along with its dramatic new look, the updated Avalon provides more output under its hood, its sole engine being an upgraded 3.5-litre V6 that now puts out 10 additional horsepower and an increase of 17 lb-ft of torque resulting in a new maximum of 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, while the XSE model I tested also includes an “Engine Sound Generator” that enhances the engine’s aural sensation by pumping a more entertaining (albeit artificial) exhaust note through the audio system when Sport mode gets selected. Incidentally, BMW does the same with its highly revered M models and Ford does likewise its Mustang and Ecoboost-powered F-150 pickup trucks (as no doubt do a number of others), with the end result being a more entertaining performance experience.
Better yet, Toyota has conjoined this modified V6 to a completely new eight-speed automatic gearbox (not a continually variable transmission, or CVT, like the Av’s supposed sportier Nissan Maxima), which means that its aging six-speed automatic is now history. Added to this are shift paddles on the steering wheel to make the extra gears and additional power a more hands-on affair.
Quietly hidden below the Av’s new avant-garde sheet metal is an elongated version of the more rigid, nimbler chassis that also enhanced the latest Camry, and as noted makes the new Lexus ES a lot more enjoyable to drive than any previous generation, while on top of this this XSE model’s front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link design gets some extra sport tuning and bigger 19-inch alloys to improve its handling further. All of the above makes it much more fun through fast-paced corners than its already capable predecessor, and while hardly a sport sedan, it would be a worthy opponent against any of its full-size, front-drive semi-luxury competitors.
In spite of all the just-noted go-fast goodies, the Av’s ride quality once again places comfort above performance, its smooth, compliant ride ideally suited to its primary luxury sedan role, and even that new multi-speed automatic engineered to shift slower than a performance fan would want in order to maintain a sense of decorum to the benefit of each and every occupant.
By all occupants I’m also referring to the driver, who is especially cared for by a particularly good seating position. This hasn’t always been the case for Toyota, which didn’t provide enough reach from their steering wheel columns more often than not, but the automaker is improving across its wide model range in this regard. Therefore, I was able push the Avalon’s primary seat amply rearward for ideal legroom thanks to a steering column that extends far enough in the same direction to bend the elbows while hands rested at the optimal 9 and 3 o’clock positions.
All said I was disappointed with driver seat’s two-way powered lumbar support, especially when factoring in that most competitive brands provide much better four-way power lumbar support in this price range, which does a much better job meeting up to the small of my back. This forced me to not use the powered lumbar at all, but fortunately the seats offered good support without any lower back adjustment, while the back seats are equally comfortable and surrounding area ultra-accommodating. Along the same theme, the Av’s trunk is sizeable at 456 litres (16.1 cu ft) and provides 60/40 split-folding extendibility for stowing long cargo, but a pass-through down the middle would’ve improved the car’s usability even more.
All in all, most premium sedan shoppers choosing to spend a bit of time with the new Avalon should like it. It’s a well built car, as all of us should expect from Toyota, offers expected be dependability, comes stuffed full of most features anyone could expect in a $40k-plus four-door, and delivers good comfort with unexpectedly strong performance.
Additionally, now that this 2019 model year is ending and the unchanged 2020 Avalon is about to arrive, Toyota should be quite motivated to rid themselves of all remaining stock, which is likely why you can to now save up to $2,500 in additional incentives (at the time of writing). You can learn about all the details right here at CarCostCanada, and while you’re at it learn about 2019 and 2020 model year pricing info, including trims, packages and individual options, plus make sure to check out the latest rebates and dealer invoice pricing that puts you in the driver’s seat when negotiating your new car.
If you can remember back as far as 2010, or even 2016 when it was cancelled, you might recall a full-size Hyundai luxury sedan that went by the name of Equus. Despite selling poorly here it has long been a favourite amongst high-ranking executives and dignitaries in South Korea, much like the Toyota Celsior was one of the most respected executive sedans in Japan until the fourth-generation Lexus’ LS replaced it (although Toyota still sells the upmarket Crown and Rolls-Royce-like Century in its home market). Like the LS, the Equus is no more thanks to the new Genesis brand, which is to Hyundai like Lexus is to Toyota.
I tested and reviewed a 2014 Hyundai Equus and was mostly impressed, other than its nondescript styling. It came with V6- and V8-powered rear drivetrains, and was sized similarly to the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series, yet even though it delivered a premium-like interior, plenty of high-end features, strong performance, and excellent value, it didn’t sell well, as noted. The fact is, those spending into the high five figures want a premium badge to go along with their luxury ride, something aforementioned Toyota learned a long time ago with its Lexus line, as did Nissan with Infiniti and Honda with Acura before both.
Along with a new name, pulled from the mid-size Hyundai Genesis that was especially attractive in its second-generation form, the third-generation Equus debuted in 2016 as the first-generation Genesis G90, soon followed by a rebadged Genesis G80 that saw little more than a name change. Along with its home market in South Korea, the Genesis brand was immediately made available in the United States, China, the Middle East, Russia, Australia, and of course here in Canada. This said, Hyundai has plans to launch the upmarket brand in other Asian markets too, plus Europe within the next couple of years, but they might want to wait for a couple of SUVs to arrive before they do.
In hindsight it’s easy to see that Hyundai jumped the gun by introducing this sedan-only luxury brand without having at least one SUV in the lineup, but sales of the G80’s predecessor were quite strong when it made the decision in 2015 and the rest is now history. This said if the Genesis brand’s future line of sport utilities impress as well as its trio of sport-luxury sedans (the smaller C-Class/3 Series-rivaling G70 was introduced last year), and better than the superb new Hyundai Palisade that just went on sale for 2020, things are about to seriously heat up in the luxury SUV segment.
While writing this review I was already seeing the completely redesigned 2020 Genesis G90 advertised on its retail website. It boasts a totally new version of its stylish “diamond” grille featuring a more distinctive downward pointing lower section and “G-MATRIX” crosshatch patterned insert replacing the current car’s seven horizontal ribs. It also sports a set of LED “Quad Lamp” headlamps, plus Bentley-like front fender vents, large attractive mesh-patterned wheels, and three unique horizontal LED taillights, the lower element crossing the width of the entire car, while inside it’s wholly modernized from a design and digitization standpoint, plus even more luxurious than this outgoing model.
As stylish as I find the new model, I still like this 2019 G90. No doubt unplanned, but the G90’s slow sales and resultant nullibiety have had the side benefit of keeping it somewhat fresh looking, the opposite case of ubiquity causing some designs that were once wonderfully unique to become mundanely commonplace and therefore hardly exclusive anymore. The G90’s design language is more conservative than the new model and much more discreet than, say, the spindle grilled Lexus LS, making this G90 a good choice for folks who’d rather fly under the radar than always attracting attention. The Audi A8 once had such understated appeal as well, but its horseshoe-shaped grille has now grown to encompass most of its front fascia, and while still a smart looking car it’s now considerably bolder and more intimidating than before.
Like any new brand Genesis is still searching for an easily identifiable trademark look, evidenced by the just-mentioned lower point on the new 2020 model’s diamond-shaped grille, and this quest is made even more important when factoring in that the new brand’s general design language started off wearing Hyundai’s italicized “H” on its backside (interestingly there was no Hyundai badging other than that). Lexus took decades before opting for and sticking with its spindle grille and sharply carved origami-angled design language, as did Infiniti and Acura with their more recently updated grille treatments, the latter being the oldest Japanese luxury marque yet its dramatic new grille was just adopted a few of years ago. Still, it’s important to find a memorable design and then stick to it.
Genesis grille has been sometimes criticized for its Audi-like appearance, but with Hyundai-Kia’s head of design being ex-Audi stylist Peter Schreyer, some similarity makes sense. There’s a bit of 7 Series in the front fender’s sweeping lines and along the sculpted rocker panel, plus its thick chrome strip down each side and around the back, but the taillights are pure Genesis, and its rather unoriginal feathered badge gets too close to Bentley’s winged-B for comfort. Its build quality is excellent, however, with tight exterior panel gaps and superb paintwork.
Inside, the G90’s design is good looking and attention to detail excellent. From its microfibre roofliner and pillars to the padded and French-stitched leather that runs across the dash top and door uppers front to back, plus the planks of glossy hardwood all-round, it totally measures up to its German competitors. I won’t stop there, of course, as the G90’s plentiful aluminum interior accents is nicely executed, particularly the Lexicon-branded speaker grilles and aluminized switchgear on the centre stack, while all of the other buttons, knobs, toggles and rockers are impressively crafted with ideal fitment and good damping. It’s totally in the league of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, prestige aside.
I’d say the classic dress watch style analogue clock in the centre of the instrument panel is one of autodom’s best, featuring a gorgeous white guilloche dial, Arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9, plus chromed indices marking the hours between. The perforated seat leather is incredibly soft and supple, plus the seats themselves are excellent, with plenty of adjustments to fit most any body. Additionally, you’ll have a difficult time finding any hard shell plastic in this car, the only corners cut being the steering column surround and the very bottom of each lower center console side, but even these panels are made from a dense composite material before soft painted for a high-quality texture. I’m not going to come out and say this G90 is a step up from its rivals, because everything in this category will impress, but it’s very well done.
On that note the backs of each front seat are so impressively finished they must be getting close to best-of-the-best, particularly the curving wood inlays that wrap around their upper edges. Mind you, the backside of the front centre console is hardly notable, with typical HVAC vents finished nicely, but it looks spartan due to a folding centre armrest that’s filled with features, as well as beautiful leathers, woods and metals. Included are controls for the automatic climate control system’s rear zone, plus three-way heatable outboard seats, controls for the powered side and rear sunshades, and you can also extend the car’s right-side legroom by powering the front passenger seat forward and tipping its seatback as well. Full infotainment controls are included too, letting rear occupants take control of that wonderful sounding Lexicon audio system noted earlier.
Back behind the steering wheel, the gauge cluster isn’t a fully configurable digital design, but its centre is filled with a large colour multi-information display integrating the usual assortment functions. The infotainment touchscreen to the right is much more advanced, with attractive albeit simple graphics enhanced by deep colours and contrast, and a very clear reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, but no overhead bird’s eye view. The navigation was easy to sort out, provided good mapping detail and found where we were going, which is always a bonus. Buyers wanting a more advanced level of infotainment technology, including a completely digital gauge package and higher definition infotainment display, should pay more for the 2020 G90, but I could appreciate that others might choose to avail themselves of year-end and model-ending 2019 G90 discounting that could be quite aggressive.
Before negotiating, my V6 turbo-powered 2019 G90 3.3T AWD tester can be had for just $84,000 plus destination, whereas the V8-powered G90 5.0 AWD starts at $87,000; its only upgrade being the $2,500 rear entertainment package. The much-improved 2020 model will come completely equipped for just $89,750, a mere $250 more than the outgoing V8 model, and that more formidable eight-cylinder is now standard. You will still be able to acquire the turbocharged V6, but take note it’s a special order model that will save you $3k. On this note, all 2019 G90 pricing, including trims and packages, can be found right here at CarCostCanada, plus we can also provide you with rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
The G90 I tested was in its base 3.3T AWD trim, which means that standard features included a 3.3-litre twin-turbo direct-injection V6 good for 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, plus an eight-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission with manual mode and steering wheel paddles, HTRAC torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, 19-inch alloys on 245/45 front and 275/40 rear all-seasons rubber, an adaptive suspension, full LED headlights with adaptive cornering and automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist and lane keeping assist, the multi-view parking camera with dynamic guidelines mentioned earlier, a 12.3-inch centre display with 720p resolution (which isn’t all that clear compared to most competitors’ high-definition systems) and the navigation system noted a moment ago, the wonderful Nappa leather upholstery and microfibre suede headliner also mentioned before, the 17-speaker Lexicon AM/FM/XM/MP3 audio system with Quantum Logic surround sound and Clari-Fi, etcetera, etcetera.
If you’re willing to spend just $3,000 more for 5.0 AWD trim, you’ll not only receive an impressive 420 horsepower direct-injection V8 with 383 lb-ft of torque, but you’ll also be able to pamper each rear passenger (or yourself if you hire a driver) with a 14-way powered right rear seat and 12-way powered left rear seat, including powered head restraints with manual tilt, plus memory and cooling ventilation for outboard occupants, and illuminated vanity mirrors overhead.
I’ve driven a number Genesis, Hyundai and Kia models with the 5.0-litre Tau V8 and have nothing but good things to say about it. It’s a blast at full throttle yet is wonderfully smooth and quiet, ideal for long high-speed freeway journeys and even impressive when pushed hard through curves. The engine ideally matches up with the smooth yet quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, and Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD is grippy on wet road surfaces and even improving performance in dry conditions. I can only imagine the V8 would perform as well with the G90 as it did in the most recent 2017 Genesis G80 5.0 AWD Ultimate I reviewed a couple of years ago, but I have to say there’s much to like about Genesis’ smaller, more fuel-friendly 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 too.
Claimed fuel economy ratings are reason enough to choose the V6, it good for an estimated 13.7 L/100km city, 9.7 highway and 11.9 combined, compared to the V8 that only gets a claimed 15.2, 10.2 and 13.0 respectively. That difference would certainly be noticeable in the wallet, while the smaller engine’s performance is certainly capable of whisking the big sedan and all passengers away quickly, albeit not providing as audibly stimulating an exhaust note.
The V6 weighs less too, and being that this weight sits over the front wheels it feels a little more agile through the corners, and was especially fun when Sport mode was engaged. It just hunkers down and flings itself through fast-paced curves with hardly a squeak from the tires, portraying the kind of poise expected of the big German luxury sedans. The G90 is truly a great driving car, with handling that comes close to the almighty 7 Series. Without doubt the adaptive suspension plays its part, while also keeping its ride quality compliant and cabin quiet.
With performance this impressive, you’d think I’d always keep it in Sport mode, but Eco mode reduced fuel consumption, while Smart mode is capable of choosing the best of both worlds as per a given driver’s inputs. Fortunately the G90 has all bases covered, the result being a very well rounded, highly refined luxury sedan that truly deserves much more attention than it gets.
Dip your feet into the deep pile carpet floor mats, however, and you’ll quickly be reminded of the G90’s true purpose. It’s a luxury sedan first and foremost, which is why Genesis needed to make it practical as well. Along with the spacious rear passenger compartment, its trunk is generously sized for multiple golf bags and easy access. Its powered lid is gesture controlled and lift-over height nice and low for loading in gear, while a convenient centre pass-through allows for longer cargo like skis.
If you’re looking for a resplendent luxury sedan with sporting pretensions, yet don’t want the taxman to question how you came into wealth, consider this G90.
Ford’s latest Expedition is one great looking full-size SUV, but I’m certain that once you’ve fully read my comprehensive review you’ll be a lot more impressed at what lies beneath its handsome new face and boldly shaped body lines.
Just like generations past, this new fourth-generation Expedition rides on the same body-on-frame platform as the F-Series pickup truck, albeit this time around it’s based on the new T-Platform that underpins the highly advanced, lightweight aluminum-bodied blue-oval workhorse you’ve heard so much about for the last few years.
This full-size Ford SUV received a ground-up redesign for model year 2018, and like the just-noted F-Series it now benefits from its own mostly aluminum skin. The stylish design sits atop a high-strength lightweight boron steel and aluminium frame that further reduces its curb weight by 44 kilograms to 90 kg (depending on trim) when compared its predecessor, or 135 kg when stretched to long-wheelbase Expedition Max lengths, but despite its considerable weight loss the redesigned SUV is more than 100 mm longer than the outgoing version in regular wheelbase form, and 28 mm lengthier in its larger Max body style, while its wheelbase is stretched by almost 90 mm for the regular-length model and 15 mm with the Max, plus it gains more than 25 mm from side to side.
This new regular-wheelbase Expedition’s increased size, plus its lightweight aluminum design are good reasons to consider it over the full-size SUV segment’s best-selling Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon duo, while all of these truck-based SUVs are more often chosen over their unibody car-based crossover counterparts due to passenger carrying capability and their load hauling/trailering mastery, so additional size is a very good thing in this class.
This newest Expedition’s bigger dimensions allow for an even roomier interior than the previous generation’s sizeable proportions, while the cargo area grows to a maximum of 2,962 litres in regular length, or 3,439 litres with the Expedition Max, the latter providing 477 litres of additional luggage space than the regular Expedition. This means you can load in 4×8 sheets of building material with the tailgate shut.
Some of the Expedition’s additional cargo dimensions include 1,627 litres behind the second row of the regular wheelbase, and 2,077 litres behind that in the Max, or alternatively 1,800 and 2,254 litres respectively for the same area when the second row is slid all the way forward, while lastly it measures 546 litres and 972 litres behind the regular- and long-wheelbase models’ third row respectively, or 593 and 1,019 litres in their rearmost compartments when the third row is fully upright.
By the way, both second- and third-row seatbacks can be powered upwards and downwards individually from a set of rocker switches on the left-side cargo wall, which is a truly helpful feature in such a big SUV. I should mention here that the two powered rows are only standard with Limited and Platinum trims, whereas this PowerFold feature only benefits the third row in the base XLT model. All rows fold completely flat no matter the trim, however, so you’ll be able to fit all types of cargo inside, while having a better chance of keeping them upright en route.
Compared to the Tahoe/Yukon and Suburban/Yukon XL it’s easy to see the Expedition and Expedition Max are considerably more accommodating, with the GM utilities’ shorter wheelbase model’s 2,682 litres of maximum cargo space shy by a shocking 280 litres, its 1,464-litre capacity aft of its second row falling short by 163 litres, and its 433 litres of luggage space behind the third row off by 160 litres.
As for the Suburban, its 3,446 litres of total luggage volume is actually 7 litres larger than the Max’s maximum (which is more or less a wash), while the 2,172 litres behind its second row make it less accommodating by 82 litres, although the big GM climbs back with 94 litres of additional storage space behind the third row due to 1,113 litres of total cargo capacity.
If trailering is more important to your needs, you’ll be happy to learn that the regular wheelbase Expedition shown here can now tow up to 4,218 kilos (9,300 lbs) when outfitted with its $1,400 Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package (the base model is good for 4,173 kg or 9,200 lbs with the same upgrade), which is better than its predecessor by 45 kg (100 lbs), plus these numbers are best-in-class by a significant margin. Standard towing features include trailer sway control, which works together with AdvanceTrac traction control and Roll Stability Control (RSC) in order to maintain best-possible command of both SUV and trailer.
Again, putting the Expedition up against the current Tahoe/Yukon shows 3,900 kg (8,600 lbs) of towing capacity, but that’s with the two GM models’ strongest rear-wheel drive layout. The Expedition comes standard with four-wheel drive in Canada, requiring us to compare it to both Tahoe and Yukon 4×4 models that can still only manage 3,810 kg (8,400 lbs) apiece, a whopping 408 kg (900 lbs) less capable than the base Expedition. The Expedition Max tromps all over the Suburban/Yukon XL duo too, its towing maximum of 4,082 kg (9,000 lbs) much more convincing than the two GM utilities’ 3,765 litres (8,300 lbs) in two-wheel drive or 3,629 kg (8,000 lbs) in more directly competitive four-wheel drive. The obvious advantage goes to Ford and its Expedition.
A good reason for the Expedition’s trailering prowess comes down to its updated twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6, which is now good for a robust 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque in base XLT and mid-range Limited trims, the latter version shown here on this page, while an even more formidable version makes 400 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque when stuffed under the hood of the top-line Platinum model. These two different versions of this well-proven Ford powerplant come mated to a completely new 10-speed automatic transmission that, improved upon via standard idle start/stop technology capable of automatically turning off the engine when it would otherwise be idling, and then immediately restarting it when lifting your foot from the brake, delivers much greater fuel-efficiency than the previous Expedition.
Once again, comparing the Tahoe/Yukon twins shows a 20-horsepower and 87-lb-ft disadvantage for GM when its two utilities are outfitted with their base 5.3-litre V8 engines, both of which join up with a dependable yet less advanced six-speed automatic transmission, whereas the top-tier GM engine is a gargantuan 6.2-litre V8 that interestingly mates up to a version of the identical 10-speed automatic used for the Expedition (both Ford and GM intelligently developed this sophisticated transmission in unison so as to save costs), this combination allowing for 20 more horsepower than the top-level Ecoboost engine, but alas 20 lb-ft less torque.
Notably, the Expedition’s 10-speed gearbox truly reduces fuel economy, something I witnessed firsthand during my weeklong test. In fact, I had no problem nearing Transport Canada’s official rating of 14.1 L/100km in the city, 10.6 on the highway and 12.5 combined when I eased up on the gas pedal, which compares favourably against the heavier steel-bodied 2017 Expedition that labored along with a comparatively archaic six-speed automatic (just like the current base GM utes) and therefore could only manage 15.9 L/100km in the city, 12.0 on the highway and 14.2 combined in regular length guise. This new lightweight Expedition is much more fuel-friendly than the 2019 Tahoe 4×4’s best rating too, that model only good for 15.8 L/100km in the city, 11.1 on the highway and 13.7 combined, despite the Expedition’s much greater power advantage.
Similarly, the long-wheelbase 2019 Expedition Max enjoys a rating of just 14.7 L/100km in the city, 11.2 on the highway and 13.1 combined, beating its steel-bodied predecessor that could only manage a 16.1, 12.2 and 14.3 rating respectively, whereas the best rating a new Suburban/Yukon XL 4×4 can do is just 16.8 L/100km in the city, 11.3 on the highway and 14.3 combined, which is worse than the previous Expedition Max when driven around town. Also interesting, there’s no noted difference in fuel efficiency when comparing the base 375-hp Ecoboost engine to the more potent 400-hp version, but not so for the larger optional 6.2-litre V8 in the GM utilities that experience a slight increase in consumption to 16.4 L/100km city, 10.7 highway and 13.8 combined, or 17.1, 11.3 and 14.5 respectively.
Together with standard four-wheel drive, the latest Expedition also comes with a version of the Explorer’s terrain management system, which allows a choice of driving styles, plus the capability of maximizing traction on all types of road and trail surfaces, and the ability to set this SUV up to either tow a trailer, or have the Expedition towed behind an even larger vehicle like an RV, all from a rotating dial on the console.
I spent most of my time with the Expedition on pavement, and while doing so found its standard V6 enjoyably smooth, but interestingly a nice V8-like soundtrack complemented the experience. Stomp on the gas pedal and it feels even better than most V8s thanks to all the horsepower and torque noted earlier, so I must admit this would be my personal choice in this segment, unless Ford chose to offer a Powerstroke diesel in the Expedition at some point in the future—fingers crossed.
I think the new 10-speed automatic might be even smoother than the V6. In fact, if it weren’t for all the upward and downward shifts I’d be questioning whether Ford had stuffed a continuously variable gearless box into its transmission housing, but then again it responds much better than a CVT would digging deep into the throttle, at which point it provides nice quick downshifts, albeit never deviating from its silky-smooth demeanor. Also, I never once tried to defeat the auto idle start/stop system mentioned earlier, as it always shut down quickly at stoplights and restarted without hesitation, so why not benefit from the fuel savings?
You might be starting to notice a rather smooth theme as this review moves along, and to that end the Expedition’s suspension is no different. It soaks up dips, bumps and other types of road irregularities no matter the surface below or surrounding weather conditions, and was therefore wonderfully through town, on the highway and most everywhere else, even when testing on a few gravel roads and unkempt trails. I personally think the Expedition is at its best on the freeway, where it’s ability to cruise comfortably all day long is hard to beat, this skill made all the more enjoyable thanks to a capable dynamic cruise control system. This is where I also appreciated the Expedition’s very low road and wind noise.
Another positive is the Expedition’s performance around edgier curves, this partially due to a fully independent multi-link rear suspension setup that especially adds confidence over rough pavement mid-corner. Unlike the Expedition, all directly competitive GM utilities use a comparatively old-school non-independent solid rear axle design.
Despite its size, the Expedition was fairly agile through busy city traffic, this aided by the superb visibility granted by a tall ride-height. Parallel parking downtown, or for that matter trying to find a large enough space in a parking garage, can be a bit challenging, yet most people I know that own one of these full-size SUVs also have a smaller car for zipping around town. If you’re reading this from a rural area, just ignore my inner-city ramblings, as you’ll rarely need to worry about this problem.
Together with the Expedition’s impressive performance and luxurious ride comes an interior that’s improved so significantly since its previous generation that I was truly questioning whether Ford still needed its Lincoln Navigator, at least before spending a week with the latter. Yes, the new Navigator has come a long way too, thanks to real hardwood and plenty of premium materials all around, which more than make up for the $12k or so price premium required to step up to a similarly equipped model. I wouldn’t need all the highfalutin trim in my family hauler, but rather found my Expedition Limited test model wonderfully comfortable.
In fact, its driver’s seat that was about as supportive as this full-size segment gets, only including two-way lumbar support, but to Ford’s credit it powered in and out precisely where it was needed to fill the small of my back, so you won’t hear any complaints from me. I also found the seat’s lower cushion cupped nicely under my knees, but it made me wonder whether those with shorter legs might find this uncomfortable.
Looking back to Expedition Limited materials quality in the cabin, Ford finished off most of the dash top in an attractive, soft-touch stitched and padded leatherette, and continued with this premium material around the sides of the primary gauge cluster, on a separate horizontal strip ahead of the front passenger, and across the tops of the door uppers front and back, while each armrest was well padded too.
My Limited model’s woodgrain was treated to an authentic looking matte finish, but I have to say Ford didn’t even attempt to make it feel like the real deal. I suppose this is how Ford has detailed out the Expedition since inception, so I doubt anyone will complain, and besides if you want a more luxurious version you can always move up to the new Navigator as I noted before. One item I appreciate more in the Expedition than in the Navigator is its knurled metal rotating gear selector, which is much more intuitive than the newest Lincoln’s row of pushbuttons.
Next to the rotating gear selector is a smaller knurled metal dial for choosing drive modes, filled with Normal, Eco, Sport, Tow/Haul, Mud and Ruts, Sand, and Grass/Gravel/Snow settings. I slotted it into Normal mode most of the time, but found Eco mode just as good for driving through town amid congested traffic, while I’m guessing it helped at the pump too.
Eco mode slows the 10-speed automatic’s shift increments and doesn’t let it hold gears as long, amongst other functions, while when sprinting quickly off the line it still provided plenty of punch. Sport mode, on the other hand, doesn’t allow the auto start-stop function to work and therefore won’t save as much fuel, but the engine was always ready to get up and go from standstill, while the transmission’s shift points were higher within the engine’s rev range, resulting in stronger straight-line acceleration. Also notable, with Sport mode set yet while driving more relaxed, the transmission didn’t merely hold a given gear for no apparent reason, and thus keep engine revs too high. This proved the new 10-speed is a lot smarter than many other multi-speed transmissions I’ve driven.
Also good, the gauge cluster’s tachometer dial includes a well-conceived vertical readout showing all 10 gears moving up and down in a cool digital graphic as they slot into place. The two analogue dials bookend a large 8.0-inch standard multi-information display that’s ultra-high in resolution, filled with a stunning array of stylish graphics that wow eyeballs with beautiful contrast and depths of colour. Its functions include an off-road status panel featuring an inclinometer and more, plus a real-time fuel-economy average gauge that displayed a scary 18.3 L/100km while I was taking these notes (which was fortunately not my average throughout the test week), a comprehensive trip mileage panel, some engine information including driving hours and idle hours (my test model showed 209 total hours, of which 63 were idling, so it’s easy to see the need for an idle start-stop system in a vehicle like this), a turbo boost gauge, plus more.
If you haven’t familiarized yourself with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen system then I’m guessing you haven’t read many of my other Ford reviews, because I’ve been an advocate of this system since it debuted a number of years ago. I won’t say it’s still the best in the mainstream volume sector, but I believe it once was and now remains one of the best infotainment systems around, continuing into this latest Expedition with its great looking sky-blue, grey and white minimalist graphics plus easy to understand commands, as well as its bucket-load of useful features that include superbly accurate navigation and, in the case of my test model, a wonderfully helpful parking camera with a regular reverse screen and a separate overhead view.
Impressively, each and every Expedition trim comes standard with sensational 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio, while this system’s controls are once again comprised of knurled metal dials and tight-fitting buttons. The HVAC system’s controls are equally well designed, featuring temperature readouts within the middle of each dial. Almost all of the Expedition’s switchgear is well made, tightly fitted with minimal spacing, and damped well for a premium experience, with only its steering wheel buttons feeling a bit on the low-rent side.
I wouldn’t go searching for premium-level composite materials below the interior’s beltline either, because Ford didn’t even finish the glove box lid in a padded plastic, but chose a shiny hard shell covering instead. I can imagine some owners might be happier with such hard and more durable plastics, especially along the lower door panels, these feeling rugged enough to withstand kicks aplenty. You won’t need to worry about getting the A-pillar dirty from sooty gloves or unwashed hands either, as Ford didn’t wrap it, or any of the Expedition’s pillars, in fabric. Those wanting a more premium experience should once again be looking up to the Lincoln Navigator.
This said the Expedition’s passenger compartment is every bit as spacious as the Navigator’s, or for that matter any other SUV in the full-size class. My test model featured second-row bucket seats instead of the usual three-position bench, with the former providing a wide thoroughfare in between so that children can climb into the rearmost row. Alternatively, you can tilt either bucket forward to access the third row, which might be handier if used by larger teens or adults. The Expedition is actually first in the full-size SUV segment to include this type of a tip-and-slide second-row feature, incidentally—impressive. Also good is a third row that’s at least as comfortable and accommodating as any minivan.
Second-row comfort is even better, plus the fortunate two or three enjoying the Expedition’s mid-section have control of a comprehensive rear automatic HVAC and audio system panel attached to the back of the front console. It includes two USB ports, a three-prong 110-volt household-type plug for a laptop, entertainment/gaming device or whatever else you may want to keep charged up, as well as switchgear for the heatable seats, etcetera. Meanwhile, those third-row passengers noted a moment ago have the ability to use the sidewall-mounted power-folding seat controls to recline their backrests, while they can also plug in devices via optional USB charge points, will benefit from excellent air vents overhead, and enjoy clear views out each large side window, while a gigantic panoramic sunroof provides natural light from above.
Some Expedition technology worth noting includes an available wireless device charger (if you have a smartphone new enough to make use of it), Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and rear-seat entertainment, my tester boasting a monitor on the backside of each front headrest. All in all the Expedition offers up six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets, and the 110-volt socket just mentioned, while Ford also provides a whopping 17 cupholders throughout.
The base XLT model, starting at $53,978 and set up for eight occupants, gets a lot of standard equipment including a set of 18-inch machine-finished alloys, fog lights, black running boards, black roof rails with black crossbars, Ford’s unique SecuriCode entry keypad, MyKey, an illuminated entry system with approach lamps, pushbutton ignition, rear parking sonar, a leather-clad steering wheel, a windshield wiper de-icer, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a sunglasses holder and conversation mirror within the overhead console, a universal garage door opener, tri-zone auto climate control, the aforementioned Sync 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reverse camera system, navigation with detailed mapping, voice control, the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system mentioned before, satellite radio, power rear quarter windows, flip-up tailgate glass, a cargo management system, power-folding third-row seatbacks, a capless Easy Fuel filler, a Class IV trailer hitch receiver with wiring, tire pressure monitoring, the SOS Post-Crash Alert system, all the normal active and passive safety systems, plus a great deal more.
As-tested Limited trim begins at $65,288 and features 20-inch alloy wheels, a few more chrome exterior trim highlights such as the fog lamp bezels and door handles, bright stainless steel roof rails, LED tail lamps, a remote engine starter, proximity-sensing keyless access, power-deployable running boards in body-colour with polished stainless steel trim, power-folding exterior mirrors with auto-dimming on the driver’s side, ambient interior lighting, the previously noted woodgrain inlays, a power-adjustable steering column, powered foot pedals, driver’s memory, a heated steering wheel, 10-way power-adjustable front seats with heated and ventilated cushions, perforated leather upholstery, the heated second-row outboard seats with Tip-and-Slide and PowerFold capability noted earlier (albeit laid out in a 40/20/40-split bench design), the powered panoramic sunroof, a Connectivity package including the aforementioned wireless smartphone charging, plus a FordPass Connect 4G WiFi modem, and the two smart-charging USB ports in the third row, plus Limited trim also includes yet more first- and second-row (plus cargo area) power points, a foot-activated motion-sensing powered liftgate, front parking sonar, blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic assist, trailer-tow monitoring, etcetera.
My test model was upgraded with a $5,000 302A package too, enhancing the wheels to 22 inches, adding LED headlights, plus LED fog lamps, and a comprehensive Driver’s Assistance Package that would otherwise cost an additional $1,200 yet adds auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, dynamic cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning, pre-collision assist autonomous braking and pedestrian detection, lane keeping warning and mitigation, driver alert, the dual-screen surround parking camera noted before, and an enhanced self-parking system.
As mentioned earlier, Platinum trim is top-of-the-line and at $72,552 it includes everything from the 302A package as well as another set of 22-inch alloys, a special satin-finish mesh grille insert, more satin-aluminum exterior detailing such as the mirror housings and door handle accents, upscale brushed aluminum scuff plates on the doorsills, multi-contour front seats like those used for the Navigator (even featuring Active Motion massage), second-row safety seatbelts that self-inflate during an accident, plus more.
Take note that all pricing was sourced right here on CarCostCanada, where you’ll find full detailed information about trims, packages and standalone options, as well as otherwise hard to find rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
While there was once a time when $54k to $72k might have seemed like a lot to pay for nothing more than a truck-based SUV, Ford has changed all that with an Expedition that reaches far above its predecessors and most anything else this side of the luxury class, and I must say makes all of its aforementioned GM competitors look like they’re lacking by comparison. When realizing the Tahoe, Yukon, Suburban and Yukon XL all start higher in price than the Expedition, and then factoring in Ford’s more potent and efficient powertrains, more advanced (Land/Range Rover-derived) Terrain Management 4×4 system, more sophisticated fully-independent suspension, lightweight aluminum body, easier third-row access, greater cargo capacity, etcetera, etcetera, there’s no way that combined 2018 calendar year sales of the four GM utilities should be more than four times higher (11,629 Tahoes, Yukons, Suburbans and Yukon XLs to 2,798 Expeditions). It seems that Ford has made up a little ground over the first five months of 2019, with 2,007 deliveries compared to 4,617 unit sales of the GM utes, but the Expedition should still be doing better.
Of course, Ford shouldn’t feel too badly. Its Expedition isn’t suffering from the Nissan Armada’s hardly noticeable 321 unit January through May sales total, or the Toyota Sequoia’s even weaker 248 deliveries over the same five months, while the Explorer is now so good that word is bound to get out to Tahoe, Suburban and Yukon owners that won’t want to feel shortchanged when it comes time to trade in their current rides. We’ll just have to wait to see how GM answers back when it comes time to update the fourth-generation of these four utilities in 2020. Until then, the Ford Expedition is the best this full-size mainstream volume-branded segment has to offer.