CarCostCanada

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The good looking CX-5 was available with diesel-power in new Signature trim for 2019, but it has since been cancelled for 2020.

No sooner did Mazda bring its long awaited CX-5 Diesel to market and it’s now gone, or at least it doesn’t appear to be coming back for the 2020 model year or anytime in the near or distant future. As it is, their SkyActiv-D (Diesel) powerplant didn’t catch on with enough CX-5 customers, and despite only being available for 2019 (and still possible to find as a new vehicle from Mazda retailers at the time of writing) can no longer be found on the brand’s retail website.

As for its diesel engine program, it’s remotely possible Mazda may once again offer a compact or mid-size B-Series pickup truck here like it does with its Isuzu-based BT-50 in Asian, Middle Eastern, African, plus Central and South American markets (although that truck uses a 3.0-litre four-cylinder Isuzu diesel), the potential volume of such vehicles sold by Toyota, GM, Ford, and to some extent Nissan (we’ll see if the new Frontier is able to claw back neglected and therefore lost market share when it finally goes on sale) no doubt tempting, although I highly doubt it fits within their near-premium, sport-luxury North American strategy (the interior looks impressive though). Thus, we’ll probably see a greater focus on SkyActiv-G (Gasoline) technology and, who knows, maybe even a hybrid or two now that they’ve unveiled a new EV at the most recent Tokyo motor show.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The 2.2L SkyActiv-D engine provides plenty of torque, yet not as much as the $5k less expensive 2.5L turbo SkyActiv-G engine, whereas the latter is much more powerful.

Right now you have the opportunity to purchase one of the last handful of new 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel (or SkyActiv-D) SUVs available until they’ll only come up once in a while on the pre-owned market (and diesel owners tend to keep their cars for longer than average, so don’t hesitate if you want one sooner than later). Most buyers in this class never knew a turbo-diesel option was even available last year, despite Mazda’s SkyActiv-D being a much-anticipated new option for years amongst the engine-type’s faithful. It took a lot longer to become reality than Mazda originally planned, probably because of the fallout ensuing from Volkswagen’s 2015 Dieselgate scandal, and possibly due to little marketing fanfare only lasted a single model year. Its departure has stunned a number of diesel fans that have made their outrage known on social media, but it hasn’t even caused a buzz from the majority of Mazda owners that, as noted, didn’t even know what they were missing.

If Mazda had asked me, I would have told them not to bother with the diesel, because oil burners are now only appreciated in trucks and sometimes SUVs here in the North American markets, particularly if they’re off-road oriented. For instance, a torque-rich diesel makes sense in Jeep’s 4×4-ready Wrangler and therefore should gain some reasonable traction despite its outrageous $7,395 price tag (and that’s not even including the $1,795 required for the eight-speed automatic), but GM recently tried pulling the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon’s turbo-diesel over to its compact Equinox to little effect (and even tried a diesel within its car lineup). The fact Toyota, possibly the one manufacturer capable of pulling off a successful diesel option in their Tacoma, Tundra, 4Runner or Sequoia (not to mention the Land Cruiser in the U.S.), isn’t even trying says a lot, but we should nevertheless give Mazda high marks for bravery.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Signature trim provides LED fog lights and unique 19-inch alloy wheels, while all CX-5s get LED headlights.

Unlike VW, which has now abandoned diesel-power altogether, Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine actually met Canada’s strict emissions regulations for the 2019 model year, which shows that it’s cleaner and greener than any oil burner offered by the Germans, all of which killed off their diesels in our market soon after the aforementioned Dieselgate kafuffle. Mazda’s diesel would have no doubt passed 2020 regulations as well, being as they haven’t changed, but now this achievement hardly matters.

Rather than blather on about a diesel-powered 2019 CX-5 you might be able to get your hands on if you’re lucky, I’ll instead give you a quick rundown of both 2019 and 2020 models with the various model year changes. If you can get into a 2019 model, whether diesel or gasoline powered, you’ll benefit from up to $2,500 in additional incentives, incidentally, whereas the 2020 model only has about $1,000 on the hood. You can find out more about such money-saving details on our 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page or 2020 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page, by the way, and after that become a CarCostCanada member to take advantage of all the savings. We inform you about manufacturer rebates, manufacturer financing and leasing deals, dealer invoice pricing info that could very well save you thousands, plus more, so make sure to find out how it works and then download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Great looking LED taillights are even more enticing at night.

Looking back at our just-mentioned 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page immediately shows that the 2.2-litre twin-turbo-diesel SkyActiv-D engine is only available with the top-tier Signature trim line for $45,950 (plus freight and fees). Signature trim was entirely new to the CX-5 for the 2019 model year, and uniquely pulled Mazda’s compact crossover SUV closer to the premium brand status than any other mainstream model in this class, other than maybe Buick that’s long spanned the divide between volume and luxury.

Additional 2019 CX-5 trims include the entry-level GX that starts at $27,850 with front-wheel drive (FWD) or $29,850 with all-wheel drive (AWD), the second-rung GS at $30,750 with FWD or $32,750 with AWD, and the former top-tier GT (Grand Touring in the U.S.) that starts at $37,450 before topping out at $39,450 when upgrading to its 2.5-litre turbocharged SkyActiv-G (gasoline) engine. Of note, GT and Signature trims comes standard with Mazda’s i-Activ AWD.

The CX-5 Signature, standard with the just-mentioned 2.5-litre turbo gasoline powerplant for $40,950, plus available with the aforementioned diesel, builds on the already nicely equipped CX-5 GT by adding features such as LED cabin lighting, a 7.0-inch digital primary gauge cluster, a cleaner looking frameless centre mirror, real Abachi hardwood trim on the dash and door panels, as well as dark brown Cocoa Nappa leather upholstery and trim.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Signature trim adds Nappa leather upholstery and real hardwood trim on the dash and door panels.

The Signature pulls plenty of features up from the GT too, including front and rear signature lighting, adaptive headlights, LED fog lamps, power-folding exterior mirrors, proximity keyless access, traffic sign recognition, two-zone auto climate control, a navigation system, 10-speaker audio with integrated satellite radio, a universal garage door opener, a 10-way powered driver’s seat, a six-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, and more, while leather upholstery in black or no-cost white makes the GT plenty luxurious all on its own.

Speaking of luxury, the CX-5 comes with a few finishings more likely to only be found in premium offerings, such as cloth-wrapped A pillars, premium-like padded cabin surfaces on the dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, lower console edges, door uppers front and back, and armrests all-round, while the CX-5 also boasts a plenty of brushed aluminum trim bits all over the interior, some even upgraded with knurled edging for a particularly impressive look. It’s fairly upscale switchgear from a mainstream brand, making me wonder whether Mazda will eventually try to lift itself up into premium territory in price as well as quality.

To this end, the SkyActiv-D turbo-diesel suits an upwardly mobile brand like Mazda better than some others, being that diesels have long been the stuff of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW, plus more recently Jaguar and Land Rover. I’d be remiss not to mention Volkswagen again, because not too long ago oil burners made up more than half of their Canadian sales, but now all of the just-noted German brands are on a different trajectory, embracing plug-in electric mobility at a much greater development cost and no sure promise of profits (even mighty Tesla had never managed more than two sequential quarters of profits as of this review’s publication date).

As for Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine, it only produces 168 horsepower, but then again it puts out a very strong 290 lb-ft of torque. Such low horsepower, high torque ratios are par for the course when it comes to diesels, by the way, but it’s not like the CX-5 Signature’s standard 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G engine is without merits. Count them, 227 gasoline-fed horses and a grand total of 310 lb-ft of torque when said gasoline is 93 octane or higher. When cheaping out at the pump you can expect the same torque yet only 250 horsepower, but that’s still an impressive number for this class. What’s more, the 2020 version of this engine is capable of an even more satisfying 320 horsepower, which will make the upcoming 2021 Mazda3 AWD, just announced to receive this powertrain as an option, a serious sport sedan rivalling true luxury brands.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The nicely laid out centre stack includes high-quality controls within easy reach.

I’ve now spent at least a week with all second-generation CX-5 engines mated to the model’s all-wheel drivetrain, and can happily say the latter is well worth the extra expense when compared to the compact SUV’s base 2.0-litre four, unless fuel economy is the driving force behind your decision. This is where the twin-turbo SkyActiv-D trumps its stable mates, garnering a Natural Resources Canada rating of 8.9 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 8.4 combined compared to the larger and more potent 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G’s 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating. Yes, the diesel is better, but is it really $5,000 better? That’s a question you’ll need to ask yourself before plunking down the significant chunk of change needed to buy one.

Another consideration is the well-equipped CX-5 GT noted before, that for $37,450 provides most of the Signature’s premium-like features as well as a more fuel-friendly 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder in base trim. That smaller engine makes a reasonably strong 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, but its expected fuel economy is nearly as good as the diesel at 9.8 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 9.0 combined, whereas the same engine found in lesser trims with front wheel drive can achieve almost identical claimed fuel economy at a respective 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The infotainment system is controlled by this stylish knurled metal knob and surround buttons.

I spent a week in a 2019 CX-5 GT outfitted with the entry-level powerplant and its standard all-wheel drivetrain last year, and walked away very satisfied with its fuel-efficiency/performance compromise, not to mention its luxurious surroundings. Then again, more recently I spent a whopping three months with a newer 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbo-equipped 2020 CX-5 Signature and was much happier, at least with its performance and even more upscale interior, while I was also fine with its fuel economy considering the performance at hand (and particularly at foot). You’ll see a detailed review of this model shortly, but being that the review I’m current writing is about a 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D-equipped CX-5 Signature, I’ll only say, if it was a case of needing to purge an engine in order to make this compact SUV more profitable, Mazda got rid of the right one.

I should make clear that you could very well save a great deal more than the claimed rating when living with a SkyActiv-D-equipped CX-5 than at the wheel of the more potent SkyActiv-G model, because most drivers will be tempted to drive the sportier feeling gasoline variant faster. I found myself more relaxed and easy-going when behind the wheel of the non-paddle-shifter-equipped diesel than the top-line gasoline model, a factor that could also prevent potential speeding tickets with some owners. What’s more, diesel pump prices are less volatile than those for gasoline, and more often than not cheaper too.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The driver’s seat is extremely comfortable and driving position very good.

Don’t get me wrong, as the diesel delivers some significant torque off the line, and it made haste during highway passing too, but it can’t provide the level of sportiness offered by the more formidable gasoline-fed turbo-four, and thanks to the relatively quiet yet still noticeable rattle-and-hum heard ahead of the engine firewall, the diesel sounds more like a truck than the gasoline variant too. Depending on your leanings, this will be a positive or negative, while all should appreciate the added grip through the corners brought about by the Signature’s 19-inch alloy wheels.

The CX-5’s six-speed automatic transmission isn’t quite as engaging without the aforementioned paddles, and yes six forward speeds doesn’t sound as advanced as the various eight-speed, nine-speed and continuously variable transmissions being offered by others, but along with providing snappy shifts when pushing hard and smooth intervals when driving in a more relaxed state, Mazda’s SkyActiv-Drive gearbox has been very dependable when compared to some of the just-noted challengers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Rear seat roominess and comfort is excellent.

Together with the second-gen CX-5’s impressive cornering prowess, all examples I’ve driven have delivered a comfortable ride. They’ve been a tad firmer than some of their Asian and domestic competitors, due to Mazda’s performance-focused corporate credo, but this has never interfered with suspension comfort. Then again, the CX-5’s fully independent suspension is more responsive than most rivals, especially when coursing down a winding mountain road, while it also provides a level of high-speed confidence on the freeway that’s not available to the same degree from some compact SUV challengers.

Speaking of best-in-class, the CX-5’s 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks make its cargo compartment more convenient than the majority of competitors too, while release levers mounted near the rear hatch opening allow the seats to lower themselves automatically, thus adding even greater ease to the loading process.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
A 20/40/20-split rear seatback and auto-folding levers make the CX-5’s cargo compartment ultra-convenient.

After numerous stints behind the wheel of various CX-5 trims, I can easily recommend Mazda’s compact SUV, but I won’t try to tell you which engine you should purchase. I can say, however, you’d better act fast if you like the sound of the brand’s SkyActiv-D turbo-diesel, because they’re now few and far between, and soon won’t be available at all.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition Road Test

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The Jetta GLI offers up a discreet, stylish look that’s as appealing to younger performance fans as it is to those that have been around awhile.

After eight long years of the sixth-generation Jetta, Volkswagen introduced a ground-up redesign for the 2019 model year and Canadian compact sedan buyers responded by boosting the model’s sales by 14 percent. That’s a good news story for VW Canada, but 17,260 units in 2019 is a far cry from the car’s high of 31,042 deliveries in 2014.

All we need do to understand this scenario more clearly is compare the VW Tiguan’s sales of 10,096 units in 2014 to the 19,250 sold in 2019 (which was actually down 10 percent from the 21,449 examples sold in 2018), and thus we see another example of crossover SUVs encroaching on the conventional car’s traditional territory.

As VW fans will already be well aware, the German brand controls more of the compact segment than the Jetta’s sales indicate on their own. Most rivals, including Honda’s best-selling Civic, Toyota’s second-rung Corolla, Hyundai’s third-place Elantra, and the list goes on, combine multiple body styles under one nameplate. This was true for VW’s fifth-place Golf for the 2019 model year too, and previously when available as a Cabriolet, but with the SportWagen being cancelled for 2020 the little hatchback moves forward with just one profile shape. Speaking of that Golf, if its 2019 calendar year sales of 19,668 units were combined with the Jetta’s aforementioned total, created one collective whole, VW would no longer sit in fifth and sixth places respectively, but instead jump past Mazda’s 21,276 unit-sales with a new compact total of 36,928 deliveries. That puts the Golf/Jetta combo mighty close to the Elantra’s 39,463 deliveries.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
LED headlamps come standard, as do “GLI” badges and unique red trim accents.

OK, I got a little carried away with numbers, as I sometimes do (just be glad I didn’t add the 3,667 Ioniq and 1,420 Veloster sales to Hyundai’s 2019 calendar year mix, or the 2,910 now discontinued VW Beetles), but you should now have a better understanding of the situation. Volkswagen continues to be a serious player in compact arena, and the Jetta is a key component of its mostly two-pronged (so far) approach in this market segment. This said, VW has done compact performance better than most of its rivals for a lot longer, with entries like the iconic Golf GTI and hyper-fast Golf R playing it out in the hot hatch sector, and the Jetta GLI being reviewed here pushing VW’s agenda amongst affordable sport sedans.

Yes, Honda deserves kudos for its long-running Civic Si (now with 205 hp) that arrived in 1985 as the CRX Si and in regular Civic form for 1988, and currently puts out a beastly compact sport hatch dubbed Type R (306 hp), which is a similar combo to Subaru’s legendary WRX (268 hp) and WRX STI (310 hp) twins, while Mazda’s less formidable yet still respectable 3 GT is in the mix (186 hp—how we miss the Mazdaspeed3, but there is recent talk of Mazda’s 250-hp turbo 2.5 with 310 lb-ft of torque improving 3 performance), but the South Koreans have recently been stepping up competition with sporty alternatives of their own, respectively including the Elantra Sport (201 hp) and Kia Forte GT (201 hp) that actually use identical powertrains and ride on the same platform architecture. While this is good news for performance fans, Ford recently nixed its fabulous Focus ST (252 hp) and sensational Focus RS (350 hp) along with their entire car lineup (sacrificed to the crossover SUV), Mustang coupe and convertible aside, showing some come and some go. Yes, there’s something to be said for honest to goodness longstanding performance heritage, and the Jetta’s three-letter GLI acronym beats all rivals excepting the GTI in the test of time, with its 1984 inception resulting in 36 years under its belt.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Special aerodynamic aids visually separate the GLI’s styling from regular Jetta models.

To its advantage, the new Jetta GLI is one good looking sport sedan. Those who might be turned off by Honda’s boy-racer Civic Si design and Subaru’s rally-ready WRX look should gravitate to the sporty VeeDub thanks to its more discreet appearance. The usual blackened exterior trim is once again joined by tasteful splashes of red accenting key areas, this latest version getting a red horizontal divider across its grille as well as big red brake calipers framed by special red trim circling each of its dark grey 18-inch wheels. Of course, the front and rear “GLI” badges are doused in bright red as well, as is a really attractive set of front fender trim pieces that boast this GLI 35th Edition’s unique designation.

As far as the GLI’s glossy black trim goes, there’s a thick strip along the top portion of the grille, plus more of the inky black treatment surrounding the lower front fascia’s corner vent bezels, painting the side mirror housings, finishing the front portion and rear portions of the roof, and coating the tastefully small rear deck lid spoiler. It’s a real looker from front to rear, and more importantly for people my age (let’s just say above 50), the type of compact sport sedan that won’t make you look like you’re trying to relive your glory days when seen behind the wheel.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Exclusive grey-painted 18-inch alloys are encircled by red pin stripes, while red callipers promise stronger standard braking power.

As expected in any performance-tuned VW, the GLI includes a well-bolstered, comfortable set of perforated leather front seats. They’re highlighted with sporty red contrast stitching and attractively patterned inserts, for a look that’s simultaneously sporty and luxurious. What’s more, the steering wheel is downright performance perfection, featuring a slightly flat bottom section and ideally formed thumb indentations, plus red baseball-like stitching around the inside of the meaty leather-wrapped rim. VW continues the cabin’s bright red highlights with more crimson coloured thread on the leather gear lever boot, plus the centre armrest, the “GLI” portion of the model’s “GLI 35” seat tags, as well as the identical logo on the embroidered floor mats and stainless-steel sill plates.

There’s also a fair share of satin-silver aluminum trim around the cabin, including the previously noted steering wheel’s spokes, the foot pedals, various switches and accents on the centre stack and lower console, plus more. Additional trim worth noting include a small dose of fake carbon-fibre and larger sampling of piano black lacquer on the dash and upper door panels, whereas the former area is wholly soft-touch due to a premium-like composite that wraps down to the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger, before this premium treatment continues to the front door uppers, inserts and armrests.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Special front fender garnishes include “GLI 35” badging.

While all of this luxury-level pampering sounds good, I’m quite certain most would-be buyer’s eyes will be find the standard digital instrument cluster even more appealing, at least at first sight. If you’ve seen Audi’s Virtual Cockpit you’ll know what I’m talking about, although VW calls theirs a Digital Cockpit. Similarly to the fancier German brand, the GLI’s Digital Cockpit includes a “VIEW” button on the left-side steering wheel spoke that transforms the cluster’s look from a traditional two-dial layout with a multi-function display in the middle to a massive MID with tiny conventional gauges below. This is looks especially good when filling the MID with the navigation system’s map, and makes it easier to glance down for directions than when on the centre display. The Digital Cockpit can do likewise with other functions, resulting in one of the more useful electronic components currently available from a mainstream brand.

The Jetta GLI’s centre touchscreen is a big 8.0-inch display boasting high-definition resolution and bright, colourful graphics with rich visual depth and contrast, while just like the primary instrument package it comes well stocked with features such as tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe gesture controls, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Mirror Link smartphone integration, audio, navigation, application, driving mode and fuel-saving eco “pages”, plus finally a performance driving interface with a lap timer and more.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
LED taillights provide a bright warning to following vehicles, plus tasteful good looks.

Strangely, active guidelines are not included with the backup camera, which is a bit odd for the GLI’s top-level trim, which included an available $995 ($1,005 for 2020) Advanced Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) upgrade bundle featuring a multi-function camera with a distance sensor. This package also adds Light Assist auto high beam control, dynamic cruise control with stop and go, Front Assist autonomous emergency braking, Side Assist blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and Lane Assist lane keeping capability.

An attractive, well-organized and easy to use three-dial dual-zone auto climate control interface sits just below the infotainment display on the centre stack. It includes switches for the GLI’s standard three-way heated and ventilated front seats, the former warm enough for therapeutic lower back pain relief and the latter helpful for reducing sweat during hot summer months, while under this is an extremely large and accommodating rubber-based wireless device charger as well as a USB-A charging port.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The Jetta GLI’s interior combines premium-like features with some sub-mainstream materials quality.

A gearshift lever with a sporty looking metallic and composite knob and aforementioned red-stitched leather boot takes up its tradition spot on the lower console between front occupants, surrounding by an electric parking brake, traction control and idle-stop system defeat buttons, plus a driving mode selector that lets you choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Custom settings.

Speaking of centre consoles, the overhead one above houses a handy sunglasses holder as well as switchgear for opening the big power glass sunroof that also includes an opaque fabric sunscreen with an upscale aluminum handle.

And so it should, as the GLI, starting at $32,445 plus freight and fees for the manual, or $33,845 for my as-tested DSG dual-clutch automated model, is starting to encroach into low-end premium territory. Fit, finish, materials tactile quality and overall refinement is only so-so, however, not even measuring up to VW’s own Golf GTI. It used to be that a Jetta was merely a Golf (or Rabbit) with a trunk, the latter useful for mitigating inner-city security risks, but now the two cars look totally different other than the badge on their grilles and backsides and a handful of cross-model components.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The GLI’s instruments and infotainment are a step above most rivals.

The base 2019 Golf GTI is available from $30,845 (and when I recently checked plenty were still available in Canada, probably due to the health situation that I don’t want to name due to being negatively flagged by search engines, etcetera) and $850 less than the $31,695 entry-level Jetta GLI, but the sporty VW hatchback boasts fabric-wrapped A pillars, just like its more affordable Golf counterparts, while no Jetta, including this GLI, gets this semi-premium treatment. All of the Jetta’s hard composites below the waist, and some of them above, don’t feel all that substantive either.

Certainly, we need to factor in the Jetta’s compact status, an entry-level model for Volkswagen that doesn’t sell a subcompact car in North America, but such is not the case for its main rivals that are seeing this compact segment as a growing alternative for those who might have otherwise purchase a mid-size sedan or wagon. The fact is, rivals from Japan and Korea are packing more soft-touch luxury and premium features into their smaller cars, and winning over buyers who want to be pampered instead of punished for choosing a more environmentally conscious small car. Just get into a fully loaded Mazda3, Toyota Corolla or Kia Forte and you’ll quickly figure out what I’m talking about. They’re delivering at a high level, and deserve to attract new buyers that aren’t being gobbled up by the Civic, the Corolla and Elantra.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
This is as good as digital instrument clusters get in the mainstream volume-branded sector.

The shame is VW used to lead in small car refinement, to the point that previous Jettas were probably too good for this segment, even starting to be uncomfortably compared against the automaker’s own Audi A4. Therefore, anyone trading in their 2005–2011 fifth-generation Jetta for the current version, whether trimmed out to top-line GLI spec or not, will probably find the cabin’s finish and materials quality less than ideal.

By the way, I tested a new Forte GT recently, and have to say it does a good job of competing against old guard sport compacts like this GLI and Honda’s Civic Si, but unlike this car the Forte’s rear door panels were finished to the same high-quality, soft-touch level as those up front, whereas none of the above can be found on the GLI’s rear door panels. I can’t think of another car in this class that misses the mark so blatantly in this respect, and call for VW to step things up before it completely loses its reputation for tactile quality.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The Jetta GLI’s 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is packed full of convenience and performance features.

This said, a set of heated outboard rear seats would’ve been much appreciated by rear passengers mid-winter, not that these aren’t offered by competitors, but once again the panel surrounding the three-way buttons was about as primitive as this class provides. The seats were comfortable and supportive, mind you, as well as attractive due to the same red stitching and perforated leather as those in the front, not to mention sculpted backrests in the outer window positions. A decent sized folding rear centre armrest includes cupholders, but unlike Jettas that came before there’s no cargo pass-through door behind for stuffing long items such as skis. This means you’ll have to lower the 40-percent side of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks when four people are on board, forcing one rear occupant into the less comfortable middle seat, and making the rear seat warmer on that side redundant when that rear passenger will want it most. On the positive, the trunk is large at 510 litres, and could potentially house shorter skis diagonally as well as snowboards. Of course, the Jetta is not alone in choosing less costly 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, but the Golf offers the centre pass-through and therefore is the better choice for active owners.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Every new car should come with a wireless charger, and VW makes this large one standard in the GLI.

A few minutes behind the wheel and you’ll quickly forget about such shortcomings, however, as the GLI is a blast to drive. Truly, this sport sedan is one of the most enjoyable to drive within its mainstream volume-branded compact sedan class, thanks to a new 228 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 18 horsepower and 51 lb-ft over the GLI’s predecessor, incidentally, and due to only being available with front-wheel drive the motive wheels/tires have a habit of squealing during quick takeoffs. Certainly, there’s traction control, as noted earlier, but it comes on a bit too late to stop any noisy commotion from down below, so you’ll need to restrain your right foot in order to maintain civility and not engage any police intervention.

The GLI’s new seven-speed dual-clutch automated DSG transmission is as important an upgrade as the engine’s newfound power, and feels even faster between paddle shift-actuated gear intervals than the previous model’s six-speed unit, while gaining a taller final gear to improve fuel economy (it’s rated at 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.5 combined with the six-speed manual and a respective 9.3, 7.2 and 8.4 with my tester’s A7 DSG auto).

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
The GLI’s standard power-adjustable sport seats are comfortable and supportive.

While the new GLI is nowhere near as fast as the aforementioned Golf R, or some of that model’s equivalently quick super-compact competitors such as Subaru’s WRX STI and Mitsubishi’s awesome EVO X (RIP), it’s more than respectable amongst mid-range sport models like the Civic Si, while making wannabe performance cars like the Mazda3 GT feel as if they’re standing still. Momentary burnouts during takeoff aside, the new Jetta GLI was unflappable when pushed hard through high-speed curving sections of backcountry two-lane roadway, even when pavement was so uneven that the car’s rear end should’ve been hopping and bopping around the road. Fortunately, unlike that top-tier Mazda3 and VW’s more pedestrian Jetta trims below that use a torsion-beam rear suspension, the GLI includes a multi-link setup in back, which absorbed jarring potholes and other road imperfections with ease, allowing most of the stock 225/45 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires’ contact patches to remain fully engaged with the road below. To be fair to the Mazda3, it’s surprisingly stable during such otherwise unsettling circumstances due to available AWD with G-Vectoring Plus.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
Volkswagen provides a comfortable, roomy rear passenger compartment, but the tactile quality of the rear door panels is not up to par.

Back in the city, the GLI’s idle-stop system shut off the engine when the car came to a stop amid parallel parking manoeuvres. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, as it should quickly reignite the engine when lifting off the brake, but while I was purposely parked too close to the vehicle ahead in order to straighten the car out, it wouldn’t restart while in reverse. This necessitated shifting back into park and then pressing on the throttle to wake up the engine, and then shifting back to reverse before aligning the car. This is probably a software glitch, but I’d be complaining to my dealer if it persisted. Fortunately, I experienced no other instances of this happening, but remember I only live with test cars for a week at a time.

The previously noted $32,445 (for the base manual) and $33,845 (for the DSG auto) base prices meant the 2019 GLI 35 is nicely equipped, with items not yet covered including fog lamps, LED headlights, proximity entry with pushbutton start/stop, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a potent 8-speaker BeatsAudio system with a subwoofer, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar and three-position memory, and the list goes on. The same goes for the 2020 model, by the way, as there haven’t been any changes except for the discontinuation of this model year-specific 35th Edition.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Edition
At 510 litres, the Jetta’s trunk is large, but no centre pass-through means it’s not as useful as the Golf’s cargo compartment.

Speaking of model years, VW Canada will give you up to $3,000 in additional incentives on a 2019 Jetta (which remained available when this review was written), while the new 2020 GLI can be purchased with $1,000 in additional incentives, although keep in mind that CarCostCanada member savings averaged $2,500 for the newer 2020 model. To learn more, see our 2020 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page and/or 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page, where members can find out about manufacturer rebates, leasing and financing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could add up to even more savings. What’s more, you can now download our free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or Apple iTunes/App store so you can have all of our important info in the palms of your hands when negotiating at the dealership, whether purchasing this Jetta GLI or any other new vehicle sold in Canada.

In the end, I can’t help but like the new Jetta GLI, even despite its less than ideal shortcomings. It looks great, takes off like a scared rabbit (GTI) when called upon, and is filled with most of the features premium car buyers are learning to expect. Yes, I’d prefer if Volkswagen improved some of the Jetta’s touchy-feely interior surfaces, but being that most owners will spend all of their time up front in the driver’s seat, it’s shouldn’t be a deal-killing issue.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD Road Test

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country offers a nice combination of quick, comfortable wagon and rugged SUV.

Volvo’s V90 Cross Country started life just three years ago for the 2017 model year, and it’s already being discontinued in Canada. The 2019 model year will be this large luxury crossover wagon’s final curtain call, along with the regular V90 sport wagon that’s also seen sales diminish dramatically since the smaller V60 wagon, V60 Cross Country and XC60 luxury crossover SUVs were redesigned. This leaves the impressive S90 luxury sedan as the only model from Volvo’s mid-size threesome to continue into 2020.

It might seem a bit strange to choose a big luxury sedan over a supposedly trendier crossover wagon, but such is the case with Volvo Canada. The Swedish automaker’s US division is currently selling a 2020 version of the V90 Cross Country with a refreshed 2021 waiting in the wings, but we’ll need to go Stateside to see that. As it is, Volvo hasn’t been purveying many mid-size E-segment vehicles north of the 49th, with sales of its S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country trio plunging 65 percent to just 295 units last year.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Sadly, the good looking and highly functional V90 Cross Country was discontinued after the 2019 model year.

As a backgrounder, the V90 Cross Country replaced the much-loved 2000-2016 XC70, and by doing so combined Volvo’s recently reinvigorated sense of style with its well respected quality, sensible practicality, and turbocharged, supercharged four-cylinder performance to the mid-size crossover wagon category, while increasing the level of opulent luxury on offer.

Those familiar with today’s Volvo understand what I’m talking about, particularly when any of its models are upgraded to their top-tier R-Design or Inscription trim levels. This said the V90 Cross Country doesn’t get so fancy with hierarchal names here in the Canadian market, merely using one no-name trim and various packages to add options. On that note my test model featured a Premium package that includes a generous list of standard features and wealth of impressive furnishings, making for one of the more luxurious crossover wagons available.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The LED headlights, fog lamps and 19-inch alloys are standard.

I’m sure Audi and its many loyal enthusiasts would argue that the German brand’s entirely new 2020 A6 Allroad is even more resplendent, and despite the Ingolstadt-based contender being wholly impressive, Gothenburg’s outgoing alternative looks and feels even more upscale inside even though it’s priced $12,700 lower.

A 2019 V90 Cross Country can be had for just $62,500, whereas the A6 Allroad is comparably expensive at $75,200, and while Audi gets some prestige points for brand image, plus its potent turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 that puts out an extra 19 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque over Volvo’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that makes 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, this Swedish alternative is a bit easier on fuel thanks to a claimed Transport Canada rating of 11.6 L/100km city, 8.1 highway and 10.0 combined, compared to 11.8, 9.1 and 10.6 respectively.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s SUV-like detailing is very upscale.

Previously Volvo sold a $59,500 V90 Cross Country T5 AWD with 250 horsepower, but it was cancelled at the end of the 2018 model year, as was the previous top-line $84,900 Ocean Race T6 AWD.  The just-noted $3,900 Premium package certainly adds to this 2019 model’s luxury accoutrements, however, with features like heatable windshield washer nozzles, auto-dimming and power-folding exterior mirrors, LED interior lights, aluminum treadplates, a heatable steering wheel, front and rear parking sonar with graphical proximity indicators, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking, a 360 Surround View camera, a universal garage door opener, four-zone auto climate control, a cooled glove box, heated rear outboard seats, power-folding rear seatbacks and outer head restraints, a wonderfully useful semi-automatic cargo cover, an integrated mesh safety net to protect passengers from potentially flying cargo, blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, etcetera.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s cabin is very inviting and more luxurious than you might be expecting.

The $62,500 base price for the 2019 V90 Cross Country T6 AWD doesn’t include $900 for metallic paint, incidentally, which is a no-cost option with Audi, but the A6 Allroad only gives you the choice of black or beige leather inside, and it’s not the same high-grade Nappa leather as in the V90 CC, which is available in four zero-cost optional colours including Charcoal (black), Amber (dark beige), Maroon Brown (dark reddish brown) and Blond (light grey).

Of course, both cars can be loaded up, my tester not fully equipped. In fact it was missing a $3,600 Luxury package featuring a beautifully tailored instrument panel, an enhanced set of front seats with power-adjustable side bolsters, power-extendable lower cushions, multi-technique massage capability, and ventilation, as well as manually retractable rear window side sunshades.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Comfortable and well laid out, the V90 Cross Country is easy to live with.

My tester didn’t include the $2,350 optional rear air suspension and Four-C Active Chassis upgrade either, and only came with 19-inch alloy wheels instead of 20-inch alloys that cost $1,000 more, while it was also missing body-colour bumpers, wheel arches and sills, Metal Mesh decor inlays (although the hardwood was very nice), a black headliner, a graphical head-up display, a Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system (with ¬gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles—a $3,750 option), and two dual-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard positions, all of which might add $18,375 to the 2019 V90 Cross Country’s price, potentially hoisting it up to $80,875.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A fully digital instrument cluster comes standard.

While this might seem like a lot of money for a mid-size luxury crossover wagon, consider for a moment that the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad Technik starts at $83,100 without any massage action, and while Audi’s impressive “Virtual Cockpit” digital gauge package is included (the V90 features a digital instrument cluster too, just not quite as configurable), being massaged from below a higher grade of Valcona leather will cost A6 Allroad buyers an additional $4,050, whereas including all of the V90 CC’s advanced driver assistance systems will add another $2,400.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 CC’s tablet-style infotainment touchscreen is fully featured and easy to use.

Audi buyers can also add the A6 Allroad’s $2,500 Dynamic package with Dynamic Steering and Dynamic All-Wheel Steering, another $2,500 for Night Vision Assistant, $500 more for quieter dual-pane glass, $350 extra for Audi Phonebox with wireless charging, an additional $350 for rear side airbags, and $1,000 more for full body paint (which was already priced into the top-tier V90 CC), bringing the German car’s max price up to $102,650, less $1,000 in additional incentives when signing up for a CarCostCanada membership, which provides info on all current rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus otherwise difficult to get dealer invoice pricing, so you can be fully prepared before negotiating with your local retailer (see our 2020 Audi A6 allroad Canada Prices page).

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Check out this bird’s eye view! The V90 CC’s overhead camera makes parking easy.

Keep in mind the additional incentives for the A6 Allroad are $1,000 less impressive than the $2,000 any Volvo dealer will chop off of the price of a 2019 V90 Cross Country (see that on our 2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country Canada Prices page), but even before factoring in such savings, this Volvo should truly impress anyone choosing between these two impressive crossover SUVs.

Both are unmistakably attractive inside and out, thanks to dynamic designs and the latest LED lighting tech. Some will like the minimalist Audi cabin more, while Volvo’s ritzier look will appeal to others. Faulting either on their quality of materials and overall construction will fall on deaf ears, as they’re both superbly crafted.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 CC’s eight-speed automatic is sublimely smooth.

True, but Volvo makes a nicer key fob. Say what? Yes, it’s easily one of the nicest remotes in the industry, even making you feel special when outside of the car thanks to the same Nappa leather surrounding its flat surfaces as found the car’s seat upholstery, plus beautifully detailed metal around the edges. Of course, being that most owners only touch their proximity-sensing remotes when switching jackets or purses it seems a bit extravagant, but going above and beyond has always been part of what luxury owners crave.

Volvo covers the majority of surfaces with premium soft-touch synthetic or optional contrast-stitched leather, not to mention beautiful dark oak inlays on the instrument panel and doors. The more upmarket version swaps the wood out with metal inlays, as mentioned earlier, while there’s no shortage of satin-finish aluminum accents everywhere else.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Much of the V90 Cross Country’s switchgear is jewel-like.

Volvo makes sure to cover most surfaces below the waste in premium pliable synthetic, which isn’t the case with a fair number of premium brands like Lexus (although they don’t sell anything in this niche segment), while each pillar is covered in the same nicely woven material as the roof liner.

While most features mentioned so far is par for the course in the luxury sector, much of the V90 CC’s buttons, knobs and switches look more like fine jewellery than anything mechanical. Volvo uses a dazzling diamond patterned bright metal to edge much of its switchgear, including the main audio knob, the rotating ignition switch, the scrolling drive mode selector, and the air vent actuators. No rival goes so far to wow its owners this side of Bentley, making the V90 CC and most everything else Volvo has on offer stand out from the rest of the luxury field.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
These seats are fabulous!

Before continuing, I need to point out that most everything I’ve mentioned comes standard in Canada, the aforementioned digital gauge cluster included. An impressive vertical tablet-like infotainment touchscreen takes up the majority of the centre stack, with super clear, high-definition graphics and deep, rich colours, plus an interface that’s as easy to use as a smartphone or tablet thanks to familiar tap, swipe and pinch capabilities (not always the norm in the luxury class). It comes filled with all the expected functions too, including one of the coolest HVAC temperature controllers in the industry, and a superb 360-degree overhead camera system. The touchscreen in my V90 CC tester, which comes near to being a top-line model, is almost exactly the same as the one in the smallest and most affordable Volvo XC40 crossover SUV, or any other new Volvo, which allows easy adaptation to those moving up through the range.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Big enough sunroof for you? The V90 Cross Country comes standard with this panoramic sunroof.

The digital instrument cluster offers up a bright, clear display too, albeit with a slight matte finish to diminish glare. While it’s configurable, Volvo doesn’t go so far to wow its driver as Audi does with its previously noted Virtual Cockpit, being that you’re not able to make the multi-infotainment display in the centre system larger and the circular gauges smaller. Where Audi amazes is the Virtual Cockpit’s ability to dramatically reduce the size of the primary dials and maximize the multi-info display to the point it takes over most of the screen, which is great for viewing the navigation’s map while driving. The V90’s gauge package provides good functionality in different ways, mind you, with the primary instruments reducing in size slightly while some multi-info display features get used, and the centre area is fairly large and appealing thanks to attractive graphics and most functions from the infotainment system.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The rear passenger compartment is roomy, comfortable, and beautifully finished.

While the V90 CC provides state-of-the-art electronic interfaces and surrounds its generous supply of features with a sumptuous interior, it wouldn’t matter one bit if Volvo didn’t supply the worthy powertrain noted earlier, and matching handling dynamics. The big wagon’s 315 horsepower and 279 pound-feet of torque are more than enough for energetic V6-like acceleration from standstill and ample get-up-and-go during passing manoeuvres. The engine combines with a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, but alas there aren’t paddles for wandering fingers. Those wanting to do their own shifting can do so via the gear lever, but other than for testing I never bothered, as it’s a superb transmission when left to its own devices.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s innovative cargo cover automatically pulls itself up and out of the way when the tailgate opens.

The comfort-focused V90 Cross Country isn’t quite as quick through the corners as the more road-hugging V90 T6 AWD R-Design sport wagon I tested previously, but it’s not far off. The CC gets a 58-millimetre (2.3-inch) suspension lift, meaning that its centre of gravity is affected, so its lateral grip isn’t quite as tenacious as the sportier wagon. This said, unless really trying to make time through a winding mountainside back road you probably won’t notice, and besides, the Cross Country is more about comfort than speed anyway. To that end it’s suspension, together with its aforementioned front seats, is glorious, and ideal for charting the cottage road less travelled or trekking through deep snow.

Making the latter possible, all V90 Cross Country crossover wagons come standard with all-wheel drive, albeit no off-road mode so don’t go wild when venturing into the wilderness. Still, it handles slippery situations well, making me confident that light-duty off-road conditions would be no problem.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
This built-in cargo divider includes grocery bag hooks.

Volvo provides a set of aluminum roof rails as standard equipment, while you can get roof rack cross-members, bike racks, storage toppers and more from your dealer’s parts department, all coming together to make the V90 Cross Country a perfect companion for outdoor activities such as cycling, kayaking, and camping trips. A $1,345 trailer hitch package with electronic monitoring and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) is also available, perfect for towing a small boat or camp trailer.

Along with the comfortable ride and superb seats mentioned earlier, the V90 CC’s driving position is wonderfully adjustable and therefore ideal for most body types. I’m slightly shorter than average at five-foot-eight, with legs that are longer than my torso, which sometimes causes a challenge if the telescopic steering column doesn’t reach far enough rearward. The V90 CC had no such problems, resulting in a comfortable setup that left me fully in control.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A mesh cargo net keeps passengers safe from flying cargo in case of an accident.

When sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my height, I still had 10 inches ahead of my knees, plus about five inches from my shoulder to the door panel, another four beside my hips, and three and a half or so over my head. Stretching my legs out, with my shoes below the driver’s seat, was easy, while rear seat comfort was enhanced with my test car’s four-zone automatic climate control that included a handy interface on the backside of the front console. A set of heatable outboard seats would be popular with rear passengers for winter ski trips without doubt, as would the big standard panoramic sunroof anytime of the year. Adding to the sense of openness, the V90 CC also gets rear HVAC vents on the backside of the front centre console, plus another set more on the midpoint of each B-pillar. A really fancy centre armrest folds down between outboard passengers, featuring pop-out dual cupholders, a shallow tray, plus a lidded and lined stowage bin, while LED reading lights hover overhead.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A small but useful centre pass-through ups the V90 CC’s practicality.

A power tailgate provides access to the V90 CC’s spacious cargo compartment, at which point the previously noted retractable cargo cover automatically moves up and out of the way. The cargo area measures 560 litres (19.8 cubic feet) aft of the rear seatbacks and about 1,530 litres (54 cu ft) with the rear row dropped down, and is beautifully finished with high-quality carpets right up each sidewalls and on the rear seatbacks, plus the floor of course, while underneath a rubber all-weather cargo mat (which comes as part of a $355 Protection package also including floor trays for four of the five seating positions, a centre tunnel cover, and the just-mentioned cargo tray), my test model’s floor included a pop-up cargo divider with integrated grocery bag hooks. The cargo floor can be lifted one more time, providing access to a shallow carpeted compartment for stowing very thin items (it was ideal for storing the carpeted floor mats while the all-season ones were being used).

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
No shortage of gear-toting space behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks.

I really appreciated the V90’s centre pass-through, which made the otherwise 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks more versatile, but this said it’s a bit small and narrow, and not as useful as a true 40/20/40-split rear seatback. Still, two pairs of skis could fit within, but you’d still need to stow two down the 40-percent portion of the cargo area if four wanted to go skiing, forcing one passenger onto the hump in the middle. When dropping those seats, however, powered release buttons on the cargo sidewall make the job ultra-easy. These flip the headrests forward automatically as well, which can also be lowered from the front to improve rear visibility.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
There’s plenty of cargo space in the V90 Cross Country.

So who’s right for the V90 Cross Country? I think it’s perfect for those considering the move up from a traditional four-door sedan or wagon into something more practical, yet not ready for a big, SUV-style crossover like Volvo’s XC90. This said I’m not going to recommend the V90 CC over Audi’s new A6 Allroad or vice versa, at least not yet, mostly because I haven’t driven the new German. Still, having spent some time inside the Ingolstadt alternative, I can easily say this Volvo measures up, while Audi will have to work very hard to achieve more comfort than this V90 CC, and any advantage in fuel economy is a good thing (although some would rather have more power).

At the end of the day it comes down to one’s personal taste, not to mention the ability of your local Volvo retailer to source a new V90 Cross Country. If you like what you see don’t wait any longer as they’re disappearing quickly.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera receives important updates

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet
The new 911 Carrera will be available with the innovative InnoDrive adaptive cruise control system starting in 2021.

Porsche only showed its new 2021 911 Turbo S Coupe and Cabriolet models in March, and we’re already find out what they’ve got in store for next year’s 911 Carrera, Carrera S, and Carrera 4S.

The two sportier trims will soon get a new seven-speed manual transmission, but we’re not yet sure if the DIY gearbox will be standard in Canada and therefore priced lower than the current standard eight-speed automated PDK dual-clutch transmission, as it was in 2019, or if it will be no-cost option like the latest 2021 models are being offered in Europe. Fortunately, Porsche Canada will announce pricing in a few months, which will clarify this question.

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera
Want a faster and more agile 911? Good news! 2021 Carrera Coupes will be available with a new lightweight glass package.

PDK-equipped 911s in mind, Porsche will make its InnoDrive adaptive cruise control system available for 2021 as well. InnoDrive has the ability to automatically maintain set speed limits and slow down for corners, in addition to the usual adaptive cruise control capabilities.

Also new, optional Smartlift raises the 911’s front axle to clear steep driveways and larger than average speed bumps, while it can also be programmed to automatically remember specific locations where it needs to lift. A tire temperature readout gauge is new for 2021 911s equipped with the Sport Chrono Package as well.

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
Smartlift will raise your 911s front end upwards to overcome big speed bumps and steep driveways.

In an effort to make the 911 even sportier, a lightweight glass package reduces mass up high in the body and therefore lowers the car’s centre of gravity. Only available with the Coupe, this feature will be popular with performance purists, while those wanting more refinement can opt for thicker, better-insulated glass.

Porsche looks to its past for a new leather upholstery upgrade package, introduced earlier for the base 2021 Turbo S. The retro upgrade pulls styling cues from the 930-generation 911 Turbo, and is available in both the Coupe and Cabriolet.

More trivial yet still cool, Porsche’s seven-colour Ambient Lighting Package has been renamed from the outgoing model year’s somewhat less obvious Light Design Package name, while the 911’s exterior paint palette has grown to include Python Green for 2021, a colour also offered with the 911 Turbo S and 718 Cayman GTS 4.0.

We can expect more 2021 911 details closer to launch.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

CarCostCanada

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9 is one stylish looking mid-size contender.

I want you to try something. The next time you’re considering the purchase of a new car or SUV, first go to the closest Mazda retailer, or at least check out the Mazda stand at your local car show, and take a seat inside the equivalent model you’re considering buying from an alternative brand. I’m willing to guess you’ll soon be wondering why your current vehicle isn’t a Mazda, or if you should still be considering any competitive models for your next ride.

This is true even if you currently own something made by a premium brand, Aston Martin, Bentley or Rolls-Royce aside. That same Mazda may cause you to question why you paid so much more for your domestic, Japanese or European luxury vehicle. Step into one of Mazda’s Signature trim lines and you’ll be feeling glummer still.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
It might look like it’s all style and no substance, but the CX-9 provides plenty of interior room.

The top-line Signature trim is available in the Mazda6 mid-size sedan, plus Mazda’s CX-5 compact crossover SUV and the very CX-9 mid-size seven-passenger crossover being reviewed here. Together with the usual assortment of high-end features included in any given brand’s best equipped models, Signature trim includes such niceties as 19- to 20-inch alloy wheels, a powered steering column, a surround parking camera, front parking sensors to go along with the rear parking sensors already added, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and more depending on the model. Making it look and feel like it’s from a premium brand, not to mention a higher trim level from that premium brand, Mazda makes it even nicer by adding supple Nappa leather upholstery as well as real hardwood trim, my CX-9 Signature tester featuring Santos Rosewood on the centre console and all the door switchgear panels, front and rear.

Additionally, cloth-covered roof pillars are pulled up from lesser trims, while Mazda also boasts more pliable, padded premium surfaces than the majority of mainstream volume rivals, even in models not providing Signature trim lines like the recently redesigned Mazda3, making the independent automaker’s levels of refinement surprisingly good to those not yet initiated.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
How’s this for a big, imposing luxury brand grille?

The CX-9 Signature shown here is as near premium as mainstream volume carmakers get. The multi-tiered dash is completely covered in padded leatherette that extends around to the door uppers front to rear. What’s more, the soft upper section of the instrument panel and harder lower composite panels are divided by a beautifully detailed metallic inlay that really feels genuine, this extending visually to the corner vents as well, plus the side door panels.

Thanks to my tester’s available Snowflake White Pearl exterior paint, it came standard with gorgeous Chroma Brown Nappa leather upholstery that also visually extends to the instrument panel, lower console and door inserts. It feels ultra rich on those doors thanks to a thick memory foam underlay, while a similar brown colour gets used for the thread stitching the leather-wrapped steering wheel and armrests together.

Piano black lacquer can be found inside too, but only in tastefully small applications around the shift lever and the doors’ power window switch panels, while the power mirror toggle is nicely detailed out in knurled aluminum like the infotainment system dial on the lower console. Plenty of satin-finish aluminum trim can be found through the cabin too, Mazda even coating the power seat controls with a satin metallic surface treatment for a truly upscale look.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9 Signature doesn’t miss a beat, with LED headlamps, LED fog lights, and 20-inch alloys.

On the digital front, Mazda upgraded the primary gauge package in GT models and above for 2019. It looks like a regular three-dial cluster at first glance, but the centrally-mounted speedometer and two surrounding efficiency/range gauges are in fact part of a 7.0-inch colour display, this bookended by three analogue gauges to the left and right, including a tachometer, temperature readout and fuel gauge. This represents a big change over the previous 2016-2018 CX-9 gauge cluster, which included analogue gauges on the left and centre, plus a colour multi-info display on the right. Now the multi-info display is housed within the circular digital speedometer, and provides a whole host of helpful features.

Improving on the new gauge cluster is a head-up display unit that projects key info onto the windscreen, even including a speed limit reminder that I really appreciated.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The LED taillight detailing is gorgeous.

Over at dash centre is an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with nice, attractive, high-resolution graphics. The display itself is a fixed, upright tablet-like design as seen on the CX-9 and other Mazda models for years. Premium brands first made this design popular and Mazda was one of the first mainstream marques to adopt it, while it’s only just starting to catch on amongst volume-branded challengers. My test model’s infotainment system featured an impressive new double-screen parking camera with the usual rearview monitor as well as a superb 360-degree bird’s-eye view, making negotiating a tight parking spot especially easy when combined with its front and rear sonar system.

Also new for 2019 is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link data services with information on real-time traffic, weather conditions, fuel prices, and sports scores, while the infotainment system also includes navigation with detailed mapping, excellent 12-speaker Bose audio with Centerpoint surround sound and AudioPilot noise compensation technologies, plus SurroundStage signal processing, HD and satellite radio, voice activation, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, text message reading and response capability, plus more.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The brownish-red on black interior is a nice touch.

An infotainment feature that sets Mazda apart from its mainstream competitors yet aligns it with pricier luxury branded alternatives is its lower console-mounted controller. It’s made up of a big metal-edged rotating dial that navigates the display, plus a smaller audio volume knob, and a bunch of fast-access buttons. Using this interface to modulate the infotainment system will be more comfortable than stretching an arm to the dash to actuate the touchscreen, at least for some users, but this said you can still use the touchscreen for smartphone-style tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures, the latter function perfect for changing the scale on the navigation system’s map, for instance.

As you may have noticed earlier, the CX-9 has been around in its current form since 2016 when Mazda introduced this second generation, which makes its premium levels of interior refinement even more amazing. You’ll actually need to sidle up beside the CX-9 Signature in the new 2020 Hyundai Palisade or Kia Telluride if you want to improve upon its rich interior (although I must confess to not yet testing the 2020 Toyota Highlander). Also notable, this current generation CX-9 is no longer based on the Ford Edge, but instead rides on Mazda’s SkyActiv platform.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9’s cabin design and execution is a cut above most competitors.

Made up of the mid-size SUV segment’s usual McPherson struts up front and multi-link setup in the rear with coil springs and a stabilizer bar at both ends, Mazda retuned it for 2019 to provide even better ride quality. Now it’s ideal for managing unkempt inner-city streets, overly large bridge expansion joints and otherwise poorly paved stretches of roadway elsewhere, while the latest CX-9 is also impressive on the open highway where its revised steering allows for better high-speed tracking.

Mazda’s dynamic pressure turbocharged SkyActiv-G 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine puts out ample passing power due to 250 horsepower, plus it gets up and goes quickly from standstill thanks to a whopping 320 lb-ft of torque. Understand that the CX-9 might look slim and stylish, but it’s in fact a sizeable seven-occupant crossover utility, but the highly efficient turbo-four nevertheless provides strong performance in town and more than enough when more open roads start winding. Sadly Mazda left steering wheel-mounted paddles off the menu, but the gear lever allowed for manual shifting when I wanted to extract as much performance from the powertrain as possible.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The new 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster puts the multi-information display within the speedometer at centre.

Interestingly, Mazda clearly specifies that the CX-9’s engine will only make full power when 93 octane gasoline or higher is fed into its tank, and knowing my colleagues all too well I’m going to guess that most use cheaper 87 octane when it comes time to refill. Therefore my tester was probably only making the 227 horsepower Mazda claims its capable of when lower grade gasoline is added, but it was still plenty quick. This may be because its impressive torque rating only loses 10 lb-ft without high-test fuel, and merely requires 2,000 rpm to provide full torque, so I personally wouldn’t waste any money on pricier fuel.

A metal rocker switch next to the shift lever allows for Sport mode, which improves acceleration due to the six-speed transmission’s ability to hold a given gear right up to redline, plus it won’t automatically shift when it spins up to the solid red line at 6,300 rpm, but instead holds its gear for more control through corners. This is a very rare feature in this mostly practical market segment, and therefore provides the CX-9 with more excitement than its rivals, despite only using a six-speed autobox. Together with its agile suspension setup, notably upgraded for 2019, and its fairly direct feeling engine-speed-sensing variable power-assist rack-and-pinion steering system, which collectively iron out tight curving roadways impressively, it’s a very well sorted SUV.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
New for 2019, a surround view parking monitor is available.

G-Vectoring Control technology carries over from the previous CX-9, the technology seamlessly moving more torque to the front wheels during corner entry and then sending it rearward when exiting. To most it will be imperceptible, only adding stability that’s especially welcome amid inclement weather like the rainstorm I experienced during my test week. This is when I was also glad Mazda makes its i-Activ AWD system standard in trims above the base GS model, putting all of my Signature model’s 255/50R20 all-season tires to work.

All-wheel drive will be standard next year, so Mazda won’t be able to claim its current FWD model’s most efficient 10.6 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 9.6 combined fuel economy rating. The AWD CX-9’s fuel economy is rated at 11.6, 9.1 and 10.5 respectively, incidentally, which despite making significantly more than the Kia Sorento is nearly as efficient by comparison, the Korean SUV achieving 11.2 in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 10.2 combined, whereas the V6-powered Highlander somehow gets a Transport Canada rating of 12.1 L/100km city, 9.0 highway and 10.6 combined.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
That’s real rosewood around the lower console.

Igniting the CX-9’s engine only requires the press of a dash-mounted button, while access to the interior comes via proximity-sensing keyless entry. You’ll need to press on of the less than subtle black buttons on the front door handles to make the system work, and take note that Mazda hasn’t added a set of these buttons to the rear door handles like some others, but I must say that once inside the CX-9’s driver ergonomics are better than many of its competitors. The 10-way powered driver’s seat includes the usual fore, aft, up, down, tilt and recline functions, plus two-way powered lumbar support that actually pressed up against the small of my back perfectly (what luck!), but you might want to personally check this feature out for yourself. All said my tester proved wonderfully comfortable throughout my test week, with some of that credit needing to go to the powered tilt and telescopic steering column’s long reach.

Sitting behind my driver’s seat I found the second row window seat roomy, comfortable and supportive all-round. A wide centre armrest folds down when three abreast is a crowd in back, replete with a set of cupholders as per every other competitor in this segment, while the tri-zone automatic climate control system gets an attractive interface on the backside of the front console, featuring rocker switches for the previously noted three-way heated rear window seats.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Unlike its mainstream peers, but like many premium brands, the CX-9 provides this infotainment control interface.

The outboard second-row seats easily slide forward for ample access to the rearmost row, and while the third row offers a nice, comfortable set of backrests and lower cushions, there’s not much room for an average sized adult’s knees and feet unless the 60/40-split second row is pushed far enough forward that it’ll start feeling claustrophobic for its passengers. Thus the third row better used by smallish adults or children.

When that third row is in use there’s not much space for cargo, but nevertheless Mazda says that it’s good for 407-litre loads. I certainly never had need for the rearmost seats so I left them tucked away most of the time, which allowed for a very accommodating 1,082 litres (38.2 cu ft) of total cargo volume. The second row lies flat when required too, but being that it’s divided with a less than optimal 60/40 split it’s impossible to use the rear seat heater when stowing skis or other long items longitudinally. Better would be a centre pass-through or even more optimal 40/20/40 split-folding second row, but at least the CX-7 maxes its cargo capacity out at a sizeable 2,017 litres (71.2 cu ft) when all seats are lowered. The cargo area is properly finished as well, with carpeting protecting three-quarters of each sidewall, while a sturdy load floor can be lifted to expose a shallow carpeted storage compartment below.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
These Nappa leather-covered seats are ultra-comfortable.

Other notable storage areas include an overhead console sunglasses holder, a big open area ahead of the shift lever, a large bin below the front centre armrest, and lastly the glove box that’s quite large and lined with a nice velvet-like material. Yes, Mazda certainly goes all the way in dressing up its flagship SUV. 

Refinement in mind, Mazda stuffs all of the unseen areas with sound-deadening insulation, while the windshield and front windows use noise-isolating glass. The CX-9’s body is ultra-rigid too, while aforementioned improvements made to the steering and suspension systems help to eliminate unwanted noise while improving the SUV’s overall feeling of solidity. Everything from the way the CX-9’s doors close to its general driving dynamics make it seem like it should be badged by a luxury carmaker, while its very quiet inside too.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The second-row seats are comfortable and there’s plenty of room.

Peace of mind is important too, and to this end the CX-9 Signature provides one of the more advanced collections of active and passive safety gear available. Of course all the usual active and passive safety features are included, although these are supported with forward obstruction warning, Smart Brake Support and Smart City Brake Support autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, new seatbelt reminders on the second- and third-row seats, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and more.

Other premium-like features include an electric parking brake, a new frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, new power-folding door mirrors, a Homelink universal garage door opener, a revised overhead console with LED overhead and ambient lighting plus a better designed LED room lamp control switch, while its heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel with cross-stitched detailing is a wonderful way to wake up on a cold winter morning.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The third row is best left for kids.

Additionally, the previously noted driver’s seat includes memory, while the CX-9 Signature also adds an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with power lumbar, plus rear side window sunshades and more for only $51,500 (plus freight and fees), which is great value when put up beside luxury branded crossover SUVs with the same level of features, and just right when comparing volume-branded competitors with similar equipment. The only obvious feature void was the lack of a panoramic sunroof, the regular sized power moonroof overhead looking a bit too commonplace this day and age.

Speaking of the CX-9’s price and features, be sure to check out its various trims, packages and individual options at our 2019 Mazda CX-9 Canada Prices page, plus learn about available manufacturer rebates, in-house financing/leasing deals, and dealer invoice pricing to save even more. In fact you can get up to $2,500 in additional incentives on the 2019 CX-9 (at least you could at the time of writing), or up to $1,000 off when choosing the virtually identical 2020 CX-9.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
There’s plenty of cargo space when the third row is folded flat.

Saving what some will claim as the CX-9’s best attribute for last, its dramatic yet tasteful styling could easily come from a high-end premium automaker. The SUV’s satin-silver grille is big and oh-so dramatic, its lower half even including night illumination, while full LED headlamps with automatic high beams, adaptive cornering capability and auto self-levelling seem like extensions of the grille’s chromed end pieces. An aerodynamic lower front fascia features integrated LED fog lamps, while slim LED tail lamps highlight the SUV’s rear quarters, and elegant satin-chrome trim can be found from front to back. Overall, the CX-9 is one sleek and elegant looking mid-size, three-row crossover SUV, which certainly makes it stand out in its crowded segment, just in case its impressive luxury, host of features, excellent driving dynamics and complete suite of advanced driving assistive systems haven’t caused you to sign on the dotted line.

Yes, like I said at the beginning of this review, the CX-9 will make a good first impression if you give it a chance. I highly recommend it.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Hyundai gave last year’s Sonata a dramatic refresh with this attractive new grille, and the car carried forward identically into 2019. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata looks great from all angles, especially in sporty Ultimate trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The new Sonata makes a statement with its big grille, available LED headlights, vertically stacked LED fog lamps, and sporty 18-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
While not as large as some competitors, the Sonata Ultimate’s 18-inch alloys help this big sedan perform very well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
These attractive LED taillights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The top-line Sonata Ultimate interior is nicely finished and quite refined, but next year’s update is needed to keep it current. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Most should find the well laid out Sonata interior easy to operate and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Simple analogue instruments are enhanced by a good straightforward multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s centre stack provides a lot of hands-on functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The 8.0-inch centre display is high in resolution and filled with features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
This is one of the most supportive driver’s seats in the mid-size class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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). 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
This big panoramic sunroof adds a lot of light front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
A large back seating area provides good comfort and available amenities like seat heaters, side sunshades, and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s big trunk can be expanded upon by the mid-size segment’s usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

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. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay