CarCostCanada

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4 Road Test

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Ford’s Ranger is a great looking new entry into Canada’s mid-size pickup truck segment, especially in XLT SuperCrew 4×4 trim.

Exactly why Ford chose to offer this fabulous mid-size truck in nearly every other market than Canada and the U.S. for eight years before bringing it here is difficult to surmise, but rather than beat them up for handing their previous lead in this market segment off to competitors like Toyota’s Tacoma and General Motors’ Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, let’s celebrate that Dearborn’s decision makers finally came to their senses.

They’re not alone after all, the powers that be in Auburn Hills still waffling on whether or not to bring back the once class-leading Dakota (it was supposed to be here by now, but crickets). Maybe the final decision is stuck in Fiat’s Turin sede centrale or possibly les bonnes gens du Groupe PSA— Citroën, DS, Peugeot et Vauxhall-Opel—in Rueil-Malmaison), the leadership of semi-domestic automaker having been in regular flux, but either way the Ram Dakota seems to be a no-brainer, while on the other hand Nissan’s 16 year-old Frontier is an automotive zombie that should’ve mercifully been put down or replaced a decade ago.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
This beefy new Ranger 4×4 is fully capable off-road.

Despite Nissan trudging along in the mid-size pickup segment during all the years Ford escaped (the Frontier still sells better than Honda’s Ridgeline, which is a sad testament to its Japanese rival), the two automakers actually share similar short-term small truck histories. Two years after Ford killed its then 14-year old third-generation compact Ranger in its domestic market in 2012, and introduced the current third-gen T6 to international buyers in 2011, Nissan offered up a redesigned Navarro to international customers. That attractive model was good enough to serve as the base for Mercedes-Benz’s now-defunct X-Class pickup as well as Renault’s Alaskan (not to mention Dongfeng’s oddly named Rich 6), but for some reason Nissan’s North American operations couldn’t figure out a way to bring it here, and alas they’ve been marginalized out of contention.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Rugged skid plates help protect the Ranger’s underbelly.

Nissan and its Frontier don’t have anywhere near the name brand recognition, marketing clout, or dealership real estate to relaunch a new small truck, whereas Ford had unwittingly built up an army of ready and willing loyalists that quickly pushed the 2019 Ranger into high volume Canadian sales of 6,603 units, slotting into third place after the Tacoma that managed 12,536 deliveries throughout calendar year 2019, and the Colorado with 8,531 (when GM’s Chevy and GMC sales are combined it was number one with 14,067 units down the road last year. That’s pretty decent for its first year (and a partial-year at that), boding well for even greater future success.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Nice details give the Ranger a premium appearance.

It also says a lot for the truck’s initial design. After all, it’s no spring chicken, having arrived on international markets nine years ago and only undergoing a refresh for last year’s introduction. Compare this to the full-size F-150, which probably gets more updates than any other model in Ford’s lineup, plus trim levels and special editions infinitum, and the Ranger’s initial showing on 2019’s sales charts is pretty impressive (although it has a long way to go before nudging the F-Series off its top pedestal that saw 145,210 examples delivered in 2019). Even both GM trucks couldn’t touch that (they totaled 94,683 units), just barely passing Ram’s 89,593-unit pickup total.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Exterior finishing is very good.

The new Ranger fits into the mid-size pickup truck segment ideally, being that it’s quite a bit larger than the old compact version and significantly smaller than the F-150. By the numbers, the 2020 F-150 SuperCab 4×4 with its 6.5-foot box is 536 mm (21.1 in) longer with 462 mm (18.2 in) more wheelbase, plus 167 mm (6.6 in) wider, and about 155 mm (6.1 in) taller than a similarly optioned 2020 Ranger SuperCab 4×4, whereas the F-150 SuperCrew is a whole lot bigger.

Specifically, the Ranger is 5,354 mm (210.8 in) long with a 3,221-mm (126.8-in) wheelbase, 1,862 mm (73.3 in) wide (without mirrors), and 1,806 or 1,816 mm (71.1 or 71.5 in) tall for the SuperCab or SuperCrew, which makes it slightly shorter than the aforementioned Tacoma (and much shorter than the long-wheelbase Toyota), while its also narrower and a smidge taller.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Ranger XLT’s cabin isn’t luxurious, but it’s executed well and filled with features.

As noted, the Ranger received an international mid-cycle update for 2019, which included a new 2.3-litre turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a SelectShift 10-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment, good for 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.

My tester was in XLT SuperCrew 4×4 trim and attractive Lightning Blue paint, which when combined with an available Sport Appearance package and FX4 Off-Road package, looked great, if not as ruggedly handsome as the Ranger Wildtrak if first saw in Asia, and the newer international-spec Ranger Raptor I’ve only seen in celluloid form (and hopefully here at some point in the near future).

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The cockpit is well laid out with all features coming easily to hand (and feet).

The domestic-market Sport Appearance package includes a darker grille surround and Magnetic-Painted (dark-grey) 17-inch alloys, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. Power-folding side mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are included too, with the latter two also part of the 302A package, while a Bed Utility package adds a drop-in bedliner and 12-volt in-bed power adaptor, and the FX4 package provided my tester’s stylish red and grey/black decals to the rear corners of the box.

There’s quite a bit more to the FX4 package than two decals, like uniquely tuned off-road monotube shocks, tough 265/56 Hankook Dynapro AT-M tires, an electronically locking rear differential, Trail Control that allows you to set a given speed between 1 and 30 km/h to crawl over rugged terrain via throttle and brake management, and a Terrain Management System that, via Grass, Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, or Sand settings, utilizes the Ranger’s many off-road technologies to lay waste to all types of trails, from light-duty to extreme. What’s more, the FX4 package features a steel front bash plate under the front bumper, and skid plates covering the electric power steering system, transfer case, and fuel tank. Finally, the FX4 package provides pitch, roll and steering angle monitoring from the driver’s seat.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The gauge cluster is attractive and includes one of the segment’s better multi-info displays.

Unlike some 4x4s, setting the Ranger’s high/low gearing ratios requires no tugging on secondary shift levers, but rather only needs the subtle twist of a rotating dial on the lower console next to the shift lever. When set to its most capable off-road setting, you shouldn’t have any problem overcoming all types of rocks, roots and what-have-you, thanks to 226 mm (8.9 inches) of ground clearance, plus approach and departure angles equalling 28.7 and 25.4 degrees. For reference, the Tacoma offers more ground clearance at 239 mm (9.4 in), while its approach/departure angles range from 29 or 32 degrees up front to 23 degrees in back.

The Ranger’s generous suspension travel provides a comfortable ride for a truck, and I must admit it felt quite good through high-speed corners too, within reason. Even better, the new Ranger’s powertrain is really fun to dig your right foot into, and the 10-speed gearbox (with more forward speeds than any competitor) was plenty smooth and quick shifting, even providing a rocker switch on the side of the shift knob for flicking through the gears manually.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment interface has aged gracefully.

If things are sounding sporty, that wasn’t by accident. Ford increases performance further via a Sport setting that allows the engine’s revs to rise higher between shifts, while the transmission even holds onto a given gear when the engine arrives at redline, welcomingly unusual.

Helping add to that sporty feeling through corners, plus improving at-the-limit safety, Ford utilizes Curve Control for detecting when a driver enters a curve too quickly, and then makes automatic adjustments to the Ranger’s speed by lowering engine torque, adding braking power, and increasing the stability control function.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Performance is a Ranger highlight, with the shifter even including a manual-mode rocker switch.

Along with that easy-going ride I spoke of a moment ago, my Ranger XLT 4×4 tester provided good comfort and sizeable cabin space from front to rear. The SuperCrew cab is the Ranger’s largest, and features regular front-hinged doors in back, plus additional rear legroom than the smaller base SuperCab model. Both configurations are available in XL and XLT trims, while the top-line Lariat is only offered as a SuperCrew.

The base SuperCab body style includes a longer six-foot bed, while my SuperCrew tester had a shorter five-foot bed. The Ranger is good for 707 kilos (1,560 lbs) of payload too, which is considerably better than the Tacoma’s 425- to 520-kg (937- to 1,146-lb) payload maximum. This same scenario plays out for towing capacity as well, with the Ranger capable of 7,500 lbs (3,402 kg) of trailer compared to the Toyota’s 502-kg (1,107-lb) rating. Trailer sway control is standard with the Ranger, too.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Ranger’s seats are comfortable and supportive.

Without a trailer in tow, and being mindful of your right foot it’s possible to achieve a class-leading fuel economy rating of 11.8 L/100km in the city, 9.8 on the highway and 10.9 combined, this partially thanks to standard auto start-stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling.

The base Ranger XL SuperCab starts at $32,159, by the way, plus freight and fees of course, which makes it $1,090 pricier than the same model last year, while the XLT SuperCab now starts at $36,529. The as-tested XLT SuperCrew sees an increase of $890 since last year for a new price of $38,329, while the top-line Lariat SuperCrew only goes up by $230 for a new price of $42,619.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Rear seating is accommodating for the class.

To learn about factory leasing and financing rates from 0.99 percent on 2020 Rangers and up to $4,000 in additional incentives for 2019 models, check out their respective CarCostCanada pricing pages, plus be sure to learn about all of CarCostCanada’s features before talking to your local Ford retailer. Along with financing and leasing rates, you can also find out about available manufacturer rebates, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Remember to download our free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store too, allowing you to access all of this valuable info anytime and anywhere.

As for features, the 2020 Ranger Lariat adds more chrome detailing to the exterior, plus LED headlamps, front parking sensors (to the rear sensors already on the XLT), proximity-sensing entry, pushbutton start/stop, illuminated vanity mirrors, a universal remote, three-way heatable front seats with eight-way powered adjustment, leather upholstery, and more.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The rear seat flips up to store gear in back.

Yet unmentioned features on the XLT include 17-inch alloys (instead of the 16-inch steel wheels found on the base XL model), fog lamps, carpeting and carpeted floor mats (the base truck gets rubber flooring), a six-speaker stereo, automatic high beams, lane keep assist, plus more, while you can add a Technology package featuring a navigation system and adaptive cruise control.

Finally, the base XL includes auto on/off headlamps, a four-speaker audio system, a USB charging port, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, a capless fuel filler, and a pre-collision system that includes automatic emergency braking along with blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Need to haul a load? The Ranger’s standard payload and tow ratings are impressive.

Although my Ranger XLT test model was only a mid-range offering, it was nicely finished inside and well-constructed. The seat and armrest upholstery was a nice woven black cloth with creamy-grey contrast stitching for a sporty effect, while interior trim included the usual assortment of brushed and bright metallic surfaces, but no padded soft-touch synthetics.

The front seats are comfortable, with the driver’s featuring two-way power lumbar support that fit the small of my back nicely, while I found my XLT’s driving position good due to plenty of reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column. The steering wheel gets a comfortably soft leather-wrapped rim, and all interior controls were within easy reach. s

The Ranger’s instrument cluster is mostly analogue with nicely backlit needles and indices, the former sporting an attractive aqua-blue colour for dramatic effect, while a full-colour, high-resolution 4.2-inch multi-information display is more advanced than the majority of Ford’s competitors.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Ranger’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo-four really gets up and goes, while its 10-speed auto helps eke out class-leading fuel economy.

The just-noted gauge cluster needles match up with the sky-blue background of Ford’s 8.0-inch Sync 3 centre touchscreen nicely, this upgraded system coming standard in XLT and Lariat trims. While this system has been on the market for many years, it’s still a good-looking layout that works well. It even includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus loads of audio features including satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, while my tester featured an accurate navigation system, as well as XM travel link, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, and a backup camera with active guidelines.

Looking rearward, my Ranger SuperCrew tester’s rear bench seat was plenty spacious and adequately comfortable, particularly in the outboard positions, but it didn’t include the types of features I expected to see, not even rear air vents. XLT and Lariat buyers can expect two USB-A charge ports on the backside of the front centre console, as well as a convenient 110-volt household-style power outlet.

The Ranger is devoid of those handy integrated bumper steps found on GM trucks, that are really useful for climbing up on the bed, but fortunately my test model featured a kick-down step from Ford’s accessories catalogue that worked very well.

All in all, I really like Ford’s new Ranger. It looks good and comes across as a rugged, well-made mid-size truck. Its cabin is roomy and comfortable, includes very good electronics, and it’s really fun to drive. Ford should start offering some higher priced trim levels to compete with the Tacoma’s Limited, for instance, not to mention bring us the aforementioned Ranger Raptor that could go head-to-head with the Tacoma TRD Pro and Colorado ZR2. Even now, however, the Ranger’s three trim levels offer a lot of variety with competitive pricing, and should do even better on the sales charts as would-be buyers learn about their availability.

Review and photos: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition Road Test

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The new 2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition is one of the model’s most off-road-capable trims.

Want to drive an icon? Or maybe you’re just satisfied with a car-based crossover that’s little more than a tall station wagon with muscled-up, matte-black fender flares? I thought not. You wouldn’t be here if you merely wanted a grocery-getter, unless those groceries happen to necessitate a fly rod or hunting rifle to acquire.

Toyota’s 4Runner is idea for such excursions, and makes a good family shuttle too. I’d call it a good compromise between city slicker and rugged outdoorsman, but it’s so amazingly capable off-road it feels like you’re not compromising anything at all, despite having such a well put together interior, complete with high-end electronics and room to spare.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The Venture Edition gets all of Toyota’s 4×4 tech and fewer luxury items to keep its price more competitive.

To be clear, I’m not trying to say the 4Runner is the most technically advanced 4×4 around, because it’s actually somewhat of a throwback when it comes to mechanicals. Under the hood is Toyota’s tried and true 4.0-litre V6 that’s made 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque since 2010, when this particular 4Runner generation arrived on the scene. That engine was merely an update of a less potent version of the same mill, which was eight years old at the time. The five-speed automatic it’s still joined up with hails from 2004, so mechanically the 4Runner is more about wholly proven reliability than leading edge sophistication, resulting in one of the more dependable 4x4s currently available, as well as best in the “Mid-size Crossover/SUV” class resale value according to The Canadian Black Book’s 2019 evaluation. Still, while the 4Runner might seem like a blast to the past when it comes to mechanicals, this ends as soon as we start talking about off-road technologies.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Despite its trail credentials, all 4Runners provide a fairly smooth, comfortable ride.

I’m not talking about the classic second shift lever that sits next to the auto shifter on the lower centre console, this less advanced than most other 4x4s on the market that simply need the twist of a dash- or console-mounted dial to engage their four-wheel drive systems’ low ratio gears. The 4Runner’s completely mechanical setup first takes a tug rearward to shift it from H2 (rear-wheel drive) to H4 (four-wheel drive, high), which gives the SUV more traction in inclement weather or while driving on gravel roads, but doesn’t affect the speed at which you can travel. You’ll need to push the same lever to the right and then forward in a reverse J-pattern when wanting to venture into the wild yonder, this engaging its 4L (four-wheel drive, low) ratio, thus reducing its top speed to a fast crawl yet making it near invincible to almost any kind of terrain thrown at it.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The 2021 4Runner gets standard LED headlamps and beefier off-road rubber on some 4×4-focused models.

My test trail of choice featured some deeply rutted paths of dried mud, lots of soft, slippery sand, and plenty of loose rock and gravel, depending on the portion of my short trek. For overcoming such obstacles, Toyota provides its Active Trac (A-TRAC) brake lock differential that slows a given wheel when spinning and then redirects engine torque to a wheel with traction, while simultaneously locking the electronic rear differential. The controls for this function can be found in the overhead console, which also features a dial for engaging Crawl Control that maintains a steady speed without the need to have your right foot on the gas pedal. This means you’re free to “stand” up in order to see over crests or around trees that would otherwise be in your way. Crawl Control offers five throttle speeds, while also applying brake pressure to maintain its chosen speed while going downhill.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The Venture Edition gets these robust steel side steps as standard, which offer a lift up to the tall seating positions, but be sure to watch your shins.

Moving up the 4×4 sophistication ladder is the 4Runner’s Multi-Terrain Select system, which can be dialed into one of four off-road driving modes that range from “LIGHT” to “HEAVY” including “Mud, Sand, Dirt”, “Loose Rock”, “Mogul”, and “Rock”. Only the lightest mud, sand and dirt setting can be used in H4, with the three others requiring a shift to L4.

Fancy electronics aside, the 4Runner is able to overcome such obstacles due to 244 millimeters (9.6 inches) of ground clearance and 33/26-degree approach/departure angles, while I also found its standard Hill Start Assist Control system is as helpful when taking off from steep inclines when off-pavement as it is on the road. In the event you get hung up on something underneath, take some confidence in the knowledge that heavy-duty skid plates will protect the engine, front suspension and transfer case from damage.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
This handy cargo basket adds versatility until you need to park the 4Runner in some covered garages.

While I personally experienced no problem when it came to ground clearance, my Venture Edition tester came with a set of standard Predator side steps that could get in the way of protruding rocks, stumps or even crests. They hang particularly low, and while helpful when climbing inside (albeit watch your shins), might play interference.

For $55,390 plus freight and fees, the Venture Edition also includes blacked out side mirrors, door handles (that also include proximity-sensing access buttons), a rooftop spoiler, a windshield wiper de-icer, mudguards, and special exterior badges. Inside, all-weather floor mats join an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink garage door remote controls, a powered glass sunroof, a front and a rear seating area USB port, a household-style 120-volt power outlet in the cargo area, active front headrests, eight airbags, and Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of advanced driver assistance systems, including an automatic Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Options not already mentioned include a sliding rear cargo deck with an under-floor storage compartment.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Fit and finish quality is evident in the 4Runner’s well organized cabin, while some surfaces are padded and stitched as well.

The Venture Edition also features an awesome looking Yakima MegaWarrior Rooftop Basket, which allows for extra cargo carrying capacity on top of the SUV. While really useful for camping trips and the like, it’s tall and can make parking in urban garages a bit tight to say the least. In fact, you may not be able to park in some closed cover parking lots due to height restrictions, the basket increasing the already tall 4Runner Venture Edition’s ride height by 193 mm (7.6 in) from 1,816 mm (71.5 in) to 2,009 mm (79.09 in). The basket itself measures 1,321 millimetres (52 inches) long, 1,219 mm (48 in) wide, and 165 mm (6.5 in) high, so it really is a useful cargo hold when heading out on a long haul.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Some nice pewter-coloured inlays, plus glossy metallic black and even carbon-like surfaces, dress up the dash, console and door panels.

Heading out on the highway in mind, my Venture Edition tester’s 17-inch TRD alloys and 265/70 Bridgestone Dueller H/T mud-and-snow tires did as good a job of managing off-road terrain as they held to the pavement, making them a good compromise for both scenarios. In such situations you’ll no doubt appreciate another standard Venture Edition feature, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that reduces body lean by up to 50 percent at high speed. This is important in a body-on-frame SUV that’s primarily designed for off-road, and thus comes with lots of wheel travel and a relatively soft suspension that’s easy on the backside through rough terrain. It’s a heavy beast too, weighing in at 2,155 kg (4,750 lbs), so KDSS really makes a difference on the highway, especially when the road gets twisty and you want to keep up with (and even exceed) the flow of traffic. It’s actually pretty capable through curves thanks to an independent double-wishbone front suspension and a four-link rear setup, plus stabilizer bars at both ends, but don’t expect it to stand on its head like Thatcher Demko did on the Canuck’s recent Vegas Golden Knights’ playoff run, or you’ll likely be hung upside down like the rest of the Vancouver team were when physicality overcame reality.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Not the most technologically advanced gauge cluster in the industry, but the 4Runner’s is certainly one of the easiest to see in all lighting conditions.

Physicality in mind, the 4Runner’s powered driver seat was very comfortable during my weeklong test, even when off-road. I was able to adjust the seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel to a near ideal position for my somewhat oddly proportioned long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, allowing comfortable yet fully controlled operation, which hasn’t always been the case in every Toyota product, and some other brands’ I should add.

It’s also comforting its other four seats, the Venture Edition standard for five occupants while other 4Runner trims offer three rows and up to seven passengers. I’ve tested the latter before, and let’s just say they’re best left to kids or very small adults, although this five-seat model provides plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and head room in every position.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The 4Runner’s centre stack is well designed with high-quality switchgear and an excellent new infotainment system.

Even without the noted basket on top, the 4Runner provides 1,336 litres (47.2 cu ft) of cargo space behind its second row of seats, which I found more than ample for carrying all my gear. I tested it during the summer so didn’t find reason to use the 20-percent centre pass-through portion of its ultra-handy 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, but this would be a dealmaker for me and my family due to our penchant for skiing. When all three sections of the rear seat are lowered the 4Runner offers up to 2,540 litres (89.7 cu ft) of max storage, which again is very good, while the weight of said payload can be up to 737 kg (1,625 lbs). Also important in this class, all 4Runners can manage trailers up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) and come standard with a receiver hitch and wiring harness with four- and seven-pin connectors.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Upgraded 2020 4Runner infotainment now includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and plenty of other useful features.

You won’t be able to achieve the 4Runner’s claimed 14.8 L/100km city fuel economy rating when fully loaded with gear and trailer, mind you, or for that matter its 12.5 L/100km highway rating or 13.8 combined estimate. My tester was empty other than yours truly and sometimes one additional passenger, so I had no problem matching its potential efficiency when going light on the throttle and traveling over mostly flat, paved terrain in 2H (two-wheel drive, high). If it seems thirsty to you, consider that it only uses regular fuel and will give you back much of its fuel costs in its aforementioned resale/residual value when it comes time to sell, as well as dependability when out of warranty.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The little knob behind the main shift lever is for selecting 4H and 4L.

One of the reasons the 4Runner holds its value is lack of change, although Toyota wholly improved this 2020 model’s infotainment system for a much better user experience and lots of advanced features. The 8.0-inch touchscreen incorporates Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and more, while I found its Dynamic Navigation with detailed mapping very accurate. The stock audio system decent as well, standard satellite radio providing the depth of music variety I enjoy (I’m a bit eclectic when it comes to tunes), while the backup camera only offers stationary “projected path” graphic indicators to show the way, but the rear parking sensors made up for this big time. Additional infotainment functions include Bluetooth phone connectivity, a helpful weather page, traffic condition info and apps, meaning that it really lacks nothing you’ll need.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Most of Toyota’s high-tech 4×4 functions can be controlled via this overhead console.

The primary instruments are somewhat more dated in appearances and functionality, but they still do the job. The Optitron analogue dials offer backlit brightness for easily legibility no matter the outside lighting conditions, and the multi-information display in the middle includes the usual assortment of useful features.

My 4Runner Venture Edition interior’s fit, finish and general materials quality was actually better than I expected, leaving me pleasantly surprised. All of its switchgear felt good, even the large dash-mounted knobs, which previously felt too light and generally substandard, are now more solid and robust. Tolerances are tight for the other buttons and switches too, and therefore should satisfy any past 4Runner owner.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The front seats are comfortable and driver’s seating position very good.

The overall look of the dash and door panels is rectangular, matching the SUV’s boxy exterior style. That will probably be seen as a good thing by most traditionalists, its utilitarian appeal appreciated by yours truly, at least. I was surprised to see faux carbon fibre-style trim on the lower console, and found the dark glossy metallic grey surfacing chosen for the centre stack, dash trim and door panel accents better than shiny piano black plastic when it comes to reducing dust and scratches. Padded and red stitched leatherette gets added to the front two-thirds of those door panels, by the way, the same material as used for the side and centre armrests, while Toyota adds the red thread to the SofTex-upholstered seat side bolsters too, not to mention some flashy red “TRD” embroidery on the front headrests. Again, I think most 4Runner fans should find this Venture Edition plenty luxurious, unless they’re stepping out of a fully loaded Limited model.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Rear seat roominess in this two-row 4Runner is excellent.

Being that we’re so close to the 2021 model arriving, take note it will arrive with standard LED headlamps, LED fog lights, and special Lunar Rock exterior paint, while new black TRD alloys will soon get wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler A/T tires for better off-road traction. Additionally, Toyota has retuned the 2021 model’s dampers to improve isolation when on the trail. Word has it a completely new 4Runner is on the way for 2022, so keep this in mind when purchasing this 2020 or one of the upgraded 2021 models.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Cargo space? No problem. The centre pass-through makes the 4Runner ultra-convenient.

Also worthwhile to keep in mind is Toyota factory leasing and financing on this 2020 4Runner from 3.99 percent, or zero-percent factory leasing and financing on 2019 models if you can locate one. Check out 2019 and 2020 Toyota 4Runner Canada Prices pages to find out more, and remember that a CarCostCanada membership won’t only notify you of available financing and leasing rates, but also provides available rebate information as well as all-important dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating your next new vehicle purchase. Download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Store to make sure you have all this critical info available whenever you need it. After all, why should you pay more if you don’t have to?

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport Road Test

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The Genesis G80 still provides a lot of style despite its years.

A perfect storm? Two issues are causing mayhem in the automotive sector this year, the first being a Canadian economy that started slowing last year, and the second more obvious problem being the current health crisis that has put so many out of work, resulting in plenty of 2019 model year vehicles still available more than halfway into 2020. Such is the case for the 2019 G80, which fortunately for you didn’t change much when moving into the newer model year.

In fact, the G80 didn’t change a heck of a lot from its previous Hyundai Genesis Sedan days, back in model years 2015 and 2016, to the four-door mid-size luxury sedan that came for the 2017 model year and the one we have now, other than some very minor styling tweaks and the addition of the mid-range turbocharged V6 being tested here. The new powerplant gives the G80 a three-engine lineup, which is exactly one for each of its three trims. Base Technology trim gets a naturally aspirated 3.8-litre V6 good for 311 horsepower and 293 lb-ft of torque, this Sport model receives a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 capable of 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, and the top-line G80 Ultimate goes quickest thanks to a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 that puts out 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. All utilize an eight-speed automatic and each comes standard with all-wheel drive, so finding traction off the line is no problem at all.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s rear styling is reminiscent of some Hyundai models, particularly the previous generation Sonata.

Specs aside, the G80 is an excellent example of modern engineering done well, as are all Genesis models. It can easily keep up with its German, domestic and Japanese rivals, while it’s also attractive, impressively refined with nicely finished materials inside, filled with tech, convenience and luxury features, and wholly deserving of being slotted alongside the Mercedes E-Class/CLS-Class, BMW 5/6 Series, Audi A6/A7, Lexus GS, and other luxury-branded mid-size E-segment sedans. The only negatives worth interjecting include a lack of heritage, which was also true of entries from Lexus, Acura and Infiniti in their early days, and the model’s age. As it is, the G80 is well into six model years, which is a slightly lengthier stint than average in this class or any, but being that there aren’t too many on the road it still appears fairly fresh, plus it doesn’t hurt that its design was great looking from onset.

Model year 2021 will see an all-new G80, which looks fabulous thanks to an even more eye-catching version of the G90’s brilliant-cut diamond-shaped grille and plenty of styling cues from the intriguing new GV80 mid-size luxury crossover, so therefore mid-size luxury sedan buyers wanting to take advantage of any deals available on 2019 or 2020 models should act quickly.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
A big, bold grille, sporty lower fascia, LED headlamps, 19-inch alloys… all the trappings of a mid-size luxury sport sedan.

The only changes from 2019 to 2020 was to the centre stack, the CD player being removed for some reason. It’s an odd update for a car that will only be around for one year, but it is what it is, and thus the newer model will be more appealing to those who consider CDs antiquated, and less so for those who still appreciate this format’s better sound quality (than mp3s).

This means the rest of the 2020 G80 is exactly the same as the outgoing 2019 model, which as noted is hardly a bad situation. Making either model better are factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. You can find out all about it on our 2019 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page or our 2020 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page, and while you’re there check out our configuration tool that allows you to build either car out in detail. A CarCostCanada membership will provide you with leasing and financing deal information for other models as well, plus manufacturer incentives including rebates, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands. Learn how it works now, and also enjoy the convenience of our free CarCostCanada app, downloadable from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
LED taillights come standard.

Google and Apple in mind, Android Auto and CarPlay smartphone integration comes with every 2019 and 2020 G80, that aforementioned Technology model starting at $58,000 and including LED DRLs and taillights, 18-inch alloys, proximity keyless access with a hands-free power-opening/closing trunk, genuine open-pore hardwood interior trim, a heatable steering wheel, power-adjustable tilt/telescopic steering, a 7.0-inch colour multi-info display/digital gauge package, a head-up display, a large 9.2-inch centre touchscreen, navigation, 17-speaker audio, an auto-dimming centre mirror, LED interior lighting, a big panoramic moonroof, a 16-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a 12-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, Nappa leather upholstery, heated front and rear outboard seats, cooled front seats, and a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, lane change assist, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and driver attention alert.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80 Sport’s two-tone interior is really eye-catching.

Both $62,000 Sport and $65,000 Ultimate trims replace the base model’s bi-xenon headlamps with full LEDs, while also adding 19-inch alloys, a microsuede headliner, and a credit card-style remote key fob, while exclusive to the Sport is a unique set of 16-way powered front Sport seats that were especially comfortable and wonderfully supportive to the lower back as well as under the knees, the former benefiting from four-way powered lumbar support adjustment, and the latter getting a power-extendable bottom cushion.

My tester featured a duo-tone light grey and charcoal black interior colour combo that was really nice looking, the two shades divided by stunning carbon-fibre glossy trim across the instrument panel and on the upper door sections, while a tasteful supply of brushed aluminum highlights added bling to key surfaces throughout the interior. Genesis even drilled out the aluminum Lexicon speaker grilles with a cool geometric design, while all of the various buttons, knobs and switches give the G80 a sense of occasion. There’s no shortage of soft-touch composites and leathers either, the Nappa leather seat upholstery particularly plush, resulting in a very refined, upscale environment.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The carbon-fibre trim really suits this sportier trim line.

While it might be hard to find hard plastics in the new G80, it’s not exactly the most advanced when it comes to digital displays. It was certainly up to speed six or so years ago, but massive advancements in high-definition, fully digital gauge clusters and widescreen centre displays have made this otherwise beautiful cabin seem a bit dated compared to most rivals. The new 2021 G80 will take care of this problem, so tech fans may want to wait, but those who don’t care about the latest gadgets will likely be fine with the current model’s mostly analogue gauge package, which is highly visible in all lighting conditions, plenty colourful at centre, and fully functional, while the previously noted head-up display was wonderfully useful and plenty advanced.

The centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen is up to task too, providing an attractive graphical display for the superb Lexicon stereo noted before, not to mention the advanced parking camera with active guidelines, 360 degrees of overhead views, and various closeup angles. While the climate control system needs to be actuated via a separate interface below, when choosing a given setting, a simulated cabin graphic shows individual temperatures on the main screen, which is pretty cool.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
Maybe not the most electronically advanced car in its class, but the G80 is certainly comfortable.

Amid the various knobs and buttons on the just-noted HVAC interface, an attractive square analogue clock provides a level of elegance that Genesis won’t be carrying over to the 2021 G80, unfortunately, while the CD changer in the similarly styled audio panel just below has already been deleted as mentioned earlier. Genesis provides USB and aux connectors in a lidded compartment below these as part of the lower console, right next to a wireless device charger that ideally tilts towards both front occupants.

An overhead console hovers above with handy felt-lined sunglasses storage, plus LED reading and dome lamps, powered panoramic sunroof controls, the glass of which can be shaded by pushing forward on a secondary switch. That shade is wrapped in a super soft microsuede, just like the roof liner, both sun visors, and each of the G80’s roof pillars.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s gauge package isn’t quite as advanced as some rivals.

The mid-size Genesis’ driving position is inherently good, and made even better thanks to those previously noted sport seats, while those in back get an equally spacious compartment. After setting the driver’s seat up for my long-legged, short-torso, five-foot-eight body, I had approximately eight inches ahead of my knees, plenty of legroom, about four inches from the door panel to my shoulders and hips, plus three or so inches of headroom left over, which means the majority of folks should fit in back with room to spare.

As yet unmentioned rear seat goodies include LED reading lights overhead, separate HVAC vents with separate controls housed on the back of the front console, and a pair of particularly well-made magazine pockets on backsides of the front seats, which incidentally are very nicely finished with leather (or at least it looked like leather) from top to bottom. The rear door panels are just as nicely made as those in front, by the way, while the flip-down centre armrest gets dual cupholders, as is almost always the case, plus an unusual set of three-way seat heater controls. A metal clothes hook can be found on the backside of each B-pillar too, which I find very helpful when wanting to arrive at an event without creases in my jacket.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
Press a button on the climate control interface below the centre screen and individual temperature settings pop into view.

At 433 litres the G80’s trunk is quite sizeable too, but the back seats don’t fold down to accommodate longer cargo like most rivals. Still, you can stuff skis and the like into a centre pass-through, which almost makes up for the rear seats’ static status.

While the rear of the G80 is pretty well unchanged since inception, some trim details aside, the model received new headlights for 2018, plus a reworked lower front grille, slightly refreshed front and rear facias, new standard 18-inch alloys, new primary instruments, the gorgeous analogue clock and front speaker grilles mentioned before, and a new leather-wrapped, metal-clad shifter knob topping an even more impressive electronic eight-speed automatic transmission that replaced the older-tech mechanical eight-speed autobox.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
A new gearshift lever tops off an entirely new eight-speed electronic transmission.

A mere tap rearward puts it into Drive and equally light push forward engages Reverse, with the centre position reserved for neutral as one might expect. The unexpected was an electronic gearbox that’s as easy to slot into gear (or out of gear) as the old-school tranny was, which is not always the case for some (I’m talking to you, Chrysler 300). Like all electronic automatics you don’t need to select Park when shutting off the ignition, as pressing the dash-mounted Engine Start Stop button will do the same thing.

A drive mode selector can be found just aft of the shift lever, with Normal, Eco and Sport selections. Eco mode really retards throttle response, which went a long way to helping the hefty sedan achieve its as-tested Transport Canada fuel economy ratings of 13.8 L/100km city, 9.7 highway and 11.9 combined. The entry-level V6 achieves a 13.4, 9.6 and 11.7 rating respectively, whereas the V8 is thirstiest at a claimed 15.6 city, 10.4 highway and 13.2 combined.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
These 16-way sport seats are superb.

Sport mode makes a dramatic difference over the default Normal setting too, with even more satisfying results. The 3.3-litre twin-turbo’s 365 horsepower feels strong when pushed hard from takeoff, much due to each of the G80 Sport’s four 245/40R19 Continental all-season tires biting into pavement simultaneously via Genesis’ HTRAC all-wheel drive system, the car’s brilliantly quick sprints only improved upon by relentless highway passing performance.

The V6-powered G80 Sport benefits from a little less weight over the front wheels than the Ultimate with its Tau V8, which certainly benefits quickness through fast, tightly spaced curves. The G80 Sport manages these with ease, even with 2,120 kilograms pulling in the opposite directions, making the big sedan feel lighter and more agile than it should. Then again, the G80 provides one of the nicer rides in its class too, Genesis managing to be a best-of-both-worlds alternative to its European peers when it comes to quickly riding in comfort.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The rear seating area is roomy, comfortable and nicely finished.

While most of the G80’s rivals offer more advanced features, especially in the tech department, Genesis’s mid-size offering will probably be more reliable over the long haul. Even better, it’s backed up by a five-year or 100,000-km warranty if something goes awry, covering almost every component that comes with the car. Scheduled maintenance is complimentary too, while your car will be picked up by their valet service at your home or office, saving you time and therefore money. If the G80 didn’t already have you sold at hello, some of these latter factors combine to make any new Genesis a very practical luxury choice, and worthy of your consideration.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

Porsche endows new 2021 Cayenne GTS with twin-turbocharged V8

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS
Porsche has brought back its Cayenne GTS for 2021, complete with twin-turbo V8 power.

Following Porsche’s usual product launch plan, a new Cayenne GTS has surfaced for the 2021 model year, and while this might normally be a small story about blackened trim, Alcantara interior detailing and a lowered suspension, quite a bit has changed since a Cayenne GTS was last offered three years ago.

As many reading this will already be aware, the Cayenne received a ground-up redesign for 2019, and while such would always occur before a new GTS release, this time around there are two third-generation Cayenne body styles instead of just one, including the regular Cayenne and the new Cayenne Coupe, both of which will be available in new GTS trim.

Also new, the two 2021 Cayenne GTS models will be powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 instead of the outgoing twin-turbocharged 3.6-litre V6, the change upping horsepower by 13 and torque by 14 lb-ft resulting in a new total of 453 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque.

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
The Cayenne GTS Coupe can be upgraded with a special high-frequency sport exhaust denoted by two larger oval tailpipes in the middle of a more aggressive rear diffuser.

Needless to say the new 2021 Cayenne GTS is faster than its three-year-old predecessor, with both body styles sprinting from standstill to 100 km/h in a scant 4.5 seconds when equipped with their Sport Chrono Packages, which is 0.6 seconds quicker than previous examples. The base Cayenne GTS achieves a zero to 100 km/h sprint in 4.8 seconds, by the way, while both are capable of a 270-km/h terminal velocity, this being an 8-km/h improvement of their predecessor.

The 4.0-litre direct-injection V8 utilizes a new intelligently designed thermal management system as well as adaptive cylinder control to achieve its performance targets, while Porsche’s eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission was once again chosen for shifting duties. Additionally, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive continues to be standard equipment.

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS
The regular Cayenne GTS and base model GTS Coupe have their quad of tailpipes poking out either side of the rear valance.

A beefy standard exhaust system shows two large circular tailpipes poking through each side of a sportier rear fascia, for a total of four, the new look appearing menacing to say the least, while in a press release Porsche claimed they produce “a rich, sporty sound with a unique character.” Those opting for the Cayenne GTS Coupe can alternatively choose a special high frequency-tuned sports exhaust system when also upgrading to the Lightweight Sports Package, the tailpipes on this version of the SUV denoted by even larger oval tips emanating from the centre of the rear bumper.

The renewed Cayenne GTS also gets some suspension upgrades such as a set of redesigned Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers that, when combined with the standard three-chamber Air Suspension, lower the utility’s ride height by 30 mm compared to the current Cayenne S, while Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) is standard equipment too.

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
A carbon-fibre roof is available on the Cayenne GTS Coupe.

The base Cayenne GTS and Cayenne GTS Coupe models ride on a special set of black-silk gloss 21-inch RS Spyder Design alloy wheels, although take note that many wheel and tire packages are available. Likewise, grey cast iron 390 by 38 mm front and 358 by 28 mm rear brake rotors come standard, as are a set of red-painted calipers, but the new GTS can be had with the tungsten carbide-coated Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) system, or better yet the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system. Two additional options include rear-axle steering, and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) active roll stabilization.

The two new GTS model wouldn’t be complete without a bevy of styling enhancements from the exterior to the interior, so Porsche has added the usual blackened trim bits outside via the standard Sport Design package, which darkens accents on the front air intakes, side window surrounds, exhaust tips, plus the Porsche badges and model designation in back. Likewise, the LED headlamps, which feature the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), are tinted black too, as is the new LED taillight bar.

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS
The Cayenne GTS is once again enhanced with suede-like Alcantara trim.

As is normally the case with GTS models, Porsche covers the interior door and centre console armrests in rich suede-like Alcantara, not to mention the seat centre panels, the roof liner, and more, while dark-brushed aluminum accents separate the GTS’ cabin from the brighter aluminum used on other Cayenne trims.

The standard eight-way powered front sport seats are improved with larger side bolstering too, as well as “GTS” embroidery on the head restraints, but this isn’t the only place you’ll find the renowned GTS emblem. Check out the primary gauge cluster’s tachometer dial, the door entry sills, and the front outer door panels too. Those wanting more can opt for a GTS interior package that features Carmine Red or Chalk colour accents, including decorative stitching.

The new 2021 Cayenne GTS and 2021 Cayenne GTS Coupe are now available to order from your local Porsche dealer ahead of arriving during Q4 of 2020, while respective pricing starts at $120,400 and $126,500, plus freight and fees.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

CarCostCanada

VW shows off rendering of 2021 Arteon four-door coupe update

2021 Volkswagen Arteon
While this rendering makes the refreshed 2021 Arteon appear longer, lower and wider than the existing model, we should only expect mild updates.

With the release of these swoopy artist’s renderings Volkswagen has announced the virtual world première of its updated 2021 Arteon four-door coupe will occur on June 24th, and along with scant information about the new car is the revelation of a new body style.

The blue car on the left is indeed a sport wagon, although despite having four doors plus a rear liftgate, and therefore being similar in concept to the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, Volkswagen has dubbed it a Shooting Brake, which is normally a term given to a two-door wagon with a rear hatch like Ferrari’s 2011–2016 FF or the classic 1972–1973 Volvo P1800ES (although Mercedes-Benz called its four-door CLS sport wagon a Shooting Brake when it debuted for 2012, which was followed up with a 2015 CLA Shooting Brake).

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
Today’s Arteon is already one of the sleekest four-door sedans in the mid-size volume-branded sector (2019 model shown).

Just like those elongated Mercs, however, the five-door VW won’t be coming to Canada or the U.S., leaving we North American with only getting the four-door fastback variant, but selling such a niche vehicle in our markets is already a risky business proposition as clearly shown in the car’s sales figures.

Despite the Arteon’s stylish sheet metal and nicely sorted interior, the slick VeeDub only found 456 buyers throughout all of calendar year 2019 (albeit deliveries only started in March), which put it in last place within the mainstream mid-size sedan class. VW’s Passat, the Arteon’s more upright, practical and affordable four-door counterpart managed to stay one position ahead with 672 deliveries last year, but bringing up the rear was nothing for Volkswagen’s Canadian division to be excited about.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
We can expect subtle changes to the 2021 Arteon’s backside as well (2019 Arteon shown).

Yes, it was the ninth year of the outgoing eighth-generation model, and therefore as long in the tooth as anything in this segment has ever been, but that not updating this important model was Volkswagen’s fault to begin with, so being last amongst conventional mid-size sedans was inevitable. Also notable, VW’s poor Passat and Arteon sales occurred well before we were facing all of the current health, social and economic problems.

It’s difficult to say whether a slowdown in Q1 2020 Arteon sales had much to do with the just-mentioned issues or was instead a self-imposed reduction of inventory ahead of the refreshed 2021 model, but either way VW only managed to sell 81 units in Canada for the first three months of this year, but the automaker’s Ajax, Ontario office would have been happy to see deliveries of the all-new Passat increase during the same quarter, the model’s 523 unit-sales nearly as strong as the entire year before.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
The current Arteon already provides one of the more impressive interiors in its class.

While it might at first appear like the Passat’s stronger Q1 sales results could be a good sign for the new Arteon, at least when not factoring in the aforementioned health, social and especially economic problems, nobody’s complaining about the 2019-2020 Arteon’s styling. In fact, it already shares many of the design cues of the new Passat. Of course, the artist’s rendering looks longer, lower, wider and leaner than today’s car, which is normal for these types of cartoon-like creations, so before getting all excited it’s probably best to visually squish the eye-popping drawing back into more reasonable proportions, and while you’re at it reduce the size of the gargantuan wheels. Once this is done the 2021 model will probably appear a lot like today’s version, other than its updated front grille and reshaped front fascia, not to mention similarly minor changes provided at the back.

The current Arteon cabin is the nicest available in the 2020 Volkswagen fleet, or at least the one offered here, and although we shouldn’t expect any radical changes VW does promise its newest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for quicker app processing, enhanced connectivity, better functionality, and improved entertainment overall.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
Changes to the new Arteon’s infotainment system and other electronic interfaces should count amongst its most dramatic updates.

VW will also make its “highly assisted” Travel Assist system available, which is similar to the hands-on-the-steering-wheel, self-corrective, semi-autonomous driver assist technologies already on offer by other brands. Likewise, Travel Assist was designed for highway use, and to that effect so-equipped 2021 Arteon models will be able to apply steering, accelerating and braking inputs autonomously at speeds up to 210 km/h (130 mph), as long as the driver remains in control.

Of course, such advanced technologies could very likely add considerable sums to the price of this already expensive sport sedan, which at $49,960 isn’t exactly entry-level. This said, the Arteon’s key four-door coupe rival, the Kia Stinger, comes close to $45k in base trim and nearly $50k when loaded up, but Canadian buyers obviously believe it delivers better value as they purchased 1,569 examples last year. It’s approximate $5k discount and stronger base and optional engines, not to mention fuller load of features in all trims, would’ve likely been important differentiators, plus the South Korean model handles well, includes near-premium interior quality, and isn’t hard on the eyes.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon
While the 2021 Arteon Shooting Brake would no doubt be welcomed by ardent VW loyalists, it probably doesn’t make for a good business case.

In case the current Arteon has caught your eye, you can get your hands on a 2019 example for quite a bit less than the manufacturer suggested retail price right now. In fact, a quick glance at our 2019 Volkswagen Arteon Canada Prices page shows up to $5,000 in additional incentives available, while the 2020 Arteon is being offered with zero-percent factory leasing and financing rates. Then again, a quick check of our 2019 Kia Stinger Canada Prices page will inform of additional incentives up to $5,000, while four-door coupe buyers interested in the latest 2020 Stinger can get up to $4,000 in incentives. To learn more about these savings and gain access to manufacturer rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing, read this short article about how a CarCostCanada membership can save you thousands on your next purchase of any vehicle. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out our mobile app at Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iTunes store, which is ideal for accessing all the info above while shopping. 

As for more on the 2021 Arteon, check this spot later this month and we’ll have all the most important details.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Volkswagen

CarCostCanada

Hyundai gives 2021 Santa Fe dramatic new updates

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The refreshed 2021 Santa Fe delivers big on bold, with a wide new grille design that’s bound to stir up conversation.

Hyundai Canada has been a bit confusing with respect to its seven-passenger SUVs over the years, first offering the 2007–2013 Veracruz, then dubbing their 2014–2019 three-row entry as the Santa Fe XL, and finally giving the best of the lot the Palisade nameplate for 2020.

Hyundai’s largest SUV now offers up a distinctive premium-level look for the brand and near luxury levels of refinement, and has therefore received plenty of positive reviews and achieved good traction on Canada’s mid-size SUV sales chart. It ticks all the right boxes when it comes to design, execution and pricing, something the smaller two-row mid-size Santa Fe has been doing for a very long time. Still, after two model years of availability, the fourth-generation Santa Fe will receive dramatic a mid-cycle makeover.

It’s difficult to say what might have prompted Hyundai to update its top-selling Santa Fe so thoroughly after just two model years, but a sizeable 21-percent pre-pandemic drop in Canadian sales from 24,040 units during calendar year 2018 to 18,929 deliveries through 2019 wouldn’t have helped the situation, despite an almost 9-percent gain in the U.S. during the same 12 months (the Santa Fe was trending downward toward the end of the year). Some of that negativity could’ve been the Palisade’s introduction, which would have naturally eliminated most three-row Santa Fe XL sales, not to mention a gradual phase-out of the XL as the 2019 calendar year ended, but either way the popular model’s sales have slipped in recent years (it suffered a 15-percent drop the year before). 

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
A sportier looking version with grey lower body cladding and a unique grille insert shows that Hyundai plans to modify the exterior design between trims.

Of course, Canada’s sales wouldn’t have caused a giant multination like Hyundai to completely rethink the design of a model that’s not only manufactured in the U.S., but also Korea and China, and serves myriad markets around the world. Nevertheless, the changes are significant, with a unique new extended grille that reaches right out to each corner of the frontal fascia, the change meant to accentuate the SUV’s width and provide a “well-balanced stance,” said Hyundai in its press release.

“We modernized the New Santa Fe with premium features and appealing aesthetics that are sure to add value,” commented SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and head of Global Design Centre. “The bold lines that extend from one side to the other and from front to back give Santa Fe a rugged yet refined look that SUV customers want. Besides, we’ve added numerous features and functions to create a truly family-focused SUV that is a pleasure to drive.”

Interestingly, the new grille’s “signature geometric patterned inlay” is different depending on the photo shown, but Hyundai’s release didn’t explain why. The version with body-colour painted lower trim included a grille insert with seven rows of isosceles trapezoid shapes, whereas the SUV with darker grey-coloured lower bumpers and rocker panels appeared to provide better aeration to its engine through bigger octagonal vent openings similar to those used on today’s Santa Fe. Is one a sport grille and the other for a top-line luxury model like today’s Ultimate? Or possibly active grille shutters have something to do with the design. We should learn more as updated info becomes available closer to model’s launch.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai has updated much of the new 2021 Santa Fe’s rear design as well.

Unfortunately Hyundai has only provided nine exterior photos to tease our collective imagination, 2021 Santa Fe release, although it’s clear that both receive the brand’s new T-shaped signature LED Daytime Running Lights, found in both the lower grille extensions and headlamp clusters above. Each T’s outer tip visually continues rearward along the new Santa Fe’s beltline before transitioning into a set of redesigned wraparound LED tail lamps, while thicker flat-planed wheel arches add a stronger look. These frame sizeable 20-inch alloy wheels boasting a seven-spoke geometric design on the two Santa Fe trims revealed.

From its backside, the new Santa Fe gets yet more horizontal styling details to highlight its wide stance, such as a narrow light bar that connects the just-noted tail lamps, while down below on the bumper a thin reflector strip does likewise. A larger, wider rear vent cutout can be found under that, plus a new metallic skid plate, all of which is dubbed “a unique three-layer look” by the South Korean brand.

While Hyundai hasn’t provided any photos of the renewed 2021 Santa Fe cabin, it’s shared some details in its press release that helps us understand what we might expect. Let’s keep in mind that today’s 2019-2020 fourth-gen Santa Fe is already one of the most luxurious two-row crossover SUVs on the Canadian market, at least in its mainstream volume-branded sector, but Hyundai says the new version gets even “more space, comfort, and convenience,” while adding “a new level of luxury with every component finished in premium soft-touch materials.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The centre stack and lower console has been totally redesigned for 2021.

In its press release, Hyundai goes into more detail by saying that the Santa Fe’s updated centre console “sits high, giving the driver and front passenger the feeling of sitting in an armchair,” while all its buttons, knobs and switches are “centered for intuitive and ergonomic use.” Additionally, like with the aforementioned Palisade, the new Santa Fe’s redesigned lower centre console receives a quad of buttons for shift-by-wire gear selection, replacing the traditional shifter. Although Hyundai didn’t provide a photo, we saw one on the new model’s press page, and figure that it’s probably what we’ll soon see. It looks the same as the Palisade’s instrument panel and console, so we’ve included that image here for you to see.

The new gear interface includes an extension on the right featuring a new Terrain Mode dial selector with premium-like knurled metal sides. This enhances the performance of the Santa Fe’s HTRAC All-Wheel-Drive system with modes for overcoming slippery conditions such as Sand, Snow and Mud, plus it also includes Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart modes, the latter for intuitively recognizing and automatically responding to one’s personal driving style. Five additional buttons allow for quick adjustment to various driving and parking camera controls.

These new drive controls are positioned just underneath two rows of nicely organized switches, the silver one on top for modulating the bigger, wider 10.25-inch AVN (audio, video, navigation) high-def centre touchscreen, and the lower one for the dual-zone HVAC system. Both rows feature more knurled metallic knobs for an upscale look that most likely continues throughout the cabin almost everywhere else, or at least this is true for the current Santa Fe.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
2019 and 2020 Santa Fe models are still available, with tempting discounts or zero-percent finance and leasing plans.

Of note, the Santa Fe holds Hyundai Canada’s most enduring SUV nameplate, having originally gone on sale for the 2001 model year. Now, 20 years later it’s one of the most popular models in its class, and regularly searched here at CarCostCanada. While we have no information on the 2021 Santa Fe yet, we do have a 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Canada Prices page that is currently showing up to $3,000 in additional incentives for those wanting to purchase now, while those that find a 2019 model can access zero-percent leasing and financing rates.

Additionally, take note that Hyundai Canada is offering zero-percent leasing and financing rates on their 2020 Venue, the 2020 and 2019 Kona Electric, and the conventionally powered 2019 Kona, 2019 Tucson, 2019 Nexo (a non-plug-in hydrogen-powered electric), while up to $1,000 in additional incentives is available with the 2020 Kona and Palisade SUVs, and just like with the 2020 Santa Fe there’s up to $3,000 in incentives when opting for the 2020 Tucson.

Learn more about getting a CarCostCanada membership by checking out our “How Does It Work” article. Here you’ll find how you can access all of the above and more, including manufacturer rebates when available, plus dealer invoice pricing that could put thousands back into your wallet, plus make sure to download the new CarCostCanada mobile app in iTunes or Google Play stores.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Hyundai

CarCostCanada

Toyota Venza comes back from six-year hiatus with hybrid electric power

2021 Toyota Venza
Toyota will bring back its Venza nameplate for 2021, but it will be a taller more SUV-like crossover than the previous version.

Sometimes automakers make choices that don’t seem to make much sense at the time, but for reasons we outsiders will never know, vehicles get cancelled that really should have lived on.

The 2009–2015 Venza was one such vehicle, a five-occupant mid-size crossover SUV that, while a bit more wagon-like than utility, due to Toyota already offering its rugged, truck-based, off-road capable five-passenger 4Runner, nevertheless filled an important void in the brand’s North American lineups.

Thanks to fairly good initial sales, Toyota would’ve arguably found more traction if it had chosen to bring back a redesign after four to five or years or so, rather than cancel it after six. At least the Japanese brand has a recognizable nameplate to fall back on now that it’s ready to reenter one of the more profitable auto segments. The new Toyota Venza will therefore launch in Canada as a 2021 model, starting this summer. 

While standard with all-wheel drive, more unexpectedly is the announcement of a standard hybrid drivetrain. This follows Toyota’s commitment to electrify its entire lineup by 2025, and therefore the new Venza will be joined by a wholly redesigned 2021 Sienna that will only be available with a hybrid electric drivetrain as well.

2009 Toyota Venza
The original 2009-2016 Venza was ahead of its time.

Additional Toyota vehicles sold with the automaker’s full hybrid drive system include the now legendary Prius, also with available with new AWD-e four-season capability, plus the new Corolla Hybrid, the Camry Hybrid, the RAV4 Hybrid, and the Highlander Hybrid, while the Prius Prime offers plug-in, 100 percent electric (EV) motive power for short distances at city as well as highway speeds, plus last but not least is the Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell-powered EV.

Since the first-generation Venza was discontinued, Toyota hasn’t offered a two-row, five-passenger crossover SUV in the mid-size class. As noted the iconic 4Runner remains a 4×4-capable off-roader competing more directly with Jeep’s Wrangler and soon Ford’s new Bronco, so it won’t attract the same kind of soft-roader clientele. Ford in mind, its Edge will be one of the Venza’s direct competitors, while the even more popular three-row Explorer will continue to duke it out against Toyota’s recently redesigned Highlander. Of note, the Edge was the best-selling mid-size SUV in calendar year 2019 thanks to 19,965 sales, compared to the Highlander that only found 13,811 new Canadian owners. What’s more, Ford sold 29,632 Edge and Explorer models collectively last year, and that impressive sales lead doesn’t even factor in that 2019 was a terrible year for the Explorer due to Ford’s slow rollout of the all-new 2020 version. Ford claimed that production issues were at fault, but either way year-over-year Explorer sales were down 47 percent plunge in Canada during 2019, so we can expect the disparity in Ford’s mid-size SUV sales lead to grow even more in 2020 (overall sale will be down, however, due to COVID-19).

2021 Toyota Harrier
The 2021 Toyota Harrier looks very similar to the new Venza.

As of December 31, 2019, five two-row mid-size SUVs sold better than the Highlander in the Canadian mid-size SUV segment. The Edge was followed by Hyundai’s Santa Fe (which is now available solely as a five-passenger model due to the new three-row Palisade) that found 18,929 new customers last year, whereas Jeep’s Grand Cherokee attracted 18,659 new owners in 2019. Kia’s Sorento (now also sold with just two rows thanks to Kia’s new Telluride) also beat Highlander sales with 16,054 deliveries down the road during the same 12 months, while Chevy’s all-new Blazer sold 15,210 units last year. Nissan only sold 12,000 Muranos in 2019, but when this model finally gets a redesign it will probably find more takers than the three-row Highlander too, so it’s clear that the new 2021 Venza critically important for Toyota.

Toyota is taking a significant risk by only offering a single hybrid drivetrain, particularly because this choice will undoubtedly make the Venza more expensive to build and sell than rivals’ gasoline-powered counterparts, but it nevertheless should be well received by those wanting to save fuel and reduce pollutants. A recent spike in fuel prices may make some Canadians more open to spending more on a hybrid powertrain, but even with pump prices higher now than in recent months they remain relatively low when compared to the last couple of years.

There should be no fears about Toyota hybrid reliability, mind you, as the brand initiated the entire market segment with its first-generation Prius in 1997 (in 2000 as a 2001 model here in Canada) and garnered an enviable reputation for near bulletproof dependability for all of its various hybrid-electric drivetrains.

1999 Toyota Harrier
The original 1999 Toyota Harrier looks almost identical to the Lexus RX 300 of the same era.

No Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy figures have been announced yet, but Toyota estimates the new 2021 Venza to manage a combined city and highway rating of 5.9 L/100km, which will make it the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class. Of note, the brand employs active grille shutters in order to minimize drag, aiding fuel economy at highway speeds.

The original Venza shared its platform architecture with the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Toyota Harrier, amongst other Toyota/Lexus products such as the Camry and Highlander. The Harrier was even more closely aligned with our Lexus RX (particularly the first-generation Harrier that was barely disguised when it debuted as the 1999 Lexus RX 300). Over the five-plus-year period that Toyota didn’t offer the Venza in Canada, covering 2016 until today, a third-gen Harrier came and went in the JDM, but now that we have photos of both the fourth-gen Harrier and the new 2021 Venza it’s easy to see the similarities between these two vehicles.

Toyota will use its well-proven 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder hybrid powertrain for the new 2021 Venza and upcoming 2021 Sienna, this drivetrain also powering the Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid (as well as the Avalon Hybrid in the U.S. market). The powertrain’s combined system output is 219 horsepower, making it identical to the 2020 RAV4 Hybrid, although more powerful than the Camry Hybrid that only puts out 208 hp, and not as potent as the new 2020 Highlander Hybrid that makes a total of 240 hp.

2015 Toyota Harrier
A version of this 2015 Toyota Harrier could’ve been our Venza if Toyota had decided to keep the model in the North American markets.

The new Toyota Hybrid System II drivetrain incorporates a lighter lithium-ion battery that improves efficiency as well as performance. Like the RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid, the Venza receives two electric motors that provide maximum torque almost immediately at takeoff. The rear motor provides motive power to the rear wheels, which Toyota calls Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive. The rear-mounted motor only engages when the back wheels experience slippage, at which point the drive system can appropriate up to 80 percent of system torque to the wheels behind. This said the system defaults to front-wheel drive so as to minimize fuel usage, and only uses its rear wheels when necessary.

Speaking of fuel savings, the Venza includes an Eco mode that “changes the throttle and environmental logic” to enhance overall efficiencies, states Toyota in a press release, while Normal and Sport modes (the former “ideal for everyday driving” and the latter sharpening “throttle response”) also come standard, whereas an EV mode allows limited use of full electric motive power at “low speeds for short distances,” just like Toyota provides with its other non-plug-in hybrid models.

2021 Toyota Venza
The new 2021 Venza offers slick, premium styling.

Toyota claims the new 2021 Venza’s regenerative braking system, which captures otherwise lost electricity caused by kinetic brake friction and then reroutes it to the model’s electrical system, provides better control than in previous hybrid generations, and in fact can be used for “downshifting” via the sequential gear lever’s manual shift mode. Each downshift increases the regenerative system’s braking force in steps, which “fosters greater control when driving in hilly areas,” says Toyota, while the hybrid system also benefits ride comfort by “finely controlling the drive torque to suppress pitch under acceleration and deceleration.” Toyota calls this differential torque pre-load, and it’s particularly useful when taking off from a corner or managing curves on both normal and slippery road surfaces. This feature also aids steering performance at higher speeds, plus it improves straight-line stability and controllability on rougher road surfaces. Additionally, Toyota incorporates new Active Cornering Assist (ACA) electronic brake vectoring into the Venza so as to minimize understeer and thus improve handling yet further.

The new 2021 Venza is built on the Toyota New Global Architecture K (TNGA-K) platform that also underpins the 2018–present Camry, 2019–present Avalon, 2019–present RAV4, 2020 Highlander, and the redesigned 2021 Sienna, not to mention the 2019–present Lexus ES and upcoming Lexus NX and RX replacements. In a press release Toyota states that the TNGA-K architecture helps the Venza deliver an “intuitive driving experience” with “greater driving refinement,” including “comfortable urban and highway performance” and “predictable handling, plus low noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).” The new Venza features extensive high-strength steel for a more rigid body structure that helps improve its front strut and rear multi-link suspension’s ride quality and handling, plus its overall safety.

2021 Toyota Venza
Toyota will offer a fully digital gauge cluster in top trims.

The new base Venza LE rides on an 18-inch set of multi-spoke two-tone alloy wheels, whereas XLE and Limited trims arrive standard with a set of 19-inch multi-spoke super chrome finished alloys.

Inside the cabin, the near top-line Venza XLE and the fully-loaded Limited model get advanced touch-sensitive capacitive controls on their centre stack instead of the LE’s physical buttons, although you’ll probably notice the big 12.3-inch centre infotainment touchscreen first. This said even the base model’s 8.0-inch centre display is big for an entry-level model.

The Venza’s larger upgraded infotainment system receives a 1,200-watt, 12-channel, nine-speaker (with sub) JBL audio system that Toyota claims to be “sonically gorgeous,” plus embedded navigation with Destination Assist comes standard too. The new nav system features switchable driver or front passenger operation, while both systems include smartphone integration from Apple CarPlay, which comes complete with its Siri voice control system, as well as Android Auto with its Google Assistant, while Bluetooth wireless connectivity is also included.

2021 Toyota Venza
A large 12.9-inch infotainment touchscreen will make the Venza ultra advanced.

Advanced technologies in mind, the Venza will make a fully digital instrument cluster available in upper trims, not to mention a 10-inch colour head-up display that will project key information, like vehicle speed, the hybrid system’s details, and TSS 2.0 safety and driver assist functions, onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, while an electronic rearview mirror with an auto-dimming function plus a HomeLink garage door opener will provide a clearer rear view, which will be especially helpful when rear passengers and/or luggage is interrupting rearward vision. The electronic rearview mirror only needs the flick of a switch to go from conventional to digital operation.

When moving up to Limited trim, parking lot safety is further improved via a 360-degree bird’s-eye view from a surround camera system that Toyota calls its Panoramic View Monitor. The standard camera gets “projected path” active guidelines as well as an available “rear camera cleaning system [that] sprays washer fluid to clear away water droplets, mud, snow, and snow-melting road treatments from the lens,” says Toyota.

Wireless phone charging is another area Toyota leads most rivals, so it’s no surprise the Venza makes this handy feature available, while additional options include ventilated front seats, proximity Smart Key for all four doors plus the tailgate (the latter also providing hands-free powered operation), plus more.

2021 Toyota Venza
Upper trims receive touch-capacitive controls on the centre stack.

More in mind, new “Star Gaze” is a fixed electrochromic panoramic glass roof that can instantly switch between transparent and frosted modes by flicking a switch on the overhead console. Toyota claims the frosted mode “brightens the interior while reducing direct sunlight, giving the cabin an even more open, airy, and inviting feeling.”

What’s more, each Venza trim comes standard with Toyota’s TSS 2.0 suite of advanced safety and driver assistance features such as pre-collision system and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot monitoring, lane departure assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane tracing assist, automatic high beams, and full-speed adaptive cruise control.

As for interior roominess, we can expect the Venza’s passenger compartment to be similar in size to the first and second row of the new Highlander that as noted earlier shares underpinnings, which should make it more accommodating than the current RAV4. It’s possible to carry up to 1,027 litres (36.2 cubic feet) of cargo behind the rear seats, which is oddly 32 litres (1.1 cu ft) less than what you’ll find in a compact RAV4, that model good for 1,059 litres (37.4 cu ft) of dedicated cargo space, while the Highlander provides 1,010 litres (35.6 cu ft) more space when its third row laid flat.

Pricing for the 2021 Venza will be announced closer its summer arrival date.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Toyota

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

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6 Road Test

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The 2019 Ford Flex is the last of a breed, yet all trims are still available.

If you’ve been reading my latest reviews here, you’ll know that I scour Canada’s retail auto network before putting fingers to the keyboard, as it wouldn’t make much sense to write about a new vehicle that’s no longer available. As it is, plenty of 2019 Ford Flex examples are still very much available despite being a discontinued model, so for those enamoured with its unusual good looks I recommend paying attention.

I’m guessing your local Ford dealer will be happy to give you a great deal on a Flex if he happens to have one still available, while CarCostCanada is claiming up to $5,500 in additional incentives for this final 2019 model.

The Flex has been in production for more than 10 years, and while it initially got off to a pretty good start in Canada with 6,047 units sold in calendar year 2009, 2010 quickly saw annual deliveries slide to 4,803 examples, followed by a plunge to 2,862 units in 2011, a climb up to 3,268 in 2012, and then another drop to 2,302 in 2013, 2,365 in 2014, a low of 1,789 in 2015, a boost to 2,587 in 2016, and 2,005 in 2017. Oddly, year-over-year sales grew by 13.4 percent to 2,273 units in 2018 to and by 9.6 percent to 2,492 deliveries in 2019, which means three-row crossover SUV buyers are still interested in this brilliantly unorthodox family mover, but it obviously wasn’t enough to make Dearborn commit to a redesign, and in hindsight this makes perfect sense because three-row blue-oval buyers have made their choice clear by gobbling up the big Explorer in to the point that it’s one of the best selling SUVs in its class.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The boxy three-row mid-size crossover SUV has a lot of room inside.

The Flex and the outgoing 2011–2019 Explorer share a unibody structure that’s based on Ford’s D4 platform, and that architecture is a modified version of the original Volvo S80/XC90-sourced D3 platform. Going back further, the first D3 to wear a blue oval badge was Ford’s rather nondescript Five Hundred sedan, which was quickly redesigned into the sixth-generation 2010–2019 Taurus and only cancelled recently, thus you can save you up to $5,500 in additional incentives on a Taurus as well (see our 2019 Ford Taurus Canada Prices page to find out more). If you want to trace the Flex back to its roots, check out the 2005–2007 Freestyle that was renamed Taurus X for 2008–2009.

Those older Ford crossovers never got the respect they deserved, because they were comfortable, well proportioned, good performers for their time, and impressively innovative during that era too. The Freestyle was the first domestic SUV to use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), at least as far as I can remember, and it was one of the biggest vehicles to do so up that point (Nissan edged Ford out with its Murano by a couple of years). Interestingly, Ford soon stopped using CVTs in its large vehicles, instead choosing a six-speed automatic for the Flex and the fifth-generation Explorer, which is a good thing as it has been a very dependable gearbox.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
All the black trim comes as part of a $900 Appearance package.

Mechanicals in mind, the Flex continues to use the same two versions of Ford’s popular 3.5-litre V6 that were offered in the original model. To be clear, the base Duratec engine, which produced 262 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque before 2013, after which output increased to 287 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. The base engine pushes the three-row seven-passenger crossover along at a reasonably good pace, but the turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 that became optional in 2010 turned it into a veritable flyer thanks to 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, while an additional 10 horsepower to 365 has kept it far ahead of the mainstream volume branded pack right up to this day.

That’s the version to acquire and once again the configuration I recently spent a week with, and it performed as brilliantly as it did when I first tested a similarly equipped Flex in 2016. I noticed a bit of front wheel twist when pushed hard off the line at full throttle, otherwise called torque steer, particularly when taking off from a corner, which is strange for an all-wheel drive vehicle, but it moved along quickly and was wonderfully stable on the highway, not to mention long sweeping corners and even when flung through sharp fast-paced curves thanks to its fully independent suspension setup and big, meaty 255/45R20 all-season rubber. I wouldn’t say it’s as tight as a premium SUV like Acura’s MDX, Audi’s Q7 or BMW’s X7, but we really can’t compare those three from a price perspective. Such was the original goal of the now defunct Lincoln MKT, but its styling never took off and therefore it was really only used for airport shuttle and limousine liveries.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The headlamps are only HIDs, but these taillights use LED technology.

Like the MKT and the many three-row Japanese and European crossover utilities available, the Flex is a very large vehicle, so no one should be expecting sports car-like performance. Combined with its turbo-six powerplant is the dependable SelectShift six-speed automatic mentioned earlier, and while not as advanced as the 7-, 8-, 9- and now even 10-speed automatics coming from the latest blue-oval, Lincoln and competitive products, it shifts quickly enough and is certainly smooth, plus it doesn’t hamper fuel economy as terribly as various brands’ marketing departments would have you believe. I love that Ford included paddle shifters with this big ute, something even some premium-branded three-row crossovers are devoid of yet standard with the more powerful engine (they replace the lesser engine’s “Shifter Button Activation” on the gear knob), yet the Flex is hardly short on features, especially in its top-tier Limited model.

The transmission is probably best left to its own devices if you want to get the most out of a tank of fuel no matter which engine you choose, and to that end the Ecoboost V6 is the least efficient at 15.7 L/100km in the city, 11.2 on the highway and 13.7 combined, but this said it’s not that much thirstier than the base engine and its all-wheel drivetrain that uses a claimed 14.7 city, 10.7 highway or 12.9 combined, which itself is only slightly less efficient than the base FWD model that gets a rating of 14.7, 10.2 and 12.7 respectively.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The Flex cabin is a bit dated, but it’s quality is good and technology mostly up-to-date.

The 2019 Flex comes in base SE, mid-range SEL and top-tier Limited trims, according to the 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page found right here on CarCostCanada. This is where you can see all the pricing and feature information available for the Flex and most other vehicles sold in Canada. The 2019 Flex is available from $32,649 plus freight and fees for the SE with FWD, $39,649 for the SEL with FWD, $41,649 for the SEL with AWD, and $46,449 for the Limited that comes standard with AWD. All trims come standard with the base engine, but the Limited can be upgraded with the more powerful turbocharged V6 for an extra $6,800 (it includes other upgrades too).

Before adding additional options the retail price of a 2019 Flex Limited Ecoboost AWD is $53,249, and along with its aforementioned performance enhancements it gets everything standard with the regular Limited model, such as 19-inch silver-painted alloy wheels wrapped with 235/55 all-season tires, HID headlamps, fog lights, LED tail lamps, a satin-aluminum grille, chrome door handles, bright stainless steel beltline mouldings, a satin aluminum liftgate appliqué, a powered liftgate, bright dual exhaust tips, power-folding heated side mirrors with memory and security approach lights, rain-sensing wipers, reverse parking sonar, and I’ve only talked about the exterior.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The driving environment is spacious, comfortable and nicely organized.

Ford provides remote start to warm it up in winter or cool it down in summer, all ahead of even getting inside, while access comes via a keyless proximity system or the automaker’s exclusive SecuriCode keypad. Likewise, pushbutton start/stop keeps the engine purring, Ford MyKey maintains a level of security when a valet or one of your children is behind the wheel, while additional interior features include illuminated entry with theatre dimming lighting, a perforated leather-clad steering wheel rim with real hardwood inlays, Yoho maple wood grain inlays, power-adjustable pedals with memory, perforated leather upholstery for the first- and second-row seat upholstery, a 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, a six-way power front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming centre mirror, an overhead sunglasses holder, ambient interior lighting with seven colours that include (default) Ice Blue, as well as soft blue, blue, green, purple, orange and red, plus Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, excellent sounding 12-speaker Sony audio, satellite radio, two USB charging ports in the front console bin, two-zone auto climate control, rear manual HVAC controls, four 12-volt power points, a 110-volt household-style three-prong power outlet, blind spot information with cross-traffic alert, and more.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The dual-screen colour TFT gauge cluster was way ahead of its time when introduced a decade ago.

For a ten year old design, the Flex looks fairly up to date as far as electronics go, thanks to its Cockpit Integrated Display that incorporates two high-resolution displays within the primary instrument cluster (it was far ahead of its time back in 2009), while the just-mentioned Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen is still impressive too, due to updates through the years. It incorporates a big, graphically attractive and well-equipped display with quick-reacting functionality plus good overall usability, its features including accurate available navigation as well as a very good standard backup camera with active guidelines, albeit no overhead camera even in its topmost trim. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is standard, however, plus the ability to download more apps, etcetera.

On top of the Limited trim’s standard features a $3,200 301A package can be added with features such as a heated steering wheel, truly comfortable 10-way power-adjustable front seats with three-way cooling, dynamic cruise control, Collision Warning with autonomous emergency braking, and Active Park Assist semi-autonomous parking capability, but note that all of the 301A features come standard already when choosing the more powerful engine, as does a special set of 20-inch polished alloy wheels, a powered steering column, a one-touch 50/50-split power-folding third row with tailgate seating, and an engine block heater.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Ford’s Sync3 infotainment interface is very attractive and intelligently designed.

As you may already noticed, my tester’s wheels are gloss-black 20-inch alloys that come as part of a $900 Appearance package which also includes additional inky exterior treatments to the centre grille bar, side mirror housings, and rear liftgate appliqué, plus it adds Agate Black paint to the roof and pillars, while the cabin receives a special leather-clad steering wheel featuring Meteorite Black bezels, plus an unique graphic design on the instrument panel and door-trim appliqués, special leather seat upholstery with Light Earth Gray inserts and Dark Earth Gray bolsters, as well as floor mats with a unique logo.

My test model’s Vista panoramic multi-panel glass roof has always been an individual option, adding $1,750 to this 2019 model, but I found it a bit odd that voice-activated navigation (with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link) as a standalone add-on (navigation systems usually bundled as part of a high-level trim line), while the gloss-black roof rails can also be individually added for just $130, but the roof rails, which are also available in silver, come as part of a $600 Cargo Versatility package too, which combines the otherwise $500 Class III Trailer Tow package (capable of up to 4,500 lbs or 2,041 kg of trailer weight) with first- and second-row all-weather floor mats (otherwise a $150 option), resulting in more four-season practicality.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The two-zone auto HVAC interface uses state-of-the-art touch-sensitive controls.

Over and above items included in my test model, it’s also possible to add a refrigerated centre console for $650, second-row captain’s chairs with a centre console for just $150 (but I prefer the regular bench seat as the smaller portion of its 60/40-split configuration can be auto-folded from the rear), inflatable second-row seatbelts for $250 (which enhance rear passenger safety), and two-screen (on the backs of the front headrests) rear entertainment for $2,100.

Of course, many of the Limited trim’s features get pulled up from base SE and mid-range SEL trims, both being well equipped for their price ranges too, I should also mention that the Flex’s interior isn’t quite as refined as what you’d find in a new 2020 Explorer with the same options, per say. Then again I remember how impressed I was with the Flex’s refinement when it arrived 10 or so year ago, which really goes to show how far Ford has come in a decade, not to mention all of the other mainstream brands. The latest Edge, for example, which I tested in its top-tier trim recently, is likely better than the old Lincoln MKX, now replaced by the much-improved Nautilus, whereas the Flex’s cabin is more like the old Edge inside.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
This Flex boasts 10-way powered front seats with heated and cooled cushions for supreme comfort.

Therefore you’ll have to be ok with good quality albeit somewhat dated details, such as its large, clunky, hollow plastic power lock switches instead of Ford’s newer models’ more upscale electronic buttons, while there’s a lower grade of hard plastic surfaces throughout the interior too. This said its dash-top receives a fairly plush composite covering, as does each door upper from front to back, whereas the door inserts have always been given a nifty graphic appliqué, just above big padded armrests.

As you might imagine, the Flex is roomy inside. In fact, its predecessor was designed to replace the Freestar minivan back in 2007, so it had to have minivan-like seating and cargo functionality. This said the Flex’s maximum cargo volume of 2,355 litres (83.1 cubic feet) when both all rear seats are tumbled down doesn’t come close to the brand’s once-popular minivan that managed a total of 3,885 litres (137.2 cu ft) of luggage volume in its day, but it’s generously proportioned for a mid-size crossover. In fact, the Flex can manage 42 additional litres (1.5 cu ft) of total storage space than the outgoing 2019 Explorer, which was one of the biggest SUVs in its three-row segment. That said the new 2020 Explorer offers up to 2,486 litres (87.8 cu ft) of maximum cargo capacity, which improves on both of Ford’s past SUVs (Flex included).

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The second row is ultra-comfortable and limousine-like for legroom, while the third row is large enough for adults.

The rear liftgate powers upward to reveal 426 litres (15.0 cu ft) of dedicated luggage space aft of the rearmost seats, which is in fact 169 litres (6.0 cu ft) less than in the old Explorer, but if you lower the second row the Flex nearly matches the past Explorer’s cargo capacity with 1,224 litres (43.2 cu ft) compared to 1,240 litres (43.8 cu ft). A nifty feature noted before allows the final row to be powered in the opposite direction for tailgate parties, incidentally, but make sure to extend the headrests for optimal comfort.

Total Flex passenger volume is 4,412 litres (155.8 cu ft), which results in a lot of room in all seating positions, plus plenty of comfort. Truly, even third row legroom is pretty decent, while headroom is lofty everywhere inside thanks to a high roofline. Ford made sure there was enough space from side-to-side too, this due to a vehicle that’ quite wide. The aforementioned panoramic sunroof adds to the feeling of openness as well, and its three-pane construction is pretty intelligent as it allows for better structural rigidity than one large opening, which is particularly important for a vehicle with such a large, flat roof. Additional thoughtful features include large bottle holders within the rear door panels, these wholly helpful at drive-thrus.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The innovative multi-pane panoramic Vista sunroof provides loads of light while maintaining the big Flex’s structural rigidity.

I’m guessing you can tell I like this unusual box on wheels, and must admit to appreciating Ford for its initial courage when bringing the Flex to market and its willingness to keep it around so long. I know it’s outdated, particularly inside, plus it’s missing a few features that I’d like to see, such as outboard rear seat warmers and USB charging ports in the second row, but it’s difficult to criticize its value proposition after factoring in the potential savings Ford has on the table. I’m sure that opting for this somewhat antiquated crossover might be questionable after seeing it parked beside Ford’s latest 2020 Explorer, but keep in mind that a similarly equipped version of the latter utility will cost you another $10,000 or so before any discounts, while the domestic manufacturer is only providing up to $2,000 in additional incentives for this newer SUV. That’s a price difference of more than $13,000, so therefore a fully loaded Flex might make a lot of sense for someone looking for a budget-minded luxury utility.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
There’s no shortage of storage space in a Flex.

A month or so ago, before we all became aware of the COVID-19 outbreak, I would’ve probably recommended for those interested in buying a new Flex to rush over to their local dealer and scoop one up before they all disappeared forever, and while they certainly will be gone at some point this year I recommend you find one online like I did, and contact the respective dealership directly via phone or email. Still, doing your homework before making the call or sending the message is a good idea, so make sure to visit our 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page first, where you can learn about every trim and price, plus find out if any new manufacturer discounts, rebates and/or financing/leasing packages have been created, while don’t forget that a membership to CarCostCanada provides otherwise difficult to access dealer invoice pricing (which is the price the retailer actually pays the manufacturer for the vehicle). This will provide you the opportunity to score the best-possible deal during negotiation. After that, your Ford dealer will ready your new Flex for delivery.

So therefore if this unorthodox crossover utility is as appealing to you as to me, I recommend you take advantage of the tempting model-ending deal mentioned earlier. The Flex might be an aging SUV amongst the plethora of more advanced offerings, but don’t forget that this aging crossover still comes across as fresh thanks to its moderate popularity (you won’t see a lot of them driving around your city), while its long well-proven tenure means that it should be more dependable than some of its newer competitors.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Toyota Prius Prime Road Test

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
Toyota has given all of its Prius models more style, with the Prime getting its most dramatic design.

As usual I’ve scanned the many Toyota Canada retail websites and found plenty new 2019 Prius Prime examples to purchase, no matter which province I searched. What this means is a good discount when talking to your local dealer, combined with Toyota’s zero-percent factory leasing and financing rates for 2019 models, compared to a best-possible 2.99-percent for the 2020 version.

As always I searched this information out right here on CarCostCanada, where you can also learn about most brands and models available, including the car on this page, which is found on our 2019 Toyota Prius Prime Canada Prices page. The newer version is found on our 2020 Toyota Prius Prime Canada Prices page, by the way, or you can search out a key competitor such as the Hyundai Ioniq, found on the 2019 Hyundai IONIQ Electric Plus Canada Prices page or 2020 Hyundai IONIQ Electric Plus Canada Prices page (the former offers a zero-percent factory leasing and financing deal, while the latter isn’t quite as good a deal at 3.49 percent). CarCostCanada also provides info about manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing, which arm you before arriving at the dealership so you can get the best possible deal.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
Nothing looks like a Prius Prime from behind.

While these pages weren’t created with the latest COVID-19 outbreak in mind, and really nothing was including the dealerships we use to test cars and purchase them, some who are reading this review may have their lease expiring soon, while others merely require a newer, more reliable vehicle (on warranty). At the time of writing, most dealerships were running with full or partial staff, although the focus seems to be more about servicing current clientele than selling cars. After all, it’s highly unlikely we can simply go test drive a new vehicle, let alone sit in one right now, but buyers wanting to take advantage of just-noted deals can purchase online, after which a local dealer would prep the vehicle before handing over the keys (no doubt while wearing gloves).

Back to the car in question, we’re very far into the 2020 calendar year, not to mention the 2020 model year, but this said let’s go over all the upgrades made to the 2020 Prius Prime so that you can decide whether to save a bit on a 2019 model or pay a little extra for the 2020 version. First, a little background info is in order. Toyota redesigned the regular Prius into its current fourth-generation iteration for the 2016 model year, and then added this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Prime for the 2017 model year. The standard hybrid Prius received many upgrades for 2019, cleaning up styling for more of a mainstream look (that didn’t impact the version being reviewed now, by the way), but the latest 2020 Prius Prime was given a number of major updates that I’ll go over now.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
LED headlamps, driving lights and fog lamps look distinctive.

Interestingly (in other words, what were they thinking?), pre-refreshed Prius Prime models came with glossy white interior trim on the steering wheel spokes and shift lever panel, which dramatically contrasted the glossy piano black composite found on most other surfaces. Additionally, Toyota’s Prius Prime design team separated the rear outboard seats with a big fixed centre console, reduced a potential five seats to just four for the 2019 model year. Now, for 2020, the trim is all black shiny plastic and the rear seat separator has been removed, making the Prime much more family friendly. What’s more, the 2020 improves also include standard Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, a sunvisor extender, plus new more easily accessible seat heater buttons, while two new standard USB-A charging ports have been added in back.

Moving into the 2020 model year the Prime’s trim lineup doesn’t change one iota, which means Upgrade trim sits above the base model once again, while the former can be enhanced with a Technology package. The base price for both 2019 and 2020 model years is $32,990 (plus freight and fees) as per the aforementioned CarCostCanada pricing pages, but on the positive Toyota now gives you cargo cover at no charge (it was previously part of the Technology package). This reduces the Technology package price from $3,125 to $3,000, a $125 savings, and also note that this isn’t the only price drop for 2020. The Upgrade trim’s price tag is $455 lower in fact, from $35,445 to $34,990, but Toyota doesn’t explain why. Either way, paying less is a good thing.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The Prime gets a unique concave roof, rear window and rear spoiler.

As for the Prius Prime’s Upgrade package, it includes a 4.6-inch bigger 11.6-inch infotainment touchscreen that integrates a navigation system (and it also replaces the Scout GPS Link service along with its 3-year subscription), a wireless phone charger, Softex breathable leatherette upholstery, an 8-way powered driver seat (which replaces the 6-way manual seat from the base car), illuminated entry (with step lights), a smart charging lid, and proximity keyless entry for the front passenger’s door and rear liftgate handle (it’s standard on the driver’s door), but interestingly Upgrade trim removes the Safety Connect system along with its Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Emergency Assistance button (SOS), and Enhanced Roadside Assistance program (three-year subscription).

My tester’s Technology package includes fog lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a helpful head-up display unit, an always appreciated auto-dimming centre mirror, a Homelink remote garage door opener, impressive 10-speaker JBL audio, useful front parking sensors, semi-self-parking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The Prius interior is much improved over previous generations, especially in top-tier Upgrade trim with the Technology package.

You might think an appropriate joke would be to specify the need for blind spot monitoring (not to mention paying close attention to your mirrors) in a car that only makes 121 net horsepower plus an unspecified amount of torque from its hybrid power unit, plus comes with an electronic continuously variable automatic (CVT) that’s not exactly performance-oriented (to be kind), all of which could cause the majority of upcoming cars to blast past as if it was only standing still, but as with most hybrids the Prime is not as lethargic as its engine specs suggest. The truth is that electric torque comes on immediately, and although AWD is not available with the plug-in Prius Prime, its front wheels hooked up nicely at launch resulting in acceleration that was much more than needed, whether sprinting away from a stoplight, merging onto a highway, or passing big, slower moving trucks and buses.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
All Prius trims include a wide, narrow digital instrument cluster, but the 11.6-inch centre display comes with Upgrade trim.

The Prius Prime is also handy through curves, but then again, just like it’s non-plug-in Prius compatriot, it was designed more for comfort than all-out speed, with excellent ride quality despite its fuel-efficient low rolling resistance all-season tires. Additionally, its ultra-tight turning radius made it easy to manoeuvre in small spaces. Of course, this is how the majority of Prius buyers want their cars to behave, because getting the best possible fuel economy is prime goal. Fortunately the 2019 Prius Prime is ultra-efficient, with a claimed rating of 4.3 L/100km city, 4.4 highway and 4.3 combined, compared to 4.4 in the city, 4.6 on the highway and 4.4 combined for the regular Prius, and 4.5 city, 4.9 highway and 4.7 for the AWD variant. This said the Prime is a plug-in hybrid that’s theoretically capable of driving on electric power alone, so if you have the patience and trim to recharge it every 40 km or so (its claimed EV-only range), you could actually pay nothing at all for fuel.

I might even consider buying a plug-in just to get the best parking spots at the mall and other popular stores, being that most retailers put their charging stations closest to their front doors. Even better, when appropriate stickers are attached to the Prime’s rear bumper it’s possible to use the much more convenient (and faster) high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane when driving alone during rush hour traffic.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
A closer look shows how massive the navigation system’s map looks.

The Prime’s comfort-oriented driving experience combines with an interior that’s actually quite luxurious too. Resting below and in between cloth-wrapped A-pillars, the Prime receives luxuriously padded dash and instrument panel surfacing, including sound-absorbing soft-painted plastic under the windshield and comfortably soft front door uppers, plus padded door inserts front and back, as well as nicely finished door and centre armrests. Toyota also includes stylish metal-look accents and shiny black composite trim on the instrument panel, the latter melding perfectly into the super-sized 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen infotainment display, which as previously mentioned replaces the base Prime’s 7.0-inch touchscreen when moving up to Upgrade trim.

Ahead of delving into the infotainment system’s details, all Prius Primes receive a wide, narrow digital gauge package at dash central, although it is slanted toward the driver with the majority of functions closer to the driver than the front passenger. I found it easy enough to look at without the need to remove my eyes from the road, and appreciated its stylish graphics with bright colours, deep and rich contrasts, plus high resolution. When you upgrade to the previously noted Technology package, you’ll benefit from a head-up display as well, which can positioned for a driver’s height, thus placing important information exactly where it’s needed on the windscreen.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The Prius driver’s seat is very comfortable, and is covered with Toyota’s exclusive Softex breathable leatherette.

The aforementioned vertical centre touchscreen truly makes a big impression when climbing inside, coming close to Tesla’s ultra-sized tablets. I found it easy enough to use, and appreciated its near full-screen navigation map. The bottom half of the screen transforms into a pop-up interface for making commands, that automatically hides away when not in use.

Always impressive is Toyota’s proprietary Softex leatherette upholstery, which actually breathes like genuine hides (appreciated during hot summer months). Also nice, the driver’s seat was ultra comfortable with excellent lower back support that gets improved upon by two-way power lumbar support, while its side bolsters held my backside in place during hard cornering as well. The Prime’s tilt and telescopic steering column gave me ample reach too, allowing me to get totally comfortable while feeling in control of the car. To be clear, this isn’t always possible with Toyota models.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The rear seats are comfortable and roomy, while a fixed centre console remains part of the 2019 offering.

I should mention that the steering wheel rim is not wrapped in leather, but rather more of Toyota’s breathable Softex. It’s impressively soft, while also featuring a heated rim that was so nice during my winter test week. High quality switchgear could be found on its 9 and 3 o’clock spokes, while all other Prius Prime buttons, knobs and controls were well made too. I particularly liked the touch-sensitive quick access buttons surrounding the infotainment display, while the cool blue digital-patterned shift knob, which has always been part of the Prius experience, still looks awesome. All said the new Prius Prime is very high in quality.

Take note that Toyota doesn’t finish the rear door uppers in a plush padded material, but at least everything else in rear passenger compartment is detailed out as nicely as the driver’s and front passenger’s area. Even that previously note rear centre console is a premium-like addition, including stylish piano black lacquered trim around the cupholders and a nicely padded centre armrest atop a storage bin. While many will celebrate its removal for 2020, those who don’t have children or grandkids might appreciate its luxury car appeal. Likewise, I found its individual rear bucket seats really comfortable, making the most of all the Prime’s rear real estate. Yes, there’s a lot of room to stretch out one’s legs, plus adequate headroom for taller rear passengers, while Toyota also adds vent to the sides of each rear seat, aiding cooling in back.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The rear cargo floor sits very high due to the battery below.

Most should find the Prius Prime’s cargo hold adequately sized, as it’s quite wide, but take note that it’s quite shallow because of the large battery below the load floor. It includes a small stowage area under the rearmost portion of that floor, filled with a portable charging cord, but the 60/40-split rear seats are actually lower than the cargo floor when dropped down, making for an unusually configured cargo compartment. Of course, we expect to make some compromises when choosing a plug-in hybrid, but Hyundai’s Ioniq PHEV doesn’t suffer from this issue, with a cargo floor that rests slightly lower than its folded seatbacks.

If you think I was just complaining, let me get a bit ornery about the Prius’ backup beeping signal. To be clear, a beeping signal would be a good idea if audible from outside the car, being that it has the ability to reverse in EV mode and can therefore be very quiet when doing so, but the Prius’ beeping sound is only audible from inside, making it totally useless. In fact, it’s actually a hindrance because the sound interferes with the parking sensor system’s beeping noise, which goes off simultaneously. I hope Toyota eventually rights this wrong, because it’s the silliest automotive feature I’ve ever experienced.

2019 Toyota Prius Prime
The battery causes an uneven load floor when the rear seats are folded.

This said the Prius’ ridiculous reverse beeper doesn’t seem to slow down its sales, this model having long been the globe’s best-selling hybrid-electric car. It truly is an excellent vehicle that totally deserves to don the well-respected blue and silver badge, whether choosing this PHEV Prime model or its standard trim.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann