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 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

CarCostCanada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
These taillights are wild!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo and video credits: Hyundai

CarCostCanada

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L V6 AWD Road Test

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
This classy looking four-door luxury sedan is a great performer in as-tested 3.0L V6 form.

It’s not every day that a really great car gets discontinued, but Lincoln is eliminating its entire lineup of cars (two in total), just like its parent company Ford is doing (Mustang aside), which means the impressive MKZ mid-size luxury sedan will soon be merely a memory, and the automotive world will have lost a car well worth owning.

Lincoln updated the MKZ with its latest design language for 2017, including its ritzier more premium chrome grille up front, which was mixed in with rear styling that was already very unique and expressive for a very handsome mid-size luxury sedan. My tester’s optional dark grey matte-metallic 19-inch alloys encircled by 245/40 Michelin all-seasons give it a more aggressive appearance than it would otherwise have, the rest of the car more artfully elegant than many rivals.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The MKZ has long been one of the most distinctive cars in its class when seen from the rear.

Although luxury cars are temporarily loosing their savour in today’s SUV-enamoured auto market, Lincoln makes a pretty good argument for sticking with the time-tested body style in its MKZ. Ford’s luxury brand has actually done reasonably well with this model over the years, achieving a sales high of 1,732 deliveries in calendar year 2006, but after a slowdown to accommodate the 2007/2008 financial crisis and additional stagnation in 2012, it’s been a slippery albeit steady slope downhill from 1,625 units in 2013 to 1,445 in 2014, 1,130 in 2015, 1,120 in 2016, 994 in 2017, 833 in 2018, and lastly 367 examples delivered last year, the latter sum representing a 55.9-percent year-over-year nosedive. Of course other factors played into the MKZ’s most recent downturn, with parent company Ford’s announcement of the car’s cancellation last year probably most destructive, but none of this takes away from the model’s overall goodness.

The very same 3.0-litre turbo-V6 that impressed me in the larger, heavier Continental was new for 2018 in the MKZ Reserve, which means the velvety smooth 400-horsepower beast of an engine, pushing out an equally robust 400 lb-ft of torque, scoots down the highway even faster. With so much thrust and twist available, an eight-, nine- or 10-speed automatic isn’t necessary, so Lincoln left its smooth and dependable six-speed autobox in place, together with a set of paddle-shifters on the steering wheel to make the most of the available power.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
Lincoln provides plenty of stylish details including LED headlamps and sporty 19-inch alloy wheels.

Getting things started is an ignition button atop the otherwise unique pushbutton gear selector, which lines up to the left of the centre touchscreen on the main stack of controls. This vertical row of switches integrates the usual PRND buttons within the start/stop button just noted and an “S” or sport mode button at the bottom. Once accustomed to the setup it’s as easy as any other gear selector to use.

The smooth transmission is certainly more engaging in its sport mode, especially when those steering wheel-mounted paddles just mentioned are put into use, but just the same I found upshifts took at least two seconds to complete, with downshifts occurring about a half-second quicker, which is hardly fast enough to be deemed a sport sedan. Still, this well-proven gearbox provided reliable, refined service. This in mind, the MKZ was never designed to be a sports sedan. It’s capable of moving down the road quickly when coaxed, with tons of get-up-and-go off the line, plus a true automatic feel when pulling on its paddles, and stable control around fast-paced curves, but let’s be clear, the MKZ was designed for comfort first and foremost.

This means that it’s a wholly quiet and impressively smooth riding car. Nevertheless, when I was pushing some serious speed down a winding rural road near my home, the mid-size four-door clung to pavement well. Granted, I didn’t temporarily lose my sense of reality by forgetting it wasn’t a Mercedes-AMG, BMW M or Audi RS. The MKZ’s advanced electronics and as-tested torque-vectoring AWD make it rock steady on slippery surfaces just the same, while it comes well stocked with yet more safety items.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
Get ready for a richer cabin than you may have experienced in a Lexus ES or some other luxury brand.

As good as it handles, and as stylish as its exterior design is, the MKZ’s best asset is its cabin. Yes, the MKZ interior can hardly be faulted, other than sharing a few design elements, some of its switchgear, and a number of underlying components with the Ford Fusion that rides on the same underpinnings. This is most obvious with the steering wheel, IP/dash and centre stack designs plus overall layout, not to mention the door panels regarding their handles and switches. Then again Lincoln takes the MKZ’s finishings up a major notch when compared to the blue-oval car, with a totally pliable composite instrument hood and dash-top, which even extends down to the lower knee area, plus soft-touch surfaces on each side of the centre stack and the lower console, even including the side portions of the floating bottom section.

I’m hardly finished praising this interior, but this is where I should probably interject that storage space is another MKZ strong point. The floating centre console just mentioned provides a large area for stowing smartphones, tablets, etcetera, while Lincoln also includes a big glove box, a sizeable storage compartment below the centre armrest, another smaller one within the folding rear armrest, most of which are lined with a plush velvety fabric, plus bottle holders in each lower door panel, and finally an amply sized 436-litre trunk that expands via 60/40-split rear seatbacks, or a helpful centre pass-through.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The MKZ’s dash design might look familiar to those knowledgeable of the Ford Fusion, but the materials are superb.

Incidentally, the MKZ Hybrid’s trunk only measures 314 litres, and this electrified car is all that’s available for the 2020 model year. Sad, but the brilliantly quick V6 is now history, or at least you can’t get a 2020 MKZ with this ultra-strong powerplant, yet you should have no problem locating a 2019, albeit don’t hesitate to contact your local Lincoln dealer if you want bonafide performance along with your mid-size Lincoln luxury sedan experience.

Also on the positive, you can save up to $7,500 in additional incentives with the 2019 MKZ, as per our 2019 Lincoln MKZ Canada Prices page. Lincoln provides up to $1,500 in additional incentives for the 2020 MKZ, by the way, plus you can theoretically save up to $13,000 in additional incentives if you can find a new 2018 model (there’s likely some still available).

Now that we’re talking model year changes, the transition from 2018 to 2019 left mid-range Select trim off the menu in the conventionally powered car, leaving only Reserve trim with the entry-level 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, this mill capable of a motivating 245 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, while the as-tested Reserve 3.0-litre V6 was (is) also available. The hybrid’s combustion engine produces 141 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque, by the way, although its net output is stronger at 188 horsepower, whereas the electric motor makes 118 horsepower (88 kW) and 177 lb-ft of torque (I wouldn’t both trying to add them up, as quantifying hybrid output numbers is far from simple math).

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The MKZ’s mostly digital gauge cluster is attractive and feature filled.

Fuel economy is easier to calibrate, and considering the regularly fluctuating Canadian pump prices, which may very well get impacted by our national government’s lack of will to enforce the rule of law against a much more radical set of blockading protestors, the price of a litre of fuel could increase dramatically anytime, thus choosing a fuel-efficient car is probably smart. As it is, the MKZ Hybrid’s 5.7 L/100km city, 6.2 highway and 5.9 combined results are twice as efficient as the 3.0 V6 version I’m reviewing now, the hybrid model’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) no doubt helping out, but nowhere near as much as the electrified portion of its drivetrain. By comparison the MKZ’s V6 AWD setup is rated at 14.0 L/100km in the city, 9.2 on the highway and 11.8 combined, while the same car powered by the non-hybrid 2.0-litre four-cylinder does reasonably well with a 12.1 city, 8.4 highway and 10.4 combined rating.

Earlier I claimed to not being finished praising the MKZ’s interior, and it truly is impressive for a modest entry price of $47,000 to $53,150 for the Hybrid. A Reserve AWD can be had for $52,500, incidentally, while my 3.0-litre V6 tester caused the price of the latter model to jump by $6,500. Just like the dash-top and instrument panel, the MKZ Reserve’s inside door panels feature nicely stitched composite door uppers, inserts and armrests, plus the doors’ lower panels are also made from a pliable composite. While most wouldn’t do so, it’s reasonable to compare the MKZ Reserve to the much pricier compact-to-midsize German luxury cars rivals, as they won’t wholly improve on the domestic luxury model’s fine detailing and refinement. This Lincoln includes genuine hardwood inlays as well, plus exquisite drilled aluminum speaker grilles featuring a elegant spiralling pattern, while the quality of the MKZ’s various buttons, knobs and switches can match many in the premium sector.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The centre stack is well organized, and includes gear selectors at the top left.

The same holds true for its electronic interfaces, particularly the stunning new mostly-digital instrument cluster. At first glance it seems conventional, with a duo of circular primary dials with a large colour multi-information display in the middle, but instead all of the gauges are digital graphics, with Lincoln housing the TFT screens within round dial-like frames, the left one featuring an analogue-like tachometer around the outer edge and a multi-info display within, or alternatively a much bigger MID. The speedometer on the right boasts a digital needle and dial markers, plus other gauges within. It all gives the MKZ a fully up-to-date look, which is complemented by an infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack that was already impressive.

Lincoln’s infotainment system builds on Ford’s Sync 3 system, albeit with earthy brown and gold tones on black instead of the mainstream namesake brand’s various shades of light blues on white. No matter the overlying design, it’s a very good interface that needs no updating in this MKZ. Features include complete audio controls, two-zone front auto HVAC functions with three-way heatable/coolable front seats, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connectivity, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, an easy-to-use navigation system with good accuracy, an app menu that comes stock with Sirius Travel Link and lets you download additional mobile apps too, plus a car settings menu with two full panels of features as well as a third panel offering ambient lighting colour choices and multi-contour seat controls.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
These multi-contour front seats are fabulously comfortable, especially when their massage function is selected.

The MKZ Reserve’s seats in mind, those up front are extremely comfortable thanks to good support all over. Yes, even their side bolstering is good, helping this luxury car live up to its high-horsepower performance. They include four-way lumbar support, this being a very good reason to choose this Lincoln over the directly competitive Lexus ES that only offered two-way powered lumbar in the 2019 model I tested recently. A button in the middle of the lumbar controller immediately triggers a panel within the centre display to customize the multi-contour seat controls, including a massage function that does a great job of relaxing sore muscles.

As good as the front seats are, your passengers should be comfortable in the back too. The second row is detailed out just as nicely as the front seating area, with the same high quality, pliable composite and leather door panels, including the gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles. The folding centre armrest is infused with the usual twin cupholders, of course, while Lincoln provides rear vents on the backside of the front centre console too, as well as buttons for a set of two-way seat warmers in the outboard positions, plus two USB-A charging points and a three-prong 110-volt household-style socket for plugging in laptops.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
The rear seating area is comfortable, spacious and nicely finished.

A powered trunk lid provides access the previously noted cargo area, and it’s a nicely finished compartment too, with high-quality carpeting on the floor, the sidewalls, and under the bulkhead, plus the backsides of the rear folding seatbacks of course. It’s too back Lincoln only split them with a less convenient 60/40-split, the Euro-style 40/20/40 configuration much better for slotting longer items like skis down the middle, but at least Lincoln included a small centre pass-through that’s good for a single pair of downhill boards or two narrower sets for cross-county skiing.

As for features, the multi-contour front seats noted earlier were made standard in the MKZ Reserve for 2019, as were a set of rear window sunshades, plus active motion and adaptive cruise with stop-and-go, and 19-inch satin-finish alloys. Additionally, Lincoln included a windshield wiper de-icer on all trims, plus rain-sensing wipers, blindspot monitoring and lane keeping assist, while the options menu included a new package with premium LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof and 20-speaker audio.

2019 Lincoln MKZ Reserve 3.0L AWD
A small pass-through can accommodate long cargo down the middle.

After everything is said and done, the only issue reason a person might choose to purchase a Lexus ES, or another big family sedan from a non-premium maker like the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, or Chrysler 300 instead of the Lincoln MKZ comes down to its imminent discontinuation. This said the MKZ’s scenario is not an anomaly thanks to plenty of large sedans getting the axe, including Lincoln’s own Continental (I’m saddened a lot more by that news as it’s a superb car for excellent value) and Ford’s Taurus, plus some Buicks and Chevy sedans, so therefore it’s quite possible any new four-door model you happen to choose might get killed off if Canadian consumers don’t step up and start buying them in volume, so it’s probably best to take one home while you can.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Road Test

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro looks stunning in its outdoors element.

Not to long ago people were calling for the traditional SUV to die. GM cancelled Hummer, Ford said goodbye to the Excursion, and a number of 4×4-capable sport utilities were converted to car-based crossovers in order to appeal to a larger audience. While the general public has certainly eschewed rugged off-roaders as well as passenger cars for crossover SUVs, there’s certainly a healthy niche for true 4x4s.

The 4Runner has been at the centre of this mix, and has been doing so as long as I’ve been out of school. Yes, the 4Runner came into existence the year I graduated in 1981, and is now well into its fifth generation, which was introduced more than a decade ago. The original 4Runner was little more than the pickup truck with a removable composite roof, much like the original Chevy Blazer and second-gen Ford Bronco that came before, but the next version that came in 1989 included a full roof, and the rest of the story is now history.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
Voodoo Blue certainly stands out, as does the TRD Pro model’s unique styling.

Over the years Toyota has stayed true to the 4Runner’s off-road-capable character and garnered respect and steady sales for doing so. Now it’s one of a mere handful of truck-based SUVs available, making it high on the shopping list for consumers needing family transportation yet wanting something that can provide more adventure when called upon.

The 2019 model being reviewed here is currently being replaced by a new 2020 model, which changes up the infotainment system with a new larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio and USB audio, plus the brand’s Connected Services suite. Push-button ignition gets added too, as does Toyota’s Safety Sense P bundle of advanced driver assistance features including pre-collision system with vehicle and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and assist, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
TRD Pro trim includes a special front fascia and these meaty 17-inch wheels and tires.

A new Venture trim level gets added as well, which builds on just-above-base TRD Off-Road trim. This means it begins with 4×4 features like 4-Wheel Crawl Control with Multi-Terrain Select, a locking rear differential, and the Kinematic Dynamic Suspension (KDSS) upgrade, while it also gets a hood scoop plus a navigation system with traffic and weather, all before adding black mirror caps, trim, and badging, Predator side steps, 17-inch TRD Pro alloy wheels, and a basket style roof rack.

All of that sounds pretty impressive, but serious off-roaders will still want the TRD Pro that I tested for a week. Not only does it look a lot tougher, particularly in its exclusive Voodoo Blue paint scheme with matte black trim, but it also gets a unique heritage “TOYOTA” grille, a TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate, a whole lot of black accents and badges nose to tail, and superb looking matte black 17-inch alloys with TRD centre caps on massive 31.5-inch Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires (my tester’s rubber was a set of Bridgestone Blizzak 265/70 studless snow tires).

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
This handy roof rack comes standard with TRD Pro trim.

Overcoming obstacles is aided via TRD-tuned front springs and TRD Bilstein high-performance shocks with rear remote reservoirs, while the 4Runner TRD Pro also gets an automatic disconnecting differential to overcome the really rough stuff, as does its rear differential lock if the ground is slippery, and multi-terrain ABS when it’s a downward grade.

Previously noted Crawl Control is ideal for going up, down or just motoring along a low-speed stretch of horizontal terrain, and is selectable via a dial on the overhead console next to a similar dial for the Multi-Terrain Select system that makes choosing the four-wheel drive system’s best possible response over “LIGHT” to “HEAVY” terrain an easy process. Of course, overcoming a really challenging trail will require shifting from “H2” or “H4” to “L4” to engage the 4Runner’s lower set of gears via the console-mounted 4WD Selector lever.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
The 4Runner hasn’t changed much over the past 10 years, but it’s still well made and functional.

This SUV is an amazingly good 4×4, something I was reminded of when trudging through a local off-road course I use whenever I have something worthy of its rutted trails and long, deep swampy pools. I recently tested Jeep’s Wrangler Unlimited Sahara through this course, and did likewise with a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 turbo-diesel that had mucky water splashing over its hood. Heck, I even proved that Toyota wasn’t trying pull one over on compact crossover buyers with its new RAV4 Trail, that can actually hold its own through this mud-fest, although I didn’t push it anywhere near as hard as the others just mentioned, or this 4Runner TRD Pro.

My 4Runner test model’s hood scoop never tasted water, incidentally, nor did it ever require the Tacoma TRD Pro’s cool looking snorkel, and trust me, I was careful not to muck up the white and red embroidered floor mats, or even soil the breathable leather-like Black SofTex seat upholstery, highlighted by red contrast stitching and red embroidered “TRD” logos on the front headrests I should add. It would have been easy enough to wash off, but I keep my test vehicles clean out of respect to the machinery.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
The 4Runner’s Optitron gauges are really attractive.

This 4Runner TRD Pro makes it easy to drive through most any 4×4 course or wayward trail, even if there’s not much drive down. Simply choose the best Multi-Terrain setting and engage Crawl Control if you think you’ll want to push yourself up higher in the driver’s seat in order to see over a ridge, which would make it so you couldn’t modulate the gas pedal. Alternatively you can use it in order to relax your right foot, like a cruise control for ultra-slow driving. We had a mechanical version of this on my dad’s old Land Cruiser FJ40, which was basically a choke that held the throttle out, and it worked wonders just like the 4Runner’s modernized version. The now discontinued FJ Cruiser had one too, a model that shared its platform with this much bigger and more spacious SUV, as does the global market Land Cruiser Prado and Lexus GX 460.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
There’s nothing wrong with the 2019 4Runner’s infotainment system, but there will be a lot more right about the new 2020 version.

V8-powered 4x4s in mind, I remember when Toyota offered the fourth-generation 4Runner with a 4.7-litre V8. I really liked that truck and its smooth, potent powertrain, but I’d rather have the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel found in the current Prado, as it’s fuel economy would be advantageous in the city and on the highway, let alone in the wilderness where it could 4×4 a lot farther from civilization than the current 4.0-litre V6. Yes, the 4Runner’s big six-cylinder drinks healthily to put it kindly, with a rating of 14.3 L/100km city, 11.9 highway and 13.2 combined, while it goes through even more regular unleaded in low gear while off-roading. That’s this SUV’s only major weakness, and now that Jeep is bringing its Wrangler to our market with a turbo-diesel, and the aforementioned Chevy Colorado gets one too, it’s might be time for Toyota to provide Canadian off-road enthusiasts an oil burner from its global parts bin.

Another weakness at the pump is the 4Runner’s five-speed automatic transmission, but on the positive it’s rugged and reliable so it’s hard to complain, while shifts smoothly. The TRD Pro adds red stitching to the leather shift knob, almost making this gearbox feel sporty when engaging its manual mode, and I should also commend this heavyweight contender for managing the curves fairly well, no matter if it’s on tarmac or gravel, while its ride quality is also quite good, something I appreciated as much in town as I did on the trail.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
The powered seats are comfortable, but that’s SofTex leatherette, not leather covering them.

I would have appreciated the 4Runner even more if it included shock-absorbing seats like my old ‘86 Land Cruiser BJ70, but the TRD Pro’s power-actuated seats with two-way powered lumbar managed comfort decently enough, while the SUV’s tilt and telescoping steering column provided enough reach to set up my driving position for comfort and control.

The steering wheel’s rim is wrapped in leather, but doesn’t get the nice red stitching from the shift knob, yet its spokes are filled with all the most important buttons. Framed through its upper section, the Optitron primary gauge cluster is a comprised of truly attractive blues, reds and whites on black with a small trip computer at centre.

At dash central, the infotainment touchscreen may be getting replaced for the 2020 model year, but the one in this 2019 4Runner was certainly sized large enough for my needs, plus was reasonably high-resolution and packed full of stylish graphics and loads of functions. Its reverse camera lacked active guidelines, but was quite clear, while the navigation system’s route guidance was accurate and its mapping system easy to read, plus the audio system was pretty good as well.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
The second row is extremely roomy.

The 4Runner’s window seats are comfortable and the entire second row amply sized for most any body type, but the TRD Pro model’s third row gets axed, leaving plenty of room for gear. There’s in fact 1,337 litres of space behind the 60/40-split second row, or up to 2,540 litres it’s lowered, making the 4Runner ideal for those that regularly haul tools or other types of equipment, campers, skiers, etcetera.

You can buy a new 2019 4Runner for $46,155 or less (depending on your negotiating chops), while leasing and financing rates can be had from 1.99 percent (or at least they could at the time of writing, according to the 2019 Toyota 4Runner Canada Prices page here at CarCostCanada). CarCostCanada also provides its members with money saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, so be sure to purchase a membership before you head to the dealer. As for the 2020 4Runner, which starts at $48,120 thanks to the new equipment I detailed out before, only has leasing and financing rates from 4.49 percent as seen on the CarCostCanada 2020 Toyota 4Runner Canada Prices page, so the 2019 may be the smart choice for those on a budget. If you’re after this TRD Pro, you’ll be forced to find $56,580 plus freight and fees (less discount), and take note this is the most expensive 4Runner trim available.

2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
No shortage of cargo space in here.

Yes this is luxury brand territory, and the 4Runner won’t try to dazzle you with soft-touch interior plastics or any other pampering premium treatments, but this should be okay because it’s a rugged, off-road capable 4×4 that shouldn’t need to pamper its passengers to impress them. Instead, together with its superb off-road-worthiness, overall ease of use and general livability, the 4Runner achieves top placement in the 2019 Canadian Black Book Best Retained Value Awards for its “Mid-size Crossover-SUV” category. I don’t know about you, but this matters more to me than pliable interior composite surfaces.

In the end, the 4Runner remains one of my favourite SUVs. It does most everything it needs to well, and is one of the better off-roaders available for any money. That suits my outdoor lifestyle to a tee.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann