2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
The new 2nd-generation Panamera is arguably a more attractive design than the original. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Porsche’s Panamera is a sport sedan like no other. Certainly there are a number of low-slung four-door coupes within the premium sector, but the Panamera is longer, wider and lower than most, and looks as close to the iconic 911 Carrera than any other car on the road. 

The four-door coupe category is still relatively new, but it’s expanding while other segments are contracting. Mercedes-Benz created this segment along with the CLS-Class 15 years ago, five years before the Panamera became its first competitor in 2009. Audi’s A7 and Aston Martin’s Rapide quickly followed in 2010, a fair bit before BMW showed up in 2012 with its 6 Series Gran Coupe. Perfectly timed with the latter Bavarian model’s cancellation and the new 2020 8 Series Gran Coupe’s arrival, Mercedes will soon deliver a four-door coupe triple threat thanks to the all-new higher-priced (and clearly named) GT 4-Door Coupe, which will soon join the recently updated second-generation CLA-Class and third-gen CLS, so it’s not as if growth in this category is slowing, or at least sales aren’t falling off as quickly as they are amongst more traditional luxury sedans. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
The Panamera is the sportiest of four-door coupes currently available, and beautifully proportioned front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Some notable four-door coupe mentions at higher and lower levels of the auto market include the limited production (120 units) Aston Martin Rapide-based 2015 to 2016 Lagonda Taraf, which was gorgeous to my eyes at least, but priced at a stratospherically $1 million-plus, while possibly more interesting has been the success of smaller entries, including the just-noted Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, and the Audi A5 Sportback, which have pulled this rakish body type down-market nearly as far as the Volkswagen Arteon (previously the CC) and Kia Stinger. 

Returning to the loftier price bracket, Lamborghini has been teasing us with a potential production model along the lines of the beautiful 2008 Estoque concept for more than a decade (I think it would’ve been a strong seller), while Bentley hasn’t stopped talking up the possibility of an even sleeker sport sedan. Otherworldly to some, these two models could actually be sensible business cases due to their Volkswagen group ownership and familial connection to this very Panamera. Bentley, for one, already uses the same VW AG-created MSB architecture found under this Panamera for its new Continental GT coupe and convertible plus its Flying Spur sedan, a version of which could also be modified to work with a future Estoque. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
Everything but the glossy black trim and the 21-inch alloys are standard Panamera 4S fare. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It’s not like this would be an unusual move, with the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus sharing underpinnings with the Porsche Cayenne and new Cayenne Coupe respectively, not to mention the Audi Q7, Q8 and new global market Volkswagen Touareg (that we no longer get here), but as exciting as it might be for these exotic players to dip their toes in the four-door coupe waters, buyers who want to spend $300,000-plus in this class, yet still requiring a reliable option, have no other choice but a loaded up Panamera. 

And yes, if you check off every 2019 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive box on Porsche’s online configurator you’ll be paying north of $320k, which will provide you with an optional exclusive colour, the car’s largest set of 21-inch alloys coated in the same exclusive paint choice, an upgraded interior with the highest quality of leathers covering almost every possible surface that’s not already trimmed in hardwood or carbon-fibre, plus all available technologies. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
Get ready to be impressed with the Panamera’s beautifully finished interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid was new for 2018, and thanks to Porsche I was able to drive it along with a number of other new and updated models last year. The version I tested featured the regular sloped trunk lid and normal non-extended wheelbase, and it was mind-blowingly fast thanks to 680 net horsepower. I also tested last year’s entirely new Sport Turismo wagon, that I happen to like best, although that car’s drivetrain was identical to the Panamera 4S shown right here in this review, and therefore made 440-horsepower from a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6. 

Bringing all things Panamera up to 2019 speed, no changes have been made to any of the models mentioned in this review so far, other than minor increases to pricing across the line, the car on this page precisely as it was for the 2017 model year when the second-generation Panamera was introduced. This said 2019 hasn’t been without improvements to the Panamera line, thanks to the addition of a 453-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8-powered GTS model that now slots between this 4S and the Panamera Turbo in both performance and price. The car I’m reviewing here starts at $119,600, by the way, while the new GTS can be had for $147,400, and the Turbo for $174,200. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
Sitting in the driver’s seat feels like a roomy sports car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

No GTS was available at the time of testing, unfortunately, but I was truly okay having another stint in a 4S. It makes 110 more horsepower than the 330-horsepower base Panamera after all, and uses all four wheels for added grip. The snarling exhaust note is fabulous in Sport mode, crackling and popping when lifting off the throttle, but rest assured that the fiercer Hyde side of its personality becomes a docile Jekyll when the drive mode selector is moved over to its default setting. 

The Panamera’s ideal balance between opulent luxury and outrageous performance is its best asset. No other four-door combines its level of sports car-like agility with such impressively detailed interior finishings. Its low-slung bodywork bucks against today’s taller SUV trend; Porsche providing its Macan and Cayenne for folks who want go-fast performance with a better view of the road. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
It looks like a traditional Porsche gauge cluster, but it’s mostly digital. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Panamera manoeuvres through serpentine corners like nothing so sizeable has ever been able to before, yet its ride is impressively smooth. Whether enduring inner-city laneways, overcoming inadequately paved railroad crossings and aging bridge expansion joints, or coursing down a circuitous backcountry road inundated with broken asphalt, the Panamera offers ample suspension travel for dealing with the worst bumps and potholes without becoming unsettled. Its compliance and/or firmness depends on the trim and wheel options chosen, of course, but I’ve driven every grade on offer other than the new GTS, and all provide track-worthy performance with comfort levels that I’d be more than satisfied to live with for all regular commutes and errand runs, let alone weekend getaways. 

My test car’s optional Satin Platinum finished 21-inch alloy wheels on 275/35 front and 315/30 rear Pirelli Cinturato P7 performance tires are the biggest available, so it wasn’t like I was cossetted with the base 4S model’s 19s, which are identical to the most entry-level of Panamera’s 265/45 front and 295/40 rear ZRs, by the way, a car that can be had for only $99,300 plus freight and fees. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
The right side of the gauge cluster can be used for route guidance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That base Panamera in mind, it’s hardly a slouch thanks to a 5.7-second launch from zero to 100km/h, or 5.5 seconds with its available Sport Chrono Package, whereas my 4S tester can do the deed in a mere 4.4 seconds in standard trim or 4.2 seconds with its Sport Chrono Package. The 4S also blasts past 160km/h in only 10.3 seconds, slicing 3.3 seconds off of the base trim’s zero to 160km/h time, all ahead of a terminal velocity of 289km/h, a stunning 25km/h faster on the track than the most basic Panamera. 

As phenomenally fun as all this high-speed action sounds, there are plenty of quicker Panameras available. The new GTS, for instance, can hit 100km/h from standstill in only 4.1 seconds, while the Turbo blasts past the mark in a scant 3.8 seconds, and finally the sensational Turbo S E-Hybrid needs just 3.4 seconds to charge past 100km/h. Top speeds increase similarly, with the Turbo S E-Hybrid capable of a lofty 310 km/h, but when compared to the majority of sport sedans even this Panamera 4S performs better. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
Check out the stunning graphics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Its new eight-speed twin-clutch PDK transmission delivers fast, smooth, paddle-activated shifts, and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive maintains the chassis’ awesome adhesion to tarmac no matter the weather or road conditions, while I must also say it looks just as eye-arresting when blurring past at high speed as it does when cruising around town. 

As mentioned earlier, glossy black exterior trim isn’t standard, but nevertheless my test car’s darkened accents were an attractive contrast against its white paint. Normally the Panamera gets satin silver and/or bright metal detailing, but on the other hand you can also have the mirror caps, door handles, badges, etcetera painted in gloss black. 

This said the possibilities are almost limitless inside, but each Panamera’s incredibly fine attention to detail is what makes its interior stand out above many peers, such as all of the industry’s best composites and leathers, available hardwoods, aluminum or carbon-fibre inlays, plus digital interfaces that are so brilliantly high in definition that it seems like you can dip your fingers right into the depths of their fabulously rich contrasted displays and graphically illustrated imagery. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
The front seats are ideally comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, the Panamera provides some of the best digital displays available, whether ogling the classic Porsche-style five-dial instrument cluster, its centre ring being the only analogue component in an otherwise wonderfully colourful arrangement of screens, the one on the left for driving-related info and the right-side monitor incorporating a comprehensive multi-information display including mapping for the route guidance system. 

Alternatively you can choose to view that map over on the long, horizontal infotainment display atop the centre stack, which looks nearly three-dimensional when doing so. All the usual touchscreen gesture controls make this as simple to use as a smartphone or tablet, and speaking of your phone it also syncs with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, while providing all of the types of functions expected in this class including an as-tested surround camera system that, together with audible and visual front and rear sonar, makes parking a lot easier. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
A dual-pane panoramic sunroof sheds light on the beautifully finished cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The majority of controls on the raked centre console are touch-sensitive, needing only a slight push and click to engage. All the buttons, knobs and switches feel very high in quality too, the Panamera’s interior second to none for quality construction. The console’s surrounding surface treatment is glossy black, but nevertheless it’s quite easy to keep clean due to a glass-like smartphone material, although the piano black lacquered detailing found elsewhere in my tester’s cabin, particularly a section on the ashtray at the very base of that centre console, was always covered in grime, dust, etcetera. On the positive you don’t have to opt for piano black, but can choose one of many options that will keep the cabin looking tidier even when dirty, although it should be said there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being able to see what needs cleaning for the sake of sanitation. 

Fortunately the leather-clad sport steering wheel, where my hands were most of the time, had no such yucky buildup of filth. Instead, I was greeted to one of the best of its type in the industry. Its narrow spokes are elegant, hollowed out at centre for an even lighter, more performance-oriented appearance, while its integrated buttons and scrolling knurled-metal dials are well crafted with especially tight fitment and good damping. As per usual, the button for the heatable rim is hidden within the base of the lowest spoke, an intelligent design for sure, but some may find it too easy to turn on or off when spinning the wheel. I like that it automatically turns on when starting the car, or likewise stays off, depending on the way you’ve set it up. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
The rear seating area is spacious enough for most body types. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Features in mind, my test car came stocked up with three-way heated and ventilated front seats, plus a superb optional 710-watt 15-speaker Bose Centerpoint 14-channel surround sound stereo upgrade, which should only be shown the door if going for the 1,455-watt 22-speaker Burmester 3D High-End Surround system (I’ve tested this top-line system before and it’s amazing). As good as the audio performance was, my tester didn’t include the previously noted Sport Chrono Package, so it was 0.2 seconds slower off the line (not that I could notice), and the clock on top of the dash only featured an attractive looking black dial with white numerals and indices, instead of the upgraded chronometer version with both analogue and digital readouts. 

Still, due to including an available full rear console incorporating a large high-definition touchscreen, three-way heatable seat switches, twin rear auto climate controls resulting in a four-way auto HVAC system front to rear, powered side and rear window sunshades, plus a large two-pane panoramic moonroof above, not to mention the Panamera’s usual set of ideally shaped sport bucket rear seats that are as comfortable and supportive as those up front, I might have been just as happy being chauffeured as I was driving, but as life has it I didn’t have the means (or an available friend) to do the driving, so I simply enjoyed my nice quiet rest in the back seat while taking notes. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test
Got stuff? The Panamera can haul a reasonable amount of life’s gear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, the second-gen Panamera is now so excellent in every way that it’s near impossible to find much to complain about. Of course there’s not as much room in the rear as a 7 Series or S-Class, but providing limousine levels of roominess is hardly the Panamera’s purpose. Truth be told, no matter the model tested I have never been uncomfortable in back, and let’s not forget that Porsche would be more than happy to provide you with a longer-wheelbase Executive body style if driving around larger passengers is part of your routine, which means that you won’t have to say goodbye to beautiful design and sensational performance just to maintain a practical lifestyle. 

And that’s the gist of the Panamera. Thanks to its wide variety of trims, packages and options, all of which are viewable right here on CarCostCanada, where you can also learn about manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, this four-door Porsche provides something for almost every sport/luxury car shopper. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible Road Test

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Good looking Mini Cooper S Convertible looks sharp with the top up or down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Some brands are so small they don’t really get the press they deserve, and Mini fits into that mould both figuratively and literally. 

Ok, I just had a little fun with a small play on words. The just-used term “literally” was straight-forward, in that Mini’s lineup of cars and its single crossover are made up of subcompacts and compacts (they’re small), while the word figuratively should actually be used as a substitute for metaphorically, but instead I improperly chose it for its root word “figure” in order suggest that Mini’s sales figures reside on the smaller side of the scale as well (they only delivered 4,466 3-Door Hatch, 5-Door Hatch, Convertible and Clubman models last year). Clever? Not really. Grasping at straws for a witty opener? Guilty as charged. 

In reality, however, I almost completely forget Mini exists as a brand until checking my schedule on a given Sunday evening, at which point I’m reminded that one of their cars will be in my weeklong possession starting the following day. That’s when I get giddy with excitement and start planning my week to make sure I have time to drive somewhere unpopulated on the side of a body of water (ocean, lake or river), a mountain, or anywhere else with ribbons of winding black asphalt. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Classic Mini lines never go out of style. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Truly, their cars are so much fun they’re addictive, especially when the model loaned out is tuned to “S” specification or better, and has its hardtop replaced by a slick power-operated retractable cloth top. Such is the car before you, the 2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible, which is upgraded further with this year’s special $2,900 Starlight Blue Edition Package, meaning that it receives a special coat of stunning Starlight Blue Metallic paint, as well as unique 17-inch machine-finished Rail Spoke alloys featuring black painted pockets on 205/45 all-season runflat rubber, piano Black Line exterior trim replacing most of the chrome, including the front grille surround plus headlamp, taillight and outside mirror surrounds, etcetera. 

The “more” that I just noted includes rain-sensing automatic on/off LED headlights with active cornering, LED fog lamps, piano black lacquered interior detailing, a two-zone auto HVAC system, an accurate Connected Navigation Plus GPS routing system housed within Mini’s already superb infotainment system, a wonderful sounding Harman Kardon audio system, Sirius/XM satellite radio, stylish Carbon Black leatherette upholstery, and heated front seat cushions, while my test model’s only standalone option was a $1,400 six-speed automatic transmission, with all of the above upping the Mini Cooper S Convertible base price of $33,990 to $38,290, plus a destination charge and additional fees. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
The Starlight Blue Edition Package gets special paint, unique 17-inch Rail Spoke alloy wheels, and lots of piano Black Line exterior trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, you can purchase the new 2019 Mini Cooper Convertible (sans S) for as little as $29,640 before any discount, or you can spend the slightly pricier amount noted above for my tester’s sportier and more feature-filled “S” trim. Alternatively, you could choose a base 3-Door Hatch (hardtop) for as little as $23,090, while other models in the Mini lineup include the Cooper 5-Door available from $24,390, a six-door Clubman that starts at $28,690, and the Countryman crossover that can be had for as little as $31,090, plus destination charges of course. 

Incidentally, all 2019 Mini prices, including trims, options and standalone features, were sourced right here on CarCostCanada, where you can also get otherwise difficult to find manufacturer rebate info, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

Before I share what makes this Cooper S Convertible and all Minis so enjoyable to live with, I need to focus on the quality of the Mini product overall. Mini’s acceptance as a premium brand is questionable, which makes sense when you can buy one for a mere $23k, but nevertheless quality of materials, fit and finish and features found in each Mini model is much better than average when comparing most subcompact and compact rivals, especially when discussing mainstream brands. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
These Union Jack LED taillights are fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Just the same, the majority of high-volume compact models have been on a refinement trend as of late, with the most-recent Mazda3 getting closest to premium status without raising its pricing into the stratosphere, but like its compact sedan and hatchback competitors (such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, et al) the 3 is quite a bit larger than all Mini models this side of the Clubman and Countryman, and therefore when comparing a regular Cooper to any top-selling mainstream subcompact rival (like a Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris), the Mini’s finishing and performance is on a much higher scale. 

The Cooper S Convertible before you, for example, is very well made, from its outer fit to its inner detailing. The paint finish is excellent and other exterior embellishments impressive, from my tester’s eye-catching LED headlamps and Union Jack-emblazoned taillights, to its nicely crafted leather-clad steering wheel and stitched leather-wrapped shift knob, as well as its primary instrument pods hovering overtop the steering column, the ever-changing circle of colour lights rounding the high-definition 8.8-inch infotainment display, the row of brightly chromed toggles and red ignition switch in the middle of the centre stack, and the similarly retrospective line of toggles overhead, it’s a car that completely separates itself from everything else on the market. Those who love retro-cool designs and brilliantly artistic attention to detail will adore today’s Minis. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Mini’s interiors are top notch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As grand as everything about this car sounds so far, the Mini Cooper S Convertible is at its best when in its element, on the road—prefe¬rably a winding road. S trimmed Coopers begin with a sonorously high-revving 16-valve twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, which is a sizeable 55 hp and 45 lb-ft more than the base Cooper’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged powerplant. This allows the S to slice 1.6 seconds off of the base model’s 0 to 100km/h acceleration time, dropping it from 8.8 to 7.2 seconds with the manual, or from 8.7 to 7.1 with my tester’s six-speed automatic transmission. 

If more speed is still required you can ante up for the John Cooper Works Convertible, which reduces its zero to 100km/h time down to 6.5 seconds by way of a more formidable 228 horsepower version of the 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine, featuring a much more robust 236 lb-ft of torque. It starts much higher up the affordability ladder at $41,490, yet thanks to sport suspension improvements that include larger wheels and tires, plus more standard styling, luxury and convenience upgrades, most Mini fans will find it well worth the price of entry. 

Then again, even the mighty John Cooper Works won’t cause Honda Civic Type R drivers to quiver from fear in their form-fitting Recaro racing seats, but lower the roof and drop the clutch of a JCW or this Cooper S Convertible and you’ll quickly be enjoying your drive much more than you might expect, while never worrying about draining the bank account at the pump. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Love these instrument pods. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Mini claims a very reasonable fuel economy rating of 10.2 L/100km city, 7.4 highway and 9.0 combined with the manual, or 9.4, 7.2 and 8.4 respectively with the automatic when upgraded to S trim, while the base Cooper Convertible manages a mere 8.4 L/100km in the city, 6.3 on the highway and 7.5 combined with its manual, or 8.8, 6.8 and 7.9 respectively with its autobox. 

Together with the performance upgrade, going from base to Cooper S adds some performance-focused items like default “MID”, “GREEN” and “SPORT” driver-selectable modes, the latter perfect for boosting takeoff and enhancing responsiveness all-round, while Mini also provides this trim with sportier front seats featuring heated cushions. And just in case going topless isn’t your thing, hardtop Cooper S trims receive a big panoramic sunroof as standard equipment. 

That just-noted Sport mode does a great job of increasing the Cooper S Convertible’s get-up-and-go while enhancing the quick-shifting nature of its transmission, while take note that its front-wheel drive system is never overpowered from torque steer, even when pounding on the throttle from an angled standing start. Those who read me often will know that I’d rather have any Mini with the brand’s wonderfully notchy manual gearbox, but nevertheless this automatic delivered strong performance while its manual mode, despite only being swappable via the gear lever, is plenty responsive. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Mini’s infotainment system features a crystal clear high-definition display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, that means it has no steering wheel mounted paddles, which is strange for this sportier S model. The current JCW autobox doesn’t come with paddle-shifters either, but reportedly Mini will rectify this shortcoming in 2020 with respect to the Clubman and Countryman JCW models, which are said to be fitted with a new eight-speed auto and much quicker 301-hp 2.0-litre engine making 331 lb-ft of torque, so it’s possible that in time we’ll see paddles on lesser trims as well. As it is, I left the autobox to its own devices more often than not, being that it shifts smoothly and was therefore ideal for congested city streets. Still, when the road opened up and consecutive curves arrived I found that manual mode significantly increased the fun factor, while helping to increase control. 

Just like with all Minis, the Cooper S Convertible comes standard with a brilliantly sorted fully independent front strut and multi-link rear suspension setup that can humble most front-drive rivals, other than those enjoying the aforementioned Civic Type R. Still, it slices and dices up serpentine tarmac like it’s some sort of front-drive BMW, jest intended. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
We love all the retro-cool toggle switches. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those in the know (yes, we car nerds) will already be aware that second-generation Minis share UKL platform underpinnings with some modern-day BMWs. To be clear, however, the UKL platform is divided into UKL1 and UKL2 architectures, the former only used for Minis thus far (including the 3- and 5-door F56 Hatch plus this F57 Convertible), and the latter for larger Minis (the F54 Clubman and F60 Countryman) as well as the global-market BMW 1 Series Sedan (F52), 1 Series 5-door hatch (F40), 2 Series Active Tourer (F45), 2 Series Gran Tourer (F46), X1 crossover SUV (F48), X2 crossover coupe (F39) and Brilliance-BMW Zinoro 60H (a Chinese-market X1/F48 crossover with unique sheetmetal). 

We don’t have the 1 Series or 2 Series Active Tourer here in Canada, and so far I haven’t been able to get behind the wheel of these two while parked in my second Manila, Philippines home, so I can’t say anything useful about their driving dynamics compared to counterparts from Mini, but I truly don’t believe they could be much better than a Cooper 3- or 5-Door Hatch or Clubman. I can attest to the Countryman S and the new Countryman S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid being more planted at high speeds than the latest BMW X1 xDrive28i, however, the latter seeming to have been designed as more of a comfort-oriented, practical alternative. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
These sport seats are really supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Cooper S Convertible, on the other hand, is hardly as big and accommodating inside or out, its rear passenger area and luggage compartment actually the tightest in the entire Mini line. The back seats are probably best used for smaller adults and/or children, whereas the trunk measures 160 litres when the divider is moved lower and top is down, or 215 litres with the top up and moveable divider raised. It’s only accessible through a smallish opening too, but on the positive loading is assisted thanks to a really useful wagon-style folding tailgate that provides a temporary shelf for placing cargo before shifting it inside, while you can expand on cargo capability via 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks when hauling longer cargo such as skis or snowboards is required. All in all, the Cooper Convertible’s passenger/cargo capability is fairly flexible when put up against most rival ragtops, especially similarly priced roadsters like the Mazda MX-5 or Fiat 124 Spider. 

Of note, Mini’s cloth top is a very well insulated “3-in-1” design that’s truly quiet, not to mention capable of retracting or closing in just 18 seconds via an almost completely automated process (you just need to keep holding the overhead toggle switch). When opening, it first stops halfway to form a big sunroof, which is perfect for those times when totally dropping the top isn’t ideal. Pressing and holding it again causes the roof to completely retract, while repeating the same two-step process in reverse powers the top upwards. The convertible can be opened or closed while driving up to 30 km/h, so don’t worry about how much time you have while waiting at a stoplight. Additionally you can open or close the roof from your key fob while outside, handy if you left the interior exposed in your driveway when it unexpectedly starts to rain. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Rear seating is fairly tight, but doable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Cooper S Convertible isn’t without competition, the soon to be discontinued Volkswagen Beetle Convertible and cute little Fiat 500 Cabrio (which is available in sporty Abarth trim) being the closest four-seat rivals, but most would agree that the car on this page offers more luxury and performance than either European challenger. 

In short, Mini’s drop-top is a comparatively roomy four-place convertible with decent stowage, premium-like interior refinements, excellent onboard electronics, agreeable fuel-efficiency, and a fun-to-drive personality that’s hard to beat, all for a competitive price when adding up all its positive attributes. Those who simply want to own a really well made car that’s an absolute blast to drive each and every day will likely love the Mini Cooper S Convertible. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

New 415 hp Volvo V60 and XC60 Polestar Engineered models on the way

2020 Volvo S60, V60 and XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Volvo will add Polestar Engineered versions of the V60 (centre) and XC60 (right) to the already sold out S60 T8 Polestar Engineered model (left) this summer. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo has been seriously upping its game over the past few years, with an entirely redesigned lineup of highly competitive premium models, and even an entirely new “Polestar” all-electric performance-luxury brand that’s designed to go head-to-head against Tesla. 

Bridging the gap is “Polestar Engineered”, a performance division responsible for tuning Volvo’s regular crop of luxury cars. Late last year we saw the result of its engineering prowess, the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered that sold out so quickly we hardly realized it came and went, but it set the stage for two additional models we think will fare equally well, the upcoming 2020 V60 T8 Polestar Engineered and XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered. 

2020 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Each new Polestar Engineered model (V60 shown) gets a glossy black grille, unique lower fascia detailing, special 19-inch forged alloys, gold-painted brake calipers, and much more. (Photo: Volvo)

“At Volvo Car Canada, we are very excited about the addition of the new Polestar Engineered products in our portfolio,” said Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director, Volvo Car Canada Ltd. “Polestar always played a special role in the Volvo business in Canada, as in the last 2 years we achieved one of the highest levels of Polestar optimized product sales in the world. We plan to fully capitalize on this upcoming opportunity to strengthen both Volvo and Polestar brands in Canada.” 

Like last year’s S60 variant, the new Polestar Engineered cars once again use Volvo’s turbocharged, supercharged and electrified T8 Twin-Engine Plug-in Hybrid powertrain, which is specially tuned to produce 415 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque, 15 horsepower and 22 lb-ft of torque more than the regular T8 AWD power unit. 

2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
T8 Polestar Engineered models (S60 shown) are both ultra-fast and extremely efficient thanks to PHEV technology. (Photo: Volvo)

Updates to powertrain software allow torque to arrive earlier for quicker throttle response, while more of that power gets sent to the wheels in back for better all-round performance. To clarify, along with the boosted 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, the T8 drivetrain utilizes two electric motors (one up front and one in the rear), with a battery that’s both plug-in for pure electric driving over short distances, plus gasoline-electric hybrid powered. 

Together with its rear-wheel biased handling, the new Polestar Engineered models received stiffer body structures from an Öhlins-designed front strut bar that allows for “more precise and responsive control,” according to a Volvo Canada press release, while Öhlins also provided a set of adjustable dampers that utilize special dual flow valves, which respond more “quickly to road imperfections.” 

2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
A strut tower brace stiffens the body structure for better handling. (Photo: Volvo)

What’s more, six-piston Brembo calipers, painted gold in Polestar tradition, improve braking performance, while sets of lightweight 19-inch forged alloy wheels, unique to each of the three Polestar Engineered S60, V60 and XC60 models, add aggressive character while providing more air to cool those beefier brakes. 

If you were hoping for aggressive aero upgrades, ducts and hood scoops plus other boy racer visual performance statements, the Polestar Engineered models take a subtler approach that should appeal to more mature clientele, with the only additional exterior modifications being high-gloss black for the grille, flared wheel arches, black chrome exhaust finishers, and small Polestar emblems front and rear. 

2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Gold seatbelts anyone? They’re standard. (Photo: Volvo)

Likewise, the new models’ cabins will receive a unique leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and shifter knob, metal mesh aluminum décor trim, gold seatbelts, special charcoal-coloured Nappa leather and “open-grid” textile seat upholstery, plus more. 

The new 2020 V60 and XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered models will arrive this summer, but if you hope to own one you’ll need to contact your local Volvo dealer now, because if the S60 version is any indication to go by they’ll be snapped up quickly. 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann  

Photo credits: Volvo 

2018 Porsche Macan Road Test Review

2018 Porsche Macan
Porsche hasn’t changed the 2019 Macan much when compared to this 2018 model, the latter still available new from your local Porsche dealer. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I was a bit surprised. After all, it was mid-March of 2019 when Porsche handed me a set 2018 Macan keys. Realizing the 2019 model was still en route and that plenty of 2018s were left on Canadian dealer lots due to the refreshed version arriving quite late in the year, I figured I might as well extend my usual past model-year writing deadline to Q2, the furthest I’ve ever pushed it out before. Fortunately for me the 2019 Macan isn’t a wholesale redesign, with the new model only receiving some styling, mechanical and infotainment mods that I’ll share toward the end of this review. 

Most should agree the Macan is one of the premium SUV segment’s sportier performers, whether we’re talking 2018 or 2019 model. Of course, it’s up against some formidable competitors, but thanks to a bevy of turbocharged engines and some sublime suspension tuning, few rivals come close to matching the fun factor of Porsche’s most affordable model. 

Even this base Macan provides a more engaging experience than most challengers, its growly engine and exhaust note making this immediately clear upon leaving my pickup location, and the wonderfully quick and precise response from its paddle-shift actuated seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission, transforming what appears to be a totally normal compact crossover SUV on paper into a rarified sports model in real life. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Depending on your personal taste, the subtler taillights from the 2018 Macan might even be more to your liking. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

In base trim the Macan includes a turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, which like I just said is about average for the segment, at least when comparing the first number. Still, along with its sportier than average feel it manages to zip from zero to 100km/h in just 6.7 seconds, or 6.5 seconds when optioned out with the available $1,500 Sport Chrono Package, which includes Sport and Off-Road modes, as well as launch control and a unique performance display inside the infotainment interface. Part of the Macan’s off-the-line prowess can be attributed to standard Active all-wheel drive, which adds considerable control no matter the road or weather conditions. 

My Macan tester not only left the Sport Chrono Package off its build sheet, it didn’t include the available $1,560 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system either, which features an electronically variable active damping system incorporating Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes, nor the yet more upscale $3,140 Air Suspension that features PASM too, or for that matter a few other performance upgrades that could’ve also been included, but just the same it was a blast to drive, with strong acceleration and fabulous road-holding when pushed hard through high-speed curvy stretches of roadway, its standard aluminum double-wishbone suspension up front and multi-link setup in back doing a commendable job of respecting the legendary Porsche name. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The 2019 includes standard LED headlights and a revised front fascia, while these 19-inch alloys are optional with this 2018 model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Featured found on my test model included a $790 Lane Change Assist system, which warns when leaving a given lane, veering off the side of road, or when another car pulls alongside when flashing a turn signal. An additional $790 bought Lane Keeping Assist, which automatically takes over at speeds of 65 km/h or greater when such just noted instances occur, while my test model also had $1,650 dynamic cruise control, the feature I prefer most of all due to often driving long distances to see family. 

Additional options included a gorgeous $2,230 Garnet Red leather package that also included $1,960 memory-equipped 14-way power-adjustable front seats. I should also mention these improved-upon seats (in black) are part of the $7,250 Premium Package Plus which was also featured on my test model (which can be further upgraded to include $430 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats) that features proximity entry with push-button start, auto-dimming outside mirrors, a large panoramic moonroof, 3-way cooled front seats, 3-way heated rear seats, great sounding Bose surround audio (or alternatively you can get an awesome 1,000-watt 16-speaker Burmester surround system for $5,370 in the same package), HID headlamps with the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) (or you can add $1,340 more for LED headlights), while my tester also included $1,890 19-inch Macan Turbo alloys clad in 235/55R19 Pirelli rubber, and finally $440 black roof rails, with all the extras adding up to $14,250 for a final tally of $68,350 plus freight and fees. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Even the base Macan’s interior is thoroughly impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, this being a Porsche I haven’t come close to sharing everything that’s available if you choose to go for the gusto, or for that matter everything issued as standard fare with the $54,100 base model, the latter including 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, LED taillights, an electric parking brake, one of the best heated leather multifunction steering wheels in the luxury business (its ultra-thin spokes and excellent switchgear way above average), a colour multi-info display within the gauge cluster that provides a navigation map when selected, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a garage door opener, 3-way heated and 8-way powered front seats, three-zone auto HVAC, a 7.2-inch centre touchscreen with navigation and a reverse camera featuring dynamic guidelines, front and rear parking sonar, HD and satellite radio, a powered tailgate, etcetera. 

The Macan’s cargo compartment is sizeable at 500 litres (17.6 cubic feet), but I appreciate its highly functional 40/20/40 split-folding seatbacks even more as it long times like skis at centre when all four seats are taken, while both rear passengers can enjoy the benefit of the aforementioned rear bum warmers. Remove the standard cargo cover, lower the rear seats, and 1,500 litres (53.0 cubic feet) of gear-toting space becomes available, meaning this ultimately sporty compact SUV is plenty practical too. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Most every surface is soft-touch or high-quality composite and genuine metal. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yes, I know it’s hard to put one’s pragmatist hat on when talking about a Porsche, especially considering how beautifully finished the Macan’s interior is. The dash top, which was detailed out in a lovely black leather with red stitching, looked fabulous, and the quality of the pliable composite used to wrap the lower portion of the instrument panel and all surfaces under the dash, glove box lid and lower console sides included, was superb. As you might expect the Macan’s doors are surfaced with a combination of leather and premium synthetics, from the very top of their uppers to their lower extremities, while classy satin-silver aluminum accents can be found just about everywhere. 

The Macan thoroughly comfortable as well, this partially due to the aforementioned 14-way powered seats that provided all the adjustments needed, including 4-way lumbar support and lower seat cushions that extend to cup below the knees. Ample steering column reach and rake put me in total control too, not to mention absolute comfort despite my long-legged, short torso frame. I found the rear seats comfortable too, especially with respect to the lower back. They were carved out nicely at each window position, ideal for lateral support when the Macan’s driver decides to push the limits. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The standard three-gauge cluster gets a TFT colour multi-information display in its right-side dial. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Performance driving in mind, buyers that want stronger acceleration can opt for the Macan S, which includes a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 that’s good for 340 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, plus standstill to 100km/h in a mere 5.4 seconds, or 5.2 when upgraded to the Sport Chrono Package. If that’s not enough, the Macan GTS gets an additional 20 hp and 30 lb-ft for a whopping 360 and 369 respectively, which reduces its zero to hero time to 5.2 seconds, or 5.0 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package. 

The Turbo (Turbo only referring to model specification, being that all Macans incorporate turbocharged engines) ups the ante with a 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged V6 capable of 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, resulting in 0 to 100km/h in only 4.8 seconds, or 4.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package. 

If more is yet needed, consider the Performance Edition that includes the Sport Chrono Package as standard equipment while adding an extra 40 horsepower and 36 lb-ft of torque for a shocking 440 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque for an ultra-quick 4.4-second 0 to 100km/h sprint. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The biggest change for 2019 is the centre stack, which exchanges this 7.2-inch touchscreen for a much larger 10.9-inch version. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I’m going to guess most in the Turbo league won’t care so much about fuel efficiency, but those who purchase a base model probably will now that the fed’s new carbon pricing scheme is in full force. Standard with all Macan trims is fuel-saving and emissions reducing auto start/stop with coasting ability, which turns the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, this doing its part to assist the Macan toward its estimated 11.6 L/100km city, 9.3 highway and 10.5 combined Transport Canada rating. I’d be fine with this result, particularly when factoring in how fun it is to drive. 

If you choose to purchase the 2019 Macan, real-world fuel economy shouldn’t differ at all, but this said the entry-level four-cylinder has been detuned by four horsepower, while second-rung Macan S trim increases its output by eight horsepower. I don’t think such nominal numbers will cause buyers to go one way or the other, but the new Macan is said to deliver a better ride and with even greater agility, which is kind of difficult to believe when factoring in how wonderfully capable this 2018 version is, so rather than speculate I’ll let you know what I experience after I test it. 

2018 Porsche Macan
These upgraded 14-way seats are fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I think more will be drawn to the new model for its outward design, which while only nominally changed up front is now sporting standard LED headlamps, while in back it’s a whole new look due to a similar one-piece three-dimensional LED tail lamp system as found on the recently updated Cayenne. Even more important is the completely revised centre stack found inside, now featuring a much larger standard 10.9-inch high-definition infotainment touchscreen. It gets much of the same standard features as with the current version, but boasts new graphics for updated features that are now larger and easier to use (the navigation map and backup camera especially benefiting), plus it includes a quicker operating processor as well as the new Porsche Connect Plus app suite with a Wi-Fi hotspot. 

What’s more, the updated Macan offers a new driver assist system which, through dynamic cruise control, can apply the throttle, brake and make steering adjustments to maintain its lane at speeds under 60 km/h amidst traffic, the semi-autonomous system moving Porsche closer to full self-driving. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The Macan is wonderfully practical. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

So which one do you want? An already discounted 2018 Macan like the one tested in this review, or the refreshed and updated 2019 version starting to arrive at Canadian Porsche retailers now? There’s no bad decision here, with both options resulting in a great looking luxury crossover capable of impressive performance, top-tier refinement, and no shortage of space, while Porsche’s expected reliability plus resale and residual values are hard to beat as well. Just remember, if you’re leaning toward the former, the time to act is now. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann  

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

All-new Mercedes CLA promises big improvements when it arrives this fall

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Say hello to the fabulous looking new 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Since arriving on the subcompact luxury scene six years ago, the Mercedes-Benz CLA has been in a constant sparring session with Audi’s A3, but when the challenger from Ingolstadt said so long to its conventionally-powered five-door hatchback and we all said hello to an entirely new four-door sport sedan, the four-ringed brand has enjoyed a slight sales lead over its sporty four-door coupe competitor. 

Of course, M-B and Audi aren’t the only two battling it out for entry-level premium car customers, with Mercedes’ very own B-Class MPV luring in plenty each year from its faithful following, not to mention Acura with its ILX sedan, BMW with its 2 Series coupe and convertible, etcetera, but the problems facing this class aren’t as simple as a handful of rivals doing their best to one-up each other anymore, but rather getting noticed in a luxury market that’s a lot more about SUVs than anything that hugs the pavement so closely. 

For this reason we’ve all got to give Mercedes a round of applause (or maybe a standing ovation) for courageously hitting back with myriad car models in most every luxury segment while others are fleeing. In fact, Mercedes will soon offer more models within the subcompact luxury sector than some competitors have cars, period. Perhaps we can chalk this up to being in the automotive industry longer than any rival, a reality that provided experience through plenty of changes in market sentiment, or possibly it’s just plain stubbornness, but whatever the reason, this German brand not only offers six sedans, two wagons, seven coupes, and six convertibles for a total of 21 different body styles you can purchase right here in Canada, right now, but on top of these the Stuttgart-based marque will be adding the A-Class sedan later this year, bumping its car count up to 22, a mind-blowing pavement-hugging lineup in an auto market that’s supposedly only purchasing high-riding SUVs these days. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With completely new styling from front to back, the new CLA provides a more aggressive new look that’s bound to excite compact luxury buyers. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Of course Mercedes-Benz, Canada’s number one-selling luxury automotive retailer, is capable of filling nearly every niche anyone can conjure up because of its enviable brand equity. Build it and they will come, or so the paraphrased saying goes, and for the most part it’s true. Just look at this subcompact luxury car sector that most brands aren’t even participating in. Mercedes’ B-Class has been attracting entry-level buyers since 2005 when it arrived as a 2006 model, while the same Canadian M-B retailers have been selling the CLA since 2013 (check out pricing and more for the current CLA-Class right here on CarCostCanada now), and the new A-Class hatchback since January. 

Through the first two months of 2019, Mercedes’ collective subcompact luxury sales (including the B-Class) tallied up to 606 units, which dwarfed the 350 Audi A3s sold into the same market, let alone BMW that only managed to sell 139 2 Series and i3 models during the same two months, and as noted we haven’t even seen sales from the lower priced M-B A-Class sedan kick in, or for that matter this entirely new CLA four-door coupe that will hit the streets this fall, building on a success story that’s been pretty impressive so far. 

“With the first CLA we celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 vehicles and created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe in the compact class,” says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
These are by far the most complex LED headlamps in the subcompact luxury sector. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Interestingly, more than two thirds of Canadian CLA buyers were new to Mercedes during that model’s peak sales stint, while it’s also critical to point out that these new M-B owners were seven years younger than the brand’s usual average age of clientele. Later this year Canadians will be given the choice of four recently updated or completely new subcompact models (five if you divide the A-Class into its current hatchback and upcoming sedan body types), with this CLA being the most expressive, and sportiest in the collection, and plenty of these newfound Mercedes owners will more than likely stay with the brand when it comes time to trade in and escalate up to fancier more profitable models within the lineup, as their income increases with age and experience. 

“The new CLA is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” continued Seeger. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets a new benchmark for the entire class.” 

There’s a very big reason Mercedes chose the Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to debut its new CLA last January, the massive Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment interface that, together with its integrated digital instrument cluster, spans much of the car’s instrument panel, but its attractive new styling caused more of an initial crowd. 

Most should agree the new CLA looks more mature due to its seemingly stern forward-slanting sport grille design, which Mercedes claimed is “reminiscent of a shark’s nose” in its press release. Found in front of a lengthier hood highlighted by sculpted “powerdomes”, the new grille is bookended by a more angular set of LED Multibeam headlights incorporating 18 individually-controllable LED elements, all hovering above a more intricately detailed lower front apron. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Like the headlights, the new CLA’s LED taillights are hardly short on signature lighting elements. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Additionally, the new CLA boasts muscled up side panels with flared fenders, while its entire roofline has been positioned farther toward the rear for a more traditional GT design. The more conventional look continues at the back thanks to a rectangular trunk cutout between totally new LED tail lamps that, like the lenses up front, are narrower and laid out higher and more horizontally for a wider overall appearance. Not only fresher and arguably better looking, the extensively wind tunnel-tested 2020 CLA is now much slicker through the air resulting in a 0.23 coefficient of drag. 

“As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’. It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear with a strong distinctive ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “In short, the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.” 

The updated CLA’s interior is obviously focused on a younger customer, the vivid orange highlights of the show car and sizeable conjoined digital displays right out of the iPad, Surface and Galaxy Tab playbooks. The fixed-freestanding widescreen combination includes a gauge cluster to the left, which removes the need for an instrument hood altogether, and an infotainment touchscreen to the right, the latter controlled by Mercedes’ trademark palm-rest and new touchpad (the scrolling wheel is gone) on the lower console. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA’s dash design makes everything else in the subcompact luxury segment look old. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Do-it-yourself shifting comes via a set of paddles behind the 9 and 3 o’clock positions of the beautifully detailed leather-clad flat-bottom sport steering wheel, while above the previously noted infotainment controller is an elegantly thin climate control interface. Lastly, if that mammoth display didn’t first tug at your eyeballs, the stunning turbine-style circular HVAC ducts across the dash certainly should have. 

Back to the mother of all in-car electronic interfaces, which was actually introduced in the new A-Class a year ago and E-Class before that, the graphically stimulating multi-information display and surrounding digital dials sits next to Mercedes new high-resolution MBUX infotainment system as noted earlier. Along with fully customizable displays, Augmented Reality navigation that reportedly provides a much more realistic mapping system plus more, the new system’s computing power is greatly enhanced over the CLA’s outgoing system, and even features software that can “learn and respond to natural speech,” said Mercedes-Benz. 

If you’ve ever struggled to get a voice activation system to understand your prompts you may be glad to hear this next bit of news, because M-B’s new voice assistant is said to communicate more closely to Amazon Alexa, with the simple prompt of “Hey Mercedes” leading to more capability than any other in-car voice system offered thus far. What’s more, it’s intelligent enough to recognize the speech patterns of the individual asking the question, even when others are engaged in a different conversation. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The MBUX system’s graphics are so mesmerizing you might just find yourself driving off the road. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“The latest version of voice control for MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries,” said Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. “What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passenger’s conversations. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.” 

Additionally, Mercedes says their new MBUX voice assistant can even recognize and respond to more complex indirect questions, such as “Find Italian restaurants with at least four stars that are open for lunch but exclude pizza shops,” for example. It can also manage a greater assortment of subjects, with other press release-cited examples including “Hey Mercedes, How did the Toronto Raptors play?” when referencing sports news, or “How has the Apple share price performed compared to Microsoft?” for its take on business news. If you need a quick calculation, MBUX can do that for you too, with the example given being, “What is the square roof of 9?” while Mercedes provided the questions “How big is Texas?” and “What is the fat content of avocados?” for the general knowledge category. 

While some potential buyers may ante up for the new CLA just to for MBUX alone, plenty of others will appreciate the car’s larger overall size. It now measures 48 millimetres (1.9 inches) longer at 4,688 mm (184.5 in), while its wheelbase has been stretched by 30 mm (1.2 in) at 2,729 mm (107.4 in). Additionally, it spans 53 mm (2.1 in) wider at 1,830 mm (72.0 in) without the side mirrors, and finally its roofline is 2 mm (0.1 in) lower at 1,439 mm (56.6 in). 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With infotainment that rivals the best of today’s tablets, the new CLA should appeal to younger buyers and the young at heart. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

As you can guess it’s more accommodating inside, but while those up front enjoy 17 mm (0.6 in) of additional headroom, and rear passengers get 3 mm (0.1 in) more space overhead, whereas shoulder room has been improved by 9 mm (0.3 in) up front and 22 mm (0.8 in) in the rear, plus front to rear elbow room grows by 35 and 44 mm (1.4 and 1.7 in) respectively, front legroom has actually shrunken by one millimetre, while legroom in the back seat lengthens by just a single millimetre as well. 

The cargo compartment is smaller too, but just by 10 litres (0.3 cubic feet) to a still-sizeable 460 litres (16.2 cu ft), while on the positive the new CLA’s squarer trunk lid width increases by a whopping 262 mm (10.3 in), plus the load floor was widened by 113 mm (4.4 in) wider and deepened by 24 mm (0.9 in). 

Lift the opening at the other end and you’ll once again find a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine underneath, and while Mercedes hasn’t shared performance figures for its most affordable CLA 250 variant yet, it will likely measure up to the new A 250 Hatchback, which makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque for a 13 horsepower gain and identical twist. Putting power down to the front wheels or 4MATIC all-wheel drive is Mercedes’ in-house 7G-DCT twin-clutch automated gearbox, with a beefed up version of the transmission and standard AWD expected to be included in the (finger’s crossed) AMG variant, the current performance model good for 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
An elegantly thin HVAC panel floats above the CLA’s minimalist lower console, replete with an all-new touchpad infotainment controller. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

An increased dimension not yet mentioned is track width, which is up a healthy 63 mm (2.5 in) at the front wheels and 55 mm (2.1 in) in the rear, while the CLA also benefits from a lower centre of gravity, all of which should combine for a big improvement in overall performance. Additional chassis improvements include a Direct-Steer system and hydromounts up front, while the rear suspension includes a decoupled multi-link axle that reduces NVH, plus bigger stabilizer bars for reducing body roll. Lastly, 18-inch wheels shod in 225/45 tires should come standard, while 19-inch alloys wearing 225/40 rubber will be available. 

And what about advanced driver assistance and safety systems? Standard with the CLA will be Active Brake Assist, while Active Lane Keep Assist, which helps to centre drivers within their lane and prevents them from unexpectedly veering off the road, will be optional by choosing the Intelligent Drive Package that also incorporates Pre-Safe Plus with rear traffic warning and an automatic backup braking system. 

Also notable, the Intelligent Drive Package, which debuted in Mercedes’ flagship S-Class, can pilot the CLA autonomously in certain circumstances, but Mercedes is quick to point out that this semi-autonomous system still needs “cooperative driver support,” or at least it will until its many advanced functions are allowed to work on their own. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
M-B adds a lot more width to new CLA’s interior. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Produced in Kecskemét, Hungary, the redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA should help increase Mercedes’ command of the subcompact luxury car market when it joins the new A-Class sedan for autumn 2019 availability (find new A-Class Sedan and Hatchback pricing and more right here on CarCostCanada now), not to mention the A-Class Hatchback, GLA-Class subcompact crossover SUV and who knows what else (but according to Mercedes more are coming), and by so doing secure an entirely new generation of three-pointed star devotees. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

Hot new 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé unveiled

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé
The new 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé promises dramatic new styling on an already impressive performance SUV platform. (Photo: Porsche)

Ask anyone into cars which automaker makes the sportiest SUV, and Porsche will likely top the list more often than not. Whether we’re talking performance or styling, its Cayenne utility has long been considered one of the strongest performers in its mid-size luxury class, but that fact hasn’t stopped the German performance brand from producing an even sportier crossover model for 2020. Introducing the new Cayenne Coupé, a sharper more exciting version of the current Cayenne, designed to go head-to-head with the BMW X6s and Mercedes GLE Coupés of the world. 

Before the Cayenne arrived on the global luxury SUV scene in 2002, BMW’s X5 was touted as the sportiest premium utility. The Cayenne, particularly in Turbo form, trounced all over the X5’s turf, but BMW arguably returned to the topmost podium spot when the X6 Sports Activity Coupé arrived in 2007. 

With that sloped-back Bavarian SUV came a completely new niche market, solidified by the daringly different albeit mostly unloved (and therefore quickly cancelled) Acura ZDX in 2009, which was followed by the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupé in 2015, plus Lamborghini Urus in 2017 and Audi Q8 in 2018. 

The latter two models, together with the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, and Volkswagen Touareg, ride on VW group’s MLBevo platform, which is why it was only a matter of time before this Cayenne Coupé joined the fray. This said it’s quite possible for the new Porsche to earn even greater success than its familial rivals and other key competitors that came before, thanks to Porsche’s revered name and the model’s expected performance. 

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé
A new lower roofline with a sweptback rear hatch provides distinctive rear styling that sets the new Coupé apart from the regular Cayenne. (Photo: Porsche)

When compared to their regularly sized siblings, an obvious downfall of all SUV coupe competitors is practicality, the lower rooflines lending to less cargo capacity, and while this is as true of the Cayenne Coupé as it is with the X6 and more spacious X5, plenty of luxury car buyers not wanting a traditional family hauler are looking to this niche segment as a more pragmatic alternative to their current sport sedan or sports coupe. What’s more, the very existence of the new Cayenne Coupé allows Porsche to upsize future generations of the regular Cayenne, potentially even providing a three-row version to go up against the seven-passenger X5. 

Changes from the redesigned 2019 Cayenne (which will remain unchanged for 2020) and the new Cayenne Coupé include a 20-millimetre lower roofline, including a new windscreen held up by shallower A pillars, plus narrower more pointed rear side windows, revised second-row doors skins, brand new rear quarter panels, and a reworked rear bumper, that last component now including an integrated license plate cutout. The new bodywork has resulted in 19 millimetres of increased width, which when combined with the Coupé’s lower ride height makes for a more aggressive stance overall. 

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé
Active aerodynamics are incorporated for the first time in this niche SUV coupe class. (Photo: Porsche)

Yet more Cayenne Coupé upgrades include a special adaptive rear deck lid spoiler, separated rear seats for a four-occupant total, plus two roof choices starting with a standard 2.16-cubic-metre fixed panoramic moonroof with sunshade, or an available carbon panel for an even sportier look. 

That adaptive rear spoiler will be a first for the SUV coupe market segment, following in the footsteps of its bigger Cayenne brother in its more traditional mid-size luxury SUV category. The regular Cayenne uses an adaptive rooftop spoiler for its top-tier Turbo trim, whereas the active aerodynamic device will be standard on the new Cayenne Coupé, expanding by 135 mm (5.3 inches) when it reaches speeds of 90 km/h and beyond. Additionally, a rooftop spoiler pushes airflow down the sloping rear glass combines towards the active spoiler on the rear deck lid, further aiding the Coupé’s aerodynamics. This system, called Porsche Active Aerodynamics (PAA), increases downforce on the rear axle to provide better handling dynamics, while also improving high-speed efficiency to minimize wind noise and reduce fuel consumption. 

By the way, the carbon roof mentioned earlier will require an upgrade to one of three lightweight sport packages, which also feature a number of Sport Design features, as well as unique 22-inch GT Design wheels, hounds-tooth Pepita checked fabric seat inserts that’ll send your memory back to classic 911s and 928s, plus carbon and microsuede-like Alcantara interior trim. What’s more, the new Cayenne Coupé Turbo includes a sport exhaust system as standard equipment. 

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé
A lightweight carbon fibre roof is now optional. (Photo: Porsche)

The enhanced exhaust system connects through to the same twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 as found in the regular Cayenne Turbo, capable of 541 horsepower and 567 pound-feet of torque, resulting in standstill to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds. This means the new Cayenne Coupé Turbo’s standing start will only be improved upon by the previously noted 650-horsepower Lamborghini Urus, which hits 100km/h in only 3.6 seconds, which leaves the 567-horsepower X6 M and 577-horsepower AMG-Mercedes GLE 63 S Coupé requiring 4.2 seconds each to accomplish the same 100km/h run. Notably the smaller compact AMG-Mercedes GLC 63 S Coupé charges from naught to 100km/h in a scant 3.8 seconds thanks to its 503-horsepower V8, while the 503-horsepower BMW X4 M needs 4.1 seconds to achieve the same speed. Those that dare live on the edge can tout bragging rights to a 286-km/h top speed for the Cayenne Coupé Turbo, incidentally. 

If ultimate speed isn’t your thing, and let’s face it, only those with a track nearby and enough time and money to rent it out for hot laps can take advantage without putting their license and new Cayenne Coupé Turbo in jeopardy, Porsche makes a less potent Cayenne Coupé available with an identical 335 horsepower turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 to the regular base Cayenne. This is where the new Audi Q8 fits into the scheme of things too, in case you were wondering, not to mention most of the above SUV coupes in their less formidable trims. 

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé
The new Cayenne Coupé Turbo is one of the fastest entries in the SUV coupe segment. (Photo: Porsche)

The turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine makes a healthy 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, which is good enough for a 6.0-second sprint from zero to 100km/h in standard guise or 5.9 seconds when upgraded with one of its lightweight sports packages. The Sport Chrono Package, incidentally, is standard equipment with the Cayenne Coupé, which brings up an interesting point. When the regular base Cayenne is upfitted with its Sport Chrono Package, Porsche estimates its sprint time to 100km/h as 5.9 seconds, which strangely makes it 0.1 seconds faster to 100km/h than the new Cayenne Coupé. Additionally, the base Cayenne’s terminal velocity is 2 km/h faster at 245 km/h, the entry-level Cayenne Coupé’s only capable of 243 km/h. Are we making a mountain out a mole hill? Of course we are, but splitting such hairs is par for the course when it comes to this high-end, super-performance SUV arena, so we have every right to. 

Back to standard equipment, the new Cayenne Coupé also gets speed-sensitive Power Steering Plus, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), plus a set of 20-inch alloy rims, all of which will cause you to spend more when purchasing a regular Cayenne. 

Now that we’re talking money, the new 2020 Cayenne Coupé will be available from just $86,400 when it goes on sale later this year, while the significantly quicker Cayenne Coupé Turbo will start at $148,000, plus freight and fees of course. 

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé
The Cayenne Coupé’s instrument panel is identical to the newly revised 2019 Cayenne’s dash design. (Photo: Porsche)

In its transformation from regular SUV to coupe, the new model also gets eight-way powered sport seats with beefier side bolsters, while passengers in back sit on cushions lowered by 30 mm (1.18 inches), allowing additional headroom to compensate for the lower rear roofline. 

The Cayenne Coupé’s tapering roof negatively affects its load hauling ability too, but to be fair it’s only down by 145 litres (5.1 cubic feet) when compared to the normally sized Cayenne. To that end the base Coupé can manage up to 625 litres (22.0 cu ft) of gear behind its rear seats, whereas the bigger model is good for 770 litres (27.2 cu ft). When dropping the 40/20/40 split-folding rear row, luggage capacity increases to 1,540 litres (54.4 cu ft) compared to 1,710 litres (60.4 cu ft) in the regular Cayenne, which is a difference of only 170.0 litres (6.0 cu ft). Therefore, while not as practical as the regular Cayenne, the new Coupé should be just fine for those moving up from a sport coupe or sedan. 

2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupé
The Cayenne Coupé is strictly a four-seater, with its middle position replaced by a centre console bin. (Photo: Porsche)

On that note, those considering moving over to the Cayenne Coupé from a second-generation Panamera will appreciate an extra 125 litres (4.4 cu ft) of cargo room when comparing base trims, while owners of the Panamera Sport Turismo will benefit by 105 litres (3.7 cu ft) of extra cargo volume. 

Also important to note, the Cayenne Turbo Coupé’s cargo hold is 25 litres (0.9 litres) smaller than the base Cayenne Coupé at just 600 litres (21.2 cu ft) when the rear seats are in use, or by 30 litres (1.0 cu-ft) to 1,510 litres (53.3 cu ft) when they’re laid flat. 

The all-new 2020 Cayenne Coupé will arrive across Canada this fall, but is available to preorder from your local Porsche retailer now.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Porsche

Porsche wows CIAS attendees with new 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport

2019 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
Lighter and more potent thanks to a 425-hp H6, the new 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport is a formidable track weapon. (Photo: Porsche)

A significant coup for last month’s Canadian International Auto Show was the introduction of the new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, a car rooted in the legendary brand’s racing heritage. The track-only Cayman, which was revealed in January at the Daytona International Speedway, made its first official motor show appearance at the Toronto event. 

The updated 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport is now in its second generation, the first arriving on the motorsport scene in 2016 sans “718” script on the rear deck lid. Unlike the previous version, the new GT4 Clubsport can be had in two forms: first as a “Trackday” car set up for “ambitious amateur racing drivers,” and second as “a ‘Competition’ variant for national and international motor racing,” the latter to notably be used for this year’s GT3 Cup Challenge Canada series. 

Ahead of pointing out differences, both 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport models receive an updated version of the old 3.8-litre flat-six “boxer” engine, now good for 425 horsepower at 7,800 rpm, a 40-horsepower improvement over the previous 2016 car, while torque is now 4 lb-ft greater, to 313 lb-ft at 6,600 rpm. 

2019 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
The GT4 Clubsport comes standard with some impressive aero hardware. (Photo: Porsche)

Of note, this is the first six-cylinder 718 Cayman application since the car’s 2017 model year debut, due to the current 982-generation only using a turbocharged four-cylinder in various states of tune, causing some pundits to question whether a road-worthy Cayman with a horizontally opposed six-cylinder positioned just ahead of its rear axle will bolster the 718 Cayman ranks. 

That new GT4 Clubsport flat-six, which feeds on 98 octane Super Plus unleaded gasoline, packs a 12.5:1 compression ratio, integrated dry sump lubrication, racing-optimized engine and transmission water cooling with thermal management, four-valve technology with adjustable camshaft phasing and VarioCam Plus variable valve timing, a racing-optimized Continental SDI 9 electronic engine management system, plus more. 

Where the previous GT4 Clubsport shifted gears through a short-throw six-speed manual transmission, the new 718 version will solely utilize Porsche’s dual-clutch PDK automated gearbox, albeit with only six forward gears instead of the usual seven. The new model also features a reinforced dual mass flywheel, a racing-optimized electronic control unit, a racing-optimized mechanical rear axle differential lock, plus an internal pressure oil lubrication system boasting active oil cooling. 

2019 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
The GT4 Clubsport requires a trailer for transporting it to the track. (Photo: Porsche)

Additional modifications over road-going 718 Caymans include implementation of the 911 GT3 Cup car’s lightweight spring-strut front suspension; front and rear height, camber and track adjustable dampers; fixed shock absorbers with the Trackday car, or three-way racing shocks with rebound and two-stage high- and low-speed compression adjustment for the Competition; front and rear forged suspension links with optimized stiffness, double shear mountings, and high-performance spherical bearings; a three-hole design anti-roll bar up front; an adjustable blade-type anti-roll bar in the back; and five-bolt wheel hubs. 

The new rims are single-piece forged light alloy wheels wearing a new “weight-optimized” design, and rolling on 25/64 front and 27/68 rear Michelin transportation rubber, while Michelin also supplies the slick/wet tires that measure 25/64-18 and 27/68-18 front and rear, too. 

What’s more, behind those wheels and tires are racing-spec brakes that feature four multi-piece, ventilated and grooved steel discs measuring 380 millimetres in diameter, plus racing brake pads, aluminum mono-bloc six-piston front and four-piston rear racing calipers with “Anti Knock Back” piston springs, plus a brake booster with the Trackday version or brake balance adjustment via a balance bar system with the Competition model. 

2019 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
A closeup of the rear wing shows an intricate weave of organic fibres that are apparently sourced from agricultural by-products. (Photo: Porsche)

Despite the GT4 Clubsport’s factory-installed (FIA Art. 277 certified) safety cage, plus its 911 GT3-inspired front spoiler and sizeable fixed rear wing, which appear mostly carryover from the previous Clubsport, the race-spec Cayman weighs in at just 1,320 kilos, making it lighter than the outgoing model. 

Mass in mind, the GT4 Clubsport’s body structure is comprised of aluminum-steel composite and therefore light in weight; while additional features include a hood and rear deck lid fastened in place via quick-release latches; an (FIA Art. 275a certified) escape hatch in the roof; an FT3 fuel safety cell that measures 80 litres with the Trackday or 115 litres with the Competition model, both featuring an FIA-compliant “Fuel Cut Off” safety valve; pre-installed mounting points for a three-piston air jack system for the Trackday, or a factory-installed three-piston air jack system with the Competition; and FIA-certified towing loops front and rear. 

Also, a motorsport centre console with “enhanced functionality and adapted usability” gets added to the instrument panel, a six-point safety harness is included with its single Recaro race bucket driver’s seat, which also includes two-way fore and aft adjustments as well as an adjustable padding system, and lastly provisions are made for a safety net. 

2019 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
I think we all want to get our hands on this race-spec steering wheel. (Photo: Porsche)

While safety is critical, and improving performance paramount for any new racing car, with Porsche having clearly claimed that its new 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport improves overall drivability and therefore should provide faster lap times than its predecessor, it’s surprising that Porsche also put time and effort into its environmental initiatives, not normally a key issue in this class of sports car. The end result is a production-first racecar technology that could potentially find more widespread use: natural-fibre composite body parts. 

The 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport’s door skins and rear wing (specifically the wing flap, sideblades, and “swan neck” mounts) are actually formed from an organic fibre mix that’s sourced from agricultural by-products such as hemp or flax fibres. Porsche says the new age components weigh approximately the same as if made from carbon-fibre, while their strength is also similar. 

Specific to each model, the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport Trackday gets fixed shock absorbers, plus ABS, ESC, and traction control assistance systems for easier control at high speeds, the latter of which can all be deactivated. Improving comfort and safety respectively, the Trackday also includes air-conditioning and a handheld fire extinguisher, while it can be serviced at Porsche Centres throughout Canada. 

2019 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
No PCM touchscreen here, the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport’s centre stack is all business. (Photo: Porsche)

You’ll need your own team of mechanics for the Competition model, however, and one of them will need to be well versed in three-stage shock adjustment, while you’ll need to figure out how to adjust the front/rear bias of the brake balance system yourself. Additionally, your pit stop team will be able to change the tires quickly thanks to its aforementioned integrated air jacks, and the larger safety fuel cell will make sure time off the track will be kept to a minimum. 

Safety features not yet mentioned include an automated fire extinguishing system, and a quick release race steering wheel pulled from the 911 GT3 R. 

Priced considerably higher than a street legal 718 Cayman, which starts at just $63,700, the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport Trackday model can be had for $216,500, whereas the same car with the Competition package starts at $242,000. 

Interested parties should contact Porsche Motorsport North America in Carson, California, or alternatively your local Porsche retailer, which no doubt would be happy to put you in touch. 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 

Photo credits: Porsche 

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.