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2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro Road Test

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
Audi’s Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro looks fabulous, even with a utilitarian roof rack on top.

Style. Some have it, and others just don’t. A small handful, on the other hand, are not only in style, but in fact set the trends. Audi has long been one such brand, often lauded for its leadership in design and execution, while the new Q8 has become one of the automaker’s key style-setters.

While hardly an initiator in the SUV coupe category, the Q8’s edgy lines and sleek, low-slung profile has certainly made up for lost time. As you may already know, it shares hard points with a number of other Volkswagen group crossover utilities, namely Porsche’s Cayenne Coupe and Lamborghini’s Urus, while its MLB platform underpinnings can be found in Audi’s own Q7, plus the regular Cayenne, Volkswagen’s Touareg (in other markets) and at the other end of the spectrum, Bentley’s Bentayga.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
The Q8’s rear design is easily as attractive as its front end.

This means that along with its dashing good looks it’s an SUV that can run with the best in the industry, and believe me the Q8 can hold its own on a curving backroad. The Q8 plays alongside BMW’s X6 and Mercedes’ GLE Coupe, the former being the first-ever SUV coupe, while most others in this sector are much higher priced alternatives such as Maserati’s Levante (which is more of a regular crossover SUV despite being very sleek), Aston Martin’s DBX, and soon Ferrari’s Purosangue.

The Q8 is not only more affordable than the exotics just mentioned, but my tester’s Technik 55 TFSI Quattro trim line is considerably more approachable than the mid-range SQ8 or top-line RS Q8. Our 2021 Audi Q8 Canada Prices page shows suggested pricing of $91,200 plus freight and fees, which adds $8,650 to the price of a base Q8 Progressiv model, while Audi is currently offering up to $4,000 in additional incentives on both 2021 and 2020 models, and average CarCostCanada member savings are $3,875.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
The standard LED headlamps are stunning.

The Q8 arrived for 2019, by the way, and other than an assortment of tech features that have been added to the base Progressiv trim since its initial year, 2019, 2020 and 2021 versions are mostly the same. The Q8 Technik shown on this page is pretty well fully loaded, so it’s pretty well the same vehicle as a 2021.

Obviously the Q8’s base price makes its placement within Audi’s SUV hierarchy clear, the sporty mid-sizer positioned above the Q7, the two Q5 models, and of course the Q3, at least as far as non-electrics go. Audi has a lineup of EVs now, including the E-Tron and new E-Tron Sportback (Audi-speak for an SUV Coupe), while the second Q5 I just mentioned is another Sportback, making a total of three SUV coupes in the Ingolstadt brand’s lineup.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
These painted alloys help this all-black Q8 look particularly menacing.

SUV coupes are arguably better looking, unless you’re more of a traditionalist, but there is a trade-off. It comes in the way of rear headroom and cargo capacity, the second row more than adequately sized for most adults, but the Q8’s dedicated luggage space down significantly from the Q7 and even some of the regularly proportioned five-passenger SUVs it might be up against. Even the GLE Coupe offers more room behind its rear seats, but the Q8 edges out the X6.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
The Q8’s cabin is impeccably finished.

Now that we’re talking about practical issues, the base Q8 powertrain delivers decent fuel economy. Driven with a tempered right foot you’ll be able to eke out 13.8 L/100km in the city, 11.7 on the highway and 12.7 combined, but that’s probably not how you’re going to want to drive it.

Sorry for the yawn-fest, but I needed to get the mundanities out of the way before talking performance. Fortunately for enthusiasts like us, Audi chose not to go all pragmatic with its Q8 powertrains, leaving the Q7’s 248 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder off the menu and instead opting for its 335 horsepower V6 in base models. That’s a healthy dose of energy for any SUV, but even more for a lighter weight five-passenger ute like the Q8. It pushes out 369 lb-ft of torque as well, all from a 3.0-litre V6-powered with a single turbo, so off-the-line acceleration is strong and highway passing manoeuvres are effortless.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
The Q8’s driving environment is amongst the best in its class.

Not as effortless as passing would be in a 500 horsepower SQ8, mind you, or for that matter the near Urus levels of straight-line power offered up by the 591 horsepower RS Q8. These two put 568 and 590 lb-ft of torque down to the tarmac respectively, so launching from standstill would be exhilarating to say the least. Is 3.8 seconds to 100 km/h good enough for you? That’s as quick as Bentley’s W12-powered Bentayga, and only 0.2 seconds off the Urus’ 3.6-second sprint. The mid-range SQ8 is fast too, but 4.3 seconds from zero to 100 km/h is not quite as awe-inspiring, while the 55 TFSI Quattro’s 6.0-second run is definitely quick enough to leave most traffic behind when the light goes green.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
The digital gauge cluster’s multi-info display can be enlarged to take up most o the area.

Speaking of fast, the Q8’s ZF-sourced eight-speed auto is both silky smooth and wonderfully quick-shifting when pushing hard, while Quattro continues Audi’s advanced tradition in all-wheel drive, delivering superb traction in all conditions. Adding to the experience, Audi provides Comfort, Auto, Dynamic (sport), Individual and Off Road “drive select” modes, the sportiest enhancing the Q8’s direct electromechanical steering design and nicely-tuned five-link front and rear suspension setup, resulting in a luxury SUV that’s comfortable when needed, and plenty of fun through the curves.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
The Q8’s centre display will impress.

Comfort is the Q8 55 TFSI Quattro’s primary purpose, however, and one look inside makes this immediately known. Its interior design typifies Audi’s contemporary minimalism, while the quality of materials is second to none. My test model’s cabin was mostly done out in a subdued charcoal grey, other than the large sections of piano black lacquered trim running across the instrument panel and lower console. These perfectly bled into the numerous electronic displays, while Audi added some stylish brown details to visually warm up what could come across as a cold grey motif. Yes, even the open-pore hardwood inlays were stained grey, although ample brushed aluminum trim and the big panoramic sunroof overhead helped to lighten the mood.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
A separate display for the HVAC system frees up space on the infotainment screen.

The aforementioned displays brightened the gauge cluster and centre stack too, with attractive graphics and brilliantly clear high-definition resolution. The former, dubbed “Audi Virtual Cockpit,” is 100-percent digital and wonderfully customizable, plus can be modded so that the centre-mounted multi-information display takes over the entire screen via a “VIEW” button located on the steering wheel spoke. My favourite choice of multi-info functions for this full-size view is the navigation map, which looks fabulous and frees the centre display for other duties, like scrolling through satellite radio stations, while multi-zone heating and ventilation controls can be found on a separate touchscreen just below.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
This is one smooth eight-speed operator.

The previously noted “drive select” modes can be found on a thin strip of touch-sensitive interface just under the HVAC display. Also included is a button for cancelling traction and stability control, turning on the hazard lights, and selecting defog/defrost settings. This switchgear, plus all others in the Q8’s well laid out interior, is impressively made.

Of course, we’ve all come to expect this level of detail from Audi, as is the case for cabin comfort. Of upmost importance to me is any vehicle’s driving position, due to a torso that’s not as long as my legs, therefore once my seat has been powered rearward enough to accommodate the latter, I often require more reach from the telescopic steering column than some models provide in order to achieve maximum control while comfortably holding the rim of the wheel. If that reach isn’t there, I’ve got to crank my seatback to a less than ideal vertical position, which is never a good first impression. In the Q8’s case, nothing I just said was even necessary, other than to point out that its driving position is near perfect.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
Ready for supreme comfort? Even including a massage?

Of course, the amply adjustable driver’s seat had much to do with that. It includes an extendable lower cushion that nicely cups under the knees, a favourite feature, while together with the usual fore/aft, up/down, recline and four-way lumbar support functions was a wonderful massage feature that gently eased back pain via wave, pulse, stretch, relaxation, shoulder, and activation modes, not to mention three intensity levels. Industry norm three-temperature heatable cushions were combined with three-way cooling, making a very good thing just that much better.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
An expansive panoramic sunroof opens up the world.

With my seat pushed back far enough to fit my long-legged albeit still short five-foot-eight frame, I still had more than enough space in all directions, while I could nearly stretch out fully when sitting behind the driver’s seat in the second row. With only two seated in back, the Q8’s wide, comfortable centre armrest can be folded down. It features the usual twin cupholders, plus controls for the power-operated side-window sunshades, which can be operated by someone seated on either side of the rear bench. A climate control interface allows adjustment of another two zones in back, for a total of four. This is where you’ll find buttons for the rear outboard seat heaters.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
Rear seat comfort and roominess is above par.

I’ve already mentioned the Q8’s cargo volume, so rather than going down this memory hole one more time I’ll just reiterate that most should find it adequate. It’s very well finished, as you might expect, with full carpeting and a stylish aluminum protective plate on the hatch sill, plus bright metal tie-down hooks at each corner, not to mention a useful webbed storage area to the side. I especially appreciation folding rear seatbacks split in the optimal 40/20/40 configuration, which allows for longer items like skis to be stored down the middle while rear occupants benefit from the more comfortable heatable window seats.

2020 Audi Q8 Technik 55 TFSI Quattro
The Q8’s cargo compartment isn’t the largest in the class, but it’s not the smallest either.

I’ve already mentioned pricing and likely discounts, but you’ll need to go to CarCostCanada to find out how to access the deals. Their very affordable membership gives you money-saving info on available manufacturer rebates, factory financing and leasing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that’s like having insider information before negotiating your best deal. Find out how a CarCostCanada membership will save you money on your next new vehicle, and download their free app too, so you can access critical info when you need it most.

All said, the Q8 would be a good way to apply all knowledge you’ll gain from a CarCostCanada membership. While practical and fuel efficient, it’s drop-dead gorgeous from the outside in, includes some of the best quality materials available, comes equipped with an impressive assortment of standard and optional features, is wonderfully comfortable in every seating position, and delivers strong performance no matter the road conditions.

Story by Trevor Hofmann

Photos by Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

Porsche increases battery size and EV range of the 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid

2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
All 2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid models get a bump in battery size for increased range.

Just in case you’re having a déjà vu moment, rest assured that you previously read an article on this site about Porsche E-Hybrid battery improvements, but at that time we were covering Panamera variants and now it’s all about the electrified Cayenne.

Like last year, both the regular Cayenne crossover SUV and the sportier looking Cayenne Coupe will receive Porsche’s E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid power units, but new for 2021 are battery cells that are better optimized and improve on energy density, thus allowing a 27-percent increase in output and nearly 30 percent greater EV range.

2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe
Although it looks as if it should be faster, the 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe is a fraction slower to 100 km/h than the regular body style.

The new battery, up from 14.1 kWh to 17.9, expands the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s range from about 22 or 23 km between charges to almost 30 km, which will force fewer trips to the gas station when using their plug-in Porsches for daily commutes. Likewise, the heftier Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid gets an EV range bump up from approximately 19 or 20 km to 24 or 25 km.

Added to this, Porsche has reworked how these Cayenne plug-ins utilize their internal combustion engines (ICE) when charging the battery. The battery now tops off at 80 percent instead of 100, which in fact saves fuel while reducing emissions. Say what? While this might initially seem counterintuitive, it all comes down to the E-Hybrid’s various kinetic energy harvesting systems, like regenerative braking, that aren’t put to use if the battery reaches a 100-percent fill. Cap off the charge at 80 percent and these systems are always in use, and therefore do their part in increasing efficiency.

2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid
The regular Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid body style and the Coupe are identically quick.

Additionally, the larger 17.9 kWh battery can charge quicker in Sport and Sport Plus performance modes and default or Eco modes, making sure the drive system always has ample boost when a driver wants to maximize acceleration or pass a slower vehicle.

Net horsepower and combined torque remain the same as last year’s Cayenne plug-in hybrid models despite the bigger battery, with the 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid retaining its 455 net horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque rating, and both Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid body styles pushing out a sensational 670 net horsepower along with 663 lb-ft of twist.

2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
No matter the 2021 Cayenne body style or trim line, the view from inside is impressive.

Standard Cayenne E-Hybrid models can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.0 seconds when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package, before maxing out at a terminal velocity of 253 km/h, while the Sport Chrono Package equipped Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe requires an additional 0.1-second to achieve the same top speed. Alternatively, both regular and coupe Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid body styles catapult from standstill to 100 km/h in an identical 3.8 seconds, with the duo also topping out at 295 km/h.

The 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid starts at $93,800 plus freight and fees, while the Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe is available from $100,400. After that, the Turbo S E-Hybrid can be had from $185,600, and lastly the Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe starts at $191,200. You can order the new electrified Cayenne models now, with first deliveries expected by spring.

Take note that Porsche is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent, so be sure to visit our 2021 Porsche Cayenne Canada Prices page to find out all the details. CarCostCanada also provides manufacturer rebate information, when available, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next purchase. Learn how it all works by clicking on this link, and also download our free app.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

CarCostCanada

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550 Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The new second-gen G-Class stays true to its iconic design and purpose.

Few vehicles ever earn “icon” status. They’re either not around long enough, or their manufacturers change them so dramatically from their original purpose that only the name remains.

Case in point, Chevy’s new car-based Blazer family hauler compared to Ford’s go-anywhere Bronco. One is a complete departure from the arguably iconic truck-based original, whereas the other resurrects a beloved nameplate with new levels of on- and off-road prowess.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
For crossover buyers the G will be too boxy, but to serious SUV fans it’s just right.

Land Rover has done something similar with its new Defender, yet due to radically departing from the beloved 1990-2016 first-generation Defender 90 and 110 models’ styling (which was based on the even more legendary 1948-1958 Series I, 1958-1961 Series II, 1961-1971 Series IIA, and 1971-1990 Series III) it runs the risk of losing the nameplate’s iconic status.

In fact, a British billionaire eager to cash in on Land Rover’s possible mistake is building a modernized version of the classic Defender 110 for those with deep pockets, dubbed the Ineos Grenadier (Ineos being the multinational British chemical company partly owned by said billionaire, Jim Ratcliffe). That the Grenadier was partly developed and is being produced by Magna Steyr in its Graz, Austria facility, yes, the same Magna Steyr that builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Class being tested here, is an interesting coincidence, but I digress. The more important point being made is that Mercedes’ G-Class never needed resurrecting. Like Jeep’s Wrangler, albeit at a much loftier price point, the G-wagon has remained true to its longstanding design and defined purpose from day one, endowing it with cult-like status.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G 550’s LED headlights look much the same as the old model’s from a distance, but inside they’re much more advanced.

The G-Class was thoroughly overhauled for the 2019 model year, this being the SUV’s second generation despite more than 40 years of production, so as you can likely imagine, changes to this 2020 model and the upcoming 2021 version are minimal. The same G 550 and sportier AMG G 63 trims remain available, but the more trail-specified 2017-2018 G 550 4×4 Squared, as well as the more pavement-performance focused 2016-2018 AMG G 65 haven’t been offered yet, nor for that matter has the awesome six-wheel version, therefore we’ll need to watch and wait to see what Mercedes has in store.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
This G 550’s wheel and tire package meant it remained on-road.

The 2019 exterior updates included plenty of new body panels, plus revised head and tail lamp designs (that aren’t too much of a departure from the original in shape and size), and lastly trim modifications all-round. The model’s squared-off, utilitarian body style remains fully intact, which is most important to the SUV’s myriad hardcore fans.

While I’m supposed to be an unbiased reporter, truth be told I’m also a fan of this chunky off-roader. In fact, I’m actually in the market for a diesel-powered four-door Geländewagen (or a left-hand drive, long-wheelbase Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series diesel in decent shape), an earlier version more aligned with my budget restraints and less likely to cause tears when inevitably scratching it up off-road. Of course, if personal finances allowed me to keep the very G 550 in my possession for this weeklong test, I’d be more than ok with that too, as it’s as good as 4×4-capable SUVs get.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Simple and small, yet filled with LEDs for faster response to brake input.

While first- to second-generation G-Class models won’t be immediately noticeable to casual onlookers, step inside and the differences are dramatic. The new model features a totally new dash design and higher level of refinement overall, including the brand’s usual jewel-like metalwork trim, and bevy of new digital interfaces that fully transform its human/machine operation. Your eyes will likely lock onto Mercedes’ new MBUX digital instrument cluster/infotainment touchscreen first, which incorporates dual 12.3-inch displays within one long, horizontal, glass-like surface.

The right-side display is a touchscreen, but can alternatively be controlled by switchgear on the lower centre console, while the main driver display can be modulated via an old Blackberry-style micro-pad on the left steering wheel spoke. Together, the seemingly singular interface is one of my industry favourites, not only in functionality, which is superb, but from a styling perspective as well.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Everything about the new G’s interior is better.

The majority of other interior switchgear is satin-silver-finished or made from knurled aluminum, resulting in a real sense of occasion, which while hardly new for Mercedes is a major improvement for the G-Class. Likewise, the drilled Burmester surround sound speaker grilles are some of the prettiest available anywhere, as are the deep, rich open-pore hardwood inlays that envelope the primary gauge cluster/infotainment binnacle, the surface of the lower console, and the trim around the doors’ armrests.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Compared to the outgoing G-Class, the new model is over the top in refinement and luxury.

The G isn’t devoid of hard composites, but centre console side panels that don’t quite meet pricey expectations aren’t enough to complain about, particularly when the SUV’s door panel and seat upholstery leatherwork is so fine. My test model’s interior also featured beautiful chocolate brown details that contrasted its sensational blue exterior paint well.

Driver’s seat bolstering is more than adequate, as are the chair’s other powered adjustments, the only missing element being an adjustable thigh support extension. Still, its lower cushion cupped below my knees nicely enough, which, while possibly a problem for drivers on the short side, managed my five-foot-eight frame adequately. At least the SUV’s four-way powered lumbar support applied the right amount of pressure to the exact spot on my lower back requiring relief, as it should for most body types. Likewise, the G 550’s tilt and telescopic steering column provided plenty of reach, resulting in a near perfect driving position despite my short-torso, long-legged body.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The left half of the large driving display is for the primary instruments and multi-info display, controllable via steering wheel switchgear, whereas the right half is an infotainment touchscreen.

As part of the redesign, Mercedes increased rear seat legroom to allow taller passengers the ability to stretch out in comfort. What’s more, those back seats are nearly as supportive as the ones in front, other than the centre position that’s best left for smaller adults or kids.

All of this refinement is hardly inexpensive, with the base 2020 G 550 priced at $147,900 plus freight and fees, and the 2021 version starting at an even heftier $154,900. This said, our 2020 and 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Canada Prices pages are currently reporting factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, which could go far in making a new G-Class more affordable. The zero-interest rate deal seems to apply to the $195,900 2020 G 63 AMG as well, plus the $211,900 2021 G 63 AMG, so it might make sense to buy this SUV on credit and invest the money otherwise spent (I’m guessing commodities are a good shot considering government promises of infrastructure builds, inflated currencies, runaway debt, market bubbles, etcetera, but in no way take my miscellaneous ramblings as investment advice).

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
All of the G 550’s buttons, switches and knobs are superbly crafted.

By the way, along with information about factory financing and leasing deals, CarCostCanada provides Canadian consumers with info about manufacturer rebates when available, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Find out more about how CarCostCanada’s very affordable membership can work for you, and remember to download our free smartphone app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can have all of this great information at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
If you’d rather not use the touchscreen, Mercedes offers this well-designed controller on the lower console.

Anytime or anywhere in mind, the G 550 can pretty well get you everywhere in Canada, anytime of the year. There’s absolutely no need to expend more investment to buy aftermarket off-road components when at the wheel of this big Merc, as it can out-hustle most any other 4×4-capable SUV on the market. While I would’ve liked even more opportunities to shake the G-Class out on unpaved roads, I certainly enjoyed the number of instances I did so, and can attest to their greatness off the beaten path. I’ve waded them over rock-strewn hills, negotiated them around jagged canyon walls and between narrow treed trails, coaxed them through fast-paced rivers and muddy marshes, and even felt their tires slip when dipped into soft, sandy stretches of beach, so my desire to own one comes from experience. Just the same I didn’t want to risk damaging my G 550 test model’s stylish 14-spoke alloys on pavement-spec 275/50 Pirelli Scorpion Zero rubber, so I kept this example on the street.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G 550’s driver’s seat is sublime.

The G 550’s ride was sublime even with these lower-profile performance tires, which goes to show that car-based unibody designs don’t really improve ride quality, as much as at-the-limit handling. The G-Class’ frame is rigid after all, as is its body structure, while its significant suspension travel only aids ride compliance. Therefore, it made the ideal city companion, its suspension nearly eliminating the types of ruts and bridge expansion joints that intrude on the comfort levels of lesser SUVs, while its extreme height provides excellent visibility all around.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Even rear passengers get the royal treatment, the Burmester audio system’s speaker grille’s beautifully made.

Those who spend more time on the open highway shouldn’t be wary of the G 550 either, as its ride continued to please and high-speed stability inspired confidence. I would’ve loved to have been towing an Airstream Flying Cloud in back to test its 7,000-lb rating (and given me more comfort than my tent), but I’m sure it can manage the load well, especially when factoring in its 2,650-kg (5,845-lb) curb weight.

Despite that heft, the G 550 performs fairly well when cornering, the previously noted Pirellis proving to be a good choice for everyday driving. I’ve previously driven the AMG-tuned G 63 on road and track, so the G 550’s abilities didn’t blow me away, but it certainly handles curves better than its blocky, brick-like shape alludes.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Mercedes increased rear passenger legroom in the second-gen G-Class, making it more comfortable for larger occupants.

Braking is strong for such a big, heavy ute too, and while the G 550’s 416-horsepower 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 can’t send it from standstill to 100 km/h at the same 4.5-second rate as the 577-hp G 63, its 5.9 seconds for the same feat is nonetheless respectable, its 450 lb-ft of torque, quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, and standard four-wheel drive aiding the process perfectly, not to mention a very engaging Sport mode.

Engaging might not be the best word for it, mind you. In fact, I found the G 550’s Sport mode a bit too aggressive for my tastes, bordering on uncomfortable. It helps the big SUV shoot off the line with aggression, but the sheer force of it all snapped my head back into the seat’s pillowy headrests too often for comfort’s sake, but only when trying to move off the line in particularly quick fashion. When first feathering the throttle, as I usually drive, and then shortly thereafter dipping into it for stronger acceleration, it worked fine. I wish Mercedes’ had integrated a smoother start into the SUV’s firmware, but the requirement to use skill in order to get the most out of it was kind of nice too. All said, at the end of such tests I just left it in Eco mode for blissfully smooth performance and better economy.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s cargo door swings to the side in order to support the rear-mounted full-size spare, but unlike Jeep’s Wrangler it provides easy curb-side access.

Fuel sipping in mind, no amount of technology this side of turbo-diesel power (how I miss those days) can make this brute eco-friendly, with Transport Canada’s fuel economy rating measuring 18.0 L/100km city, 14.1 highway, and 16.3 combined. It’s not worse than some other full-size, V8-powered utilities, nor does it thirst for pricier premium fuel, but this might be an issue for those with a greener conscious.

Speaking of pragmatic issues, the G-Class is a bit short on cargo capacity when comparing to some of those full-size SUV rivals just noted, especially American branded alternatives such as the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. Then again, the G fares better when measuring up to similarly equipped European luxury utes, with the 1,079-litre (38.1 cu-ft) dedicated cargo area a sizeable 178 litres (6.3 cu ft) greater than the full-size Range Rover’s maximum luggage volume. Interestingly, both luxury SUV’s load-carrying capacity is an identical 1,942 litres (68.6 cu ft), which is ample in my books.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
There’s lots of room for gear in the back of the G, but take note the rear seats don’t fold flat.

After my week with Mercedes’ top-line SUV, I can’t complain. Certainly, I would’ve liked a larger sunroof or, even better, something along the lines of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited’s new Sky One-Touch Power Top that turns the entire rooftop into open air while still maintaining solid sides and back with windows, but this might weaken the G’s body structure and limit its 4×4 prowess. I also would’ve liked a wireless phone charger, and would have one installed if this was my personal ride.

Hopefully my next G-Class tester will be more suitable to wilderness forays, possibly as an updated gen-2 G 550 4×4²? Previous examples included portal axles like Mercedes’ fabulously capable Unimog, but in just about every other respect I was thoroughly impressed with this well-made luxury utility, and glad Mercedes stayed true to this model’s iconic 4×4 heritage. To me, the G-Glass is the ultimate on-road, off-road compromise, and I’d own one if money allowed.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

Genesis expanding luxury lineup to include new 2022 GV70 compact crossover

2022 Genesis GV70
The upcoming 2022 GV70 looks a lot like Genesis’ larger mid-size GV80.

Only last year we were wondering when Hyundai Motor’s new Genesis luxury division would enter the profitable crossover SUV sector, and now we not only have the GV80 mid-size model, but an all-new GV70 compact is on the way as well.

The GV70, which will be introduced for the 2022 model year, should arrive towards the end of this year, and if any of the brand’s other new models are a sign of things to come, it’ll be worth the wait.

2022 Genesis GV70
Sleek and stylish GV70 lines should make this small crossover SUV a crowd pleaser.

If you were expecting anything other than a shrunken GV80 you’ll be disappointed, because the new GV70 merely takes Genesis’ latest design language to more affordable proportions. Squarely fitting within the compact luxury crossover SUV category, to duke it out with such stalwarts as Mercedes’ GLC, Audi’s Q5, Acura’s RDX, BMW’s X3 and the like, the GV70 proudly wears Genesis’ now trademark twinned horizontal LED headlamp clusters and similarly straked LED taillights at the rear, albeit forgoes the GV80’s front fender garnishes that follow the same pattern (there was likely no room to fit them into the smaller SUV’s design). We think the design looks cleaner without them, but no doubt many will disagree.

2022 Genesis GV70
Long and lean, the new GV70 should seat five comfortably and haul ample cargo for the class.

While the engine vent-style fender trim is a minor differentiator, the GV70 takes some significant departures from the GV80 inside, where the entire lower portion of the instrument panel appears inspired by surfboarding. The oval interface sits just under the gauge cluster before stretching across to the centre stack area, houses a bevy of controls that would normally be found on separate panels to the left of the driver’s knees and further down the centre console, but instead are placed on this horizontal housing. The design works aesthetically, and appears to follow a traditional layout as far as control placement goes, with the overall appearance being the only departure from the norm.

2022 Genesis GV70
The GV70 breaks the mould with its new instrument panel design.

Up above, a fully digital instrument cluster can be found in the usual spot ahead of the driver, plus a large centre display is placed upright atop the dash, with infotainment and driving controls beautifully integrated within the lower console. The interior succeeds in making everything next to Mercedes’ GLC look outdated, which is a good way to cause newcomers to take notice of the Genesis brand.

Following compact luxury SUV tradition, the new GV70 shares underpinnings with the sporty G70 compact sedan, so it will no doubt be a lot of fun for its driver and require good seat bolstering for any passengers that come along for the ride (the GV70 seats up to five), as Genesis’ entry-level car is one of the better handlers in its highly competitive class.

2022 Genesis GV70
The surfboard-styled interface below the primary instruments houses switchgear normally separated onto separate panels.

As far as engines and transmissions go, we expect the base powertrain to be Genesis’ 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 290 horsepower and 310 and lb-ft of torque in G70 trim, while an updated V6 will probably power higher priced GV70 models, the current six-cylinder putting out 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque in the GV80.

Speaking of new, Genesis has promised two new models per year until they fill up their lineup, so we can expect an even smaller subcompact luxury SUV as well as a smaller entry-level car, mostly likely along the lines of Audi’s popular A3 (it is the top seller in its class after all), but no one knows how many market segments (and niches) the brand will attempt to fill.

2022 Genesis GV70
Infotainment is a Genesis strong suit.

For the time being, Genesis offers the compact G70, mid-size G80 and full-size G90 sport-luxury sedans, as well as the new GV80 mid-size luxury crossover SUV, which can all be priced out with trims and options by going to their individual pages within CarCostCanada, where you’ll also be able to find out about any manufacturer rebates, manufacturer backed leasing and financing deals, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Learn how a CarCostCanada membership works too, and be sure to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store in order to have all of this key information at hand when you need it most.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Genesis

CarCostCanada

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum Road Test

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Is this little luxury SUV cute or what? It’s also very luxurious, plenty of fun to drive and seriously practical.

If you haven’t considered the XC40 before, you’re in for a treat. It’s the smallest Volvo available, fitting into the subcompact luxury SUV segment and therefore going up against BMW’s X1, Mercedes’ GLA and B-Class, Lexus’ UX and others, plus due to the Swedish brand no longer offering a compact hatch (the C30 was discontinued in 2013 and its V40 successor was never imported), this little crossover is now its entry-level model.

I, for one, am a big fan of this little SUV. It’s stylish, fun to drive, thrifty, well made, and as innovative as crossover sport utilities come. In case you didn’t know, the XC40 has been around since the 2020 model year, and full disclosure forces me to let you in on the fact that this test model is actually a 2020. Fortunately, changes to the 2021 XC40 are minimal, with my tester’s Amazon Blue exterior colour choice unfortunately being discontinued this year.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The Amazon Blue colour and the white roof option have been relegated to the history bin for 2021.

As much as I like it, Amazon Blue won’t be popular with manly men, as it’s a bit on the feminine side. This said, I’ve seen a few around and they’re quite catching. In fact, this metrosexual boomer had no issue being seen in the powdery blue SUV, especially when push came to shove and I was able to scoot away from stoplight oglers as if they were standing still.

Yes, the XC40 is mighty quick thanks to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in as-tested T5 trim, its eight-speed automatic shifting gears quickly yet smoothly, its all-wheel drive completely eliminating tire slip, and its lightweight mass making the most of the available energy output. This is a really fun SUV to drive, the optional 2.0-litre turbo-four always willing to jump off the line or say so long to slower moving highway traffic. This said, my test model’s Momentum trim comes standard with a less potent version of the same engine, the T4 model powering all wheels with 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which should be good enough for all but the most enthusiastic of speed demons.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Volvo’s cool “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps come standard across the XC40 line, but the 19-inch alloys are optional.

The eight-speed auto includes a gas-sipping auto start/stop system that aids the T4 in achieving a 10.2 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.0 combined fuel economy rating, whereas the T5 gets a claimed 10.7 in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 9.4 combined. I recommend Eco mode for extracting the most efficiency, of course, but default Comfort mode is quite thrifty too. Volvo also includes a Dynamic sport setting when needing to get somewhere quickly, whereas an Individual mode can be set up for your own personal driving style.

While I really like the as-tested Momentum model, especially with its upgraded 235/50 all-season Michelin tires on 19-inch wheels that certainly improve performance over the base model’s 18-inch 235/55s, I’d put my own money on an XC40 R-Design for the paddle shifters alone (although it also comes standard with the T5 all-wheel drivetrain, and is the only trim that can be had in new Recharge P8 eAWD Pure Electric power unit), these helping to make this sporty little SUV a lot more engaging at the limit.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Volvo’s vertical “L” shaped LED taillights give this model’s brand heritage away from a mile.

That’s where the so-equipped XC40 really shines, its handling fully capable when pushed hard and overall grip surprisingly steadfast, especially when considering its excellent ride quality. Even when slicing and dicing this little cutie through some local mountain backroads it never caused concern, while in-town point-and-shoot manoeuvres were a breeze made even easier thanks to the SUV’s generous ride height. It’s all due to a fully independent suspension with front aluminium double wishbones and an integral-link rear setup, composed of a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring.

Even better from a luxury standpoint, the XC40 feels like it was honed from a solid block of aluminum alloy, the body’s structural integrity never in doubt. I appreciated the SUV’s quiet, hushed, big SUV experience despite its diminutive size, this cocooning quality complemented by properly insulated doors that thunk closed in an oh-so satisfying way, and refinement that goes a step above most subcompact luxury SUV peers.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40 provides better than average interior refinement, even for the premium compact SUV class.

For a moment, pull your eyes away from the exterior’s classic crested Volvo grille, stylishly sporty Thor’s hammer LED headlamps, sharply honed front fascia, and uniquely tall “L” shaped LED tail lamps, not to mention the satin-silver accents all-round, and instead focus on this little crossover’s luxuriously appointed interior. Keeping in mind this is the XC40’s most basic of trims, Momentum gets very close to R-Design materials quality, featuring such premium staples as fabric-wrapped roof pillars, a soft, pliable dash-top covering and equally plush door panels, stitched leather armrest pads, and carpeted door pockets (that are big enough to slot in a 15-inch laptop along with a large drink bottle).

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40’s driving position and overall instrument panel layout is superb.

Don’t expect such niceties below the waistline, but Volvo uses a soft-painted harder composite that feels nice, while the woven roof liner looks good and surrounds an even more appealing panoramic sunroof featuring a powered translucent fabric sunshade. You’ll find controls for the latter on a nicely sorted overhead console, otherwise filled with LED lights hovering over a frameless rearview mirror.

Following Volvo tradition, the driver’s seats is wonderfully adjustable and wholly comfortable no to mention supportive, with more than adequate side bolstering plus extendable lower cushions that cup under the knees nicely (a favourite feature of mine). The leather used to cover all seats is above par, by the way, and they come with the usual three-way warmers up front, plus a steering wheel rim heater.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
This digital instrument cluster comes standard.

Most body types should fit into this little ute without issue, whether positioned front or back, while the rear seats expand the relatively generous cargo hold—from 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) to 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet)—via the usual 60/40 division. This said a highly useful centre pass-through provides stowage of longer items like skis when two rear passengers want to use the more comfortable window seats.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Volvo’s Sensus infotainment is literally a touch above most competitors.

While all this is very good, Volvo wasn’t merely satisfied to provide the expected luxury, performance and styling elements to their entry-level ute and call it a day, but instead went the extra measure to include a lot of handy innovations that make life easier. Being that I left off in the cargo compartment, I might as well star this section of the review off by noting the useful divider housed within the cargo floor. Once lifted up into place to stand vertically, I found it especially helpful for stopping groceries from escaping their bags, particularly when using the three bag hooks on top to keep them in place.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Much of the detail inside is brilliantly crafted.

Moving up front you’ll find another handy hook within the glove box, which can be pivoted into place when wanting to hang a purse, garbage bag or what-have-you, while just to the left of the driver’s knee are two tiny slots for stowing gas cards. The XC40 can be had with all the segment’s best electronic helpers too, like a powered rear hatch that automatically lifts when waving a foot under the rear bumper, automated self-parking, and all the latest driver aids like autonomous emergency braking for the highway and city, lane change alert with automated lane keeping, etcetera, but some might find the XC40’s standard gauge cluster even more compelling.

It’s fully digital right out of the box, measuring 12.3 inches and sporting a graphically animated speedometer and tachometer plus a big centre information display featuring integrated navigation mapping with actual road signs, phone info and the list goes on. Like some competitive clusters, the multi-information display can be set to take over the majority of the driver display, thus shrinking the primary instruments. It’s a superb system that I almost like as much as Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Love these seats!

The latter is comprised of a 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen that comes closest to mimicking a tablet than anything else in the auto industry, especially when utilizing Apple CarPlay (not so much for Android Auto). Being that I currently use a Samsung, I keep the Volvo interface in play at all times, and absolutely love the audio “page” that not only shows all SiriusXM stations nicely stacked in sequence, but real-time info on which artist and song is playing. This way you can quickly scan the panel and choose a station, never missing a favourite song.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Rear seat roominess is generous.

The base audio system is impressive too, as is the active guideline-infused parking camera, especially if the overhead version is included, and nav directions are always spot on, while the as-tested dual-zone climate control interface is ultra-cool thanks to colourful pop-up menus for each zone’s temperature setting and an easy-to-use pictograph for directing ventilation.

A list of standard Momentum features not yet mention include remote start from a smartphone app, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sonar with a visual indicator on the centre display, Volvo On Call, all the expected airbags including two for the front occupants’ knees, plus more, all for only $39,750 plus freight and fees.

2021 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Plenty of cargo space, plus a centre pass-through for added convenience.

If you’d like to save thousands more, make sure to check out CarCostCanada that will show you how to immediately knock off $1,000 from a 2021 XC40 and keep up to $2,000 in additional incentives from a 2020 model. CarCostCanada provides members with real-time manufacturer leasing and financing info too, plus manufacturer rebate info, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands more. Find out how the CarCostCanada program works, and be sure to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store.

No matter the price you pay, the XC40 is a compact luxury SUV worth owning. It combines a higher level of refined luxury than most peers and superb performance all-round, with plenty of style and practicality. This is a crossover I could truly live with day in and day out, even painted in my tester’s playful powder blue hue.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
LED taillights come standard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

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

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The new Mercedes-Benz A 220 looks too sleek to be a regular four-door sedan.

I’ve heard the line before. People only buy Mercedes-Benz products to flash its prestigious three-pointed star. That may be true in some cases, but with respect to the new A 220, and many other cars in its extensive lineup, it wins new luxury buyers by being best in class.

It doesn’t hurt that the A 220 looks as good as it does, but take note that at just $37,300 (plus freight and fees) the newest model in Mercedes’ wide and varied 2020 collection isn’t just for the affluent. Yes, that number is a significant $2,310 more than last year’s A 220, but it now comes with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, Canadians probably not buying enough of the 2019 front-wheel drive variants to make a business case viable moving forward. Still, Mercedes’ most affordable new model is well within reach of those not normally capable of buying into the luxury class, with this base model priced very close to fully loaded versions of mainstream volume-branded compacts.

At first sight the A 220 appears too long, low and lean to be a compact four-door sedan, but with a little research I soon found out its 4,549 mm length, 1,796 mm width, 1,446 mm height and 2,729 mm wheelbase puts it slightly smaller than some mainstream compacts you likely know better, including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3, while it competes directly in size and particularly in price with premium-badged sedans such as the Audi A3, Acura ILX, and new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although the Bimmer more accurately targets Mercedes’ sporty CLA-Class four-door coupe.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The subcompact luxury sedan provides a roomy interior with practical cargo carrying capacity.

The new BMW hasn’t been around long enough to collect usable sales data, and it’s hardly been the best of years for the car industry on the whole anyway, so therefore a look back to calendar year 2019 more accurately shows the A-Class and the rest of Mercedes’ small car lineup cleaning up in Canada’s compact luxury competition. Mercedes sold more than 5,000 subcompact luxury models in 2019, which included the new A 250 hatch as well as this A 220 sedan, plus the CLA-Class and outgoing B-Class (more than 300 of the now cancelled Bs were delivered last year, and another 200-plus over Q1 of 2020).

By comparison, the second-best-selling Mini Cooper, which is also a collection of body styles and mostly lower in price, found more than 3,700 Canadian buyers, whereas the Audi A3/A3 Cabriolet/S3 garnered 3,100-plus new customers, the ILX almost 1,900, the 2 Series (ahead of the new four-door coupe arriving) at just over 1,200, and BMW’s unorthodox i3 EV finding 300 new owners. Incidentally, the A-Class, which was the only model in this segment to achieve positive year-over-year sales in 2019 (slightly below 14.5 percent), won over 3,632 new buyers last year alone, placing it just behind the previously noted Mini that saw its Y-o-Y sales fall by 17 percent.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Its sporty styling, LED headlamps and attractive detailing sets the new A 220 apart.

Certainly, the A 220’s attractive styling and approachable pricing contributed to its strong sales last year, but there’s a great deal more to the swoopy four-door sedan than good looks and price competitiveness. For starters is a knockout cabin that wows with style and hardly comes up short on leading-edge features. Most noticeable is Mercedes’ all-in-one digital instrument panel/infotainment display, that combines some of the most vibrantly coloured, creatively penned graphics in the industry with wonderfully functional systems, while housing it all within an ultra-wide fixed tablet-style frame.

These electronic interfaces are important differentiators when comparing an entry-level Mercedes to fully loaded compact sedans from mainstream volume brands like Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Mazda. Truly, the A 220’s lower dash and door panels aren’t necessarily made from better materials than its more common compact counterparts, respectively the Civic, Corolla, Elantra and Mazda3, but most everything above the waste comes close to matching the tactile and materials quality found in more expensive Mercedes models, like the C-Class and even the E-Class. Together with the eye-popping digital interfaces already mentioned are gorgeous stitched leather door inserts, rich open-pore textured hardwood along those door panels and across the dash, while satin-finish aluminum trim can be found all over the interior, my personal favourite application being the gorgeous turbine-like instrument panel HVAC vents.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s luxurious cabin is sensational.

Going back to the all-in-one primary instrument cluster and infotainment widescreen display, dubbed MBUX for Mercedes-Benz User Experience, the left-side gauge package provides a number of different display themes including Modern Classic, Sport and Understated, plus the ability to create your own personalized themes, while the layout can be modified to a numeric format speedometer in place of the traditional-looking circular one, with the rest of the display area used for other features like navigation mapping, fuel economy info, regenerative braking charge info, Eco drive setting information, etcetera.

Over on the right-side of my test model’s MBUX display were the usual assortment of centre-screen infotainment functions, like navigation (albeit with the ability to opt for an augmented reality feature that shows a front camera view displaying upcoming street names and directional indicators); audio system info including graphical satellite radio station readouts; drive settings that include Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual modes (that can also be chosen via a rocker switch on the lower console); advanced driver assistive systems settings; a calls, contacts and messages interface; a big, clear parking camera with active guidelines; plus more, and on top of all this Mercedes provides more hands-on control of infotainment functions than any competitor.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The entry-level A 220 provides all of the style and most of the features found in pricier Mercedes-Benz sedans.

Adjustments can be made via the touchscreen itself, which is rather uncommon in the luxury class, plus you can use Mercedes’ very smart Linguatronic Voice Control system that’s easily one of the most advanced in the industry (but take note that “Mercedes” is a tad too eager to help out, always responding with a pesky “How can I help you?” when mentioning her name), or alternatively let your thumbs do the talking via a miniscule set of BlackBerry-like optical trackpads on the steering wheel spokes, or finally use the touchpad on the lower console, which is surrounded by big quick entry buttons as well. That touchpad is the best I’ve used this side of my MacBook Pro, providing intuitive responses to tap, swipe and pinch inputs, is as easy to use as dropping your right arm from the steering wheel, and didn’t cause me to divert my eyes from the road more often than necessary.

An attractive row of climate controls stretches across a smartly organized interface just below the centre display, featuring highly legible readouts and lovely knurled aluminum toggle switches, all hovering above a big rubber smartphone tray that boasts wireless charging capability. All around, the A 220 provides most everything you’ll need and a number of things you won’t, but I like the soft purple ambient lighting nonetheless.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
A fully digital gauge cluster comes as part of the new MBUX infotainment system.

The only negative I could find were the small, delicately sized and hollow feeling steering wheel stalks for the turn signals/wipers and selecting gears, but due to how well they’re made I still can’t lambaste them completely. I’m thinking they’re more about reducing mass to save on fuel and improve performance, not that they’d individually make a big difference to either. To be clear, I’ve never tested lighter or less substantive column stalks ever. In fact, the shift paddles feel heftier, but they certainly did what they needed to and won’t likely fall apart, it was just a strange decision for Mercedes to make such important hand/machine interfaces so flimsy feeling.

Even before I shifted the A 220 into gear, I was shocked at how thin the lower door panel composite was. Was this due to weight savings as well? The plastic extrusions were perfect with thin ribs strengthening their upper edges, so it wasn’t a case of cutting corners, but they didn’t feel up to Mercedes’ usual high-quality standards. Fortunately, as noted earlier, the A 220’s more visible surfaces are superb, other than the hard-composite lower centre console that might be somewhat disappointing to those that have recently spent time in one of the upper trims of the volume-branded compacts noted before, which mostly finish such areas in soft padded pleather.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes does away with a traditional centre stack, but what’s left is a much more convenient dash design.

Up above is a particularly nice overhead console featuring controls for a big panoramic glass sunroof, plus LED dome and reading lights, and more. It was strange that the B and C pillars weren’t wrapped in fabric, with only the A pillars done out to premium standards, just like the mainstream cars just mentioned, but of course this isn’t totally uncommon in the luxury segment’s most basic entry-level category. At least all of components fit nicely together, with each lid and every door shutting with firm Teutonic solidity, except for the glove box lid that was particularly light in weight.

My tester’s interior was doused in a light grey and black two-tone motif, much of the grey being leather that covers both rows of seats that are wonderfully comfortable and wholly supportive, particularly via their side bolstering. They even included manually-adjustable lower thigh extensions that I loved. I’m not only talking about the front seats, by the way, because those in the rear outboard positions provided good comfort as well, thanks to sculpted backrests and more foot and legroom than expected, plus a decent amount of headroom.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The new MBUX infotainment system is truly best in the industry.

After adjusting the driver’s seat for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight, small-build body type, there was still about five inches in front of my knees and more than enough space for my feet while wearing a pair of boots, while side-to-side roominess was good too. With three inches of airspace over my head, tall teens and larger adults than me should have no problem fitting in back, while the rear headrests also provided comfortably soft support.

Mercedes provides a fold-down centre armrest in back, but I found it too low for comfort, although it would likely be ideal for smaller sized adults or children. It comes with a duo of pop-out cupholders that clamp onto drinks well, while a set of netted magazine holders are attached to the backside of each front seat too. Each rear outboard passenger gets their own HVAC vent as well, plus just under these is a pull-out compartment complete with a small storage bin and a pair of USB-C chargers. No rear seat warmers were included in my tester, but LED reading lights could be found overhead.

Cargo shouldn’t be a problem being that the A 220’s nicely finished trunk is quite big for this class, and I really appreciated the ability to stow longer items like skis down the middle thanks to ultra-versatile 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. Folding the seats down is easy too, because Mercedes offers up a set of trunk-mounted levers.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes provides four different ways to access the MBUX infotainment system, including this well designed trackpad.

Together with everything already mentioned, this year’s A 220 comes well equipped with standard features such as LED headlamps, 17-inch alloys, brushed or pinstriped aluminum interior inlays, pushbutton start/stop, MBUX infotainment (although the base model’s display size is smaller than my tester’s at 7.0-inches for each of its two screens), a six-speaker audio system (that provided deep resonant bass tones along with nice mids and highs), a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, heated front seats, the panoramic sunroof mentioned earlier, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, plus a lot more.

You may have noticed more gear in the photos, this because my test model also came with $890 worth of Mountain Grey Metallic exterior paint; $500 of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; a $3000 Premium package featuring proximity keyless access, power-folding mirrors, a bigger 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and the same sized centre display featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, voice control, induction charging, auto-dimming rear view and driver’s side mirrors, ambient lighting, a foot-activated powered trunk release, vehicle exit warning, and Blind Spot assist; a $1,600 Technology package that added multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and Active Distance Assist; plus a $1,000 Navigation package including a GPS/nav system, live traffic, Mercedes’ Navigation Services, the augmented reality function noted before, a Connectivity package, and finally Traffic Sign Assist.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Comfortable, supportive and fabulous looking, the A 220’s seats are superb.

The long list of additions continue with a new (for 2020) $1,900 Intelligent Drive package boasting Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Active Lane Change Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Map-Based Speed Adaptation (which uses the nav system info to adjust the A 220’s speed based on road conditions ahead before the driver can even see what’s coming), Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance package, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist, Pre-Safe, and Active Speed Limit Assist; $900 Active Parking Assist; $475 satellite radio; plus black open-pore wood inlays for $250 (walnut inlays are available for the same price); all of which added $10,515 to the 2020 A 220’s previously noted $37,300 base price, making for an impressively equipped compact Mercedes at just $47,815 (plus freight and fees).

It was missing a lot of additional gear too, by the way, including a $1,500 Sport package or $2,000 Night package, $500 optional 19-inch alloys, a $250 heated Nappa leather steering wheel, a $1,500 head-up display unit, a $650 surround parking monitor, a $700 450-watt, 12-speaker Burmester surround audio system (which is quite the deal for this brand), a $300 garage door opener, a $450 powered front passenger’s seat with memory (the base model’s is manually operated), and $1,200 worth of cooled front seats (these new for this model year).

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
This big panoramic powered glass sunroof comes standard.

As impressive as the new A 220’s styling, cabin design, detailed execution and loads of features are, the brand’s century of heritage really comes through when out on the road. Despite only endowed with 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, straight-line acceleration is quite strong and even more so when set to Sport mode, at which point shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic come quickly and precisely. The car’s now standard 4Matic all-wheel drive allowed all four of the 225/45R18 Michelins below to latch onto pavement simultaneously, resulting in sharp, immediate results when my right foot was pegged to the throttle, while the little sport sedan tracked brilliantly during fast-paced highway and curving byway excursions, even in rain-soaked conditions.

Standard shift paddles add some hands-on engagement that was really appreciated when pushing hard in Sport mode, but I also found them useful for short-shifting to save on fuel. I opted for Eco mode for such situations, which provided even smoother more relaxed shifts as well as fuel economy improvements. The A 220 is rated at 9.6 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.5 combined, and while we’re talking efficiencies, last year’s front-wheel drive version didn’t make that much of a difference due to a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.7, 6.8 and 8.4 respectively, so therefore Mercedes’ choice to offer AWD as standard equipment won’t hamper your fuel budget.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The rear seating area is roomy, comfortable and refined.

It was during my usual relaxed pace of driving, with a focus on saving fuel, that I really appreciated the A 220’s excellent ride quality, impressively smooth for this class of car, but then again it’s important for me to point out that it’s never soft and wallowy. In Germanic tradition its ride is firmer than rivals from Japan, although I couldn’t imagine anyone complaining about harshness. The A 220’s hushed ambiance makes it feel even more refined and luxurious, making it ideal for isolating noisy, bustling city streets as well as toning down the sound of wind on the open road.

I must say, if my own money was on the line in this entry-level luxury segment, I’d opt for the A 220 over its four-door subcompact premium rivals, as it scores high marks in all key categories. It looks stunning and offers up what I think is the nicest interior in the class, can be had with all the features I want and need, is great fun to drive when called upon yet provides all the pampering luxury I’d ever want, and is a fairly pragmatic choice too, at least with respect to four-door sedans.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The spacious trunk benefits from a large centre pass-through for loading in longer cargo like skis.

This said I have yet to drive the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, although its self-proclaimed four-door coupe body style won’t be able to offer up the same amount of rear seat headroom as the A 220, and the only other subcompact luxury competitors are the Audi A3, which has been on the market for seven-plus years with only a subtle mid-cycle makeover, plus the Acura ILX that’s just as long-in-the-tooth, although only last year it had a much more dramatic update. Still, the ILX is merely an old Honda Civic under the skin, albeit with a better powertrain and gearbox.

Whether opting for the new A 220 or one of the other cars mentioned in this review, I’d be sure to check them all out right here at CarCostCanada before heading to the dealership, mind you. Our 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Canada Prices page was showing up to $750 in additional incentives at the time of writing, while the 2019 model (if still available) was available for up to $2,000 in additional incentives. Members can access information about manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, or other incentives, and best of all is dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands at the time of purchase. Find out how CarCostCanada works here, and make sure to download our free app at the Google Android Play Store or Apple App Store so you can access all this valuable info when you’re at the dealership.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

Porsche goes retro with its 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition

2020 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
The 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition combines a wholly modern sports car with yesteryear’s charm.

Porsche is a master of limited-run special editions, and the new 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition is one of the more intriguing examples we can remember. If there ever was a car that fit the modern-day classic term to a T, this is it.

The “T” stands for Targa, and thanks to a stylish silver roof hoop that not only protects this retractable hardtop convertible’s occupants from rollover, but also pays visual tribute to the 1967 911 Targa original, this body style suits the Heritage Design Edition’s retrospective purposes even better than a 911 Coupe or Cabriolet could.

“We are evoking memories of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in customers and fans with the Heritage Design models,” commented Porsche Executive Board Chairman Oliver Blume in a press release. “No brand can translate these elements into the modern day as well as Porsche. In this way, we are fulfilling the wishes of our customers. With the exclusive special editions, we are also establishing a new product line which stands for the ‘lifestyle’ dimension in our product strategy.”

2020 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
If you like the looks of a classic, but don’t want to give up the niceties of today’s cars, this is the way to go.

While four exterior colours are available, the beautifully rich Cherry Metallic paint chosen exudes a sense of yesteryear, while the racing-inspired spear-shaped front fender stripes and round decal-like numbered livery, plus the historically accurate 1963 Porsche Crest badges, the rear deck lid-mounted Porsche Heritage insignia, gold-tone nameplates are the icing on the proverbial cake. Inside, two-tone Bordeaux Red or Black leather and Atacama Beige OLEA Club leather and corduroy add even more history to the mix, making this the perfect Porsche for those who’d love to be driving something 50 years old, but would rather enjoy the benefits of a modern 911’s performance, comforts, technical advancements, reliability and safety.

As the name implies, the new 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition is based on the equally new 2021 911 Targa 4S we covered last month, and therefore receives all of the goodness infused into this new 992-generation model, including new chassis tech, driver assistance systems, infotainment upgrades, etcetera. A 443 horsepower version of Porsche’s twin-turbo, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine is housed below an auto-deployable rear wing, controlled by a paddle-prompted eight-speed dual-clutch PDK automated gearbox. With Launch Control engaged, the Targa 4S can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in under 3.6 seconds before maxing out at a 304-km/h track speed.

2020 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
The “phosphorus green” dials are really slick.

This new special edition, limited to 992 examples (the name chosen for the new 911’s 992 code-name) will be the first of the four Heritage Design models, the one featuring plenty of ‘50s- and ‘60s-era design cues like a green backlit tachometer and dash-mounted clock, as well as perforations in the roof liner, although soft suede-like microfibre now replaces the vinyl used in the past.

Those classic Porsche crests mentioned earlier can be found on the key fob, hood, steering wheel hub and wheel caps, the latter components centring special rims that resemble the “five-leaf” Fuchsfelge alloy wheels brought to market for the 1966 911S. Of course, the Carrera Exclusive Design wheels are considerably larger than those from the past and staggered at 20 inches in front and 21 inches at the rear, while the now frame big black-painted brake calipers.

2020 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
A commemorative dash plaque provides verification of your car’s limited build number.

So what’s the price for the 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition’s sub-1,000-unit rarity? It’ll cost you $205,900, or $50,180 more than the entry price for a regular 2021 911 Targa 4S (a 2021 911 Targa 4 can be had for $136,000). For that you’ll get all of the extras mentioned, plus a stunning gold-coloured metal “911 Heritage Design Edition XXX/992” dash plaque authenticating your purchase.

At least as celebratory, the German brand’s majority-owned subsidiary Porsche Design has created a beautiful sport watch in commemoration, and just like the car it will only be limited to 992 examples and available exclusively to 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition owners. The lifestyle products and industrial design division took design cues from the car for the new wristwatch’s face, applying a white seconds hand as well as “Phosphorus Green” rings around the perimeter, in similitude to the primary gauges in the classic 356 and original 911. What’s more, the Arabic hour indices were designed to look like the block lettering used in Porsche’s nameplate, while its strap is made from the same leather as found inside Porsche models.

2020 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
How about a nice luxury sport watch to go with your exclusive Targa? Porsche Design has you covered.

To learn more about the 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition contact your local Porsche retailer, or alternatively if you’d rather save $50k and opt for something with more modernity the brand’s aforementioned 2021 911 Targa 4 and 4S are also available to order now. To learn more about the new 911 or outgoing model, which is still available in some trims, check out our Porsche 911 Canada Prices page for 2019, 2020 or 2021 models, where you can learn about available manufacturer rebates (Porsche is currently offering zero percent on all new 911 models), financing or leasing opportunities, dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, and more.

To make sure you’ve got all the facts before negotiating, make sure to become a CarCostCanada member, and definitely download the free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes store too. This said if you’re not familiar with how CarCostCanada can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars when you purchase your next vehicle, this article explains it in detail. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche