The new Porsche Taycan is one of the more technologically advanced EVs currently available, but this doesn’t mean the only people capable of understanding how it works are electrical engineers.
In order to simplify the science, Porsche hired Bill Nye The Science Guy, a popular TV personality, to explain all the key technology, which resulted in a five-part short-format video series. Each episode, which span just under a single minute to one-and-a-half minutes long, focus in on technologies that differentiate the Taycan from its competitors, such as its 800-volt battery, uniquely innovative aerodynamic design, regenerative braking system, two-speed transmission, and repeatable performance.
The YouTube series, dubbed “Bill Nye Explains The All-Electric Taycan,” was filmed at the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles, California. The entertaining host uses simple terms and silly antics to clarify otherwise complicated subject matter, resulting in a series that’s ideal for all ages.
The Taycan, which arrived on the electric scene only last year, is already available in two unique body unique styles and four individual trims, including 4, 4S, Turbo and Turbo S. The sleek Taycan four-door coupe can be had in three of the just-noted trims, including 4S, Turbo and Turbo S, whereas the more recently introduced Taycan Cross Turismo also has a base trim. Additionally, the Cross Turismo can be upgraded with an Off-road Design package that increases ride height while adding more aggressive styling enhancements.
Top-level Taycan Turbo S trim can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in only 2.8 seconds, thanks to its 750-hp twin-electric-motor power unit, while standard AWD means that all four performance tires grip the road below, especially helpful in inclement weather or when off-road.
After first spending a week with Honda’s then-new Insight in its top-line Touring trim a couple of years ago, I really felt the Japanese automaker had a winner on its hands.
The compact sedan’s conservative good looks should have appealed to an even greater number of consumers than the edgier Civic it shares underpinnings and hard points with. Even better (to my eyes at least), its classy front fascia pulled some grille details over from the larger Accord mid-size sedan, while its tidier taillights stopped short of wrapping overtop most of the trunk lid.
Don’t get me wrong, as the outgoing Civic was a styling tour de force when it arrived in 2015 as a 2016 model, but the more subdued Insight gave… ahem… insight to the Civic’s future design direction, particularly at the hind end where those just-noted taillights look like positive precursors to those on the much more conventional 2022 Civic sedan.
Still, as it was and still is, Honda failed to properly launch this 2019–present Insight within Canada, where it suffers incredibly slow sales, not even surpassing 500 units last year. In fact, the dismal number was 496, while the first quarter of 2021 has seen just 91 examples roll out of Honda showrooms. When compared to the Civic’s class-leading 50,805 sales-total in 2020, and 7,158 units delivered during Q1 of this year, which puts the Insight just under 1 percent of Civic deliveries during 2020, and nearly 1.3 percent for Q1 of 2021, Honda’s dedicated compact hybrid can only be seen as a complete dud. But why?
After all, the two models’ sales ratio in the U.S. is much better, although still not anywhere near as evenly weighted as I initially expected, with the Insight finding 15,932 buyers south of the 49th in 2020, and 3,859 as of the end of March this year, compared to 261,225 Civics sold last year and 55,903 for Q1 of 2021. That represents 6.1 percent of Civic sales in 2020 and 6.9 percent for the first three months of 2021, which probably isn’t even good enough to justify any sort of business case for keeping the model alive.
It comes down to pricing. With a base price of $28,490 (plus freight and fees), the Insight finds itself $3,400 more expensive than the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which starts at only $25,090. If the Insight were 10-percent more car it might make sense, but, as I already pointed out, consumers have spoken load and clear with their wallets, plus I’ve personally driven both, and that’s not the case.
My Insight tester’s top-line Touring trim was even pricier at $32,190, and once again it wasn’t any more appealing than the top-tier Corolla Hybrid with its Premium package, which costs just $27,090. This means Canadian Insight Touring buyers will need to take a $5,100 hit just to see a stylized “H” badging in all the usual places, a questionable bonus they obviously don’t desire all that much.
So why would Honda sabotage its chances of winning over important Canadian hybrid buyers just ahead of the entire market turning to electric vehicles (whether we want to or not)? Obviously, Honda’s Canadian division would love to import the Insight (or for that matter the CR-V Hybrid, which is currently not available here) for less money, but their American affiliate that produces it, can’t seem to make it cheap enough.
Honda does bring us the Accord Hybrid, however, but the Marysville, Ohio-built mid-size sedan doesn’t do as well as Toyota’s Camry Hybrid for similar reasons. Its base price is $35,805, whereas the Camry Hybrid is advertised at $30,790, and similarly to the Insight’s fancier Touring trim line, the top-level Accord Hybrid Touring starts at a lofty $42,505, which compares poorly to a fully loaded Camry Hybrid XLE that’s priced at only $39,690.
It doesn’t take a economics major to figure out that Honda Canada needs to deal with this problem if it wants to grow hybrid sales, but so far no Alliston assembly plant upgrades have been announced. If Honda Canada were able to produce the CR-V Hybrid north of the 49th, it might be able to compete with Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid (although not the plug-in RAV4 Prime) or Hyundai’s new Tucson Hybrid, but coming up with a business case to put such a plan into action might not make any sense in our market, which is just 10 percent of America’s population.
Even if such a plan made sense, the very fact Honda’s Insight is a dedicated hybrid with a number of totally unique body panels and trim, puts the smaller of these two Japanese automakers at another disadvantage. Where Toyota can theoretically produce its Corolla Hybrid at multiple plants without modifying major body stamping equipment, Honda would need to upgrade more than just the drivetrain portions of any alternative assembly plants to allow for more Insight production.
Currently, the Insight is built at Honda Manufacturing of Indiana in Greensburg, which also produces the Civic and previously pushed out the popular Civic Hybrid. If, alternatively, Honda chose to create a hybridized version of the new Civic, its many global assembly plants that are already pushing out versions of its venerable compact sedan could adapt more easily to hybrid production. Applying this (admittedly theoretical) logic to Canada’s Alliston assembly plant, might mean a Civic Hybrid could be built for Canadian consumption, thus resolving Honda’s inability to move many Insights in the great white north. As it is, Honda is fast losing its electrification edge in our market.
All said, is the Insight any good? Absolutely. If you’ve made it this far into this review, you’ll already know this Insight is nothing less than a gussied up Civic sedan, which everyone should appreciate is a very good compact car. It’s so good in fact, it consistently outsells every other car made, and we should all remember that the audience is always right (at least by “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” standards).
Behind its large, blackened grille opening is Honda’s well-proven 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor assistant, the latter powered by a 60-cell lithium-ion battery. All totalled up, the combination makes 151 net horsepower and an even stronger 197 lb-ft of torque. While off-the-line performance and passing power is certainly important, in the Insight’s compact class, hybrids are more about fuel economy, and the Insight delivers with a claimed rating of 4.6 L/100km city, 5.3 highway, and 4.9 combined, which will be good enough to wow most Civic owners that can only manage to eke out 7.9 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.1 combined when driving the model’s most efficient variant. Still, Toyota’s previously noted Corolla Hybrid is not only less expensive at the time of purchase, but keeps giving at the pump with an estimated rating of 4.4 L/100km in the city, 4.5 on the highway and 4.5 combined. Ouch!
Still, a small number of Canadian consumers, who are faithful to Honda and therefore willing to pay more initially and continually, choose the Insight over the Corolla Hybrid, or for that matter the all-new Hyundai Elantra Hybrid, which incidentally improves on both Japanese models’ fuel economy thanks to a claimed rating of 4.5 L/100km in the city, 4.2 on the highway and 4.4 combined, plus adds insult to injury with a starting price of just $24,699 and arguably more attractive (or at least fresher) styling. So, for those willing to pay more for less of what hybrids are supposed to be about, the Insight delivers extremely smooth operation from its continuously variable transmission (CVT), an equally calming ride and a well-organized, reasonably high-quality interior.
Before delving into the latter, the just-noted CVT isn’t designed for performance enthusiasts, so Civic Si buyers need not apply, but rather becomes annoyingly buzzy when pushing hard on the throttle for extended periods. Of course, such driving negates the car’s purpose, so I can’t see many Insight buyers doing so very often. I merely did for testing purposes, and have long experienced similar results from other CVT-equipped models in the class, such as the Corolla Hybrid. Nevertheless, despite its economy-first mission, Honda decided to include a Sport setting along with its expected Comfort, Econ and EV powertrain modes, which really says a lot about the much-loved brand itself.
Another positive advantage benefiting Insight buyers over those living with a Corolla Hybrid, is an EV mode that allows traveling at posted city speeds, something not possible in any non-plug-in Toyota hybrid that engages its ICE over 20 km/h. While enjoyable to run around town in near silent bliss, this feature doesn’t necessarily aid fuel-efficiency, as pointed out earlier, so it won’t like matter to most buyers.
As for that smooth suspension, it really is good. My city’s streets are mostly agreeable, although like in any urban area there are roadways that desperately need upkeep and only limited funds and workers to maintain them. Despite its compact size, the Insight’s relatively long wheelbase and nicely tuned fully independent suspension made bumpy patches of tarmac easier to endure, while simultaneously providing capable road-holding when choosing to rev out its noisy powertrain. Fortunately, the much of the Insight’s motive mass hides below the rear seat, which aids its centre of gravity, providing decent handling characteristics. Again, Civic Si enthusiasts need not apply, but hybrid buyers would be pleasantly surprised if they chose to test one out.
For such situations, the aforementioned Sport mode is ideal, enhanced by the ability to use steering wheel-mounted paddles to shift its CVT through a number of artificially stepped “gears”. Those who prefer shifting with a traditional gear lever are out of luck, because Honda infused the Insight’s lower console with its pushbutton gear selector. I’m just fine with that thanks to those paddle-shifters, and honestly, I only used the latter for one short stint throughout my weeklong test, due to the harshness of the drivetrain when doing so. Again, while its cool that Honda added DIY paddles, they’re not all that useful in a car like this, making me wonder if the investment might have been better spent on something else, or possibly eliminated altogether in order to lower the price?
As for the pushbutton (and pull-tab for reverse) gear selector, it looks appropriately modern and frees up arm space above the console, which otherwise is fitted with a big rubberized tray for holding your oversized smartphone. Honda includes two USB charge points plus a 12-volt power supply just above, all of which come together at the base of a centre stack that’s also laid out well, with a stylish dual-zone auto HVAC interface, a slim strip of switchgear for turning on the three-way heated front seats, recirculating air, and defog/defrost functions.
The centre stack is topped off with a large enough 8.0-inch touchscreen, which will be all-too familiar to current Civic owners. It features colourful, user friendly digital controls that are organized in an attractive tile design, with some of its functions being Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a navigation system (in my Touring tester) that proved very accurate, a fun-to-watch engine/battery power flow indicator, audio functions for a great sounding stereo, and the list goes on.
Of course, the display uses smartphone- or tablet-like finger gestures, so you can tap, swipe or pinch to your heart’s content, while Honda also framed this touchscreen with some useful switches for accessing key info quickly. The left-side row features a button for the home screen, plus one for returning back to the previous function, and another for transitioning between day and night modes. There are also two for browsing radio stations or MP3 tracks, while a rotating volume knob joins a volume controller on the left-hand steering wheel spoke. All of the infotainment system’s quick-access buttons receive backlit names just underneath, but makes sense until using them at night, when pressing the lighted name does nothing at all. Instead, you need to press the little, narrow button on top of the name, which is invisible in the dark. Yah, not the smartest application of an otherwise intelligent concept.
The Insight’s primary instrument experience is all positive, on the other hand. Honda was early to adopt a fully digital driver’s display, the arching cluster incorporating a multi-information display (MID) featuring useful hybrid info, such as a battery charge indicator, on the left, and a speedometer and gas gauge combo to the right. Well-made, smartly organized steering wheel switchgear controls the MID, which is par for the course with Honda products. Above everything is an overhead console integrating two incandescent reading lights, plus an emergency assist button, a HomeLink remote garage door opener, and the usual powered moonroof rocker switch. And yes, I would have rather seen an oversized glass sunroof in place of the Insight’s smallish opening, but some electrified cars don’t offer sunroofs at all, so I’d best not complain.
Back to positives, the Insight’s cabin approaches Acura ILX levels of fit, finish, and materials quality, with a dash top surfaced in nice pliable composites, plus a padded and French-stitched leather-like bolster ahead of the front passenger that flows across the instrument panel and down the sides of the centre stack. Certainly, I would’ve appreciated if Honda had finished the driver’s compartment as nicely as the front passenger’s, but at least both sides of the lower console gets the same soft-touch pampering treatment, which perfectly matches the sliding armrest in the middle.
The front door uppers get the same premium covering as the dash top, by the way, while the door inserts just below receive a similar stitched leatherette to that on the instrument panel bolster. Most everything looks and feels like it was produced by an entry-level luxury brand, like Acura, but I should say that Honda isn’t alone in raising the level of refinement in its compact models.
Honda has produced some of the better seats in the industry for a long time, however, and this Insight Touring’s driver’s perch is no exception. It provided excellent inherent support and no shortage of adjustability, resulting in a very comfortable office chair, while the tilt and telescopic steering column just ahead proved extendable enough to reach my shorter arms and torso when the lower cushion was pushed back far enough to make room for my longish legs. This ideal driver setup is not always possible from other compact models, and would be something I’d be willing to spend hundreds if not thousands for, so kudos to Honda for getting this right.
Along with excellent positioning, my tester’s steering wheel rim felt nice and meaty, with comfortable indents for thumbs and an overall performance-oriented feel. It’s as if Honda pulled it out the aforementioned Civic Si, rather than something designed to blissfully cruise past gas stations. All-round, the cockpit area is comfortable, spacious and lends a sense of control, which is exactly what most in this class are looking for.
Rear passengers should be nearly as comfortable, and despite not covering the tops of each window sill with soft-touch synthetic like those up front, the rest of the door panels were near duplicates, and a reasonably large armrest topped off by unreasonably small cupholders made things comfier for those stuck in back. Likewise, two-way rear seat warmers added wintertime heat to the outboard cushions, but there were no air vents next to the rocker switches on the backside of the front console or anywhere else in back, nor for that matter reading lights overhead.
The trunk’s 416-litre (14.7 cu-ft) volume should be large enough for most peoples’ needs, while extra gear can be placed below the cargo floor if small enough. This is where Honda stows the Insight’s tire repair pump, which is necessary for fixing a flat, being that no spare is offered. Expanding on the trunk’s usefulness are 60/40-split rear seatbacks, and no centre pass-through for loading longer items such as skis down the middle.
If an Insight seems like the car for you, keep in mind that Honda is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives. You can learn more about this discount on our 2021 Honda Insight Canada Prices page, which also provides comparative trim pricing, plus the ability to build the car with all available options. While you’re there, be sure to check out how the CarCostCanada system works, so you can utilize dealer invoice pricing to save even more when negotiating your best deal, plus download the free CarCostCanada app so you can have all of this valuable information on-hand when you need it most, whether at a Honda dealership pushing for a more agreeable Insight price, or walking across the street to a Toyota or Hyundai dealer in order to check out their electrified Corolla and Elantra offerings.
It’s finally the C’s time to shine. As part of a thorough fifth-generation C-Class redesign, the new model will bypass first-gen MBUX electronics to be second in the lineup to feature Mercedes’ entirely new separated digital gauge cluster display and infotainment touchscreen.
That’s probably the biggest 2022 C-Class news, next to the updated model’s completely new sheet metal, mostly because the latter could’ve easily been guessed by looking at the recently updated fourth-generation A-Class sedan that debuted in 2018.
The new (W206) C-Class is the A’s obvious bigger brother, at least when the two model’s sedans are placed side-by-side. The A can be had in a sporty hatch as well, while the C is offered in coupe, convertible and wagon body styles. We’ve only seen the sedan and wagon thus far, and sadly the latter car won’t make the journey across the Atlantic later this year, news that no doubt has fans of low-slung, elongated five-door Mercs feeling woeful.
At least the new C four-door should put a smile on those who prefer keeping their cargo snuggly secured away in a locked trunk, as it’s one very stylish sedan. It boasts Mercedes’ new frowning oval grille (the previous sport grille was turned up at its ends, resulting in a happier countenance), also seen on the just-noted A-Class, plus the leaner looking CLA. Moving outward, a new set of more sharply angled Performance LED headlamps stretch farther around each front fender, while a reworked lower front fascia comes across cleaner for a more minimalist approach. Additionally, the hood incorporates a pair of sinuous character lines, pulling memories of the ‘50s-era 300 SL, which is certainly no bad thing.
Peering down each side, Mercedes abandoned the outgoing C sedan’s gracefully penned beltline crease, which used to sweep downward through the rear door ahead of disappearing under its handle. This said, the new model appears more slab-sided, although the lower crease remains, which kicks upward as it moves rearward.
Quite possibly the most obvious differentiator between old and new Cs are the taillights, the latest iteration featuring two-piece triangular lenses that wrap horizontally around the rear flanks, compared to the outgoing model’s less distinctive ovoid lamps. Look no further than the A-Class sedan for their inspiration. Finally, the new C-Class gets fresh sets of 18- and 19-inch alloys, along with a revised palette of exterior paint colours.
Those lured to a new car via modernized electronics may have already flocked to Mercedes in recent years, being that the brand’s two-in-one MBUX driving/infotainment display has been second to none (except for Hyundai/Kia that adopted a similar design for many of their latest models). As noted earlier, Mercedes is skipping over the initial MBUX system for an altogether different approach to design and functionality. Instead, it will keep a similar fixed tablet-style display for the car’s primary gauge cluster, but will host the majority of infotainment info on a much larger individual display in a more conventional location, a bit lower on the centre stack, which should be easier to reach for some drivers. Anyone moving from the current C’s analogue dial and digital multi-information setup to the new all-electronic layout shouldn’t be put off, but some elevating their lifestyle from an A-Class may be chagrined after getting used to the first-gen MBUX design. Then again, if new design is good enough for Merc’s full-size S-Class flagship, it should be acceptable for C-Class users, the smaller sedan being the second car in the Stuttgart-brand’s lineup to complete rework its entire instrument panel layout.
The centre display is an elegantly crafted bit of electronica, particularly how it appears to seamlessly meld into a high-gloss carbon fibre weave surface treatment as it curves into the lower console, save for a thin strip of bisecting analogue buttons. The larger display is a touchscreen, just like the outgoing C’s smaller monitor and Merc’s first-gen MBUX unit, the extra digital acreage necessary now that a console-mounted touchpad is nowhere to be seen. Fans of minimalism will like how it looks, but others who preferred a best-of-both-worlds approach will probably complain.
According to Mercedes, the new display integrates haptic feedback for more fingertip feedback, while updating the system software now takes place over-the-air. Mercedes has included mention biometric authentication too, via either voice command or fingerprint scanning, while touching the scanner will initiate pre-selected memory adjustments to the driver seat, radio station, etcetera. The ability to purchase apps (and no doubt additional items in the future) from the Mercedes Me store can be done via fingerprint scanning too, while the C’s new head-up display utilizes augmented reality to project real-time visuals on the windshield in front of the driver.
Not only the driver benefits from new C’s improvements, by the way. Everyone aboard should appreciate the added comfort from its increase width and length. Both front and rear passengers should have more space for their legs and shoulders at their disposal, which is critical in a category that includes a few rivals boasting almost mid-size dimensions.
For those put off by the larger car when parking, a rear-wheel steering system should make the process easier. Additionally, the C 300 4Matic model gets some major tech upgrades under the hood, such as a standard 48-volt integrated starter-generator (ISG), a.k.a. a mild hybrid drive system. It combines with Mercedes’ potent 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission, for a total of 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor is responsible for 20 of those horses, plus 147 lb-ft of additional twist, but despite its boost in output the new car is a tad slower than the outgoing model off the line. Of course, the changes are more about fuel-efficiency, the hybrid drivetrain joined by driveline drag reducing gliding capability, plus a kinetic energy recovery system.
Strangely, we won’t see the plug-in hybrid version, which reportedly has an EV range of 100 km between charges (maybe it’s reserved for Germany’s taxi fleets), so any hopes of scoring any front-of-business reserved plug-in parking spots when at the wheel of a C-Class need to be dashed, or for that matter blasting past rush-hour traffic in the HOV lane.
Mercedes has made no announcements of ultra-potent six- or eight-cylinder AMG-tuned C-Class models either, but instead we’re hearing reports of electrically-assisted four-cylinder variants, possibly similar to Volvo’s T8 and Polestar Engineered power units. The difference between regular and AMG hybrid Cs will come down to tuning, with the former prioritizing fuel economy and the latter focused on performance.
Of course, the new C-Class will also include all the expected driver assistive systems, including sign and red-light recognition, and steering assistance to help drivers maintain a chosen lane up to 210 km/h, where legally permitted.
As noted earlier, we can expect the new 2022 C 300 4Matic arrive in Canadian dealerships later this year, but we’ll have to wait a little longer for pricing and trim details. For the time being, Mercedes is providing up to $5,500 in additional incentives on the 2021 C-Class models, while CarCostCanada members are currently saving an average of $3,950.
To learn more about how to save money with your CarCostCanada membership, check out our “How it Works” page. Members receive info about manufacturer leasing and financing deals when available, plus factory rebates when available, as well as dealer invoice pricing that can help you save thousands when negotiating over a new vehicle. Also, be sure to download the our free app from the Google Play store or Apple store too, so you can access all this critical money-saving info on your smartphone.
The C-Class: Rapid-Fire Questions to Dirk Fetzer (1:07):
The New C-Class Sedan: An Intelligent Comfort Zone (0:49):
The New C-Class Sedan: A Connected Comfort Zone (0:56):
If you were looking for some edgy styling updates to go along with the new 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance model’s 472-horsepower V8 engine upgrade, this probably isn’t going to be your next ride. Unless Lexus decides to push out an even more aggressive IS F trim before an all-new model arrives in a couple of years, this IS 500 F Sport is the brand’s new four-door muscle car now that the mid-size GS F (and the entire GS line) has departed.
As it is, Lexus refreshed the entire IS line for 2021, and therefore sees no need to bulk up the elegant compact luxury model’s bodywork with extra scoops, whale-tail wings, or any other types of go-fast add-ons to attract more buyers, although they did slightly widen the fenders. Thus, this only marginally muscled up saloon might be the best new sleeper on the strip.
The sharply angled four-door wears a broadened version of Lexus’ now fully acceptable spindle grille, fully blackened out of course, its corners complete with a revised set of multi-lens LED headlamps that don’t dazzle with as much bright metalwork within either. The lower front fascia is deep and divided too, with nice black vertical brake vents to each side (or at least they look like brake vents), while the hood overtop gets a fabulous dome at centre to make way for the 5.0-litre V8 stuffed below.
All IS trims received the same body sculpting down the sides, extended fenders aside, with even the two-tone mirror housings identical to those found on lesser models. Likewise, for the rear end’s UX-inspired LED taillights, which feature a narrow reflector strip visually tying them together. A subtle spoiler hovers over top, and again it’s no different than what you’d find on a regular IS, while the diffuser-infused lower bumper cap is only a departure because of the extra two vertically stacked exhaust tips poking through.
As it is, the IS 300 and IS 350 are already the sportiest Lexus sedans available, so they were mostly de-chromed before this IS 500 arrived. In fact, some 2021 trims are even darker due to grey-painted alloys, the V8-powered model’s 10-spoke, 19-inch Enkei lightweight wheels finished in glittering metal, just like the chromed “L” badges at each end and aforementioned exhaust pipes. The IS 500’s most obvious differentiators are darkened side window trim bits instead of Lexus’ usual polished nickel.
All of the interior changes are from the usual F Sport order sheet too, including black “F SPORT” insignias on the door sill plates and steering wheel, the latter which is heatable and leather-clad, of course, while the metal gas pedal, brake pedal and dead pedal have been upgraded to F Sport specifications too. The startup animation in the mostly-digital gauge cluster’s multi-information display is special to the IS 500, mind you, and serves as a quick reminder of the menacing power available at from a little right foot application.
Along with its 472 horsepower, Lexus’ big V8 puts 395 lb-ft of torque down to the rear wheels, which is almost as much output as found in the gorgeous LC 500 sports coupe and convertible, this IS version actually increasing horsepower by a single digit while dropping a mere three lb-ft of twist. Either way it represents a serious improvement over the next-best IS 350 that only sends 311 horsepower and 280-lb-ft of torque to the ground below. Even the mighty 2014 IS F, as impressive as that super sedan was for its time, wouldn’t be able to compete at 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft of torque. Of note, the only major change other than widening the front fenders was the need to move the radiator forward to accommodate the larger engine.
If you’re shopping in this category, a handful of challengers are worth mentioning, including the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio that puts out a mind-blowing 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque; the BMW M3 that pretty well created this super-fast sedan segment and still offers up competitive performance thanks to a 473-horsepower turbo-six in base form or 503-hp Competition trim; the Mercedes-AMG tuned C-Class that comes in 385-hp AMG C 43 form, 469-hp AMG C 63 guise, and lastly with 503-hp AMG C 63 S tuning.
Unfortunately, Audi doesn’t offer an RS version of its directly competitive compact luxury sedan, but four-ringed buyers can option up from the 349-hp S4 to similarly sized RS 5 Sportback that makes 444 hp (the A5 Sportback is Audi’s version of BMW’s 4 Series Grand Coupe (none are available for 2021), albeit the Bavarians don’t provide an M version of what is arguably their prettiest four-door). Additionally, Cadillac is set to enter this category with its new 2022 CT4-V Blackwing, which gets a standard manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive, and 472-horsepower worth of twin-turbo V6.
A few honourable mentions include the Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered model that puts out 415 hp from a turbocharged, supercharged and plug-in-hybridized four-cylinder (and can also be had in V60 wagon form); and the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 that puts out 400 hp, as its name implies. This story would be incomplete without noting the top-tier Tesla Model 3, which is good for 480 electrified horsepower, plus 471 lb-ft of instantaneous torque.
As noted earlier, the IS 500 pushes all of power down to the rear wheels through the same swift-shifting eight-speed Sport Direct automatic transmission as used in the model’s V6-powered rear-drive IS models. It also features Custom, Sport S and Sport S+ engine and transmission mode settings, with the latter adjusting EPS steering assist and shock damping force as well. The end result of a good driver utilizing the most sport-oriented settings is 4.6 seconds from zero to 100 km/h, no doubt accompanied by “ferocious” sounds from the four tailpipes that “perfectly amplify the new V8 engine,” or so said Lexus in a press release.
Bridling all that power is Lexus’ standard Dynamic Handling Package, which also underpins the US-specification IS 350 RWD F Sport (AWD is standard north of the 49th). The upgrade boasts an Adaptive Variable suspension setup featuring Yamaha rear performance shocks plus a Torsen limited-slip differential, while the IS 500’s standard braking system is improved with two-piece 14-inch aluminum rotors up front and 12.7-inch discs in the rear, while special cooling ducts help to enhance performance at the limit. Despite the upgraded equipment and larger engine, the new IS 500 only adds five kilos to the IS 350 AWD F Sport’s curb weight, mostly because of its rear-drive layout, the V8-powered model hitting the scale at 1,765 kilograms.
What’s the fastest sedan in the world? Numerous four-door competitors have made claims of being quickest off the line, achieving the highest top track speed, and providing the best handling characteristics, but there’s a very good argument for the Porsche Panamera Turbo S being the current title holder.
Back in July of last year, an even less powerful Panamera Turbo achieved the Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record for production executive cars with Porsche works driver Leh Keen at the wheel, a title it continues to hold today, while Keen also piloted the even more capable Panamera Turbo S to the top spot amongst production sedans at the challenging 4.0-km long Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta road course with a lap time of 1:31.51 minutes.
“The engineers found a perfect balance,” commented Keen after his record lap. “They really made it feel small and sporty. The stability gave me a ton of confidence to use every bit of the asphalt and curbs. And yet the car has a completely different and more refined and relaxed character on the highway – an amazing combination.”
Factor in the Panamera is a luxury sedan made from some of the finest materials available, and filled with top-tier premium features (which add a lot of weight), and its highly competitive time seems even more daunting. The only cars that have officially beaten the Panamera Turbo S’ lap time include two Chevy Corvette Z06 (C7) entries with times of 1:30.18 and 1:29.81, a Dodge Viper ACR (Mk V) that ran Atlanta at 1:26.54, a Corvette ZR1 that did it in 1:26.45, and three Porsche 911s that hold third, second and first, including a GT3 RS at 1:26.24 and two GT2 RS (991) entries, the best of which achieved a time of 1:24.88. This puts the Panamera Turbo S in seventh place overall.
This also means the big four-door Porsche outpaced its own Cayman GT4 (718), which ran the track in 1:32.24 with the same driver at the wheel, not to mention the Taycan Turbo S that Keen drove to 1:33.88 (and earned a best lap time for EVs).
The Panamera Turbo S is new for 2021, as is its 620-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine. It puts 604 lb-ft of torque down to all four wheels, resulting in a mind-blowing zero to 100km/h sprint time of only 3.1 seconds, and an amazingly fast top track speed of 315 km/h (196 mph).
Along with all of the luxurious refinement and high-tech features that come with a car of the Panamera’s calibre, the new Turbo S comes standard with a host of advanced performance features too, including Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV+), rear axle steering, and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport roll-stabilization system (PDCC Sport).
The only change from production spec during its record setting Road Atlanta run, was the allowed upgrade from stock performance rubber to newly-developed road-legal Michelin Pilot Sport cup 2 ND0 ultra-high-performance tires that measure 275/35 ZR 21 103Y XL up front and 325/30 ZR 21 108Y XL at the rear. The “N” designation means these Michelins were co-developed with Porsche, with this special tire specifically designed for the Panamera and tuned at the aforementioned Nürburgring Nordschleife race track.
It should be noted that vehicle data acquisition and timing expert Racelogic recorded and verified the Panamera Turbo S’ Road Atlanta lap time using their VBOX video HD2 system. They’d better keep that timing equipment ready, because something tells us Porsche’s Panamera Turbo S will be setting more lap records in the near future.
To find out more about Porsche’s flagship sport sedan as well as its even more practical extended Sport Turismo variant, check out our 2021 Porsche Panamera Canada Prices page that shows all retail pricing and allows you to build out each trim with all available features.
If someone were to ask you to name a serious sport sedan a few will probably come to mind in an instant. At the lower end of the four-door performance spectrum the VW GLI and Subaru WRX might immediately come to mind, but within premium circles BMW has been the go-to, go-fast brand for longer than any competitor this side of Maserati, and ‘60s era Quattroportes were astronomically priced. It was BMW that brought super-sedan performance to the masses, with the M5 initiating the entire category.
Sadly I’ve never owned an M5, although I came mighty close to purchasing a mid-‘90s E34 back in ’96. It was beautiful, brilliantly quick, and garnered near-exotic levels of respect amongst those who knew. These days the M5 is legend, with no one questioning why you’d want sports car performance in mid-size five-seater. Now that I’m thinking of it, the world we live in now seems to revere high-end sport sedans as if they were supercars, with most buyers in this class gravitating to taller super-SUVs like BMW’s own X5 M and X6 M.
As fabulous as BMW’s sportiest crossovers may be, I’ll take an M5 any day of the week. As it is, I’ve owned everything from a mid-‘70s Bavaria to a late-‘80s E34 525i and plenty of roundel-badged models in between, with none as entertaining as any M5, but fortunately I’ve been able to spend weeks at a time in BMW’s best sport sedan since the fabulous V8-powered E39 arrived on the scene, and must admit the Bavarians certainly know how to make a big four-door sedan move down the road quickly.
Looking back, the M5 first mentioned made a mere 340 horsepower, which seemed unfathomable when compared to the first M5’s 256 hp, but if lined up beside the comparatively otherworldly 600-plus horsepower M5 available now, it might as well have been a Camry (said with respect to Toyota’s impressive new Camry TRD). The 2020 M5 hits 100 km/h from standstill in a blisteringly quick 3.4 seconds, although if that’s not quite fast enough a Competition model will knock another 0.1 second off the clock for a 3.3-second sprint to the same speed. Either time makes it fastest amongst every direct competitor.
It takes more than mere straight-line speed to make a full-fledged sport sedan, of course, but fortunately the M5 earned its legendary status by managing corners with adroit agility, and the new model is no exception to the accepted rule. In fact, it feels easier than the previous F10-bodied M5 to fling through corners, albeit not quite as light and tossable as the now classic E39 referred to earlier. The now standard carbon fibre roof panel slices about 45 kilos (100 lbs) from the very top of the car, helping to lower its centre of gravity, while the car’s rear-biased all-wheel drive does more than just help out on slippery road conditions, making even drying pavement more controllable.
Likewise, the new F90 M5’s eight-speed gearbox shifts a helluvalot faster than you might expect from a conventional automatic, but if you want it to perform its duties even quicker, bright red “M1” and “M2” buttons on the steering wheel spokes can instantly trigger pre-set sport modes as well as personalized settings for your specific driving style. For instance, I was able to combine a more compliant suspension setup mixed with quicker shifts and higher engine revs for the M1 position, ideal for zipping down bumpy backroads that would cause a stiffer setup to be airborne more often than optimal, while I set the M2 switch for a more firmly sprung suspension with even faster D3 shifting speed, not to mention the DSC system turned off, perfect for smooth stretches of asphalt. The two buttons allowed me to immediately switch between settings as smoother or rougher sections of pavement approached, necessary for making time on the patchwork quilt of backcountry roads in my area.
During my various performance tests, I never attempted to prove the M5’s 305 km/h (190 mph) top speed, as you may have guessed, this more of a bragging right than anything potentially possible on Canadian roads or even any publicly available tracks I know of, but suffice to say it’s more than capable of shredding your license if you try anything so silly. I’m more about straightening ribbons of circuitous two-laners anyway, something the M5 executed with greater ease than anything so luxuriously appointed, accommodatingly sized, and accordingly hefty should be capable of. Fortunately, along with the speed this Bimmer delivers a wonderfully comfortable ride and superb refinement, especially when it came to blocking out wind and road noise.
Don’t worry, plenty of delectable sound emanated from ahead of the firewall (as well as the audio system’s speakers, artificially), the turbo-V8 never letting my ears mistake it for one of the car’s less potent sixes, yet when not pushing it for all it was worth the serene cabin allowed for full enjoyment of the just-noted 16-speaker, 1,400-watt, 10-amplified-channel Bowers and Wilkins surround sound audio system, even more impressive when turned down for calmer, ambient pieces as when cranked up.
Speaking of a fully engaged experience, the new M5 features a fully digital gauge cluster, albeit wrapped up in an analogue design. To achieve this, BMW encircles the tachometer and speedometer displays with beautiful aluminum rings, and while this doesn’t allow navigation map, per se, to completely cover the screen, does provide a unique look with an amply large multi-info display at centre. The MID is filled with utile functions, all controllable via steering wheel switchgear, while the cluster’s graphics and resolution quality is superb.
Looking to the right, the centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen is excellent, although be forewarned it gets better for the new 2021 model, increasing in size by more than two inches for a new diameter of 12.3 inches. And yes, it’s a touchscreen, thus providing the usual smartphone- and tablet-like finger gesture controls. Still, BMW lets those who’d rather control its iDrive system with easier-to-reach lower console-mounted switchgear do so, a spin of a rotating dial or the press of nearby quick-access buttons often preferable to tapping, swiping or pinching.
Also important, the BMW delivers one of the best quality cabins in the M5’s super-sedan class too, thanks to high-end materials and impressive attention to detail. The aforementioned Bowers and Wilkins audio system featured gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles, these combined with no shortage of beautiful metalwork elsewhere in the interior. Some accents were finished in brushed aluminum while others glistened like chrome, although my favourite upgrades were the high-gloss carbon-fibre surface treatments and stunning stitched leatherwork.
Much of that leather can be found on the M5’s sensational front seats, which were two-tone light grey and charcoal in my tester, with perforated inserts and solid tops on the lower bolsters. Brightly coloured M5 appliques enhance each headrest, a fitting garnish for these comfortable, supportive and fully adjustable buckets, the lower cushions even extendable. Gone are the days that BMW limited rear seating to just two, the accommodating 2020 M5 sporting a wide bench seat with a folding centre armrest housing pop-out cupholders, while detailing in back is as good as that up front. The rear seats can be folded in the optimal 40/20/40 configuration too, allowing long cargo such as skis to fit down the middle while two rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable, heated window seats.
The current M5 has been quite popular over its three-year tenure, much thanks to its eye-catching styling. This said the 2021 will get a refresh that may turn off some lovers of this version, due to a larger more rectangular grille, updated headlamps and taillights, and a few other design tweaks. Those not impressed with the updates should snap a 2020 up while they can, although take note there’s currently no penalty for choosing the 2021. In fact, our 2020 BMW M5 Canada Prices page shows up to $1,500 in additional incentives for both model years. Additionally, make sure to check out how the CarCostCanada system works, and while you’re at it visit the Apple Store or Google Play Store to download our free app, where you can learn about any available financing and leasing deals, manufacturer rebates, and dealer invoice pricing for any car you’re interested in, even while perusing your local dealer’s lot.
You can get into the 2020 M5 for $115,300 (plus freight and fees) and the more powerful 617 horsepower Competition version for $123,000, whereas the 2021 M5 will only be available in Competition trim, albeit with a slightly less expensive $121,000 listed price. Performance remains the same, which means the M5 blasts into 2021 as one of the quickest four-door sedans available anywhere. That it’s so well built, nicely equipped and easy to live with is just a bonus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
After eight long years of the sixth-generationJetta, Volkswagen introduced a ground-up redesign for the 2019 model year and Canadian compact sedan buyers responded by boosting the model’s sales by 14 percent. That’s a good news story for VW Canada, but 17,260 units in 2019 is a far cry from the car’s high of 31,042 deliveries in 2014.
All we need do to understand this scenario more clearly is compare the VW Tiguan’s sales of 10,096 units in 2014 to the 19,250 sold in 2019 (which was actually down 10 percent from the 21,449 examples sold in 2018), and thus we see another example of crossover SUVs encroaching on the conventional car’s traditional territory.
As VW fans will already be well aware, the German brand controls more of the compact segment than the Jetta’s sales indicate on their own. Most rivals, including Honda’s best-selling Civic, Toyota’s second-rung Corolla, Hyundai’s third-place Elantra, and the list goes on, combine multiple body styles under one nameplate. This was true for VW’s fifth-place Golf for the 2019 model year too, and previously when available as a Cabriolet, but with the SportWagen being cancelled for 2020 the little hatchback moves forward with just one profile shape. Speaking of that Golf, if its 2019 calendar year sales of 19,668 units were combined with the Jetta’s aforementioned total, created one collective whole, VW would no longer sit in fifth and sixth places respectively, but instead jump past Mazda’s 21,276 unit-sales with a new compact total of 36,928 deliveries. That puts the Golf/Jetta combo mighty close to the Elantra’s 39,463 deliveries.
OK, I got a little carried away with numbers, as I sometimes do (just be glad I didn’t add the 3,667 Ioniq and 1,420 Veloster sales to Hyundai’s 2019 calendar year mix, or the 2,910 now discontinued VW Beetles), but you should now have a better understanding of the situation. Volkswagen continues to be a serious player in compact arena, and the Jetta is a key component of its mostly two-pronged (so far) approach in this market segment. This said, VW has done compact performance better than most of its rivals for a lot longer, with entries like the iconic Golf GTI and hyper-fast Golf R playing it out in the hot hatch sector, and the Jetta GLI being reviewed here pushing VW’s agenda amongst affordable sport sedans.
Yes, Honda deserves kudos for its long-running Civic Si (now with 205 hp) that arrived in 1985 as the CRX Si and in regular Civic form for 1988, and currently puts out a beastly compact sport hatch dubbed Type R (306 hp), which is a similar combo to Subaru’s legendary WRX (268 hp) and WRX STI (310 hp) twins, while Mazda’s less formidable yet still respectable 3 GT is in the mix (186 hp—how we miss the Mazdaspeed3, but there is recent talk of Mazda’s 250-hp turbo 2.5 with 310 lb-ft of torque improving 3 performance), but the South Koreans have recently been stepping up competition with sporty alternatives of their own, respectively including the Elantra Sport (201 hp) and Kia Forte GT (201 hp) that actually use identical powertrains and ride on the same platform architecture. While this is good news for performance fans, Ford recently nixed its fabulous Focus ST (252 hp) and sensational Focus RS (350 hp) along with their entire car lineup (sacrificed to the crossover SUV), Mustang coupe and convertible aside, showing some come and some go. Yes, there’s something to be said for honest to goodness longstanding performance heritage, and the Jetta’s three-letter GLI acronym beats all rivals excepting the GTI in the test of time, with its 1984 inception resulting in 36 years under its belt.
To its advantage, the new Jetta GLI is one good looking sport sedan. Those who might be turned off by Honda’s boy-racer Civic Si design and Subaru’s rally-ready WRX look should gravitate to the sporty VeeDub thanks to its more discreet appearance. The usual blackened exterior trim is once again joined by tasteful splashes of red accenting key areas, this latest version getting a red horizontal divider across its grille as well as big red brake calipers framed by special red trim circling each of its dark grey 18-inch wheels. Of course, the front and rear “GLI” badges are doused in bright red as well, as is a really attractive set of front fender trim pieces that boast this GLI 35th Edition’s unique designation.
As far as the GLI’s glossy black trim goes, there’s a thick strip along the top portion of the grille, plus more of the inky black treatment surrounding the lower front fascia’s corner vent bezels, painting the side mirror housings, finishing the front portion and rear portions of the roof, and coating the tastefully small rear deck lid spoiler. It’s a real looker from front to rear, and more importantly for people my age (let’s just say above 50), the type of compact sport sedan that won’t make you look like you’re trying to relive your glory days when seen behind the wheel.
As expected in any performance-tuned VW, the GLI includes a well-bolstered, comfortable set of perforated leather front seats. They’re highlighted with sporty red contrast stitching and attractively patterned inserts, for a look that’s simultaneously sporty and luxurious. What’s more, the steering wheel is downright performance perfection, featuring a slightly flat bottom section and ideally formed thumb indentations, plus red baseball-like stitching around the inside of the meaty leather-wrapped rim. VW continues the cabin’s bright red highlights with more crimson coloured thread on the leather gear lever boot, plus the centre armrest, the “GLI” portion of the model’s “GLI 35” seat tags, as well as the identical logo on the embroidered floor mats and stainless-steel sill plates.
There’s also a fair share of satin-silver aluminum trim around the cabin, including the previously noted steering wheel’s spokes, the foot pedals, various switches and accents on the centre stack and lower console, plus more. Additional trim worth noting include a small dose of fake carbon-fibre and larger sampling of piano black lacquer on the dash and upper door panels, whereas the former area is wholly soft-touch due to a premium-like composite that wraps down to the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger, before this premium treatment continues to the front door uppers, inserts and armrests.
While all of this luxury-level pampering sounds good, I’m quite certain most would-be buyer’s eyes will be find the standard digital instrument cluster even more appealing, at least at first sight. If you’ve seen Audi’s Virtual Cockpit you’ll know what I’m talking about, although VW calls theirs a Digital Cockpit. Similarly to the fancier German brand, the GLI’s Digital Cockpit includes a “VIEW” button on the left-side steering wheel spoke that transforms the cluster’s look from a traditional two-dial layout with a multi-function display in the middle to a massive MID with tiny conventional gauges below. This is looks especially good when filling the MID with the navigation system’s map, and makes it easier to glance down for directions than when on the centre display. The Digital Cockpit can do likewise with other functions, resulting in one of the more useful electronic components currently available from a mainstream brand.
The Jetta GLI’s centre touchscreen is a big 8.0-inch display boasting high-definition resolution and bright, colourful graphics with rich visual depth and contrast, while just like the primary instrument package it comes well stocked with features such as tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe gesture controls, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Mirror Link smartphone integration, audio, navigation, application, driving mode and fuel-saving eco “pages”, plus finally a performance driving interface with a lap timer and more.
Strangely, active guidelines are not included with the backup camera, which is a bit odd for the GLI’s top-level trim, which included an available $995 ($1,005 for 2020) Advanced Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) upgrade bundle featuring a multi-function camera with a distance sensor. This package also adds Light Assist auto high beam control, dynamic cruise control with stop and go, Front Assist autonomous emergency braking, Side Assist blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and Lane Assist lane keeping capability.
An attractive, well-organized and easy to use three-dial dual-zone auto climate control interface sits just below the infotainment display on the centre stack. It includes switches for the GLI’s standard three-way heated and ventilated front seats, the former warm enough for therapeutic lower back pain relief and the latter helpful for reducing sweat during hot summer months, while under this is an extremely large and accommodating rubber-based wireless device charger as well as a USB-A charging port.
A gearshift lever with a sporty looking metallic and composite knob and aforementioned red-stitched leather boot takes up its tradition spot on the lower console between front occupants, surrounding by an electric parking brake, traction control and idle-stop system defeat buttons, plus a driving mode selector that lets you choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Custom settings.
Speaking of centre consoles, the overhead one above houses a handy sunglasses holder as well as switchgear for opening the big power glass sunroof that also includes an opaque fabric sunscreen with an upscale aluminum handle.
And so it should, as the GLI, starting at $32,445 plus freight and fees for the manual, or $33,845 for my as-tested DSG dual-clutch automated model, is starting to encroach into low-end premium territory. Fit, finish, materials tactile quality and overall refinement is only so-so, however, not even measuring up to VW’s own Golf GTI. It used to be that a Jetta was merely a Golf (or Rabbit) with a trunk, the latter useful for mitigating inner-city security risks, but now the two cars look totally different other than the badge on their grilles and backsides and a handful of cross-model components.
The base 2019 Golf GTI is available from $30,845 (and when I recently checked plenty were still available in Canada, probably due to the health situation that I don’t want to name due to being negatively flagged by search engines, etcetera) and $850 less than the $31,695 entry-level Jetta GLI, but the sporty VW hatchback boasts fabric-wrapped A pillars, just like its more affordable Golf counterparts, while no Jetta, including this GLI, gets this semi-premium treatment. All of the Jetta’s hard composites below the waist, and some of them above, don’t feel all that substantive either.
Certainly, we need to factor in the Jetta’s compact status, an entry-level model for Volkswagen that doesn’t sell a subcompact car in North America, but such is not the case for its main rivals that are seeing this compact segment as a growing alternative for those who might have otherwise purchase a mid-size sedan or wagon. The fact is, rivals from Japan and Korea are packing more soft-touch luxury and premium features into their smaller cars, and winning over buyers who want to be pampered instead of punished for choosing a more environmentally conscious small car. Just get into a fully loaded Mazda3, Toyota Corolla or Kia Forte and you’ll quickly figure out what I’m talking about. They’re delivering at a high level, and deserve to attract new buyers that aren’t being gobbled up by the Civic, the Corolla and Elantra.
The shame is VW used to lead in small car refinement, to the point that previous Jettas were probably too good for this segment, even starting to be uncomfortably compared against the automaker’s own Audi A4. Therefore, anyone trading in their 2005–2011 fifth-generation Jetta for the current version, whether trimmed out to top-line GLI spec or not, will probably find the cabin’s finish and materials quality less than ideal.
By the way, I tested a new Forte GT recently, and have to say it does a good job of competing against old guard sport compacts like this GLI and Honda’s Civic Si, but unlike this car the Forte’s rear door panels were finished to the same high-quality, soft-touch level as those up front, whereas none of the above can be found on the GLI’s rear door panels. I can’t think of another car in this class that misses the mark so blatantly in this respect, and call for VW to step things up before it completely loses its reputation for tactile quality.
This said, a set of heated outboard rear seats would’ve been much appreciated by rear passengers mid-winter, not that these aren’t offered by competitors, but once again the panel surrounding the three-way buttons was about as primitive as this class provides. The seats were comfortable and supportive, mind you, as well as attractive due to the same red stitching and perforated leather as those in the front, not to mention sculpted backrests in the outer window positions. A decent sized folding rear centre armrest includes cupholders, but unlike Jettas that came before there’s no cargo pass-through door behind for stuffing long items such as skis. This means you’ll have to lower the 40-percent side of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks when four people are on board, forcing one rear occupant into the less comfortable middle seat, and making the rear seat warmer on that side redundant when that rear passenger will want it most. On the positive, the trunk is large at 510 litres, and could potentially house shorter skis diagonally as well as snowboards. Of course, the Jetta is not alone in choosing less costly 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, but the Golf offers the centre pass-through and therefore is the better choice for active owners.
A few minutes behind the wheel and you’ll quickly forget about such shortcomings, however, as the GLI is a blast to drive. Truly, this sport sedan is one of the most enjoyable to drive within its mainstream volume-branded compact sedan class, thanks to a new 228 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 18 horsepower and 51 lb-ft over the GLI’s predecessor, incidentally, and due to only being available with front-wheel drive the motive wheels/tires have a habit of squealing during quick takeoffs. Certainly, there’s traction control, as noted earlier, but it comes on a bit too late to stop any noisy commotion from down below, so you’ll need to restrain your right foot in order to maintain civility and not engage any police intervention.
The GLI’s new seven-speed dual-clutch automated DSG transmission is as important an upgrade as the engine’s newfound power, and feels even faster between paddle shift-actuated gear intervals than the previous model’s six-speed unit, while gaining a taller final gear to improve fuel economy (it’s rated at 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.5 combined with the six-speed manual and a respective 9.3, 7.2 and 8.4 with my tester’s A7 DSG auto).
While the new GLI is nowhere near as fast as the aforementioned Golf R, or some of that model’s equivalently quick super-compact competitors such as Subaru’s WRX STI and Mitsubishi’s awesome EVO X (RIP), it’s more than respectable amongst mid-range sport models like the Civic Si, while making wannabe performance cars like the Mazda3 GT feel as if they’re standing still. Momentary burnouts during takeoff aside, the new Jetta GLI was unflappable when pushed hard through high-speed curving sections of backcountry two-lane roadway, even when pavement was so uneven that the car’s rear end should’ve been hopping and bopping around the road. Fortunately, unlike that top-tier Mazda3 and VW’s more pedestrian Jetta trims below that use a torsion-beam rear suspension, the GLI includes a multi-link setup in back, which absorbed jarring potholes and other road imperfections with ease, allowing most of the stock 225/45 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires’ contact patches to remain fully engaged with the road below. To be fair to the Mazda3, it’s surprisingly stable during such otherwise unsettling circumstances due to available AWD with G-Vectoring Plus.
Back in the city, the GLI’s idle-stop system shut off the engine when the car came to a stop amid parallel parking manoeuvres. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, as it should quickly reignite the engine when lifting off the brake, but while I was purposely parked too close to the vehicle ahead in order to straighten the car out, it wouldn’t restart while in reverse. This necessitated shifting back into park and then pressing on the throttle to wake up the engine, and then shifting back to reverse before aligning the car. This is probably a software glitch, but I’d be complaining to my dealer if it persisted. Fortunately, I experienced no other instances of this happening, but remember I only live with test cars for a week at a time.
The previously noted $32,445 (for the base manual) and $33,845 (for the DSG auto) base prices meant the 2019 GLI 35 is nicely equipped, with items not yet covered including fog lamps, LED headlights, proximity entry with pushbutton start/stop, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a potent 8-speaker BeatsAudio system with a subwoofer, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar and three-position memory, and the list goes on. The same goes for the 2020 model, by the way, as there haven’t been any changes except for the discontinuation of this model year-specific 35th Edition.
Speaking of model years, VW Canada will give you up to $3,000 in additional incentives on a 2019 Jetta (which remained available when this review was written), while the new 2020 GLI can be purchased with $1,000 in additional incentives, although keep in mind that CarCostCanada member savings averaged $2,500 for the newer 2020 model. To learn more, see our 2020 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page and/or 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices page, where members can find out about manufacturer rebates, leasing and financing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could add up to even more savings. What’s more, you can now download our free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or Apple iTunes/App store so you can have all of our important info in the palms of your hands when negotiating at the dealership, whether purchasing this Jetta GLI or any other new vehicle sold in Canada.
In the end, I can’t help but like the new Jetta GLI, even despite its less than ideal shortcomings. It looks great, takes off like a scared rabbit (GTI) when called upon, and is filled with most of the features premium car buyers are learning to expect. Yes, I’d prefer if Volkswagen improved some of the Jetta’s touchy-feely interior surfaces, but being that most owners will spend all of their time up front in the driver’s seat, it’s shouldn’t be a deal-killing issue.
With the release of these swoopy artist’s renderings Volkswagen has announced the virtual world première of its updated 2021 Arteon four-door coupe will occur on June 24th, and along with scant information about the new car is the revelation of a new body style.
The blue car on the left is indeed a sport wagon, although despite having four doors plus a rear liftgate, and therefore being similar in concept to the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, Volkswagen has dubbed it a Shooting Brake, which is normally a term given to a two-door wagon with a rear hatch like Ferrari’s 2011–2016 FF or the classic 1972–1973 Volvo P1800ES (although Mercedes-Benz called its four-door CLS sport wagon a Shooting Brake when it debuted for 2012, which was followed up with a 2015 CLA Shooting Brake).
Just like those elongated Mercs, however, the five-door VW won’t be coming to Canada or the U.S., leaving we North American with only getting the four-door fastback variant, but selling such a niche vehicle in our markets is already a risky business proposition as clearly shown in the car’s sales figures.
Despite the Arteon’s stylish sheet metal and nicely sorted interior, the slick VeeDub only found 456 buyers throughout all of calendar year 2019 (albeit deliveries only started in March), which put it in last place within the mainstream mid-size sedan class. VW’s Passat, the Arteon’s more upright, practical and affordable four-door counterpart managed to stay one position ahead with 672 deliveries last year, but bringing up the rear was nothing for Volkswagen’s Canadian division to be excited about.
Yes, it was the ninth year of the outgoing eighth-generation model, and therefore as long in the tooth as anything in this segment has ever been, but that not updating this important model was Volkswagen’s fault to begin with, so being last amongst conventional mid-size sedans was inevitable. Also notable, VW’s poor Passat and Arteon sales occurred well before we were facing all of the current health, social and economic problems.
It’s difficult to say whether a slowdown in Q1 2020 Arteon sales had much to do with the just-mentioned issues or was instead a self-imposed reduction of inventory ahead of the refreshed 2021 model, but either way VW only managed to sell 81 units in Canada for the first three months of this year, but the automaker’s Ajax, Ontario office would have been happy to see deliveries of the all-new Passat increase during the same quarter, the model’s 523 unit-sales nearly as strong as the entire year before.
While it might at first appear like the Passat’s stronger Q1 sales results could be a good sign for the new Arteon, at least when not factoring in the aforementioned health, social and especially economic problems, nobody’s complaining about the 2019-2020 Arteon’s styling. In fact, it already shares many of the design cues of the new Passat. Of course, the artist’s rendering looks longer, lower, wider and leaner than today’s car, which is normal for these types of cartoon-like creations, so before getting all excited it’s probably best to visually squish the eye-popping drawing back into more reasonable proportions, and while you’re at it reduce the size of the gargantuan wheels. Once this is done the 2021 model will probably appear a lot like today’s version, other than its updated front grille and reshaped front fascia, not to mention similarly minor changes provided at the back.
The current Arteon cabin is the nicest available in the 2020 Volkswagen fleet, or at least the one offered here, and although we shouldn’t expect any radical changes VW does promise its newest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for quicker app processing, enhanced connectivity, better functionality, and improved entertainment overall.
VW will also make its “highly assisted” Travel Assist system available, which is similar to the hands-on-the-steering-wheel, self-corrective, semi-autonomous driver assist technologies already on offer by other brands. Likewise, Travel Assist was designed for highway use, and to that effect so-equipped 2021 Arteon models will be able to apply steering, accelerating and braking inputs autonomously at speeds up to 210 km/h (130 mph), as long as the driver remains in control.
Of course, such advanced technologies could very likely add considerable sums to the price of this already expensive sport sedan, which at $49,960 isn’t exactly entry-level. This said, the Arteon’s key four-door coupe rival, the Kia Stinger, comes close to $45k in base trim and nearly $50k when loaded up, but Canadian buyers obviously believe it delivers better value as they purchased 1,569 examples last year. It’s approximate $5k discount and stronger base and optional engines, not to mention fuller load of features in all trims, would’ve likely been important differentiators, plus the South Korean model handles well, includes near-premium interior quality, and isn’t hard on the eyes.
In case the current Arteon has caught your eye, you can get your hands on a 2019 example for quite a bit less than the manufacturer suggested retail price right now. In fact, a quick glance at our 2019 Volkswagen Arteon Canada Prices page shows up to $5,000 in additional incentives available, while the 2020 Arteon is being offered with zero-percent factory leasing and financing rates. Then again, a quick check of our 2019 Kia Stinger Canada Prices page will inform of additional incentives up to $5,000, while four-door coupe buyers interested in the latest 2020 Stinger can get up to $4,000 in incentives. To learn more about these savings and gain access to manufacturer rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing, read this short article about how a CarCostCanada membership can save you thousands on your next purchase of any vehicle. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out our mobile app at Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iTunes store, which is ideal for accessing all the info above while shopping.
As for more on the 2021 Arteon, check this spot later this month and we’ll have all the most important details.