2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech Road Test

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The sharp looking second-generation Veloster, seen here in Turbo Tech trim, looks like a sporty two-door coupe from the driver’s side. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Hyundai’s Veloster could easily be seen as an automotive anomaly, a sports coupe cum four-door hatchback that doesn’t quite fit in to either category, but I see it as a best-of-both-worlds alternative, a sporty two-door coupe when seen from the driver’s side and a low-slung four-door liftback from the passenger’s side.

There’s good reason that such a small number of volume-branded compact sport coupes remain in today’s car market after all. Owners eventually tired of stuffing family and friends into their abbreviated back seats, so they purchased sporty four- and five-door alternatives instead. These days, even the legendary VW Golf GTI is only available with four doors and a hatch, but instead of ultimately conforming to such wagon-like levels of pragmatism, Hyundai adapted General Motors’ 1999 Saturn SC’s terribly executed yet brilliantly idea, which included a single door on the passenger’s side and a second rear-hinged half-door on the driver’s side for easier rear seat access, by adding a conventionally-hinged rear door to the more appropriate passenger’s side for easier entry from the curb.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Veloster provides a rear door for easy access to the seats in back on the passenger’s side. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

During its first full calendar year of 2012, Canadian Veloster sales were fairly strong at 5,741 units, but they’ve steadily tapered off since resulting in a low of 1,077 units in 2018, but thanks to a total redesign for this 2019 model year the second-generation Veloster has found 36.6 percent more buyers than it did during the first 10 months of 2018, resulting in 1,295 deliveries as of October 2019. Still, that’s nothing to get excited about in a market that saw Hyundai sell 25,894 Tucson compact SUVs during the same time period, let alone 33,670 Elantras, while a recent downturn of just 279 Velosters sold during Q3 of 2019, representing a plunge of 55.1 percent compared to the same three months of 2018, isn’t the kind of response the brand wants to see for a completely redesigned model, so we’ll need to watch closely to find out how it fares during Q4.

Before Hyundai decides to transform the Veloster into a mainstream version of Mercedes’ new GLC Coupe in order to keep its sporty dreams alive while the entire globe realigns its interests away from cars towards crossovers and SUVs (kind of like how Mitsubishi did with its Eclipse Cross), those who still appreciate the lower centres of gravity and inherently better cornering prowess allowed by cars should be made aware of the new Veloster’s transformation from a torsion beam rear suspension to an independent multi-link design, the revision completely improving its at-the-limit handling and ride quality.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The redesigned Veloster’s grille and front fascia looks much more menacing than the previous generation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The updated Veloster’s undercarriage is much more compliant, resulting in a more comfortable city cruiser with less commotion over rough, uneven tarmac, yet the compact coupe still feels firm enough to come off like a sports car. Nevertheless, despite its more comforting suspension tuning the new Veloster Turbo is a lot more capable through fast-paced corners, particularly noticeable over mid-apex bumps and potholes that would’ve unsettled the previous car. Now you slice through the turn with less worry about the shape of the pavement below, its rear suspension now capable of absorbing such irregularities without losing grip.

Base Velosters come standard with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, driving the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission, while the Veloster Turbo tested here utilizes a 1.6-litre turbo-four capable of 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox remains standard, as witnessed here in the photos, but buyers wanting less daily hassle can opt for a new seven-speed dual-clutch EcoShift DCT automatic with steering wheel paddles. I’ve driven the previous six-speed DCT (in 2014, 2015 and 2016) and found it shifted quickly enough while offering smooth operation during day-to-day commutes, so it make sense the new seven-speed version provides the same level of drivability with the addition of a taller final gear to improve fuel economy, but I’d personally save $1,500 by opting for the manual and enjoy the benefits of rowing through the gears myself.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
No shortage of sporty styling cues on the new Veloster Turbo. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It really is a nicely sorted six-speed manual, with an easy, progressive clutch that’s well matched to the torquey turbo-four. Max twist arrives at just 1,500 rpm and maintains boost all the way to 4,500, while maximum thrust arrives at 6,000 rpm before the engine spins to its 7,000 rpm redline (or just above). Activating the optional “SPORT” button just next to the shift lever immediately transforms the Veloster Turbo from an enjoyably tame economy coupe to a seriously fun performance machine, so a move up to the Tech package is well worth it.

Before itemizing standard and optional features, we should talk fuel economy. I know the Veloster is a performance model, but even those looking to save at the pump might want to consider this sporty little car, especially the Turbo. Yes, despite its stronger performance the Turbo is better on fuel (as long as you don’t lay into the throttle too often), with a manual transmission comparo showing 9.4 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 8.3 combined for the Turbo, next to 9.4 city, 7.1 highway and 8.4 combined for the base model. The Turbo looks even better when comparing automatic transmissions, at 8.5 city, 6.9 highway and 7.8 combined for the quicker car against a respective 9.1, 7.1 and 8.2.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Hyundai makes big improvements inside, but touchy, feely perceived quality is still this car’s weak point. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Now that we’re being so practical, the rear tailgate opens up nice and high, plus it’s wide enough to fit in large items. The cargo area isn’t as sizeable as most of its compact hatchback rivals, but compared to challenging sport coupes it’s very accommodating. In fact, it measures 565 litres (20 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks, or approximately the size of a large sedan’s trunk, while it’s also 125 litres (4.4 cu ft) larger than its 440-litre (15.5 cu-ft) cargo compartment. If you need more storage you can drop the back seats down, their uniquely configured 66/33-split design making more sense for a car only capable of seating two rear passengers. With both seats lowered the Veloster can manage up to 1,260 litres (44.5 cu ft) of what-have-you, which once again is a major improvement when compared to the 982 litres (34.7 cubic feet) offered by the outgoing generation.

The lengthy driver’s door and proximity keyless access make entering to the driver’s seat easy, while the two passenger-side doors means that no one coming along for the ride needs to compromise. Certainly, the first rear passenger to sit down must slide along the seat to find the other side, making me wish Hyundai hadn’t added a fixed centre console with cupholders in the middle, and while a folding centre armrest would’ve worked better, it wasn’t all that difficult to get over and does provide some helpful convenience when seated.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
This analogue/digital gauge cluster is easy to read under any lighting conditions, plus it can be upgraded to include a head-up display. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

After positioning the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight, long-legged, short-torso body, I was left with approximately four to five inches in front of my knees, as well as plenty of space for my feet, but it was a bit tight for my toes below the driver’s seat. Still, I had ample room to move around from side to side, plus about three inches over my head, making me confident that those under six feet should find it spacious enough in back.

The rear seats are carved out like buckets too, providing decent lateral support and good lower back comfort. Other than rear window switches there aren’t any rear amenities, while the side armrests will be the only padded surfaces you’ll be able to find (seats and carpets aside).

Such is true for those up front as well, this shortcoming my only serious complaint with the new Veloster. I understand that we should expect too much in this category, but Hyundai normally punches above its weight in the compact class, so I expected them to do more with this redesigned model. As it is, the new Veloster offers no soft-touch composite surfaces, but the mostly attractive matte textured plastics provided a nice upgrade over the otherwise glossy hard plastic cabin.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
A well-sorted centre stack gets an available 8-inch touchscreen up top and good quality switchgear throughout. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Most peoples’ eyes will naturally gravitate to the red on black front sport seats anyway, and I must say the one for the driver was as comfortable and supportive as it looks. While not included full powered actuation, its optional two-way powered lumbar support was a useful addition that nearly met the small of my back perfectly. Ergonomics are also good, with the long reaching tilt and telescopic steering column a good match to the six-way adjustable driver’s seat, plus the seat heaters and warming steering wheel came on fast and stayed hot.

Quickly pressing the start/stop button on the instrument panel ignites the engine while prompting a head-up display to power upwards from within the cowl covering the primary gauges. I initially found it slightly distracting, because it’s right in the line of sight, but when choosing sport mode it placed a cool tachometer graphic on the screen that was useful when pushing the engine to redline, while I eventually learned to look past it the rest of the time. The mostly analogue gauge cluster noted a moment ago is easy to see in any light and features a colour multi-information display at centre, while the switchgear on the steering wheel, plus all the buttons and knobs to the left and right of the steering column were good quality, nicely damped, and within easy reach.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The larger screen makes for an excellent backup camera with dynamic guidelines, while rear parking sensors help while reversing. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Ditto for the infotainment display, but the only button next to the screen turned on the hazard lights. Instead, the touchscreen’s analogue controls are lower down the centre stack, in between the audio system’s power/volume and tuning/scrolling dials, although I found myself using the steering wheel switches and touchscreen for the majority of features.

Due to Hyundai adding the $3,000 Turbo Tech package, which includes the aforementioned head-up display unit, the leather upholstery, the driver’s seat lumbar support, and the Sport mode, plus rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear parking sonar, and the automatic HVAC system, which incidentally comes with automatic defog, my tester had a larger 8.0-inch display featuring embedded navigation plus excellent (for the class) sounding eight-speaker Infinity audio with an external amplifier.

Before getting ahead of myself, you can get into the 2019 Veloster for just $20,999 plus freight and fees before discount, with the Turbo starting at $25,899. The Turbo Tech package ups the price to $28,899, while a $500 Performance package was added to my tester, including sportier 18-inch rims encircled by 225/40 Michelin Pilot summer-performance rubber.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
My tester’s comfortable leather-upholstered seats also included two-way powered lumbar. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

This said, even base Velosters get 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as auto on/off headlamps, LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, remote access, a heated and leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, tilt and telescopic steering, cruise control, powered windows, illuminated vanity mirrors, a sunglasses holder, filtered air conditioning, a one-inch smaller 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a backup camera with active guidelines, six-speaker audio, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, a leather-clad shift knob, heatable front seats, a manual six-way driver’s seat, a four-way front passenger seat, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, all the usual active and passive safety features, etcetera.

The Veloster Turbo upgrade adds LED headlamps, LED side mirror turn signals, LED tail lamps, a special grille plus extended side sills, proximity entry with pushbutton star/stop, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display instead of a more conventional 3.5-inch trip computer, a big power moonroof, silver vent bezels, checkered dash trim, partial cloth/leather upholstery with red stitching instead of blue, leatherette door trim, red interior accents, plus more.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
Rear seating is very good for a compact sport coupe, and access is best-in-class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I could go into colour options and more, but considering this 2019 model is being replaced by the 2020 version while this review is being published, you’ll have to get what you can if wanting to avail model year-end discounts as well as 0-percent financing (the 2020 model was available with 0.99-percent financing at the time of writing). By the way, you can learn about these deals and more right here at CarCostCanada, where all trim, package and individual option prices are itemized, as well as manufacturer rebate info and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.

If you like the idea of the new Veloster but were hoping for more performance, you may also want to consider new N trim. It includes a new 2.0-litre turbo-four with 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, and comes exclusively with a six-speed manual featuring downshift rev matching. An electronically controlled limited slip differential helps put the power down to the pavement, while an electronically controlled suspension support a big set of 19-inch alloys on 235/35 Pirelli summer-performance tires. Also included are Normal, Sport, N and Custom drive mode selections, while a driver-adjustable active exhaust system makes this ultimate Veloster even more exciting to drive. Even its fuel economy is decent at 10.6 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.5 combined, while it starts at just $34,999.

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Tech
The Veloster’s cargo compartment is significantly larger for 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Notable when comparing 2019 to 2020 Velosters, the new base model won’t be available with a manual transmission anymore, which will only cause performance purists and custom tuners to feel a bit miffed. This change causes the 2020 Veloster’s base price to go up by $1,400 to $22,399, with the cheapest manual now the $27,499 Turbo.

Also important to note, Hyundai has modified its trim naming scheme for 2020, eliminating the GL and Tech designations from the 2019 model while adding Preferred and Luxury to the 2020. The 2020 Veloster N remains a single-trim car for the same price, although those searching for it on CarCostCanada will need to choose it as a separate model from the regular Veloster line.

Whether opting for a 2019 or 2020 model, an old GL, Tech or N, or the new Preferred, Luxury or N trim, the new second-generation Veloster is a much more advanced car than its predecessor. It still combines an extremely sporty look with a very practical layout, but now mixes in stronger performance, newer electronics, and new features, resulting in one of the smartest urban runabouts currently available.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition Road Test

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition
This is the final year for this generation of Passat, so it’s only available in one Wolfsburg Edition trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Thank you Volkswagen. You’ve made my job so much easier today. While researching the 2019 Passat for this review, I learned that it’s only available in a single, solitary, one-size-fits-all trim line for this stopgap year, the Wolfsburg Edition getting very close to last year’s top-tier Passat Highline (which replaced the Execline from 2016). This allows me to spend more time on other details such as styling, cabin quality, comfort, driving dynamics, etcetera.

The Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Passat (originally named Dasher in our market) has been with us since 1973, initially delivering an upscale Audi-inspired look in five-door hatchback and wagon body styles, the former replaced by a regular sport/luxury sedan dubbed for its second B2 generation. The B3 redesign that arrived in 1988 finally applied the Euro nameplate to North American models, and while I really liked this third-gen Passat, particularly in its most potent VR6 trim, as well as the B4 that followed, my heart went out to the 270 hp 4.0-litre W8-powered AWD B5 version most earnestly. Earlier B5s were also the first Passats I tested as an automotive journalist newbie in the early 2000s, back when this German brand impressed me like no other.

That was a time when Volkswagen was comparable to Audi for its performance and overall refinement, the amazing Bentley-based Phaeton luxury sedan arriving the following year with a choice of 335-horsepower V8 or 420-horsepower W12 behind its unassuming grille, not to mention $96,500 and $126,790 respective prices, while not long after that the brand’s 309-hp Touareg V10 TDI was on the scene, putting out a shocking 553 lb-ft of torque. Volkswagen appeared to be vying for luxury brand status during those years, a strategy that kind of made sense in Europe where parent automaker VW AG also owned lesser brands Skoda and Seat to pull in entry-level buyers, but not here where the iconic Beetle manufacturer was known more for economy cars.

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition
Still stylish after all these years. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

By comparison, today’s VW-branded cars and crossover SUVs still deliver some premium features not often available with every competitor, like cloth-covered roof pillars (albeit only the A pillars these days), full high-definition TFT primary gauge clusters, and the convenience of a rear seat centre pass-through for stowing long cargo (or better yet, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats), soft pliable composite surfaces aren’t as plentiful, switches, knobs and buttons can now be less dense and therefore cheaper feeling, and rear suspension systems aren’t necessarily independent anymore (unlike most rivals that are now IRS-equipped, the latest Jetta has reverted to using a rear torsion beam setup).

I think the Passat looks good though, particularly in my tester’s attractive Tourmaline Blue Metallic. It’s one of six exterior paints for 2019, which include white, black, grey and silver, plus a beautiful Fortana Red Metallic, all no-cost options, while sporty R-Line outer trim comes standard this year too. Additional standard features include automatic on/off LED headlights with LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lights, and fabulous looking silver-painted twinned five-spoke 19-inch Salvador alloy wheels encircling 235/40 all-seasons, and that’s just on the outside.

To my eyes the cabin looks even better due to VW’s communications team choosing gorgeous Cornsilk Beige for my test car’s interior (it can be had in black or grey as well, depending on the exterior colour chosen), the creamy colour offset by a contrasting black dash top, door uppers and carpets. VW has been producing this rich light beige and black interior motif for decades, including the horizontal ribbing on the leather seat upholstery. It looks sensational, complemented by sophisticated looking textured metal, brushed aluminum, chrome and piano black lacquer elsewhere.

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition
Standard exterior features include LED headlights, 19-inch alloys and a sporty R-Line package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Standard features include proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel rim with shift paddles, a colour multi-information display/trip computer, a leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake lever, brushed stainless steel foot pedals, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heatable washer nozzles, two-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a power sunroof, three-way heated front sport seats, an eight-way powered driver seat with two-way power lumbar, driver’s side memory, heatable rear seats, front and back LED reading lamps, an Easy Open trunk, 60/40-split rear seatbacks with a centre armrest and centre pass-through, plus more for $32,995.

That seems like a reasonably good deal already, but it gets better due to a $2,000 no-haggle discount that comes as a parting gift of sorts. Find out about this discount and any other rebates right here at CarCostCanada, and while you’re learning more you can also access dealer invoice pricing, which will make it as easy as possible to meet your budget requirements.

I should also go into some detail about the Passat’s infotainment system, which measures 6.33 inches and even includes proximity sensing, which means a row of digitized buttons rise up from the bottom of the touchscreen when your fingers get near. While the display is relatively small compared to most competitors’ top-line systems, it process info quickly, includes tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture functions, which are especially useful when using the route guidance-system’s map, and even includes MirrorLink smartphone integration, along with the usual Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Bluetooth is also standard, of course, with audio streaming for listening to music or podcasts from your personal device, while additional standard infotainment features include voice activation, an SD card slot, and one of the worst backup camera systems I’ve used in a long time. Why? Much of the display’s top section was cut off in a semicircular due to a wide-angle lens that was probably trying to provide more visibility, but it actually made things a lot worse, plus VW didn’t include active guidelines either.

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition
The two-tone interior motif is truly elegant. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The six-speaker Fender premium audio system is good enough for this class, however, with nice deep bass from its subwoofer, while satellite radio stations came in clearly, the inclusion of a CD player will be appreciated by many, and the single USB audio/charging port made me grateful VW wasn’t still trying to promote Apple, although I’m hoping the next-generation has a few more. Speaking of new, the I hopped into the latest 2020 GTI after giving the Passat keys back and am now hopeful that its considerably larger touchscreen, along with its superb resolution and excellent depth of contrast and colour make it into the 2020 Passat, or something similar.

Moving downward on the centre stack, past the HVAC interface that incidentally suffered from loose rotating dials, there’s a lidded compartment for stowing and charging a smartphone. It has a rubberized base, like usual, but oddly it wasn’t big enough for my average-sized phone, which kind of made me glad VW hadn’t installed a wireless charging pad. It did include the just noted USB-A port and as well as an auxiliary connection next to an old-school 12-volt plug, so you should be able to charge multiple devices at any given time (with the help of an aftermarket USB adapter).

Close by, to each side of the shift lever, is a row of “buttons”, or at least they all look like buttons. One deactivated the front and rear parking sonar, while another turned on the semi-autonomous self-parking system, but the other four were merely dummy buttons that made the car look as if it was missing some key features. I noticed it was devoid of a heatable steering wheel, something I appreciate on cold winter mornings, a problem made worse when the flat-bottom leather-wrapped sport steering wheel in question is so incredibly good. The front seats weren’t ventilated either, a function I’m getting more and more used to finding in top-line competitors’ trims.

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition
Classic but effective, these analogue gauges aren’t nearly as flashy as the new Jetta’s digital cockpit. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Passat’s standard menu of safety enhancements impresses, however, with items like automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, driver assistance, park distance control and park assist adding enough high technology to the driving experience as to almost forget about those missing buttons. Better yet, the way these systems chose not to intervene until absolutely necessary had me liking the Passat even more. No one likes over-sensitive technology, especially with respect to safety equipment capable of taking over the wheel, and fortunately the Passat’s were hardly noticeable throughout my test week. It was only when I tried to exit the highway without using my turn signal that the side-assist system fixated on the white line, pulling me back into my lane. I quickly turned my blinker on and was able to move over, and no doubt could have forced it over if I’d wanted to, but VW gets high marks for making advanced driver assistance systems that are only there when absolutely necessary.

Previously in this review I mentioned that Volkswagen’s cabin materials aren’t as high in quality now as they used to be, so I should probably go into some more detail about how this affects the Passat. For the most part it’s equal to most competitors, but this makes the car seem less than ok being that it was much better than average years ago. Right up until this US-made seventh-generation model arrived nine years ago, the Passat provided a much greater percentage of premium-level soft padded surfaces than any rival, but now it’s noticeably below average. It’s as if VW AG, the parent company, didn’t want its namesake brand stealing any sales from Audi, so therefore purposely made the Passat’s interior worse than it needed to be, just to be sure. To be clear, some parts are extremely good, like the soft composites used for the dash top and door uppers, but the lower dash panels and glove box lid, plus the centre stack sides and lower door panels are made from lower grade hard plastics, and upstaged by most competitors. This leaves some areas better than average and others not quite measuring up, and depending on whether you see your glass half full or half empty, you’ll either be thrilled with all that’s good or left feeling flat about the car’s weaknesses.

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition
A bit small, but the Passat’s infotainment system is quite good. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I felt much the same about the Passat’s sole 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. Its 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque comes close to matching most rivals’ base powerplants, but it’s hardly a base model despite the aforementioned discount. Last year’s 3.6-litre V6 upgrade provided an option for those wanting more, but no such luck for this year’s performance fans. Fortunately its modest torque figure feels stronger than it looks, probably due to arriving at its maximum at only 1,500 rpm, so takeoff is fairly energetic off the line and there’s ample passing power for most manoeuvres, but a model that once offered 4Motion all-wheel drive now solely gets driven by those up front, and the transmission that sends the engines output to the front wheels only has six forward speeds, which might have been a big deal fifteen years ago, but doesn’t sound all that advanced when put up against today’s eight- and nine-speed automatics.

The 2020 Passat will remedy the latter problem with an eight-speed of its own, but no AWD or manual transmission for that matter, two features enthusiasts would love to see, but the current model’s paddle shifters got everything out of the engine it had to give, just like the future one will make the most of even more available torque, resulting in a really enjoyable car to drive.

I appreciated the extra control, because this mid-size family hauler can dance with more grace than most four-door sedans in this class, even at high speeds. Of course its suspension is fully independent, with struts up front and a multi-link setup in back, plus a stabilizer bar at each end, and it’s all very well sorted for a bit more grip at the limit and better balance than the segment average. It will understeer when pushed too far, which is a good thing in this category, and its ride should keep all aboard happy, despite being slightly firmer than average.

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition
These horizontally ribbed leather seats make the Passat look downright ritzy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Fuel-efficiency is quite good at 9.3 L/100km city, 6.5 highway and 8.1 combined, no doubt why Volkswagen chose the four-cylinder for this model’s sole power unit in place of the V6. Such practicality in mind, you won’t need to worry about anything that might go wrong with the Passat for a year longer than most rivals thanks to an almost comprehensive four-year or 80,000 km warranty, although it’s powertrain warranty is shorter than average by a year or 20,000 km.

Now that we’re being pragmatic, the Passat’s front seats and surrounding area is amply roomy for big folks, while the driver’s seat is comfortable, but like the suspension it’s a bit firmer than most in this class. It features two-way powered lumbar support that just so happened to ideally match up to the small of my back, while its lower cushion stretched forward enough to support nicely below the knees.

The rear seating compartment is roomier still, and plenty comfortable, while a 450-litre (15.9 cubic-foot) trunk should be more than adequate for most owners’ needs, especially when considering its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks have the advantage of a centre pass-through for loading in longer items like skis.

2019 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition
The rear seating area is amply roomy and quite comfortable, plus there’s a centre pass-through above the armrest. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

These are some of the 2019 Passat’s worthy attributes that I hope are carried forward into the new model, but in the same breath I’m also wishing Volkswagen steps up with more competitive interior quality so that it at least matches the refinement of this segment’s sales leaders. After all, it’s the slowest selling mid-size four-door sedan in Canada by a long shot, so arriving in today’s highly competitive marketplace with a lukewarm update wouldn’t be the best of ideas. Let’s hope they get it right. Until then, the 2019 Passat does some things very well and others not so much, but it’s currently priced right and the deal could be made even sweeter by finding out its dealer invoice price here on CarCostCanada before talking to your local Volkswagen retailer.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Porsche introduces affordable new Taycan 4S

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
New 4S trim brings the new 2020 Taycan down to a more palatable level of affordability. (Photo: Porsche)

Porsche revealed two final production Taycan EVs last month, but without doubt some potential buyers found the Turbo and Turbo S models’ respective $173,900 and $213,900 price tags a bit too rich for their budgets. Of course, the Stuttgart, Germany-based performance brand promised more affordable versions to follow, and therefore the $119,400 Taycan 4S is upon us. Priced much closer to the $108,990 base Tesla Model S, this is the EV “volume” model Porsche needs.

So what does the $55k (or $95k) buy you? Performance. Wheels aside there’s no obvious difference to exterior or interior design, or materials quality for that matter, but in place of the Taycan Turbo’s 671 horsepower, 627 lb-ft of torque, and launch control-assisted 3.2-second run to 100 km/h sprint from standstill to 100 km/h, or the Turbo S model’s even more outrageous 750 horsepower, 774 lb-ft of torque, and 2.8-second second run to 100 km/h, the new 4S uses makes due with “just” 522 horsepower, 472 lb-ft of torque and a 4.0-second dash to the 100-km/h mark.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
Great looking and brilliantly quick, the new Taycan 4S should be a popular EV. (Photo: Porsche)

A Performance Battery Plus package is available, boosting output to 562 horsepower and torque to 479 lb-ft for a nominal difference in naught to 100 km/h sprints (although Porsche rates it at 4.0 seconds as well), yet this upgraded Taycan 4S’ shoots from standstill to 160 km/h in a scant 8.5 seconds instead of dawdling along at just 8.7 seconds. Both 4S power units limit the Taycan’s terminal velocity to 250 km/h, which incidentally is 30 km/h less speedy than the Turbo or Turbo S.

Under the Taycan 4S floorboards are 79.2 kilowatt-hours of high-voltage lithium-ion battery capable of 407 km (253 miles) of estimated range, as per the European WLTP rating system, while the enhanced 93.4-kWh Performance Plus battery provides about 463 km (288 miles) of range. This compares well with next to the Taycan Turbo’s 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) claimed range and the Turbo S’ 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) estimates.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
These unique LED headlights set the Taycan apart. (Photo: Porsche)

No matter the trim, the Taycan uses an industry-first 800-volt electrical architecture that makes for faster recharging due to a charge-rate of 225 kW with the Performance Battery or 270 kW for the upgraded Performance Battery Plus, making 22.5-minute 5-to-80-percent refills possible with all power unit specs. Regular 400-volt high-speed DC recharging happens at 50 kW, but an available booster can increase the charge-rate to 150 kW. You can also use the standard AC charge system at any J1772-compatible charging station, or plug it in at in at home, but charging times will be considerably longer.

Topping the Taycan up is made easier via Porsche’s new Charging Planner, which allows you to plot your route by mapping out ideal charging stations along the way. For instance, it will choose a quicker 270-kW station that can save you time when compared to a regular 50-kW DC charger, even if the quicker charger necessitates a detour from the shortest route. The Charging Planner also preconditions the battery to 20 degrees Celsius, which is best for the fastest possible charge-rate.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The singular body-wide tail lamp is standard fare on Porsches these days. (Photo: Porsche)

Like the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S, the new 4S incorporates an all-wheel drivetrain featuring front and back axle-mounted permanently excited synchronous motors plus a two-speed transmission in the rear. Additionally, Porsche’s centrally networked 4D Chassis Control system provides real-time analysis and synchronization for the Taycan’s standard electronic damper control Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) enhanced three-chamber adaptive air suspension, which should result in impressive road-holding capability.

What’s more, Taycan customers should enjoy improvements in reliability over Tesla Model S owners, thanks to Porsche designing a completely new hairpin winding technique for the electric motor stators’ copper solenoid coils, this allowing for a copper fill factor of 70 percent compared to 45 percent when wound using the conventional method, all of which results in stronger performance and less heat.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The Taycan is family friendly thanks to four doors. (Photo: Porsche)

Monitoring the Taycan’s mobility status is a wholly digital primary gauge cluster filled with colourful high-resolution graphics and integrated within a free-standing, curved binnacle that pulls styling cues from the brand’s legendary 911. Just to the right, the Taycan 4S’ standard 10.9-inch high-definition capacitive infotainment touchscreen sits atop the centre stack. Most will also want the optional front passenger display that was introduced last month with the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S, this innovative addition extending the graphical experience across the rest of the instrument panel.

Features in mind, the Taycan 4S receives standard Black or White exterior paint, a unique front fascia design, a glossy black painted rear diffuser and side skirts, LED headlamps with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS Plus), 19-inch five-spoke Taycan S Aero alloys, red-painted six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers (instead of the yellow-painted calipers found on the two Turbo models) biting down on 360-mm front and 358-mm rear discs, regenerative brakes (with a maximum regenerative force of 0.39 Gs and recuperation of up to 265 kWh), proximity keyless entry, ambient interior lighting, partial leather upholstery, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s side memory and more, but take note this base model won’t go into production until June, 2020. Before then, the $1,690 panoramic glass sunroof replaces the standard aluminum roof, while the optional Porsche Mobile Charger Plus isn’t available yet either, which leaves the standard Porsche Mobile Charger Connect system for early adapters.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The Taycan 4S comes well equipped. (Photo: Porsche)

Available Taycan 4S options include a bevy of $910 metallic exterior colours, including the Taycan’s Frozen Blue launch colour shown in the photos, plus bright Mamba Green and deep Gentian Blue, as well as one $3,590 special colour, Carmine Red. Additionally, Porsche is offering two sets of optional 20-inch alloys and three 21-inch wheels, all ranging from $2,710 to $10,010, while the car’s black partial leather cabin can be upgraded to $4,710 black or multiple $5,360 two-tone leather, $7,490 solid or $8,150 two-tone Club leather, or alternatively $4,710 solid or $5,360 two-tone leather-free Race-Tex, the latter Porsche-first incorporating recycled materials that reduce the Taycan’s impact on the environmental.

The new Porsche should be near silent at speed too, due to an amazing Cd of 0.22, plus this ultra-aerodynamic design also minimizes energy use.

Porschephiles wanting a taller SUV model instead of this road-hugging four-door coupe will be glad to know that a crossover coupe dubbed Cross Turismo is on the way next year. It’s designed to go up against the Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla Model X and whatever else comes down the pike by then, so we can all look forward to that.

You can order the new 2020 Taycan 4S right now, however, just like its Turbo siblings, while its arrival date is set for summer 2020.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Porsche

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport Road Test

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport Road Test
The Legacy offers up a sporty design that’s even more alluring in as-tested Sport trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The new 2020 Legacy is starting to arrive at Subaru dealers across Canada as I write this review, and fans of the current 2019 model should like what they see. The updated mid-size sedan gets renewed styling, revised engines, and a reworked interior, but exterior styling is so muted that most won’t notice the 2019 model leaving and the 2020 ushered in. So why am I covering yesterday’s Legacy when tomorrow’s is nearly hear? Subaru dealers have new 2019 models on their lots, and this very good car is available for very good prices. 

As per CarCostCanada, a 2019 Legacy buyer can pocket up to $3,000 in incentives, and that’s before factoring in a personal discount derived from haggling or your trade-in. Follow this CarCostCanada link to learn about 2019 Legacy pricing, including trims, packages and individual options, plus you also need to find out about rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Sport trim adds sill extensions, unique alloy wheels and gloss black trim, the latter used for its diffuser-style rear bumper. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

For a bit of background info, the Legacy was refreshed for 2018, which means this 2019 model was unchanged. The version reviewed here is in mid-range $31,695 Sport trim, which hovers above the base $24,995 2.5i CVT, $28,295 Touring, and $29,795 Touring with EyeSight; EyeSight being Subaru-speak for its suite of advanced driver assistance systems including auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, rear proximity warning with reverse auto braking, blindspot detection, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist. Sport trim comes standard with EyeSight, as does top-line $33,795 Limited 2.5i trim and the $36,795 Limited 3.6R. 

As you may have guessed, 2.5i and 3.6R designate the Legacy’s respective standard and optional engines, the latter having been replaced by the higher output 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder introduced in last year’s Ascent mid-size SUV; the 2020 Outback crossover wagon gets this change too. Comparing the two engines shows 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque for the old 3.6R and 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque for the 2.4i, resulting in four more horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Sport trim includes LED headlamps, fog lights and special machine-finish 18-inch alloy wheels with black painted pockets. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The base 2.5-litre four-cylinder gets updated too, but the 2020 model only gains six horsepower and two lb-ft of torque resulting in 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft compared to 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, but 90 percent of its parts have been upgraded, with straight-line performance improvements secondary to gains in fuel-efficiency. 

This means the 2020 Legacy 2.5i has been designed to achieve an estimated 8.8 L/100km city, 6.7 highway and 7.7 combined Transport Canada rating compared to 9.3 highway, 7.0 city and 8.2 combined, while 2.4i fuel economy improvements from the old 3.6R equal 9.9 L/100km city, 7.3 highway and 8.5 combined compared to 11.9 city, 8.3 highway and 10.3 combined. With standard all-wheel drive the Legacy can’t quite measure up to most front-drive rivals in base trims, but it should be noted that even the old 3.6R is more efficient than the Camry’s optional V6. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
These satin-silver mirror caps are standard with Sport trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Instead of diving too deeply into the differences between old and new Legacy models, I’ll only mention some key points as this review continues. As stated at the onset of this road test, styling enhancements appear so insignificant that I would’ve been careful to call it a refresh if I hadn’t already been made clear it’s a full redesign. Strangely, Subaru Canada didn’t even mention styling in its 2020 Legacy press release, but this subtle redesign may help the outgoing sixth-generation model hold resale/residual values higher. I find both generations attractive enough while sportier than most competitors, while Subaru obviously isn’t trying to lure in potential customers by being extroverted, like Toyota is with its latest Camry. 

Then again, the Legacy’s conservative styling may be a good reason its sales are slow. To but it into perspective to the just-noted Toyota, Subaru sold 1,298 Legacys from January 1 to September 31, 2019, which is just slightly more than 11 percent of the 11,579 Camrys delivered during the same three quarters. A more positive viewpoint is its success over the Kia Stinger, Mazda6, Honda Clarity plug-in, Buick Regal, Volkswagen Passat, and VW Arteon, while it came within striking range of the Kia Optima. This has it placing eighth out of 14 competitors, which isn’t too bad at all. Still, the Legacy’s tally pales when compared to Subaru’s own Outback that found 7,756 buyers over the same nine months, the tall mid-size crossover wagon being basically the same vehicle below the skin. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The Legacy’s cockpit looks totally modern despite on its way out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Success on the sales chart doesn’t always validate a given vehicle’s goodness or badness, however, and to that end the Legacy doesn’t labour from any disadvantages other than being a bit smaller than most mid-size sedan challengers. In fact, Subaru has an impressive record, achieving “Best Overall” brand in Consumer Reports’ most recent 2019 Annual Report on Car Performance, Reliability, Satisfaction and Safety, while it tied with Chrysler in the same publication’s “Best Road Test Score Mainstream” category. The Japanese brand also scored above average in J.D. Power’s latest 2019 Vehicle Dependability Study, but found itself below average in the same company’s 2019 Initial Quality Study. Nevertheless, the 2019 Legacy achieved top-spot amongst “Mid-Size” consumer sedans in Vincentric’s latest “Best Value In Canada” award, as did the Outback in its class. 

After time well spent in this 2019 Legacy, I’m willing to bet that interior quality gave the car a boost upward in these various rating and award programs. Highlights include a premium-level soft composite dash top and instrument panel, the latter stitched across its lower edge in traditional Subaru blue, while the blue stitching theme trimmed the inner portion of the leather-clad sport steering wheel rim as well, plus each armrest and the leatherette-covered seat bolsters, the seats otherwise upholstered in an attractive light grey material. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Great looking analogue gauges surround a nice colour multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additional cabin niceties included genuine-looking high-gloss carbon-fibre inlays on the instrument panel and doors, this conjoined to attractive satin-silver metallic adornment, while glossy black surface treatments combined with matte-finish black composites and even more satin-finish and chromed metal accents for an interior Legacy owners can be proud of. Front and rear door uppers receive the same luxuriously padded soft-touch composite as that on the dash, and Subaru also covers the front “A” pillars in cloth for to reduce noise and add yet more premium-class feel. 

Even with the upcoming 2020 Legacy sporting a renewed interior boasting a gigantic 11.6-inch vertical display (aside from the new base model that only gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen), this 2019 outgoing model still looks very current. In fact, its 8.0-inch touchscreen (improved by an inch and a half over the base 2019 model) looks as good as most anything else in the class due to its big gloss-black surrounding surface area that extends outward from the centre stack as if it’s one massive display. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The Legacy’s 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is very advanced. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The actual touchscreen gets a deep blue background that’s detailed out with unique star graphics, this overlaid by colourful tablet-like tiles for selecting its various functions. The dynamic guideline-enhanced rearview camera is very good, while together with standard infotainment features such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Subaru’s own StarLink smartphone integration system, other features include AM/FM/satellite/Aha radio, a CD player, MP3/WMA compatibility, a USB port and aux plug, SiriusXM advanced audio services, SiriusXM Travel Link, Bluetooth with streaming audio, and four speakers, while Touring and above trims include the bigger display as standard plus another USB port and two more speakers. 

Those wanting a navigation system, much improved 576-watt, 12-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio, plus a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, leather upholstery, 18-inch alloys and more will need to opt for previously noted Limited trim, while items pulled up to the Sport model from lower trims include a 10-way powered driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar support that lined up with the small of my back fairly well, cruise control, and heatable front seats from the base model, two-zone auto HVAC, a powered moonroof, and fog lamps from Touring trim, and proximity keyless access with pushbutton start/stop along with a 5.0-inch LCD multi-information display within the gauge cluster from the Touring model with EyeSight. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Dual-zone automatic climate control is always appreciated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for this Legacy Sport trim, it gets unique 18-inch machine finished alloy wheels with black-painted pockets, LED headlamps with cornering capability, a gloss-black grille surround, satin-silver side mirror caps, chrome adorned side sill extensions, and a diffuser-like rear valance framing two large chromed tailpipes, but be informed this value-packed trim line will not be offered with the 2020 car. The new model’s sportiest trim sources its GT designation from Subaru’s storied history, and due to past GT’s getting engine upgrades will come exclusively with the more powerful 2.4i engine in both a new Premier model and a revised Limited trim. 

Subaru’s legendary symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring comes standard as (almost) always, and it makes a considerable difference to how it drives in all conditions. We should remember that Subaru developed its AWD system on track and trail thanks to decades of World Rally Championship competition, and it still builds the awesome WRX that won so many WRC titles. Many don’t realize that Subaru rallied the Legacy as well, although not as successfully. It competed in Group A from ‘89 through ‘93, but its lone race win during its last year of competition was hardly as legend building as the Impreza’s trio of championships. Still, can you name another mid-size family sedan that’s even managed one single WRC win? Didn’t think so. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Attractive black and grey upholstery features stylish blue contrast stitching. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Therefore it makes sense the Legacy is one of the more enjoyable cars in its mid-size class to drive, not particularly for straight-line acceleration (it could really benefit from the WRX STI’s 310-horsepower turbo-four), but more so for its handling. Nevertheless it moves off the line with decent energy, at least when compared to other base powertrains in its segment, while its Lineartronic CVT provides smooth operation at all times. 

Shift paddles provide a more hands-on driving experience, these combining with six stepped gears that make the continuously variable transmission feel closer to a conventional automatic, at least when not trying to extract everything out of the engine, but this said if you’re looking for the type of lightning-quick shifts offered by a dual-clutch gearbox or even a high-end premium-level automatic, this CVT won’t cut it. I sometimes used the paddles for downshifting, this process allowing for a sportier feel plus the benefit of engine braking down steep grades, but that was about it. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Roomy and comfortable, the Legacy’s back seat lives up to mid-size sedan buyers’ needs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Subaru reminded that a CVT’s design can also help smooth out a vehicle’s ride quality, and it’s entirely possible this is one reason its ride quality is so good. Still, the Legacy handles well too, its fully independent MacPherson strut front and unequal length short/long arm double wishbone rear setup managing fast-paced curves with grace and composure, its 225/50R18 Goodyear Eagle LS all-seasons no doubt doing their part as well. It’s a confidence-inspiring car when driving quickly, plus it’s just as good at weaving through congested city traffic or stretching its legs on the highway. 

Speaking of stretching one’s legs, Legacy offers plenty of room in all positions, particularly up front in the driver’s position where I had no trouble getting comfortable. I’m guessing most should fit in well thanks to good adjustability all-round. My long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight body was able to position the seat ideally to reach the top portion of steering wheel rim when the tilt and telescopic steering column was pulled all the way back. This meant the driver’s seat was positioned farther back than most five-foot-eight drivers would need to, but fortunately this didn’t seem to impinge on rear seat legroom at all. 

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
No shortage of space in the Legacy’s accommodating trunk. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I had almost 12 inches from my knees to the backside of the front seat when positioned directly behind, plus room to totally stretch my legs out with winter boots stuffed below. Additionally, I had loads of room next to the window, plus a wide, comfortable folding armrest with dual cupholders in between, while there were three inches of space over my head, so a six-foot teen should squeeze into the back quite comfortably. As for back seat goodies, two USB charging points are included in upper trims, although bookworms won’t have the benefit of individual reading lights overhead.

There’s more than enough room for all kinds of cargo in the big 425-litre (15 cu-ft) trunk, plus it can be expanded by the usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, releasable via a set of handles under the rear shelf. This is where I make my regular request for 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks or at least a centre pass-through, which would allow long items like skis to be placed down the middle while both rear outboard seats can be put to use. Upgraded with rear seat warmers the Legacy would be the best ski shuttle in the class. All said there aren’t many mid-size sedan rivals that offer this level of back row seating/cargo flexibility, but you’d think automakers would be trying to make this more efficient segment as practical as possible instead of forcing those with active lifestyles to opt for an SUV.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
A centre pass-through or 40/20/40-split rear seat would make the Legacy the ideal ski shuttle. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Minor gripe aside, you’d be well taken care of in a 2019 Legacy. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac this winter will get more snow than average, which means an all-wheel drive vehicle will make your driving life easier and safer. On top of this, fuel isn’t about to get any cheaper, at least not permanently, so an AWD car might be ideal if your lifestyle allows. Only the new Altima, Stinger and Arteon provide standard AWD, but the latter two four-door coupes aren’t as practical as the Legacy and cost quite a bit more, while Buick’s Regal is more expensive and only offers AWD on its pricier trims. Therefore, if you want the added safety and performance of AWD in a regular mid-size sedan it’s a showdown between the Altima and this Legacy. You should try them both.

 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Hyundai gave last year’s Sonata a dramatic refresh with this attractive new grille, and the car carried forward identically into 2019. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Hyundai’s Sonata has been around for decades. Just over three actually. During its 31-year tenure the South Korean brand has given it a fairly even mix of dramatic designs and comparatively less expressive styling, the latter seeming to win more buyers. 

A quick glance back into the rearview mirror shows the 1998 through 2004 fourth-generation and 2009 through 2014 sixth-generation models offering particularly daring designs, with a comparatively conservative 2004 through 2009 fifth-generation filling the gap. I might end up throwing my “dramatic” styling equals success theory out completely as that relatively modestly sedan sold very well, and while I spent at least one week with all of the above generations and every one since, all of which impressed, I actually had a V6-powered top-tier version of the latter car in my position as a long-term test car for more than a year, and experienced no problems while totally enjoying its comfort and performance (as my weekly reports confirmed). 

Today’s 2014 through 2019 gen-seven model is the best Sonata yet, but before its extensive 2018 mid-cycle update it was amongst the least visually inspiring generations. Don’t mistake my lack of excitement for criticism, as the 2014 through 2017 Sonata was still attractive enough for plenty of mid-size four-door family sedan buyers, but we’d best not call this level of reconstructive surgery a facelift. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata looks great from all angles, especially in sporty Ultimate trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Both 2018 and 2019 Sonata models, which are identical, include a totally reworked grille that completely said goodbye to the front fascia’s sharply angled hexagonal design, a somewhat yawn-inducing generic look if I can be so bold, substituted by a more organically shaped opening that’s helped to visually separate Hyundai and its new Genesis luxury brand. Genesis, which merely rebadged Hyundai’s Genesis Sedan as the G80 as part of its transformation, appears to be keeping more of the outgoing Hyundai grille design while adding a “V” shape to the centre bottom, much like the side view of a brilliant cut diamond as revealed on its new full-size 2020 G90 luxury sedan. 

Back to the current Sonata, its curvaceous new grille is bookended by a nice complex set of headlamp clusters filled with ovoid projector beams (LEDs in my tester) surrounded by attractive LED daytime running lights, these hovering above a neatly stacked set of six LED fog lamps on the lower front corners. 

My tester’s sportier Ultimate trim gets stylish darkened chrome around the otherwise black gloss grille, lower fascia, and headlight surrounds that smartly continue rearward along the front fenders and the entire shoulder line along the side windows before wrapping up and around the greenhouse before meeting back up at the base of each A-pillar. This unique signature design element began with the aforementioned sixth-gen Sonata way back in 2009, and will once again make its dramatic statement for the upcoming 2020 model, a car that take all of the styling cues shown here and expands on them in drama and actual size, while completely redoing rear styling. There’s plenty more dark chrome and loads of glossy black trim on this Ultimate example too, the diffuser style rear apron nicely matching the front fog light bezels, all of which mirror the all black glass and high-gloss roof, this partially because of its panoramic sunroof. I have to admit, the 2018 update made a rather ho-hum Sonata into a great looking mid-size sedan. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The new Sonata makes a statement with its big grille, available LED headlights, vertically stacked LED fog lamps, and sporty 18-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, it needs to be in order to survive. Not only is it up against some very stiff competition thanks to Toyota’s latest Camry being downright seductive in its sportiest XSE trim line, the latest Honda Accord providing a lot more premium-like presence than ever before, an all-new Nissan Altima improving styling while offering standard all-wheel drive, plus plenty of other brands tempting consumers with high performance or fuel-efficient hybrid and plug-in alternatives, not to mention Kia and Volkswagen complementing their respective Optima and Passat family sedans with sporty four-door coupe variants dubbed Stinger and Arteon, but the entire car sector under serious threat from crossover SUVs. 

Out of the 14 mid-size sedans currently vying for your attention, only four saw an increase in year-over-year Canadian sales through the first three quarters of 2019, and the Sonata isn’t one of them. The segment-leading Camry’s 11,579 deliveries are up 4.18 percent since the close of Q3 2018, growth that pales in comparison to the third-place Ford Fusion’s 33.43-percent gain, although its total sales are only 7,280. The two others in positive territory are marginal players to say it kindly, with Honda’s Clarity plug-in hybrid up 12.37 percent to 890 units, and Buick’s Regal having increased its take-rate by a whopping 48.71 percent, albeit only to 635 deliveries. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
While not as large as some competitors, the Sonata Ultimate’s 18-inch alloys help this big sedan perform very well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The biggest loser is Volkswagen’s Passat down 78.24 percent to just 570 units, but Kia’s Optima didn’t fare much better with sales of 1,363 units resulting in a 52.09-percent downturn. A quick glance at some others like the Altima that lost 43.34 percent for 2,568 units despite its recent redesign, and Mazda6’s that took a 42.76-percent nosedive to 1,130 units, doesn’t make the Sonata’s mere 14.18-percent reversal look that bad, while the 3,346 units Hyundai delivered puts it in a strong fifth place, behind the Camry, Accord, Fusion and Malibu, yet ahead of the Altima, Optima, Subaru Legacy, Stinger, Mazda6, Clarity, Regal, Passat, and Arteon. Announcement of the Fusion’s upcoming demise might make it easier for those remaining, although it’s also a sobering sign of this once mighty category not being as essential to carmakers as it once was. 

All this said, the review you’re reading is more of a respectful adieu to the outgoing 2019 Sonata ahead of ushering in the all-new 2020, and therefore some of us can appreciate a car that helped define Hyundai’s new styling direction over its two-year tenure, while others are deciding if it will soon grace their driveway. I have a lot of good to say about this particular Sonata Ultimate tester, continuing on from my styling overview to its very impressive interior filled with upscale finishings and more features than you’re likely to find in any one of the competitors mentioned above. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
These attractive LED taillights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

A tasteful array of high-quality, soft-touch composites in all the usual places join textured and brushed metal-like trim and inky piano black detailing throughout, while the medium-grey cabin sports a classy set of identically coloured seats in perforated leather upholstery with light-grey piping around their edges, which matches light-grey stitching on the bolsters, with the latter complementing light-grey stitching found elsewhere around the interior, particularly on the door panel inserts, on the shifter boot, and in baseball-stitched style around the inside of the leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel rim. 

That steering wheel not only looks the part of a performance car, but its thick padded rim, nicely indented thumb spats, and overall meaty feel comes across a lot more Veloster N than Azera (RIP, in Canada at least), while the placement of the paddle shifters is so ideal they really enhance the overall driving experience. All is combined with ample steering column rake and reach, plus an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way lumbar, both allowing my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame to get completely comfortable while providing ideal control of directional duties, unlike some in the class that don’t fit me as well. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The top-line Sonata Ultimate interior is nicely finished and quite refined, but next year’s update is needed to keep it current. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

During the same week I also had Toyota’s new Camry XSE, which by all styling inferences appears to be the sportiest new mid-size sedan on the market. It’s a significant improvement over the previous model in every way including steering column reach, but it still doesn’t fit me as well. What’s more, the steering wheel doesn’t come close to feeling as sporty or allowing as much control as this Sonata’s, even from a styling standpoint. Don’t get me wrong as Toyota has done a commendable job with the new Camry interior, making its finishing more refined and its overall look a bit more upscale than this Sonata, but as far as real hands-on performance goes, it doesn’t come anywhere near close. What’s more, the Sonata’s steering wheel is heatable from its mid-range up, while Toyota doesn’t even offer a heated steering wheel in the Camry. 

The most notable Camry XSE and Sonata Ultimate differentiators are the seats, with the latter model featuring two of the best front sport seats in the family sedan class. Not only are the embossed with cool “Turbo” insignias up top, and detailed out with all the niceties mentioned earlier, but their deep side bolsters do an excellent job of holding butt and torso in place during hard cornering. You’ll need to hang onto something other than the steering wheel if you want to stay put in the Camry’s driver’s seat while attempting the same lateral Gs, because Toyota’s seats leave you sitting on top of their cushions rather than ensconced within. I didn’t find the Camry’s seats comfortable either, not even in the more luxurious XLE version, but the seats in the Sonata Ultimate are wonderful, and fully supportive in every way you’d want from a sport sedan. The Sonata’s three-way front seat heaters also get toastier than the Camry’s in their top temperature setting, plus the Hyundai includes three-way front seat ventilation that won’t be available to top-line Camry buyers until the 2020 model arrives. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Most should find the well laid out Sonata interior easy to operate and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Even the Sonata’s rear seats offer two-way derriere warmers next to the windows in mid-range Preferred trim and above, not to mention nicely carved out support that makes them feel great on the backside, albeit not so much to render the centre position useless. Side window sunshades, found in Luxury and Ultimate trims, can’t be had with a Camry either, while rear seat passengers benefit from plenty of other features like LED reading lights overhead, individual air vents, a nice wide folding centre armrest with integrated cupholders, deep door pockets with bottle holders, and more. A panoramic sunroof on Luxury and Ultimate trims makes the rear passenger compartment feel more open and airy than it would otherwise be, although even less opulent models are hardly short on side window visibility. 

It’s roomy in back too, with plenty of knee space, enough legroom to almost completely stretch out my legs while wearing winter boots, four to five inches to the door panels, plus I still had about three and a half inches above my head, so taller folks should fit in without problem. 

The trunk is large at 462 litres (16.3 cubic feet), while the lid can be opened with a button on the dash or automatically by standing behind the car with the ignition off and proximity-sensing key in pocket. It’s nicely finished with carpeting all the way up the sidewalls, including the trunk lid, while each side of the carpeted seatbacks fold forward in the usual 60/40-configuration via pull-tabs just underneath the rear shelf. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
Simple analogue instruments are enhanced by a good straightforward multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Everything mentioned so far comes standard in top-line Ultimate trim, including a sharp looking set of 18-inch double-five-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45R18 Michelin all-season tires (replacing 16- or 17-inch Kumhos) directed via special rack-mounted motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS) with a dual-pinion steering rack, an exclusive twin-scroll turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with dual continuously variable valve timing and two-stage variable induction making 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque (replacing the base 2.4-litre four with 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque), an eight-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters (instead of a six-speed automatic), as well as the special leather sport seats noted earlier, plus the aforementioned 3D Three-dimensional Overlay Method (T.O.M) metallic inlays. 

I’m itemizing the majority of each trim’s standard features because value for money has always been one a great way to judge any Hyundai against its peers, and considering this 2019 Sonata Ultimate goes for just $37,199 plus freight and fees, it’s hard to argue against it. After all, a similarly powered Camry with fewer features tops $41k, about 10 percent more than this full-load Sonata, while it’s also a couple of thousand pricier at its lowest end too. That base Essential trim can be had for just $24,899, while at the time of writing Hyundai was offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives. You can find out more right here at CarCostCanada, right on the same page that gives you detailed 2019 Sonata pricing, including trims, packages and individual options, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s centre stack provides a lot of hands-on functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yet more features pulled up to this Ultimate model from the $34,899 Luxury trim include the aforementioned LED headlamps with adaptive cornering and auto high beams, the cooled front seats, the rear window sunshades and powered panoramic sunroof, plus aluminum treadplates, chromed inner door handles, an electric parking brake, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink universal garage door remote, a six-way powered front passenger seat, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, an 8.0-inch high-resolution infotainment touchscreen with navigation, an excellent sounding 400-watt nine-speaker Infinity audio system, wireless device charging, rear seat heating/ventilation/AC ducts, rear parking sensors, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. 

Features pulled up to the Unlimited from mid-range $28,799 Preferred trim include the stitched leatherette door inserts, heated steering wheel rim, rear seat heaters, and proximity trunk release mentioned before, as well as two-zone auto climate control, satellite radio with a rooftop shark antenna, remote engine start, and BlueLink connectivity, while the $27,699 Essential Sport model provides its sport grille, dark chrome and sportier exterior detailing, sport-tuned suspension, LED tail lamps, front door handle welcome lighting, proximity-sensing keyless entry, sport-style Supervision instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch TFT LCD multi-function display, shift paddles, eight-way power driver’s seat, and aluminum pedals. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The 8.0-inch centre display is high in resolution and filled with features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lastly, standard features included with this Ultimate model from base Essential trim are as follows: automatic on/off headlamps, LED daytime running lights, powered and heated exterior mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, speed-sensitive variable intermittent windshield wipers, heatable front seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone integration, Bluetooth with streaming audio, micro-filtered air conditioning, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, the usual active and passive safety gear, plus plenty more. 

To be fair to the Camry, which has taken quite a beating while being compared directly to the Sonata Unlimited throughout this review, the mid-size Toyota provides a more sophisticated primary gauge package thanks to a more advanced multi-information display (MID) boasting a bigger, more modern looking TFT screen that neatly curves around the outside of each analogue dial, plus it also comes with more functions. Just the same, the Sonata’s MID is bright, clear and hardly short on features. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
This is one of the most supportive driver’s seats in the mid-size class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The car’s centre stack is more vertical than the Camry’s, which is a more modern horizontal layout, not that it matters from a functional standpoint, but it theoretically allows for a larger display (the top-line Camry’s 8.0-inch touchscreen isn’t any larger though) and more room for switchgear around it (the 2020 Sonata makes up for this in a big 12.3-inch way), and therefore the Sonata’s dash design appears more conventional than the Camry’s as well, but once again this has more to do with the 2019 Sonata’s end of lifecycle issues than not technically measuring up (upcoming reviews of the new 2020 Nexo and 2020 Palisade SUVs will expose Hyundai’s infotainment leadership in more detail). I like how the current Sonata’s touchscreen sits high on the centre stack, making it easy to read while driving, and its clear, high-resolution display provides good depth of colour and nice graphics. Its operating system is quick as well, while all functions are generally easy to sort out. 

I found the quality of Sonata switchgear good too, particularly the steering wheel controls and array of buttons, knobs and switches on the centre stack, some of this latter group detailed out with an attractive aluminum-like finish. The upper row of these aluminized toggles is set aside for audio and infotainment system functions, while the bottom row is for the automatic heating and ventilation system, plus the heated and cooled seats as well as the heated steering wheel rim. Under this is a rubberized tray for your smartphone that doubles as a wireless charging pad, while yet more connectivity sits just above on a panel integrating two 12-volt chargers, a USB port, and an aux plug (we can expect more USB ports and fewer old tech as part of the 2020 redesign). 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
This big panoramic sunroof adds a lot of light front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

With the thick, flat-bottom, paddle shifter-enhanced steering wheel rim in hands, and the nicely bolstered driver’s seat underseat, the Sonata Ultimate felt considerably more fun to drive than the Camry XSE, even without the latter car’s more powerful V6. The top-tier Camry is quite a bit quicker in a straight line, shaving about a second and a half off the Sonata Ultimate’s mid-seven-second 0-100 km/h sprint, as long as you manage to stop the front wheels from spinning too much, but straight-line acceleration only one performance criterion, and certainly not most important to me. 

Sure, making surrounding traffic almost instantly disappear in the rearview mirror can be fun while behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 Turbo or something equally fast, but trying to do so in a Sonata or Camry simply makes you look juvenile. I found the Sonata Ultimate’s 2.0-litre turbo moved me out of the starting blocks fast enough, while its eight-speed automatic swapped gears quicker than the Camry’s eight-speed gearbox, particularly when its Drive Mode Select system was switched from Comfort, past Eco, into Sport mode, each of these making adjustments to steering, engine, and transmission responses. For my tastes, the high-revving top-level Sonata engine was a great deal more enjoyable than the Camry’s V6 when pushed hard at speed, while having less weight over the front wheels made for nimbler high-speed handling with less understeer. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
A large back seating area provides good comfort and available amenities like seat heaters, side sunshades, and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, the Sonata Ultimate manages fast-paced corners better than the Camry XSE, the Hyundai reacting quicker and feeling more stable. The Toyota had a tendency to push its front tires out of its lane when driven similarly over the same circuitous roadway, while becoming its rear tires didn’t feel as hooked up either, and this is in spite of coming equipped with bigger 19-inch alloys on 235/40 all seasons. Throw the Sonata Unlimited’s driver seat superiority into the mix and it’s no contest. 

As for fuel economy, you’d think Hyundai’s 2.0-litre turbo-four would annihilate Toyota’s old 3.5-litre V6, but the Sonata Ultimate’s claimed rating of 10.4 L/100 km city, 7.4 on highway and 9.1 combined is only a fraction better than the Camry XSE’s 10.7 city, 7.4 highway and 9.2 combined rating. Another nod to Toyota is the inclusion of the eight-speed automatic throughout the Camry range, which helps its less formidable four-cylinder trims walk away with an ultra-thrifty 8.1 city, 5.7 highway and 6.9 combined rating, which is far better than the 2.4-litre equipped Sonata’s stingiest rating of 9.2, 6.8 and 8.1. 

2019 Hyundai Sonata Ultimate
The Sonata’s big trunk can be expanded upon by the mid-size segment’s usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now that I’m griping, the Sonata’s proximity-sensing automatic trunk opener doesn’t seem to work when the car is already unlocked, and with no button in back to open it manually you’ll want to remember to do so from the driver’s position before getting out. The Camry’s approach, which includes a button on the trunk lid that unlocks by proximity sensing, is easier to live with. I also like the Camry’s heated front seats, which turn on (or stay off) automatically upon restarting the car, and stay set at the previous temperature. The Sonata’s heatable front seats require your attention each time you climb inside. 

Of course, a lot of other qualities keep the Camry on top of the mid-size sedan class hierarchy, and I promise to cover these in a future road test review, while there’s no shortage of credible competitors in this segment either, as mentioned at length before, yet if buying into this category you’d be wise to spend some time with the Sonata before choosing something else. 

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line Road Test

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Great looking Kia Stinger makes a strong visual statement. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Finally! Every time I’ve been given the opportunity to test the new Kia Stinger something got in the way. The test model was either damaged by another journalist, or got put out to pasture before I could get into it, the latter due to me being out of country, but just a matter of days back from my regular winter warming in my favourite tropical isle had me ogling a beautiful California Red painted Stinger GT-Line parked in front of my temporary left coast home. 

I have to say the Stinger looks impressively upscale. Even in my tester’s base GT-Line trim, it comes standard with automatic dual-function LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED positioning lamps, body-wide bar-type LED tail lamps, classy dark chrome exterior trim details with the same darkened chrome used for the side mirror housings, these also enhanced with slim LED turn signals, while sharp looking 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels on 225/45 rubber round out the look, as does a set of chromed exhaust pipes at back. 

While base, it should be noted that the entry-level Stinger starts at a considerable $39,995 plus freight and fees, but despite its less than prestigious Kia branding it really comes across as something much closer to premium than most anything in its mid-size segment. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Stinger’s sloping rear profile makes it look fast standing still. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Stinger is a mid-size sedan, by the way. I’ve noticed some consider it compact because it utilizes the same underpinnings as the Genesis G70, which is a compact luxury model going up against BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes’ C-Class, Audi’s A4, et al, but in spite of having similar wheelbase lengths of 2,910 mm (114.4 in) compared to 2,835 mm (111.6 in), both being longer than the Optima’s 2,805-mm (110.4-in) wheelbase, the Stinger’s 4,830 mm (190.2 in) nose-to-tail length spans 145 mm (5.7 in) farther than the G70’s, while it only measures 20 mm (0.8 in) shorter than Kia’s Optima family sedan. 

Also notable, at 1,870 mm (73.6 in) the Stinger is 20 mm (0.8 in) wider than the G70 and 10 mm (0.4 in) narrower than the Optima, while it stands 1,400 mm (55.1 in) tall, which is identical to the G70 and 70 mm (2.7 in) lower than the Optima. Those still choosing to call the Stinger compact will also want to take note that it’s 190 mm (7.5 in) longer than the Forte sedan (a reasonable large compact itself), with a 210-mm (8.2-in) longer wheelbase, while it’s 70 mm (2.7 in) wider too. So it’s obviously a mid-size model, even offering up a longer wheelbase and more width than the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, although slightly less length and height. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, and dramatic styling come standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Stinger’s long, low and wide dimensions make it more of a four-door coupe-like sedan, its sporty profile backed up by dynamic styling and a premium cabin, at least for its volume branded pedigree (or lack thereof). I should mention this isn’t Kia’s first premium-like entry, or for that matter its most luxurious. We only need to look to the Mercedes S-Class/BMW 7 Series-sized K900 for Kia’s highest-end car, a model that might only be outmaneuvered amongst pedestrian brands for all out premium cachet by the Volkswagen Phaeton, but like that outrageous VW the K900 didn’t garner enough popularity to enjoy prolonged availability in Canada, so therefore is now history north of the 49th. 

Where the K900 was a seriously impressive luxury sedan, it couldn’t even come close to the Stinger’s viability here in Canada. It comes down to affordability, its more popular mid-size market segment, and a greater focus on performance than luxury. Size aside, I would’ve previously said it comes closest to mirroring the Dodge Charger in spirit than anything else in its class, at least until Volkswagen showed up with its new Arteon a few months ago. The Arteon, that’s based on the European Passat, just replaced the outgoing CC four-door coupe. The two are near identical in size and similarly powered, so are therefore going after the same sport-oriented customers, in the Stinger’s base trim at least, but with its base price more than $8,000 loftier than the Stinger’s aforementioned window sticker, the new Arteon is reaching up much further into premium territory. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
All the black chromed detailing adds a rich, upscale look. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

By the way, the Stinger weighs in between 1,729 and 1,782 kilograms (3,812 and 3,929 lbs) with its as-tested 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, or 1,873 and 1,889 kg (4,129 and 4,165 lbs) with its optional V6, whereas the Arteon hits the scale at 1,748 kilos (3,854 lbs) and the larger and heftier Charger offers more mass for your dollars at 1,823 to 1,980 kg (4,021 to 4,530 lbs). While lighter than the Charger, the all-wheel drive Stinger and Arteon are significantly heavier than the previously noted mid-size front-drive family sedans, giving the car being reviewed here, at least (I’ve yet to drive the Arteon that’s scheduled for August 26), more of a substantive, premium-like feel. 

Kia really does manage to pull off a near luxury brand level of refinement inside thanks to details like cloth-wrapped A, B and C pillars, a soft, pliable dash top with a really well-finished padded instrument bolster crossing the entire dash front, as well as premium-level soft composite door uppers front to back. All of the Stinger’s button, knobs and switches are nicely fitted with good damping as well, with some aluminized for an especially upscale look and feel, while this base model’s standard perforated leather upholstery is definitely up to par for a volume-branded sedan. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Those unfamiliar with Kia will be surprised at the Stinger’s refined cabin. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Being that we’re already talking about features, standard content includes a heated leather-clad flat-bottom sport steering wheel that’s sized perfectly for performance and feels great in the hands, plus a leather-wrapped and chrome-adorned shift knob, piano black interior accents, comfortable and supportive heatable eight-way powered front seats with four-way power-adjustable lumbar, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-folding outside mirrors, two-zone auto HVAC, LED cabin lighting, ambient mood lights, and a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s my only cause for complaint, being that it’s too small and isn’t flush within its fixed mounting and therefore looks dated. 

This display houses the usual backup camera, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and Kia’s exclusive UVO Intelligence connected car services, while nine-speaker audio provides good sound quality for a base stereo, even incorporating standard satellite radio, whereas the wireless device charger is a very impressive standard feature as well. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Stinger mixes sport elements with plenty of luxurious touch points. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Proximity-sensing technology lets you in the car while a satin-silver button fires up the engine, again on the standard menu, while the electric parking brake releases automatically. The just noted rearview camera combines with standard rear parking sonar and rear cross-traffic alert to help keep the Stinger’s dazzling paintwork free from scratches and dents, the latter feature bundled together with blind spot detection. Once pointing forward choose from a list of Drive Mode Select settings including Smart, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Custom, slot the eight-speed Sportmatic automatic gearbox in Drive or move the lever over to manual mode in order to get the most out of the standard steering wheel paddle shifters, which is how I enjoyed all 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque generated by the Stinger’s standard direct-injection, turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. 

This might only be the base powertrain, but due to 100 percent of its torque arriving at only 1,400 rpm, plus each of its four wheels simultaneously gripping the pavement below, this most basic of Stingers moves away from a standing start quickly, and stays on the power to highway speeds and beyond. Its twin exhaust pipes make a nice sporty note, complementing the engine’s mechanical tone, the Stinger delivering an enjoyable soundtrack alongside its strong acceleration. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
If you want more digital in the instrument cluster, move into a higher trim level. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, this base engine won’t be as brilliantly satisfying as the available twin-turbocharged 3.3-litre V6, that powerhouse providing 365 soul-stirring horsepower and 376 lb-ft of twist (the Arteon doesn’t offer an optional powertrain), but the turbocharged four is a compromise I’d be more than happy to live with, particularly when factoring in its much greater efficiency. Comparatively, the four-cylinder is rated at 11.1 L/100km city, 8.1 highway and 9.7 combined, whereas the V6 gets a claimed 13.6, 9.6 and 11.8 respectively, while both are assisted by an auto start/stop system that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling. 

I’m guessing the last thing you’ll want to be thinking about when flinging the Stinger through a set of fast-paced curves is fuel economy, the car’s fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension featuring gas shocks and dynamic dampers that help to deliver an ideally firm yet compliant ride and handling combination that proves superb over all types of tarmac, from broken backroads to smooth-as-glass freeways. 

Braking is also strong, with four-cylinder models benefiting from 320 mm (12.6 in) front vented discs and 314 mm (12.4 in) rear solid rotors, plus the V6 model improving binding power with a set of Brembo discs measuring 350 mm (13.8 in) and 340 mm (13.4 in) respectively, plus the addition of vented rotors in the rear. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The centre stack provides all that’s needed, but the base infotainment display was a bit underwhelming. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While the Stinger looks fast standing still, its long and lean body capable of minimizing drag and amply maximizing downforce, it also provides more than enough rear headroom for most adults’ needs. I had about three inches above my five-foot-eight frame when seated behind the driver’s seat, so six-footers should have no problem. What’s more, cargo access is excellent due to its less conventional four-door coupe-style rear liftback, which opens up to 660 litres (23.3 cu ft) of volume behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks or 1,158 litres (40.9 cu ft) of gear-toting space when they’re flipped forward. So the Stinger is not only good looking, fun to drive and beautifully finished inside, it’s also plenty practical. 

I’ll be spending a week with the new Arteon soon, and will let you know if it measures up to the Stinger for passenger and luggage space, plus if its loftier price range provides any benefits, but I’ll say right now the VeeDub will need to be very good in order to upstage this Stinger when it comes to performance, interior quality, features and value. As it stands, with all options included the Arteon costs just over $53k, which makes it pricier than the most expensive $51,495 Stinger GT Limited 20th Anniversary Edition that gets unique 19-inch alloys, carbon fibre décor trim, red Nappa leather, and custom red-stitched “Stinger” floor mats, while the mid-range Stinger GT starts at $44,995 and the regular GT Limited can be had for $49,995 (learn more about 2019 Kia Stinger trims, packages and standalone options right here at CarCostCanada, and don’t forget that we can help you save hundreds or even thousands via manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing). 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The standard leather-covered sport seats are quite supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The last two trim lines get there own set of 19-inch alloys, an upgraded suspension with Dynamic Stability Damping Control (DSDC), noise-reducing front side glass, auto-dimming outer mirrors, stainless steel tread plates, stainless sport pedals, carbon fibre-style inlays (that replace the piano black ones), shift-by-wire transmission control (replacing the base model’s shift-by-cable gearbox) a power-adjustable tilt and telescopic steering wheel, driver’s memory, an under-floor storage tray, a large moonroof, a gesture-controlled power liftgate, plus a luggage net. 

Finally, the GT Limited provides a special set of cornering headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, aluminum-finish trim (replacing the faux carbon fibre), a black roofliner, a 7.0-inch Supervision LCD/TFT digital instrument cluster, a heads-up display (HUD), a HomeLink universal transceiver, Nappa leather upholstery, cooled front seats, heated rear outboard seats, a driver’s seat upgrade with four-way “air cell” lumbar support, powered side bolsters, and a power-operated lower squab extension, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen (that really should be standard) with a surround parking monitor system and navigation, 15-speaker Harman Kardon audio, dynamic cruise control, autonomous emergency braking (that’s usually standard in this class), lane keep assist, and driver attention alert. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Rear roominess and comfort is very good. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

You might be interested in knowing that year-over-year (YoY) Stinger sales slipped a bit during the first six months of this year in Canada, having dropped 14.38 percent due to just 750 units leaving Kia dealer lots, but this said it’s doing its job to boost the brand’s mid-size car sales now that the Optima has become 44.67 percent less popular over the same half year, with just 872 deliveries on the books. As for how the Stinger sells against regular front-drive mid-size sedans, the Camry took no prisoners over the same two quarters with 8,586 sales (an increase of 12.87 percent), whereas the Accord held second with 5,837 deliveries (dropping 9.71 percent). The Arteon, incidentally, found just 184 buyers so far in 2019, but to be fair it only came on the market this spring so we’ll need to wait and see how it fares over the long haul. This said if the Passat is any indicator, its poor Q1 and Q2 total of 474 deliveries should hardly give VW confidence, this number representing a 75.55 percent fall from grace compared to January through June of 2018. 

Continuing on this theme, there are 14 different mid-size sedans fighting it out in this class, including the Stinger and Arteon, but not the aforementioned Charger that competes against cars like the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima etcetera in the full-size or large sedan category. Of these 14, nine are in the red as far as growth goes, one (the Arteon) is to new to measure, and just four are in the black (positive), while the Stinger’s small decline is not as significant as many rivals, and more the result of the entire mid-size sedan category’s loss of favour than any lack of interest in this specific car. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
There’s loads of cargo space under the liftgate. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

In fact, I witness the polar opposite during my entire test week, with loads of smiling stares, positive nods of appreciation and general goodwill while driving by onlookers. Stinger owners can hold their heads high as this car garners a lot of respect, while it will no doubt benefit Kia’s overall brand image long-term as well. If you’re thinking about purchasing a new mid-size sedan, you may want to take a closer look at this innovative, well-sorted four-door coupe, because it delivers a higher level of style, refinement and features than most rivals, while it still should be practical enough for most peoples’ requirements. 

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

New Porsche Taycan EV on three-continent Shanghai, Goodwood and NYC tour

2020 Porsche Taycan
Porsche has taken its new Taycan EV on a three-continent tour, starting at its Experience Centre in Shanghai. (Photo: Porsche)

Fans of electric vehicles have been over the moon about the soon to arrive 2020 Taycan, and now that Porsche has a pre-production model strutting its stuff on a global tour, we’re all getting a taste of what’s to come. 

The sleek four-door coupe-style Taycan is currently on a “Triple Demo Run” that started off on the first week of July on the Porsche Experience Centre (PEC) handling track in Shanghai, China, where Porsche Carrera Cup Asia driver Li Chao coaxed it around 1.4 kilometres of high-speed curves. This particular Taycan was closest to a street-ready production model anyone outside of Porsche’s inner circle has seen yet, the black-painted model adorned with a stunning red dragon graphic upon its roof. 

“The exceptional performance typical for Porsche was a clear development objective for the Taycan. You can sense that right from the start,” an enthusiastic Chao, who was especially impressed by the Taycan’s handling, stated after his initial run. “From uncompromisingly sporty to surprisingly comfortable, the chassis of the new Taycan covers a wide range and successfully combines the precise handling of a sports car and the long-distance comfort of a saloon. In addition to its low centre of gravity, the rear-axle steering also plays a crucial role. The Taycan steers into corners very directly and has plenty of grip.” 

2020 Porsche Taycan
Porsche Carrera Cup Asia driver Li Chao was at the Taycan’s wheel for the event in China. (Photo: Porsche)

The new Taycan houses a quick-charging 800-volt architecture plus a 90-kWh lithium-ion battery, resulting in 592 horsepower (600 PS). The new Porsche catapults from 0 to 100km/h in less than 3.5 seconds, continues on to 200 km/h in under 12 seconds, and tops out above 250 km/h, making it one of the fastest four-door production sedans ever made. 

Continuing on its worldwide journey, the new Taycan silently sped up the popular “Hill Run” at the famed West Sussex, England-based Goodwood Estate that hosts the Goodwood Festival of Speed each year. Tasked with driving duties, multiple racing-winning Formula 1 veteran and LMP1/Porsche 919 Hybrid World Endurance Championship (WEC) contender Mark Webber, showed just how awesomely quick the new Porsche can be (make sure to watch the videos below for more).  

“The Taycan’s power delivery is awesome,” said Webber. “I took part in this event in a Porsche 911 GT2 RS two years ago, so I already knew that it all comes down to power and traction. But, even for a thoroughbred racing driver like me, it is amazing how the Taycan – even though it’s still a prototype – accelerates off the start and out of the corners.” 

2020 Porsche Taycan
The start of the Goodwood Festival of Speed “Hill Run” with F1 race-winning driver Mark Webber at the wheel. (Photo: Porsche)

Next on the agenda is a New York City stint as part of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship season finale, a fitting event for an electric super sedan. This final demo run will see Formula E driver and 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans winner (while driving a WEC Porsche LMP1 car no less) Neel Jani at the wheel, so be sure to watch all the action on your favourite video streaming site. 

While all this ultra-fast electrification is fun for auto enthusiasts everywhere, and mostly seen as a positive for the green movement, no one can say for sure how the Taycan will measure up to its most obvious EV rival when it comes to sales success. The now somewhat long-in-tooth Tesla Model S had led all battery-powered competitors on the sales charts up to the point its own Tesla Model 3 sibling arrived on the scene, so the question now remains whether the Taycan can truly pose a threat to the Model S, or will remain as a niche player like all non-Tesla EV entries so far. 

Let’s face it. Tesla virtually owns the electrified sport-luxury market. The Model S, which arrived in 2012, not only outsells all other electric competitors in its mid-size E-segment, but actually outperforms every conventionally powered mid-size luxury model other than the BMW 5 Series and top-selling Mercedes-Benz E-Class. This said, Model S deliveries fell 6.3 percent in 2018, and a much more sizeable 56 percent during the first three months of this year, but this may have more to do with its four-door sedan body style than any lack of interest in the Tesla brand, because both the E-Class and 5 Series found themselves in the same downward spiral, with Audi’s recently redesigned A6 and A7, plus Porsche’s Panamera bucking the trend. Still, despite its downturn, the Model S managed to hang onto third place in the mid-size E-segment. 

2020 Porsche Taycan
At less than 3.5 seconds from standstill to 100km/h, the Taycan is blisteringly quick. (Photo: Porsche)

The Panamera grew by 40.1 percent in calendar year 2018, and didn’t lose much of that market share during Q1 of 2019 either after experiencing a small loss of 0.8 percent. Tesla’s Model S, however, outpaced the Panamera by a near three-to-one ratio last year, and 2.5-to-one over the initial three months of 2019, but it’s nevertheless safe say the recent sales strength of both premium cars is a good sign for potential future success of the new Taycan. 

The Panamera, which available with various conventional engines plus two electrified hybrid powertrains, is very close in size to the Model S, at least before taking overall length into account. So far Porsche hasn’t released official Taycan dimensions, but if the production model ends up being close to in size to the Mission E concept it will be slightly shorter, albeit quite a bit wider and significantly lower than either the Panamera or Model S, but it will still fit ideally within the mid-size E-segment. 

This brings us to a question: As impressive as the new Taycan appears to be, can the upstart Porsche EV punt the longstanding Tesla titleholder off the top sales-leadership podium? That Jaguar has had difficulty attracting EV customers to its new I-Pace, despite that model being a crossover utility and therefore more in line with current automotive trends, actually makes sense because the British luxury brand already has major problems finding buyers for its conventionally powered models, but Audi, amongst the auto industry’s hotter luxury brands, recently introduced the all-electric E-Tron, a crossover that’s even more traditionally SUV-like, and it hasn’t made much of a dent into Tesla Model X territory either. 

2020 Porsche Taycan
“It is amazing how the Taycan – even though it’s still a prototype – accelerates off the start and out of the corners,” said ex-F1 star Mark Webber. (Photo: Porsche)

To bring you up to date on U.S. EV market growth, June saw increased sector sales of 120 percent, but take note that most of the 29,632 deliveries were attributed to Tesla, its 23,914-unit total accounting for 83 percent of market share growth due to 20,550 Model 3 (a compact luxury D-segment four-door sedan) buyers, 2,725 Model X (a mid-size luxury crossover SUV) customers, and new 1,750 Model S owners. Tesla aside, EV sales from other brands increased by 30 percent in June, which is excellent, but of course this number was comparatively small at 4,718 units total. 

As anyone can surmise, earning a profit while selling in small numbers is not going to happen, with the next best-selling Nissan Leaf only able to deliver 1,156 units, Chevy’ impressive Bolt only finding 1,190 buyers (its worst YTD result), Honda positively surprising all with 1,092 Clarity FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) deliveries, Audi’s aforementioned E-Tron sales actually dropping from 856 units in May to 726 (after 253 down the road during its first month of April), BMW’s i3 having its best month so far this year with 473 sales, Jaguar’s new I-Pace managing its second-best month with 236 deliveries, Toyota pushing 166 Mirai FCVs out the door, Hyundai’s Kona EV finding 127 new owners, and other EV models like Kia’s Soul EV, Volkswagen’s E-Golf, etcetera not being accounted for due to having their sales numbers combined with conventionally models bearing the same nameplate. 

Just which list the new Porsche Taycan gets added to, either alongside Tesla’s strong sales or somewhere mixed in with all other EV makers, is unknown for now, but we only have to wait until later this year to find out. Until the new production Taycan gets officially revealed in September and then arrives in Porsche dealerships later this year, makes sure to enjoy our photo gallery above and collection of videos below. 

 

Kicking off in China: the Porsche Taycan prototype visits Shanghai (1:00):

Porsche Taycan prototype visits Goodwood Festival of Speed 2019 (1:41):

Hey Porsche, watch this video. Love, Electricity (1:03):

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann  

Photo credits: Porsche

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder and 718 Cayman GT4 now available to order

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Thanks to 414-hp and plenty of performance upgrades the new 2020 718 Cayman GT4 is the most capable of its kind yet. (Photo: Porsche)

Decades ago Porsche was criticized for not making entry-level models that measured up to the much mightier 911, examples being the now 50-year-old ‘69-‘76 mid-engine 914 and ‘76–‘88 front-engine 924, but since the mid-engine Boxster convertible and Cayman coupe arrived on the scene, complainants haven’t been anywhere near as vocal. 

Just the same, the brand’s new line of turbocharged flat-four powerplants that arrived in the current fourth-gen 718 series models have had their share of naysayers, yet while these engines’ barks aren’t quite as vicious sounding as the flat-six 911’s meatier growl, the 2.5-litre mill’s bite has kept most critics silent, particularly when tuned to GTS heights. 

With respect to the 986, 987, 981 and today’s 982 platform architectures, the Cayman and Boxster were near perfect performers from the very beginning thanks to their relatively light curb weights and inherently well-balanced mid-engine layouts, and every generation became even better at managing high-speed road and racetrack performance. 

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder
Choose the 718 Spyder if going topless in the quickest and most stylish Boxster ever is more to your liking. (Photo: Porsche)

As with the previous-gen Boxster and Cayman, the 718 series’ many more fans should also be happy to know that 2020 models are about to be built in their most formidable production trims yet, the upcoming 718 Spyder and 718 Cayman GT4 even capable of sprinting away from and outmaneuvering some 911 models. 

To fill you in on some background information, the 718 Cayman (currently on sale from $63,700), can be had in base 300-horsepower Cayman trim that’s capable of zero to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds, or 4.9 seconds when hooked up to its optional paddle shift-operated dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission, or a speedy 4.7 seconds with the PDK and the car’s available Sport Chrono Package, while if you keep its right pedal planted it can hit a top track speed of 275 km/h. 

The entry-level coupe can also be upgraded to 350-horsepower Cayman S trim ($78,600), which can spirit away from standstill to 100km/h in only 4.6, 4.4 and 4.2 seconds respectively, plus it tops out at an even higher 285 km/h, while lastly the 365-horsepower Cayman GTS ($92,600) is capable of running from 0 to 100km/h in 4.6, 4.3 and 4.1 seconds respectively, while it claims a top speed of 290 km/h. 

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
The 718 Cayman GT4 has a massive rear wing. (Photo: Porsche)

The just-noted 718 Cayman GT4 arrives at the top of this pecking order, just like the previous version did when introduced in 2015. Where the old Cayenne (and Boxster) had flat-six engines throughout its range, the new GT4 replaces the 718’s 2.0- and 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four engines with a downgraded (but still amazing) version of the wonderfully high-revving naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre H-6 from the 911 GT3, producing a generous 414-horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, which is a 29-hp bump over the previous GT4 due in part to a sonorous 8,000-rpm redline, while it’s solely conjoined to a six-speed manual transmission just like the 911 GT3, all combining for a zero to 100km/h sprint time of 4.4 seconds, plus a terminal velocity of 304 km/h. 

As for the 718 Spyder, which also updates a previous 2016 model, it shares all of the same mechanical bits as the Cayman GT4. This means it’s 39 hp more potent than the outgoing Spyder, resulting in the same 4.4-second 100-km/h sprint time as the Cayman GT4, although its top speed is fractionally lower at 301 km/h. Unlike the GT4, mind you, the open-top Spyder is quite different than the model using the Boxster nameplate, despite housed in its basic tub. 

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder
The 718 Spyder gets two “streamliners” on its backside as well as an auto-deploying spoiler. (Photo: Porsche)

As noted earlier, the two new cars’ utilize a six-speed manual gearbox, which isn’t all that unusual in the class, but interestingly this transmission includes downshift rev-matching, or rather what Porsche refers to as an “Auto Blip” function, which automatically matches a given cog to engine speed when dropping a gear. Fortunately, Porsche makes this feature optional, in that a driver can individually activate or defeat it via a button. Also standard, both new models feature a totally new and exclusively designed sport exhaust system that works its way around the cars’ complex rear diffusers while making the most of the “exciting flat-six sound of the engine,” noted Porsche in its press release. 

With respect to the two models’ outward designs, some key elements of the 718 Spyder appear like they were pulled from the 918 Spyder, not to mention the more recently introduced 911 Speedster. The 918 may have helped to inspire the 718 Spyder’s lower front fascia and similar, albeit much more pronounced, double-hump rear deck lid buttresses, while the new 911 Speedster may have influenced the 718 Spyder’s aggressive frontal treatment and double-bubble rear deck “streamliners”, as well as the new convertible’s vented hood, the “Spyder” lettering on its shortened B-pillars (which read “Speedster” on the 911), the similarly sculpted automatically-deploying rear spoiler, and the working rear diffuser. 

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Aerodynamics play a key role with both new 718 cars. (Photo: Porsche)

The new 718 Cayman GT4, on the other hand, pulls forward a number of similar styling cues and aero details from its 2016 predecessor, including the aggressively shaped front fascia, the horizontal black strip of hood venting, the large fixed rear wing, the wind-cheating rear diffuser, and the uniquely designed alloys, all developed with a focus on minimizing weight and maximizing downforce. The fact Porsche even painted both GT4 launch cars in a seemingly identical yellow hue is no coincidence either, just like they once again coated the latest 718 Spyder launch model in white. 

With an eye looking back to aerodynamics, each and every 718 Cayman GT4 exterior upgrade combines for 50 percent greater downforce with no negative affects on drag. Most of the aero advantages can be attributed to the new diffuser and rear wing elements, the latter feature good for 20-percent greater aero-efficiency than the outgoing GT4 wing. At the other end of the car, a deep lip spoiler joins up with air curtains to each side, this helping to channel air around the front wheels. 

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder
Both models get unique interior trims, including plenty of soft Alcantara psuede. (Photo: Porsche)

Now with our focus on the 718 Spyder’s aero upgrades, its adaptive rear wing automatically powers upwards at 120 km/h, but unlike the conventional 718 Boxster’s retractable fabric roof, the Spyder’s top doesn’t benefit from electrical assistance, but instead requires manual removal and stowage below the rear deck cover. When replaced on top of the passenger compartment, Porsche promises a roof that can manage the Spyder’s high top speed without issue, providing full protection from wind, rain and more. 

Behind the scenes, both new models integrate a lightweight, high-performance chassis design that’s capable of keeping the engine and aero capabilities in check. Porsche leaned on its extensive motorsport heritage in order to achieve an ideal balance for the new Spyder and GT4, choosing to equip both with a model-exclusive rear axle, and a front axle adopted from the 2018 911 GT3. 

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Form-fitting sport seats come standard. (Photo: Porsche)

Additional standard features include Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), providing a 30-millimetre ride-height reduction when compared to regular 718 models, this lowering the new models’ centre of gravity, thus improving overall handling. Still, owners have the ability to manually adjust the suspensions’ camber, toe, ride-height and anti-roll bar settings, important for those who regularly hone their skills on the track. 

The now legendary 911 GT3 also provided the two new models’ braking setup, including their larger 380-mm cast iron rotors and fixed aluminum calipers, while buyers of either car can choose to upgrade to a set of ceramic composite brakes if desired, these 50-percent lighter and featuring discs that measure 410 mm up front and 390 mm in the rear. Additionally, the 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4 feature specially tuned ABS, electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control (TC) systems that enhance the cars’ performance, with these ESC and TC systems capable of being switched off via a two-stage process. 

Yet more upgrades include a standard mechanical limited-slip differential with Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), plus unique 20-inch alloy rims shod with 245/35ZR20 front and 295/30ZR20 rear UHP rubber. 

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder
The 414-hp flat-six gets an exclusive sport exhaust system. (Photo: Porsche)

As you may have noticed, the many performance upgrades mentioned up to this point don’t necessarily make the new 718 Spyder or 718 Cayman GT4 quicker off the line than GTS versions of either model, but both are faster on the track, and therefore should be better for everyday driving, at least when pushing the limits. With respect to racetrack limits, Porsche claims its new 718 Cayman GT4 is capable of lapping the Nürburgring Nordschleife “more than ten seconds faster than its predecessor.” 

Making the two new models more enjoyable to live with are upgraded interiors that include a special 360-mm GT Sport steering wheel with a cool yellow top-centre “marker” in Cayman GT4 trim. Additionally, both 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4 receive a 20-mm shorter shift lever that provides a “more direct and crisp feel” when changing gears. What’s more, a new Sport Seats Plus package comes standard, boasting seats with larger side bolsters to enhance lateral support, plus suede-like Alcantara inserts to improve backside grip. Alcantara also gets applied to a lower portion of the instrument panel, as well as the shift knob and boot, and the previously mentioned steering wheel rim. 

2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
Porsche offers plenty of upgrades, including multi-colour interior accents. (Photo: Porsche)

On top of this, some cabin accents include body-colour trim for the 718 Spyder, and brushed aluminum details for the 718 Cayman GT4, while Porsche offers plenty of available décor upgrades as well. What’s more, you can opt for a set of full bucket seats or an 18-way power-adjustable Adaptive Sport Seats Plus package, but take note you won’t be required to pay more for air conditioning or the brand’s newest Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system that also features Sound Package Plus. This said, a navigation system and Porsche Connect, featuring Apple CarPlay, are optional. 

Also noteworthy, the 718 Spyder can be ordered with a Spyder Classic Interior Package that includes two-tone Bordeaux Red and Black leather upholstery, extended Alcantara, GT silver metallic interior trim, and a two-tone black and red fabric top, the latter “reminiscent of historic Porsche racing cars” says Porsche. Alternatively, red, silver, or yellow contrast stitching is available. 

However you’d like to order yours, I wouldn’t recommend waiting too long as Canada’s allotment will soon be spoken for. They’re currently available to order, with pricing beginning at $110,500 for the 718 Spyder, and $113,800 for the 718 Cayman GT4, plus a freight charge and other fees of course. 

While you’re waiting for your new 2020 718 Spyder or 718 Cayman GT4 to arrive, make sure to check out all the videos Porsche provided below: 

The new Porsche 718 Spyder. Perfectly irrational. (1:03):

The new Porsche 718 Spyder. Product highlights. (2:25):

The new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. Product highlights. (2:13):

The new Porsche 718 GT4. Perfectly irrational. (1:01):

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann  

Photo credits: Porsche

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credit: Karen Tuggay