You can count the number of luxury sport wagons available to Canadians on one hand. Raised crossovers and low-volume plug-in electrics aside, BMW offers one true wagon, Mercedes-Benz antes up with two,…

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design Road Test

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Need the practicality of an SUV, but want the performance of a low-slung sport sedan? Look no further than the new Volvo V90. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

You can count the number of luxury sport wagons available to Canadians on one hand. Raised crossovers and low-volume plug-in electrics aside, BMW offers one true wagon, Mercedes-Benz antes up with two, and Volvo gives us the choice of another duo, one of which I recently spent some quality time with. 

I purposely slid the word “quality” into my previous sentence to highlight the incredible lengths the Swedish brand has gone to up its game when it comes to fit, finish, premium materials, attention to detail, technology leadership, powertrain advancements, and just generally providing an awe inspiring sense of occasion that at the very least measures up to its German contemporaries, and often surpasses them. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The V90 looks sportiest in R-Design trim, plus my tester’s optional 20-inch alloys don’t hurt matters either. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester this time around was the 2018 V90 in T6 R-Design trim, which in Volvo-speak means that I had the sportiest of its three trim levels, showing second on the brand’s rung of aspirational feature sets, yet for the most part on the same level as top-tier V90 Inscription trim. 

To clarify, the V90 is offered in $60,500 base (but by no means basic) Momentum trim, $65,100 R-Design guise, or lastly as the $66,700 Inscription, and make sure you see all prices, including dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, at CarCostCanada, where I referenced these. As you can see there’s little price differentiation from R-Design to Inscriptions trims, so both can be considered top of the line. It really comes down to priorities. Personally, I’m more attracted to this sportier R-Design model, but I must admit to really liking the design of this practical five-door sport wagon no matter the trim. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
No matter the angle, the V90 R-Design looks fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A quick review of features shows you’ll be getting an impressively outfitted car no matter which version you choose, with the base Momentum including standard 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights with active cornering and high-pressure cleaners, fog lamps, proximity access, pushbutton start, an electromechanical parking brake, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster, Road Sign Information (RSI), adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving capability, dual-zone automatic climate control, a large tablet-style touchscreen filled with one of the best infotainment interfaces in the industry, a clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, 224-watt 10-speaker audio, satellite radio, Volvo On-Call featuring remote start and vehicle tracking, active noise control, leather upholstery, heatable power-adjustable front seats including four-way lumbar and driver’s memory, power-folding rear seat headrests that flip down to make seeing rearward easier when no passengers are in back, power release folding rear seatbacks, a hands-free powered liftgate, and more. Whew! That’s a long list, and Momentum is just the base model. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
“Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Volvo never shortchanges its loyal clientele on standard safety features either, so along with Volvo’s usual tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, ABS, usual collection of airbags including one for the driver’s knees, etcetera, the V90 comes equipped with autonomous front collision mitigation with pedestrian detection as well as a lane keeping aid, and the systems weren’t overly sensitive so they gave off no false alarms, yet came into action each time they were needed. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
These sporty 20-inch alloys on Pirelli P Zeros only cost $1,000 more and really look good while providing better handling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Autonomous in mind, aforementioned Pilot Assist won’t completely take over the steering wheel, but as a precursor to full autonomous driving it works together with the adaptive cruise control to provide short-duration self-driving in the city and on the highway, so long as road markings are clearly visible. It works quite well too, but for the time being such systems are in their development stage and therefore are more novelties than anything particularly useful. I did find it helpful during bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, however, where it when about its business quite effectively, allowing me to relax a bit more than I would normally. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
That’s one very big vertical LED taillight, ideal for grabbing the attention of cars behind when slamming on the brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

R-Design trim enhances styling with unique diamond-cut 19-inch alloys framing an upgraded sport suspension, a special blackened grille and trim, matte silver side mirror caps, and silk metal side window trim, while inside it gets an even nicer perforated leather sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, metal foot pedals, a full 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that’s beautifully detailed and filled with functions, four-zone auto climate control that includes a panel with controls in back, a subwoofer for the stereo, richer Nubuck leather upholstery, ultra-comfortable contoured sport seats with added side bolstering and a driver’s cushion extension that nicely cups under the knees for added support, unique Metal Mesh décor inlays, a black headliner, rear side sunshades, and plenty of R-Design branding. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Come on in! It’s very comfortable and wonderfully luxurious in here. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t go into too much detail regarding Inscription trim, but as noted before its feature set is much the same as with the R-Design other than the latter model’s sportier theme getting replaced by a unique chromed waterfall grille and ritzier chrome elements on the outside, whereas the interior is pure class due to beautiful Linear Walnut trim and stunning perforated Fine Nappa leather. Also, take note the Inscription includes ventilated front seats, front passenger seat memory, and more. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The quality of materials and artisanship is as good as this class gets and better than most. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No matter the trim specified, everything comes together within a cabin that’s not only beautifully finished as noted earlier, but also supremely comfortable and ergonomically ideal. Finding the perfect driving position is easy, and that’s a big bonus for me as my shorter torso and longer legs don’t always fit within Volvo’s competitors. The V90 offers ample telescopic steering wheel reach and plenty of rake, while the seat adjustments provide more than enough flexibility for most any body type to find a good position. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The V90’s digital gauge cluster looks great and is highly functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The outboard rear seats are comfortable too, and especially supportive at the lower back while wonderfully sculpted with thick side bolsters similar to those up front, plus the flip-down armrest is wide and filled with pop-out cupholders as well as a handy lidded storage compartment. The large panoramic sunroof overhead offers an open and airy environment, while Volvo also provides real air via an excellent rear ventilation system that includes outlets on the backside of the front centre console plus additional vents on the B-pillars. Lastly, the three-way heatable outboard cushions noted earlier add rear passenger comfort on cold winter mornings. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
That’s one serious bird’s eye view, taken from the V90’s optional surround camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those rear seat heaters will be appreciated when traveling home from a day on the slopes too, and thanks to ultra-useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks they can be put to use while everyone’s skis are placed down the middle. Volvo also finishes the V90’s cargo area off beautifully, with a stylish metal cargo door protection plate that sits above another similar metal guard atop the bumper (this one a $155 option from the accessories catalogue), two of the nicest chromed tie-down hooks available from any luxury manufacturer, high quality yet durable carpeting most everywhere, and lastly a $215 reversible cargo mat from the accessories catalogue. What’s more, V90’s cargo cover is a technological marvel all on its own, automatically moving up and out of the way when the powered liftgate is opened, while below the strut-mounted load floor is a shallow but useful carpeted tray that sits above the compact spare tire and tools. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
With all of the unusual gear selector’s these days, the V90’s elegant yet straightforward lever connecting to an 8-speed auto is refreshing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you’re getting the idea that Volvo goes above and beyond to provide a new level of luxury to its fortunate followers, I’m glad. That’s what I’m trying to convey, and it gets even better when factoring in the driving experience. It starts with the most advanced 2.0-litre engine available today, the Swedish brand’s direct-injected four-cylinder benefiting from turbocharging as well as supercharging in order to make a stellar 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s real V6 power from a fuel-efficient four, the Transport Canada numbers coming in at 10.6 L/100km city, 7.6 highway and 9.3 combined, which is excellent considering the performance available. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
These upgraded R-Design sport seats are superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Aiding the powertrain is an efficient eight-speed automatic with auto start-stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, reducing fuel consumption and emissions, but to just comment on this highly responsive transmission’s wallet and environmentally friendly attributes wouldn’t be doing it full justice, as, together with the aforementioned paddle shifters, it provides engaging hands-on performance that really ups the entire driving experience. 

Improving handling and stability in both dry and slippery conditions is standard all-wheel drive, but my favourite V90 attribute is its incredible ride quality. Together with the previously noted seats, the V90’s cushioning ride is best in class, and that’s even after factoring in my tester’s $1,000 optional 20-inch eight-spoke silver diamond-cut alloys on 255/35 Pirelli P Zero performance rubber. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Now that’s a sunroof! It’s powered too, and makes the cabin feel like a convertible. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My test car didn’t include the $2,350 available Four-C Active Chassis and rear air suspension however, which would have made it even smoother, while upping performance by automatically maintaining a constant ride height. The Four-C system utilizes the standard Drive Mode settings, which include Comfort mode, Eco mode, and Dynamic sport mode, but specifically enhances the suspension calibration of each, while the standard Drive Mode system enhances powertrain and steering characteristics, plus climate control in Eco mode. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Rear seating is roomy and comfortable, with excellent side bolstering and lumbar support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While we’re on the subject of options, my tester also included deep, rich $900 Onyx Black metallic paint on the outside and $750 worth of sensational carbon fibre inlays inside, plus a $2,000 Vision Package featuring auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, and one of the best 360-degree surround parking cameras in the biz; a $1,500 Convenience Package with a compass integrated into the rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, and Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking; a $3,000 Leather package featuring Charcoal leather R-Design seats and a tailored leather dash top and door uppers; a $1,250 Climate package with heated wiper blades, a heatable steering wheel, and those heatable rear outboard seats noted earlier; an outrageously good $3,250 Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system with a 12-channel amplifier, 1400 watts of output and 19 separate speakers including a tweeter on top of the centre speaker that minimizes acoustic reflection from the windshield; and lastly a $1,150 Graphical Heads-Up Display that projects speed, speed limit info, navigation directions and more onto the windshield ahead of the driver, with everything listed pushing my V90 R-Design tester’s list price up to $80,270 before freight and fees. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Need to stow gear? Look no further than the V90’s accommodating cargo compartment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

There were a few other options available, like rear entertainment, dual two-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard seats, and the aforementioned suspension upgrade, but for the most part this is a fully loaded mid-size Volvo sport wagon. 

Getting back to the competition, the V90 truly only really competes with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon being that both are mid-size E-segment vehicles, whereas the others are based on compact D-segment models. So if you happen to appreciate the practicality of a larger five-door body style yet want the low-slung performance of a luxury sport sedan, the V90 is an excellent choice.

Needing a roomy back seat and the convenience of large cargo compartment accessed by a handy rear liftback? Not willing to put up with a boring, run-of-the-mill mid-size crossover SUV? Nissan has the…

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD Road Test

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
The stylish Nissan Murano continues forward into 2018 with new features and updates to trims. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Needing a roomy back seat and the convenience of large cargo compartment accessed by a handy rear liftback? Not willing to put up with a boring, run-of-the-mill mid-size crossover SUV? Nissan has the answer. 

The Murano has long offered a lot more style than its class average, which works perfectly considering how well it balances premium levels of execution with mainstream branded value. While positioned below the Pathfinder when it comes to family hauling and cargo loading capability, the five-seat Murano delivers at a higher level when factoring in styling, refinement and performance. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
The Murano looks good in all of its trims, but it looks best wearing the 20-inch alloys that come standard with the Platinum. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

In fact, the Murano bests plenty of its mid-size rivals when it comes to wow factor, both by its eye-catching design from the outside in, and by its impressive interior materials quality that makes it look and feel more like a luxury branded crossover SUV than it truly has a right to. 

Every time I slide inside a Murano I’m reminded how car companies should do interiors. Truly, this Platinum trimmed version is finished better than some luxury brands’ offerings. Small but much appreciated details include fabric-wrapped and padded A-pillars, padded soft-touch leatherette door uppers front to back, the same rich leather-like synthetic across the front portion of those door panels and the armrests, which are French-stitched as well. The instrument cluster hood and section ahead of the front passenger is finished similarly, which perfectly matches the stitched and padded steering wheel rim, plus the side edges of the lower console. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Check out this awesome interior, the Murano Platinum positively rich. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course the entire dash-top is soft to the touch too, while Nissan applies some wonderfully artistic mother of pearl-style inlays to the instrument panel and door panels, not to mention the lower console surfacing and centre armrest decoration. Granted, this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I’m guessing those who like it love it. Of note to most male readers, Nissan offers a new Murano Midnight Edition that might suit your sporting performance aspirations more thanks to a cool black grille, black side mirror caps, dark alloy wheels, roof rails, roof rails, and a more down to business interior, while there are also more conservative interior motifs in between. Either way, this detail, along with all of the chrome, satin-silver and piano black lacquer accents, provides a true sense of occasion that sets this mid-size crossover SUV apart from the masses, while making all of its occupants feel special. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more luxurious cabin from any competitor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted, my tester was in top-line Platinum trim, which is priced at $44,598, so there were more attributes making its occupants feel pampered than just the style and quality of finishings. Standard Murano Platinum features include unique 20-inch machine-finished alloy wheels, LED headlamps, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, memory settings for the latter as well as the eight-way powered driver’s seat and side mirrors, ventilated front seats, power return rear seatbacks, and more. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Nissan provides a really nice multi-info display within the Murano’s attractive gauge cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other features you can see in the photos get pulled up from lesser $31,498 base S, $37,998 SV and $41,648 SL trims, such as my tester’s heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, perforated leather upholstery, heated front and rear outboard seats, adjustable ambient lighting, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, remote start with Intelligent Climate Control, dual-zone automatic HVAC (which is actually standard), electroluminescent gauge cluster, large 7.0-inch full-colour TFT multi-information display, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (standard too), upgraded Around View parking monitor, navigation (standard as well), great sounding 11-speaker Bose audio system, powered panoramic sunroof, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton start (standard), motion activated powered liftgate, adaptive cruise control, predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking, blindspot warning, rear cross traffic alert with moving object detection, automatic on/off headlights, fog lamps, and much more. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Nissan has really improved the infotainment interface, with higher resolution, better graphics and more intuitive operation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I should probably point out here that automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning were made standard across the entire line for 2018, while other advanced driver assistance systems like adaptive cruise control were made standard on the SL, instead of just being limited to Platinum trim. 

Nissan’s Intelligent all-wheel drive is standard above the base model, and it’s an excellent system that not only improves traction in slippery situations, but also provides handling advantages in the dry, and thanks to its standard 3.5-litre V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque the Murano needs the extra stability AWD provides while traveling at high speeds. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
The Murano’s seats are extremely comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Key to Murano performance is a nicely sorted fully independent suspension, the crossover SUV’s capability around curves a strongpoint since this model first came on the scene back in 2002. Likewise, that model was one of the first SUVs I can remember with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and while Nissan has steadily improved its Xtronic gearbox over the past decade and a half it’s always been a cut above the rest. In fact, thanks to an immediate punch off the line and smoothly stepped gear ratios I think you’ll be hard pressed to notice it’s a CVT at all, yet it still benefits from better fuel economy than a regular automatic transmission, the Murano rated at 11.2 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 9.9 combined in AWD guise, or 8.3, 11.0 and 9.8 respectively with its base FWD powertrain. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
This large panoramic sunroof makes for a more open and airier cabin. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve got to say Murano ride quality is particularly impressive, made even better thanks to the incredibly comfortable NASA-inspired “zero gravity” seats. The Murano is spacious too, especially from side-to-side, making those seats ideal for larger folk. The only complaint I can think of is two-way lumbar adjustment instead of four, but such is the same for some similarly sized premium-branded SUVs, so we can overlook this faux pas. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Murano rear seat roominess and comfort is excellent. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The rear seats are sizeable too. With the driver’s seat positioned for my five-foot-eight frame I had about 10 inches remaining ahead of my knees when seated in back, and almost enough space on the floor to stretch out my legs. My feet went underneath the front seat nicely too, even when wearing winter boots, while I also had about four inches above my head and about five next to my shoulder and hip. Additionally, a tug on a mesh loop lets you recline the rear seatbacks for greater comfort, while Nissan provides a decent sized folding centre armrest as well, complete with two integrated cupholders. If you need to transport three abreast it won’t be a problem either, just flip that armrest up and your rear passengers can enjoy this SUV’s generous width. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Don’t let the Murano’s sleek styling fool you, it’s really spacious inside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The cargo compartment is roomy for the class too, and nicely finished with carpeting on the floor, seatbacks and sidewalls, its attention to detail once again unusually impressive for the mainstream sector. What’s more, levers on each cargo wall automatically fold the rear seatbacks flat when pulled, while a button powers them back up again. I like this system better than fully powered seats, because they hardly take any time at all to fold flat. 

Features like these make the Murano easy to live with, while its updated electronics and beautifully designed and finished interior keep it modern and inviting. The driving experience continues to be a high point, ideally combining comfort and control into a highly substantive SUV that rises above most of its peers, the Murano coming across as extremely well made and solid feeling. I can easily recommend the Murano to anyone in the mid-size five-person SUV market.

The Porsche 718 series started life as the Boxster way back in early 1996, the first of which arrived at the Geneva auto salon in March before going on sale as a 1997 model later that year. The Cayman…

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster Buyer’s Guide Overview

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
Porsche has returned with its sportiest GTS for 2018, wholly improving 718 Boxster S and 718 Cayman S style and performance. (Photo: Porsche)

The Porsche 718 series started life as the Boxster way back in early 1996, the first of which arrived at the Geneva auto salon in March before going on sale as a 1997 model later that year. The Cayman came much later, showing up in 2005 as a 2006 model along with the second-generation Boxster. 

Fast forward to 2016, which saw Porsche add the 718 prefix in honour of the classic 1957-1962 racing car of the same name for the completely redesigned 2017 model, and along with the new moniker and much improved styling the Zuffenhausen brand’s engineering team replaced an outgoing line of naturally aspirated flat sixes for a new lighter weight, more potent and more efficient horizontally opposed turbocharged four-cylinder. 

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS
The 718 Cayman, whether in base, S or GTS trim (shown), is basically a Boxster with a fixed roof. (Photo: Porsche)

The updated 718 models use a 2.0-litre turbo for base trims, good for a robust 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque and resultant 5.1-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h with its standard six-speed manual, or 4.9 seconds to 100km/h with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission, finalizing in a top speed of 275 km/h. When fitted with the automatic, both base cars offer an available Sport Chrono Package that reduces zero to 100km/h times to just 4.7 seconds. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
GTS trim combines a red on black theme with plenty of leather and rich suede-like Alcantara. (Photo: Porsche)

Even the entry-level 718 is a formidable sports car thanks its reasonably small 4,379 mm by 1,801 mm dimensions, hardly heavy 1,335 kilos of unladen weight, ideally balanced mid-engine layout, quick reacting electromechanical power steering with variable steering ratio, well sorted MacPherson strut front and long-short arm multi-link rear suspension setup, standard Porsche Active Suspension Management, capable 330-mm front and 299-mm rear internally vented and cross-drilled rotors clamped down on by four-piston calipers, enhanced Porsche Stability Management featuring ABS, ASR, ABD, and an MSR pre-filling brake system with brake assist, plus amply sized 18-inch standard alloys on 235/45 and 265/45 ZR rated rubber front to rear. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
Porsche gives the GTS tachometer dial a sporty red spin. (Photo: Porsche)

Those wanting more performance can opt for the 718 Boxster S or 718 Cayman S, which ups engine displacement to 2.5-litres and bumps output to 350 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a new zero to 100km/h sprint time of 4.6 seconds with the manual, 4.4 seconds with the automated PDK, and 4.2 seconds with the latter transmission and Sport Chrono Package, while terminal velocity gets pushed up to 285 km/h. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
718 Boxster GTS gets unique sport seats with the trim level embroidered into the headrests. (Photo: Porsche)

This was the car Porsche introduced for 2017, and for the most part it’s still the same model being offered for the 2018 model year. Then again, Porsche never stands still. For 2018 the GTS trim line has been added back to the lineup, upping straight-line performance with an extra 15 horsepower over the 718 S for a total of 365 ponies, which is 35 horsepower more than the previous Boxster and Cayman GTS line. Likewise, torque is up by 8 lb-ft to 317, but only when mated to the PDK. The off-the-line result is the same 4.6 seconds from standstill to 100km/h for the manual, but the GTS PDK sprints to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds, and a mere 4.1 seconds when upgraded with the Sport Chrono package, whereas the GTS model’s top-speed is 290 km/h no matter the modifications. 

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman S
The 718 Cayman S provides similar performance to the GTS, with slightly more understated styling. (Photo: Porsche)

Along with the extra go-power the new 718 Boxster GTS and 718 Cayman GTS get a number of features from the lesser models’ options menu as standard equipment, including a mechanical-locking rear differential, Porsche Torque Vectoring, a 10-mm lower sport suspension system with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), and 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/35 front and 265/35 rear ZR-rated rubber. Additionally, 718 GTS models feature unique black exterior trim, a red on black interior theme with suede-like Alcantara trim, and more unique styling. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster S
Can you see yourself behind the wheel of a new 718 Boxster? (Photo: Porsche)

As you might imagine the GTS isn’t the most fuel-efficient 718 on the block, but at 12.3 L/100km in the city, 9.4 on the highway and 11.0 combined for the manual, or 11.8, 9.2 and 10.6 respectively for the PDK, it’s hardly a gas-guzzler either. The base model is the thriftiest with a claimed Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 11.0 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.8 combined when mated to the manual, or 10.5 city, 8.0 highway and 9.4 combined for the PDK, whereas 718 S models bridge the gap with a rating of 12.1 city, 9.0 highway and 10.7 combined with the manual, or 11.0, 8.4 and 9.9 respectively with the PDK. Aiding fuel economy is standard auto start/stop that temporarily shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, and then automatically restarts it when ready to go. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster
This is the base 718 Boxster. Sporty enough for you? (Photo: Porsche)

As is the case with most brands and model lineups the two-door coupe 718 Cayman is the more affordable of the two, starting at just $63,700 plus freight and fees (see CarCostCanada.com for all 718 Cayman pricing, plus dealer invoice pricing and money-saving rebate info), while a 718 Boxster (click this CarCostCanada.com link for 2018 718 Boxster pricing in detail) can be had for only $66,100. The PDK adds $3,660 no matter the trim. After that the 718 Cayman S starts at $78,600 and 718 Boxster S at $81,000, while a 718 Cayman GTS can be had for $92,600 and 718 Boxster GTS for $95,000. 

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman
The base 718 Cayman offers a lot of sports car value for the asking price. (Photo: Porsche)

As with all Porsche models even the base 718 comes well equipped with features like a three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel (inspired by the 918 Spyder supercar), a 4.6-inch high-resolution colour TFT multi-info display, a state-of-the-art infotainment touchscreen and interface with stylish graphics, a backup camera with active guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, eight-speaker 150-watt audio, sport seats with partial leather upholstery, an electromechanical parking brake, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a deep and roomy 150-litre cargo compartment up front and an even larger 275-litre trunk in the back, plus much more. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
No matter the trim, the new 718 models provide exceptionally well made interiors with the latest in infotainment, including Apple CarPlay. (Photo: Porsche)

Above this, Porsche offers HID headlights with dynamic cornering capability for better nighttime visibility, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, heatable seats, dual-zone auto climate control, navigation, 14-way powered sport seats with memory, and much, much more, plus you can personalize your 718 with one of 21 unique interiors, and that doesn’t include your ability to pick and choose through various inlay trims. Porsche offers four different types of seats, and four Premium packages, with the list of extras seeming to go on infinitum. 

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman
Porsche offers more colour and materials options than most rivals, allowing you to completely personalize your 718. (Photo: Porsche)

The biggest question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you’re a coupe or convertible person, because each 718 body type has its advantages. The 718 Boxster can lower its roof and allow true wind-in-the-hair freedom, whereas the 718 Cayman provides a slightly more rigid body structure for some minor performance gains. 

Either way you’ll get brilliantly sharp handling, nearly perfect balance and handling characteristics, superb ergonomics, excellent comfort, and plenty of practical storage. If Porsche didn’t already build the 911, the 718 might be the ideal sports car, and considering its mid-engine performance and exceptional value proposition that point could still be reasonably argued.

Consider the history of Audi here in North America. The four-ringed brand from Ingolstadt, Germany toiled in the shadows during its nascent years in the North American markets, with solid but relatively…

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro Preview

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
Audi will soon hit the market with an all-electric plug-in EV dubbed e-tron, and it promises to hit Tesla right where it hurts. (Photo: Audi)

Consider the history of Audi here in North America. The four-ringed brand from Ingolstadt, Germany toiled in the shadows during its nascent years in the North American markets, with solid but relatively unknown models like the Audi 100 LS, Fox, and 5000. It was the 5000, totally redesigned in its third generation as an aerodynamic sedan that really began a sales trend for Audi. The 5000 was large, safe and technologically advanced. After all, the motto for the company for quite some time has been Vorsprung durch Technik (Progress through Technology), and the 5000 was technologically ahead of its time. 

And then a bad thing happened.

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
Stylish from all angles, the new e-tron builds on Audi’s current angular design language with a few unique elements of its own. (Photo: Audi)

The long running CBS program 60 Minutes aired a report that Audi 5000 cars were accelerating on their own, and started an “Unintended Acceleration” scare that almost sank the company. Audi was ultimately cleared during this unfortunate hysteria, but the damage had been done, sales tanked, and Audi’s ship slowly began to sink. 

Thankfully, the bright minds at Audi retooled the brand and came out with the A4, A6, luxury A8 and performance S Car variants, and the sales numbers started to climb again. 

For over 40 years, Audi has also enjoyed special success on many race circuits around the world, with the legendary quattro all-wheel drive system proving its mettle in Rally Racing, Hill Climb events like Pikes Peak, and endurance events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
The “e-tron” logos at the side “engine vent” position light up when underway, while those side mirrors are actually rearview cameras. (Photo: Audi)

At Le Mans, Audi regularly enjoyed trips to victory lane with the gasoline powered R8, V8 twin turbo and R10 turbodiesel twelve cylinder supercars. The R10 produced 590 hp and 774 lb-ft of torque and was legendary; winning every race at Le Mans it was entered in. And then along came Peugeot, winning in 2009 with their 908 HDi twelve cylinder turbo-diesel endurance racers that had more power and torque than Audi’s offerings 730hp/890 lb-ft torque). But Audi would have no part of this short lived dominance by Peugeot, responding with the V10 powered R15, and the winning ways continued, placing first, second and third in 2010 in the vaunted LMP1 group. I was there that year as a guest of Audi, and it was a special experience for me personally and for the company worldwide. Audi’s endurance race efforts eventually used V6 “e-tron” hybrid power, and the renamed R18 continued to dominate in endurance racing. Smartly, Audi’s technology on the racetrack was used to develop stout powerplants, particularly diesels, and other hi-tech for consumer Audis. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
A different viewpoint of the side badging and rearview camera system. (Photo: Audi)

Audi’s success with the diesels spread like wildfire, with domestic sales of turbodiesel cars booming with Audi’s parent Volkswagen Group. Yes, VW, Audi and Porsche all shared in the success of the extremely fun to drive and super efficient TDI powerplants. 

And then the bottom fell out for Audi again, and for the VW Group as a whole, as the Group was accused of and admitted to goosing software to make their TDI cars and SUVs appear to be cleaner in Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act testing.  After paying record fines and buying back many beloved TDI vehicles from owners, like the Audi Q7 TDI, the VW Group abandoned the diesel business here in the North America. Before the scandal, diesels represented 25 percent of all VW sales in the U.S. and an even greater number in Canada, plus a significant percentage of Audi sales. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
The new 2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro motors onto the stage during the San Francisco e-tron launch event. (Photo: Brian Armstead, Canadian Auto Press)

Whether the Group eventually returns to TDI power in the future remains to be seen, but one thing is sure, Audi won’t be part of the equation. Why? Because the marque has chosen to stake its future on an entirely electrified lineup of cars and SUVs.  By 2025, every Audi will have some form of electrification. 

Ambitious? Certainly. But other luxury manufacturers like Volvo have made similar proclamations. 

At its shareholders meeting earlier this year, Audi’s future strategy was laid out, as the brand plans to sell 800,000 electrified cars in 2025 between 20 different electric models. Audi says that most will be fully electric, with the remainder being plug-in hybrids. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
The e-tron’s interior doesn’t make any radical deviations from any of today’s production Audis, other than the sideview camera system. (Photo: Audi)

According to an official statement by Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management for Audi AG, “Our ambition has always been and will continue to be Vorsprung durch Technik. Our goal is to revolutionize mobility. Also in electric mobility, we want to become the Number 1 among the premium manufacturers – with full suitability for everyday use, no compromises, top quality and driving pleasure for the customer. With our technological excellence, we are utilizing our Vorsprung and lifting electric mobility to the next level.” 

Smart? I certainly think so, as Audi can carve out a large chunk of the luxury electric car business, and produce cars and SUVs in a way that electric car innovator Tesla simply can’t. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
No one should be disappointed with the e-tron’s interior design or execution. (Photo: Audi)

Recently, more than 2,500 Audi dealers and customers and a throng of auto writers from traditional and social media platforms joined Audi in San Francisco for the spectacular e-tron World Debut. 

With the glamour and glitz of a Hollywood production, e-tron rolled into a packed warehouse on San Francisco Bay and “charged” the audience with the same type of hype and emotion of Mayweather/McGregor at the MGM in Vegas. One could say the match was Electric v. Gasoline, and it was quite a show. When the epic event was over and we got a chance to see e-tron up close, Audi’s motto rose from whatever ashes the diesel debacle left behind, as Vorsprung durch Technik is reborn with e-tron.

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
The front compartment looks roomy and the seats appear comfortable. (Photo: Audi)

So what is e-tron? It’s a sport-ute styled like the Q5 and Q7 that will probably feature the brand’s usual trio of Komfort, Progressiv and Technik trim levels when details become known. In the U.S., where trims and pricing were announced as part of the San Francisco event, it comes in base Premium Plus trim starting at $74,800 USD, Prestige trim at $81,800 USD, and as the limited (999 units) “Edition One” starting at $86,700 USD. Premium Plus includes a 9.6kW AC home charger, Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, Audi “phone box” wireless charger and signal booster, heated and ventilated leather seats, panoramic sunroof and integrated toll module. 

Prestige includes all Premium Plus gear plus a head-up display, driver assistance package, adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, intersection assistant, Audi pre sense 360, traffic sign recognition, power soft close doors, rear window sunshades, dual pane acoustic windows, contour seats with massage, Valcona leather and an air quality package with an ionizer. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
Audi is already putting a comprehensive charging infrastructure into place to support its e-tron customers. (Photo: Audi)

While all trim levels are well contented, Edition One differentiates itself from other trims mostly through unique body and interior trim, and special paint and wheels. 

One super high tech feature Audi hopes will be standard equipment on the e-tron 55 quattro is side cameras to replace traditional sideview mirrors. At a display I visited prior to the world debut called Audi Tech Park, all of e-tron’s super cool hardware was on exhibit, including the impressive high-definition sideview cameras. Audi is awaiting U.S. Government safety approval of this exciting new feature, and we assume they’re focusing similar lobbying on the Canadian government. 

The e-tron 55 quattro will join the A3 Sportback e-tron hybrid (on sale now) in Audi’s whirlwind march toward the model total expected in 2025. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
The e-tron can be plugged into the majority of charging systems. (Photo: Audi)

The e-tron 55 features seating for five adults, quattro electric all-wheel drive (one motor at each wheel), air suspension, and a towing capacity of 1,800 kg (4,000 pounds). 

The two electric motors accelerate the e-tron from 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph). 

The Audi e-tron uses an innovative recuperation system encompassing both electric motors, to boost efficiency. With its estimated range of more than 400 km (250 miles), expect as much as 30 percent of the e-tron’s range to come from recovered energy, depending on the conditions, terrain and driving style. The e-tron can recover energy in two ways: by means of coasting recuperation when the driver releases the accelerator, or by means of braking recuperation by depressing the brake pedal. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
The e-tron’s battery design is ultra-complex. (Photo: Brian Armstead, Canadian Auto Press)

The battery system in the Audi e-tron is located beneath the cabin and comprises a total of 36 cell modules in square aluminum housings, each of which is roughly the size of a shoebox. 

A cooling system of flat aluminum extruded sections divided uniformly into small chambers has the task of maintaining the battery’s high-performance operation over the long term. Heat is exchanged between the cells and the cooling system beneath them via a thermally conductive gel pressed beneath each cell module. A special cooling lance provides additional heat reduction to power motors. 

A strong surround frame and lattice-type aluminum structure that holds the cell modules is designed to protect the battery block. A substantial aluminum plate provides protection against damage from flying stones or curbs. These measures demonstrate how Audi’s engineers have developed the battery and cooling systems with safety in mind. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
e-tron recharging partially takes place while you drive. (Photo: Audi)

For customers’ residential charging needs, a standard 9.6 kW AC capsule charger (Level 2, 240-volt/40 amps) is provided and designed to deliver a full charge overnight.

Audi e-tron buyers will also have the opportunity to experience the first-ever home charging collaboration between online retail giant Amazon and an automaker. “Audi Home Charging powered by Amazon Home Services” will offer e-tron buyers a fully-digital experience for in-home electric vehicle charging installations, designed to make the process of home charging set up as easy as ordering home charging with installation from Amazon. 

E-tron buyers can also define their own personal priorities, such as charging when electricity is less expensive where available. With the myAudi app, owners can plan, control, and monitor e-tron charging and pre-heating/cooling. Owners can set a departure time, for example, so that the Audi e-tron is charged and/or heated/cooled at the desired time. They can even choose to heat or cool certain zones in the car. On cold winter days, for example, owners can turn on optional seat heating. The app also displays charging and driving data. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
Audi has staked its claim in the FIA-sanctioned Formula E series. (Photo: Audi)

For charging on the go in the U.S., the e-tron will be supported by a nationwide charging network, “Powered by Electrify America.” By July 2019, this network will include nearly 500 fast-charging sites complete or under development throughout 40 states and 17 metro areas. Offering advanced charging, Electrify America’s chargers are capable of delivering up to 350kW. With the purchase of the e-tron, customers will receive 1,000 kWh of charging at Electrify America sites over four years of ownership. According to reports nothing similar has been finalized for Canadian customers, but sources within Audi Canada believe a similar deal may be offered. 

Take years of German engineering and production know how, and Audi’s capacity to produce e-tron on a large scale looks better than Tesla’s struggling efforts to meet consumer demand long before the first e-tron hits the street in Q2 of 2019. 

2019 Audi e-tron E55 Quattro
Tesla had better get ready, because Audi is on the move. (Photo: Brian Armstead, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, Audi left internal combustion engine powered endurance racing, and now competes and wins in the all-electric “Formula E” racing series with the e-tron FE04. Successes with technology in Formula E will certainly trickle down to Audi consumer electric vehicles, in the same way Le Mans successes helped spur their once strong diesel sales. 

The 2019 Audi e-tron 55 quattro seems to have covered all of the bases that make it a safe, well equipped option for luxury electric car buyers. Watch out Tesla. The competition now is real. 

Ready to get yours? Visit audi.ca and place a $1,000 fully refundable deposit. 

And while you’re waiting for your car to arrive, check out these great e-tron e55 quattro videos provided by Audi:

 

Electrified: the world premiere of the Audi e-tron (3:13):  

 

May we present: the all-new Audi e-tron (4:00):  

 

A new era of electric mobility: the first fully electric Audi e-tron (2:10):  

 

Audi e-tron: Electric has gone quattro (0:15):  

If you want the sportiest compact luxury SUV on the market, look no further than the 2018 Porsche Macan. Its quick in all of its trims, blisteringly fast in some, and handles like you’d expect from…

2018 Porsche Macan Buyer’s Guide Overview

2018 Porsche Macan
The 2018 Porsche Macan is arguably the sportiest entry in the compact luxury SUV class. (Photo: Porsche)

If you want the sportiest compact luxury SUV on the market, look no further than the 2018 Porsche Macan. Its quick in all of its trims, blisteringly fast in some, and handles like you’d expect from the quintessential sports car brand—brilliantly. It’s also stylishly sleek, roomy and comfortable, and beautifully finished inside. 

At just $54,100, the Macan is also the most affordable Porsche model available in Canada. Entry trims feature a spirited direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with VarioCam technology and kinetic energy recovery that’s good for 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, the latter number more than most competitors have on offer. This allows an energetic sprint from zero to 100km/h of just 6.7 seconds, or 6.5 with the $1,500 Sport Chrono Package that features Sport and Off-Road buttons within the drive mode selector, as well as launch control and a unique performance display within the infotainment touchscreen. No matter whether the base Macan is standard or equipped with the Sport Chrono Package, it tops out at a speedy 229 km/h. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The Macan pulls plenty of styling cues from other Porsche sports car models, giving it a unique identity within the compact luxury SUV segment. (Photo: Porsche)

Those wanting more straight-line performance can opt for the Macan S with its twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 boasting 340 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, this choice resulting in a standstill to 100km/h sprint time of just 5.4 seconds, or 5.2 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, and a new top speed of 254 km/h. 

Most brands would be satisfied with this impressive level of performance, but most brands aren’t Porsche. Enter the Macan GTS, featuring an extra 20 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque for a total of 360 of the former and 369 of the latter, resulting in a zero to 100km/h time of just 5.2 seconds, or 5.0 seconds flat with the Sport Chrono Package, and an improved terminal velocity of 256 km/h. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The Macan is quite capable off road too. (Photo: Porsche)

Lastly, the Macan Turbo (Turbo being a designated model name despite all Macan trims featuring turbocharged engines) leaves all other compact luxury SUVs in the proverbial dust thanks to a larger 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 that’s good for 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a zero to 100km/h launch time of 4.8 seconds, or 4.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, plus an even faster top speed of 266 km/h. 

Not quick enough? Porsche being Porsche means that you can always count on some upgrades and special editions, the Performance Package, or alternatively the Exclusive Performance Edition adding a substantive 40 horsepower and 36 lb-ft of torque to Turbo trim for a new total of 440 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, and a resultant response off the line of just 4.4 seconds to 100km/h—the Sport Chrono Package is standard with both. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Classic Porsche gauges are joined by a modern multi-information display within the rightmost dial. (Photo: Porsche)

All Macans come standard with a quick shifting yet smooth and refined seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters plus fuel-saving and emissions reducing auto start/stop with coasting capability that shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling, while Active all-wheel drive keeps all four wheels firmly planted on the tarmac. 

Likewise, all Macan trims feature an aluminum double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear setup, although an optional air suspension with adaptive dampers (standard on the GTS) improves both ride, handling and off-road capability via adjustable ride heights and various suspension stiffness settings. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Porsche’s angled centre console puts most everything right at hand, while Apple CarPlay is incorporated within the infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Porsche)

Wheel sizes range from the base model’s 18-inch alloys to larger diameter 19- and 20-inch alloys with upper trims, while optional rims and rubber are available up to 21 inches. The standard brakes include four-piston front calipers and single units at the rear, but these can be upgraded to larger discs with beefier six-piston calipers up front, while the standard rotors measure 345 mm at the front and 330 mm in back, and increase to 360 mm front and 356 mm at the rear in GTS and Turbo trims. 

Of course, the four-cylinder is the fuel miser of the bunch, with a Transport Canada claimed rating of 11.6 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 10.5 combined, but the single-turbo V6 is hardly a guzzler at 13.7 L/100km city, 10.4 highway and 12.2 combined, and the slightly more powerful GTS good for an estimated 13.8 city, 10.3 highway and 12.3 combined. Even the ultra-potent Turbo isn’t punishing at the pumps, with a rating of 14.2 L/100km city, 10.1 highway and 12.4 combined, while the most powerful Turbo with the Performance Package is actually thriftier than the Turbo at just 14.1 L/100km in the city, 10.1 on the highway, and 12.3 combined. 

2018 Porsche Macan
If the regular clock atop the dash is replaced by this chronograph dial, you’re sitting in a Sport Chrono Package upgraded Macan. (Photo: Porsche)

Of course, the various trims’ mechanicals are only one aspect of all that’s on offer, with the base model also featuring standard 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, LED taillights with adaptive brake lights, heatable powered side-mirrors, an electromechanical parking brake, a heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a colour multi-information display, rain-sensing wipers, a HomeLink garage door opener, tri-zone auto climate control with active carbon and pollen filtration, a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, eight-speaker 150-watt audio with digital signal processing, a single CD/DVD drive, dual SD card slots, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, an AUX/USB/iPod interface, HD and satellite radio, a backup camera with active guidelines, front and rear parking sensors, eight-way powered and heated front seats, a powered liftgate, a removable cargo cover, optimally flexible 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks expanding a 500-litre (17.6 cubic-foot) cargo hold up to 1,500 litres (53.0 cubic feet), tire pressure monitoring, lane departure warning, all the usual active and passive safety features including rear side-impact airbags, and more. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Porsche offers a bevy of interior materials, all high in quality, with this Turbo model fitted with more suede-like Alcantara than most. (Photo: Porsche)

Above the base model, Porsche offers very well equipped $68,100 Sport Edition trim that adds a host of performance upgrades including Porsche Traction Management (PTM) with an electronic, map-controlled multi-plate clutch for the AWD system, a sport exhaust system featuring specially designed silver tailpipes, the Sport Chrono Package, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) via an air suspension with self-leveling and ride-height adjustments that include a reduction in height of 10 mm, and larger 20-inch RS Spyder Design alloys with full colour Porsche crest wheel centres, while additional features include unique exterior styling, HID headlamps with four-point signature LEDs and dynamic cornering capability, auto-dimming side mirrors, glove compartment cooling, a panoramic sunroof, Porsche Connect Plus including Apple CarPlay, a telephone module, wireless internet access, and Porsche Car Connect services, a 14-speaker, 14-channel, 665-watt Bose Surround audio upgrade, leatherette and Alcantara upholstery, heated rear outboard seats, an aluminum cargo area sill protection plate, and more. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Fast and luxurious for sure, but don’t think you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The Macan is wonderfully practical for rear passengers and cargo alike. (Photo: Porsche)

The Macan S is actually considerably less expensive than the Sport Edition at just $61,400, because it builds on the base model’s standard features simply by upping performance via the aforementioned 340 horsepower V6. 

The GTS, priced at $76,000, adds power to the Macan S package as noted earlier, plus benefits from a beefier set of brakes from the top-tier Turbo line with red painted calipers, while adding the option of carbon-ceramic discs. The GTS also gets a unique SportDesign package with blacked out styling details, the aforementioned HID headlamps, which include the larger 20-inch alloys noted earlier, plus a special red on black interior design including leather and Alcantara upholstery with red embroidered GTS logos, unique black-faced primary instruments with GTS graphics, and more. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The Turbo is the fastest in the Macan line as well as the entire compact luxury SUV class, but Porsche offers plenty of engine options to choose from. (Photo: Porsche)

The Macan Turbo model lineup starts at $87,200 and includes the previously noted performance upgrades as well as more aggressive front and rear fascias, standard HID headlamps, 19-inch alloys framing the larger brakes mentioned earlier, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), power-folding side mirrors, while inside it gets aluminum front door sill guards with “Macan turbo” script, upgraded materials including brushed aluminum inlays, a leather package featuring smooth-finish leather upholstery, 18-way adaptive front sport seats with memory, an Alcantara roofliner, navigation, the Bose surround audio system, and more. 

Lastly, the Macan Turbo with the Performance Package, which starts at $99,000, adds the previously noted power upgrades as well as the Sport Chrono package, quicker-shifting transmission settings, the 10-mm lowered air suspension, a sports exhaust system, and more. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The open road calls… (Photo: Porsche)

Of course, no matter the trim level Porsche offers a long list of options and packages, which, depending on the model in question, allows standard white or black exterior paints, along with a wide assortment of optional colours ranging in price from $790 for metallics to $7,440 for custom bespoke hues, plus you also get the choice of up to 16 different interior colourways. 

Likewise, one of three seat types can be ordered, 14- and 18-way adjustability, while ventilated front seats are also available. Additionally, performance options can include adaptive power steering, an active suspension, an active air suspension, torque vectoring, a sport exhaust, and the list goes on, while available advanced driver assistance systems include adaptive cruise control, plus lane change and lane keeping assist. 

Additional options can include full LED headlights, roof rails, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton start, piano black lacquer, hardwood or carbon-fibre interior inlays, a surround parking monitor, a 16-speaker, 1,000-watt Burmester audio system, one of two different rear entertainment systems, and much more. 

In summary, the 2018 Macan is a no-compromise compact luxury SUV that’s capable of serving all types of premium buyers with various levels of performance and features. Its diverse powertrain lineup starts quick and efficient before finalizing as fastest in the class, while its suspension sublimely delivers a comfortable ride and otherworldly handling. Such performance combines ideally with a cabin made from high quality materials, resulting in a compact SUV that’s impressive in most every way, while Porsche didn’t forget to design the Macan from onset to be as everyday practical as this class gets.

So here it is, the first application of Acura’s new Diamond Pentagon grille on a vehicle that was designed to incorporate it from the ground up.  Together with a more fluidly shaped set of Jewel-Eye…

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite Road Test

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Without question, the 2019 Acura RDX is one of the most competitive entries in today’s compact luxury SUV segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So here it is, the first application of Acura’s new Diamond Pentagon grille on a vehicle that was designed to incorporate it from the ground up. 

Together with a more fluidly shaped set of Jewel-Eye LED headlamps to each side and a more progressive front fascia down below, not to mention plenty of chrome thanks to my tester’s top-line Platinum Elite trim, the new 2019 RDX is one eye-catching luxury SUV. 

The sharp creases and shapely folds continue down each side of the redesigned model, providing a wedge-like profile and muscular, sporty stance, while the roofline up top culminates into now popular floating D-pillars above an attractive set of pointed LED taillights. Again, the new RDX design is pleasing from front to back. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The new RDX has sporty, attractive styling from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those who found the previous RDX a bit too budget-oriented when compared to some of its peers should welcome the new interior as well, as it’s really hard to fault it on styling or materials quality. The top half of the cabin is primarily composed of high-end, soft-touch synthetics, contrast-stitched padded leathers, and real hardwood inlays on the upper edges of the dash top, flowing into the door panels, and extending across the mid portion of the instrument panel, plus the lower console as part of a scrolling lid that accesses the cupholders and large cell phone bin/USB charger below. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Just like with the outgoing RDX, Acura’s trademark Jewel-Eye LED headlamps come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Acura has done a great job with metal accents too, tastefully detailing the steering wheel, column stalks, gauges, vents, centre stack, door handles, power seat controls, and overhead console, and then stepping things up another notch by trimming the handle on that aforementioned centre bin lid and the ELS Studio 3D speaker grilles with an even nicer grade and finish of aluminum. Impressive. 

A large infotainment display with superb definition, clarity and depth of colour is now perched atop the dash, providing easy visibility from a quick glance, while other functions can be sourced from a sizeable multi-information display within the otherwise analogue gauge cluster. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Nineteen-inch alloys come standard, but the top-line Platinum Elite gets unique 19s plus more chrome detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also notable, the centre stack actually floats above a large open compartment featuring a rubberized base for holding personal devices that can be conveniently plugged into a USB charge point, an auxiliary plug or a 12-volt power outlet. 

The sides of that floating centre console’s upper portion are finished in padded leatherette with nice contrast stitching that continues all the way back to the centre armrest/bin lid cover, and some of that soft-touch material wraps over to the edge of the steering wheel column where the engine ignition button sits, as well as to the right side to the glove box lid. You’ll be hard pressed to find as high a level of luxury finishings amongst RDX competitors. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
A massive panoramic sunroof comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Common in this class, however, the lower door panels are made from harder plastic, as is most of the lower dash and lower console. Nevertheless, the RDX is finally in the same league as its compact luxury SUV peers when it comes to interior fit, finish, refinement and features, which means it can now command the higher price point this Elite Platinum trim requests. 

My top-line tester is available from $57,160, my example actually priced at $57,660 due to White Diamond Pearl paint. That’s $2,770 into MDX territory, but as noted the RDX is more than ready to do battle with the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, et al, and feels like a much more complete package than the Lexus NX and some others in the class, with better switchgear refinement and a more solid, substantive feel all-round. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The standard LED taillights have some ice detailing inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RDX is a lot sportier than I expected too. Initially factoring in a displacement drop from 3.5 to 2.0 litres and the elimination of two cylinders, from six to four, straight-line performance was a pleasant surprise. In fact, the new RDX feels even quicker off the line than the old model and is now one of the sportier SUVs in its segment. Along with 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which is a generational bump of 7 horsepower and 28 lb-ft, the engine also makes wonderful noises, its soundtrack just enhancing the experience enough to excite without overwhelming conversations within. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Get ready for the best RDX interior ever offered. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new 10-speed automatic, a significant two forward speeds more advanced than most premium challengers, allows the engine to rev up to its maximum between shifts, and swapping cogs via the steering wheel paddles happens instantaneously when in Sport or Sport Plus modes. It’s wonderfully smooth too, especially in its Normal default mode, this new engine/gearbox combination delivering one of the best refinement/performance compromises in this class. 

Choosing driving modes is accomplished by rotating a massive knob placed square in the middle of the centre stack (more on this in a moment), while Acura has also made its class-exclusive button/rocker switch-actuated gear selector standard across the RDX line. It’s slightly different than the one used for the MDX, for instance, but it didn’t take long for me to acclimatize. My advice to those taking the new RDX out for a test drive is, be patient and give it time. You’ll get used to it and might even like it more than a shift lever after settling in, while you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty futuristic looking human-machine interface. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The RDX provides a comfortable, ergonomically intelligent, high-quality driving environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RDX has always been a strong performer, but this new model feels lighter up front and more responsive around fast-paced corners than its predecessor, with easy, reactive turn-in and rock-steady grip when snaking through circuitous backroads. Acura’s highly touted torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is standard, and as with the previous model provides excellent all-weather control, while braking is linear and fully up to the task of scrubbing off speed quickly with confidence, all adding up to a new RDX that once again feels more capable than the outgoing one, as well as many of its peers. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
A fully configurable TFT gauge cluster would seem more appropriate in a brand new model, but the colour MID is large and full of features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With a much smaller displacement, more advanced engine and four additional forward gears it only makes sense that RDX emissions and fuel economy have made gains too, the latter rated at 11.0 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.9 combined for all trims other than the sporty new A-Spec that gets an estimated 11.3, 9.1 and 10.3 respectively, these numbers comparing favourably against last year’s claimed fuel economy rating of 12.4 city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined. New idle stop-start, which automatically shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be idling and then immediately reboots it when ready to go, does its part in reaching the improved consumption figures, while making a big difference in reducing emissions. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The standard display is excellent and feature filled, while the mapping in the navigation system is wonderfully detailed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While its mix of performance and economy certainly gives the RDX an edge over the majority of entry-level luxury rivals, Acura hasn’t forgotten that comfort is king in the luxury SUV class. Therefore, along with all the aforementioned high-end detailing and impressive assortment of premium equipment, the redesigned model is even larger and roomier than the SUV it replaces, which was already quite generous. Specifically, the 2019 RDX is 78 mm (3.1 inches) longer than the old one, with a 65-mm (2.5-inch) increase in wheelbase that makes a significant difference to rear seat roominess, while it’s also 46 mm (1.8 inches) wider for added shoulder and hip space, and 31 mm (1.2 inches) taller, improving headroom. Despite its increased dimensions it has only gained 86 kilos (189 lbs) of curb weight, the previously noted performance improvements partially attributed to this. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Choosing Platinum Elite trim means you’ll get this very helpful surround parking camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

When seated in back I could almost completely stretch out my legs with my feet under the front seat, leaving at least eight to 10 inches ahead of my knees, about five inches next to my shoulders, and another three or so between my outside hip and the door panel, while the rear seat is also comfortable. A reasonably sized armrest folds down from centre, exposing two smallish cupholders. Even better, the back padding of the armrest’s alcove is covered in a wonderful soft velvet-like material that does a good job of pampering elbows. Also appreciated, three-way seat heaters warmed rear outboard positions in my top-tier trim, while rear ventilation is good too. Lastly, the rear seating area is finished just as nicely as that up front, with the same high-quality soft-touch door uppers, the same nicely padded leather on the inserts and armrests, identical aluminum speaker grilles, and satin silver finished door pull accents, plus of course the same sumptuous perforated leather upholstery edged out with stylish grey piping and contrast stitching. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The vertically stacked rotating drive mode selector and transmission switchgear takes up a lot of real estate that could otherwise be used for a more convenient infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new SUV’s larger size also makes for more cargo room, with maximum space behind its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks growing by 142 litres (5.0 cubic feet) to 881 litres (31.1 cubic feet), while the new model offers 82 additional litres (2.9 cubic feet) of luggage space when the second-row is folded flat, at 2,260 litres (79.8 cubic feet). 

Acura trims the cargo compartment out with premium carpeting that goes all the way up each sidewall, plus of course the backside of the rear seats, while chrome tie-down hooks bling up each corner. The sturdy load floor is removable, exposing large compartments for additional stowage below. Each side of the cargo wall gets a convenient carryover feature, a release lever for laying 60-, 40-, or 100-percent of the split rear seatbacks flat, and yes when I say flat I mean the load floor is now much better at swallowing up cargo than previously. I was disappointed not to see a centre pass-through, however, necessary for loading longer items like skis when the more comfortable, heated window seats are occupied. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The new True Touchpad Interface works better than Lexus’ Remote Touch Interface, but it’s nowhere near as user-friendly as a regular tablet-style touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Problems? None, but I found the infotainment system’s new True Touchpad Interface a bit disconnected when compared to life with a regular tablet-style touchscreen, like those used for many Honda vehicles. I understand the need for a separate controller when the display is positioned far away from the driver’s reach, but this brings up the question of why it’s so far away, and why Acura chose to fill prime centre stack real estate with the aforementioned massive rotating dial for choosing driving modes. A simple button on the lower console, instrument panel, or better yet the steering wheel, would suffice for driving modes, which would’ve freed space to lower the HVAC interface and pull the infotainment display downward and closer, within easy reach of front occupants. This would have reduced the unnecessary cost of developing such a complex touchpad, which I must say can be a bit tricky to use. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The RDX’ seats are inherently comfortable, and top-line Platinum Elite perforated leather soft and supple. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

First off, not everyone likes track pads. I use one every day with my MacBook Pro so they’re second nature to me, but my partner uses a mouse with her laptop—enough said. On the other side of the argument, most everyone is familiar with touchscreens due to smartphone and tablet use. Despite my familiarity with the latter, I found even simple commands challenging to implement. For instance, the first thing I wanted to do after setting up my smartphone, which worked easily via Acura’s HandsFreeLink wireless connectivity, was listen to a podcast via Bluetooth audio. With forefinger on the touchpad I repeatedly attempted to slide it along and then press downward once it reached the Bluetooth logo, but each time it initiated a different function and would not select Bluetooth. I kept trying and eventually managed to select Bluetooth, but this was not a good start. It reminds me of a problem Lexus experienced with its first-generation joystick-style Remote Touch Interface controller, which caused enough frustration from customers to cause the Japanese brand to install separate pushbuttons to each side of the main controller. Acura may want to consider something similar, as merely pressing downward on the trackpad isn’t a reliable solution. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Rear seat roominess is excellent and comfort superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The large 10.2-inch high-definition display and graphics within are superb, with main functions divided two-thirds to the left and one-third to the right. This, of course, allows more variety of simultaneously displayed features and therefore provides a more customizable setup, with the ability to show navigation mapping, for instance, on the larger or smaller screen, plus the audio interface, or some other feature, opposite. Choosing the map function, with finger on touchpad you can explore all around by swiping in any direction, pinching or spreading two fingers for a closer or wider view, and tapping to execute commands. While it mostly sounds hunky-dory the touchpad is much smaller than the screen and therefore doesn’t allow for much finger movement. Suffice to say it’ll take a little time to get used to. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Rear passengers in Platinum Elite trimmed models get dual USB chargers and three-way heated outboard seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of note, there’s a home button that displays a main screen filled with function links to navigation, phone, AM/FM/HD/satellite radio, Bluetooth audio settings, Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto), Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email functionality, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability, Wi-Fi tethering, AcuraLink Subscription Services, etcetera, and I have to say it works pretty well, other than the system’s aforementioned habit of not keeping its bright orange cursor on a chosen function after releasing one’s finger. You’ve got to be ultra-exact or you’ll miss it, and that’s a lot to ask of someone who should be spending less time concentrating on infotainment and more time focused on the road ahead. My advice to you? Spend time learning how to get the most out of this system while parked in the driveway. Try to be patient and you’ll probably get the hang of it in time. My advice to Acura? Replace the space-depleting drive mode selector knob on the centre stack with a high-quality touchscreen. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
This massive powered panoramic sunroof comes standard on every RDX trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On the positive the gauge cluster looks sharp, the multi-information display (MID) at centre is large at 7.0 inches, very high in resolution with deep, rich contrast, and filled with attractive graphics. Still, I found it odd that the gauge cluster was mostly analogue, for two reasons. First, full TFT gauge clusters are all the rage these days, and some are even included as standard equipment. Secondly, it must be less expensive to make a new digital display from scratch than design, produce and assemble all of the mechanical and digital MID components needed for an analogue cluster these days. 

Other issues? My tester’s powered tailgate made a strange groaning noise when opening and closing, as if it needed some lubricating oil somewhere within, and when giving my RDX a bath I noticed a six-inch long score in the front portion of the panoramic glass sunroof, likely due to rubbing up against something when being opened and closed. It wasn’t very deep, but over time it could become so. It probably just needs adjustment, but nevertheless these are strange teething pains from a brand like Acura that usually comes to market with its products fully sorted. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The cargo area is larger than it used to be, and very well finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

According to CarCostCanada.com, which has the latest in new vehicle pricing, including otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that will help you get the best deal on your next car, truck or SUV, plus everything you need to know about the latest manufacturer discounts and rebates (that your dealer may not tell you about), the 2019 RDX can be had as a well-equipped base model for $46,160 including freight and fees, as well as in $48,660 Tech trim, $48,660 A-Spec, $52,160 Elite and $57,160 Platinum Elite trims. 

Unlike some competitors, I could see plenty of buyers being very happy in the base RDX thanks to features already noted as well as standard automatic high beams for the aforementioned LED headlamps, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, dual-zone auto climate control, a garage door opener, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down and integrated LED turn indicators, 12-way powered front seats including lumbar and four-way headrests, two-position driver’s memory, heated front seats, a panoramic moonroof, a powered tailgate, and much more. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Handy storage bins below the cargo floor are ideal for stowing dirty, oily rags and gloves, or alternatively keeping expensive belongings away from prying eyes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also standard, AcuraWatch includes Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, and Lane Keeping Assist, while all the usual active and passive safety equipment are joined by front knee airbags, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring, all resulting in a best-possible Top Safety Pick+ safety rating from the IIHS. 

Moving up to Tech trim adds Blind Spot Information with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, and traffic sign recognition, plus front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, and a 12-speaker ELS Studio audio system with dual rear USB ports. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Acura carried forward these convenient levers that drop the rear seatbacks down without the need to walk around to the side doors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Like with other Acura models, A-Spec trim provides unique front and rear styling, 20-inch alloys, LED fog lights, power-folding side mirrors, a heatable steering wheel, metal sport pedals, unique Alcantara and leather-trimmed upholstery with contrast stitching and seat piping, ventilated front seats, and a 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D audio system. 

Elite trim actually results in a step back to the 12-speaker audio system and the removal of ventilated front seats and LED fog lamps, but it adds headlamp washers, auto-dimming side mirrors, perimeter/approach puddle lights, perforated leather upholstery, and heated rear outboard seats. 

Lastly, my tester’s Platinum Elite trim adds back the LED fog lamps, ventilated front seats and 16-speaker 3D stereo, while also including adaptive cornering headlights, a colour head-up display, a surround view monitor, a rear camera washer, 16-way powered front seats including lumbar, thigh extensions and side bolsters, genuine Olive Ash hardwood trim, and metal cargo area garnishes. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The rear seatbacks only fold 60/40 with no centre pass-through, but they now lay flat improving load carrying capability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, loaded up with every possible feature the new 2019 RDX can compete head-on with any premium-branded peer, and no matter the trim should once again be seriously considered when also shopping in this hotly contested segment. There are now 14 entries in the compact luxury SUV class, not including four-door coupe variants, which makes it all the more impressive that the RDX has maintained its near top placement. 

As you now know from my criticisms this new RDX is not perfect, but it does most things so very well that it’s easy to look past its idiosyncratic infotainment system and my tester’s few minor problems, which are likely due to being an early production example. In other words, I like it a lot more than I expected to, and can’t help but recommend it highly.

As journalists we get to drive quite a range of vehicles. It is less common be able to drive two variations of a particular model, in this case the 2018 Mazda6, over a couple of weeks. Who could resist,…

2018 Mazda6 Road Test

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
The redesigned 2018 Mazda6 looks great in just-above base GS-L trim. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

As journalists we get to drive quite a range of vehicles. It is less common be able to drive two variations of a particular model, in this case the 2018 Mazda6, over a couple of weeks. Who could resist, especially when the venue was Nova Scotia? Some twisty country roads, superb seafood, cool Atlantic water, and even an occasional dose of Maritime fog, plus enough time to get a really good feel for the cars. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
The Mazda6 looks good from all angles. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

I flew WestJet’s non-stop from Edmonton, which ran through the night and arrived in Halifax before 7:00 am. There, fellow writer Lisa Calvi met me with the first test car, a Mazda6 GS-L, one step above the base GS model. That entry-level version, which retails for $28,920 including freight and PDI (find detailed pricing on each trim level, plus dealer invoice pricing and rebate info at CarCostCanada.com), is already very well equipped, including such goodies as self-levelling LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The GS-L adds leather upholstery, a nice sunroof that is reasonably quiet when open, more electronic driver aids, and a couple of additional features, such as a heated steering wheel and front wiper de-icer, that seem custom made for Canadian conditions. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
The Mazda6 has a beautifully finished interior. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

I loaded my luggage in the GS-L and had a quick look around. Mazda refers to their styling as Kodo design language. The easiest way to understand that is to think of an animal ready to pounce. I like the uncluttered and purposeful appearance, especially in Machine Grey Metallic, a $300 option. The as-tested price, including the aforementioned charges, came to $33,695. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
The 6 gets a large, high-resolution touchscreen atop the dash, that can also be controlled via a rotating dial on the lower console. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

Lisa drove us to town, which allowed me to relax in the passenger seat. The revised interior is nicely finished, punching above its weight in terms of upmarket ambience. The seats do feel as though they were made for wider backsides than mine, but there is adequate support. The information system looks like an add-on, however it works reasonably well once you’ve read the instructions. I must admit that as a racing driver and advanced driving coach, sound systems and such are at the low end of my priorities, so I’m likely not a fair judge. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
Comfortable, supportive seats make all the difference on a road trip. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

A day after my arrival, a group of us headed to a seaside resort two hours drive from Halifax. My cousin, Croatia-based photographer Rino Gropuzzo, was with me on the trip. Rino and I are obsessed with finding the perfect seafood chowder, which tends to lengthen our journeys. The restaurant search led us to a twisty, weatherworn two-lane. We weren’t going particularly fast, but enough to let a true driver’s car shine, and this is where Mazda is a solid step ahead of the competition. 

2018 Mazda6 GS-L
A roomy rear seating area allows for longer cargo via split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

When I first worked with the Skip Barber Racing School in the States, we were using M3 BMWs for all our teaching modules, as well as for track days. The cars earned their Ultimate Driving Machine moniker, because at that time BMW driving dynamics were best in class. These days Mazda is as much a clear leader in its sector as BMW was back then. In evaluating dynamics you have to think beyond numbers and specifications, because almost any vehicle in this class will have decent performance. What makes a driver’s car is the combination of ride control, stability, steering feel, and precise response to operator inputs. 

2018 Mazda6 Signature
The 2018 Mazda6 is even more upscale in premium-like Signature trim. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

On the road, the GS-L, with its 2.5-litre, 187 horsepower engine, is reasonably quick. A manual gearbox would be nice, and oddly enough that’s an option in the States, but not in Canada. I’ve observed that most people who have to shift for themselves are better, more attentive drivers. A quick read of the Mazda owner’s manual reminded me that it is possible to set the automatic so the paddle shifters become useful, holding gears until the driver chooses to shift. Mazda’s base engine has a new parlour trick, cylinder deactivation on a four-cylinder engine. At lower loads, two cylinders work, the others hang around until needed. The switch cannot be felt, except in the pocketbook. On a 150 km run, which included some two-lane road overtaking, I got 5.4 L/100km. That number was courtesy of a very efficient powertrain as well as my sneaky right foot, and better than the official highway rating of 6.7. 

2018 Mazda6 Signature
The open road beckons, and the Mazda6 is an ideal companion. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

My second test car was the Mazda6 Signature, decked out with 19-inch wheels and Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint. All kinds of extra trim, electronic driver aids and so on, but the biggest difference was the turbocharged engine, which puts out 227 horsepower on regular fuel and 250 on premium. More to the point, peak torque, or pulling power, jumps to 310 pounds/feet at 2,000 rpm from the base engine’s 186 at 4,000 rpm. With the turbo engine’s torque coming in so low in the rev range, there is no need to work the engine hard, even when overtaking. All this luxury and performance came in at $41,045 as tested. As with the other test car, the only option was the paint, Soul Red, as a $450 upgrade. All the dynamic goodness of the GS-L was there as well, which made for quite a quick sports sedan. Once again I used less fuel than the official 10.0 city, 7.5 highway rating. My combined score for city and highway, once I discounted the full throttle 60-100 tests that I do by way of assessing overtaking ability, was 8.4 L/100km. 

2018 Mazda6 Signature
The Mazda6 is plenty practical, although we don’t recommend stowing bodies in the trunk. (Photo: Rino Gropuzzo, Canadian Auto Press)

On the last day of the tests, I switched back to the GS-L. Even after being spoiled by the extra horsepower of the turbo, in daily driving the base engine did fine. Mid-size sedans have become a very competitive class, with Honda’s Accord and the Kia Optima/Hyundai Sonata pair on my shortlist. The latter offer excellent quality and good value. For those who are looking for that choice, three Accord models have an available manual gearbox. The latest Camry is a much better vehicle, in all respects, than its predecessors. The Mazda wins in style, poise, and driving manners. Despite the turbo’s seductive thrust, I’d go for the GS-L. Between purchase price and money saved on fuel I’d have enough left over to continue the search for that perfect seafood chowder.

As nice as the 2018 Fusion Hybrid Titanium is to look at, and as enjoyable it is to live with, we’d better deal with the gargantuan elephant in the room before delving into any details.  As most will…

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium Road Test

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
Ford updated its Fusion with classy new styling for 2017, and it continues forward into 2018 ahead of a 2019 refresh. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As nice as the 2018 Fusion Hybrid Titanium is to look at, and as enjoyable it is to live with, we’d better deal with the gargantuan elephant in the room before delving into any details. 

As most will already know, earlier this year Ford announced that all of its cars except for the legendary Mustang and a new compact crossover wagon dubbed Focus Active will be cancelled in North American markets by 2020, which means the car I’m reviewing right now is living out the rest of its life on borrowed time. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
Revised taillights with a chrome trim garnish that spans the width of the trunk’s trailing edge freshens up the Fusion’s rear styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Whether or not losing its substantial market share in the subcompact, compact and mid-size classes is a good idea is a monologue probably best left for another time, and to be fair none of us on the outside can truly know what’s best for the Dearborn-based automaker, so any criticism about such a seismic shift in product offerings wouldn’t be worth mentioning. 

Facts are facts, however, and Ford will be giving up third place in the mid-size segment in the Canadian market and fourth in the U.S., with the Fusion’s 2017 totals being 9,736 and 209,623 respectively. While selling hundreds of thousands of any model might initially sound great, it’s also important to point out that 2016 to 2017 year-over-year Fusion sales plummeted by 32.5 percent in Canada and 21.1 percent in the States, while the Canadian deliveries have dropped by 51.6 percent since the Fusion’s high five years ago in 2013, while U.S. popularity has contracted by 31.7 percent since that market’s high in 2014. This of course has much to do with the rise in popularity of SUVs and simultaneously shrinking car market, but nevertheless some competitors haven’t fallen as far. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
A new grille, headlamps and lower fascia provide a handsome update to the popular mid-size sedan. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Now matter how you slice it losing the Fusion is a shame (particularly in Hybrid, Energi and Sport trims), as it is to say goodbye to the fun little Fiesta (especially in ST guise), and the once very popular Focus (which finally gets an update for 2019, and ditto re the ST and RS). This said I won’t miss the aging C-Max or the equally dated Taurus, although the new Lincoln Continental that’s based on the latter is extremely good and will be a loss to the value-oriented luxury sector, while the MKZ is pretty good too, especially in Hybrid trim. I’ll soon be publishing reviews of some of the above, so stay tuned as they remain worthy contenders that deserve your attention. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
LED headlamps with LED signatures are standard with Titanium trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Such is the case for this 2018 Fusion Hybrid Titanium. Ford gave the entire Fusion line a mid-cycle makeover last year and I really like the changes made, especially the grille that looks more like the Mustang and sporty Focus ST’s design and less like a ripped off Aston Martin. Ford added some shape to the headlamps and modified the lower front fascia as well, while the strip of chrome trim spanning the rear trunk lid and striking through each reworked taillight totally changes the look of the car’s rear end. They’ve gone from a focus on sporty to classy, while once again creating a more original look. All round, the visual changes are good. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
These machine-finished 18-inch multi-spoke alloys come standard with the Hybrid Titanium. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Like with most refreshes, changes to the Fusion’s interior weren’t so dramatic. The most notable update would be to the lower centre console that swapped out the old shift lever for a much more modern and up-to-date rotating gear selector, this even rimmed in stylish knurled metal edging for a premium appearance and impressively substantial high-quality feel. As far as unconventional transmission controllers go, I prefer this dial design much more than others, including Lincoln’s heritage-inspired pushbutton layout. It’s simply a more natural progression, and intuitively falls to hand. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
The new LED taillights are shaped similarly to the old ones, but the chrome strikethrough changes the rear end design dramatically. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As with the previous Fusion, this renewed version is nicely finished with good quality materials, especially in Titanium trim that’s near top-of-the-line for the Hybrid (top-tier Platinum is downright ritzy). There are plenty of soft-touch surfaces, plush leathers, metallic accents and high-quality switchgear. 

Specifically, Specifically, along with the dash top, door uppers, inserts and armrests, Ford covers the sides of the centre stack and lower console in high-grade padded pliable plastic, even wrapping the soft stuff around the backsides of the centre stack buttresses. The quality of the centre stack and lower console surfacing is excellent too, and much denser than most others in this class. The same can’t be said for the solidity of the metallic trim surfacing, but still it looks very nice and is well put together. Where this car differentiates from its Lincoln counterpart is in the hard plastic used for the glove box lid and much of the door panels, but like the MKZ its graphic interfaces are superb. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
The Fusion interior is mostly carryover, but its initial design was advanced and high in quality, so it’s matured gracefully. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This latter attribute has been a Ford strongpoint for years, the automaker leading most rivals in infotainment thanks to money well invested in its much-lauded Sync interface, this latest Sync 3 design one of the best in the industry. Graphically its modern and attractive, while more so it executes functions quickly, is easy to figure out, can be used with tablet-style gesture controls including tap, pinch and swipe, and comes filled with the types of features most users want, such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, all the usual climate and audio controls, apps galore, plus more. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
The Fusion’s interior is nicely laid out, prioritizing comfort and ergonomics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Ford improved the Fusion’s convenience and safety offering by making some of the latest advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) available prior to last year’s mid-cycle update, such as automatic high beams, lane keeping assist, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, all available on the 2018 model when adding the $1,950 Driver Assist Package that also includes rain-sensing wipers, a heatable steering wheel, and Sync Connect. Of note, all of these systems and more come standard as part of a suite of ADAS features dubbed Ford Co-Pilot360 for the 2019 Fusion, which also gets a mild restyle. Back to 2018, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, which also includes pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, can be chosen separately for another $1,500, as can semi-autonomous park assist for an additional $600, while inflatable rear seatbelts improve rear passenger safety for $250.

Incidentally, all of the pricing shared in this review, including the 2018 Fusion Hybrid S model’s $29,588 base price, can be found at CarCostCanada.com, as can dealer invoice pricing (yes, the actual cost the dealer pays) and key information about rebates that could save you a lot of money at purchase.

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
The fusion has had this mostly digital gauge cluster for years, and it’s still more advanced than many competitors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Before getting too far ahead of myself, standard features with the $34,988 Fusion Hybrid Titanium (currently offered with a $1,500 delivery allowance to help offset the $1,750 freight fee, plus a $3,737 as-tested Ford Employee Pricing Adjustment) include 18-inch machine-finished alloys, LED headlamps with LED signatures, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, extra chrome trim, a rear spoiler, remote engine start, Ford’s exclusive SecuriCode keyless entry keypad, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, ambient interior lighting, aluminum sport pedals, an electromechanical parking brake, auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, two 4.2-inch colour multi-information displays within the primary instrument cluster, heatable 10-way powered leather sport seats with two-way driver’s memory, dual-zone auto climate control, a rearview camera, 12-speaker Sony audio with satellite and HD radio, a household-style 110-volt powerpoint, rear parking sensors, a capless fuel filler, individual tire pressure monitoring, Ford’s MyKey system, SOS Post-Crash Alert, all the usual active and passive safety features including dual front knee blockers, and more. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
Sync 3 is one of the best infotainment systems in the mainstream sector, while the Fusion’s switchgear is impressive too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Ford offers the no-cost choice of Ebony black or Medium Soft Ceramic cream/beige interiors as well as seven base colours plus three optional hues, my tester finished in $450 Ruby Red over Ebony, while additional options include voice activated navigation for $800, three-way cooled front seats for $528, a powered moonroof with a garage door opener for $1,250, etcetera. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
The new rotating gear selector is beautifully finished with knurled metallic detailing that feels real. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Where some other Fusion models are focused more on performance, Sport trim immediately coming to mind, the Hybrid Titanium is more about smooth, refined comfort. Truly the ride is sublime and eCVT automatic transmission is wonderfully linear in operation, both promoting a more relaxed driving style. That’s not to say it won’t move off the line quickly when prodded, its 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and electric motor combo good for a reasonable 188 net horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque resulting in a zero to 100km/h run of about nine seconds. It’ll push through corners adeptly too, the Hybrid actually feeling quite sporty when putting your foot into it, but that’s clearly not its priority, while if you don’t try to extract everything from the throttle and push the envelope amid curves you’ll likely never know it has any go-fast performance capabilities hidden deep within. Therefore, other than for testing purposes, I drove it like a grandpa on his way to church (not late for church, mind you) and thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely week, always comfortable in its extremely supportive driver’s seat, and fully appreciative of the laid back state this car put me in. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
Comfortable leather seats and a spacious cabin combine for an easy car to live with. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I was also appreciative of the $8 in fuel I used all week, and it wasn’t due to a lack of driving. The Fusion Hybrid’s claimed Transport Canada rating is a very stingy 5.5 L/100km city, 5.6 highway and 5.6 combined, which is shockingly good considering its size, mass and luxury equipment load. Factor in fuel costs that float around the mid-$1.40 to $1.50 range in Vancouver, which are highest in our history, and the Fusion Hybrid is more relevant today than ever. I only hope Ford applies this technology to its upcoming Focus Active and some of its SUVs, as it can really make a difference to the bank balance. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
The rear seating area is generously proportioned, although some rivals offer even more room inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Fusion’s cabin is slightly smaller than some of its more recently updated Japanese competitors, particularly in the rear, but it should be large enough for most body types and I found it thoroughly comfortable from front to back. Its cargo capacity is limited somewhat too, due to the lithium-ion motive battery encroaching on trunk space. Ford doesn’t try to hide this issue, the battery pack jutting up to partially block some of the 60/40 split rear seatback’s passageway, but some capability of loading in long items is appreciated just the same. This said at 340 litres (12.0 cubic feet) it holds more volume than some competitors, but those considering a Hybrid over a conventionally powered Fusion might want to consider life with a 113-litre (4.0 cubic-foot) decrease in golf bag hauling capability. 

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
If the Fusion Hybrid has a shortcoming it’s the trunk, which loses volume to the battery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This and its declared demise are the only two knocks I have against the 2018 Fusion Hybrid Titanium. It’s a handsome, well built, comfortable, amply featured, smooth riding, ultra efficient mid-size sedan that deserves its third-place Canadian standing, making it all the more disheartening that its end is near. Being that it won’t be collectable after three or so years (or ever), you’ll need to factor its cancellation into its resale value, which will most likely negatively affect your overall cost of ownership. Then again the car represents good initial value, which could alleviate some of the financial pain. In other words, if you’ve got your heart set on a new Fusion, bargain hard and voice concerns about its cancellation during negotiations. I think your local Ford retailer will be more than happy to give you a very good deal on what is essentially a very good car.