The QX50 always provided strong performance and a nicely finished interior, at least comparative to its peers in its earlier years, but its outward design never stirred my senses. Not so for the completely…

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory Road Test Review

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50 is one great looking compact luxury SUV, especially in near top-tier Sensory trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The QX50 always provided strong performance and a nicely finished interior, at least comparative to its peers in its earlier years, but its outward design never stirred my senses. Not so for the completely redesigned 2019 QX50, however, as styling is now its number one asset, critical for making a good first impression. 

It seems like I’m not alone in my thinking, because year-over-year Canadian QX50 sales growth is already up 59 percent as of December 31, and it only arrived partway through 2018, while during the first two months of 2019 the new Infiniti found 113.7-percent more buyers than the previous generation lured in for January and February last year. 

Most should find this ground-up second-generation redesign pleasant to the eyes, thanks to a particularly eye-catching version of Infiniti’s double-arch grille situated under a long, elegantly shaped hood, and bookended by sharp, animal-like LED headlamps. It all hovers over a clean and sporty lower fascia that nicely ties the frontal design together for an overall design that should cause many more would-be buyers to pay attention. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
All of Infiniti’s now trademark design details are rolled up into one stylish crossover. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Likewise, there’s plenty of muscular sculpting to the side panels, these passing by a handsome chromed engine vent garnish on each upper front fender, plenty of additional chrome trim around the side windows, the rearmost of which curves with the brand’s distinctive reverse kink, while at back it’s equally attractive, particularly at the LED taillights, while, depending on trim, a variety of 19- to 20-inch alloys finish off the look. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Front or back? Which side looks best to you? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As visually appealing as the new QX50 is, Canadian SUV buyers need a generous cargo hold of practicality to keep their attention, not to mention premium levels of interior build quality, the latest electronic interfaces, and, of course, performance that matches or exceeds the best in this class. To that end, the new QX50 mostly delivers. 

As noted a moment ago, performance made the previous QX50 stand out, particularly its rear-wheel drive-biased handling, although the compact luxury crossover’s standard 3.7-litre V6, advanced seven-speed automatic, and Intelligent all-wheel drive were nothing to sneeze at either. And just how the new model’s exterior styling changes everything about the way the new QX50 looks, it is now powered by a comparatively tiny 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to send torque to all four wheels, and rolls on a new front-wheel drive-based chassis, or in other words the new SUV is completely different than the outgoing model, down to its very core. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Infiniti has found an attractive and distinctive grille design, while many of its contemporaries are struggling to stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The move from rear-wheel to front-wheel drive platform architectures is nothing new in this class due to interior packaging improvements with the latter, especially when it comes to rear seating and cargo capacity, but how does it impact the way the QX50 drives? On the positive, the new QX50 now provides a more comfortable ride. It floats smoothly over rough patches of pavement, bridge expansions, and other types of road irregularities, while it also benefits from a quieter cabin, partially due to using active engine mounts ahead of the seemingly better insulated firewall and an acoustic windshield plus acoustic side glass. The result is a more refined experience overall, which should bode well for meeting the wants and needs of most premium buyers, but then again those who previously chose the QX50 for its road-holding prowess may be a tad disappointed. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Full LED headlights are standard, but the Sensory gets even nicer signature LEDs with cornering capability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Let’s face it. The old 2008–2017 QX50 (and prior EX35) was based on the old G35/G37 (Q50) sport sedan, and it felt like it, whereas the latest version rides on the Nissan Altima and Murano’s front-wheel drive-biased platform architecture, which while sporting a fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension design, plus standard Active Trace Control which autonomously increases brake pressure mid-corner to maintain a given lane, doesn’t provide enough help to turn this comfortable family hauler into a canyon carver. 

In a nutshell the new QX50 is a bit less planted to the road at highway speeds, especially when pushing hard through corners with broken pavement, and doesn’t achieve the same level of confidence on the open freeway either. This is the trade-off when choosing a front-biased layout, and while Infiniti has gone far to exorcise as many understeering demons from within, there was no way they could’ve make it feel as hooked up as the outgoing version. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50 Sensory’s styling details really catch the eye. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This said the new variable compression turbo engine is brilliant. It provides more immediate power from its small displacement than the majority of rivals’ base engines, despite measuring an identical 2.0 litres. How much more? Try 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque delivered to all four wheels, resulting in quite a bit more output than its entry-level compact luxury SUV market segment’s peers. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These gorgeous deep-tinted 20-inch alloys come standard on Sensory and Autograph trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The top seller is now Mercedes-Benz’ GLC, which only provides 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, while the second-place Audi Q5 is good for just 248 hp and 273 lb-ft (which are identical numbers to the Porsche Macan that uses the same engine). Likewise, the third-place BMW X3 is capable of 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the QX50’s mill is considerably more potent than Lexus’ latest base NX that can only achieve 238 hp and 258 lb-ft, while Cadillac’s fresh new XT4 is rated at a comparatively wimpy 237 hp and 258 lb-ft. All said the new QX50 isn’t the quickest in the segment, with the recently revitalized Acura RDX capable of 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, and Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio leading the segment’s base engine output with 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque (both are more fun to drive, too). Still, the Infiniti CUV’s output is more than respectable. 

In fact, WardsAuto just included the VC-Turbo as on of this year’s 10 Best Engines. The new engine design took Infiniti’s engineering department a full four years to develop, and features special connecting rods between its pistons and crankshaft that vary the compression of the fuel and air mixture, with less increasing power output when called upon, and more improving fuel-efficiency under lighter loads such as when cruising and coasting. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These front fender vents add a touch of class to an already well executed design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I know all this tech talk can be a bit dry, but I’m more concerned that I lost your interest earlier in this review when mentioning that Infiniti swapped out its seven-speed auto for a CVT, being that CVT is usual a three-letter acronym that correctly describes an economical and smooth yet dull and boring technology. Fortunately, however, along with tackling the problem of ever-increasing carbon tax-induced gasoline prices the new transmission is actually a strong performer. It utilizes a completely new shift-by-wire design that features manual shift mode, steering wheel paddles, Downshift Rev Matching (that blips the throttle to match a given gear ratio with engine revs), plus dual transmission fluid coolers, resulting in a fairly conventional feeling transmission. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Of course, LED taillights are standard across the line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The CVT responds better than expected when flicking through its paddles too, and is plenty of fun to drive with Sport mode engaged. The VC-Turbo’s power comes on quickly, but this is where the faux stepped-gear CVT doesn’t quite measure up to its multi-speed automatic rivals, as it allows engine revs to remain too high for too long, thus interfering with performance, adding to noise, vibration and harshness levels, and ironically impinging on fuel-efficiency. 

If driven like most of us do when behind the wheel of a compact crossover SUV, however, it’s a wonderfully smooth and refined transmission that combines a high level of day-in and day-out performance with claimed fuel economy that’s 30 percent better than the outgoing model, now rated at 10.0 L/100km city, 7.8 highway and 9.0 combined, compared to 13.7 city, 9.8 highway and 11.9 combined. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Climb into one of the nicer interiors in the compact luxury crossover SUV class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

If you were to ask me for one key complaint, it’s Infiniti’s Eco Pedal that pushes rearward on the gas pedal (and therefore your right foot) in order to try and influence you not to press too hard. I find it terribly annoying, and therefore never turn Eco mode on when using an Infiniti vehicle, so therefore I end up losing out on all the other benefits that the brand’s Eco mode provides, like the best possible fuel economy just noted. I’m guessing that I’m not alone, so Infiniti would do well to allow its owners to turn off the Eco Pedal when Eco mode is engaged. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Quality materials set the QX50 Sensory’s cabin apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those who don’t mind its interference can choose that Eco mode, as well as all of the QX50’s other drive settings from a “D-MODE” inscribed, metal-adorned rocker switch atop the lower console, just behind a totally new electronic shift lever design. Smaller and shorter, although well crafted from satin-silver aluminum and contrast-stitched leather, the new shifter provides a more normal gear selection process than some others in this class, particularly Acura and Lincoln that are obsessed with buttons. The only button Infiniti uses is a small black one with a “P” label for selecting park. 

Just above the shift lever on a separate lower console section is an elegantly stylish knurled metal infotainment controller surrounded by high-quality buttons, while a volume knob on the centre stack provides nearly the same level of luxury detailing. There’s no shortage of aluminized metal trim throughout the rest of the cabin either, albeit tastefully applied so it’s not overbearing, with personal favourites being the edges of each power window switch and the gorgeous geometrically drilled Bose speaker grilles. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Where are the fully programmable digital gauges? So far, only traditional analog dials and a large TFT MID are available. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This brings up the quality and fitment of all buttons, knobs and switches, which are well damped, tightly fitted, and made from dense composites when not covered in metal, allowing the QX50 to meet the level of refinement delivered by the majority of its rivals, and exceed some. 

Additional niceties include beautiful open-pore natural maple hardwood inlays (a Sensory trim exclusive) and lush black ultrasuede (also exclusive to the Sensory), both used on the instrument panel, centre stack, lower console, front seat bolsters and door uppers front to back, while the two front and second set of roof pillars, plus the roofliner itself, were covered in the charcoal ultrasuede alone. Lastly, classy contrast-stitched leather was also generously applied throughout the interior, the QX50 Sensory’s cabin truly a cut above. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The dual-display infotainment system is a step in the right direction, with high quality screens and good functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, the QX50 provides high-grade premium surfaces, along with nice metal and wood accents above the waist, even coating its glove box lid with soft-touch paint, but like many in this class Infiniti stops pampering at this mid-point, instead applying hard plastics to the lower dash, sides of the centre console, and lower door panels. It’s a cost cutting measure for sure, but some will say the harder composite provides durability, weight savings and even recyclability, yet this is the luxury class, so therefore I think Infiniti should be doing more to measure up to leaders like the aforementioned BMW X3, which applies soft-touch to more surfaces. Still, the QX50 interior is much nicer than some other peers, and should impress most who step inside. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
A best of both world’s scenario, the Sensory’s Around View parking monitor provides multiple views. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, it’s best in near top-line $56,490 Sensory trim, or when equipped with the more bespoke $57,990 Autograph model’s upgrades. These two trims are mostly the same when it comes to features, but differ in the application of some interior colours and materials. For instance, both use luxury-grade semi-aniline leather upholstery, those sumptuous ultrasuede accents just noted, and real hardwood inlays, but the Sensory’s colour theme is charcoal black and the Autograph is a two-tone blue and white motif, while its leather seats get a rich diamond-quilted pattern (in white) and its side bolsters are highlighted with blue piping. It’s a look you’ll adore, and therefore need to acquire, or not, and fortunately Infiniti makes it optional so it’s only a dealmaker, not a deal-breaker. 

Other features found with both trims include two-way front passenger powered lumbar support, three-way cooled front seats, advanced climate control (with auto-recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier and a Grape Polyphenol Filter), extended interior ambient lighting, rear side window sunshades, a gesture-activated hands-free liftgate, and metal cargo area trim, while exterior upgrades include a sweet looking set of 20-inch dark tinted alloys on 255/45 all-season run-flat tires, plus really nice looking cube design LED high/low beam headlamps with adaptive cornering capability. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50’s new electronic shifter is a really upscale bit of advanced kit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The two top-line models utilize many of the features found in lesser trims too, such as the $52,990 ProActive model’s auto high beams, dynamic cruise control (with full speed range and hold), distance control assist, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, blindspot intervention, rear cross-traffic warning, backup collision intervention, steering assist, the ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous self-driving system (which gets very close to full autonomy while traveling on the highway), Infiniti’s exclusive steer-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system (a first for an Infiniti SUV) that’s very reactive to steering input (other trims use vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering), a head-up display unit, and a superb sounding 16-speaker Bose Premium Series audio system. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Check the previous photo to see this infotainment controller’s knurled metal sides. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, a bevy of items get pulled up from $48,990 Essential trim, such as rain-sensing windshield wipers, front/rear parking sonar, reverse-tilt side mirrors, Infiniti’s excellent 360-degree Around View parking camera with moving object detection, very accurate navigation routing with a superbly detailed mapping system, three-zone auto climate control with controls for the rear passengers (upgraded from the two-zone automatic HVAC system found in lesser trims), a power tilt and telescoping steering column, and memory for that steering wheel column, plus the front seats and side mirrors. 

Lastly, $44,490 base Luxe trim provides LED fog lights, LED turn signal repeaters integrated within the side mirrors, LED tail lamps (the Luxe is also standard with LED low/high beam headlamps), chromed outer door handles, chromed tailpipe finishers, a remote engine starter, proximity keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, the previously noted drive mode selector featuring standard, eco, sport, and personal settings, a panoramic glass sunroof with a powered sunshade, a power liftgate (without hands-free), predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blindspot warning, plus plenty more. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These comfortable seats provide plenty of support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of note, all 2019 QX50 pricing for trims, packages, and standalone options were sourced from CarCostCanada, which also provides money-saving manufacturer rebate info and otherwise difficult to find dealer invoice pricing that could help save you thousands. 

For many, the new QX50’s advanced electronic interfaces will be most important, and I must admit they certainly help modernize the look of the interior and the SUV’s overall functionality. First and foremost is the new InTouch twin-display infotainment setup on the centre stack, boasting a bright, clear and colourful high-resolution 8.0-inch monitor on the upper position, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen underneath, plus InTouch safety, security and convenience services, etcetera. I found this system mostly easy to use, with the top display, which provides navigation info, various views from the backup/surround camera system and more, controlled by the beautifully made rotating dial on the lower console mentioned earlier, and the lower one by tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Rich semi-aniline leather and soft ultrasuede can be found all over the Sensory model’s cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for the primary gauge package ahead of the driver, I was somewhat dismayed that Infiniti didn’t take this opportunity to introduce a fully digital cluster, as this is now expected in top-tier trims (VW is even doing so with its latest Tiguan), but the mostly analogue dials the automaker provided worked well enough, and the large colour multi-information display certainly wasn’t short on functionality, all of which were easily controlled by a nicely organized set of steering wheel switches. 

Looking upward, a new overhead console includes the usual reading lights, buttons for the sunroof, plus a wholly redesigned sunglasses holder that, surprise, surprise comes without an intrusive nosepiece so that all of my sunglasses fit inside without issue. Just why previous versions were made with a nosepiece that was too big to hold regular glasses in place is beyond my scope of understanding, but fortunately Infiniti has remedied this problem once and for all. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This big panoramic sunroof is standard across the QX50 line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The sunglasses holder isn’t the only improvement made to passenger and cargo roominess, with rear passengers now benefiting from significantly more legroom and headspace. Infiniti actually claims that the QX50’s rear seating area is larger than both Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3, while rear passengers can now slide their seats forward and rearward in order to increase legroom or alternatively add to available cargo space. 

Unsurprisingly the rear outboard positions were very comfortable, while I had about eight inches of space for my knees when the driver’s seat was preset for my five-foot-eight long-legged, short-torso, medium-build body. Additionally, there was plenty of room for my winter boots, albeit not much for tucking them under the driver’s seat. Speaking of narrow spaces, the compact QX50’s compromised width was made evident by the lack of inches to the door panel, but the outer armrest was comfortable and my shoulder never felt hemmed in. Adults in back might find the flip-down centre armrest on the low side, but it’s perfect for children, and it includes a slot for storing your smartphone plus a pair of cupholders. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Rear seat roominess and comfort is excellent, but where are the heated rear onboard seats? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The previously noted rear climate controls are about as minimalist as such items go, only combining a digital watch-sized black and white LCD display with single red and blue buttons for adjusting the temperature. Infiniti adds a USB device charger and 12-volt socket too, but oddly rear seat warmers aren’t even on the QX50 menu. 

On the positive, cargo capacity has generously increased by 368 litres (13.0 cubic feet) to 895 (31.6 cu ft) behind the standard 60/40-split rear seats, but remember you can slide them forward for another 153 litres (5.5 cu ft), increasing total capacity behind the rear seatbacks to 1,048 litres (37.0 cu ft). A helpful lever on each sidewall folds the respective rear seat flat, opening up a maximum of 1,822 litres (64.3 cu ft) when both sides are lowered. The weakness to the QX50’s 60/40-configured seatback design becomes apparent when wanting to stow longer items such as skis down the middle when family or friends are coming along for the ride, because there’s no centre pass-through or best-possible 40/20/40-division for optimizing passengers and cargo flexibility. If a higher level of real-life practicality matters to you, the Europeans tend to do a better job. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This handy lever drops the right-side rear seatback down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As is now expected in this class, the standard powered liftgate is programmable for height, a very important feature if your parking garage is lower than average, and even more so if pipes hang down further (been there done that). This said I kept bumping my forehead into the open hatch until finding time to reprogram it, not a fault of Infiniti, but something new owners may want to watch out for. All should be happy with the cargo area’s finishings, mind you, thanks to attractive aluminum sill guards and carpeting most everywhere, while the cargo floor can be removed to store smaller items in two shallow stowage bins, the most forward one also housing the Bose amplifier and subwoofer. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The cargo compartment is nicely finished, but the 60/40-split rear seatbacks don’t measure up to others that offer a centre pass-through or an even more convenient 40/20/40 configuration. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

After a week with Infiniti’s new QX50 I’d say the pros more than outweigh the cons, but you’ll need to decide this for yourself when testing. Its styling should be universally positive, and most will probably praise its upgraded interior and much improved electronics too, while its host of advanced driver assistance systems will no doubt be lauded as well. I found it roomy and comfortable, plus its driving position is excellent, important for extracting all of its straight-line performance and maximizing support when pushing it through the corners, but this new QX50 is built more for comfort than speed when compared to the outgoing one, which will probably be just fine for the majority of its buyers. 

I won’t go out on a limb to say it’s best in class, and honestly would truly be hard pressed to claim this about any rivals either, but you really should spend some quality time with this new model before purchasing anything else. In other words, the new QX50 is worthy of your close attention, because it just might fit your wants and needs ideally, and save you a few thousand in the process.

In classic Honda fashion, the update from third-generation 2016-2018 Pilot 1.0 to 2019 Pilot 2.0 is ultimately subtle, but somehow the changes made have resulted in a wholly better looking crossover SUV. …

2019 Honda Pilot Touring Road Test Review

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda has toughened up the look of the 2019 Pilot, and we like what we see. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In classic Honda fashion, the update from third-generation 2016-2018 Pilot 1.0 to 2019 Pilot 2.0 is ultimately subtle, but somehow the changes made have resulted in a wholly better looking crossover SUV. 

The new Pilot’s mid-cycle makeover adds a more assertive looking truck-like grille above a stronger front bumper and fascia design, which tie in better to other models throughout Honda’s lineup. The new look is further improved by a wonderfully complex set of full LED headlamps in top-line Touring trim, sporting Honda’s signature vertical elements for a whole new level of sophistication when compared to lesser trims. 

Incidentally, trims below Touring get standard low-beam-only LED headlights that feature a less distinctive projector-style design, while an attractive set of updated LED tail lamps are the same with all trims, these positioned above a new rear bumper. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot is long and accommodating, seating three row of 7 or 8, plus loads of cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, silver skid plates below both front and rear bumpers toughen up the look of most trims, while matte and glossy black versions of the same garnishes adorn base and Canadian-exclusive Black Edition versions respectively, while Honda adds a little bit of extra exterior chrome to Touring trim, including bright metal door handles, and new 20-inch machine-finished alloys with black painted pockets that result in a more upscale look from front to back. All of these small details have really added up to a handsome mid-size crossover SUV, and while it remains a large three-row family hauler that can actually fit real adults in its rearmost seats, the Pilot somehow appears light and lithe, as if it’s actually fun to drive. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda has tweaked rear end styling as well, but more subtly. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Rather than just refreshing the styling and leaving at that, Honda went further by improving the auto start-stop system in top-tier Touring and Black Edition trims, so that it shuts off and restarts the engine quicker and with less fanfare, a fix that should cause more owners to leave it engaged and therefore do a better job of minimizing fuel consumption and emissions. I’m a big fan of that, and never had a problem with this feature throughout my test week. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The vertical LED elements in the top-line Touring model’s headlamps are really eye-catching. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Likewise, my top-line Pilot Touring tester’s updated nine-speed automatic transmission performed flawlessly, delivering what seemed to be smoother more effortless shifts when tooling around town or cruising along the highway, and feeling more precise when flicking through the gears on the highway. This said I never had a problem with the outgoing nine-speed when testing it in a 2017 model, but some have complained about refinement and therefore Honda made improvements that should appease such disgruntled owners. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Big 20-inch machine-finished alloys add a sporty touch to the otherwise elegantly shaped SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Base LX, plus mid-range EX and EX-L Navi owners would have had no such issues due to their Pilots incorporating Honda’s time-tested six-speed autobox, while the one-size-fits-all 24-valve, SOHC 3.5-litre V6 is about as seasoned as modern-day engines get, remaining quite potent for the class at 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and kitted out with direct-injection, i-VTEC, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that shuts off a bank of cylinders under light loads to improve fuel economy, plus an Active Control Engine Mount (ACM) system to help reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels, which it seems to do effectively. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda updated these LED taillights as part of the 2019 redesign. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Thanks in part to standard Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD, supported by Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management System, the latest Pilot felt as sporty off the line as its new look lets on, while it carried that newfound nimbleness through fast-paced corners with an easy, composed nonchalance that defied its near full-size proportions, combining this agile handling with a thoroughly comfortable, compliant ride that only became unsettled when pushed beyond what’s reasonable on a particularly poorly paved section of curving roadway. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Comfort is king in the driver’s seat of the 2019 Pilot Touring. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Driven at calmer speeds my Pilot Touring tester was not only ideally stable and thoroughly comfortable, but came very close to achieving its claimed Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 12.4 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 11.0 combined, with my weeklong average being 11.7 L/100km of mostly city driving on flat roadways. Of note, six-speed models are estimated to achieve 13.0 city, 9.3 highway and 11.3 combined. Factoring in new carbon tax-infused pump prices, these numbers are quite good for such a large utility. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot Touring provides a modern, well-made cockpit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I didn’t have opportunity to tow a trailer during my test week, but take note there’s no difference in ability with either transmission, the Pilot’s rating set to 1,588 kilograms (3,500 lbs) in base form or 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) when fitted with its available towing package. 

Hauling in mind, the Pilot provides plenty of cargo space for all your load carrying needs, with 524 litres (18.5 cubic feet) behind the third row, or 510 litres (18.0 cubic feet) with the Touring and Black Edition; 1,583 litres (55.9 cubic feet) when that 60/40-split third row is folded flat; plus a range from 3,072 to 3,092 litres (108.5 to 109.2 cubic feet) when both rear rows lowered, but take note that models with second-row captain’s chairs are missing a centre section that may need to be gapped when trying to fill it fully with gear. Some others with this problem attach a carpeted extension to the backside of one seatback that can be flipped over the open section of load floor when filling with cargo, but no such innovation was shown here. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot’s mostly digital dash is much more advanced than most rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

These sliding and reclining captain’s chairs, which straddle a slightly raised floor-mounted console with cupholders and shallow bin, don’t come standard in Touring trim, but instead replace a regular bench seat that’s good enough for three adults abreast. The model tested, therefore, only provided for seven occupants, whereas the base version is one of the more capable family haulers thanks to eight available seatbelts. I’ve tried both, and the captain’s chairs are certainly more comfortable, thanks in part to fold-down armrests and seat heaters. I also appreciated the much more open and visually airy interior provided by the big panoramic sunroof included with Touring and Black Edition upgrades—all other trims but the base model include a regular powered moonroof up front. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot gets a nicely sorted centre stack, wth one of the best infotainment systems in the market. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Features in mind, top-tier $52,690 Touring trim comes well stocked, with items not yet mentioned including a more advanced set of LED high beam-infused headlamps, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, blue ambient lighting inside, front window acoustic glass to subdue NVH levels, rain-sensing wipers, an electronic gear selector, ventilated front seats, a premium 600-watt audio system with 11 speakers including a subwoofer plus 5.1 Surround Sound, wireless device charging, Honda’s ultra-useful new CabinTalk in-car PA system (it really works well), HondaLink Subscription Services, a Wi-Fi hotspot, the “How much Farther?” app, a rear entertainment system, HDMI input jack, a 115-volt rear power outlet, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
This nice big reverse camera, with standard multiple views, makes backing up much safer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, features pulled up from EX-L Navi trim to the Touring model including an acoustic windshield, memory-linked side mirrors with reverse tilt, a heatable steering wheel rim, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, navigation, satellite and HD radio, front and rear parking sensors, the heated outboard second-row seats noted earlier, one-touch third-row access buttons that make getting in and out of the rearmost seating area ultra-easy, second-row sunshades, a powered tailgate and more, while items pulled up from EX trim include LED fog lights, LED turn signals within the side mirrors, roof rails, illuminated vanity mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory, and the just noted power moonroof. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
And now for something completely different… The Pilot Touring’s digital gear selector takes some time to get used to. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lastly, I should also mention a number of standard $41,290 Pilot LX features that are also part of the Touring trim package, such as a remote engine starter, keyless proximity access, pushbutton ignition, a windshield wiper de-icer, an overhead console-mounted conversation mirror that doubles as a sunglasses holder, tri-zone automatic climate control, three-way heatable front seats, the HondaLink Assist Automatic Emergency Response System, and the list goes on (all prices are sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also get all the latest rebate info as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Nice big and comfortable front seats make day in and day out especially enjoyable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Particularly notable, all Pilot trims feature a large 7.0-inch TFT multi-information display (MID) within a mostly digital gauge cluster, the former featuring bright and clear high-resolution colour graphics, plus easy operation via steering wheel-mounted controls, while the 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen atop the centre stack is even more fully featured, starting with a wonderfully colourful array of tile-like graphics that appear to be inspired by the iPhone and iPad. The inclusion of standard Apple CarPlay is therefore fitting, although take note that Android Auto is also standard, plus Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with streaming audio, a superb multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Big dual sunroofs provide plenty of overhead light. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Part of that ongoing features list includes a whole host of standard Honda Sensing advanced driver assistance systems such as automatic high beams, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Road Departure Mitigation, which means that together with the Touring model’s cornering-capable full LED headlights the 2019 Pilot now achieves a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS (last year’s versions didn’t achieve the “Plus” or “+” rating), while it also received a five star safety rating from the NHTSA. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
No issues getting comfortable in these optional second-row captain’s chairs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While most everything I’ve said thus far has been positive, I was somewhat surprised that the Pilot only provides soft touch synthetic surfacing across its dash top, as well as a piece on the instrument panel just ahead of its front passenger that wraps overtop the centre display, and the front door uppers, plus of course the usual door inserts and armrests. This means the rear door uppers were hard plastic, which is strangely low-rent for this class, while some rivals even go so far to provide the pliable synthetic treatment to the lower dash including the glove box lid, while also wrapping the A pillars in fabric to improve refinement further. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Let’s get this show on the road… literally! (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

On the positive, the driver’s seat was very comfortable, but this said its two-way powered lumbar support didn’t meet up with the small of my back, so I didn’t use it the way I would if it also adjusted for height. Speaking of seats, I should say more about the third row that actually was quite comfortable, with plenty of legroom for a five-foot-eight adult (with long legs and a shorter torso), about three to four inches available for the knees when the second row was pushed back to its rearmost position, and loads of headroom. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The third row is surprisingly roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My last and final complaint won’t be an issue for many Pilot owners, but I found it odd that Honda expended so much energy (and money) creating the Touring (and Black Edition) model’s electronic gear selector yet didn’t replace the foot-operated parking brake with an electromechanical unit. It’s not like lifting the foot and pressing down on a parking brake is a big negative, but it certainly ties what is otherwise a modern and advanced vehicle to the past. I’m guessing Honda will replace it for the next generation Pilot, so I, like some others, will look forward to this upgrade. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot is one of the most cargo friendly SUVs in its mid-size class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

And yes this is where I need to say, if a foot-operated parking brake, two-way lumbar support, and a little more hard plastic than I’d like to see is all I can find to complain about after a weeklong test, Honda is doing pretty well with the new Pilot. All in all this is easily the best Pilot I’ve ever driven, and one of the more competitive crossover SUVs in its three-row mainstream volume class. I like its new styling, appreciate the amount of effort Honda’s engineers put into refining the new model’s drivetrain and suspension, and therefore enjoyed my time behind the wheel. It’s certainly an easy SUV to live with thanks to ample passenger and cargo space, while its fuel economy didn’t put me in the poorhouse. For these reasons and more the 2019 Pilot is easy to recommend.

What would you do? Despite having long since closed off my 2018 model year reviews thanks to most manufacturers’ 2019 models having been available since fall of last year, I was staring at the keys…

2018 Porsche Macan Road Test Review

2018 Porsche Macan
Still a great looking compact luxury SUV, the 2018 Macan remains available brand spanking new from a Porsche dealer near you. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

What would you do? Despite having long since closed off my 2018 model year reviews thanks to most manufacturers’ 2019 models having been available since fall of last year, I was staring at the keys of a nicely outfitted 2018 Porsche Macan, and it only made sense to drive it. Then again, if I drove it I’d need to review it, and here we are. 

Fortunately for me the refreshed 2019 version is a late arrival, starting to show up at Porsche Canada dealers as I stare at another set of keys while hammering out this last-minute review. It’s also good the Stuttgart-based brand made sure that its retailers were well stocked with 2018 Macans, a fact that still makes this somewhat late arrival of a road test review relevant. I’m ok with that if you are, and besides, it’s not like the 2019 model is a radical departure from this 2018 version anyway. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The biggest styling difference between 2018 and 2019 Macans can be seen from this rear vantage point. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

That said, toward the end of this 2018 Macan review I’ll make sure to point out a few notable changes made to the new 2019, so you can decide what matters most when choosing your new Porsche SUV, because it’s probably safe to say you’ll be able to get a better deal on the outgoing model than the refreshed version, not to mention that it’s even more ok than usual to purchase a one model-year older vehicle when factoring in Porsche’s much better than average resale values. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The base 2018 Macan incorporates Porsche’s four-point LED signature lights and offers full LED headlamps optionally, but those LED headlights come standard with the new 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

First off, both 2018 and 2019 Macans qualify for sportiest compact luxury SUV status, and saying that I’m not forgetting about some pretty impressive iron currently available, or should I say aluminum when referring to some of its challengers, particularly the Jaguar F-Pace and Range Rover Velar (the Macan utilizes an aluminum hood and liftgate, plus elsewhere it uses an assortment of high-strength micro-alloyed steel, multi-phase steel, deep-drawn steel, and boron-alloyed steel). 

2018 Porsche Macan
The 2018 Macan gets a sporty front fascia with powerful fog lamps in standard trim, but take note these details are updated for 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yet there’s also the new steel-bodied Alfa Romeo Stelvio (I drove the Ti Sport AWD and it was loads of fun, and on that note the 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio might even impress more than the Macan Turbo, but I’ll reserve judgment until after I’ve spent time behind the wheel), plus the recently renewed Audi SQ5, BMW’s X3 M, and Mercedes-AMG’s dynamic duo, the GLC 43 and 63 S, while I should also give honourable mentions to the new Acura RDX and Infiniti QX50 that do an admirable job of performing off the line and through the curves when sidled up beside the base Macan I’m reviewing here. 

2018 Porsche Macan
These 19-inch Turbo alloys aren’t standard, as the base model gets 18-inch rims and rubber. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Still, even this entry-level Macan delivers a higher level of performance feel than these very worthy rivals, the sound of rasping exhaust and the quick-shifting response of its seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission, which comes complete with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a far cry more engaging than most anything it’s put up against. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Say goodbye to these discrete rear lamps, which make way for a much larger single-unit taillight that spans the 2019 Macan’s entire backside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

This most basic of Macans receives a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine endowed with VarioCam technology and kinetic energy recovery that’s capable of 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, the former number about average for the class yet the latter more than most rivals provide. This results in a spirited 6.7-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, or 6.5 seconds when upgraded with the $1,500 Sport Chrono Package that incorporates a set of Sport and Off-Road buttons within the drive mode selector, plus launch control and a special performance display within the infotainment touchscreen. The Macan’s standard Active all-wheel drive made the most of the road surface below, feeling especially controlled when accelerating around corners. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Our 2018 Macan tester’s interior was impeccably finished in Garnet Red leather. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

My tester wasn’t upgraded with the Sport Chrono Package, however, nor did it have the $1,560 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system that boasts an electronically variable active damping system with Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes, or the even more advanced $3,140 Air Suspension that also includes PASM, or a number of other performance upgrades, but nevertheless it drove brilliantly, with good jump off the line and superb stability when flung through corners, its standard aluminum double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear setup fully living up to the legendary crest on its hood and scripted name on its backside. 

2018 Porsche Macan
We dare you to find any cheap, hard plastic in this well made 2018 Macan interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

My test model did include $790 Lane Change Assist, however, one of many advanced driver assistance systems that are less about hands-on performance and point more toward a future of hands-off relaxation, albeit this one merely provides warning if the Macan wanders from a chosen lane, veers off the road, or if a vehicle comes up to its side when a turn signal is engaged. Another $790 buys Lane Keeping Assist, which momentarily takes control at speeds of 65 km/h and higher when such circumstances occur, while my tester also included $1,650 adaptive cruise control, a must for those who travel long distances. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Porsche’s classic three-dial gauge cluster fits a colour multi-info display into its rightmost position. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Other extras included a $2,230 Garnet Red leather package that also adds $1,960 14-way powered front seats with memory, although it should be noted those upgraded buckets (sans the rosy colour treatment) are included with the $7,250 Premium Package Plus (and can be further upgraded to 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats for just $430) that also adds proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming side mirrors, a panoramic glass sunroof, three-way ventilated front seats, three-way heatable rear outboard seats, terrific sounding Bose surround audio (or you can spend $5,370 more for the same package with the sensational 1,000-watt 16-speaker Burmester surround upgrade), Bi-Xenon headlights with the corner-bending Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) (alternatively you can spend $1,340 more for the same package with full LED headlamps), while some standalone items included $1,890 worth of 19-inch Macan Turbo wheels wrapped in 235/55R19 Pirelli tires, and lastly a set of black roof rails for $440, with all the additions totaling $14,250 for a final price of $68,350, not including one of the least expensive freight charges in the industry at $1,250. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Choosing navigation mode within the multi-info display allows easy-to-follow directions without much need to remove eyes from the road. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I haven’t even scratched the surface as to all you can get with the Macan if you’d like to load one up, nor for that matter all that comes standard for its base $54,100 entry price, this number making it the most affordable Porsche model in Canada, but suffice to say it’s nicely outfitted with 18-inch alloy rims, fog lights, LED tail lamps with adaptive brake lights, an electromechanical parking brake, one of the nicest heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheels in the industry (I love the thin spokes and superb switchgear), a colour multi-information display that shows a map when set to navigation plus plenty of other functions, rain-sensing wipers, a HomeLink garage door opener, power-adjustable and three-way heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control with active carbon and pollen filtration, a 7.2-inch Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment touchscreen featuring standard navigation and a backup camera with active guidelines (the latter even including an overhead graphic of the Macan showing how close you’re getting to objects when parking via standard front and rear parking sensors), HD and satellite radio, and much more. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The base Macan comes with an attractive clock atop the dash, which gets exchanged for a more functional tachometer version when opting for the Sport Chrono Package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The standard Macan’s liftgate powers open automatically too, with the spacious cargo area good for 500 litres (17.6 cubic feet) of gear behind its ultimately utile 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks. I love this configuration compared to the more common 60/40 divide, even if the asymmetrical arrangement includes a centre pass-through, because you can load more skis and/or other long cargo down the middle when four are aboard. Porsche also includes a sturdy standard cargo cover to hide valuables, which can be removed when laying the rear seats flat, a process that opens up 1,500 litres (53.0 cubic feet) for serious cargo hauling capability. I know I’m getting all practical while talking about a Porsche, but while it’s true the Macan is amongst the sportiest in its class, at least in its highest trims, it’s also a perfectly useful tool for hauling family and gear. 

2018 Porsche Macan
While the 2019 Macan grows its centre display to 10.9 inches, the outgoing 7.2-inch system is still fully up to task. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Then again, calling something a tool that’s finished so impeccably inside doesn’t seem right either. The dash top was covered in red contrast-stitched leather, while a high-grade soft-touch composite material surfaces the bottom half of the instrument panel plus everything below the dash including the glove box lid and lower console sides. Likewise, the door panels are a mix of leather and pliable synthetic from top to bottom, while interior accents are mostly detailed out in satin-silver metal. Such hard trim elements aside, you’ll have a hard time finding any insubstantial plastic in this luxury SUV. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The standard reverse camera gets dynamic guidelines and a really helpful graphic that highlights standard front and rear parking sensor info. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, it’s wonderfully comfortable too. My tester’s 14-way seats provided plenty of power adjustments including four-way lumbar and extendable seat squabs. Porsche offers a lot of steering wheel reach and rake too, allowing me to get completely comfortable with the driver setup, which instilled a sense of controlled confidence even before setting out. 

Likewise rear seating is roomy and accommodating, with the outboard positions both fully supportive to provide the comfort needed on long trips, and carved out nicely for holding backside in place when the driver lets off a little steam. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The lower centre console is a sophisticated bit of button-infused kit, which moves into 2019 unchanged. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Speaking of going quickly, those wanting more straight-line speed can choose the Macan S that stuffs a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 under its hood good for 340 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, which results in zero to 100km/h in only 5.4 seconds, or 5.2 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, plus a new terminal velocity of 254 km/h compared to the base model’s already lofty 229 km/h. Alternatively the Macan GTS adds an extra 20 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque for a total of 360 and 369 respectively, plus sprint time of 5.2 seconds to 100km/h, or 5.0 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, and a higher top speed of 256 km/h. 

2018 Porsche Macan
These upgraded 14-way powered leather seats were wonderfully comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Turbo (Turbo referring to a model name despite all Macan trims using turbocharged engines) is top of the Macan heap thanks to a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 that makes 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, plus standstill to 100km/h achieved in just 4.8 seconds, or 4.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, and an even faster final speed of 266 km/h. If you still crave more, a Performance Edition, which makes the Sport Chrono Package standard, adds 40 horsepower and 36 lb-ft of torque for 440 of the former and 442 lb-ft of the latter, resulting in a 4.4-second sprint to 100km/h. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The panoramic sunroof is a nice option that makes the cabin feel more open and airy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s likely that fuel economy will matter to those in the more conservative trims, especially now that a new carbon tax is upping pump prices in four Canadian provinces, and others, such as BC, are reeling from an even bigger carbon tax bump, so be satisfied that a fuel-saving and emissions reducing auto start/stop system, with coasting capability, shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, helping the Macan to deliver a claimed rating of 11.6 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 10.5 combined. I certainly could live with this, especially considering how sporty it feels when pushed, and how responsive it is even when lightly applying the throttle. 

2018 Porsche Macan
There’s no shortage of passenger space in back, plus it’s finished beautifully and can be upgraded with as-tested heatable outboard seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

If you opt for a 2019 Macan fuel economy shouldn’t change noticeably, but take note the base powertrain is down some 4 ponies while the next-in-line Macan S gains 8 horsepower. Neither issue should sway Macan buyers either way, but Porsche promises an improved ride and with better handling, the latter hard to believe considering how deft the current model is, so I’ll reserve judgment until I get behind the wheel. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Despite being one of the sportiest performers in its class, the Macan’s 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks make it ultimately practical. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

A greater draw is the new SUV’s styling that’s highlighted by standard LED headlamps on a slightly revised front end design, plus a more dramatic statement made from behind thanks to a single three-dimensional LED taillight that spans the entire width of its backside. I think the 2019 Macan’s biggest draw is inside, thanks to a new standard 10.9-inch high-resolution centre touchscreen, which receives most of the same standard features as with the current version, but gets more up-to-date graphics on a larger display, a quicker operating speed, and Porsche Connect Plus, an app suite filled with functions, like a Wi-Fi hotspot, and services. 

Additionally, the 2019 Macan will offer a driver assist system that, via the adaptive cruise control, provides semi-autonomous driving for acceleration, braking and lane keeping assist at speeds of 60 km/h and below during congested traffic conditions. 

So the choice is yours. Work your best deal on an already discounted 2018 Macan now or choose the updated 2019 version as it starts arriving this month, knowing either option results in a premium crossover SUV that delivers a higher level of style, performance, refinement and luxury than the majority of challengers, while fulfilling all the practical concerns of a life well lived.

The compact luxury sedan market segment is a tough nut to crack. It’s more or less owned by three German makes, including Mercedes-Benz with its C-Class sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible, Audi with…

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Road Test

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The new 2019 Volvo S60 delivers big on style, especially when upgraded to T6 AWD R-Design trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The compact luxury sedan market segment is a tough nut to crack. It’s more or less owned by three German makes, including Mercedes-Benz with its C-Class sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible, Audi with its A4 sedan and tall wagon, plus its A5 coupe, convertible and four-door coupe, and BMW with its 3 series sedan and wagon, plus its 4 Series coupe, convertible, and four-door coupe, leaving a bevy of smaller players fighting over scraps. 

To be clear, most in this class are suffering from the success of their own compact luxury crossover SUV making, which means that while year over year sales of the BMW X3, for example, were up by 48.6 percent from calendar year 2017 to 2018, deliveries of the iconic 3 Series were off by 19.5 percent, and much lower volume 4 Series sales down by 5.4 percent. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
While its optional Fusion Red Metallic paint looks great, the S60’s new C-shaped LED taillights are easier to make out in a contrast hue. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Not every car in the D-segment lost ground, mind you, with the aforementioned C-Class gaining 6.5 percent, the Infiniti Q50 up 6.8 percent, and the Audi A5’s take-rate growing by an amazing 25 percent after a long-awaited redesign, but some saw significantly more shrinkage than BMW’s 3, such as Lexus’ RC coupe that dropped a staggering 37.9 percentage points, Jaguar’s XE sedan that lost 27.8 percent, Cadillac’s ATS sedan and coupe collectively down 25.4 percent, Acura’s TLX sedan off by 25.2 percent, Infiniti’s Q60 coupe down by 24.2 percent, and the Audi A4 sedan and tall crossover wagon’s popularity curtailed by a considerable 20.3 percent. 

Such steep sales declines make the Volvo 60-series’ loss of 5.1 percent seem easier to stomach, and to be yet farer to the Swedish automaker, those 60-series cars’ incredible 99.7 percent year over year increase from calendar year 2016 to 2017 made the slight downturn inevitable, the former upsurge directly resulting from years of pent-up demand for this all-new S60 sport sedan and its V60 sport wagon counterpart. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The R-Design gets a unique take on the S60’s new hexagonal grille. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The aforementioned tough nut to crack comment has less to do with sales volatility and more about actual sales numbers, however, with both 60-series Volvos only managing 1,245 units collectively through 2018, compared to 11,556 for the bevy of C-Class models, 10,173 for the various Audis, and 9,733 for BMW’s offerings—yes, the 3 Series/4Series was once number one in this segment. 

Everything else is much farther down the pecking order, with Infiniti’s sedan and coupe ringing up 3,424 orders, Lexus non-ES offerings (the IS and RC) tallying up to 3,163 deliveries, Acura’s previously noted TLX finding 2,397 buyers, and even Cadillac’s ATS scooping up 1,615 new owners (before it gets axed), while a fair ways below Volvo’s 60-series total was Genesis’ G70 at 967 units, Jaguar’s XE at 571, and Alfa Romeo’s Giulia at 510 deliveries. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps continue to give Volvo’s latest offerings a totally unique look, and this new design looks particularly good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now, before you scurry off to your local Merc, Bimmer or Audi store to sign up for one of their arguably worthy offerings, take note that earning a place in the top three doesn’t necessarily mean the car in question is better than something else on this list, or more specifically, doesn’t mean that something less popular won’t suite your personal style and requirements more agreeably. 

Case in point, this all-new 2019 Volvo S60. Volvo was once most notably known for safety above all, followed closely by bulletproof build quality. The good news here is safety is still high on the marque’s priority list, with its most recent offerings receiving Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus ratings from the IIHS, plus its bevy of standard active safety and advanced driver assistance features amongst the most comprehensive in the industry, some including automatic front collision warning with full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, Driver Alert Control, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, plus a Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation as part of its standard City Safety package, while Volvo also goes over the top by adding an airbag for the driver’s knees, front seat whiplash protection, and pyrotechnical seatbelt pretensioners in all positions front to rear. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Sportier front fascia detailing, including fog lamps that bend around each corner, is exclusive to the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Also noteworthy, if the S60’s sensors detect an imminent head-on collision, the new oncoming braking system will automatically activate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. Volvo says this feature reduces vehicle speed by 10 km/h before that impact occurs, which could potentially be a lifesaver, and should certainly help to minimize injury. 

While tempted to do a deep dive into all of the additional standard features found on this 2019 S60, let alone our sporty R-Design trimmed example, I’d better go over some of its other highlights first. Most of the S60’s design details, like its “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights have been covered in previous Volvo reviews, as have its C- or hook-shaped LED taillights that are similar, at least, to those found on the larger S90. I have to admit to liking the overall shape and design of the S60 best, but this may only be due to its newness, plus the sportiness of this R-Design trim level. In truth, I find both new sedans very attractive, at the very least matching and in many ways surpassing some of their key competitors. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
These 19-inch alloys on Pirelli rubber will add $1,000 to your bill. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I won’t go into detail as to the size difference between these two cars, this S60 clearly fitting into the most popular compact luxury D-segment, and the S90 within the larger luxury mid-size E-segment (going up against the E-Class, 5 Series, A6, et al), but take note this S60 has grown considerably when compared to its 2010–2018 predecessor, now stretching 133 millimetres (5.2 inches) longer from nose to tail at 4,761 mm (187.4 in), with a 96-mm (3.8-in) longer wheelbase measuring 2,872 mm (113.1 in), but strangely it’s 15 mm (0.6 in) narrower at 1,850 mm (72.8 in), while sporting a 53-mm (2.1-in) lower roofline than the outgoing model. 

The longer wheelbase improves rear legroom, which critics charged as a shortcoming on the old S60, and I must say the rear seating area is now much more accommodating with plenty of space to stretch out and get comfortable, plus it provides superbly comfortable outboard positions with excellent lower back support. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Upon closer inspection, it’s easier to see the nice detailing and sharp edges added to the new S60’s taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such is even truer for the driver’s position, which in R-Design trim receives a six-way powered and wonderfully contoured sport seat with four-way powered lumbar support that allows ideal adjustment for the exact lower back pressure point, providing relief on long trips, or for that matter after a long day’s work, while a power-extendable lower cushion nicely cups below the knees for additional comfort and support. Two-way memory sets a favourite position for instant recall, this standard across the entire S60 line, while R-Design exclusive Fine Nappa leather upholstery with contrast stitching covers all seats from front to back, making for a luxurious look and feel. 

As attractive as they look I highly doubt your eyes will rest upon the seats at first entry, however, as the rest of the S60 R-Design’s interior is so spectacular you’ll likely be swept away by the elegant horizontal dash design and beautifully sculpted details everywhere else, let alone its three-spoke R-design leather-wrapped steering wheel, R-Design metal pedals, R-Design carpeted floor mats, R-Design metal sill mouldings, 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, impressive vertical infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, four-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, etcetera, while the black headliner is a nice touch too. Still, the S60 R-Design’s special Metal Mesh decor inlays are particularly eye-catching, as is all of the S60’s jewellery-like switchgear, the rotating instrument panel knobs, glittering ignition switch, and equally dazzling drive mode selector appearing as if provided by one of the auto sector’s ultra-luxe brands, such as Bentley. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Slide inside one of the best interiors in the compact luxury D-segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Much of this glitz and glamour was initially introduced in the dramatically redesigned 2015 XC90 that formed the basis for most everything we’ve seen from Volvo since, so while the S60’s take on the Swedish automaker’s brand-wide interior design theme is nothing new to me or others familiar with the all things Volvo, the lavish luxury infused into each new 2019 model will likely produce eye-bulging levels of shock and awe amongst those trading up from their second-generation S60s. 

Expanding further on this line of thought, I previously spent three wonderful weeks in the V60 sport wagon, upgraded to top-line Inscription trim, which while slightly more expensive than the R-Design, in either V60 or S60 guise, is hardly more replete with features. Think of the Inscription as a more elegant take on luxury and the R-Design offering up a sportier edge, while the base Momentum is plenty impressive as well. Volvo should soon be offering the S60 in T8 AWD Polestar trims too, this model boasting the brand’s hybridized plug-in powertrain that ups performance to 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque via the same turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder as offered with T6 powered models. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The cabin detailing is superb, especially when uplifted with the optional Bowers & Wilkins audio system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That thought segues into currently available powertrains, with both T5 FWD and T6 AWD combinations under the S60’s hood and at its wheels. The T5 FWD is solely available in Momentum trim, featuring the same 2.0-litre four without the supercharger for a healthy 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque driving the front wheels, while the T6 AWD is optional with Momentum trim and standard on the R-Design and Inscription, and thanks to the aforementioned supercharger joining the turbo, it makes a much more satisfying 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque while powering all four wheels. 

As is normally the case in this class, both engines come standard with auto engine start/stop that reduces emissions while improving fuel economy by shutting down the engine when it would otherwise be idling, this helping the base T5 FWD to achieve a claimed 9.9 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 8.4 combined rating, whereas the as-tested T6 AWD is good for an estimated 11.1 city, 7.3 highway and 9.4 combined. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The S60 R-Design’s cockpit is as comfortable as it’s impressively finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Possibly more important to you is how the S60 R-Design drives, and to that end it’s even more dynamic than the V60 Inscription I enjoyed over the holiday season. It’s plenty quick off the line, with all four of its optional 235/40R19 Pirellis immediately locking onto asphalt and its formidable little powerplant whipping through its conjoined eight forward gears with effortless ease, both quickly when set to its sportiest Dynamic drive mode, and smoothly no matter which selection is chosen, Comfort and Eco also on the menu, while the R-Design model’s standard paddle shifters thoroughly enhance the hands-on experience. The engine and exhaust makes a nice snarly combination of notes at full throttle as well, but otherwise is as hushed as the car’s ultimately refined interior, the S60 R-Design balancing performance and pleasantries on an equal scale. 

Similar kudos can be attributed to the S60’s underpinnings, the R-Design’s exclusively lowered sport suspension boasting firmer dampers for tauter, flatter handling through fast-paced corners that results in stable, predictable manners even when flung carelessly into tight off-camber curves, while it doesn’t get unsettled when tossed back and forth through serpentine stretches either. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
This stunning 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster comes standard with the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It rides on the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that Volvo uses for its larger S90 luxury sedan chassis, plus most everything else in the brand’s current lineup, with aluminum double wishbones in front and an exclusive integral link rear suspension design featuring a transverse lightweight composite leaf spring at back. Driver-selectable low, medium and high personal power steering settings combine with the aforementioned driving modes to make the most of any situation, whereas the brakes match handling and acceleration ideally as well, proving strong when called upon and always smoothly progressive, the entire car never forgetting that, while a capable sport sedan, refined luxury, supported by a compliant suspension setup and ultra-comfortable seats, is paramount in the class. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The Volvo Sensus centre touchscreen is all about big, attractive gesture controlled goodness, that’s easy to use and fully functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To that end the $52,400 S60 R-Design, which normally rides on 18-inch alloys, pulls plenty of as-yet unmentioned features up from the $42,400 base Momentum T5 FWD model, such as Road Sign Information (RSI), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, a Clean Zone Air Quality system and a humidity sensor, rear parking sonar, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, voice activation, dual USB ports, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, Volvo On-Call with remote start and vehicle tracking, 170-watt 10-speaker audio, satellite radio, heated front seats with driver’s memory, a 120-volt household-style power outlet in the rear console, power-folding rear seat headrests, and more inside, while standard dual chromed tailpipes are joined by a unique R-Design front grille, plus auto high beams and active bending for the aforementioned LED headlamps, fog lamps with active bending, high-gloss black exterior trim including the side mirror caps, door handle puddle lamps, proximity-sensing keyless access, and the list goes on. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Unique Metal Mesh inlays can be found throughout the cabin, including the scrolling lids atop the centre console. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I loved my tester’s $900 optional Fusion Red Metallic paint, one of five optional colours as well as no-cost standard Black Stone, while all R-Design models get Charcoal black for the interior. If you end up going for Momentum trim you can choose from seven exterior colours and a variety of interior motifs, while Inscription trim provides the choice of eight colours albeit fewer cabin combinations, although the Momentum’s upgradable upholsteries are optional at no cost with the Inscription. 

Those 19-inch alloy wheels mentioned before were a $1,000 upgrade, while additional options included a $1,150 graphical head-up display unit that projected useful information, like navigation directions, onto the windshield for an easy, safe overview, plus the 15-speaker, 1,100-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system was soundsational, and well worth the $3,750 required, even if you choose it for its gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles alone. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
No competitor does jewel-like metal-edged switchgear as well as Volvo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Volvo also added a $1,250 Climate Package that features heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; plus a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s really impressive Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror; and finally an $1,800 Vision Package with very helpful 360-degree surround parking camera, easy to use Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, always welcome front parking sonar, even more appreciated auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert that could potentially save you from backing into oncoming traffic. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
These superb Nappa leather-covered sport seats are exclusive to the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In case you were wondering, the $53,900 S60 Inscription includes most everything from the R-Design, other than the sportier features mentioned earlier, while in their place it adds a classy chromed waterfall grille, chromed window trim, unique 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, beautiful matte Driftwood Décor interior inlays, a tailored instrument panel with stitched soft-touch detailing, perforated Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, and more. 

I sourced all 2019 Volvo S60 pricing from CarCostCanada, incidentally, where you can find detailed prices on each trim level, all packages, and every standalone option for the S60 and every other Volvo, not to mention most other new vehicles sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and money-saving dealer invoice pricing. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Gotta love this massive standard glass sunroof. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My only S60 complaint is a missing overhead sunglasses holder, plus not enough space on the centre console to place my average-sized Samsung S9 smartphone within easy visibility while driving, which was probably planned from onset by this safety-conscious automaker so as to reduce distracted driving. The most forward of two large cupholders, otherwise hidden below a lovely scrolling console lid, solved that problem, with the latter big enough to hold my ever-present water bottle securely, no matter how aggressively I took to corners. 

The S60’s 391-litre (13.8 cubic-foot) trunk was also large enough for my needs and about average for the class, and while its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks included a centre pass-through for skis and other long cargo, I would have preferred a larger opening via a 40/20/40 divided seat configuration instead, but this is still a lot better than no pass-through at all, which is how most Japanese offerings come. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Rear seating is comfortable and plenty accommodating. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In closing, anyone considering a car in the compact luxury D-segment should take a close look at this new 2019 Volvo S60, as it’s a serious contender that delivers at an extremely high level in every way, from styling to performance, leading technology to safety, and overall comfort to accommodating spaciousness. Also important, it’s wonderfully different than anything from Germany or Japan, and for that reason the S60 may very well strike a chord with those who especially appreciate uniqueness and exclusivity, let alone a level of opulence few in this class can measure up to.

It’s déjà vu all over again, or at least that’s how I felt when picking up my 2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD tester. I’d spent a week with an identical model less than a year prior; even down…

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD Road Test

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The 2019 Rogue SL Platinum looks just like the 2018 Rogue SL Platinum, but Nissan has made some key features more affordable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s déjà vu all over again, or at least that’s how I felt when picking up my 2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD tester. I’d spent a week with an identical model less than a year prior; even down to its top-line trim level and most popular Pearl White paint. 

Then I got inside, however, and was reminded of a near identical model I test drove the year prior in lovely Scarlet Ember livery, and therefore also remembered that last year’s SL Platinum wasn’t fully loaded, missing this SUV’s $500 SL Platinum Reserve Interior Package that includes a stylish stitched leatherette dash pad and replaces the regular Charcoal black or Almond beige leather upholstery with special quilted leather in an even richer looking Premium Tan hue, which comes across more like caramel or saddle brown. Either way it looks great, and ideally complements the white exterior paint, although the upgrade package is no longer available with the special metallic red exterior paint, or for that matter Nissan’s beautiful Caspian Blue. A shame. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The Rogue’s rear design remains attractive, while SL Platinum trim’s 19-inch alloys enhance the look. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Not to start this review out on a negative, because there’s very little to fault this popular compact crossover SUV on. As noted, the Rogue is Nissan Canada’s most popular model, and one look should make it easy to understand why. It was refreshed for the 2017 model year with Nissan’s wider, more U-shaped Vmotion 2.0 grille that I happen to like a lot more than the original V, while its then-new quad-beam headlamps with LED daytime running lights, and its updated LED brake lights added premium-level sophistication to the design. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Some of the Rogue SL Platinum’s key elements, including LED headlamps, fog lights and 19-inch alloys, make a big difference to its outward appearance. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That face-lifted 2017 model included additional styling tweaks on the outside plus updates within, a personal favourite being its flat-bottom steering wheel that still makes a sporty statement in the otherwise elegantly appointed top-line 2019 Rogue SL Platinum Reserve model. So equipped, that steering wheel is leather-wrapped with a heatable rim, a much appreciated mid-winter feature, as are the Quick Comfort heated front seats that come standard across the entire Rogue line, albeit the Platinum’s perforated leather upholstery is exclusive to this model. 

There’s actually more to the SL Platinum Reserve Interior’s seat design than quilting and the caramel colour change. The quilting is only used for the centre inserts, with perforated leather added to the inner bolsters and contrast-stitched black leather on top of those bolsters for a little more of a sport look mixed in with the luxury. The seats’ upholstery is complemented by the same Premium Tan on the door armrests, centre armrest, padded knee protectors on each side of the lower centre console, and even the aforementioned dash facing, which incorporates a similarly classy looking stitched leatherette pad ahead of the front passenger. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The $500 SL Platinum Reserve Interior Package includes this classy looking Premium Tan interior motif. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Icing on the proverbial cake comes in the form of Piano Black interior door inlays surrounding the usual chromed door handles, which match up nicely next to the same glossy black treatment rimming the dash vents, centre console, gear lever surround and otherwise leather-wrapped shift knob. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The Rogue SL Platinum’s nicely sorted cockpit includes a heatable leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As you may have guessed, the latest Rogue SL Platinum Reserve doesn’t just look like a premium crossover SUV, but in addition its standard feature set is replete with top-drawer gear that one-ups plenty of luxury brands. For instance, the official name given to this trim level is Rogue SL Platinum with ProPilot Assist, the latter technology standard with all SL Platinum models and really quite impressive. It’s a semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system, which means it has the ability to completely drive itself, but due to safety concerns only lets you remove your hands from the steering wheel for about eight seconds at a time—it warns you to put your hands back on the wheel after that. Still, it’ll impress your friends and might be useful to those who find highway driving intimidating, as it helps keep the Rogue centered within its lane and, along with its Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Intelligent Lane Intervention systems, may even help avoid an accident. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
A traditional analogue gauge cluster includes a colour TFT multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

These latter two advanced driver assistance systems get pulled up to the SL Platinum from mid-range SV trim, as does Intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control, while high beam assist, rear parking sensors, Moving Object Detection (MOD), backup collision intervention and rear autonomous emergency braking join ProPilot Assist as options with the SV and standard equipment with the top-line SL Platinum model. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The centre touchscreen is filled with plenty of noteworthy features, but the dual-screen Around View parking monitor is the highlight. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with all the usual active and passive safety features, some advanced tech incorporated into upper trims from the base Rogue S include Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with a display showing individual tire pressures and an Easy-Fill Tire Alert, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), plus two features normally relegated to top-line trims, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), while Rear Door Alert is an oddly named albeit very welcome feature that actually warns against leaving something or someone in the back seat unattended after turning off the engine, by remembering that you opened a rear door before setting off on your drive. Now that’s smart. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The unique saddle/caramel coloured leather upholstery looks rich, and the seats provide good comfort and support. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As cool as some of this tech is, especially watching the Rogue drive itself, applying hands to said wheel while on the highway, and then winding through some twisting backroads after tooling through town is my usual course of action. As always the Rogue didn’t disappoint, but let me insert a caveat here, I’ve never set my performance expectations too high. This is an SUV built primarily for comfort rather than all-out speed, and to that end it delivers in spades, with a nice compliant ride, smooth, progressive acceleration, and an easy, controlled demeanor on the open freeway. It can manage curves too, and provides strong braking when needed, but if you’re looking for performance there are sportier SUVs in this class, yet few are smoother than the Rogue, such refinement its specialty. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
A large powered panoramic sunroof adds an open, airy ambience to an already spacious interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Behind that V-motion grille is the Nissan’s dependable 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, which continues to make a totally acceptable if not breathtaking 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while its standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) is one of the reasons behind that just noted smooth factor. It’s also partially responsible for the Rogue’s commendable Transport Canada fuel economy rating that comes in at 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 8.7 combined with its as-tested all-wheel drivetrain, or 9.1 city, 7.1 highway and 8.2 combined when opting for front-wheel drive. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The rear seating area is very accommodating. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As is mostly the case in this class, all-wheel drive is more about tackling slippery pavement than anything off-road, although traveling to campsites over logging roads or light-duty trails can benefit from AWD, as well as its various electronic all-weather features, such as Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS). This said others in the class are starting to broaden their appeal, with the latest RAV4 Trail featuring some real 4×4-like go-anywhere technologies, and the Subaru Forester long offering its X-Mode for extracting itself from rougher situations. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Nissan provides handy storage for the retractable cargo cover under the load floor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Back to earth, or rather asphalt, the Rogue is ideal for slogging through Canadian winters, hitting the slopes, or alternatively heading out on that summer camping vacation. It can tow a small camp trailer or lightweight boat weighing up to 500 kilos (1,100 lbs), plus it can carry plenty of gear in back, up to 1,112 litres (39.3 cubic feet) in the dedicated cargo area and 1,982 litres (70.0 cubic feet) when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat. That rear bench is made more passenger and cargo friendly via a centre pass-through that doubles as a centre armrest with cupholders, which allows longer items like skis to be stuffed down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the benefit of the window seats, although take note they might be grumbling on the way back from the ski hill due to a surprising lack of available rear seat heaters. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
A shelf-like removable load floor offers plenty of cargo space versatility. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with all of the features already mentioned, the $37,398 top-line SL Platinum gets a lot of premium-level upgrades that really make a difference when it comes to performance, safety, convenience and luxury, such as AWD, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated leather steering wheel rim and leather-wrapped shift knob, memory for the six-way powered driver’s seat and side mirrors, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a powered panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a surround parking monitor, great sounding Bose audio with nine speakers including two subs, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a gesture activated liftgate, and more. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The Rogue provides more larger cargo capacity than average. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t tire you by scrolling through lists of everything that gets pulled up to SL Platinum trim from the other two grades, but some highlights from both include remote engine start, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, LED turn signals within the side mirror caps, roof rails, the aforementioned six-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar, a retractable cargo cover and more with the $29,098 SV, plus variable intermittent wipers, overhead LED map lights and sunglasses storage, a colour multi-information display, a 7.0-inch centre touchscreen, NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM Traffic, hands-free text messaging assistant, Bluetooth, mood lighting, and more with the $26,798 base Rogue S. By the way, all pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where all the trims, packages and individual features are itemized, plus otherwise hard to find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing is provided. 

For the most part our 2019 Rogue SL Platinum Reserve was well equipped, especially when it came to advanced driver assistance systems, plus it provided more than enough performance, a smooth, quiet ride, great fuel economy, and a fairly luxurious and comfortable cabin, while it was extremely accommodating for driver, passengers and cargo. I like the way it looks, especially as my tester was kitted out, which, along with all of the above, is likely why it’s such a strong seller, and also why it’s easy to recommend.

I’m not going to lie to you. As curious as I am to spend a given week with seriously important big market cars like the recently redesigned Toyota Corolla, and as interested as I am to find out how…

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR Road Test

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
Beautiful enough for you? Jaguar’s F-Type Coupe SVR drives even better than it looks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I’m not going to lie to you. As curious as I am to spend a given week with seriously important big market cars like the recently redesigned Toyota Corolla, and as interested as I am to find out how far I can go on a single charge with Kia’s latest Soul EV, nothing gets me out of my editor’s chair as quickly or as enthusiastically as a hopped up muscle car, a high-revving super-exotic, or something along the lines of Jaguar’s F-Type SVR, which might be the perfect combination of both. 

Regular readers will remember that I spent a blissful week with this very same car last year in its more eye-arresting Ultra Blue paintwork, so having this 2019 model gifted to me for yet another seven heavenly days was a welcome surprise made better due to its stealth Santorini Black bodywork that thankfully doesn’t attract quite as much attention. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
Gorgeous from all angles, the F-Type SVR makes a formidable visual statement. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s not that I was embarrassed to be seen in it, quite the opposite of course, but rather that this car coaxes my most juvenile impulses from their hardly deep recesses all too easily, which can quickly get a person deep into trouble. 

How quickly? Well that depends on whether you’re thrown into a stupor or moved into action when first laying eyes on the F-Type SVR, as well as which sense moves you most. If you’re visually stimulated first and foremost, you might be stopped dead in your tracks as soon as it comes into view, but then again if your receptors respond more to an auditory trigger you’ll move right past first sight to initial startup, resulting in the rasp of one of the more sensational exhaust notes in autodom, which will either send you to the moon in a momentary daze or turn you toward the street to put some of that wound up energy to good use. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
The SVR’s many finely crafted details impress. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I’m jaded, or maybe it’s just that experience tells me not to waste a moment gawking inanely at something I can relive later in pictures. Certainly one can recall memories of moments well spent, but the more one collects such moments makes recalling them a helluvalot easier. A quick glance of appreciation, out of respect, immediately followed by a quicker descent into a familiar body hug, the SVR’s performance seats are as wholly enveloping as they’re sinfully comfortable. Foot on brake pedal, finger on start button, mechanical machinations ignited and ahhh… glory hallelujah! What a sound! 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
These stunning 20-inch alloys come as part of a $13k carbon ceramic brake upgrade. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Nothing roadworthy this side of an XJR-15 sounds as brutally raw, as purely visceral as an F-Type SVR being brought to life, that is until you’ve given the throttle a few more blips after opening up its two-mode titanium and Inconel active exhaust system via a wee little console-mounted button that makes a great big noise. Any sort of right foot twitch capable of spinning the crank above 4,000 revolutions per minute lets loose a cacophony of crackling barks and blats, the kind of song that’ll have gearheads singing along in dissonant unity, and zero emissions folks sneering. 

Allowing spent gases to exit more freely isn’t exactly the Tesla mantra, and to think the minds behind this wondrous high-test glutton are the very crew responsible for the Model X-beating I-Pace (well, it beats the entry-level Tesla crossover, at least). We’ve all got to love the bizarre dichotomy running rampant in today’s automotive market, where the cars we all lust after are paying for the ones that government mandates are forcing down our throats. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
The SVR’s interior comes filled with red-stitched Suedecloth and quilted leather. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, thanks to companies like Jaguar and Tesla we’re all beginning to realize that going electric isn’t the end of motorized fun, but potentially a new beginning. Could there be an electrified F-Type in our future? Likely, and it’ll be the quickest Jaguar sports car ever. Still, the good folks at Castle Bromwich will need to expend terahertz levels of energy in their artificial sound lab to recreate the auditory ecstasy this SVR composes. Let’s hope they succeed, because we all know that as sensational as this 5.0-litre supercharged V8 sounds, and as fabulously fast as this Jaguar becomes when powered by it, the still impressive yet nevertheless 23-year-old AJ-8 power unit’s days are numbered. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
Equal parts luxury and down-to-business performance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As it is, this 575 horsepower beast catapults from naught to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds before attaining the seemingly unattainable terminal velocity of 322 km/h (200 mph)—that’s 1.1 seconds quicker and 122 km/h (75.8 mph) faster than the I-Pace, in case you were wondering. Certainly a driver’s license would be unobtainable for the remainder of my sorry life if I were so foolish as to attempt the former speed on public roads, and being that no such track is long enough within close proximity of my home we’ll all just need to take Jaguar’s word for it. Suffice to say that zero to all other cars at the stoplight looking like tiny coloured dots happens all of a shockingly sudden, so you’d better gather your stunned thoughts, get into the game and prepare for upcoming corners or you’ll fast be shuffled off this mortal coil. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
I’ll never complain about a beautifully designed set of analogue gauges, while the 5.0-inch MID provides good functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Fortunately the F-Type SVR manages all roads serpentine as easily as it’s guided down the straight and narrow, its brilliantly quick-shifting eight-speed automatic as ideally suited to flicking up through the gears as for rev-matched downshifts. Remember when I mentioned muscle car credentials earlier? That was strictly referencing the engine, its prowess over undulating, curving backroads the stuff of mid-engine exotica. Just look at the meaty 305-section Pirelli P-Zero rubber at back and plentiful 265/35s up front, both ends supported by the lightweight aluminum chassis and riveted, bonded body shell noted earlier, and then factor in that suspension’s Adaptive Dynamics system, the electronic active rear differential, and the brake-sourced torque vectoring. Tap the carbon ceramic brakes to load up the front tires, enter the apex, add throttle and enjoy as the SVR’s backside locks into place while catapulting this leather-lined beast toward the next bend, a process I repeated over and over, as often as opportunity would allow. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
New for 2019 is this large 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All said, you’d think something as fabulously fast as the F-Type SVR would be a handful around town, but that’s where its exotic nature ends and more upright practicality enters. It’s actually a very comfortable coupe to spend time in, while visibility is quite good considering its sleek greenhouse and thick C pillars. The 12-way powered driver’s seat and steering column fit my long-legged, short torso five-foot-eight frame well, and due to much more movement in all directions should provide good adjustability for all sorts of body types, and I certainly had no complaints from my various co-drivers. 

On the practicality question, Jaguar provides a large hatch opening for loading in all kinds of gear, with up to 408 litres (14.4 cubic feet) in total and about half that below the removable hard cargo cover. It’s beautifully finished, as one would expect in this class, but remember that unlike the old XK the F-Type is strictly a two-seater with no rear seats to fold, so there’s no way you’ll be able to fit skis or any other long items aboard, unless you slot them down the middle between driver and front passenger. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
All F-Type switchgear is above par. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I remember stuffing my significant other and kids into an XKR coupe years ago, and while its 2+2 grand touring profile wasn’t carried forward into the F-Type’s design, the interior’s fine workmanship and beautiful attention to detail continues. In fact, I’d say this SVR’s cabin is even better, with rich red stitching and piping providing colour to the otherwise black Suedecloth and quilted leather surfaces, while its electronic interfaces are beyond comparison. 

Classic analogue dials flank a large 5.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display at centre, unchanged from past years, albeit the Touch Pro infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack is all new for 2019, growing from 8.0 to 10.0 inches in diameter and now flush-mounted without buttons down each side. It’s properly outfitted with navigation, a backup camera with active guidelines, Pro Services, InControl Apps, 770-watt 12- speaker Meridian surround audio, satellite and HD radio, and the list goes on, while Jaguar also added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for $300. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
Fabulous looking SVR sport seats are comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

You can get into a 2019 F-Type Coupe SVR for just $140,500, or go topless for an extra $3,000, either of which is a bargain when compared to the Porsche 911 Turbo that will set you back $43,700 more for the hardtop or an additional $54,700 for the drop-top. That easily pays for the aforementioned $13,260 Carbon Ceramic Brake Pack with plenty left over, which includes 398 millimetre rotors up front and 380 mm discs at back, plus massive yellow calipers encircled by a stunning set of 10-spoke 20-inch diamond-turned alloys. Plenty of options were included with my test car and a yet more, like LED headlights, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, auto climate control, front and rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, and lane keeping assist, comes standard, so make sure to check out all the 2019 F-Type trims, packages and options at CarCostCanada, not to mention rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
A supercar that’s practical too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It’s difficult not to write an epic for such a phenomenal sports car, but instead of running on at the mouth I recommend you head to your local Jaguar retailer and ask them to start one up in the showroom or on the lot, turn on the switchable active exhaust, rev the throttle and then listen to the snap, crackle and pop of the exhaust. If you’re not raring to go for a drive after that, you might be better off moseying down the road to the Lexus store for a smooth, comfortable ride in ES 300 hybrid.

It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra.  Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for…

2019 Nissan Micra S Road Test

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now that’s an easy face to fall for. Nissan’s 2019 Micra even looks good in base S trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra. 

Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for this little city car last year it probably sounds $500 too high, because the Micra was one of Canada’s only new sub-$10k cars for its entire four-year existence (except for the $9,995 Chevy Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage when it went on sale to clear out end-of-year stock), but thanks to a new standard 7.0-inch centre touchscreen featuring an integrated backup camera and some other updates, it’s a bit pricier this year. You can see all of the trims and check out previous years’ pricing at CarCostCanada, where you’ll also find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing. 

Its new list price still beats inflation (according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator), as well as the Mirage by $510, and now that I think of it the Micra also beats the Mirage by 31 horsepower, 33 lb-ft of torque, 400 cubic centimetres of engine displacement, one cylinder, one rear suspension stabilizer bar, one-inch of standard wheel diameter, 20 millimetres of standard tire width, 32 litres of additional passenger volume, 41 mm of front headroom, 29 mm of rear headroom, 0.5 inches of standard centre touchscreen, six litres of fuel tank volume, and the list goes on. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Its tall hatch profile and retrospectively rounded design adds a classic small car touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All said it would be unfair not to mention that, while the Mirage is about as sporty as a Kenmore dryer on spin cycle, its claimed fuel usage nears hybrid levels of efficiency at 6.5 L/100km combined city/highway in manual form and just 6.2 with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), compared to 7.9 L/100km for the Micra’s five-speed manual and 8.0 for its available four-speed automatic. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Even the Micra’s backside looks good thanks to well proportioned taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Mirage beats the Micra in a number of other notable ways too, such as standard auto off headlamps, LED taillights, body-colour mirror caps, exterior door handles and liftgate handle, a chrome rear garnish, standard power door locks with remote access, power-adjustable side mirrors, powered front windows, air conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, two more standard stereo speakers, a driver’s knee airbag, 79 additional litres of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, 511 more litres of cargo space with the seats folded, two more years or 40,000 more kilometres of basic warranty, five more years or 60,000 more km of powertrain warranty, etcetera, while year-over-year sales of the Mirage were off by just six percent compared to 39 percent for the Micra. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The Micra’s lower fascia looks quite sporty thanks to a big gaping engine vent and smaller corner ducts. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That last point might make it look as if more people like the Mitsubishi, but just 2,351 Canadians took a Mirage home last year compared to 5,372 that opted for the Micra. It’s easy to see they didn’t make their choice by comparing standard features and fuel economy, because the Mirage clearly comes out on top in these categories, so why all the Micra love? 

2019 Nissan Micra S
They might only be covers over steel wheels, but their 15-inch diameter makes for better performance than some rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Take both cars for a drive and you’ll immediately understand. The Micra is so much fun you’ll be wondering why everyone’s making such a fuss about SUVs, whereas the Mirage feels best when idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If the latter describes your commute and you never plan on driving up to Whistler or Kelowna via the Coquihalla for a weekend getaway, by all means go all in on the Mitsu, but if you want a car that has the power to keep up with traffic while climbing steep grades, let alone is sporty enough in stock trim to compete in its own spec racing series, choose the Micra, and while you’re at it watch a few segments of the highly entertaining Micra Cup (see below for Race 1 of the 2018 season). 

2019 Nissan Micra S
A cool detail that normally goes unnoticed are these sculpted curves on the rooftop that may or may not aid aerodynamics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Rather than applying lipstick to a pig and trying to pass it off as the prom queen, Nissan invested its Micra money into a formidable direct-injection 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine good for 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, compared to 78 and 74 respectively for the Mirage, plus a sporty feeling five-speed manual transmission with nice, progressive clutch take-up, wonderful steering feel, a front strut, rear torsion beam suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends, 15-inch wheels on 185/60 all-season tires, and overall driving feel that punches way above its 1,044-kilo welter curb weight. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The taillights’ classic design enhance the Micra’s rear styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, how a city car takes to the corners may not matter as much to some folks as others, but let me know how you feel about that after you’ve just managed to avoid an accident thanks to the fleet footedness of your much more agile Micra. Due to such well-engineered suspension systems, I’m thankfully able to share a number of near misses that could have been bent metal at best, so handling is as much of a safety issue as braking performance, which I must say is pretty good on both cars despite their front disc, rear drum setups. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
We’re not going to try and pretend the Micra has an upscale interior, but it’s roomy and everything works as advertised. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I know, many buying into this class will likely care more about colour choices and styling than performance and safety, and when it comes to visual appeal I think the Micra has an edge in this respect too. While both are quite seasoned, this generation of Mirage Hatchback having arrived on the scene in 2012 and the current Micra in 2011, albeit in Canada during the spring of 2014 as a 2015 model, the little Nissan looks well proportioned and actually quite sporty from all angles. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Hey kids, this little toggle is for manually adjusting the side mirrors, which is a lot easier to use than what I had to do to adjust the mirrors in my parents car when I was a kid. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Inside my base S trimmed tester, the word spartan comes to mind. Maybe minimalism might be kinder, because it does brighten things up with silver metal-like accents in key areas, and a nice, sizeable 7.0-inch centre touchscreen filled with a colourful interface, this especially true when placing the shifter in reverse and enjoying the big new backup camera on the display, while Bluetooth audio, Siri Eyes Free, and plenty of other functions provide a fully up-to-date user experience, but the black cloth seats come up a bit short on creativity, and the three-dial HVAC system is, while perfectly functional, easy to use, and adorned with blue and red highlights on the temperature knob and some backlit orange elements elsewhere, hardly exciting. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Here’s another one for the kids: see the hand crank below the door handle? It’s for manually winding the window up and down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The steering wheel is new, and in its most basic form gets a fresh set of metallic silver audio system and Bluetooth phone switchgear on its leftmost spoke, but the two-dial gauge cluster hasn’t changed for as long as I’ve been testing this car, my first review being a 2015 version of this very Micra S, with its only option being a sparkling coat of Metallic Blue paint. This 2019 tester’s $135 worth of Magnetic Gray paint aside (the price of optional paint hasn’t gone up one cent), the gauge package is large and easy to read in any light, while the little LCD gear selector, odometer, fuel gauge, and trip computer display, capable of showing current and average fuel economy plus distance to empty) is kind of cool in a retro Seiko digital watch sort of way. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The base Micra S looks a lot more modern with steering wheel switchgear and a display audio system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I reviewed 2016 and 2017 examples of the top-line Micra SR too, the former in a beautiful blue-green Caspian Sea hue (that’s still available), and the second in a less playful Gun Metallic grey (that’s been replaced by this car’s aforementioned Magnetic Gray—Metallic Blue is now only available in upper trims, incidentally), but Charcoal Cloth (black) is the only interior colour choice, albeit upper trims get some patterned colour woven into the seat inserts that’s a big move up in visual stimulation. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now you can adjust audio volume, search for stations and answer a call from this new steering wheel switchgear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

What else do you get with the base Micra? The new infotainment system and steering wheel switches aside, the Micra S comes with thoughtful little luxuries like rubberized knobs for the manual winding windows, cool little toggles for manually adjusting the side mirrors (although you’ll need to stretch across the car or ask for help to set up the one on the passenger’s side), carpeted floor mats front to back, and did I mention the genuine cloth seats? Of course, I’m poking a little fun at the expectations of our first world life, because very few cars available on the Canadian market have wind-up windows these days, let alone require a key to get into each front door as well as the rear hatch. Seriously there’s not even an interior latch to remotely release it, but once it’s unlocked you have the luxury of opening and closing it at will. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
I happen to have a fondness for ’70s-era LCD watches, so the Micra’s gauge clusters is kind of cool in a retro sort of way. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Standard features of note that have not yet been mentioned include tilt steering, micro-filtered ventilation, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, two-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a USB port and aux-in jack, a four-way manual driver’s seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The base model’s centre stack now gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen above a classic three-dial DIY manual HVAC system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you want air conditioning and/or cruise control, not to mention an upgraded steering wheel featuring switchgear on its right spoke, simply opt for the Micra S with its available automatic and these features come standard. That upmarket move requires a surprisingly hefty $3,810 resulting in a new total of $14,298 before freight and fees, which, once again to be fair to the Mitsubishi, is $2,100 more than the Mirage CVT that already includes the autobox-infused Micra upgrades as standard. The thing is, you’ll be hard pressed to get up a steep hill in the Mitsubishi, while you’ll be hard charging in the Micra. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Bright and colourful, the new touchscreen is a car cry more advanced than the old Micra’s LCD centre stack readout. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The fancier cloth isn’t all you get when moving up from the Micra’s base S trim to its $15,598 mid-range SV or $17,598 top-tier SR grade, with the former trim’s standard features list swelling to include the automatic transmission, body-coloured mirror caps and door handles, power locks with auto-locking, powered windows, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, chrome interior door handles, cruise control, air conditioning, four-speaker audio, a six-way manual driver’s seat with a folding armrest, etcetera, while factory options for this trim include a $400 SV Style Package with 15-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Now that’s a decent sized backup camera, providing a nice clear image that really helps when parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The top-line Micra SR gets the same rooftop spoiler and its own set of aluminum wheels, although its standard machine-finished rims grow to 16 inches and ride on 185/55 all-season rubber, while the rest of its standard features list includes upgraded sport headlights and taillights, front fog lamps, side sill spoilers, chrome exterior accents, a chrome exhaust tip, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift lever with the manual transmission (which once again comes standard), even nicer Sport cloth upholstery, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
It might be simple, but the MIcra’s HVAC system is perfectly functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Paint colours aside there aren’t any factory options for the Micra’s two upper grades, but Nissan provides plenty of dealer-installed accessories no matter the trim, and some really celebrate the car’s sporty nature. For instance, there are Colour Studio packages that include contrasting coloured mirror covers and sport stripes available across the line for $219, or alternatively you can swap out the body-colour door handles on SV and SR models with the same contrasting colour from the aforementioned City Package by choosing the $461 Trend Package, while the $599 Intensity Package ups the ante with a contrasting coloured rear hatch finisher and a custom “Premium Package” emblem. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
This is the transmission performance drivers will enjoy most, while top-line SR trim includes a leather-wrapped shift knob. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Alternatively you can get all of the above individually, as well as colour centre wheel caps, a rear rooftop spoiler (for S and SV trims), a chrome exhaust tip (ditto), etcetera, plus a whole host of more conventional accessories like all-season floor mats, a cargo mat, bicycle and ski/snowboard/wakeboard carriers, and more. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The driver’s seat is comfortable and headroom impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should mention that the Micra and Mirage aren’t the only hatchbacks vying for your attention in this class. As noted earlier, Chevy’s little Spark is also a credible competitor for about $500 less than the Micra, while it bridges the gap (more like a chasm) when it comes to performance thanks to 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque (still 11 hp and 13 lb-ft less than the Micra), and fuel economy that’s rated at 7.2 L/100km combined, plus it offers an identically sized 7.0-inch touchscreen with standard CarPlay and Android smartphone integration, etcetera. It was redesigned for 2019, which spurred the strongest year-over-year growth within Canada’s entire small car sector (including larger subcompact and compact models) at 24.2 percent, resulting in 4,945 units and second place in the city car segment. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
Rear seat roominess is good, and the outboard positions quite comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the other end of the positivity spectrum Fiat’s much pricier $22,495 500 lost even more ground than the Micra at -68 percent and just 269 units down the road during the same 12 months—year-over-year Micra sales were down 39 percent, incidentally. The Smart Fortwo, which doesn’t really face off directly against any of these five-place competitors due to having just two seats, now being solely electric and thus starting at $29,050 and wearing a new EQ badge, saw its sales shrink by 13.9 percent to 317 units last year, while the entire city car segment has been contracting in recent years due to the cancellation of the all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV last year and the Scion iQ the year before. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
The 60/40-split rear seatback comes standard, and should provide enough of space for most small car owners’ needs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Glancing back at that list of rivals and it’s not too unreasonable to surmise some future cancellations. Truly, if it weren’t for Daimler’s brilliantly innovative Car2Go sharing program (it was first) it’s highly unlikely the Smart brand would exist anymore, at least in our part of the world, while both Fiat, which is repositioning itself as a boutique premium brand like Mini, and Mitsubishi, that’s only having any notable success with Outlander compact SUV that saw growth of nearly 50-percent last year due to a plug-in hybrid version, may not make it through the next inevitable recession. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
You don’t get a flat loading floor, but I’d rather have more cargo space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I mean, if Fiat only managed to sell 596 vehicles brand-wide up until October of 2018, which is a 73 percent drop from the year prior, and then conveniently forgot to mention the brand in its monthly and yearly totals in November and December, there’s a pretty good chance they’re about to say arrivederci to the North American markets sooner than later. We sourced the information from Automotive News Canada that reported 645 calendar 2018 sales for a 72.4 percent downturn compared to the 2,339 units sold in 2017, but that’s still got to be beyond challenging for the Italian brand’s 55 independent retailers. 

2019 Nissan Micra S
This is a formidable engine for such a small, lightweight car, and reason enough for the Micra’s straight-line performance advantage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve driven all of the above so therefore it’s easy for me to understand why the Micra is Canada’s best-selling city car, not to mention more popular than plenty of other small cars including the Mini Cooper at 4,466 units, the Honda Fit at 3,520 (although a flood at its Mexican assembly plant was the cause of its 29.9 percent downfall), Chevrolet Sonic at 2,836 (which will soon be discontinued), Volkswagen Beetle at 2,077, Ford Fiesta 1,323 (also cancelled), and Hyundai Veloster at 1,077 units (but it’s more of a niche sport model). I’m not saying this final list of cars aren’t more appealing than the Micra overall, but when value is factored into the mix, only the Honda Fit measures up. 

While we most likely won’t see a redesign of our Canadian-exclusive Micra anytime soon (most other markets received an all-new Micra in 2017), because it’s not available in the U.S. and therefore may not warrant the investment, it’s possible that a change in market conditions could see it quickly become even more popular than it already is with price- and interest rate-sensitive first-time and fixed-income buyers. Still, as much as I’d like to get my hands on the more up-to-date version, the current Micra offers so much value for its asking price and provides so much fun at the wheel that it’s impossible to beat, and now that Nissan has given this base model new life with a fresh infotainment touchscreen it’s even better than ever, putting the new 2019 Micra S high on my budget conscious shoppers recommendations list.

Nissan Micra Cup 2018 – RACE #1 (37:56 – Note: race starts at 4:55):

Most will agree that Jaguar’s F-Type is one of the most beautiful sports cars to come along in decades, and this sentiment would be reason enough to make it one of the most popular cars in its class,…

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible Road Test

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Even in its most basic P300 trim, the Jaguar F-Type Convertible is gorgeous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Most will agree that Jaguar’s F-Type is one of the most beautiful sports cars to come along in decades, and this sentiment would be reason enough to make it one of the most popular cars in its class, which it is. Yet there’s a lot more to the F-Type’s success than jaw-dropping bodywork, from its lightweight aluminum construction that aids performance, supported by a wide variety of potent powertrain options, to its high quality luxuriously appointed interior, there are few cars that come close to matching the F-Type’s styling, capability or value. 

Yes, it might seem strange to be talking value with respect to a near-exotic sports car, but the F-Type, already an excellent buy throughout its initial four years of availability, became an even better deal since Jaguar installed its new in-house Ingenium 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under its long, elegant hood for the 2018 model year. While the formidable turbocharged and direct-injected engine makes a very healthy 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, it provides a considerable economical edge over its V6- and V8-powered counterparts and all rivals, while a significantly reduced base price of $68,500 didn’t hurt matters either. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The F-Type is almost entirely constructed of lightweight aluminum, making for an ultra-rigid body structure. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Last year’s starting point represented a $10k advantage over the F-Type’s previous base price, which resulted in a much more attainable point of entry and a whole new opportunity for Jaguar. In fact, the new F-Type P300 Coupe and Convertible instantly became prime 718 Cayman and Boxster competitors, whereas pricier more powerful F-Type trims, which include the 340 horsepower supercharged 3.0-litre V6 in base form, 380 horsepower supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with both base and R-Dynamic cars, 550 horsepower supercharged 5.0-litre V8 in R guise, and 575 horsepower version of the latter V8 in top-tier SVR trim for 2019, plus rear or all-wheel drive and six-speed manual or quick-shifting paddle-shift actuated eight-speed automatic transmissions, continue to fight it out with the Porsche 911 and others in the premium sports car segment, including plenty that cost hundreds of thousands more. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
These LED headlamps with LED signature lighting come standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The car in question in this review, however, is the 2019 F-Type P300, which starts at $69,500 in Coupe form and $72,500 as a Convertible this year. With close to 300 horsepower of lightweight turbocharged four-cylinder cradled between the front struts it should provide more than enough performance for plenty of sports car enthusiasts, especially when considering that key competitors like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Alfa Romeo don’t offer anywhere near as much output from their entry-level four-cylinder sports models, with 220 horsepower for the TT, 241 for the SLC, 241 for the (2018) Z4, and 237 for the 4C, while F-Type P300 numbers line up right alongside Porsche’s dynamic duo that are good for 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque apiece. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Jaguar offers a variety of optional alloy wheels, with these 20-inch rims on sticky Pirelli rubber particularly impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

If you’re wondering whether the F-Type P300’s performance will match your need for speed, it can zip from zero to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds before attaining a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph), and it feels even quicker with Dynamic sport mode engaged and its available active sport exhaust turned on. Jaguar makes its eight-speed Quickshift automatic standard in this rear-wheel driven model, and the steering wheel paddle assisted gearbox delivers super-fast shift intervals that combine with the brilliantly agile chassis to produce a wonderfully engaging seat-of-the-pants driving experience. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The triple-layer cloth roof provides excellent soundproofing, raises and lowers in just 12 seconds, and looks fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The agile chassis just noted refers to a mostly aluminum suspension mounted to the bonded and riveted aluminum body structure noted at the beginning of this review, a lightweight and ultra-rigid construct that certainly isn’t the least expensive way to build a car, but results in satisfyingly capable handling no matter the corner the F-Type is being flung into. The stiffness of the monocoque allows Jaguar to dial out some of the suspension firmness that competitors are stuck with in order to manage similar cornering speeds, which allows this little two-seater to be as comfortable over uneven pavement as it’s enjoyable to drive fast. Specific to the P300, less mass over the front wheels from the mid-mounted four-cylinder aids steering ease and potential understeer, making this one of the best balanced sports cars I’ve driven in a very long time. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Of course the F-Type’s slender taillights are filled with LEDs. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester’s $2,550 optional Pirelli P-Zero ZR20s on glossy black split-spoke alloys certainly didn’t hurt matters, hooking up effortlessly after just that little bit of slip only a rear-wheel drivetrain can deliver when pushed hard through hairpins. What an absolute delight this car is. 

I love that it’s so quick when called up yet so effortlessly enjoyable to drive at all other times too. Even around town, where something more exotic can be downright tiresome, the F-Type is totally content to whisk driver and passenger away in quiet comfort. It helps that its interior is finished so nicely, with soft-touch high-grade synthetic or leather surfacing most everywhere that’s not covered in something even nicer, the cabin accented in elegant satin-finish aluminum and sporty red contrast stitching throughout. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Myriad colours are available for upholstery and stitching, but this classic red on black motif is hard to beat. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Windsor leather covered driver’s seat is multi-adjustable and plenty supportive too, while the leather-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel provided enough rake and reach to ideally fit my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame resulting in an ideal driving position that maximizes comfort and control. I’m sure larger, taller folk would fit in just fine as well, thanks to plenty of fore and aft travel plus ample headroom when the tri-layer Thinsulate filled fabric top is powered into place, a process that takes just 12 seconds at speeds of up to 50 km/h no matter whether raising or lowering. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The F-Type truly deserves the word “cockpit” when describing its driving environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Doing the latter doesn’t infringe on trunk space, incidentally, which measures 200 litres (7.0 cubic feet) and is a bit awkward in layout. If you want more I’d recommend the F-Type Coupe that has one of the largest cargo compartments in the luxury sports car class at 308 litres (10.9 cu ft) with the cargo cover in place and 408 litres (14.4 cu ft) with it removed. 

Back in the driver’s seat, Jaguar provides a classic dual-dial analogue gauge cluster centered by a sizeable colour TFT multi-information display, which while not as advanced as some fully digital driver displays on the market is probably more appropriate for a sports car that focuses on performance. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Full digital instrumentation can be nice, but these analogue dials suit a traditional sports car like the F-Type best. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The big change for 2019 was the addition of a 10-inch Touch Pro infotainment display, which replaces the 8.0-inch centre touchscreen used previously. Its larger size makes for a more modern look, while it’s certainly easier to make out obstacles on the reverse camera. The larger screen benefits all functions, with the navigation system’s map more appealing and easier to pinch and swipe, and only the home menu’s quadrant of quick-access feature not making use of all the available space (a larger photo of the classic red British phone booth would be nice). 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The multi-info display in the gauge cluster features a full list of useful functions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The standard audio system is from Meridian and makes 380 watts for very good sound quality, while additional standard features include pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, automatic climate control, powered seats, and leather upholstery on the inside, plus 18-inch alloys, LED headlights with LED signature lighting, rear parking sensors, a powered retractable rear spoiler, and more on the outside. 

The Windsor leather and contrast stitching noted earlier came as part of a $2,250 interior upgrade package that improves the upholstery overtop special performance seats while finishing the top of the instrument panel, console and door trim in the same Windsor leather for a thoroughly luxurious experience, while my tester’s heated steering wheel and heated seat cushions come as part of a $1,530 Climate pack, with an extra $300 adding ventilated seats to the mix if you prefer, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration was added for an additional $300. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
This sizeable 10-inch touchscreen now comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, proximity-sensing keyless access made entering and exiting more convenient for $620, heatable auto-dimming side mirrors with memory made nighttime travel easier on the eyes for just $210, as did automatic high beams for oncoming traffic at $260, whereas blind spot assist might have definitely proved worthwhile at $500, as would front parking sensors at $290, while the aforementioned switchable active exhaust system was well worth the investment for another $260. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
This nicely decorated switch sets Dynamic sport mode. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, all prices were sourced from CarCostCanada, where you’ll find pricing on trims, packages and individual options down to the minutest detail, plus otherwise hard to find manufacturer rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating your deal.

At the risk of this sports car review becoming terminally practical, the F-Type P300’s fuel economy is so good it deserves mention too, with both Coupe and as-tested Convertible achieving a claimed 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.2 combined, which beats all Porsche 718 and 911 variants by a long shot, not to mention hybrid sports cars like Acura’s new NSX. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
These are the comfortable and supportive performance seats that come with the $2,250 interior upgrade package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, F-Type efficiency takes a back seat when moving up through the aforementioned trims, but the more potent V6 is still pretty reasonable at 11.9 L/100km city, 8.5 highway and 10.4 combined, at least when it’s mated to the automatic. This engine allows for a six-speed manual too, which isn’t quite as praiseworthy at 14.9, 9.8 and 12.6 respectively. 

Enough silliness, because we all know buyers in this class don’t care one iota about fuel economy despite all the effort that Jaguar puts into such regulatory concerns. The F-Type is really about titillating the five senses via near overwhelming visual stimulation when parked and endorphin releasing on-road acrobatics when active. Of course, 296 horsepower can’t excite to the same levels as 550 or 575, but this F-Type P300 is the perfect way to make each day more enjoyable without breaking the bank. It’s an affordable exotic that’s as worthy of the “Growler” emblem on its grille and wheel caps as the “Leaper” atop its rear deck lid.