As my dad always said, if you’re going to do something, do it right. Such is obviously the mantra of Porsche as well, because it never goes halfway with any of its models, and never seems to slow in…

2018 Porsche Panamera Road Test

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The 440-hp Panamera 4S was the least powerful trim tested this time around, and it’s still extremely fast. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As my dad always said, if you’re going to do something, do it right. Such is obviously the mantra of Porsche as well, because it never goes halfway with any of its models, and never seems to slow in its relentless push for perfection. 

Over the past year I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy plenty of opportunities behind the wheel of the new Porsche Panamera, from a more entry-level Panamera 4 to the sensational new Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, plus the Panamera 4S and 4 E-Hybrid models in between, not to mention the shapely new Panamera Sport Turismo in top-line Turbo guise, with each stint behind the wheel impressing me more. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid makes a soul-stirring 462 net horsepower. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To help you appreciate the breadth of Panamera models available, Porsche divides its road-hugging four-door coupe into three categories including Panamera, Panamera E-Hybrid and Panamera Turbo. Within these classifications are three body styles and various states of tune. The former includes the regular-length Panamera, the long-wheelbase Panamera Executive that adds 150 mm (5.9 inches) between the axles and significantly lengthens the entire car for improved rear legroom, and the shooting-brake, wagon-style Panamera Sport Turismo that uses the regular wheelbase yet increases cargo volume by 27 litres (1.0 cubic foot) behind the rear seatbacks and 51 litres (1.8 cubic feet) when those seats are folded flat, while the latter variances are much more diverse. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The Panamera Sport Turismo, driven here in 550-hp Turbo guise, includes an elongated roofline for a sport wagon profile. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With my best attempt to keep the list simple and straightforward (truly, a spreadsheet would work better), the unnamed base Panamera trim incorporates a 330 horsepower turbocharged V6 with rear-wheel drive (RWD); the numeric 4 designation signifies the same engine with all-wheel drive (AWD); the 4S denotes a twin-turbo V6 making 440 horsepower mated to AWD; the 4 E-Hybrid combines a twin-turbo V6 with Porsche’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain and AWD for 462 net horsepower; the Turbo boasts a twin-turbocharged V8 and AWD for 550 horsepower; and finally the Turbo S E-Hybrid with its twin-turbo V8, plug-in hybrid and AWD combination results in a staggering 680 net horsepower. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid shown here might look similar to the white 4 E-Hybrid parked behind, but it makes an additional 218 horsepower at 680. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Connecting powerplant to driveline is Porsche’s new eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission that works with both hybrid and non-hybrid models, as well as both rear- and all-wheel drivetrains. Introduced just last year with this new Panamera, the new gearbox might just be the most important “cog in the wheel” both literally and figuratively, in that it replaces three transmissions from the previous generation, including a six-speed manual used with base model V6 and naturally aspirated V8 trims, a seven-speed PDK found most everywhere else, and an Aisin-sourced (owned by Toyota) Tiptronic S eight-speed automatic exclusive to hybrids and diesel models. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The recently redesigned Panamera is a much better looking car than its predecessor from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That’s a lot of logistical complexity to deal with from a business standpoint and, just as importantly, a big challenge for Stuttgart’s engineers with respect to integrating Porsche performance DNA into what is essentially a Lexus slushbox. They did an admirable job, evidenced today in various Cayenne trims that still use the conventional autobox due to its towing and off-road attributes, but the performance gained by the new eight-speed PKD has transformed hybridized Panameras from fast fuel-sippers to the dominant forces within the Panamera lineup. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera’s standard LED headlamps feature Porsche’s trademark four-point signature driving lights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I need to be careful not to delve too deeply into the new eight-speed PDK, as I could easily take up most of this review in technical analysis, but suffice to say it builds on the seven-speed original that was already impressive, with better efficiency, quicker shifts, smoother shift intervals, and most importantly greater strength, the new transmission given a torque ceiling that reaches upwards to 737 lb-ft. 

This last point is critical when fitted to the aforementioned hybrid powertrains that produce gobs of twist at a much faster rate than their conventionally powered siblings. To be clear, Porsche didn’t create a one-size-fits-all dual-clutch gearbox solution, but rather a modular design that allows different versions of the same basic transmission to be used for hybrid, non-hybrid, rear-wheel, and all-wheel applications. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera’s new full-width singular taillight incorporates four-point signature LEDs at each corner. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For instance, the electrified variant fits its hybrid module within the PDK’s bellhousing, while a hang-on clutch transfers torque to the front axle in conventionally powered all-wheel drive configurations. With a focus on efficiency, the eight-speed PDK provides three overdrive ratios, which means the Panamera achieves its terminal velocity in sixth gear. Of course, I’m just grazing over some surface details of this impressive new transmission so as not to lull you into a coma, so let me wrap it up by saying this in-house design serves all Panamera purposes very well. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera combines extreme performance with a wonderfully luxurious interior made from the finest materials. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

When ensconced inside the Panamera’s contrast-stitched, leather-lined, black/grey lacquer-, hardwood- or carbon-fibre-trimmed, metal-adorned, digital display-decorated cabin, with left hand on the thick-rimmed, thin-spoked, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and right hand slotting the leather- and metal-finished, pistol-grip shifter from the “RND” side of the equation into “M” for manual, although it could just as easily represent maximum fun, you won’t care one whit about what’s going on below that shift lever, so long as the new eight-speed PDK delivers on all of its noted promises. Believe me, it does. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
Despite being a large four-door sport sedan, the Panamera cockpit delivers sports car-like intimacy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My first extended test drive in a second-generation Panamera was in a just-above-base 4, and while harnessed to just 330 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque I found it quite lively, launching to 100km/h from standstill in only 5.5 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the rear-drive base model, and feeling light and agile while doing so. This said the Panamera 4S I spent a week with was much more entertaining, its overall mass much the same yet its aforementioned 440 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque resulting in 4.4 seconds to 100km/h, but as thrilling as that was, two of the three others I drove more recently are in another league altogether. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
Clear, bright, colourful, and filled with highly functional features, the Panamera’s gauge cluster is impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Comparing the 4S to the 4 E-Hybrid is more or less a wash, as the latter takes a mere 0.2 seconds longer to hit the 100km/h mark and feels equally sporting, except for some 300 kilos (661 lbs) of weight gain that can be felt through sharp, fast-paced corners, but of course it’s the hybrid’s 5.1 Le/100km (compared to 10.1 L/100km) and ability to run totally on electric power for up to 50 kilometres (31 miles) at speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph) that separates it from the conventionally powered pack. On paper it appears as if it’ll rip a new hole in the tarmac, and while 4.6 seconds to 100km/h is no snail’s pace it remains the equal of its 4S counterpart, although its 462 net horsepower and 516 lb-ft of total combined torque make for some serious bragging rights. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The Panamera’s infotainment display is massive, and revised centre stack an exercise in elegant minimalism. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And then there are the Turbos. My Panamera Turbo tester wore the slightly heftier Sport Turismo body style, but the twin-turbo V8’s 550 horses and 567 lb-ft of twist managed to haul it to 100km/h in a scant 3.6 seconds thanks to its Sport Chrono package that takes 0.2 seconds off its regular sprint time of 3.8 seconds, a feeling that has to be close to being flung from a massive car catapult, or more accurately a trebuchet (check YouTube for a little fun), that is until I did the same in the world’s fastest four-door hybrid. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The infotainment touchscreen’s HD resolution is unsurpassed in the industry. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Turbo S E-Hybrid is why the new eight-speed PDK needed to be so robust. With its twin-turbo V8 and plug-in hybrid combination making a shocking 680 horsepower and 626 lb-ft of torque it needed to be as strong as possible, its outrageous all-wheel thrust capable of flinging it to 100km/h in a seemingly unreal 3.4 seconds despite gaining 315 kilograms (694 lbs) over its Turbo counterpart, let alone 140 kg (308 lbs) more than the lesser 4 E-Hybrid. 

Batteries are heavy, not to mention all the compact yet still mass amassing hybrid components, but once again it’s all worth it when passing by the pump, the top-tier Panamera also excelling at efficiency performance with a claimed 4.8 Le/100km rating. It’s truly a best of both worlds, have your cake and eat it too kind of car. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Driving modes can be set via this handy rotating dial on the steering wheel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Again, you can feel the heavier hybrid in the corners, but the Panamera’s suspension is so brilliantly dialed in, and no doubt capable of its top track speed of 310 km/h (192 mph), my tester equipped with the same 21-inch alloys on 275/35ZR21 Michelin Pilot Sport 4s as the lighter weight Sport Turismo, that it kept up without issue. 

Despite driving three of these Panameras back to back, it’s impossible to compare all four of them directly, as each was filled with unique features from Porsche’s bevy of available options. This side of bespoke coachbuilders that make most everything by hand, no other manufacturer offers as many possible build combinations as Porsche. Just go ahead and try to put one together on the company’s online configurator and you’ll quickly figure out what I mean. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
The Sports Chrono Package adds a chronograph-infused clock that can be personalized with unique face designs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For instance, the 4 E-Hybrid I drove was one of two to include Rear Axle Steering with Power Steering Plus, the former benefiting low-speed manoeuvrability by pointing front and rear wheels in the opposite direction, shortening the turning circle, and also enhancing high-speed stability by steering the front and rear wheels in the same direction, while Power Steering Plus boosts the electric power steering to lighten its load at low speeds and firms it up while responding with more precision at high speeds. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
The centre stack and its touch-sensitive controls is almost as impressive as the ultra-advanced transmission it houses. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My Carrara White painted 4 E-Hybrid was shod in 21-inch rims and rubber too, albeit the latter from Pirelli, yet this car was obviously set up more for style and comfort than all-out performance. Its feature set included a SportDesign Package with satin black front fascia elements, extended side sills and more satin black in back, LED headlamps with dynamic cornering and self-cleaning capabilities, bright silver side window surrounds, proximity-sensing Comfort access, soft-close self-cinching doors, ambient interior lighting, a rich looking Cohiba Brown Club Leather Interior, painted air outlet grilles, four-zone auto climate control, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 18-way power-adjustable front seats with memory, a powered steering column, Bose surround audio, Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Change Assist, Night Vision Assist, a Speed Limit Indicator, front and rear parking sensors, and more. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera’s front seats look like they’ve been pulled from a 911, but in fact they’re larger, more adjustable, and can include more features like massage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Many of the same features were included on the other two Turbo models, but the word Sport was a more common denominator. Most notable was the Sport Package that also adds Power Steering Plus and Rear Axle Steering, as well as the aforementioned Sport Chrono Package and a sport exhaust system, the sound exhilarating under throttle. 

Speaking of phenomenal acoustics, the Burgundy Red Metallic painted Turbo Sport Turismo included the Burmester 3D surround sound audio upgrade, complete with 21 individually controlled speakers and 1,455 watts of power, while an all-black interior theme complemented by a gorgeous Carbon Fiber Interior Package maintained its sporting character. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The dual-pane panoramic sunroof makes for a more open, airier cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The top-tier Turbo S E-Hybrid’s interior was even more luxe, with a white accented tachometer and Sport Chrono dial designed to match the Black/Chalk cabin colour theme, plus extended leather across the dash, and much more. 

To give you an idea of how wide the Panamera pricing spectrum reaches, the base model starts at just $97,300 before freight and fees, while my Turbo S E-Hybrid’s as-tested price was $238,535. Certainly it was well equipped, the base Turbo S E-Hybrid starting at $209,800, but also know that it was far from loaded, a lesson I quickly learned when configuring my Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo dream car to a final tally north of $300k — check CarCostCanada.com for all retail and dealer invoice prices, plus rebate information. If you were wondering whether the Panamera is able to duke it out with the Aston Martin Rapide in exotic territory, now you know. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera is a four-door coupe, but rear seat roominess and comfort is still quite accommodating. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It would be a fair comparison in many other ways too, as the Panamera’s interior is as good as anything available today. The quality of materials is exceptional, craftsmanship exemplary, and detailing exquisite. Ergonomically it’s far superior to most four-door coupes it would be up against too, with rear seat roominess improved over its predecessor and downright limousine-like compared to the aforementioned Brit, while its electronic interfaces are by far some of the industry’s best. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Just like the centre stack up front, the rear seating area can be upgraded with its own console featuring touch-sensitive controls. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The mostly configurable TFT gauge cluster (Porsche thankfully saved the centre-mounted tachometer in analogue form) allows full navigation mapping on its rightmost screen, plus most anything else you’d like choose by scrolling through various functions via a knurled metal-adorned steering wheel spoke controller, while its massive 12.3-inch horizontal centre display is as fine in resolution and deep in beautifully coloured contrast as anything I’ve seen. Truly, the map detail looks as if you can stick your fingers inside to move mountains, while Porsche was intelligent enough to make it a full touchscreen design complete with tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, not to mention Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. The system is fast, navigation routing accurate, backup camera clear, and overall usability as good as it gets. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The Sport Turismo body style provides a bit more cargo space than the regular Panamera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Porsche uses touch-sensitive controls on much of the centre stack and lower console, with the few rotating knobs, cylindrical scroll wheel, and rocker switches once again detailed in beautiful knurled metal, while my test cars equipped with four-zone HVAC had the otherwise rubberized bin replaced with a gorgeous centre-mounted digital console filled with its own touchscreen and high-end switchgear. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
No matter the body style, the top half of both rear seats fold forward, allowing longer items to be loaded in from the rear hatch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Living with the 4S for a week reminded me how practical the Panamera can be too, the cargo hold below its powered liftback managing 493 litres (17.4 cubic feet) of what-have-you in conventional guise, or 405 litres (14.3 cubic feet) when electrified. Fold the top halves of its seatbacks forward and it accommodates 1,339 litres (47.3 cubic feet) of longer cargo in the former and 1,246 litres (44.0 cubic feet) in the latter, while I won’t bore you with the Sport Turismo’s gains again. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
With the advent of the Sport Turismo, plus more powertrain options than any rival, the Panamera offers an amazing opportunity to personalize. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, a Macan or Cayenne is the better choice if you need to haul more people and cargo, which is reason enough for many luxury buyers to opt for these high-riding SUVs. In fact, today’s sport utility craze almost makes a person wonder why Porsche put so much effort into perfecting this low-slung Panamera, but nevertheless proof of time and investment well spent is showing in recent Canadian sales growth, with calendar year 2017 resulting in an 86.3-percent year-over-year increase in deliveries. With 2018 seeing similar upward momentum, the Panamera is on pace to become the best-selling four-door coupe in its class. I’m sure after spending some time with one, you, like me, will fully appreciate why it’s doing so well.

For being such a niche model, Subaru doesn’t leave the WRX and its even quicker WRX STI sibling alone for long.  The world rally-inspired sedans received a ground-up redesign for 2015, featuring much…

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech Road Test

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Subaru’s WRX STI, tested here in top-line Sport-tech trim, gets refreshed styling for 2018. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For being such a niche model, Subaru doesn’t leave the WRX and its even quicker WRX STI sibling alone for long. 

The world rally-inspired sedans received a ground-up redesign for 2015, featuring much more distinctive bodywork all-round including unique bumpers, fenders, aero, and trim details when compared to its Impreza sedan donor model, plus a new, more potent direct-injected 2.0-litre turbo-four replacing the aged sequential multiport injected 2.5 in the regular WRX, this new engine adding three horsepower and 14 more lb-ft of torque resulting in 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft, a six-speed manual in place of that model’s old five-speed, and the option of a sport-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddles where no automatic was ever offered before. The STI continued forward with its 2.5-litre turbocharged flat four making 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
You can choose between a subtler rear lip spoiler on the rear deck lid (shown) or a massive wing, with no extra charge for either. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Model year 2016 added one-touch turn signals, revised steering wheel controls, and a standard 6.2-inch touchscreen with StarLink smartphone integration, plus the Hyper Blue-painted STI Hikari limited edition; 2017 added automatic reverse-tilt to the passenger’s side power mirror, a more premium-like woven fabric headliner, and improved the six-speed manual transmission’s feel, while Sport-tech trims also received Siri Eyes-Free, Mirror Link, Travel Link and SiriusXM Traffic integration; and now for 2018 this dynamic duo get a few styling updates, some chassis mods, a bevy of additional refinements, as well as new safety features, while the STI gets one redesigned drivetrain component. Subaru has made changes to the 2019 version too, but I’ll leave those until later. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Sharp looking LED headlamps add sophistication to the WRX STI’s styling, plus much brighter forward illumination. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2018 styling updates affect both models and include a new front grille and bumper design and reworked interior door trim, while other updates include a new primary gauge cluster with a 5.9-inch colour multi-information display (MID), a fold-down rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, reduced interior noise, new suspension tuning, and bigger batteries. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
The WRX has never been shy about hood scoops, this one fully functional as always. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Specific to the base WRX, manual models get a new shift lever and yet better shift and clutch take-up feel, plus improved steering feel, whereas the STI now includes standard LED headlights, standard cross-drilled Brembo brakes that are 24 mm larger and 6 mm thicker up front than those on the regular WRX, at 340 by 30 mm, plus 40 mm larger and twice as thick in back at 326 by 20 mm, with six-piston front calipers (two more than the previous STI and four more than the regular WRX) and two-piston rear calipers (double what the WRX offers) plus four-channel, four-sensor and g-load sensor equipped Super Sport ABS, a revised Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD) system that’s no longer hybrid mechanical with electronic centre limited-slip differential control, but rather an electric design that provides quicker, smoother operation, while inside it gets red seatbelts. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
All of the STI’s dramatic bodywork has purpose, the big corner vents for cooling the brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for new 2018 options, Sport trim with the base WRX is updated to include steering-responsive LED headlights, LED fog lights, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat, while the Sport-tech package adds new StarLink connectivity apps including Yelp, Best Parking and Glympse. Additionally, Sport-tech models with the manual now get the option of an RS package featuring eight-way powered front seats, leather and ultrasuede upholstery, uprated brake pads, and red calipers, while Sport-tech cars with the Sport Lineartronic CVT become the first WRX models to ever include Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
These gorgeous 19-inch alloys do a nice job of framing the STI’s standard six-caliper Brembo brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for the STI, an upgrade to Sport trim now adds 19-inch wheels, wiper-activated automatic headlights, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat, while the fog lamps were deleted to allow for larger air intakes. Additionally, STI models upgraded with the Sport-tech package can be had with either a massive rear wing or much smaller lip spoiler, the latter more appealing to those who don’t want to draw as much attention from passersby, while a set of Recaro sport seats are added in both leather and ultrasuede upholstery, with the driver’s receiving eight-way powered adjustment. Subaru also includes the aforementioned StarLink apps with the Sport-tech upgrade. Like I said, Subaru doesn’t exactly remain idle with the WRX and STI, despite its relative niche model status. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Just in case you mix your car up with a lesser WRX variant, Subaru effectively reminds onlookers about the STI’s dominance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Then again, if Subaru has a flagship model it would have to be its WRX STI. Certainly the new Ascent crossover SUV is larger and more luxurious, as is the mid-size Outback crossover and the Legacy sedan it’s based upon, such attributes normally befitting of flagship status, but the WRX STI has become legendary for being one of the best performing sport compacts available since inception, and as noted earlier, is derived from the brand’s motorsport heritage. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
If you’re silly enough to race a WRX STI through corners, you’ll be seeing a set of these for as long as you can keep up. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Added to this, the 4,616 examples sold into Canada last year, and the 2,308 delivered up to the close of Q2 2018 (which bizarrely is precisely half of the entire 2017 total number despite having zero months with the same figure—Subaru only totaled 2,303 WRX/STI sales at the halfway mark of 2017), made up a significant 8.5 percent of Subaru’s total volume in 2017 and 8.3 percent so far this year, not to mention a third of the Japanese brand’s overall Impreza sales over the same six months if you combine the two models’ Q2 figures (Subaru sold almost half as many WRX/STI models as Imprezas over the first half of 2018). What’s more, the WRX/STI earned more than twice as many invested fans than VW’s GTI/Golf R combo. So much for being a niche model. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
The functional rear diffuser feeds through a sporty quad of chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I like the styling updates, as they give the front end a more aggressive appearance that strengthens the entire design. I also lean more toward subtlety than flash, so therefore I was glad Subaru chose the smaller lip spoiler for my ride. Of course I appreciate the downforce benefits of a gargantuan rear wing when attempting to breach the sound barrier, or at least reach the STI’s top track speed of 251 km/h, but there’s no race course anywhere near my home that would allow for such a test, and it goes without saying that I’d rather not have my car impounded before being forced to pay the towing and storage fees, plus the fines that would be due after being caught doing speed trials on public roads, and then have to explain to Subaru why they couldn’t access their car for a week or more. Nah, I’d go for clean lines over radical aero any day of the week, and this upgraded STI looks much more appealing from front to back. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Subaru has really improved the WRX interior over the years, with this latest STI Sport-tech proving to be the best version yet. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Subaru follows the usual red on black performance car interior theme, and while I won’t go so far to call this approach creative, the overall look is well executed, meaning that it’s not as gauche as some others, such as Honda’s Civic Type-R (that goes for exterior styling too). My tester’s Sport-tech trim meant that psuede covered the door panel insets, armrests, and centre seat panels front to back, while the ones up front had the “STI” initials embossed into the leather headrests and white “RECARO” lettering embroidered into the top portion of the seat panel. The side bolsters are covered in mostly black leather other than their top portions finished in a thick stripe of red, while the outer sections receive a thin line of red contrast stitching. Subaru decorates the seatbacks further with red piping up top, but really what matters most is how wonderfully comfortable and incredibly supportive they are. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Red stitching on dark grey ultrasuede makes for one classy cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The rear seats aren’t quite as fancy, but they’re surprisingly dressed up with the same red and black, partial-psuede and leather upholstery, plus the outboard positions are cut out like buckets so even those in back have some lateral support to keep them in place if you plan on having some fun. 

On that note, adjustability is critical in a performance car, because along with the lateral support factor you need to maintain as much control as possible. To this end the upgraded seats include the aforementioned power adjustments, while all STI trims provide plenty of telescopic reach from the steering column resulting in a rally-ready driving position, or at least the ability to get the seatback upright and steering wheel as close to the driver as possible. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Yet more ultrasuede, leather, metal, digital interfaces, etcetera make up the STI Sport-tech’s performance-oriented environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The STI steering wheel is thick, padded, flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped and ideally formed for comfort and, once again, control, with red baseball stitching along the inside of the rim, while the shift knob is black leather as well, with a bright red translucent candy drop top. The leather boot below gets red stitching to match the same thread used on both sides of the padded leatherette trimmed centre console, the new STI a lot more luxe than any previous WRX model. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The WRX STI gets a bright, clear, down to business primary gauge cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The hood shielding the dash-top MID gets the same red-stitched leatherette treatment, while the fiery colour illuminates the primary gauges, the infotainment interface background and some of the cabin’s switchgear before continuing onto each door panel and elsewhere throughout the interior. And as overdone as this might sound in words, it’s actually quite tasteful when viewed. 

That gauge cluster is 100-percent purposeful performance, with bright, clear dials that are easy to read in any light, while the multi-info display at centre isn’t as graphically stimulating as some others in the segment, yet still displays an eco-gauge, driving time info, a digital speedometer, a gear display, cruise control details, an odometer, trip meter, SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) indicators, and something no other brand’s vehicles have, a graphic showing front and real power bias from the aforementioned DCCD system, actuated via a rocker switch on the centre console. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The WRX STI’s centre stack is as wonderfully symmetrical as the car’s AWD system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Just in case you’re feeling shortchanged for not getting as much digitized imagery in the gauge cluster display, check out the big dash-top MID mentioned a moment ago. Controlled via a rocker switch just above the infotainment display, it comes filled with a high-resolution TFT screen and loads of functions like average fuel economy, graphics for the configurable centre differential, a digital PSI boost gauge, etcetera, making it a helpful sidekick to the much larger StarLink infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack below, this such a massive improvement over previous WRX systems that it’s a night and day experience. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
On top of the dash is this handy widescreen multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Thanks to its Sport-tech upgrade, my tester’s touchscreen was a half-inch larger at 7.0 inches in diameter, while its ultra high-resolution glossy display also gets navigation with detailed mapping, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with all the functionality of the lesser 6.5-inch system, such as a backup camera with guidelines, and all of the aforementioned features and apps. They’re all accessible from an interface with superb graphics and a really nice layout, featuring big digital buttons for the map, audio, phone, apps, info, and settings interfaces. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The top-line Sport-tech provides an accurate navigation system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A high-quality dual-zone auto climate control system sits below, with really well made knobs that don’t wiggle when rotated, plus nice, tight fitting buttons. I also like that the HVAC system’s temperature readouts are displayed up on the dash-top multi-info system for easy visibility when on the move, just another way Subaru keeps things convenient and safe. 

Over and above features already mentioned, $47,295 Sport-tech trim includes proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, and a great sounding 320-watt, nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, while additional items pulled from $42,495 Sport trim include 245/35R19 89W Yokohama Advan Sport V105 performance rubber to go with those aforementioned uprated rims, welcome lighting, a powered moonroof, the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) featuring blindspot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert, plus more. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Dual-zone automatic climate control makes for a much more habitable driving environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, on top of features that come standard with the regular $29,995 WRX and other previously noted features, all STI’s include a glossy black grille, brushed aluminum doorsills with STI branding, carpeted floor mats with a red embroidered STI logo, a leather-wrapped handbrake lever, front and rear seats upholstered in black and red leather with black ultrasuede inserts, dual-zone auto climate control, and a bevy of performance upgrades including a quick-ratio rack and pinion steering system, inverted KYB front MacPherson struts with forged aluminum lower suspension arms, performance suspension tuning, high-strength solid rubber engine mounts, a red powder-coated intake manifold, a close ratio six-speed manual gearbox, a Helical-type limited-slip front differential and a Torsen limited-slip rear diff, plus more for $40,195. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Subaru has spent a great deal of time and effort to perfect the WRX STI’s six-speed manual, and it’s paid off. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should also point out that Subaru finishes the interior off with a higher level of soft-touch synthetic surface treatments than ever before, getting the car closer and closer to premium territory with each passing generation. And it’s plenty roomy for a compact too, both up front and in back where the seats are nicely sculpted out to keep your rear passengers in place when pushing the envelope. Now that we’re contemplating such practical matters, the STI’s trunk is plenty large for a sports car at 340 litres, and it benefits from expansion for longer items via 60/40-split rear seatbacks. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The STI provides more driver controllable performance settings than any rival. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along that vein, the fact that you’re driving a turbocharged four-cylinder powered compact car won’t benefit your pocketbook all that much in the STI, thanks to 14.1 L/100km city, 10.5 highway and 12.5 combined. If that’s an issue for you the regular WRX is good for a claimed 11.3 city, 8.5 highway and 10.0 combined, while the same model with its CVT can eke out 12.6, 9.6 and 11.2 respectively. 

By the way, the SI-Drive system noted earlier lets you choose between the default Intelligent driving mode, Sport mode and Sport-sharp mode, which is Subaru-speak for the usual comfort, sport and sport-plus modes. They work wonders, especially the latter “S#” mode, which sharpens up the STI’s responses to the point of racetrack readiness, ideal for those moments when you want to get the most out of a very potent package. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The top-line Recaro seats are superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This is where the STI’s 2.5-litre EJ257 H4 comes in, an engine that hasn’t changed one iota since before this car’s full redesign. Therefore its output remains 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, while its six-speed gearbox is truly smoother to operate since its multiple refinements. Lastly, the WRX STI’s torque-vectoring Symmetrical-AWD system is still amongst the best in the business, designed for all surface traction, meaning it can easily manage wet or dry pavement, snow, gravel, dirt, or almost anything else you throw in its way. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
This powered glass sunroof comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I kept it to dry tarmac during my test, and no I didn’t have a track at my beck and call so I obeyed all posted speed limits and… ha ha yeah right. Of course, I found opportunity to open it up when the road cleared and it was safe to do so, and let it be known the STI’s feisty turbo-four craftily providing 305 great ways to get past anything blocking the lane ahead. It launches from standstill with ferocious immediacy and a brilliantly snarling engine note, adding a resonant auditory track to particularly fast-paced visuals. Clutch take-up is ideally weighted with travel short and to the point, while its metal pedals are ideally placed for a little heal, toe action, those uprated brakes fabulously responsive no matter how many times I deep dove into them. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Rear passengers enjoy the comfort and adhesion of ultrasuede seat inserts too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise, the STI’s hydraulic power steering is wonderfully reactive and great at communicating feedback, while its suspension setup is ideally balanced, giving way ever so slightly at both ends when push came to shove, and doing so with a confidence inspiring level of predictability. 

This balance is configurable from front to rear via the previously noted DCCD, which lets you lock in an alternative AWD torque split to the otherwise default 41:59 bias, allowing for the characteristics of a rear-wheel drive sports sedan or vice versa, this complemented by a double wishbone rear suspension design as capable of absorbing pavement irregularities as the previously noted struts up front, while always keeping the car horizontal to the road. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
A sports car yes, but the WRX STI is plenty practical too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This is a car you can comfortably drive fast, plus feel safe, secure and always in control of, but take note it won’t take long before you’ve gone so far past those aforementioned limits that you might be walking home, or at the very least be served up a hefty fine, so keep eyes peeled for party poopers. 

If you’re lucky enough to live near a racetrack or have a friend that owns hectares of ranchland interconnected with drivable dirt roads, or even if there’s a large parking lot (preferably covered in snow) somewhere nearby, Subaru has your ride, and despite all of the sport compacts that have come and gone since the WRX started wooing us from afar way back in the early ‘90s and finally got real for us here in North America in 2002, or 2004 for the STI, it’s still the all-wheel drive compact to beat. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
How many rally tires can you fit into the back of an STI? With the 60/40-split seatbacks lowered, a lot more than you might think. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As I write this review the model year changeover from 2018 to 2019 has occurred, which now gives you an option that might be worth your undivided attention. A near identical version of the STI’s turbocharged 2.5-litre four now includes stronger pistons, a new air intake, new ECU programming and a high-flow exhaust system, resulting in the same torque yet five more horsepower totaling 310, while the gearbox gets a new third gear for quicker acceleration. Lastly, the entry and top-line infotainment systems get some tweaks, but like the new powertrain I’ll need to experience these firsthand before making comment. 

Those wanting a bargain can try their luck on a remaining 2018 model, although don’t expect to get too much off as the WRX STI, and all Subarus for that matter, hold their resale values well. Of course, this will be a bonus when it comes time for you to resell, but believe me, handing over the keys to this super-sedan might take more willpower than you can muster. 

Yes, if you’re longing for an outrageously competent sports car with the added convenience of four doors and a sizeable trunk, look no further than the Subaru WRX STI. Even if you don’t need the back seat and storage, it’s one of the better performance cars available for less than $50k, and thanks to its ever-improving refinements its now a viable alternative for anyone otherwise interested in a premium-branded sport sedan.

Sad but true, one of the best compact Toyota models to come along since the Matrix is going the way of the dodo. Fortunately for small five-door lovers the Corolla iM is being replaced with the all-new…

2018 Toyota Corolla iM Road Test

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The Toyota Corolla iM is on its way out, a shame considering that it’s better than most peers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Sad but true, one of the best compact Toyota models to come along since the Matrix is going the way of the dodo. Fortunately for small five-door lovers the Corolla iM is being replaced with the all-new 2019 Corolla Hatchback, and while I have yet to test the latter I can tell you right now it’ll need to be very good to even match the iM. 

The Corolla Hatchback certainly appears like a worthy replacement, while to be honest the iM is probably starting to look a bit dated. And let’s be fair. It started out as the second-generation Auris in 2012, a Euro-spec Toyota that came to North America as the Scion iM in 2015 as a 2016 model. I drove that car in a bright day-glow yellow dubbed Spring Green, and was duly impressed by its performance, interior design, fit, finish and materials quality, standard feature set, and general goodness all-round, so therefore it was easy to accept the 2017 Corolla iM that surfaced the following year, which after just two model years is being sent to pasture. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
We spent a week with both the 6-speed manual and the CVT-S auto, with each offering a different take on compact performance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As a send off, Toyota gave me two to play with one final time. While Spring Green is still shown as available on the brand’s retail website, my testers included a Barcelona Red Metallic painted version with the base six-speed manual, and an Electric Storm Blue example with the optional automatic, or rather continuously variable transmission (CVT). Alternatively, black, silver or white can be had, the latter being the only optional paint due to a pearlescent finish, but truthfully we’re getting to the end of the line so you may have to take what your dealer has on offer if you’ve got your heart set on a Corolla iM. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
While an older design dating back to 2012, the Corolla iM still looks good from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Why not wait for the Corolla Hatchback instead? I can’t recommend the new model or criticize it, but I’d be surprised if it comes finished to the same impressive levels as the iM. This said the new Corolla Hatchback is also the third-generation Auris in Europe, so it should also be above average when compared to similar North American offerings, unless they dumb our version down by cutting corners on interior quality—we already know the fully independent suspension is up to snuff. Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed, or alternatively take what we can get while the gettin’s good. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The sporty bodywork and 17-inch machine-finished alloys are standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Let’s start with the mechanicals. Behind the iM’s sloping snout is a 16-valve, DOHC, 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with Valvetronic, which puts out 137 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque for plenty of zoot off the line and no shortage of passing power. Of course, it feels a lot more energetic when mated to its six-speed manual, but that said the aforementioned CVT is actually Toyota’s CVT-S autobox, the “S” standing for Sport. Basically it features a shift lever-actuated manual mode that swaps “cogs” quite quickly and effectively, mimicking the real deal to the point of enjoyment, which makes it quite the rarity amongst CVTs that are normally the antithesis of sporty. The CVT-S also provides a Sport mode, accessible from a button on the lower console. Again, it adds some zest to the iM experience when wanting to let your hair down, but it’s nothing to get too excited about. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The Corolla iM’s interior is amongst the most refined in its compact class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Another reason to choose the CVT-S over the manual is fuel economy, the six-speed quite efficient yet not as thrifty as the autobox at 8.8 L/100km city, 6.8 highway and 7.9 combined compared to 8.3 city, 6.5 highway and 7.5 combined. Whether or not the fuel savings are enough to make up for the automatic’s $835 hit to your wallet will come down to how you drive and the distances covered, but it’s possible the expense will even itself out after a few years. Of course, it’ll be well worth the extra charge if you don’t drive stick or would rather not, plus if you’re paying monthly the difference between $22,750 and $23,585 is nominal. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Plenty of soft-touch surfaces, metallic and lacquered detailing, and other niceties separate the iM from rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, I sourced the Corolla iM’s retail pricing at CarCostCanada.com, which is the most comprehensive new vehicle pricing resource in Canada, not only supplying every available trim and option plus the cost of each, but also showing otherwise hard-to-find dealer invoice pricing and up-to-the-moment rebate info so you can get the best possible deal when showing up at the retailer. And considering the Corolla iM is about to be replaced for good, you should be able to work out a very good deal if you’re well armed with information. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Sporty analogue gauges are joined by a large multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those capable of more hand, foot coordination, or willing to learn, will benefit from a slick six-speed manual gearbox and a nicely weighted clutch, the base model a lot sportier and more enjoyable to drive due to the DIY gearbox alone, and while modulating the pedals can provide greater control through sharp, fast-paced corners, the iM’s adept suspension does most of the work. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The iM’s centre stack is easy to reach and filled with user-friendly features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As hinted about earlier, behind the scenes is a fully independent suspension that flies in the face of the regular Corolla sedan’s rear twist-beam setup, the iM’s much more sophisticated and considerably more expensive independent rear suspension (IRS) capable of providing near unflappable high speed cornering on smooth or even bumpy road surfaces, its multi-link rear design ideal for keeping rear end planted on the road no matter the pavement irregularities encountered. The ride quality is plenty smooth too, making this particular Corolla perfect for long, high-speed trips on the open freeway. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Considering the iM’s age, the infotainment touchscreen is very advanced. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If the Corolla iM could get any better, I’d be inclined to place its aforementioned interior attributes at an even higher level than its ride and handling prowess. When I say the cabin gets close to premium, I’m not merely copping an overused term in order to imply that it includes a number of luxury sector features that give it a wannabe-premium flair, but rather it really does have an impressively finished passenger compartment. First off, the A-pillars come wrapped in the same high-quality woven fabric as the roofliner, while a better than average soft-touch synthetic covers the entire dash top, the upper half of the instrument panel, and the tops each front door panel. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Dual-zone auto climate control comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even better, Toyota added a contrast-stitched pad to both sides of the lower console for resting front occupant inside knees, this complementing an attractive and comfortable set of contrast-stitched padded fabric armrests and door inserts. Lastly, contrast-stitched leather surrounds the steering wheel, shift knob, boot, and handbrake lever, while Toyota turned to piano black lacquer and metallic trim for spiffing up some of the hard surfaces, plus a sporty motorcycle-inspired circular gauge cluster, very good quality switchgear, a touchscreen infotainment system that’s still better than what a lot of newer cars have on offer, and two stylishly upholstered, heavily bolstered, truly comfortable cloth sport seats. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The standard 6-speed manual is a nicely sorted gearbox. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you’re not quite convinced, the iM’s standard features list might drive its value proposition home more effectively, thanks to auto on/off halogen projector headlamps with LED DRLs, LED side mirror turn signals, LED taillights, machine-finished 17-inch alloys with grey painted pockets, remote access, heatable, power-folding, power-adjustable side mirrors, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors, an overhead console with a nicely lined sunglasses holder, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, a large high-resolution 7.0-inch Pioneer infotainment/display audio system with very nice graphics, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, voice recognition, and a six-speaker AM/FM/USB/AUX stereo featuring Aha, internet radio, POI search, Gracenote, and more. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The CVT-S is quite sporty for a continuously variable transmission. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The move to Toyota last year meant this Corolla-badged iM now gets even more safety gear, so along with the usual four-wheel discs with ABS, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction and stability control, plus Smart Stop Technology that stops the car when both throttle and brake pedals are pressed simultaneously, all being part of the Japanese brand’s Star Safety System, as well as the usual assortment of airbags, including one for the driver’s knees and another for the front passenger’s seat cushion, the Corolla iM includes the entry version of the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) system, dubbed TSS-C, the “C” short for Collision. TSS-C includes auto-dimming high beams, autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure alert, while the higher end TSS-P adds autonomous braking with Pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The CVT-S gets a Sport mode for enhancing its driving dynamics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On this note, the Corolla iM doesn’t make the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick Plus or even Top Safety Pick list, the latter of which includes the regular Corolla, but perhaps this is more to do with not having its autonomous braking system tested. After all, the IIHS gives it best-possible “Good” ratings for its moderate front overlap and side crash tests, so if its small overlap front, roof strength, plus head restraint and seat tests were done it could very well get the same Top Safety Pick score as its four-door sibling. Also, the NHTSA has never tested the iM, whether in its earlier Scion incarnation or under its new Toyota Corolla nameplate. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The front seats are superbly comfortable, extremely supportive and look great too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While this generous load of standard features is impressive, the Corolla iM’s one-trim-fits-all strategy shows the weakness of the original Scion business model. On one hand it doesn’t allow for a stripped down base model capable of going head-to-head against competitors’ lower price points, which are often used just for marketing purposes, getting would-be buyers down to the dealership so they can be upsold into something with the iM’s level of features, but it’s an effective approach just the same, while on the other hand it doesn’t allow for the types of high end features that might make the iM more appealing to those willing to spend more for a premium-like experience. For instance, the iM can’t be had with proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, parking sensors, leather upholstery, cooled front and heatable rear seats, a regular moonroof let alone a panoramic glass roof, navigation, a surround camera, etcetera. 

Toyota does offer dealer-installed accessories, mind you, including a larger rear rooftop spoiler, an infotainment upgrade with navigation, a Bongiovi Acoustics DPS audio upgrade, and interior ambient lighting with interchangeable blue, turquoise, green, yellow, red, purple and white colour choices. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The rear seating area is very roomy, while the outboard positions provide good lower back support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I know, the ability to choose between ambient colours might sound a bit frivolous to those merely looking for a good quality car with a modicum of performance at a great price, so don’t bring it up and your local Toyota salesperson probably won’t either. After all, interior roominess and comfort is a much more important subject matter, neither of which should cause you concern unless you’re much taller than average. I’m only five-foot-eight, which is about average for a Canadian guy, so I had room galore up front, although take note the steering column’s telescopic reach doesn’t extend far enough rearward to make up for body types with longer legs than torsos/arms. This is true for most Toyotas, forcing me to position the driver’s seatback at an unnaturally upright angle in order to grasp the top portion of steering wheel rim, and even then it’s not comfortable and doesn’t provide optimal control. Certainly I could drive it, but for this reason alone I wouldn’t buy it. This will affect everyone differently, so make sure you test it out before singing on the bottom line. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
A sizeable cargo area can be expanded via 60/40 split-folding seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for rear seat roominess, I left the driver’s seat positioned for my height and sat behind to find about five inches of space ahead of my knees and plenty of room for my shoes below, plus there was almost as much space above my head. Toyota provides a flip-down centre armrest with integrated cupholders, which honestly was a bit low for my arm to rest comfortably, but it’s probably perfect for kids, while I’m guessing a smallish third passenger would be more than comfortable in the middle seat. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
This shallow storage tray sits under the cargo load floor and above the spare tire. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Toyota finishes off the cargo compartment nicely, by wrapping the floor, seatbacks and sidewalls in quality carpeting, while just below the load floor is a shallow storage bin above the spare tire. Additionally, four chromed tie-down rings are helpful for attaching a cargo net or strapping something down that might otherwise fall over during the drive. The rear seatbacks fold in the usual 60/40-split configuration, expanding the already sizeable 588-litre (20.8 cubic-foot) cargo area to a much more accommodating albeit undisclosed maximum capacity. 

If the Corolla iM fits your size and style, I can certainly recommend it for all the other reasons just mentioned. It’s a great little five-door hatchback that moves the entire compact car sector up a notch or two in materials quality and refinement, while delivering a sporty driving experience in an all-round efficient package. Get it while you can, or check out the new 2019 Corolla Hatchback that could’ve just as easily been given the iM moniker.

As you may already know, Honda makes three types of Civic these days. There’s the stalwart but hardly stale Sedan, that’s pretty much the staple of Canadian commuting, the sporty Coupe that’s been…

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si Road Test

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The new Honda Civic Coupe Si combines all the legendary performance Si fans have grown to love, with awesome style, premium levels of content and excellent fuel economy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As you may already know, Honda makes three types of Civic these days. There’s the stalwart but hardly stale Sedan, that’s pretty much the staple of Canadian commuting, the sporty Coupe that’s been with us on and off since 1993, and the recently reincarnated Hatchback, which represents the spiritual return to the model’s 1972 roots. 

The first Si was based on the now very collectable two-seat 1985 CRX, but just a year later a third-generation two-door Civic Hatchback became the first-gen Civic Si. The 91 horsepower sport compact quickly earned a devoted following thanks to quick acceleration, a superb five-speed manual gearbox, and excellent handling, all mixed with loads of passenger, cargo and economical practicality. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The new Civic Coupe Si looks great from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Now, oddly enough, no Civic Hatchback Si is offered, although Civic Type R fans are hardly complaining. The 306 horsepower super-compact has earned instant legend status on both roads and tracks like the Nürburgring Nordschleife, where it currently holds the fastest front-wheel drive production car title, leaving the Si for sport compact enthusiasts wanting a little more day-to-day livability. 

Maybe livability isn’t the right word, because the Type R’s hatchback layout makes it easily suited to family and cargo hauling, but its massive non-carbon rear wing makes that hatch a hefty weight to lift, its radical front seat bolsters are a tad uncomfortable to negotiate after a four-course meal, the centre console-dividing rear seat is limiting to passenger capacity, and the car’s generally edgier driving dynamics might be a bit overzealous for some regular commuters. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
LED headlights, blacked out trim, and sharp looking 18-inch alloys set the new Civic Si apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While a future Hatchback Si might be the best passenger/cargo compromise, and the currently available Sedan Si an obvious choice for those looking to maximize performance and pragmatism, you might be surprised at how much room the Coupe Si has inside. Of course, climbing into the rear seating area is hardly as easy as stepping through a back door, but Honda has fixed three seatbelts across the rear bench, and the middle position isn’t so high that it would be uncomfortable for a fifth passenger, plus kids would probably like its slight elevation. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
This rear wing definitely has purpose, adding downforce that keeps the rear end planted during high-speed manoeuvres. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Just to find out for myself, I set the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight height, climbed through a fairly wide opening into a comfortable outboard seat, and was once again reminded that this two-door sport coupe is sized more like a sedan than most rivals in this segment. I had three inches of space remaining above my head, at least six inches ahead of my knees, and plenty of room from side to side. The rear seats provided good back support too, but take note there’s no centre armrest and the ones to each side are made from uncomfortable hard plastic. 

At least the seatbacks are split 60/40 for expanding the usability of the slightly reduced 289-litre trunk, plus they’re equipped with convenient release pulls under the lid. So I think we can agree that the Civic Coupe Si is plenty practical. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The Civic Coupe’s wrap-over taillight assembly provides a dramatic styling benefit to the Coupe Si’s rear view. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I like the way the Coupe Si looks too, especially when finished in Rallye Red, one of five colours available. A high contrast colour really helps the gloss and matte black details across the grille stand out, not to mention the blackened trim surrounding the LED headlamps, along the lower fascia, around the side windows, highlighting the wheels, edging the LED taillights, and darkening the rear diffuser, although you might like the ominously inky look of the Crystal Black Pearl painted version better. No matter the colour, the Coupe Si looks menacing from up front, and makes a sharply wedged profile from the side, capped off with a large yet still tasteful rear spoiler that adds style and downforce. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
All new Civics are fitted with a new level of style, quality and refinement inside, leaving Si models to enhance that with sportier components and trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And yes, the Coupe Si can reach track speeds of up to 220 km/h, which is certainly fast enough to require the extra stability provided by an aero-tuned spoiler. That high-speed performance comes via a recalibrated six-speed manual transmission fed by a new 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with dual variable cam timing, which makes the same 205 horsepower as the previous model’s 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four, yet 18 lb-ft of additional torque resulting in a 192 lb-ft maximum. 

The new power unit is more tractable too, thanks to full power arriving 1,300 rpm lower in the rev range at 5,700 rpm instead of 7,000, whereas the aforementioned max torque comes on 2,300 rpm earlier at 2,100 rpm compared to 4,400 in the old model, plus that twist is sustained over 70 percent of the engine’s rev range. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The Civic Coupe Si cockpit adds a more performance oriented look that features plenty of red highlights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With Sport mode engaged the Coupe Si’s straight-line acceleration feels a lot more spirited than the numbers show, standstill to 100km/h requiring 7.2 seconds. Like I said, by the seat of the pants the Si feels much quicker, and it was never designed to be a drag racer anyway. 

Find an open stretch of curving back road and the Coupe Si immediately shows its key strength, adeptly managing corners. It’s always been one of my favourite cars to drive fast, and the new chassis setup is easily the most stable in Si history. You can fling it into the sharpest of corners at almost any reasonable speed, and the worst you’ll get is mild understeer. It’s wonderfully balanced, totally predictable, and ruddy fast when pushed hard. An off camber curve? No problem, even if you hit a bump or pothole halfway through. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
Honda upgrades the already superb Civic gauge cluster with sporty red embellishment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Civic’s already better than average fully independent front strut, rear multi-link suspension has been tweaked for even greater capability, with beefier 27 mm front and 18 mm rear stabilizer bars plus adaptive dampers, so the Coupe Si is totally up to the task. The steering is ideally weighted for optimal control too, providing positive, quick response to input and decent feedback, while a helical limited slip differential makes the most of available traction. Likewise, braking is strong with very little fade, even after repeated stomps. Truly, the Si remains one of the best cars available for embarrassing Mustang GT owners, as long as you’re on a tight twisting two-laner. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The Si gets a fully loaded version of the Civic’s excellent infotainment touchscreen, upgraded with a red background. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If a pit stop is required that Mustang owner will also need a lot more time to fill up at the pump, the Coupe Si’s 46.9-litre tank capable of going a lot farther thanks to claimed fuel economy of 8.4 L/100km city, 6.2 highway and 7.4 combined, which incidentally is a massive improvement over the previously model’s 10.8 city, 7.6 highway and 9.4 combined. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
This is a wireless device charging pad, and it comes standard with the Civic Si. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The rubber responsible for reducing rolling resistance while simultaneously providing all that aforementioned grip is a set of 235/40R18 91W Goodyear Eagle Sport performance tires, wrapped around stylish 18-inch, 10-spoke, machine-finished alloys with glossy black painted pockets, while additional standard features include proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, illuminated steering wheel-mounted cruise, audio, phone and Driver Information Interface (DII) controls, dual-zone auto climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blindspot display, navigation, voice activation, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity with streaming audio, wireless device charging, 452-watt 10-speaker premium audio with satellite and HD radio, heatable front seats, and much more for just $29,090 plus freight and fees, as verified on CarCostCanada.com along with dealer invoice pricing and the latest rebate information, while its rigid body structure design and full assortment of standard safety kit help it achieve a 5-star rating from the NHTSA. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
Breaking with market trends, this six-speed manual remains the only transmission on offer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While Honda provides plenty of dealer-added accessories, such as an Illumination Package and Protection Package, different alloy wheels, aero add-ons, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an ambient lighting kit, an illuminated console, plus cargo protection and organization gear, it doesn’t offer any factory options with the Coupe Si. This said you can now move up to the new Coupe Si HFP (Honda Factory Performance) trim level that features a special lip spoiler and side sills, unique 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension with modified active dampers that reportedly improve handling and ride quality, plus a handful of interior upgrades for $34,790. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
These superb sport seats provide total comfort with just the right amount of sporty side bolstering. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Whether choosing a regular Coupe Si or the new HFP model, all of the aforementioned features come housed in one of the more impressive cabins in the compact class, starting with all that makes the regular Civic Coupe good, such as ergonomically friendly and artistically innovative interior design, premium-level soft-touch synthetics on key surfaces, attractive metal accents, superb switchgear throughout, and one of the best semi-digital gauge clusters in the class, complemented by an equally impressive infotainment touchscreen, all upgraded to Si standards. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
Climbing into the back seat is easy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This means the interior theme is red on black, although only with tasteful splashes of the former so as to spice up, rather than overwhelm the look. The steering wheel, featuring red baseball stitching around the inside, is ideally shaped for comfort and control, while red stitching adorns the leather and metal shift knob and leather boot just below. The Si cabin’s go-fast appeal is further enhanced with aluminum sport pedals, while the engine ignition button glows in a soft red, mirroring the red highlighted electronic interfaces to each side. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
There’s plenty of room for three in back, and the seating area is spacious and comfortable for small to average sized adults. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Furthermore, the red “Si” embroidered sport seats are heavily bolstered and covered in black woven upholstery that’s highlighted with a thick grey patterned stripe to each side of the inset, plus two lines of red stitching on the bolsters. They look fabulous and feel even better, and by that I mean they’re not as radically shaped as the Type R’s, allowing easier ingress and egress, yet they’re still supportive enough for most peoples’ performance needs. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The trunk is decently sized for a sport coupe, plus 60/40-split rear seatbacks add flexibility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That last point sums up any Si. It’s a car that can be driven daily in absolute comfort without sacrificing practical needs including fuel economy, while it’s still fully capable of tearing up a stretch of tarmac, whether that be on a lonely back country road or at your local parking lot autocross. It’ll even do you proud on the racetrack, and no doubt surprise a few V8-powered pony car owners as they try to keep up in the curves at the next “Run What Ya Brung” event. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and the jaw-dropping looks on their faces are priceless. 

Of course, they should really know better. A lot of sport compact competitors have come and gone over the past 30 years, but the Honda Civic Si has continued to thrill its owners with superb performance on and off the track for three decades strong. It’s a legendary name, and the latest 2018 Civic Coupe Si, along with its four-door Sedan Si sibling, is totally worthy of carrying the mantle forward.

I don’t know what’s going on south of the 49th parallel these days. And no, I’m not talking the usual banter about trade, tariffs, walls, kids in incarceration, a stock market bubble, etcetera (notice…

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD Road Test

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Last year’s mid-cycle update gave the Rogue more assertive styling, a redesign that looks best in this top-line 2018 Rogue SL Platinum AWD. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I don’t know what’s going on south of the 49th parallel these days. And no, I’m not talking the usual banter about trade, tariffs, walls, kids in incarceration, a stock market bubble, etcetera (notice I didn’t say Trump… oops), but rather how the Nissan Rogue managed to speed into the compact SUV segment’s top sales position. 

Tops in the U.S. means it’s also the best-selling compact SUV in North America, its U.S. and Canadian combined sales reaching 237,606 units over the first six months of 2018 compared to 224,996 for last year’s sales leading Toyota RAV4. While many factors can play into market success, another week with a Rogue SL Platinum AWD reminded me of a number of very likely reasons it’s doing so well. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
From side profile, the revised Rogue doesn’t look very different than the model it replaces. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

First of all, the Rogue remains a great looking crossover SUV despite this second-gen model having been with us since 2013. Of course, it had a stylish mid-cycle update just last year, which saw Nissan’s broader more “U” shaped “Vmotion 2.0” grille add a bit more masculine ruggedness to the otherwise sleek design, while its headlights received more sophisticated inner complexity thanks to quad beams and standard signature LED daytime running lamps. Additionally, full LEDs were made available to the previously tested and currently reviewed SL Platinum, while a reworked lower front fascia was included with all trims, receiving a narrow strip of LED fog lights with both SV and SL Platinum models. Less dramatic modifications were made down each side and at the rear, yet the result is a much more assertive looking compact SUV. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Some subtle details at the back, like new LED taillights and a reworked bumper cap help to modernize the design. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This said the 2017 update did more than just refresh Rogue styling, it also improved interior refinement, modernized some technologies, and made a bevy of advanced driver assistance features available. Safety has even been strengthened further for 2018, with Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert now standard across the entire Rogue line, while you’ll still need to step up to SL Platinum trim to have Pedestrian Detection added to the Forward Emergency Braking system, plus Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Moving Object Detection, automatic high beam headlights, and adaptive Intelligent Cruise Control with full speed range and hold. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The chunkier new grille is certainly more truck-like. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Last year this gear earned the Rogue a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS when the SL Platinum trim’s standard LED headlamps with Smartbeam were factored in, but being that the U.S. government organization keeps moving the goalposts further away in order to raise safety standards it now only garners Top Safety Pick status. 

Even bigger news this year is the addition of Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system to SL Platinum trim. The top-tier model is actually called SL Platinum ProPilot Assist on Nissan Canada’s retail website, and it’s a good thing it’s not a pricey option as buyers might feel shortchanged once the initial wow factor wears off. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
LED headlights with auto high beams are standard on the SL Platinum. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes it will certainly impress the uninitiated, thanks to its ability to almost completely take over driving functions on the highway, even coming to a full stop in bumper-to-bumper traffic or changing lanes after you signal a desire to do so, but imagine for a moment the need to place both hands back on the steering wheel every eight seconds in order to prevent a warning chime from sounding off and red dash light from flashing, which gets a lot more annoying if you don’t, and it soon becomes evident this future technology is not ready for prime time. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Nice attention to details brings a new upscale sophistication to Rogue design. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To be fair (and not rile the Nissan PR reps that are very clear about what ProPilot “Assist” can and cannot do), this is a hands-on system, not designed to work while your hands are on your lap, behind your head with the driver’s seatback reclined, and certainly not holding a smartphone, tablet or book. That’s the stuff of a fully autonomous driving future (or brave Tesla owners), the Nissan system alternatively providing steering assistance that some find helps to reduce fatigue over a long distance. 

And don’t worry about falling asleep, as the constant beeping that occurs when veering too close to a lane marking will keep you fully awake and alert, and possibly annoyed. I’m not one for incessant beeping, sometimes causing me to turn off overly sensitive parking sensor systems, so therefore this ProPilot setup wouldn’t work for me, but I can appreciate why some drivers would like it. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
These machine-finished 19-inch alloys with black painted pockets are standard with top-line SL Platinum trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

So go ahead and have some fun with it, because it’s really cool to watch the steering wheel turn on its own while your Rogue remains safely within its lane, and it only needs you to turn on the adaptive cruise control, set a given top speed, and press a blue button on the steering wheel to initiate. 

Also notable, ProPilot Assist will change lanes automatically just by flicking the turn signal. After analyzing the adjacent lane and finding a safe entry point it quickly moves to the right or left as per your signal indication. I could really see this feature assisting new drivers that are sometimes intimidated to change lanes at highway speeds. This said make sure to check your mirrors, as this technology is in its infancy and therefore can’t yet be relied upon 100 percent. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Roof rails are standard with the SV, and the panoramic sunroof is standard on the SL Platinum. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

What’s more, don’t attempt to use its change lane feature to exit a highway, because once in the exit lane ProPilot Assist won’t slow down or turn to follow the off ramp. In fact, if I hadn’t taken over the controls it would’ve driven straight off the exit lane into the ditch. Granted, Nissan says only to use this system on a limited access highway, but being a curious journalist I just had to find out where that highway ends with respect to ProPilot Assist. Now I know, it ends in the exit lane, or before, if you really want to be cautious. 

So kudos to Nissan for being the first mainstream volume brand to bring semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving to market. I’m sure it will improve with each new application, something Nissan has promised as it rolls out more autonomous capability in the future, including its ability to be used in city traffic. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
These sharp looking LED taillights make an even greater difference at night. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional standard SL Platinum features not yet mentioned include 225/55R19 all-season tires on 19-inch alloys, an electromechanical parking brake (lesser trims get a foot-operated one), memory for the side mirrors and front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel, a leather shift knob, leather upholstery, dual-zone auto climate control, an Around View parking monitor, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, NissanConnect with mobile apps, a really good Bose audio system with nine speakers including two subs, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, and a motion-activated powered liftgate, plus it’s the only trim in the line that comes standard with all-wheel drive. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The Rogue SL Platinum punches above its weight when it comes to luxury. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Take note the four-way powered front passenger’s seat has been deleted from SL Platinum trim for 2018, and I would’ve liked to see ventilated front seats and heatable rear seats added to the top-line features list, but nevertheless this top-line model still provides a significant load of high-end features for $37,098 plus freight and dealer fees, that number representing an $800 increase over last year’s non-ProPilot Assist equipped version, or so I found out at CarCostCanada.com, your best source for new vehicle pricing, dealer invoice pricing, and important rebate information. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The sporty leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel is a Rogue highlight. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

There’s just one factory upgrade available with the SL, but the Platinum Reserve Interior package appears worth the extra $500 if you like rich appearances. It adds unique Tan leather-appointed seats with special quilted leather inserts. Alternatively, my tester’s Pearl White exterior paint makes no-cost Almond leather available, an interior treatment that would no doubt look good with Magnetic Black or Caspian Blue too if it were made available (it’s not, despite being offered south of the 49th along with a host of other exterior colours), although probably not with Gun Metallic grey. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The gauges are a traditional analogue design, but the multi-info display is large and feature filled. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Just so you know, you’ll only need to have the proximity-sensing key fob in your pocket or purse to access either front door or rear liftgate, which is also power operated. Nissan’s Intelligent Key comes with pushbutton ignition in $28,598 SV trim, with other features from this mid-range model including fog lamps, LED turn signals on the side mirror housings, roof rails, rear privacy glass, remote engine start, an eight-way power driver’s seat including two-way powered lumbar, a retractable cargo cover, and more. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Nissan loads up this out of the way panel, located down by the driver’s left knee, with some important features, making it difficult to access “SPORT” or “ECO” modes when on the go. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Notably, you can also choose a special blacked-out Midnight Edition, a nice upgrade for those wanting a sportier looking Rogue. While based on the SV, it also includes that trim’s otherwise $2,600 Technology package, which adds the dual-zone auto HVAC, Around View monitor, navigation, leather, powered liftgate, Moving Object Detection, and more from other trims, all for $34,198. 

Features pulled up to my top-line SL Platinum model from $26,298 base S trim include auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, variable intermittent wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors, LED map lights, mood lighting, overhead sunglasses storage, micro-filtered air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, hands-free text messaging, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with satellite radio, USB and aux ports, Quick Comfort heated front seats (they heat up really fast), four cargo tie-down hooks, a rear seat pass-through, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The centre stack is nicely laid out and easy to reach. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Once inside I’m sure you’ll appreciate the care and attention Nissan has given to the cabin. It actually comes close to matching some premium brands, and while it’s missing upper crust compact luxury segment accoutrements like fabric-wrapped roof pillars, fully configurable digital gauges, and soft-touch rear door uppers, the entire dash-top and front door uppers are made from a nice soft padded synthetic. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is packed with useful features, but the split-screen camera system might be its best attribute. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

What’s more, Nissan also finished the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger with padded and French-stitched leatherette, while the driver gets a leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel with aluminized spokes, plus a leather metal and glossy black shift knob, a leatherette shift boot, and plenty of piano black lacquered surfacing around that shifter and across the centre stack. The door panel trim looks more like carbon fibre, but it matches nicely and dresses up the look well, while the armrests at each side and at centre feature stitched padded leatherette to match the instrument panel bolster and the same treatment on each side of lower console, this last feature not only looking good, but also preventing chafing of the driver and front passenger’s inside knees. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The transmission’s sporty appearance defies its silky smooth operation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Analogue gauges with excellent backlighting are joined by a large colour multi-information display directly in front of the driver, providing easily accessible information on key functions, including the aforementioned ProPilot Assist system. 

Over on the centre stack, a 7.0-inch touchscreen provides most everything someone buying into a premium-level compact SUV could want. Its resolution is good, albeit not the clearest or crispest in the industry, and being a matte finish the depth of colour and contrast isn’t quite as rich, but fewer fingerprints will be a positive for many, while the infotainment interface is very good. It includes easy connectivity for your smartphone and streaming audio, plus the audio section gets bright and colourful thanks to album graphics when using satellite radio, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the line. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
A sunglasses holder is always appreciated. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The navigation system is also impressive, with accurate directions via clear, detailed mapping. It even took us via the quickest route, and by so doing reminded me of alternative choices I hadn’t used for a long time. The upgraded parking camera was equally impressive, as it features a split screen that shows the usual rear view with active guidelines, as well as a top view with 360-degree surround visuals. 

Just below the touchscreen is a nicely sorted dual-zone automatic HVAC interface, with large well-made chrome-trimmed knobs and tight fitting buttons, plus a sizeable display screen. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
A supportive leather-clad driver’s seat with good adjustability, but more telescopic reach from the steering column would allow for greater control and comfort. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The driver’s seat controls provide plenty of adjustment, but I could have used a bit more reach from the telescopic steering column in order to set myself up for better comfort and control, a common problem due to having longer legs than torso. The seat itself is very supportive, cupping the small of the back nicely and providing ample side bolstering for this class of vehicle, while headroom and side-to-side spaciousness won’t likely be a problem for most body types. 

It certainly wasn’t for my regular sized five-foot-eight, medium-build frame, and with the driver’s seat positioned as ideally as possible I climbed into the back to check rear roominess, only to find that I still had loads of space to move around, with about eight inches ahead of my knees, plus plenty of space under the seats for the big boots I was wearing, allowing my legs to almost fully stretch out. Likewise, there was about three and a half inches left over above my head and three next to my shoulder and the window, plus about the same from my hips to the door panel. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Got to love that massive panoramic sunroof. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other than the hard plastic door upper, that rear door panel is finished just as nicely as the one up front, while incandescent reading lamps for each outboard passenger, and large vents on the backside of the front console was about it for extras. And no I’m not forgetting to mention the rear centre armrest because there isn’t one in the traditional sense, the Rogue instead giving rear passengers the option of folding down the centre pass-through that includes dual cupholders and enough room to each side for resting arms, but its hard plastic surfacing isn’t very comfortable. Most competitors that offer both an armrest and pass-through provide a separate door for the latter, but I’d take a pass-through over a rear armrest any day, so I can hardly complain. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Rear seat roominess is excellent, but the hard plastic centre armrest/pass-through isn’t very comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Another positive is the panoramic sunroof that really opens up the rear compartment from a visual perspective, while I should also point out that back seat visibility is excellent, as the side windows are tall and extend quite far toward the rear. 

As accommodating as the Rogue is for passengers, it’s a cargo hauler’s dream thanks to 60/40 split seatbacks that open up the rear storage area from 1,112 litres (39.3 cubic feet) to 1,982 litres (70.0 cubic feet), making it one of the more capacious compact SUVs available. The rearmost portion is also quite flexible, its standard two-piece adjustable Divide-N-Hide shelving system starting off down on the floor, capable of being moved up in tandem to make a flat loading area when the seats are lowered, or alternatively set up higher for a shelf above a larger load below. It’s a smart, innovative cargo system that really sets the Rogue apart. This said, when the need to lower the rear seats presents itself you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors, as Nissan doesn’t provide levers on the cargo walls to do this automatically like some others in the compact SUV segment. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The rear luggage compartment is very generous and impressively flexible for the class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Back in the driver’s seat, the Rogue gets positive marks for its excellent ride quality, overall comfort and impressive quietness. This is just another way it feels like a premium compact SUV, while its drivetrain is one of the smoothest operators in the category too. On that note, it’s probably not the ideal compact SUV for performance enthusiasts, as its sole 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine makes just 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while the continuously variable transmission (CVT) it comes mated to was primarily designed for smooth, silky operation over snap-to-it get-up-and-go. Nissan does include a manual mode via the shift lever, but I only used it for testing and wasn’t amused. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
This photo shows the two-piece Divide-N-Hide shelving system on two levels, but it can be moved around many ways to suit your cargo carrying needs. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Just the same, the Rogue moves away smartly from stoplights, has no problem passing slower moving traffic on the highway and is a relative miser with fuel, its Transport Canada rating an estimated 9.7 L/100km in the city, 7.4 in the city and 8.7 combined with as-tested AWD, or an even thriftier 9.2 city, 7.0 highway and 8.2 combined with FWD models. 

Similar to the Rogue’s straight-line performance, its comfortable suspension setup isn’t optimized towards sport, so it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the ride. Don’t get me wrong as it can snake through a set of fast-paced corners quickly enough, holding on commendably, but it just doesn’t feel as secure doing so as some others in the compact SUV segment. I don’t believe this will be much of an issue for most buyers, as all the big sellers in this class are similarly biased toward comfort. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
With the rear seats folded flat the Rogue is a cavernous cargo companion. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

And to tell you the truth, that’s exactly how I like my family haulers. It’s a very rare moment that I get to put a vehicle through its paces when not searching out a suitable road or track for testing purposes, as life behind the wheel is more often than not experienced amid thick, congested traffic, or at best a cruise up the highway for a weekend getaway. Therefore comfort takes priority over sport in this category, hence why the Nissan Rogue is finding so much success. 

To that end the 2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum is a wonderful all-round people pleaser, providing performance that’s more than adequate, impressive economy, a comfortable, fully featured, spacious interior that’s big on luxury, and some pretty cool new tech. It should definitely be on your shortlist.

Where is the world’s best mid-size luxury SUV made? Audi can make a good argument for Bratislava, Slovakia, where its recently redesigned Q7 SUV flagship has been assembled since inception in November…

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik Road Test

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
No S Line Sport package this year, but we think this top-line Technik-trimmed 2018 Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro looks great just the same. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Where is the world’s best mid-size luxury SUV made? Audi can make a good argument for Bratislava, Slovakia, where its recently redesigned Q7 SUV flagship has been assembled since inception in November of 2005, when the 2006 first-generation model arrived on the scene and almost immediately became the darling of the seven-passenger luxury crossover SUV market. 

Astute readers will correct me by stating the Q7 is also produced in Kaluga, Russia and Aurangabad, India, but the one we get hails from the quaint Slovakian capital that flanks the Danube River, its fertile banks surrounded in vineyards, the entire area nestled within the Little Carpathian mountains, a picturesque part of Europe that rivals its Austrian and Hungarian neighbours for good beer and good times. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The more angular new Q7 looks fresh and modern from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This said the only Audi vehicles I’ve ever driven through Europe were on Austrian and German roads, and never once in a Q7. My four-ringed adventure began in the Alps near Salzburg aboard a bevy of TT Coupes, followed up by the premium brand’s A8L flagship sedan powered by a ridiculously potent turbo-diesel V8 on the autobahn between the Red Bull capital (and of course childhood home to Mozart—I walked past Hagenauerhaus on my way to dinner while visiting on a separate occasion with Maserati) and Audi HQ in Ingolstadt in Ingolstadt. How I would love to drive this new Q7 over the same routes, or for that matter any of the other circuitous European roadways I’ve grown to appreciate from many visits across the Atlantic since youth (back then we had a VW 411 “Squareback”, not exactly in the same league). 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This sharp new take on Audi’s “Singleframe” grille has spread across the brand’s entire SUV lineup. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The first-generation Q7 aged gracefully, having managed to maintain its popularity despite few updates during its decade-long run, which is a nod to the original SUV’s good inherent design both aesthetically and mechanically. This second-generation version, which arrived in 2016 for the 2017 model year, rides on a new lighter weight chassis architecture that’s allowed for a significant 300-kilo (660-lb) reduction in mass, while this in turn has resulted in the first-ever application of a fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder in the large albeit still mid-size three-row SUV. 

I drove and reported on the 2.0 TFSI equipped Q7 last year and not only found it wholly adequate, but in fact its 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque felt downright spirited thanks in part to the standard eight-speed automatic and efficient Quattro all-wheel drive system it comes mated to, but for those that make their German engineering choice with an eye on performance first and foremost, I recommend the V6. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Technik trim gets standard full LED headlamps, that add nighttime brightness as well as daytime sophistication. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro shown on this page felt much the same as a V6-powered model I also tested and reviewed last year, although this variation on the theme didn’t include an upgrade to the $1,800 S Line Sport package, which is really more about cosmetics than performance anyway, due to no sport suspension improvements and identically sized albeit uniquely designed 20-inch alloys on 285/45 all-season tires, restyled front and rear bumpers, an enlarged rear rooftop spoiler, S line fender badges and door sill embellishment on the metal treadplates, and a black headliner inside. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The Technik’s standard 10-spoke 20-inch alloys combine elegance with ample sportiness. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With its visual focus more about luxury than sport, my Q7 loaner still looked suitably planted with its 20-inch 10-spoke Star design alloys, while its two-slat corner vents are hardly less aggressive than the trio of glossy black slats and deeper brake vents provided in S Line trim. 

As you might expect, the 2018 Q7 is mostly carryover from last year, this only being the second-gen model’s second year of availability, so therefore the only change this year is the addition of standard Audi side assist blindspot warning and Audi pre-sense rear advanced driver assistance systems to mid-range Progressiv trim, the latter feature using a rear-facing camera to detect and warn of potential rear-end collisions, at which point it mitigates possible injuries by automatically adjusting the seats, tightening the seatbelts, plus closing the windows and sunroof. Additionally, as-tested top-line Technik trim now gets the Audi Connect smartphone interface, concierge service, and security features as standard equipment. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Of course the taillights are LEDs, and these look even better when lit up at night. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While we’re talking trims, according to CarCostCanada.com that has full pricing by trim level, the dealer’s invoice pricing (wouldn’t it be helpful to know that?), and info on available rebates, the Q7 is once again available in three grades including $61,900 Komfort, $67,650 Progressiv and $74,750 Technik. Quattro AWD is standard, while the aforementioned 2.0-litre turbo-four is standard in Komfort and Progressiv trims, while not available with Technik. The 3.0-litre supercharged V6 is a $4,000 option in either base or mid-range trim, with the result of this choice being 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque for considerably stronger straight-line performance, its zero to 100km/h sprint time improved by 1.7 seconds from 7.4 to 5.7 seconds, plus almost no downside in fuel economy as per Transport Canada’s official claimed rating of 12.6 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.1 combined for the V6 and 12.2, 9.5 and 11.0 respectively for the I-4. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The Q7 opens up to one of the best interiors in the mid-size SUV sector. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, I know this seems strange, so I found my second witness in the U.S. EPA that shows identical ratings of 19 mpg city, 25 highway and 21 combined no matter the engine tested, which in case you were wondering come very close to our government’s estimates at 12.4 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.2 combined when converted to metric. So there you have it, the 2.0 TFSI is more about reducing the Q7’s initial price than ongoing costs. 

Additionally, with the optional tow package added to both four- and six-cylinder powered Q7s, the latter increases its trailering capacity by more than 1,500 kilos (3,300 lbs) over the former, from 1,995 kilograms (4,400 lbs) to a surprisingly capable 3,500 kg (7,700 lbs). 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Everything is well made, smartly organized and within reach. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No matter which engine you choose, Komfort trim includes standard self-leveling Xenon plus headlights with washers, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated power-folding side mirrors, stainless steel door sills, pushbutton ignition, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, an electromechanical parking brake, rain-sensing wipers, Audi Drive Select performance modes, a HomeLink garage door opener, a cooled glove box, heatable eight-way powered front seats with four-way powered driver’s lumbar support, driver-side memory for the seat and side mirrors, leather upholstery, genuine oak hardwood, piano black lacquer and real aluminum interior trim, tri-zone automatic climate control, a large infotainment display that powers up from within the dash top, HD and satellite radio, a powered panoramic glass sunroof with an electric sunshade, a powered liftgate, a retractable cargo cover, 50/50-split power-folding third-row seatbacks, front and rear parking sensors, engine stop-start, regenerative braking, and Audi’s pre-sense basic driver assistance system that detects when an emergency manoeuvre is being made and then initiates all of the crash preventative measures noted earlier about pre-sense rear. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The Audi Virtual Cockpit lets you go from a fairly normal looking gauge cluster… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My Technik tester included all of the above, plus everything from mid-range Progressiv trim such as its proximity-sensing keyless access, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, blindspot warning, power-adjustable steering column, Audi Virtual Cockpit fully digital 12.3-inch TFT gauge cluster, 360-degree Topview surround parking camera, aforementioned smartphone integration, navigation, additional rear zone for the climate control system, four-way powered front passenger lumbar, ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, stainless steel trunk sill protection, virtual pedal proximity-sensing trunk release, and more. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
….to a all the graphic info you could ever need, by the simple touch of a steering wheel-mounted “VIEW” button. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, exclusive Technik features include full LED headlamps for much brighter nighttime drives, a larger set of 20-inch alloys on 285/45 all-season run-flats for better grip, a sensational sounding 3D Surround Sound Bose audio system with 19 speakers and 558 watts of power, Audi connect assistance and security services, and more. 

Of course, some of the features that come standard with Technik trim can be had in option packages and as standalone upgrades within each trim level, while my tester was also enhanced further with a $150 set of second-row side window sunshades, which are ideal if you have sun-sensitive passengers in back. I’d find it difficult to believe many Q7s are ordered without the $900 Driver Assistance Package too, which includes auto high beam assist, a camera and distance sensor, Audi active lane assist, and traffic sign recognition. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This 8.3-inch display powers up from within the dash top, and provides crystal clear clarity and excellent depth of colour. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If this were to become my personal ride I’d be even more tempted to add the $3,400 Driver Assistance Plus package due to its adaptive cruise control with stop and go alone, while this suite of advanced safety features includes a head-up display projecting key info onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, Audi pre sense plus, Audi pre sense city front collision warning with autonomous braking, and traffic jam assist, a semi-autonomous steering feature that does the driving for you while stuck on well-paved congested roadways at speeds from 0 to 65 km/h. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Both standard three-zone and as-tested four-zone auto climate control systems can be easily adjusted from this attractive interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester’s standard Diamond finish upper inlay with Silver Grey and Oak Grey lower inlays, can be replaced by three $500 alternatives that all include Brushed Aluminum for the upper inlay with either Oak Grey, Beaufort Walnut, or Walnut and Terra Brown for the lower inlay, while the already excellent Bose audio system can be traded in for an even more impressive $5,100 Bang & Olufsen system with tweeters that power up out of the dash and many other advanced audio technologies. 

Additionally, a $2,500 Night vision assistant uses a thermal imaging camera to scan 15 to 90 metres ahead for pedestrians and large animal heat signatures and then projects them onto the multi-information display in the gauge cluster, while other options include massaging front seats, a dual screen rear seat entertainment system, rear side-impact airbags, a bevy of wheels and tires and more, plus dealer installed accessories galore. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Thanks to electronic transmissions, gear “levers” have changed in recent years, which is why we like Audi’s mostly normal one a lot. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Naming off options and standard equipment might help put the Q7’s value proposition into a better light, but it hardly relates the experience of actually spending time inside. It remains one of the best interiors in its class thanks to Audi’s pleasing horizontal design mixed with fine attention to detail. The quality of workmanship and materials chosen are difficult to match in this class, and the overall layout, ease of use, and general comfort comes close to perfection. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The Q7 gets a rotating knob, touchpad and surrounding buttons for controlling its infotainment system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Q7 may excel even further above most peers in driving dynamics, by somehow balancing a gentle ride with superb handling. I’m always amazed at how small the Q7 feels when at the wheel, as if it’s outwardly sized a category down from its true three-row mid-size dimensions, but numbers don’t lie and your rear passengers won’t complain about being cramped, although it’s so much fun to drive that backseat drivers may ask you to slow down. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Comfort and support are Audi driver seat hallmarks, and the Q7’s are no exception. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Q7’s speed-sensing electric power-assist steering feels just right and responds to input quickly and accurately, while the SUV’s fully independent double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension system absorbs all the nasty road imperfections yet still manages to stay glued to the road even when pushed much harder than you might think possible. Audi may have found the ideal compromise between sport and comfort, as I never felt like I was giving up either. Added to this is Quattro AWD for all-season confidence, a system that has saved me from snow covered ski hill parking lots and launched me out of even deeper snow banks plenty of times, and would no doubt be just as capable of dealing with muddy cottage backroads, etcetera. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This massive powered panoramic sunroof is standard across the Q7 line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And that from an SUV that can gobble up seven occupants and much of their cargo, the area behind the rearmost seats good for 420 litres (14.8 cubic feet) of what-have-you according to the U.S. EPA, which is about as much as a generously sized sedan’s trunk, while if you fold those rear seats flat via the aforementioned power controls you’ll end up with 1,062 litres (37.5 cubic feet) behind the second row, or go a step further and you’ll have a cavernous 2,027 litres (71.6 cubic feet) of available space, and more so a completely flat load floor. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Second-row roominess and comfort are hard to criticize. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even better, Audi was really inventive with its second row seats, as they’re not split in the usual 60/40 configuration, and not even sectioned into a 40/20/40 division that allows a narrow pass-through down the middle for skis and other long cargo, but they’re almost evenly divided at 35/30/35 for a much larger centre pass-through and a more comfortable middle seating position. 

Power releases pop the second-row seats forward for easy access to the third row, and while I wouldn’t want to spend an entire day back there I was able to buckle in my five-foot-eight frame without discomfort. This still left plenty of legroom for second-row passengers, which certainly won’t be able to complain about spaciousness in all other directions either, or comfort. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The third row provides enough space for two medium-sized adults on short journeys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Is the Q7 the best mid-size luxury SUV available today like I inferred at the beginning of this review? My answer would depend on your personal priorities, such as performance over luxuriant pampering, how you prefer controlling infotainment functions, from a simple, straightforward touchscreen or via a rotating knob, touchpad (for pinch, swipe and finger gesture capability) and surrounding buttons on the lower console as Audi provides. The system is excellent and incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, accurate navigation, superb backup and overhead cameras, plus its depth of colour, resolution and overall speed of operation can’t be faulted. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This large, flat loading area makes the Q7 ideal for active families. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Added to this, the Audi Virtual Cockpit is by far best of the best when it comes to digital gauge clusters. I love how the “VIEW” button on the left steering wheel spoke expands the multi-info display to epic proportions, leaving smaller digital dials for speed and tachometer readings. This allows the navigation mapping and route guidance info to almost completely take over the display, or one of many other functions within the system. 

Yes, it’s difficult not to love the Audi Q7, which is why there are so many on Canadian roads. It would be unwise to buy into this category without experiencing a Q7 first hand, as it’s easily one of the best on offer.

I’ve got a challenge for you. Take a 2018 Infiniti QX80 for a drive and then tell me why it’s not worth $20k more than the $77,350 they’re asking. My guess? You’ll soon be comparing it to full-size…

2018 Infiniti QX80 Road Test

2018 Infiniti QX80
Infiniti left few details alone when refreshing its 2018 QX80, and the result is one great looking full-size luxury SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve got a challenge for you. Take a 2018 Infiniti QX80 for a drive and then tell me why it’s not worth $20k more than the $77,350 they’re asking. My guess? You’ll soon be comparing it to full-size SUV rivals from Land Rover, Lexus, and even Mercedes-Benz. 

To put its price into perspective, I went onto CarCostCanada.com to size up competitive MSRPs and found out you can get into a well-equipped, impressively finished base model of the handsomely refreshed 2018 Infiniti QX80 for $32,250 less than the 2018 Lexus LX 570, $35,650 less than the Land Rover Range Rover, and $51,550 less than the base Mercedes-Benz G 550. What’s more, the QX80 is $9,190 more affordable than the 2018 Cadillac Escalade and costs $10,300 less than the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator, which should have all of us questioning whether Infiniti priced its full-size SUV too low. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Changes to the rear are more subtle, but nevertheless add class via extra chrome, new taillights and a revised bumper. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To the ridiculously wealthy such pricing discrepancies won’t make one bit of difference, but value matters to smart luxury SUV shoppers trying to maximize the most from their hard-earned income. To that end the QX80 won’t disappoint, starting with a thorough mid-cycle update for 2018 that includes a redesigned grille, front fascia, hood, fenders, fender vents, and rear bumper, while its LED headlamps, LED taillights, LED fog lamps, and side indicators have been dramatically revised as well. Lastly, Infiniti rounded out the updated exterior design with new 20- and 22-inch alloy wheels, while new exterior colours include Moonstone White, Mineral Black and my tester’s Champagne Quartz, which works really well with all the new details. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The new standard LED headlamps look gorgeous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Climbing inside reveals some updates to the cabin as well, including a standard contrast-stitched wrapped upper instrument panel and a new shift knob, plus a new stitched and leather-wrapped steering wheel hub/horn pad and diamond-patterned quilting for the upgraded semi-aniline leather door trim and seat inserts when opting for the Technology Package. My test model also had some beautiful high-gloss Espresso Burl hardwood trim around the steering wheel, across the dash and door panels, and down the centre stack and lower console, plus equally tasteful metal accents in key areas. The result is a cabin that looks and feels really rich, matched by high-quality materials like premium soft-touch synthetics on key surfaces including the entire door panels from top to bottom (not so with some competitors), good attention to detail, tight fitment of panels and switchgear, some of the latter finished in beautiful knurled metal, and an overall sense of solidity. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Beautifully intricate detailing around each LED fog lamp makes the lower front fascia particularly attractive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Infiniti also adds some new tech, with that just noted $8,150 Technology Package also including an Infiniti-first Smart Rear View Mirror that doubles as a wide-angle rearview camera, plus an Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) with auto recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier and a Grape Polyphenol Filter, and front seat pre-crash seatbelts on the inside, while the exterior gets an Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) with auto-leveling headlights, chrome mirror caps, the larger 22-inch wheels mentioned earlier, which are gorgeous 18-spoke forged aluminum alloys shod with 275/50R22 H-rated all-season performance tires, Hydraulic Body Motion Control to further enhance handling, Active Trace Control brake vectoring to improve at-the-limit stability, safety and performance, Infiniti’s Eco Pedal that presses back on the driver’s right foot to promote less aggressive driving (which fortunately can be turned off), and more. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
These optional 18-spoke 22-inch alloys are stunning. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Technology Package also adds a host of advanced driving assistance systems such as Intelligent Cruise Control with Full-Speed Range, Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Distance Control Assist, Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), and Backup Collision Intervention (BCI). 

2018 Infiniti QX80
New LED taillights include clear backup lamps that meld seamlessly into a stylish chrome strikethrough that spans the midpoint of the liftgate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even when factoring in the extra money spent on the Technology Package, the 2018 Infiniti QX80’s increased $85,500 list price rings in lower than all of the aforementioned competitors’ base prices, while a new no-cost optional interior colour treatment includes Saddle Brown with Charcoal Burl Trim, plus the QX80’s Wheat motif has been updated from low contrast to high contrast. Likewise, the Graphite grey interior gets updates too. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The standard QX80 already has an impressive cabin, but the Technology Package takes it up a significant notch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Surprisingly the rear entertainment system, with its dual 8.0-inch displays, two pairs of wireless headphones, remote control, aux inputs and more comes standard, as does the superb sounding Bose Cabin Surround audio system with digital 5.1 decoding, Bose Centerpoint 2 signal processing, 15 speakers and more, whereas the list of standard in-car electronics not already mentioned includes satellite radio, streaming Bluetooth audio, multiple USB charging ports, an 8.0-inch InTouch Single Display infotainment touchscreen, an Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), Infiniti InTouch Navigation, Infiniti InTouch Services, Infiniti Connection telematics, voice recognition, NavTraffic with real-time traffic info, and more. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Luxury abounds with beautiful gloss hardwood, contrast stitched semi-aniline leather nearly everywhere, and high-quality metal detailing throughout. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional standard features include underbody skid plates to protect vulnerable components while off-roading, body-colour running boards, roof rails, remote engine start, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, aluminum kick plates, power-folding, auto-dimming, heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, courtesy lamps and reverse tilt down, a heated leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a powered steering column, auto on/off LED headlights with auto high beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a classy analogue clock, a HomeLink garage door opener, easy to use tri-zone automatic climate control, always appreciated front and rear parking sensors, a powered moonroof, handy two-way memory for the driver’s seat, side mirrors and steering column, a very comfortable 10-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, and an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with powered lumbar support. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
A QX80 weak point is its gauge cluster, which provides attractive analogue dials surrounding an old-school monochrome trip computer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those standard seats are covered in leather upholstery, albeit not quite as soft and supple as the semi-aniline hides found in my tester, plus they’re heated and climate-controlled for all-weather comfort up front, while my tester’s optional second-row captain’s chairs also came heated, and feature a tip-up easy entry system for the third row that’s simple to operate, plus the 60/40-split third row seats are power-folding and reclining. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The centre stack is filled with high quality switchgear over beautiful hardwood surfacing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A powered rear liftgate is included too, as is a stainless steel rear bumper protector, an integrated Class IV tow hitch with a covered seven-pin wiring harness, tire pressure monitoring, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control, all expected active and passive safety systems, plus more. Lastly, an eight-passenger QX80 can be had for the same price. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The infotainment system is filled with useful functionality, but when parking a large SUV a split-screen backup/overhead camera is critical. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My only complaints include a gauge cluster and an infotainment display that are a bit behind the curve. Okay I’m being generous, as the primary instruments clearly don’t measure up to the expected full colour, TFT, digital wonderment provided by most rivals. By so saying I’m not pronouncing it unfit for business. Its electroluminescent dials are actually quite lovely, while their bright background lighting can be seen in most any lighting condition. The monochromatic trip computer at centre, however, might be the oldest of its type in existence, especially when compared to the high-resolution colour TFT display in your average Honda Civic, but such issues will be taken care of in due time as seen in some of Infiniti’s more recently redesigned models. You just need to be made aware of them now, as throwback electronics can make any new vehicle seem pretty old. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
This analogue clock is classic! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In contrast the infotainment display is much better, and while not top of its class it certainly works well. The touchscreen isn’t all shiny and high-contrast as is en vogue these days, but its matte finish is nevertheless fairly high in resolution and it’s replete with a bevy of useful functions, with a split-screen of backup and overhead surround cameras, bright, clear and accurate navigation mapping, climate and audio controls, which again can be monitored by a split screen for multitasking, rear entertainment controls, driving info like an Eco Drive Report, a nice graph showing average fuel economy (at 16.6 L/100km, ugh! — the actual Transport Canada numbers are 12.2 city, 19.0 highway and 15.1 combined), one for individual tire pressure, a Performance Meter, and so on, while the various menus are filled with nice big digital buttons, some colourful and others a medium blue. I’m not a fan of Android Auto so couldn’t care less that it’s not included, but iPhone owners might wish for Apple CarPlay, which is a much better interface. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The leather, piano black lacquer and metal adorned shift knob is new for 2018. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for roominess, few people will actually need this much space. Front headroom is NBA-level tall, while you should have ample side-to-side movement as well. The driver’s seat was superbly comfortable and fully adjustable too, which when combined with the powered steering column made for an ideal fit, aiding comfort and control. 

Likewise, the rear quarters are ultimately roomy and extremely well finished. Rear passengers will appreciate roof vents that extend right back to the third row, while there’s also a separate climate control interface on the backside of the front console with heated seat buttons for the second row, plus other plug-ins for the rear entertainment system, the monitors of which get mounted to the backside to the front headrests. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Comfort comes standard, but the semi-aniline leather on these upgraded seats is extra soft and supple, plus the diamond quilting looks rich. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This seven-passenger model features a large centre console between the two second-row captain’s chairs, with its top finished in a nice hardwood veneer, this just ahead of a leather armrest covering a deep storage bin below. You can also access a secondary storage bin from a front hatch, plus two small cupholders are kept hidden below a nice wooden lid up top as well. This said the construction of the console’s base feels kind of cheap, in that it’s basically formed from a massive hard plastic shell that I found a bit disappointing for this class and price range. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Infiniti extends the upscale quilted leather into the back, while our seven-seat tester included a large centre console between the second row captain’s chairs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On the positive, the third row is easy to access thanks to second-row seats that pop up and out of the way automatically, providing a wide walkthrough. The rearmost seats are large enough for adults too, even three across, while Infiniti provides multiple side cupholders next to rocker switches for reclining the rear seatbacks. 

The cargo area is fairly large at 470 litres behind the third-row, and comes complete with a lidded floor providing some hidden storage below. The third row seats power down, albeit ever so slowly, providing up to 1,405 litres of available cargo space, and then power back up again. You need to walk around to the side doors to lay the second-row seats flat, but when you do the QX80 provides a massive 2,694 litres of load area, but with a sloped floor at centre. Also, that second-row centre console gets in the way if you have plans of hauling 4×8 sheets of building material, as it protrudes upward in the middle, so if you’re a do-it-yourselfer I’d recommend going for the eight-seater that fits a regular bench seat into the second row. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
A dual-screen rear entertainment system comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Speaking of hauling, the QX80’s standard 5.6-litre V8, good for 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque and mated to a quick-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission that powers all four wheels via Infiniti All-Mode 4WD with Snow and Tow Modes, can manage up to 8,500 lbs (3,855 kg), which is a sizeable trailer whether suited up for camping or boating. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The second-row captain’s chairs fold up and get out of the way easily, allowing good access to the rearmost seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Unfortunately I didn’t have time for either, but enjoyed the QX80’s power off the line, when passing on the open highway, and likewise appreciated the big SUV’s surprising agility through fast-paced, tight corners. It really feels like a much smaller utility when pushed hard, yet all the while it provides a truly comfortable ride thanks to plenty of suspension travel and good overall compliance. 

If off-roading is your thing, take note the QX80 has at least as much 4×4 heritage as its aforementioned rivals, thanks to sharing underpinnings with Nissan’s Armada, which in turn is a rebadged Nissan Patrol, a rugged, go-anywhere SUV nameplate that’s become legendary throughout the world since it arrived on the scene in 1951. That means it’s as experienced and well respected in global off-road circles as Land Rover’s Defender, Toyota’s Land Cruiser and others, the latter forming the basis for the Lexus LX, while Mercedes’ impressive G-Class, or Gelandewagen, only dates back to 1979. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The third row has room enough for three adults side-by-side. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All have decades-long ties to militaries worldwide, not to mention relief organizations, policing, businesses requiring wilderness travel, etcetera, and that on- and off-road prowess can immediately be felt by driver and passengers. The QX80 is a solid, well-built vehicle first and foremost, and an impressively finished luxury SUV after that, which is all the more reason to be amazed at its highly competitive pricing. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The QX80 provides a cavernous cargo area, but opt for the 8-seat version if you plan on making total use of the load floor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s no wonder QX80 sales have experienced a major upswing lately, with this updated 2018 model having its strongest results ever in March, 2018, with 147 units sold and a year-over-year gain of 113.0 percent. The QX80 showed strength through all three months of this year’s first quarter too, with sales growth up a solid 66.4 percent, while year-over-year deliveries were still up by a significant 53.1 percent at the halfway point of the year. 

Clearly, Canadians have responded well to the 2018 Infiniti QX80’s stylish new design, numerous interior refinements, continued strong performance, and particularly good value. I recommend you take up the challenge and enjoy some quality time behind the wheel.

So what does it feel like to drive the world’s fastest front-wheel drive production car? Fabulous!  There isn’t a sport compact fan that doesn’t already know about the new Honda Civic Type R’s…

2018 Honda Civic Type R Road Test

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Menacing looking and a dictator on the track, this 2018 Honda Civic Type R earned a place in our hearts as the world’s ultimate front-driver. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So what does it feel like to drive the world’s fastest front-wheel drive production car? Fabulous! 

There isn’t a sport compact fan that doesn’t already know about the new Honda Civic Type R’s many achievements, its class lap record around the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife road course the stuff of modern-day legend, a feat just recently built upon by doing the same at the equally revered Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. 

All of this sounds impressive, although such news is usually dampened by the reality that most race-ready sport models are hardly easy to live with. Not so with the Civic Type R, however. It’s as easy to drive around town or on the highway as a regular Civic, while it’s plenty comfortable, and accommodative of four adults plus loads of gear under its utile hatchback. Who could possibly find fault with that? 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Nothing looks quite like the Type R this side of a big-winged Lamborghini. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I suppose those who want a fast-paced automatic drivetrain won’t be too happy to learn the Type R can only be had with a six-speed manual. It’s a fine gearbox, which is nothing new for Honda. The Japanese brand’s Civic Si is legendary for short-throw shift quality amongst other attributes, while this Type R shifter is even capable of rev-matched control, but the Type R’s manual-only status will definitely limit sales. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
We lovingly nicknamed this all-black Type R “Cockroach” during our test week. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Still, this is hardly a problem. Honda seems to be selling as many Civic Type Rs as it’s willing to build in its Swindon, England assembly plant. And you thought I was going to say Suzuka, but oddly enough Honda no longer builds its best-selling model in any of its Japanese factories, instead relying on its new Prachinburi, Thailand plant for Japanese Civic consumption, while its Alliston, Ontario and Greensburg, Indiana facilities are too busy building less specialized, higher volume Civics and CR-Vs for the North American markets (there’s no Civic production in Mexico). Honda builds regular Civics, plus its CR-V and Jazz (Fit) in Swindon as well, but the British factory has a long history of producing the Civic Type R too, so it only made sense to keep a good thing going. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Is this the tallest wing currently available on a production car? It just might be. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, we’ve never seen any of these older Type R models on Canadian shores, at least outside of grey market examples shipped here by individual enthusiasts. The first Type R, based on the 1997–2000 sixth-generation Civic hatch, actually hailed from Suzuka, with Swindon taking over production for the second 2001–2006 version based on the seventh-gen hatchback, which was actually available to us in the somewhat detuned Civic SiR, also built in England. Next up was the 2006–2011 model based on the eighth-gen four-door sedan, this one made in the UK as well as Suzuka, but soon after the Euro-spec 2007 FN2 hatch (also sold in Australia and Singapore) became the basis for the European Type R, and therefore Swindon was the sole producer, while the four-door Type R remained Japan-sourced until 2010 when Suzuka stopped building the Civic. Now, as already mentioned, this fourth-generation Civic Type R, based on the 10th-gen Civic, sits on the new five-door hatchback design, and due to that is one of the most intriguing performance car designs available today. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Beauty is in the purposefully aerodynamic details. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

By intriguing, I don’t necessarily mean attractive. The full LED headlights are dazzling, classic circular fog lamps a nice touch, unique air intake-infused aluminum hood ultra light and really nice, loads of aero add-ons impressive, and three centre-mounted chromed exhaust pipes kind of cool, but beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder with this car. 

The Type R seems to pull design inspiration from the most radical of big-winged Lamborghinis, let alone anything from the sport compact arena. I should rephrase that last point to say “production” sport compact, being that plenty of modified hot hatches get stuffed to the gills with aftermarket components capable of making this stock Type R seem subdued. Still, for a race on Sunday, drive to work on Monday capable super hatch, the Type R is no wallflower. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Like all Civics, the Type R gets standard LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I hope fans of the car’s styling and the nice folks on Honda’s press relations team won’t be offended that the nickname I gave this Crystal Black Pearl painted example was “Cockroach”, as it looks more like that nasty little beetle than anything else I could think of. Its fiery little 2.0-litre turbocharged engine spits like a roach too, and no doubt it’s as bulletproof reliable as a cockroach is indestructible—anyone who’s home has been infested with these hardy little critters will know exactly what I’m talking about. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
These standard 20-inch alloys, wrapped in low-profile performance rubber, frame beefy Brembo brakes with hot red calipers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To my eyes, the Civic Type R isn’t pretty, but everything about its applied bodywork is functional, so it gets big marks for purposeful aerodynamics. I’ve seen some in my area in Championship White, and I must say it looks a lot less insect-like, while Rallye Red would probably have similar effect, but so far I haven’t seen its third colour in the wild. 

While any fan worth his or her (or zir) salt will likely be able to rattle off the Type R’s specifications faster than I can, I’ll nevertheless repeat them here for the few uninitiated still thinking their Golf GTI is fast for a front driver. It isn’t (unless it’s a Clubsport S). Don’t get me wrong, as I love the GTI, but the Golf R isn’t even as quick or as nimble as this Type R. The numbers speak volumes, with the Type R’s 2.0-litre turbo good for 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and the Golf R’s only capable of 292 and 280 respectively. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
The level of detail Honda has engineered into the Type R to improve aerodynamics is impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That’s an 11 horsepower and 15 lb-ft advantage to Honda, which results in 5.1 seconds to 100km/h (4.9 sec to 60 mph) compared to 5.4 (5.2), 13.5 to 160 km/h (11.5 to 100 mph) instead of 15 (13), the quarter mile eclipsed in 13.5 seconds compared to 13.7, quarter mile speeds at 174 km/h (108 mph) over 166 (103), and top speeds set at 270 km/h (168 mph) compared 250 km/h (155 mph)—note, I gathered these numbers from a variety of independent albeit credible test results and then averaged them out. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
That’s one insanely tall wing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for race track dominance (a more exact science), the Type R and Golf R managed the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7:43.08 and 8:14.00 minutes respectively (that’s a sizeable gap), Tsukuba (Japan) in 1:06.48 and 1:07.83 (closer), the Contidrom (Germany) in 1:36.70 and 1:37.38, Sachsenring (Germany) in 1:41.16 and 1:41.73, and Llandowin (Wales) in 0:46.50 and 0:49.00. To be fair, the Golf R shows up well on the track, proven on the Hockenheim Short (Germany) circuit that saw the VW out-lapping the Honda with a time of 1:14.50 to 1:15.70. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
If you see this “R” on the backside of a Honda Civic Hatchback, don’t bother trying to race it or you’ll end up looking foolish. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

You might wonder why I chose to compare the Civic Type R to a Golf R, being that the latter car benefits from an available dual-clutch automatic and standard all-wheel drive, but the once mighty Mazdaspeed3 is no more, and I happen to like the Golf R a lot more than most other hyper-tuned sport compacts due to its sleeper styling and better than average interior. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
No shortage of tailpipes, the Type R powertrain needs all the exhaust flow it can get. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of note, current competitive sport compacts include the truly legendary Subaru WRX STI, and the soon to be unavailable Ford Focus RS (due to Ford North America’s anti-car “focus”), the former putting 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque down to all four wheels via a six-speed manual or sport-tuned CVT f¬or zero to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds, and the latter pushing a staggering 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels via a six-speed manual, resulting in zero to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds. Strangely, however, the fastest Nürburgring Nordschleife time from a Focus RS is just 8:06.29, significantly slower than the Civic Type R. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Expect the Civic’s usual high quality cabin, with a lot more racy red sport trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’m not about to say anything negative about any of the cars mentioned so far, or my previous favourite Mitsubishi Evo X MR, as they’re all beyond brilliant. If you’ve ever spent time at the wheel of any one of these super compacts you’ll likely nod in agreement while your mouth turns up at each end in fond memory. These are the modern-day equivalents of yesteryears muscle cars, but with levels of near otherworldly manoeuvrability such straight-line masters could never hope to attain. Every car I’ve mentioned in this review is worthy of a driving enthusiast’s appreciation, but Honda has done something very special in attaining such sensational performance from a front driver. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Enough red for you? Honda overdid it with this sporty colour theme, but the driving position is superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’m not going to say another word about style, and won’t even harp one bit about the overzealous use of red highlights inside (it’s the automotive equivalent of a pre-teen girl discovering makeup for the first time—bright red lipstick, caked-on rouge and vamp eye-shadow), because all of that is immediately forgotten when the hyperactive turbo-four gurgles to life and the precision six-speed slots into first. The notchy gearbox is tight yet light, the clutch action easy perfection, and the lack of torque steer at full throttle shocking. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
All red all the time, the primary gauge cluster is as good as in the regular Civic, minus its more creative use of multiple colours. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Shocking too is the immediate response to throttle input, the high-revving four spinning up to its 7,000 rpm redline so quickly you’ll need to have quick arm/hand reflexes to get from the 3 o’clock position on the steering wheel to the shift lever and back in time to maximize control ahead of the next shift. 

The shift knob is cold aluminum, hardly the most welcoming material for a wintry Canadian morning. In fact, I recommend a set of red leather racing gloves with white H’s sewn on top for just such days (Honda Canada should include these with every Type R delivery), the Type R (when properly shod) being a superb choice for getting sideways on a slippery road or track while set to “Race” mode. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
These textured aluminum pedals are grippy and lightweight. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Honda includes multiple driving modes in the Type R, from default to Comfort at one end, and Sport to +R (Race) at the other, this being one of only two Civic models without an Econ mode—the other being the Si. I’m ok with that, being that it’s pretty fuel efficient for such a formidable sports car, its official Transport Canada claimed rating at 10.6 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.6 combined. Of course, compared to the 8.0 city, 6.2 highway and 7.2 combined rating from the same Civic Hatchback model with a 1.5-litre turbo and manual transmission the Type R is thirsty, but it’s a bit cheaper to use than the Golf R M6 that’s rated at 11.1, 8.1 and 9.8 respectively, the Focus RS with estimated fuel usage of 12.2, 9.0 and 10.8, or the WRX STI that guzzles down 14.1, 10.5 and 12.5. Certainly fuel economy isn’t the first priority in this class, but with regular hovering between $1.50 and $1.58 per litre in my town, and premium unleaded a helluvalot higher, the Civic Type R’s best-in-manual-class fuel economy is something to consider. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
More red, the infotainment system’s background colour takes on the racy theme as well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I could go on at length telling you about the Type R’s fabulous handling, just how addictive it is to repeatedly lay into the throttle, flick through the gears, stomp on the big 350/305-mm Brembos and experience the big 245/30ZR20 Continental SportContact 6 performance tires bite into tarmac, etcetera, but as noted earlier the numbers speak for themselves. What you might find more useful is my opinion on general livability. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
The infotainment system has no shortage of features, my favourite being Honda’s handy LaneWatch blind spot monitor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

First off, after proximity keyless access lets you inside and an ignition pushbutton gets the engine rumbling in the background, the Type R’s outrageously bolstered microfibre sport seats are amazingly comfortable, providing your backside fits in, as they wrap right around to hold you in place during hard cornering. I found them ideal, and while the six-way manual driver’s seat isn’t as adjustable as a Civic Touring’s powered setup, it’s so well designed, cupping my lower back in just the right position for optimal comfort and support, that I could drive it all day without issue. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
A superb Garmin-sourced navigation system comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

What’s more, the black and red, flat-bottom sport steering wheel, while a bit gaudy, provides excellent telescopic reach, which allowed me to set up my driving position for perfect control of wheel and pedals, the latter finished with a nice set of grippy textured aluminum pads. 

The mostly regular Civic gauges are upgraded with angry red background lighting all the time, a change from the regular Civic’s pacifying aqua blue, unless in Sport mode when they go red as well. A well-stocked 7.0-inch colour TFT centre meter display provides quick-access info from the tips of your thumbs via illuminated steering wheel controls, which is nothing new but nicely done. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
A device charging pad also comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Red also gets used for the centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen’s backing colour. It’s a bit much, and merely smearing everything with red doesn’t show a lot of creativity, but the primary gauge cluster and infotainment interface are superbly designed and filled with useful features like an excellent multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda’s awesome LaneWatch blind spot display that projects a live image from a right-side rear-facing camera onto the monitor when flicking the right turn signal, highly accurate Garmin-based navigation with excellent mapping, HD Digital Traffic, 3D renderings of terrain and buildings, predictive local search, a lane guidance split-screen for road signs and exits, and simplified voice recognition, plus climate controls supported by a separate dual-zone auto HVAC interface just below, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HondaLink smartphone connectivity, a great sounding 542-watt audio system with 12 speakers plus HD and satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email reading capability, two USB ports, Wi-Fi tethering, car settings, apps, and more. Also worth mentioning, a wireless charging pad sits at the base of the centre stack. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
The aluminum shift knob can get very cold in winter. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The microfibre seats are joined by equally plush microfibre door panels front and rear, these with red stitching of course, plus carbon-fibre-look inlays cross each door and the instrument panel, adding to the performance-first design. Overall Civic quality is superb no matter the trim, so expect the best when climbing inside a Type R, but I was surprised that vibration from the engine spinning at such high revs caused a buzzing sound within the left side of the dash. Still, I could hardly have cared. The Type R is really about the drive, not refinement. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Fabulous race seats are ultimately comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On that note, I’ll quickly mention that two rear passengers will be well cared for in a comfortable albeit not so fancy set of seats, Honda having eliminating the Civic Hatchback’s usual middle position and folding armrest for a fixed centre console with two cupholders and a tray. The cupholders are fairly deep and quite useful, but depending on who’s behind the wheel I’d hold onto those drinks just the same. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
Rear passenger roominess is good, but take note you can only seat two in back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for storage, anyone familiar with the Civic Hatchback’s cavernous cargo compartment will be happy that nothing changes in its transformation to Type R, its measurements still 728 litres (25.7 cu-ft) with the seatbacks upright and 1,308 litres (46.2 cu-ft) when they’re folded flat. The 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks remain, while Honda once again fills the compartment below the floor with a styrofoam storage unit partially filled with a tire repair kit. My favourite cargo feature is the retractable cover up top, which smartly slides sideways when not needed. 

2018 Honda Civic Type R
All this incredible performance, and the Civic Type R is ultimately practical too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Considering the incredible performance, the long list of standard features, and that it comes full equipped in standard trim (although plenty of dealer-added accessories are available), the 2018 Civic Type R’s $41,090 base price is quite reasonable (find the Type R’s pricing and the MSRPs of its competitors at CarCostCanada.com, not to mention rebate info and otherwise hard to get invoice pricing). Of note, it slightly undercuts the Golf R and base WRX STI, but when more fairly compared it’s more than $6,000 less expensive than a similarly outfitted WRX STI Sport-tech, while the Focus RS is almost $18,000 pricier. For that you can get a Civic Type R and a nicely equipped Fit for the kids, your spouse, parents, or anyone else you want to make smile. 

It’s so very Honda to make sure that its track-dominating super compact is also a great value, plenty practical, comfortable and feature filled, and no doubt reliable. Civic Nation is certainly alive and well in Canada.