Honda’s new design language has fully taken shape in the latest Accord, this popular midsize model fully redesigned from the ground up for 2018. It’s the longest, leanest, sportiest Accord yet,…

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring Road Test

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
Thanks to a stunning redesign the 2018 Honda Accord was the only high-volume car in its class to grow sales last year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Honda’s new design language has fully taken shape in the latest Accord, this popular midsize model fully redesigned from the ground up for 2018. It’s the longest, leanest, sportiest Accord yet, and follows many of the current Civic four-door’s coupe-like styling cues, but to my eyes it’s much more pleasingly orchestrated. 

This near top-tier version of the Accord’s ritziest Touring trim line has a bit more chrome than all lower grades, excepting the EX-L, which not only brightens the leading edge of the grille and hood before striking through the swept-back wrap-around headlights as done with all models, not to mention the upper portion of the side window surrounds and the slightly angular albeit mostly ovoid tailpipes in back, but also garnishes the otherwise body-colour door handles as well as the extended rocker mouldings below the doors, the latter metal brightwork sweeping upward to each corner of the rear bumper. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
The new Accord has a distinct four-door coupe-like profile, and a thoroughly unique design front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The headlights dazzle as well. Their trademark jewel-like vertical pattern signifies standard LEDs, albeit just for low beam use in all trims but Touring that gets full low and high beam LED clusters. Their outer edges are surrounded in LED signature driving lights, with all but base models visually supported by a narrow set of LED fog lamps integrated within the lower fascia below. Additionally, wafer thin LED turn signals get fitted to the side mirror housings of all trims above the same base LX. The LED taillights are standard, plus their dramatic yet elegant C-like shape is completely unique in an industry that oftentimes isn’t too creative. The lower portions aren’t just reflectors either, but join the upper sections by lighting up with LEDs to provide a stylish nighttime statement. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
Many of the new Accord’s design cues have been pulled from the highly successful Civic, although the sum of the parts appears more refined in this newer package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Honda has taken the Accord’s new-edge design inside as well, toning the drama down slightly albeit still delivering a stylish, high-tech experience. For instance, the standard primary gauge package includes a partially configurable 7.0-inch colour TFT display in place of the usual mechanical tachometer, and it’s so realistic I actually thought the entire cluster was analogue when first sliding behind the wheel. In fact, about 60 percent of the left-side cluster is a high-resolution multi-information display that defaults to a tachometer, but otherwise can be used for myriad functions. The right-side speedometer spins via conventional means, while the temperature and fuel indicators to each side are separate backlit gauges. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
LED headlamps are standard, but this Touring example gets full high and low beam LEDs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Looking back, the outgoing Accord included twin digital displays to each side of an analogue speedometer, with a small multi-info display at centre, and while this was bright and colourful, especially in the Accord Hybrid Touring model last tested, this new design provides a larger more useful digital display. 

Likewise, Honda has simplified its main centre stack-mounted infotainment system too, with its previous two-screen approach now reduced to one single 8.0-inch touch capacitive display. This makes sense on so many levels, especially cost, but also from a user experience perspective as the new system is much easier to live with. It starts with a newer more advanced touchscreen featuring most peoples’ preferred tablet-style gloss finish, which improves contrast levels and depth of colour, while graphics now mimic Apple’s colourful iPhone/iPad interface, resulting in a simple layout that’s easy on the eyes. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
Believe it or not, this isn’t the Sport model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On that note it incorporates standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, Siri Eyes Free compatibility, plus you can modulate many of the system’s applications via smartphone/tablet-style tap, pinch and/or swipe gesture controls. 

Smartphones in mind, I think most will agree that CarPlay works better than Android Auto, but Android fans with the latest gear can feel good about the availability of NFC (Near Field Communication), which comes standard on all trims above base (look for the stylized “N” on the dash trim ahead of the front passenger), making connectivity easier than ever. The rest of us will need to make do with standard HandsFreeLink, which gave me and my cheap but serviceable Huawei GR5 no issue. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
These big, beautiful 19-inch alloys come as part of Touring trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The standard parking monitor was clear and bright, plus offered multiple angles to choose from, while dynamic guidelines made slotting into a parking spot easier. Interestingly, Honda doesn’t include an overhead parking monitor as part of its top-line offering, but instead provides a digital version that lights up coloured warnings when getting too close to an object, this working in conjunction with audible beeps from my Touring trimmed model’s front and rear parking sensors. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
The Accord’s LED taillight design is completely unique in the industry. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Touring trim also adds satellite-linked navigation with detailed mapping, a system that’s worked brilliantly in previous Honda models and still does in the new infotainment system, while Honda’s bilingual voice recognition is more capable of understanding my miscellaneous utterings than average, or at least it was in English (my French is so bad it would’ve no doubt send us in the wrong direction). 

Touring models also include a wireless charging pad within a lidded bin at the base of the centre stack, this also filled with a 2.5-amp USB charging port and a 12-volt plug, while there’s a second USB charging port in the storage bin under the centre armrest, plus in EX-L trims and above you’ll get two more USB ports on the backside of the front console for rear passengers. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
This is by far the best Accord interior to date. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Now that we’re talking Touring features, a shortlist of exclusive items not yet mentioned include ambient door handle lighting, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display that projects key info onto the windshield ahead of the driver, Blind Spot Information (BSI) with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, ventilated front seats, HD radio, an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot, HondaLink Subscription Services (such as Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Auto Collision Notification, Emergency Call, a Personal Data Wipe, Remote Start, Security Alarm Alert, Stolen Vehicle Locator Service, Find My Car, Remote Lock and Unlock, Geofence Alert, Speed Alert, Destination by Voice, Personal Concierge, etc), plus more. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
Sharp contemporary styling, high quality and the latest technology make for a serious mid-size contender. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In addition, unique features the Touring model shares with the Accord Sport include 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/40 all-seasons (base Accords get 17-inch rims and rubber), a Sport mode (when the Sport comes with an automatic transmission that’s standard with EX-L and Touring trims), and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (ditto). 

Additional items pulled up to the Touring from lesser trims include an electromechanical parking brake, remote engine start, an ECON mode, a front wiper de-icer, an acoustic windshield, Active Noise Control (ANC), a heatable leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel (the heated part not available with the new 2018 Toyota Camry), a leather shift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an overhead sunglasses holder, a HomeLink garage door opener, a powered moonroof, heated front and rear outboard seats, a driver attention monitor, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, 452-watt AM/FM/MP3/WMA/satellite audio with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, Bluetooth streaming audio, SMS text message and email reading capability, Wi-Fi tethering, the HondaLink Assist Automatic Emergency Response System, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, all the usual active and passive safety features including front knee airbags, convenient capless refueling, and the list goes on. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
Analogue or digital? Actually it’s both, with about 60 percent of the gauge cluster made from a TFT display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I purposely left a number of items from the last list of features because I wanted to highlight some of the most impressive kit pulled up from the base model, particularly proximity access with pushbutton ignition and filtered dual-zone automatic climate control, items not normally seen so low in the trim level hierarchy. 

Even better, the Accord’s standard Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems includes Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), auto high beams, and traffic sign recognition, plus when upgrading to the automatic transmission Adaptive Cruise Control comes along for the ride. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
The centre stack is a breath of fresh air for those who prefer simple, elegant solutions to complex problems. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This is an impressive safety-first attitude from Honda Canada, and is no doubt partially responsible for its IIHS Top Safety Pick status (when upgrading to those full LED headlamps mentioned earlier) and best-possible five-star NHTSA rating, but it’s probably also why the base Accord’s price has mushroomed by $1,900 from $24,690 to $26,590 plus freight and fees, plus might also account for the redesign model’s slight drop in sales volume since taking over from the outgoing car. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
The multi-angle parking camera includes an overhead graphic with coloured warning alerts when nearing obstacles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Normally a fresh new model, especially one so attractive and obviously improved overall, provides an initial bump in retail activity, but not so for the 2018 Accord. To be clear, Canadian market year-over-year Accord sales grew by 4.2 percent during calendar year 2017, but it all happened in just five of the first eight months. The last four months of mostly new 2018 Accord availability saw deliveries slide by 26.1 percent, while the first four months of calendar year 2018 saw Accord sales down once again, albeit only by 8.3 percent. Of course, many factors can cause such a slowdown, from a retail price increase as mentioned, to fewer fleet sales, not to mention overall market conditions (the Canadian new car market only grew by 1.2 percent during Q1 of 2018, compared to 9.4 percent over the first three months of 2017), but either way this new Accord hasn’t provided the upward swing in sales momentum that a new model usually does. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
All of the infotainment graphics are excellent, and its functions work faster and more effectively than previous Honda systems. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To the Accord’s credit, neither has the new Camry that saw its 2017 sales drop by 7 percent last year, although it’s seen a slight gain of 2.5 percent so far this year, while the third-place Ford Fusion drove off the proverbial cliff with Canadian sales down by 32.5 percent through 2017, plus a further 5.8 percent over the first four months of 2018. The fourth place Chevrolet Malibu experienced similar results with a 2017 year-over-year sales downturn of 29 percent, while the fifth-place Hyundai Sonata “only” fell by 23 percent. The Nissan Altima and Kia Optima didn’t lose as much, but merely because they didn’t have as far to fall, leaving the Volkswagen Passat as the only mid-size sedan to join the Accord with positive year-over-year gains in 2017. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
This dual-zone auto climate control system is standard, and beautifully organized. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new Accord certainly doesn’t suffer from a quality perspective, with the entire dash top made from high-grade soft-touch synthetic, as are the front door uppers, while rich padded leatherette gets used for the door inserts and armrests, plus premium levels of stitched leatherette padding are added to each side of the lower console, which covers enough area to protect the driver and front passenger’s knees. Additionally, the faux woodgrain and metal inlays are denser and more realistic than in previous Accords, giving the new car higher end appeal. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
At the base of the centre stack is a lidded bin filled with smartphone charging and connectivity hardware. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All of the switchgear is superb too, with the door window controls finished in a lovely metallic edging, as is the toggle for the powered mirrors and the surrounds for the memory seats. The same metal can be found throughout the rest of the cabin, whether we’re talking buttons, knobs and rockers like the those found on the auto HVAC interface and electromechanical parking brake lever, or just the trim around the rest of the centre stack and lower console, or for that matter the steering wheel which is beautifully shaped and covered in wonderfully soft stitched leather, not to mention backed by a set of satin silver finished paddle shifters. All of the steering wheel switchgear is extremely upscale too, matching many premium sector players. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
If you see this automatic shift lever in a 2018 Accord, take note that it’s fitted with Honda’s new 1.5-litre turbo and CVT combination. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Most should find the interior design appealing, if not quite as creatively designed as the aforementioned Camry. I certainly found it more comfortable than its archrival, with a driver’s seat you sit within instead of on top of, and as part of that a lower front squab that nicely cups under the hamstrings for better support, plus greater reach from the telescopic steering wheel for improved ergonomics. Still, while the old Accord fit me like a glove, my long-legged, short torso body type forced my arms to reach too far to the steering wheel. It wasn’t as dramatic a stretch as the Camry, but more steering column adjustment would be better. 

On the positive, the driver’s seatback provides true four-way powered lumbar support for up and down control instead of just two-way in and out adjustment like the Toyota, not to mention the much pricier Lexus ES that isn’t as comfortable as the Accord for my body type either, while I found the side bolsters did a good job of holding me in place during hard cornering. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
That tiny white speck on the left side of the impressively finished faux wood inlay is an “N” signifying NFC, or Near Field Communication. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While an ideal opportunity to segue into driving dynamics, I can’t forget about those in back that are similarly supported by ideally shaped outboard seats featuring excellent lower back bolstering and well designed cushions under the legs. Legroom is incredibly generous too, with enough space left over to fully stretch out when the front seat was positioned for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame. I had ample side-to-side space too, plus headroom was more than ample for my height and would be for folks that are many inches taller, while a comfortable centre armrest and three-way outboard seat warmers added to my Touring model’s luxury. This said the heatable seats took a long time to warm up, both in back and up front. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
If these seats were in an Acura we’d be impressed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As you might expect the trunk is nicely carpeted, is large at 473 litres (16.7 cubic feet), and features the usual 60/40 split for longer cargo, but I still wish Honda would incorporate a more useful 40/20/40 three-way division, or at least a centre pass-through for families who ski. 

Now that I’m grumbling, I was a bit disappointed there was no panoramic sunroof either, not that they’re normally included in this class, but the Accord just looks so upscale I expected it. Other shortcomings include incandescent reading lights instead of LEDs, and a lack of padded soft-touch door uppers in the rear. Again, not many competitors provide the same level of luxury in back as up front, but it would’ve been a nice nod to near premium buyers who prefer flying under the radar when driving their luxury ride. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
We know we’re spoiled, but where’s our massive panoramic sunroof? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On more of an annoyance note, I’ve become so familiar with touch-sensitive controls from Honda that I kept pressing the “HOME” graphic on the left top portion of the infotainment display instead of the narrow button just below. The same setup is used for all of the other functions, and being that these buttons are not lit up it’s an easier mistake to make at night. I’m not sure why Honda didn’t just go with touch-capacitive switchgear to each side of the screen, being that we’re all so used to it from our smartphones and tablets. As it is, most of us only struggle with touch-sensitive slider-style volume and tuning controls, which Honda has thankfully done away with by adding nice big rotating dials, but I personally would’ve appreciated touch controls for everything else. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
The rear passenger compartment comes close to matching the refinement and comfort of the one up front. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those familiar with Honda’s top-line Odyssey or Pilot and therefore looking for an unorthodox set of gear selector buttons on the lower console will need to move up to top-tier Accord Sport 2.0 or Touring 2.0 trims, which not only feature a state-of-the-art 10-speed automatic transmission connecting to those buttons but also a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder good for 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Instead, my tester featured a more conventional gear lever actuating a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which in turn found motivation from a 1.5-litre turbo-four with 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox comes standard and can also be had on both Sport trims, but I’ve got to imagine the take-rate on this won’t be high. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
Even large rear seat passengers should be extremely comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My CVT-equipped tester also had a Sport mode as noted earlier, and it really helped the smaller engine accelerate quickly. What’s more, despite the transmission being a CVT shifts were quite crisp, while it held its chosen gear between intervals and responded well to DIY paddle-shift actuation. At the same time it’s a wonderfully smooth transmission that’s ideal for this type of large mid-size sedan. 

While pleasantly surprised by how well the base engine and CVT performed, the Accord’s agility around corners was expected, as the popular sedan has long been one of the segment’s best handlers. This said I like the way the new model drives on the open highway better than the outgoing car, particularly its seemingly effortless cruising capability once lifting off the throttle, its lack of kinetic drag shocking. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
The Accord provides a big, roomy trunk. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This is especially good for fuel economy, the model I tested having a highly efficient 8.2 L/100km city, 6.8 highway and 7.6 combined rating with ECON button engaged, making it the second-most miserly 2018 Accord available, the stingiest being the base LX model with the CVT that gets a claimed 7.9, 6.3 and 7.2 respectively. Of note, the LX and Sport 1.5 with the six-speed manual are rated at 8.9 city, 6.7 highway and 7.9 combined, the Sport 2.0 with the same transmission is claimed to get 10.7, 7.3 and 9.2, whereas the Sport and Touring with the 2.0 and 10-speed auto are good for 10.4, 7.4 and 9.1. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
We’d like to see Honda join the Europeans by offering more convenient 40/20/40 split rear seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So how does it compare to the outgoing Accord? Last year’s naturally aspirated 2.4-litre four, CVT combo was good for 9.2 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.2 combined when configured similarly to my 2018 tester, so they’ve made big progress, while the previous manual was only capable of 10.4, 7.4 and 9.0 respectively. 

How about that Camry I’ve mentioned a number of times? The Accord’s chief rival gets 8.5, 6.1 and 7.4 when mated up to its base four-cylinder, eight-speed auto model, which kind of splits the difference between Honda’s manual and CVT model. 

Despite losing market share in recent years (sales have slipped by 6.6 percent since 2015 and fallen by more than 47 percent since its Canadian high of 25,814 units in 2004), it’s been a good year for the new Accord thanks to earning the 2018 North American Car of the Year award in January, the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s 2018 Canadian Car of the Year award, one of three 2018 ALG Residual Value awards won by Honda (the other two were for the Fit and Odyssey) and more, but unfortunately trophies don’t satisfy shareholders. 

2018 Honda Accord 1.5T Touring
Backyard mechanics are clearly out of bounds in here, with even the new Accord’s less potent 1.5T a sophisticated bit of kit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To put smiles back on their faces the Accord will need to keep holding its own while the potentially even more profitable Honda Pilot crawls up and out of the less popular portion of the mid-size SUV segment, where much of the market gains are being made. I’m not going to tell Honda how to run its business, but I’m willing to guess if they were to design a Pilot to look as good as this Accord they’d go a long way toward rectifying the situation. 

Yes, the 2018 Honda Accord is one fine looking mid-size sedan that deserves its recent uptick in popularity. If you appreciate the sleeker, sportier styling of a four-door coupe-like sedan and enjoy the more engaging driving dynamics brought about by being closer to the ground, not to mention the benefits of fuel economy this type of lighter weight vehicle allows, I recommend the new Accord over its peers. In my opinion the Accord is the mid-size sedan to own.

In a market that’s constantly talking big about SUVs and simultaneously downplaying the popularity of traditional sedans, the Audi A3 has steadily made year over year gains. In fact, the recently revised…

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv Road Test

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
Audi’s A3 was refreshed for 2017, therefore this A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro remains unchanged for 2018. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In a market that’s constantly talking big about SUVs and simultaneously downplaying the popularity of traditional sedans, the Audi A3 has steadily made year over year gains. In fact, the recently revised model’s Canadian sales grew 5.3 percent from the close of 2016 to December 31, 2017, while deliveries are up an impressive 63 percent since 2014, the first full year that four-door sedan and convertible body styles were added to the mix and the conventionally powered first-generation five-door wagon/hatchback Sportback was dropped. 

To be clear, along with the A3 Sedan and A3 Cabriolet, Audi once again sells an A3 Sportback, albeit now dubbed A3 Sportback e-tron due to only being available in plug-in hybrid guise, while the A3 Sedan is also available with sportier S3 and RS 3 upgrades. Being that I haven’t driven any of these alternative versions in 2018 guise I’ll keep this review focused solely on the A3 Sedan, which once again found its way into my hands in mid-grade 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv trim. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
Audi cleaned up the new A3 Sedan’s details front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Back to sales and the SUV phenomenon, the A3 was the only car in its subcompact luxury class to achieve positive growth last year, actually managing to pass right by the Mercedes-Benz CLA on its way to segment bestseller status. While this is great news for Audi, the surprising flip side to this scenario is a Q3 subcompact luxury SUV that’s losing ground to its competitors, with calendar year 2017 sales that were off by 3.5 percent in a Canadian new vehicle market that was up overall. Audi will want to remedy its entry-level SUV situation quickly. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The A3’s grille is larger and more angled, while its lower fascia gets some nicely chiseled detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The A3 Sedan needs no such drastic attention, especially after receiving a significant mid-cycle upgrade for the 2017 model year. It therefore continues into 2018 unchanged, with its “horseshoe” grille still slightly larger and more angled than the one it replaced, the now standard HID headlamps slimmer with more sharply scalloped lower edges than the more conservative outgoing lenses, and its standard LED taillights still dazzling when lit up at night, while the refreshed A3 Sedan’s sharply detailed lower front and rear fascias continue forward unchanged as well. 

Last year’s redesigned standard and optional alloy wheels needed no fix either, my tester’s being a stunning set of machine-finished twinned five-spoke 18-inch alloys that looked as if they’d been upgraded to S Line sport trim, but such wasn’t the case at all. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The headlamps get a more angular design as well as optional full LED lighting. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Really, despite standing out like a fully dressed premium four-door, my 2018 A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv tester was simply Audi’s least expensive model in its standard mid-range trim, nothing special. Or at least it was nothing special for an Audi. The German brand’s bold, sporty styling has helped sales steadily grow year over year since 2005, even making gains through the great recession. Specifically, Canadian Audi sales grew 17.9 percent last year, making 2017 the luxury brand’s strongest growth since 2014 that saw its sales expand by 19.5 percent over the previous year’s sales record. Other standout years include 2010 with a 26.7 percent increase over 2009, while even 2008, right smack dab in the middle of the financial crisis, saw Audi sell 22 percent more vehicles than 2007. That 10-year period witnessed Audi Canada sales grow by more than 288 percent, all because of making smart decisions like the A3 Sedan. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The A3 Sedan now looks as upscale as any other Audi model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The four-ringed brand’s winning formula has long included some of the most appealing cabins in the industry, and the new A3 Sedan only improves on the outgoing model. It’s all about tastefully applied high quality materials—an ample supply of real aluminum trim always part of the package. 

The fully configurable Audi Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch TFT primary instrument package was added to top-line Technik trim as part of last year’s update, while the car maintained its already well-received MMI infotainment system that continues to power up out of the dash-top to the oohs and ahs of passengers, so Audi is ahead of its rivals in one instance and about mid-pack with the other. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The Progressiv trim’s 18-inch alloy wheel upgrade makes a big visual difference. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Why just a middling classification for A3 infotainment? The 7.0-inch display’s diameter probably makes it a bit small in today’s bigger is better tablet-infused world, although it was certainly large enough for my requirements, and despite providing bright, beautiful colours, deep and rich contrast, crystal clarity and stimulating graphics, its lack of touch-capacitive control keeps it from earning top marks. Then again, the screen earns big points for its disappearing act, or rather the ability to eliminate its own distracting presence during night drives by hiding away in the same nook that brings it to life on startup. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The new LED taillights can be upgraded with dynamic sequential turn signals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Audi recently upgraded the MMI Radio’s operating system to accept Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, but being that I use an Android-based phone and don’t like the latter system I found the standard interface more pleasing to look at and plenty easy to navigate through, and I’m not just talking about route guidance. Yes, Audi included its $1,950 Navigation package in my $36,100 Progressive trimmed test car, which added MMI Navigation plus to the centre display, as well as MMI Touch to the lower console, and a colour multi-information display (replacing a rather rudimentary looking monochromatic unit) to the otherwise analogue primary gauge cluster. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
All Audi A3 Sedans provide a high-quality premium interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should be clear that my Progressive trimmed A3 Sedan tester was actually upgraded with Quattro all-wheel drive, so the starting price was pushed up to $40,900 before freight and fees, and I should also let you know that all manufacturer recommended prices are easy to find and perfectly accurate at CarCostCanada.com, the one-stop-shop that allows me to quickly source pricing, features, cost/markup info, available rebate details and more. Here you can see the base 2018 A3 Sedan Komfort starts at just $32,800, while the top-tier Technik hits the road at $45,300. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The A3 Sedan’s cockpit is great looking and set up with ideal ergonomics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The $4,800 difference from front-drive to the all-wheel Quattro drivetrain includes more than just rear-wheel motivation, by the way, the upgrade also featuring 34 more horsepower from 186 to 220 ponies, 37 additional lb-ft of torque from 221 to 258 foot pounds, and one less forward gear, from the FWD car’s brilliant seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic automated gearbox to the slightly less flashy yet still very good six-speed S tronic automatic transmission. 

Efficiency fans may also chagrin at the Quattro-equipped car’s lack of idle start/stop that helps to reduce the base model’s claimed fuel economy to just 9.1 L/100km in the city, 6.8 on the highway and 8.0 combined to a less miserly yet still thrifty 9.7, 7.5 and 8.7 respectively, but frowns turn to a smiles when factoring in the more formidable model’s 0.8-second gain from standstill to 100km/h, the FWD model performing the feat in a respectable 7.0 seconds compared to the Quattro’s much more entertaining 6.2 seconds. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The primary gauge package gets upgraded with a colour multi-information display in Progressiv trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Both A3 trims benefit from highly responsive speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering and a wonderfully nimble fully independent chassis, the latter consisting of MacPherson struts with lower wishbones up front and a four-link suspension with separate springs and dampers in back, the setup combining for easy manageability and a nice comfortable ride through town, superb manoeuvrability on fast-paced windy back roads, and total stability at highway speeds up to 209 km/h (130 mph), but take note the Quattro system’s rear-drive mechanicals eat up trunk space, reducing available cargo capacity by 62 litres (2.2 cubic feet) to just 284 litres (10.0 cubic feet). 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
A 7.0-inch infotainment display powers up from within the dash-top at startup. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At least Audi finishes the A3 Sedan’s trunk off nicely with a carpeted floor, sidewalls and under-lid, plus chromed tie-down rings at each corner, while it provides 60/40-split rear seatbacks to expand on its usefulness, with a handy centre pass-through for placing longer cargo like skis down the middle so that a duo of rear passengers can enjoy the more comfortable window seats. Also notable, the rear seat folding mechanisms feel much better made than average, while along with a spare tire Audi has organized some small cubbies below the cargo floor for stowing items like work gloves and rags, or possibly a little tool kit. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The navigation and backup camera systems are optional, odd this day and age. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should point out the A3 Sedan’s rear seating area is fairly roomy for this subcompact luxury class, with my five-foot-eight medium-build frame still a healthy six inches from rubbing knees against the backside of the driver’s seat after setting up the latter for my near-average height, plus there was still plenty of room for my feet while wearing clunky leather boots. The A3 also provided more than a few inches of air space next to my hips and shoulders, but rear headroom was somewhat compromised with only an inch or so above my crown, and it should be noted that my torso is shorter than average for my height, so therefore someone five-foot-ten with a normally proportioned body would probably find the A3 Sedan a bit cramped in back. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
A3 switchgear is high in quality, with nice aluminum detailing throughout the cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, other than the need to move around the cabin to take notes I spent the majority of my time in the A3 Sedan’s driver seat, which proved easy to set up thanks to exceptionally good ergonomics, and was therefore wonderfully comfortable and ideally positioned for optimal control. Backing out of my parking spot I immediately appreciated the dynamic guideline-assisted rearview camera system that relegates a third of the MMI display to active overhead graphics, which highlighted my car’s proximity to surrounding objects via colours that corresponded with the front and rear parking sensor’s audible beeps, hazard orange changing to bright red when coming dangerously close to scratching the A3’s lovely paintwork. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The A3 shifter and infotainment controllers are beautifully finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester was finished in Ibis White, one of two standard colours that also include Brilliant Black, while Audi offers an octet of $800 metallic enhancements, with Cosmos Blue Metallic being the most interesting—the rest are white, silver and grey shades, plus vibrant Tango Red Metallic. 

Now that I’m talking features, on top of everything already mentioned, base Komfort trim includes 17-inch alloys, auto on/off headlights, aluminum doorsills, an electromechanical parking brake, leather upholstery, a powered driver’s seat with four-way power lumbar, heatable front seats, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone auto climate control, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, 7.0-inch MMI infotainment, 180-watt 10-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with an aux plug, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity (without audio streaming!), a large glass sunroof, an alarm, and more. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The 12-way powered driver’s seat is extremely comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On the safety front the A3 gets the expected ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes with EBD and BA, plus traction and stability control, Pre-sense Basic crash response, and six airbags, which is good enough for five stars from the NHTSA in standard trim and Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS when its $1,050 LED Lighting package is added. Within the A3’s subcompact luxury class only BMW’s 2 Series achieves the latter IIHS rating, and being a two-door coupe or convertible it doesn’t directly compete. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
Audi calls it a panoramic sunroof, and while it doesn’t cover most of the roof it’s still plenty large. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Upgrading to Progressiv trim provides Audi Drive Select with Comfort, Auto, Dynamic (sport) and Individual modes, the aforementioned 18-inch alloys, brighter high-gloss window surrounds, unique Mistral aluminum interior inlays, more aluminum trim, LED ambient cabin lighting, a powered front passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass (that should really be standard in this class), Audi’s MMI music interface featuring Bluetooth audio streaming (ditto standard equipment), one more SD card reader slot, an extra USB charging port, the rearview camera with active guidelines mentioned earlier (I still can’t believe it’s not standard), and more. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
Excepting headroom, rear seat spaciousness is good for the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should point out the A3 Sedan’s aluminum cabin trim is exquisitely finished, especially around the shifter and MMI controls, the latter including a large rotating dial surrounded by aluminized buttons. The circular controller provides a matte black surface on top capable of finger gestures in lieu of the tablet-style touchscreen missing from the dash, which means that any tap, pinch and swipe functions need to be performed on this small surface. 

Options include a Premium package at $1,700 with the base car or $1,100 when added to Progressiv trim, the price difference due to only adding proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition plus fore and aft parking sensors with the upgraded trim, being that the bright window surrounds and powered front seats are already standard. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
The A3 Sedan’s trunk is on the smaller side, but it’s nicely finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve already noted the LED headlight upgrade and Navigation package, which means that only the $1,800 S line sport package remains, a worthwhile addition that features unique exterior styling, a separate set of 18-inch alloys, a sport suspension, S line doorsills, brushed aluminum interior trim, a flat-bottom steering wheel with paddles, sport seats, and a black headliner. 

I’d be tempted to go for the S Line sport package if this were my personal ride, and it would be difficult not to spend a little more to move up to Technik trim as well, which makes everything mentioned (other than the S Line package) standard, including the LED headlights and navigation, plus adds auto cornering headlight capability, special dynamic taillights, a heatable steering wheel, the aforementioned Virtual Cockpit, a brilliant sounding Bang & Olufsen audio system, Audi side assist to warn from approaching rear traffic, and more. 

2018 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv
A 60/40-split rear seatback is further improved with a centre pass-through. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, only Technik trim lets you add a $1,400 Technology package with Audi pre-sense front, Active Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, plus High Beam Assist, the latter two well worth the price of admission for convenience sake, and the first two capable of saving life and limb. 

With pricing between $33k and $50k, plus features to justify any extra expense, it’s no wonder the A3 Sedan remains so popular. It delivers exactly what budget-oriented premium sport sedan buyers want, and looks fabulous no matter the trim. I expect Audi will remedy some of the base car’s shortcomings by making some optional items standard, but keep in mind that it’s priced well and includes leather, auto HVAC, a sunroof, etcetera in its most basic package, so splurge for Progressiv trim if an auto-dimming mirror, backup camera, and Bluetooth streaming are must-haves. Either way you’ll be well served in a 2018 Audi A3 Sedan.

Infiniti gave its popular Q50 sport-luxury sedan a mid-cycle makeover for 2018, and while the refresh wasn’t overdue it was certainly welcome.  Without the need to totally recreate Q50 styling that…

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe Road Test

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
Infiniti has refined the already handsome Q50 for 2018, with a new grille, hood, LED headlamps, wheels, and special lower front and rear fascias that depict trim levels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Infiniti gave its popular Q50 sport-luxury sedan a mid-cycle makeover for 2018, and while the refresh wasn’t overdue it was certainly welcome. 

Without the need to totally recreate Q50 styling that most would agree was already attractive, the design team was freed to mildly tweak details. The changes include a slightly reworked version of the brand’s trademark double-arch grille that now offers more texture to its wavy mesh-patterned insert, plus muscled up character lines that now follow the upper outside corners of that grille across each side of the hood. Additionally, Infiniti revised the LED headlamps with a more animalistic eye-like design, and reworked the LED taillights at the polar end. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
Wheels aside, side profile styling looks much the same, although a keen eye can pick out changes to the front and rear fascias. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While all these updates help modernize the Q50’s look, the new model’s most noticeable changes were saved for its lower front and rear fascias, which now more clearly depict the trim line, or rather “grade structure” being offered. 

On that note the 2018 Q50 is now available in Luxe, Signature Edition, Sport and Red Sport 400 grades. The latter two trims will be familiar to Infiniti faithful, although Luxe and Signature Edition are entirely new. Let’s be first to thank Infiniti for not using Limited or Platinum in the Q50 naming scheme, two of the most overused trim levels in the industry, after which we should give them a collective nod of approval for more visually separating each trim line to benefit those paying more to move up into a higher-end model. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
Like the frontal design, Luxe trim gets a toned down rear fascia for a more elegant look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To this end, Signature Edition and Sport grades offer performance-oriented exterior styling, while yet sportier visual upgrades join the model’s most potent 400-horsepower engine in Red Sport 400 trim. Items specific to the three upper grades include a more sharply creased front bumper and wider, lower air intakes, the corner vents edged in glossy black, while the rear bumper gets a bolder black diffuser embedded at centre, with a circular stainless steel exhaust tip at each corner. The Red Sport 400 gets a bit sportier still, with some glossy dark paint and body-colour two-tone detailing on the rear fascia, while the side mirror caps also feature a gloss black treatment, plus it includes a unique set of 19-inch alloys. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
We love the new LED headlamps, our tester’s upgraded with auto-leveling adaptive cornering and automatic high beam assist. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While all this is interesting and covered in depth as part of my previous 2018 Q50 Red Sport 400 road test, the model I most recently spent a week with is the more elegantly penned 2018 Q50 3.0t Luxe, which is essentially the Canadian-spec base trim upgraded with the more formidable 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. This means, instead of the 2.0t turbocharged four-cylinder engine’s 2.0-litre displacement, 208 horsepower, and 258 lb-ft of torque, my tester’s mill produced 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque for much more pleasing response from takeoff, during highway passing manoeuvres, and everywhere else, plus improved quietness with less vibration for a greater sense of refinement, and lastly a wonderful engine and exhaust note. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
Luxe trim gets a classier front fascia, as opposed to the sportier look applied to upper grades, yet this design is still plenty aggressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It appears I’m not the only one voicing praises to this new mill, as the Nissan/Infiniti VR family of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engines is following in the automaker’s former VQ V6 engine’s footsteps by once again becoming a 2017 Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner. 

Like the 2.0t, the 3.0t engine comes mated to Infiniti’s in-house seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the latter system often praised by yours truly and other journos for its rear-biased nature and tenacious grip in both dry and inclement weather, while the Infiniti autobox (also used in Nissan’s 370Z) is a highly advanced bit of cog swapping kit that comes complete with dual transmission fluid coolers, Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) boasting an adaptive learning algorithm that senses a driver’s style and automatically adjusts shifting accordingly (upgraded with navigation-synchronized capability in upper trims), as well as a manual shift mode that helps you drive and sound like a pro thanks to Downshift Rev Matching (DRM). 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
These 18-inch alloys are anything but basic looking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It all sounds like race-spec equipment, but in the 3.0t Luxe these components are used to deliver creamy smooth, linear power from all over the boosted engine’s rev range, making it easy to manage in any situation. No doubt this is why Infiniti chooses not to offer steering wheel paddle shifters with this particular car, instead only including them with Sport and Red Sport 400 grades. This is a shame as the 3.0t’s formidable power and the car’s overall sporty nature deserve such hands-on engagement, but I made do with the lower console-mounted DIY shift lever when wanting to extract the most from the powertrain. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
These new taillights, complete with LED brake lamps, freshen up the Q50’s rear styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That’s when the Q50’s updated Rack Electronic Power Steering shows its advantages. This more sophisticated steering system, standard with the V6, is an upgrade over the 2.0t’s vehicle speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic rack-and-pinion power steering setup, in that it adds steering effort when the Q50’s yaw rate changes, and then adjusts to increase assistance when the wheels straighten. This isn’t the top-line Q50 drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system and doesn’t include the two Sport models’ fast-ratio setup either, but it nevertheless combined sporty responsiveness with wonderfully smooth control at high speeds, while it was ultra-easy to drive around town or within confined parking garages. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
A closer look at the rear fascia shows dual performance exhaust pipes, yet no diffuser in between. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

You can make adjustments through the lower console-mounted Drive Mode Selector, which modulates steering, suspension and drivetrain settings via Standard (default), Snow, Eco, Sport and Personal modes. All of this works wonderfully with the fully independent standard suspension, an aluminum-intensive design that combines front double-wishbones with a rear multi-link setup, along with Dual Flow Path shocks and stabilizer bars at both ends. 

While performance is important in this class, fuel economy is becoming more of an issue due to rising pump prices. To this end Infiniti should be lauded for developing such a powerful engine that makes such a small environmental footprint, the as-tested Q50 3.0t AWD good for a claimed 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.8 combined. Of course, the 2.0t AWD is thriftier still at just 10.7 city, 8.6 highway and 9.7 combined, and the as yet unmentioned Q50 Hybrid AWD better yet at 9.1, 7.7 and 8.5 respectively, but that’s a different story for another time. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The new 2018 Q50 interior includes a lot of positive changes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Any talk about the Q50 interior I tested will shed light on changes made to the Hybrid, mind you, not to mention other grades within the range, starting with the redesigned steering wheel that looks and feels sportier than the outgoing version. It’s ideally shaped with well-placed, more defined thumb spats, plus its inner baseball-style stitching provides better grip. It also seems as if it’s finished in a higher grade of leather, while its spokes are thinner for a more sophisticated look, and the switchgear attached impresses as well. The shift knob is new too, with a more ergonomic design, nicer leatherwork, double stitching, and higher end detailing that even includes an Infiniti logo on top, although none of this will be new if you’d spent time in last year’s all-new Q60 sport coupe. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The luxuriously appointed Q50 cabin includes a new steering wheel, shift knob, and plenty of other refinements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It only makes sense that changes made to the Q60 would find their way to a car that has always shared much of the Q50’s underpinnings and cabin detailing, and being that the two-door coupe thoroughly impressed us during our multiple tests you should be able to guess that the rest of our 2018 Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe tester’s cabin didn’t disappoint either. For instance, the four-door model gets double-stitched padded leatherette on the instrument panel, while this luxury-oriented grade features gorgeous maple hardwood inlays that look and feel more naturally genuine than previous attempts. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The Q50’s electroluminescent gauges are bright, easy to read and perfect for a near-base trim level, but Infiniti will soon want to offer a fully configurable TFT display for upper grades. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, my tester’s beautifully finished leather upholstered seats were some of the best ever installed in a Q50, likely due to Infiniti’s new “spinal support” design that ideally cupped the backside while comfortably supporting the upper legs. Their standard eight-way power-adjustability made it easy to get comfortable too, while the optional powered steering column and proximity-sensing key-controlled memory settings automatically reselected my ideal driving position on startup. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The Q50’s dual touchscreens are superb, and ahead of the curve when compared to rivals that still use knobs and buttons to control their infotainment systems. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The leather upholstery is actually an exclusive 3.0t Luxe option, as higher grades come standard with leather and both Luxe 2.0t and 3.0t trims get standard leatherette seating surfaces like most of the Q50’s rivals, with additional standard kit including auto on/off LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED brake lights, 18-inch alloys on 225/50R18 all-season run-flat performance tires, Scratch Shield self-healing paint, aluminum “INFINITI” branded kick plates, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, Fine Vision electroluminescent primary gauges, micro-filtered dual-zone auto climate control, Infiniti InTouch infotainment with 8.0-inch upper and 7.0-inch lower displays, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite audio with HD playback, RDS and speed-sensitive volume, two USB ports, a heatable steering wheel, heated front seats, eight-way powered front seats, a powered moonroof, and more. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The Around View monitor was a much appreciated option. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving up from the 2.0t to the 3.0t Luxe not only provides more power under the hood but also a handful of additional features such as remote engine start, Infiniti InTouch navigation that proved easy to operate and totally accurate, the Infiniti InTouch Services suite of digital alerts and remote services, voice recognition for audio, SMS text and vehicle info, power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver, and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through (which are optional on the base car). 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The new shift knob is as exquisitely finished as the new steering wheel, while the upgraded maple hardwood is a real treat. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The optional leather I spoke of a moment ago comes as part of the $3,500 Sensory ProASSIST package that also adds two-way memory for the driver’s seat, the upgraded power-adjustable tilt and telescopic steering column and the side mirrors, the latter items also enhanced with reverse dipping and auto-dimming capability, while the package also includes an Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) with a Plasmacluster and Grape Polyphenol filter, a superb sounding 16-speaker Bose “Performance Series” audio system with advanced staging signal processing and CenterPoint 2.0 surround-sound, a very helpful Around View parking monitor with Moving Object Detection (MOD), always appreciated front and rear parking sensors, and a suite of advanced driver assistance technologies including Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Forward Emergency Braking (FEB), Blind-Spot Warning (BSW), and Back Collision Intervention (BCI) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA). 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The Q50’s infotainment dial is beautifully finished with grippy knurled metal edges. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester also came with the $3,800 ProACTIVE package that adds an auto-leveling Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) that “bends” the headlights to improve night visibility around corners, High Beam Assist (HBA), Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) with Full Speed Range, Distance Control Assist (DCA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) with Active Lane Control, Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), and Infiniti’s Eco Pedal. The only other option was $650 Asgard Grey paint, which when combined with everything else pushed the base Q50 2.0t AWD price of $39,995 before freight and fees up to $52,920, which is still an excellent value when compared to competitors with similar features. And by the way, I found all of my pricing info for the 2018 Q50 and its competitors on CarCostCanada.com, a great resource for car pricing and so much more. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
Infiniti’s new “spinal support” seats ideally cup the backside while comfortably supporting the upper legs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I noted a number of improvements to the Q50 interior earlier, but neglected to mention that along with the stitched leather-like dash-top and instrument panel, Infiniti also finished the lower console sides in the same luxurious treatment, protecting inside knees as part of the process. They didn’t go so far as to add soft-touch synthetic to the mostly unseen lower instrument panel under the knees, which almost never comes in contact with anything and therefore is rarely upgraded, or for that matter the lower door panels that are done better by some D-segment competitors, but the glove box lid was given a dose of the good stuff for a nice upscale feel. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The rear seating area is as nicely finished as that up front, and plenty comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Possibly more important in this category are digital interfaces, and to this end I think Infiniti has an advantage over some of its closest rivals due to dual tablet-style centre stack infotainment touchscreens. A number of Q50 competitors are still held back by only offering old-school lower console-mounted rotating knobs, buttons, or touchpads. Infiniti still includes a beautiful knurled metal dial with a few surrounding buttons for those who’d rather get their info this way, but let’s face it, our world has become a lot more comfortable applying finger gestures directly to touchscreens, so kudos to Infiniti for being ahead of the curve in this all-important area and delivering an impressive interface as well.

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
The Q50’s trunk is a bit small at 374 litres (13.2 cubic feet), but it’s nicely appointed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Both vertically stacked Q50 displays are touch-capacitive, which allows easy use of multiple functions simultaneously, such as the top screen for navigation mapping and the bottom for audio control. Infiniti’s appropriately named InTouch system also lets driver and front passenger customize the car’s inner environment by storing detailed personal information for multiple drivers, such as memory seating and mirror positions, identifiable via individual proximity-sensing I-keys. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
Available 60/40-split rear seatbacks benefit further from a centre pass-through. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If I could fault the Q50 interior I’d have to point to the mostly analogue primary instrument package that, despite having a large, highly functional colour multi-information display at centre, doesn’t provide the wow factor of Audi’s optional Digital Cockpit or a number of other fully configurable TFT gauge clusters. It’s certainly bright, colourful and attractively laid out, while providing superb legibility day or night, but buyers in this class want the best and brightest, literally, so Infiniti will want to address this issue with something more cutting edge soon. 

2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t AWD Luxe
Infiniti’s award-winning 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 is a thing of beauty. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

One small negative after a lengthy list of positives is a fair way to end this 2018 Infiniti Q50 review, but we should also take into consideration that anyone buying a near-base competitor won’t be enjoying a fully configurable TFT gauge cluster either. Such fanciful features are relegated to top-tier trims across the industry, and despite my tester’s bevy of standard features, impressive finishing and strong performance, this 3.0t Luxe trim is more or less base. For these reasons and more, I recommend you experience this car firsthand.

Sales of the Subaru Outback have been on an upward trajectory over the past five years, with calendar year 2017’s results of 11,490 units showing 87.7 percent growth since 2013. The “if it ain’t…

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited Road Test

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
If you’ve always wanted a Subaru Outback but never taken the plunge, the 2018 model is the best iteration yet. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Sales of the Subaru Outback have been on an upward trajectory over the past five years, with calendar year 2017’s results of 11,490 units showing 87.7 percent growth since 2013. The “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra no doubt came into play for this 2018 model year refresh, but despite only receiving a subtle redo I have to say the iconic mid-size crossover looks better than ever. 

Over the years the design has slowly evolved from beefed up wagon to low-profile SUV, with this latest iteration the most rugged looking yet. The 2018 model gets a reworked grille, revised lower front fascia, new door mirrors, and a much more aggressive rear bumper design, making it just as appealing to adventure seeking, wilderness conquering daddies as it has always been to reality-minded mommies. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
From side profile it’s difficult to tell new from old. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While the grille gets a stronger strikethrough in its upper section, the 2018 Outback’s redesigned headlights might be the most dramatic visual enhancement up front. Now each cluster is more sharply angled with a unique scalloped treatment at the topmost inner point, as well as a more defined signature LED element inside, whereas the matte black lower fascia’s fog lamp bezels protrude upward in a more pronounced fashion, or at least they appear to do so now that more body-colour surfacing separates them from the centre vent. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The 2018 Outback’s rear bumper design is the most obvious clue to its model year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

New mirror housings with slimmer more sophisticated looking LED turn signals aside, there’s not much to distinguish the outgoing Outback from the new one when viewed from the side, although if you look very carefully from this vantage point it’s possible to pick out some augmentation to the new taillight lenses and rear bumper, the latter feature getting additional black cladding extending upward at each corner. That bumper cap makes the most obvious difference from the rear view too, giving the Outback most of the rugged visual upgrade mentioned earlier. Outback faithful should be well pleased with the exterior changes made to this 2018 model, although improvements made inside might elicit even broader smiles. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
All Outback headlights are redesigned, yet only upper trims get full LED illumination. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The renewed interior features higher-grade materials, greater comfort, reduced engine, wind and road noise due to acoustic front door glass, and more advanced electronics, with some key upgrades including a redesigned steering wheel with reorganized switchgear, standard dual USB charging ports for rear passengers, a new 6.5-inch STARLINK infotainment touchscreen for base 2.5i trim that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration plus Aha radio, a centre display that grows from 7.0 to 8.0 inches in just-above-base 2.5i Touring trim and higher, plus a new voice-activated dual-zone automatic climate control interface featuring digital readouts for easier legibility and greater overall functionality also comes standard with the same 2.5i Touring and upper trims, as does a redesigned centre vent grille, centre panel, air conditioning panel, and instrument panel. Lastly, Limited and Premier trims get steering-responsive LED headlights, while more functionality gets added to these models’ navigation system. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Along with the new headlights, the grille, bumper and wheels get noticeable revisions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All 2018 Outbacks get a retuned suspension that makes a noticeable improvement in smoothing out pavement imperfections and quieting the ride, while it certainly doesn’t seem to have upset the mid-size crossover’s always stable and confidence-inspiring handling. The Outback isn’t just a strong performer, but possibly even more importantly it feels a lot more premium than its mainstream-branded peers. There’s a genuine solidity to its overall build quality, while the inherently smooth 3.6-litre H-6 adds to this upscale ambience in ways only a six-cylinder can. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
How long will this 3.6R badge grace the back of top-tier Outback trims? The more formidable new 2.4-litre turbo-four will likely replace the big H-6 soon. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I don’t know how long Subaru will support this engine now that the even more potent 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder has been introduced for the larger 2019 Ascent, up 4 horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque over the 3.6R, but for now the refined powerplant does a good job of helping the Outback imitate a luxury CUV in quietness and performance, its output measuring a meaningful 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. 

Performance off the line is very strong, although it’s more of a smooth linear power than anything WRX-like. Still, the high-torque Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) offers nice positive shifts, plus you can slot the lever over to a new seven-speed sequential manual mode before swapping gears via steering wheel paddle shifters in order to maximize performance or short-shift to minimize fuel usage, the latter good for a reasonably efficient claimed 12.0 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.5 combined as-tested or 9.4, 7.3 and 8.5 respectively with the base 175-horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Outback interiors keep getting better and better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The steering is substantive feeling, meaning that it’s not too loose and light, but it certainly isn’t overly heavy or ponderous either. In fact I found its weight just right no matter the speed, and extremely easy to turn into tight parking spaces. 

Speaking of easy, visibility is superb in all directions thanks to a tall SUV-like ride-height and expansive glass all the way around, while rearward visibility and safety is improved by a very clear backup camera with an especially good wide-angle view, not to mention dynamic guidelines. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
This is easily one of the highest quality interiors Subaru has ever done. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Improving driver ease yet further, Subaru includes an electromechanical parking brake with auto-release, plus the brand’s well-proven Symmetrical all-wheel drive system incorporating hill descent control and X-mode to overcome rougher off-road sections as well as deeper snow, either of which is made easier due to an impressive 220 mm (8.7 inches) of ground clearance. 

We didn’t have any snow to slog through during my time with the car and had no opportunity to take it up the mountain for winter testing, only encountering some West Coast spring showers, but previous experiences with the Outback in inclement weather have always been positive so there’s no reason this one would be any different. In fact, the new model’s improved suspension compliance should be a benefit for dealing with such situations, on top of providing the superb ride mentioned earlier. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Electroluminescent dials are joined by a 5.0-inch multi-info display in upper trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Not affecting my tester yet still important to note for the majority of Outbacks being sold, all four-cylinder trims are now Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) rated, which translates into one of the lowest emissions ratings in the mid-size SUV class. Important for safety, all Outbacks get a revised brake booster to improve stopping performance, while Subaru’s acclaimed EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems remains available with all trims above base and standard on the top-line the Premier model. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The centre stack gets a redesign, with this top-line infotainment touchscreen upsized by an inch to 8.0 inches in diameter. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

EyeSight, at just $1,500, includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, reverse automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and new high beam assist, which incidentally let Subaru remove the third camera from the other side of the Outback’s rearview mirror. 

Of course, a full array of active and passive safety features come standard across the line, while the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD), which includes blindspot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert, is standard with all models above the base 2.5i. Additional safety upgrades include a collision detection feature that can automatically unlock the doors if required, plus automatic door locks that do the opposite when getting under way, a window off-delay timer, and improved child safety seat anchors. Fully equipped with EyeSight and the Limited/Premier models’ full LED headlights, which are now steering-responsive as well, the 2018 Outback’s collective safety kit once again receives a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
It’s hard not to like the colourful Apple-inspired menu interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with the Outback’s lengthy list of safety equipment and aforementioned mechanical prowess, my Limited model was beautifully finished inside, plus roomy and comfortable for the five-seat mid-size crossover class. Cream-coloured contrast stitching enhanced the soft-touch instrument panel, even extending to the halfway point of the centre stack, and crossed the nicely revised door panels as well, albeit without the contrast stitching which is instead used for the door inserts and armrests, while new shift panel detailing and attractively redesigned leather upholstery join features like fabric-wrapped A-pillars that were already doing a good job of pulling this mainstream volume-branded crossover SUV closer to premium status. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Subaru has refreshed the lower console too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new steering wheel is a really attractive leather-wrapped design with sporty thumb spats to enhance comfort and grip. Switchgear is very good as well, and includes audio controls, voice activation, and phone controls on the left spoke, plus multi-information display controls below that, while the right spoke is taken up by dynamic cruise control functions, with a switch under that for the heatable steering wheel. 

Possibly the biggest overall improvement to Subaru interiors is on the digital front, with the Outback’s displays very high in resolution, its colours bright, and graphics benefiting from wonderful depth of contrast. This is most noticeable with the new larger infotainment touchscreen, but it’s also true within the driver’s primary gauge cluster that features beautifully bright backlit analogue dials surrounded by an even brighter full-colour 5.0-inch multi-information display in EyeSight-equipped models (a 3.5-inch display is standard), this filled with plenty of premium-level functions, such as EyeSight those features including adaptive cruise control, the ECO gauge, additional fuel efficiency info, etc. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The 10-way powered driver’s seat is wonderfully comfortable and very supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Back to the centre stack, infotainment functions include AM, FM and satellite radio, CD, USB, Bluetooth and aux media capability, Bluetooth phone, very accurate navigation with nicely detailed mapping, Starlink, Aha, Pandora, Travel Link, plus the aforementioned Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, car info, car settings, plus more, while it’s all organized from a stylishly colourful Apple-like home menu. 

Features in mind, a quick glance at any Outback’s wheel and tire package can help distinguish its trim level, as base 2.5i and Touring models get 17-inch rolling stock and Limited/Premium trims receive larger 18-inch alloys. On that note, pricing for the base 2.5i starts at $29,295 plus freight and dealer fees, as found on CarCostCanada.com, while moving up through the line shows Outback 2.5i Touring trim priced $3,500 higher at $32,795, 2.5i Touring trim with EyeSight at $34,295, 2.5i Limited trim at $36,795, 2.5i Limited trim with EyeSight at $38,295, and 2.5i Premier with EyeSight at $39,195. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Rear seat roominess, comfort and finishing quality is top-notch for the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you want the 3.6R six-cylinder engine in base Touring guise you’ll be asked to pay $35,795, whereas the 3.6R Limited starts at $39,795, the same package with EyeSight that I drove will set you back $41,295, and finally the 3.6R Premier with EyeSight is priced at $42,195. 

Features exclusive to Limited trims and above that were not yet mentioned include brushed aluminum front doorsill protectors, silver and authentic looking matte woodgrain interior accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink garage door opener, rear climate controls, a great sounding 576-watt, 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, two-way driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, two-way heatable rear outboard seats, and more. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
A powered tailgate opens up to an expansive cargo area. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As yet unmentioned items pulled up from lesser trims that enhance the Limited model’s experience include auto on/off headlamps, LED daytime running lights, fog lamps, welcome and approach lighting, LED turn signals on the side mirror housings, a windshield wiper de-icer, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming side mirrors, illuminated vanity mirrors, a sunglasses holder in the overhead console, a powered moonroof, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, a rear centre armrest, a powered rear liftgate, three-way heated front seats, a retractable cargo cover, four chrome cargo tie down hooks, two utility bag hooks, a cargo tray, a sub-floor compartment, 60/40-split rear seatbacks with one-touch flat-folding capability, plus more. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The Outback is hardly short on utility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted earlier the Outback is spacious, with plenty of room for large adults front to back. It’s comfortable too, the front seats superbly supportive, especially in the lower back and from side-to-side. What’s more, the Outback is as nicely finished in back is it is up front, and includes a large and wide centre armrest that flips down at the ideal height for optimal adult comfort (or at least it was perfect for me), while it comes filled with sizeable cupholders featuring grippy rubber clasps to help keep drinks securely in place. A covered compartment on the backside of the front centre console includes two USB charging ports plus an auxiliary plug, but other than aforementioned rear ventilation, good reading lights overhead, and big bottle holders moulded into the lower door panels that’s about it for rear passengers. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Get the impressive 3.6R H-6 while you can, as it’s days are likely numbered. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for rear seat roominess, I had about six inches ahead of my knees when the driver’s seat was set up for my five-foot-eight height, plus loads of space for my feet. There was also a good five inches above my head and about the same next to my shoulders and hips. In other words, there’s loads of room in back for two average sized adults and one child, or three smaller adults. Likewise, the cargo compartment is accommodating thanks to 1,005 litres (35.5 cubic feet) behind those rear seatbacks, or 2,075 litres (73.3 cubic feet) when they’re laid flat. 

Thanks to Subaru making this already excellent crossover SUV better with each makeover, it’s hardly a mystery why Outback popularity continues to grow.

Honda’s Fit has always been a personal favourite in the subcompact class. Its hatchback design is practical, made more so by a tall roofline combined with the segment’s most flexible rear seating…

2018 Honda Fit Sport Road Test

2018 Honda Fit Sport
All Honda Fit trims get styling updates for 2018, while this new Sport trim provides unique aero body panels, black alloys and interior upgrades. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Honda’s Fit has always been a personal favourite in the subcompact class. Its hatchback design is practical, made more so by a tall roofline combined with the segment’s most flexible rear seating system, resulting in more cargo space than any rival, plus now that it’s received a refresh it’s more appealing than ever. 

The 2018 Honda Fit facelift provides edgier styling, a new Sport trim line, and the availability of Honda Sensing advanced driver-assistance systems, the first factor improving the little wedge-shaped monobox design with a fresh take on the Japanese brand’s upswept horizontal grille that features more pronounced chrome and piano black slats plus a larger, more prominent “H” mark at centre. Additionally, new premium-like jeweled headlamp clusters meld more fluidly into that grille, while Honda has added a full-width splitter just below, as well as more angular corner “ducts” that get filled with sporty circular fog lamps in all trims above LX. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
New LED-enhanced taillights and revised rear bumpers update the 2018 Fit, while this Sport model gets a rear diffuser and orange pin-striping added to its rear fascia. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

New combination taillights with LED brake lamps update the rear design, as does a reworked bumper, the latter feature now incorporating a full-width piano black character line as well as a splitter-inspired lower apron. Lastly, new Orange Fury paint is kept exclusively for an entirely new Sport trim level. 

On that note, the 2018 Honda Fit is available in the same DX, LX, EX and EX-L Navi trims as last year’s version, now priced at $15,190, $18,590, 21,890 and $23,990 respectively, but new Sport trim starts at $19,590 and therefore slots between the LX and EX. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
Here’s a closer look at that new grille and headlight cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I don’t know about you, but the Fit Sport takes top spot as far as styling goes, as its standard aero kit adds muscle to the refreshed front, side and rear body panels resulting in a more aggressive look, plus bright orange pin-striping highlights the deeper front splitter and tri-strake rear diffuser, no matter the exterior colour chosen. 

As much as I like the Fit Sport’s exclusive and standard Orange Fury paintwork, I love the contrast between the orange pin-striping and glossy black lower bodywork found with my tester’s $300 optional White Orchid Pearl, but if neither is to your liking Honda also provides $300 Crystal Black Pearl as a third available colour with this Sport trim. Of note, the colour palette isn’t as limited with the other trims, including Modern Steel Metallic (medium grey), Milano Red, and Aegean Blue Metallic. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
Sport trim and above get fog lamps and 16-inch alloys, although these black rims are reserved for the Sport. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Finishing off the Fit Sport’s exterior is a set of gloss-black painted 16-inch alloys, plus a chromed exhaust finisher and “SPORT” liftgate badge. 

The Fit Sport also boasts an all-black cabin with unique orange contrast stitching, a theme that really caught my eye. Honda stitches the leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-clad manual shift knob and boot, front centre armrest, front seat bolsters, and all five headrests with the trendy orange thread, while the fabric inserts get an attractive geometric pattern highlighted with a little more orange for good measure. It’s a tasteful combination that should please sport compact performance fans stepping up to the Fit Sport model. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
The Fit Sport’s mostly black cabin gets cool new orange highlights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Sport trim comes with or without Honda’s available Honda Sensing system, a technologically advanced package that includes autonomous emergency braking, lane/road departure warning with mitigating assist, and adaptive cruise control, upping the Fit Sport’s price by $1,300, which is the same amount if added to the LX (it comes standard on EX and EX-L Navi trims). This is a really good deal when factoring in this new price also includes the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), but at the same time take note that manually equipped cars, like my tester, don’t receive the same safety advantages. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
Other than some small details the 2018 Fit cabin is mostly carryover. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also notable, Fits upgraded with Honda Sensing don’t include auto high beams, which is only an issue because Toyota has been equipping its competitive Yaris with similar advanced driver-assistance systems since the 2017 model year. The Honda rival also features a pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking capability and lane departure alert, albeit no lane/road departure mitigation or adaptive cruise control. Still, that all of this active safety is available from its $15,475 base trim level is impressive. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
The gauge cluster is bright and colourful, yet the same as last year’s Fit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As is usual for mid-cycle makeovers the new 2018 Fit didn’t receive any updates under the hood, but with 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque on tap I can hardly complain. Also worth mentioning, Honda lightened up the base DX model by a significant 44 kilos (97 lbs), the changes likely trickling through Fit trim lines and therefore aiding performance of this new Sport as well. Either way, the direct-injection 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC-enhanced 1.5-litre four-cylinder felt plenty feisty when foot hit the throttle pedal, its quick response accompanied by a nice high-revving engine note and wonderfully smooth operation, while the standard six-speed manual was up to Honda’s usual DIY gearbox brilliance. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
Fit faithful will immediately notice a really helpful change to the 2018 model’s centre stack. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Option out the Sport with the CVT and along with the aforementioned Honda Sensing features it’ll also come with a nice set of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a bonus that benefits EX and EX-L Navi trims too. I’ve experienced these before and they certainly increase driver engagement during downshifts, while offering the ability to upshift earlier to save fuel. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
A closer look shows a volume knob added to the otherwise touch capacitive centre display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, fuel economy once again matters in Canada. Of course, how much it will matter will depend on where you’re reading from, but in my hometown of Vancouver it’s a very serious issue (at the time of writing the cheapest pump price was 154.9 for regular). I won’t venture into politics on this platform, but we’re probably best not to believe highly charged issues like pipelines and carbon taxes, not to mention the rising price per barrel of crude, will be diffused anytime soon, plus on top of this are national and global economies that are shaky at best, so it’s probably a good time to keep ongoing costs down by choosing a thrifty car. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
The standard HVAC interface is nicely laid out and easy to use, but move up to EX and EX-L Navi models and the automatic system is a real feast for the eyes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To that end, Honda claims an impressive five-cycle fuel economy rating of 8.1 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.4 combined with the manual, 7.0 L/100km city, 5.9 highway and 6.5 combined with the CVT in LX trim, or alternatively 7.6, 6.5 and 7.0 combined in EX trim and above. This represents a marginal improvement when compared to last year’s claimed fuel economy. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
The Fit Sport gets stylish orange stitching on the shift knob and boot, plus the steering wheel, centre armrest and seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Long-time readers will know I’ve always appreciated the Fit’s driving dynamics, but the new 2018 version is even better. First off, Honda retuned the suspension dampers, while also making its electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system a bit stiffer, and provided more rigidity to the body shell due to extra reinforcements. Along with handling this improves crash resistance, quietness and ride quality, the latter two excellent over my weeklong test. 

My Sport model also had the advantage of the previously noted wheels and tires, adding an inch to DX and LX trims that come stock with 15-inch steel wheels and covers, but other than the performance gains allowed by its manual transmission, EX and EX-L Navi trims should handle just as well as they ride on 16-inch rims and rubber too, although take note the two upper trims don’t benefit from the performance gains allowed by a manual transmission. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
All Fit trims get comfortable front seats, while the Sport gets attractive orange detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for refinement, the stiffer body structure was joined by revised transmission and steering system mounting hardware, plus acoustic-laminated glass and increased insulation. Without a back-to-back comparison from old to new it’s difficult to notice such improvements, but on the positive I never had issue with the old model and certainly found the new one nice and quiet. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
Rear seat roominess is excellent, and comfort good for the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Fit’s improved refinement is certainly not due to any upgrades in soft premium surfacing treatments, but the pliable synthetic bolstering on the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger continues to be a more upscale touch than some competitors while the quality of hard matte plastics is good for the class, plus the fit and finish is excellent and the upgraded trim details make this Sport model feel quite special. Along with everything already mentioned there’s plenty of satin aluminum-look accenting, a tasteful supply of piano black lacquer, and most importantly those segment-leading electronic interfaces noted earlier. 

2018 Honda Fit EX-L Navi in Lunar Silver
Unique in the segment, the Fit’s innovative rear Magic Seats flip upward for taller cargo. (Photo: Honda)

The carryover gauge cluster is a well lit, colourful mostly analogue affair that’s easy to read no matter the light, its rightmost dial filled with a handy multi-information display for quick access to key details, while the centre touchscreen grows from 5.0 to 7.0 inches in LX trim and above, and comes fitted with a bright and clear backup camera featuring dynamic guidelines, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, text message functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, and a second USB port. Additionally, those who prefer adjusting audio settings from the radio display will appreciate a new rotating volume knob on the left side of the screen. 

2018 Honda Fit EX-L Navi in Lunar Silver
This photo of a 2018 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, pulled from Honda’s press site, shows how helpful the flat-folding front passenger seat can be for stowing longer cargo. (Photo: Honda)

Other notable features pulled up to my Sport model from lesser trims include multi-reflector halogen headlights, heatable powered side mirrors, a rear rooftop spoiler, power locks with remote access, power windows, illuminated steering wheel-mounted switchgear, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering, filtered air conditioning, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity with streaming audio, four-speaker 160-watt AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio, two 12-volt power outlets, heatable front seats, the Fit’s unique 60/40-split second-row Magic Seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, cargo area tie-down hooks, front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, and the usual assortment of active and passive safety features, while on top of everything already mentioned Sport trim adds auto-on/off headlights, two more stereo speakers and 20 additional watts of power to the audio system, plus more. 

2018 Honda Fit EX-L Navi
Here you can see the front seatbacks lowered for the Fit’s camping mode. (Photo: Honda)

I always appreciate the little things that make the Fit’s interior so livable, like the pop-out cupholder on the left side of the steering wheel that lets you keep your drink a bit cooler or warmer depending on the temperature of air blowing through the vent just behind. This said I would’ve appreciated being able to get the Sport trim level with some of the features found on upper trims, such as the EX model’s proximity-sensing keyless access and pushbutton ignition, Honda’s awesome LaneWatch blindspot display that projects a rearward view of the passenger’s side lane onto the centre touchscreen, and powered moonroof, or the EX-L Navi’s automatic climate control, navigation, satellite and HD radio, etc. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
The Fit provides plenty of space behind the rear seats too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Still, it’s difficult to get too upset with any Fit trim level, as all come standard with the most configurable passenger/cargo setup in the subcompact class. For starters, with its rear seats laid flat a total of 1,492 litres (52.7 cubic feet) is available. Better yet, when the backrests of the Fit’s rear Magic Seats are upright it’s possible to flip their lower cushions upwards for yet more cargo capacity, especially helpful for loading in taller items like bicycles or plants, this combining for a collective 609 litres (21.5 cubic feet) of available cargo space when including the Fit’s dedicated luggage area in back, which measures 470 litres (16.6 cubic feet). What’s more, the front passenger’s seat can be folded forward to allow ultra-long cargo inside, while both front seats can be laid completely flat when their headrests are removed, providing a large safe place for impromptu camping. 

2018 Honda Fit Sport
With rear seats lowered, nothing in the subcompact class can touch the Fit’s load carrying capacity. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No competitor comes close to the Fit for passenger and cargo flexibility, yet even if it was only as useful as its peers behind the first row it would still be one of the best in its class, so make sure you check this little Honda out before choosing one of its challengers. Also important for you to know, Honda offers the identical seating setup and many of the same features in the Fit’s platform-sharing HR-V subcompact SUV, so even if your heart is set on a sport ute you can still enjoy this smart, efficient design. It appears Honda has all subcompact bases covered.

Is there a more beautiful grand touring car on the planet? Certainly the all-new DB11 will be high on auto enthusiasts’ lists, but for many sports car aficionados the more classic GT lines of cars like…

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S Road Test

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
Aston’s Vanquish S is easily one of the most beautiful super GTs on the market. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Is there a more beautiful grand touring car on the planet? Certainly the all-new DB11 will be high on auto enthusiasts’ lists, but for many sports car aficionados the more classic GT lines of cars like Aston Martin’s Vanquish still rule supreme. For this reason it hardly looks dated despite hailing from Aston’s earlier design language. 

The second-generation Vanquish arrived on the scene in 2012 for the 2013 model year, so it’s still fairly fresh as far as super GTs go, and now the new Vanquish S builds on appearances while upping performance for one of the most enticing models to hit the road last year. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
No matter the angle, it’s a jaw-dropping stunner. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The visual changes are subtle yet effective. A reshaped front splitter, grille surround, and rear diffuser are formed from exposed carbon-fibre, providing reduced frontal lift with minimal added drag. Additionally, dual twin-tip exhaust outlets free up exiting gases and enhance the auditory experience, while options include painted graphics packages, 20-inch diamond-turned five-spoke alloys, and carbon-fibre hood louvres. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
Plenty of unique details separate the Vanquish S from lesser Astons. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The real meat of the Vanquish S can be found under that long, elegantly domed hood, Gaydon’s naturally aspirated 6.0-litre V12 now tuned to 580 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, which due to larger, freer-breathing intake manifolds results in a 12-horsepower gain over the outgoing non-S Vanquish, as well as ultra-quick throttle response. Peak torque remains the same with 465 lb-ft arriving at 5,500 rpm, which is good enough for three-tenths off of the previous 568 horsepower Vanquish’ zero to 100km/h sprint time of just 3.5 seconds instead of 3.8, ahead of an identical 323-km/h (201-mph) top speed. Still, there’s much more to the Vanquish S performance advantage than mere straight-line acceleration. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
This particular Vanquish S had optional exposed carbon-fibre trim added. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Aiding responsiveness and overall refinement is a more polished eight-speed Touchtronic III automatic gearbox, which in Vanquish S tune provides quicker yet smoother shifts for faster, more positive engagement, while the new model not only improves high-speed handling via aero upgrades noted earlier, but also from a retuned suspension, modified damper internals, revised spring rates, and new anti-roll bar bushings. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
Unlike some sport coupes that show off exposed carbon-fibre rooftops, all Vanquish S bodywork is CFRP. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The result is a car that’s incredibly strong off the line, the immediacy of its power made even more potent due to the Vanquish S’ lighter-weight all-carbon fibre bodywork, which of course does much more than just quicken off-the-line performance. Thanks to that lightness and increased rigidity it aids lateral control too, for a car that feels much more agile than anything so large should when pushed beyond limits that would humble lesser competitors. 

This lightness was most noticeable during fast-paced transitional manoeuvres that can often unsettle large GTs, yet the Vanquish S held its ground so naturally it was if I were Daniel Ricciardo diving down the inside of multiple opponents in his Aston Martin-branded Red Bull Racing F1 car on his way to winning the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix—how I wish. More likely I’d end up taking out my teammate at the first turn, or more precisely on the 40th lap as was the case in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix two weeks later (of course it’s unfair to fully blame Danny Ric for slamming into Max Verstappen’s gearbox when the latter blocked with an illegal second move). 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
The functional rear diffuser is breathtaking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, the Vanquish S is no Formula 1 car, which is a good thing if you care one iota about comfort and bringing along family and friends. It’s brilliantly quick for a road car and masterfully adept at keeping within a given lane at extreme speeds, but I give it even higher marks for delivering such off the charts performance while multiple backsides are snuggly ensconced within wonderfully supportive leather sport seats. The ability to power-adjust the driver’s seat and manually position the steering wheel for what I found to be ideal ergonomics moved my comfort and control experience up a solid notch too, this not always the case in ultra-premium exotics. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
If you think it looks good from the outside, wait until you get inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On that note front seat roominess is exemplary, so all but the smallest jockeys and tallest NBA centres shouldn’t have a problem fitting in, and even those sized outside of the norm can likely be custom fitted by Aston’s bespoke department. As for rear seat accommodations, bringing along two or a maximum of three extra passengers will first depend on whether you’ve opted for the $5,563 2+2 Seating Arrangement and then on the height of first row occupants, as pushing the front seats all the way rearward completely eliminates second-row legroom. A driver measuring up to my slightly below average five-foot-eight frame will allow for a smaller adult or kids behind, which is a far cry more accommodating than the two-seat version or some other dual-income-no-kids alternative, so I can recommend the Vanquish S 2+2 for a medium-build person or couple with up to two small children. Additionally, the trunk is fairly well proportioned for this class of car, and beautifully finished as you might expect. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
Check out the intricate “Filograph Quilting” on the leather covered door panel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those kids will feel pretty lucky to climb inside a Vanquish S, and possibly not for the same reasons as you. Looking at the car I was immediately filled with thoughts of 007 remotely piloting an original V12 Vanquish (2001–2005) in the 20th James Bond spy action film Die Another Day (2002), yet once we opened the door and peered inside my considerably younger partner came up with Spiderman, her mind inspired by the beautifully detailed “web” of hand-stitching across the seat inserts, door panels, and even the roofliner. It’s actually Aston’s $4,632.84 optional Filograph Quilting upgrade, just one of many improvements made to the car I was driving. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
The seats of my tester get the optional spider’s web-like contrast stitching too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The rest of the interior’s leather was stitched in a courser contrasting thread, this a $752.40 upgrade, while the seats had $1,248.50 Micro Perforated Leather inserts. As with all Aston Martins the Vanquish S comes fitted with a level of luxury few peers can match, some additional highlights including an available Satin Chopped Carbon Fibre centre stack panel, included in my tester for $3,904.56, or Bridge of Weir Caithness leather (not included). 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
The quality of materials and workmanship is impeccable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Other interior options that were added to my tester car include an $8,415 Contemporary and Luxury Pack, a $2,105 Interior Shadow Pack, a second glass key at $990, and more, while exterior upgrades included $12,160 for a Carbon Fibre Plus Pack, $5,563 for a Vanquish S Graphics Pack, $2,778 for a Shadow Exterior Pack, $2,105 for black brake calipers, $990 for black mesh grilles on the hood and side strakes, a $361 aluminum fuel filler cap, $177.50 for V12 side badges, and more for a total of $55,979.80 in extras overtop the base Vanquish S’ suggested retail price of $352,380, resulting in a grand total of $408,359.80 before fees and taxes. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
The fabulous Vanquish S gauge cluster makes a strong argument for staying with analogue over digital. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, paying the price of a (very small) Toronto or Vancouver condo for a sports car won’t be in everyone’s budget, but this inadvertently produces some of its allure, exclusivity. You won’t see many of these super GTs driving around the corner, even in the latter Supercar Capital city (although I saw a gorgeous white Vanquish in Richmond, BC last month, tentatively driven by a young 20-something woman), but everyone in the know will know exactly what it is, a Vanquish S commanding immediate respect. There’s also a very real cost that comes with engineering and then handcrafting small numbers of cars from carbon-fibre, let alone all the other meticulously detailed handy work found on the exterior and throughout the cabin. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
The dash-top infotainment display, which powers upwards at ignition, is stocked with plenty of features and works well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To that end, the Vanquish S uses Aston’s proprietary glass key fob that slots into the middle of the centre stack, and gets pushed further to ignite the engine. You select gears via the pushbuttons to either side, this being a basic PRND layout, while manual shifting takes place via paddle shifters to each side of the steering column. These don’t rotate with the steering wheel but rather stay fixed in place, which is exactly what’s required in a high performance car, as you’ll always know exactly where they are when you need to give them a tug. The steering wheel is also a straightforward, uncluttered device, with minimal switchgear. Seat controls are on the transmission tunnel, while most of the buttons on the centre stack are touch-sensitive. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
My tester featured this unique Satin Chopped Carbon Fibre centre stack surface treatment, a nice match to the classic aluminum dials and touch-sensitive buttons. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That centre stack will be familiar territory to Aston Martin fans, and looks more boutique than the recently updated DB11 and Vantage interiors, but I love that about it. The four big metal knobs feature knurled edges, and there’s a substantive weight to them that most buying into this price class should appreciate, but of course their aluminum construction means they don’t really weigh much at all, important for a car with such sporting pretensions. 

Referencing that young woman noted a moment ago, it’s easy to appreciate why both sexes are drawn to this car. Vanquish S styling crosses all boundaries: man, woman, young, old, and everyone in between. It’s aforementioned stitched leatherwork is artistic perfection, while all metals look and feel as if machined by hand from billet aluminum, the roof pillars are wrapped in suede, the wool carpets and floor mats are richly woven, the entire car impeccably put together. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
The optional rear seats are roomier than a Porsche 911’s, but those needing more may want to consider an Aston Martin Rapide. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Amongst favourite details, the Vanquish S’ analogue gauge cluster spins the tachometer counterclockwise in Aston Martin tradition, just a little nod to the past that any classic car fan will appreciate, while the infotainment display atop the centre dash is easy to use and filled with some of the brand’s more recent graphical, system and feature upgrades, the latter including navigation with nice colour mapping, a backup camera and more. Most importantly, though, the young woman just mentioned shows the Vanquish is relatively easy to drive for a super GT, despite its otherworldly performance. Truly, I could live with this car day in and day out, and I would never say that about many low-slung, mid-engine supercars. 

2018 Aston Martin Vanquish S
The Vanquish S offers pretty decent trunk space for this class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Some might think it difficult to justify the $350k Vanquish S starting price, but compared to many of the supercars in the less comfortable class this Aston Martin super GT is a bargain, but still some without means or appreciation may see it as frivolous. After all, none of us need a car like this, yet even though it’s completely out of my personal reach from an ownership perspective I’ll appreciate the person who steps up to purchase it, as I’ll still be able to enjoy its beautiful lines and sonorous exhaust note whenever it passes by, and that will bring back particularly pleasant memories spent with this Cobalt Blue example. 

If you do have the means, I highly recommend the Vanquish S, as it ideally combines the best modern-day construction technologies with some glorious examples of yesteryear’s handcrafted artisanship skills, plus it goes like a bat out of hell.

I want you to think about something for a moment. The RDX just passed six years since the current second-generation design went into production in March of 2012, and despite only a minor facelift in 2016,…

2018 Acura RDX Elite Road Test

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The Acura RDX still looks sharp after all these years, especially in top-line Elite trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I want you to think about something for a moment. The RDX just passed six years since the current second-generation design went into production in March of 2012, and despite only a minor facelift in 2016, Acura Canada still managed to find more compact luxury SUV buyers in 2017 than all but one of its competitors. 

Now consider the only model to outsell the RDX’ 8,101 units, Audi’s Q5 with 10,271 down the road, was all-new for most of last year, so therefore sold 23.5 percent more examples than the year prior due to pent up demand; the third-place Mercedes-Benz GLC, at 8,057 units, was new just two years prior in 2015; the fourth-place Lexus NX, with 7,407 buyers, arrived the year before; the fifth-place BMW X3, at 5,730 units, entered its third generation partway through the year; and the other nine competitors didn’t sell in high enough numbers to truly compete. So what does the RDX have that the others don’t? 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
A good inherent design has kept the RDX fresh despite its age. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At $42,390 plus freight and fees it’s not the cheapest in the segment, that honour held by Infiniti’s QX50 that starts at $38,900 yet only found 1,812 customers during 2017, so price is clearly not the sole differentiator. Buick’s new Envision is priced a bit lower too, at $40,195, and while it did fairly well for its first full year at 3,357 units, even if it combined sales with the Porsche Macan’s 3,767 deliveries it would still come up short (see pricing for all 2018 Acura RDX trims at CarCostCanada.com). 

Obviously premium SUV buyers like the RDX’ styling, its sharp, sporty lines and standard LED headlamps plenty distinctive, while that latter feature brings up another important point, value for money. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The RDX’ standard LED headlamps really stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RDX is one of few compact luxury SUVs with standard LED headlights, while the well-proven model comes standard with a powerful V6, a pricey option with its rivals if available at all. One could argue this pro as a con with regular unleaded hovering above the $1.50 per litre mark in some parts of the country, but so far rising pump prices haven’t negatively affected SUV sales, so this may be an issue for its turbocharged four-cylinder 2019 RDX successor to address. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Elite trim gets unique machine-finished 18-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, if you want a new RDX with a V6 you’d better act quickly. A six-cylinder may show up as an option sometime in the future, but so far such prognostication hasn’t been up for discussion. For all we know the current 3.5-litre V6 with its smooth, linear 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, not to mention its well-seasoned six-speed automatic transmission, will be relegated to Acura’s history books when the new third-generation RDX arrives in Canadian dealerships later this year. There’s no place for such luxuries in this brave new world where fuel-efficiency comes first and foremost, but this government-forced agenda obviously isn’t an issue with a significant number of compact luxury SUV buyers that keep buying up the RDX in droves. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Standard LED taillights look good and react quicker. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’m not of the belief that small turbocharged engines are particularly better at minimizing fuel usage than larger six-cylinder powertrains when saddled with the burden of sizeable curb weights, the RDX tipping the scales at 1,781 to 1,797 kilos (3,926 to 3,962 lbs) depending on trim. The relaxed nature of the larger engine can actually save fuel in real world driving, especially when hills and highways are a factor. Even when comparing less-real Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy ratings the 2018 RDX fares pretty well at a claimed 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined next to the similarly popular Mercedes GLC’s 11.1 city, 8.6 highway and 10.0 combined numbers. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The RDX’ standard 3.5L V6 is surprisingly thrifty while effortlessly capable and wonderfully refined. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The German isn’t the thriftiest or the thirstiest turbo-four in the class, representing a good middle ground that the RDX comes close to matching despite its larger displacement, sportier V6 exhaust note, and more premium feel, this partially due to its still innovative yet long-time use of Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), which automatically shuts down three of its six cylinders when under light loads like coasting. Now, imagine if Acura had chosen to mate this engine up with the more advanced nine-speed automatic found in the MDX, which also benefits from auto start/stop? No doubt it would come even closer to matching the efficiency of its turbocharged four-cylinder peers. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The RDX’ interior is finished nicely and comes impressively equipped for the low asking price. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That won’t happen, however, so like I said earlier, make sure to snap up a 2018 RDX if you prefer V6 performance and refinement, the latter aided by Active Control Engine Mounts (ACM), and while you’re at it you’ll benefit from an automatic $3,000 discount provided via “Customer Incentive Dollars,” this bringing my RDX Elite tester’s suggested retail price down from $47,390 to $44,390, plus freight and fees. If you’d rather get into something more basic, the reduced entry-level RDX price comes in at $39,390, or alternatively the mid-range RDX Tech can be had for $42,390. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Mid-range Tech trim ups the technology ante with dual infotainment displays and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, for less than $40k a base RDX comes with the aforementioned V6 and auto on/off Jewel Eye LED headlights, plus standard LED taillights, all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloys, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, ambient cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, heatable eight-way powered front seats with powered lumbar support, two-position driver’s memory for the seat and side mirrors, a colour TFT multi-information display, a HomeLink garage door opener, an auto-dimming centre mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 5.0-inch infotainment display, a rearview camera with guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, SMS text message functionality, a 360-watt seven-speaker audio system, satellite radio, a powered moonroof, a powered tailgate, and more. That’s superb value, even without the $3k discount. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Backlit gauges are easy to read, and the colour multi-info display is a nice touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those who prioritize safety over creature comforts will notice I haven’t even delved into the subject yet, the RDX loaded with all of the segment’s expected active and passive safety features as well as an impressive array of standard AcuraWatch driver-assist systems that would cost thousands more with some competitors, these including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. This gives the Canadian-spec base model IIHS Top Safety Pick status (these systems are optional in the U.S.) and a best possible five stars from the NHTSA. Are you starting to understand why the RDX is so popular? 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
A large 8.0-inch display provides clear, accurate navigation mapping and much more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Mid-range Tech trim increases the RDX’ safety net with blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a plethora of convenience and luxury items like remote engine start, rain-sensing wipers, a larger 8.0-inch LED backlit display with navigation and voice recognition, dynamic guidelines for the backup camera, a separate On-Demand Multi-Use touchscreen display, advanced AcuraLink smartphone connectivity, Siri Eyes Free, a 10-speaker 410-watt ELS Studio audio upgrade, a more advanced GPS-linked, solar-sensing system for the climate control, leather upholstery, heatable second-row outboard seats, and more for a mere $3,000 added to the bottom line. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The lower touchscreen allows quick access to audio, HVAC, and other functions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, my RDX Elite benefited from sportier looking 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, auto-dimming side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and ventilated front seats, all for only $2,000 extra. 

This is where I should remind you about the top-line RDX Elite model’s $44,390 asking price (less discount), which despite its full load of features is still less expensive than most of its rivals’ base prices. Seriously! The Q5 starts at $44,950, GLC at $45,900, Volvo XC60 also at $45,900, BMW X3 at $46,700, Jaguar F-Pace at $50,250, Porsche Macan at $54,100, and Range Rover Velar at $62,000. Now I’m not going to say that an RDX competes directly with that Range Rover or Porsche other than for size, but I’m sure you get my point, while some others in the class are priced a bit lower albeit, other than that previously noted Infiniti, not by much. Plus, this comparison doesn’t factor in any competitor discounts. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
All switchgear is high in quality, while some is beautifully finished with knurled metal detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If the RDX were an uncompetitive rolling anachronism undeserving of your time and attention its supposed value proposition wouldn’t be an issue, but it remains a good-looking SUV with a nicely finished interior and strong performance. Starting inside, a generous supply of leather-like padded soft-touch surfaces can be found in all the appropriate places, as can de rigueur fabric-wrapped roof pillars and high-quality, tight fitting, well-damped switchgear throughout. All of the aforementioned features work well, its navigation particularly accurate, while its seats are comfortable and supportive front to back, with rear seat roominess especially good. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The 8-way powered seats are very comfortable, while also providing standard 3-way heat and, in Elite trim, forced ventilation. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise, the RDX can haul more cargo than most competitors thanks to 739 litres (26.1 cubic feet) of capacity behind its rear row and 2,178 litres (76.9 cubic feet) when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded down, and that’s one of the easiest procedures in the class due to standard cargo wall-mounted levers that drop each side automatically. It’s not the flattest loading floor, with a fairly steep rise in the middle, but it’s something most owners learn to live with. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
No one should complain about rear seat roominess as there’s plenty, while mid-range Tech trim adds rear seat heaters. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for performance, the V6 provides more off the line jump than the majority of base challengers, and while its six-speed automatic might be down a couple of gears by modern-day standards, the torquey engine hardly needs as many shift points to optimize performance. In fact, most won’t notice this shortcoming at all, as it swaps cogs almost unperceivably unless getting hard on the throttle, at which point it does so with nice positive engagements, enhanced by standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for more hands-on command, plus Grade Logic Control that regulates throttle and braking on steep hills. This is joined by standard hill start assist, which locks the brakes so you won’t roll backward before applying the throttle. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
These standard levers fold the 60/40-split rear seatbacks down automatically. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Pulling back on those paddle shifters is especially enjoyable when the road starts to wind, allowing more engine control for powering out of corners and then setting up the next turn. The RDX’ well-engineered independent suspension helps most in this respect, mind you, thanks to a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear setup that’s kept in check via amplitude reactive dampers that minimize fore and aft jounce as well as transitional roll while maintaining a smooth, comfortable ride at all times. Plenty of sound deadening materials along with active sound control aid in refinement too, giving the RDX the kind of upscale experience premium buyers gravitate toward. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Lower the rear seatbacks and you’ve got more cargo space than most rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So now you know why the RDX still sells so well in spite of its age, and hopefully can appreciate that it remains an impressive luxury SUV despite its low price point. No doubt the upcoming 2019 RDX will be a wholly better compact luxury utility, but there’s no reason to put off buying the current version if you need to pull the trigger now. The standard V6 is definitely a performance and refinement bonus with little if any negative hit to fuel economy, and the model’s marketplace longevity has got to aid long-term reliability expectations. Topping it all off, the RDX’ standard suite of advanced safety features can’t be beat, making it a no-brainer purchase for smart luxury SUV shoppers. All added up, I’ve got to slot the 2018 RDX into my highly recommended category. Too bad there are so few of them left.

Volvo is in the final phase of a brand-wide makeover, ushering in a more distinctive design language highlighted by a contemporary version of its more traditionally rectangular grille that’s flanked…

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic Road Test

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
Still an attractive sport-luxury sedan, the S60 is now in its final model year before a comprehensive redesign. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Volvo is in the final phase of a brand-wide makeover, ushering in a more distinctive design language highlighted by a contemporary version of its more traditionally rectangular grille that’s flanked by signature Thor’s Hammer LED headlights, all resulting in a modernized look that delivers a more premium cachet. 

This out with the old, in with the new brand metamorphosis has left few stones unturned, the V60 being the most recently revealed addition to an almost completely transformed lineup. The D-segment sport wagon hit the stage on March 6th at the Geneva motor show wearing stylish new duds, after first debuting on February 21st in is “natural habitat,” a suburban driveway in Stockholm, Sweden. That five-door model is expected at Volvo dealerships later this year, with a toughened up V60 Cross Country crossover version likely to appear simultaneously or soon after, so the similarly sized four-door sedan shouldn’t be too far behind. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
Dynamic trim adds uniquely sporty R-Design styling details front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In fact, Volvo has already confirmed the 2019 S60 debut this summer at its new $1B USD manufacturing plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina, which will produce the new sedan along with an additional model yet to be named. The S60 is an interesting choice of vehicle for U.S. production, being that SUVs rule North American roads, but the car should find a strong base of loyal supporters on this side of the Atlantic just the same. 

Still, Volvo was smart to update its XC90 and XC60 first, as these two SUVs are its strongest sellers, not unlike every other premium brand. Car sales, on the other hand, are generally flat or sliding in the opposite direction. No doubt a redesigned S60 will help to boost the model’s numbers, much like the updated S90 did for yesteryear’s S80, but the hit to Volvo’s bottom line probably won’t be as dramatic. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
A sportier lower front valance, LED fog lamps, and these five-spoke diamond-cut 18-inch alloys with black-painted pockets come as part of the Dynamic upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Last year Volvo Canada sold just 361 S60/S60 Cross Country four-doors compared to 454 V60/V60 Cross Country five-doors, which while low numbers on both counts (by comparison the XC60 sold 2,315 units and XC90 2,650), the pair of V60s represented a 20-percent improvement over the two S60s. I doubt another four-door S60 Cross Country will ever materialize, as this reincarnation of the ‘80s AMC Eagle SX/4 (a.k.a. Spirit SX/4) has been an unsuccessful answer to a question no one outside of Volvo’s rather eccentric inner circle was asking, but either way the five-/four-door percentage lead will probably continue into the new model cycle (at least it has for the S90 and V90), and sales will no doubt grow for both. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
That little blue badge denotes the Polestar Performance Package that comes standard with Dynamic trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To appreciate how recent the swing in buyer sentiment was toward the five-door V60 models, Volvo Canada sold more S60s than V60s in 2016, and the numbers were significantly higher at 657 to 627 units, while in 2014 when the V60 was introduced it found just 853 sales compared to the S60’s 1,063 deliveries. No doubt Volvo is targeting a return to four-figure annual S60 sales when the new model arrives, but until then the brand needs to highlight the current model’s attributes while knocking a few thousand off its suggested retail price. 

To be fair, the 2018 S60 is already a very good value at $41,950 plus freight and fees, especially when factoring in its performance, refinement, and feature set. I think most will agree that it’s still an attractive looking car, its aerodynamically shaped front fascia filled with nice upscale details, its windswept four-door coupe-like side profile providing a sporty yet elegant shape, and its trademark Volvo taillights finishing the rear end design off nicely. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
The S60 Dynamic’s aggressive rear diffuser with integrated dual exhaust pipes looks fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My T5 AWD Dynamic trimmed tester offers an even sportier theme featuring an R-Design lower front fascia, a subtle spoiler discretely perched atop the rear deck lid, an eye-grabbing grey and black diffuser-style rear bumper cap with circular exhaust pipes at each corner, and rounding out the look, aggressive looking 18-inch five-spoke diamond-cut alloys with black-painted pockets, while its standard Polestar Optimization upgrade made all of its outward dynamism inwardly relevant. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
Volvo finishes the S60’s interior very nicely, while its standard feature set is impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

By that I’m not talking about the S60’s interior, which doesn’t feature any Polestar branding yet continues into 2018 as one of the more refined cabins in its compact luxury class. If you want your S60 interior modified with blue Polestar highlights along with other stylish upgrades, even including sportier exterior enhancements, a smoking hot 367 horsepower engine and significant suspension mods, you’ll need to pay $67,050 for an S60 Polestar and call it a day. 

Instead, choosing mid-range Dynamic trim means the S60 T5 AWD comes standard with Polestar Performance Optimization for just $47,900 (you can get the same setup with the T6 AWD powertrain for $51,500), this maintaining the S60’s already formidable base engine output yet quickening on and off throttle response plus shift speed, increasing gear hold duration, performance-tuning the electronic stability control and ABS, plus more, while the turbocharged and supercharged S60 T6 AWD model gets a four-horsepower bump up to 310 ponies. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
Fully digital gauges and Volvo’s now classic floating centre stack continue to be S60 design highlights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted, the S60 T5 AWD’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine’s output remains unchanged at 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which while not quite as thrilling as the T6 off the line is nevertheless plenty capable all on its own. With 100km/h arriving in just 6.2 seconds from standstill and its top-speed set to 210 km/h, it will easily exceed posted limits at a much faster rate than you might be prepared for, whether zipping around town, stretching its legs on a curving backcountry road, or letting it fly on the highway. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
Volvo was an early adopter of configurable TFT gauge clusters, this one standard in Dynamic trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If canyon carving is your thing I’d recommend opting for the $1,850 Sport package that increases alloy wheel size by an inch to 19s, lowers and firms up the suspension, adds paddle shifters behind the steering wheel spokes to extract the most from the S60’s already quick yet smooth shifting eight-speed automatic, and bolsters the front seats with a sportier design that comes complete with contrast-stitched black, beige or Beechwood leather. 

Still, my non-Sport packaged model took to corners with confidence inspiring poise thanks to Volvo’s Dynamic Chassis setup and grippy torque vectoring all-wheel drive, albeit modern-day Volvos are never lacking when it comes to handling credentials. Its variable-assist electrical power assisted rack and pinion steering is direct and responsive, front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension stable yet reactive, and overall feel ideal for those seeking reassuring feedback without punishing rigidity. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
The S60’s navigation system is easy to use and quite accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, the S60 isn’t as tightly sprung as some premium rivals, its ride/handling bias focused more toward the type of cosseting comfort that luxury buyers tend to prefer. This, combined with two of the plushest yet supportive front seats in the class, results in a car I could drive all day long without growing weary, which is saying something considering my all too regular lower back problems. 

I previously referred to the S60 as a compact luxury sedan because the D-segment covers a lot of area, but generally it’s larger than the mainstream volume-branded compact class and smaller than a traditional North American-market mid-size four-door, which are sized closer to Euro E-segment cars like Volvo’s S90. While the S90 is considerably larger and more spacious inside, the S60 provides plenty of room for most body types and sizes. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
The S60’s floating centre stack is a unique interior design element. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My five-foot-eight medium-build frame certainly had no problem fitting inside with inches to spare in every direction, whether seated up front or in behind where its rear outboard seats provided nearly as much comfort and support as those up front, especially with the available heaters turned on, while rear materials quality and fit/finish is equal to the frontal seating area as well. 

Everything above the waistline is made from high-quality soft-touch synthetics and leathers, with the doors even pliable down to their bottom panels. The lower dash and glove box are not, nor are the sides of the centre console, but such is the case for many in this class so it’s not an issue. What matters is all of the harder composites are nicely done, especially the floating centre console that’s always being one of my favourite Volvo design details. It’s filled with myriad dials and buttons like a high-grade albeit now classic Nakamichi stereo component, while the beautiful metal-edged dials are stunning. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
These are some of the most comfortable and supportive seats in the D-segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This model gets piano black lacquer for the centre stack backing, which is much denser than the usual plasticky garnish found in competitors. It continues onto the door panels, while satin-silver trim surrounds the centre stack and decorates the doors as well as the steering wheel, the latter a nice, shapely, leather-wrapped design. 

The S60’s fully configurable digital gauge package continues to show off Volvo’s early leadership in high-tech electronics, although the S60 doesn’t yet offer one of the large tablet-style centre touchscreen displays used in its recently redesigned models. Nevertheless its 7.0-inch display is serviceable enough with plenty of high-grade functions included, such as navigation with detailed mapping, audio/media system controls, phone set up, vehicle instructions, internet access, and a reverse camera you can choose to use even if the S60 isn’t backing up. The parking monitor even includes rearview zoom if you’d like to see something close up, while the regular camera includes handy dynamic guidelines. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
The rear seating area is accommodating and comfy, especially with heated seats warming. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, dual-zone automatic climate control is standard, made better via Volvo’s Clean Zone air quality system, while over and above everything already mentioned the S60 T5 AWD Dynamic model’s features list is further enhanced with remote engine start, approach/puddle lamps, active bending HID headlights, headlight washers, LED daytime running lights, a laminated windshield, rain sensing wipers, an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, heatable powered front seats with two-way powered lumbar support, three-way driver’s seat and side mirror memory, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a powered moonroof, advanced voice control, Bluetooth phone with audio streaming, satellite radio, auxiliary and USB ports, front and rear parking sensors, Volvo On-Call (including remote start and vehicle tracking), blind-zone alert with rear cross-traffic alert, hill start assist, City Safety autonomous emergency braking, all the usual active and passive safety features, power-folding rear headrests, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through, and more. 

2018 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Dynamic
The S60’s trunk is on the smaller side, but 60/40-split rear seatbacks with a centre passthrough makes it quite flexible. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The S60 also includes standard engine start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, this helping to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Set to its most efficient driving mode the S60 T5 AWD is good for a claimed 11.0 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 9.7 combined, while it saves even more by only requiring less expensive regular unleaded fuel. 

My test model’s extras included $900 Crystal White Pearl metallic paint; a $650 Convenience package featuring power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, high-level interior illumination, a garage door opener, a compass, and a grocery bag holder; a $1,350 Climate package with heated washer nozzles, a heated windshield, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear outboard seats; plus a $1,600 Technology package that adds Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist and Distance Alert (DA), upping the total asking price to $54,415. 

Not included were $135 rear window sunshades, a $1,500 Harman/Kardon premium audio upgrade with 12 speakers and 650 watts of power, and a $315 Protection package with four all-weather floor mats. 

While I’m excited to get into the new 2019 S60 when it finally arrives, I can certainly understand why someone would want to take advantage of the deals to be had on the current model. The 2018 S60 is still an excellent car that’s highly competitive within its compact luxury segment, plus you’ll certainly be able to coax your local dealer into moving its already fair price downward significantly.