Mazda is in a unique branding position, in that it’s wholly independent and therefore able to offer more for the money than some of its rivals.  What do I mean? Most of Mazda’s rivals offer a higher…

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
With its big illuminated satin-chrome grille, LED headlamps, 20-inch alloys, and elegantly understated good looks, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature could easily come from a pricey luxury brand. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda is in a unique branding position, in that it’s wholly independent and therefore able to offer more for the money than some of its rivals. 

What do I mean? Most of Mazda’s rivals offer a higher priced premium brand for owners to gravitate to when they might otherwise feel the inclination to move up to a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, and therefore they won’t allow their mainstream volume models to wander too far upmarket in design or finishings so as not to interfere with this hierarchal brand strategy, but Mazda has no such constraints, so therefore its cars and SUVs are often a cut above their rivals. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9’s narrow LED taillights, stylishly understated satin-chrome detailing, and sleek overall shape make it a head-turner from every angle. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Take the 2019 CX-9 mid-size crossover SUV I’m driving this week. It looks like it could’ve rolled off the assembly line of a luxury manufacturer thanks to a big, stylish satin-silver grille with special night illumination that wraps around its lower half, full LED headlamps with auto high beams, adaptive cornering capability and auto self-leveling, a beautifully aerodynamic lower front fascia with integrated LED fog lamps, stunning 20-inch light grey high lustre alloy wheels wrapped in 255/50R20 all-season tires, tastefully applied satin-chrome trim all-round, and a great deal more on the outside. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Easier to see at night, the Signature includes thin white LED illumination around the lower half of its grille. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That said it’s the CX-9 Signature’s interior that really makes occupants feel pampered, much thanks to a two-tone brown and black motif that includes soft Nappa leather upholstery with beautifully detailed stitching, genuine Santos Rosewood trim on the centre console and doors, aluminum dash and upper door panel inlays, satin-chrome interior switchgear, loads of soft-touch surfacing throughout, fabric-wrapped front roof pillars, LED overhead and ambient lighting, plus more, while areas not seen are stuffed full of sound-deadening insulation, the windshield and front windows are made from noise-isolating glass, and plenty of additional refinements to the body shell, steering and suspension systems make everything from the way its doors close to the CX-9’s overall driving dynamics feel as if it were a luxury-branded SUV, while providing a much quieter interior. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
A vertical stack of LED fog lamps join special 20-inch alloy wheels in Signature trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The driver and passengers alike will be comforted in other ways too, for instance in the knowledge that the CX-9 Signature is one of the most advanced vehicles on the road when it comes to advanced driver assistance and safety systems, with all the usual active and passive safety features complemented by adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward obstruction warning, Smart Brake Support and Smart City Brake Support autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, new seatbelt reminders on the second- and third-row seats, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
In similar fashion to how Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV pulls its taillight design from the beautiful F-Type sports car, the CX-9’s tail lamps are inspired by the lovely little MX-5 sports car. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The CX-9 Signature offers an impressive assortment of electronics too, such as a head-up display that projects key information onto the windshield ahead of the driver for easy viewing, a 7.0-inch colour TFT display within the primary gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen on the dash top with new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, new SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link data services with information on real-time traffic, weather conditions, fuel prices, and sports scores, a new four-camera 360-degree surround parking camera with a bird’s-eye overhead view, navigation with detailed mapping, 12-speaker Bose audio with Centerpoint surround and AudioPilot noise compensation technologies, plus SurroundStage signal processing, satellite and HD radio, voice activation, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, text message reading and response capability, plus much more for just $51,500, which is superb value when comparing to luxury branded crossover SUVs with similar equipment (check out all 2019 Mazda CX-9 trims and pricing at CarCostCanada, plus make sure to learn about any available rebates and save even more by getting the 2019 CX-9’s dealer invoice pricing).

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Check out the CX-9 Signature’s fabulous interior! You’ll see a lot more of it in my upcoming road test review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other features that provide CX-9 Signature owners with a premium-branded experience are proximity access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a new frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, new power-folding side mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a reworked overhead console with always appreciated sunglasses storage and a better designed LED room lamp control switch, front and rear parking sensors, tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with premium cross-stitching detailing, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support and memory, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with power lumbar, three-way heated and new cooled front seats, heated rear outboard seats, rear side window sunshades, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Move up to the Signature and you’ll get this ultra-helpful split-screen 360-degree overhead parking monitor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The changes to the CX-9’s steering and suspension systems not only provide the higher-quality, more premium-like ride noted earlier, but were also designed to deliver greater linear behavior at high speeds, and I’ll let you know how Mazda succeeded in my full road test review. Likewise, I’ll comment on how the carryover its G-Vectoring Control technology feels while seamlessly shifting more torque to the front wheels during corner entry and then sending it rearward upon exit, how i-Activ AWD deals with inclement conditions (although we only had to deal with a rain storm during our weeklong test), how the dynamic pressure turbo-enhanced SkyActiv-G 2.5 four-cylinder engine responded to throttle input at takeoff, when exiting fast-paced corners and while passing on the highway, and whether or not the SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission was still up to snuff in an era of seven-, eight-, nine- and even 10-speed autoboxes, not to mention CVTs, despite the inclusion of manual actuation and Drive Selection with a Sport mode. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9 Signature even one-ups some of its premium-branded rivals by including real Rosewood trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda is very clear in its specifications that the engine makes 250 horsepower with 93 octane gas or higher, but I’m going to correctly guess that the majority of journalists refill it will much cheaper 87 octane, so the engine is probably only making the 227 horsepower claimed with the lower grade gasoline, but this said its extremely robust 310 lb-ft of torque doesn’t change with the budget fuel and only needs 2,000 rpm to release full twist, so I wouldn’t worry too much about thrust. 

As for the rest of the story, make sure to come back for my full review…

Remember the Eclipse? It was a 2+2 sports coupe along the lines of the Honda Prelude, Nissan 240SX and Toyota Celica, and like those classics it’s no longer available, having been discontinued in 2012…

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Mitsubishi brings four-door coupe styling to the mainstream compact SUV segment with the eye-catching new 2019 Eclipse Cross. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Remember the Eclipse? It was a 2+2 sports coupe along the lines of the Honda Prelude, Nissan 240SX and Toyota Celica, and like those classics it’s no longer available, having been discontinued in 2012 after four generations. 

The list of sporty grand touring hatchback models was as numerous as there were mainstream automakers to build them back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and Mitsubishi not only offered the Eclipse, along with multiple badge-engineered models it coproduced with Chrysler group, but the larger and more powerful 3000GT that went up against pricier sports coupes like the Mazda RX-7, Nissan 300ZX and Toyota Supra. Those were the sports car glory days, and while we’ve seen a tepid renaissance in recent years, times ain’t what they used to be. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
A raked rear liftgate provides sporty coupe-like styling to this otherwise practical little SUV. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This is the crossover SUV era after all, so along with small sporty GTs that few are buying, sedans and wagons are yesterday’s news too. Enter the Eclipse Cross, Mitsubishi’s answer to a question no one was asking within the mainstream volume sport utility sector, or at least a question no one has asked for a few years. 

The Eclipse Cross marries a crossover SUV with a sports car, or that’s the general idea. Most of us are well aware that such sloped-back five-door concoctions have been running around in the premium class for quite some time, having started with the BMW X6 and more recently followed by the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and now the all-new Audi Q8 that shares underpinnings with Lamborghini’s new Urus, plus we should give a respectful shout out to the now discontinued Acura ZDX that I happen to still love, while that latter defunct model was based on the only five-door sport CUV to attempt such contortions amongst regular mainstream brands up until now, the somewhat ungainly Honda Crosstour. On the smaller side are the BMW X4 and new M-B GLC Coupe, these models closer in size to this new Eclipse Cross, but of course in another price, luxury and performance league altogether. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
The Eclipse Cross’ most dramatic design detail might be its unique LED taillight. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Premium rides aside, I must admit the new Eclipse Cross is much better looking than the ill-fated Crosstour, but instead of being backed by one of the strongest names in the industry it hails from one of Canada’s least popular brands. This means that its already very slim niche market will be skinnier still, proven by 2,140 sales from February 2018, when it went on sale, to the close of August, compared to 7,265 Outlanders sold during the same seven months. No doubt Mitsubishi didn’t expect it to rocket out of the showroom door in comparison to its most popular model, but it’s a sobering thought when factoring in that 34,055 Honda CR-Vs and 32,947 Toyota RAV4s were sold over the exact same seven months, not to mention the 28,218 Ford Escapes and 26,525 Nissan Rogues. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
LED headlights are standard in top-line GT S-AWC trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Just the same, Mitsubishi is trying to do something different and deserves our respect for a worthy effort, while the new model is quite good at what it needs to do for the most part. I’ll elaborate in my upcoming review, and like usual will only give you a few buyers’ guide-like details during this garage piece. 

For starters, behind Mitsubishi’s dramatic new “Dynamic Shield” frontal design that I think works much better with this Eclipse Cross than with any other application it’s been used for, resides a turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine good for 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It combines with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s engineered to emulate an eight-speed automatic gearbox via some of the nicest magnesium column-mounted paddle shifters in the industry. All three Eclipse Cross trims come standard with Super All-Wheel Control in Canada, Mitsubishi-speak for all-wheel drive, an advanced torque-vectoring system honed from years of Lancer Evolution rally car breeding. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Come back for the road test review to find out how the new Eclipse Cross compares to its compact SUV competitors. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, it’s hard to stomach the thought that this wannabe performance SUV is now the hottest model in Mitsubishi’s once proud lineup, which previously anted up the fabulous Evo X MR, an all-wheel drive super sedan that easily outmaneuvered the Subaru WRX STI and most every other compact of the era, but Mitsubishi now has its limited funds focused on practical SUVs that more people will potentially purchase, not to mention plug-in electrics that give it a good green name if not many actual buyers, at least when comparing the Outlander PHEV’s sales to the aforementioned conventionally powered compact SUVs. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
No fully digital display here, just some good honest analogue dials and a small colour trip computer. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

We can lament the loss of the Evo, but should commend Mitsubishi for the Eclipse Cross’ fuel economy that’s rated at a cool 9.6 L/100km in the city, 8.9 on the highway and 8.3 combined, which is quite good in comparison to the aforementioned RAV4 that only manages 10.5 city, 8.3 highway and 9.5 combined, but not quite as thrifty as the CR-V’s 8.7 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined rating. 

Hidden behind a slick looking standard set of 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/55 all-season tires is a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup featuring stabilizer bars at both ends, which I’ll report on in my upcoming review. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Yes, that’s a powered head-up display unit. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I mentioned earlier there were three trim levels, and as usual Mitsubishi supplied this Eclipse Cross tester in top-line GT guise for $35,998 plus freight and fees (go to CarCostCanada for all pricing details, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands), which meant came loaded up with LED headlamps, a head-up display, a multi-view backup camera with dynamic guidelines, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch audio with nine speakers including 10-inch subwoofer, a heatable steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, leather upholstery, a six-way powered driver’s seat, a dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof, and more, not to mention everything from the second-rung SE model’s optional Tech Package that includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated Homelink garage door opener, roof rails, and a nice silver painted lower door garnish. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Find out how this tablet-style touchscreen display performs when compared to its main challengers in the upcoming review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Standard SE items pulled up to GT trim include the previously noted paddle shifters, proximity-sensing keyless access and ignition, an electromechanical parking brake (the base model gets a regular handbrake), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, auto on/off headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, blindspot warning, and more for $29,998, while features from the $27,998 base ES model that are still used by the top-tier GT include LED DRLs, fog lamps, LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror caps, LED taillights, tilt and telescopic steering, a colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an “ECO” mode, micron filtered automatic climate control, heated front seats, a lower console-mounted touchpad controller for the standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera, two USB charging/connectivity ports, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, satellite radio, and more. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Comfortable seats? Come back for our review to find out answers to this question and more. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Last but hardly least in this practical class is passenger and cargo space, with the former needed to be expanded on experientially in my review and the latter measuring 640 litres (22.6 cu ft) behind the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and 1,385 litres (48.9 cu ft) behind the front row, making it more accommodating for cargo than the subcompact RVR and less so than the compact Outlander. 

I’ve said more than enough for a garage story, so make sure to come back to read all of my notes reiterated into some sort of readable road test. I can tell you now the Eclipse Cross suffers from a few issues, or at least this specific tester certainly does, and therefore you won’t want to miss what I have to say. Until then, enjoy our shortened photo gallery (more will accompany the review)…

Full disclosure: orange is one of my favourite colours. I painted my bathroom and even my bedroom in a beautiful, rich, bold orange hue. I own multiple orange T-shirts, sweaters, and an orange down puffy…

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Subaru has redesigned its popular Forester for 2019, and this new Sport model is the one most likely to capture eyeballs. (Photos: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Full disclosure: orange is one of my favourite colours. I painted my bathroom and even my bedroom in a beautiful, rich, bold orange hue. I own multiple orange T-shirts, sweaters, and an orange down puffy jacket. I love carrots, pumpkins, persimmons and mangos, and enjoy mandarins, tangerines and other types of oranges even if their highly acidic nature tends to disagree with me. Nevertheless, this 2019 Forester Sport takes orange a bit too far. 

The thick orange striping along the otherwise matte black lower exterior panels doesn’t cause me issue, but the orange painted shifter surround and dash vents are a constant assault on the senses, although I like the orange contrasting thread just fine. In my books the overzealous use of orange slots into the “too much of a good thing” category, and is similar to my criticisms of all the red gone wrong with the latest Honda Civic Type R. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The Forester Sport gets orange trim, a glossy black strip of bodywork between the taillights, and gloss black alloy wheels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve got the new fifth-generation 2019 Subaru Forester in the garage this week, and while Sport trim wouldn’t be my first choice due to orange overload, it’s a major improvement over the crossover SUV it replaces in most every other way. 

Starting at $27,995 for 2019, which is $2,000 more than last year’s base Forester, this latest model comes standard with a set of stylishly safer LED headlamps, an advanced technology that previously required a move up to Limited trim in order to partake, and one that’s still optional with most of its rivals including the totally redesigned 2019 RAV4 and recently redesigned Honda CR-V—the Mazda CX-5 already comes standard with LED headlights and refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee now does as well. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
A glossy black grille adds a sportier look to Forester Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The new LED headlamps get automatic on/off too, so you won’t always have to remember to turn them on and off manually, this standard feature part of last year’s Convenience upgrade, while new standard automatic climate control gets pulled up from 2018’s Touring trim. 

I like the new electromechanical parking brake that replaces the old handbrake, freeing up space between the front seats and modernizing the driving experience, while auto vehicle hold now replaces the old hill holder system that previously only came with the manual transmission, which is now discontinued. In its place, Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is now standard across the line, which means that Subaru’s impressive X-Mode off-road system with Hill Descent Control, and SI-Drive drive mode selector are now standard too. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
LED headlamps, LED fog lights in glossy black bezels, black alloys, and more orange trim complete the Forester Sport appearance package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Together with the CVT and Subaru’s much praised Symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system that remains standard, all 2019 Foresters get a new direct-injection enhanced 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine that’s good for 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, which is 12-horsepower and 2-lb-ft more than last year’s identically sized base engine. 

The upgraded drivetrain now includes an auto start/stop system that automatically shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling, which helps to reduce emissions while improving fuel economy, but it isn’t without fault (more on this in my upcoming review). Just the same the new Forester manages a 0.2 L/100km savings in combined city/highway driving despite the increase in performance, from 9.2 L/100km city, 7.4 highway and 8.4 combined to 9.0, 7.2 and 8.2 respectively. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Even the standard roof rails get orange posts, while that powered glass sunroof is extra large. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

My big disappointment for 2019 isn’t with this very strong base powertrain, but rather is due to the discontinuation of Subaru’s wonderful 2.0-litre turbocharged engine upgrade that previously put out 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and still managed a relatively thrifty 10.2 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.5 combined. True, few vehicles in this class offer such a formidable optional engine, but it was nevertheless an important differentiator in a market segment that’s highly competitive. 

As far as 2019 trims go, the base model is once again simply called 2.5i in reference to its engine displacement, and along with everything already mentioned includes standard power-adjustable heated side mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, steering wheel controls, cruise control, filtered air conditioning, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth with audio streaming, StarLink smartphone integration with Aha radio, HD and satellite radio, two USB ports/iPod interfaces, an aux input, heatable front seats, roof rails, the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees, etcetera. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
More glossy black trim and an orange “SPORT” badge add pizazz to the rear quarters. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The standard infotainment touchscreen is now 0.3 inches larger in diameter at 6.5 inches, and also features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity that wasn’t even optional before. 

Standard features get even more generous in second-rung Convenience trim, which for $30,295 includes everything from the base model plus fog lamps, a rear rooftop spoiler, 17-inch alloys replacing the standard 17-inch steel wheels with covers, a windshield wiper de-icer, silver finish interior trim, chrome interior door handles, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, a colour TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster, a 6.3-inch colour multi-function display atop the dash that’s controllable via steering wheel-mounted switchgear, two more stereo speakers for a total of six, dual-zone automatic climate control (the base model is single-zone), sunvisor extensions, illuminated vanity mirrors, premium cloth upholstery, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with lumbar support, a flip-down rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, and more. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
If orange is your thing, the Sport is your Forester. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

For a reasonable $1,500 you can add Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems that includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control, while the upgrade also includes reverse automatic braking, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, and a retractable cargo cover. 

EyeSight comes standard with all other trim levels, including the $32,995 Touring model that gets everything already mentioned as well as automatic high beam assist, a large power-sliding glass sunroof with a sunshade, and a powered tailgate with memory function. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Nothing new here, but the large multi-information display sitting between two analogue dials looks good and provides clear and easy to read info. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Above this, the Sport model being tested this week, plus Limited and Premier trims get a new two-mode X-Mode off-road system that’s capable of even greater go-anywhere prowess thanks to separate settings for snow and dirt, as well as deep snow and mud, while larger 316 mm front rotors add better braking power over the standard 294 mm discs. 

Additionally, the top three trims include steering responsive headlights and Subaru’s Side/Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system as standard equipment, improving safety, plus a leather shift knob and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen adds an inch to the diameter of last year’s top-line infotainment interface, while once again including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto where there wasn’t such advanced smartphone connectivity last year. These upper trims also include dual rear USB ports for a new total of four, plus A/C ducts on the backside of the centre console, and reclining rear seats. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The centre stack gets a large multi-info display up top and an excellent infotainment touchscreen below. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As mentioned, the new $34,995 Sport that I’m tested is the visual standout of the 2019 Forester lineup, whether that’s a good a positive or negative in your view. Along with all the orange it gets a unique gloss black grille, special front corner grilles, a larger rear spoiler, a blackened out trim strip that runs across the rear liftgate before striking through the taillights, and a unique rear under-guard. The Sport also features exclusive dark metallic 18-inch alloys, while LED daytime running lights, vertically stacked LED fog lamps and LED turn signals integrated within the mirror caps add to its upmarket appeal. 

An exclusive Sport feature includes an SI-Drive Sport system that provides more immediate throttle response, which I’ll report on in my future review. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Dual-zone automatic climate control is included with Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, the Forester Sport replaces the availability of Crimson Red Pearl, Horizon Blue Pearl, Jasper Green Metallic, and Sepia Bronze Metallic exterior colours with an exclusive Dark Blue Pearl paint finish, which wasn’t included with my Crystal White Pearl painted test model. 

I should probably talk about $37,695 Limited trim in this garage story too, being that I’ve already covered the others. This might be my Forester of choice if the extra $2,700 weren’t an issue, mainly because it loses the Sport’s over-the-top orange-ness, and while I would prefer to keep the latter model’s performance upgrades that are also nixed when choosing Limited trim, they’re not as important in an SUV like this as they’d be in a WRX, per se. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
That’s a lot of orange, but the quality is good and layout well organized. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Limited keeps most of the Sport’s convenience and luxury upgrades mind you, while adding unique 18-inch 10-spoke bright-finish machined alloy wheels, a premium grille, chrome detailing around the fog lamp bezels and side windows, auto-dimming side mirrors with approach lighting and reverse tilt (the latter item a Subaru first), an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass, chrome trimmed primary gauges, a heatable steering wheel rim, GPS navigation, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stock market information, an eight-speaker, 440-watt Harman Kardon audio system with an eight-channel amplifier, leather upholstery in black or platinum, silver contrast stitching throughout, driver’s seat memory, heatable rear outboard seats, and one-touch folding rear seatbacks. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
X-Mode AWD comes standard across the Forester line, as does an electromechanical parking brake and heated seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Maybe I should’ve waited to choose a favourite, because for just $1,800 more than the Limited you can opt for near luxury SUV-level $39,495 Premier trim, which is now top-of-the-line for 2019. It once again includes the vertical LED fog lamps from the Sport within unique satin-silver trimmed bezels, as well as special aluminum-look satin-silver trim on the front fascia, side mirror caps, roof rail posts, side sills, and rear bumper. Additionally, exclusive 18-inch five-spoke machined alloy wheels combine with chromed exterior door handles and a stainless steel rear bumper step pad to spiff up the look further. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The orange stitching is nice, and the orange vent surrounds probably won’t be to everyone’s liking. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Inside, the Forester Premier features exclusive brown leather upholstery that I really like, plus an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, while Subaru’s brand new DriverFocus driver fatigue and distracted driving mitigation system uses facial recognition to detect drowsiness or distraction. 

I should also mention that all of the trim details and prices were verified at CarCostCanada, where you can also find dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating with your Subaru dealer, plus they have rebate information on any discounts that might be available to you. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
These two-tone cloth seats with orange highlights are exclusive to Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Continuing on, the 2019 Forester has been thoroughly redesigned around the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which has resulted in greater refinement, capability and dynamic performance, plus more interior roominess. 

It’s difficult to grow inside without growing outside, with the new Forester now measuring 15 millimetres (0.6 inches) more from front to back at 4,625 mm (182.1 inches), with a 30-mm (1.2-inch) longer wheelbase at 2,670 mm (105.1 inches), while it’s also 21 mm (0.8 inches) wider including its mirrors at 2,052 mm (80.8 inches), or 20 mm (0.8 inches) wider not including its mirrors at 1,815 mm (71.4 inches). Its front and rear track has widened too, now up 20 and 15 mm (0.8 and 0.6 inches) respectively to 1,565 and 1,570 mm (61.6 and 61.8 inches), which, along with the Forester’s other dimensional and mechanical changes has caused a one-metre (3.3-foot) larger curb to curb turning circle of 5.4 metres (17.7 feet). 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
To find out about rear seat roominess and comfort, check out our upcoming road test review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Despite maintaining its minimum ground clearance at 220 mm (8.6 inches), the new Forester is actually 5 mm (0.2 inches) lower in height than its predecessor with its roof rails included at 1,730 mm (68.1 inches), while its base curb weight has increased by a 26 kilograms (57.3 lbs) at 1,569 kilos (3,459 lbs) when compared to the previous model’s optional CVT. Still, the fully loaded 2019 Forester Premier now weighs in at 1,630 kg (3,593 lbs), which actually makes this top-line model a surprising 56 kg (123.4 lbs) lighter than the ritziest version of the 2018 model in spite of its greater size. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
A large rear cargo area opens up for longer items via standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with a more spacious passenger compartment, the new Forester improves cargo capacity by 29 litres (1.0 cubic-foot) behind the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks in base trim, from 974 to 1,003 litres (34.4 to 35.4 cubic feet), and by 40 litres (1.4 cubic feet) in base trim when those seats are laid flat, from 2,115 to 2,155 litres (74.7 to 76.1 cubic feet). When the optional sunroof is added, which encroaches slightly on overhead space, the difference from old to new grows to 43 litres (1.5 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks, from 892 to 935 litres (31.5 to 33.0 cubic feet), and 68 litres (2.4 cubic feet) when the rear seats are lowered, from 1,940 to 2,008 litres (68.5 to 70.9 cubic feet). This is a significant improvement that can really make a difference when faced with a large load of gear. 

As for the rest of the story, I’ll be back soon with some experiential thoughts, feelings, and yes, some gripes too. And I’m not just talking about my orange overwhelm. Until then, check out my orange glory 2019 Forester Sport tester in the photo gallery above…

The Santa Fe is one of the crossover SUV sector’s most popular entries, and it’s entirely new for 2019. We’ve got it in our garage this week, and without saying too much we’re impressed.  First…

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe takes on an entirely new look for 2019, appearing best in top-line 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Santa Fe is one of the crossover SUV sector’s most popular entries, and it’s entirely new for 2019. We’ve got it in our garage this week, and without saying too much we’re impressed. 

First off, let’s clear up some confusion. The Santa Fe started life as more of a compact SUV than anything truly mid-size, but like so many other vehicles it has grown over the generations to the point that it now leans more towards mid-size than compact. Despite coming close to matching the length, width and height of a five-passenger mainstays like the Ford Edge, some industry insiders still call it compact and therefore muddle the marketplace, so I’m here setting the record straight. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The regular five-occupant Santa Fe is longer than it was before, now unquestionably in the mid-size camp. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To be even more specific, at 4,770 millimetres (187.8 inches) long and 1,890 mm (74.4 in) wide the 2019 Santa Fe we’re testing here is a considerable 246 mm (9.7 in) longer than the current Ford Escape compact SUV yet only a fractional 9 mm (0.3 in) shorter than the Edge, while it’s 52 mm (2.0 in) wider than the former and only 38 mm (1.5 in) narrower than the latter. To be fair, the new Santa Fe is actually a full 70 mm (2.7 in) longer and 10 mm (0.4 in) wider than the outgoing model, this improving interior roominess. So while I’ve long considered the Santa Fe a mid-size crossover SUV, now we can all safely categorize as such and call it a day. This becomes even clearer when factoring the size of the three-row Santa Fe XL, which I’ll cover in a future review. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe gets some sophisticated exterior detailing that elevates the look to premium levels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This being a Garage piece, I won’t go into too much detail about the Santa Fe’s interior quality, fit, finish, styling, etcetera, or my experiences behind the wheel. Anyone who has read my reviews of previous Santa Fe Sport models, the vehicle this model replaces, will know I was a fan, so suffice to say this one is better in every respect. I’ll leave it there for now. 

Like the outgoing model this new one uses the same powertrains, although both receive new variable valve timing for improved response and fuel economy. The base engine remains the well-proven 2.4-litre four-cylinder making 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, while the top-line turbocharged 2.0-litre four increase power to 235 and torque to 260 lb-ft. Astute readers will notice the upgraded engine is down 5 horsepower, and patient readers will come back to find out if that’s noticeable when I cover it in my review. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
LED headlights, LED fog lamps, 19-inch alloys… the Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD has the goods. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

For now, take solace that the outgoing Santa Fe Sport’s six-speed automatic has been replaced by a much more advanced eight-speed auto with standard auto start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling to reduce emissions and save fuel. Fuel economy is therefore improved over the outgoing model, with the 2.4 FWD base model now rated at 10.7 L/100km in the city, 8.2 on the highway and 9.6 combined compared to the old model’s respective 11.1 city, 8.6 highway and 10.0 combined; the same engine with AWD now capable of a claimed 11.2 city, 8.7 highway and 10.1 combined compared to 12.0, 9.1 and 10.7 respectively with last year’s Santa Fe 2.4 AWD; and finally 12.3 city, 9.8 highway and 11.2 combined for the 2.0-litre turbo instead of 12.5, 9.6 and 11.2 when compared to the same engine in the previous generation. Yes, a bit surprising that the new eight-speed auto and auto start/stop system resulted in zero combined fuel economy improvement with the turbo, but when factoring in that most mileage is done in the city then it can be seen as a positive. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
This two-tone interior theme adds a rich elegance to the Santa Fe interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Like the outgoing Santa Fe, the new one features a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the back, plus stabilizer bars at both ends for improved handling. The steering is motor-driven powered rack and pinion, 

Some other changes worth mentioning here in this Garage story include new trim lines, starting with the base Essential, and then upgraded with Preferred, Preferred Turbo, Luxury, and finally the as-tested Ultimate I’m driving this week. First, kudos to Hyundai for ditching the name “Limited” for a trim line they’d sell as many as they could if consumers would buy them, and more praise for not following the status quo and naming their top-line model “Platinum”. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
It’s got style, but is the quality there? Come back for the full review and we’ll let you know what we think of the new Santa Fe’s interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I like the name Essential for a base model, especially one that includes standard heatable front seats and a standard heated steering wheel, not to mention 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a backup camera, dual USB charge ports, Bluetooth, illuminated vanity mirrors, auto on/off projector headlights with LED accents, fog lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome and body-colour exterior detailing, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, two-way powered driver’s lumbar support, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks with recline, electromechanical parking brake with auto hold, Drive Mode Select with Comfort, Smart, and Sport modes, and much more for just $28,999 plus freight and fees (go to CarCostCanada for detailed pricing, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Luxury and Ultimate trims include this 7.0-inch TFT LCD multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Ante up $30,199 and you’ll get Hyundai’s suite of SmartSense advanced driver assistive systems including auto high beam assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision alert and mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and Driver Attention Warning. 

All-wheel drive costs $2,000 with Essential trim or comes standard with Preferred trim, at which point the SmartSense package is included as well, plus blindspot detection, rear cross-traffic alert with collision avoidance, a rear occupant alert system that remembers if you opened a rear door prior to driving and then reminds that someone or something may still be in back when exiting, and finally safe exit assist that warns of traffic at your side when opening your door, for a total of $35,099. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Ultimate trim adds this larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation plus traffic flow and incident data via HD radio. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional Preferred features include 18-inch alloy wheels, turn signals added to the side mirror housings, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, a Homelink garage door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control with a CleanAir Ionizer, Predictive Logic and auto defog, BlueLink smartphone telematics, satellite radio, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, rear fore and aft sliding seats, and more. The 2.4-litre base engine is still standard in Preferred trim, but the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine is now a $2,000 option. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
As comfortable as they look? Find out in the upcoming review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving up to $41,899 Luxury trim adds the turbo engine and AWD as standard, plus dark chrome exterior door handles, door scuff plates, LED interior lighting, a 7.0-inch TFT LCD multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster, a powered panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree Surround View parking camera, a deluxe cloth roofliner, leather console moulding, memory, four-way powered lumbar support and an extendable lower cushion for the driver’s seat, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heatable rear seats, rear side window sunshades, a proximity actuated smart liftgate, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The rear seats slide back and forth and recline. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

My $44,999 Ultimate trimmed tester included most everything from Luxury trim plus 19-inch alloys, satin exterior trim and door handles, LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display that projects key info onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation and traffic flow including incident data via HD radio, 12-speaker 630-watt Infinity audio with QuantumLogic Surround sound and Clari-Fi music restoration technology, a wireless charging pad, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
This longest ever five-passenger Santa Fe makes for the roomiest ever Santa Fe. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The five-seat Santa Fe boasts interior volume of 4,151 litres (146.6 cubic feet) and cargo capacity measuring 1,016 litres (35.9 cubic feet) behind the second row and 2,019 litres (71.3 cubic feet) with the rear seatback laid flat, a process that is made easier via powered release buttons on the cargo wall. 

Being that this Garage review has turned into a comprehensive buyer’s guide, let’s cap it off here for now and leave something for the upcoming review. Make sure you come back soon for the good, bad and ugly experiential commentary…

We don’t get many Minis each year, but when we do it’s always a fun week. Especially if that Mini is tuned to “S” trim and its roof is chopped to make way for a retractable soft top.  In our…

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Great looking colour right? Starlight Blue is new for 2019, and it’s exclusive to the Starlight Blue Edition Package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We don’t get many Minis each year, but when we do it’s always a fun week. Especially if that Mini is tuned to “S” trim and its roof is chopped to make way for a retractable soft top. 

In our garage this week is the 2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible, trimmed out with this year’s special Starlight Blue Edition Package. That means it gets an exclusive and eye-arresting coat of Starlight Blue Metallic paint, unique 17-inch machine-finished Rail Spoke alloy wheels with black painted pockets on 205/45 all-season runflat tires, and Black Line piano black exterior trim replacing much of the chrome, including the grille surround and the headlamp/taillight surrounds, while the side mirror caps are finished in glossy black too. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Mini updated the Cooper line for 2015 and adapted its new platform architecture to the Convertible for 2016, and while larger and roomier it’s still the same fun-loving Cooper that it’s always been. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The upgrade continues with rain-sensing auto on/off LED headlamps featuring dynamic cornering capability, LED fog lights, piano black lacquered interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, Connected Navigation Plus within the infotainment system, Harman Kardon audio, satellite radio, Carbon Black leatherette upholstery, and heatable front seats, while my tester’s only standalone option is its $2,900 automatic transmission, all of which brings the base price of $33,990 up to $38,290, plus freight and fees. 

Just to be clear, you can get into a new 2019 Mini Cooper Convertible for as little as $29,640 plus freight and fees, the higher price just noted due being to my test model’s aforementioned “S” trim. You can actually get into the base 3-Door hardtop for as little as $23,090, while the Mini 5-Door starts at $24,390 and six-door Clubman hits the road for $28,690. There are other Mini models available, but for now I’ll leave it to the car lineup and point you to CarCostCanada for detailed pricing info on every new vehicle available, including otherwise hard to find dealer invoice pricing and manufacturer rebate information that could save you thousands. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Blackened trim, LED headlights and special 17-inch alloy wheels come as part of the Starlight Blue Edition Package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Something else you should be aware of is the premium level of quality that goes into each and every Mini model. This little Cooper S Convertible is extremely well put together, from its exterior fit to its interior finishings. The paintwork is superb and detailing fabulous, from my tester’s intricately designed LED headlamps and Union Jack imprinted taillights to its high-quality leather-wrapped steering wheel and stitched leather shift knob, not to mention the pod of primary instruments hovering over the steering column, the ever-changing ring of colour encircling the high-definition 8.8-inch infotainment display, the row of dazzling chromed toggles (and red ignition switch) on the centre stack and similar set of switches on the overhead console, these latter two eccentricities happily gracing every Mini model. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
We love these Union Jack taillights! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I could go on, but rather than turn this simple “Garage” overview into a full road test, which will be coming shortly, know that one of Mini’s most agreeable attributes is on-road character. Again, we won’t even tease our experiential notes, which aren’t even completed being that we’ve only spent a couple of days with the car, but instead fill you with some nuts and bolts details such as 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque from the 16-valve twin scroll turbocharge 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a spirited 7.2 seconds from standstill to 100km/h with the six-speed manual or an even quicker 7.1 seconds with the as-tested six-speed automatic, an independent front strut and multi-link rear suspension, and so much more. 

2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible
These heated sport seats come as part of the Cooper S upgrade. Check the gallery for more photos… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The upgrade to Cooper S trim means that a host of performance-oriented features get added, including selectable driving modes including default “MID”, “GREEN” and “SPORT” for enhanced acceleration and steering response, more heavily bolstered heated sport seats, a panoramic sunroof, and more. 

There’s a lot more to the 2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible than I’ll go into here in this Garage review, including how all of these features work, the quality of workmanship inside and out, how the top operates and seals off the outside world, plus of course the way it drives. So make sure to come back to TheCarMagazine for the full review soon…

Jaguar installed its potent yet economical gasoline-powered Ingenium turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine into its gorgeous 2018 F-Type sports car last year, with an after effect…

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The F-Type is $10k less expensive thanks to this new 296-hp 2.0-litre turbo powered entry-level P300 model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Jaguar installed its potent yet economical gasoline-powered Ingenium turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine into its gorgeous 2018 F-Type sports car last year, with an after effect being a significantly reduced base price of $68,500. That was a $10k advantage over the previous base price, and this car, in model year 2019 open-top form, is in our garage this week. 

Pricing for the car in question starts at $72,500 this year, while the Coupe’s price has been raised to $69,500. With such an attainable point of entry the new F-Type P300 Coupe and Convertible models become prime 718 Cayman and Boxster competitors, while pricier more powerful F-Type trims continue to fight it out with the Porsche 911 and others in the premium sports car segment. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
The F-Type is gorgeous from all angles. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The turbocharged four-cylinder should provide more than enough performance for plenty of sports car enthusiasts thanks to a very healthy 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque combined with the F-Type’s nimble and lightweight aluminum chassis and body structure, especially when considering that key competitors Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Alfa Romeo don’t offer anywhere near as much output from their entry-level four-cylinder sports models, with 220 horsepower for the TT, 241 for the SLC, 241 for the Z4, and 237 for the 4C, while F-Type P300 numbers line up right alongside Porsche’s dynamic duo that are good for 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque apiece. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible
Jaguar delivers impressive interior quality and comfortable surroundings. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Jaguar makes its eight-speed Quickshift automatic transmission standard in this rear-wheel driven model, a steering wheel paddle assisted gearbox that delivers ultra-fast shift intervals that result in a particularly spirited 5.7-second sprint to 100km/h before attaining a limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). 

But how does it feel from the seat of the pants? Make sure you check out my full review of the F-Type P300 Convertible shown here in the photos, where I’ll divulge just how well all of this turbocharged four-cylinder goodness comes together. And don’t think for a minute that it’s not going to be positive. 

Even considering all of the other more powerful F-Type iterations available, including the incredible 575 horsepower SRV that I spent a week with over the summer, the new P300 has many attributes that stand out above its low base price, making it worthy of the “Growler” emblem on its grille and wheel caps, plus the “Leaper” atop its rear deck lid…

Power isn’t my thing. Most who have it don’t know how to wield it, and being libertarian in mindset I truly only want enough power to rule over my personal space. The MX-5, with its modest 155 horsepower…

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The MX-5 gets a completely revised 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine for 2019, with 181 hp. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Power isn’t my thing. Most who have it don’t know how to wield it, and being libertarian in mindset I truly only want enough power to rule over my personal space. The MX-5, with its modest 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, has always fit very well into such ideals. 

Over the years I’ve heard some complain that its response off the line is somewhat tepid when compared to other sports cars in the category, and when considering these are the same folks unsatisfied with the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86’s much more potent 200 horsepower engine their frustration probably has some merit. I’d rather have high revs and sensational sounds combined with a light curb weight when piloting a four-cylinder powered sports car, yet even with such reasonable expectations the outgoing mill left me feeling a bit flat. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The RF strikes a unique and attractive side profile. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Enter the 2019 MX-5, with a revised 2.0-litre four-cylinder capable of spinning 700 rpm higher before redline, from 6,800 to 7,500 rpm, while power is up 17 percent to 181 horsepower, and torque has increased by 3 lb-ft to 151. 

How did they do it? A few trick engineering tweaks included lighter weight pistons and a redesigned flywheel, plus Mazda also modified the rear differential ratio for quicker response off the line and faster acceleration overall. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
Sharp coupe-like roofline a real head-turner. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

And what about the dull soundtrack? A new sport exhaust system certainly ups the excitement ante, but rather than spill the entire bowl of beans now in this Garage preview I’ll go into greater detail about all of the above in my upcoming road test review. 

Until then, here’s some background info: a six-speed manual comes standard, while a six-speed automatic featuring manual-shift mode, paddle shifters, and Drive Selection modes is optional. This tester gets fitted with the former, exactly the way I’d choose it if mine, and exactly the way I’ll enjoy it best throughout my test week. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The BBS alloy wheels and Brembo performance brakes aid the MX-5’s overall driving dynamics. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

You might also notice a retractable hardtop, this particular MX-5 being the RF version introduced last year, which gets a sharp looking coupe-like all-weather roof that conveniently powers away when you’d rather feel a wisp of mother nature’s breath in your hair. It’s only slightly easier to live with than the regular soft top, but for those who live, work or just travel through crime-ridden neighbourhoods, it brings an element of security to a car that’s never had such locked down advantages before. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The RF’s retractable hardtop can draw a crowd. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

With a focus that’s never deviated from performance despite the MX-5 gaining refinements with each generation, even this top-line RF GT weighs in at just 1,118 kilograms with the manual and 1,134 kilos with the auto, which is just 53 kg more than the base soft top. I know, to those autocrossing or racing on the weekend, and there are many MX-5 owners that do, an extra 50-plus kilos of mass exactly where they don’t want it, up high over the head, but for the rest of us who simply want to enjoy the fastest way around the highway entrance ramp, it’s also a great way to cloak away the noise of the outside world. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The upgraded Exclusive Package interior, with its gorgeous caramel coloured Chroma Brown Nappa leather, looks fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with the engine upgrades, Mazda improved the driving environment with a new telescoping steering column, important for setting up your driving position for optimal comfort and control. Continuing on the ergonomic theme, Mazda gave its driver’s seat new easier to use adjustment levers, while the door panels and cupholders are redesigned for 2019. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
Like all Mazda vehicles, the MX-5 delivers a near premium experience for a pauper’s price. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Black metallic painted alloy wheels in 16- and 17-inch diameters are new this year as well, while the 195/50R16 and 205/45R17 tires wrapped around them, the latter standard with the RF, stop better when the MX-5 to new standard Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), while Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR) is also new this year, but requires an upgrade to GT trim. Additional advanced driver assistive systems that are standard across the line include Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), while the 2019 MX-5 continues to come with all the expected active and passive safety features too. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The standard infotainment is filled with useful features. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The MX-5 soft top is available in three trims, including the $32,900 GS, $36,900 GS-P, and $39,900 GT, while the RF can only be had in the two upper trims starting at $39,900 and ending at an as-tested $42,900, plus freight and fees of course. See all 2019 Mazda MX-5 prices at CarCostCanada, plus make sure to check the dealer invoice price of the car you choose before buying, as it could save you thousands. 

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT
The Nappa leather upholstery is rich and seats very supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

OK, not exactly as tested. My tester also had $200 worth of Snowflake White Pearl paint coating the exterior panels, and instead of standard Black leather with Red Koko stitching, or no-cost Sport Tan leather with Tan Kodo stitching, Mazda had added the $900 Exclusive Package that included a gorgeous caramel coloured Chroma Brown Nappa leather inside plus a contrasting piano black roof top to the exterior. Yes, I think I’d need to spring for this too. 

Interestingly, the aforementioned automatic transmission is a no-cost option despite its many enhancements, with the only other option being a $909 set of 17-inch matte black alloys wheels. 

I won’t go into any detail regarding standard GS-P or GT features in this “Garage” review, but instead I’ll save such commentary and my driving experience notes for an upcoming review. Until then, enjoy the photo gallery that’s a little larger than usual for a Garage story…

In our garage this week is the refreshed 2019 Honda Pilot in top-line Touring trim, and so far the consensus is positive.  The mid-cycle update adds a deeper new grille and front bumper design that’s…

2019 Honda Pilot Touring

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda has toughened up the look of the 2019 Pilot as part of its mid-cycle refresh, and we think it’s a solid improvement. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

In our garage this week is the refreshed 2019 Honda Pilot in top-line Touring trim, and so far the consensus is positive. 

The mid-cycle update adds a deeper new grille and front bumper design that’s more familial to other models in the lineup, such as the recently redesigned Accord, plus it also receives sharp looking new standard LED headlamps up front. Likewise, the rear end gets new LED taillight lenses and a revised rear bumper cap. Additional features that make Touring trim more appealing include full LED headlamps with Honda’s very upscale trademark design, some extra exterior chrome including the door handles, and new 20-inch machine-finished alloys with black painted pockets. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The new grille pulls cues from the recently redesigned CR-V and Accord. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I think the various styling tweaks make the entire design look more attractive. The outgoing version was by no means ugly, but it didn’t really grab my attention the way the new one does. From front to back the new Pilot is handsome. It’s a big three-row crossover SUV that still looks light and nimble, never cumbersome, and such appearances transfer well into the driving experience. 

I’ll tell you more about that in my upcoming road test review, and let you know how its upgraded auto start-stop system and refined nine-speed automatic perform. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
LED headlights are standard, although these upgraded ones with full LED high beams come as part of Touring trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The well-proven engine carries over from last year, so its output remains generous at 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Honda also provides its Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD system, assisted by its Intelligent Traction Management System as standard equipment across the line, while I should mention here the entry-level transmission, found in the base LX, the EX, and the EX-L Navi, only sports six forward gears. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
These sharp looking 20-inch machine-finished alloys are exclusive to Touring trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

So equipped the Pilot is good for a claimed 13.0 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 11.3 combined, whereas nine-speed models achieve 12.4 city, 9.3 highway and 11.0 combined. 

Your choice of transmission does not affect the Pilot’s towing capacities, which are rated at 1,588 kilos (3,500 lbs) in its standard setup or 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) with an optional towing package, while I should also note that cargo capacity is another good reason to consider a Pilot, its space behind the third row measuring a sizeable 524 litres (18.5 cubic feet), or about the size of a large car’s trunk behind the third row, or 510 litres (18.0 cubic feet) in Touring/Black Edition guise, and 1,583 litres (55.9 cubic feet) with the third row folded, while it ranges from 3,072 to 3,092 litres (108.5 to 109.2 cubic feet), depending on trim, when both rear rows are folded flat. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The updated Pilot gets new taillight lenses and a reworked bumper in back. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

A few more Touring features worth noting include more advanced LED high beam-infused headlamps, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, blue ambient lighting, front window acoustic glass, rain-sensing wipers, an electronic gear selector, ventilated front seats, a premium 600-watt audio system with 11 speakers including a subwoofer plus 5.1 Surround Sound, wireless device charging, Honda’s handy new CabinTalk in-car PA system, HondaLink Subscription Services, AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot, the “How much Farther?” app, a rear entertainment system, HDMI input jack, a 115-volt rear power outlet, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Nice looking LED taillights, right? A subtle but effective improvement. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Included with my tester, Touring models can be upgraded to include a set of sliding and reclining captain’s chairs to either side of a slightly raised floor-mounted console with cupholders and a shallow bin, instead of the regular three-abreast bench seat. This reduces passenger volume from eight to seven, but the captain’s chairs are more comfortable thanks in part to seat heaters and flip-down armrests, plus this seven-passenger edition gets a panoramic sunroof overhead for a much more open and airy cabin. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda kept the interior mostly carryover, but some upgrades have enhanced the overall experience. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Touring trim also includes items pulled up from lesser trims, such as the acoustic windshield, memory-linked side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down, heatable steering wheel, four-way powered front passenger’s seat, navigation system, navi-based compass, satellite and HD radio, front and rear parking sensors, heated outboard second-row seats, one-touch third-row access buttons, second-row sunshades, powered tailgate and more found in the EX-L Navi, plus the LED fog lamps, LED turn signals in the side mirror caps, roof rails, illuminated vanity mirrors, Homelink garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory, powered moonroof and more from the EX. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Say hello to the Pilot’s new 7.0-inch digital gauge display, standard across the line. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

One of my favourite new features is the 7.0-inch TFT multi-information display (MID) found in the mostly digital gauge cluster. The MID features nice bright, high-resolution colour graphics and easy operation via steering wheel-mounted controls, a highly functional system that helps to modernize the look of the interior. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The PIlot’s 8.0-inch touchscreen continues to be one of the nicest in the industry. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Pilot’s big 8.0-inch tablet-style touchscreen infotainment system is excellent too, and along with wonderfully colourful tile-like graphics that were obviously inspired by Apple products, includes standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with streaming audio, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and much more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
These are some seriously comfortable seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional standard Pilot features that are pulled up into Touring trim include remote start, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, a windshield wiper de-icer, a conversation mirror within sunglasses holder, tri-zone auto climate control, three-way heatable front seats, a 264-watt audio system with seven speakers including a subwoofer, the HondaLink Assist Automatic Emergency Response System, and more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Is this third row only for kids? Come back and read the review to find out. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, the 2019 Pilot receives the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance features as standard equipment, which adds auto high beams, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Road Departure Mitigation. This means that with the upgraded full LED cornering headlights from the Touring model the 2019 Pilot now earns a best-possible Top Safety Pick + rating from the IIHS (last year’s model didn’t achieve the + rating), while it also gets a 5 star safety rating from the NHTSA. 

I’ll have more to tell you in my upcoming road test review, so stay tuned for all the details including some negatives. And if you’re curious about the price, including rebate information and dealer invoice pricing, check out CarCostCanada for everything you need to know…