Which would you rather have, one of Chevy’s ultra-rugged off-road racing replica Colorado ZR2 pickup trucks with its standard V6 or with its optional diesel? We tested both, using just its default rear-drive…

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Chevy’s ultimate 4×4 pickup truck, the Colorado ZR2, looks great in blue… (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Which would you rather have, one of Chevy’s ultra-rugged off-road racing replica Colorado ZR2 pickup trucks with its standard V6 or with its optional diesel? We tested both, using just its default rear-drive 4×2 mode on pavement, across some fast-paced gravel roads in 4WD high, and lastly with its 4WD-low gear-set engaged in the dirt and sloshing through some thick winter mud with a bunch of hip-wader-high puddles thrown into the mix. 

The diesel-powered version was actually last year’s truck that we decided to cover in one review now that our V6 gasoline-fueled model arrived, allowing us to tell you about all the changes Chevy has made to this 4×4 beast as part of its 2019 model year changeover. Of course, this is a niche vehicle that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the updates affect the majority of Colorado and GMC Canyon models, so it won’t matter whether you’re choosing one of the General’s mid-size pickups for work or for play. 

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
…And superb in this cool grey-green hue, but the real question will be… (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with its off-road prowess the 2019 Colorado is better for everyday use too, thanks to a new larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen in all trims except for the base WT (Work Truck) that still does pretty well with a new 7.0-inch main display. The larger of the two boasts beautiful HD graphics and even an HD backup camera, which we’ll make sure to comment on in our upcoming road test review. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
…Which engine do you want under the hood? The stock 3.6L V6 with 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque… (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Our ZR2 tester even includes a wireless smartphone charger, this feature standard with Z71 trim and above, while all trims include a new smaller Type-C USB port next to the conventional USB-A connection. These are located on the front centre console, next to an auxiliary input jack and an available SD card reader. Additionally, a second microphone mounted closer to the front passenger improves Bluetooth hands-free voice quality, while we really like the ZR2’s heatable steering wheel rim, this now standard on all trims above the LT. 

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
…Or this $4k pricier Duramax Diesel with 181 hp and a best-in-class 369 lb-ft of torque? (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t bore you with all the ZR2’s comfort and convenience features, which are readily available on Chevy’s retail website or at CarCostCanada where I sourced all the 2019 Colorado’s pricing information including trims, packages and standalone options, not to mention money-saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing, but suffice to say it’s very well equipped for just $46,100 plus freight and fees, albeit more focused on off-road prowess than pampering one’s backside. 

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
The diesel gets a fancy badge on the side of the ZR2’s even fancier domed hood… (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Like the 2017 and 2018 Colorado ZR2, this new one gets a substantial boost in ride height and therefore ground clearance that’s up by 50 mm (2.0 inches), while any negatives to high-speed handling are offset by a 90-mm (3.5-inch) increase in front and rear track, new stiffer cast-iron lower front control arms, and special 8- by 17-inch alloy wheels cushioned by 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road rubber. Handling off the beaten path, particularly improving suspension articulation is a new 1.0-inch-diameter solid anti-roll bar replacing the usual 1.5-inch hollow one, while leaving the best for last are special Multimatic shocks designed for cushioning the otherwise jarring impacts of rocks, roots and other obstacles you might find along an ungraded back road or trail. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
…But both versions of this truck feature impressive body modifications and exclusive 17-inch alloys… (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Easier to see are skid plates below and tubular rocker extensions at each side, both designed to protect vulnerable components and bodywork, but the ZR2 is even more noticeable to passersby thanks to its all-business matte black grille and even beefier black hood dome that serve no purpose but looking good, rugged black bumpers that get chopped down a couple of notches to improve approach and departure angles, and muscular black fender flares that make way for those meaty tires just noted. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
…A 2-inch suspension lift and upgraded hardware including these rugged Multimatic shocks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Between the front wheel wells of this $495 optional Kinetic Blue Metallic painted truck is the standard 3.6-litre V6 that’s good for 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, the latter from 4,000 rpm, driving the rear axle or both via part-time four-wheel drive and an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination gets a claimed 15.0 L/100km city, 13.0 highway and 14.1 combined fuel economy rating, thanks in part to cylinder deactivation under light loads. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
…And look fabulous from all angles. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Deepwood Green Metallic coloured truck (it looks grey), the optional colour discontinued for 2019, mates GM’s wonderful 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder, good for 181 horsepower and a best-in-class 369 lb-ft of torque from just 2,000 rpm, to a less advanced yet still very capable and arguably more robust six-speed automatic gearbox, which come together for a much thriftier 12.5 L/100km city, 10.7 highway and 11.7 combined rating, which might not be enough fuel economy gains to justify its considerable $4,090 upgrade unless you happen to put a lot of distance between trade-ins, or require the diesel’s much improved efficiency to travel deeper into the woods than gasoline-powered truck owners dare tread. 

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Check the gallery for more photos, and make sure to come back for our full review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So how does this tall, dark (re lack of chrome) and (arguably) handsome cross between the no-trails-barred Jeep Gladiator and off-road race replica Ford F-150 Raptor drive around town, down the highway and into the wild green yonder? Again, we’ll give you a complete buildup and rundown in our upcoming road test review, plus more in-depth details about its Multimatic shocks, suspension upgrades, interior upgrades, etcetera. Until then, enjoy our sizeable photo gallery…

Lovers of big full-size four-door cars aught to be giving Toyota a collective slap on the back, not to mention anteing up for its completely redesigned 2019 Avalon luxury sedan.  That said they should…

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
The redesigned 2019 Toyota Avalon has taken on a much bolder new face, made sportier in base XSE trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Lovers of big full-size four-door cars aught to be giving Toyota a collective slap on the back, not to mention anteing up for its completely redesigned 2019 Avalon luxury sedan. 

That said they should also be lovers of off-the-charts mechanical aeration and otherwise eccentric styling cues front to back, because the new Avalon lays to rest any preconceived notions of conservatism initiated by the yawn-inducing 1995–1999 first-generation model, or for that matter the oddly proportioned yet still boring 2000–2004 version, the much improved yet nevertheless forgettable 2005–2012 third-gen car, and (IMHO) the quite elegant and therefore best-yet 2005–2012 fourth-generation model. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
The new Avalon gets completely new rear styling too, with a more dramatic taillight treatment and a sporty deck lid spoiler in XSE guise. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

While I opined against the oversized grille that visually weighed down the outgoing model, this new 2019 Avalon breaks the mould that previously cast the world’s largest engine vents, now staking claim on the ultimate gaping maw award, if there ever were such an accolade. My goodness what were they thinking? This design must be targeting a different market than North America, or possibly Toyota knows something about its aging Avalon demographic that we don’t, but boy-oh-boy this is one mind-bogglingly bizarre front fascia. At least it’s not boring, our tester’s base XSE trim line (a new designation for this model) making matters more unusual by substituting the top-line Limited model’s chrome for loads of glossy black detailing most everywhere that wasn’t tastefully painted in an earthy metallic dubbed Brownstone. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
The shy need not apply, due to one of the largest, most aggressive looking grilles in the auto industry. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The new Avalon’s previously elegant rear quarters have been radicalized too, from a design I could have easily called beautiful to one that’s been hit with the Prius stick. Ok, it’s not quite as whacky as the world’s best-selling hybrid, but it’s revolutionary to the eyes thanks to a multi-angled taillight cluster featuring a body-wide light bar at centre, this branded with “AVALON” block lettering in the middle. A tastefully small “XSE” badge lets passersby know you didn’t spend as much as Avalon Limited owners, or alternatively that you’re an Av buyer that likes your ride on the sportier side. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
These LED-enhanced headlights come standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Ok, you’ve got to know that last comment was made with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Despite the outgoing model being a decent handler, better even than some direct competitors, one of which is professed to be a “four-door sports car” yet when the road gets bumpy has trouble maintaining contact with pavement due to an overly rigid chassis, Avalon customers wouldn’t normally be associated with those seeking performance first and foremost. 

Fortunately, a byproduct inherent in the new 2019 Avalon is a much-improved chassis architecture shared with the equally improved Camry, albeit lengthened to the same proportions as the recently redesigned Lexus ES 350/300h, which is also a much better performer than its forebears. It’s a bit large and soft to be considered a sport sedan, but the Av can now credibly zig and zag alongside its comparative rival from Nissan, not to mention other full-size front-drivers like the Kia Cadenza, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, and Ford Taurus. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
The new Avalon provides plenty of swoopy curves, sharp angles, and duct-like orifices. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This said it’s no challenger to now premium mid-size models like the Genesis G80, a model that previously wore the Genesis nameplate under the Hyundai brand, while it’s also no match for a fully equipped Chrysler 300 or Dodge Charger, which are also the sales leaders in this class. 

This brings up what may be an interesting question: With sales of large sedans falling off the proverbial cliff, and various models within this segment being accordingly axed to make way for crossover SUV replacements, or so we’re told, why has Toyota, with some of the lowest sales in this class, chosen to completely redesign the Avalon? The answer may have little to do with the Av itself, and more to do with the aforementioned Lexus ES 350 it shares production space with. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
The base XSE gets these gorgeous 19-inch alloys, while the top-line Limited makes do with smaller 18s. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The ES is one of Lexus’ more popular cars with U.S. sales of 48,482 units last year and 1,808 sold over the same 12 months in Canada, which when added to 33,580 Avalons purchased south of the 49th and 626 bought here (the latter number representing year-over-year growth of 41.0 percent), combines for 84,496 units. While a reasonable argument can be made for keeping the ES within Lexus’ lineup, especially when considering it’s also sold elsewhere, but the Avalon hardly seems like a worthwhile venture. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
Here’s a closer look at the anything but subtle rear deck lid and taillight. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To put it in perspective, Ford just cancelled its full-size Taurus that found 40,341 U.S. and 2,812 Canadian buyers last year, a car that shares underpinnings with the Lincoln Continental that will also be discontinued despite 8,758 U.S. and 438 Canadian sales (which is nowhere near least popular in either market), while General Motors just announced the cancelation of its fraternally twinned Chevy Impala and Buick LaCrosse, the former growing its numbers by a shocking 26.8 percent to 3,903 units in Canada, thus beating the aforementioned Chrysler 300 to second place behind the Dodge Charger (LaCrosse sales were down 27.9 percent). The Impala was already in second in the U.S. with 56,557 deliveries in calendar year 2018, making it a much bigger seller than the Avalon, yet it’ll soon go the way of the dodo while Toyota’s large car entry soldiers on. Even the afterthought Buick sells stronger than the Avalon in Canada, managing 664 units last year, although its 15,527 U.S. total will mean that few will miss it south of the border. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
Does the new Avalon’s interior measure up to its near-premium peers? Come back for our full review to find out what we think. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other large mid-size models will soon be sent to the chopping block too, including Chevy’s Malibu (with 6,822 unit sales in 2018), Ford’s Fusion (with 6,350 units) and Lincoln’s MKZ (833 units) (somehow Buick’s Regal, that sold just 799 examples last year, was saved), whereas near full-size mainstream models that (like the Avalon) find fewer buyers, such as the Maxima that saw a sales decline of 38.6-percent for 1,357 units last year, or the Kia Cadenza that lost 33.1 percent for a near nonexistent 83 deliveries throughout all of 2018, are continuing on. It seems nonsensical to those on the outside of such decision-making boardrooms, but each automaker has its reasoning and, to make a short story long, the renewed Avalon will continue to exist in a market segment that’s saying goodbye to the Impala, LaCrosse and Taurus. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
The new Avalon’s interior design is tastefully eye-catching. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As it is the redesigned Avalon offers a lot to traditional mid-size sedan buyers that want to step up into a larger, more luxuriously appointed car. Upwardly mobile Camry buyers seem like the obvious target market, the larger Toyota measuring 100 millimetres (4.0 inches) more from nose to tail, with a 50-mm (2.0-in) longer wheelbase, while it’s also 10 mm (0.4 in) wider than the more affordable sedan, albeit fractionally lower by the same 10 mm (0.4 in) measure. 

This said the new 2019 Avalon is larger than the already sizeable outgoing version, its overall length having grown by 20 millimetres (0.8 inches) to 4,980 mm (196.0 in) and wheelbase by 50 mm (2.0 in) to 2,870 mm (113.0 in), while it’s now 15 mm (0.6 inches) wider at 1,850 mm (72.8 in), but following a trend is now 20 mm (0.8 inches) lower overall at just 1,440 mm (56.5 in), resulting in a leaner more athletic look. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
Could anything possibly be missing from this $40k-plus Avalon? Come back and we’ll tell you why were were a bit miffed. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The new Av backs up its sportier styling with more oomph under the hood, its massaged 3.5-litre V6 now outputting 10 more horsepower and 17 additional lb-ft of torque for 278 of the former and 265 of the latter, while in XSE trim this newfound performance is complemented by an “Engine Sound Generator” enhanced exhaust note that gets artificially amped up when Sport mode is switched on. What’s more, the entirely new eight-speed automatic transmission (not a CVT like one of the Avalon’s supposedly sportier competitors) that replaces the old six-speed unit even comes standard with (wait for it) paddle shifters. Yes, Toyota truly is trying to upset the mainstream volume-brand luxury car applecart, but it gets better still. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
The 7-inch colour TFT multi-info display comes standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Underpinning the new Avalon is an extended version of the stiffer, more agile chassis that improved the most recent Camry, and likewise makes the new Lexus ES 350/300h more enjoyable to live with, the XSE’s front struts and rear multi-link setup even sport tuned and matched up to one-inch larger 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/40 all-seasons, my tester’s produced by Continental. 

The Avalon smartly picks up where the Camry leaves off, the latter retailing for $41,090 plus freight and fees in top-tier XLE V6 trim and the base Avalon XSE starting at $42,790 (see all 2019 Avalon trims, packages and option pricing, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands at CarCostCanada), but don’t expect to get all of the fully loaded Camry’s features in base Avalon form. I won’t detail out my disappointments in this abbreviated garage preview, but will instead go over a few highlights starting with a standard gauge cluster featuring a 7.0-inch digital multi-information display wedged between two analogue dials, which intelligently doubles up route guidance instructions in this easier to view location when the navigation system is in play, amongst numerous other functions. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
The floating centre stack and 9-inch infotainment touchscreen is mostly impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Atop the redesigned centre stack is a large 9.0-inch touchscreen featuring Toyota’s Entune infotainment interface as standard equipment that, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, lets you connect to functions, music and info such as traffic conditions, fuel stations, weather forecasts, stocks and more via a variety of apps such as Scout GPS Link, Yelp, Slacker, NPR One and more through your smartphone. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
A new 8-speed auto? We’ll let you know how it performs in our upcoming road test review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

iPhone users will appreciate that Apple CarPlay also comes standard (but there’s no Android Auto), as does a wireless smartphone charger, SMS/text- and email-to-speech functions, advanced voice recognition, a 14-speaker 1,200-watt JBL surround sound audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, four USB charging ports, and more, while Entune Safety Connect provides automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance (SOS) button, and enhanced roadside assistance. 

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE
Is that ultrasuede on the leather seats? The Avalon is certainly sportier than it used to be. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Some other noteworthy standard features include LED headlamps, LED taillights, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, six-way powered front passenger’s seat, heatable front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, and dual-zone automatic climate control, while standard advanced driver assistance and safety systems include automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and more. 

As noted, I won’t mention any negatives in this garage preview, and of course I won’t be going into any detail about the new Avalon XSE’s driving characteristics, interior refinements, creature comforts, etcetera, so make sure to come back to find out why I had reason to grumble when climbing into my test model each and every morning during my cold January test week…

In our garage this week is the all-new 2019 Volvo S60 in its sportiest R-Design trim. It’s a critically important redesign arriving at a time when the majority of buyers are more interested in crossover…

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
The 2019 S60, shown here in R-Design T6 AWD trim, completes Volvo’s brand-wide transformation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

In our garage this week is the all-new 2019 Volvo S60 in its sportiest R-Design trim. It’s a critically important redesign arriving at a time when the majority of buyers are more interested in crossover SUVs, so should Volvo be worried? 

Time will tell if the Swedish brand manages to take back market share lost while waiting half a decade longer than usual for a redesign, but once again offering this four-door sedan along with sport wagon and more rugged crossover SUV-style tall-wagon variants will certainly help attract more buyers. 

Hot off the heels of three wonderful holiday weeks with the just noted 2019 V60 sport wagon, we eagerly dive right into this new-from-the-ground-up S60. Of course, you won’t find many of our opinions in this garage review, leaving such experiential talk for an upcoming road test review, but there’s certainly opportunity to share some background info as well as a bucketful of meaty info morsels that would-be buyers and otherwise interested parties should find useful. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
The new S60’s design is clean and uncluttered from front to back. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The first S60 arrived at the turn of the century for the 2001 model year, a great looking update to the more conservatively penned 1997–2000 S70 that took over from the even boxier 1992–1997 850, which followed the much more sharply cut 1985–1991 740/760/780, the now classic 1974–1985 200 Series, the more shapely 1968–1975 164 Series and 1966–1974 140 Series, the beautiful 1956–1970 120 and 130 Series, and finally the one the started them all, the truly classic 1943–1958 PV444/544 (excuse us if some of the dates aren’t 100-percent accurate). Ok, that was a lot more history than was needed, but it goes to show how far the tentacles of this model reach back into yesteryear, and how much historical significance Volvo brings to the automotive industry. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
The “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps come standard across the S60 line, while sporty R-Design trim includes gloss black detailing and a unique lower fascia, while our tester also featured optional 19-inch alloys. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Even more importantly, the new S60 is the final piece in Volvo’s rebranding puzzle for North American markets, unless they decide to bring us a revived V40 to go along with the similarly sized XC40 crossover SUV that was introduced last summer, or further expand their lineup with a reincarnated C30, S40, C70, S80, or who knows what? Volvo already offers Canada’s luxury market an impressively large lineup of models and therefore doesn’t likely need to water down its efforts by filling more niches, but we’re happy to see it continue with mainstay products like the S60 despite some market weakness amongst four-door sedans in recent years. 

As it is, this new third-generation S60 should cause today’s smaller group of premium car lovers to sit up and take notice, thanks to design details that have proven favourable to the majority of the Scandinavian automaker’s loyal owners as well as most auto industry critics when seen on other Volvo models. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
Distinctive C-shaped LED taillights help provide a unique look from behind. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

While once again uttering “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights might nauseate regular readers as much as the words delighted when Volvo first coined them for the then-new XC90 in 2014, they’re an integral part of the new S60’s frontal design, just like the mostly rectangular crested grille in between. Likewise, the C- or hook-shaped LED taillights provide an original look from its backside, the new S60 getting a similar set of rear lenses to those found on the larger S90 sedan. 

Speaking of larger, the compact (or mid-size, depending on market) D-segment S60 has (surprise, surprise) grown from the outgoing 2010–2018 iteration to this new 2019 model, its length now 133 mm (5.2 inches) longer at 4,761 mm (187.4 in) with a 96-mm (3.8-in) longer wheelbase of 2,872 mm (113.1 in), but unusually it’s now 15 mm (0.6 in) narrower at 1,850 mm (72.8 in), and sports a 53-mm (2.1-in) lower roofline than its predecessor. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
Volvo now provides one of the most luxurious interiors in the compact luxury D-segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, the longer wheelbase aids rear legroom, which some criticized as a shortcoming on the previous car, although the real reason for an elongated S60 probably comes down to the Chinese market and their love of limousine-like rear quarters. The outgoing S60 was already available in China as the long-wheelbase S60L (with a 79-mm/3.1-inch wheelbase stretch and 76 mm/3.0 inches more rear legroom) in order to cater to regional tastes (the Chinese-made model was also offered in the U.S. with Inscription trim). Competitive luxury brands provide long-wheelbase variants of their D-segment offerings in China too, but only Volvo has Chinese parentage (Geely) and will therefore probably sell more S60s in its second home market than in North America, or possibly even Europe, so they might as well make one elongated S60 to serve all. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
The optional Bowers & Wilkins audio system includes these beautiful metal speaker grilles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Speaking as one who resides in Richmond, BC, made up of 53-percent Chinese-descent Canadians that continue to enjoy most of the same personal and collective tastes originated in the Sinosphere, what works in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and the rest of China’s largest and wealthiest cities, not to mention those hailing from the “Special Administrative Region” of Hong Kong, will likely work here, or for that matter in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Richmond, Virginia, Richmond upon Thames, London, UK, etcetera (Richmond is the most common place name in the world, or so claims British author and toponymist Barclay Simpson who lives in the original Yorkshire, England town). 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
We’ll go into detail about the S60’s cabin as part of our full road test review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The S60 is far from common, however, and I’m not just commenting on how few you’ll find on the road compared to segment leaders like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4. Despite the second-generation S60’s length of tenure it’s still fared pretty well, but this new model should excite longtime fans of the model and may even cause some bored with things Swabian to contemplate a Swedish way of life. And by that we don’t mean simplistic minimalism, as has often been Scandinavian design dogma, but rather lavish luxury, this especially true in aforementioned over-the-top Inscription trim. 

Unlike the V60 we spent time in over the holidays, the new 2019 S60 is available in more trims due to an expectedly higher take-rate. The V60 could only be had as a base Momentum or top-line Inscription, but the S60 provides both of these grades as well as sportier R-Design and sportiest Polestar Engineered guises, the latter boasting the brand’s hybridized plug-in powertrain that ups performance to 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque via the same turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder as offered with T6 powered models. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
S60 R-Design and Inscription trims include a standard 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along that stream of thought, most S60 buyers will opt for T5 FWD or T6 AWD powertrains, the former, which is only available in Momentum trim, featuring the same 2.0-litre four without the supercharger for 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and as the three-letter acronym states drives the front wheels, while the latter, which is available with Momentum trim and comes standard with the R-Design and Inscription, makes a more soul-stirring 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and turns all four wheels. 

Both engines come standard with auto engine start/stop that helps to reduce emissions and fuel consumption by shutting the engine down when it would otherwise be idling, this aiding the base T5 FWD to achieve a claimed five-cycle rating of 10.2 L/100km in the city and 6.8 on the highway, while the new T6 AWD is good for an estimated 10.9 city and 7.7 highway, and plug-in T8 Polestar is rated at 9.1 city and 9.1 highway. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
The Bowers & Wilkins audio system also includes this cool metal-grilled centre dash speaker. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2019 S60 Momentum T5 FWD starts at $42,400 plus freight and fees, which is only $250 more than last year’s version despite its all-new design and upgraded everything, and comes standard with those aforementioned LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, metal door sill treadplates, rain-sensing wipers, an eight-inch driver display, Road Sign Information (RSI), a powered panoramic glass sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control with a Clean Zone Air Quality system and a humidity sensor, rear parking sensors, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice activation, two USB ports, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, Volvo On-Call with remote start and vehicle tracking, 170-watt 10-speaker audio, satellite radio, leatherette upholstery, power-adjustable heated front seats with two-way powered lumbar support and driver’s memory, a 120-volt household-style power outlet in the rear console, power-folding rear seat headrests, dual chromed tailpipes, and more. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
Does the award-winning Volvo Sensus infotainment touchscreen still measure up to new and improved competitors? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This being a Volvo means plenty of safety gear comes standard too, so therefore all 2019 S60 trims get City Safety automatic front collision warning with full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, plus Driver Alert Control, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, as well as all the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees, front seat whiplash protection, and pyrotechnical seatbelt pretensioners in all positions front to rear. 

Of special note, if sensing an imminent head-on collision the new oncoming braking system will automatically activate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. Volvo claims this feature reduces vehicle speed by 10 km/h ahead of an impact, which could potentially be a lifesaver and certainly help to minimize life-altering injury. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
How’s that for an overhead parking monitor? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, all of the above are included with our $52,400 R-Design tester too, as is a unique R-Design front grille, full LED headlamps with auto high beams and active bending, fog lamps with active bending, high-gloss black exterior trim including the side mirror caps, door handle puddle lamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, a lowered sport suspension with firmer shock absorbers, proximity-sensing keyless access, special R-Design metal sill mouldings, R-Design carpeted floor mats, a three-spoke R-design leather-wrapped steering wheel, R-Design metal pedals, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, paddle shifters for the eight-speed automatic gearbox, driver selectable low, medium and high personal power steering settings, Comfort, Eco or Dynamic adjustable drive mode settings, four-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, navigation, Metal Mesh decor inlays, a black headliner, Fine Nappa leather upholstery with contrast stitching, six-way powered front contoured sport seats with four-way powered lumbar support, and two-way memory, a power extendable lower cushion for the driver, and more. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
The S60’s 8-speed automatic’s shift lever is totally conventional, which will be welcomed by those who find some of today’s electronic gear selector’s overly complicated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new S60 sits atop the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) chassis architecture that underpins the larger S90 luxury sedan and everything else in today’s Volvo lineup other than the compact XC40 crossover that utilizes the brand’s new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform. SPA and the Volvo models built upon it have been widely praised by auto scribes like us, as well as Volvo customers. 

The S60’s chassis is comprised of aluminum double wishbones up front and an exclusive integral link rear suspension design featuring a transverse lightweight composite leaf spring, Volvo promising both a comfortable ride and sporty handling from this fully independent setup that we’ll report on in our upcoming review. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
Some of Volvo’s switchgear, like the rotating ignition controller (right) and scrolling drive mode selector (left), look like bright metal jewellery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Our tester looks good in its $900 optional Fusion Red Metallic paintwork, one of five optional colours plus no-cost standard Black Stone, while the R-Design’s interior is Charcoal black. Those choosing base Momentum trim can allow for seven exterior colours and a variety of interior motifs, while Inscription buyers get the choice of eight colours albeit fewer cabin combinations, but the Momentum’s upgradable upholsteries are no-cost options in the Inscription. 

Our R-Design tester also features a set of $1,000 19-inch alloy wheels, while available individual options include a $1,150 graphical head-up display unit and a $3,750 15-speaker, 1,100-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system, both of which are included as well. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
S60 R-Design T6 AWD trim includes these heavily sculpted, multi-adjustable sport seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also included is a $1,250 Climate Package that includes heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s advanced Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror; and an $1,800 Vision Package with a 360-degree surround parking camera, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, front parking sensors, auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. 

By the way, the $53,900 S60 Inscription includes most of the features found in the slightly less expensive R-Design trim, other than sportier items such as the suspension upgrade, metal pedals and paddle shifters, while swapping out the special R-Design grille for a chromed waterfall design and gloss black window trim from chrome on the outside and the Metal Mesh Decor inlays for beautiful matte Driftwood Decor inside, plus adding unique 10-spoke 18-inch alloys, a tailored instrument panel with stitched soft-touch detailing, perforated Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, and more. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design T6 AWD
Roomy enough in back? Return soon to check out our full road test review and we’ll let you know what we think. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And incidentally, all 2019 Volvo S60 pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new vehicle sold in Canada too, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

Of course, in our upcoming road test review we’ll go into detail about how the majority of these features work as well as the S60 R-Design’s driving dynamics, plus the usual commentary on the quality of materials inside, fit and finish, etcetera. Make sure to come back soon for all the details…

I don’t have the statistics outside of the auto industry to back it up, but I’m pretty sure Canadians are less brand sensitive than Americans.  Take Kia, a brand that celebrated its 74th birthday…

2019 Kia Sorento SXL

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Kia Sorento gets a subtle yet handsome refresh for 2019, which should help it find even more value-driven Canadian buyers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I don’t have the statistics outside of the auto industry to back it up, but I’m pretty sure Canadians are less brand sensitive than Americans. 

Take Kia, a brand that celebrated its 74th birthday in December of 2018 yet has only been part of the Canadian automotive landscape since 1999, and the U.S. market since 1994. Yet despite a five-year advantage south of the 49th, and having invested in research and design centres in Ann Arbor, Michigan, California City and Irvine, California, plus a assembly plant in West Point, Georgia where the very Sorento that’s now in our garage has been produced alongside the Optima mid-size sedan, and the Hyundai Santa Fe, since 2010, the just noted made-in-America SUV ranked a mere 10th in popularity amongst U.S.-market mid-size SUVs at the close of 2018, compared to fourth place here in Canada as of Q3 2018. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Styling updates include new front grille and fascia designs, some trim changes down each side, plus new LED taillights and a reworked rear bumper. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

What’s more, the Sorento is second most popular amongst SUVs that can seat seven, second amongst import brands (the other being the aforementioned Santa Fe that rides on the same platform architecture, which means it sells better than every Japanese nameplate), and first amongst three-row imports. Canadians roughly bought 60 percent more Sorentos in Canada per capita, and where the Santa Fe is number one here it sits ninth there. Similar stories can be found with other models in this category, which all go to corroborate my theory that Canadians are less brand-motivated than Americans, and appear to be driven more by quality and value. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Here’s a closer look at the rounded grille, top-line LED headlights, redesigned fog lamps and nice new front valance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Feel free to assume this has something to do with a collective integrity-based ethos or some other positive attribute naturally bestowed upon Canadians, but it likely has more to do with being overtaxed at all levels of government, the latter which are even run more poorly than those in the U.S., especially with respect to fiscal management, leaving us with much less spending power than our friends to the south. More expendable income means they have the luxury of wasting some on higher priced brands, where in contrast we Canadians need to make sure our more highly depreciated dollars are spent as wisely as possible. Enter the Kia Sorento. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
These dynamic directionally-adaptive LED headlamps look great at night. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you think by this intro the Sorento somehow offers less luxury than its contemporaries, let me set the record straight. Since 2002, when the first Sorento hit the market, it’s been a driving force behind mainstream volume-branded crossover SUV improvement. This could be said for most every Kia, but it’s especially true in this priciest category, which allows all participants to dress up their entries near premium levels in top-line trims. 

It just so happens the 2019 Sorento sitting in our driveway this week is outfitted in top-tier SXL trim, meaning that it not only comes with soft-touch surfacing in all the expected places, but boasts fabric-wrapped roof pillars from front to back. Such refinements are normally kept privy to the luxury class, but Kia breaks the rules in this respect and others in order to pamper Sorento occupants to a greater degree. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Believe it or not, Kia toned the LED fog lamps down a notch, although they added more chrome. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This being an “In Our Garage” story, any detail about comfort, quality and usability will be left for a full road test review, but suffice to say the Sorento still measures up to some of its newest mid-size SUV challengers despite hardly being the freshest entry in its class, this third-generation Sorento introduced to North Americans at the beginning of 2015 as a 2016 model, making it five calendar years and four model years into its run. That it receives a subtle facelift this year makes us believe this current generation will be around for another year or two before a complete redesign arrives.  

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
These 19-inch chrome alloy wheels are exclusive to the top line Sorento SXL. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The changes include some styling tweaks to the grille, hood, headlights and rest of the front fascia, plus the taillights, rear bumper and of course its various wheels, while inside it gets a new steering wheel, reworked gauge cluster, updates to the centre stack and infotainment system, the latter now including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, new optional wireless smartphone charging, plus more, while newly available advanced driver assistance system features now include lane keeping assist and driver attention warning. 

The lower console appears carryover as does its shift lever, but just below is an all-new eight-speed automatic in upgraded 3.3-litre V6 equipped Sorentos, this engine/transmission combination available in base LX and mid-grade EX trims, or standard with the EX Premium, SX and as-tested SXL. The base 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and its six-speed automatic remain unchanged, but take note that last year’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder has been dropped, as has Kia’s promise to provide a diesel, the latter following a trend away from oil burners and toward plug-in hybrid electric or full EVs for alternative powertrains, and the former going against current trends that sees smaller displacement turbocharged engines replacing V6 power. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
These LED taillights get pulled up to SXL trim from the EX Premium model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In fact, the all-new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe, which rides on a new architecture the next-gen Sorento will eventually adopt, uses the same 2.4-litre four-cylinder base engine, making an identical 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, and sporting the same 3.3-litre V6 with 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque in its larger three-row Santa Fe XL model, but the latter SUV hasn’t changed one iota from the previous generation, even keeping its comparatively archaic six-speed autobox, so it’s old tech in an old model. The 2.0-litre turbo is the top-line engine in the five-passenger Santa Fe, and interestingly makes 5 fewer horsepower than in last year’s Sorento at 235, yet identical torque at 260 lb-ft. The elimination of Kia’s 2.0-litre turbo is therefore a strange move, but a move up to a more efficient eight-speed automatic for the optional V6 is certainly welcome. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Is the Sorento’s cabin as impressive as some pundits say? Come back for our road test review to find out what we think. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No doubt Sorento buyers helped make the choice for Kia, being that the V6 provides plentiful power and doesn’t overly tax fuel economy with a new claimed rating of 12.5 L/100km in the city, 9.7 on the highway and 11.2 combined, which compares reasonably well to last year’s V6/AWD Sorento in city yet oddly loses ground on the highway, which makes a personal ask exactly what Kia used the new eight-speed’s two final gears for? The outgoing Sorento V6/AWD managed 13.2 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 11.4 combined, incidentally. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento SXL certainly looks the part of a luxury SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In case you were wondering how well the old 2.0-litre turbo did in comparison, it managed an estimated 12.3 city, 9.4 highway and 11.0 combined, whereas that engine mated up to an eight-speed auto in the new 2019 Santa Fe is good for 12.3, 9.8 and 11.2 respectively—yes, go figure. 

How about the base 2.4? With its base FWD driveline (that few will buy) it manages 10.7 city, 8.2 highway and 9.5 combined, which despite no changes represents a massive improvement to city mileage over last year’s Sorento with the same powertrain that could only muster 11.2 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.9 combined—it must come down to modifications to gear ratios—while the 2019 Sorento with its 2.4 AWD combination is claimed to be good for 11.2 city, 9.0 highway and 10.2 combined now, compared to 11.5, 9.3 and 10.5 last year. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento gets new primary gauge packages for 2019, our tester’s sporting the upgraded Supervision LCD/TFT cluster found in EX trims and above. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted, most won’t choose front-wheel drive in Canada despite few needing it on the urban West Coast and most FWD sales occurring in snowbound Quebec, this latter choice reportedly due to Quebecois family budgetary challenges, that really shouldn’t be as tight due to free daycare services, but nothing much makes sense in Canada these days. For the rest of Canadians, as mentioned before, AWD comes standard on trims above the base LX and mid-range EX. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento’s centre stack has been refitted with a new and improved infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As tempting as it would be to rattle off every standard and optional feature available to 2019 Sorento buyers, because it would clearly show the model’s value proposition over comparatively sized competitors that are all priced higher, a shorter list of unusually impressive features would tax minds and memories less, so for starters the base LX comes standard at just $27,995 (an identical MSRP to last year) with 17-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off projector headlamps, chromed door handles, a leather-wrapped multifunction heatable steering wheel, Drive Mode Select with default Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart settings, three-way heated front seats, a 7.0-inch infotainment display with aforementioned Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a backup camera, six-speaker audio, and more. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
This split-screen rearview and overhead parking monitor comes in SXL trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Adding AWD to the base LX increases the price by $2,300 to $30,295 yet also provides roof rails, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition and a wireless phone charger, while the same trim with the V6 and AWD increases the base price by $4,500 to $34,795 and increases content to include fog lamps, a sound-reducing windshield, turn signals integrated within the side mirror caps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control with auto-defog, UVO Intelligence connected car services, satellite radio, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, a third row for seven-occupant seating, trailer pre-wiring, and more. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
A new in-house built 8-speed automatic transmission is connected to this leather-wrapped shift lever. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For $2,300 less than the LX V6 AWD and $2,200 more than the LX AWD, four-cylinder-powered $32,495 EX 2.4L trim includes the just noted fog lamps, powered driver’s seat, and seven-passenger capacity of the six-cylinder model while adding a glossy grille insert and leather upholstery, whereas the $38,365 EX with the V6 and AWD builds on the both the LX V6 AWD and EX 2.4 with 18-inch machined-finish alloy wheels, an upgraded Supervision LCD/TFT instrument cluster, express up/down powered windows with obstacle detection all-round, a household-style 110-volt power inverter, and blindspot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, while EX Premium trim starts $2,500 higher at $40,865, yet adds such luxuries as front and rear parking sensors, power-folding side mirrors, LED interior lighting, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, a panoramic glass sunroof, rear door sunshades, a powered liftgate with smart access. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
These seats look comfortable enough, but you’ll need to come back for our road test review to find out how they measure up. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those wanting to step up to a true luxury experience that rivals some premium brands can opt for the Sorento SX that, for $4,000 more than the EX Premium at $44,865, provides most everything already mentioned plus 19-inch alloys, a chrome grille, stainless steel skid plates front and back, a stainless steel exhaust tip, chromed roof rails, dynamic directionally-adaptive full LED headlights, upgraded LED fog lamps, bar type LED taillights, sound-reducing front side glass, illuminated stainless steel front door scuff plates, perforated premium leather upholstery, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, 10-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio, ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and more. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
This massive dual-pane powered panoramic glass sunroof comes standard with EX trim and above. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, the Sorento SXL in our garage adds another $4,000 for an asking price of $48,865 before freight and fees, which incidentally is still quite a bit less than most fully loaded rivals, some of which don’t even offer the level of high-grade equipment included in the previous trim, but this SXL grade adds unique 19-inch chrome alloy wheels, softer Nappa leather upholstery, chrome side sill accents, an electromechanical parking brake, a 360-degree surround parking camera, and a host of advanced driver assist systems such as high beam assist headlights, adaptive cruise control, forward collision-avoidance assist, plus aforementioned lane keeping assist and driver attention alert. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
You can be sure we’ll climb back here and take measurements so you’ll know how much space the Sorento has in its third row. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For all trims, options packages, standalone upgrades, available colours and more, plus otherwise difficult to find rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, visit CarCostCanada now. 

And remember to come back soon for our upcoming road test review where you’ll find out how all of these advanced electronics, luxury features and three rows of SUV spaciousness come together in one cohesive whole, or don’t, not to mention how the new eight-speed automatic transmission affects the performance of the V6, if there are any improvements in ride quality and/or handling, plus more, while we’ll also provide a larger more comprehensive photo gallery so you can see additional 2019 Sorento SXL details. Until then, enjoy all the photos provided above…

So much has changed within North America’s small car categories over the past couple of years, with all three domestic automakers giving up on conventionally powered subcompact and compact sedans and…

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Kia consistently punches way above its weight class, with this redesigned 2019 Forte appearing to follow suit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So much has changed within North America’s small car categories over the past couple of years, with all three domestic automakers giving up on conventionally powered subcompact and compact sedans and hatchbacks altogether, leaving Japanese, Korean and German carmakers to fight over the still sizeable scraps. 

Kia and its parent Hyundai collectively own the subcompact segment with their Rio and Accent selling 19,371 units in 2017, and Seoul only narrowly missed out beating Honda in the larger compact segment. Last year the two Korean brands managed 67,145 compact units to Honda’s 69,030, and while the spread widened during the first nine months of 2018 with Kia and Hyundai managing just 47,978 Forte, Rondo, Elantra, Veloster and Ionic deliveries to Honda’s 56,206 Civics and Insights, the latter number lower than expected because of flooding at the Japanese brand’s Celaya, Mexico Insight plant, they’re still much further ahead than the rest of the pack. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Clean, understated styling and nice attention to detail make the Forte look like it’s made by a pricier premium brand. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The third-place Corolla (Family) sedan and Hatchback found 50,332 buyers last year and 37,900 so far this year, but Toyota’s compact numbers don’t add up fairly due to the way the automaker combines all Prius sub-brand sales numbers (made up of the subcompact Prius C, compact Prius and Prius Prime plug-in, plus the mid-size Prius V) into one Prius Family, and while it’s safe to say the regular Prius makes up the majority of the three models’ 7,977 collective sales last year and 7,241 so far this year, we can’t be sure. Then again, even if we lumped all Prius sales with all Corolla sales it would still only total 58,309 in calendar year 2017 and 45,141 as of Q3 2018, which remains behind Hyundai/Kia. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
The updated Forte gets a new take on Kia’s trademark grille design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, it took VW four models and multiple body styles to achieve 43,469 sales in 2017 and 30,053 as of Q3 2018; it took Chevrolet two models to manage 31,833 deliveries last year and 25,468 over the first nine months of 2018 (the Cruze and Volt to be discontinued as noted); Mazda beat Cruze sales with 27,862 Mazda3s in 2017 yet fell slightly behind with 21,164 through to the third quarter of 2018 (when including the Mazda5 mini-minivan the Japanese brand’s compact sales rose to 30,086 units in 2017 and 21,794 over nine months of 2018); Subaru’s compact sales dipped slightly to 15,233 Impreza/WRX/STI models last year, but were on a tear as of Q3 2018 with 14,359 already sold (Impreza sales having already surpassed 2017 totals); likewise, Nissan’s Sentra and Leaf were lower at 14,829 units in 2017 yet already at 14,540 after nine months of 2018; Ford’s 11,937 Focus sales last year and 8,230 as of Q3 2018 show why it’s a good idea to update your models more often (with the similarly cancelled C-Max those numbers grew to 13,351 and 8,436 units respectively); Mitsubishi’s 5,754 Lancer deliveries through 2017 and 2,012 over three quarters of 2018 make their survival through the next recession seem challenging at best; and just in case you were wondering what happened to the Dodge Dart, FCA delivered a measly 533 through 2017 and a grand total of 4 so far this year (no doubt the final four). 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Unique LED headlamps, LED DRLs, and LED positioning lights come standard with EX trim and above. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for the split of Forte and Elantra sales, as you may have guessed the parent brand sold many more of the latter with 46,112 rolling off the showroom floor in 2017 and 33,456 over the first nine months of 2018, while the Forte’s numbers were 16,388 and 10,823 respectively, and while this looks as if Kia is lagging behind its rivals take note that it was only narrowly beaten by the aforementioned Subaru Impreza while managing to edge out the Nissan Sentra and Volkswagen Jetta, two big players in other markets. The Forte also handily outsold the Focus, the Prius Family, and plenty of other models that were mostly mentioned already. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Some of the Forte’s styling details seem inspired by Audi, which makes sense considering their chief designer, Peter Schreyer, once hailed from the German brand. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even more importantly, where most others in this class are losing ground the Forte saw its strongest sales ever last year, with a 33.3 percent gain over 2016, and is on target for a better than average 12 months this year. The only other compact to show sizeable growth from calendar year 2016 through 2017 was the VW Golf, with sales up 15.9 percent, while the Honda Civic saw a 6.9 percent gain, Toyota Corolla Family sales increased by 4.4 percent, the Chevy Cruze grew its numbers by 2.6 percent (only because it lost 16 percent from 2015 to 2016), and the Mazda3 nudged itself upwards by 0.6 percent. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
These sporty 17-inch machined-finish alloys are featured on EX+ and as-tested EX Limited trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Why all the Kia Forte sales growth? With every new generation the Forte becomes notably better, even so much that it passes right by most of its peers in styling, interior fit, finish and materials quality, standard and optional features, and drivability. This entirely new from the ground up third-generation 2019 Forte is the best it’s ever been, with styling that manages to conjure thoughts of sophisticated European machinery (much thanks to its mostly European-staffed design department), a much-improved cabin with new digital interfaces, plenty of normally pricey standard features and Kia’s usual unbeatable assortment of options, plus a fresh new transmission. 

The sole 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine remains a carryover of last year’s base mill, which is still good for 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, and while a six-speed manual gearbox can still be found in the entry-level LX, that trim now gets the option of a Hyundai/Kia-developed continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead of last year’s six-speed automatic—the CVT standard with all other trims. I’ll report on its performance and refinement in my upcoming road test review, plus I’ll talk about ride quality, handling, and everything else normally covered. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
LED taillights with an eye-catching inner design get added for EX+ and EX Limited trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The CVT is a $2,500 upgrade over the base six-speed manual, moving the price up from $16,495 to $18,995 plus freight and fees (make sure to check out complete 2019 Kia Forte pricing of all trim levels, packages and options at CarCostCanada, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands), but along with automatic operation you also get standard Drive Mode Select with default, Eco, Sport and Smart driving modes, plus some advanced driver assistance systems including Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), and Driver Attention Alert (DAA), while both LX models also include auto on/off projector headlamps, splash guards, body-colour mirror caps and door handles, heated side mirrors, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped shift knob, air conditioning, a new fixed tablet-style 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, USB audio input and charging ports, AM/FM/MP3 radio, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio steaming, cruise control, Hill-Assist Control (HAC) plus all the expected active and passive safety features. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
EX Limited trim adds a new level of luxury to the Forte, and the entire mainstream volume-branded compact segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you want 16-inch machined-finish alloys instead of 15-inch steel wheels with covers you’ll need to upgrade to $20,995 EX trim, which also includes LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED positioning lights, turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, a gloss black grille with chrome accents, chrome window trim, aeroblade wipers, a chrome exhaust tip, satin chrome interior door handles, a supervision LCD/TFT primary instrument cluster, a wireless device charger, rear climate ventilation, a rear centre armrest, tire pressure monitoring, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
EX Limited trim includes cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a larger infotainment touchscreen with navigation, and Harman/Kardon audio. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The move up to $22,495 EX+ trim adds a 17-inch machined-finish alloy wheels, LED taillights, LED interior lighting, and a powered moonroof, whereas $25,065 EX Premium trim also includes High Beam Assist (HBA) for the aforementioned LED headlights, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, adaptive cruise control, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, SOFINO synthetic leather upholstery, satellite radio, UVO Intelligence connected car services, a Smart release trunk that automatically opens when you’ve been standing behind it for three seconds with the key fob in your pocket or purse, Advanced Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), and more. 

Lastly, my $28,065 EX Limited tester came with everything already mentioned as well as ventilated front seats, heatable outboard rear seats, an upgraded multimedia infotainment interface with integrated navigation, and Harman/Kardon premium audio.

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
EX trim includes this supervision LCD/TFT primary instrument cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, I’ll go on at length about the capability of this sound system, the upgraded infotainment system and all other features in my future review, plus along with my road test notes I’ll be filling you in on achieved fuel economy, the new CVT helping the upgraded Forte achieve a better rating of 7.7 L/100km city and 5.9 highway compared to 8.0 and 6.1 respectively. Kia must have rejigged the manual too, because its claimed rating is now 8.6 city and 6.4 highway compared to 9.4 and 6.8, but that’s not the real oddity at play here. 

2019 Kia Forte EX Limited
Come back soon for the road test review and we’ll tell you how the new 2019 Forte drives and much more… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Strangely, the 2.0-litre four that’s pulled forward from last year’s car is actually the lesser of two powertrains available in 2018, the more advanced direct-injected optional engine capable of 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. This may be due to a late arrival option set to arrive along with a redesigned Forte5, the model’s five-door hatchback variant still suited up in its previous design and being sold as a 2018. The Forte5 currently uses the upgraded engine for its base powerplant, while offering a turbocharged 1.6-litre four making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque in a performance SX trim. 

While we’re looking forward to driving either of these hatchback variants when redesigned, we’ve already got a lot to say about the 2019 Forte sedan. Join us here soon for the full review and we won’t hold back…

Hey wagon lovers! Take a look in our garage this week. This is the entirely new-from-the-ground-up 2019 Volvo V60 in top-line Inscription T6 AWD trim, which means that it looks fabulous, comes filled…

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Volvo has completely redesigned its V60 sport wagon for 2019, making it one of the brand’s best looking wagons ever. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Hey wagon lovers! Take a look in our garage this week. This is the entirely new-from-the-ground-up 2019 Volvo V60 in top-line Inscription T6 AWD trim, which means that it looks fabulous, comes filled with all of Volvo’s latest non-plug-in tech, and is one luxurious family hauler. 

It’s also really roomy. In fact, we think the new V60 is targeting previous V70 customers just as much as those who loved the outgoing V60, thanks to a substantive 124-mm (4.9-inch) greater length overall, plus a 9.6-mm (3.8-inch) longer wheelbase that results in the most spacious rear seating area in the luxury D-segment. The new model is 51 mm (2.0 inches) lower than its predecessor too, which adds to its long, sleek visual stance, but nevertheless it provides ample headroom and legroom for a six-foot passenger behind a six-foot driver, or so reports claim, while the new V60 also boasts 20 percent more cargo room than the outgoing car. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The V60’s sharp new styling might have some S60 sedan fans contemplating life with a wagon. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new V60 sits atop the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) chassis architecture that underpins the larger V90 sport wagon, not to mention everything else in today’s Volvo lineup other than the compact XC40 crossover that utilizes the brand’s new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, which incidentally will support a new 40 series line of cars in the near future. SPA and the models built upon it have been widely praised by auto critics like us and Volvo customers alike, while sales of new Volvo products have been skyrocketing since the brand’s transformation that started with the second-generation XC90 SUV back in 2015. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
The V60 boasts a new take on Volvo’s crested grilled design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We’re not expecting this V60 sport wagon to sell anywhere near as well as that XC90 mid-size SUV or the more recently introduced XC60 compact crossover SUV, or for that matter the new V60 Cross Country that adds a little more off-road flair via the way of a raised suspension and rugged looking matte black body cladding, but the regular V60 should provide more road-hugging handling prowess, which we’ll report on later in our upcoming road test review. Big sales or not, the V60 supplies a major dose of Volvo DNA to the entire brand. 

After all, Volvo has had a wagon in its lineup longer than most people can remember, and now that the larger V90 has been slated for cancellation in Canada (it was only ever available via special order in the U.S.), availability of this V60 is critical for keeping up the Swedish brand’s pragmatic image. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Of course, Volvo’s trademark “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Pragmatic yes, but sitting down inside replaces any such practical thoughts with feelings of pampering hedonism, being that the 2019 V60 continues Volvo’s new brand ethos of providing more luxury than any rival. We won’t tell you all of our experiences yet because we’ve only taken delivery of the car and haven’t even written our notes down, but being that it looks much like everything else from the Swedish carmaker we’re expecting to find more soft-touch surfaces, satin-silver trim, jewellery-like detailing, and genuine hardwood inlays than rivals from Germany, Japan or the U.S., while Volvo’s electronic interfaces are some of the best in the business, from its standard 8.0-inch digital driver display within the gauge cluster to the optional 12.3-inch version of those same primary instruments, not to mention its standard 9.0-inch tablet-style Sensus centre-stack touchscreen. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Top-line Inscription trim gets its own set of 19-inch alloy wheels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Volvo’s Sensus touchscreen has become our go-to example of how to do infotainment systems correctly, thanks to incorporating one of the most user-friendly and feature-filled interfaces in the auto industry. The new V60’s boasts 50 percent faster processing speeds than previous iterations used in other models resulting in quicker startup, faster response from the backup camera, much improved voice activation, and speedier navigation route calculation. The standard backup camera includes dynamic guidelines and graphics for the standard rear parking sensors, while other standard functions include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, a 10-speaker 330-watt audio system, satellite radio, a four-year subscription to Volvo On-Call that features remote start and vehicle tracking, and lastly two standard USB charging ports. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
This powered panoramic sunroof even comes in base Momentum trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The base 2019 V60 Momentum T5 FWD starts at just $43,900 plus freight and fees, which is only $50 above than last year’s base V60 despite its all-new design and upgraded everything, including those aforementioned “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps. Additional standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, metal door sill treadplates, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control with a Clean Zone Air Quality system and a humidity sensor, unique Iron Ore decor inlays, Moritz leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated front seats with two-way powered lumbar support and driver’s memory, a 120-volt household-style power outlet in the rear console, a powered liftgate, power-folding rear seat headrests, power-folding rear seatbacks with controls in the cargo compartment, a semi-automatic cargo cover that conveniently slides up and out of the way when opening the tailgate, a metal cargo scuff plate, black integrated roof rails, dual chromed tailpipes, and more. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
These L-shaped LED taillights really help the V60 stand apart from anything else on the road. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This being a Volvo means plenty of safety gear comes standard too, so therefore all 2019 V60 trims get City Safety automatic front collision warning with full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, plus Driver Alert Control, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, as well as all the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees, front seat whiplash protection, and pyrotechnical seatbelt pretensioners in all positions front to rear. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Step inside an Inscription trimmed V60 and you’ll be entering one of the most luxuriously appointed cars in the luxury D-segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of special note, the 2019 V60 introduces a new Oncoming Braking system to the entire Volvo lineup, which if sensing an imminent head-on collision will automatically actuate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. This is said to reduce vehicle speed by 10 km/h ahead of an impact, which could potentially be a lifesaver and certainly help to minimize life-altering injury. 

Momentum trim is available with the choice of two powertrains, the first being the T5 FWD that consists of Volvo’s well-proven 2.0-litre direct-injected and turbocharged engine, good for 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and the second the T6 AWD that costs an additional $4,000 for a total of $48,900 yet adds a supercharger to the turbocharged four-cylinder resulting in 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The former allows for a zero to 100km/h sprint of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph), whereas the latter cuts standstill acceleration runs down to 5.7 seconds and ups maximum velocity to 249 km/h (155 mph). 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Performance is important, but comfort is king in the new V60. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Both use a quick-shifting and highly efficient eight-speed “Geartronic” automatic transmission with manual mode to transfer power to the drive wheels. The new V60 can also be had with available Drive Mode Select that includes Comfort, Eco, Dynamic sport, and Individual driving modes, while fuel-saving and emissions-reducing automatic start/stop, that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, comes standard. The V60’s official Transport Canada fuel economy rating are 10.2 L/100km in the city, 6.8 on the highway and 8.7 combined for the T5 FWD, or 10.9 city, 7.7 highway and 9.5 with the T6 AWD, which puts it right in the hunt for top efficiency within the ultra-narrow niche known as the compact luxury D-segment wagon category. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Check out the navigation system’s 3D-building graphics found within the gauge cluster’s multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To be clear, the V60 is only up against the BMW 3 Series Touring, the least efficient 2018 model of which bested the most economical V60 by a very slight margin, while turbo-diesel and plug-in hybrid variants were even thriftier, for a price (most expect the 2019 3 Series to be even more of a fuel miser, although they haven’t shown a Touring version yet), whereas the all-new 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Wagon only comes with one engine and driveline so far with no fuel economy specifics yet announced. 

The V60’s Dynamic Chassis is comprised of aluminum double wishbones up front and an exclusive integral link rear suspension design featuring a transverse lightweight composite leaf spring, Volvo promising both a comfortable ride and sporty handling from this fully independent setup that we’ll report on in our upcoming review. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Volvo’s tablet-style infotainment touchscreen is one of the best in the business. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Being a niche model within a shrinking non-crossover/SUV category there aren’t any adaptive suspension options, but those choosing base Momentum trim can swap out the standard Charcoal (black) or Blond (beige) leather upholstery with sharp looking $400 City Weave plaid textile inserts in either colour, while standard Black Stone or Ice White exterior paints can be upgraded to one of nine $900 metallic finishes. Additionally, a set of $1,000 18-inch five Y-spoke diamond cut alloy wheels can be added too, while individual options include a $250 Charcoal headliner, $1,150 graphical head-up display unit, and $1,200 14-speaker, 600-watt Harmon/Kardon audio system. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Those are matte finished hardwood scrolling lids next to the 8-speed automatic’s shift lever. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Momentum buyers can also add a $1,250 Climate Package that includes heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s advanced Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror; an $1,800 Vision Package with a 360-degree surround parking camera, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, front parking sensors, auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert; and lastly a $3,400 Momentum Plus Package incorporating dynamic cornering headlamps, headlight washers, fog lamps, proximity-sensing keyless access with a hands-free tailgate function that lets you open the liftgate by waving a foot below the rear bumper, the aforementioned 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, Drive Mode Select, four-zone automatic climate control, navigation (that lets the cruise control access map data for adjusting vehicle speed through corners when appropriate), Road Sign Information, and more. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Twist this bit of eye-catching jewelry and V60’s advanced engine comes to life. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you opt for the T6 AWD, all of the same standalone options and packages remain, except for wheels that start with a unique set of open-spoke 18-inch alloys as standard equipment and can be upgradable to a set of $1,000 19-inch alloys, while special Amber caramel brown leather becomes an interior option. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Just how comfortable are the V60’s front seats? Come back for the full review to find out… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving up to $55,400 Inscription trim adds the T6 AWD powertrain as standard equipment, plus a unique chromed waterfall grille, bright metal integrated roof rails, unique 10-spoke 18-inch diamond cut alloy wheels, fog lamps, cornering headlights, a special leather-wrapped and metal edged Inscription key fob, low, medium or high steering assistance via Power Steering Personal Settings, Driftwood decor inlays, the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, perforated Nappa leather upholstery, four-way powered lumbar support, ventilated front seats, and more. 

Option out a V60 Inscription T6 AWD and you can have special $1,000 19-inch multi-spoke alloys, the aforementioned Charcoal headliner and graphical head-up display, as well as a $3,750 19-speaker 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade, and $1,300 massaging front seats. The Momentum Plus Package is no longer offered due to most of it being standard in Inscription trim, but the three remaining Climate, Convenience and Vision packages are still available. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Here’s another view of that expansive glass sunroof. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And by the way, all 2019 Volvo V60 pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new vehicle sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
How’s the room back here? Check out our upcoming review to learn more… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While Momentum and Inscription are the only two trims currently available, we’d like to think that a sportier V60 R-Design will arrive at some point in the near future, which we’d hope would add special 18-inch alloy wheels with the option of unique 19s, plus steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and slightly edgier interior and exterior design, while it would incorporate most of the same features offered in the Inscription. Likewise, we hope the V60 will also be available with Volvo’s T8 Twin-Engine powertrain that uses a plug-in hybrid drivetrain to increase engine output to 400 horsepower while reducing fuel consumption considerably. Additionally, the outgoing V60 was also available in factory-built Polestar trim, a car we covered in 2017 guise right here. This was a fabulous performance, so needless to say we’d love to see something similar recreated for this all-new V60. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription T6 AWD
Need cargo space? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For now we’ll enjoy a double dose of our more luxury-oriented 2019 V60 Inscription for two weeks no less, much thanks to Volvo that provided an extra week of pampering comfort over the holidays. This will give us plenty of time to experience all of its goodness while doing our best to suss out any weaknesses (sorry Volvo). So until our full road test review arrives make sure to peruse our photo gallery above…

We’ve got something mega in our garage this week, or at least the all-new 2019 Ascent is big for Subaru.  Having arrived here over the summer, the North American-exclusive, three-row, mid-size crossover…

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The all-new Ascent is one very big Subaru, and this three-row crossover SUV is in our garage this week. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We’ve got something mega in our garage this week, or at least the all-new 2019 Ascent is big for Subaru. 

Having arrived here over the summer, the North American-exclusive, three-row, mid-size crossover SUV is configured for eight occupants in standard trim and seven with optional second-row captain’s chairs, the latter setup being how Subaru’s communications team outfitted our tester. 

In case you weren’t aware, Subaru has been down the mid-size crossover SUV road before, and I’m not talking about the Outback that not only continues to outsell all tall wagon competitors, but is the best-selling of its kind in history. The model I’m referring to was the 2005 to 2014 Tribeca, which was nicely finished and very competent from a performance standpoint, yet suffered from frontal styling that wasn’t accepted by the masses and a third row that was cramped at best, whereas the new Ascent pulls design cues from Subaru’s highly successful current Forester and Outback, albeit with a larger grille and a longer, taller profile, while it’s anything but short on size. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Long enough for three rows of seats plus cargo, but can it fit adults in all positions? Check back soon to find out… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Ascent measures 4,998 millimetres (196.8 inches) front to back with a 2,890-mm (113.8-inch) wheelbase, while it stands 1,819 mm (71.6 inches) tall including its standard roof rails. Additionally, it spans 2,176 mm (85.6 inches) wide with its side mirrors extracted, while its track measures 1,635 mm (64.4 inches) up front and 1,630 mm (64.2 inches) at the rear. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Good looking Ascent should appeal to long-time Subaru fans and newcomers alike. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To put this into perspective, the new Ascent is 48 mm (1.9 inches) shorter than the mid-size three-row SUV category’s best-selling Ford Explorer, albeit with a 24-mm (0.9-inch) longer wheelbase, while some might also be surprised to find out the new Subaru is 42 mm (1.6 inches) taller than the big blue-oval utility. The only Explorer measurements to exceed the Ascent relate to width, which show Ford’s SUV a considerable 119 mm (4.7 inches) wider with 66 / 71 mm (2.6 / 2.8 inches) more front / rear track respectively. This said the Explorer is one of the mid-size segment’s largest SUVs. 

Comparing the new Ascent to other top-sellers shows that it’s longer, wider and taller than the Toyota Highlander and Kia Sorento, longer and taller than the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe XL, wider and taller than the Nissan Pathfinder, merely wider than the Dodge Durango, and only taller than the Volkswagen Atlas. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Subaru has left its whacky grille designs in the past, allowing for a much more acceptable new 2019 Ascent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

By the way, that was only a partial list of the Ascent’s three-row mid-size crossover SUV challengers, the full list (from best-selling to least during the first three quarters of 2018) including the Explorer, Sorento, Highlander, Atlas, Pilot, Durango, Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, Santa Fe XL, Dodge Journey, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, and Ford Flex. 

Of more importance than mere outward size is passenger volume and cargo space, which for the Ascent measure 4,347 litres (153.5 cubic feet) for the former and 2,449 litres (86.5 cu ft) for the latter when both rear rows are laid flat. That cargo number is just for the most basic of Ascent trims, by the way, which also measures 1,345 litres (47.5 cu ft) behind the 60/40-split second row and 504 litres (17.8 cu ft) behind the 60/40-split third row, while all other trims are half a litre less commodious at just 2,435 litres (86.0 cu ft) of gear behind the first row, 1,331 litres (47.0 cu ft) behind the second row, and 498 litres (17.6 cu ft) behind the third row. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Steering-responsive full low/high beam LED headlights with automatic high beam assist come standard in Limited and Premier trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

These figures compare well against key rivals, with Ascent passenger volume even exceeding the Explorer’s and its standard eight-occupant seating configuration a rarity in the class, while the big Subaru’s maximum cargo capacity is amongst the segment’s most accommodating too. Also important, rear passenger access is made easier due to rear doors that open to 75 degrees. 

Being a Subaru SUV the Ascent includes standard full-time Symmetrical AWD, which has proven to be one of the more capable available. Its initial advantage starts with more evenly balanced weight distribution thanks to a longitudinally-mounted engine and transmission, its competitors chassis architectures derived from FWD models housing transversely-mounted motors, while Subaru’s horizontally-opposed flat “boxer” engine allows for a lower centre of gravity. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The Ascent’s standard X-mode, hill descent control, and 220 mm of ground clearance aid in off-road use. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Furthermore, Symmetrical AWD applies more torque to the wheels with the most grip, which is not only designed to enhance traction when taking off but to improve overall control at speed, so in theory the Ascent should be plenty capable no matter the road or trail surface it’s traveling over, while its standard X-mode off-road system, complete with hill descent control, and its generous 220 millimetres (8.66 inches) of ground clearance for overcoming obstacles, snow banks, etcetera, should make easy work of the rough stuff. We’ll let you know just how capable the Ascent is in our upcoming road test review, and of course give you a full report on its on-pavement driving dynamics too. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Premier trim means woodgrain trim, brown soft-touch surfaces and perforated leather, plus more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Power comes from a new turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, which as noted is once again a horizontally opposed design. It makes a healthy 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, the latter maximized between 2,000 and 4,800 rpm. Subaru will likely use this engine as a replacement for its aging 3.6-litre H-6 in top-line Outback trims too, being that the new four-cylinder produces 4 more horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque than the six. 

Of course, at 11.6 L/100km city and 9.0 highway for the new 2.4-litre four when used for in the Ascent, compared to 12.0 and 8.7 respectively for the larger displacement H-6 in the Outback, the smaller engine would be much more efficient in the Outback as well. Of note, both four and six cylinder engines use variations of Subaru’s High-torque Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), considered to be one of the more efficient types of transmissions available and ideal for mid-size crossover SUV applications thanks to smooth, linear power delivery. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The Ascent Premier is hardly short on digital interfaces or features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With the Ascent, Subaru adds a standard set of steering wheel paddle shifters to improve driver engagement, along with an eight-speed manual mode featuring sportier driving characteristics and standard Active Torque Vectoring, first introduced on the WRX and WRX STI performance models, so expect us to report something positive about its driving dynamics when we deliver our full review. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
These seats look comfortable, but you’d better come back for the full review to find out how well Subaru sorts out ergonomics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise, expect some insight on the Japanese brand’s car-like ride and handling claim that comes from the Ascent’s use of the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which combines rigid yet lightweight unibody construction with a fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension system, enhanced further by a stabilizer bar mounted directly to the body at the rear and electric rack and pinion steering up front. This all rolls on 18-inch silver five-spoke alloys on 245/60 all-seasons with the Ascent’s two lower trims and 20-inch machine-finished high-gloss split-spoke rims on 245/50 rubber for the two upper trims, my tester benefiting from the latter. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Touring trim adds a powered panoramic sunroof for an open, airy, light-filled cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On that note, the 2019 Ascent can be had in Convenience, Touring, Limited and Premier trims, with standard Convenience features not already mentioned including auto on/off halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights, roof rails, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, three-zone automatic climate control, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, a rearview camera, six-speaker audio, satellite radio, three-way heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, second-row USB ports, a total of 19 cup and bottle holders, and more for just $35,995 plus freight and fees. 

All 2019 Ascent trims also include standard Subaru EyeSight driver assist technologies that include adaptive cruise control with lead vehicle start assist, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and lane keeping assist, while all the expected active and passive safety features come standard as well. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Enough second-row seating for you? Don’t worry, a standard 2nd-row bench seat provides seating for eight. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For $40,995 in eight-passenger trim or $41,495 with second-row captain’s chairs, which reduces the total seat count to seven, Ascent Touring trim adds the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system that includes blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking, as well as unique machine-finished five-spoke 18-inch alloys, body-colour side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals and approach lighting, LED fog lamps, a sportier rear bumper cap with integrated tailpipe cutouts, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, front door courtesy lights, chrome inner door handles, a Homelink garage door opener, a windshield wiper de-icer, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, premium cloth upholstery, a powered panoramic sunroof, magazine pockets on the front seatbacks, second-row climate controls, third-row reading lights, a rear cargo cover, a powered liftgate, a transmission oil cooler, trailer stability control, and pre-wiring for a trailer hitch that increases towing capacity to 2,270 kg (5,000 lbs). 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The third row looks larger than the Tribeca’s, but can it fit adults comfortably and how does access measure up? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Limited trim, available for $46,495 in the eight-passenger layout and $46,995 in the seven-passenger configuration, adds the larger 20-inch alloys mentioned earlier, plus steering-responsive full low/high beam LED headlights with automatic high beam assist, black and ivory soft-touch interior surfaces, a heatable steering wheel, an upgraded gauge cluster with chrome bezels and light blue needles (in place of red), and a 6.3-inch colour multifunction display atop the dash that shows the time, temperature and dynamic features such as an inclinometer, while a navigation system with detailed mapping is included within the infotainment display, as is SiriusXM Traffic, whereas additional Limited features include a 14-speaker 792-watt Harman/Kardon audio system, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat upgraded to include powered lumbar support and cushion length adjustment, driver’s seat and side-mirror memory, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, leather upholstery, two-way heatable second-row outboard seats, integrated rear door sunshades, third-row USB ports, and more. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Rear cargo space looks good, but do the seats fold flat when lowered? Check out our upcoming review to find out… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Top-line Premier trim, which comes fully equipped at $49,995, even including standard captain’s chairs, adds an upgraded high-gloss black grille insert, satin-finish side mirror caps, chrome exterior door handles, rain-sensing wipers, ambient interior lighting, a front-view camera, a Smart Rearview Mirror with an integrated rear-view camera, woodgrain inlays, brown perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a 120-volt power outlet on the rear centre console, and more. 

All 2019 Subaru Ascent pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new model sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

Our review will specifically focus on the Ascent Premier model we’re testing this week, and of course be more biased and experiential, covering our personal views on styling, interior fit, finish and materials quality, its features and how well they work, the SUV’s overall livability compared to others it competes against, how it drives on and off the road, plus more. So make sure to come back for our no holds barred 2019 Subaru Ascent Premier road test review…

Considering how important the compact luxury SUV segment is within the entire auto sector, what took you so long Infiniti?  Of course, unlike Cadillac that’s just starting to offer its XT4 compact…

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Infiniti has redesigned its QX50 compact luxury SUV from the ground up, and we like what we see. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Considering how important the compact luxury SUV segment is within the entire auto sector, what took you so long Infiniti? 

Of course, unlike Cadillac that’s just starting to offer its XT4 compact SUV now (Alfa Romeo even beat them to the mark with their Stelvio), the QX50 has long been part of Infiniti’s lineup, its previous EX35 nameplate reaching all the way back to 2007 when it arrived as a 2008 model. It was rebadged QX50 in 2013 as part of Infiniti’s Q (car) and QX (SUV) renaming scheme, and received an updated grille and lower fascia for 2015, but this means the FM platform-based crossover soldiered on mostly unchanged for 11 years before the new second-generation 2019 QX50 started rolling out of its Aguascalientes, Mexico production plant a little more than a year ago. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The new QX50 offers up a sporty profile. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new QX50 couldn’t be any more different than the outgoing model, from the previous SUV’s rear-wheel drive biased architecture to a totally new front-wheel drive based layout, although take note that all-wheel drive is standard here in Canada. Manufacturers have been moving away from rear-drive platforms due to interior packaging restrictions, something Audi and Acura have known for more than a decade and likely one reason why their compact SUVs continually outsell all opposition. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50 benefits from a distinctive look from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No doubt Infiniti would love to have similar success, but last year the QX50 was just 12th out of 14 compact luxury SUV entrants, and the latter two were totally new models only available for part of the year. So far 2018 is looking up thanks to this redesign, with sales having surpassed all of 2017 after just nine months, while it’s also passed right on by the Lincoln MKC, Jaguar F-Pace and Land Rover Discovery Sport, almost catching up to the Buick Envision as it’s climbed to ninth overall. It’s entirely possible we’ll see the QX50 in eighth place before the year is out, but now that it’s been in our garage for the better part of a week we think it should be finding even more success than that. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Infiniti’s double-arch grille has won over plenty of SUV buyers, but the Japanese luxury brand hopes this new QX50 sells better than its aging predecessor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

First of all the 2019 QX50 is one great looking SUV. Its front end is especially attractive, positioning Infiniti’s always stylish double-arch grille below a long, elegantly sculpted hood, and flanked by a stunning set of LED headlamps over a clean, sporty lower fascia. Organically shaped panels flow rearward down each side, passing by a nicely detailed chrome engine vent garnish on the upper front fenders, a metal brightwork adorned greenhouse finalizing with Infiniti’s trademark kinked rear quarter windows, and around the back where a particularly appealing rear end design features nicely shaped LED taillights, while a variety of 19- to 20-inch alloy wheels round out the design depending on trim. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Signature LED DRLs and unique cube design LED headlights join LED fog lamps and special 20-inch alloys when moving up to Sensory trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The QX50 is available in five trims for 2019, including base Luxe that starts at $44,490, Essential for $48,990, ProActive for $52,990, as-tested Sensory for $56,490, and finally top-line Autograph trim for $57,990. For full pricing of 2019 QX50 trims, packages, and standalone options, plus money saving manufacturer rebate info and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could help you save even more, make sure to visit CarCostCanada. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Here’s a better look at one of the 20-inch dark tinted alloys and 255/45 all-season run-flat tires that come standard with Sensory trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with AWD, even base Luxe trim comes well equipped with 19-inch alloys on 235/55 all-season run-flat tires, LED high/low beam headlights, LED signature daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, LED integrated turn signals on outside mirror housings, LED taillights, chrome-accented exterior door handles, dual chrome exhaust tips, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, drive mode selector with standard, eco, sport, and personal settings, Infiniti’s InTouch dual display infotainment system featuring an 8.0-inch monitor on top and a 7.0-inch touchscreen below that, InTouch safety, security and convenience services, dual-zone automatic climate control, a powered panoramic glass sunroof including a powered sunshade, a powered liftgate, predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blindspot warning, and more. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The Sensory’s Graphite interior gets open-pore maple inlays, an ultrasuede headliner and pillars, plus more ultrasuede on the instrument panel, doors and console. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Moving up to Essential trim adds a number of items you might want on your must-have list such as rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, reverse tilting side mirrors, Infiniti’s 360-surround Around View parking monitor with moving object detection, navigation with detailed mapping, tri-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, leather upholstery, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, plus memory for that steering wheel as well as for the front seats and side mirrors. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Infiniti enhances the QX50’s interior with loads of its latest tech, while its level of refinement and luxury is improved too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

ProActive trim is for those who consider advanced safety and convenience essential, as it includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with full speed range and hold, distance control assist, lane departure warning and prevention, blindspot intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, backup collision intervention, steering assist, ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous self driving, Infiniti’s exclusive steer-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system (a first for an Infiniti SUV), a head-up display, and a 16-speaker Bose Premium Series audio upgrade. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Surprisingly the gauge cluster is not fully digital, yet a large high-resolution colour multi-info display is packed full of functions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As the name implies Sensory is more about creature comforts, and while including everything already mentioned also adds 20-inch dark tinted alloys on 255/45 all-season run-flat tires, unique cube design LED high/low beam headlamps with adaptive cornering capability, extended interior ambient lighting, advanced climate control, natural open-pore maple wood inlays, ultrasuede A- and B-pillars plus an ultrasuede headliner, beautiful black ultrasuede upper instrument panel trim, door uppers, and centre console lid accents for Graphite black-trimmed interiors, while Wheat beige interiors receive leatherette accents, premium-grade semi-aniline leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, two-way front passenger powered lumbar support, rear side window sunshades, a motion activated liftgate, and metallic cargo area finishers. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Infiniti’s dual display infotainment setup includes an 8-inch monitor up top and a 7-inch touchscreen below. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Autograph trim moves up the luxury while offering something even more individually bespoke looking, thanks to special blue ultrasuede accents replacing the black found in the Sensory model, plus white used for much of the instrument panel, centre console sides, door inserts and seats, the centre inserts of the latter featuring diamond-quilted semi-aniline leather, plus blue piping between the white leather and blue ultrasuede. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This 360-surround Around View parking monitor with moving object detection comes standard in Essential trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On a more practical note, the new QX50 is quieter than the outgoing model thanks to active engine mounts plus acoustic windshield and side window glass, while it’s also much roomier, especially when for rear passengers that now enjoy considerably more leg and headroom. In fact, Infiniti claims its rear seat space is greater than the best-selling Audi Q5 and BMW’s X3, while those back seats now slide fore and aft for more cargo space or better legroom respectively, the former growing by a substantive 368 litres to 895 behind the 60/40 split-folding rear seats, even when they’re pushed all the way backward, while sliding the rear bench as far forward as possible adds another 153 litres of gear toting capacity for a total volume of 1,048 litres when both rows are occupied. Lay the second-row seatbacks flat and cargo space expands to 1,822 litres. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This electronic gear selector provides a hint that not all CVTs are created equal. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for performance, previously noted standard features like the 19- and 20-inch wheels, Intelligent AWD, and the various driving modes, as well as standard vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering or available Direct Adaptive Steering, combine with a fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, standard Active Trace Control that autonomously adds brake pressure mid-corner to help maintain a chosen lane, plus one of the more advanced four-cylinder engine designs available today. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Sensory trim comes standard with premium-grade semi-aniline leather upholstery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In fact, WardsAuto just added the QX50’s new VC-Turbo to its 2019 model year 10 Best Engines list, which is nothing new for Infiniti that’s long had one of its V6 mills honoured likewise, the latest being the Q50/Q60’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo VR V6, with previous generation 3.7- and 3.5-litre engines awarded as well. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder VC-Turbo is the world’s first production variable compression ratio engine, a technology that took Infiniti’s engineering team four years to develop. It features special connecting rods between its pistons and crankshaft that vary the compression of the fuel and air mixture, less for increasing power output when needed and more during lower loads like cruising and coasting for improving fuel efficiency. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The new QX50’s rear passenger compartment is roomier than the outgoing model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The result equals 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque while fuel economy is closer to a 2.0-litre diesel four than anything gasoline-powered with similar performance. Combined with a new shift-by-wire continuously variable transmission (CVT) featuring manual shift mode, steering wheel paddles, Downshift Rev Matching, and dual transmission fluid coolers, Infiniti claims the new QX50 is 30-percent more efficient than the outgoing model, which was five-cycle rated at 13.7 L/100km city, 9.8 highway and 11.9 combined compared to 10.0 city, 7.8 highway and 9.0 combined for the new powertrain. Even with today’s fuel prices dropping along with the price of oil, every little bit counts when also factoring in our fragile economy that’s following that downward trajectory plus our currency’s never-ending devaluation through central bank managed inflation and other budget-busting price hikes. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
New QX50 owners get much more cargo space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

How does it all work in the real world? I’ll tell all in my upcoming road test review, plus offer my driving dynamics critique, comment on interior quality, fit, finish and features, etcetera. Make sure to come back for the full review soon, and while you’re waiting take the opportunity to enjoy all the photos in the comprehensive gallery above…