Volvo has become the darling of the North American Utility of the Year award program in recent years, having just won last year with its then new XC90 mid-size SUV, but now it’s the redesigned 2018…

New Volvo XC60 wins 2018 North American Utility of the Year

2018 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
The stylish new Volvo XC60 has just won the 2018 North American Utility of the Year award. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo has become the darling of the North American Utility of the Year award program in recent years, having just won last year with its then new XC90 mid-size SUV, but now it’s the redesigned 2018 XC60 compact SUV’s turn to be honoured with the prestigious title.

Like the previous winner, the sharp looking 2nd-generation XC60 represents a completely fresh approach for Volvo and a much more competitive entry within the compact luxury SUV segment.

“The Volvo XC60 raises the bar for safety and driver assistance systems in compact utility vehicles, and does it in a package that exudes Scandinavian design,” said Mark Phelan, president of the North American Car of the Year Awards organization.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
A factor benefiting the new XC60 is a strong engine lineup that includes this T8 model’s 400-hp plug-in hybrid drivetrain. (Photo: Volvo)

It’s true, Volvo is one of few models in the compact luxury SUV segment to include autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assist as standard equipment, while additional standard safety gear include full LED headlamps, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, a driver’s knee airbag, and more. On top of these advanced features, the new 2018 XC60 can be upfitted with automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, road sign recognition, and new Pilot Assist, which is Volvo’s highly advanced semi-autonomous driver assistance system that manages steering, acceleration, and braking on well-marked roads up to 130 km/h (80 mph).

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
Few XC60 rivals offer standard LED headlamps, this just one of many advanced safety features that set the compact luxury SUV apart from its peers. (Photo: Volvo)

Like in previous years, the 2018 North American Utility of the Year was chosen by a jury of 60 professional automotive journalists from the US and Canada who provide content for independent print newspapers and magazines, TV and radio stations, plus websites. The results of their findings were presented at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month. The award, which also includes a Car and Truck of the Year, honours “excellence in innovation, design, safety features, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value,” stated a press release.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
The XC60’s standard infotainment system is large at 9.0 inches, plus it’s an award-winning system that’s been lauded by customers and industry professionals alike. (Photo: Volvo)

“We are so proud the XC60 has won this prestigious award,” said Anders Gustafsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars USA. “It is a very tough competition and we thank all the judges for recognizing the great style, technology, and engineering in the XC60. All car shoppers should take a test drive to see for themselves how great it really is.”

It appears a lot of Canadian consumers have done just that since the new 2018 XC60 was introduced in August last year. Prior to that XC60 annual deliveries had been hovering between 1,500 to 1,700 unit sales for years, but despite only being on the market for five months the new redesign helped push XC60 sales up to 2,315 deliveries for 2017. More specifically, year-over-year XC60 sales were up 41 percent in August, 140 percent in September, 290 percent in October, 264 percent in November, and 251 percent in December. The importance of this growth can’t be underestimated, as the XC60 represented 30 percent of the Swedish brand’s worldwide sales before the redesigned version arrived, so therefore the new model’s uptick in popularity will be a boon to the Volvo brand overall.

2018 Volvo XC60
This panoramic sunroof is standard across the entire XC60 line, just one of many examples of the XC60’s value proposition. (Photo: Volvo)

Part of the 2018 XC60’s appeal is its highly efficient yet powerful engine lineup. All utilize Volvo’s direct-injection turbocharged 2.0-litre “Drive-E” four-cylinder, with the base T5 version making 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The same turbo-four in T6 trim adds a supercharger for a boost to 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, whereas the XC60 T8 includes the supercharger as well as identical Twin Power plug-in hybrid technology to the XC90 T8, resulting in 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. This allows the XC60 T8 to sprint from zero to 100km/h in only 5.3 seconds.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
This top-line XC60 T8 Inscription model shows how far upmarket Volvo has taken its luxury image. (Photo: Volvo)

All powertrains are made even more efficient thanks to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission featuring automated engine start/stop functionality to reduce emissions and save fuel, the technology helping the new 2018 XC60 achieve a five-cycle Transport Canada claimed rating of 10.7 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway, and 9.8 combined for the XC60 T5 AWD powertrain, or 11.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.2 combined for the XC60 T6 AWD, albeit no estimate yet for the XC60 T8 eAWD.

This won’t stop us from guessing that the smaller, lighter XC60 T8 eAWD will be slightly thriftier on fuel than larger, heavier mid-size XC90 T8 eAWD, an SUV already rated at 10.1 L/100km city, 8.8 highway and 9.5 combined. This said, when factoring in regular charging an owner could potentially drive the XC90 T8 eAWD every day without ever needing to fill the gas tank, although its official Le/100km (gasoline litres equivalent per 100 kilometres) rating is more conservatively estimated at 4.7 combined city/highway. A slightly better rating should be achievable with the new XC60 T8 eAWD.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
The XC60’s rear legroom is best-in-class. (Photo: Volvo)

While the new 2018 XC60’s powertrain lineup might be reason enough to earn it North American Utility of the Year status, its many other attributes combine for a truly special compact SUV. Its styling, which combines key design cues from its larger XC90 sibling as well as other recently redesigned Volvo models, also has some completely new elements of its own, while its uniquely rich interior design and execution raises the bar in the compact luxury SUV segment.

Its 965 millimetres (38 inches) of rear legroom is best in class as well, while its 731 litres (25.8 cubic feet) of cargo capacity behind its 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 1,792 litres (63.3 cubic feet) of maximum luggage space make it one of the easiest to live with in its segment. Additionally, the XC60 comes standard with a convenient rear centre pass-through that lets rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable outboard seats while longer cargo, such as skis, get stowed down the middle.

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription
The XC60 delivers one of the roomiest cargo compartments in its class, plus the convenience of a centre pass-through as well as optional power-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Volvo)

The 2018 XC60 represents strong value as well, with additional standard features not yet mentioned including an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a high-resolution colour multi-information display, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, heatable powered front seats with driver’s memory, one of the largest infotainment touchscreen’s in the class at 9.0 inches, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, voice activation, SMS/text message reading and response capability, 10-speaker premium audio, satellite radio, a panoramic sunroof, a powered rear liftgate, roof rails, and much more.

The base 2018 Volvo XC60 Momentum is available now from just $46,350 before freight and fees, while the sportiest R-Design model can be had for $56,000 and top-tier Inscription trim starts at $57,600.

Audi and Subaru have been named best Mainstream Brand and best Premium Brand respectively in ALG’s 2018 Canadian Residual Value Awards (RVA), an important benchmark used for forecasting future vehicle…

Audi and Subaru earn top honours in 2018 ALG Canadian Residual Value Awards

2018 Subaru Impreza
The Subaru Impreza achieved best residual value in its “Compact” class. (Photo: Subaru)

Audi and Subaru have been named best Mainstream Brand and best Premium Brand respectively in ALG’s 2018 Canadian Residual Value Awards (RVA), an important benchmark used for forecasting future vehicle values by auto industry professions.

Now in its 10th year, ALG’s RVA projects future values of new models from 26 separate market segments, ranging from “Alt-fuel” to “Fullsize Commercial Van” and everything in between. There are many ways to measure value, although within the car industry the difference between the initial price paid for a new vehicle and its resale value after three or four years is a key parameter. ALG uses the average ownership duration of four years to determine mainstream volume brand values and three years for premium brands, with the results showing both Subaru and Audi are tops in their respective sectors.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek
The Crosstrek earned best resale value in the “Subcompact Utility” category. (Photo: Subaru)

“Depreciation is the single biggest cost of vehicle ownership, and informed consumers understand the importance of resale value when making their purchase decision,” said Eric Lyman, vice president of ALG. “The ALG Residual Value Award is a meaningful achievement in the hyper-competitive automotive landscape. Residual values are a key indicator for the market success of a vehicle, factoring in quality, product execution and brand desirability as primary drivers of ALG’s forecast.”

This is Subaru’s fourth consecutive RVA mainstream brand win, showing an impressive consistency in quality, execution and desirability. This year the brand earned four segment awards, including the Impreza in the “Compact” class, the Crosstrek in the “Subcompact Utility” segment, the Outback in the “Midsize Utility 2nd Row Seating” segment, and the WRX in the “Sportscar” segment.

2018 Subaru Outback
Subaru’s Outback has the highest residual value in the “Midsize Utility 2nd Row Seating” segment. (Photo: Subaru)

Other notable mainstream brands include Toyota that dominated SUV and truck segments with five RVAs including the Tundra achieving its eighth consecutive year topping the “Fullsize Pickup” category, the Tacoma at five RVA “Midsize Pickup” class awards in a row, the Highlander winning the “Midsize Utility 3rd Row Seating” segment, the 4Runner in the “Off-Road Utility” class, and the Sequoia earning top marks in the “Fullsize Utility” category. Honda received three RVA segment awards including the Fit in the “Subcompact” class, Accord in the “Midsize” category, and Odyssey in the “Minivan” segment.

Nissan managed two winners including the Rogue in the “Compact Utility” class and Maxima in the “Fullsize” segment, while the only one-off deserving mention is Kia’s Niro in the “Alt-fuel” category.

2018 Audi A5 Coupe
Audi’s A5 has the best residual value amongst “Premium Midsize” models. (Photo: Audi)

Audi, which has experienced a dramatic upsurge in new vehicle sales in recent years, achieved four category wins including the A5 in the “Premium Midsize” class, A7 in the “Premium Fullsize” segment, Q5 in the “Premium Compact Utility” segment, and Q7 in the “Premium Midsize Utility 3rd Row Seating” category.

“Audi has emerged in recent years as a contender in the luxury space against top European rivals, finding success with new product entries in the utility space and emphasizing innovative technologies that have resonated well with luxury consumers,” stated an ALG press release.

2018 Audi Q5
The new Q5 is rated highest for resale value in the “Premium Compact Utility” segment. (Photo: Audi)

Mercedes also took home four awards, albeit with two in the commercial sector. The winners included the Metris in the “Midsize Commercial” segment and the Sprinter in the “Fullsize Commercial” category, while its CLA Class took home top marks amongst “Premium Compact” models, and the G-Class achieved the highest score in the “Premium Fullsize Utility” segment.

No other premium brand earned multiple RVAs, but notable mentioned include the Maserati Quattroporte in the “Premium Executive” class, the Porsche 718 Boxster in the “Premium Sportscar” segment, and the Land Rover Range Rover Velar in the “Premium Midsize Utility 2nd Row Seating” category.

Subaru Canada, Inc. (SCI) capped off calendar year 2017 with its best December on record, helping the Japanese automaker to achieve its sixth consecutive year of annual sales growth. December 2017’s…

Subaru Canada achieves six consecutive record years of sales growth

2018 Subaru Impreza
The Impreza experienced growth of 42.4 percent in 2017. (Photo: Subaru)

Subaru Canada, Inc. (SCI) capped off calendar year 2017 with its best December on record, helping the Japanese automaker to achieve its sixth consecutive year of annual sales growth.

December 2017’s total was 3,876 units for a 4.6-percent gain over the same month in 2016, pushing Subaru’s total annual deliveries to 54,570 vehicles for an 8.7-percent year-over-year sales increase when compared to 2016’s 50,190-unit tally.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek
The Crosstrek found 14.9 percent more buyers for a total of 11,168 deliveries last year. (Photo: Subaru)

“More Canadians than ever before drove Subaru’s sales with a record-setting results streak, which gave rise to Subaru’s highest sales ever,” said Yasushi Enami, chairman, president and CEO of Subaru Canada, Inc. “With our sixth consecutive annual sales record in the books, we are ready for 2018 as our strong dealer network steps forward into 2018 and we bring our best product offering yet.”

2018 Subaru WRX STI
The WRX and WRX STI collectively increased from 4,217 to 4,616 units for a 9.5-percent gain in 2017. (Photo: Subaru)

Movers and shakers included the Impreza compact four-door sedan and five-door hatchback, plus the Crosstrek subcompact crossover SUV that achieved 38.6 and 48.0 December growth respectively. The Impreza’s yearly sales were even more impressive, with growth of 42.4 percent to 10,617 units overall in 2017, while the Crosstrek found 14.9 percent more buyers for a total of 11,168 deliveries last year.

2018 Subaru Outback
The Outback crossover’s 2.1-percent year-over-year growth was more modest last year. (Photo: Subaru)

Additionally, the WRX and WRX STI performance models collectively increased from 4,217 to 4,616 units for a respectable 9.5-percent gain in 2017, while the mid-size Outback crossover’s year-over-year growth was more modest, from 11,255 to 11,490 units for a 2.1-percent upward trend. Despite its smaller numbers, BRZ sports coupe growth was a solid 6.3 percent from 740 units in 2016 to 787 last year, although it should be noted that the BRZ’s 2016 sales represented a significant drop when compared to much stronger sales in years prior.

2018 Subaru BRZ
BRZ sports coupe growth was a solid 6.3 percent from 740 units in 2016 to 787 last year. (Photo: Subaru)

Ironically in a market that predominantly favours utilities, Subaru’s best-selling Forester compact SUV was one of the only models to slip backward due to sales of 13,441 units in 2017 compared to 13,798 in 2016, this being a 2.6-percent slide, the other model losing ground year-over-year being the Legacy mid-size sedan that dropped from 3,001 units in 2016 to 2,451 deliveries last year, representing an 18.3-percent downturn.

2018 Subaru Forester
Ironically in a market that favours SUVs, Forester sales fell backward in 2017. (Photo: Subaru)

On the positive, the 2018 Legacy has received a refresh that should boost interest, while the Forester will receive a dramatic redesign later this year. Available even sooner, the all-new 2019 Ascent mid-size crossover SUV, which just made its Canadian debut at the Montreal auto show, will arrive this summer. The Ascent is Subaru’s largest-ever crossover SUV with the choice of seven- or eight-occupant seating, expanding the Japanese brand’s market reach to a much broader market than ever before. This should help Subaru continue its sales growth momentum.

After taking home the award for Best Large Car in the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s annual Car and Truck of the Year program in January, beating the refreshed Mazda6 and thoroughly redesigned…

Accord and Pacifica win 2018 Canadian Car and Utility of the Year awards

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T
The 2018 Honda Accord has triumphed over a long list of worthy challengers to win AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year. (Photo: Honda)

After taking home the award for Best Large Car in the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s annual Car and Truck of the Year program in January, beating the refreshed Mazda6 and thoroughly redesigned Toyota Camry in the process, the Accord has now been named 2018 Canadian Car of the Year.

Likewise, after besting the entirely new Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona minivans the all-new 2018 Chrysler Pacifica has earned Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

“We’re thrilled to declare the Honda Accord to be the Canadian Car of the Year for 2018, and the Chrysler Pacifica to be the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year,” said AJAC President Mark Richardson. “They’ve both been decided through the most vigorous system of testing possible by AJAC’s automotive professionals. They’re both deserving of being considered the very best vehicles you can buy in 2018.”

2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Bill Levasseur, FCA Canada’s VP of Sales and Marketing, accepts the AJAC Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year award for the new Chrysler Pacifica. (Photo: FCA)

The latter award might be the more important of the two, being that trucks, SUVs and vans now make up the majority of new vehicle sales in Canada. Of note, the Canadian-made Pacifica not only beat out its “Best Minivan” category competitors to earn the coveted award, but also scored higher than other category winners.

These include the Mazda CX-5, which beat the new Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue for “Best Small Utility Vehicle,” as well as the Mazda CX-9 that overcame the challenge of Chevrolet’s Traverse and Toyota’s Highlander for “Best Large Utility Vehicle,” plus the Range Rover Velar that earned “Best Small Premium Utility Vehicle” over the Porsche Macan and Volvo XC60, the Acura MDX that earned “Best Large Premium Utility Vehicle” over the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, and finally the Ram 1500 that won “Best Pickup Truck” over the new Honda Ridgeline and refreshed Toyota Tacoma.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler Pacifica’s luxurious interior pushes the minivan sector way upmarket. (Photo: Chrysler)

“There’s an extra air of significance when one of our homegrown products wins a domestic award,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO, FCA Canada. “Chrysler Pacifica’s recognition as 2018’s Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year reinforces its position as the most awarded minivan of the last two years, and provides important third-party validation for the exclusive suite of versatility, style, safety and technology that it brings to Canadians.”

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T
Stylish Accord strengthens Honda’s position as a leader in profitable mid-size sedan market. (Photo: Honda)

The redesigned Accord also had its share of challengers, including the Volkswagen e-Golf that achieved “Best City Car” over the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Nissan Micra, Mazda3 that earned “Best Small Car” over the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid/Electric Plus, Jaguar XE that took “Best Small Premium Car” honours over the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Infiniti Q60, Volvo S90/V90 that overcame the Genesis G80 and Lexus LC to win the “Best Large Premium Car” title, Volkswagen Golf R that won “Best Sports/Performance Car” over the Honda Civic Si and Honda Civic Type R, Jaguar F-Type that achieved “Best Premium Sports/Performance Car” over the Porsche 718 and Porsche 911, and finally the Mercedes-Benz SL that won “Best Convertible” over the Mazda MX-5 and Porsche 718 Boxster.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T
New Accord moves entire mainstream mid-size market upward when it comes to refinement and technology. (Photo: Honda)

“We’re honoured and humbled to receive this recognition from a group of respected automotive journalists in Canada,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honda Canada. “We’re both proud and thankful for all of our associates who supported the production and development of this vehicle and for our passionate customers who have supported the Accord for the past forty years.”

To qualify for entry a vehicle must be entirely new or significantly updated, and the winners were not only up against the challengers noted, but other offerings that didn’t make the “finalists” cut in December.

Normally when an automaker launches a rugged looking 4×4 they take photos of it tackling treacherous wilderness terrain, such as the backroads, trails and riverbed crossings that access Waiparous…

Nissan rethinks the 4×4 with Xmotion Concept

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
The 2018 Xmotion Concept strikes a dramatic pose. (Photo: Nissan)

Normally when an automaker launches a rugged looking 4×4 they take photos of it tackling treacherous wilderness terrain, such as the backroads, trails and riverbed crossings that access Waiparous Falls, Alberta, or the vertical sandstone formations of Hell’s Revenge in Moab, Utah, not parked on a driveway in front of a slick contemporary modernist home, or posing within an exposed concrete and black glass office complex courtyard, but then again the Xmotion isn’t your ordinary off-roader.

While the Xmotion concept might look like a future interpretation of Nissan’s now legendary Xterra 4×4 from the outside, or possibly the next-generation Armada done to the extreme, in actuality it’s been designed to appeal to a more refined kind of outdoor enthusiast who prefers natural woods and leathers over rugged utility, not to mention digital displays galore.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
The Xmotion’s taillights are actually quite elegant, while its floating roof design and integrated roof rack storage box give it a fully utile look. (Photo: Nissan)

Then again, without any mention of what type of propulsion system moves this sharply angled, origami-inspired SUV, there’s no way of knowing whether we’re looking at the future of “UN” decaled Nissan Patrols or merely a much cooler way of autonomously arriving at the shopping mall, so let’s just consider the design exercise before us without concerning ourselves with how Nissan managed to roll it onto its Detroit auto show stage.

The Xmotion, pronounced “cross motion,” made its world debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show on January 15th. In Nissan’s words the concept “fuses Japanese culture and traditional craftsmanship with American-style utility and new-generation Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology,” and does so in a most unusual yet welcoming way.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
A unique take on Nissan’s trademark “V-motion” grille, sharply detailed LED headlights, and an aggressive lower fascia define the frontal design. (Photo: Nissan)

“In the Xmotion concept, we explored the more rugged and powerful side of Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” said Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president of global design at Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “Bold and powerful forms and proportions are, upon closer inspection, contrasted with aspects of traditional Japanese craftsmanship expressed in a contemporary way.”

Nissan claims the Xmotion signals “the future of Nissan design,” so we should get ready for a new level of bold, rugged, in-your-face styling from an automaker that has a history of pushing the design envelope with a handful of models (Cube, Juke, Murano, Maxima, Z, GT-R) and otherwise playing it conservatively safe (Micra, Versa, Sentra, Altima, Kicks, Qashqai, Rogue, Pathfinder, Armada, Frontier, Titan, etc).

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
The Xmotion’s taillights are quite beautiful when lit up. (Photo: Nissan)

The Xmotion sets a new design tone by utilizing new technologies more creatively, a trend we’re starting to see across the entire industry. For instance, where LEDs were initially used to add “signature” elements to conventional headlight and taillight designs, now we’re starting to see narrow light strips that follow the outline of a fender or fascia’s surrounding shape.

The taillights are integrated subtly, creatively playing off the unique red rooftop spoiler element above, albeit inverted, while that spoiler appears as if it’s an extension of yet more red roof panels placed below integrated body-colour roof rails overtop.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
The Xmotion’s 21-inch wheel/tire combination consist of a one-piece laminated design. (Photo: Nissan)

The front grille is an evolution of Nissan’s trademark V-motion design, whereas the headlights are simple curving LEDs positioned behind sharp blade-shaped extensions of the front fenders, these appearing to float above cavernous gloss black vents that dive down each corner.

A look down either side presents a stunning set of “mechanical tool-inspired” alloy wheels on all-terrain tires, although unlike a regular wheel and tire combination these are actually a single-piece all-in-one design featuring an interlocked tire that’s “physically laminated over the 21-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.” These sit below lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) fender flares, textured in a traditional Japanese design.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
Possibly the Xmotion’s “rooftop box” is roomier than it looks. (Photo: Nissan)

Look higher and what at first appeared to be a centre roof panel is actually an external container attached to integrated roof rack cross members, this dubbed a “rooftop box” by the design team. It’s difficult to contemplate what might be narrow enough to fit inside, but the design looks pretty slick so let’s not allow practical reasoning to negate the effect.

Compared to the front and profile designs, the Xmotion’s rear view almost comes across as conventional, although those tidy taillights noted earlier were actually inspired by Japanese woodwork, a theme that’s much more prevalent within the cabin.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
The Xmotion’s pillarless doors provide a good view to its artful interior. (Photo: Nissan)

“The exterior’s combination of western and eastern concepts continues inside the Xmotion, where advanced connectivity and autonomous technologies mix with modern Japanese digital art and cultural craftsmanship,” continued Albaisa. “At a glance, Xmotion may appear to have a minimal design language, but a closer look reveals layers of detail that make this concept exceptional.”

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
A massive digital display, airplane style steering wheel, and beautiful woodwork are instrument panel highlights. (Photo: Nissan)

The interior woodwork might look more apropos in a classic boat than a futuristic SUV, but it’s nevertheless a breath of fresh fir (albeit the grain appears like natural maple—Nissan didn’t say, but then again it looks like BC Douglas Fir in a video showing it being planed from a 2×4) in an automotive world that’s seen much too much piano black lacquer in recent years. The lower instrument panel and cabin-length floating console appears to have enough of the stuff to make this SUV buoyant in case of a river crossing gone awry, the Xmotion’s creators using “a modern interpretation of traditional kigumi wood joinery” for the beautifully complex construction of the former, while the latter incorporates a “traditional Japanese architectural wood joinery technique, kanawa tsugi, found in the carpentry used to build religious temples and shrines,” said Nissan.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
The intricate dash and floating console woodwork is best seen from below. (Photo: Nissan)

While the wood is beautifully crafted and artistically arrayed, most of today’s smartphone addicted consumers will be more immediately drawn to the Xmotion’s massive dash-wide digital instrumentation. It’s actually comprised of five screens, featuring three large main displays and another two slightly smaller ones at each end, while their control comes via eye movement, hand gestures, and voice activation. Additionally, a “digital room mirror” gets added overhead and one last display is fixed to the centre console, the combined number of digital interfaces totaling seven. In a video, Nissan illustrates their interconnectivity by showing a coy swimming from the lower console touchscreen up to and across the displays on the dash, while a self-levitating magnetic disc spins atop the rear portion of the console for no apparent reason other than providing another sense of awe.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
The seats appear to float like boats on top of a near seamless river-like floor. (Photo: Nissan)

The avionics inspired steering wheel is an interesting addition, making it appear as if it might only be put into used when autonomous capability isn’t possible, whereas the white-and-black front and scarlet-and-black second-row mesh pedestal seats seem to float atop the Xmotion’s near seamless floor like traditional Japanese “wasen” boats, the lower surfacing actually representing a river, with the aforementioned centre console being the bridge overtop.

“The centre console symbolizes a wooden bridge connecting two cultures, but also bridging timeless traditions with tomorrow’s technology,” said Albaisa.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
This console-mounted touchscreen is just one of seven digital displays in the Xmotion. (Photo: Nissan)

Scarlet represents “sun and energy in Japan,” while “white is purity, cleanliness and simplicity” and “black symbolizes contrast and intensity,” says interior designer Myung-Eun Lee. The seat upholstery incorporates Japanese latticework patterns, whereas their mesh-like upper backrests have their tradition in “kumiko” woodwork.

It’s difficult to tell at first glance, but the Xmotion is a three-row SUV, set up in a unique “4+2” passenger layout. While that might sound like most of today’s sport utilities that tout a six- to seven-passenger capacity yet only have room for pre-teens at best in the rearmost seats, the Xmotion differentiates itself by providing a lounge-like, sofa-style wrap-around back row. This said the seats in the very back were designed for even smaller kids or pets, so this SUV follows the pattern set by most three-row family haulers in this respect. Still, despite rolling art interior and exterior styling, this new Nissan could be made into a practical people mover.

2018 Nissan Xmotion Concept
Nissan doesn’t explain what this self-levitating magnetic spinning disc does, other than create a sense of awe. (Photo: Nissan)

“We envision the Xmotion concept to be a highly functional SUV that can be driven every day, yet can take the owners and friends to a national park or recreation area on a whim,” continued Albaisa. “With its combination of style and technology, this concept fulfills Nissan’s mission of moving people to a better world.”

Whim or whimsical, that’s for you to decide, but Nissan has nevertheless created a exterior design that, toned down somewhat, would likely be widely accepted by tomorrow’s SUV buyer. Expect future concept SUVs to adopt a similar design language, and hopefully future production utilities as well.

Until then, enjoy three videos Nissan provided at the launch of the new Xmotion:

 

Quick visual overview (0.52):

 

Detailed overview with interviews (note: set up closed captioning as much of the video is in Japanese) (3.59):

 

Full introduction of Xmotion at Detroit auto show (16:39):

For the second year in a row, Porsche has been named the 2018 model year luxury brand winner of Kelley Blue Book’s annual Best Resale Value Awards, while Toyota took home the award in the mainstream…

Porsche earns KBB Best Resale Value Award

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman S
The Porsche 718 Cayman won its category in KBB’s 2018 Best Resale Value Award, while Porsche earned Best Resale Value amongst luxury brands too. (Photo: Porsche)

For the second year in a row, Porsche has been named the 2018 model year luxury brand winner of Kelley Blue Book’s annual Best Resale Value Awards, while Toyota took home the award in the mainstream volume brand sector.

“Once again, Toyota and Porsche earn tops honours in the brand and luxury brand categories, respectively, with the highest average projected resale value among their full model lineups,” said Eric Ibara, KBB’s director of residual values in a press release.

This is the 16th year of the award, which is based on projections from KBB’s Residual Value Guide. Brands are awarded for their vehicles’ projected retained value after five years of ownership.

2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T
The Porsche 911 Carrera also won its category in KBB’s 2018 Best Resale Value Award. (Photo: Porsche)

“You can be confident a vehicle will retain its value well if you pick from Kelley Blue Book’s list of Best Resale Value Award winners,” added Ibara.

On average a 2018 model year vehicle will only will retain about 35.1 percent of its MSRP, but each vehicle named in Kelley Blue Book’s Top 10 for Best Resale Value is projected to retain more than 46 percent of its original value.

The Irvine, California-based third-party analytical firm chose the 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman for the “Best Sports Car” category, with the 718 Boxster finishing second in the same category, while the 2018 Porsche 911 earned “Best High Performance Car”, 2018 Porsche Panamera won “Best High-End Luxury Car”, and 2018 Porsche Macan took home the “Best Luxury Compact SUV/Crossover”.

2018 Porsche Macan GTS
The 2018 Porsche Macan (shown) won its class for best resale value, as did Porsche’s Panamera four-door sport sedan. (Photo: Porsche)

Residual values represent the projected auction values of vehicles with 75,000 miles (120,700 km) on their odometers after five years of use.

According to KBB, the analysts responsible for establishing residual values review statistical model output sourced from millions of transactions.

Also notable, low-volume models are excluded from consideration unless being evaluated within luxury, sports car, high-performance, or electric vehicle categories.

Nissan really should’ve taken advantage of its new subcompact SUV’s name and done a photo shoot on the famed Route 66, that not only became legendary for countless films in which its “Main Street…

Nissan targets spring arrival for new Kicks subcompact SUV

2018 Nissan Kicks
The new 2018 Nissan Kicks will enter the subcompact SUV market below the highly successful new Qashqai. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan really should’ve taken advantage of its new subcompact SUV’s name and done a photo shoot on the famed Route 66, that not only became legendary for countless films in which its “Main Street of America” appeal proved popular, but for many this near-nationwide highway was made all the more memorable for being the subject of Nat King Cole’s classic jazz song, “Get your kicks on Route 66.”

It just so happens that Route 66 stretches 3,945 km from U.S. 101 in Santa Monica, which is only 25 minutes (on a good day) down the I-10 from the Los Angeles Convention Center where the new Kicks just debuted on November 29 last year as part of the LA auto show, to the Windy City where it will no doubt be shown next month as part of the Chicago auto show in McCormick Place. This month it showed up in multiple colours at the Detroit auto show as well as in Montreal for its Canadian debut, and no doubt will also be on display in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre next month, Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York and Vancouver Convention Centre in late March, etcetera.

2018 Nissan Kicks
The Kicks, scheduled for a June launch, will be a late 2018 model year arrival. (Photo: Nissan)

The Kicks might be small as far as most SUVs go, but it’s a big deal for Nissan that has more utilities on offer than any other mainstream volume-branded carmaker. The current lineup includes the subcompact five-seat Qashqai (still in 2017 trim), compact five-seat Rogue, mid-size five-seat Murano, mid-size seven-seat Pathfinder, and full-size seven-seat Armada. The subcompact Juke, which was an innovator in this segment when it arrived way back in 2010, was discontinued after a long and successful lifecycle at the close of 2017, and will soon be replaced by the Kicks.

2018 Nissan Kicks
We should expect pricing below the 2017 Qashqai’s already impressive $19,998 base MSRP. (Photo: Nissan)

“As the gateway to Nissan’s adventure-ready sport utility line-up – joining Qashqai, Rogue, Murano, Pathfinder and Armada – Kicks is designed to fit the needs of singles or couples looking for expressive styling, personal technology, smart functionality and advanced safety features,” said Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada.

The transition between the two vehicles has hardly been seamless, with very few new 2017 Jukes still available in Canada and a six-month hiatus currently occurring before the 2018 Kicks arrives in June, but the new entry will likely get a warm welcome when it finally arrives. Pricing has yet to be announced, but it will need to be somewhere south of the current Qashqai’s $19,998 for it to be the new “gateway” SUV into Nissan’s SUV lineup, as Rhind states, despite the outgoing 2017 Juke starting with an MSRP of $20,698.

2018 Nissan Kicks
While it gets a sporty, fastback profile (for an SUV), Nissan promises plenty of headroom. (Photo: Nissan)

The Juke filled a funky niche with a focus on performance and wasn’t available with Nissan’s usual base S trim in its latter years (it could only be had in SV, Nismo and SL trims), whereas the Kicks, despite the rambunctious name, is a more mainstream offering that will initially be available in S, SV and SR trims. We’ll need to wait until spring before pricing and packaging details surface, which will probably coincide with the release of the new Qashqai that may increase in price to make way for the Kicks.

2018 Nissan Kicks
If you were wondering where the Kicks’ Brazilian connection fits in, the South American country has one of the largest Japanese-decent populations outside of Japan, plus a massive 200-million plus market that loves small SUVs. (Photo: Nissan)

“Pricing for the 2018 Nissan Kicks will be announced closer to its on-sale date in spring 2018, but we are expecting to be among the most competitive in the segment,” added Rhind. “Kicks’ unique combination of expressive design, excellent fuel economy, intelligent technology and advanced safety features adds up to one thing – exceptional value.”

Like Ford’s similarly sized EcoSport SUV, which is also scheduled to arrive in Canada and the U.S. this year, the Kicks originated in Brazil before expanding into other markets, although it was completely new in 2016 compared to 2003 for the blue-oval badged utility. The EcoSport has had time to go global, whereas Nissan will ramp up worldwide Kicks sales much quicker, with a target of 80 countries in its short-term sites.

2018 Nissan Kicks
Plenty of unique colour combinations help to differentiate the Kicks from its subcompact SUV peers. (Photo: Nissan)

By first impressions the Kicks should appeal to compact SUV buyers in most markets, thanks to a traditionally upright SUV stance yet sporty crossover styling, most notably found in shapely front fenders that form out of the tops of the headlamps. It gets Nissan’s now trademark V-Motion grille up front and a Murano-like floating roof hovering over the rear C-pillars, while the boomerang taillights pay homage to the Z sports car and others within the Japanese brand’s range.

“From a pure visual standpoint on the street, Kicks is a true head turner, especially in the bold two-tone colour combinations,” added Rhind. “Kicks is clearly recognizable as part of the Nissan CUV family, but has a vibrancy and identity all its own.”

2018 Nissan Kicks
A unique take on Nissan’s V-Motion grille makes the Kicks’ lineage immediately known. (Photo: Nissan)

Along with the blacked out floating C-pillars Nissan will use colour to differentiate the Kicks from most peers. So far the Japanese brand is showing seven colour combinations, the two-tone versions including Gun Metallic grey for the lower body with a Monarch Orange roof, a Monarch Orange body with a Super Black roof (that melds seamlessly into the roof pillars), Cayenne Red with a Super Black roof, Aspen White with a Super Black roof, and Deep Blue Pearl with a Fresh Powder white roof, while single solid tones include Gun Metallic grey (that still features the black roof pillars) and Super Black (which absorbs the roof pillars).

2018 Nissan Kicks
The top-line Kicks SR gets a sporty yet high-quality, nicely finished interior. (Photo: Nissan)

Similar to top-line versions of its larger Qashqai sibling, examples of the similarly upper-crust Kicks SR trimmed interior currently being shown appears very upscale with plenty of padded leatherette stitched together with contrast orange or white thread, this especially nice across the SUV’s “Gliding Wing” instrument panel and down the sides of the centre console, while the leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel even gets nicely formed thumb spats and a flat bottom for a performance look and feel.

2018 Nissan Kicks
There’s plenty of premium-like padded leatherette surfaces with orange and white contrast stitching. (Photo: Nissan)

Orange contrast stitching can be found on what appear to be leather-surfaced sport seats too, while the 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, which incidentally includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, and the separate single-zone automatic climate control interface that sits below include switchgear with orange backlighting. Orange even gets used for the “Bose Personal” logos on the sides of the front headrests, this top-tier SR model including an impressive audio system featuring lightweight 2.5-inch Bose UltraNearfield neodymium headrest speakers.

2018 Nissan Kicks
This infotainment and HVAC interfaces look impressive, the former including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a backup camera, and the latter available with auto climate control. (Photo: Nissan)

The infotainment system will also be available with an Intelligent Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, while other standard and available features will include Intelligent Auto Headlights with optional LED low beams boasting LED signature accents, fog lamps, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, remote engine start, and heatable seats, while standard safety items are to include Forward Collision Warning with Automatic Emergency Braking, seven airbags, and a RearView Monitor.

Nissan promises plenty of passenger room with no shortage of headspace (the coupe-like profile is an optical illusion), plus one of the larger cargo compartment’s in the class.

2018 Nissan Kicks
The Kicks uses Nissan’s highly efficient Xtronic CVT to send 125-hp and 115 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. (Photo: Nissan)

Smaller and lighter than the Qashqai, the new Kicks won’t need as much power to get it going so therefore gets an efficient 1.6-litre four-cylinder good for 125 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque, while Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) should provide smooth operation and competitive fuel economy.

Where the Kicks deviates from the outgoing Juke and all other Nissan SUVs currently on offer, is its lack of all-wheel drive. The Kicks will be front-drive only, which is in line with some other small SUVs in its segment like the well-proven Kia Soul much newer Toyota C-HR. This means it won’t be ideal for winter sports enthusiasts who’d rather not be forced to chain up on their way to the ski hill, but for the majority of city drivers it should more than suffice. Its tall ride height provides the visibility advantage most SUV buyers want, and its raised ground clearance should help it overcome inner-city obstacles like steep driveways, rough laneways and curbs that could otherwise hang up a regular car. Reportedly, its electric power steering and small turning radius make it easy to park as well.

2018 Nissan Kicks
High-end “Bose Personal Plus” headrest speakers to improve Kicks SR audio system. (Photo: Nissan)

“This emerging CUV class is exploding with new entries for a very good reason – the combination of flexible utility and high value is ideal for active, urban new vehicle buyers,” added Rhind. “Where the new Nissan Kicks stands out is with its bold style, personal technology, value and anticipated excellent fuel economy.”

Again, we’ll have to wait to find out just how good its fuel economy is, but its small, lightweight design, spritely engine, CVT, and FWD layout should make for a cost-friendly commuter.

Honda has dominated the North American Car of the Year award lately, having won in 2016 for the Civic, 2017 with the Ridgeline, and now 2018 with the all-new Accord Sedan. Like the two previous winners,…

2018 Honda Accord earns 2018 North American Car of the Year award

2018 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T
The new 2018 Honda Accord, shown here in Touring 2.0T trim, has just won 2018 North American Car of the Year. (Photo: Honda)

Honda has dominated the North American Car of the Year award lately, having won in 2016 for the Civic, 2017 with the Ridgeline, and now 2018 with the all-new Accord Sedan.

Like the two previous winners, the eye-catching 10th-generation Accord represents a completely fresh approach for Honda and the entire mid-size four-door segment.

“Honda took a clean-sheet approach to reinventing America’s most popular car, and we couldn’t be prouder to receive this honour for Accord as the North American Car of the Year,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of the Automobile Division and general manager of Honda Sales, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “We’re especially proud for the production associates in Ohio where Accord has been built to the highest quality standards for over 35 years.”

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T
The Accord, trimmed here in Touring 1.5T guise, provides a sporty yet elegant profile and dramatic rear end design. (Photo: Honda)

Like in previous years, the 2018 North American Car of the Year was chosen by a jury of 60 professional automotive journalists from the US and Canada who provide content for independent magazines, TV, radio, newspapers and websites. The results of their findings were presented at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month. The award, which also includes a Utility and Truck of the Year, honours “excellence in innovation, design, safety features, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value,” stated a press release.

2018 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T
The new Accord’s cabin is more accommodating, modernized with better electronics, and more upscale. (Photo: Honda)

The Accord has been part of the North American automotive scene for more than four decades, with 11 million-plus made in America. The newest 2018 design features a sharply chiseled new shape inspired by the Civic that debuted two years ago, albeit with a more premium presence and luxuriously finished interior. Its new body shell is both lighter for improved performance and fuel-efficiency, plus stiffer for better handling and structural safety, while interior space and comfort has increased and improved respectively.

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T
Rear seat roominess and comfort is improved. (Photo: Honda)

The new Accord Sedan’s powertrain choices include two completely new, high-torque VTEC turbocharged four-cylinder engines, plus the world’s first front-wheel drive applied 10-speed automatic transmission, while a new generation of Honda’s two-motor hybrid technology is available as well. The Accord also features a bevy of safety, driver-assistive and connected-car technologies, resulting in one of the most advanced mid-size sedans in its class.

The 2018 Honda Accord Sedan is available now from just $26,490 plus freight and fees, while the 2018 Accord Hybrid starts at $31,300.