The ultra-practical Honda Fit subcompact hatchback gets a thorough mid-cycle refresh for 2018, with edgier styling, a new Sport trim line, and the availability of Honda Sensing advanced driver-assistance…

2018 Fit gets sportier styling and Honda Sensing safety

2018 Honda Fit
The 2018 Fit is available in new Sport trim featuring exclusive Orange Fury paint. (Photo: Honda)

The ultra-practical Honda Fit subcompact hatchback gets a thorough mid-cycle refresh for 2018, with edgier styling, a new Sport trim line, and the availability of Honda Sensing advanced driver-assistance systems.

In a press release, Honda claims this 2018 update adds “youthful, sporty and emotional character” to a model already moving into the fourth year of its third generation, the new 2018 Fit’s styling enhancements including “a horizontally layered, two-piece chrome and piano black grille with a larger, more prominent “H” mark,” plus “more integrated and sophisticated” headlamp clusters that “blend into the side edges of the upper fascia’s wing creating a unified yet more aggressive design.” Additionally, Honda has added new chrome accents to the front bumper plus a full-width splitter below, as well as “more angular fog lights pods” to the frontal design.

2018 Honda Fit
All 2018 Fit trim levels get sportier styling including this top-line EX-L Navi. (Photo: Honda)

The 2018 Fit gets updated combination taillights in the rear and a reworked back bumper too, the latter feature now incorporating a “full-width character line in piano black” plus a “splitter-shaped” lower apron. Lastly, new Orange Fury paint is kept exclusively for an entirely new Sport trim level.

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

2018 Honda Fit
Changes are most noticeable up front. (Photo: Honda)

A standard aero kit adds muscle to the new Fit Sport’s front, side and rear body panels for a more aggressive look, with bright orange pin-striping highlighting the deeper front splitter and tri-strake rear diffuser, no matter the exterior colour chosen. Additionally, gloss-black painted 16-inch alloys fill out each corner while a chromed exhaust finisher and “SPORT” liftgate badge complete the Fit Sport’s exterior design enhancements. Finally, the Fit Sport boasts an all-black cabin with unique orange contrast stitching.

New 2018 Fit Sport trim may get the exclusive option of Orange Fury paint, but the rest of its colour palette is limited to Crystal Black Pearl and White Orchid Pearl, with Modern Steel Metallic (medium grey), available with the base DX and other trims, taken off the menu. Likewise, Milano Red, available on LX trims and above, plus Aegean Blue Metallic, optional on the EX and EX-L Navi, are unavailable with the Sport.

2018 Honda Fit
Nicely detailed projector headlamps give the Fit a more upscale look. (Photo: Honda)

“With sporty new styling and additional feature content, the 2018 Honda Fit ups the ante with new styling and sophistication not typically found in the subcompact segment,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice-President Sales and Marketing, Honda Canada Inc. “Fit has always represented a great value for subcompact customers and the addition of available Honda Sensing to its fun-to-drive performance and unmatched versatility will keep the Honda Fit as the industry’s benchmark subcompact.”

2018 Honda Fit
Honda has revised the Fit’s rear bumper with a more aggressive design. (Photo: Honda)

Benchmarks in mind, archrival Toyota was first to offer advanced driver-assistance systems to the subcompact category with its 2017 Yaris hatchback, its Safety Sense C suite of driver-assistance systems adding automatic high beams, a pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking capability, and lane departure alert to its $15,475 base trim level, but the 2018 Fit’s available Honda Sensing system is a more technologically advanced package thanks to autonomous emergency braking joining lane/road departure warning with mitigating assist, as well as adaptive cruise control, although it doesn’t include auto high beams.

Nevertheless, Honda is confident enough to rightly claim the new 2018 Fit with Honda Sensing offers, “the most robust suite of available advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies in its class in Canada.” Choosing Honda Sensing adds $1,300 to the Fit LX and Sport trims, while it comes standard with the Fit EX and EX-L Navi.

2018 Honda Fit
This new “SPORT” badge gets attached to the back of the sportiest Fit. (Photo: Honda)

The 2018 Fit’s direct-injection 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC-enhanced 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine is carryover albeit slightly downgraded from 130 to 128 horsepower and 114 to 113 lb-ft of torque, although the car’s claimed curb weight has now been reduced from 1,177 to 1,133 kilos (2,595 to 2,498 lbs) in base form, which should allow for similar if not better performance. Of note, Sport trim with the CVT, plus EX and EX-L Navi models receive standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to improve performance and driver engagement.

2018 Honda Fit
The Fit EX-L Navi comes nicely loaded up. (Photo: Honda)

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

The Fit has always delivered excellent driving dynamics for its class, but nevertheless Honda has added retuned suspension dampers to the 2018 model, while also making its electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system more rigid, and providing a stiffer structure overall thanks to more body reinforcements. This helps to improve crash resistance, ride quality and handling prowess, as well as interior refinement, the new Fit said to be quieter than the outgoing model. Along with the stiffer structure, Honda achieved the 2018 Fit’s refinement goals by revising its transmission and steering system mounting hardware, while acoustic-laminated glass and more insulation has been added throughout.

2018 Honda Fit
A mostly digital dash adds colour and functionality to the little Fit. (Photo: Honda)

Standard features for the base 2018 Fit DX include auto-off multi-reflector halogen headlights, heatable powered side mirrors, LED brake lights, power locks with remote access, power windows, intermittent windshield wipers, an intermittent rear wiper/washer, tilt and telescopic steering, a 5.0-inch colour LCD infotainment display, a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity with streaming audio, four-speaker 160-watt AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio, a USB port, a 12-volt power outlet, the Fit’s unique 60/40-split second-row Magic Seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, cargo area tie-down hooks, 15-inch steel wheels with covers on 185/6 all-season tires, front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction and stability control, hill start assist, and the usual assortment of advanced airbags.

2018 Honda Fit
The Fit EX-L Navi gets navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and more. (Photo: Honda)

Additionally, the LX adds a rear rooftop spoiler, illuminated steering wheel-mounted switchgear including cruise control, filtered air conditioning, a new 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, text message functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, a second USB port, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, a front centre console with an armrest and storage bin, heatable front seats, another 12-volt power outlet, a cargo cover, and more.

On top of everything already mentioned, new Sport trim adds auto-on/off headlights, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, two more stereo speakers and 20 additional watts of power to the audio system, plus more.

2018 Honda Fit
The 2018 Fit Sport comes standard with a six-speed manual and orange stitching. (Photo: Honda)

EX trim builds on these features with proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, Honda’s impressive LaneWatch blindspot display that projects a rearward view of the passenger’s side lane, a powered moonroof, extendable sunvisors, etcetera.

Lastly, top-line EX-L Navi trim includes LED turn signals integrated into the side mirror housings, automatic climate control, navigation with detailed mapping and voice recognition, satellite and HD radio, leather upholstery, and more.

2018 Honda Fit
Sport trim gets more orange stitching for the seats. (Photo: Honda)

All of this equipment comes in a subcompact hatchback renowned for offering the most accommodating interior in its class. In fact, with its rear seats laid flat a total of 1,492 litres (52.7 cubic feet) is available. Even better, when the backrests of the Fit’s rear Magic Seats are upright it’s possible to flip their lower cushions upwards for yet more cargo capacity, especially helpful for loading in taller items like bicycles or plants, this combining for a collective 609 litres (21.5 cubic feet) of available cargo space when including the Fit’s dedicated luggage area in back. What’s more, the front passenger’s seat can be folded forward to allow ultra-long cargo inside, while both front seats can be laid completely flat when their headrests are removed, providing a large safe place for impromptu camping. No competitor comes close to the Fit when it comes to passenger and cargo flexibility.

2018 Honda Fit
EX-L Navi trim gets leather upholstery, but all Fits feature rear Magic Seats. (Photo: Honda)

Still, the question remains whether all of the Fit’s ongoing attributes, together with the 2018 improvements, will boost its sagging sales numbers, or more precisely whether Honda will be able to keep up to customer demand. To be clear, the roller coaster ride Honda’s smallest car has endured since being available in North America is unusual to say the least. For some background, the first-generation Honda Fit came in with a bang after arriving on Canadian soil in April of 2006 with 10,634 sales, which quickly escalated to 13,507 deliveries in 2007 and then an all-time high of 14,836 down the road in 2008, but since then it’s experienced sales chart mayhem.

2018 Honda Fit
The Fit’s Magic Seats lift completely out of the way for second-row storage. (Photo: Honda)

With more in common with the highly volatile Bitcoin cryptocurrency than anything automotive, Fit sales ebbed to 9,553 units in 2009 despite seeing an all-new second-generation model arrive partway through the year, after which it dropped to 7,900 deliveries the following year, and then plummeted to just 2,835 in 2011. Calendar year 2012 saw improvement to 4,736 units before a strong 2013 with 9,512 buyers, whereas the advent of the current third-generation Fit in 2014 provided 11,732 deliveries for its best sales results so far this decade.

2018 Honda Fit
The Fit’s “Refresh Mode” lets you and some friends relax in side out of the rain or heat. (Photo: Honda)

Since then it’s been on another downward spiral claimed to be due to production issues caused by the immensely popular HR-V subcompact SUV that’s built at the same plant in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico, the result being 9,088 Fit deliveries in 2015, 8,622 in 2016, and after six months of 2017 a meager 2,191 units leaving Canadian dealerships. To ease pressure on its Mexican facility and support the car’s many North American advocates Honda started importing additional Fit models from its production facility in Japan, but evidently not enough.

2018 Honda Fit
Something long to carry? You can configure the Fit’s seats to fit in just about anything. (Photo: Honda)

To appreciate how much ground the Fit has lost since last year came to an end, its 8,622 unit total made it second most popular in the subcompact class when compared to the Accent’s 19,198 sales, but by the close of Q2 2017 it stood sixth out of 11 competitors, with two of the segment’s five slowest sellers including a dedicated hybrid and a full electric model. These would be the Toyota Prius C and new Chevrolet Bolt, with the competitors having past it for second, third, fourth and fifth place in the sales race being the Nissan Versa Note with 4,436 deliveries, the new Yaris Family (including the Yaris hatchback and Mazda-sourced Yaris iA sedan) with 3,053, the Mini Cooper with 2,762, and the Chevrolet Sonic with 2,712. Only the Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta, which also experienced dramatic declines in popularity this year, did worse with 2,122 and 1,052 sales respectively, other than also-ran Fiat 500L that only managed a paltry 32 sales during the same six months.

Along with the usual production issues, some of the Fit’s most recent difficulties can likely be blamed on a purposeful slowdown of production ahead of this 2018 model’s launch so that dealers don’t end up with excess stock, but not all. Either way, if you’re hoping to get your hands on a new 2018 Fit it’s probably a good idea to do so sooner than later.

Honda has been at the forefront of production car electrification since the first modern-day hybrids hit Canadian roads way back at the turn of the millennia, but the Japanese automaker has been cautious…

152 Honda Canada dealerships to add electric charging stations

2017 Honda Clarity Electric
Clarity PHEV to ride “safe” ground between pure EV and non-plug-in hybrid, but the full electric will arrive later in 2018. (Photo: Honda)

Honda has been at the forefront of production car electrification since the first modern-day hybrids hit Canadian roads way back at the turn of the millennia, but the Japanese automaker has been cautious to add plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) or pure electric vehicles (EVs) to our smaller market despite previously offering the Accord Plug-in Hybrid and Fit EV south of the border.

This will soon change thanks to the new Clarity Plug-In Electric Hybrid that will go on sale across Canada starting mid-winter 2018 and the Clarity Electric expected next spring, so in preparation for the arrival of these two models a total of 152 Honda dealerships will have outfitted their facilities with electric charging stations before 2017 comes to a close.

2017 Honda Clarity Electric
152 Honda Canada dealerships will soon have EV recharging capability in preparation to their new Clarity Plug-in PHEV and EV. (Photo: Honda)

“The investment by our dealer network is an indication of our commitment to supporting Honda’s Global 2030 Vision of electrifying two thirds of our fleet,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honda Canada. “This electrification project is essential to our future business as we begin to introduce more electrified vehicles in Canada starting with the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid sedan later this winter.”

The commitment represents close to two thirds of Honda Canada’s entire dealer network, with each getting two 240-volt charging stations apiece. Either charger will be capable of replenishing the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s 17-kilowatt hour (kWh) battery pack in about two and half hours.

2017 Honda Clarity Electric
Despite being a forerunner in the hybrid sector, Honda has been slow to adapt to plug-in technology. (Photo: Honda)

Honda’s first dedicated PHEV is said to have an overall driving range exceeding 530 km (329 miles) and a pure EV range of 68 km (42 miles), which should be enough for many would-be owners who live in urban environments to travel to and from work on electricity alone, although they will need to utilize the car’s electrically-assisted hybrid mode for extended trips.

According to a Honda Canada press release, “… the Clarity Plug-In Electric Hybrid aims to ease Canadian’s concerns about driving range with a no-compromise alternative fuel vehicle that meets the needs of Honda’s customers today while building the foundation of an electrified future.”

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Honda first offered a fuel cell powered Clarity in the U.S. (Photo: Honda)

The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid’s electric motor is capable of 181-horsepower and 232 lb-ft of instant torque, while the internal combustion engine (ICE) portion of the power unit is a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder.

With plenty of plug-in contenders already vying for early adopters, plus no shortage of alternatives arriving each year as well as new additions announced regularly, Canadian PHEV and EV markets are already very competitive, so therefore aggressive pricing, financing and leasing options, along with Honda’s reputation for quality, will determine the new Clarity’s success.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid
The new 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid offers an upscale interior filled with premium features. (Photo: Honda)

This said, despite being one of the original innovators in the HEV sector and producing a wide variety of hybrid models since that initial two-seat Insight, Honda hasn’t had much success with its electrification program to date, the now discontinued Civic Hybrid and the recently introduced second-generation Accord Hybrid aside.

Honda’s U.S. division has already launched the Clarity at select dealerships in Oregon and California with pricing approximately equivalent to $42,500 CAD, while the Clarity Fuel Cell car, which is more representative of the automaker’s long-term alternative fuel plan, went on sale in December of last year, followed up by the aforementioned Clarity Electric, a full EV capable of up to 130 kilometres of range on a single charge.

Heartbreaking news of children and animals left to suffer in the back seats of cars during sweltering summer heat might eventually become history if Nissan has its way, much thanks to an innovative new…

2018 Pathfinder receives potentially life-saving Rear Door Alert

2018 Nissan Pathfinder Rear Door Alert
Did you leave something or someone in the back seat of your car when you went into the house or grocery store? (Photo: Nissan)

Heartbreaking news of children and animals left to suffer in the back seats of cars during sweltering summer heat might eventually become history if Nissan has its way, much thanks to an innovative new technology that gently reminds drivers of someone or something that may have been left in the back seat, or if they’re still not paying attention, multiple honks from the horn once out of the car with the door closed.

Nissan’s “Rear Door Alert” (RDA), which will be exclusive to all 2018 Pathfinder trims when it debuts this fall, starts monitoring the rear door switches as soon as the SUV is unlocked, and if a back door has been opened and then closed again it banks the “memory” for later when the driver arrives at a destination and shuts off the engine.

2018 Nissan Pathfinder Rear Door Alert
Nissan’s new Rear Door Alert reminds when you might have left a little something or someone in back, potentially saving a life. (Photo: Nissan)

When parking the 2018 Pathfinder, a reminder will pop up on the primary instrument cluster telling the driver not to forget whatever was previously placed in the back seat. If these subtle prompts are ignored, by the SUV’s rear doors not being reopened after the driver’s door has been closed, the Pathfinder’s horn will deliver a series of short, distinctive chirps to get the driver’s attention.

“The idea is if you open a rear door, whether to put a child or a package in the rear seat, the vehicle will help alert you when you get to your destination that you may want to check the rear seat,” said Marlene Mendoza, who together with fellow Nissan engineer Elsa Foley came up with the idea. “We’ve built in enough time that you don’t have to rush, but if you don’t open the rear door again when you get out of the vehicle, we want to think for a moment about what you may have put in the back seat.”

2018 Nissan Pathfinder Rear Door Alert
The difference between other systems and new Rear Door Alert, is it both reminds when inside the car and honks if you leave without checking behind. (Photo: Nissan)

In the event you don’t have children, aging parents/grandparents, pets, or anyone/anything else that shouldn’t be left behind, it’s possible to override the RDA completely or merely limit the reminders to the instrument cluster alone. After all, it’s best to keep a low profile if you just went shopping and don’t want to alert any would-be burglars that something valuable is in the back of your vehicle, or simply would rather leave your groceries, briefcase, gym bag or what-have-you in back while doing something else. Then again, even if you’re childless you still might appreciate having the system’s built-in memory ready and waiting as a backup.

“We pushed each other along and knew we were on the right track one morning when Marlene discovered she had left a pan of lasagna in the back seat of her car one night after coming home after a long day at the office,” said Foley. “The worst thing was the car smelled for days, but it made me ask myself, “what if that had been something else back there?’”

2018 Nissan Pathfinder Rear Door Alert
For those without small children or grandkids, Nissan provides a way to turn it off. (Photo: Nissan)

The concept of automaker employees turning real-life experiences into potentially lifesaving innovation is certainly refreshing, and something that Nissan is said to foster in its global corporate culture.

“There’s a culture of innovation along with the Nissan Intelligent Mobility mission that really encourages employees around the world to seek out new ideas every day,” added Mendoza, who is also a mother of three. “We’re thankful that we were able to use our perspective as moms, and our backgrounds as engineers, to bring forward an idea that is now going into production — providing drivers with a reminder to check their back seats.”

While the Rear Door Alert is new to Nissan, General Motors introduced something similar called “Rear Seat Reminder” with the 2017 GMC Acadia last year, and is already rolling out the system on other models this year. This said Nissan’s RDA should be even more effective than GM’s, because the Acadia gives no warning once its driver has left the vehicle.

2018 Nissan Pathfinder Rear Door Alert
Rear Door Alert will be standard in all 2018 Pathfinder trims. (Photo: Nissan)

Concerned citizens can only hope Nissan and GM either license their technologies or other automakers follow suit shortly, because the problem of children and animals dying from heat stroke in the back of hot cars doesn’t seem to be abating, despite the continued news stories surrounding the subject.

Back in August of this year, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hosted a public awareness event on the dangers of heat stroke for children left in hot vehicles, stating the number of child heat stroke deaths in the U.S. increased by 63 percent from 2015 to 2016—no similar data was available for Canada.

As of July 31, 2017, both NoHeatStroke.org and KidsAndCars.org claimed that 29 children had died from the same problem year-to-date in the U.S., while the average number of children suffering a similar fate has been 37 since specifically recording heat stroke deaths in vehicles began in 1998. What’s more, 54 percent of those children were left behind by caregivers who completely forgot they were there, which makes both General Motors’ and Nissan’s rear seat alert systems all the more critical.

2018 Nissan Pathfinder Rear Door Alert
Rear Door Alert could reduce child heat stroke deaths and injuries significantly. (Photo: Nissan)

“The Rear Door Alert uses a similar honking cue that has been proven successful with Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire Alert,” added Foley, who is also a mother of two children. “By drawing your attention back to the vehicle once you’ve walked away, you are more likely to recheck the back seat than with a visual alert alone.”

While the Rear Door Alert will be standard equipment on the 2018 Pathfinder, Nissan plans to add it to other models across its lineup as quickly as possible.

Subaru’s highly successful Outback has been refreshed for 2018, with styling updates that better reflect its “rugged character,” says Subaru in an associated press release. Additionally, the 2018…

Renewed 2018 Subaru Outback improves styling and refinement

2018 Subaru Outback
Fresh new styling renews the look of the 2018 Outback, its updated headlights and front fascia especially bold. (Photo: Subaru)

Subaru’s highly successful Outback has been refreshed for 2018, with styling updates that better reflect its “rugged character,” says Subaru in an associated press release.

Additionally, the 2018 Outback gets a renewed interior with higher grade materials, greater comfort and more advanced electronics, while the mid-size crossover SUV, or rather the “world’s first sport utility wagon,” rides on a retuned suspension promising a “smoother, quieter ride” and better control.

The Outback is Subaru Canada’s third-most popular model, as well as its default flagship due to 2018 pricing that starts at $29,295 and topping out at $42,195, plus freight and dealer fees. This makes it most capable of making a tidy profit, giving it an important role in the alternative Japanese brand’s bottom line maintenance and growth strategy.

2018 Subaru Outback
The 2018 Outback’s grille is revised, its headlights offer more distinctive character, and its lower fascia is more rugged looking. (Photo: Subaru)

Last year Subaru sold 11,255 Outbacks through calendar year 2016, compared to 13,798 Foresters, 11,673 Imprezas, 9,723 Crosstreks, 4,217 WRX/STIs, 3,001 Legacys, and 740 BRZs. Over the first two quarters of 2017 the Outback sales grew to 5,648 units, and while this number appears to only be slightly larger than half of last year’s sales, it’s really much stronger than the 5,195 units Subaru sold over the first six months of 2016, with all but the final month of June showing growth over the previous year.

Altogether the model’s Q1 and Q2 year-over-year growth was up 8.7 percent, which is considerably better than some competitors that have actually been falling backward despite the auto market’s love affair with SUVs. A mid-cycle makeover for the last four months of the year can only help.

2018 Subaru Outback
The 2018 Outback’s rear bumper is certainly a bolder visual statement than the outgoing version’s. (Photo: Subaru)

From the outside it’s all about showing a “bolder more rugged face,” adds Subaru, this due to a reworked grille, revised lower front fascia, new door mirrors, and much more aggressive rear bumper design.

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

2018 Subaru Outback
The Outback remains a capable go-anywhere crossover. (Photo: Subaru)

New mirror housings with slimmer more sophisticated looking LED turn signals aside, there’s not much to distinguish the outgoing Outback from the new one when viewing from its profile, although if you look very carefully from this vantage point it’s possible to pick out some augmentation to the new taillight lenses and rear bumper, the latter feature getting additional black cladding extending upward at each corner. That bumper cap makes the most obvious difference from the rear view too, giving the Outback most of the “rugged” visual upgrade mentioned earlier.

2018 Subaru Outback
Top-line 2018 Outback trims offer improved interior refinement. (Photo: Subaru)

Helping the new Outback perform as well as it looks is a new seven-speed sequential manual mode for the standard continuously variable transmission (CVT), which also includes paddle shifters and off-road enhancing X-Mode, while all 2.5i trims are now Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) rated, which translates into some of the lowest emissions levels in their mid-size SUV class. Also important, all Outbacks get a revised brake booster to improve stopping performance.

Inside, enhancements to the new 2018 model include a redesigned steering wheel with reorganized switchgear that improves “comfort and convenience” across the entire Outback line, while over on the centre stack is a new voice-activated dual-zone auto climate control interface featuring digital readouts for easier legibility and greater overall functionality, standard in just-above-base 2.5i Touring trim. Lastly, rear passengers get dual USB slots for connecting personal devices.

2018 Subaru Outback
Subaru has improved the 2018 Outback’s steering wheel controls for easier use. (Photo: Subaru)

The updated Outback receives two carryover engine choices, starting with the most fuel-efficient 2.5i and topping off with the most powerful 3.6R. The base four-cylinder displaces 2.5 litres and produces up to 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, whereas the larger six-cylinder makes upwards of 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. All Outbacks transmit power to the wheels through the CVT mentioned earlier, a type of transmission that maximizes efficiency.

Fuel economy continues to be impressive too, with the H-4 rated at 9.4 L/100km in the city and 7.3 on the highway and the H-6 achieving a claimed 12.0 city and 8.7 highway rating.

2018 Subaru Outback
Upper trims get a new 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, while all models incorporate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Photo: Subaru)

The Canadian-spec Outback will be available in seven trims for 2018, starting with 2.5i, 2.5i Touring, 2.5i Limited, and 2.5i Premier. Premier trim includes Subaru’s advanced EyeSight driver-assistance package as standard equipment, whereas EyeSight is optional with Touring and Limited trims. The Outback’s optional 3.6R engine can be had in Touring, Limited and Premium trims, although with this larger engine EyeSight can’t be had in 3.6R Touring trim, instead only available with the 3.6R Limited and standard with the 3.6R Premier.

That EyeSight package, which is a very reasonable $1,500 upgrade, includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, reverse automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and new high beam assist.

2018 Subaru Outback
The Outback is fully capable of light off-road duty. (Photo: Subaru)

Of note, the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD), which includes blindspot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert, is standard with all models above the base 2.5i.

Last year’s Outback achieved a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS when upgraded with EyeSight, so there’s no reason to think the new 2018 model will fare any worse. In fact, it should be safer and more convenient in real-world scenarios now that Subaru has integrated auto high beams on so-equipped Limited and standard Premier trims, which incidentally let them remove the third camera from behind the rearview mirror.

2018 Subaru Outback
Road trip? The Outback makes a great family vacation getaway car. (Photo: Subaru)

Additional 2018 Outback safety upgrades include a collision detection feature that can automatically unlock the doors if required, plus automatic door locks that do the opposite when getting under way, a window off-delay timer, improved child safety seat anchors, and a stiffer chassis that should also improve driving dynamics.

All Outback trims should be quieter too, thanks to acoustic front door glass to reduce engine, wind and road noise, while additional standard equipment now includes a standard 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen featuring new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.

2018 Subaru Outback
The Outback is perfect for trips to the ski hill. (Photo: Subaru)

That centre display grows from 7.0 to 8.0 inches in Touring trim and above, while the driver and front passenger benefit from a reworked centre vent grille, centre panel, air conditioning panel, and instrument panel.

Additionally, navigation with detailed mapping adds functionality to that new larger infotainment display in Limited and Premier trims, while steering-responsive LED headlights benefit forward visibility.

These upper trims get real stitching across the instrument panel too, as well as on the revised door panels, while new shift panel detailing and new seat trim patterns pull the mainstream volume-branded crossover SUV closer to premium rivals. On this final theme, top-tier Premier trim now includes auto up/down powered windows all around.

2018 Subaru Outback
Small trailers are easy work for the Outback 3.6R. (Photo: Subaru)

All trims can easily be sorted out via unique alloy wheels, with base 2.5i and Touring models getting 17-inch rolling stock, and larger 18-inch alloys added to Limited and Premium trims.

The 2018 Outback 2.5i will start at $29,295 plus freight and dealer fees, whereas 2.5i Touring trim is priced $3,500 higher at $32,795, 2.5i Touring trim with EyeSight at $34,295, 2.5i Limited trim at $36,795, 2.5i Limited trim with EyeSight at $38,295, and 2.5i Premier with EyeSight at $39,195.

If you want to move up to the 3.6R six-cylinder engine in base Touring guise you’ll need to fork over $35,795 before discount, whereas the 3.6R Limited starts at $39,795, the same package with EyeSight will set you back $41,295, and finally the 3.6R Premier with EyeSight is priced at $42,195.

Most Subaru retailers should have a new 2018 Outback demo available for test drives, so make sure to contact your local dealer to experience it first hand.

Infiniti started production of its refreshed 2018 Q50 sport-luxury sedan at the premium brand’s Tochigi, Japan facility on June 1, the announcement promising a Canadian market arrival time of late summer.…

Renewed 2018 Infiniti Q50 set for late summer availability

2018 Infiniti Q50
New 2018 Q50s are already rolling of the line at Infiniti’s Tochigi, Japan assembly plant. (Photo: Infiniti)

Infiniti started production of its refreshed 2018 Q50 sport-luxury sedan at the premium brand’s Tochigi, Japan facility on June 1, the announcement promising a Canadian market arrival time of late summer.

“We can’t wait to bring the updated, 2018 Q50 to the North American market,” said Randy Parker, Vice President, Infiniti Americas, in a press release that accompanied the production announcement. “Its benchmark performance and athletic styling make it an important cornerstone in our product line. We are excited to get this newest sports sedan in the hands of our fans when it arrives in Infiniti showrooms later this summer.”

Later this summer? Isn’t that right about now? With back to school supplies already lining store shelves it certainly seems like summer is winding up, but technically Infiniti has until Friday, September 22 at the very latest to produce the mid-cycle made-over model.

2018 Infiniti Q50
Infiniti’s Tochigi plant is known for its quality. (Photo: Infiniti)

Pent-up anticipation is reasonable, being that the current Q50 has been on the road since 2013 for the 2014 model year. Four years is hardly long-lived for a premium model, not even coming close to the brand’s QX50, which when completely replaced this fall will have been soldiering along with only minor updates since it arrived as the EX35 in 2007 (that’s 10 years for those not willing to do the math), but don’t get too excited about the renewed 2018 Q50 sedan as the changes made won’t be near as dramatic.

Most will agree the current model is already an attractive design, which is reason enough for its relatively strong sales. I say relatively strong because the Q50 is Infiniti’s second-best selling model next to the mid-size seven-passenger QX60 SUV, and also because it’s neck-and-neck with Lexus’ IS for second-best selling bragging rights amongst non-German D-segment sedans, Acura’s TLX having long held best-of-the-rest status behind BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes’ C-Class, and Audi’s A4. On the positive, the three Japanese brands regularly sweep the floor with Cadillac’s ATS and Volvo’s S60, while Jaguar’s new XE and Alfa Romeo’s equally fresh Giulia are just trying to get noticed within the compact luxury car hierarchy.

2018 Infiniti Q50
The 2018 Infiniti Q50 will come in four distinct flavours, with two built for sport and the others more luxury-oriented. (Photo: Infiniti)

Without the need to totally recreate the Q50’s styling, or for that matter the entire brand’s Essence Concept-inspired design direction, a hybrid sports coupe prototype that was first revealed at the 2009 Geneva auto show as part of the Japanese luxury brand’s 20th anniversary, which by Infiniti’s seven-percent year-over-year gain in global sales numbers appears to be working very well, the design team was freed to mildly tweak details. The changes include a slightly reworked version of the brand’s trademark double-arch grille that now offers more texture to its wavy mesh-patterned insert, whereas more muscular character lines follow the upper outside corners of that grille across each side of the hood. These enhancements were joined by revised headlamps, featuring more eye-like illumination, and redesigned LED taillights at the polar end. While all these updates help modernize the Q50’s look, the new model’s most noticeable changes were saved for its lower front fascia, which now more clearly depicts the trim line, or rather “grade structure” being shown.

2018 Infiniti Q50
The 2018 Q50’s two luxury trims are called Pure and Luxe. (Photo: Infiniti)

For the 2018 model year the Q50 will be available in Pure, Luxe, Sport and Red Sport 400 trims. The latter two “grades” will be familiar to those who follow Infiniti’s products, although Pure and Luxe are trims not yet used by Infiniti (Daimler’s Smart brand was first to use “Pure” for its most basic ForTwo city car). Let’s be first to congratulate Infiniti for not including Limited or Platinum in their naming scheme, two of the most overused trim levels in the industry (the derivative “Premium” hopefully on the way off the Q50 options menu too), after which we should give them the nod of approval for more visually separating each trim line to benefit those paying more to move up into a higher-end model.

“With the new Q50 we are introducing new model grades, each offering their own look and character,” said Francois Bancon, Vice President, Global Product Strategy, Infiniti, a press release that accompanied the launch of the new model in March. “Red Sport 400 in particular lets drivers express themselves with a more assertive design that clearly conveys the car’s performance potential.”

2018 Infiniti Q50
Sport and Red Sport 400 trims continue forward into 2018, but get much more dramatic bodywork. (Photo: Infiniti)

To this end, Sport grade offers “performance-focused” exterior styling, while yet sportier visual upgrades join the model’s most potent 400-horsepower engine in Red Sport 400 trim. Items specific to the two top-line grades include a more sharply creased front bumper and wider, lower air intakes, the corner vents edged in glossy black, while the rear bumper gets a bolder black diffuser embedded at centre, with a stainless steel exhaust tip at each corner. The Red Sport 400 takes things up a notch with some glossy dark paint and body-colour two-tone detailing within the latter, while the side mirror caps also get a gloss black treatment, plus a unique set of 19-inch alloys to finish off the look.

Inside, Infiniti promises higher-grade “authentic” materials and more detailed stitching, “further elevating the level of craftsmanship” in every Q50, noted Infiniti in their press release.

“The cabin of the Q50 has been created with human artistry in mind, enabling occupants to travel in style and comfort,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Executive Design Director, Infiniti. “The refreshed Q50 takes this artistry to a new level, with hand-worked materials giving a greater sense of craftsmanship than ever before.”

2018 Infiniti Q50
The top-line Red Sport 400 gets the most exciting aero and wheel designs. (Photo: Infiniti)

For instance Infiniti now uses double-stitched padded leatherette on the instrument panel, while luxury-oriented models with hardwood inlays incorporate a more naturally genuine look and feel than the usual old-school high-gloss affect.

Sport models feature unique interiors with patterned aluminum inlays, matte dark-chromed accents, plus black cloth roof pillars and headliner, whereas the Red Sport 400’s cabin is appropriately highlighted with contrasting red thread, while Infiniti is promising a new sport steering wheel that’s better formed for performance driving, with easier access to the shift paddles in behind. The new leather-wrapped shift knob was ergonomically designed as well, enhanced with double-stitched seams, new chrome trim, and an Infiniti logo on top.

Of course, Infiniti couldn’t hold back with the red stitching effect throughout the rest of the Red Sport 400’s cabin, but at least they didn’t go so far as to brighten up each and every diamond-quilted crevice of its Bentley-esque seats’ side inserts, the result looking rich yet nicely restrained. At least as importantly those seats include a more comfortable design that Infiniti dubs “spinal support,” which we certainly look forward to testing out. Lastly, the new Red Sport 400 gets special dark chromed primary instrument dials, although those fully infused into the digital age might feel the analogue gauges are a bit of a throwback when others in the class are offering fully configurable colour TFT instruments in their top-tier models.

2018 Infiniti Q50
The Red Sport 400 includes a two-tone black and body-colour rear diffuser. (Photo: Infiniti)

Despite the classic dual-dial gauge cluster, Infiniti might just pull some buyers over from its German competitors when it comes to centre stack infotainment because it chooses to use more convenient, tablet-style touchscreen interfaces instead of lower console-controlled dial, button and touchpad designs. What’s more, both vertically stacked Q50 displays are now touch-capacitive, the top one eight inches in diameter and the lower one seven. This allows the use of multiple functions simultaneously, such as the top screen for navigation mapping and the bottom one for audio control. Infiniti’s appropriately named InTouch infotainment system also lets driver and front passenger customize the car’s inner environment by storing detailed personal information for multiple drivers, such as memory seating and mirror positions, identifiable via individual proximity-sensing I-keys.

Also new for 2018, the Q50 boasts an available 16-speaker Bose “Performance Series” audio system with advanced staging signal processing capable of “a precise, rich and nuanced acoustic experience,” says Infiniti, plus CenterPoint 2.0 surround-sound.

2018 Infiniti Q50
The Red Sport 400’s interior gets red stitching and diamond-quilting, while all Q50’s utilize improved materials. (Photo: Infiniti)

Possibly the biggest 2018 Q50 news is its suite of ProPILOT advanced driver-assistance systems, which include Active Lane Control (camera-sighted autonomous driving capability above 72 km/h or 45 mph), Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist, Backup Collision Intervention, Blind Spot Warning and Intervention, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Forward Emergency Braking, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and last but hardly least, Infiniti’s exclusive Direct Adaptive Steering.

“Infiniti has introduced a number of world-first innovations through the Q50 in recent years,” said Roland Krueger, President of Infiniti. “As Infiniti’s best-selling model [worldwide], the Q50 has always embodied our commitment to make driver-empowering technologies accessible to a large number of customers. The new model will let customers benefit from the latest advances in active safety with our driver support technologies.”

2018 Infiniti Q50
The redesigned steering wheel in Sport models get better paddle shifters. (Photo: Infiniti)

This is Infiniti’s second-generation Direct Adaptive Steering introduced in 2016 (the first version was launched in 2013), both of which are steer-by-wire systems that mostly do away with mechanically linked parts, and have been fairly well received by owners and auto pundits alike. Infiniti considers its Direct Adaptive Steering a “building block on the way to achieving fully-autonomous driving,” and for certain it’s a bit of tomorrow’s technology today. Along with reasonably realistic feel and ultra-quick responsiveness, Direct Adaptive Steering makes it easier to add unique driving modes for comfort or sport applications, the Q50’s Drive Mode Selector letting its driver modulate steering, suspension and drivetrain settings that include Personal, Standard (default), Snow, Eco, Sport and Sport+ modes. Those rightly concerned about no longer having a steering column connected to the turning wheels can take some confidence in knowing Infiniti has logged more than a million kilometres (625,000 miles) of tests on the second-gen Direct Adaptive Steering system alone.

2018 Infiniti Q50
Now both Q50 infotainment displays are touch-capacitive. (Photo: Infiniti)

Powertrains are all carryover, although this shouldn’t be a surprise as they were all just updated for the 2016 model year. Included is the base 2.0t, a Mercedes-sourced 208 horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder featuring 258 lb-ft of torque that gets mated to a seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, the latter two components also standard with the other two conventional engine choices.

The performance-oriented 3.0t models include two different versions of Infiniti’s exclusive new in-house VR family of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6s, which just like the old VQ V6 is once again a 2017 Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner. The less formidable powerplant is good for 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while as noted earlier the top-line Red Sport 400’s version manages to push out 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.

Lastly, Infiniti will continue forward with its high-energy Direct Response Hybrid powertrain consisting of its old 3.5-litre V6, 50-kW electric motor, and compact laminated lithium-ion battery. The combination makes a net 360 horsepower due to the internal combustion engine’s 302 horsepower and electric motor’s 67 horsepower (hybrid net output never adds up exactly), plus a non-advertised sum of torque, although the ICE’s 258 lb-ft and electric motor’s 213 lb-ft makes for a potent mixture, the latter available immediately at input.

2018 Infiniti Q50
All four 2018 Q50 powertrains are carryover, but with an efficient 4-cylinder, two turbo V6s making 300- and 400-hp apiece, plus a 360-hp hybrid, no one should complain. (Photo: Infiniti)

Last year’s Q50 Hybrid was good for a claimed 9.1 L/100km in the city and 7.7 on the highway, which made it quite thrifty considering the performance on tap, while the 2017 Q50 2.0t was estimated to get 10.7 L/100km city and 8.4 highway, thanks partially to fuel-saving stop/start technology. Additionally, the mid-range 3.0t achieved a rating of 12.6 city and 8.8 highway, while the top-tier Red Sport 400 earned an estimated 12.3 city and 9.2 highway, the latter strangely better in the city than the less capable engine. We’ll have to wait to see if the new 2018 model’s Transport Canada ratings do as well or possibly surpass the outgoing estimates, being that the reshaped body shell’s overall aerodynamics and its numerous unique design details are capable of literally causing turmoil with fuel economy figures.

Of note, Q50s fitted with the larger engine will get Infiniti’s “Rack Electronic Power Steering” as standard, which can also be modulated via the Drive Mode Selector, while 2.0-litre Q50 models are equipped with more conventional vehicle speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic rack-and-pinion power steering.

It’s quite likely the renewed Q50 will have what it takes to boost sales beyond the Lexus IS in Canada, the difference coming down to just 65 models at the end of 2016, although 2017 Q50 sales that were purposely slowed so as not to leave dealers with unsold inventory might mean we’ll have to wait until the 2018 calendar year to find out. Stay tuned…

You can be forgiven for not noticing the mild changes made to Jaguar’s beautiful F-Type sports car as part of its 2018 mid-cycle update, but the sound emanating from the new base model’s tailpipes…

2018 Jaguar F-Type gets 296-hp turbo-four and $10k price cut

2018 Jaguar F-Type
Changes made to the 2018 Jaguar F-Type include unique front fascias throughout the line, this new 400 Sport getting even more styling enhancements plus a 400-hp V6. (Photo: Jaguar)

You can be forgiven for not noticing the mild changes made to Jaguar’s beautiful F-Type sports car as part of its 2018 mid-cycle update, but the sound emanating from the new base model’s tailpipes should cause your head to spin when one passes by.

Under its long, elegant hood is a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged “Ingenium” engine making a very healthy 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, that when combined with its standard eight-speed Quickshift automatic transmission results in a very spirited 5.7-second sprint to 100km/h before attaining a limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph).

“Introducing our advanced four-cylinder engine to the F-Type has created a vehicle with its own distinct character,” said Ian Hoban, Vehicle Line Director, Jaguar F-Type. “Performance from an engine of this size is remarkable and is balanced with improved fuel efficiency and affordability, making the F-Type experience more accessible than ever before.”

2018 Jaguar F-Type
New R-Dynamic trim also gets a unique look that’s all its own. (Photo: Jaguar)

The turbo four-cylinder F-Type should provide more than enough performance for many sports car enthusiasts, especially when considering that key competitors Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Alfa Romeo don’t offer anywhere near as much output from their entry-level four-cylinder sports models, with 220 horsepower for the TT, 241 for the SLC, 241 for the Z4, and 237 for the 4C, while the aforementioned numbers line up right alongside Porsche’s dynamic duo, the 718 Cayman and Boxster that are good for 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque apiece.

In case you’re thinking the all-aluminum F-Type is more of a 911 fighter, or for that matter a good match for the larger R8, SL, i8, etcetera, you’re right in one respect. It can match or beat all of the above when powered by one of its more potent supercharged V6 or V8 engines, the new for 2018 F-Type 400 Sport special edition capable of 400 horsepower and a 4.9-second sprint to 100km/h, and F-Type SVR putting a cool 575 horsepower down to all four wheels for a 3.7-second dash to 100km/h, but more importantly the F-Type’s new $68,500 starting point, which is an even $10k less than last year’s base Coupe, makes it more affordable than all of the above except the little Audi when each competitor is upgraded to match the Jag’s standard features.

2018 Jaguar F-Type
The V8-powered F-Type R is one of the more aggressively styled trims. (Photo: Jaguar)

A Porsche 911, on the other hand, starts at $104,000, which is $35,500 more than the entry-level F-Type. Again, Jaguar has a full range of F-Type trims to go head-to-head with that 911 and almost any sports car currently available, which is a highly efficient way of taking on larger less exclusive brands and simultaneously delivering big value to its clientele.

No wonder the F-Type was Canada’s third most popular premium sports car last year, a position it’s carried forward throughout the first half of 2017 and could possibly surpass in Q3 and Q4 due to greater affordability of the new 2018 model. Of note, its sales already rank second in the 10 times larger U.S. market.

2018 Jaguar F-Type
The new F-Type SVR is top of the line and capable of 575-hp. (Photo: Jaguar)

As noted, part of that value equation comes down to everything you get for your money, a shortlist of standard F-Type features including LED headlights with signature J-Blade DRLs, 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, power-folding heatable side mirrors with memory, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a colour multi-information display, a powered steering column with memory, 12-way powered sport seats with memory, leather and Suedecloth upholstery, auto climate control, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with a rearview camera, navigation, InControl apps (Spotify, Stitcher, Audiobooks, Accuweather, Tile, Glympse, and more, including new Jaguar ReRun developed with GoPro for creating your own video content with real-time on-board telemetry overlays such as speed, throttle position, gear selection, braking force, and g-force data, downloadable to your smartphone and therefore sharable on social media—beware of self-incrimination) and Pro Services (real-time traffic, door-to-door routing, etc), 380-watt 10-speaker Meridian audio, satellite and HD radio, rear parking sensors, an electromechanical parking brake, a performance-tuned eight-speed Quickshift automatic transmission with paddles, brake-sourced torque vectoring, auto engine start/stop, an active sport exhaust system, lane departure warning, and much more.

2018 Jaguar F-Type
Unique carbon-fibre details help to visually set the SVR apart. (Photo: Jaguar)

To be totally fair to those aforementioned competitors, most include heatable front seats and dual-zone auto climate control, both of which will cost F-Type buyers an extra $1,530 for the Climate package that also includes a heatable steering wheel and heated windshield, while a universal garage door opener is on the standard list of some rivals too, a $260 standalone option with the F-Type. Even with these options added it’s a better deal than average, however, while the ability to add auto high beams for $260 as well as lane keep assist, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, an adaptive speed limiter (a.k.a. dynamic cruise control), and a driver condition monitor for just $870 when upgrading to the Drive Pack is excellent value in this class or any.

2018 Jaguar F-Type
All F-Type trims get darkened LED taillights for 2018. (Photo: Jaguar)

Of note, Jaguar offers a number of other option groups and features with the base F-Type too, including a $1,180 Black package that replaces chrome and body-colour exterior elements with glossy black; a $1,130 Interior Black package that adds a flat-bottom sport steering wheel with black spokes, gloss black instrument cluster dial rings, and black vent surrounds; a $2,250 Extended Leather package that adds leather-clad sunvisors and a leather headliner (the stitched leather dash top and instrument panel others charge you more for is already standard); $1,020 770-watt 12-speaker Meridian surround audio; $210 auto-dimming side mirrors; $260 configurable multi-colour ambient lighting; a $110 air quality sensor; $620 illuminated aluminum treadplates with “JAGUAR” script; a $510 powered liftgate; $290 front parking sensors; and $260 switchable active exhaust; while some of the otherwise packaged features can alternatively be purchased as standalone items. Of course, many more standard and optional features can be had when moving up through the F-Type range, semi-autonomous self-parking even available with automatic equipped models.

2018 Jaguar F-Type
Jaguar’s 8.0-inch InControl Touch infotainment with navigation is standard across the F-Type line. (Photo: Jaguar)

While the 2018 F-Type’s mid-cycle makeover is subtle, the changes make a big difference up front where new bumpers and air intakes make it easy to decipher new from old, while also allowing greater model-to-model differentiation throughout the F-Type range, with pricier more potent F-Type trims getting more aggressive, sportier front fascia designs. As noted earlier, LED headlamps are standard now, which makes sure all F-Types receive a premium-level, high-tech appearance when they pass by, while simultaneously improving nighttime visibility and therefore safety. The only noted changes to the 2018 F-Type’s rear design are slightly modified LED taillights featuring darker lenses.

“Great sports car design is about proportion and purity,” said Ian Callum, Director of Design, Jaguar. “The most challenging element of the process for designers is to focus on and maintain an exciting silhouette that promises performance. For the 2018 model year F-Type, we looked at how we could fine-tune key details to deliver even more clarity of purpose in the overall design – for the driver, the passenger and onlookers.”

2018 Jaguar F-Type
Even base cars come richly appointed with standard leather, nicer trims, better sport seats, and improved digital interfaces. (Photo: Jaguar)

While most sports car fans will be glad Jaguar kept exterior design mods to a minimum, all should be happy the interior introduces “new material options that give the car a more exotic feel,” said Jaguar in a press release. Those purchasing an entry-level model should also be glad to hear the brand’s 8.0-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment system is now standard, its large screen, faster processing speeds and tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe gesture controls making most in-car functions work smoother, while Jaguar also promises its new slimline seats, with pressure diecast magnesium alloy frames, improve ergonomics and add comfort despite being 7.7 kilos (17 lbs) lighter. Additionally, Jaguar has added new chrome and aluminum trim inside, which “heighten the driver-focused feel of the interior and perfectly complement the enhanced interior color options,” added Jaguar in the same press release, the latter now including a Siena Tan leather option in standard models and above.

2018 Jaguar F-Type
The new ReRun app lets record your driving antics via a GoPro camera while overlaying performance data overtop. All you need to do is download it and put it on social media. (Photo: Jaguar)

The 400 Sport special edition noted earlier uses Jaguar’s 3.0-litre supercharged V6, firms up the chassis and adds Configurable Dynamics, upgrades the brakes to larger 380-mm front and 376-mm rear rotors, bolts on a unique set of satin dark grey 20-inch alloys, gets painted in Indus Silver, Santorini Black or Yulong White metallic, and finally gets special “400 SPORT” badges on the front splitter, rear deck lid, treadplates, steering wheel, centre console, and embroidered into the headrests in yellow thread, the latter stitching used elsewhere within the interior as well. Final 400 Sport interior touches include a flat-bottomed steering wheel, anodized aluminum gearshift paddles, and 12-way powered performance seats boasting greater detail and more pronounced wings at shoulder height. All this can be had for just $97,500, which as you may recall is still less than the previously noted base 911.

Just below this model is a new $88,000 R-Dynamic trim level that builds on the 380 horsepower supercharged V6 model by adding gloss black to the front air intake bezels, front splitter, hood vents and side sills, plus a set of 20-inch dark grey diamond turned alloys.

2018 Jaguar F-Type
All 2018 F-Type trims can be had in either Coupe or Convertible body styles. (Photo: Jaguar)

To be clear, while the new four-cylinder comes only with an eight-speed automatic in rear-wheel drive, Jaguar will continue offering 340 and 380 horsepower versions of its supercharged V6 for 2018, the former with the choice of six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions and rear-wheel drive, and the latter with the option of the automatic and all-wheel drive. The new Sport 400 is automatic-only, but can be had with either rear- or all-wheel drive, whereas all V8-powered models get the auto with all-wheel drive, the only powertrain not yet mentioned being the carryover 550 horsepower supercharged V8. What’s more, all of the above configurations are available in two-door Coupe or Convertible body styles.

Also notable, a number of other F-Type trims receive price cuts too, including the top-line SVR that’s now $2,500 more affordable than last year’s equivalent at $139,500.

Much more has gone into the 2018 F-Type than initially meets the eye or can be covered in this story, such as extensive chassis tuning to take advantage of the lighter weight base engine, plus critically important to any new model, a comprehensive suite of available electronic driver assistance features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and more.

There’s been a V8 in Aston Martin’s lineup since 1969, and while the latest version wasn’t designed in-house by famed engine-builder Tadek Marek or massaged from the Ford-sourced albeit hand-assembled…

Lighter, nimbler Aston Martin DB11 gets twin-turbo V8 power

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
Aston’s relationship with Mercedes-AMG bears fruit with this fabulous 503-hp V8-powered DB11. (Photo: Aston Martin)

There’s been a V8 in Aston Martin’s lineup since 1969, and while the latest version wasn’t designed in-house by famed engine-builder Tadek Marek or massaged from the Ford-sourced albeit hand-assembled AJ37, it’s very special just the same.

This one hails from Mercedes’ AMG headquarters, unlike the in-house engineered and produced 600 horsepower twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 that’s currently under the DB11’s long, elegant hood, but it nevertheless remains individually hand-built.

The new 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 makes a considerable 503 horsepower and 498 lb-ft of torque, which is a major step up from the current A-M 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 that puts out 430 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque in top-line “S” guise. This allows for a near identical standstill to 100km/h sprint time of 4.0 seconds to the V12-powered DB11 that manages the feat in 3.9 seconds, whereas the V8’s top speed is rated at 301 km/h (187 mph) compared to the V12’s 322 km/h (201 mph).

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
A cleaner design sans twinned centre hood vents and smoked headlamp bezels help distinguish V8-powered DB11s. (Photo: Aston Martin)

Being that terminal velocity is more about bragging rights than anything useful, similar to the “need” for a 390 bar Rolex Deepsea or even a 120 bar Sea-Dweller when a regular 30 bar Sub will do just fine (serious divers use wrist computers anyway), most DB11 buyers should be more than satisfied with the V8’s everyday performance, while even more appealing is the smaller engine’s 115-kilo (254-pound) weight reduction, most of which is over the front wheels, as well as the car’s lighter 1,760-kg (3,880-lb) curb weight, plus the fact the V8 gets pushed rearward behind the front axle for better weight distribution.

According to A-M’s press release, the new layout and reduced weight makes for “an increased sense of agility,” although such improvements also need to be attributed to “detailed revisions to the suspension bushing, geometry, anti-roll bars, springs, dampers and ESP software.” Therefore, “the V8 appeals to those customers drawn to a refined and comfortable GT with a more sporting bias,” continues Aston Martin. We’re certainly ok with that.

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
V8-powered DB11s get unique wheel designs as well. (Photo: Aston Martin)

While the engine comes completed from AMG, Aston adds its own air intake, exhaust system, and slimline wet sump lubrication design, the latter allowing a lower centre of gravity, before creating new ECU software and reprogramming the engine and throttle mapping, giving it performance characteristics and sound qualities more familiar to Aston Martin owners, and finally fastening it into the DB11’s engine bay via bespoke engine mounts.

“As an engineer I find the DB11 a fascinating car,” said Max Szwaj, Aston Martin Chief Technical Officer. “One with great depth of character and ability. Of course the V12-engined variant is an icon – an ultimate, if you like, but the V8 is very much its own car. One with a distinct and carefully crafted character that’s truly seductive. It has been hugely rewarding to put our stamp on this new engine – both in the way it sounds and performs – and to use its impressive attributes as the impetus to reveal a little more of the DB11’s sporting character.”

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
Powertrain and few exterior trim items aside, the DB11 V8 gets the same standard and available features as the V12. (Photo: Aston Martin)

As for distinctive characteristics that set the V8-powered DB11 apart from the V12 model, A-M removes the two nostril-style engine vents from the hood’s centre panels for an arguably cleaner look, adds darkened headlamp bezels, and leaves all other differentiation up to unique wheels all-round. The two remaining engine vents are available in black or a titanium-finish mesh.

There are no differences with either V8 or V12 cabins, as each car receives an identical list of standard features and the same extensive menu of available colours and optional trims.

We’d like to think Aston Martin owners are environmentally conscious, although such issues probably don’t matter as much to the brand’s performance- and luxury-oriented clientele as to the automaker itself, which is forced to deal with a literal world of regulating bodies that are forever increasing their emissions restrictions. Therefore A-M is proud of the new V8 engine’s CO2 figure of 230g/km, which allows for lower taxation rates in key growth markets like China.

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
New AMG-built twin-turbo V8 gets plenty of Aston handiwork, plus a signature on top to verify that it’s handbuilt. (Photo: Aston Martin)

“The DB11 is the most complete and sophisticated car Aston Martin has ever made,” said Dr. Andy Palmer, Aston Martin President and CEO. “Now, with this new V8 engine option we have broadened its appeal by offering a car that will bring the DB11 to more customers around the world while still blessed with the exceptional performance and memorable character that sets Aston Martin apart from its rivals. Having driven the car during its development phase, it is not just the engine that has changed the character of the car, but also the resulting dynamic changes to create a remarkable GT car with its own distinct personality from the V12.”

The new V8-powered DB11 will be available in the North American markets during Q4 of 2017, with pricing starting at $198,995 USD. Expect Canadian pricing and other details closer to availability.

Anyone who’s driven Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid knows it’s an especially impressive sport-luxury sedan, especially in top-line Elite trim. It’s just suffering from forgetful styling, which is nothing…

Dramatic new 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid revealed

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura has given its RLX a dramatic mid-cycle makeover for 2018, with its sharply chiseled diamond pentagon grille front and centre. (Photo: Acura)

Anyone who’s driven Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid knows it’s an especially impressive sport-luxury sedan, especially in top-line Elite trim. It’s just suffering from forgetful styling, which is nothing a mid-cycle makeover can’t fix.

That’s what Acura has planned for the 2018 RLX, following the same Precision Crafted Performance design language theme as the recently rejuvenated 2018 TLX, and the MDX that underwent extensive cosmetic surgery for the 2017 model year.

Acura plans to show the new 2018 RLX in the metal at the upcoming Monterey Automotive Week that runs from August 15 through 19 in Monterey, California, where it hopes to find favour with its ideal target market.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The new RLX now looks as fast as it actually is. (Photo: Acura)

The most noticeable change to the new RLX is the adaption of Acura’s new signature diamond pentagon grille and more pronounced Acura badge at centre, which transforms its front end while giving a new sense of purpose to the entire car.

“This redesign of the 2018 Acura RLX is transformational, creating road presence and styling that better reflect underlying performance capabilities of the vehicle,” said Gary Gill, Acura Senior Manager, Acura Sales and Marketing.

After decades of searching for a trademark brand identity that’s both unquestionably unique and undeniably attractive, Acura created the new diamond pentagon grille first seen on the dramatic 2016 Acura Precision Concept that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 2016, a car we’d love to see brought to production as soon as possible.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Rear changes are less obvious, but new LED taillights, a revised bumper and reshaped dual exhaust tips complete the refresh. (Photo: Acura)

Additional exterior enhancements with the new RLX include reworked five-element LED headlamps featuring new LED character strips around their outside edges, a totally revised more aggressively styled lower front fascia, a more sharply sculpted hood, more detail along the extended rocker panels including unique chrome mouldings that visually extend from those on the front and rear fascias, redesigned LED taillights, a new rear bumper with an integrated gloss black diffuser, new dual exhaust finishers, and new alloy wheels.

The 2018 RLX is Acura’s third production model to receive the new diamond pentagon grille design, the fabulous NSX Sport Hybrid ironically using a modernized version of the outgoing grille’s general shape, although it might be challenging to graft the bold new look onto the sleek mid-engine supercar’s narrow front fascia.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The new LED taillights are quite complex close up. (Photo: Acura)

The NSX marked the second hybrid in Acura’s lineup when it arrived late last year as a 2017 model, the first being the RLX since model year 2015, while the Japanese luxury brand added the new MDX Sport Hybrid earlier this year.

The RLX Sport Hybrid powertrain bridges the gap between the blisteringly quick NSX Sport Hybrid and the more family-oriented MDX Sport Hybrid. The former utilizes a similar tri-motor electrified setup as the more conventional models, albeit completely reversed due to its mid-engine sports car layout. The NSX puts out a sensational 573 net horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque, which makes it an honest challenger to the Audi R8 e-tron, BMW’s i8, and other hybrid supercars, whereas the MDX Sport Hybrid produces a more modest 321 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque due to a smaller 3.0-litre V6. This makes the 3.5-litre V6-powered RLX Sport Hybrid’s 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque the mediator, an apropos position to be in for an executive sedan.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura has reportedly improved interior materials quality, although the outgoing RLX was already nicely put together. (Photo: Acura)

Of note, the 310 horsepower conventionally powered front-wheel drive model sold in the U.S., featuring a new 10-speed automatic transmission as well as Acura’s Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS) won’t be offered in Canada.

Like the other Sport Hybrid models, the RLX Sport Hybrid uses Acura’s three-motor powertrain with electric torque vectoring, featuring an internal combustion engine (ICE) powering the front wheels in concert with an electric assist motor. The RDX defaults to this most fuel-efficient mode in the dry or under light loads, but if increased throttle input, hard cornering, or driving on slippery surfaces causes the need for rear-wheel propulsion an electrified version of Acura’s torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) provides traction from all four tires via two rear wheel-mounted electric motors.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
There won’t be a fully configurable TFT gauge cluster for this refresh, but the multi-info display is nice and large. (Photo: Acura)

Acura dubs this system Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (Sport Hybrid SH-AWD), resulting in a long enough name to make the German’s proud, and while it’s a particularly advanced hybrid powertrain, its sophistication only scrapes the surface of all the technology aboard the RLX.

Like the 2017 RLX Sport Hybrid we reviewed earlier this year, the new 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid will carry forward with the AcuraWatch suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) including forward collision warning with autonomous collision mitigation braking, blindspot monitoring and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation, and rear cross-traffic alert, which was enough to earn the 2017 RLX an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating, while new for 2018 is Traffic Jam Assist, a first for Acura.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura’s dual-screen infotainment system will soldier on for 2018, complete with standard navigation and more. (Photo: Acura)

Traffic Jam Assist works together with another AcuraWatch feature, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow, helping reduce driver fatigue and stress amid congested traffic by keeping the RLX within its lane at a set interval behind the car ahead. Consider it low-speed autopilot, which is certainly a safer way to implement fully autonomous driving than some premium carmakers.

AcuraWatch combines millimeter wave radar together with monocular camera sensing technology in order to detect lane markings and surrounding vehicles, which not only keeps the car within its lane, but can also intervene in order to prevent a collision or mitigate the severity of impact.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The old model’s seats were superb and still appear plenty comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Acura)

Additional standard 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid features include LED fog lamps, remote start, colour head-up display, navigation, voice recognition, a heated steering wheel, heatable front and rear seats, and more, while the sensational Krell audio system will continue forward in the new model.

Acura will offer three new exterior colour choices to 2018 RLX customers, including Brilliant Red Metallic (shown) and Majestic Black Pearl that fall under the premium paint category.

Premium in mind, Acura promises some interior enhancements including improved materials on key touch points, such as redesigned seats featuring high-contrast stitching and piping, plus a new Espresso interior option.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The RLX was the first of Acura’s Sport Hybrid models, with three now available. (Photo: Acura)

A more detailed list of features, prices and fuel economy information will be released ahead of the car’s November 2017 on-sale date.

Rarely does a mid-cycle refresh make such a dramatic difference, and no doubt Acura is hoping the new design direction helps raise the RLX Sport Hybrid’s currently slow sales volume, which resulted in just 37 Canadian sales over the first six months of 2017 and a mere 107 during all of last year. This meant that at the close of 2017 the RLX was the sixth slowest selling car in Canada, right behind the seventh slowest selling Infiniti Q70 that’s arguably its closest competitor. At least Acura can take some solace in selling more flagship luxury sedans than Lexus and Kia sold full-size LS and K900 models, the latter Canada’s least popular car of all, whereas Audi, Porsche, Maserati and Jaguar won’t be feeling too smug in ninth, 12th, 13th and 14th slowest for their A8, Panamera, Ghibli and XJ respectively—Lexus’ GS sedan’s 17th placement making it the top-selling direct rival on the bottom 20 list.

Expect the 2018 Acura RLX to climb up through the ranks after November, but don’t count on it catching up to the ultra-popular RDX and MDX crossover SUVs anytime soon.