As my dad always said, if you’re going to do something, do it right. Such is obviously the mantra of Porsche as well, because it never goes halfway with any of its models, and never seems to slow in…

2018 Porsche Panamera Road Test

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The 440-hp Panamera 4S was the least powerful trim tested this time around, and it’s still extremely fast. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As my dad always said, if you’re going to do something, do it right. Such is obviously the mantra of Porsche as well, because it never goes halfway with any of its models, and never seems to slow in its relentless push for perfection. 

Over the past year I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy plenty of opportunities behind the wheel of the new Porsche Panamera, from a more entry-level Panamera 4 to the sensational new Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, plus the Panamera 4S and 4 E-Hybrid models in between, not to mention the shapely new Panamera Sport Turismo in top-line Turbo guise, with each stint behind the wheel impressing me more. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid makes a soul-stirring 462 net horsepower. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To help you appreciate the breadth of Panamera models available, Porsche divides its road-hugging four-door coupe into three categories including Panamera, Panamera E-Hybrid and Panamera Turbo. Within these classifications are three body styles and various states of tune. The former includes the regular-length Panamera, the long-wheelbase Panamera Executive that adds 150 mm (5.9 inches) between the axles and significantly lengthens the entire car for improved rear legroom, and the shooting-brake, wagon-style Panamera Sport Turismo that uses the regular wheelbase yet increases cargo volume by 27 litres (1.0 cubic foot) behind the rear seatbacks and 51 litres (1.8 cubic feet) when those seats are folded flat, while the latter variances are much more diverse. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The Panamera Sport Turismo, driven here in 550-hp Turbo guise, includes an elongated roofline for a sport wagon profile. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With my best attempt to keep the list simple and straightforward (truly, a spreadsheet would work better), the unnamed base Panamera trim incorporates a 330 horsepower turbocharged V6 with rear-wheel drive (RWD); the numeric 4 designation signifies the same engine with all-wheel drive (AWD); the 4S denotes a twin-turbo V6 making 440 horsepower mated to AWD; the 4 E-Hybrid combines a twin-turbo V6 with Porsche’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain and AWD for 462 net horsepower; the Turbo boasts a twin-turbocharged V8 and AWD for 550 horsepower; and finally the Turbo S E-Hybrid with its twin-turbo V8, plug-in hybrid and AWD combination results in a staggering 680 net horsepower. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid shown here might look similar to the white 4 E-Hybrid parked behind, but it makes an additional 218 horsepower at 680. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Connecting powerplant to driveline is Porsche’s new eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission that works with both hybrid and non-hybrid models, as well as both rear- and all-wheel drivetrains. Introduced just last year with this new Panamera, the new gearbox might just be the most important “cog in the wheel” both literally and figuratively, in that it replaces three transmissions from the previous generation, including a six-speed manual used with base model V6 and naturally aspirated V8 trims, a seven-speed PDK found most everywhere else, and an Aisin-sourced (owned by Toyota) Tiptronic S eight-speed automatic exclusive to hybrids and diesel models. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The recently redesigned Panamera is a much better looking car than its predecessor from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That’s a lot of logistical complexity to deal with from a business standpoint and, just as importantly, a big challenge for Stuttgart’s engineers with respect to integrating Porsche performance DNA into what is essentially a Lexus slushbox. They did an admirable job, evidenced today in various Cayenne trims that still use the conventional autobox due to its towing and off-road attributes, but the performance gained by the new eight-speed PKD has transformed hybridized Panameras from fast fuel-sippers to the dominant forces within the Panamera lineup. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera’s standard LED headlamps feature Porsche’s trademark four-point signature driving lights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I need to be careful not to delve too deeply into the new eight-speed PDK, as I could easily take up most of this review in technical analysis, but suffice to say it builds on the seven-speed original that was already impressive, with better efficiency, quicker shifts, smoother shift intervals, and most importantly greater strength, the new transmission given a torque ceiling that reaches upwards to 737 lb-ft. 

This last point is critical when fitted to the aforementioned hybrid powertrains that produce gobs of twist at a much faster rate than their conventionally powered siblings. To be clear, Porsche didn’t create a one-size-fits-all dual-clutch gearbox solution, but rather a modular design that allows different versions of the same basic transmission to be used for hybrid, non-hybrid, rear-wheel, and all-wheel applications. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera’s new full-width singular taillight incorporates four-point signature LEDs at each corner. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For instance, the electrified variant fits its hybrid module within the PDK’s bellhousing, while a hang-on clutch transfers torque to the front axle in conventionally powered all-wheel drive configurations. With a focus on efficiency, the eight-speed PDK provides three overdrive ratios, which means the Panamera achieves its terminal velocity in sixth gear. Of course, I’m just grazing over some surface details of this impressive new transmission so as not to lull you into a coma, so let me wrap it up by saying this in-house design serves all Panamera purposes very well. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera combines extreme performance with a wonderfully luxurious interior made from the finest materials. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

When ensconced inside the Panamera’s contrast-stitched, leather-lined, black/grey lacquer-, hardwood- or carbon-fibre-trimmed, metal-adorned, digital display-decorated cabin, with left hand on the thick-rimmed, thin-spoked, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and right hand slotting the leather- and metal-finished, pistol-grip shifter from the “RND” side of the equation into “M” for manual, although it could just as easily represent maximum fun, you won’t care one whit about what’s going on below that shift lever, so long as the new eight-speed PDK delivers on all of its noted promises. Believe me, it does. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
Despite being a large four-door sport sedan, the Panamera cockpit delivers sports car-like intimacy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My first extended test drive in a second-generation Panamera was in a just-above-base 4, and while harnessed to just 330 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque I found it quite lively, launching to 100km/h from standstill in only 5.5 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the rear-drive base model, and feeling light and agile while doing so. This said the Panamera 4S I spent a week with was much more entertaining, its overall mass much the same yet its aforementioned 440 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque resulting in 4.4 seconds to 100km/h, but as thrilling as that was, two of the three others I drove more recently are in another league altogether. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
Clear, bright, colourful, and filled with highly functional features, the Panamera’s gauge cluster is impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Comparing the 4S to the 4 E-Hybrid is more or less a wash, as the latter takes a mere 0.2 seconds longer to hit the 100km/h mark and feels equally sporting, except for some 300 kilos (661 lbs) of weight gain that can be felt through sharp, fast-paced corners, but of course it’s the hybrid’s 5.1 Le/100km (compared to 10.1 L/100km) and ability to run totally on electric power for up to 50 kilometres (31 miles) at speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph) that separates it from the conventionally powered pack. On paper it appears as if it’ll rip a new hole in the tarmac, and while 4.6 seconds to 100km/h is no snail’s pace it remains the equal of its 4S counterpart, although its 462 net horsepower and 516 lb-ft of total combined torque make for some serious bragging rights. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The Panamera’s infotainment display is massive, and revised centre stack an exercise in elegant minimalism. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And then there are the Turbos. My Panamera Turbo tester wore the slightly heftier Sport Turismo body style, but the twin-turbo V8’s 550 horses and 567 lb-ft of twist managed to haul it to 100km/h in a scant 3.6 seconds thanks to its Sport Chrono package that takes 0.2 seconds off its regular sprint time of 3.8 seconds, a feeling that has to be close to being flung from a massive car catapult, or more accurately a trebuchet (check YouTube for a little fun), that is until I did the same in the world’s fastest four-door hybrid. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The infotainment touchscreen’s HD resolution is unsurpassed in the industry. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Turbo S E-Hybrid is why the new eight-speed PDK needed to be so robust. With its twin-turbo V8 and plug-in hybrid combination making a shocking 680 horsepower and 626 lb-ft of torque it needed to be as strong as possible, its outrageous all-wheel thrust capable of flinging it to 100km/h in a seemingly unreal 3.4 seconds despite gaining 315 kilograms (694 lbs) over its Turbo counterpart, let alone 140 kg (308 lbs) more than the lesser 4 E-Hybrid. 

Batteries are heavy, not to mention all the compact yet still mass amassing hybrid components, but once again it’s all worth it when passing by the pump, the top-tier Panamera also excelling at efficiency performance with a claimed 4.8 Le/100km rating. It’s truly a best of both worlds, have your cake and eat it too kind of car. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Driving modes can be set via this handy rotating dial on the steering wheel. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Again, you can feel the heavier hybrid in the corners, but the Panamera’s suspension is so brilliantly dialed in, and no doubt capable of its top track speed of 310 km/h (192 mph), my tester equipped with the same 21-inch alloys on 275/35ZR21 Michelin Pilot Sport 4s as the lighter weight Sport Turismo, that it kept up without issue. 

Despite driving three of these Panameras back to back, it’s impossible to compare all four of them directly, as each was filled with unique features from Porsche’s bevy of available options. This side of bespoke coachbuilders that make most everything by hand, no other manufacturer offers as many possible build combinations as Porsche. Just go ahead and try to put one together on the company’s online configurator and you’ll quickly figure out what I mean. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
The Sports Chrono Package adds a chronograph-infused clock that can be personalized with unique face designs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For instance, the 4 E-Hybrid I drove was one of two to include Rear Axle Steering with Power Steering Plus, the former benefiting low-speed manoeuvrability by pointing front and rear wheels in the opposite direction, shortening the turning circle, and also enhancing high-speed stability by steering the front and rear wheels in the same direction, while Power Steering Plus boosts the electric power steering to lighten its load at low speeds and firms it up while responding with more precision at high speeds. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
The centre stack and its touch-sensitive controls is almost as impressive as the ultra-advanced transmission it houses. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My Carrara White painted 4 E-Hybrid was shod in 21-inch rims and rubber too, albeit the latter from Pirelli, yet this car was obviously set up more for style and comfort than all-out performance. Its feature set included a SportDesign Package with satin black front fascia elements, extended side sills and more satin black in back, LED headlamps with dynamic cornering and self-cleaning capabilities, bright silver side window surrounds, proximity-sensing Comfort access, soft-close self-cinching doors, ambient interior lighting, a rich looking Cohiba Brown Club Leather Interior, painted air outlet grilles, four-zone auto climate control, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 18-way power-adjustable front seats with memory, a powered steering column, Bose surround audio, Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Change Assist, Night Vision Assist, a Speed Limit Indicator, front and rear parking sensors, and more. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera’s front seats look like they’ve been pulled from a 911, but in fact they’re larger, more adjustable, and can include more features like massage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Many of the same features were included on the other two Turbo models, but the word Sport was a more common denominator. Most notable was the Sport Package that also adds Power Steering Plus and Rear Axle Steering, as well as the aforementioned Sport Chrono Package and a sport exhaust system, the sound exhilarating under throttle. 

Speaking of phenomenal acoustics, the Burgundy Red Metallic painted Turbo Sport Turismo included the Burmester 3D surround sound audio upgrade, complete with 21 individually controlled speakers and 1,455 watts of power, while an all-black interior theme complemented by a gorgeous Carbon Fiber Interior Package maintained its sporting character. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The dual-pane panoramic sunroof makes for a more open, airier cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The top-tier Turbo S E-Hybrid’s interior was even more luxe, with a white accented tachometer and Sport Chrono dial designed to match the Black/Chalk cabin colour theme, plus extended leather across the dash, and much more. 

To give you an idea of how wide the Panamera pricing spectrum reaches, the base model starts at just $97,300 before freight and fees, while my Turbo S E-Hybrid’s as-tested price was $238,535. Certainly it was well equipped, the base Turbo S E-Hybrid starting at $209,800, but also know that it was far from loaded, a lesson I quickly learned when configuring my Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo dream car to a final tally north of $300k — check CarCostCanada.com for all retail and dealer invoice prices, plus rebate information. If you were wondering whether the Panamera is able to duke it out with the Aston Martin Rapide in exotic territory, now you know. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera is a four-door coupe, but rear seat roominess and comfort is still quite accommodating. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It would be a fair comparison in many other ways too, as the Panamera’s interior is as good as anything available today. The quality of materials is exceptional, craftsmanship exemplary, and detailing exquisite. Ergonomically it’s far superior to most four-door coupes it would be up against too, with rear seat roominess improved over its predecessor and downright limousine-like compared to the aforementioned Brit, while its electronic interfaces are by far some of the industry’s best. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Just like the centre stack up front, the rear seating area can be upgraded with its own console featuring touch-sensitive controls. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The mostly configurable TFT gauge cluster (Porsche thankfully saved the centre-mounted tachometer in analogue form) allows full navigation mapping on its rightmost screen, plus most anything else you’d like choose by scrolling through various functions via a knurled metal-adorned steering wheel spoke controller, while its massive 12.3-inch horizontal centre display is as fine in resolution and deep in beautifully coloured contrast as anything I’ve seen. Truly, the map detail looks as if you can stick your fingers inside to move mountains, while Porsche was intelligent enough to make it a full touchscreen design complete with tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, not to mention Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. The system is fast, navigation routing accurate, backup camera clear, and overall usability as good as it gets. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The Sport Turismo body style provides a bit more cargo space than the regular Panamera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Porsche uses touch-sensitive controls on much of the centre stack and lower console, with the few rotating knobs, cylindrical scroll wheel, and rocker switches once again detailed in beautiful knurled metal, while my test cars equipped with four-zone HVAC had the otherwise rubberized bin replaced with a gorgeous centre-mounted digital console filled with its own touchscreen and high-end switchgear. 

2018 Porsche Panamera 4S
No matter the body style, the top half of both rear seats fold forward, allowing longer items to be loaded in from the rear hatch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Living with the 4S for a week reminded me how practical the Panamera can be too, the cargo hold below its powered liftback managing 493 litres (17.4 cubic feet) of what-have-you in conventional guise, or 405 litres (14.3 cubic feet) when electrified. Fold the top halves of its seatbacks forward and it accommodates 1,339 litres (47.3 cubic feet) of longer cargo in the former and 1,246 litres (44.0 cubic feet) in the latter, while I won’t bore you with the Sport Turismo’s gains again. 

2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
With the advent of the Sport Turismo, plus more powertrain options than any rival, the Panamera offers an amazing opportunity to personalize. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, a Macan or Cayenne is the better choice if you need to haul more people and cargo, which is reason enough for many luxury buyers to opt for these high-riding SUVs. In fact, today’s sport utility craze almost makes a person wonder why Porsche put so much effort into perfecting this low-slung Panamera, but nevertheless proof of time and investment well spent is showing in recent Canadian sales growth, with calendar year 2017 resulting in an 86.3-percent year-over-year increase in deliveries. With 2018 seeing similar upward momentum, the Panamera is on pace to become the best-selling four-door coupe in its class. I’m sure after spending some time with one, you, like me, will fully appreciate why it’s doing so well.

Porsche just revealed the 2019 Macan at a special world premiere event in Shanghai, China, allowing the many fans of the current model to breathe a sigh of relief that their favourite SUV isn’t changing…

Porsche refreshes its best-selling Macan for 2019

2019 Porsche Macan
Porsche has visually widened its refreshed 2019 Macan by extending and squaring off its front side vents. (Photo: Porsche)

Porsche just revealed the 2019 Macan at a special world premiere event in Shanghai, China, allowing the many fans of the current model to breathe a sigh of relief that their favourite SUV isn’t changing too much. 

First off, with the purpose of reflecting the DNA of the brand’s iconic 911 sports car and the 918 Spyder, the front and rear designs have been enhanced to appear wider, giving the Macan a sportier, more rooted to the road appeal. Specifically, the grille includes more pronounced horizontal slats, while the ducts to each side get squarer outer edges that taper outward as they drop down, with a thicker, more visible vertical trim piece finishing off their corners, and narrower LED fog lamps positioned on the slats instead of above or below depending on the model, as was done previously. What’s more, the lower fascia gets more horizontal lines to broaden its look, while previously optional LED headlamps with trademark Porsche four-point character lights are now standard. 

2019 Porsche Macan
The changes add more aggression to the design, which is never a bad thing. (Photo: Porsche)

Walk around to the rear of the 2019 Macan and you’ll see the most significant change, the taillights having morphed from two individual units into one single three-dimensional strip of LED elements, similar to the recently redesigned Cayenne. Like the headlamps, the larger wraparound corner portions of the new mono-taillight also incorporate four-point character LEDs, while the rest of the liftback, bumper, and lower fascia appear to be carryover. No matter the angle, the end result is an attractively modernized 2019 Macan, while owners can further personalize its appearance with various trim levels, myriad wheel and tire combinations, plus new Dolomite Silver Metallic, Mamba Green Metallic, Miami Blue, or Crayon exterior colours. 

2019 Porsche Macan
The new Macan’s rear design gets a single LED taillight element spanning the entire tailgate. (Photo: Porsche)

As for the cabin, the big changes are digital as is often the case these days. It begins with a new 11.0-inch full-HD Porsche Communication Management (PCM) touchscreen replacing the 7.0-inch unit in the outgoing model. The visual effect is stunning, with much sharper, clearer resolution, and enhanced graphics to complement the look. Likewise, the system’s operating system is faster, which will no doubt improve the speed of new standard intelligent voice control and the now standard navigation system’s mapping adjustments, plus other functions, while it’s more intuitively designed for easier use, this thanks in part to predefined tiles that allow customization. 

2019 Porsche Macan
Full LED headlights with Porsche’s four-point signature LEDs are standard. (Photo: Porsche)

Additionally, Porsche has now made its Connect Plus module standard, which means that every new Macan is fully networked for real-time traffic information. A key element of this system is “Here Cloud”, which utilizes swarm-based traffic data to find you the quickest route to your destination. What’s more, the Macan’s new Offroad Precision App makes it possible to record and analyze off-road driving experiences. 

2019 Porsche Macan
A wider, brighter, higher resolution and all-round better HD infotainment display modernizes the Macan interior. (Photo: Porsche)

The larger, wider screen design necessitated additional modifications to the centre stack, so therefore Porsche moved the air vents from their previous positions at each side of the touchscreen, to a new location just below the display where a lidded bin was before. Additionally the audio/HVAC control panel, which slots between the two, is now wider and narrower, maintaining Porsche’s new horizontal design theme. 

Also of note, the 2019 Macan gets an optimized chassis designed to enhance neutrality while maintaining stability and improving comfort, plus the standard intelligent Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive system’s already lauded high-speed handling characteristics can be further assisted via newly developed 20- and 21-inch performance tires. 

2019 Porsche Macan
The centre air vents have been relocated under the redesigned row of ancillary audio and HVAC controls. (Photo: Porsche)

Options in mind, the 2019 Macan can now be had with a GT sports steering wheel sourced from the 911, while adding the Sports Chrono Package includes a Sport Response Button on the right-side spoke. 

Of course, comfort options will improve as well, with an ionizer plus a heatable windscreen available, while Porsche has also added its suite of advanced driver assist systems that include adaptive cruise control with Traffic Jam Assist, this allowing semi-autonomous driving amid congested, slow-moving traffic at speeds up to 60 km/h, with the ability to automatically steer, accelerate and brake. 

2019 Porsche Macan
The 2019 Macan remains a capable off-roader, setting it apart from many rivals. (Photo: Porsche)

Porsche hasn’t confirmed the powertrain lineup for the North American markets, but it’s expected the base turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder will receive more output than its current 252 horsepower. As for the model’s V6 engine lineup, the Macan S will likely get a new single-turbo 3.0-litre unit making about 350 horsepower, while the Macan Turbo will be fitted with a new twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 expected to push power up into the high 400 range. The Turbo should once again be available with a Performance Package upgrade, which currently adds 40 horsepower, while the sporty GTS model will no doubt remain, splitting the difference between S and Turbo trims. Lastly, the current seven-speed automated dual-clutch PDK transmission will remain standard. 

The 2019 Macan shown in Shanghai is specific to the Chinese market, so make sure to stay tuned for Canadian market information about trims, features, options, etcetera as the redesigned model prepares for launch later this year. 

Until then, make sure to check out a few videos about the 2019 Porsche Macan below:

 

The new Macan – More adventure. More life. More thrills. (0:51):

The new Porsche Macan. Exterior design. (1:31):

Design documentation: The new Macan. (6:33):

The age-old question “Porsche 911 Turbo or Aston Martin Vantage?” has taken on even greater relevance this year, due to the arrival of the all-new 2019 Vantage.  Making the argument from Gaydon,…

New 2019 Aston Martin Vantage now available for $172,495

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
Aston Martin completely redesigned its Vantage for 2019, and it looks fabulous! (Photo: Aston Martin)

The age-old question “Porsche 911 Turbo or Aston Martin Vantage?” has taken on even greater relevance this year, due to the arrival of the all-new 2019 Vantage. 

Making the argument from Gaydon, England even more appealing, the revolutionary new Brit is $11,705 less expensive than the continually evolutionary German, at $172,495 compared to $184,200 (2018 model year pricing). 

If you think that’s impressive, consider the 2019 Vantage is a shocking $50,940 more affordable than the previous generation, that being the $223,435 2017 iteration that only came to Canada in 565-horsepower V12-powered trim. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
The classic Aston grille remains, it’s just much larger and farther down the front fascia. (Photo: Aston Martin)

Then again, only a year prior the base 2016 V8 Vantage was priced at a mere $109,400, just above the 370-horsepower Porsche 911’s starting price, but before we stop celebrating the just-noted $50k savings and begin to lambaste the UK powers that be for upping the new 2019 model’s price by $63,095, consider its 4.7-litre V8 only made 420 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque compared to the new 2019 model’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that puts out 503 ponies and 505 lb-ft of twist, and then factor in that it’s a completely redesigned car from the ground up, making the outgoing model look and feel like the modern-day classic it truly was. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
The rear design is much more aggressive, appearing like one of the brand’s Le Mans fighting Vantage GTE race cars. (Photo: Aston Martin)

After all, the Vantage dates back to 2005, and during that near 14-year period it had only seen minor updates. Such is common amongst smaller industry players in the ultra-luxury sector, with similarly positioned cars such as Bentley’s Continental GT dating all the way back to 2003, despite a second-generation in 2011 that looked very much like the original. 

That Continental is totally new for 2019 too, and beautiful in its own right, but we can safely say the new Vantage is a far more radical design departure from its predecessor than Bentley’s upcoming Conti is from its forebear. The new AMV 8 was heavily influenced by the sensational DB10 prototype best known for its “star car” appearance in the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, although close inspection shows a great deal of refinement from concept to reality. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
Exterior colours have the ability to transform the styling, especially when key trim is painted in Lime Essense. (Photo: Aston Martin)

The result is a major deviation from the classic Aston Martin grille design, or at least the placement thereof. To be clear, the general shape of the grille remains the same, this easier to see with Vantage models featuring the inner outline of their grille painted in a coat of bright, colourful Lime Essense, but with cars that alternatively leave this section shaded in a darker hue the lower portion of the grille seems to completely disappear into the road surface below. Certainly Aston will allow customers to play with this optical illusion via the myriad paint colours available, which should provide some wonderful results. In the end, enlarging and lowering the classic AM grille has created an entirely new, much more modern look for a brand that was probably relying too much on past glories before, while keeping all-important heritage fully intact. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
The Vantage strikes a classic sports coupe pose when seen from its side profile. (Photo: Aston Martin)

The flush LED headlamp clusters look small in comparison to that grille, while the always long and elegant Aston hood appears even more extended thanks to the need to reach further downward to meet the grille. Likewise, the front fenders snuggly hug a large set of alloys, leaving a mere sliver of bonded aluminum bodywork above before bending inward to incorporate subtle functional side gill wheel well vents. These bleed rearward into the door skins that hover over wide sill extensions, the latter visually pulled around the car from the front splitter. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
Upon close inspection the headlights are intricately detailed. (Photo: Aston Martin)

Those thinking the design departure is radical when watching a new Vantage approach may realize they hadn’t seen the half of it upon witnessing its hind end round the corner, the model’s single curving car-width taillight an impressive display of LED creativity in action. The rear lamp fluidly flows with the uniquely shaped Kamm-like tail design, raised up in the middle like sports car racers of the past, while the working rear diffuser under the bumper cap looks as if it could’ve been pulled directly from a World Endurance Championship (WEC) Vantage GTE racecar. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
When a design is inherently good, details like wheels can be kept elegantly simple. (Photo: Aston Martin)

Like with the new DB11 V8, the new hand built 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged eight-cylinder stuffed under the Vantage hood hails from Mercedes-AMG, although Aston tunes it for their unique feel and sound. Standstill to 100km/h takes a mere 3.6 seconds, this aided by a 1,530-kilogram curb weight. Aston’s engineering team positioned the new engine as far forward and as low as the chassis design allowed, which resulted in ideal 50/50 weight distribution. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
The Kamm-style deck lid provides excellent aerodynamics and a wonderful prop for the curving strip of LED taillights. (Photo: Aston Martin)

That balance was aided by the new Vantage’ rear-mounted, eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, while the carbon-fibre driveshaft that spins in an alloy torque tube benefits all performance criteria. The automatic is standard, which means no manual gearbox is available for the time being, but rumour has it a seven-speed DIY transmission will become the base gearbox in the near future. 

Of course, Aston provides the Vantage with driver selectable modes including Sport, Sport Plus and Track, while the new electronically controlled differential is a Gaydon first, this working in conjunction with the braking system to enhance high speed handling via torque vectoring. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
The new Vantage interior combines the British brand’s legendary artisanship and materials quality with entirely new, modern electronics. (Photo: Aston Martin)

Being that the Vantage is the sportiest Aston in the lineup, its speed-sensitive electric power steering features a tighter lock-to-lock ratio than the larger DB11, while it’s also tweaked for more aggression off-centre. Added to this is a 2,704-mm wheelbase, the new Vantage 100-mm shorter than the DB11 and therefore more reactive to turn-in through tight, fast-paced corners. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
A flat-bottomed sport steering wheel comes standard with shift paddles, while an 8.0-inch display sits at dash central. (Photo: Aston Martin)

Sharing components with its larger sibling would only make sense, and to that end 30 percent of the aluminum Vantage chassis comes from the DB11. This of course means that 70 percent of the Vantage chassis is completely unique, this portion including the rear frame that’s now solidly mounted to increase lateral rigidity. The stiffer design results in 2.2 degrees of roll per cornering G-force, which compares to 3.0 degrees with the DB11. Additionally, the newest version of Aston’s Skyhook adaptive suspension provides progressively firmer damping characteristics in its various drive modes, while that 30-percent figure mentioned a moment ago relates to the front suspension components pulled from the DB11. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
This bright, colourful digital gauge cluster embraces the future, yet puts an end to Aston’s beautiful analogue dials. (Photo: Aston Martin)

As you might expect, the new Vantage interior is now fully immersed in the 21st century, so therefore along with the usual Aston Martin handmade detailing of carbon-fibre, aluminum, leather and suede-like Alcantara trim and upholstery finishings, it incorporates the latest high-resolution digital displays ahead of the driver and atop the centre stack. The latter is an 8.0-inch touchscreen, which, like in the DB11, is sourced from Daimler’s parts bin, along with its knurled metal rotating wheel controller and palm rest. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
The trio of big aluminum knobs up top are for the HVAC system, while the inverted “V” just below includes buttons for engine start/stop and gear selection. (Photo: Aston Martin)

Speaking of knurled metal, Aston has kept its trio of rotating metal knobs on the centre stack, albeit now the centre one is part of the HVAC system, while a bevy of metal trimmed rocker switches fills the open spaces in between while rows of buttons line each side of the aforementioned infotainment controller on the lower console. Additionally, the ignition and gear selector buttons have been repositioned from a horizontal row high on the centre stack to an inverted “V” formation below, where the stack bends into the lower console, while shifts continue to be executed by large, metal paddles fixed to the steering column. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
The details are sensational. (Photo: Aston Martin)

The steering wheel is an appropriately sporty flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped design that features just enough switchgear to appear modern yet not enough to look cluttered. It frames a fully configurable TFT gauge cluster, just like the DB11, which is an important step that once again locks Aston into the new century, yet traditionalists will miss the glorious mechanical/analogue dials that have long been part of the AM mystique. 

Comfort is reportedly large on ultra-luxury buyers’ wish lists, even in the more performance-oriented classes, so therefore the new Vantage passenger compartment is improved ergonomically with more headroom and legroom, plus some additional side-to-side spaciousness. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
And yes, the Vantage is practical too. (Photo: Aston Martin)

As you might expect, the new Vantage is well equipped with luxury and convenience features too, but take note you’ll still need to pay extra for heatable seats, parking assist, blindspot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, etcetera. Four option packages include Sport, Exterior Black, Tech, and Comfort, with each of these allowing for ample personalization as well. 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
The new 2019 Vantage provides an exotic look that some of its competitors are missing. (Photo: Aston Martin)

The 2019 Aston Martin Vantage is available now, but those wanting the convertible Volante version will need to wait until 2019.

Before delving into another story here on TheCarMagazine, make sure to browse through the largest photo gallery we’ve ever put together on any car by clicking on the big photo at the top of this page, and after that check out some videos of the new 2019 Aston Martin Vantage below: 

 

2018 24 Hours of Le Mans – The Pursuit Of Beautiful (1:50):

ASTON MARTIN RACING IS BACK! IT’S TIME TO BE BOLD (1:19):

The new Aston Martin Vantage – #BeautifulWontBeTamed (1:29):

Vantage GTE: The Birth Of A Future Champion (9:04):

New Vantage – Cold Environment Testing in Finland (1:19):

New Vantage Launch – Tokyo (2:22):

Daniel Ricciardo & Martin Brundle meet #NewVantage (1:48):

New Vantage Road and Race Car Launch (1:08):

Beautiful Won’t Be Tamed – The New Vantage (1:18):

When Max Verstappen met #NewVantage (3:11):

As far as car companies go, Porsche is still youthful and vigorous at 70-years young. Nevertheless it’s done a lot with its seven decades, much of which was celebrated at this year’s Goodwood Festival…

Goodwood Festival of Speed celebrates 70 years of Porsche sports cars

Porsche at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed
The Porsche 356 “No. 1” Roadster, shown here at the 2018 Goodwood Festival, arrived on the sports car scene in 1948. (Photo: Porsche)

As far as car companies go, Porsche is still youthful and vigorous at 70-years young. Nevertheless it’s done a lot with its seven decades, much of which was celebrated at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex, England. 

The event is best known for the annual Goodwood Hill Climb, which sees a host of historic race cars, modern-day Formula One machinery, World Endurance Car racers, one-off prototypes, supercars, motorbikes, and most everything else powered by a varying array conventional and alternative energy sources perform demonstration runs up a 1.86-kilometre (1.16-mile) road course, with fans cheering them on from either side, after which they’re put on show for all to enjoy. 

Porsche at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed
The Goodwood Festival grounds were packed full of classic Porsche production and racing cars. (Photo: Porsche)

The first Porsche to climb the hill this year was the legendary 356 ‘No.1’ Roadster, the actual car that got the brand off to such a good start in 1948. The 356 ‘No.1’ Roadster was one of seven iconic road-going Porsche models that took part in the event, all of which are normally on display at the Porsche Museum at the brand’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche chose each of these cars to represent a 10-year period, allowing attendees to experience the evolution of the Porsche sports car. 

Porsche at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed
The 1964 Porsche 911 looks downright humble next to its progeny, but it was nevertheless a force to be recognized in the ’60s. (Photo: Porsche)

This was the 356 ‘No.1’ Roadster’s debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and therefore a very special experience for the brand’s many fans. The car is replete with Porsche DNA, from its mid-engine layout to the horizontally opposed “boxer” engine design itself, while its lightweight construction and fuel-efficiency, which helped the 356/1’s progeny defeat many more powerful competitors on the track, is still a core ideal behind the development of current road and race models. 

Porsche at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed
It doesn’t get much better for a car enthusiast than witnessing the stunning V8-powered 904 F1 car hightail it up the Goodwood hill climb. (Photo: Porsche)

Additional production Porsche models that put on a show at this year’s Goodwood Festival include a 1964 911, 1973 911 Carrera RS, 1987 959, 1997 911 Turbo, 2003 Carrera GT, 2015 918 Spyder. 

In addition to these, a dozen Porsche racing cars also took their turn on the hill, including the 1962 804, 1974 911 Carrera RSR Turbo, 1978 935/78 ‘Moby Dick’, 1984 911 SC ‘Paris Dakar’, 1986 961, 1987 962, 1988 2708 Indycar, 1994 Dauer 962 GT Le Mans, 1998 GT1 ’98, 2000 LMP 2000, 2007 RS Spyder, and the 919 Hybrid Tribute Tour. 

Porsche at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed
Goodwood festival attendees have plenty of opportunities to get close to some of the most amazing sports cars to ever enter motorsport. (Photo: Porsche)

Making clear that Porsche isn’t only about celebrating past success, the 919 Hybrid Tribute Tour (the final model noted above) is actually a modified version of Porsche’s championship winning WEC LMP1 car otherwise known as the 919 Hybrid Evo, which completely obliterated a 35-year-old Nürburgring-Nordschleife lap record in June of this year, with Porsche factory race driver Timo Bernhard at the wheel, although Neel Jani did driving duties on the Goodwood course. 

Porsche at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed
The Nürburgring-Nordschleife dominating Porsche 919 Hybrid Tribute Tour car was likely the fastest car to climb the hill this year. (Photo: Porsche)

The factory Porsche 911 RSR ‘Pink Pig’ was also part of the program, taking a sort of victory lap after winning its GTE Pro category at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. 

Following the competitive sports car theme, the latest 911 GT3 Cup race car from the Porsche Carrera Cup GB was also included in the demonstration run, this model featuring the same 4.0-litre H-6 engine as the 911 GT3 road car. 

Additionally, the 911 Speedster Concept, a one-off prototype inspired by the 356 ‘No.1’ Roadster, took part in the Supercar Run. 

Porsche at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed
The 911 RSR ‘Pink Pig’ took a Goodwood victory lap after winning its GTE Pro category at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. (Photo: Porsche)

Visitors to Goodwood also had opportunity to see the 911 GT2 RS up close and personal, this 700-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 3.8-litre flat-six beast having lapped the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in just 6 minutes and 47 seconds to earn fastest production car bragging rights last September. The record has since been beaten, but without doubt Porsche will soon find its way back to the top of the podium again. 

Porsche at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed
The 911 Speedster Concept, which was inspired by the original 356/1, took part in the Supercar Run. (Photo: Porsche)

Also on hand at the Porsche Experience Centre stand was the 2015 Mission E concept car, the production version having been recently dubbed Taycan. The beautiful four-door coupe is solely powered by electricity, and therefore is said to represent the future of Porsche performance. 

Quite notably, Porsche has taken part in every Goodwood Festival since the annual event began in 1993. Back then Goodwood only managed to attract 27,500 enthusiasts, but it now brings in more than 200,000 visitors each spring. 

Whether you were able to join in on the festivities at this year’s event or weren’t able to attend, we’re sure you’ll enjoy some collected videos, one of which shows the unveiling of a special sculpture that commemorates the marque’s 70 years of production road car and motorsport heritage: 

Porsche Central Feature Sculpture reveal at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2018 (1:16): 

Grand Prix legend: the Porsche 804 at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2018 (1:00): 

Future focus. Goodwood Festival of Speed 2018 (1:18): 

Mid-size sedan sales may be on a downward trend, but the once dominant market segment still makes up a significant portion of most mainstream brands’ sales volumes, so therefore they remain a critically…

New 2019 Nissan Altima adds standard AWD to Canadian mid-size sedan segment

2019 Nissan Altima
The 2019 Altima arrives with a bold new take on Nissan’s trademark Vmotion grille. (Photo: Nissan)

Mid-size sedan sales may be on a downward trend, but the once dominant market segment still makes up a significant portion of most mainstream brands’ sales volumes, so therefore they remain a critically important ingredient for overall success. 

To put this in perspective, Nissan sold 16.7 percent more Altima mid-size sedans than Sentra compact four-doors in the U.S. last year, with 254,996 examples of the former and 218,451 of the latter delivered. Here in Canada the numbers are reversed at 6,626 for the Altima and 13,883 for the Sentra, but the larger, pricier car is more profitable, so it nevertheless remains an important model in the lineup. 

2019 Nissan Altima
If the new Altima’s styling doesn’t make enough of a dramatic statement on its own, the announcement of standard AWD will. (Photo: Nissan)

Like many in this segment, Altima numbers have taken a hit in recent years. In fact, they’ve been steadily sliding for decades, the mid-size Nissan having lost 64.2 percent in sales volume over the past decade and a half, 36.8 percent of which was only in the last five years. 

That’s almost as long as the current fifth-generation Altima has been with us, its production starting in May of 2012. The mid-size four-door received a dramatic facelift for the 2016 model year, adapting the brand’s new Vmotion grille and other stylish improvements, but three more years of availability means the time for change has come once again. 

2019 Nissan Altima
This exciting redesign makes the 2019 Altima one of the sportiest looking in its segment. (Photo: Nissan)

Enter the 2019 Nissan Altima, a much bolder looking mid-size four-door sedan that should please fans of the nameplate that have been looking forward to an update. It now wears Nissan’s Vmotion 2.0 grille, which is a reshaped version of the now trademark Nissan grille design. Basically the “V” shape of the new Altima’s grille has been flattened on the bottom to form more of a “U”, just like other recent Nissan redesigns. Also, following current trends that grille has grown to epic proportions, giving the car a grander, more premium look. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The new Altima includes a floating roof design like its larger Maxima sibling. (Photo: Nissan)

Additionally, new LED headlamps and taillights look sharper and more sophisticated, while the rear C-pillars feature a narrow glossy black strip for a floating roof effect, similar to that on the brand’s flagship Maxima luxury sedan. From front to back the new look is hardly subtle, but it was tastefully penned so should be widely accepted by Altima owners and newcomers alike.

2019 Nissan Altima
The Altima’s rear styling isn’t as dramatic as its frontal design, yet it’s still plenty attractive. (Photo: Nissan)

The updated model is 25 mm (1.0 in) longer, 23 mm (0.9 in) wider and 28 mm (1.1 in) lower than the car it replaces, giving it a sportier stance all-round, while its wheelbase has grown by 48 mm (1.9 in). The sleek sheetmetal helps Nissan achieve a slippery 0.26 coefficient of drag, improving highway fuel economy while reducing wind noise, plus its larger dimensions provide more interior room all-round. Additionally, the wheels have been pushed farther to each corner, adding to its athletic appearance while theoretically providing more stability at high speed and a better ride, but we’ll have to wait for a test drive before confirmation. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The 2019 Altima effectively plays on the current big grille design trend. (Photo: Nissan)

That should happen shortly after the updated Altima arrives this fall, at which point we’ll also be able to advise on its reportedly quieter, smoother and more efficient 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, now 9 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque stronger than the outgoing engine at 188 horsepower and 180 lb-ft; its revised Xtronic CVT that gets an expanded lock-up area for improved fuel economy, plus available paddle shifters; and its standard all-wheel drive. 

2019 Nissan Altima
Standard AWD should be appealing to Canadians who live in colder climates. (Photo: Nissan)

Yes, for the first time ever the 2019 Altima won’t be available with front-wheel drive, at least not in Canada. This is a bold move for the brand’s Canadian division, but it certainly separates it from most competitors that don’t offer AWD at all. 

Dubbed Intelligent AWD, it features an advanced torque split design that automatically distributes power from 100 percent up front and zero at the rear, all the way to an even division of 50 percent front to rear. The bias depends on road conditions and resulting wheel slippage, with the default being front-wheel drive to save fuel. Nissan says the new AWD system works seamlessly with the Altima’s standard limited-slip differential too, plus its Hill Start Assist system. 

2019 Nissan Altima
Stylish LED taillights also react faster than incandescent bulbs, making the new Altima safer. (Photo: Nissan)

Currently, Ford offers AWD with its 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine, found optionally in its near-premium trimmed Titanium and Platinum non-hybrid models, plus standard on its performance-oriented Fusion Sport, a 325 horsepower beast that’s a bit of an anomaly in this mostly fuel-efficiency focused segment, while the Subaru Legacy is the only mid-size sedan entrant to provide standard AWD, and it’s a minor player in Canada’s market with last year’s volume sitting at just 2,451 units compared to the Altima’s 6,626, let alone the Honda Accord’s 13,504 deliveries and the Toyota Camry’s 14,574. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The new Altima includes standard LED headlamps, allowing for brighter forward illumination. (Photo: Nissan)

The Subie actually brings up the rear in this 10 model strong segment, but Nissan no doubt isn’t feeling too proud about besting its fellow countryman, because it only sits sixth in sales, with the (soon to be cancelled) Ford Fusion in third with 9,736 deliveries in 2017, the Chevrolet Malibu in fourth with 8,152, and the Hyundai Sonata in fifth with 7,827. Amongst the stragglers is the Kia Optima with 4,496 down the road last year, Volkswagen Passat (and CC) with 4,145, Chrysler 200 (no longer available) with 2,842, and Mazda 6 with 2,541. Time will tell if all the changes made to the new Altima will push it further up the sales chart, but a quick tour of the interior makes its prospects look promising. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The 2019 Altima has a much cleaner, more minimalist interior than the outgoing one. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan promises a sporty yet sophisticated cabin that replaces traditional chrome embellishment with matte chrome accents and satin finishes, while there’s a bit less of each than with previous Altima models for a more modern look. This said it’s not a breakthrough design, but instead features a lower dash top resulting in an airier, more open ambience, the entire instrument panel tastefully minimalist, seeming to naturally flow from one element to the next. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The new Altima appears to have a large, roomy cockpit, ideal for all sizes of driver. (Photo: Nissan)

Likewise it’s almost completely devoid of clutter, with most centre stack controls housed in a large 8.0-inch fixed tablet-style infotainment touchscreen protruding upward from the dash top, this complete with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rearview camera, and more. A nicely sorted dual-zone automatic climate control interface sits on its own just below, while the driver gets a dedicated full-colour 7.0-inch TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster. 

2019 Nissan Altima
An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen will be standard, complete with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a backup camera and more. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan says it put special emphasis on giving all of the Altima’s switches and controls “an intuitive, effortless feel and natural operation,” so we’re looking forward to experiencing the result of this concentrated effort, while the NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats have our curiosity piqued as well. Nissan claims these are especially good at providing long driving range comfort thanks to dual-density foam, plus some extra bolstering is said to improve support while driving around town. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The 2019 Altima will once again make use of Nissan’s advanced continuously variable transmission. (Photo: Nissan)

Something else that sets the Altima apart from key rivals is Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving technology. To be clear, ProPilot Assist doesn’t turn your Altima into a self-driving autonomous vehicle, but instead helps to keep drivers in the middle of a chosen lane by adjusting the steering automatically, has the ability to navigate stop-and-go traffic, and maintains set speeds and distances to vehicles ahead, simply by pressing two buttons. Basically, all you need to do is activate the system and then set the adaptive cruise control, at which point the Altima will steer itself as long as your hands are still touching the wheel. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The new model’s longer wheelbase provides more legroom. (Photo: Nissan)

Of note, Canadian Altima buyers won’t yet have the option of Nissan’s new variable compression turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, or VC-Turbo that can vary its compression ratio from 8:1 to 14:1 through an innovative system that can alter the piston throw inside the cylinder, resulting in 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque when fuel with premium unleaded. Why the negative news? Because this highly advanced engine is only mated to the model’s front-wheel drivetrain, and so far no AWD option is available outside of Infiniti’s new QX50. As you may have guessed it’s available as an Altima option south of the 49th, as is AWD, their base model being our 2.5-litre four mated to FWD. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The rear seating area appears very roomy. (Photo: Nissan)

Both markets will receive the same standard front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, plus identical electric power steering systems, featuring new dual steering pinions for improved precision, while an upscale set of monotube rear shocks improves damping. 

We won’t know about standard features, trims and pricing until closer to launch, or for that matter anything to do with options and packages, but we can expect the same eight-way powered driver’s seat as offered to our American friends, plus standard fabric and optional leather upholstery, heated front seats, LED headlights, a Bose audio upgrade, available navigation, a powered moonroof, and more, while a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems will likely include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blindspot monitoring, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and more. 

Stay tuned for a more detailed report as the fall of 2018 draws near.

For being such a niche model, Subaru doesn’t leave the WRX and its even quicker WRX STI sibling alone for long.  The world rally-inspired sedans received a ground-up redesign for 2015, featuring much…

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech Road Test

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Subaru’s WRX STI, tested here in top-line Sport-tech trim, gets refreshed styling for 2018. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For being such a niche model, Subaru doesn’t leave the WRX and its even quicker WRX STI sibling alone for long. 

The world rally-inspired sedans received a ground-up redesign for 2015, featuring much more distinctive bodywork all-round including unique bumpers, fenders, aero, and trim details when compared to its Impreza sedan donor model, plus a new, more potent direct-injected 2.0-litre turbo-four replacing the aged sequential multiport injected 2.5 in the regular WRX, this new engine adding three horsepower and 14 more lb-ft of torque resulting in 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft, a six-speed manual in place of that model’s old five-speed, and the option of a sport-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddles where no automatic was ever offered before. The STI continued forward with its 2.5-litre turbocharged flat four making 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
You can choose between a subtler rear lip spoiler on the rear deck lid (shown) or a massive wing, with no extra charge for either. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Model year 2016 added one-touch turn signals, revised steering wheel controls, and a standard 6.2-inch touchscreen with StarLink smartphone integration, plus the Hyper Blue-painted STI Hikari limited edition; 2017 added automatic reverse-tilt to the passenger’s side power mirror, a more premium-like woven fabric headliner, and improved the six-speed manual transmission’s feel, while Sport-tech trims also received Siri Eyes-Free, Mirror Link, Travel Link and SiriusXM Traffic integration; and now for 2018 this dynamic duo get a few styling updates, some chassis mods, a bevy of additional refinements, as well as new safety features, while the STI gets one redesigned drivetrain component. Subaru has made changes to the 2019 version too, but I’ll leave those until later. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Sharp looking LED headlamps add sophistication to the WRX STI’s styling, plus much brighter forward illumination. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2018 styling updates affect both models and include a new front grille and bumper design and reworked interior door trim, while other updates include a new primary gauge cluster with a 5.9-inch colour multi-information display (MID), a fold-down rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, reduced interior noise, new suspension tuning, and bigger batteries. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
The WRX has never been shy about hood scoops, this one fully functional as always. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Specific to the base WRX, manual models get a new shift lever and yet better shift and clutch take-up feel, plus improved steering feel, whereas the STI now includes standard LED headlights, standard cross-drilled Brembo brakes that are 24 mm larger and 6 mm thicker up front than those on the regular WRX, at 340 by 30 mm, plus 40 mm larger and twice as thick in back at 326 by 20 mm, with six-piston front calipers (two more than the previous STI and four more than the regular WRX) and two-piston rear calipers (double what the WRX offers) plus four-channel, four-sensor and g-load sensor equipped Super Sport ABS, a revised Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD) system that’s no longer hybrid mechanical with electronic centre limited-slip differential control, but rather an electric design that provides quicker, smoother operation, while inside it gets red seatbelts. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
All of the STI’s dramatic bodywork has purpose, the big corner vents for cooling the brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for new 2018 options, Sport trim with the base WRX is updated to include steering-responsive LED headlights, LED fog lights, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat, while the Sport-tech package adds new StarLink connectivity apps including Yelp, Best Parking and Glympse. Additionally, Sport-tech models with the manual now get the option of an RS package featuring eight-way powered front seats, leather and ultrasuede upholstery, uprated brake pads, and red calipers, while Sport-tech cars with the Sport Lineartronic CVT become the first WRX models to ever include Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
These gorgeous 19-inch alloys do a nice job of framing the STI’s standard six-caliper Brembo brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for the STI, an upgrade to Sport trim now adds 19-inch wheels, wiper-activated automatic headlights, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat, while the fog lamps were deleted to allow for larger air intakes. Additionally, STI models upgraded with the Sport-tech package can be had with either a massive rear wing or much smaller lip spoiler, the latter more appealing to those who don’t want to draw as much attention from passersby, while a set of Recaro sport seats are added in both leather and ultrasuede upholstery, with the driver’s receiving eight-way powered adjustment. Subaru also includes the aforementioned StarLink apps with the Sport-tech upgrade. Like I said, Subaru doesn’t exactly remain idle with the WRX and STI, despite its relative niche model status. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Just in case you mix your car up with a lesser WRX variant, Subaru effectively reminds onlookers about the STI’s dominance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Then again, if Subaru has a flagship model it would have to be its WRX STI. Certainly the new Ascent crossover SUV is larger and more luxurious, as is the mid-size Outback crossover and the Legacy sedan it’s based upon, such attributes normally befitting of flagship status, but the WRX STI has become legendary for being one of the best performing sport compacts available since inception, and as noted earlier, is derived from the brand’s motorsport heritage. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
If you’re silly enough to race a WRX STI through corners, you’ll be seeing a set of these for as long as you can keep up. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Added to this, the 4,616 examples sold into Canada last year, and the 2,308 delivered up to the close of Q2 2018 (which bizarrely is precisely half of the entire 2017 total number despite having zero months with the same figure—Subaru only totaled 2,303 WRX/STI sales at the halfway mark of 2017), made up a significant 8.5 percent of Subaru’s total volume in 2017 and 8.3 percent so far this year, not to mention a third of the Japanese brand’s overall Impreza sales over the same six months if you combine the two models’ Q2 figures (Subaru sold almost half as many WRX/STI models as Imprezas over the first half of 2018). What’s more, the WRX/STI earned more than twice as many invested fans than VW’s GTI/Golf R combo. So much for being a niche model. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
The functional rear diffuser feeds through a sporty quad of chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I like the styling updates, as they give the front end a more aggressive appearance that strengthens the entire design. I also lean more toward subtlety than flash, so therefore I was glad Subaru chose the smaller lip spoiler for my ride. Of course I appreciate the downforce benefits of a gargantuan rear wing when attempting to breach the sound barrier, or at least reach the STI’s top track speed of 251 km/h, but there’s no race course anywhere near my home that would allow for such a test, and it goes without saying that I’d rather not have my car impounded before being forced to pay the towing and storage fees, plus the fines that would be due after being caught doing speed trials on public roads, and then have to explain to Subaru why they couldn’t access their car for a week or more. Nah, I’d go for clean lines over radical aero any day of the week, and this upgraded STI looks much more appealing from front to back. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Subaru has really improved the WRX interior over the years, with this latest STI Sport-tech proving to be the best version yet. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Subaru follows the usual red on black performance car interior theme, and while I won’t go so far to call this approach creative, the overall look is well executed, meaning that it’s not as gauche as some others, such as Honda’s Civic Type-R (that goes for exterior styling too). My tester’s Sport-tech trim meant that psuede covered the door panel insets, armrests, and centre seat panels front to back, while the ones up front had the “STI” initials embossed into the leather headrests and white “RECARO” lettering embroidered into the top portion of the seat panel. The side bolsters are covered in mostly black leather other than their top portions finished in a thick stripe of red, while the outer sections receive a thin line of red contrast stitching. Subaru decorates the seatbacks further with red piping up top, but really what matters most is how wonderfully comfortable and incredibly supportive they are. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Red stitching on dark grey ultrasuede makes for one classy cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The rear seats aren’t quite as fancy, but they’re surprisingly dressed up with the same red and black, partial-psuede and leather upholstery, plus the outboard positions are cut out like buckets so even those in back have some lateral support to keep them in place if you plan on having some fun. 

On that note, adjustability is critical in a performance car, because along with the lateral support factor you need to maintain as much control as possible. To this end the upgraded seats include the aforementioned power adjustments, while all STI trims provide plenty of telescopic reach from the steering column resulting in a rally-ready driving position, or at least the ability to get the seatback upright and steering wheel as close to the driver as possible. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Yet more ultrasuede, leather, metal, digital interfaces, etcetera make up the STI Sport-tech’s performance-oriented environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The STI steering wheel is thick, padded, flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped and ideally formed for comfort and, once again, control, with red baseball stitching along the inside of the rim, while the shift knob is black leather as well, with a bright red translucent candy drop top. The leather boot below gets red stitching to match the same thread used on both sides of the padded leatherette trimmed centre console, the new STI a lot more luxe than any previous WRX model. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The WRX STI gets a bright, clear, down to business primary gauge cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The hood shielding the dash-top MID gets the same red-stitched leatherette treatment, while the fiery colour illuminates the primary gauges, the infotainment interface background and some of the cabin’s switchgear before continuing onto each door panel and elsewhere throughout the interior. And as overdone as this might sound in words, it’s actually quite tasteful when viewed. 

That gauge cluster is 100-percent purposeful performance, with bright, clear dials that are easy to read in any light, while the multi-info display at centre isn’t as graphically stimulating as some others in the segment, yet still displays an eco-gauge, driving time info, a digital speedometer, a gear display, cruise control details, an odometer, trip meter, SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) indicators, and something no other brand’s vehicles have, a graphic showing front and real power bias from the aforementioned DCCD system, actuated via a rocker switch on the centre console. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The WRX STI’s centre stack is as wonderfully symmetrical as the car’s AWD system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Just in case you’re feeling shortchanged for not getting as much digitized imagery in the gauge cluster display, check out the big dash-top MID mentioned a moment ago. Controlled via a rocker switch just above the infotainment display, it comes filled with a high-resolution TFT screen and loads of functions like average fuel economy, graphics for the configurable centre differential, a digital PSI boost gauge, etcetera, making it a helpful sidekick to the much larger StarLink infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack below, this such a massive improvement over previous WRX systems that it’s a night and day experience. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
On top of the dash is this handy widescreen multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Thanks to its Sport-tech upgrade, my tester’s touchscreen was a half-inch larger at 7.0 inches in diameter, while its ultra high-resolution glossy display also gets navigation with detailed mapping, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with all the functionality of the lesser 6.5-inch system, such as a backup camera with guidelines, and all of the aforementioned features and apps. They’re all accessible from an interface with superb graphics and a really nice layout, featuring big digital buttons for the map, audio, phone, apps, info, and settings interfaces. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The top-line Sport-tech provides an accurate navigation system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A high-quality dual-zone auto climate control system sits below, with really well made knobs that don’t wiggle when rotated, plus nice, tight fitting buttons. I also like that the HVAC system’s temperature readouts are displayed up on the dash-top multi-info system for easy visibility when on the move, just another way Subaru keeps things convenient and safe. 

Over and above features already mentioned, $47,295 Sport-tech trim includes proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, and a great sounding 320-watt, nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, while additional items pulled from $42,495 Sport trim include 245/35R19 89W Yokohama Advan Sport V105 performance rubber to go with those aforementioned uprated rims, welcome lighting, a powered moonroof, the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) featuring blindspot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert, plus more. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Dual-zone automatic climate control makes for a much more habitable driving environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, on top of features that come standard with the regular $29,995 WRX and other previously noted features, all STI’s include a glossy black grille, brushed aluminum doorsills with STI branding, carpeted floor mats with a red embroidered STI logo, a leather-wrapped handbrake lever, front and rear seats upholstered in black and red leather with black ultrasuede inserts, dual-zone auto climate control, and a bevy of performance upgrades including a quick-ratio rack and pinion steering system, inverted KYB front MacPherson struts with forged aluminum lower suspension arms, performance suspension tuning, high-strength solid rubber engine mounts, a red powder-coated intake manifold, a close ratio six-speed manual gearbox, a Helical-type limited-slip front differential and a Torsen limited-slip rear diff, plus more for $40,195. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Subaru has spent a great deal of time and effort to perfect the WRX STI’s six-speed manual, and it’s paid off. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should also point out that Subaru finishes the interior off with a higher level of soft-touch synthetic surface treatments than ever before, getting the car closer and closer to premium territory with each passing generation. And it’s plenty roomy for a compact too, both up front and in back where the seats are nicely sculpted out to keep your rear passengers in place when pushing the envelope. Now that we’re contemplating such practical matters, the STI’s trunk is plenty large for a sports car at 340 litres, and it benefits from expansion for longer items via 60/40-split rear seatbacks. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The STI provides more driver controllable performance settings than any rival. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along that vein, the fact that you’re driving a turbocharged four-cylinder powered compact car won’t benefit your pocketbook all that much in the STI, thanks to 14.1 L/100km city, 10.5 highway and 12.5 combined. If that’s an issue for you the regular WRX is good for a claimed 11.3 city, 8.5 highway and 10.0 combined, while the same model with its CVT can eke out 12.6, 9.6 and 11.2 respectively. 

By the way, the SI-Drive system noted earlier lets you choose between the default Intelligent driving mode, Sport mode and Sport-sharp mode, which is Subaru-speak for the usual comfort, sport and sport-plus modes. They work wonders, especially the latter “S#” mode, which sharpens up the STI’s responses to the point of racetrack readiness, ideal for those moments when you want to get the most out of a very potent package. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The top-line Recaro seats are superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This is where the STI’s 2.5-litre EJ257 H4 comes in, an engine that hasn’t changed one iota since before this car’s full redesign. Therefore its output remains 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, while its six-speed gearbox is truly smoother to operate since its multiple refinements. Lastly, the WRX STI’s torque-vectoring Symmetrical-AWD system is still amongst the best in the business, designed for all surface traction, meaning it can easily manage wet or dry pavement, snow, gravel, dirt, or almost anything else you throw in its way. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
This powered glass sunroof comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I kept it to dry tarmac during my test, and no I didn’t have a track at my beck and call so I obeyed all posted speed limits and… ha ha yeah right. Of course, I found opportunity to open it up when the road cleared and it was safe to do so, and let it be known the STI’s feisty turbo-four craftily providing 305 great ways to get past anything blocking the lane ahead. It launches from standstill with ferocious immediacy and a brilliantly snarling engine note, adding a resonant auditory track to particularly fast-paced visuals. Clutch take-up is ideally weighted with travel short and to the point, while its metal pedals are ideally placed for a little heal, toe action, those uprated brakes fabulously responsive no matter how many times I deep dove into them. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Rear passengers enjoy the comfort and adhesion of ultrasuede seat inserts too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise, the STI’s hydraulic power steering is wonderfully reactive and great at communicating feedback, while its suspension setup is ideally balanced, giving way ever so slightly at both ends when push came to shove, and doing so with a confidence inspiring level of predictability. 

This balance is configurable from front to rear via the previously noted DCCD, which lets you lock in an alternative AWD torque split to the otherwise default 41:59 bias, allowing for the characteristics of a rear-wheel drive sports sedan or vice versa, this complemented by a double wishbone rear suspension design as capable of absorbing pavement irregularities as the previously noted struts up front, while always keeping the car horizontal to the road. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
A sports car yes, but the WRX STI is plenty practical too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This is a car you can comfortably drive fast, plus feel safe, secure and always in control of, but take note it won’t take long before you’ve gone so far past those aforementioned limits that you might be walking home, or at the very least be served up a hefty fine, so keep eyes peeled for party poopers. 

If you’re lucky enough to live near a racetrack or have a friend that owns hectares of ranchland interconnected with drivable dirt roads, or even if there’s a large parking lot (preferably covered in snow) somewhere nearby, Subaru has your ride, and despite all of the sport compacts that have come and gone since the WRX started wooing us from afar way back in the early ‘90s and finally got real for us here in North America in 2002, or 2004 for the STI, it’s still the all-wheel drive compact to beat. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
How many rally tires can you fit into the back of an STI? With the 60/40-split seatbacks lowered, a lot more than you might think. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As I write this review the model year changeover from 2018 to 2019 has occurred, which now gives you an option that might be worth your undivided attention. A near identical version of the STI’s turbocharged 2.5-litre four now includes stronger pistons, a new air intake, new ECU programming and a high-flow exhaust system, resulting in the same torque yet five more horsepower totaling 310, while the gearbox gets a new third gear for quicker acceleration. Lastly, the entry and top-line infotainment systems get some tweaks, but like the new powertrain I’ll need to experience these firsthand before making comment. 

Those wanting a bargain can try their luck on a remaining 2018 model, although don’t expect to get too much off as the WRX STI, and all Subarus for that matter, hold their resale values well. Of course, this will be a bonus when it comes time for you to resell, but believe me, handing over the keys to this super-sedan might take more willpower than you can muster. 

Yes, if you’re longing for an outrageously competent sports car with the added convenience of four doors and a sizeable trunk, look no further than the Subaru WRX STI. Even if you don’t need the back seat and storage, it’s one of the better performance cars available for less than $50k, and thanks to its ever-improving refinements its now a viable alternative for anyone otherwise interested in a premium-branded sport sedan.

Infiniti had more reasons to celebrate than just Canada Day on July 1, 2018, because extremely strong June sales resulted in the best month it has ever recorded.  The Japanese luxury brand increased…

Infiniti monthly sales in June were best ever in Canada

2018 Infiniti QX80
Infiniti’s largest QX80 SUV grew its sales by 13.7 percent in June. (Photo: Infiniti)

Infiniti had more reasons to celebrate than just Canada Day on July 1, 2018, because extremely strong June sales resulted in the best month it has ever recorded. 

The Japanese luxury brand increased nationwide deliveries to 1,398 units last month, which represents a 16.3-percent year-over-year increase as well as an all-time monthly sales record. 

As you might expect, sport utility vehicles were key to its success, with the brand’s largest QX80 growing its sales by 13.7 percent in June. 

2018 Infiniti QX60
Infiniti’s most popular QX60 mid-size luxury crossover achieved 567 sales in June, resulting in a new monthly record. (Photo: Infiniti)

Additionally, Infiniti’s most popular QX60 mid-size luxury crossover achieved 567 sales, this resulting in a new monthly record as well as 14.5 percent growth when compared to June 2017. 

June was also a big month for the QX50 compact luxury crossover, which arrived as a completely redesigned 2019 model halfway through the month and therefore benefited from 335 Canadian deliveries for its best June ever, not to mention 119 percent year-over-year growth. 

2019 Infiniti QX50
The all-new QX50 sold 335 units in its first half month for its best June ever, while also achieving 119 percent YoY growth. (Photo: Infiniti)

Even the discontinued QX70 crossover found traction in June, its sales rising by 19.1 percent, while the ever-popular Q50 sport-luxury sedan also received a bump in popularity, finding 2.3 percent more buyers than it did a year ago. 

The Q50 helped keep Infiniti’s car sales from sliding farther backward than the -2.5 percent slip they experienced in June, whereas SUV sales grew by a substantive 23.3 percent. 

That said Infiniti cars are the big winners so far this year, with 2018 year-to-date deliveries at the close of Q2 resulting in +9.2 percent compared to -8.5 for SUVs.

Sad but true, one of the best compact Toyota models to come along since the Matrix is going the way of the dodo. Fortunately for small five-door lovers the Corolla iM is being replaced with the all-new…

2018 Toyota Corolla iM Road Test

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The Toyota Corolla iM is on its way out, a shame considering that it’s better than most peers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Sad but true, one of the best compact Toyota models to come along since the Matrix is going the way of the dodo. Fortunately for small five-door lovers the Corolla iM is being replaced with the all-new 2019 Corolla Hatchback, and while I have yet to test the latter I can tell you right now it’ll need to be very good to even match the iM. 

The Corolla Hatchback certainly appears like a worthy replacement, while to be honest the iM is probably starting to look a bit dated. And let’s be fair. It started out as the second-generation Auris in 2012, a Euro-spec Toyota that came to North America as the Scion iM in 2015 as a 2016 model. I drove that car in a bright day-glow yellow dubbed Spring Green, and was duly impressed by its performance, interior design, fit, finish and materials quality, standard feature set, and general goodness all-round, so therefore it was easy to accept the 2017 Corolla iM that surfaced the following year, which after just two model years is being sent to pasture. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
We spent a week with both the 6-speed manual and the CVT-S auto, with each offering a different take on compact performance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As a send off, Toyota gave me two to play with one final time. While Spring Green is still shown as available on the brand’s retail website, my testers included a Barcelona Red Metallic painted version with the base six-speed manual, and an Electric Storm Blue example with the optional automatic, or rather continuously variable transmission (CVT). Alternatively, black, silver or white can be had, the latter being the only optional paint due to a pearlescent finish, but truthfully we’re getting to the end of the line so you may have to take what your dealer has on offer if you’ve got your heart set on a Corolla iM. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
While an older design dating back to 2012, the Corolla iM still looks good from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Why not wait for the Corolla Hatchback instead? I can’t recommend the new model or criticize it, but I’d be surprised if it comes finished to the same impressive levels as the iM. This said the new Corolla Hatchback is also the third-generation Auris in Europe, so it should also be above average when compared to similar North American offerings, unless they dumb our version down by cutting corners on interior quality—we already know the fully independent suspension is up to snuff. Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed, or alternatively take what we can get while the gettin’s good. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The sporty bodywork and 17-inch machine-finished alloys are standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Let’s start with the mechanicals. Behind the iM’s sloping snout is a 16-valve, DOHC, 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with Valvetronic, which puts out 137 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque for plenty of zoot off the line and no shortage of passing power. Of course, it feels a lot more energetic when mated to its six-speed manual, but that said the aforementioned CVT is actually Toyota’s CVT-S autobox, the “S” standing for Sport. Basically it features a shift lever-actuated manual mode that swaps “cogs” quite quickly and effectively, mimicking the real deal to the point of enjoyment, which makes it quite the rarity amongst CVTs that are normally the antithesis of sporty. The CVT-S also provides a Sport mode, accessible from a button on the lower console. Again, it adds some zest to the iM experience when wanting to let your hair down, but it’s nothing to get too excited about. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The Corolla iM’s interior is amongst the most refined in its compact class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Another reason to choose the CVT-S over the manual is fuel economy, the six-speed quite efficient yet not as thrifty as the autobox at 8.8 L/100km city, 6.8 highway and 7.9 combined compared to 8.3 city, 6.5 highway and 7.5 combined. Whether or not the fuel savings are enough to make up for the automatic’s $835 hit to your wallet will come down to how you drive and the distances covered, but it’s possible the expense will even itself out after a few years. Of course, it’ll be well worth the extra charge if you don’t drive stick or would rather not, plus if you’re paying monthly the difference between $22,750 and $23,585 is nominal. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Plenty of soft-touch surfaces, metallic and lacquered detailing, and other niceties separate the iM from rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, I sourced the Corolla iM’s retail pricing at CarCostCanada.com, which is the most comprehensive new vehicle pricing resource in Canada, not only supplying every available trim and option plus the cost of each, but also showing otherwise hard-to-find dealer invoice pricing and up-to-the-moment rebate info so you can get the best possible deal when showing up at the retailer. And considering the Corolla iM is about to be replaced for good, you should be able to work out a very good deal if you’re well armed with information. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Sporty analogue gauges are joined by a large multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those capable of more hand, foot coordination, or willing to learn, will benefit from a slick six-speed manual gearbox and a nicely weighted clutch, the base model a lot sportier and more enjoyable to drive due to the DIY gearbox alone, and while modulating the pedals can provide greater control through sharp, fast-paced corners, the iM’s adept suspension does most of the work. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The iM’s centre stack is easy to reach and filled with user-friendly features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As hinted about earlier, behind the scenes is a fully independent suspension that flies in the face of the regular Corolla sedan’s rear twist-beam setup, the iM’s much more sophisticated and considerably more expensive independent rear suspension (IRS) capable of providing near unflappable high speed cornering on smooth or even bumpy road surfaces, its multi-link rear design ideal for keeping rear end planted on the road no matter the pavement irregularities encountered. The ride quality is plenty smooth too, making this particular Corolla perfect for long, high-speed trips on the open freeway. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Considering the iM’s age, the infotainment touchscreen is very advanced. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If the Corolla iM could get any better, I’d be inclined to place its aforementioned interior attributes at an even higher level than its ride and handling prowess. When I say the cabin gets close to premium, I’m not merely copping an overused term in order to imply that it includes a number of luxury sector features that give it a wannabe-premium flair, but rather it really does have an impressively finished passenger compartment. First off, the A-pillars come wrapped in the same high-quality woven fabric as the roofliner, while a better than average soft-touch synthetic covers the entire dash top, the upper half of the instrument panel, and the tops each front door panel. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Dual-zone auto climate control comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even better, Toyota added a contrast-stitched pad to both sides of the lower console for resting front occupant inside knees, this complementing an attractive and comfortable set of contrast-stitched padded fabric armrests and door inserts. Lastly, contrast-stitched leather surrounds the steering wheel, shift knob, boot, and handbrake lever, while Toyota turned to piano black lacquer and metallic trim for spiffing up some of the hard surfaces, plus a sporty motorcycle-inspired circular gauge cluster, very good quality switchgear, a touchscreen infotainment system that’s still better than what a lot of newer cars have on offer, and two stylishly upholstered, heavily bolstered, truly comfortable cloth sport seats. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The standard 6-speed manual is a nicely sorted gearbox. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you’re not quite convinced, the iM’s standard features list might drive its value proposition home more effectively, thanks to auto on/off halogen projector headlamps with LED DRLs, LED side mirror turn signals, LED taillights, machine-finished 17-inch alloys with grey painted pockets, remote access, heatable, power-folding, power-adjustable side mirrors, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors, an overhead console with a nicely lined sunglasses holder, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, a large high-resolution 7.0-inch Pioneer infotainment/display audio system with very nice graphics, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, voice recognition, and a six-speaker AM/FM/USB/AUX stereo featuring Aha, internet radio, POI search, Gracenote, and more. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The CVT-S is quite sporty for a continuously variable transmission. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The move to Toyota last year meant this Corolla-badged iM now gets even more safety gear, so along with the usual four-wheel discs with ABS, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction and stability control, plus Smart Stop Technology that stops the car when both throttle and brake pedals are pressed simultaneously, all being part of the Japanese brand’s Star Safety System, as well as the usual assortment of airbags, including one for the driver’s knees and another for the front passenger’s seat cushion, the Corolla iM includes the entry version of the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) system, dubbed TSS-C, the “C” short for Collision. TSS-C includes auto-dimming high beams, autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure alert, while the higher end TSS-P adds autonomous braking with Pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The CVT-S gets a Sport mode for enhancing its driving dynamics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On this note, the Corolla iM doesn’t make the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick Plus or even Top Safety Pick list, the latter of which includes the regular Corolla, but perhaps this is more to do with not having its autonomous braking system tested. After all, the IIHS gives it best-possible “Good” ratings for its moderate front overlap and side crash tests, so if its small overlap front, roof strength, plus head restraint and seat tests were done it could very well get the same Top Safety Pick score as its four-door sibling. Also, the NHTSA has never tested the iM, whether in its earlier Scion incarnation or under its new Toyota Corolla nameplate. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The front seats are superbly comfortable, extremely supportive and look great too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While this generous load of standard features is impressive, the Corolla iM’s one-trim-fits-all strategy shows the weakness of the original Scion business model. On one hand it doesn’t allow for a stripped down base model capable of going head-to-head against competitors’ lower price points, which are often used just for marketing purposes, getting would-be buyers down to the dealership so they can be upsold into something with the iM’s level of features, but it’s an effective approach just the same, while on the other hand it doesn’t allow for the types of high end features that might make the iM more appealing to those willing to spend more for a premium-like experience. For instance, the iM can’t be had with proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, parking sensors, leather upholstery, cooled front and heatable rear seats, a regular moonroof let alone a panoramic glass roof, navigation, a surround camera, etcetera. 

Toyota does offer dealer-installed accessories, mind you, including a larger rear rooftop spoiler, an infotainment upgrade with navigation, a Bongiovi Acoustics DPS audio upgrade, and interior ambient lighting with interchangeable blue, turquoise, green, yellow, red, purple and white colour choices. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
The rear seating area is very roomy, while the outboard positions provide good lower back support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I know, the ability to choose between ambient colours might sound a bit frivolous to those merely looking for a good quality car with a modicum of performance at a great price, so don’t bring it up and your local Toyota salesperson probably won’t either. After all, interior roominess and comfort is a much more important subject matter, neither of which should cause you concern unless you’re much taller than average. I’m only five-foot-eight, which is about average for a Canadian guy, so I had room galore up front, although take note the steering column’s telescopic reach doesn’t extend far enough rearward to make up for body types with longer legs than torsos/arms. This is true for most Toyotas, forcing me to position the driver’s seatback at an unnaturally upright angle in order to grasp the top portion of steering wheel rim, and even then it’s not comfortable and doesn’t provide optimal control. Certainly I could drive it, but for this reason alone I wouldn’t buy it. This will affect everyone differently, so make sure you test it out before singing on the bottom line. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
A sizeable cargo area can be expanded via 60/40 split-folding seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for rear seat roominess, I left the driver’s seat positioned for my height and sat behind to find about five inches of space ahead of my knees and plenty of room for my shoes below, plus there was almost as much space above my head. Toyota provides a flip-down centre armrest with integrated cupholders, which honestly was a bit low for my arm to rest comfortably, but it’s probably perfect for kids, while I’m guessing a smallish third passenger would be more than comfortable in the middle seat. 

2018 Toyota Corolla iM
This shallow storage tray sits under the cargo load floor and above the spare tire. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Toyota finishes off the cargo compartment nicely, by wrapping the floor, seatbacks and sidewalls in quality carpeting, while just below the load floor is a shallow storage bin above the spare tire. Additionally, four chromed tie-down rings are helpful for attaching a cargo net or strapping something down that might otherwise fall over during the drive. The rear seatbacks fold in the usual 60/40-split configuration, expanding the already sizeable 588-litre (20.8 cubic-foot) cargo area to a much more accommodating albeit undisclosed maximum capacity. 

If the Corolla iM fits your size and style, I can certainly recommend it for all the other reasons just mentioned. It’s a great little five-door hatchback that moves the entire compact car sector up a notch or two in materials quality and refinement, while delivering a sporty driving experience in an all-round efficient package. Get it while you can, or check out the new 2019 Corolla Hatchback that could’ve just as easily been given the iM moniker.