You can count the number of luxury sport wagons available to Canadians on one hand. Raised crossovers and low-volume plug-in electrics aside, BMW offers one true wagon, Mercedes-Benz antes up with two,…

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design Road Test

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Need the practicality of an SUV, but want the performance of a low-slung sport sedan? Look no further than the new Volvo V90. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

You can count the number of luxury sport wagons available to Canadians on one hand. Raised crossovers and low-volume plug-in electrics aside, BMW offers one true wagon, Mercedes-Benz antes up with two, and Volvo gives us the choice of another duo, one of which I recently spent some quality time with. 

I purposely slid the word “quality” into my previous sentence to highlight the incredible lengths the Swedish brand has gone to up its game when it comes to fit, finish, premium materials, attention to detail, technology leadership, powertrain advancements, and just generally providing an awe inspiring sense of occasion that at the very least measures up to its German contemporaries, and often surpasses them. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The V90 looks sportiest in R-Design trim, plus my tester’s optional 20-inch alloys don’t hurt matters either. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester this time around was the 2018 V90 in T6 R-Design trim, which in Volvo-speak means that I had the sportiest of its three trim levels, showing second on the brand’s rung of aspirational feature sets, yet for the most part on the same level as top-tier V90 Inscription trim. 

To clarify, the V90 is offered in $60,500 base (but by no means basic) Momentum trim, $65,100 R-Design guise, or lastly as the $66,700 Inscription, and make sure you see all prices, including dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, at CarCostCanada, where I referenced these. As you can see there’s little price differentiation from R-Design to Inscriptions trims, so both can be considered top of the line. It really comes down to priorities. Personally, I’m more attracted to this sportier R-Design model, but I must admit to really liking the design of this practical five-door sport wagon no matter the trim. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
No matter the angle, the V90 R-Design looks fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A quick review of features shows you’ll be getting an impressively outfitted car no matter which version you choose, with the base Momentum including standard 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights with active cornering and high-pressure cleaners, fog lamps, proximity access, pushbutton start, an electromechanical parking brake, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster, Road Sign Information (RSI), adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving capability, dual-zone automatic climate control, a large tablet-style touchscreen filled with one of the best infotainment interfaces in the industry, a clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, 224-watt 10-speaker audio, satellite radio, Volvo On-Call featuring remote start and vehicle tracking, active noise control, leather upholstery, heatable power-adjustable front seats including four-way lumbar and driver’s memory, power-folding rear seat headrests that flip down to make seeing rearward easier when no passengers are in back, power release folding rear seatbacks, a hands-free powered liftgate, and more. Whew! That’s a long list, and Momentum is just the base model. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
“Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Volvo never shortchanges its loyal clientele on standard safety features either, so along with Volvo’s usual tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, ABS, usual collection of airbags including one for the driver’s knees, etcetera, the V90 comes equipped with autonomous front collision mitigation with pedestrian detection as well as a lane keeping aid, and the systems weren’t overly sensitive so they gave off no false alarms, yet came into action each time they were needed. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
These sporty 20-inch alloys on Pirelli P Zeros only cost $1,000 more and really look good while providing better handling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Autonomous in mind, aforementioned Pilot Assist won’t completely take over the steering wheel, but as a precursor to full autonomous driving it works together with the adaptive cruise control to provide short-duration self-driving in the city and on the highway, so long as road markings are clearly visible. It works quite well too, but for the time being such systems are in their development stage and therefore are more novelties than anything particularly useful. I did find it helpful during bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, however, where it when about its business quite effectively, allowing me to relax a bit more than I would normally. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
That’s one very big vertical LED taillight, ideal for grabbing the attention of cars behind when slamming on the brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

R-Design trim enhances styling with unique diamond-cut 19-inch alloys framing an upgraded sport suspension, a special blackened grille and trim, matte silver side mirror caps, and silk metal side window trim, while inside it gets an even nicer perforated leather sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, metal foot pedals, a full 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that’s beautifully detailed and filled with functions, four-zone auto climate control that includes a panel with controls in back, a subwoofer for the stereo, richer Nubuck leather upholstery, ultra-comfortable contoured sport seats with added side bolstering and a driver’s cushion extension that nicely cups under the knees for added support, unique Metal Mesh décor inlays, a black headliner, rear side sunshades, and plenty of R-Design branding. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Come on in! It’s very comfortable and wonderfully luxurious in here. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t go into too much detail regarding Inscription trim, but as noted before its feature set is much the same as with the R-Design other than the latter model’s sportier theme getting replaced by a unique chromed waterfall grille and ritzier chrome elements on the outside, whereas the interior is pure class due to beautiful Linear Walnut trim and stunning perforated Fine Nappa leather. Also, take note the Inscription includes ventilated front seats, front passenger seat memory, and more. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The quality of materials and artisanship is as good as this class gets and better than most. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No matter the trim specified, everything comes together within a cabin that’s not only beautifully finished as noted earlier, but also supremely comfortable and ergonomically ideal. Finding the perfect driving position is easy, and that’s a big bonus for me as my shorter torso and longer legs don’t always fit within Volvo’s competitors. The V90 offers ample telescopic steering wheel reach and plenty of rake, while the seat adjustments provide more than enough flexibility for most any body type to find a good position. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
The V90’s digital gauge cluster looks great and is highly functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The outboard rear seats are comfortable too, and especially supportive at the lower back while wonderfully sculpted with thick side bolsters similar to those up front, plus the flip-down armrest is wide and filled with pop-out cupholders as well as a handy lidded storage compartment. The large panoramic sunroof overhead offers an open and airy environment, while Volvo also provides real air via an excellent rear ventilation system that includes outlets on the backside of the front centre console plus additional vents on the B-pillars. Lastly, the three-way heatable outboard cushions noted earlier add rear passenger comfort on cold winter mornings. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
That’s one serious bird’s eye view, taken from the V90’s optional surround camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those rear seat heaters will be appreciated when traveling home from a day on the slopes too, and thanks to ultra-useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks they can be put to use while everyone’s skis are placed down the middle. Volvo also finishes the V90’s cargo area off beautifully, with a stylish metal cargo door protection plate that sits above another similar metal guard atop the bumper (this one a $155 option from the accessories catalogue), two of the nicest chromed tie-down hooks available from any luxury manufacturer, high quality yet durable carpeting most everywhere, and lastly a $215 reversible cargo mat from the accessories catalogue. What’s more, V90’s cargo cover is a technological marvel all on its own, automatically moving up and out of the way when the powered liftgate is opened, while below the strut-mounted load floor is a shallow but useful carpeted tray that sits above the compact spare tire and tools. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
With all of the unusual gear selector’s these days, the V90’s elegant yet straightforward lever connecting to an 8-speed auto is refreshing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you’re getting the idea that Volvo goes above and beyond to provide a new level of luxury to its fortunate followers, I’m glad. That’s what I’m trying to convey, and it gets even better when factoring in the driving experience. It starts with the most advanced 2.0-litre engine available today, the Swedish brand’s direct-injected four-cylinder benefiting from turbocharging as well as supercharging in order to make a stellar 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s real V6 power from a fuel-efficient four, the Transport Canada numbers coming in at 10.6 L/100km city, 7.6 highway and 9.3 combined, which is excellent considering the performance available. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
These upgraded R-Design sport seats are superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Aiding the powertrain is an efficient eight-speed automatic with auto start-stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, reducing fuel consumption and emissions, but to just comment on this highly responsive transmission’s wallet and environmentally friendly attributes wouldn’t be doing it full justice, as, together with the aforementioned paddle shifters, it provides engaging hands-on performance that really ups the entire driving experience. 

Improving handling and stability in both dry and slippery conditions is standard all-wheel drive, but my favourite V90 attribute is its incredible ride quality. Together with the previously noted seats, the V90’s cushioning ride is best in class, and that’s even after factoring in my tester’s $1,000 optional 20-inch eight-spoke silver diamond-cut alloys on 255/35 Pirelli P Zero performance rubber. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Now that’s a sunroof! It’s powered too, and makes the cabin feel like a convertible. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My test car didn’t include the $2,350 available Four-C Active Chassis and rear air suspension however, which would have made it even smoother, while upping performance by automatically maintaining a constant ride height. The Four-C system utilizes the standard Drive Mode settings, which include Comfort mode, Eco mode, and Dynamic sport mode, but specifically enhances the suspension calibration of each, while the standard Drive Mode system enhances powertrain and steering characteristics, plus climate control in Eco mode. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Rear seating is roomy and comfortable, with excellent side bolstering and lumbar support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While we’re on the subject of options, my tester also included deep, rich $900 Onyx Black metallic paint on the outside and $750 worth of sensational carbon fibre inlays inside, plus a $2,000 Vision Package featuring auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, and one of the best 360-degree surround parking cameras in the biz; a $1,500 Convenience Package with a compass integrated into the rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, and Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking; a $3,000 Leather package featuring Charcoal leather R-Design seats and a tailored leather dash top and door uppers; a $1,250 Climate package with heated wiper blades, a heatable steering wheel, and those heatable rear outboard seats noted earlier; an outrageously good $3,250 Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system with a 12-channel amplifier, 1400 watts of output and 19 separate speakers including a tweeter on top of the centre speaker that minimizes acoustic reflection from the windshield; and lastly a $1,150 Graphical Heads-Up Display that projects speed, speed limit info, navigation directions and more onto the windshield ahead of the driver, with everything listed pushing my V90 R-Design tester’s list price up to $80,270 before freight and fees. 

2018 Volvo V90 T6 AWD R-Design
Need to stow gear? Look no further than the V90’s accommodating cargo compartment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

There were a few other options available, like rear entertainment, dual two-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard seats, and the aforementioned suspension upgrade, but for the most part this is a fully loaded mid-size Volvo sport wagon. 

Getting back to the competition, the V90 truly only really competes with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon being that both are mid-size E-segment vehicles, whereas the others are based on compact D-segment models. So if you happen to appreciate the practicality of a larger five-door body style yet want the low-slung performance of a luxury sport sedan, the V90 is an excellent choice.

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

2019 Honda Pilot Touring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Needing a roomy back seat and the convenience of large cargo compartment accessed by a handy rear liftback? Not willing to put up with a boring, run-of-the-mill mid-size crossover SUV? Nissan has the…

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD Road Test

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
The stylish Nissan Murano continues forward into 2018 with new features and updates to trims. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Needing a roomy back seat and the convenience of large cargo compartment accessed by a handy rear liftback? Not willing to put up with a boring, run-of-the-mill mid-size crossover SUV? Nissan has the answer. 

The Murano has long offered a lot more style than its class average, which works perfectly considering how well it balances premium levels of execution with mainstream branded value. While positioned below the Pathfinder when it comes to family hauling and cargo loading capability, the five-seat Murano delivers at a higher level when factoring in styling, refinement and performance. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
The Murano looks good in all of its trims, but it looks best wearing the 20-inch alloys that come standard with the Platinum. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

In fact, the Murano bests plenty of its mid-size rivals when it comes to wow factor, both by its eye-catching design from the outside in, and by its impressive interior materials quality that makes it look and feel more like a luxury branded crossover SUV than it truly has a right to. 

Every time I slide inside a Murano I’m reminded how car companies should do interiors. Truly, this Platinum trimmed version is finished better than some luxury brands’ offerings. Small but much appreciated details include fabric-wrapped and padded A-pillars, padded soft-touch leatherette door uppers front to back, the same rich leather-like synthetic across the front portion of those door panels and the armrests, which are French-stitched as well. The instrument cluster hood and section ahead of the front passenger is finished similarly, which perfectly matches the stitched and padded steering wheel rim, plus the side edges of the lower console. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Check out this awesome interior, the Murano Platinum positively rich. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course the entire dash-top is soft to the touch too, while Nissan applies some wonderfully artistic mother of pearl-style inlays to the instrument panel and door panels, not to mention the lower console surfacing and centre armrest decoration. Granted, this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I’m guessing those who like it love it. Of note to most male readers, Nissan offers a new Murano Midnight Edition that might suit your sporting performance aspirations more thanks to a cool black grille, black side mirror caps, dark alloy wheels, roof rails, roof rails, and a more down to business interior, while there are also more conservative interior motifs in between. Either way, this detail, along with all of the chrome, satin-silver and piano black lacquer accents, provides a true sense of occasion that sets this mid-size crossover SUV apart from the masses, while making all of its occupants feel special. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more luxurious cabin from any competitor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted, my tester was in top-line Platinum trim, which is priced at $44,598, so there were more attributes making its occupants feel pampered than just the style and quality of finishings. Standard Murano Platinum features include unique 20-inch machine-finished alloy wheels, LED headlamps, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, memory settings for the latter as well as the eight-way powered driver’s seat and side mirrors, ventilated front seats, power return rear seatbacks, and more. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Nissan provides a really nice multi-info display within the Murano’s attractive gauge cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other features you can see in the photos get pulled up from lesser $31,498 base S, $37,998 SV and $41,648 SL trims, such as my tester’s heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, perforated leather upholstery, heated front and rear outboard seats, adjustable ambient lighting, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, remote start with Intelligent Climate Control, dual-zone automatic HVAC (which is actually standard), electroluminescent gauge cluster, large 7.0-inch full-colour TFT multi-information display, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (standard too), upgraded Around View parking monitor, navigation (standard as well), great sounding 11-speaker Bose audio system, powered panoramic sunroof, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton start (standard), motion activated powered liftgate, adaptive cruise control, predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking, blindspot warning, rear cross traffic alert with moving object detection, automatic on/off headlights, fog lamps, and much more. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Nissan has really improved the infotainment interface, with higher resolution, better graphics and more intuitive operation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I should probably point out here that automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning were made standard across the entire line for 2018, while other advanced driver assistance systems like adaptive cruise control were made standard on the SL, instead of just being limited to Platinum trim. 

Nissan’s Intelligent all-wheel drive is standard above the base model, and it’s an excellent system that not only improves traction in slippery situations, but also provides handling advantages in the dry, and thanks to its standard 3.5-litre V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque the Murano needs the extra stability AWD provides while traveling at high speeds. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
The Murano’s seats are extremely comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Key to Murano performance is a nicely sorted fully independent suspension, the crossover SUV’s capability around curves a strongpoint since this model first came on the scene back in 2002. Likewise, that model was one of the first SUVs I can remember with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and while Nissan has steadily improved its Xtronic gearbox over the past decade and a half it’s always been a cut above the rest. In fact, thanks to an immediate punch off the line and smoothly stepped gear ratios I think you’ll be hard pressed to notice it’s a CVT at all, yet it still benefits from better fuel economy than a regular automatic transmission, the Murano rated at 11.2 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 9.9 combined in AWD guise, or 8.3, 11.0 and 9.8 respectively with its base FWD powertrain. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
This large panoramic sunroof makes for a more open and airier cabin. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve got to say Murano ride quality is particularly impressive, made even better thanks to the incredibly comfortable NASA-inspired “zero gravity” seats. The Murano is spacious too, especially from side-to-side, making those seats ideal for larger folk. The only complaint I can think of is two-way lumbar adjustment instead of four, but such is the same for some similarly sized premium-branded SUVs, so we can overlook this faux pas. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Murano rear seat roominess and comfort is excellent. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The rear seats are sizeable too. With the driver’s seat positioned for my five-foot-eight frame I had about 10 inches remaining ahead of my knees when seated in back, and almost enough space on the floor to stretch out my legs. My feet went underneath the front seat nicely too, even when wearing winter boots, while I also had about four inches above my head and about five next to my shoulder and hip. Additionally, a tug on a mesh loop lets you recline the rear seatbacks for greater comfort, while Nissan provides a decent sized folding centre armrest as well, complete with two integrated cupholders. If you need to transport three abreast it won’t be a problem either, just flip that armrest up and your rear passengers can enjoy this SUV’s generous width. 

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Don’t let the Murano’s sleek styling fool you, it’s really spacious inside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The cargo compartment is roomy for the class too, and nicely finished with carpeting on the floor, seatbacks and sidewalls, its attention to detail once again unusually impressive for the mainstream sector. What’s more, levers on each cargo wall automatically fold the rear seatbacks flat when pulled, while a button powers them back up again. I like this system better than fully powered seats, because they hardly take any time at all to fold flat. 

Features like these make the Murano easy to live with, while its updated electronics and beautifully designed and finished interior keep it modern and inviting. The driving experience continues to be a high point, ideally combining comfort and control into a highly substantive SUV that rises above most of its peers, the Murano coming across as extremely well made and solid feeling. I can easily recommend the Murano to anyone in the mid-size five-person SUV market.

Anyone who believes the Acura ILX is merely a badge-engineered Honda Civic might want to rethink their point of view.  First off, since the 10th-generation Civic arrived for 2017 the two don’t even…

Acura ILX gets significant refresh for 2019

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The 2019 Acura ILX gets a major refresh, and looks especially nice in sporty A-Spec trim. (Photo: Acura)

Anyone who believes the Acura ILX is merely a badge-engineered Honda Civic might want to rethink their point of view. 

First off, since the 10th-generation Civic arrived for 2017 the two don’t even share underpinnings, with even this latest 2019 upgrade riding on the previous ninth-gen Civic platform architecture, not that this really matters to those behind the wheel, who no doubt will continue to enjoy rewarding driving dynamics and extremely good efficiency. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The ILX continues to be a fun car to drive thanks to a standard 201-hp 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddles. (Photo: Acura)

Despite getting a dramatic refresh that brings it inline with the rest of the Acura lineup, the 2019 ILX continues forward with a wonderfully rev-happy 201-horsepower, 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC-infused 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine borrowed from the previous Civic Si albeit refined for this car’s more luxury-oriented gateway-to-premium role. As part of its repurposed application the potent engine joins up to an automated dual-clutch eight-speed transmission with paddle-shifters, providing both smooth ease of use and quick-shifting performance, while its front-wheel drivetrain aids fuel economy. If it seems familiar, this formidable powertrain is also used in the base TLX. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The ILX is the most popular car in its class with millennial buyers, no doubt because of its stylish, sporty character and excellent value. (Photo: Acura)

The most notable update is the Japanese luxury brand’s new trademark Diamond Pentagon grille up front and centre, complemented by a new front bumper and lower fascia. The latter is made more dramatic in new A-Spec trim, while the rest of the car gets minor updates from front to rear. Truly, only the seven-element Jewel Eye LED headlamps look unchanged, although Acura points out the 2019 ILX is entirely new from the A-pillars forward, with even the hood more sharply sculpted. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
Now the entire Acura line-up (NSX aside) has been transformed with the new Diamond Pentagon grille design. (Photo: Acura)

The shape of the LED taillights appear totally new, while the rear bumper and apron are revised as well, once again more significantly in A-Spec guise. No doubt if you like the look of the new TLX you’ll also appreciate the changes made to the ILX, and no one should argue that the updated 2019 version is wholly more upscale looking than the car it replaces. Of course, no mid-cycle update would be complete without new wheel designs, which means lower end models get fresh sets of 17-inch split-five-spoke alloys with trim-specific finishes, and the new A-Spec sports exclusive 18-inch rims. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
All 2019 ILX trims get attractive new LED taillights, while the A-Spec features a more aggressive rear apron. (Photo: Acura)

Changes inside are less noticeable at first glance, with many of the same high-quality finishings remaining for 2019, albeit Acura talks of “more luxurious and sporty cabin appointments” too, which we’ll report on in an upcoming road test. Acura also highlights new silver-finish dash trim featuring a new chrome insert, plus a machine-finished ignition button. Even more consequential to real-world comfort, the reworked ILX receives “more intricately styled and reshaped sport seats, front and rear, with available high-contrast piping and stitching.” Driver’s seat power-adjustable lumbar support is standard across the line as well, making comfort priority one. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
Once again, full LED headlights are standard. (Photo: Acura)

Additionally, the dual-screen On Demand Multi-Use Display (ODMD 2.0) infotainment system gets a much-needed update with fresh graphics, new software, a faster responding operating system (by up to 30 percent), more intuitive menus and command structures, and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Acura says the 7.0-inch touchscreen portion of its dual-screen setup features a capacitive display that’s “more responsive to touch and is positioned within easy reach of the driver and front passenger,” so we look forward to testing this out in an upcoming review. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
Acura has improved interior refinement and significantly upgraded the infotainment system. (Photo: Acura)

The new 2019 ILX gets five new exterior colours as well, including Platinum White Pearl, Majestic Black Pearl, Performance Red Pearl, Canyon Bronze Metallic and A-Spec-exclusive Apex Blue Pearl, while Lunar Silver Metallic and Modern Steel Metallic carryover. Likewise, Ebony and Graystone colourways continue forward inside, although take note new Espresso provides some upscale colour to the ILX cabin, while the sportier A-Spec model gets exclusive Ebony on Red or Red on Ebony combinations, mixed with soft, grippy Ultrasuede seat inserts. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
Acura’s dual-display infotainment setup carries forward into the refreshed model, but the graphics are new, it’s faster, and better organized. (Photo: Acura)

Speaking of the A-Spec upgrade, along with the exterior enhancements mentioned earlier, which also include distinctive styling with more aggressive aero components, plus dark chrome grille and lower fascia trim, darker headlights and taillights, LED fog lamps, a gloss-black rear deck lid spoiler, and unique new 18-inch alloys in a Shark Gray finish, the A-Spec gets a special graphite-silver dash accent with chrome insert, an A-Spec badged steering wheel with contrast stitching, and aluminum sport pedals. The aforementioned sport seats feature high contrast stitching as well. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The top display is not touch capacitive, but instead is controlled via a knob below the bottom display. (Photo: Acura)

Additionally, the 2019 ILX joins every other model in the brand’s lineup in providing the AcuraWatch suite of active safety and driver-assistive technologies as standard equipment, including Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW). 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The graphics certainly look better, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (shown) now come standard. (Photo: Acura)

Acura is the only premium brand to provide such standard advanced safety features to all of its models, and this focus has pushed it up the U.S. Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s (IIHS) rankings, resulting in three of its recently updated models receiving Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick + scores. The 2019 ILX should benefit from the AcuraWatch upgrade too, as the 2018 model already earns 5 safety stars from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), plus zero complaints, zero investigations and zero recalls. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
ILX A-Spec trim gets the choice of either black leather with red highlights or this bold red on black theme. (Photo: Acura)

The current ILX’ high NHTSA score results from Acura’s Advance Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure as well as other standard safety and driver assistive features, such as Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, an Expanded View Driver’s Mirror, advanced front airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags, side curtain airbags, a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), not to mention pedestrian injury-mitigation exterior design elements, while the new 2019 ILX will also be available with blind spot information (BSI) and rear cross traffic monitoring. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The A-Spec sport seats are upholstered in perforated leather with a grippy suede-like Alcantara insert down the middle. (Photo: Acura)

Also notable, the outgoing 2018 ILX earned a top Initial Quality Study (IQS) ranking for its segment this year. In more detail, it received a Power Circle Rating of 5 out of 5 and a quality award in the Small Premium Car segment. The ILX also earned the top position in the entry-luxury car category of Kelley Blue Book’s 5-Year Cost to Own Luxury Brand Awards, while Acura was the top ranked brand for the third consecutive year. 

Will the redesigned 2019 ILX continue to attract more millennial buyers than any of its compact luxury competitors? It’s been the class leader amongst young millennials every year since 2013, so only time will tell if the refreshed model continues this trend. Still, the new ILX’ more distinctive styling, continued strong performance, and high quality, comfortable interior should help it maintain a steady influx of new and repeat customers. 

The new 2019 Acura ILX will go on sale later this month.

Let’s be clear, mid-size family sedans aren’t exactly selling as well as they used to. Nevertheless, this category still represents one of the largest market segments in the auto industry, so it hardly…

Nissan Canada puts price on all-new 2019 Altima

2019 Nissan Altima
The new 2019 Nissan Altima’s frontal design won’t go unnoticed. (Photo: Nissan)

Let’s be clear, mid-size family sedans aren’t exactly selling as well as they used to. Nevertheless, this category still represents one of the largest market segments in the auto industry, so it hardly make sense to abandon it despite falling sales. 

Then again, such is what Ford recently announced with the upcoming cancellation of its Fusion sedan, a car that was once a thorn in the side of key rivals that still include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and yes this Nissan Altima, amongst others. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The new Altima’s sleek, sporty styling looks as if it should be priced much higher. (Photo: Nissan)

The Altima sits third in the U.S., yet placed only sixth in Canada at the close of 2017, beaten by that Fusion despite it being on death row, plus the Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata. For reasons having nothing to do with this fully redesigned sixth-generation 2019 Altima, as the new car hasn’t gone on sale yet, the current model’s year-to-date Canadian sales as of August 2018 have boosted it to fifth out of 11 mid-size family sedan competitors, and its 4,323 deliveries are getting mighty close to the Malibu’s 5,054 and Fusion’s 5,622. Could this new redesign push Altima sales into third here too? 

2019 Nissan Altima
The deep and wide Vmotion 2.0 grille provides plenty of drama up front. (Photo: Nissan)

The new 2019 Altima certainly has a lot going for it. First off, Nissan just announced a competitive price of $27,998 plus freight and fees for the base Altima S, which while a tiny bit more expensive than the Camry’s $27,850 retail sticker, and somewhat more than the Accord’s $26,590 MSRP, the 2019 Altima comes standard with all-wheel drive, a feature that’s only otherwise standard with the Subaru Legacy and rarely even optional with mid-size sedan rivals—AWD is only optional with the aforementioned Fusion, and therefore we should now appreciate that its availability will hardly be permanent. Nevertheless, standard all-wheel drive makes a great deal of sense in most of Canada, as it combines the safety of all-weather traction with improved performance. 

2019 Nissan Altima
These unique 19-inch alloys are part of 250-unit limited Altima Edition ONE trim. (Photo: Nissan)

Named Intelligent AWD, the Altima system utilizes 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 system being front-wheel drive to save on fuel and reduce emissions. Nissan claims its new Intelligent AWD works seamlessly with the Altima’s standard limited-slip differential too, as well as its Hill Start Assist system. 

2019 Nissan Altima
LED headlights and taillights come standard across the Altima line. (Photo: Nissan)

Performance in mind, the 2019 Altima comes standard with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine good for 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, which is a 9 horsepower and 3 lb-ft increase over the engine it replaces. Reportedly it’s smoother, quieter, and more efficient than the outgoing four-cylinder too, while the revised Xtronic CVT gets an expanded lock-up area for improved fuel economy, plus paddle shifters are available. 

Speaking of available, the new Altima comes in three trims, starting with the aforementioned S model, which is followed by the SV for $31,498, and the Platinum for $34,998. Additionally, a 250-example limited-production launch version dubbed Edition ONE gets unique design elements such as special 19-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, an Edition ONE exterior badge, illuminated kick plates, and floor mats with the Edition ONE logo, along with Platinum model’s standard feature set, and will be available for the 2019 model year only at a price of $35,998, while freight and PDI will be $1,795 for all Altima trims. To find out all the 2019 Altima pricing details, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands, check out CarCostCanada.com.

2019 Nissan Altima
The new Altima gets a clean, uncluttered interior design that should appeal to most people. (Photo: Nissan)

Despite being a base model, standard Altima S features are plentiful and include the aforementioned automatic Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), an electromechanical parking brake, advanced LED headlamps, LED taillights, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a backup camera, Bluetooth hands-free smartphone connectivity with streaming audio, hands-free text messaging, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition, and more, while the standard menu continues with heated front seats, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, and advanced driver assistance systems such as Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), Rear Door Alert (that reminds you of anything/anybody left in back), Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (I-FCW), and Intelligent Driver Alertness (I-DA). 

2019 Nissan Altima
This 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen comes standard, and with it Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a backup camera and more. (Photo: Nissan)

We can expect the usual improvements in upper trims too, such as proximity-sensing access, pushbutton ignition, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, nine-speaker Bose audio, an Intelligent Around View Monitor (I-AVM) (standard with Platinum trim), a powered moonroof, SiriusXM-powered NissanConnect Services featuring compatible smartphone and smartwatch access to functions like remote engine start/stop, remote door lock/unlock, valet alert, etcetera, and ProPILOT Assist semi-automated driving, an exclusive Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology that will be standard on Altima SV and Platinum trims. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The new Altima grows its interior for more spaciousness and comfort. (Photo: Nissan)

ProPILOT Assist is now available on a number of new Nissan models, but the Altima will only be second behind the new 2019 Rogue to receive the Japanese brand’s new Nissan Safety Shield 360, which is a suite of six advanced driver assistance systems including Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Intelligent Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), radar-based Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and High Beam Assist (HBA). 

2019 Nissan Altima
The 2019 Nissan Altima promises to make quite an impact on the mid-size sedan class when it arrives in November. (Photo: Nissan)

As for styling, the new 2019 Altima’s exterior design speaks for itself, and most should find its assertive new face to their liking. Its predominant feature is a go-big-or-go-home version of the brand’s Vmotion 2.0 grille, surrounded by those sleek new LED headlamps mentioned earlier, while the rest of the car portrays an athletic stance from front to back.  

Inside, the look is clean and contemporary, while Nissan promises more premium materials used throughout. A highlight feature includes what the automaker calls a “wide ‘gliding wing’ instrument panel – which accentuates the exterior’s low cowl and hood, helping create an open, airy environment.” 

The 2019 Altima will go on sale this coming November at Nissan dealers across Canada.

If you need to go large, the redesigned 2018 Ford Expedition has a lot to offer.  The full-size SUV has been completely reworked from the ground up for 2018, with attractive new sheetmetal made mostly…

2018 Ford Expedition Limited 4×4

2018 Ford Expedition Limited 4x4
An all-new Ford Expedition looks smart in its fresh aluminum bodywork and upscale Limited trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

If you need to go large, the redesigned 2018 Ford Expedition has a lot to offer. 

The full-size SUV has been completely reworked from the ground up for 2018, with attractive new sheetmetal made mostly from aluminum, just like the blue-oval brand’s F-150 pickup truck that shares its T3 platform architecture, plus more power for the automaker’s already robust 3.5-litre turbocharged Ecoboost V6, a new fuel-efficient 10-speed automatic transmission, and more. 

2018 Ford Expedition Limited 4x4
Nicely detailed optional LED headlamps look smart next to the new Expedition’s redesigned chrome grille. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The new aluminum body joins up with a high-strength steel frame to reduce the Expedition’s curb weight by 44 to 90 kilograms (97 to 199 pounds) depending on trim, or 135 kilos (just under 300 pounds) for the longer Expedition Max, yet despite such a significant elimination of overall mass the upgraded SUV is more than 100 mm (4.0 inches) longer with the regular wheelbase and 28 mm (1.1 inches) lengthier with the long wheelbase Max, while its wheelbase gets stretched by nearly 90 mm (3.5 inches) in the regular length model and by 15 mm (0.6 inches) in the Max, and it gains more than 25 mm (1.0 inch) from side to side. 

2018 Ford Expedition Limited 4x4
This big, beautiful 22-inch alloys are part of an option package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Most people purchase an Expedition for passenger carrying and load hauling purposes, and to that end the new model’s larger dimensions make for an even roomier cabin than the previous generation’s already generous proportions, while the cargo compartment grows to a maximum of 2,962 litres (104.6 cubic feet) in the regular length model and 3,438 litres (121.4 cubic feet) with the Expedition Max, the latter providing 478 litres (16.9 cubic feet) more what-have-you capacity than the regular Expedition. This means 4×8 sheets of building material can be laid flat on top of the load floor with the tailgate closed, while you only need to press one of four individual buttons mounted on the cargo wall to lower the exact seat you want. 

2018 Ford Expedition Limited 4x4
Sharp styling from front to rear, and yes the new taillights are LEDs. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, the regular wheelbase model can now tow up to 4,218 kilos (9,300 pounds), which is an increase of 45 kg (100 lbs) over its predecessor and also the full-size SUV segment’s best result. 

Making all the pulling possible is a version of Ford’s twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 that’s good for 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque in the majority of trims including this Limited model, although an even more robust variation on the theme gets 400 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque in top-tier Platinum trim. 

2018 Ford Expedition Limited 4x4
Mixed analogue and digital gauge cluster gets a large, ultra-useful multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ll give you details about the new 10-speed automatic in an upcoming review, and comment on its full assortment of advanced driver assistance systems, such as active park assist that can actually pull this big SUV in and out of parking spots, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, plus what I’ve found most useful so far, the bird’s-eye view from its 360-degree surround parking camera. 

2018 Ford Expedition Limited 4x4
New tilt and slide second-row seats provide good access to the spacious third row. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Expedition now gets a version of the Explorer’s terrain management system too, allowing the choice of driving styles, the capability of maximizing traction on various road/trail surfaces, and the ability to set the SUV up to either tow a trailer or have it hauled behind a larger vehicle (although that’s hard to imagine), all from a dial on the lower console. 

Additional tech worth mentioning includes wireless device charging (if you have a smartphone new enough to make use of it), Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and rear-seat entertainment. Ford’s superb Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen takes care of most other electronic duties, while six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets and one household-style 110-volt power outlet provide plenty of power points. Lastly, Ford includes 17 cupholders for holding all those personal devices, or alternatively for keeping all occupants’ thirst quenched. 

2018 Ford Expedition Limited 4x4
Cargo volume galore! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That would be a total of eight occupants, by the way, although my tester included second-row captain’s chairs that reduced total people hauling capacity to seven, while I should also mention this new Expedition is the first full-size SUV to incorporate tip-and-slide second row seats that make access to the third row really… easy or difficult? 

I’ll tell you everything in my upcoming review. Stay tuned…

The Porsche 718 series started life as the Boxster way back in early 1996, the first of which arrived at the Geneva auto salon in March before going on sale as a 1997 model later that year. The Cayman…

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster Buyer’s Guide Overview

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
Porsche has returned with its sportiest GTS for 2018, wholly improving 718 Boxster S and 718 Cayman S style and performance. (Photo: Porsche)

The Porsche 718 series started life as the Boxster way back in early 1996, the first of which arrived at the Geneva auto salon in March before going on sale as a 1997 model later that year. The Cayman came much later, showing up in 2005 as a 2006 model along with the second-generation Boxster. 

Fast forward to 2016, which saw Porsche add the 718 prefix in honour of the classic 1957-1962 racing car of the same name for the completely redesigned 2017 model, and along with the new moniker and much improved styling the Zuffenhausen brand’s engineering team replaced an outgoing line of naturally aspirated flat sixes for a new lighter weight, more potent and more efficient horizontally opposed turbocharged four-cylinder. 

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS
The 718 Cayman, whether in base, S or GTS trim (shown), is basically a Boxster with a fixed roof. (Photo: Porsche)

The updated 718 models use a 2.0-litre turbo for base trims, good for a robust 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque and resultant 5.1-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h with its standard six-speed manual, or 4.9 seconds to 100km/h with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission, finalizing in a top speed of 275 km/h. When fitted with the automatic, both base cars offer an available Sport Chrono Package that reduces zero to 100km/h times to just 4.7 seconds. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
GTS trim combines a red on black theme with plenty of leather and rich suede-like Alcantara. (Photo: Porsche)

Even the entry-level 718 is a formidable sports car thanks its reasonably small 4,379 mm by 1,801 mm dimensions, hardly heavy 1,335 kilos of unladen weight, ideally balanced mid-engine layout, quick reacting electromechanical power steering with variable steering ratio, well sorted MacPherson strut front and long-short arm multi-link rear suspension setup, standard Porsche Active Suspension Management, capable 330-mm front and 299-mm rear internally vented and cross-drilled rotors clamped down on by four-piston calipers, enhanced Porsche Stability Management featuring ABS, ASR, ABD, and an MSR pre-filling brake system with brake assist, plus amply sized 18-inch standard alloys on 235/45 and 265/45 ZR rated rubber front to rear. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
Porsche gives the GTS tachometer dial a sporty red spin. (Photo: Porsche)

Those wanting more performance can opt for the 718 Boxster S or 718 Cayman S, which ups engine displacement to 2.5-litres and bumps output to 350 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a new zero to 100km/h sprint time of 4.6 seconds with the manual, 4.4 seconds with the automated PDK, and 4.2 seconds with the latter transmission and Sport Chrono Package, while terminal velocity gets pushed up to 285 km/h. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
718 Boxster GTS gets unique sport seats with the trim level embroidered into the headrests. (Photo: Porsche)

This was the car Porsche introduced for 2017, and for the most part it’s still the same model being offered for the 2018 model year. Then again, Porsche never stands still. For 2018 the GTS trim line has been added back to the lineup, upping straight-line performance with an extra 15 horsepower over the 718 S for a total of 365 ponies, which is 35 horsepower more than the previous Boxster and Cayman GTS line. Likewise, torque is up by 8 lb-ft to 317, but only when mated to the PDK. The off-the-line result is the same 4.6 seconds from standstill to 100km/h for the manual, but the GTS PDK sprints to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds, and a mere 4.1 seconds when upgraded with the Sport Chrono package, whereas the GTS model’s top-speed is 290 km/h no matter the modifications. 

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman S
The 718 Cayman S provides similar performance to the GTS, with slightly more understated styling. (Photo: Porsche)

Along with the extra go-power the new 718 Boxster GTS and 718 Cayman GTS get a number of features from the lesser models’ options menu as standard equipment, including a mechanical-locking rear differential, Porsche Torque Vectoring, a 10-mm lower sport suspension system with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), and 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/35 front and 265/35 rear ZR-rated rubber. Additionally, 718 GTS models feature unique black exterior trim, a red on black interior theme with suede-like Alcantara trim, and more unique styling. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster S
Can you see yourself behind the wheel of a new 718 Boxster? (Photo: Porsche)

As you might imagine the GTS isn’t the most fuel-efficient 718 on the block, but at 12.3 L/100km in the city, 9.4 on the highway and 11.0 combined for the manual, or 11.8, 9.2 and 10.6 respectively for the PDK, it’s hardly a gas-guzzler either. The base model is the thriftiest with a claimed Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 11.0 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.8 combined when mated to the manual, or 10.5 city, 8.0 highway and 9.4 combined for the PDK, whereas 718 S models bridge the gap with a rating of 12.1 city, 9.0 highway and 10.7 combined with the manual, or 11.0, 8.4 and 9.9 respectively with the PDK. Aiding fuel economy is standard auto start/stop that temporarily shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, and then automatically restarts it when ready to go. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster
This is the base 718 Boxster. Sporty enough for you? (Photo: Porsche)

As is the case with most brands and model lineups the two-door coupe 718 Cayman is the more affordable of the two, starting at just $63,700 plus freight and fees (see CarCostCanada.com for all 718 Cayman pricing, plus dealer invoice pricing and money-saving rebate info), while a 718 Boxster (click this CarCostCanada.com link for 2018 718 Boxster pricing in detail) can be had for only $66,100. The PDK adds $3,660 no matter the trim. After that the 718 Cayman S starts at $78,600 and 718 Boxster S at $81,000, while a 718 Cayman GTS can be had for $92,600 and 718 Boxster GTS for $95,000. 

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman
The base 718 Cayman offers a lot of sports car value for the asking price. (Photo: Porsche)

As with all Porsche models even the base 718 comes well equipped with features like a three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel (inspired by the 918 Spyder supercar), a 4.6-inch high-resolution colour TFT multi-info display, a state-of-the-art infotainment touchscreen and interface with stylish graphics, a backup camera with active guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, eight-speaker 150-watt audio, sport seats with partial leather upholstery, an electromechanical parking brake, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a deep and roomy 150-litre cargo compartment up front and an even larger 275-litre trunk in the back, plus much more. 

2018 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS
No matter the trim, the new 718 models provide exceptionally well made interiors with the latest in infotainment, including Apple CarPlay. (Photo: Porsche)

Above this, Porsche offers HID headlights with dynamic cornering capability for better nighttime visibility, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, heatable seats, dual-zone auto climate control, navigation, 14-way powered sport seats with memory, and much, much more, plus you can personalize your 718 with one of 21 unique interiors, and that doesn’t include your ability to pick and choose through various inlay trims. Porsche offers four different types of seats, and four Premium packages, with the list of extras seeming to go on infinitum. 

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman
Porsche offers more colour and materials options than most rivals, allowing you to completely personalize your 718. (Photo: Porsche)

The biggest question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you’re a coupe or convertible person, because each 718 body type has its advantages. The 718 Boxster can lower its roof and allow true wind-in-the-hair freedom, whereas the 718 Cayman provides a slightly more rigid body structure for some minor performance gains. 

Either way you’ll get brilliantly sharp handling, nearly perfect balance and handling characteristics, superb ergonomics, excellent comfort, and plenty of practical storage. If Porsche didn’t already build the 911, the 718 might be the ideal sports car, and considering its mid-engine performance and exceptional value proposition that point could still be reasonably argued.

With a starting price of just $17,998 plus freight and fees according to CarCostCanada.com, which also provides dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands, the new 2018 Nissan…

2018 Nissan Kicks SR

2018 Nissan Kicks SR
The cute little Kicks replaces the oddball, but nevertheless much-loved Juke this year, and we expect it to do very well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

With a starting price of just $17,998 plus freight and fees according to CarCostCanada.com, which also provides dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands, the new 2018 Nissan Kicks is the most affordable crossover SUV in Canada. Even better, it’s in our garage this week, so we’re putting it through our regular testing process to see how it measures up against an ever-growing list of subcompact SUV competitors. 

The Kicks slots in just below the Qashqai, a slightly larger model that, since arriving just over a year ago in May of 2017, has already taken Canada’s subcompact SUV segment by storm. Seriously, the Qashqai was number one in the class as of Q1 2018, and was thousands of models ahead by the end of Q2 with 9,257 units sold compared to the next best Mazda CX-3 with 6,803 deliveries. The Kicks just started selling in Canada partway through June, but it had already found 2,233 buyers by the close of August, meaning it could very well become the next subcompact SUV bestseller. 

2018 Nissan Kicks SR
SUV styling and front-wheel drive, economy car mechanicals makes for an highly practical, totally efficient crossover. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Kicks is all new, but the vehicle it replaces should be well known to most who follow the auto industry. The Juke seems to either be loved or loathed thanks to quirky styling, but the Kicks won’t suffer from unorthodoxy. It’s cute and fun loving, but wears sheet metal that’s potentially more palatable to the masses. What’s more, that aforementioned starting price means it’s a lot more approachable to those masses than the Juke ever was, boding well for a very promising future. 

Those who fell for the Juke due to its surprising high-speed agility and capable turbo-four/AWD drivetrain will be less enamoured with the Kicks, at least on paper. Its sole 1.6-litre four-cylinder makes a less spirited 125 horsepower and only 115 lb-ft of torque compared to 188 horsepower and 177-lb-ft for the Juke, but let’s not forget the previously noted low pricing and the new car’s fuel economy advantage. 

2018 Nissan Kicks SR
Expect to be impressed by the little Kicks’ interior, and just about everything else. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

First, the Juke’s available torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system is not on the Kicks menu, nor any AWD option for that matter. Instead, think of the Kicks as a tall, SUV-style five-door hatchback, which is really what most entries into the subcompact SUV segment are anyway. Like with most Nissan models, the transmission is a continuously variable type, but on that note make sure you come back to my full review to find out how well (or not) it “shifts”, mimicking a conventional automatic. 

Of course, I’ll also cover the Kicks’ straight-line performance, handling, drivability in the city, fuel-efficiency, comfort, roominess, features and more, the top-line SR version tested as loaded with options as currently available. 

Until then, enjoy our abbreviated photo gallery, which of course will be expanded to include a full assortment of images to complement the review…