When Q2 of 2018 came to a close, Nissan Group certainly had reason to celebrate thanks to its Canadian division achieving its best June ever. Sales increased to 16,330 units nationwide last month, which…

Nissan Group achieves best Canadian monthly sales ever in June

2018 Nissan Rogue
The Rogue found 4,342 new owners in June. (Photo: Nissan)

When Q2 of 2018 came to a close, Nissan Group certainly had reason to celebrate thanks to its Canadian division achieving its best June ever. Sales increased to 16,330 units nationwide last month, which represents a 2.0-percent year-over-year increase as well as an all-time monthly sales record. 

Breaking that total down by brand, the automaker’s namesake Nissan division sold 14,932 units, providing a 0.9-percent increase, which left the Infiniti luxury brand with 1,398 new model sales, this being a 16.3-percent improvement over June of 2017. 

2018 Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai achieved a new all-time record of 2,150 sales in June. (Photo: Nissan)

The top-selling Nissan model remains the ever-popular Rogue compact crossover SUV, which found 4,342 new owners in June, whereas the smaller Qashqai crossover achieved a new all-time record of 2,150 sales during the same 30 days, helping it continue forward as the second best-selling model in Nissan’s Canadian lineup. 

Also impressive, the all-new, all-electric Leaf EV set a June sales record as well, with 492 units down the road. Additionally, Nissan has found 2,408 new Leaf buyers during the 2018 calendar year-to-date, building on one of the Japanese brand’s most significant success stories. 

2018 Nissan LEAF
2018 all-new Nissan LEAF EV sold 492 units last month. (Photo: Nissan)

A newcomer to the Nissan family got off to a good start in June as well, with the 2018 Kicks subcompact crossover SUV selling a total of 609 units during its first full month, while at the other end of the size spectrum the Titan full-size pickup truck recorded its best June ever at 684 units, a gain of 61.3 percent when compared to June of 2017. 

2018 Nissan Kicks
The new Kicks subcompact SUV sold 609 units during June, its first full month of availability. (Photo: Nissan)

Continuing on the XXL theme, the Armada full-size SUV had a solid month of sales too, achieving its best June ever thanks to 156 deliveries, which represents an increase of 16.4 percent from the same month last year. 

In other positive June news, the 370Z and GT-R sports cars grew their sales by 14.3 and 20.0 percent respectively, while the NV200 and NV commercial vans experienced 13.0 and 13.6 percent growth. 

All in all, cars have seen stronger year-over-year growth since the beginning of 2018, with year-to-date Nissan car sales having increased by 16.3 percent, and YTD SUV and truck deliveries decreasing by 5.9 percent.

As you may already know, Honda makes three types of Civic these days. There’s the stalwart but hardly stale Sedan, that’s pretty much the staple of Canadian commuting, the sporty Coupe that’s been…

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si Road Test

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The new Honda Civic Coupe Si combines all the legendary performance Si fans have grown to love, with awesome style, premium levels of content and excellent fuel economy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As you may already know, Honda makes three types of Civic these days. There’s the stalwart but hardly stale Sedan, that’s pretty much the staple of Canadian commuting, the sporty Coupe that’s been with us on and off since 1993, and the recently reincarnated Hatchback, which represents the spiritual return to the model’s 1972 roots. 

The first Si was based on the now very collectable two-seat 1985 CRX, but just a year later a third-generation two-door Civic Hatchback became the first-gen Civic Si. The 91 horsepower sport compact quickly earned a devoted following thanks to quick acceleration, a superb five-speed manual gearbox, and excellent handling, all mixed with loads of passenger, cargo and economical practicality. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The new Civic Coupe Si looks great from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Now, oddly enough, no Civic Hatchback Si is offered, although Civic Type R fans are hardly complaining. The 306 horsepower super-compact has earned instant legend status on both roads and tracks like the Nürburgring Nordschleife, where it currently holds the fastest front-wheel drive production car title, leaving the Si for sport compact enthusiasts wanting a little more day-to-day livability. 

Maybe livability isn’t the right word, because the Type R’s hatchback layout makes it easily suited to family and cargo hauling, but its massive non-carbon rear wing makes that hatch a hefty weight to lift, its radical front seat bolsters are a tad uncomfortable to negotiate after a four-course meal, the centre console-dividing rear seat is limiting to passenger capacity, and the car’s generally edgier driving dynamics might be a bit overzealous for some regular commuters. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
LED headlights, blacked out trim, and sharp looking 18-inch alloys set the new Civic Si apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While a future Hatchback Si might be the best passenger/cargo compromise, and the currently available Sedan Si an obvious choice for those looking to maximize performance and pragmatism, you might be surprised at how much room the Coupe Si has inside. Of course, climbing into the rear seating area is hardly as easy as stepping through a back door, but Honda has fixed three seatbelts across the rear bench, and the middle position isn’t so high that it would be uncomfortable for a fifth passenger, plus kids would probably like its slight elevation. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
This rear wing definitely has purpose, adding downforce that keeps the rear end planted during high-speed manoeuvres. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Just to find out for myself, I set the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight height, climbed through a fairly wide opening into a comfortable outboard seat, and was once again reminded that this two-door sport coupe is sized more like a sedan than most rivals in this segment. I had three inches of space remaining above my head, at least six inches ahead of my knees, and plenty of room from side to side. The rear seats provided good back support too, but take note there’s no centre armrest and the ones to each side are made from uncomfortable hard plastic. 

At least the seatbacks are split 60/40 for expanding the usability of the slightly reduced 289-litre trunk, plus they’re equipped with convenient release pulls under the lid. So I think we can agree that the Civic Coupe Si is plenty practical. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The Civic Coupe’s wrap-over taillight assembly provides a dramatic styling benefit to the Coupe Si’s rear view. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I like the way the Coupe Si looks too, especially when finished in Rallye Red, one of five colours available. A high contrast colour really helps the gloss and matte black details across the grille stand out, not to mention the blackened trim surrounding the LED headlamps, along the lower fascia, around the side windows, highlighting the wheels, edging the LED taillights, and darkening the rear diffuser, although you might like the ominously inky look of the Crystal Black Pearl painted version better. No matter the colour, the Coupe Si looks menacing from up front, and makes a sharply wedged profile from the side, capped off with a large yet still tasteful rear spoiler that adds style and downforce. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
All new Civics are fitted with a new level of style, quality and refinement inside, leaving Si models to enhance that with sportier components and trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And yes, the Coupe Si can reach track speeds of up to 220 km/h, which is certainly fast enough to require the extra stability provided by an aero-tuned spoiler. That high-speed performance comes via a recalibrated six-speed manual transmission fed by a new 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with dual variable cam timing, which makes the same 205 horsepower as the previous model’s 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four, yet 18 lb-ft of additional torque resulting in a 192 lb-ft maximum. 

The new power unit is more tractable too, thanks to full power arriving 1,300 rpm lower in the rev range at 5,700 rpm instead of 7,000, whereas the aforementioned max torque comes on 2,300 rpm earlier at 2,100 rpm compared to 4,400 in the old model, plus that twist is sustained over 70 percent of the engine’s rev range. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The Civic Coupe Si cockpit adds a more performance oriented look that features plenty of red highlights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With Sport mode engaged the Coupe Si’s straight-line acceleration feels a lot more spirited than the numbers show, standstill to 100km/h requiring 7.2 seconds. Like I said, by the seat of the pants the Si feels much quicker, and it was never designed to be a drag racer anyway. 

Find an open stretch of curving back road and the Coupe Si immediately shows its key strength, adeptly managing corners. It’s always been one of my favourite cars to drive fast, and the new chassis setup is easily the most stable in Si history. You can fling it into the sharpest of corners at almost any reasonable speed, and the worst you’ll get is mild understeer. It’s wonderfully balanced, totally predictable, and ruddy fast when pushed hard. An off camber curve? No problem, even if you hit a bump or pothole halfway through. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
Honda upgrades the already superb Civic gauge cluster with sporty red embellishment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Civic’s already better than average fully independent front strut, rear multi-link suspension has been tweaked for even greater capability, with beefier 27 mm front and 18 mm rear stabilizer bars plus adaptive dampers, so the Coupe Si is totally up to the task. The steering is ideally weighted for optimal control too, providing positive, quick response to input and decent feedback, while a helical limited slip differential makes the most of available traction. Likewise, braking is strong with very little fade, even after repeated stomps. Truly, the Si remains one of the best cars available for embarrassing Mustang GT owners, as long as you’re on a tight twisting two-laner. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The Si gets a fully loaded version of the Civic’s excellent infotainment touchscreen, upgraded with a red background. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If a pit stop is required that Mustang owner will also need a lot more time to fill up at the pump, the Coupe Si’s 46.9-litre tank capable of going a lot farther thanks to claimed fuel economy of 8.4 L/100km city, 6.2 highway and 7.4 combined, which incidentally is a massive improvement over the previously model’s 10.8 city, 7.6 highway and 9.4 combined. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
This is a wireless device charging pad, and it comes standard with the Civic Si. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The rubber responsible for reducing rolling resistance while simultaneously providing all that aforementioned grip is a set of 235/40R18 91W Goodyear Eagle Sport performance tires, wrapped around stylish 18-inch, 10-spoke, machine-finished alloys with glossy black painted pockets, while additional standard features include proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, illuminated steering wheel-mounted cruise, audio, phone and Driver Information Interface (DII) controls, dual-zone auto climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blindspot display, navigation, voice activation, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity with streaming audio, wireless device charging, 452-watt 10-speaker premium audio with satellite and HD radio, heatable front seats, and much more for just $29,090 plus freight and fees, as verified on CarCostCanada.com along with dealer invoice pricing and the latest rebate information, while its rigid body structure design and full assortment of standard safety kit help it achieve a 5-star rating from the NHTSA. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
Breaking with market trends, this six-speed manual remains the only transmission on offer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While Honda provides plenty of dealer-added accessories, such as an Illumination Package and Protection Package, different alloy wheels, aero add-ons, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an ambient lighting kit, an illuminated console, plus cargo protection and organization gear, it doesn’t offer any factory options with the Coupe Si. This said you can now move up to the new Coupe Si HFP (Honda Factory Performance) trim level that features a special lip spoiler and side sills, unique 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension with modified active dampers that reportedly improve handling and ride quality, plus a handful of interior upgrades for $34,790. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
These superb sport seats provide total comfort with just the right amount of sporty side bolstering. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Whether choosing a regular Coupe Si or the new HFP model, all of the aforementioned features come housed in one of the more impressive cabins in the compact class, starting with all that makes the regular Civic Coupe good, such as ergonomically friendly and artistically innovative interior design, premium-level soft-touch synthetics on key surfaces, attractive metal accents, superb switchgear throughout, and one of the best semi-digital gauge clusters in the class, complemented by an equally impressive infotainment touchscreen, all upgraded to Si standards. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
Climbing into the back seat is easy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This means the interior theme is red on black, although only with tasteful splashes of the former so as to spice up, rather than overwhelm the look. The steering wheel, featuring red baseball stitching around the inside, is ideally shaped for comfort and control, while red stitching adorns the leather and metal shift knob and leather boot just below. The Si cabin’s go-fast appeal is further enhanced with aluminum sport pedals, while the engine ignition button glows in a soft red, mirroring the red highlighted electronic interfaces to each side. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
There’s plenty of room for three in back, and the seating area is spacious and comfortable for small to average sized adults. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Furthermore, the red “Si” embroidered sport seats are heavily bolstered and covered in black woven upholstery that’s highlighted with a thick grey patterned stripe to each side of the inset, plus two lines of red stitching on the bolsters. They look fabulous and feel even better, and by that I mean they’re not as radically shaped as the Type R’s, allowing easier ingress and egress, yet they’re still supportive enough for most peoples’ performance needs. 

2018 Honda Civic Coupe Si
The trunk is decently sized for a sport coupe, plus 60/40-split rear seatbacks add flexibility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That last point sums up any Si. It’s a car that can be driven daily in absolute comfort without sacrificing practical needs including fuel economy, while it’s still fully capable of tearing up a stretch of tarmac, whether that be on a lonely back country road or at your local parking lot autocross. It’ll even do you proud on the racetrack, and no doubt surprise a few V8-powered pony car owners as they try to keep up in the curves at the next “Run What Ya Brung” event. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and the jaw-dropping looks on their faces are priceless. 

Of course, they should really know better. A lot of sport compact competitors have come and gone over the past 30 years, but the Honda Civic Si has continued to thrill its owners with superb performance on and off the track for three decades strong. It’s a legendary name, and the latest 2018 Civic Coupe Si, along with its four-door Sedan Si sibling, is totally worthy of carrying the mantle forward.

I don’t know what’s going on south of the 49th parallel these days. And no, I’m not talking the usual banter about trade, tariffs, walls, kids in incarceration, a stock market bubble, etcetera (notice…

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD Road Test

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Last year’s mid-cycle update gave the Rogue more assertive styling, a redesign that looks best in this top-line 2018 Rogue SL Platinum AWD. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I don’t know what’s going on south of the 49th parallel these days. And no, I’m not talking the usual banter about trade, tariffs, walls, kids in incarceration, a stock market bubble, etcetera (notice I didn’t say Trump… oops), but rather how the Nissan Rogue managed to speed into the compact SUV segment’s top sales position. 

Tops in the U.S. means it’s also the best-selling compact SUV in North America, its U.S. and Canadian combined sales reaching 237,606 units over the first six months of 2018 compared to 224,996 for last year’s sales leading Toyota RAV4. While many factors can play into market success, another week with a Rogue SL Platinum AWD reminded me of a number of very likely reasons it’s doing so well. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
From side profile, the revised Rogue doesn’t look very different than the model it replaces. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

First of all, the Rogue remains a great looking crossover SUV despite this second-gen model having been with us since 2013. Of course, it had a stylish mid-cycle update just last year, which saw Nissan’s broader more “U” shaped “Vmotion 2.0” grille add a bit more masculine ruggedness to the otherwise sleek design, while its headlights received more sophisticated inner complexity thanks to quad beams and standard signature LED daytime running lamps. Additionally, full LEDs were made available to the previously tested and currently reviewed SL Platinum, while a reworked lower front fascia was included with all trims, receiving a narrow strip of LED fog lights with both SV and SL Platinum models. Less dramatic modifications were made down each side and at the rear, yet the result is a much more assertive looking compact SUV. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Some subtle details at the back, like new LED taillights and a reworked bumper cap help to modernize the design. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

This said the 2017 update did more than just refresh Rogue styling, it also improved interior refinement, modernized some technologies, and made a bevy of advanced driver assistance features available. Safety has even been strengthened further for 2018, with Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert now standard across the entire Rogue line, while you’ll still need to step up to SL Platinum trim to have Pedestrian Detection added to the Forward Emergency Braking system, plus Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Moving Object Detection, automatic high beam headlights, and adaptive Intelligent Cruise Control with full speed range and hold. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The chunkier new grille is certainly more truck-like. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Last year this gear earned the Rogue a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS when the SL Platinum trim’s standard LED headlamps with Smartbeam were factored in, but being that the U.S. government organization keeps moving the goalposts further away in order to raise safety standards it now only garners Top Safety Pick status. 

Even bigger news this year is the addition of Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system to SL Platinum trim. The top-tier model is actually called SL Platinum ProPilot Assist on Nissan Canada’s retail website, and it’s a good thing it’s not a pricey option as buyers might feel shortchanged once the initial wow factor wears off. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
LED headlights with auto high beams are standard on the SL Platinum. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes it will certainly impress the uninitiated, thanks to its ability to almost completely take over driving functions on the highway, even coming to a full stop in bumper-to-bumper traffic or changing lanes after you signal a desire to do so, but imagine for a moment the need to place both hands back on the steering wheel every eight seconds in order to prevent a warning chime from sounding off and red dash light from flashing, which gets a lot more annoying if you don’t, and it soon becomes evident this future technology is not ready for prime time. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Nice attention to details brings a new upscale sophistication to Rogue design. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To be fair (and not rile the Nissan PR reps that are very clear about what ProPilot “Assist” can and cannot do), this is a hands-on system, not designed to work while your hands are on your lap, behind your head with the driver’s seatback reclined, and certainly not holding a smartphone, tablet or book. That’s the stuff of a fully autonomous driving future (or brave Tesla owners), the Nissan system alternatively providing steering assistance that some find helps to reduce fatigue over a long distance. 

And don’t worry about falling asleep, as the constant beeping that occurs when veering too close to a lane marking will keep you fully awake and alert, and possibly annoyed. I’m not one for incessant beeping, sometimes causing me to turn off overly sensitive parking sensor systems, so therefore this ProPilot setup wouldn’t work for me, but I can appreciate why some drivers would like it. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
These machine-finished 19-inch alloys with black painted pockets are standard with top-line SL Platinum trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

So go ahead and have some fun with it, because it’s really cool to watch the steering wheel turn on its own while your Rogue remains safely within its lane, and it only needs you to turn on the adaptive cruise control, set a given top speed, and press a blue button on the steering wheel to initiate. 

Also notable, ProPilot Assist will change lanes automatically just by flicking the turn signal. After analyzing the adjacent lane and finding a safe entry point it quickly moves to the right or left as per your signal indication. I could really see this feature assisting new drivers that are sometimes intimidated to change lanes at highway speeds. This said make sure to check your mirrors, as this technology is in its infancy and therefore can’t yet be relied upon 100 percent. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Roof rails are standard with the SV, and the panoramic sunroof is standard on the SL Platinum. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

What’s more, don’t attempt to use its change lane feature to exit a highway, because once in the exit lane ProPilot Assist won’t slow down or turn to follow the off ramp. In fact, if I hadn’t taken over the controls it would’ve driven straight off the exit lane into the ditch. Granted, Nissan says only to use this system on a limited access highway, but being a curious journalist I just had to find out where that highway ends with respect to ProPilot Assist. Now I know, it ends in the exit lane, or before, if you really want to be cautious. 

So kudos to Nissan for being the first mainstream volume brand to bring semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving to market. I’m sure it will improve with each new application, something Nissan has promised as it rolls out more autonomous capability in the future, including its ability to be used in city traffic. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
These sharp looking LED taillights make an even greater difference at night. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional standard SL Platinum features not yet mentioned include 225/55R19 all-season tires on 19-inch alloys, an electromechanical parking brake (lesser trims get a foot-operated one), memory for the side mirrors and front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated leather-wrapped multifunction sport steering wheel, a leather shift knob, leather upholstery, dual-zone auto climate control, an Around View parking monitor, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, NissanConnect with mobile apps, a really good Bose audio system with nine speakers including two subs, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, and a motion-activated powered liftgate, plus it’s the only trim in the line that comes standard with all-wheel drive. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The Rogue SL Platinum punches above its weight when it comes to luxury. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Take note the four-way powered front passenger’s seat has been deleted from SL Platinum trim for 2018, and I would’ve liked to see ventilated front seats and heatable rear seats added to the top-line features list, but nevertheless this top-line model still provides a significant load of high-end features for $37,098 plus freight and dealer fees, that number representing an $800 increase over last year’s non-ProPilot Assist equipped version, or so I found out at CarCostCanada.com, your best source for new vehicle pricing, dealer invoice pricing, and important rebate information. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The sporty leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel is a Rogue highlight. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

There’s just one factory upgrade available with the SL, but the Platinum Reserve Interior package appears worth the extra $500 if you like rich appearances. It adds unique Tan leather-appointed seats with special quilted leather inserts. Alternatively, my tester’s Pearl White exterior paint makes no-cost Almond leather available, an interior treatment that would no doubt look good with Magnetic Black or Caspian Blue too if it were made available (it’s not, despite being offered south of the 49th along with a host of other exterior colours), although probably not with Gun Metallic grey. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The gauges are a traditional analogue design, but the multi-info display is large and feature filled. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Just so you know, you’ll only need to have the proximity-sensing key fob in your pocket or purse to access either front door or rear liftgate, which is also power operated. Nissan’s Intelligent Key comes with pushbutton ignition in $28,598 SV trim, with other features from this mid-range model including fog lamps, LED turn signals on the side mirror housings, roof rails, rear privacy glass, remote engine start, an eight-way power driver’s seat including two-way powered lumbar, a retractable cargo cover, and more. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Nissan loads up this out of the way panel, located down by the driver’s left knee, with some important features, making it difficult to access “SPORT” or “ECO” modes when on the go. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Notably, you can also choose a special blacked-out Midnight Edition, a nice upgrade for those wanting a sportier looking Rogue. While based on the SV, it also includes that trim’s otherwise $2,600 Technology package, which adds the dual-zone auto HVAC, Around View monitor, navigation, leather, powered liftgate, Moving Object Detection, and more from other trims, all for $34,198. 

Features pulled up to my top-line SL Platinum model from $26,298 base S trim include auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, variable intermittent wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors, LED map lights, mood lighting, overhead sunglasses storage, micro-filtered air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, hands-free text messaging, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with satellite radio, USB and aux ports, Quick Comfort heated front seats (they heat up really fast), four cargo tie-down hooks, a rear seat pass-through, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The centre stack is nicely laid out and easy to reach. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Once inside I’m sure you’ll appreciate the care and attention Nissan has given to the cabin. It actually comes close to matching some premium brands, and while it’s missing upper crust compact luxury segment accoutrements like fabric-wrapped roof pillars, fully configurable digital gauges, and soft-touch rear door uppers, the entire dash-top and front door uppers are made from a nice soft padded synthetic. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is packed with useful features, but the split-screen camera system might be its best attribute. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

What’s more, Nissan also finished the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger with padded and French-stitched leatherette, while the driver gets a leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel with aluminized spokes, plus a leather metal and glossy black shift knob, a leatherette shift boot, and plenty of piano black lacquered surfacing around that shifter and across the centre stack. The door panel trim looks more like carbon fibre, but it matches nicely and dresses up the look well, while the armrests at each side and at centre feature stitched padded leatherette to match the instrument panel bolster and the same treatment on each side of lower console, this last feature not only looking good, but also preventing chafing of the driver and front passenger’s inside knees. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The transmission’s sporty appearance defies its silky smooth operation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Analogue gauges with excellent backlighting are joined by a large colour multi-information display directly in front of the driver, providing easily accessible information on key functions, including the aforementioned ProPilot Assist system. 

Over on the centre stack, a 7.0-inch touchscreen provides most everything someone buying into a premium-level compact SUV could want. Its resolution is good, albeit not the clearest or crispest in the industry, and being a matte finish the depth of colour and contrast isn’t quite as rich, but fewer fingerprints will be a positive for many, while the infotainment interface is very good. It includes easy connectivity for your smartphone and streaming audio, plus the audio section gets bright and colourful thanks to album graphics when using satellite radio, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the line. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
A sunglasses holder is always appreciated. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The navigation system is also impressive, with accurate directions via clear, detailed mapping. It even took us via the quickest route, and by so doing reminded me of alternative choices I hadn’t used for a long time. The upgraded parking camera was equally impressive, as it features a split screen that shows the usual rear view with active guidelines, as well as a top view with 360-degree surround visuals. 

Just below the touchscreen is a nicely sorted dual-zone automatic HVAC interface, with large well-made chrome-trimmed knobs and tight fitting buttons, plus a sizeable display screen. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
A supportive leather-clad driver’s seat with good adjustability, but more telescopic reach from the steering column would allow for greater control and comfort. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The driver’s seat controls provide plenty of adjustment, but I could have used a bit more reach from the telescopic steering column in order to set myself up for better comfort and control, a common problem due to having longer legs than torso. The seat itself is very supportive, cupping the small of the back nicely and providing ample side bolstering for this class of vehicle, while headroom and side-to-side spaciousness won’t likely be a problem for most body types. 

It certainly wasn’t for my regular sized five-foot-eight, medium-build frame, and with the driver’s seat positioned as ideally as possible I climbed into the back to check rear roominess, only to find that I still had loads of space to move around, with about eight inches ahead of my knees, plus plenty of space under the seats for the big boots I was wearing, allowing my legs to almost fully stretch out. Likewise, there was about three and a half inches left over above my head and three next to my shoulder and the window, plus about the same from my hips to the door panel. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Got to love that massive panoramic sunroof. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other than the hard plastic door upper, that rear door panel is finished just as nicely as the one up front, while incandescent reading lamps for each outboard passenger, and large vents on the backside of the front console was about it for extras. And no I’m not forgetting to mention the rear centre armrest because there isn’t one in the traditional sense, the Rogue instead giving rear passengers the option of folding down the centre pass-through that includes dual cupholders and enough room to each side for resting arms, but its hard plastic surfacing isn’t very comfortable. Most competitors that offer both an armrest and pass-through provide a separate door for the latter, but I’d take a pass-through over a rear armrest any day, so I can hardly complain. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
Rear seat roominess is excellent, but the hard plastic centre armrest/pass-through isn’t very comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Another positive is the panoramic sunroof that really opens up the rear compartment from a visual perspective, while I should also point out that back seat visibility is excellent, as the side windows are tall and extend quite far toward the rear. 

As accommodating as the Rogue is for passengers, it’s a cargo hauler’s dream thanks to 60/40 split seatbacks that open up the rear storage area from 1,112 litres (39.3 cubic feet) to 1,982 litres (70.0 cubic feet), making it one of the more capacious compact SUVs available. The rearmost portion is also quite flexible, its standard two-piece adjustable Divide-N-Hide shelving system starting off down on the floor, capable of being moved up in tandem to make a flat loading area when the seats are lowered, or alternatively set up higher for a shelf above a larger load below. It’s a smart, innovative cargo system that really sets the Rogue apart. This said, when the need to lower the rear seats presents itself you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors, as Nissan doesn’t provide levers on the cargo walls to do this automatically like some others in the compact SUV segment. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
The rear luggage compartment is very generous and impressively flexible for the class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Back in the driver’s seat, the Rogue gets positive marks for its excellent ride quality, overall comfort and impressive quietness. This is just another way it feels like a premium compact SUV, while its drivetrain is one of the smoothest operators in the category too. On that note, it’s probably not the ideal compact SUV for performance enthusiasts, as its sole 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine makes just 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while the continuously variable transmission (CVT) it comes mated to was primarily designed for smooth, silky operation over snap-to-it get-up-and-go. Nissan does include a manual mode via the shift lever, but I only used it for testing and wasn’t amused. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
This photo shows the two-piece Divide-N-Hide shelving system on two levels, but it can be moved around many ways to suit your cargo carrying needs. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Just the same, the Rogue moves away smartly from stoplights, has no problem passing slower moving traffic on the highway and is a relative miser with fuel, its Transport Canada rating an estimated 9.7 L/100km in the city, 7.4 in the city and 8.7 combined with as-tested AWD, or an even thriftier 9.2 city, 7.0 highway and 8.2 combined with FWD models. 

Similar to the Rogue’s straight-line performance, its comfortable suspension setup isn’t optimized towards sport, so it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the ride. Don’t get me wrong as it can snake through a set of fast-paced corners quickly enough, holding on commendably, but it just doesn’t feel as secure doing so as some others in the compact SUV segment. I don’t believe this will be much of an issue for most buyers, as all the big sellers in this class are similarly biased toward comfort. 

2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD
With the rear seats folded flat the Rogue is a cavernous cargo companion. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

And to tell you the truth, that’s exactly how I like my family haulers. It’s a very rare moment that I get to put a vehicle through its paces when not searching out a suitable road or track for testing purposes, as life behind the wheel is more often than not experienced amid thick, congested traffic, or at best a cruise up the highway for a weekend getaway. Therefore comfort takes priority over sport in this category, hence why the Nissan Rogue is finding so much success. 

To that end the 2018 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum is a wonderful all-round people pleaser, providing performance that’s more than adequate, impressive economy, a comfortable, fully featured, spacious interior that’s big on luxury, and some pretty cool new tech. It should definitely be on your shortlist.

How do you make the new Civic Si even better than it already is? The Si is legendary and this new 10th-generation the most exciting version yet, but despite already offering superb stock sport compact…

HFP package adds more style and sport to Honda’s Civic Si line

2018 Honda Civic Si HFP
A new Civic Si HFP trim upgrade adds sporty new styling details, new wheels, a sport suspension and interior mods. (Photo: Honda)

How do you make the new Civic Si even better than it already is? The Si is legendary and this new 10th-generation the most exciting version yet, but despite already offering superb stock sport compact performance, Honda has decided there’s room for improvement. 

Enter the new Civic Si HFP. Yes, Civic Nation will already be well aware of the Honda Factory Performance moniker, because the Japanese automaker offered “HFP” branded aerodynamic body kits, performance-tuned suspension components, and larger, lighter alloy wheels for the eighth- and ninth-generation Civics, and likewise for the subcompact Fit hatchback. 

2018 Honda Civic Si HFP
The HFP upgrade can be added to both Si Coupe and Sedan body styles. (Photo: Honda)

With respect to the current 10th-generation Civic, a recent Honda Canada press release says the Honda Factory Performance package adds a bevy of “aesthetic and dynamic enhancements.” The former includes a new bright red front lip spoiler for “a subtle, yet fierce look,” which is “complemented by side skirts designed to improve downforce.” 

The new Si HFP also gets unique 19-inch HFP matte black alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot 4S maximum-performance category rubber, these an inch larger than those on the standard Si and specified for both daily use and racetrack capability. Lastly, red and black Civic Si HFP badging gets added to the sides and rear of the car, warning regular Civic Si owners to back off. 

2018 Honda Civic Si HFP
Rallye Red is only available with the Si HFP Coupe, whereas White Orchid Pearl and Crystal Black Pearl can be had with both body styles. (Photo: Honda)

Why? No doubt those sportier wheels and tires make enough of improvement on their own, but nevertheless, behind their matte black goodness and below all that sharp looking bodywork is an upgraded HFP sport suspension with modified active dampers that not only improves ultimate performance on road and track, but also enhances the Si HFP’s ride quality over its conventionally sprung sibling. 

The Honda Factory Performance package also benefits the interior by adding a new leather-wrapped shifter with red stitching, as well as an eye-catching set of red and black HFP branded floor mats. 

2018 Honda Civic Si HFP
The Civic Sedan Si is already a serious sport sedan, but the new HFP trim makes it even better on the street and track. (Photo: Honda)

The rest of the Civic Si HFP is stock Si, which means the interior is wholly more impressive than any previous Si, with two of the most comfortable and supportive sport seats in the class, plus refinement levels amongst the compact segment’s most impressive, not to mention some of its best digital interfaces. 

While Honda refers to the Civic Si HFP upgrades as a “Honda Factory Performance package” in its press release, it’s more accurately an entirely new trim level, as it’s delivered complete from the factory and shown on the brand’s retail website “Build” configuration tool. What’s more, this track-ready model is exclusive to Canada. 

2018 Honda Civic Si HFP
Specially designed lightweight 19-inch HFP alloys look good in their matte black finish. (Photo: Honda)

Like the regular Si, the new Si HFP is available in both Sedan and Coupe body styles, while behind its glossy black grille is the same turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine as in the standard Si, which is once again good for 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, while one of the industry’s best six-speed manual transmissions continues to take care of shifting duties and a limited slip differential makes sure all that power gets down to the road. 

Civic Si HFP pricing starts at $34,390 for the Sedan and $34,790 for the Coupe, adding $5,700 on top of regular Si suggested prices, with colour choices being White Orchid Pearl and Crystal Black Pearl for the four-door and White Orchid Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl and Rallye Red for the two-door.

Where is the world’s best mid-size luxury SUV made? Audi can make a good argument for Bratislava, Slovakia, where its recently redesigned Q7 SUV flagship has been assembled since inception in November…

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik Road Test

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
No S Line Sport package this year, but we think this top-line Technik-trimmed 2018 Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro looks great just the same. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Where is the world’s best mid-size luxury SUV made? Audi can make a good argument for Bratislava, Slovakia, where its recently redesigned Q7 SUV flagship has been assembled since inception in November of 2005, when the 2006 first-generation model arrived on the scene and almost immediately became the darling of the seven-passenger luxury crossover SUV market. 

Astute readers will correct me by stating the Q7 is also produced in Kaluga, Russia and Aurangabad, India, but the one we get hails from the quaint Slovakian capital that flanks the Danube River, its fertile banks surrounded in vineyards, the entire area nestled within the Little Carpathian mountains, a picturesque part of Europe that rivals its Austrian and Hungarian neighbours for good beer and good times. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The more angular new Q7 looks fresh and modern from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This said the only Audi vehicles I’ve ever driven through Europe were on Austrian and German roads, and never once in a Q7. My four-ringed adventure began in the Alps near Salzburg aboard a bevy of TT Coupes, followed up by the premium brand’s A8L flagship sedan powered by a ridiculously potent turbo-diesel V8 on the autobahn between the Red Bull capital (and of course childhood home to Mozart—I walked past Hagenauerhaus on my way to dinner while visiting on a separate occasion with Maserati) and Audi HQ in Ingolstadt in Ingolstadt. How I would love to drive this new Q7 over the same routes, or for that matter any of the other circuitous European roadways I’ve grown to appreciate from many visits across the Atlantic since youth (back then we had a VW 411 “Squareback”, not exactly in the same league). 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This sharp new take on Audi’s “Singleframe” grille has spread across the brand’s entire SUV lineup. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The first-generation Q7 aged gracefully, having managed to maintain its popularity despite few updates during its decade-long run, which is a nod to the original SUV’s good inherent design both aesthetically and mechanically. This second-generation version, which arrived in 2016 for the 2017 model year, rides on a new lighter weight chassis architecture that’s allowed for a significant 300-kilo (660-lb) reduction in mass, while this in turn has resulted in the first-ever application of a fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder in the large albeit still mid-size three-row SUV. 

I drove and reported on the 2.0 TFSI equipped Q7 last year and not only found it wholly adequate, but in fact its 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque felt downright spirited thanks in part to the standard eight-speed automatic and efficient Quattro all-wheel drive system it comes mated to, but for those that make their German engineering choice with an eye on performance first and foremost, I recommend the V6. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Technik trim gets standard full LED headlamps, that add nighttime brightness as well as daytime sophistication. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro shown on this page felt much the same as a V6-powered model I also tested and reviewed last year, although this variation on the theme didn’t include an upgrade to the $1,800 S Line Sport package, which is really more about cosmetics than performance anyway, due to no sport suspension improvements and identically sized albeit uniquely designed 20-inch alloys on 285/45 all-season tires, restyled front and rear bumpers, an enlarged rear rooftop spoiler, S line fender badges and door sill embellishment on the metal treadplates, and a black headliner inside. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The Technik’s standard 10-spoke 20-inch alloys combine elegance with ample sportiness. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With its visual focus more about luxury than sport, my Q7 loaner still looked suitably planted with its 20-inch 10-spoke Star design alloys, while its two-slat corner vents are hardly less aggressive than the trio of glossy black slats and deeper brake vents provided in S Line trim. 

As you might expect, the 2018 Q7 is mostly carryover from last year, this only being the second-gen model’s second year of availability, so therefore the only change this year is the addition of standard Audi side assist blindspot warning and Audi pre-sense rear advanced driver assistance systems to mid-range Progressiv trim, the latter feature using a rear-facing camera to detect and warn of potential rear-end collisions, at which point it mitigates possible injuries by automatically adjusting the seats, tightening the seatbelts, plus closing the windows and sunroof. Additionally, as-tested top-line Technik trim now gets the Audi Connect smartphone interface, concierge service, and security features as standard equipment. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Of course the taillights are LEDs, and these look even better when lit up at night. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While we’re talking trims, according to CarCostCanada.com that has full pricing by trim level, the dealer’s invoice pricing (wouldn’t it be helpful to know that?), and info on available rebates, the Q7 is once again available in three grades including $61,900 Komfort, $67,650 Progressiv and $74,750 Technik. Quattro AWD is standard, while the aforementioned 2.0-litre turbo-four is standard in Komfort and Progressiv trims, while not available with Technik. The 3.0-litre supercharged V6 is a $4,000 option in either base or mid-range trim, with the result of this choice being 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque for considerably stronger straight-line performance, its zero to 100km/h sprint time improved by 1.7 seconds from 7.4 to 5.7 seconds, plus almost no downside in fuel economy as per Transport Canada’s official claimed rating of 12.6 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.1 combined for the V6 and 12.2, 9.5 and 11.0 respectively for the I-4. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The Q7 opens up to one of the best interiors in the mid-size SUV sector. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, I know this seems strange, so I found my second witness in the U.S. EPA that shows identical ratings of 19 mpg city, 25 highway and 21 combined no matter the engine tested, which in case you were wondering come very close to our government’s estimates at 12.4 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.2 combined when converted to metric. So there you have it, the 2.0 TFSI is more about reducing the Q7’s initial price than ongoing costs. 

Additionally, with the optional tow package added to both four- and six-cylinder powered Q7s, the latter increases its trailering capacity by more than 1,500 kilos (3,300 lbs) over the former, from 1,995 kilograms (4,400 lbs) to a surprisingly capable 3,500 kg (7,700 lbs). 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Everything is well made, smartly organized and within reach. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

No matter which engine you choose, Komfort trim includes standard self-leveling Xenon plus headlights with washers, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated power-folding side mirrors, stainless steel door sills, pushbutton ignition, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, an electromechanical parking brake, rain-sensing wipers, Audi Drive Select performance modes, a HomeLink garage door opener, a cooled glove box, heatable eight-way powered front seats with four-way powered driver’s lumbar support, driver-side memory for the seat and side mirrors, leather upholstery, genuine oak hardwood, piano black lacquer and real aluminum interior trim, tri-zone automatic climate control, a large infotainment display that powers up from within the dash top, HD and satellite radio, a powered panoramic glass sunroof with an electric sunshade, a powered liftgate, a retractable cargo cover, 50/50-split power-folding third-row seatbacks, front and rear parking sensors, engine stop-start, regenerative braking, and Audi’s pre-sense basic driver assistance system that detects when an emergency manoeuvre is being made and then initiates all of the crash preventative measures noted earlier about pre-sense rear. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The Audi Virtual Cockpit lets you go from a fairly normal looking gauge cluster… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My Technik tester included all of the above, plus everything from mid-range Progressiv trim such as its proximity-sensing keyless access, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, blindspot warning, power-adjustable steering column, Audi Virtual Cockpit fully digital 12.3-inch TFT gauge cluster, 360-degree Topview surround parking camera, aforementioned smartphone integration, navigation, additional rear zone for the climate control system, four-way powered front passenger lumbar, ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, stainless steel trunk sill protection, virtual pedal proximity-sensing trunk release, and more. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
….to a all the graphic info you could ever need, by the simple touch of a steering wheel-mounted “VIEW” button. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, exclusive Technik features include full LED headlamps for much brighter nighttime drives, a larger set of 20-inch alloys on 285/45 all-season run-flats for better grip, a sensational sounding 3D Surround Sound Bose audio system with 19 speakers and 558 watts of power, Audi connect assistance and security services, and more. 

Of course, some of the features that come standard with Technik trim can be had in option packages and as standalone upgrades within each trim level, while my tester was also enhanced further with a $150 set of second-row side window sunshades, which are ideal if you have sun-sensitive passengers in back. I’d find it difficult to believe many Q7s are ordered without the $900 Driver Assistance Package too, which includes auto high beam assist, a camera and distance sensor, Audi active lane assist, and traffic sign recognition. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This 8.3-inch display powers up from within the dash top, and provides crystal clear clarity and excellent depth of colour. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If this were to become my personal ride I’d be even more tempted to add the $3,400 Driver Assistance Plus package due to its adaptive cruise control with stop and go alone, while this suite of advanced safety features includes a head-up display projecting key info onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, Audi pre sense plus, Audi pre sense city front collision warning with autonomous braking, and traffic jam assist, a semi-autonomous steering feature that does the driving for you while stuck on well-paved congested roadways at speeds from 0 to 65 km/h. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Both standard three-zone and as-tested four-zone auto climate control systems can be easily adjusted from this attractive interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester’s standard Diamond finish upper inlay with Silver Grey and Oak Grey lower inlays, can be replaced by three $500 alternatives that all include Brushed Aluminum for the upper inlay with either Oak Grey, Beaufort Walnut, or Walnut and Terra Brown for the lower inlay, while the already excellent Bose audio system can be traded in for an even more impressive $5,100 Bang & Olufsen system with tweeters that power up out of the dash and many other advanced audio technologies. 

Additionally, a $2,500 Night vision assistant uses a thermal imaging camera to scan 15 to 90 metres ahead for pedestrians and large animal heat signatures and then projects them onto the multi-information display in the gauge cluster, while other options include massaging front seats, a dual screen rear seat entertainment system, rear side-impact airbags, a bevy of wheels and tires and more, plus dealer installed accessories galore. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Thanks to electronic transmissions, gear “levers” have changed in recent years, which is why we like Audi’s mostly normal one a lot. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Naming off options and standard equipment might help put the Q7’s value proposition into a better light, but it hardly relates the experience of actually spending time inside. It remains one of the best interiors in its class thanks to Audi’s pleasing horizontal design mixed with fine attention to detail. The quality of workmanship and materials chosen are difficult to match in this class, and the overall layout, ease of use, and general comfort comes close to perfection. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The Q7 gets a rotating knob, touchpad and surrounding buttons for controlling its infotainment system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Q7 may excel even further above most peers in driving dynamics, by somehow balancing a gentle ride with superb handling. I’m always amazed at how small the Q7 feels when at the wheel, as if it’s outwardly sized a category down from its true three-row mid-size dimensions, but numbers don’t lie and your rear passengers won’t complain about being cramped, although it’s so much fun to drive that backseat drivers may ask you to slow down. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Comfort and support are Audi driver seat hallmarks, and the Q7’s are no exception. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Q7’s speed-sensing electric power-assist steering feels just right and responds to input quickly and accurately, while the SUV’s fully independent double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension system absorbs all the nasty road imperfections yet still manages to stay glued to the road even when pushed much harder than you might think possible. Audi may have found the ideal compromise between sport and comfort, as I never felt like I was giving up either. Added to this is Quattro AWD for all-season confidence, a system that has saved me from snow covered ski hill parking lots and launched me out of even deeper snow banks plenty of times, and would no doubt be just as capable of dealing with muddy cottage backroads, etcetera. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This massive powered panoramic sunroof is standard across the Q7 line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

And that from an SUV that can gobble up seven occupants and much of their cargo, the area behind the rearmost seats good for 420 litres (14.8 cubic feet) of what-have-you according to the U.S. EPA, which is about as much as a generously sized sedan’s trunk, while if you fold those rear seats flat via the aforementioned power controls you’ll end up with 1,062 litres (37.5 cubic feet) behind the second row, or go a step further and you’ll have a cavernous 2,027 litres (71.6 cubic feet) of available space, and more so a completely flat load floor. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
Second-row roominess and comfort are hard to criticize. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even better, Audi was really inventive with its second row seats, as they’re not split in the usual 60/40 configuration, and not even sectioned into a 40/20/40 division that allows a narrow pass-through down the middle for skis and other long cargo, but they’re almost evenly divided at 35/30/35 for a much larger centre pass-through and a more comfortable middle seating position. 

Power releases pop the second-row seats forward for easy access to the third row, and while I wouldn’t want to spend an entire day back there I was able to buckle in my five-foot-eight frame without discomfort. This still left plenty of legroom for second-row passengers, which certainly won’t be able to complain about spaciousness in all other directions either, or comfort. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
The third row provides enough space for two medium-sized adults on short journeys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Is the Q7 the best mid-size luxury SUV available today like I inferred at the beginning of this review? My answer would depend on your personal priorities, such as performance over luxuriant pampering, how you prefer controlling infotainment functions, from a simple, straightforward touchscreen or via a rotating knob, touchpad (for pinch, swipe and finger gesture capability) and surrounding buttons on the lower console as Audi provides. The system is excellent and incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, accurate navigation, superb backup and overhead cameras, plus its depth of colour, resolution and overall speed of operation can’t be faulted. 

2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Technik
This large, flat loading area makes the Q7 ideal for active families. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Added to this, the Audi Virtual Cockpit is by far best of the best when it comes to digital gauge clusters. I love how the “VIEW” button on the left steering wheel spoke expands the multi-info display to epic proportions, leaving smaller digital dials for speed and tachometer readings. This allows the navigation mapping and route guidance info to almost completely take over the display, or one of many other functions within the system. 

Yes, it’s difficult not to love the Audi Q7, which is why there are so many on Canadian roads. It would be unwise to buy into this category without experiencing a Q7 first hand, as it’s easily one of the best on offer.

Ask those in the know to name the best of the best in the super-luxury SUV market segment, and the Bentley Bentayga will quickly rise to the top of the list.  When it arrived on the scene in 2016, nothing…

Bentley obliterates Pikes Peak Production SUV record with mostly stock Bentayga

2018 Bentley Pikes Peak Bentayga
A mostly stock Bentley Bentayga, pictured here crossing the 4,300-metre high Pikes Peak finish line, broke the Production SUV record with a time of just 10:49.9. (Photo: Bentley)

Ask those in the know to name the best of the best in the super-luxury SUV market segment, and the Bentley Bentayga will quickly rise to the top of the list. 

When it arrived on the scene in 2016, nothing could match it for premium accoutrements or performance, the former because it’s a Bentley, and the latter thanks to a 600 horsepower twin-turbocharged W12 engine featuring 663 lb-ft of torque, a quick-shifting eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission with paddle-shifters, and performance-tuned full-time all-wheel drive, allowing it to catapult from zero to 100km/h in just 4.0 seconds flat, before topping out at a stratospheric 301 km/h (187 mph). 

Renowned drift champion, Global Rallycross racer, and U.S. rally driver Rhys Millen never attempted to achieve top-speed in his most recent Bentayga outing, but he nevertheless managed to smash the Production SUV record at the famed Pikes Peak hill climb. 

2018 Bentley Pikes Peak Bentayga
The Pikes Peak course scales 1,440 metres of paved mountainside roadway, with more than 156 turns on grades averaging 7.2 percent. (Photo: Bentley)

Millen completed the 19.99-km (12.42-mile) course in just 10:49.9, chopping nearly two minutes off the previous record by averaging 107 km/h (66.5 mph). 

“What an incredible machine,” said Millen immediately after his run. “To take a luxury SUV with minimal modifications and be able to drive up this course in under 11 minutes is a huge testament to the performance and level of engineering in the Bentayga. I had a great run – the car was planted all the way up and gave me the confidence I needed to push hard. I’m delighted to take the SUV record for Bentley and for everyone that’s been involved in this project.” 

2018 Bentley Pikes Peak Bentayga
Rhys Millen after breaking the Production SUV record in a Bentley Bentayga at the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. (Photo: James Lipman, Bentley)

The Pikes Peak track, in Colorado, USA, scales 1,440 metres (4,720 feet) of paved mountainside roadway (prior to August 2011 gravel sections were also included), from its starting point at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway, to the finish line at 4,300 metres (14,110 feet). The course includes more than 156 turns on grades averaging 7.2 percent, and has hosted sanctioned racing events since 1916. 

The record-setting Bentayga featured Bentley’s top-line W12 engine (a 542 horsepower V8 with 569 foot-pounds of torque is also available), plus an adaptive air suspension, active electric 48-volt anti-roll control, and carbon ceramic brakes, all of which are available on the stock Bentayga, and each contributing to the SUV’s shockingly fast record pace. 

2018 Bentley Pikes Peak Bentayga
Rhys Millen showing the look of total concentration that’s needed to take on one of the world’s most renowned hill climbs in the world’s most prestigious SUV. (Photo: Bentley)

“This record proves the outstanding dynamic ability of the Bentayga – demonstrating again how Bentley Motors is the only automotive company in the world that can combine pinnacle luxury and breath-taking performance,” said Chris Craft, Bentley’s Member of the Board for Sales and Marketing. “Congratulations to all at Bentley Motorsport and to Rhys Millen and his team.” 

2018 Bentley Pikes Peak Bentayga
Congratulations at the top, the Production SUV record crushed by nearly two minutes. (Photo: Bentley)

Due to Pikes Peak International Hill Climb rules compliance, Bentley modified the standard production Bentayga with front racing seats featuring four-point harnesses, while the rear seats were removed to make way for a roll cage. A fire suppression system was also installed, while Bentley Motorsport chose a set of Pirelli DOT-marked performance tires for extra grip, plus a production-specification Akrapovic sports exhaust system. Other than these small changes, the Bentayga that conquered Pikes Peak was standard from the factory, including its stunning Radium Satin paintwork, all-black chrome exterior accenting, and carbon fibre body kit that came as part of its Bentley Black Specification. 

Knowing that its ardent racing enthusiast clientele would want to own a commemorative example of this record-breaking Bentayga, Bentley has created a Limited Edition model handcrafted by its in-house Mulliner bespoke and coachbuilding division. The Pikes Peak Bentayga is now available as “an homage to the achievements of the Bentayga W12 on the mountain,” said Bentley in a press release. 

2018 Bentley Pikes Peak Bentayga
The special paint job given to the one-off Bentayga used for the hill climb event. (Photo: James Lipman, Bentley)

Of course, the same Radium Satin paint is available, but Beluga black can also be had as an alternative for those wanting a darker, more menacing look. Additionally, an eye-catching set of totally unique 22-inch alloys feature two-tone Beluga coated spokes with Radium painted pockets, while Bentley’s Black Specification is once again part of the package, with all components normally finished in chrome done out in gloss black, plus the splitter, side skirts, diffuser and rear spoiler made from visible carbon fibre weave. The exterior is capped off by a tastefully penned Pikes Peak nomenclature below a subtle mountain outline on the front fenders. 

2018 Bentley Pikes Peak Bentayga
Bentley’s Mulliner Division has created a Limited Edition Pikes Peak Bentayga featuring the same stunning Radium Satin paintwork as the record-setting model. (Photo: Bentley)

Inside, the Pikes Peak Bentayga features a Mulliner Design Colour Split that combines Beluga black leather with Key Lime accents, while the seat and door inserts are covered in grippy suede-like Alcantara for a rich look and feel. The headliner is made from a “technical Eliade cloth,” says Bentley, while a lime green outline of the Pikes Peak track, along with elevation increments and the specific example’s number plaque, gets applied to the carbon fibre dash inlay ahead of the front passenger. Lastly, Mulliner adds a set of numbered Pikes Peak treadplates to the doorsills, reminding the special SUV’s owner of the celebratory event each time they cross the threshold. 

2018 Bentley Pikes Peak Bentayga
Beluga black leather with Key Lime accents make the Special Edition really stand out. (Photo: Bentley)

Just like the Pikes Peak Bentayga that took to the track, the production version includes Bentley’s 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 under the hood, while the adaptive air suspension and 48-volt electric active anti-roll control system, a world’s first that gets named Bentley Dynamic Ride, comes as part of the package too. Finally, Mulliner adds a Bentayga Sports Exhaust system and a Touring Specification pack, making this special edition almost as formidable as the record-winning race-spec version. 

To find out more about the Pikes Peak Bentayga, or a more readily available Bentayga SUV, contact your local Bentley retailer.

I’ve got a challenge for you. Take a 2018 Infiniti QX80 for a drive and then tell me why it’s not worth $20k more than the $77,350 they’re asking. My guess? You’ll soon be comparing it to full-size…

2018 Infiniti QX80 Road Test

2018 Infiniti QX80
Infiniti left few details alone when refreshing its 2018 QX80, and the result is one great looking full-size luxury SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve got a challenge for you. Take a 2018 Infiniti QX80 for a drive and then tell me why it’s not worth $20k more than the $77,350 they’re asking. My guess? You’ll soon be comparing it to full-size SUV rivals from Land Rover, Lexus, and even Mercedes-Benz. 

To put its price into perspective, I went onto CarCostCanada.com to size up competitive MSRPs and found out you can get into a well-equipped, impressively finished base model of the handsomely refreshed 2018 Infiniti QX80 for $32,250 less than the 2018 Lexus LX 570, $35,650 less than the Land Rover Range Rover, and $51,550 less than the base Mercedes-Benz G 550. What’s more, the QX80 is $9,190 more affordable than the 2018 Cadillac Escalade and costs $10,300 less than the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator, which should have all of us questioning whether Infiniti priced its full-size SUV too low. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Changes to the rear are more subtle, but nevertheless add class via extra chrome, new taillights and a revised bumper. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To the ridiculously wealthy such pricing discrepancies won’t make one bit of difference, but value matters to smart luxury SUV shoppers trying to maximize the most from their hard-earned income. To that end the QX80 won’t disappoint, starting with a thorough mid-cycle update for 2018 that includes a redesigned grille, front fascia, hood, fenders, fender vents, and rear bumper, while its LED headlamps, LED taillights, LED fog lamps, and side indicators have been dramatically revised as well. Lastly, Infiniti rounded out the updated exterior design with new 20- and 22-inch alloy wheels, while new exterior colours include Moonstone White, Mineral Black and my tester’s Champagne Quartz, which works really well with all the new details. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The new standard LED headlamps look gorgeous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Climbing inside reveals some updates to the cabin as well, including a standard contrast-stitched wrapped upper instrument panel and a new shift knob, plus a new stitched and leather-wrapped steering wheel hub/horn pad and diamond-patterned quilting for the upgraded semi-aniline leather door trim and seat inserts when opting for the Technology Package. My test model also had some beautiful high-gloss Espresso Burl hardwood trim around the steering wheel, across the dash and door panels, and down the centre stack and lower console, plus equally tasteful metal accents in key areas. The result is a cabin that looks and feels really rich, matched by high-quality materials like premium soft-touch synthetics on key surfaces including the entire door panels from top to bottom (not so with some competitors), good attention to detail, tight fitment of panels and switchgear, some of the latter finished in beautiful knurled metal, and an overall sense of solidity. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Beautifully intricate detailing around each LED fog lamp makes the lower front fascia particularly attractive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Infiniti also adds some new tech, with that just noted $8,150 Technology Package also including an Infiniti-first Smart Rear View Mirror that doubles as a wide-angle rearview camera, plus an Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) with auto recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier and a Grape Polyphenol Filter, and front seat pre-crash seatbelts on the inside, while the exterior gets an Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) with auto-leveling headlights, chrome mirror caps, the larger 22-inch wheels mentioned earlier, which are gorgeous 18-spoke forged aluminum alloys shod with 275/50R22 H-rated all-season performance tires, Hydraulic Body Motion Control to further enhance handling, Active Trace Control brake vectoring to improve at-the-limit stability, safety and performance, Infiniti’s Eco Pedal that presses back on the driver’s right foot to promote less aggressive driving (which fortunately can be turned off), and more. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
These optional 18-spoke 22-inch alloys are stunning. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The Technology Package also adds a host of advanced driving assistance systems such as Intelligent Cruise Control with Full-Speed Range, Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Distance Control Assist, Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), and Backup Collision Intervention (BCI). 

2018 Infiniti QX80
New LED taillights include clear backup lamps that meld seamlessly into a stylish chrome strikethrough that spans the midpoint of the liftgate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Even when factoring in the extra money spent on the Technology Package, the 2018 Infiniti QX80’s increased $85,500 list price rings in lower than all of the aforementioned competitors’ base prices, while a new no-cost optional interior colour treatment includes Saddle Brown with Charcoal Burl Trim, plus the QX80’s Wheat motif has been updated from low contrast to high contrast. Likewise, the Graphite grey interior gets updates too. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The standard QX80 already has an impressive cabin, but the Technology Package takes it up a significant notch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Surprisingly the rear entertainment system, with its dual 8.0-inch displays, two pairs of wireless headphones, remote control, aux inputs and more comes standard, as does the superb sounding Bose Cabin Surround audio system with digital 5.1 decoding, Bose Centerpoint 2 signal processing, 15 speakers and more, whereas the list of standard in-car electronics not already mentioned includes satellite radio, streaming Bluetooth audio, multiple USB charging ports, an 8.0-inch InTouch Single Display infotainment touchscreen, an Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), Infiniti InTouch Navigation, Infiniti InTouch Services, Infiniti Connection telematics, voice recognition, NavTraffic with real-time traffic info, and more. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Luxury abounds with beautiful gloss hardwood, contrast stitched semi-aniline leather nearly everywhere, and high-quality metal detailing throughout. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional standard features include underbody skid plates to protect vulnerable components while off-roading, body-colour running boards, roof rails, remote engine start, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, aluminum kick plates, power-folding, auto-dimming, heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, courtesy lamps and reverse tilt down, a heated leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a powered steering column, auto on/off LED headlights with auto high beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a classy analogue clock, a HomeLink garage door opener, easy to use tri-zone automatic climate control, always appreciated front and rear parking sensors, a powered moonroof, handy two-way memory for the driver’s seat, side mirrors and steering column, a very comfortable 10-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, and an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with powered lumbar support. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
A QX80 weak point is its gauge cluster, which provides attractive analogue dials surrounding an old-school monochrome trip computer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those standard seats are covered in leather upholstery, albeit not quite as soft and supple as the semi-aniline hides found in my tester, plus they’re heated and climate-controlled for all-weather comfort up front, while my tester’s optional second-row captain’s chairs also came heated, and feature a tip-up easy entry system for the third row that’s simple to operate, plus the 60/40-split third row seats are power-folding and reclining. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The centre stack is filled with high quality switchgear over beautiful hardwood surfacing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A powered rear liftgate is included too, as is a stainless steel rear bumper protector, an integrated Class IV tow hitch with a covered seven-pin wiring harness, tire pressure monitoring, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control, all expected active and passive safety systems, plus more. Lastly, an eight-passenger QX80 can be had for the same price. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The infotainment system is filled with useful functionality, but when parking a large SUV a split-screen backup/overhead camera is critical. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My only complaints include a gauge cluster and an infotainment display that are a bit behind the curve. Okay I’m being generous, as the primary instruments clearly don’t measure up to the expected full colour, TFT, digital wonderment provided by most rivals. By so saying I’m not pronouncing it unfit for business. Its electroluminescent dials are actually quite lovely, while their bright background lighting can be seen in most any lighting condition. The monochromatic trip computer at centre, however, might be the oldest of its type in existence, especially when compared to the high-resolution colour TFT display in your average Honda Civic, but such issues will be taken care of in due time as seen in some of Infiniti’s more recently redesigned models. You just need to be made aware of them now, as throwback electronics can make any new vehicle seem pretty old. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
This analogue clock is classic! (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In contrast the infotainment display is much better, and while not top of its class it certainly works well. The touchscreen isn’t all shiny and high-contrast as is en vogue these days, but its matte finish is nevertheless fairly high in resolution and it’s replete with a bevy of useful functions, with a split-screen of backup and overhead surround cameras, bright, clear and accurate navigation mapping, climate and audio controls, which again can be monitored by a split screen for multitasking, rear entertainment controls, driving info like an Eco Drive Report, a nice graph showing average fuel economy (at 16.6 L/100km, ugh! — the actual Transport Canada numbers are 12.2 city, 19.0 highway and 15.1 combined), one for individual tire pressure, a Performance Meter, and so on, while the various menus are filled with nice big digital buttons, some colourful and others a medium blue. I’m not a fan of Android Auto so couldn’t care less that it’s not included, but iPhone owners might wish for Apple CarPlay, which is a much better interface. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The leather, piano black lacquer and metal adorned shift knob is new for 2018. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for roominess, few people will actually need this much space. Front headroom is NBA-level tall, while you should have ample side-to-side movement as well. The driver’s seat was superbly comfortable and fully adjustable too, which when combined with the powered steering column made for an ideal fit, aiding comfort and control. 

Likewise, the rear quarters are ultimately roomy and extremely well finished. Rear passengers will appreciate roof vents that extend right back to the third row, while there’s also a separate climate control interface on the backside of the front console with heated seat buttons for the second row, plus other plug-ins for the rear entertainment system, the monitors of which get mounted to the backside to the front headrests. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Comfort comes standard, but the semi-aniline leather on these upgraded seats is extra soft and supple, plus the diamond quilting looks rich. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This seven-passenger model features a large centre console between the two second-row captain’s chairs, with its top finished in a nice hardwood veneer, this just ahead of a leather armrest covering a deep storage bin below. You can also access a secondary storage bin from a front hatch, plus two small cupholders are kept hidden below a nice wooden lid up top as well. This said the construction of the console’s base feels kind of cheap, in that it’s basically formed from a massive hard plastic shell that I found a bit disappointing for this class and price range. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
Infiniti extends the upscale quilted leather into the back, while our seven-seat tester included a large centre console between the second row captain’s chairs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On the positive, the third row is easy to access thanks to second-row seats that pop up and out of the way automatically, providing a wide walkthrough. The rearmost seats are large enough for adults too, even three across, while Infiniti provides multiple side cupholders next to rocker switches for reclining the rear seatbacks. 

The cargo area is fairly large at 470 litres behind the third-row, and comes complete with a lidded floor providing some hidden storage below. The third row seats power down, albeit ever so slowly, providing up to 1,405 litres of available cargo space, and then power back up again. You need to walk around to the side doors to lay the second-row seats flat, but when you do the QX80 provides a massive 2,694 litres of load area, but with a sloped floor at centre. Also, that second-row centre console gets in the way if you have plans of hauling 4×8 sheets of building material, as it protrudes upward in the middle, so if you’re a do-it-yourselfer I’d recommend going for the eight-seater that fits a regular bench seat into the second row. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
A dual-screen rear entertainment system comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Speaking of hauling, the QX80’s standard 5.6-litre V8, good for 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque and mated to a quick-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission that powers all four wheels via Infiniti All-Mode 4WD with Snow and Tow Modes, can manage up to 8,500 lbs (3,855 kg), which is a sizeable trailer whether suited up for camping or boating. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The second-row captain’s chairs fold up and get out of the way easily, allowing good access to the rearmost seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Unfortunately I didn’t have time for either, but enjoyed the QX80’s power off the line, when passing on the open highway, and likewise appreciated the big SUV’s surprising agility through fast-paced, tight corners. It really feels like a much smaller utility when pushed hard, yet all the while it provides a truly comfortable ride thanks to plenty of suspension travel and good overall compliance. 

If off-roading is your thing, take note the QX80 has at least as much 4×4 heritage as its aforementioned rivals, thanks to sharing underpinnings with Nissan’s Armada, which in turn is a rebadged Nissan Patrol, a rugged, go-anywhere SUV nameplate that’s become legendary throughout the world since it arrived on the scene in 1951. That means it’s as experienced and well respected in global off-road circles as Land Rover’s Defender, Toyota’s Land Cruiser and others, the latter forming the basis for the Lexus LX, while Mercedes’ impressive G-Class, or Gelandewagen, only dates back to 1979. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The third row has room enough for three adults side-by-side. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All have decades-long ties to militaries worldwide, not to mention relief organizations, policing, businesses requiring wilderness travel, etcetera, and that on- and off-road prowess can immediately be felt by driver and passengers. The QX80 is a solid, well-built vehicle first and foremost, and an impressively finished luxury SUV after that, which is all the more reason to be amazed at its highly competitive pricing. 

2018 Infiniti QX80
The QX80 provides a cavernous cargo area, but opt for the 8-seat version if you plan on making total use of the load floor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s no wonder QX80 sales have experienced a major upswing lately, with this updated 2018 model having its strongest results ever in March, 2018, with 147 units sold and a year-over-year gain of 113.0 percent. The QX80 showed strength through all three months of this year’s first quarter too, with sales growth up a solid 66.4 percent, while year-over-year deliveries were still up by a significant 53.1 percent at the halfway point of the year. 

Clearly, Canadians have responded well to the 2018 Infiniti QX80’s stylish new design, numerous interior refinements, continued strong performance, and particularly good value. I recommend you take up the challenge and enjoy some quality time behind the wheel.

Timing is everything, or so the saying goes, but with Canadian pump prices rising at an alarming rate in some jurisdictions, it appears the age-old adage couldn’t be truer and Honda’s timing couldn’t…

Honda Accord Hybrid arrives just in time to battle high pump prices

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
The new 2018 Accord Hybrid brings a new level of style to the mid-size hybrid sedan segment. (Photo: Honda)

Timing is everything, or so the saying goes, but with Canadian pump prices rising at an alarming rate in some jurisdictions, it appears the age-old adage couldn’t be truer and Honda’s timing couldn’t be better for the all-new 2018 Accord Hybrid. 

The new model’s official April launch date arrived just in time for Metro Vancouver fuel prices to hit record highs, bouncing up against a dollar and 60 cents per litre resistance that has since proven penetrable. Local authorities aren’t promising any relief over the summer, with some predicting the exact opposite. 

Even if you live elsewhere in Canada, current fuel prices may still be eating into your budget. As of Thursday, July 5, GasBuddy.com showed the average Canadian gasoline price as 134.4 cents per litre, which is a 2.6-cent-per-litre increase from the prior week. That represents a 26-cent rise from the average of 109.4 cents per litre in July of 2017. While it hasn’t yet reached the highest average pump price ever recorded in Canada, which was 142.4 cents in August of 2008, this is still a hard pill to swallow for those driving less fuel-efficient vehicles. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
The Accord Hybrid features the same sleek four-door coupe lines as the conventionally powered Accord. (Photo: Honda)

Enter the new 2018 Accord Hybrid, which combines all the positive attributes of the recently redesigned 2018 Accord sedan, a model that recently beat the new Toyota Camry and all other new entries to win the revered Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s (AJAC) 2018 Canadian Car of the Year award, with a highly advanced two-motor hybrid-electric powertrain capable of a claimed 5.0 L/100km in the city, 5.1 on the highway and 5.1 combined. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
From front to back, the new Accord Hybrid has style in its corner. (Photo: Honda)

This brings Accord Hybrid fuel economy within close range of the new 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which is estimated to achieve 4.9 city, 4.8 highway and 4.9 combined in base trim, albeit take note that a fully loaded Honda Accord Hybrid Touring still gets the same mileage as the base model, whereas the top-line Camry Hybrid XSE is rated at 5.3, 5.0 and 5.1 respectively, losing out to the Accord Hybrid in the city, where it matters most. 

A unique two-motor hybrid powertrain joins an efficient 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine to provide the Accord Hybrid with a class leading total system output of 212 horsepower, while its electric drive motor puts 232 lb-ft of almost instantaneous torque down to the front wheels for strong straight-line performance. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
These 17-inch alloy wheels come standard on both base and Touring trims. (Photo: Honda)

To be clear, one of the electric motors drives the front wheels, while a smaller secondary motor serves mainly as a generator, providing electric current to the drive motor in order to supplement or replace power from the battery during lighter loads, such as cruising. The second motor also starts the engine that in-turn adds torque to the wheels, but it’s never used as the motive driving force for those wheels. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
Like with the regular 2018 Accord, the new Accord Hybrid gets standard LED headlamps and LED taillights. (Photo: Honda)

Additionally, the car’s Electric-Continuously Variable Transmission, or E-CVT, removes any need for a conventional automatic transmission, or even a traditional belt/chain-operated continuously variable transmission (CVT), both of which inherently rob performance and efficiencies from the powertrain. Instead, Honda’s E-CVT drives the front wheels directly through four fixed drive ratio gearsets, without the need to shift gears or vary a planetary ratio. This means there is no “rubber-band” effect when accelerating as experienced in regular CVTs, or in other words the engine is never forced to maintain steady high rpms until road speed gradually catches up, this process causing a much-criticized audible “droning” effect. Honda claims its direct-drive technology benefits from 46 to 80 percent less friction than a conventional automatic transmission, depending on the drive mode. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
Thanks to 212 net hp and 232 total lb-ft of torque the Accord provides stronger performance than any mid-size hybrid sedan rival. (Photo: Honda)

Drivers can choose between three standard propulsion modes as well, including electric-only (providing the 6.7-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged sufficiently), gasoline-only, or blended gas and electric (hybrid), while a standard SPORT drive mode joins ECON and EV modes as well, all found on Honda’s exclusive pushbutton/rocker switch gear selector that comes complete with an electromechanical parking brake lever and an automatic brake hold button. Honda also includes standard steering wheel shift paddles, but take note these are specifically for downshifts during deceleration. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
The Accord Hybrid gets the same high-quality interior as the regular model, plus a higher level of standard features. (Photo: Honda)

Another positive is styling, thanks to the new Accord Hybrid not visually deviating from the conventionally powered Accord sedan’s design, the latter having received a lot of positive feedback from the automotive press and customers alike. This said, Honda changes some minor trim pieces as well as the wheels, but few will likely notice any visual differences between a regular Accord sedan and the Accord Hybrid. 

The high-quality 2018 Accord interior has been carried forward into the new Accord Hybrid too, with premium-level soft-touch synthetic surfaces in key areas, attractive metallic and matte-finish woodgrain inlays, high-resolution digital interfaces, and more, while the Accord Hybrid is just as accommodating for front occupants and rear passengers as the roomy conventionally powered model. Its voluminous trunk hasn’t changed in size either, providing 473 litres of available space and handy 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks for fitting in longer cargo. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
The left two-thirds of the Accord Hybrid’s gauge cluster is made up of a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display. (Photo: Honda)

Like the regular Accord, there are noticeable differences between the base Accord Hybrid and top-line Touring trim, such as an upgraded set of full LED headlamps with the addition of light emitting diodes for the high beams, unique signature LED elements around the outside of the headlamp clusters, chrome-enhanced door handles, and if chosen the availability of no-cost Obsidian Blue Pearl exterior paint instead of standard Crystal Black Pearl and $300 White Orchid Pearl, the only two colours offered with the base model. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
This 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen comes standard, as does a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, gesture controls, and more. (Photo: Honda)

On that note, pricing for the 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid starts at $33,090 for the base model and $39,790 for Touring trim, plus freight and fees, with key standard features on the base model including 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-on/off LED headlights (low beam only) with automatic high beams, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, a remote engine starter, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge cluster, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blindspot display, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, near field communication (NFC), 452-watt audio with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, two front and two rear USB charging ports, SMS text message and email reading functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, heated front seats, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, plus all the expected active and passive safety features including front knee airbags. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
Honda makes its unique button and rocker switch filled gear selector standard with the new Accord Hybrid. (Photo: Honda)

Unexpected safety features can be found in the standard Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance equipment, including Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), and traffic sign recognition, this being enough to earn the regular 2018 Accord a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS when equipped with its upgraded headlights, while all Accord trims get a best-possible five stars from the NHTSA. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
The Accord Hybrid features the same interior dimensions as the regular Accord, making it one of the more spacious hybrid sedans currently available. (Photo: Honda)

Additional 2018 Accord Hybrid Touring trim features not yet mentioned include Blind Spot Information (BSI) with Rear Cross Traffic Monitor system (replaces the aforementioned LaneWatch blind spot display), adaptive dampers to improve handling, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display (HUD), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, passenger side mirror reverse gear tilt-down, a HomeLink garage door remote, a powered moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, satellite and HD radio capability, wireless device charging, an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot, driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a heatable steering wheel rim, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and more. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
With 473 litres of cargo space along with 60/40-split rear seatbacks, the Accord Hybrid is just as accommodating for cargo as the conventionally powered model. (Photo: Honda)

While the new Accord Hybrid is exciting enough on its own, it was preceded by the even more efficient Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, which is sized similarly to the Accord yet features totally unique styling that helps it stand out more distinctively as an alternative fuels vehicle. The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid starts at $39,900, and receives a Transport Canada fuel economy rating of 5.3 L/100km in the city, 5.9 on the highway, and 5.6 combined in regular hybrid mode, or much better efficiency when its considerably larger battery is externally charged on a regular basis and its EV mode is engaged, resulting in much greater electric-only range. 

2018 Honda Accord Hybrid
This is no ordinary hybrid electric powertrain, thanks to Honda’s exclusive two-motor design that doesn’t even use a conventional transmission. (Photo: Honda)

Additionally, Honda has just added a new compact hybrid to its lineup. The stylish 2019 Insight is sized identically to the Civic Sedan that shares its underpinnings and some bodywork, even offering the same accommodating interior roominess and an identical 428-litre trunk with convenient 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks. The new Insight will be Honda’s most affordable hybrid at $27,990 when it arrives this summer, and achieve the best fuel economy amongst Honda hybrids at a claimed 4.6 L/100km city, 5.3 highway and 4.9 combined. 

Honda’s expanding lineup of hybrid-electric cars is a good sign that it’s on the right track, and the Accord Hybrid should put up a good fight against the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, but this said Honda really needs to electrify its SUV lineup so it can go up against Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid, plus others from competitive brands that are expected to arrive soon. 

Oddly, Honda sells a CR-V hybrid in Europe, but it’s not yet available in North American markets, while similarly Nissan offers a Rogue Hybrid to its U.S. customers, but not here in Canada. 

For now, the new 2018 Accord Hybrid, 2018 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, and 2019 Insight point the Japanese brand in what most consider the right direction. Only time will tell if we receive hybrid versions of the popular compact CR-V and mid-size Pilot as SUV alternatives to Toyota’s offerings.