Drive a 2018 Infiniti QX80 and you’ll quickly be comparing it in kind to full-size SUV competitors from Land Rover, Lexus, and even Mercedes-Benz, and a little research into its origins will immediately…
Drive a 2018 Infiniti QX80 and you’ll quickly be comparing it in kind to full-size SUV competitors from Land Rover, Lexus, and even Mercedes-Benz, and a little research into its origins will immediately tell you why.
The QX80, like the Nissan Armada that shares its platform architecture, is based on the legendary Nissan Patrol, a rugged, go-anywhere SUV nameplate that’s as old and well respected in global off-road circles as Land Rover’s Defender, Range Rover and others, Toyota’s Land Cruiser that forms the basis for the Lexus LX, and Mercedes’ G-Class, or Gelandewagen. 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.
As sourced on CarCostCanada.com, the handsomely refreshed 2018 Infiniti QX80 is now available for just $77,350 plus freight and fees, which means you can get into a well-equipped, impressively finished base model 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 while representing a $10,300 savings over the new 2018 Lincoln Navigator, which will have you questioning whether Infiniti priced its full-size SUV too low after comparing them all directly.
To the ultimately wealthy such pricing trivialities 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 comprehensive refresh for the 2018 model year 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. Infiniti has rounded out the new exterior design with new 20- and 22-inch alloy wheels, while new exterior colours include Moonstone White, Mineral Black and Champagne Quartz.
Moving inside, the 2018 QX80 receives a newly refined cabin with a contrast-stitched wrapped upper instrument panel and a new shift knob across the line, plus a new stitched and leather-wrapped steering wheel hub/horn pad and diamond-patterned quilting for the upgraded door trim and seat inserts when opting for the Technology Package.
That Technology Package, at $8,150, also includes a new Infiniti-first Smart Rear View Mirror that doubles as a wide-angle rearview camera, while the infotainment system is now Infiniti’s InTouch Single Display design.
Additional Technology Package equipment includes the 22-inch wheels noted earlier, which are 18-spoke forged aluminum alloys shod with 275/50R22 H-rated all-season performance tires, plus Hydraulic Body Motion Control to enhance handling further, Active Trace Control brake vectoring that improves 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 can be turned off), chrome mirror caps, an Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) with auto recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier and a Grape Polyphenol Filter, Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) with auto-leveling headlights, and front seat pre-crash seatbelts.
The Technology Package also includes a host of advanced driving assistance systems such as Intelligent Cruise Control (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).
Even with the Technology Package included, the 2018 Infiniti QX80’s increased $85,500 price rings in lower than all of the aforementioned competitors, while a new no-cost optional 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.
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 Bose Cabin Surround audio system with digital 5.1 decoding, Bose Centerpoint 2 signal processing, 15 speakers and more, while the list of standard in-car electronics not already mentioned also includes satellite radio, streaming Bluetooth audio, multiple USB charging ports, an 8.0-inch 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.
Additional standard features include skid plates, 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 high beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, an analog clock, a HomeLink garage door opener, tri-zone automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a powered moonroof, two-way memory for the driver’s seat, side mirrors and steering column, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, and an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support.
Those seats are covered in semi-aniline leather upholstery, plus heated and climate-controlled up front, while the second-row captain’s chairs are heated (seven-passenger only) and feature tip-up easy entry for the third row, with standard 60/40-split power-folding and reclining third row seats also added to the standard feature set, plus a powered rear liftgate, a stainless steel rear bumper protector, an integrated Class IV tow hitch and seven-pin wiring harness with cover, tire pressure monitoring, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control, all the usual active and passive safety systems, and more. Lastly, an eight-passenger QX80 can be had for the same price.
The QX80’s 5.6-litre V8 is also standard, making 400 horsepower plus 413 lb-ft of torque and mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission powering all four wheels via Infiniti All-Mode 4WD with Snow and Tow Modes.
“The 2018 QX80 commands a heightened flagship presence within the Infiniti portfolio,” said Adam Paterson, managing director, Infiniti Canada. “The updated model provides upscale luxury for all passengers, as well as a suite of advanced technologies that elevate confidence and control on any road.”
It’s no wonder QX80 sales have experienced a major upswing lately, with this updated 2018 model having its strongest sales ever in March, 2018, with 147 units sold and a year-over-year gain of 113.0 percent. The QX80 has shown strength through all three months of this year’s first quarter too, with sales growth up a solid 66.4 percent.
Clearly, Canadians have responded well to the 2018 Infiniti QX80’s sharp new styling updated, plentiful interior refinements, and incredible value proposition.
Acura has made a name for itself by producing cars and crossover SUVs that perform very well, and the seven-passenger MDX is no exception despite its large mid-size proportions and family hauling capability.…
Acura has made a name for itself by producing cars and crossover SUVs that perform very well, and the seven-passenger MDX is no exception despite its large mid-size proportions and family hauling capability. Still, there’s always room for a little more go-fast fun.
Answering that call is the new 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec, a special performance-tuned version of the popular SUV that features unique exterior styling elements including black lower body cladding, larger alloy wheels wrapped in grippier tires, and sportier interior styling.
“This MDX A-Spec adds a dimension of sporty, aggressive and youthful appeal that will attract new buyers to the best-selling three-row luxury SUV of all time,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
The 2019 MDX A-Spec will only be available with Acura’s torque vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) models, although this won’t be an issue in Canada where SH-AWD comes standard with all MDX trims.
MDX A-Spec features include a more aggressive front fascia design, body-colour lower side sills, larger-diameter exhaust finishers, plus gloss-black and dark-chrome detailing for the grille, headlamps, window surrounds, and rear tailgate spoiler, while 265-series tires wrap around exclusive 20-inch 10-spoke Shark Grey alloy wheels.
Inside, a unique A-Spec primary gauge cluster joins a set of sport pedals, special carbon-look console trim, a thicker-rimmed A-Spec-badged steering wheel with paddle shifters, an exclusive A-Spec door step garnish, and sport seats upholstered in “rich red” or black leather with black suede-like Alcantara inserts plus high-contrast stitching.
As with all Canadian-spec MDX trims, the new A-Spec model will include the AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies standard, including Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), plus Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with low-speed follow and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM).
Simplifying and enhancing smartphone integration will include standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the new A-Spec trim line promises an impressive load of additional standard features to be announced closer to launch.
The 2019 MDX A-Spec debuted March 28th at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, and will arrive at Acura dealers across Canada this summer. The addition of A-Spec trim to the MDX line means that every Acura model will be available with the performance-oriented upgrade, including the ILX A-Spec, TLX A-Spec and the all-new 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec.
For many automotive enthusiasts a lap around the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack is a top-10 bucket list item, but for Porsche works race driver Kévin Estre it was just another day at the office. …
For many automotive enthusiasts a lap around the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack is a top-10 bucket list item, but for Porsche works race driver Kévin Estre it was just another day at the office.
No doubt an intense day, or at least an intense six minutes, fifty-six and four one-hundredth seconds, or rather 6:56.40.
That number means the new 2019 911 GT3 RS joins an elite group of production cars capable of lapping the Nürburgring Nordschleife in less than seven minutes, while at least as importantly to Porsche and its legions of dedicated Porschephiles, this achievement signifies an impressive 24-second improvement over the previous 911 GT3 RS.
Porsche also holds title to the current lap record, its 911 GT2 RS managing the 20.6-km (12.8-mi) racecourse in just 6:47.25 with Lars Kern at the wheel, while earlier in the same month of September 2017, Marc Lieb pushed the mid-engine plug-in hybrid 918 Spyder to a 6:57.00 result, making it the fastest hybrid-electric vehicle to ever navigate the circuit.
That’s three Porsches in the top six, an amazing accomplishment that’s even more shocking when factoring in two of the others aren’t even production cars (both produced by British racing car constructor Radical). When measured against production cars alone, Porsche occupies three of the top four spots with Lamborghini holding the other position, its second-place Huracán LP 640-4 Performante having managed a 6:52.01 lap time in 2016.
And how does the much-vaunted Nissan GT-R rate? A Nismo-trimmed version put up a respectable time of 7:08.68 back in 2013, but the model hasn’t been officially timed since then. Still, this makes it seventh fastest amongst production cars and 11th overall, although according to numerous reports quoting Nissan employees that took part in the event, the GT-R Nismo being used was specially tuned just for the Nürburgring Nordschleife track, featuring larger spoilers for more downforce, softer dampers to deal with the rough road surfaces, upgraded brake pads, non-stock bucket seats that decreased its weight by 50 kilos (110 lbs), and a revised ECU map. In other words, it wasn’t stock.
In case you were wondering, amongst true production cars a Dodge Viper ACR holds sixth place with a time of 7:01.30, while rounding out the top-10 is a Mercedes-AMG GT R in eighth with a 7:10.92 lap time, a Gumpert Apollo Sport in ninth at 7:11.57, and another Dodge Viper ACR in 10th at 7:12.13. Interestingly, the current 11th and 12th place positions are held by two Porsches, including a 911 GT3 at 7:12.70, and a 918 Spyder with a lap time of 7:13.00.
The list continues with a who’s who list of sports car and supercar nameplates, from the Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 to the Lexus LFA (with its Nürburgring Package), Donkervoort D8 RS, Ferrari 488 GTB, Maserati MC12, Pagani Zonda F Clubsport, and plenty of additional Porsches. To even get on this list is a job well done, but to defeat them all with multiple models is sensational.
Available from $213,400, the 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS receives a naturally aspirated 4.0-litre horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine behind its rear wheels, producing 520 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque, which comes mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission driving the rear wheels. Capable of a top track speed of 312 km/h (193 mph) and a standing start to 100km/h time of just 3.2 seconds, the big boxer engine will spin right up to 9,000 rpm.
“No other Porsche model gets as close to racing as the new GT3 RS,” said Frank Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars. “Many innovative ideas from top-level motorsport were transferred; for example, from the 911 GT3 R. This is what our philosophy for GT models is about: Highest technology must be fascinating but tangible. In this regard there is no harder test for our ideas than the Nordschleife.”
Estre, who also competed for Porsche in the FIA World Endurance Championship, was joined by Porsche development driver Kern, with both drivers completing two laps for a total of four.
“All four lap times of both drivers were below seven minutes and only tenths of a second apart,” added Andreas Preuninger, Porsche Director GT Model Line. “This proves not only the outstanding power of the GT3 RS, but also its extraordinary drivability at the limit. A perfectly composed overall system allows for highly dynamic performance even with a relatively modest engine power. For a driver, each of the car’s thousands of parts have to feel like one – that’s an unbeatable strength of the GT3 RS. And what especially delights me is how much fun Lars and Kévin had when driving that car.”
Estre, a 29-year old who hails from France, started his record lap at 11:40 am in what Porsche says were ideal conditions of 14 degrees Celsius ambient and 18 degrees Celsius track temperature.
“This lap was a sensational experience for me,” said Estre. “Through the fast corners and on the brakes in particular, the GT3 RS is unbelievably close to our racing car GT3 R. This is also thanks to the new generation of tires for road going sports cars. I like the engine of the GT3 RS a lot. Up to 9,000 revs per minute from a six-cylinder engine just feels fantastic. The sound is a dream and the torque is massive.”
The tires Estre speaks of are Michelin Pilot Sports measuring 265/35ZR20 in front and 325/30ZR21 at the rear, and are available at every Porsche Centre, as is the new 911 GT3 RS and the Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record-holding GT2 RS.
For a closer take on all the action, check out this in-car video of the 911 GT3 RS achieving its amazing 6:56.40 lap time:
Additionally, here’s another video showing some of 911 GT3 RS’ features:
I want you to think about something for a moment. The RDX just passed six years since the current second-generation design went into production in March of 2012, and despite only a minor facelift in 2016,…
I want you to think about something for a moment. The RDX just passed six years since the current second-generation design went into production in March of 2012, and despite only a minor facelift in 2016, Acura Canada still managed to find more compact luxury SUV buyers in 2017 than all but one of its competitors.
Now consider the only model to outsell the RDX’ 8,101 units, Audi’s Q5 with 10,271 down the road, was all-new for most of last year, so therefore sold 23.5 percent more examples than the year prior due to pent up demand; the third-place Mercedes-Benz GLC, at 8,057 units, was new just two years prior in 2015; the fourth-place Lexus NX, with 7,407 buyers, arrived the year before; the fifth-place BMW X3, at 5,730 units, entered its third generation partway through the year; and the other nine competitors didn’t sell in high enough numbers to truly compete. So what does the RDX have that the others don’t?
At $42,390 plus freight and fees it’s not the cheapest in the segment, that honour held by Infiniti’s QX50 that starts at $38,900 yet only found 1,812 customers during 2017, so price is clearly not the sole differentiator. Buick’s new Envision is priced a bit lower too, at $40,195, and while it did fairly well for its first full year at 3,357 units, even if it combined sales with the Porsche Macan’s 3,767 deliveries it would still come up short (see pricing for all 2018 Acura RDX trims at CarCostCanada.com).
Obviously premium SUV buyers like the RDX’ styling, its sharp, sporty lines and standard LED headlamps plenty distinctive, while that latter feature brings up another important point, value for money.
The RDX is one of few compact luxury SUVs with standard LED headlights, while the well-proven model comes standard with a powerful V6, a pricey option with its rivals if available at all. One could argue this pro as a con with regular unleaded hovering above the $1.50 per litre mark in some parts of the country, but so far rising pump prices haven’t negatively affected SUV sales, so this may be an issue for its turbocharged four-cylinder 2019 RDX successor to address.
Yes, if you want a new RDX with a V6 you’d better act quickly. A six-cylinder may show up as an option sometime in the future, but so far such prognostication hasn’t been up for discussion. For all we know the current 3.5-litre V6 with its smooth, linear 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, not to mention its well-seasoned six-speed automatic transmission, will be relegated to Acura’s history books when the new third-generation RDX arrives in Canadian dealerships later this year. There’s no place for such luxuries in this brave new world where fuel-efficiency comes first and foremost, but this government-forced agenda obviously isn’t an issue with a significant number of compact luxury SUV buyers that keep buying up the RDX in droves.
I’m not of the belief that small turbocharged engines are particularly better at minimizing fuel usage than larger six-cylinder powertrains when saddled with the burden of sizeable curb weights, the RDX tipping the scales at 1,781 to 1,797 kilos (3,926 to 3,962 lbs) depending on trim. The relaxed nature of the larger engine can actually save fuel in real world driving, especially when hills and highways are a factor. Even when comparing less-real Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy ratings the 2018 RDX fares pretty well at a claimed 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined next to the similarly popular Mercedes GLC’s 11.1 city, 8.6 highway and 10.0 combined numbers.
The German isn’t the thriftiest or the thirstiest turbo-four in the class, representing a good middle ground that the RDX comes close to matching despite its larger displacement, sportier V6 exhaust note, and more premium feel, this partially due to its still innovative yet long-time use of Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), which automatically shuts down three of its six cylinders when under light loads like coasting. Now, imagine if Acura had chosen to mate this engine up with the more advanced nine-speed automatic found in the MDX, which also benefits from auto start/stop? No doubt it would come even closer to matching the efficiency of its turbocharged four-cylinder peers.
That won’t happen, however, so like I said earlier, make sure to snap up a 2018 RDX if you prefer V6 performance and refinement, the latter aided by Active Control Engine Mounts (ACM), and while you’re at it you’ll benefit from an automatic $3,000 discount provided via “Customer Incentive Dollars,” this bringing my RDX Elite tester’s suggested retail price down from $47,390 to $44,390, plus freight and fees. If you’d rather get into something more basic, the reduced entry-level RDX price comes in at $39,390, or alternatively the mid-range RDX Tech can be had for $42,390.
Yes, for less than $40k a base RDX comes with the aforementioned V6 and auto on/off Jewel Eye LED headlights, plus standard LED taillights, all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloys, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, ambient cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, heatable eight-way powered front seats with powered lumbar support, two-position driver’s memory for the seat and side mirrors, a colour TFT multi-information display, a HomeLink garage door opener, an auto-dimming centre mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 5.0-inch infotainment display, a rearview camera with guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, SMS text message functionality, a 360-watt seven-speaker audio system, satellite radio, a powered moonroof, a powered tailgate, and more. That’s superb value, even without the $3k discount.
Those who prioritize safety over creature comforts will notice I haven’t even delved into the subject yet, the RDX loaded with all of the segment’s expected active and passive safety features as well as an impressive array of standard AcuraWatch driver-assist systems that would cost thousands more with some competitors, these including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. This gives the Canadian-spec base model IIHS Top Safety Pick status (these systems are optional in the U.S.) and a best possible five stars from the NHTSA. Are you starting to understand why the RDX is so popular?
Mid-range Tech trim increases the RDX’ safety net with blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a plethora of convenience and luxury items like remote engine start, rain-sensing wipers, a larger 8.0-inch LED backlit display with navigation and voice recognition, dynamic guidelines for the backup camera, a separate On-Demand Multi-Use touchscreen display, advanced AcuraLink smartphone connectivity, Siri Eyes Free, a 10-speaker 410-watt ELS Studio audio upgrade, a more advanced GPS-linked, solar-sensing system for the climate control, leather upholstery, heatable second-row outboard seats, and more for a mere $3,000 added to the bottom line.
Lastly, my RDX Elite benefited from sportier looking 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, auto-dimming side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and ventilated front seats, all for only $2,000 extra.
This is where I should remind you about the top-line RDX Elite model’s $44,390 asking price (less discount), which despite its full load of features is still less expensive than most of its rivals’ base prices. Seriously! The Q5 starts at $44,950, GLC at $45,900, Volvo XC60 also at $45,900, BMW X3 at $46,700, Jaguar F-Pace at $50,250, Porsche Macan at $54,100, and Range Rover Velar at $62,000. Now I’m not going to say that an RDX competes directly with that Range Rover or Porsche other than for size, but I’m sure you get my point, while some others in the class are priced a bit lower albeit, other than that previously noted Infiniti, not by much. Plus, this comparison doesn’t factor in any competitor discounts.
If the RDX were an uncompetitive rolling anachronism undeserving of your time and attention its supposed value proposition wouldn’t be an issue, but it remains a good-looking SUV with a nicely finished interior and strong performance. Starting inside, a generous supply of leather-like padded soft-touch surfaces can be found in all the appropriate places, as can de rigueur fabric-wrapped roof pillars and high-quality, tight fitting, well-damped switchgear throughout. All of the aforementioned features work well, its navigation particularly accurate, while its seats are comfortable and supportive front to back, with rear seat roominess especially good.
Likewise, the RDX can haul more cargo than most competitors thanks to 739 litres (26.1 cubic feet) of capacity behind its rear row and 2,178 litres (76.9 cubic feet) when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded down, and that’s one of the easiest procedures in the class due to standard cargo wall-mounted levers that drop each side automatically. It’s not the flattest loading floor, with a fairly steep rise in the middle, but it’s something most owners learn to live with.
As for performance, the V6 provides more off the line jump than the majority of base challengers, and while its six-speed automatic might be down a couple of gears by modern-day standards, the torquey engine hardly needs as many shift points to optimize performance. In fact, most won’t notice this shortcoming at all, as it swaps cogs almost unperceivably unless getting hard on the throttle, at which point it does so with nice positive engagements, enhanced by standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for more hands-on command, plus Grade Logic Control that regulates throttle and braking on steep hills. This is joined by standard hill start assist, which locks the brakes so you won’t roll backward before applying the throttle.
Pulling back on those paddle shifters is especially enjoyable when the road starts to wind, allowing more engine control for powering out of corners and then setting up the next turn. The RDX’ well-engineered independent suspension helps most in this respect, mind you, thanks to a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear setup that’s kept in check via amplitude reactive dampers that minimize fore and aft jounce as well as transitional roll while maintaining a smooth, comfortable ride at all times. Plenty of sound deadening materials along with active sound control aid in refinement too, giving the RDX the kind of upscale experience premium buyers gravitate toward.
So now you know why the RDX still sells so well in spite of its age, and hopefully can appreciate that it remains an impressive luxury SUV despite its low price point. No doubt the upcoming 2019 RDX will be a wholly better compact luxury utility, but there’s no reason to put off buying the current version if you need to pull the trigger now. The standard V6 is definitely a performance and refinement bonus with little if any negative hit to fuel economy, and the model’s marketplace longevity has got to aid long-term reliability expectations. Topping it all off, the RDX’ standard suite of advanced safety features can’t be beat, making it a no-brainer purchase for smart luxury SUV shoppers. All added up, I’ve got to slot the 2018 RDX into my highly recommended category. Too bad there are so few of them left.
Volvo is in the final phase of a brand-wide makeover, ushering in a more distinctive design language highlighted by a contemporary version of its more traditionally rectangular grille that’s flanked…
Volvo is in the final phase of a brand-wide makeover, ushering in a more distinctive design language highlighted by a contemporary version of its more traditionally rectangular grille that’s flanked by signature Thor’s Hammer LED headlights, all resulting in a modernized look that delivers a more premium cachet.
This out with the old, in with the new brand metamorphosis has left few stones unturned, the V60 being the most recently revealed addition to an almost completely transformed lineup. The D-segment sport wagon hit the stage on March 6th at the Geneva motor show wearing stylish new duds, after first debuting on February 21st in is “natural habitat,” a suburban driveway in Stockholm, Sweden. That five-door model is expected at Volvo dealerships later this year, with a toughened up V60 Cross Country crossover version likely to appear simultaneously or soon after, so the similarly sized four-door sedan shouldn’t be too far behind.
In fact, Volvo has already confirmed the 2019 S60 debut this summer at its new $1B USD manufacturing plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina, which will produce the new sedan along with an additional model yet to be named. The S60 is an interesting choice of vehicle for U.S. production, being that SUVs rule North American roads, but the car should find a strong base of loyal supporters on this side of the Atlantic just the same.
Still, Volvo was smart to update its XC90 and XC60 first, as these two SUVs are its strongest sellers, not unlike every other premium brand. Car sales, on the other hand, are generally flat or sliding in the opposite direction. No doubt a redesigned S60 will help to boost the model’s numbers, much like the updated S90 did for yesteryear’s S80, but the hit to Volvo’s bottom line probably won’t be as dramatic.
Last year Volvo Canada sold just 361 S60/S60 Cross Country four-doors compared to 454 V60/V60 Cross Country five-doors, which while low numbers on both counts (by comparison the XC60 sold 2,315 units and XC90 2,650), the pair of V60s represented a 20-percent improvement over the two S60s. I doubt another four-door S60 Cross Country will ever materialize, as this reincarnation of the ‘80s AMC Eagle SX/4 (a.k.a. Spirit SX/4) has been an unsuccessful answer to a question no one outside of Volvo’s rather eccentric inner circle was asking, but either way the five-/four-door percentage lead will probably continue into the new model cycle (at least it has for the S90 and V90), and sales will no doubt grow for both.
To appreciate how recent the swing in buyer sentiment was toward the five-door V60 models, Volvo Canada sold more S60s than V60s in 2016, and the numbers were significantly higher at 657 to 627 units, while in 2014 when the V60 was introduced it found just 853 sales compared to the S60’s 1,063 deliveries. No doubt Volvo is targeting a return to four-figure annual S60 sales when the new model arrives, but until then the brand needs to highlight the current model’s attributes while knocking a few thousand off its suggested retail price.
To be fair, the 2018 S60 is already a very good value at $41,950 plus freight and fees, especially when factoring in its performance, refinement, and feature set. I think most will agree that it’s still an attractive looking car, its aerodynamically shaped front fascia filled with nice upscale details, its windswept four-door coupe-like side profile providing a sporty yet elegant shape, and its trademark Volvo taillights finishing the rear end design off nicely.
My T5 AWD Dynamic trimmed tester offers an even sportier theme featuring an R-Design lower front fascia, a subtle spoiler discretely perched atop the rear deck lid, an eye-grabbing grey and black diffuser-style rear bumper cap with circular exhaust pipes at each corner, and rounding out the look, aggressive looking 18-inch five-spoke diamond-cut alloys with black-painted pockets, while its standard Polestar Optimization upgrade made all of its outward dynamism inwardly relevant.
By that I’m not talking about the S60’s interior, which doesn’t feature any Polestar branding yet continues into 2018 as one of the more refined cabins in its compact luxury class. If you want your S60 interior modified with blue Polestar highlights along with other stylish upgrades, even including sportier exterior enhancements, a smoking hot 367 horsepower engine and significant suspension mods, you’ll need to pay $67,050 for an S60 Polestar and call it a day.
Instead, choosing mid-range Dynamic trim means the S60 T5 AWD comes standard with Polestar Performance Optimization for just $47,900 (you can get the same setup with the T6 AWD powertrain for $51,500), this maintaining the S60’s already formidable base engine output yet quickening on and off throttle response plus shift speed, increasing gear hold duration, performance-tuning the electronic stability control and ABS, plus more, while the turbocharged and supercharged S60 T6 AWD model gets a four-horsepower bump up to 310 ponies.
As noted, the S60 T5 AWD’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine’s output remains unchanged at 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which while not quite as thrilling as the T6 off the line is nevertheless plenty capable all on its own. With 100km/h arriving in just 6.2 seconds from standstill and its top-speed set to 210 km/h, it will easily exceed posted limits at a much faster rate than you might be prepared for, whether zipping around town, stretching its legs on a curving backcountry road, or letting it fly on the highway.
If canyon carving is your thing I’d recommend opting for the $1,850 Sport package that increases alloy wheel size by an inch to 19s, lowers and firms up the suspension, adds paddle shifters behind the steering wheel spokes to extract the most from the S60’s already quick yet smooth shifting eight-speed automatic, and bolsters the front seats with a sportier design that comes complete with contrast-stitched black, beige or Beechwood leather.
Still, my non-Sport packaged model took to corners with confidence inspiring poise thanks to Volvo’s Dynamic Chassis setup and grippy torque vectoring all-wheel drive, albeit modern-day Volvos are never lacking when it comes to handling credentials. Its variable-assist electrical power assisted rack and pinion steering is direct and responsive, front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension stable yet reactive, and overall feel ideal for those seeking reassuring feedback without punishing rigidity.
Yes, the S60 isn’t as tightly sprung as some premium rivals, its ride/handling bias focused more toward the type of cosseting comfort that luxury buyers tend to prefer. This, combined with two of the plushest yet supportive front seats in the class, results in a car I could drive all day long without growing weary, which is saying something considering my all too regular lower back problems.
I previously referred to the S60 as a compact luxury sedan because the D-segment covers a lot of area, but generally it’s larger than the mainstream volume-branded compact class and smaller than a traditional North American-market mid-size four-door, which are sized closer to Euro E-segment cars like Volvo’s S90. While the S90 is considerably larger and more spacious inside, the S60 provides plenty of room for most body types and sizes.
My five-foot-eight medium-build frame certainly had no problem fitting inside with inches to spare in every direction, whether seated up front or in behind where its rear outboard seats provided nearly as much comfort and support as those up front, especially with the available heaters turned on, while rear materials quality and fit/finish is equal to the frontal seating area as well.
Everything above the waistline is made from high-quality soft-touch synthetics and leathers, with the doors even pliable down to their bottom panels. The lower dash and glove box are not, nor are the sides of the centre console, but such is the case for many in this class so it’s not an issue. What matters is all of the harder composites are nicely done, especially the floating centre console that’s always being one of my favourite Volvo design details. It’s filled with myriad dials and buttons like a high-grade albeit now classic Nakamichi stereo component, while the beautiful metal-edged dials are stunning.
This model gets piano black lacquer for the centre stack backing, which is much denser than the usual plasticky garnish found in competitors. It continues onto the door panels, while satin-silver trim surrounds the centre stack and decorates the doors as well as the steering wheel, the latter a nice, shapely, leather-wrapped design.
The S60’s fully configurable digital gauge package continues to show off Volvo’s early leadership in high-tech electronics, although the S60 doesn’t yet offer one of the large tablet-style centre touchscreen displays used in its recently redesigned models. Nevertheless its 7.0-inch display is serviceable enough with plenty of high-grade functions included, such as navigation with detailed mapping, audio/media system controls, phone set up, vehicle instructions, internet access, and a reverse camera you can choose to use even if the S60 isn’t backing up. The parking monitor even includes rearview zoom if you’d like to see something close up, while the regular camera includes handy dynamic guidelines.
Of course, dual-zone automatic climate control is standard, made better via Volvo’s Clean Zone air quality system, while over and above everything already mentioned the S60 T5 AWD Dynamic model’s features list is further enhanced with remote engine start, approach/puddle lamps, active bending HID headlights, headlight washers, LED daytime running lights, a laminated windshield, rain sensing wipers, an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, heatable powered front seats with two-way powered lumbar support, three-way driver’s seat and side mirror memory, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a powered moonroof, advanced voice control, Bluetooth phone with audio streaming, satellite radio, auxiliary and USB ports, front and rear parking sensors, Volvo On-Call (including remote start and vehicle tracking), blind-zone alert with rear cross-traffic alert, hill start assist, City Safety autonomous emergency braking, all the usual active and passive safety features, power-folding rear headrests, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through, and more.
The S60 also includes standard engine start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, this helping to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Set to its most efficient driving mode the S60 T5 AWD is good for a claimed 11.0 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 9.7 combined, while it saves even more by only requiring less expensive regular unleaded fuel.
My test model’s extras included $900 Crystal White Pearl metallic paint; a $650 Convenience package featuring power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, high-level interior illumination, a garage door opener, a compass, and a grocery bag holder; a $1,350 Climate package with heated washer nozzles, a heated windshield, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear outboard seats; plus a $1,600 Technology package that adds Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Queue Assist and Distance Alert (DA), upping the total asking price to $54,415.
Not included were $135 rear window sunshades, a $1,500 Harman/Kardon premium audio upgrade with 12 speakers and 650 watts of power, and a $315 Protection package with four all-weather floor mats.
While I’m excited to get into the new 2019 S60 when it finally arrives, I can certainly understand why someone would want to take advantage of the deals to be had on the current model. The 2018 S60 is still an excellent car that’s highly competitive within its compact luxury segment, plus you’ll certainly be able to coax your local dealer into moving its already fair price downward significantly.
The premium subcompact SUV segment only came into existence in 2011 with just three models competing, yet after seven years its ranks had swollen to an identical seven challengers with sales growth having…
The premium subcompact SUV segment only came into existence in 2011 with just three models competing, yet after seven years its ranks had swollen to an identical seven challengers with sales growth having increased by more than 450 percent. That upward trajectory is hardly slowing either, with 2016 to 2017 year-over-year sales up by more than 25 percent alone. Per capita volume in this segment is higher in Canada than in the U.S. as well, so it only makes sense that all luxury brands want a piece of the action.
In August of 2016 the QX30 became that seventh subcompact luxury SUV competitor, and thanks to a very affordable starting price that remains unchanged from last year at just $35,990 plus freight and fees, the new SUV simultaneously gave Infiniti a much-needed entry-level gateway model for thousands less than most rivals.
At that price one might think the QX30 is somewhat short on features, but a quick glance at its spec sheet will show the complete opposite is true. In fact, walk up to the little sport utility with key fob in pocket and welcoming approach lamps illuminate the ground to each side, while a proximity-sensing key lets you inside. Yes, I’m talking about the base QX30, not a fully optioned version.
Continuing on that value-added theme, the standard features list is further bolstered with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, plus auto-dimming centre and driver’s side mirrors, while those turn signal-enhanced outer mirrors are also power-folding, making it easier to squeeze by in tight parking spots. A standard backup camera with dynamic guidelines makes reversing out of such spots less stressful too, while other thoughtful standard conveniences include dual-zone auto climate control, heated eight-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar support and three-way seat and mirror memory for both the driver and front passenger, while the standard upholstery is genuine Nappa leather front to back.
Seriously, if you want to see a German blush from shame, match that list up to one of the QX30’s Teutonic competitors. This reality becomes even more awkward when you learn this elegantly styled Infiniti is actually a Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 under the skin. While its classy chromed double-arch trademark grille, cat’s eyes LED-enhanced headlamps, secondary trademark C-pillar kink, beautifully detailed LED taillights, and gracefully arcing rear window/liftgate design look every bit Infiniti, the interior is filled with clear giveaways to its Stuttgart-sourced underpinnings.
I actually noticed the Mercedes-style key fob even before climbing inside, while repositioning the driver’s seat required adjustment via the German brand’s unique seat-profile shaped switchgear up on the door panels, where they’re easy to see and access. The power window and lock buttons, plus the mirror toggle and switches are Mercedes fare too, as is the shape of the steering wheel, yet while obviously pulled from M-B’s vast parts bing the buttons on the steering wheel spokes are totally different from those used for the GLA, as is the Mercedes-sourced gauge cluster and colour multi-information display, which comes complete with M-B fonts and graphics.
The entire centre stack could be from a Mercedes too, especially the HVAC interface, but which one I’m not sure. The 7.0-inch touchscreen is filled with Infiniti’s familiar graphics and functions, but the infotainment dial and various buttons on the lower console are pure Benz, as is the satin aluminum-trimmed gearshift lever.
Of course, Infiniti brands everything with its “two central lines leading off into an infinite point on the horizon” logo, and as importantly there isn’t much inside the cabin that looks remotely similar to the GLA from a design standpoint, which leaves Infiniti and its Japanese-luxury oriented fan-base happy with a subcompact SUV of their own, and Mercedes’ parent Daimler content that it has a B2B partner to share both development and production costs with.
It’s important to note, for respectability’s sake, the relationship between Infiniti and Daimler isn’t merely a one-way street. In fact it’s a comprehensive long-term strategic partnership founded in 2010 that sees Nissan, Infiniti’s parent, building 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines for rear/all-wheel drive Renault/Infiniti and Mercedes vehicles in Decherd, Tennessee (the Q50, Q60, and C-Class included, whereas engines for the transverse-mounted front/all-wheel drive QX30 and GLA come from Mercedes’ plant in Germany); an assembly plant collaboration in Aguascalientes, Mexico for the new Infiniti QX50 (plus the upcoming short-wheelbase Mercedes A-Class sedan, and future Mercedes GLB SUV); Nissan Twingo architecture and powertrain contributions for Daimler’s Smart ForTwo (including the electric powertrain for Smart’s EV); the future Mercedes X-Class pickup truck riding on Nissan NP300 Navara hardware and built by Nissan at a Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina; etcetera.
Additionally, Infiniti was involved in the QX30/GLA design from the ground up, and tunes the powertrain to its own unique specifications, resulting in a small SUV that feels a bit more luxury-oriented than the slightly sportier Mercedes, although the QX30 is no laggard either. The direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the latter from only 1,200 rpm, resulting in off-the-line performance that’s more than adequate and overall drivability that’s plenty of fun, especially when a curving roadway opens up ahead. Infiniti’s suspension tuning provides an excellent compromise between ride quality and road holding, delivering an engaging driving experience that’s nevertheless very comfortable, even over rougher patchwork pavement.
Both Infiniti and Mercedes have long employed seven-speed automatic transmissions, making them easy to interchange without anyone noticing. I certainly found the QX30’s dual-clutch gearbox quick-shifting enough and appreciated the standard steering wheel-mounted paddles as well, while the Japanese brand makes sure an effective Sport mode is also part of the standard package, not to mention an Eco mode that makes the most of auto start/stop, which shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be idling to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
The result is a five-cycle Transport Canada rating of 10.6 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 9.4 combined with its as-tested all-wheel drive powertrain, making the QX30 one of the more fuel-efficient AWD models in its category. Of note, both base and top-line Sport trims are front-wheel drive and therefore even thriftier, with a claimed rating of 9.7 city, 7.1 highway and 8.5 combined, which is by far the best in class.
Swift, comfortable and quiet, the QX30 could be the ideal subcompact luxury SUV. It measures up in most other respects too, with a superbly crafted interior above the beltline, featuring a padded and contrast stitched leather/leatherette (depending on the surface covered) dash top and instrument panel, steering wheel rim, door panels, and seat upholstery, high-quality soft-touch synthetic door uppers that extend into the back, shiny chrome and stylish satin-silver metal trim, plenty of piano black lacquered coatings, and features galore, the infotainment system in my Premium-trimmed and Technology-packed example even upgraded with split-screen rear-view and top-view surround parking cameras that were oh-so helpful, but others in the class provide clearer, higher resolution digital displays with more functions.
Now that I’m grumbling, I’d also like to see more premium competitors in the entry-level luxury classes improve materials quality to the levels of compact and mid-size models. For instance, below the QX30’s aforementioned beltline are hard plastics most everywhere, including the glove box lid, while Infiniti, like Mercedes, only wraps the A pillars in fabric, leaving the B and C pillars with low-rent looking hard plastic covers. Most premium brands are guilty of such cost cutting, so I’m not singling Infiniti out, and their seemingly reasonable collective responses will no doubt be savings oriented, but with mainstream volume brands doing such a fine job of equipping their similarly sized yet much more affordable models to very similar levels of fit, finish and refinement as premium players, not to mention features, luxury brands might want to consider improving their lot to the point that their individual brand DNA remains consistent from their smallest to largest models.
As it is, the current mindset rewards buyers of larger, less efficient vehicles with greater levels of luxury, and punishes those who might alternatively want the same level of pampering without a more powerful engine and larger, heavier footprint, nor the environmental impact this decision delivers. Again, this isn’t an issue with Infiniti or the QX30 per se, but rather with all premium manufacturers and, likely, the entire luxury ethos.
As noted at length earlier, the base QX30 is very well equipped, with some features not yet mentioned including 18-inch alloys, auto on/off halogen headlamps, signature LED daytime running lamps, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/USB/satellite audio, all the usual active and passive safety equipment, and more.
Choosing all-wheel drive doesn’t add to any equipment levels, however it ups the starting price to $38,490 (also unchanged) while providing unique front and rear fascia designs, extended overfenders with reformed sill panels, a different set of 18-inch alloy wheels, a three centimetres-plus raised ride height, flashier glossy black mirror caps, and roof rails up top.
And what about all the features not yet mentioned? These are the result of a $5,000 Premium package that boasts LED fog lamps, a chrome trunk finisher, aluminum treadplates, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield washer nozzles, a universal garage door opener, a colour multi-information display, more advanced Infiniti InTouch infotainment with Navigation and lane guidance, great sounding 10-speaker Bose audio, a fixed panoramic sunroof with a powered sunshade, and front and rear parking sensors.
Last but hardly least, a $2,500 Technology package improves those cat’s eye-shaped headlamps to full LEDs with dynamic cornering capability and auto high beams, adds enhanced LED ambient lighting inside, plus adaptive cruise control, the superb aforementioned 360-degree surround parking monitor with moving object detection, semi-automated self-parking, forward emergency braking, blindspot monitoring, and lane departure warning.
I won’t go into the Sport model’s features right now, but hopefully will cover this model separately later in the year. Suffice to say it improves on styling, performance and standard features for $46,490.
Along with its loads of features, the QX30 is quite accommodating inside as well, with plenty of room for most body types up front plus surprisingly spacious rear quarters. When I positioned the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight height I still had five inches left over ahead of my knees and more than enough space for my feet when wearing winter boots, plus there were approximately four inches over my head and about the same beside my outer shoulder and hips. You could probably stuff three side-by-side in back, but it’s a great deal more comfortable with two, especially when folding the centre armrest down and taking advantage of its pop-out twin cupholders.
Further back, Infiniti provides a very roomy cargo hold measuring 544 litres (19.2 cubic feet) with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks upright or 963 litres (34.0 cubic feet) when they’re laid flat. Alternatively you have a best of both worlds scenario of stowing longer items through a pass-through down the middle, leaving the more comfortable outboard window seats to rear passengers.
Yes, the QX30 is one very livable little luxury utility, with an emphasis on upscale refinement and comfort. Its enjoyable performance and generally easy driving nature weigh in its favour too, which would all come together to make this little Infiniti a worthy contender in the subcompact luxury SUV class even if its value proposition wasn’t so good. Yet there lies the differentiator. The 2018 QX30 drives excellent value along with its many other attributes, making it one of the better choices for premium buyers that want to get the most from their automotive investment. I certainly believe it deserves a lot more attention than it currently gets, so if you’re in the market for a small SUV I recommend a closer look at an Infiniti QX30.
After winning the 2017 North American Truck of the Year with the second-generation Ridgeline, which was really a Honda pickup sandwich thanks to the Civic earning Car of the Year in 2016 and new Accord…
After winning the 2017 North American Truck of the Year with the second-generation Ridgeline, which was really a Honda pickup sandwich thanks to the Civic earning Car of the Year in 2016 and new Accord making it a hat trick for 2018, it appears as if the Japanese brand can’t lose.
Impressive as such awards are, much more important wins on the sales charts are harder to come by for such a relative newcomer to the pickup truck sector. Truck buyers are more loyal than in any other category, so pushing the Ridgeline up and over the 5,000-unit threshold in Canada won’t come easy, its 4,632 deliveries in 2017 coming close to matching the model’s best-ever 2006 tally of 4,988 units, but as we all know there are no cigars handed out for almost making it.
I predicted as much when reviewing the 2017 Ridgeline Black Edition. It was selling reasonably well during this honeymoon period, but I didn’t expect it to exceed that previous calendar year high then, and I don’t expect it to do so this year either. Actually, sales numbers have been on a downward trajectory since August of last year, with the 1,734 units sold during the final five months of 2017 representing a 31.4 percent downturn from the same period in 2016, which just happened to be the first five months of availability for the new truck.
Do prospects look better for 2018? Three months into the current year, 882 total Canadian-market Ridgeline deliveries mean that year-over-year Q1 sales are down by 22.3 percent. So, if you’re ok claiming less of a negative as a positive, then the new Ridgeline is a net win.
To be fair, even the mighty Toyota Tacoma saw fewer sales in 2017 than in 2016, albeit its 12,454 deliveries were only down by 1.3 percent, whereas General Motors’ Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins saw a year-over-year collective gain of 13.2 percent thanks to 14,320 sales, and Nissan’s 13-year-old Frontier grew sales by 3.2 percent—really, the Frontier hasn’t been updated since 2005, the same year the original Ridgeline arrived on the market.
That’s loyalty for you. Nissan has been building trucks since 1938, while the original Datsun Truck arrived on North American soil in 1958. Honda’s first pickup, on the other hand, debuted in its domestic Japanese market in 1963, but it was never sold here and therefore the brand wasn’t able to establish a faithful truck following until the Ridgeline.
While we can’t see into the future to find out whether the new Ridgeline will eventually build Honda Canada’s truck market share beyond 5,000 units, no one should question whether or not the current model improves on the vehicle it replaces. Truly, this second-gen Ridgeline is better than the outgoing version in most respects, especially refinement.
This said refinement probably doesn’t matter as much to mid-size truck buyers as ruggedness, sales growth by the clearly forgotten and seemingly abandoned Frontier making this issue crystal clear, which really makes a person wonder why Honda is trying to purvey intelligently thought-out sophistication over rough and tough manliness, with the latter most often touting over-the-top, in-your-face macho styling, extreme performance, off-road capability, load hauling, towing specs, etcetera.
The Ridgeline is the alternative pickup truck, totally unlike anything else on the market. It starts with unibody construction formed off the back of the Japanese brand’s Pilot SUV, and even pulls many of that model’s styling elements into the mix, for a design that takes a softer and smoother approach to Honda’s current creased and angled origami-inspired styling. This was purposeful, as Honda isn’t trying to market to those wowed by the long-time bestselling Toyota Tacoma’s new military-spec style TRD Pro 4×4, or the rejuvenated Chevy Colorado’s latest ZR2 off-road replica racing truck.
I must admit the two performance trucks appeal to the weekend warrior side of my personality, having been raised by an outdoorsy dad who oftentimes had something rugged in the garage, a favourite being our ‘70s era Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40. Yet at the same time we took 2WD pickup trucks (a ’78 620 series Datsun Truck preceding our F-150), camperized vans, and even the family’s ’61 Pontiac Strato Chief wagon and go-anywhere ’66 VW Beetle into areas that no sane motorist would dare to go (no offence dad), and came away mostly unscathed and a true believer in the power of “Come-A-Long” hand winches. In other words, just because a truck might ride lower to the ground and only offer all-wheel drive instead of part-time four-wheel drive with a bull low range doesn’t mean you’re forced to remain solely on paved roads and light-duty gravel surfaces.
Honda proved this at the press introduction of the original Ridgeline, during which we scaled some fairly steep and untoward off-road terrain (but nothing that caused a pit in the stomach like a few hair-raising Jeep, Land Rover and Hummer launch programs). Opportunity to show how easy it was to load a Honda ATV via attachable ramps was part of that past event too, plus back-to-back 5,000-pound trailering sessions against the competition. The Ridgeline was better than its rivals at such tasks, and its other innovations left a gaggle of auto scribes mostly impressed.
I didn’t take part in this current Ridgeline’s press event, but I’m guessing it’s at least as capable of roughing it now as it was then, yet as noted earlier this new iteration is substantially more refined, with a more SUV-like cabin that’s filled with soft-touch surfaces, fancier trims, top-tier electronics, and more, while it plays well to families due to the highest safety rating ever given to a pickup truck. It also has a much more utile box on its backside than its predecessor, which is even capable of accepting a regular off-the-rack canopy, while the Ridgeline maintains its innovative cargo bed trunk as well as its ultra-useful dual-purpose swing-out and drop-down tailgate.
It was a bit surprising that Honda introduced the 2019 Ridgeline so early in the year, but being that they’ve now eliminated the outgoing model’s slow selling base LX trim it makes sense. Sport trim becomes the new base for 2019, which concurrently increases the entry-level price by $3,500 to $40,790, the latter number also representing a $500 bump across all trim lines.
Of course, with Sport trim now standard the 2019 Ridgeline’s standard features list increases, with previous base items like its standard 280 horsepower V6, AWD, fully independent suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, remote start, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display, heatable front seats, backup camera with dynamic guidelines, 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, SMS- and email-reading capability, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 225-watt seven-speaker stereo, adaptive cruise control, front collision warning with autonomous braking, lane departure alert with lane keeping assist, emergency responding telematics, and more now joined by a bevy of new base items.
The new base features now include fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, LED turn signals integrated within the mirror housings, a powered moonroof, a power-sliding rear window, driver and front passenger seatback pockets, an exterior temperature gauge, a Homelink garage door opener, filtered tri-zone automatic climate control, Wi-Fi, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar support, and Honda’s innovative LaneWatch blindspot system that projects a passenger’s side rear view of the blindspot onto the infotainment display when applying the right-side turn signal.
I wish Honda included LaneWatch in upper trims too, but other than base Sport trim it’s only included in the second-run EX-L model before getting replaced by blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert in my Tester’s Touring trim and the top-line Black Edition. These top trims remain unchanged for the 2019 model year, with some of the upgrades included with my Touring tester including additional chrome exterior trim, LED headlights with auto high beams, power-folding side mirrors with memory and reverse tilt down, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a heatable steering wheel, driver’s seat memory, leather upholstery, cooled front and heated rear seats, navigation, voice recognition, 540-watt eight-speaker Bose audio with superb sound quality, satellite and HD radio, an exclusive truck-bed audio system featuring six hidden “exciter” speakers totaling 60 watts of power (which you can play from outside your truck via Bluetooth from your smartphone or wearable), front and rear parking sensors, and more, with all of the active safety features adding up to a class-exclusive IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating.
The Black Edition is all about styling, this model following a trend that’s seen other manufacturers blacking out all the metal brightwork on their respective trucks and SUVs in order to provide a tougher, more rugged look, but I must say I like this Touring model with its tastefully applied chrome trim and subtle Lunar Silver metallic paintwork better, as it really helps the grille and body-cladding stand out more. This in mind, the Ridgeline’s styling has grown on me since introduction. I still don’t think it provides enough grit to lure in traditional truck buyers, but I could see some family folk who may not have previously considered purchasing a truck picking one up instead of an SUV, especially if they do a lot of home renovations, gardening work, need something to haul their ATV around or have a small business.
Standard safety features aside, the major Ridgeline drawing card is the interior, which is by far the nicest in the mid-size truck segment. Refinements include more soft-touch padded surfacing than any rival, including the entire dash top, extending all the way around the top portion of the centre stack and instrument cluster, plus each front door upper and all four door inserts/armrests.
Tasteful splashes of satin-silver and chrome metal trim highlight key elements, as does a bit more piano black lacquer than I’d prefer, but only because it scratches easily and collects dust even easier. Instead, I’d like to see more of the faux matte wood on the lower centre console storage bin lid, as it’s really quite attractive.
The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and quite sporty, featuring enough tilt and telescopic adjustment to ideally set up my long-legged, short-torso medium-build frame, while the leather-covered powered driver’s seat positioned me perfectly, maintained my chosen settings via two-way memory, and then kept me suitably warm thanks to three-way heaters. Honda even provides three-way coolers to help with summertime heat, although no need for these during my wintery weeklong test.
The bright, colourful, highly legible instrument cluster features two semi-circles, the left side for a tachometer and one on the right for temperature and fuel meters, with a large digital speedometer at the top-centre and a much larger colour multi-information display just below. The centre stack-mounted infotainment touchscreen is almost as artistically crafted as the updated version in the Civic, Accord, CR-V, and HRV, and includes a large display that’s also bright and colourful, with extremely deep and rich contrast making its default blue hue particularly nice. It’s an easy system to sort out, other than not having quick access knobs for audio volume and tuning. Instead, Honda uses digital sliding controls that can be a bit challenging to fiddle with while keeping eyes safely on the road ahead. I quickly overcame this shortcoming by using the steering wheel audio volume and tuning controller more than I usually do, which is probably the safest method anyway.
The Ridgeline’s now standard tri-zone auto climate control interface is also easy to use, while all of the switchgear feels substantive and fits together nicely, similar to the rest of the buttons, knobs and toggles throughout the cabin. The HVAC panel sits right next to the ignition button, which is initially black yet glows red while the engine is running, this a bit of Honda tradition pulled up from the brand’s legendary performance models.
Special touches in mind, Honda also adds LED-reading lights to the overhead console, plus a handy felt-lined sunglasses holder that does double-duty as a conversation mirror.
I don’t think anyone will have trouble fitting inside the Ridgeline’s cab, as the front seats are generously sized and their controls allow for a lot of adjustability. The rear seat provides slightly less room than I expected for knees and legs, but when the front seat was set for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame I nevertheless had about four inches remaining ahead of my knees and more than enough room for moving my feet around, plus I had around four inches remaining above my head and plenty of space from side-to-side. A very wide armrest folds down from the middle, fitted with dual cupholders and a tiny little tray, plus a larger cupholder and another bin are housed within each door panel. Even better, the aforementioned rear seat heaters offer three temperature settings, while a separate HVAC interface allows rear adjustment of the third climate zone. This is fairly high-end equipment for a mid-size pickup truck, but like I said earlier, the Ridgeline is finished to a much nicer level than most rivals.
The 60/40-split rear seat squabs flip upward and out of the way when wanting to store cargo in a dry, secure space, although while this “Magic Seat” style feature is unique in the Fit’s subcompact hatchback class and the HR-V’s subcompact SUV segment, it’s nothing new amongst pickup trucks. An almost completely flat floor below is beneficial, however, providing plenty of level space to stack boxes, suitcases, or anything else you’d like to keep out of the elements.
The tailgate design is even more innovative, as it not only folds down in the conventional manner, but it swings out sideways too. Honda has set it up to do so from the passenger side, which is the safest way to load when parallel parked as it’s closest to the curb, while this process also provides easier access to the Ridgeline’s lockable trunk. By now I’m sure you’ve heard all about this unique feature, but I still find it special, even after all these years. It’s very wide, deep, and sealed well to repel water and dirt, plus it tucks the spare tire and jack just below the front half of the cargo floor. I recommend pulling this gear out if you plan on hauling a full load of bark mulch, gravel, or anything else you might not want to be forced to shovel out before changing a flat on the side of the highway, but other than the rare mishap of a blown tire it should serve you well.
Other thoughtful details include a two-prong 120-volt household-style power outlet on the cargo wall, while I also appreciated the two lights Honda housed within both sidewalls. The bed comes standard with grippy surfacing to aid stability when wet, while stepping up to it was less of a stretch with the door open thanks to a centre step on the rear bumper. Still, I would have appreciated some retractable corners steps for when the tailgate is lowered, or something along the lines of GM’s bumper-integrated CornerSteps.
Unusual for a pickup truck, the Ridgeline was so much fun to drive I actually noticed its lack of a sport mode and paddle shifters. It’s quick off the line, the 280 horsepower V6 producing 242 lb-ft of torque that feels like even more due to Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD system, the latter aiding handling too, especially in inclement weather. And yes, the Ridgeline feels a lot more like an SUV in the corners than a truck, plus it’s a lot easier to drive around town. Its ride is better too, especially over bumps or potholes at high speeds, this situation sometimes unsettling trucks with solid rear axles, potentially causing them to lose control. The Ridgeline, on the other hand, always felt in total control.
Its six-speed automatic transmission might seem a bit low on gears compared to the GM trucks’ eight-speed unit, but it matches the Toyota’s gearbox and one-ups Nissan’s antiquated five-speed, while delivering reasonably quick and always smooth shifts, adding to Honda’s ultimately refined pickup truck experience.
In the end, the Ridgeline is the ideal choice for those needing the functionality of a pickup truck yet still wanting the drivability, comfort and refinement of an SUV, not to mention best-in-class safety and best claimed V6 fuel economy of 12.8 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.3 combined.
Truly, the Ridgeline is a best-of-both-worlds conveyance, and thanks to plenty of smart innovations it will continue to appeal to a smaller albeit more sophisticated light truck market.
Land Rover sold 686 examples of its Discovery in Canada from its first month of May 2017 to December of that year, increasing deliveries by 47.2 percent over the same seven months of 2016 when its mid-size…
Land Rover sold 686 examples of its Discovery in Canada from its first month of May 2017 to December of that year, increasing deliveries by 47.2 percent over the same seven months of 2016 when its mid-size seven-passenger challenger was the extremely well-proven yet still cult favoured LR4.
Guilty as charged, I’m part of that LR4 cult. Yet, its once traditional SUV shape has now become a radically unconventional box, and therefore it’s made way for an entirely new, thoroughly modernized, sleeker, sportier, and yes, now more conventional luxury SUV that has truly won me over, the new fifth-generation Discovery so much more livable than its predecessor it became plain silly to stay loyal to the old beast.
Driving a regular route from my home in Richmond, BC to Vancouver, and less often across the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore mountains, it looks as if 600 of those 686 Discoverys found their way here, but no doubt a good assortment have been snapped up in other premium SUV hotspots around Canada as well. Either way the Discovery is gaining sales traction where the LR4 was losing ground, and that momentum should continue to pick up as more families realize this new kid on the luxury block is now available and that it’s well worth their attention.
Despite only being in its second model year, the 2018 Discovery comes to market with some important updates to make sure such interested parties are as impressed as possible, starting with changes to its base SE trim that now gets a two-inch larger 10-inch infotainment touchscreen as standard equipment (don’t believe LR Canada’s website as it hasn’t been updated), a move that makes this display standard across the entire Discovery range. What’s more, autonomous emergency braking is standard too, while that base SE model now gets the optional advantage of Land Rover’s highly efficient Td6 six-cylinder turbocharged diesel.
The standard SE model’s improvements have pushed its base price up from $61,500 last year to $63,900 today, a difference of $2,400, but I’m sure most will agree that improved infotainment and potentially lifesaving advanced safety are well worth the extra cost.
Moving up through the range, both HSE and HSE Luxury trims can now be upgraded with Land Rover’s new second-generation head-up display system, which was much appreciated in my tester, as well as a 12.3-inch configurable TFT primary gauge cluster. Additionally, the British brand’s innovative Activity Key is available for adventurous owners who’d rather leave their key fob safely and securely in their SUV while wearing a waterproof digital bracelet with proximity-sensing keyless access capability around their wrist.
My 2018 Discovery Td6 HSE Luxury tester came equipped with the more economical turbo-diesel, this engine’s very reasonable $2,000 increase making it financially justifiable due to fuel savings that should be recoupable over a few years of ownership. The numbers speak for themselves, with the alternative powerplant good for a claimed 11.2 L/100km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 10.2 combined, compared to 14.7 city, 11.2 highway and 13.0 combined with the base gasoline-powered V6. Depending on how much you drive, the annual savings could be in the high hundreds. On that note both look downright stingy compared to the old LR4, which was soldiering along with a five-cycle Transport Canada rating of 16.2 city, 12.1 highway and 14.3 combined before its era came to a complete stop last year.
Like with all diesel powerplants, high-speed thrust gets traded for low-speed twist, the base 3.0-litre supercharged V6 good for 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque compared to 254 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque for the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel, while both come mated to a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission that sends power down to all four wheels via Land Rover’s renowned Terrain Response off-road system.
A noticeable difference between the two engines is off the line jump, with the gasoline-powered base engine putting more power down faster for a quicker 7.1-second sprint to 100km/h, and the turbo-diesel taking a full second longer to achieve the same result, at 8.1 seconds. Unless you’re always in a hurry or simply enjoy the occasional (or regular) adrenaline rush that comes when dashing away from stoplights this one-second discrepancy won’t be an issue, as both provide plenty of highway passing power and can cruise at speeds up to 209 km/h (130 mph).
I happen to like the leisurely lope of a diesel and fully appreciate their savings at the pump, and I must say the Td6 performed flawlessly throughout my test, just like the 2017 Discovery Td6 I spent a week with last year. The two SUVs were optioned out similarly too, both in top-tier HSE Luxury trim, albeit this latest one finished in $870 Santorini Black instead of $870 Indus Silver, while improved with a few more upscale goodies as well.
My previous tester was missing this 2018 model’s $1,740 optional 21-inch alloys that look superb and enhance lateral grip, while additional enhancements included some chrome edging on the otherwise body-colour door handles, a $2,350 Drive Pro package that builds upon the aforementioned standard Autonomous Emergency Braking system by adding Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist, Blind Spot Monitor with Reverse Traffic Detection, Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keep Assist, a Driver Condition Monitor and Traffic Sign Recognition with an Adaptive Speed Limiter, the Drive Pro upgrade automatically necessitating the addition of $190 worth of auto-dimming side mirrors, which are always welcome during night driving.
Additionally, my 2018 Discovery tester included a $2,040 optional rear seat entertainment system that features dual 8.0-inch monitors on the backsides of the front headrests, instead of last year’s left-side tablet holder and right-side coat hanger, plus a DVD changer, a really fancy looking remote, two WhiteFire digital headphones, and a secondary device interface on the backside of the front console (joining another one housed within that console) that gets fitted with two HDMI slots and two USB ports.
This latest Disco also came with a power-folding seat system that’s capable of automatically lowering and/or raising individual sides of the 50/50-split third row as well as either the 60 or 40 percent portion of the second row, or both simultaneously, this standard on HSE Luxury trim. What’s more, you can also power all seats up and down via the infotainment system or a smartphone app. This is the best of such systems I’ve ever experienced, and as helpful as the obvious convenience this provides, it goes about its business quickly compared to other powered seat systems I’ve used.
Right next to these buttons is switchgear for the powered liftgate and unique powered tailgate, the latter a beautifully finished carpeted shelf that folds down to provide a convenient place to load up to 300 kilograms (661 lbs) of heavier items on before sliding them inside the sizeable cargo hold, while it also stops items from falling out when opening the liftgate, important being that cargo has a habit of shifting during travel. And by the way, if upgraded to the available air suspension, which comes standard with HSE Luxury trim, you can lower the rear of the SUV via that panel of buttons to make the tailgate’s lift-over height a bit easier to deal with. Either way the Discovery provides 980 litres (34.6 cubic feet) of cargo space behind the third row, 1,231 litres (43.5 cubic feet) aft of the second row, and 2,500 litres (88.3 cubic feet) with both rear rows lowered.
Both 2017 and 2018 models came with sumptuous Ebony (black) Windsor leather upholstery thanks to HSE Luxury trim, the more conventional choice from four total colourway options that include a Glacier (light grey) and Ebony split, a caramel coloured Vintage Tan and Ebony split, and a Nimbus (light beige) and Ebony combination, but take note this year’s Ebony interior adds a touch of class by including Nimbus piping, which matches the same coloured standard headliner (an Ebony headliner is $410 extra), while standard open-pore Natural Shadow Oak veneer warmed up both cabins. Inlay options include no-cost Dark Satin Brushed Aluminum and Natural Charcoal Oak, while High Gloss Charcoal Oak adds $620 to the bill.
The 2018 model was devoid of side steps, making the reach up a bit more of a stretch, and didn’t come with the $310 optional 360-surround overhead parking aid, but its $1,940 7 Seat Luxury Climate Comfort package was a major bonus as it boasts 16-way power-adjustable front seats with massage, heated and cooled front and second-row outboard seats, heatable third row seats, and four-zone climate control with a comprehensive interface added to the backside of the front console.
Some other features found on both SUVs included a $410 set of black roof rails, $140 for lane departure warning, and $110 for cabin air ionization, while this 2018 model included a $1,020 head-up display that projected speed, gear selection, and navigation directions onto the windshield, $410 for Advanced Tow Assist that literally backs the Discovery up to a trailer for you, which made the $670 Tow Equipment package prerequisite, upping trailering capacity to 3,720 kg (8,201 lbs), plus a $1,275 Capability Plus Package featuring All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), Terrain Response 2, and an Active Rear Locking Differential. All of these extras increased the price of my tester to $93,360 before freight and fees, which is $29,460 more than the base Discovery yet starting to approach full-size Range Rover levels of features and functions for a fraction of that model’s $113,000 starting price.
I bring up the big Range Rover because this new Discovery and that legendary luxury utility share the same underpinnings, as does the mid-size Range Rover Sport. This means the brand’s Integrated Body Frame (IBF) platform architecture has made way for an all-aluminum monocoque body shell and aluminum suspension design, allowing 480 kilos (1,058 lbs) less curb weight than the LR4. As you can likely imagine the new Discovery is not only more efficient than its predecessor, as noted earlier, but a great deal more enjoyable to drive.
While the base SE comes standard with a fully independent coil-spring suspension setup and 19-inch alloys, my tester’s aforementioned 21s benefited from an air suspension upgrade that as mentioned comes standard with HSE Luxury trim. This made the most of the new Discovery’s lighter curb weight for an altogether more agile SUV, with sportier response during fast-paced curves that was especially noticeable when the weight shifted amid transitional corners. Of course, the Discovery remains a large SUV that’s never going to feel as athletic as something smaller like the Discovery Sport or Range Rover Evoque, but basing the new model on the same architecture as the amazingly capable Range Rover Sport has done wonders for the Disco, while it bodes well for a future SVR version of the latter.
On that note I didn’t have opportunity to test the 2018 Discovery’s ability off pavement, but having driven other SUVs based on this architecture through mud, muck and over sand and rock I can only imagine it holds its own and then some. The Discovery includes the Land Rover brand’s legendary full-time four-wheel drive system featuring a locking centre differential and optional rear locking diff, which as mentioned was included with my loaner, while its driver selectable Terrain Response system makes choosing the ideal setup for a given road/trail condition ultimately easy. Basically, Terrain Response provides a rotating dial for selecting Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl, while the upgraded Terrain Response 2 allows the vehicle to sense and adjust the driveline setup to best respond to changing conditions automatically. That’s my kind of off-roading.
A compliant suspension is especially important when crawling over rocks and stumps, but it can be just as useful when trying to negotiate some of the back alleyways in my city. Whether blaming constant construction or sheer neglect, the Discovery’s air suspension made potholes and bumps less intrusive than they’d otherwise be, while good sound deadening and plenty of soft synthetic surfaces kept noise, vibration and harshness levels to a minimum. Still, a full-size Range Rover it’s not, which can be said of any SUV, as the priciest Landy would be my choice when it comes to full-on luxury. Considering the savings, however, the Discovery is finished very well, and once again better than its forebear.
What’s more, the seats were sensational, and not just the aforementioned massage function. Easy to set up for my body size and shape as well as various preferences like squab height and angle, seatback angle and more, they were inherently comfortable, plus on top of this I was able to power-adjust the side bolsters to snuggly pinch my backside, and manually adjust the headrest via airline-style butterfly wings. The Discovery provides ample steering wheel reach as well, powered in HSE trims and above, so my long-legged, short-torso frame was able to fit in ideally for optimal comfort and control.
All switchgear, which is very high in quality, was easy to reach, including the infotainment touchscreen, which I must say is an impressive high-resolution system with beautiful depth and contrast of colours, superb graphics and functions galore, one of my favourite features being the sonorous 14-speaker 825-watt Meridian audio system. Without getting granular, some HSE Luxury features not yet mentioned include that stereo, a heatable steering wheel, heated second-row seats, a standard third row for seven-passenger occupancy, extended stitched leather on the dash top and door uppers, interior mood lighting, chromed outer door handles, fog lamps, a high and low range two-speed transfer case, and more.
Features pulled up from lesser trims include LED headlights with signature DLRs, 20-inch alloys, tri-zone auto climate control, in-dash storage behind the climate-controls (it actually powers open), satellite radio, front seat memory, the powered panoramic sliding moonroof (the base SE gets a fixed panoramic sunroof), hardwood inlays, front parking sensors, the powered inner tailgate and more from the HSE, plus proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, power-folding heatable side mirrors with approach lights, rain-sensing wipers, a colour TFT multi-information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, navigation, the InControl Remote phone app, Wi-Fi (for up to eight devices), a garage door opener, overhead sunglasses storage, a foot-activated powered gesture tailgate, hill descent control with off-road ABS, Hill Launch Assist, Gradient Acceleration Control (GAC), all the usual active and passive safety features, and more from the base SE.
I haven’t mentioned half of what’s standard or available, but suffice to say the 2018 Land Rover Discovery provides even more value within its mid-size luxury segment than the 2017 version, combined with excellent build quality, two highly efficient yet formidable powertrains, much improved high-speed handling, unsurpassed off-road performance, confidence-inspiring standard and optional safety, and the list goes on. Being an adventurer at heart I find it very easy to recommend.