Bentley only just launched its third-generation Continental GT, and now they’ve got us thinking about what might be coming down the pike in a decade and a half.
The Bentley EXP 100 GT “reimagines the Grand Tourer for the world of 2035,” says the ultra-luxury brand’s press release, with a new take on the Continental GT’s elegant long-hooded, sweptback, two-door profile, complete with a massive backlit grille, dazzling circular headlamps, and ornately detailed eye-like OLED taillights, its plentiful body panels featuring special Compass “exterior paint made from recycled rice husks,” says Bentley.
Where the front end could only be a modern-day Bentley, the car’s rear design is longer and more pointed than anything we’ve seen from the brand since its ‘50s era R-Type Continental, extending this avant-garde carbon-fibre and aluminum-clad prototype to a lengthy 5.8 metres (19.0 feet) for what should be superb legroom front to rear, while occupants of this 2.4-metre (7.9-foot) wide mega-coupe certainly won’t be rubbing shoulders either.
The “100” in the EXP 100 GT’s name, incidentally, pays direct reference to Bentley’s 100th anniversary, W. O. Bentley’s namesake firm having started business in 1919 at Cricklewood, North London, while the Volkswagen-owned brand is now located some 267 km (166 miles) northwest in Crewe, Cheshire, England.
“Today, on our Centenary, we demonstrate our vision of the future of our Marque, with the Bentley EXP 100 GT – a modern and definitive Grand Tourer designed to demonstrate that the future of luxury mobility is as inspirational and aspirational as the last 100 years,” said Adrian Hallmark, Bentley Chairman and CEO. “Bentley has, and will continue to enhance and enrich every single journey and the lives of every single person who travels in, or has the honour to be a part of creating our extraordinary products.”
As pretty as the EXP 100 GT is, it’s much more than merely a design exercise, but rather a cornucopia of advanced future-think hardware and software. It’s 100-percent electric, a given with far-off concepts these days, but then again its four-motor wheel-integrated “Next Generation Traction Drive” powertrain includes torque vectoring and makes an incredible 1,100 pound-feet of torque (1,500 Nm), resulting in a zero to 100km/h sprint time of “less than 2.5 seconds” claims Bentley, much thanks to its aforementioned lightweight materials that help keep its weight down to just 1,900 kilograms (4,189 lbs) (considerably less than the current base Continental GT’s 2,244-kg/4,947-lb curb weight), while its maximum range should top 700 kilometres (435 miles), as long as cruising speeds are kept far lower than its terminal velocity of 300 km/h (186 mph).
The EXP 100 GT will include “future battery technology” with “intelligent power and charge management” that will allow “five times the conventional energy density,” says Bentley, while recharging the battery from near empty to 80 percent of capacity will only take 15 minutes. Of note, charging is automatically taken care of via the advanced artificial intelligence (AI) infused Bentley Personal Assistant, a do-all system designed to make the most of every journey.
“The Bentley EXP 100 GT represents the kind of cars we want to make in the future,” said Stefan Sielaff, Director of Design. “Like those iconic Bentleys of the past, this car connects with its passengers’ emotions and helps them experience and safeguard the memories of the really extraordinary journeys they take.”
“Whether driving or being driven autonomously” (Bentley promising its car of the future will be capable of both), the EXP 100 GT’s interior is every bit as sumptuously attired as Crewe’s current creations and those from its storied past. With seating for two or four, the big coupe gets all the leather, fabrics, glass, wood and metal anyone familiar with Bentley expects, except that the Bridge of Weir alternative-material hides are actually made from 100-percent bio-based winemaking byproducts, thus saving a handful of Herefords from the slaughterhouse, while its embroidered door panels are made by London-based Hand and Lock using “traditional techniques that date back to 1767 and are used on Royal and Military Dress uniforms,” its electronic interfaces covered with Cumbrian crystal, its sustainable peat bog-, lake- and river-sourced Copper Infused Riverwood harking back half a myriaannum (5,000 years), and its metal being genuine aluminum and copper, the combination apparently paying tribute to an alloy created by the aforementioned founder for his BR1 Aero engine piston, which played a significant role in securing the air theatre during World War 1.
Bentley sheds both harvested natural light and synthesized light on the EXP 100 GT’s interior via “an innovative glass roof embedded with prisms that collect light and transfer it into the cabin using fibre optics,” while all occupants’ feet will rest upon British Farmed Wool carpets, and embroidered cotton interior surfaces also help to create a more sustainable atmosphere.
The seats use intelligent, adaptable biometrics configured in three different ways, their positions dependent on whether you’re driving or being driven. Biometric sensors monitor the automatic climate control system too, plus the passenger position, and exterior environmental conditions in order to provide ultimate comfort, while biometric sensors embedded throughout the interior track eye and head movements, blood pressure, plus more in order to deliver a level of in-car comfort that far exceeds anything currently available. The cabin can even be automatically aerated with a refreshing sandalwood and moss fragrance.
Whether or not we’ll see this particular Bentley coupe by 2035 is anyone’s guess, although it should be noted that carmakers need to plan their models far into the future in order to arrive when needed, so something similar may actually be in process. We certainly wouldn’t complain if Bentley offered us a production EXP 100 GT like this to test in 15 or so years, with or without all of this concept’s innovatively sustainable features.
The EXP 100 GT is a vision of dramatic beauty that would be welcomed to car enthusiasts in any era, and possibly more true to its brand heritage than the all-electric, fully autonomous two-box SUV/MPV they’ll likely show up with by that time.
Until we truly find out what’s in the AI-dealt carbon-fibre cards, check out our complete gallery above as well as the four videos Bentley supplied below.
An off-road Lexus? To some this might sound like an oxymoron, but in reality two of Lexus’ priciest luxury SUVs started life as ultra-capable go-anywhere Toyota Land Cruisers.
The Land Cruiser name is legendary, and in many markets considered a premium sub-brand of the world’s second-largest automaker. While most Canadians conjuring mental images of iconic Land Cruisers will look back to the now classic 1960–1984 FJ40 series, the larger and longer 1967–1980 FJ55 followed by the much more popular 1980–1989 BJ60, or the most recent 2008–present J200 that does double-duty as the Lexus LX 570, the model shown here is based on the 2009–present J150, or Land Cruiser Prado.
Known North American luxury consumers as the Lexus GX 460, this somewhat long-in-tooth albeit still very capable mid-size three-row 4×4 also shared underpinnings with the current Toyota 4Runner and FJ Cruiser (the latter no longer available in North America) in its previous third-generation J120 design (2002–2009), which should help anyone familiar with those no-holds-barred SUVs believe in this Lexus’ off-road prowess.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that 4×4 enthusiasts looking to add luxury to their off-road lifestyle have opted for the GX 460, so now Lexus is paying homage to these faithful fans with this special creation, and even giving them partial credit for bringing the new GXOR Concept to life.
“Concept vehicles are typically created to generate excitement for the enthusiasts, but sometimes, it’s the enthusiasts and their vehicles that give life to the concept,” stated Lexus. “The Lexus GXOR Concept (GX Off-Road) is fueled by the passionate Lexus GX owners that have discovered and embraced the SUV’s perfect combination of ultimate luxury and unrivaled off-road capability.”
No wonder the Japanese luxury brand chose to launch the new GXOR Concept at the annual FJ Summit in Ouray, Colorado, the 12th of such events having taken place from July 17–21 this year. Similar in concept to a Jeep Jamboree, the FJ Summit provides an opportunity for Toyota 4×4 owners to test their personal driving skills as well as their Toyota/Lexus 4×4’s prowess on challenging trails, gives classes taught by experienced off-road instructors in order to hone those driving skills, and much more.
Despite the GX 460’s impressive capability off-road, and its passionate group of diehard followers, its popularity with the general SUV-buying public has faded in recent months and years, with Q2 2019 sales down 25.41 percent compared to the same six months last year, resulting in only 138 buyers for last place in the mid-size luxury SUV segment (other than the now discontinued Lincoln MKT), while all 12 months of 2018 only found 376 customers after a high of 662 units in 2015.
To be fair, plenty of competitors have been losing ground this year, with Q2 2019 Tesla Model X sales off by 30.00 percent for 840 units, Audi Q7 deliveries down 36.13 percent to 1,674 units (possibly due to the new Q8’s arrival), the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class dropping 36.66 percent to 762 units, and the same German luxury brand’s GLE-Class plummeting by 42.00 percent to 2,413 units. Even the mighty Lexus RX (and new long-wheelbase RX L) saw a sales drop of 8.50 percent through Q1 and Q2, but its 3,982 deliveries kept it well in front of the entire mid-size luxury SUV pack.
To put the GX’ 2018 calendar year sales of 376 units and 2015 high of 662 units into perspective, Lexus sold 9,329 RX crossovers last year, which was its second-best result after a high of 9,402 units in 2017. The RX also outsold Lexus’ next-most-popular NX compact luxury crossover, which had its best sales of 7,859 units last year. Hence, anything that could potentially spur on GX sales would be helpful.
Enter the GXOR, which while only a concept makes the luxury model’s 4×4 credentials clear to those who might not be in the know, while its ardent fans could potentially build something similar from all of this prototype’s available aftermarket components.
On that note, the GXOR’s plentiful upgrades include a custom CBI Stealth front bumper with an integrated Warn 9.5 XPS winch, a Safari snorkel for feeding air to the engine while wading through deep water, Lexus F Sport 18-inch alloys wrapped in General Tire Grabber X3 275/70 all-terrain rubber, a raised Icon 2.5 CDC suspension with remote reservoirs plus billet control arms with delta joints, full underbody armour skid plate protection, CBI frame sliders, a Redarc Tow-Pro brake controller, and lastly an EEZI-AWN K9 roof rack that comes complete with a Rigid 50 LED front light bar, a 160-watt Overland solar panel power supply, Alu-Box storage cases, and Maxtrax recovery boards.
Inside, the GXOR Concept keeps the GX 460’s already luxurious finishings while adding an Icom 5100A ham radio up front for remote communication, whereas the cargo area is partially filled with a Goose Gear custom drawer system featuring storage compartments and a slide-out National Luna refrigerator.
Finally, the GXOR Concept is shown towing a Patriot Campers X1H trailer featuring a power-operated pop-up tent, a hot water system, and more, while its electrical components are powered via the just-noted solar panel.
On that note, Lexus doesn’t say whether or not the GXOR Concept’s 4.6-litre V8 keeps the production model’s 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque or receives some performance upgrades, but it certainly should be strong enough to haul the hefty looking trailer either way.
“To all of the GX enthusiasts that use their rigs to escape on epic adventures, and proudly share the #GXOR, this concept build is for you,” added Lexus to its GX 460’s fan base. “Thank you for inspiring us to Experience Amazing.”
As with all concepts and prototypes, the question of potential GXOR production needs to be addressed. Considering how successful Mercedes-Benz has been with its rugged G-Class, and similarly how Land Rover Defender enthusiasts have been getting excited about that model’s upcoming arrival, something like this GXOR Concept could find reasonable sales traction if offered in production trim, or at least as a dealer-installed kit. The latter would allow retailers to modify unsold GX 460s, which might bring some much-needed attention to the model.
Until this happens (or doesn’t), enjoy our complete gallery of GXOR Concept photos above, plus a video that Lexus provided below. Also, to find out how affordable the 2019 Lexus GX 460 is, check out CarCostCanada where you can see complete pricing of trims, packages and individual options, plus learn about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Lexus GXOR | GX Off-road Concept Build (2:45):
Have you seen the 2020 Toyota Highlander? It’s not available to purchase yet, having only debuted at the New York International Auto Show in April, but a quick glance shows that Toyota’s crossover…
Have you seen the 2020 Toyota Highlander? It’s not available to purchase yet, having only debuted at the New York International Auto Show in April, but a quick glance shows that Toyota’s crossover SUV division is abandoning its recent Lexus-inspired grandiosity in favour of a subtler approach, much like the 2014 through 2016 Highlander did.
You might remember that Toyota redesigned the Highlander for the 2014 model year, giving it a lot more character and much more refinement inside, while increasing the maximum seat count from seven to eight, and then after enjoying much success with this newfound mid-size crossover formula the automaker replaced the simpler Toyota truck-inspired front grille and fascia for a ritzier chromed up look just three years later for the 2017 model year, which honestly hadn’t hurt sales until recently.
I’m not a fan of all the glitz and glam adorning the face of this otherwise clean, uncluttered and straightforward family hauler (it still looks quite nice from the rear), but possibly due to its new façade and likely more so because of the automotive market’s general adoption of crossover SUVs in place of cars, Canadian sales were up by 17.70 percent from calendar years 2016 to 2017, although they dropped by 4.06 percent last year and over the first half of 2019 have slipped another 17.70 percent (bizarre that the model’s fall from grace so far this year is in perfect sync with its growth two years ago).
So why, in a market that’s supposedly turning away from traditional cars to crossovers and SUVs, has the Highlander been losing so much ground? Another glance at the stats shows it’s not alone, at least amongst mid-size SUV sales that have fallen by 7.66 percent from calendar years 2017 to 2018. In fact, of the 24 crossovers and SUVs currently selling into the mid-size volume segment (including raised wagons like Subaru’s Outback, two-row crossover SUVs like Hyundai’s Santa Fe, three-row crossover SUVs like this Highlander, and traditional body-on-frame SUVs like Toyota’s 4Runner), eight saw positive growth and 10 experienced a swing in the negative direction, with another five seeing only growing due to being completely new models.
Don’t expect to see all of these models in the same order at year’s end, thanks to redesigns (the new Explorer should be closer to it’s previous third place, and the aforementioned 2020 Highlander will no doubt get a boost too) and all-new models swelling the ranks (the new Blazer’s sales are impressive), but the leading brands will likely maintain their leadership for good reason, and one of those leaders has long been Toyota.
Being the last year of this well-seasoned third-generation K-platform-based (XU50) Highlander (the new model will ride on the GA-K version of the Toyota New Global Architecture/TNGA), Toyota hasn’t done much to lure in additional buyers. In fact, it’s only added an optional set of LED fog lamps in place of last year’s halogens, which look almost identical from a distance.
Toyota loaned me a 2019 Highlander Hybrid Limited for my weeklong test, by the way, in the exact same Celestial Silver Metallic and Black perforated leather combination as last year’s version, a model I reviewed in detail along with a lovely “Ooh La La Rouge Mica” (that’s really the name) painted conventionally powered 2018 Highlander Limited (both models get the LED fog light upgrade this year).
Updates aside, I still find it shocking that Toyota is the only mainstream volume brand to offer optional electrification in this mid-size class, being that most key competitors have had hybrid drivetrains within their given lineups for decades (although I’ll give Chrysler a shout-out for its Pacifica Hybrid plug-in because it’s at least spacious enough to compete). More power to Toyota, as this Highlander Hybrid remains the most fuel efficient mid-size crossover SUV available, at a time when our country is experiencing our highest pump prices ever, and no end to the budget gouging in sight if our various governments continue to have any say.
Claimed 2019 Highlander Hybrid ratings are 8.1 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway and 8.3 combined, compared to 12.0 city, 8.9 highway and 10.6 combined for the most similarly equipped mid-range XLE and top-line Limited trims with the conventionally-powered V6, AWD, and upgraded auto start/stop system.
Before showing you all competitive model Transport Canada fuel economy numbers, it’s important to note that both Highlander models offer a lot more standard power. Where the majority of rivals come standard with four-cylinder engines, the regular Highlander now uses a 3.5-litre V6 good for 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, driving either the front wheels in LX trim, or all four in LX AWD, XLE and Limited trims, via an eight-speed automatic with available auto idle start/stop, whereas the Highlander Hybrid uses the same engine running the more efficient Atkinson-cycle yet, thanks to its potent electric motor/battery combination, makes 306 net horsepower and an undisclosed (but more than sufficient) amount of torque, which ramps up near immediately due to 100 percent of electrified twist arriving instantaneously.
From the list of three-row competitors above, the most efficient (when compared with AWD and auto start/stop if available) rival is Kia’s Sorento at 11.2 L/100km city, 9.0 highway and 10.2 combined, but the Sorento is quite a bit smaller than the Highlander and, like its platform-sharing Hyundai Santa Fe that is no longer available with three rows so as to make way for the brand new Palisade, Kia buyers looking for more passenger and cargo room will likely move up to the Telluride.
Just the same, after the Sorento the thriftiest three-row mid-size SUVs are as follows: GMC Acadia: 11.3 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 10.5 combined; Mazda CX-9 at 11.6, 9.1 and 10.5 respectively; Highlander V6 at 12.0, 8.9 and 10.6; Nissan Pathfinder at 12.1, 8.9 and 10.7; Honda Pilot at 12.4, 9.3 and 11.0; Hyundai Palisade at 12.3, 9.6 and 11.1; Kia Telluride at 12.5, 9.6 and 11.2; Dodge Durango at 12.7, 9.6 and 11.3; Ford Explorer at 13.1, 9.2 and 11.4; Chevrolet Traverse at 13.7, 9.5 and 11.8; Volkswagen Atlas at 13.8, 10.2 and 12.2; Dodge Journey at 14.5, 10.0 and 12.4; Ford Flex at 14.7, 10.7 and 12.9; and Toyota 4Runner at 14.3, 11.9 and 13.2 respectively.
The only mid-size (kind of) crossover SUV that comes close to the Highlander Hybrid as far as fuel economy goes, albeit with only two rows, five passengers, and much less cargo capacity or power is the four-cylinder equipped Subaru Outback, which still comes up short at 9.4 L/100km city, 7.3 highway and 8.5 combined, while more closely sized, but still two-row, five-passenger and four-cylinder equipped options that improve on the V6-powered Highlander’s fuel-efficiency include the base Ford Edge at 11.4 city, 8.3 highway and 10.0 combined; the Hyundai Santa Fe at 11.2, 8.7 and 10.1 respectively; and the Nissan Murano at 11.7, 8.5 and 10.3; while just for the sake of finishing the list, the new similarly smaller Honda Passport is rated at 12.5, 9.8 and 11.3 respectively; the new Chevrolet Blazer at 12.7, 9.5 and 11.3, while finally the Jeep Grand Cherokee gets a 12.7, 9.6 and 11.3 respective rating.
The electromechanical portion of the Highlander Hybrid’s drivetrain is made up of two permanent magnet synchronous motors, one for driving the front wheels and the other for those in the rear, plus a sealed nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) traction battery. Yes, no lithium-ion battery for this now classic Hybrid Synergy Drive hybrid system, but that’s not a bad thing. Consider for a moment that NiMH batteries have been in automotive use since the original Prius went on sale in 1997, and plenty of Prius taxis can be found running around Canadian cities with more than a million kilometres on their original battery packs. NiMH batteries have a proven track record, plus older batteries can be rebuilt using newer modules, as they’ve basically been the same since 2001.
The only negative with the Highlander Hybrid, at least from a driving perspective, is the replacement of the regular model’s eight-speed automatic with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT), but it’s only an issue when pushing the SUV harder through fast-paced backroads than you will likely ever do. Around town and on the highway both transmissions are wonderfully smooth and easy to get along with, while Toyota gives the ECVT a fairly conventional feel thanks to stepped ratios that mimic a traditional automatic, as well as a sequential shift mode when wanting to get sporty, or merely downshift for engine-braking.
As for the Hybrid’s all-wheel drive system, it worked well enough in the rain and even in the mountaintop snow I was able to locate during my test week. Toyota has had a baker’s dozen of years to perfect this basic system, moving up from the original 2006 Highlander Hybrid’s 3.3-litre V6 to the current 3.5-litre version, but other than that sticking with this tried and true drivetrain formula, and I’ve never had an issue pulling myself out of sticky or slippery situations, snow banks included.
Breaking the $50k barrier (at $50,950 plus freight and fees) the 2019 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t come cheap in base XLE trim, while this full-load Limited version hits the road for an even loftier $57,260, but then again a similarly optioned 2019 Chevrolet Traverse High Country comes in at an even pricier $60,100, and the only slightly more upscale 2019 Buick Enclave Avenir will set you back a stratospheric $62,100, and they don’t even offer hybrid drivetrains, so maybe the Highlander Hybrid Limited isn’t so expensive after all.
By the way, make sure to check out CarCostCanada for detailed pricing of all cars just mentioned, including trims, packages and options, plus money saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, whether purchasing the new 2019 Highlander, 2019 Chevy Traverse, 2019 Buick Enclave, or any other mid-size crossover SUV (I’ve got them all linked above if you’d like to know more).
This is where I’d normally go into detail about those trims, packages and options just noted, but it makes more sense to link to my 2018 Toyota Highlander V6 AWD and Hybrid Road Test review and you can read all about it, because, as mentioned earlier, nothing at all has changed from 2018 to 2019 other than those LED fog lamps.
Suffice to say this is a really impressive SUV, with plenty of power, a wonderful ride, decent enough handling, near premium levels of interior quality that even include woven cloth wrapped around all eight roof pillars and plenty of soft-touch surfacing, a nice colourful gauge cluster filled with the types of hybrid controls expected from a partially electric vehicle, a reasonably good centre touchscreen that’s now only overshadowed because of Toyota’s excellent new Entune infotainment interface, comfortable seating from front to back, loads of cargo space, a great reliability record, and superb fuel economy.
The only reason not to consider the 2019 Highlander Hybrid is the same factor for getting one sooner than later, the new 2020 Highlander Hybrid that will show up later this year. It promises to be a step up in styling, refinement and performance, which might give pause to anyone buying this tried and tested model, but that said the current version is not only well proven, it should also be easier for your to get a significant discount. Once again, check out CarCostCanada for any rebate info, while it’s always a good idea to find out what the dealer pays for the vehicle you want in order to negotiate the best deal possible.
The redesigned 2019 Forte is one handsome looking compact sedan, with clean, simple, modern lines that, while new and fresh, might appeal more to a conservative buyer than something like the avant-garde…
The redesigned 2019 Forte is one handsome looking compact sedan, with clean, simple, modern lines that, while new and fresh, might appeal more to a conservative buyer than something like the avant-garde Honda Civic or Toyota’s visually complex 2020 Corolla.
Where both the Civic and Corolla succeed for being very good cars wearing extremely well respected nameplates, their styling is a bit more hit and miss. Obviously they appeal to enough peoples’ tastes to have become Canada’s best-selling and second-most popular cars (not including trucks and crossover SUVs), at least with respect to their four-door variants, but I personally believe the new Forte is easier on the eyes.
This is true for the entire Kia lineup. Unlike both Honda and Toyota that have regularly been called out for design misses (Honda more for the bizarre and Toyota for the bland), Kia has long been making news for styling hits, with this latest Forte definitely holding its own in a crowded compact segment. Rather than making up for an awkwardly proportioned three-box layout with acres of plastic body cladding, the Forte starts off with a leaner, more sweptback profile that doesn’t need as much embellishment to look good. Certainly there’s some nice attention to detail from front to back, but the sporty upgrades on my top-line Forte EX Limited enhance this sedan’s overall design instead of overwhelming it.
Some noteworthy styling features start with a fresh version of the brand’s bisected oval trademark grille, filled with a sporty gloss-black insert above yet more glossy black detailing within an even sportier lower front fascia, this bookended by deeply sculpted corner vents incorporating horizontal LED fog lamps. A truly interesting set of available “X” accented LED headlights are positioned above, offsetting comparatively conventional taillights at the other end, albeit infused with complex LEDs within and connected in the middle by a rather nice narrow reflective centre lens.
The rear deck lid, with its subtly integrated spoiler, is nicely done, while at the base the Forte’s hind end is yet more gloss black trim on the rear bumper cap, formed into triangular bezels housing the rear fog and backup lights, which hover over a diffuser-style lower garnish incorporating a chromed exhaust finisher, while the entire package rides on a smart looking set of twinned five-spoke machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels with black-painted pockets.
Inside, the new Forte is more upscale and European-like than its predecessor and a number of compact competitors, its design coming across as conservatively tasteful, similar to what you might find in a premium brand. Most of the dash top an instrument panel is finished in high-quality soft-touch synthetics, as are the front door uppers, the door inserts, and armrests front to rear. I’m not going to say that Kia covers more surfaces in premium-level composites than average for this class, but the brand is well respected for being one of the first to push compact models into near-premium territory with respect to refinement and features, with most others now catching up.
Features in mind, EX Limited trim includes perforated leatherette upholstery that feels a lot more realistic than most fake animal hides, the perforations necessary up front to allow forced three-way ventilation to seep out. This trim also gets rear seat heaters for the outboard positions, while three-way front seat heaters are standard, as is a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel.
Yes you heard me right. The Forte’s standard steering wheel rim is leather-wrapped and heatable. Consider for a moment that Toyota doesn’t even provide Canadians with an option for heating a Camry’s steering wheel, even in top-line trim that costs nearly $24k more than the Forte’s $17,195 base MT trim, and $13k more than this top-tier $28,065 Forte EX Limited, while not offering ventilated front seats or heatable rear cushions either (make sure to find out about all 2019 Kia Forte pricing, including trim levels, packages and options at CarCostCanada, as well as rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
I don’t know about you, but after the last few winters we’ve experienced I don’t want to use my fingers for warming a steering wheel when embedded elements are readily available, and my rear passengers certainly shouldn’t be forced to freeze their butts off either. What’s more, why shouldn’t I be able to cool my derriere during July, August and the first half of September? Fortunately, Kia doesn’t cause us to ask such questions, but instead makes the first of these comforting features standard in one of their most affordable cars, and the latter two available (to be fair, the 2020 Corolla sedan offers a heatable steering wheel rim with an upgrade package, but no ventilated front seats or heated rear seats).
Back to some other 2019 Forte improvements, Kia upgraded its stylish automatic shifter with a leather-clad palm rest overtop a satin-silver metallic grip, while surrounding it all in a stitched-leatherette boot that’s encircled by the same satin-silver surfacing. The Forte uses this classy matte silver treatment for the steering wheel spokes too, as well as for a decorative strip across the instrument panel and the trim around each corner vent bezel, not to mention the inner door handles and as an embellishment for the power window and side mirror switchgear, plus even for the handbrake’s thumb release button.
Yes, a handbrake seems somewhat archaic in today’s world of electromechanical sophistication, but really it’s nothing I thought twice about during two weeks of testing. In fact, I only noticed this throwback to simpler times when taking notes on the last day. It exists for the base Forte’s six-speed manual, a transmission I wish was available in trim lines further up the car’s price range, like sister company Hyundai does with its impressive 200-horsepower Elantra Sport, a worthy Civic Si competitor that also gets suspension and styling upgrades. This said, if you don’t mind waiting another model year, last November Kia announced a new GT trim for the upcoming 2020 Forte that will provide all of the same performance updates as the Elantra Sport, but of course in Kia’s unique way. I’ll do my best to get into this car as soon as one is made available.
Unlike that Elantra, the new Forte uses one single 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a carryover from last year that continues to dole out 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. While a relatively competitive engine in this class, this lone mechanical offering is not only a far cry less varied than the three engines Toyota is providing for its latest Corolla sedan (one now a hybrid), or the trio of powerplants available in Honda’s Civic Sedan (one being a 205-horsepower dynamo in the just-noted Si, and a realistic fourth powertrain being the hybrid used in the new Insight that’s little more than a face-lifted Civic Hybrid), it’s also not going to attract performance-oriented buyers.
In the previous second-generation Forte sedan, Kia offered Canadians two engine choices, the outgoing option being a more advanced direct-injected version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder just mentioned, albeit dubbed 2.0 GDI and producing a considerably more robust 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Earlier, when writing my “Garage” preview of this new 2019 sedan, I mused about this more potent engine possibly becoming a late arrival along with the redesigned Forte5, but Kia now shows this renewed five-door hatchback in 2020 form (set to arrive later this year, although for the time being it remains suited up in its previous 2018 gen-2 design) in the “Upcoming Vehicles” category of their retail website, with no sign of the upgraded GDI engine’s availability, but with the same base “2.0L MPI” powerplant as used for this sedan, plus last year’s (and the still current) top-line turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder as an option, still making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, while mated to a paddle shift-actuated seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox.
It’s understandable why Kia chose to simplify the Forte’s engine lineup when last year’s sales only came to 14,399 units (including the just-noted Forte5 hatchback), down 12.1 percent from 2017, which compares poorly to the Corolla’s 48,796 deliveries throughout 2018 (including its Corolla Hatchback—an excellent car, by the way), and the Civic’s leading 69,005-unit sum over the same 12 months (which included the Civic Sedan, Hatchback, and Coupe).
I should probably also make mention of the previously noted Hyundai Elantra’s sales too, this highly popular model (that’s new in sedan form for 2020) finding a respectable 41,784 new Canadian customers last year (currently in sedan, Sport sedan, and five-door GT trims), albeit this was a 9.4-percent drop from the year prior.
Another reason Kia may have solely gone for the less formidable powerplant comes down to the Forte’s base price and ongoing running costs, the Korean company probably assuming correctly that buyers in this price-sensitive segment wouldn’t want to pay a larger sum initially if the only engine offered was the more advanced GDI powerplant, nor more at the pump, being that the chosen MPI engine is more efficient. Looking back at 2018 Transport Canada fuel economy figures, the base MPI engine had a rating of 8.0 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.1 combined, whereas the more powerful GDI was rated at 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.3 combined. That’s a significant difference in a compact market segment that’s ultra-sensitive to seemingly ever-increasing pump prices.
While we’re talking fuel economy, I should also point out that Kia has made considerable headway with its MPI engine in the new 2019 model, with the new six-speed manual-equipped base trim achieving a claimed Transport Canada rating of 8.6 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.6 combined, compared to last year’s numbers of 9.4, 6.8 and 8.3 respectively. Not quite as impressive yet still allowing for a noticeable improvement is this year’s all-new Hyundai/Kia-developed continuously variable transmission (CVT) when compared to last year’s six-speed automatic, with the 2019 model receiving a 7.7 L/100km city, 5.9 highway and 6.9 combined rating, and the 2018 car only capable of 8.0, 6.1 and 7.1 respectively.
That CVT, which Kia smartly calls an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) in order to separate it from the deluge of CVTs taking over this market segment, is a $2,500 option with the base LX model and comes standard with all other trims, while it does almost as good a job of putting power down to the front wheels as it does at saving fuel. That’s high praise for a CVT, by the way, this being one of the better variations on the theme I’ve had the pleasure of driving in this class, and easily up to the task required by a comfort-oriented compact sedan.
The Forte takes off quickly and smoothly enough, with both engine and transmission providing smooth, linear performance, plus not too much noise from ahead of the firewall. The powertrain works well in its Normal default mode, or for that matter its Eco, Sport and Smart “Drive Mode Select” settings, my preference being Smart mode as it automatically adjusts all of the above to maximize fuel economy, performance or any capability in between.
The Forte’s ride is smooth and comfortable too, while its handling is sharp and responsive unless pushed extremely hard through bumpy backroads. Unfortunately it utilizes a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle than either the Civic or new Corolla, the latter finally receiving an upgrade to its underpinnings for 2020, but Kia’s suspension tuning team deserves credit for making the most of this less appealing package, as its wonderfully smooth most of the time, and its rear tires don’t get unglued until those just-noted extreme limits are met.
Keeping the Forte within its lane are the usual active safety features such as stability and traction control, while some nearly standard advanced driver assistance systems (they’re standard when upgrading to the CVT) include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), and Driver Attention Alert (DAA).
Additionally, on top of everything already mentioned both manual- and CVT-equipped LX models include auto on/off projector headlamps, splash guards, body-colour mirror caps and door handles, heated side mirrors, air conditioning, a really nice new fixed tablet-style 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display with tap, pinch, and swipe capability in some applications (plus immediate response to finger gestures), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera with helpful dynamic guidelines, an AM/FM/MP3 radio, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio steaming, USB audio input and charging ports, cruise control, Hill-Assist Control (HAC), 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks that expand on a sizeable 434-litre (15.3 cu-ft) trunk, and more.
If you’d rather have 16-inch machine-finished alloys instead of 15-inch steel wheels with covers you’ll need to upgrade to $20,995 EX trim, which also includes the noted LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED positioning lights, turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, a gloss black grille with chrome accents, chrome window trim, aeroblade wipers, a chrome exhaust tip, satin chrome interior door handles, a supervision LCD/TFT primary instrument cluster, a wireless device charger, rear climate ventilation, a rear centre armrest, tire pressure monitoring, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).
The move up to $22,495 EX+ trim includes all of the above while adding 17-inch machine-finished alloys, LED taillights, LED interior lighting, and a powered moonroof, whereas $25,065 EX Premium trim also features High Beam Assist (HBA) for the LED headlights, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, adaptive cruise control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, SOFINO synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, UVO Intelligence connected car services, a Smart release trunk lid that automatically opens when you’ve been standing behind it for three seconds with the key fob in your pocket or purse, Advanced Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), and more.
Lastly, my $28,065 EX Limited tester came with everything already noted as well as the ventilated front seats and heatable outboard rear seats I’ve gone on and on about, plus an upgraded multimedia infotainment interface with an accurate and easy-to-use navigation system, and finally a great sounding Harman/Kardon premium audio system.
I should also mention that the driver’s seat was especially comfortable and, while only offering two-way powered lumbar instead of four, it neatly fit the small of my back ideally and was therefore quite helpful in minimizing lower back pain. What’s more, when set up with the Forte’s standard tilt and telescopic steering column, the car provided excellent ergonomics, even for my unique longer leg and shorter torso body type. On that note I’ve often had problems properly fitting into Toyota products, including the outgoing 2019 Corolla, because it didn’t provide enough telescopic reach for me to set its driver’s seat far enough rearward for optimal comfort and control, but no such problems with the Forte.
Sitting behind the driver’s seat when it was set for my long-legged five-foot-eight height left me plenty of space to get comfortable, including more than enough room for my feet, approximately five inches ahead of my knees, another three and a half or so above my head, plus about five between the window ledge and my shoulder, and four beside my outer hip. The dual cupholder-infused folding centre armrest was ideally positioned for resting adult arms, but this is hardly unusual in this class, nor were dual rear vents fed through the backside of the front centre console, or the webbed magazine pocket behind the front passenger seat, but of course the previously noted rear outboard seat heaters, which kept my derriere comfortably warm, were much appreciated while taking notes. I also liked the tiny rear quarter windows that provided a little more light and visibility for rear passengers than some cars in this class that leave the C-pillars blocked off despite showing black glass on the outside.
So, there you have it. The latest 2019 Kia Forte isn’t perfect, but it’s the best this model has ever been, and if it weren’t for lacking some optional power and a multi-link rear suspension it might just have earned best-in-class status. This said, the Forte addresses the majority of compact sedan buyers’ requirements, such as attractiveness, spaciousness, comfort, and safety, while going way above par when it comes to standard and optional features. Those who want more performance can currently opt for the sportier 2018 Forte5 hatchback and will be able to get into a redesigned version and the new Forte GT sedan in 2020 guise. Regular Forte sedans will still lack the power of some mainstream rivals and the high-speed handling benefits of an independent rear suspension, but the value-oriented way Kia is approaching this compact class seems like a good compromise from a smaller market player, and reason enough for anyone to consider this impressive compact sedan.
Two cars in one, or at least that’s the arrangement you’ll need to accept if you want to get your hands on a new 2020 Aston Martin DBS GT Zagato, shown here in its best renderings yet. You’ll…
Two cars in one, or at least that’s the arrangement you’ll need to accept if you want to get your hands on a new 2020 Aston Martin DBS GT Zagato, shown here in its best renderings yet.
You’ll also need to shell out $9.8 million CAD (£6 million GBP), which is a bargain when factoring in that a classic 1962 DB4/GT Zagato sold for a cool $15.4 million CAD (£9.45 million) a few years ago.
Of course, rare classics with racing pedigree are almost always worth more than a new car, even one as hard to come by, as visually stunning, and as brilliantly fast as the new DBS GT Zagato. Still, there’s another reason I referenced a classic Aston Martin Zagato.
All 19 2020 DBS GT Zagato customers (the same number of original 1960-1963 DB4 GT Zagatos built) will also be taking home a continuation DB4 GT Zagato, which is a true classic ‘60s era Aston, albeit produced new from old chassis number allocations.
The two cars make up Aston’s “DBZ Centenary Collection”, the more modern of the pair based on Aston Martin’s already fabulous DBS Superleggera, which stuffs a big twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 behind its gaping maw of a front grille, capable of churning out a formidable 715 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. The powers that be at the company’s Gaydon, UK headquarters haven’t made mention about any straight-line performance increase in the upcoming DBS GT Zagato, despite the original ‘60s car making significantly more than a conventional DB4, but it has other attributes that nevertheless make it very special.
Any similarities to the now three-year old Vanquish Zagato were intentional, with Aston even painting the launch model shown here in what appears to be a near identical deep Volcano Red metallic (or something close) with rich gold trim highlights (the DB4 Zagato in behind wears a more fitting Rosso Maja red), the glittering secondary Au hue even embellishing the twinned five-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels.
Other design details pulled forward from the Vanquish Zagato include its gigantic front grille, double-bubble floating black roof panel, pronounced rear fenders, and rocket booster taillights, but that’s not to say this new Zagato-badged Aston is merely a redo of a past model. Of course, the DBS Superleggera under the skin influences its design much more than any previous model could, its longer, lower and leaner body featuring more creases and sharp-angled folds than the earlier Aston, which was decidedly more rounded and curvaceous.
Ultra distinctive is a gold-coloured active grille insert that’s actually comprised of 108 individual segments of carbon fibre. When the new DBS GT Zagato is not in use, these tiny pieces come together to form what appears to be a solid, flush panel, although when the ignition is turned on these little pieces reposition in order to allow front ventilation, a process that makes the grille “flutter”, says Aston.
Other unique details include extremely long and deeply sculpted side vents, these also adorned in gold, while the side sills don’t feature this supercar segment’s usual carbon fibre extensions, but rather tuck rounded rocker panels under the body as in days of yore. Of course the headlights are much more in line with modern Aston Martin design than anything from the Vanquish’ era, while those intricately detailed aforementioned taillights get fitted neatly within a sizeable horizontal black panel that hovers above an even larger wing-like rear diffuser.
Everything black is open-weave carbon fibre, of course, even the roof that’s actually a single piece stretching from the windshield’s edge to the base of the rear deck lid, with its noted twin-hump design followed by a complete lack of rear visibility. This car was made for Franco “What’s-a behind me is not important” Bertollini (Raúl Juliá – The Gumball Rally, 1976), although while there’s no rear window, nor even louvres to see out the back, Aston did include a rearview camera for backing up, mounted in a centre mirror-style monitor similar to General Motor’s Rear Camera Mirror.
As for the beautiful DB4 GT Zagato, which made its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month (we’ve expanded on this story’s gallery with 20 detailed solo photos of this breathtaking classic in its most modern production trim), it’s the latest in Aston Martin’s line of continuation cars, which began with 25 DB4 GT Continuation models that sold for $2.4 million CAD (£1.5 million) each in 2017, and (it doesn’t get much better than this) 25 recreations of the classic movie car from the 1964 James Bond (Sean Connery) film Goldfinger, complete with all the cool offensive weaponry and defensive armour that made the eccentric Q (Desmond Llewelyn) a hero to gadget freaks everywhere. The Goldfinger DB5 Continuation will arrive in 2020, just like the two new Zagato models featured here, but for only $4.5 million CAD (£2.75 million) each.
If you’re still scratching your head about the stratospheric price of the two combined Zagato models featured in this story, consider for a moment the original 1962 DB4/GT Zagato’s price noted earlier wasn’t even the most expensive DB4 GT Zagato to be auctioned off. After the original 19 examples were created from 1960 to 1963, Aston Martin built four more on unused chassis allocation numbers in 1988, all of which were dubbed “Sanction II” models, while in 2000 the automaker created another two cars to “Sanction II” specification (which meant they received a larger 352-horsepower 4.2-litre engine), albeit renamed them “Sanction III”, these latter examples fetching $18.6 million CAD ($14,300,000 USD) in 2015 and $16.5 million CAD (£10,081,500) in 2018, making them some of the most valuable cars ever sold.
Of course, it would be unwise to invest as if these 19 new DB4 GT Zagatos will grow in value like their earlier siblings, but then again if past success is any reflection on future prospects, the lucky new owners should be sitting rather pretty in a few years, if not immediately after taking delivery, while they might even end up receiving their all-new 2020 DBS GT Zagatos for free.
Those who follow the electric vehicle industry have been excited about the upcoming 2020 Taycan since the Mission E concept arrived on the 2015 Frankfurt auto show stage, and thanks to the first two stints…
Those who follow the electric vehicle industry have been excited about the upcoming 2020 Taycan since the Mission E concept arrived on the 2015 Frankfurt auto show stage, and thanks to the first two stints of a three-continent “Triple Demo Run” the low-slung four-door coupe appears to be almost ready for prime time.
The first event was held at the beginning of this month on a handling track at the Porsche Experience Centre (PEC) in Shanghai, China, while just last weekend the new Taycan silently whisked up the hay bale-lined “Hill Run” as part of the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. Soon, on July 13th, the automotive tripleheader will wrap up at the season finale of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in New York City.
Porsche Carrera Cup Asia driver Li Chao took to the wheel around the 1.4-km Shanghai racetrack in a road-ready albeit pre-production Taycan, this version wearing a red dragon on its rooftop, which was the least camouflaged version of the car seen up to that point.
“The exceptional performance typical for Porsche was a clear development objective for the Taycan. You can sense that right from the start,” commented Li Chao, particularly impressed by the Taycan’s handling. “From uncompromisingly sporty to surprisingly comfortable, the chassis of the new Taycan covers a wide range and successfully combines the precise handling of a sports car and the long-distance comfort of a saloon. In addition to its low centre of gravity, the rear-axle steering also plays a crucial role. The Taycan steers into corners very directly and has plenty of grip.”
The Taycan incorporates a fast-charging 800-volt architecture and a 90-kWh lithium-ion battery, combining for 592 horsepower (600 PS) and a terminal velocity of 250 km/h-plus, while possibly even more impressive the new four-place sport sedan sprints from zero to 100 km/h in under 3.5 seconds before achieving 200 km/h in less than 12 seconds.
Videos (below) of the Taycan touring through Shanghai, and another bearing a blue and grey Union Jack on its rooftop as it charges up the Goodwood Festival of Speed hill climb help verify the new car’s ultra-quick acceleration.
“The Taycan’s power delivery is awesome,” said multiple racing winning past-F1 driver and LMP1/Porsche 919 Hybrid World Endurance Championship (WEC) contender Mark Webber, who was piloting the Taycan for the Goodwood event. “I took part in this event in a Porsche 911 GT2 RS two years ago, so I already knew that it all comes down to power and traction. But, even for a thoroughbred racing driver like me, it is amazing how the Taycan – even though it’s still a prototype – accelerates off the start and out of the corners.”
This upcoming weekend’s New York City demo run will have current ABB FIA Formula E Championship driver and 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans winner (at the wheel of a WEC Porsche LMP1 car) Neel Jani in the driver’s seat, so make sure to check that one out on your favourite video streaming website.
As exciting as the multi-continent debut of the Taycan has been so far, and despite its obviously quick acceleration, extreme handling prowess, arguable good looks, and the highly respected Porsche name on its backside, much talk about the Taycan has centered on whether or not this newcomer will find sales traction, at least to the levels of EV darling Tesla.
Tesla has owned the electrified sport-luxury sedan market since the Model S arrived in 2012, the shapely albeit somewhat dated looking mid-size model doing so well on the sales charts that it’s beaten all but BMW’s 5 Series and the mighty Mercedes-Benz E-Class in recent years. Canadian Model S sales were off by 6.3 percent last year and a whopping 56 percent during Q1 of 2019, but thanks to all the Germans spiraling in the same downward trajectory but Audi, the American brand has still managed to hang on to third in the rankings.
I shouldn’t say all Germans, because Porsche saw 40.1 percent growth from its Panamera last year, a car that was also only flat over the first three months of 2019 with a fractional loss of 0.8 percent, and while Tesla’s Model S outsold the Panamera by nearly three to one throughout 2018, and 2.5 to one during Q1 this year, the success of both models bode well for the new four-door Taycan.
In case you were wondering, the Panamera (which is currently available with various conventional gasoline internal combustion engines as well as two plug-in hybrid powertrains) is nearly identical in key dimensions to the Model S, other than being slightly longer from nose to tail, while the Taycan’s dimensions have yet to be disclosed. If the final production model comes close to the Mission E concept, however, it will be a bit shorter albeit substantially wider and dramatically lower than both, but nevertheless fit within the same mid-size E-segment category.
So here’s the question: As good as the Porsche Taycan appears to be, can it somehow manage make a real dent in Tesla’s very real sales leadership? It makes sense that luxury competitors such as Jaguar might have trouble luring in EV buyers, even with their potentially more appealing crossover-style I-Pace offering, being that the British brand already struggles to sell significant numbers of its conventionally powered models, but Audi, one of the hottest luxury brands, recently brought an all-electric crossover SUV to market too, and the E-Tron hasn’t exactly lit up the sales charts either.
Specifically, electric vehicle sales in the U.S. increased by a whopping 120 percent in June, but almost all the credit goes to Tesla that accounted for 83 percent of market share thanks to 20,550 Model 3 (a compact D-segment sedan), 2,725 Model X (a crossover SUV), and 1,750 Model S deliveries. Not including Tesla, EV sales were up 30 percent in June, which is good, but the numbers of each model were small by comparison.
Out of a total 29,632 EV sales, 23,914 were Teslas and 4,718 were from other brands. Those other brands weren’t exactly reaping in the rewards of their efforts either, with Nissan merely finding 1,156 new Leaf buyers, Chevy luring in just 1,190 new Bolt owners (its poorest result so far this year), Honda surprisingly finding 1,092 Clarity FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) leasers, previously-noted Audi actually slipping to 726 new E-Tron customers (after 253 sales in its first month of April, and 856 in May), BMW enjoying its best month of the year with 473 i3 sales, Jaguar achieving its second-best month with 236 I-Pace deliveries, Toyota leasing out 166 units of its Mirai FCV, Hyundai selling 127 Kona EVs, and the deliveries of models such as the Kia Soul EV, Volkswagen E-Golf, etcetera, unaccounted for due to being lumped in with the conventionally powered models that bear the same name.
With such low sales it makes sense that the manufacturers listed aren’t profiting from their multi-billion investments in battery-electric models, while even Tesla has struggled to make any sustained profits in this burgeoning EV market sector. Will the Taycan finally break into the mainstream like Tesla’s Model S? Of course, we’ll need to wait and see how the luxury market responds after the final production version arrives on the auto show circuit in September, and goes on sale later this year.
Until then, make sure to check out our full photo gallery above and the three videos below showing the new 2020 Porsche Taycan in action:
Kicking off in China: the Porsche Taycan prototype visits Shanghai (1:00):
Porsche Taycan prototype visits Goodwood Festival of Speed 2019 (1:41):
Hey Porsche, watch this video. Love, Electricity (1:03):
To say that Ford leads SUV sales in this country is almost as big an understatement as merely stating that the F-Series is Canada’s best-selling pickup truck. F-Series sales were 145,694 units last…
To say that Ford leads SUV sales in this country is almost as big an understatement as merely stating that the F-Series is Canada’s best-selling pickup truck.
F-Series sales were 145,694 units last year compared to 108,569 total full-size GM trucks (55,097 Chevy Silverados and 53,472 GMC Sierras), and 77,951 Ram pickups, with sales actually picking up from January through May 2019 at 59,511 F-Series units to GM’s 41,207 large pickups and Ram’s 37,152 deliveries over the same five months. As for Toyota and Nissan, the full-size Tundra sold 11,738 units in 2018 and 4,238 as of May 31, 2019, while Titan found just 5,445 buyers last year and a scant 1,399 by the end of May this year.
In the commercial van sector Ford’s lead is even stronger, obliterating its competitors with 22,214 Transit, E-Series and Transit Connect models through 2018 plus 10,658 units up until May 31, 2019, compared to 10,796 total GM vans delivered last year and 4,215 over the first five months of this year, 6,538 Mercedes-Benz vans sold through 2018 plus 2,166 from January through May, 4,362 Ram vans delivered last year and 2,627 more up to the close of May 2019, plus 2,527 Nissan vans down the road in 2018 and 1,122 from January through May this year.
How about mainstream SUVs? While Ford benefited from a less comfortable lead in total crossover and SUV sales across Canada last year, it nevertheless remained out front with 92,418 EcoSport, Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex, and Expedition models delivered, but with just 36,861 units from January through May of 2019 compared to 86,964 last year and a new lead of 37,125 units from Nissan up until May 31, 2019, not to mention 85,830 from Toyota throughout 2018 and another higher number of 37,348 sales through May, Ford has its work cut out for it if it plans to stay ahead of its closest rivals this year.
While we’re talking SUV competitors, I should also point out that FCA (Jeep, Dodge and Fiat) sold 84,387 SUVs last year and 35,776 up until May 31 this year, whereas GM’s three brands (Chevrolet, GMC and Buick) managed 78,002 and 39,407 units respectively, Honda delivered 72,022 and 32,802 new SUVs respectively, and Hyundai found 67,171 and 29,613 new SUV customers during the same two periods of time.
Take note that one of Ford’s better-selling SUVs, the Explorer, saw its sales slip by a significant 45.14-percent over the first five months of 2019 in preparation for a totally redesigned model being launched now (they wouldn’t want to stick their dealers with too many older examples when the new one arrives), while Nissan and Toyota had new high-volume subcompact and compact models come online, so we should expect Ford to regain its SUV sales leadership over the final seven months of this year.
Of course, every other volume brand sells into the crossover SUV sector too, and new models designed to disrupt the status quo are arriving regularly, so we’ll just have to wait to see if the blue-oval brand manages to stay on top over the long run, but keep in mind that Ford’s all-new retro-inspired Bronco 4×4 will soon go up against Jeep’s Wrangler, while its rumoured Baby Bronco will provide an off-road alternative in an even smaller package, and likely be more appealing to Canadians than Jeep’s Renegade that’s been an unparalleled flop (only rivaled by its Fiat 500X platform-mate).
Two of Ford’s lowest performing models on the sales charts include the incredibly resilient three-row Flex crossover that surprisingly found 115.71 percent more customers during the first five months of 2019 than it did over the same period last year, its total year-to-date deliveries at 1,812 units as of May 31, 2019, which probably won’t be enough to cause Dearborn to keep the unique model in the lineup after being slated for cancellation next year, while the full-size three-row Expedition being reviewed here (you were probably wondering when I’d get around to talking about it) saw its sales increase by 29.4 percent from January through May, up to 2,007 deliveries, albeit that’s after year-over-year Expedition sales fell by 12.67 percent throughout 2018.
You might remember me using the word “obliterate” to describe Ford’s dominance in the commercial van segment earlier in this review, but that doesn’t even begin to sum up how dramatically GM outperforms Ford and all others in the Expedition’s full-size SUV segment. Where Ford only offers its Expedition and longer Expedition Max to large utility buyers, the General has Chevrolet and GMC anteing up with their Tahoe/Suburban and Yukon/Yukon XL regular and long-wheelbase models respectively, Ford’s aforementioned 2,007 Expedition deliveries over the first five months of 2019, and 2,798 sales throughout 2018 looking pale by comparison to 4,617 deliveries of the four GM models in 2019 (comprised of 1,357 Tahoes, 1,255 Yukons, 1,058 Suburbans and 947 Yukon XLs), and 11,629 total units sold through 2018 (including 3,576 Tahoes, 3,061 Yukons, 2,789 Suburbans and 2,266 Yukon XLs).
The best of the rest is Nissan’s Armada that saw its sales rise to an all-time high of 1,435 units last year, followed by a rather scant 321 units sold up until May 31 of 2019, while the trailing Toyota Sequoia’s sales fell to 684 units in 2018, and have only managed 248 deliveries over the same five months of 2019.
Interestingly, the same scenario plays out within this full-size SUV category’s competing luxury brands, with the Lincoln Navigator doing well thanks to an 80.52-percent year-over-year bump from 2017 through 2018 totaling 1,177 units, plus another 21.83-percent increase from January through May 2019 resulting in 720 deliveries, but despite Cadillac’s Escalade sales having fallen by 5.43 percent last year it still managed a much healthier 2,767 total units, while Escalade deliveries bounced back by 4.90 percent over the first five months of 2019 to 1,050 unit sales.
Now where were we? Oh yes, the difference between the now decade-old Flex dying and the latest Expedition, which was totally redesigned last year, continuing to live, come down to plant availability and profit margins, with the Flex produced at Ford’s Oakville Assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, along with the highly popular Edge, impressive new Lincoln Nautilus, and the equally long-in-tooth and ancient D4 platform-sharing Lincoln MKT that only remains alive to serve in airport limousine and funeral service fleets (oh gods of the universe please don’t let me go to my place of rest in that horrid looking contraption), plus truly unlucky marrying couples and graduates (hopefully the powers that be within Lincoln will find a replacement for the MKT soon—the fabulous looking, wonderfully outfitted, and strong performing Continental anyone?), whereas the new fourth-generation Expedition rides on the same much more recently introduced body-on-frame and aluminum-skinned T-Platform as the F-Series pickup truck mentioned earlier, albeit the larger Super-Duty versions, and therefore gets produced at Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky Truck Assembly plant, alongside the just-noted heavy-duty pickup and Lincoln’s just-noted Navigator.
That Navigator adopted the same aluminum body construction as the Expedition last year, both full-size SUVs having received ground-up redesigns for 2018, hence their recent growth in sales. The mostly alloy (and I must say very good looking) skin joins up with a high-strength lightweight boron steel and aluminium frame to further reduce the Expedition’s curb weight by 44 kilograms to 90 kg (97 to 199 lbs) depending on trim, or 135 kg (just under 300 lbs) for the longer Expedition Max (EL in the U.S.), yet despite such a significant reduction in overall mass the upgraded SUV is more than 100 mm (4.0 inches) longer than the outgoing model in regular wheelbase form, and 28 mm (1.1 inches) lengthier than the old SUV in its larger Max body-style, while its wheelbase gets stretched by nearly 90 mm (3.5 inches) for the regular-length model and by 15 mm (0.6 inches) in the Max, plus it gains more than 25 mm (1.0 inch) from side to side.
The regular-wheelbase Expedition’s size and its lightweight aluminum design are reasons you may want to consider this newest version over the best-selling Tahoe/Yukon pairing, all of these more rugged truck-based SUVs often chosen over unibody car-based crossovers for their passenger carrying and load hauling capabilities, so therefore the more the merrier in this respect.
The new Expedition’s larger dimensions make for an even roomier cabin than the previous generation’s already generous proportions, while the cargo compartment grows to a maximum of 2,962 litres (104.6 cubic feet) in the regular length model, or 3,439 litres (121.4 cubic feet) in Expedition Max form, the latter providing 477 litres (16.9 cu ft) more gear-toting space than the regular Expedition. This means 4×8 sheets of building material can be laid flat on top of the load floor with the tailgate closed.
Addition cargo dimensions include 1,627 litres (57.4 cu ft) behind the regular Expedition’s second row and 2,077 litres (73.3 cu ft) behind that in the Max, or alternatively 1,800 and 2,254 litres (63.5 and 79.6 cu ft) respectively for the same area when the second row is pulled all the way forward, and lastly 546 litres and 972 litres (19.3 and 34.3 cu ft) behind the regular Expedition’s and Expedition Max’s third row respectively, or 593 and 1,019 litres (20.9 and 36.0 cu ft) in the regular and Max models’ rearmost compartment when the third row is fully upright. Got that?
Incidentally, both second- and third-row seats can be powered up and down individually via rocker switches on the cargo wall, a really helpful feature in such a large vehicle, and standard with Limited and Platinum trims (third-row PowerFold seats are standard across the line). What’s more, those rows fold completely flat so that all types of cargo have a better chance of remaining upright throughout the journey.
When compared to the Tahoe and Suburban it’s easy to see the Expedition and Expedition Max are considerably more accommodating, with the Chevy’s shorter wheelbase model’s 2,682 litres (94.7 cu ft) of maximum cargo space shy by a whopping 280 litres (9.9 cu ft), its 1,464-litre (51.7 cu-ft) capacity aft of its second row down by 163 litres (5.7 cu ft), and its 433 litres (15.3 cu ft) of gear-toting space behind the third row short by 160 litres (5.6 cu ft).
As for the Suburban, its 3,446 litres (121.7 cu ft) of maximum cargo capacity is actually 7 litres (0.02 cu ft) larger than the Expedition Max’s grand total, or more or less a wash, while the 2,172 litres (76.7 cu ft) behind its second row make it less accommodating by 82 litres (2.9 cu ft), although the big GM climbs back on top with 94 litres (3.3 cu ft) of extra storage room behind the third row thanks to 1,113 litres (39.3 cu ft) of cargo volume.
If towing is more on your agenda, take note the regular wheelbase Expedition can now trailer up to 4,218 kilos (9,300 lbs) when upfitted with its $1,400 Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package (the base model is good for 4,173 kg/9,200 lbs with the same package), which is an increase of 45 kg (100 lbs) over its predecessor, plus this is the full-size SUV segment’s best result by a long shot. Standard is trailer sway control, which works together with AdvanceTrac traction control and Roll Stability Control (RSC) in order to maintain total command of both SUV and trailer.
Once again comparing the Expedition to the current Tahoe shows 3,901 kg (8,600 lbs) of capacity, but that’s with its most capable version in rear-wheel drive trim, whereas the Expedition comes standard as a 4×4 in Canada. The best the Tahoe 4×4 can do is 3,810 kg (8,400 lbs), a considerable 408 kg (900 lbs) less than the Expedition. Likewise the Expedition Max is good for a maximum of 4,082 kg (9,000 lbs) of total trailer weight, whereas its Suburban rival can only tow up to 3,765 litres (8,300 lbs) in its two-wheel drive layout and just 3,629 kg (8,000 lbs) with its more directly competitive four-wheel drive configuration.
A key reason the Expedition is such an effective beast of burden is its updated twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 that’s now good for 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque in base XLT and mid-range Limited trims, the latter shown here, while an even more potent version puts out 400 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque in top-tier Platinum trim. These two powerplants are mated to a brand new 10-speed automatic transmission that, together with standard idle start/stop technology that automatically shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling and then quickly restarts it when lifting your foot from the brake, helps deliver much better fuel-efficiency than the outgoing model.
By comparison, the Tahoe offers full-size SUV buyers 20 horsepower and a shocking 87 lb-ft of torque less performance with its base 5.3-litre V8, which comes mated to a reliable albeit less sophisticated six-speed automatic, while its top-line engine is a massive 6.2-litre V8 mated up to a version of the same 10-speed automatic used in the Expedition (Ford and GM smartly developed this advanced gearbox together in order to save money), this combination providing 20 more horsepower than the most potent Ecoboost V6, albeit 20 lb-ft of torque less twist.
As noted, the Expedition’s 10-speed really helps reduce fuel economy, something I noticed during my weeklong drive. I actually had no trouble getting close to Transport Canada’s rating of 14.1 L/100km city, 10.6 highway and 12.5 combined when going easy on the throttle, which compares well against the heavier steel-bodied 2017 Expedition with its six-speed automatic that only managed a 15.9 L/100km city, 12.0 highway and 14.2 combined rating in its regular length form. The new Expedition is much thriftier than the 2019 Tahoe 4×4’s best Transport Canada rating of 15.8 city, 11.1 highway and 13.7 combined too, despite the Expedition’s significant power advantage.
Likewise, the long-wheelbase 2019 Expedition Max’s claimed rating of just 14.7 city, 11.2 highway and 13.1 combined beats its steel-bodied predecessor that could only manage 16.1, 12.2 and 14.3 respectively, a significant improvement, while the best Transport Canada rating for the base Suburban 4×4 is 16.8 city, 11.3 highway and 14.3 combined, worse than the old Expedition Max if driven around town most often. Also notable, there’s no stated difference in fuel economy from the base Ecoboost engine to the more powerful version, but the larger optional 6.2-litre V8 in the Tahoe and Suburban slightly increases fuel consumption to 16.4 city, 10.7 highway and 13.8 combined or 17.1, 11.3 and 14.5 respectively.
Along with standard four-wheel drive, the new Expedition also gets a version of the Explorer’s terrain management system, allowing the choice of driving styles, the capability of maximizing traction on various road and trail surfaces, plus the ability to set the SUV up to either tow a trailer or have it hauled behind a larger vehicle (although the latter is a bit hard to imagine given the size this SUV), all from a dial on the lower console.
On pavement, where I spent most of my time with the Expedition, I found its Ecoboost V6 nice and smooth, albeit complemented by the sound of a pleasant V8-like rumble emanating throughout the cabin. Step on the throttle and it feels even stronger than the majority of V8s thanks to all the aforementioned horsepower and torque, and therefore would be my choice in this class unless Ford opts to offer the Expedition with a Powerstroke diesel at some point, but that won’t likely ever happen due to emissions regulations.
The new 10-speed automatic might be an even smoother operator than the engine. It’s truly almost as seamless as a CVT, shifting often albeit without commotion, and responding well to more aggressive digs at the pedal, with fairly quick downshifts and continued silky operation. Likewise, I never tried to defeat the auto idle start/stop system as it shut itself off at stoplights without much notice and restarted immediately, again without even a hiccup.
Speaking of smooth, the Expedition’s ride is a comforting mix of pillows, clouds and whip cream. Ok, that was a stretch, but it nevertheless soaked up bumps, dips and other road imperfections wonderfully around town, out on the highway and pretty much everywhere else, even during some quick tests on gravel roads and wily trails. The Expedition is probably best on the open freeway where it’s ability to cruise for hundreds of miles upon miles in any given stint is superb, this ability made even more relaxing via dynamic cruise control that makes life behind the wheel as easy as can be, while its handling around sharper curves is nevertheless very good for this class, its rear suspension being an independent multi-link design unlike the Tahoe’s non-independent solid rear axle, plus the Expedition’s road and wind noise pretty nominal considering it’s shaped like a big brick.
I even found my Expedition tester quite nimble through traffic, aided by the excellent visibility its extremely tall ride-height provides. This said parallel parking in the inner city or trying to find a large enough spot in a parking garage can be challenging, but then again most of the folks I know who own a full-size SUV have a smaller vehicle for getting around town.
Along with all the performance and luxurious ride is a cabin that’s improved so much over its predecessor that I’m really wondering why there’s a need for a Lincoln Navigator in the lineup. Okay, I probably shouldn’t go that far because the 2019 Navigator I recently tested really impressed me with authentic hardwood and a lot of premium materials all-round, more than making up for the $12k or so price upgrade needed to get into a similarly equipped model, but I certainly wouldn’t need all the fancy stuff in a family hauler like this, and found my Expedition Limited test model incredibly comfortable, especially the driver’s seat that was about as supportive as can be found in this full-size segment. It only includes two-way lumbar support, mind you, although to Ford’s credit that lumbar pad powered in and out exactly where the small of my back required it, so it’s hard for me to complain (but you should to try the lumbar support on for size). I found the driver seat’s squab fit nicely under my knees too, although can’t say how it would feel for someone with shorter legs.
Back to the subject of materials quality, Ford finishes most of the dash top ahead of the driver and front passenger in attractive, soft-touch stitched and padded leatherette, this premium material actually flowing all the way around the sides of the primary gauge cluster, and also forming a separate horizontal strip ahead of the front passenger between chromed metallic inlays. Likewise the top of each door upper was furnished in the same high quality padded and stitched leatherette, front and back no less, while the tops and sides of the armrests are nicely padded as well.
The Limited trim’s woodgrain is finished with a matte treatment, but Ford didn’t even try to make it feel real. I have to say it looks pretty good though, so I can’t see many complaining as this is the way they’ve offered up the Expedition since day one, and if you want more you can move up to the new Navigator as mentioned a moment ago. One thing I like more than the Navigator is the knurled metal rotating dial for swapping gears, this a lot more intuitive than the latest Lincoln’s horizontal row of buttons.
Ford complements its gear selector with a smaller rotating knurled metal dial for choosing drive modes, which include Normal, Eco, Sport, Tow/Haul, Mud and Ruts, Sand, and Grass/Gravel/Snow. I set it to Normal for most of my time behind the wheel, but found that Eco was a good choice when driving around town in busy traffic as well, plus I’m sure there were fuel savings from doing so.
Eco mode retards the 10-speed transmission’s shift points so it doesn’t hold gears as long, amongst other things, although if you need to move off the line quickly to get ahead of slower moving traffic the engine certainly responds well enough. Sport mode doesn’t allow the auto start-stop function to work, so the engine is always primed and ready to go, while shift points are higher in the rev range resulting in more responsive performance. Also important, when still in Sport mode yet driving in a more relaxed manner, the transmission won’t simply hold engine revs high for no apparent reason, making this gearbox design a lot more intelligent than many others I’ve driven.
I scrolled through the other drive mode functions for testing purposes and all seemed up to their various tasks, although only a true test over specified terrain would verify. This said I’ve experienced Ford’s Terrain Management System in other models before, such as the Explorer, and can only imagine it would work even better in this true body-on-frame 4×4.
Back to interior niceties, the instrument panel includes an impressive analogue/digital gauge cluster. It smartly shows a row of 10 gears right next to the tachometer, which move up and down as they slot into place. The standard multi-information display between the two analogue gauges is very large at 8.0 inches in diameter, and extremely high in resolution, plus it’s filled with an eye-arresting array of attractive graphics boasting excellent contrast and depth of colour. Functions include an off-road status panel with an inclinometer and more, a real-time fuel economy average that showed 18.3 L/100km when taking notes (fortunately not my weeklong average), a comprehensive trip mileage panel, some engine information such as driving hours and idle hours (my tester showing 209 total hours of which 63 were idling, so the need for an idle start-stop system in a vehicle like this is understandable), a turbo boost gauge, and more.
If you’re not familiar with the Ford Sync 3 infotainment system then you probably haven’t read many of my other reviews about Ford products, because I’ve been raving about this infotainment system since it was introduced a few years back. I won’t say that it’s still best of the best, but it was at one point and now remains one of the better electronic interfaces in the mainstream industry, continuing forward with stylish light blue graphics and simple, straightforward commands, plus loads of useful features including a very accurate navigation system and, in the case of my tester, an excellent parking camera system with backup and overhead views.
Surprisingly, all Expeditions come suited up with a fabulous 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, while its controls were once again comprised of knurled metal-like dials and tight fitting buttons, as were all the HVAC system controllers that neatly featured temperature readouts within the middle of each dial. Most of the Expedition’s switchgear is nicely made, tightly fit and well damped for a premium feel, with only the steering wheel buttons coming across a bit low rent.
Also, don’t look for premium composites below the beltline, Ford even finishing the glove box lid in shiny hard plastic. That might be good news for those looking to their Expeditions for hard work or play, being that the lower door panels, while hard shell plastic, appear rugged enough to sustain plenty of kicks from steel toed boots. Likewise, you won’t need to worry about grabbing hold of the A-pillar with dirty, sooty gloves or unwashed hands while swinging yourself into the driver’s seat, because Ford doesn’t wrap any of the Expedition’s roof pillars in fabric, so once again look to Lincoln’s Navigator if you’re interested in a higher level of premium pampering.
The Expedition’s passenger compartment is about as spacious as you’re going to get in any class, and no different than the Navigator’s from a size perspective. My tester came with two rear buckets featuring a wide passageway in between to get to the third row. You can also tilt either bucket seat forward to access that rearmost row, which might be easier for some, but I expect smaller kids will just run through the middle. This makes it easier for parents still strapping a child seat into that second-row bucket. Nevertheless, the new Expedition is actually the first full-size SUV to incorporate tip-and-slide second row seats, so kudos to Ford for bringing this convenient feature to the largest SUV segment. No one will complain about third-row seat comfort no matter how they climb in back, because its as accommodating as any large minivan, if not more so.
No one should complain about second-row seat comfort either, plus these lucky folks benefit from a comprehensive rear automatic HVAC and audio system panel on the backside of the front console featuring two USB ports, a three-prong household-style socket for laptops, entertainment/gaming consoles or whatever else you might want to plug in, plus buttons for the heated seats, and more. Even third-row passengers can use the aforementioned sidewall-mounted power controls for reclining their seatbacks, while they also benefit from an available USB charge point for each outboard passenger (highly unusual but wonderfully welcome), good standard overhead ventilation, and wonderful visibility out each side through large squared-off glass, not to mention from above via the massive panoramic sunroof, all helping to minimize any claustrophobic-like feelings of being stuck in the very back.
Additional Expedition tech worth mentioning includes wireless device charging (if you have a smartphone new enough to make use of it), Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and rear-seat entertainment, my tester featuring a separate monitor on the backside of each front headrest. This isn’t ideal for third-row passengers, so you may get some complaints from the very back about not being able to see the movie (my recommendation is to crank up the B&O audio system and not worry about it). In total, the Expedition provides six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets, and the single 110-volt power outlet just noted, which should be enough for most families’ needs. Lastly, Ford includes 17 cupholders for holding all those personal devices, or alternatively for keeping all occupants’ thirst quenched.
That would be a total of eight occupants, by the way, although as noted my tester’s second-row captain’s chairs reduced the big SUV’s people hauling capacity to seven, and by seven I’m referring to seven adults.
The eight-occupant layout comes standard in $53,978 base XLT trim, by the way, with other standard features including 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels, fog lamps, black running boards, black roof rails with crossbars, Ford’s exclusive SecuriCode keyless entry keypad, Ford MyKey, illuminated entry with approach lamps, pushbutton start/stop, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a windshield wiper de-icer, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder and conversation mirror, a universal garage door opener, tri-zone automatic climate control, Sync 3 infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a backup camera, navigation, voice activation, and 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio with satellite radio, with yet more standard features including powered rear quarter windows, a flip-up tailgate window, a useful cargo management system, power-folding third-row seats, Ford’s Easy Fuel capless fuel filler, a Class IV trailer hitch receiver and wiring, tire pressure monitoring, SOS Post-Crash Alert System, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more.
My tester’s Limited starts at $65,288 and includes 20-inch alloys, additional chrome embellishments including chrome detailed door handles, bright stainless roof rails, LED taillights, remote engine start, passive keyless entry, power-deployable running boards in body-colour with polished stainless accents, power-folding side mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming, ambient lighting, woodgrain appliqués, a powered steering column, power-adjustable pedals, driver-side memory, a heatable steering wheel rim, 10-way powered front seats with heat and forced ventilation, perforated leather upholstery, the aforementioned heatable second-row outboard seats with Tip-and-Slide and PowerFold (albeit a 40/20/40-split bench), the previously noted powered panoramic sunroof, a Connectivity package that includes wireless smartphone charging, a FordPass Connect 4G WiFi modem, and the two smart-charging USB ports in the third row noted earlier, plus the Limited also gets additional first/second-row and cargo area power points, a hands-free foot-activated powered tailgate, front parking sensors, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic assist and trailer-tow monitoring, plus more.
My tester also included a $5,000 302A package featuring 22-inch alloys, LED headlamps, LED fog lights, and a Driver’s Assistance Package that would otherwise cost $1,200 while adding automatic high beams, rain-sensing front wipers, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, Pre-Collision Assist with forward collision warning and pedestrian detection, lane keeping alert, lane keeping assist, driver alert, a Split View 360-degree parking camera, and the Enhanced Active Park Assist system with Auto Park.
Lastly, $72,552 Platinum trim makes everything from the 302A package standard while adding its own 22-inch alloys, a unique satin-mesh front grille insert, additional satin-aluminum trim details including its mirror caps, satin-chrome door handle trim, brushed aluminum scuff plates, a similar set of multi-contour front seats as found in the Navigator including an Active Motion massage function, inflatable second-row outboard safety seatbelts, and more (all pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, which provides full details about each trim, package and standalone option, plus otherwise difficult to find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
Considering the 2019 Chevy Tahoe starts at $59,500 with 4WD, which is $5,522 (or about 10-percent) more than the Expedition’s base price, with even the Tahoe’s base 2WD model starting higher at $56,200, the much more advanced 2019 Ford Expedition should really do a lot better than it does from a sales perspective. After all, its powertrains provide more performance plus greater efficiency, its Terrain Management four-wheel drive system is more sophisticated (originally sourced from Ford Motor’s previous Land/Range Rover ownership and since improved upon), its suspension system is fully-independent, its body shell is constructed mostly of lightweight aluminum, its third-row access is much easier and rearmost seat more accommodating, its cargo capacity is mostly larger, and the list goes on and on. If you’re in the market for a new full-size SUV, you may want to consider all of the above before choosing yet another Tahoe, Yukon or Suburban.
Porsche has been criticized, possibly unfairly, for not allowing its entry-level models to measure up to the mighty 911 in decades past, pointing to the now 50-year-old 1969-1976 mid-engine 914 (a collaborative…
Porsche has been criticized, possibly unfairly, for not allowing its entry-level models to measure up to the mighty 911 in decades past, pointing to the now 50-year-old 1969-1976 mid-engine 914 (a collaborative effort with VW) and 1976–1988 front-engine 924 (this time jointly developed with VW/Audi) as blemishes in its storied history, but naysayers haven’t been anywhere near as loud since the Boxster and Cayman arrived.
This said, some have knocked the brand’s new lineup of horizontally opposed four-cylinder turbocharged powerplants found in the fourth-generation 718 series, yet while their barks haven’t been quite as ferocious as the six-cylinder 911’s growl, their bite has certainly silenced said critics, especially when tuned to S and GTS levels.
The Cayman and Boxster were ideal performers from onset due to their relatively light curb weights and inherently well-balanced mid-engine designs, and every new iteration becomes even more capable of high-speed road and track performance no matter the trim.
Like with the previous generation, the many more fans of the latest 718 Boxster and Cayman will also be pleased to learn that 2020 models will receive their most potent production trims yet, now even capable of outpacing plenty of 911 models.
To give you some background info, the 718 Cayman, which is currently available from $63,700, can be had in base 300-horsepower Cayman trim that’s good for a zero to 100km/h sprint of only 5.1 seconds, or alternatively 4.9 seconds with its paddle shift-actuated automatic PDK double-clutch transmission, or a scant 4.7 seconds with the PDK and an available Sport Chrono Package, while it can optimally reach a top speed of 275 km/h. Additional Cayman trims include the $78,600 350-horsepower S, which can scamper from standstill to 100km/h in just 4.6, 4.4 and 4.2 seconds respectively, plus is capable of achieving a top speed of 285 km/h, and finally the $92,600 365-horsepower GTS that can run from zero to 100km/h in 4.6, 4.3 and 4.1 seconds respectively, plus can hit a 290-km/h track speed.
For 2020, the just-noted 718 Cayman triple-threat is once again joined by the top-tier GT4, a previous version having initially been introduced in 2015 for the 2016 model year. The new GT4 replaces the aforementioned lesser trims’ 2.0- and 2.5-litre turbocharged H-4 engines with a downgraded albeit still brilliantly formidable version of the 911 GT3’s naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre H-6, which produces a stellar 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a 29-horsepower advantage over its GT4 predecessor thanks in part to a stratospheric 8,000-rpm redline, while it’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox just like the 911 GT3, all resulting in sprint time from standstill to 100km/h of 4.4 seconds, as well as a best-ever top speed of 304 km/h.
The 718 Spyder, which also updates a previous 2016 model, shares all of the Cayman GT4’s mechanical upgrades (and is therefore 39 hp more powerful than the previous Spyder) resulting in an identical 4.4-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, albeit a slightly slower 301-km/h top speed, but unlike the coupe this roadster is a standalone model that doesn’t use the Boxster name despite being formed from its basic architecture; the Boxster notably available in all the same trims as the 718 Cayman, albeit starting at $66,100 due to its convertible top.
Additionally, the two cars’ six-speed manual transmissions include a downshift rev-matching “Auto Blip” function that automatically syncs a given gear to engine-speed when dropping a cog, a feature Porsche intelligently allows drivers to individually activate or deactivate by pressing a button, while both models incorporate completely new exclusively designed sport exhaust systems that work their way around complex rear aero upgrades while underscoring the “exciting flat-six sound of the engine,” said Porsche in a press release.
With respect to styling, some of the new 718 Spyder’s key visuals look as if they were inspired by the 918 Spyder, as well as the recently introduced 2019 911 Speedster, the now legendary supercar helping to influence its lower front fascia and similar albeit much more pronounced double-bubble buttress-like rear deck lid, and the limited edition 911 inspiring the 718 Spyder’s sportier GT-style frontal treatment and double-humped rear deck “streamliners”, plus the new model’s horizontal black hood vent, “Spyder” lettering on the blunt B-pillars instead of “Speedster”, a similarly shaped auto-deploying rear spoiler, and an aerodynamically-engineered rear diffuser.
The 718 Cayman GT4 carries forward some similar styling and aero treatments to its 2016 forebear, including an aggressively shaped front fascia, a black hood vent of its own, a massive fixed rear wing, a wind-harnessing rear diffuser, and a special alloy wheel design, all created to minimize weight while maximizing downforce, with Porsche even painting both GT4 launch cars in what appears to be an identical yellow, just like they once again used white for the new 718 Spyder launch model.
Focusing back on aerodynamics, all of the 718 Cayman GT4 exterior upgrades combine for a 50-percent increase in downforce, yet no negative impact on drag. Most of this aero effect can be attributed to its new diffuser and rear wing, the latter item producing 20-percent more aero-efficiency than the previous wing. On the GT4’s other end, a big front lip spoiler is bookended by a set of air curtains, which help to channel air around each front wheel.
As for the new 718 Spyder’s aerodynamics, its active rear wing automatically powers upward at 120 km/h, although unlike the regular 718 Boxster’s cloth roof, the Spyder’s gets no electrified assistance at all, but rather needs manual attention to remove and stow under the rear deck lid. When put back in place, Porsche claims the roof effectively manages high speeds, providing protection from wind, rain and other outside elements.
As you might expect, Porsche has provided a high-performance lightweight chassis equal to both cars’ aero and engine performance, having turned to the brand’s extensive motorsport experience to get the balance just right. To this end the rear axle was specifically designed for new Spyder and GT4 application, although the front axle was pulled from the race-bred 2018 911 GT3.
Additionally, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) was added as standard equipment, as was a 30-millimetre reduction in ride height when sidled up beside regular 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman models, which provides a lower centre of gravity and therefore aids handling, but keep in mind that both new models let owners manually adjust camber, toe, ride height and anti-roll bar settings.
The revered 911 GT3 noted a moment ago contributed its braking system to the new top-tier 718s as well, including their larger-diameter 380-mm cast iron discs and fixed aluminum calipers, while Spyder and GT4 buyers can also upgrade to Porsche’s 50-percent lighter ceramic composite brakes if desired, these boasting 410-mm rotors in front and 390-mm discs at back. Also, the two cars’ ABS, electronic stability (ESC) and traction (TC) control systems are specifically tuned to enhance performance, while typical of the German brand’s GT models, ESC and TC can be switched off in a two-stage process.
Other upgrades include a standard mechanical limited-slip differential with Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV), and unique sets of 20-inch alloys encircled by 245/35ZR20 front and 295/30ZR20 rear UHP tires.
Although the various performance upgrades mentioned don’t necessarily make the 718 Spyder or its 718 Cayman GT4 sibling quicker from a standing start than GTS versions of their Boxster or Cayman counterparts, they’re both more capable on the track and therefore should perform better on the road as well. Notably, the new 718 Cayman GT4 can lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife “more than ten seconds faster than its predecessor,” stated Porsche.
Adding to the two new models’ overall goodness is an improved interior that features a new GT Sport steering wheel measuring 360 mm across and sporting a yellow top centre marker stripe in GT4 trim. What’s more, both new cars get a shift lever that’s 20 mm shorter than on regular 718 models, which provides a “more direct and crisp feel” during gear changes. Additionally, new Sport Seats Plus come standard, featuring bigger side bolsters to improve lateral support, and suede-like Alcantara centres to aid grip. Alcantara is also added to the lower section of the dash, the shift knob and skirt, as well as the previously noted steering wheel’s rim.
Some additional cabin accents include body-colour trim elements for the 718 Spyder and brushed aluminum detailing for the 718 Cayman GT4, while Porsche has no shortage of optional décor upgrades like usual. You can also choose a set of full bucket seats or the 18-way powered Adaptive Sport Seats Plus package, but you won’t need to pay more for air conditioning or the latest Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system featuring Sound Package Plus. This said, navigation and Porsche Connect with Apple CarPlay are on the options menu.
Also of interest, the 718 Spyder can be ordered with a Spyder Classic Interior Package including two-tone Bordeaux Red and Black leather, extended Alcantara upholstery, GT silver metallic interior accents, and best of all a two-tone black and red cloth top, the latter especially “reminiscent of historic Porsche racing cars,” said Porsche. Instead, you can order either model with red, silver, or yellow contrast stitching.
No matter how you want to dress one of these cars up, expect Canada’s allotment to be spoken for soon as they’re already available to order, with pricing starting at $110,500 for the 718 Spyder and $113,800 for the 718 Cayman GT, and while you’re waiting for your personal ride to arrive, be sure to check out our comprehensive photo gallery above (we’ve got all the images and pictographs that Porsche provided), while take a look below for all four videos available at the time of publishing:
The new Porsche 718 Spyder. Perfectly irrational. (1:03):
The new Porsche 718 Spyder. Product highlights. (2:25):
The new Porsche 718 Cayman GT4. Product highlights. (2:13):
The new Porsche 718 GT4. Perfectly irrational. (1:01):