“Winter temperatures, precipitation, and snowfall will be above normal,” says The Old Farmer’s Almanac in this year’s Annual Weather Summary for Southern Ontario, while those in Southern BC can expect the next six months to be “colder than normal.”
Are you ready for another bone-chilling winter? Yes, Jack Frost has been a bit naughtier than usual over the past couple of years, and this stormy trend probably won’t end soon, but don’t worry because Porsche has your back.
As any sports car fan knows, the quintessential German performance brand has been rolling out its all-new 2020 911 Carrera in stages throughout this year, and the latest edition is ideally timed to fight off the white fluffy stuff (or more often than not, brown mucky stuff) that makes our roads slippery and challenging to navigate unless you’ve got the right equipment. The gear in question is Porsche’s new 911 Carrera 4 Coupé or 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet, with the number “4” designating all-wheel drive in Porsche-speak.
The new Carrera 4 uses the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat six as found in the Carrera 2, capable of 370 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. The Carrera 4 Coupe can launch from zero to 100 km/h, which at only 4.5 seconds is a hair (0.1 seconds) faster than the two-wheel drive version when set up with its base seven-speed manual gearbox; or 4.3 seconds with its paddle-shifter enhanced dual-clutch eight-speed PDK, or 4.1 seconds when the latter automated transmission is combined with the model’s Sport Chrono Package.
Additionally, standstill to 160 km/h takes a mere 9.7 seconds with the manual and 9.3 seconds for the PDK, while the two cars top out at 292 and 290 km/h respectively. Alternatively, the Carrera 4 Cabriolet takes an additional 0.2 seconds to complete all sprint times, and achieves a terminal velocity of 289 km/h.
Just like the 2020 Carrera 4S introduced earlier this year, the new Carrera 4 uses an innovative water-cooled front differential, which incorporates reinforced clutches that increase load capacities and overall durability. When combined with Porsche Traction Management (PTM), the updated front axle drive system improves the Carrera 4’s traction in slippery conditions, while also enhancing performance in the dry.
What’s more, all 2020 911 Carrera owners will get a new standard Wet mode added to the revised steering wheel-mounted drive mode selector, the unique technology automatically maintaining better control over watery or snowy road surfaces when engaged. Each new 911 also receives standard autonomous emergency braking with moving object detection to improve safety further, while a high-definition backup camera and rear parking sensors are also standard equipment.
Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) comes standard too, including electronically variable dampers with both Normal and Sport settings, while Porsche Torque Vectoring, standard on S and 4S models, is now optional with the Carrera 4 Coupe and Carrera 4 Cabriolet.
Yet more available options include the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system, as well as staggered front to rear 20- and 21-inch alloy wheels, while staggered 19- and 20-inch alloys are standard equipment.
The italicized “4” on the rear deck lid aside, the only way to differentiate the two Carrera 4 models from the two Carrera 2 trims is a twin set of rectangular tailpipes in place of the base model’s dual oval exhaust tips; Carrera 2S and 4S trims featuring four rounded chrome pipes. This said, you can upgrade both Carrera 4 models with a pair of big oval exhaust ports, at which point you’d probably be best to rely on the written designation for classification purposes.
There are no obvious 911 C2 and C4 differences inside, mind you, with both trims coming standard with Porsche’s mostly digital primary gauge package, the traditional analogue tachometer remaining at centre, plus the same 10.9-inch Porsche Communication Management (PCM) touchscreen infotainment system featuring enhanced connectivity, as well as identically redesigned seats.
The entirely new 2020 Porsche Carrera 4 Coupé starts at $111,900, while the Carrera 4 Cabriolet is available from $126,000. Both can now be ordered at your local Porsche retailer.
When I first heard Jeep was about to can the Patriot and keep the Compass I was a bit put off. It’s not like I particularly loved the Patriot, but it was a helluvalot more appealing than the first-generation…
When I first heard Jeep was about to can the Patriot and keep the Compass I was a bit put off. It’s not like I particularly loved the Patriot, but it was a helluvalot more appealing than the first-generation Compass, at least to my eyes, plus it offered some mild capability off-road. Despite my silent petition Jeep followed through on this rumour and the Patriot was discontinued in 2017, but fortunately Jeep gave the Compass a completely new life that same year for the 2018 model, transforming it from a slightly better looking version of the initial ugly duckling, into something really quite fetching.
Believe it or not, the first-gen Compass ran for 10 years, from 2006 to 2016, with only one significant facelift in 2011. That’s when Jeep turned it from a Liberty wannabe to a mini Grand Cherokee, at least from the front, while the totally new second-generation Compass pulls even more cues from the since-updated and much more handsome Grand Cherokee, resulting in a really smart looking compact crossover SUV front to back. On that note I can’t go without mentioning rear end styling similarities to the all-new Volvo XC40, but to be fair to Jeep this shapely domestic came on the scene a full year before the new entry-level Sino-Swede, so maybe it was Jeep that influenced Volvo.
It wouldn’t be the first time Jeep made an impression on a luxury brand. Anyone who thinks the Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen (G-Class) merely landed on the scene in ‘79 without any homage paid to Jeep’s iconic CJ/Wrangler (plus Land Rover’s Series I/II/III/Defender and Toyota’s Land Cruiser J40/70) is dreaming, and let me tell you that this Compass not only offers premium styling, but does a pretty good job of aping a compact luxury utility as well.
You’d need to step up from this second-rung North example to Trailhawk, Limited or High Altitude trim in order to feel truly pampered, although this just-over-base model is still very nicely finished inside. It gets a soft-touch dash that wraps all the way around the instrument panel and under the infotainment head unit before stretching across each front door upper. The door inserts are made from supple padded leatherette, similar to the armrests that also get nice cream and copper dual-tone contrast stitching to match the leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, shifter boot, and seat upholstery.
Those seats are bolstered in leatherette with attractive hexagonal-patterned black cloth inserts, and are very comfortable thanks to good inherent design as well as four-way powered lumbar support. Yes, four-way lumbar; a feature many premium brands don’t offer until moving up through their options lists.
The Compass switchgear is all high in quality too, with the standard dual-zone automatic HVAC system’s main dials rimmed in chrome and rubber, while Jeep provides a separate climate control interface within the centre touchscreen that lets you swipe up and down to easily set the temperature, not to mention adjust temperatures of the two-way front seat heaters and ultra-hot heatable steering wheel.
The infotainment system does much more, with really diverse entertainment choices from the usual radio selections to HD and satellite radio plus Bluetooth streaming audio, as well as navigation with accurate route guidance and really detailed mapping, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a nice big reverse camera with active guidelines, and more.
Some additional $29,645 North model features include 17-inch alloy wheels on 225/60 all-seasons, auto on/off headlamps, cornering fog lights, body-colour side mirror housings and door handles, bright daylight opening mouldings, black roof rails, deep-tint sunscreen glass, proximity-sensing keyless access, LED ambient interior lighting, and illuminated vanity mirrors, while the $26,150 base Sport model just below features an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, heated and power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, cruise control, six-speaker audio, a media hub with an aux input and USB connectivity/charging port, a second-row USB charger, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, two 12-volt chargers, powered windows, a forward folding front passenger seat, a capless fuel filler, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, a block heater, and more.
The aforementioned eight-way powered driver’s seat is optional, as are the heated front seats and steering wheel, and the 1.4-inch larger 8.4-inch infotainment system with navigation, while my tester also had a really impressive, fully featured, high-resolution 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster display, a windshield wiper de-icer, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, remote engine start, a nice set of all-weather floor mats, a full-size temporary spare tire, a Class III tow package, and more.
You can also replace the standard quad-halogen headlamps with a set of bi-xenon HID headlamps featuring LED signatures and LED taillights, add a set of 18-inch alloys on 225/55 all-seasons, upgrade the audio system with Alpine speakers, add a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and powered liftgate, and finally improve convenience and safety with a host of advanced driver assist systems such as adaptive cruise control with stop and go, automatic high beams, forward collision warning with active braking, advanced brake assist, and lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and that’s just with North trim.
Jeep also offers the Compass in $30,940 Altitude trim, which adds glossy black 18-inch alloys, additional gloss-black exterior trim including a black roof, automatic headlights, upgraded upholstery, dual exhaust tips and other changes, while $31,640 Upland trim adds the 17-inch off-road alloy wheels, a modified front fascia, a front skid plate, and tow hooks from the aforementioned Trailhawk model, plus some other styling changes.
Full $34,145 Trailhawk trim includes an off-road package with a unique uprated suspension setup, plus off-road tires wrapping around those just-noted 17-inch alloys, while it also adds underbody skid plates, hill descent control, the previously mentioned 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster display, the 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, and rain-sensing wipers, as well as ambient-lit cupholders and leather upholstery.
Limited trim, at $36,145, builds on the more crossover-like Altitude model, by making the previously noted remote engine start, windshield wiper de-icer, heated front seats, and heated steering wheel standard equipment, plus adding a 12-way power driver’s seat, while the topmost $38,340 High Altitude trim includes the HID headlights, LED taillights and navigation system standard, while adding 19-inch rims and rubber, plus perforated leather upholstery (check CarCostCanada for 2020 Jeep Compass pricing, including trims, packages and options, plus make sure to learn about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
No matter the trim the Compass is roomy for what is effectively a subcompact SUV, with plenty of space up front, loads of driver’s seat adjustability, and excellent telescopic steering column reach resulting in an ideal driving position, plus there’s more headroom than you’ll likely ever need. After setting my driver’s seat up for my rather long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, causing me to power it further rearward than most people my height need to, I still had about six inches ahead of my knees when seated directly behind in the second row, plus four inches over my head, and another four next to my hips and shoulders, while Jeep provides a nice wide armrest at centre. The outboard seats are comfortable with good lower back support, and the previously noted rear seat amenities, which also included good air circulation via vents on the backside of the front console, helped to make for a relaxing atmosphere.
The cargo compartment gets the usual carpeting on the floor and seatbacks, four chromed tie-down hooks, and the usual standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to expand it from an accommodating 770 litres (27.2 cubic feet) to a generous 1,693 litres (39.8 cu ft). These numbers show this new Compass to be 127 litres (4.5 cu ft) larger than old first-generation version with the seats upright, and 82 litres (2.9 cu ft) smaller when they’re folded flat, a nominal difference likely due to the previous model having more space behind the driver’s side rear wheel well, but usable space is about the same.
Comfortably positioned back up front in the driver’s seat, there are no Eco or Sport modes to get the most mileage or performance from the standard 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir four-cylinder engine, or its three drivetrains. The engine makes a healthy 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, good for the subcompact SUV class, while fuel economy depends on whether suited up with the base front-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox combination (10.4 L/100km city, 7.3 highway and 9.0 combined), front-wheel drive with the six-speed auto (10.6 city, 7.6 highway and 9.3 combined), which also comes with auto stop/start that automatically shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, or the four-wheel drive, nine-speed auto combo (10.8 city, 7.8 highway and 9.5 combined) that comes with idle stop/start too. Only Sport trim offers the manual, with Sport, North and Altitude trims providing the option of front-wheel drive with the six-speed auto, while all trims can be had with the 4WD, nine-speed configuration, which is standard on Upland models and above.
My Compass tester was great fun to drive, much thanks to steering wheel-mounted paddles. It was quick at takeoff, the little turbo-four delivering plenty of torque for a good smack in the backside during takeoff and no shortage of energy to speedily eclipse highway cruising limits. High-speed stability and fast-paced handling are good too, while the Compass’ ride quality is hardly upset by road imperfections. The Compass’ suspension is fully independent, and interestingly it incorporates rear struts in place of this compact SUV segment’s usual trailing arm or multi-link setup in order to provide more travel to improve off-road capability.
And yes, the Compass is fairly decent off-road. Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system is standard, which provides Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud modes, the latter one extremely useful when getting it dirty at a local off-road haunt. Certainly the Trailhawk’s lifted suspension and beefier tires would’ve made it even more confidence inspiring, but I was able to crawl over some reasonably difficult medium-duty terrain, wade through a few big mud puddles, and bring it back in one piece.
The Compass’ Achilles heel is its advanced nine-speed transmission, which while smooth and refined in its higher ratios, plus includes a sporty rev-matching feature, was often plagued with jerky starts from standstill, seemingly caused by a slight hesitation upon pressing the gas pedal that resulted in an uncomfortable slap in the back affect and distinct clunk on takeoff. Worse, this is the only vehicle to ever stall on me when in idle stop/start mode. While waiting at a light with the engine automatically turned off, the light went green, so I took my foot off the brake and, when nothing happened, feathered the throttle in order to get things going. Instead, the engine tried to start up and then died, stalling in Drive. After figuring out what had happened, returning my foot to the brake, shifting the transmission back into Park, pushing the start button, shifting it back into Drive, and then waiting for a very long time (as if the transmission was slipping) before it clunked into gear and started going again, I wasn’t at all amused. After all, there was a line of (fortunately patient) traffic behind me, looking at this poor sod that obviously didn’t know how to drive.
As I’ve since learned, Jeep’s ZF-sourced nine-speed transmission has caused problems for the brand in this Compass and other vehicles (particularly the Cherokee) going back years, and the description of my specific problem doesn’t come close to describing all of the issues that might potentially go wrong. This particular problem still appears to be happening with some customers, as noted by multiple complainants on the U.S. NHTSA website.
It’s such a shame to leave things on a sour note, because I really like this SUV in most every other respect. It looks great, has an impressive interior that’s packed full of features, is priced reasonably well, provides loads of practicality, and is fun to drive (when it’s not stalling and the transmission isn’t clunking). I could recommend it in front-wheel drive trims, but I’d want to test a couple of other examples with the all-wheel drivetrain and nine-speed automatic before recommending anything higher up the food chain.
If you like the looks of this stylish mid-size sport sedan you can breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon. Of course, considering the sheer number of…
If you like the looks of this stylish mid-size sport sedan you can breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon. Of course, considering the sheer number of four- and five-door models currently getting axed by General Motors, and the fact that its European Opel and Vauxhall Insignia twins will soon need to disappear due to an August 2017 sale of the two brands to France’s Groupe PSA, it’s quite possible we’ll see this change at some point in the future (our Regal is manufactured in Rüsselsheim, Germany after all), but a 2020 Buick Regal is slated to go on sale shortly, so at the very least we’ll enjoy it for another year.
I use the word “enjoy” because this mid-size near-luxury sedan is truly a joy to look at, and possibly even better to drive. It helps that my tester was in top-line GS trim, and therefore is one of the mid-size family sedan segment’s sportier cars. It’s also not technically a sedan, but rather a five-door hatchback, Buick choosing to call it a Sportback. As a quick side note they make a raised five-door sport wagon/crossover variant (à la Subaru Outback and Volvo V90 Cross Country) for the U.S. (and Euro markets, plus Australia and New Zealand where the two body styles are sold as the Holden Commodore) dubbed TourX, but just like in China where Buick finds its most ardent followers (and builds its Regal at the SAIC-GM assembly plant in Shanghai), we only get this four-door coupe-like sedan.
Despite its attractive styling and strong performance, the Regal is either one of the least popular cars from a mainstream volume brand or a fairly strong selling luxury model, depending on how you categorize it. With a base price of $32,045 (plus destination and fees), most competitors start $3,000 to $7,000 more affordably, while similarly priced mid-size sedans from volume brands do about the same or worse when it comes to sales numbers. Still, the Regal doesn’t quite measure up to premium status or refinement levels (GM’s Cadillac division occupies that space), so the unique model’s market exclusivity is understandable (see all 2019 Buick Regal pricing at CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
The Regal GS pictured here starts at a cool $44,045 plus freight and fees and goes up to $51,700 with all options (and a couple of cool accessories added), which while a steal compared to a comparatively sized and equipped premium-branded model, is a fair jump up the desirability ladder from a fully loaded Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Ford Fusion, the top-three sellers in this category, but its fully loaded price is just $205 more than a completely optioned out Kia Stinger and actually $1,880 less than VW’s new Arteon with all features added.
Granted the top-tier Stinger is a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6-powered AWD super-beast capable of hitting 100 km/h from standstill in just 4.9 seconds, but the 310-horsepower Regal GS’ is plenty respectable at 5.6 seconds from zero to 100km/h, which is (believe it or not) better than the legendary Regal Grand National GNX and about the same as the 265-horsepower Arteon, which is 300 kilos (about 660 lbs) lighter. These acceleration times are estimates, of course, with some manufacturers more conservative than others, Buick seeming not to want to set anyone’s hopes too high considering the GS’ 3.6-litre V6 engine’s generous power rating, not to mention its 282 lb-ft of torque.
Of course, there’s a lot more that makes each of these impressive cars worthy of your attention, and much that sets them apart from their more conventional family sedan peers. I won’t turn this review into a full-scale comparison review, despite recently testing all of the above for a week at a time, but rather will concentrate on the Regal GS and occasionally point out strengths and weaknesses compared to its key rivals.
As far as styling goes, each respectably holds its own. I find the Regal is thoroughly attractive, but admit my appreciation for its classic lines and overall elegance may have something to do with my 50-something age. On looks alone I could understand why someone would fall for it, especially when enhanced with GS trim details.
These upgrades start with bold red italicized “GS” block letters on the otherwise glossy black mesh grille insert framed by a gloss-black grille surround that’s all underscored by yet more of the shiny, inky brightwork on lower fascia. The same piano black treatment highlights the lower side window trim and rear apron, this sporty look complemented by aluminum-like trim on the grille, corner grillettes, upper window surrounds, and exhaust. A subtle body-colour rear deck spoiler and modified rear bumper finish off the performance-oriented design.
Climb inside and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Buick is channeling the ghost of Pontiac, as you’ll immediately be greeted by two of the most aggressive looking sport seats in the Regal’s class, not to mention a contrast-stitched, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel to match, complete with a slightly flattened bottom for extra verve. I wouldn’t say the latter is as impeccably shaped as the Arteon’s superbly crafted wheel, or for that matter the Stinger’s paddle shifter-enhanced rim, but they all do much better than average in this family-friendly segment. Like the others (i.e. glossy black plastic is hardly original), Buick adds some additional splashes of piano black lacquer trim here, a bit of carbon weave-like adornment there, plus aluminized and chromed accents elsewhere, and voila, you’ve got a sport sedan.
A smart looking partially digital gauge cluster with a red GS insignia emblazoned within the 4.2-inch digitized centre speedometer portion reminds that we’re in Buick’s quickest car, a graphic than can be swapped with plenty of useful features by flicking the steering wheel controls.
Over on the centre stack is the latest version of Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment interface, residing within a very nice high-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen. The circular aqua-green on black graphics are attractive and a bit more upscale looking than the bright, colourful Apple-style design in the Regal’s Chevy Malibu counterpart, fitting for the Buick’s older and slightly wealthier target clientele. It’s certainly an easy system to use and once again filled to the brim with helpful features, from a large, clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines, to a navigation system with easy-to-input, accurate route guidance with detailed mapping, plus all the usual audio features including HD/satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, phone and text message info/readouts, another panel for OnStar, a big interface for the dual-zone automatic climate control system, and more.
A separate HVAC panel just below provides quicker-access analogue controls for the same, not to mention switchgear for the three-way heated and cooled front seats, while other features not yet mentioned that came with my Regal GS tester included a heatable steering wheel rim, a head-up display atop the dash, adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and driver’s side mirror, two-way driver’s seat memory, leather upholstery, eight-speaker Bose audio, wireless charging, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a powered moonroof, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, remote engine start, auto-leveling LED headlamps with cornering capability, 19-inch alloy wheels with grey-painted pockets, front and rear parking sensors, and much more.
Buick also includes a host of advanced driver assistance and safety features, such as autonomous forward braking with collision alert and pedestrian detection, blindspot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, plus Buick’s first active hood pedestrian safety system that raises the rear portion of the hood by 100 mm (3.9 inches) to lessen impact and help reduce injury.
The driver’s seat is inherently comfortable and benefits further from four-way lumbar support, a feature some premium-branded luxury sedans don’t even include, not to mention extendable lower cushions that cup nicely below the knees, and big side bolsters that provide excellent lateral support thanks to powered adjustability. Complemented by extensive reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column, the Regal provided an ideal driving position, which isn’t always the case for my long-legged, short-torso frame.
The Regal GS’ V6 idles smoothly when it’s not shutting off automatically to save fuel and reduce emissions, a good thing in my books. Quick shifts come from a nine-speed automatic transmission, the GS getting one additional forward gear than four-cylinder AWD trims, which like the engine proved smooth and effortless to operate around town, on the highway, or through more entertaining serpentine stretches. Chagrined to learn this sporty sedan didn’t include paddle shifters, which would have been a great way to improve on its well sorted transmission and fully capable powerplant, I first put it in Sport mode and then slotted the gear lever to the left for a little old school manual fun.
The GS has a lot of punch off the line and the gearbox is a perfect match, shifting quickly yet never harshly, but needing more sport from Sport mode I immediately chose the GS setting, which adds more weight to the steering and feels a lot more engaging overall. Yes I missed having paddles, but I adapted as needed and enjoyed this very well balanced sedan through some tight, twisting two-laners and some open straights as well. The chassis is smooth and comfortable, yet it holds the road very well thanks to active dampers that adjust every two milliseconds. The GS’ active twin-clutch all-wheel drive system aids handling further, particularly in wet weather, while its high-performance Brembo brakes perform as brilliantly as they look. Fuel economy is reasonable for its performance and all-wheel drivetrain, with a rating of 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined.
Unfortunately, the GS wasn’t perfect. It suffered from one of the cheapest turn signal stalks I’ve ever experienced, due to flimsy hollow plastic and a loose, sloppy feel, while there’s a lot of low rent hard plastic on the lower dash, glove box lid, and mid to lower door panels. To be fair, the aforementioned Arteon isn’t much better when it comes to the latter, but the Stinger pulls off luxury more convincingly. Most of the GS’ upper surfaces are agreeably soft to the touch, however, and front and rear seat roominess is good, with the rear outboard positions almost as comfortable as the buckets up front, but the moulded black plastic panel covering the backside of the front console looked bulbous, as if it was pulled from a much cheaper vehicle, an issue made worse by its spartan array of twinned air vents up top and dual USB ports below.
Yes, the Regal GS comes up a bit short on back seat features. It doesn’t including rear seat heaters like most $50k-plus competitors, which was a shame as, together with its AWD, its standard 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks and liftback layout, not to mention its strong performance on winding mountainside roads, it would make for an ideal ski shuttle. The cargo cover is weighty, feeling really well made, and seat releases on the cargo walls quickly expand the 892-litre (31.5 cubic-foot) luggage compartment to an accommodating 1,719 litres (60.7 cu ft).
While missing some key features and not quite measuring up to its peers when it comes to interior fit and finish, the Regal GS is nevertheless an ultra-stylish ride that does some things so well it’s worth a closer look. You’ll probably like its quick and agile performance, reasonably well-equipped, roomy and comfortable cabin, and overall practicality, and therefore will likely be able to look past its few shortcomings.
Lexus’ ES has come a long way in 30 years. Yes, 2019 marks three decades of the quintessential Japanese luxury brand’s best-selling car, which started life as the comparatively humble ES 250 in 1989. …
Lexus’ ES has come a long way in 30 years. Yes, 2019 marks three decades of the quintessential Japanese luxury brand’s best-selling car, which started life as the comparatively humble ES 250 in 1989.
It was obviously based on the Camry family sedan, yet despite being rushed to market in order to make sure the full-size LS 400 wasn’t alone in the new premium brand’s lineup, it was a handsome, well-built and reasonably strong performing V6-powered mid-size luxury sedan. Lexus has made six ES generations since, releasing this most recent seventh-generation redesign late last year as a 2019 model, and while each new version made improvements on its predecessor, this latest iteration is by far the most dramatic looking, most refined inside, and best to drive yet.
In fact, Lexus has done such a good job of pulling the ES upmarket that it’s getting more difficult to justify having two mid-size sedans in its lineup. The two look similar and are near identical in size, the ES’ wheelbase just 20 mm (0.8 in) longer at 2,870 mm (113.0 in), and 4,960 mm (195.3 in) of overall length a bit more of a stretch thanks to an additional 110 mm (4.3 in). The ES is 25 mm (1.0 in) wider than the GS too, measuring 1,865 mm (73.4 in) from side to side, but at 1,445 mm (56.9 in) high it’s 10 mm (0.4 in) lower, the ES’ long, wide and low design giving it proportions arguably more appealing than the sportier, more upscale sedan.
To be fair to the GS, it not only delivers stronger performance, particularly through the corners and off the line, especially in 467 horsepower GS F form, but it generally feels more substantive thanks to a 66-kilo (145-lb) heftier curb weight in base trim and 185-kg (408-lb) difference in hybrid trims, a rear-drive architecture shared with the smaller IS series sedan and coupe, a stiffer, more robust suspension setup, and other improvements that justify its significantly higher price point; the GS ranging from $63,800 to more than $100,000, compared to just $45,000 to $61,500 with the ES (find pricing for all new and past models at CarCostCanada, including trims, packages and individual options, plus money-saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could keep thousands in your wallet).
Under the base ES hood is a 302 horsepower version of Lexus/Toyota’s ubiquitous 3.5-litre V6, just 9 horsepower and 13 lb-ft of torque shy of the base GS engine yet 34 horsepower and 19 lb-ft of torque more than the previous ES 350, and the Japanese luxury brand now marries it to an eight-speed automatic instead of the comparably antiquated six-speed unit found in last year’s ES and the pricier GS currently on sale.
My as-tested ES 300h, which incidentally starts at $47,000, combines an upgraded 176 horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder featuring 163 lb-ft of torque with a 67 horsepower (50 kW) electric motor and 29.1-kWh nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery for a net output rating of 215 horsepower and an undisclosed torque rating (the previous ES 300h’ net torque rating was 206 lb-ft). Toyota’s fourth-generation hybrid system once again incorporates a silky smooth electronically controlled continuously variable transmission that suits this car’s luxury role well.
Fuel economy is incredibly good at a claimed 5.5 L/100km in the city, 5.2 on the highway and 5.3 combined, which despite its performance gains beats last year’s ES 300h hands-down, that model only capable of 5.8, 6.1 and 5.9 respectively. The new ES 300h handily outmaneuvers its Lincoln MKZ Hybrid archrival past the pumps too, the domestic luxury sedan only managing 5.7 city, 6.2 highway and 5.9 combined, while other notable efficiency comparisons include the conventionally powered ES 350 that gets a rating of 10.6 city, 7.2 highway and 9.1 combined, the same car with its F Sport styling upgrade that manages 10.9, 7.5 and 9.4 respectively, and the regular GS 350 AWD with its 12.3, 9.1 and 10.9 rating, while last year’s GS 450h hybrid eked out an impressive 8.0 city, 6.9 highway and 7.5 combined, but it’s no longer available so the point is moot unless you can find a new one lurking around your local Lexus dealer or are willing to live with a pre-owned example.
You might find the latter difficult being the GS is as rare as the proverbial bird’s teeth, with year-to-date sales a scant 82 units as of August 31, compared to 1,445 down the road for the ES. That latter total makes for the mid-size luxury segment’s second-best results behind the Mercedes-Benz E/CLS-Class, plus the category’s best growth at 55.54 percent over the same eight months of last year. Only two rivals saw any upside at all, Mercedes’ E/CLS-Class (which also includes a coupe and convertible) up by 1.24 percent, plus Audi’s A6 and A7 with 18.87 and 24.28 percent YTD growth respectively, the latter two cars only capable of garnering 441 and 430 unit sales apiece during those eight months, however.
In case you were wondering, the GS, its sales down 43.84 percent, wasn’t last, with Jaguar’s XF having lost 52.89 percent for 57 deliveries, Acura’s RLX down by 24.53 percent for 40 unit sales, and Infiniti’s Q70 dropping 2.56 percent for a 38 unit total. The segment’s biggest loser by percentage is the Lincoln Continental, dropping 56.88 percent so far this year, while closest to positive without going over is the G80 from Hyundai’s upstart Genesis brand that narrowly missed out with a loss of just 0.44 percent (thanks to GoodCarBadCar.net for the detailed sales results).
After witnessing the sales carnage in this mid-size luxury sedan class it’s easy to appreciate why Lexus might eventually choose to keep the ES over the GS, and while anyone that’s driven a GS F might lament such a decision. Personally, I’d back a CEO that makes good, sound business decisions over someone merely wanting a hyper-fast executive shuttle in their fleet. Certainly there’s a reasonable case for image cars, but Lexus is already losing money on its gorgeous LC coupe, which will go a lot further to bolster the brand’s image than an aging four-door sedan could ever do, let alone a car that sells in such small numbers there isn’t much image building being done anyway, so let’s see what happens to the Lexus lineup as we move into the next decade.
One thing is for sure, the ES will continue to fill its unique position within the marketplace, and it will have fewer rivals moving forward. The aforementioned Continental will soon be gone, as will Lincoln’s more directly competitive MKZ, which also comes in electrified hybrid form. Cadillac will also drop its front-drive XTS and CTS, while sales of its newer CT6 are so slow it hardly rates. The only challengers not yet mentioned include BMW’s 5 Series, Volvo’s newish S90, and Tesla’s aging Model S, while some might also shop the ES against Buick’s LaCrosse (also slated for cancellation), the Chrysler 300 (there’s no definitive word about this aging car’s future), and possibly Kia’s impressive Stinger, not to mention large luxury sedans like Toyota’s own Avalon, which is basically the same car as the ES under the sheetmetal, and lastly Nissan’s Maxima, which also gets very close to premium sans highfalutin badge.
Still, the ES has long outsold most of these would-be rivals, and this newest iteration should keep that ball rolling for the next few years. As noted earlier, the ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid are completely redesigned for its seventh generation. No matter whether trimmed out as a base ES 350, upgraded to its more athletic looking ES 350 F Sport trim, or delivered in classy as-tested ES 300h form, Lexus’ front-drive four-door now adds an entirely new level of visual drama to its outward design.
The car’s trademark spindle grille is larger and considerably more expressive, its origami-inspired LED headlight clusters more complex with sharper edges, its side profile longer and sleeker with a more pronounced front overhang and a swoopier sweep to its C pillars that now taper downward over a shorter, taller trunk lid, while its rear end styling is more aggressively penned due to a much bigger crescent-shaped spoiler that hovers above expansive triangular wrap-around LED taillights.
The overall design toys with the mind, initially flowing smoothly from the grille rearward, overtop the hood and down each sculpted side, but then it culminates into a clamour of dissonant creases, folds and cutlines at back. Still, it comes together quite well overall, and certainly won’t conjure any of the model’s previous criticisms about yawn-inducing styling.
Similar can be said of the interior, but instead of sharp edges the cabin combines myriad horizontal planes and softer angles with higher-grade materials than the outgoing ES, not to mention a few design details pulled from the LFA supercar, particularly the black knurled metal pods hanging off each side of the primary instrument hood, the left one for turning off the traction control, and the knob to the right for scrolling between Normal, Eco and Sport modes.
Between those unorthodox pods is a standard digital gauge cluster that once again was inspired by the LFA supercar and plenty of lesser Lexus road cars since, this one providing real-time energy monitoring via a nice flowing graphic just to the left of the speedometer, while the infotainment display at dash central measures a minimum of 8.0 inches up to the sizeable 12.3-inch unit tested, yet both look even larger due to all the extra black glass bordering each side, the left portion hiding a classic LED-backlit analogue clock underneath. The high-definition display gets attractive graphics plus deep, rich colours and contrast, plus responds quickly to inputs.
When opting for the as-tested ES 300h hybrid the infotainment interface now comes standard with Apple CarPlay for those who’d rather not integrate their smartphone via Lexus’ proprietary Enform system. This said Enform is arguably more comprehensive and easier to use than Android Auto, which is not included anyway, while standard Enform 2.0 apps include info on fuel prices, traffic incidents, weather, sports, and stocks, plus it’s also bundled with Scout GPS Link, Slacker, Yelp, and more.
The 2019 ES 300h also gets an updated Remote Touch Interface trackpad controller on the lower console, which allows gesture controls like tap, pinch and swipe, and works much better than previous versions, with more accurate responses, especially to tap inputs, while other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillights, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a nicely shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, 10-speaker audio with satellite radio, a deodorizing, dust and pollen filtered dual-zone automatic climate control system, truly comfortable 10-way powered front seats with both three-way heat and ventilation, NuLuxe breathable leatherette upholstery, all the usual active and passive safety equipment including 10 airbags, plus much more.
Safety in mind, the new ES 300h comes standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 that features an autonomous emergency braking pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection, plus lane departure alert with steering assist and road edge detection, new Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) automated lane guidance, automatic high beams, and full-speed range adaptive cruise control, all of which worked well, without being overly sensitive.
The just-noted 12.3-inch infotainment display comes as part of an optional $3,800 Premium package that also adds blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse tilting side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a toasty heatable steering wheel that along with the heated front seats comes on automatically upon startup (I love this last feature), front seat and side mirror memory, accurate navigation with incredibly detailed mapping, and Enform Destination Assist that provides 24/7 live assistance for finding destinations or points of interest.
Alternatively you can choose the even more comprehensive $10,600 Luxury package that combines everything from the Premium package with unique 18-inch alloy wheels, ultra-bright Tri-LED headlamps, much appreciated Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging, full leather upholstery, and a powered rear window sunshade.
Lastly, the as-tested $14,500 Ultra Luxury package builds on the Luxury package with an attractive set of 18-inch noise reduction alloy wheels, calming ambient interior lighting, a really useful 10-inch head-up display, a 360-degree surround parking monitor that made getting into awkward parking spaces easier, a sensational sounding 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, softer and more comfortable semi-aniline leather upholstery, rear door sunshades, and a touch-free gesture control powered trunk lid.
Needless to say this $61,500 model is the most lavishly equipped Lexus ES 300h to date, but it also provides the best ES driving experience by a long shot. Of course, those who love a comforting ride will appreciate the ES for its suspension compliance, the fully independent setup combining front struts and a multi-link rear setup, albeit revised for 2019 with newly developed Dynamic Control Shocks that include an auxiliary valve to complement the main damper valve in order to respond better to subtler movement. The front suspension was reworked for both comfort and stability, while additional adjustments made to the rear trailing arm and stabilizer bar mounting points helped minimize body lean, all resulting in an ES that’s quite adept through fast-paced curves.
The ES 300h is actually quite fun to drive now, something I would not have admitted to previously, Lexus even including steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to swap a set of simulated gears that mimic the real thing quite well when in Sport mode, plus this enthusiast setting also adds torque at low speeds and provides a tachometer within the digital gauge cluster to monitor all the action. Those purchasing their ES 300h for economical or environmental reasons might prefer Eco mode that improves fuel economy, while EV mode lets you cruise silently at low speed for short durations.
Enhancing efficiency yet more is new Auto Glide Control that allows the ES to coast more freely when lifting off the throttle, instead of slowing down automatically from automatic regenerative braking.
No matter the speed this wind-cheating ES is now the quietest yet, thanks to twice as much structural adhesive, improving noise, vibration and harshness levels, front fender liners and underbody covers, and sound deadening material coating 93 percent of the ES 300h’s floor pan, a major increase over the previous car’s 68 percent area coverage.
The aforementioned battery is smaller but more potent, by the way, and is now located under the rear seat and not in the trunk, which makes the cargo area identical in size to the non-hybrid ES 350 at 473 litres (16.7 cu ft). It also allows for a centre pass-through capable of swallowing up skis or other long items, and therefore allows rear passengers to enjoy the more comfortable window seats. And yes, the ES is roomy and comfortable no matter where you’re seated.
Interior finishings are a lot nicer than previous generation ES models, with higher quality soft-touch composite surfacing being used, and more of it. This said, the lower door panels are still hard plastic, as are the sides of the centre console. Lexus smartly includes the wireless device charger under the armrest in the centre console bin, so you can keep your phone away from otherwise distracted eyes.
All of the switchgear is improved over previous generations too, with some noteworthy details being those aforementioned pods that stick out each side of the instrument cluster, the little round metal buttons on the centre stack for controlling the radio, media, and seek/track functions, the temperature control switches, and, while not exactly switchgear, the speaker grilles and surrounds for the Mark Levinson audio system. The hardwood trim feels genuine because it’s actually real, and comes in Striated Black, Linear Dark Mocha or Linear Espresso, while the metallic accents are nicely finished and tastefully applied.
Over the past 20 or so years of covering all things automotive I’ve spent many weeks with Lexus’ ES in both conventionally powered and hybrid forms, so therefore now that I’ve spent yet another seven days with this all-new 2019 ES 300h I can confidently promise that ES enthusiasts will like it best of all. It incorporates all previous ES attributes yet makes them better, resulting in one of the most impressive entry-level luxury sedans ever created.
Remember the Hyundai Equus? No? If I hadn’t borrowed one from a local dealer to use for a 2014 test I probably would’ve forgotten about it by now too. In fact, I don’t believe Hyundai even put one…
Remember the Hyundai Equus? No? If I hadn’t borrowed one from a local dealer to use for a 2014 test I probably would’ve forgotten about it by now too. In fact, I don’t believe Hyundai even put one on their weekly rotation fleet in my area. It was a good luxury car, better in fact than any mainstream volume-branded rival, all of which merely offered stretched versions of their front-wheel drive mid-size family sedans, like Hyundai’s own Azera, instead of a V6- and V8-powered, rear-drive Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series type full-size luxury sedan, but just the same its premium-level interior, long list of features, impressive performance, and superb value proposition didn’t result in many sales.
The problem? No premium branding. Mighty Volkswagen learned this the hard way too, with its ill-fated Phaeton, but Toyota, Nissan and to some extent Honda figured out the importance of premium branding decades ago, resulting in Lexus, Infiniti and Acura, while GM’s Cadillac and Ford’s Lincoln brands have been trying to break back into the luxury sector since they lost ground to the Germans in the ‘80s.
Canada was first introduced to South Korean luxury in 2010 when the second-generation 2011 Equus was introduced, and while an impressive luxury car it was a bit bland and nondescript from a styling standpoint, much like the first-gen Hyundai Genesis Sedan. It was almost as if the designers of these two cars didn’t want us to know they were Hyundai products. We all expected the third-generation Equus to take on styling details from the second-generation Hyundai Genesis sedan, which was and still is a very handsome mid-size sport-luxury sedan, and then the Korean automaker one-upped us and discontinued both, instead rebadging the Genesis sedan as the G80 and making its next Equus into this G90, while simultaneously launching the Genesis luxury brand in Canada, the U.S., China, the Middle East, Russia, Australia, and of course its home market of South Korea. Hyundai is planning to launch Genesis in other Asian markets as well as Europe within the next couple of years, but might just be waiting until they have a full lineup of models (read: SUVs) to do so.
It could be said Hyundai jumped the gun by introducing this sedan-only brand without having at least one SUV in its lineup, but Genesis Sedan (the G80’s predecessor) sales were relatively strong when it made the decision in 2015 and the rest is history. All I can say is, if Genesis’ upcoming SUVs are as impressive as its three sedans (they introduced the smaller C-Class/3 Series fighting G70 last year), and better than the fabulous new Hyundai Palisade that just arrived for 2020, we’re in for a real treat.
As I write this review the totally redesigned 2020 Genesis G90 is being advertised, sporting a completely new version of its “diamond” grille that comes complete with a unique downward pointing lower section and “G-MATRIX” crosshatch patterned insert in place of the current 2019 model’s seven horizontal ribs. It gets LED “Quad Lamp” headlights, Bentley-esque front fender grillettes, massive mesh-pattern wheels, and three ultra-distinctive horizontal LED taillights, the lower element spanning the entire width of the car, while the interior is more up-to-date from a design and digital standpoint, plus even more luxurious than this outgoing model.
As good as the new model looks (and that will be up to your personal preferences of course), I still find this 2019 G90 very attractive. Its extremely low sales volumes have helped keep it fresh, familiarity even causing great designs to seem commonplace and therefore lose their exclusivity. The current G90’s approach to design is more discreet than the new model and much more conservative than, say, the Lexus LS’ spindle grille design, the G90 working well for those of us who’d rather fly under the radar than attract unneeded attention. Audi’s A8 once had this appeal too, but the horseshoe grille has grown to encompass most of its frontal fascia, and while still attractive it’s a more intimidating beast than it used to be.
Like most new brands Genesis is still forming its identity, evidenced by the just-noted lower point on the new 2020 model’s diamond-shaped grille, with this search for a trademark look made even more critical after factoring in that the brand’s general design language started off wearing Hyundai badging. To be fair, Lexus took decades before choosing its spindle grille and sharp origami-angled body sculpting, as did Infiniti and Acura with their more recently distinctive grille treatments, the latter of which is the oldest upstart luxury marque of all, yet the its dramatic new grille was just adopted a couple of years ago. This said it’s important to find a memorable look and stick with it, Lincoln a prime example of the never-ending identity quest often gone wrong (hopefully they’ll stick with their latest design as it’s quite nice).
As for this G90, the grille has been criticized for its obvious Audi influence (the Hyundai-Kia design head is ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer after all), while there’s a little bit of 7 Series in the sweeping line over the front fender and along the sculpted rocker panel, plus the thick chrome strip down the side and around the back, but the taillights are pure Genesis, and hardly original winged badge uncomfortably Bentley-esque. The build quality is good though, with nice tight panel gaps and excellent paintwork.
As for the interior, the design is attractive and detailing exquisite. From the microfibre roofliner and pillars to the French-stitched padded leather across the dash top and door uppers front to back, plus the planks of glossy hardwood all around, it fully measures up to its German peers. I shouldn’t stop there of course, as the aluminum trim is brilliant, especially the Lexicon-badged speaker grilles and aluminized buttons across the centre stack, while all of the switchgear is superbly crafted with ideal fitment and damping; it’s easily in the league of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
In fact, the analogue clock at dash central is one of the best I’ve seen, with a beautiful white guilloche dial, Arabic numerals at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions, and chromed indices marking the hours between. The perforated seat leather is incredibly supple and soft, and the seats themselves are superb, with myriad adjustments to fit most any body type. What’s more, you’ll be hard pressed to find any hard plastic in this sedan, the only corners cut being the shell surrounding the steering column and the very lowest sides of the center console, but even these surfaces are made from dense composite and then soft painted for a high-quality feel.
I’m not going to try and say this G90 is better than its competitors, because everything in this class is mind-blowingly good. Really, you could put a fully loaded 7 Series up against a Bentley Flying Spur or even a Rolls-Royce Ghost and you probably wouldn’t notice much lacking if anything, and while I wouldn’t go so far with respect to this particular G90, its front and rear quarters are still very impressive.
In fact, the backsides of the front seats are so beautifully finished I might be inclined to claim industry-best, especially the wood that wraps around their upper edges. The backside of the front centre console is nothing special, however, with typical HVAC vents finished well, but that’s because the folding centre armrest is a smorgasbord of tech, not to mention beautifully finished leathers, woods and metals. It includes controls for the auto HVAC system’s third zone, as well as three-way heatable outboard seats, plus controls for the powered side and rear sunshades, while you can also extend right-side legroom by powering the front passenger seat forward and tipping the seatback as well. Full infotainment controls are also included, allowing rear passengers to have total control of the aforementioned Lexicon audio experience, which incidentally is amazing.
Back in the driver’s seat, the primary gauge package isn’t fully configurable, but it does have a nice big colour multi-information display at centre, filled with the usual assortment of features. The infotainment system just to the right is more advanced, with simple yet attractive graphics, an especially clear backup camera with good realistic colour and contrast, this featuring dynamic guidelines albeit no overhead view, while the navigation system’s route guidance worked very well and offered excellent mapping detail. Those wanting more advanced tech, including a fully digital gauge cluster and higher resolution infotainment display, will want to pay a bit more for the 2020 G90, but others may choose to take advantage of year-end and model-ending 2019 G90 savings that should be quite attractive.
As it is, this V6 turbo-powered 2019 G90 3.3T AWD starts at $84,000 plus freight and fees, while the V8-powered G90 5.0 AWD is available for $87,000, with its only upgrade being a $2,500 rear entertainment package. The much-improved 2020 model will be fully equipped for $89,750, just $250 more than the outgoing V8 model, and that more potent engine is now standard. You can still get the turbo-V6 for a $3k discount, but take note that it’s a special order model. All pricing, including trims and packages, can be found at CarCostCanada, where you can also source rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
The G90 tested here was in base 3.3T AWD trim, which means that its standard feature set included a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged direct-injection V6 making 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, an eight-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission with manual mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, HTRAC torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, 19-inch alloy wheels on 245/45 front and 275/40 rear all-seasons tires, an adaptive suspension system, full LED headlamps with adaptive cornering and auto high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist and lane keeping assist, plus the multi-view parking camera with dynamic guidelines noted earlier, a 12.3-inch centre display with passable 720p resolution and the accurate navigation mentioned a moment ago, the wonderful Nappa leather upholstery and microfibre suede headliner also noted before, the aforementioned 17-speaker Lexicon AM/FM/XM/MP3 audio system with Quantum Logic surround sound and Clari-Fi, plus much more.
Those willing to spend a very reasonable $3,000 to upgrade to the 5.0 AWD will not only get a 420 horsepower direct-injection V8 with 383 lb-ft of torque, but also be able to pamper their rear passengers to a much higher degree (or themselves if they hire a driver) thanks to a 14-way power-adjustable right rear seat and 12-way powered left rear seat including powered head restraints with manual tilt, plus memory and cooling ventilation for those outboard rear seats, and rear illuminated vanity mirrors overhead.
I’ve driven various Hyundai and Kia models with the 5.0-litre Tau V8 and found it as ideal for blasting away from stoplights as it was for highway passing and just plain cruising down the freeway, the engine nicely matching up to the smooth yet quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, and Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD superb through wet conditions and even adding performance in the dry. I can only imagine it would perform as well in this G90 as it did with the most recent 2017 Genesis G80 5.0 AWD Ultimate I tested a couple of years ago, but this said there’s a lot to like about Genesis’ smaller, more fuel-friendly 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6.
Their claimed Transport Canada fuel economy ratings are notable, with the V6 achieving an estimated 13.7 L/100km in the city, 9.7 on the highway and 11.9 combined, and the V8 good for a potential 15.2 city, 10.2 highway and 13.0 combined, a difference that would certainly be noticeable to the pocketbook, while the V6’s performance is more than capable of whisking the big sedan and its occupants away in short order, not with quite as sensational an exhaust note, but nevertheless entertaining in its own way.
The V6 also has less weight over the front wheels, allowing for greater agility through the corners, and was particularly enjoyable with Sport mode engaged. It just hunkers down and flings itself through fast-paced curves with hardly a squeak from the tires, portraying the kind of poise expected of a big German luxury sedan. Truly, this is one impressive driving car, with handling that borders on the mighty 7 Series. The adaptive suspension no doubt plays a part in its overall stability while keeping ride quality serene, the quiet cabin equaling the nicely sorted chassis in delivering the type of pampering experience luxury car aficionados appreciate.
With performance as good as this, one might think I’d keep it in Sport mode all the time, but Eco mode helped reduce consumption and minimized emissions, while an even more intelligent Smart mode chooses optimal responsiveness depending on the mood of the driver. Either way Genesis has all its bases covered, resulting in a very well rounded, highly refined luxury sedan that honestly deserves to be moved up to sports sedan status.
Still, sink your toes into the deep pile carpet floor mats and you’ll once again be reminded of the G90’s luxury sedan purpose, its trunk large amply sized for a couple of golf bags and easy to access thanks to powered actuation and an easy lift-over height, not to mention highly convenient due to a centre pass-through for longer items like skis, but the G90’s first priority is comfort, not utility.
Those wanting a serious sport-luxury sedan that won’t cause the taxman to question how you achieved your good fortune should consider the G90, and now is a great time to get the best deal possible on remaining stock.
Few cars have been anticipated as enthusiastically as the all-electric Porsche Taycan, and now the 2020 production model has finally been revealed at the 2019 International Motor Show Germany, a.k.a.…
Few cars have been anticipated as enthusiastically as the all-electric Porsche Taycan, and now the 2020 production model has finally been revealed at the 2019 International Motor Show Germany, a.k.a. Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung.
To call it powerful would be as ridiculously understated as claiming it quick. Consider for a moment the most potent version makes a staggering 750 horsepower and even more mind-numbing 774 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to catapult from standstill to 100 km/h in a scant 2.8 seconds.
Of course, such performance is nothing new to Tesla fans, its Model S P100D capable of shooting from zero to 100 km/h in just 2.6 seconds, although how it does so with just 613 horsepower and 686 lb-ft of torque under hood is anyone’s guess (then again, its heaviest curb weight of 2,250 kilos/4,960 lbs is quite a bit lower than the Taycan’s 2,295-kg/5,059-lb unladen weight, so that might have something to do with it). Considering Porsche’s tendency to understate performance specs, this is an upcoming showdown of epic proportions (stay tuned to every credible cable and YouTube car show for their own version).
This is a Porsche we’re talking about, however, so straight-line performance is only part of the equation. In fact, we’re ready to bet the new Taycan will be able to out-manoeuvre the Model S any day of the week. That Porsche has already partially proven its handling prowess probably gives us an unfair advantage going up to the betting window, thanks to a pre-series example’s EV-record-setting 7:42-minute lap of the famed Nürburgring-Nordschleife, which beat the last Tesla Model S P85D’s time of 8:50 by more than a minute. And yes, a minute on a racetrack is an eternity, so we’ll put another wager on Tesla showing up at the “Green Hell” track with its latest P100D, a full crew and a very well proven pilot (and definitely not Auto Pilot).
In all fairness to the California company, the new Taycan is much pricier than even a fully equipped Model S P100D. The “entry-level” (for now) 2020 Taycan Turbo, with its 671 maximum horsepower, 627 lb-ft of torque, and 3.2-second sprint to 100 km/h, goes on sale this fall for $173,900 plus destination, whereas the new top-line Taycan Turbo S can be had for $213,900. These two trims aren’t loaded up 100-percent either. In fact, Porsche’s plentiful and pricey options list can drive the top model’s delivery window sticker above $250k, which is territory more commonly occupied by the Aston Martin Rapides, Bentley Flying Spurs and Rolls-Royce Ghosts of the ultra-luxury world.
This said, none of the above super sedans are capable of doing the 100-metre dash as fast or scale a mountain pass as adeptly as the Taycan, plus none will do so without gulping down tankers full of premium unleaded. The Tesla Model S is available from a comparatively modest $108,990, while its Performance trim is still rather paltry at $134,990, although it manages to creep up to $155k with all available options added on.
Before anyone starts concerning themselves that Porsche has totally forgotten the average Joe or Jane, take some comfort in knowing that these ultra-quick Turbo models (in name only, by the way) are being introduced first for their wow factor, while slightly slower trims will arrive later this year, and the crossover coupe-styled Cross Turismo will go up against the Jaguar I-Pace sometime toward the end of 2020.
Like with performance, there’s more separating these two supercharged heroes than merely going fast with zero local emissions. Obviously styling is a key differentiator, with the Taycan’s perfectly fresh, near spaceship-like lines and brilliantly penned details making the still attractive yet rather stale Model S seem geriatric side-by-side. Fit, finish and refinement isn’t a Model S strength, but we can expect industry-best within this Porsche, while the German automaker’s on-board electronics are now some of the best in the industry.
The Taycan features a completely digital pod-like primary gauge cluster that seems to float behind the steering wheel. It comes filled with a colourful array of high-resolution graphics in a classic Porsche curved oval shape, while its dash-wide set of dual touchscreens, the second one just ahead of the front passenger, and third being a capacitive display on the centre console, provide a feast for the eyes as well as an unprecedented level of hand gesture control.
Without doubt one of those screens includes animated power-flow graphics showing a permanent-magnet synchronous motor at each axle combining for the aforementioned output figures depending on trim, incidentally putting out 616 horsepower no matter the model when not in launch mode.
When switched back to that overboost setting, the slower of the two Taycan trims can shoot from standstill to 200 km/h in just 10.6 seconds, while its standing quarter mile takes a mere 11.1 seconds. Do likewise in the more potent car and the 200-km/h mark takes only 9.8 seconds to pass, while the quarter mile arrives in 10.8. Both models’ terminal velocity is 280 km/h (161 mph), which is obviously electronically limited.
The Taycan uses a single-speed front transmission and a larger two-speed rear gearbox to push power down to all four wheels, the latter unit housing one gear for acceleration and a second taller gear for higher speed cruising. The Taycan chooses its rear gear automatically by monitoring driving style, plus it can partially be done manually via one of five driving modes. Range mode is all about efficiency and therefore uses the taller second gear as much as possible while temporarily turning off the front motor, whereas Normal mode prioritizes the second gear yet utilizes the first gear more. On the other hand, or foot, Sport mode prioritizes first gear up to about 90 to 100 km/h, but the transmission shifts to second whenever the driver eases off the throttle, and then back to first again when required. The Taycan also features Sport Plus and Individual drive modes.
Where Tesla’s are notorious for overheating, Porsche is promising cooler running by incorporating a special hairpin winding technique to the stators’ copper solenoid coils. This provides a copper fill factor of 70 percent compared to 45 percent when wound the traditional way, and results in increased performance while keeping things cooler than they’d otherwise be.
To test the Taycan’s endurance in extremely hot climates (of 42°C with a track temperature of almost 54°C), Porsche ran a pre-production model around Italy’s high-banked Nardò Ring oval racetrack (it’s actually more of a circle) at speeds ranging between 195 and 215 km/h for 24 hours straight, a marathon sprint that included six test drivers covering 3,425 kilometres (2,128 miles). Following up this grueling test program, Porsche also punished its Taycan by undergoing 26 back-to-back sprints from zero to 200 km/h in less than 10 seconds apiece, with a 0.8-second difference between fastest and slowest acceleration times (Tesla owners should be impressed by this). Then there’s the aforementioned Nürburgring stint, which completely sets the Taycan apart from mere stoplight dragsters.
Embedded within the floor of Taycan Turbo is an LG-produced 93.4-kilowatt-hour high-voltage lithium-ion battery with enough stored energy for 381 to 450 km (237 to 280 miles) of range on the Europeans’ WLTP rating system. The more sport-oriented Turbo S gets an uprated version of the same battery that’s capable of a 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) range.
An industry-first 800-volt electrical architecture makes recharging easier and quicker. In fact, the Taycan can charge at a maximum rate of 270 kilowatts, which makes it possible to refill from five to 80 percent in only 22.5 minutes. The Tesla (and other electric vehicles) use 400-volt architectures, and therefore need more time to top up the tank, so to speak.
Maximizing ease of charging is the Taycan’s Charging Planner, which has the ability to plot a given course by factoring in the best places to recharge along the way. For instance, it can choose a faster 270-kW charge station that can save you time over a regular 50-kW DC charger, even if the quicker charger requires driving a bit off course. Additionally, the Charging Planner preconditions the battery to 20°C, optimal for quicker charging. It does much more, but we’ll leave the rest for you to discover.
The 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo and Turbo S are now available to build and order from Porsche Canada’s retail website or through your local dealer, so make sure to act quickly if you want to be first on your block to own the most intriguing electric car to ever be sold through a regular dealer network. The Taycan certainly appears like it will give Tesla’s fastest Model S a run for its money, especially considering Porsche’s claimed performance numbers are almost always more conservative than what private testers experience.
And while you’re waiting for your Taycan to arrive, or merely wishing for your lottery ticket numbers to sync up with the next set to be announced, enjoy the full album of gallery photos above and bevy of Porsche-supplied videos below:
World Premiere Porsche Taycan (40:33):
The new Porsche Taycan – Designed to enliven (1:28):
The fully electric Porsche Taycan accelerates 0-90-0 mph on the USS Hornet (0:59):
Onboard Lap – Porsche Taycan Sets a Record at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (8:09):
New Porsche Taycan sets a record at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (0:58):
Taycan Prototype Convinces at Endurance Run in Nardò (0:57):
The new electric Porsche Taycan proves its repeatability of power before upcoming World Premiere (1:05):
A thank you to electricity: The Porsche Taycan (0:45):
The mid-size crossover SUV segment has more than blown wide open in recent years, with every mainstream volume manufacturer now in the game and most making sure their entries are as fresh and advanced…
The mid-size crossover SUV segment has more than blown wide open in recent years, with every mainstream volume manufacturer now in the game and most making sure their entries are as fresh and advanced as possible.
Before the new 2019 Ascent arrived on the scene last fall, Subaru had been out of this market segment for a half decade. Its previous mid-size crossover, the 2005 to 2014 Tribeca, impressed in plenty of ways except for styling and third-row spaciousness, so Subaru made sure its Ascent was large enough and easier on the eyes.
Despite two-row crossover SUVs leading the mid-size sector in individual sales, Subaru already has the compact five-seat Forester and the mid-size Outback tall wagon, both very successful models, so therefore the Japanese brand made the choice to address those with larger families and a need for more gear-toting space. Others have done likewise, with Honda having made its three-row Pilot available for 17 years before its all-new two-row Passport showed up this summer, so maybe we’ll see a larger five-seat Subaru SUV at some point in the future.
Until then, the North American-exclusive Ascent is configured for eight occupants in standard trim and seven with its optional second-row captain’s chairs, the latter setup being how Subaru outfitted my top-line Premier test model. It’s not a small SUV, measuring 4,998 millimetres (196.8 inches) front to back with a 2,890-mm (113.8-inch) wheelbase, while its overall height reaches 1,819 mm (71.6 inches) tall including its standard roof rails. Additionally, it spans 2,176 mm (85.6 inches) wide with its side mirrors extracted, while its track measures 1,635 mm (64.4 inches) up front and 1,630 mm (64.2 inches) at the rear.
To put it into perspective, the new Ascent is 48 mm (1.9 inches) shorter than the mid-size three-row SUV category’s best-selling Ford Explorer, albeit with a 24-mm (0.9-inch) longer wheelbase, while some might also be surprised to find out the new Subaru is 42 mm (1.6 inches) taller than the big blue-oval utility. The only Explorer measurements to exceed the Ascent span from side-to-side, which see Ford’s SUV stretching a sizeable 119 mm (4.7 inches) wider with 66 and 71 mm (2.6 and 2.8 inches) more front and rear track respectively. It should be noted the Explorer is one of the mid-size segment’s largest SUVs.
Comparing the new Ascent to other top-sellers shows that it’s longer, wider and taller than the Toyota Highlander and Kia Sorento (but shorter than the new Kia Telluride, with a shorter wheelbase and less width), longer and taller than the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe XL (which is now outgoing, but it’s a fraction longer than the new Hyundai Palisade as well, although its wheelbase isn’t nor its width), wider and taller than the Nissan Pathfinder, merely wider than the Dodge Durango, and only taller than the Volkswagen Atlas.
By the way, that was only a partial list of the Ascent’s three-row mid-size crossover SUV challengers, the full list (from best-selling to least during the first three quarters of 2018) including the Explorer, Sorento, Highlander, Atlas, Pilot, Durango, Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, Santa Fe XL, Dodge Journey, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, and Ford Flex, plus the just-noted new Palisade and Telluride (which are too new to categorize by sales numbers, but should do well).
Even more important than exterior size is passenger volume and cargo space, which for the Ascent measure 4,347 litres (153.5 cubic feet) for the former and 2,449 litres (86.5 cu ft) for the latter when both rear rows are folded flat. Those numbers are just for the most basic of Ascent trims, incidentally, which also measures 1,345 litres (47.5 cu ft) behind the 60/40-split second row and 504 litres (17.8 cu ft) behind the 60/40-split third row, while all other trims are half a litre less commodious at 2,435 litres (86.0 cu ft) behind the first row, 1,331 litres (47.0 cu ft) aft of the second row, and 498 litres (17.6 cu ft) in the very back.
These figures compare well against key competitors, with the Ascent’s passenger volume even greater than the Explorer’s, and its standard eight-occupant seating configuration a rarity in the class, while the big Subaru’s maximum cargo capacity makes it one of the segment’s most accommodating too. Also important, rear passenger access is made easier thanks to second-row doors that open to 75 degrees.
Being that the Ascent is a Subaru SUV, it includes standard full-time Symmetrical AWD, which has long proven to be one of the more capable all-wheel drive systems available. Its initial advantage starts with more evenly balanced weight distribution thanks to a longitudinally-mounted engine and transmission, its competitors’ AWD setups derived from FWD chassis architectures that house transversely-mounted motors, plus Subaru’s horizontally-opposed flat “boxer” engine allows for a lower centre of gravity, which improves handling and packaging.
Additionally, Symmetrical AWD applies more torque to the wheels with the most grip, and it’s done in such a way that traction not only improves when taking off from standstill in slippery conditions, but it also benefits overall control at higher speeds. This results in an SUV that’s plenty capable no matter the road or trail surface it’s traveling over, while its standard X-mode off-road system, complete with hill descent control, plus its generous 220 millimetres (8.66 inches) of ground clearance for overcoming obstacles, snow banks, etcetera, makes it better than the crossover SUV average for tackling rougher situations.
During our off-road test, all we needed to do was press the X-Mode button on the lower console and it responded almost as well as the low gearing range of a truck-based 4×4. You can hear the electronic traction and stability control systems going to work as it was searching for traction, and it went up some very steep, slippery, muddy patches that I would’ve normally only attempted with something with a bull-low gear set, like a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner.
On that note the Ascent provides one of the nicest rides in its class too, something I really appreciated when off-pavement, but I won’t go so far as to say it’s the sportiest or best handling in this three-row category. It’s still capable of coursing through winding backcountry two-lane roads at a decent clip, but don’t expect it to increase your adrenaline levels unless high-speed body lean is your idea of a good time.
The new SUV utilizes the Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which combines rigid yet lightweight unibody construction with a fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension setup, enhanced further by a stabilizer bar mounted directly to the body at the rear and electric rack and pinion steering up front. It all rolls on 18-inch silver five-spoke alloys shod with 245/60 all-seasons in the Ascent’s two lower trims, and 20-inch machine-finished high-gloss split-spoke rims on 245/50 rubber for the two upper trims, my tester benefiting from the latter.
And yes, good road-holding is important in an SUV that gets up and goes as quickly as the Ascent. Its horizontally-opposed 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides strong performance off the line and plenty of passing power too, thanks to 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, the latter maximized between 2,000 and 4,800 rpm, but I found it best when driven in a more relaxed manner where the powertrain was wonderfully smooth and didn’t use a lot of fuel.
Subaru claims 11.6 L/100km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 10.4 combined for the new Ascent, compared to 12.0, 8.7 and 10.5 respectively for the larger displacement 3.6-litre H-6 in the considerably smaller Outback. Considering new four-cylinder produces 4 more horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque than that now aging flat-six, we’ll more than likely see this smaller, much more efficient turbocharged engine in a future Outback as well.
The Ascent also compares well against the base 2.3-litre turbo-four-powered Explorer that gets an estimated 13.1 city, 9.2 highway and 11.4 combined, although the Ford makes considerably more power, while the most efficient version of Toyota’s Highlander V6 AWD actually performs impressively with an almost identical rating to the Ascent, of 11.7, 8.8 and 10.4 respectively. Needless to say the Ascent competes at the pump very well considering its performance and size.
Aiding efficiency is the Ascent’s High-torque Lineartronic CVT, the continuously variable transmission not only thrifty but also ideal for mid-size crossover SUV applications due to smooth, linear power delivery. Subaru adds a standard set of steering wheel paddle shifters to improve driver engagement, along with a pseudo eight-speed manual mode that does a pretty good job of mimicking a regular transmission’s gear changes while featuring fairly sporty driving characteristics as well as standard Active Torque Vectoring to increase grip at high speeds. Subaru first introduced this advanced CVT for its WRX performance car, and while not set up to respond as sharply as it would in its world rally-inspired sport sedan, it still does a great job of combining positive, smooth shifts with minimal fuel consumption.
Unlike many of the Ascent’s mid-size rivals, its AWD is standard and powertrain a one-size-fits-all affair, no matter the trim level. On that note, the 2019 Ascent can be had in Convenience, Touring, Limited and Premier grades, with standard Convenience features not already mentioned including auto on/off halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights, roof rails, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, three-zone automatic climate control, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, a rearview camera, six-speaker audio, satellite radio, three-way heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, second-row USB ports, a total of 19 cup and bottle holders, and more for just $35,995 plus freight and fees.
Each and every 2019 Ascent trim also includes standard Subaru EyeSight driver assist technologies such as adaptive cruise control with lead vehicle start assist, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and lane keeping assist, while all the expected active and passive safety features come standard too.
For $40,995 in eight-passenger trim or $41,495 with second-row captain’s chairs, which reduces the total seat count to seven, Ascent Touring trim adds the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system that includes blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking, as well as unique machine-finished five-spoke 18-inch alloys, body-colour side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals and approach lighting, LED fog lamps, a sportier rear bumper cap with integrated tailpipe cutouts, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, front door courtesy lights, chrome inner door handles, a Homelink garage door opener, a windshield wiper de-icer, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, premium cloth upholstery, a powered panoramic sunroof, magazine pockets on the front seatbacks, second-row climate controls, third-row reading lights, a rear cargo cover, a powered liftgate, a transmission oil cooler, trailer stability control, and pre-wiring for a trailer hitch that increases towing capacity to 2,270 kg (5,000 lbs).
Limited trim, starting at $46,495 in standard eight-passenger layout or $46,995 in its seven-passenger configuration with second-row captain’s chairs, adds the larger 20-inch alloys mentioned earlier, plus steering-responsive full low/high beam LED headlights with automatic high beam assist, black and ivory soft-touch interior surfaces, a heatable steering wheel, an upgraded gauge cluster with chrome bezels and light blue needles (in place of red), and a 6.3-inch colour multifunction display atop the dash that shows the time, temperature and dynamic features such as an inclinometer, while a navigation system with detailed mapping is included within the infotainment display, as is SiriusXM Traffic, whereas additional Limited features include a 14-speaker 792-watt Harman/Kardon audio system, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat upgraded to include powered lumbar support and cushion length adjustment, driver’s seat and side-mirror memory, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, leather upholstery, two-way heatable second-row outboard seats, integrated rear door sunshades, third-row USB ports, and more.
Top-tier Premier trim, which comes fully equipped at $49,995, even including standard captain’s chairs, adds an upgraded high-gloss black grille insert, satin-finish side mirror caps, chrome exterior door handles, rain-sensing wipers, ambient interior lighting, a front-view camera, a Smart Rearview Mirror with an integrated rear-view camera, woodgrain inlays, brown perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a 120-volt power outlet on the rear centre console, and more.
Incidentally, all 2019 Subaru Ascent pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new model sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
As for interior accommodations and finishings, the dash top in our Ascent Premier was mostly covered in a leather-look soft-to-the-touch synthetic, featuring stylish stitching across the middle in front of the passenger. Just below is a handy shelf that’s similar to the Highlander’s in function, while more leather-like composite, also stitched with real thread, supports that shelf across the lower portion of the dash before visually melding into the door panels, this surface treatment in a lovely ivory colour. The black and ivory colour theme is nicely complemented by brown armrests in the same tone as the aforementioned brown leather seats, while Premier trim also includes woodgrain inlays that don’t even try to look or feel genuine despite having a slight matte finish. I should also mention that elbow-pampering soft-touch door uppers can be found front and back, but don’t expect fabric-wrapped roof pillars as on some other mainstream mid-size SUVs.
The primary instruments are nicely done, but this top-line model does not include a full digital gauge cluster, a feature that’s starting to show up in many of the Ascent’s recently new or redesigned competitors, such as the Volkswagen Atlas and Hyundai Palisade. Just the same, the dials’ blue needles are a nice touch instead of the usual red found in lower trims, while the vertical TFT multi-information display includes a nice graphic of the SUV’s backside with taillights that light up when you press the brake. It’s kind of fun to watch, but this display is even more useful for reminding drivers they may have left something, someone or some pet in the rear seating compartment by notifying via a visual alert and audio alarm chime, as well as other functions.
This said the larger multi-information display atop the dash goes to work when the aforementioned EyeSight ADAS systems are put into action, with really attractive and detailed graphics, while this display also provides speed limit information, navigation system info, an inclinometer and other off-road features, and more.
Just below on the centre stack, the Ascent gets Subaru’s beautiful new high-resolution 3D-like infotainment touchscreen that we first enjoyed in the new Forester and WRX models. It’s a giant step up in visual attractiveness and functionality, getting all of the features and apps noted previously while I listed off standard and optional items, while responding to input quickly and reliably.
Speaking of quick response times, the heated steering wheel rim and three-way heatable front seats come on quickly and remain hot as well, instead of slowly cooling off like so many others are programmed to. The switch for steering wheel heat is logically located just under the right-side spoke where it’s easy to find, while the adaptive cruise control system, activated via buttons just above, works perfectly in both high-speed and stop-and-go situations. Similarly, the lane departure system held the Ascent in place when cruising down the freeway, but it tended to bounce off the lines instead of maintaining the centre of a given lane when my hands weren’t on the wheel (not that I recommend driving without hands on the wheel, but I was testing the system out).
Speaking of technologies, the Ascent Premier’s centre mirror gets pretty close to mirroring a sophisticated smartphone or tablet. It does double-duty as a backup camera when a switch just below is flicked rearward, whereas pulling that lever forward causes it to revert to a regular auto-dimming mirror. Less sophisticated yet also appreciated, the Ascent’s handy sunglasses holder doubles as a conversation mirror.
The seats are extremely comfortable and wide, good for large people yet also accommodating for my five-foot-eight medium-build body type. With the driver’s seat set up for my long-legged, short-torso frame, meaning that it was pushed farther rearward than it would be with some other people of my stature, I still had no problem comfortably reaching the steering wheel when the column was extended as far back as possible, plus when walking around to the second row and climbing in directly behind the driver’s seat I found the rear passenger accommodations very spacious and comfortable. In fact, there was about 10 inches of nothing between my knees and the front seatback, plus more than enough room to move my head and shoulders around.
Even more amazing, with the middle row pushed as far back as possible I still had ample room in the third row. To be clear, my knees were touching the second-row seatbacks, so moving those seats forward a smidge would’ve made it easier to move around in the very back, but I had close to three inches over my head, meaning the third row could be used for average-sized adults, even when larger adults are sitting in the first two rows.
As noted earlier, there’s a fair bit of room behind the rearmost seats for gear, this space about as large as a full-size sedan’s trunk, while below the load floor there’s another compartment for stowing what-have-you along with the retractable cargo cover when not in use. Folding the 60/40-split third row down is a little bit awkward, but it works well enough. First you’ll need to manually slide the headrests into the seatbacks, and then tug a strap on top of the seats before pushing the seats forward. To get them back up, just pull the longer strap that’s attached to the cargo floor/seatback. The second row folds down by first unlatching it, so you can slide it forward, and then unlatching a second release at which point you can slide them back if you want to match up each side. There’s certainly a lot of space for luggage or building materials, but the captain’s chairs don’t form a very flat loading surface. I’m guessing it would work better with the standard bench seat, so if you’re doing a lot of hauling you may want to purchase one of the Ascent’s lesser trims.
As far as purchasing an Ascent at all, I think Subaru has done a very good job with its second-ever mid-size SUV. First, it looks like a Subaru, albeit on steroids, and should be attractive to those buying into this category, while its overall size and ability to haul plenty of passengers in comfort plus loads of cargo should appeal to all but those looking for a full-size utility. The Ascent’s fit and finish is quite good for the class, electronics very good, standard and optional features set impressive, performance and fuel economy compromise spot on, and overall feeling of quality more than up to par. Therefore if you like Subaru and you need to add space and utility to your mobility, the Ascent is well worth your time and attention.
A diesel in a compact crossover SUV? Now that’s marching to a different drummer. In fact, that distinctively domestic rat-a-tat-tat is the staccato snare of General Motors following through on promises…
A diesel in a compact crossover SUV? Now that’s marching to a different drummer.
In fact, that distinctively domestic rat-a-tat-tat is the staccato snare of General Motors following through on promises made by Asian competitors Hyundai and Mazda. The Korean and Japanese brands were supposed to arrive with diesel-powered variants of their Santa Fe and CX-5 crossover SUVs this 2019 model year, but so far there’s no sign of this ultra-efficient engine option on their retail websites, yet GM showed up in late 2017 with a turbo-diesel option as part of a three-engine lineup for its then redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain compact SUVs, a welcome first in this category, that is if we were to forget about the short-lived 2005-2006 Jeep Liberty Diesel. Let’s just say it’s a welcome first amongst compact crossovers, these more car-like GM models hardly as off-road capable as the boxy little Jeep was, that long-gone model since replaced by the Cherokee that remains a capable 4×4 less a diesel option.
I drove a 1.5-litre turbo-four gasoline-powered Equinox Premium model first (the white SUV in the photos), and have since spent a week with the same trim and its 1.6-litre turbo-diesel powerplant (the blue version). As much as I’d certainly enjoy the experience, I’ve yet to test out the most powerful top-line 2.0-litre turbo-four.
The base engine might seem a bit underwhelming on paper with just 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque on tap, particularly for those wanting or requiring quick shots of energy on command, but I found it more than sufficient for this relatively lightweight crossover SUV, and it’s very easy on the budget with a claimed five-cycle Transport Canada fuel economy rating of 9.2 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.3 combined in FWD, or 9.3, 7.8 and 8.6 respectively with AWD.
The 2.0-litre four that comes standard with AWD is good considering its 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which vaults the Equinox up into luxury compact SUV territory, yet despite an impressive nine-speed automatic, which is three forward gears more than the two lesser engine’s six-speed autoboxes, it manages just 10.9 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.7 combined.
Both transmissions come standard with automatic stop/start, by the way, which automatically shuts off the engine when the Equinox comes to a stop and then instantly restarts it when lifting off the brake in order to reduce emissions and running costs.
To be fair, this is quite good when compared to similarly powerful competitors, but both gasoline-powered models pale in comparison to the “conventionally” powered crossover SUV category’s fuel economy champ, the Equinox Diesel that’s rated at an extremely thrifty 8.5 L/100km in the city, 6.0 on the highway (6.1 with AWD) and 7.4 combined, unless compared to the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid that solidly beats Chevy’s oil burner at 5.8 city, 6.3 highway and 6.0 combined, while its $32,090 base price is a surprising thousand and change less expensive than the cheapest Equinox LT FWD model, an SUV that starts at $33,100. It’s a significant $6,400 more than the $26,700 base Equinox LS too, and $5,300 less than the $38,400 Equinox AWD Premier Diesel being reviewed here. AWD, incidentally, adds $2,400 to the base LS, while the Equinox AWD 2.0 Premier starts at $37,900.
All noted prices are not including freight and fees, but these details as well as additional pricing for trims, packages and individual options can be found at CarCostCanada, where you can also source the latest manufacturer rebates (especially important during year-end clear-outs) and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Savings in mind, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is by far the compact SUV class’ efficiency leader, albeit at $43,498 before government rebates it’s a helluvalot pricier too, leaving the two GM diesels as the most efficient non-electrified crossovers in the compact category. Even the 2.0-litre turbo beats the few similarly powerful crossovers in the class, so kudos to GM for offering such a wide variety of engine and transmission alternatives, plus making them all achieve better than average fuel economy.
I must say that I prefer the diesel upgrade to the base engine from both performance and efficiency perspectives. The diesel might only make 137 horsepower, but it puts a much more motivating 240 lb-ft of torque down to its front wheels or all four, also from just 2,000 rpm, the same as the base engine.
The Equinox AWD system improves fuel economy even more. In fact, unlike most competitors that provide full-time AWD or engineer the rear wheels to engage automatically, the Equinox drives with its front wheels unless you’ve added traction at the back via a button on the centre console. You’ll get a warning when four-wheel grip is recommended, but any other instance you can save fuel by driving what is effectively a front-wheel driven SUV. I noticed this when the front tires kept skidding at takeoff, the diesel providing so much torque at launch it was hard to hold them back, but pressing the AWD button cured this problem, making the Equinox more sure-footed at take off and of course better at holding the road during wet weather too.
Both models’ six-speed automatics were highly responsive. Each includes a rocker switch atop the shift knob for rowing through the gears in manual mode, which is an interesting alternative to shifting the entire gear lever or using steering wheel paddles (on that note don’t try shifting the gears with the buttons on the backside of the steering wheel, because you’ll probably only switch radio stations). I never once found it lacking gears, as the two engines provide ample torque over wide rev ranges, while they shifted smoothly whether toggling through the cogs manually or leaving them in Drive.
Likewise the Equinox has a nice compliant suspension, normal for any GM product other than performance-dedicated models like the Corvette Z06. For its class the Equinox handles very well too. It really feels lightweight and nimble, whether zipping in and out of congested traffic, pushing hard on a winding backcountry road, or stably cruising through fast-paced bends on the open highway.
No matter the exterior environment, most should be impressed with the Equinox Premier’s interior that’s finished to a higher grade than many of its contemporaries. It starts upon closing the driver’s door, which feels more solid than some of its tinny competitors, and continues through with some really nice details like smooth and perforated patterned and contrast-stitched leatherette surface treatments across the entire instrument panel, plus tasteful application of truly attractive aluminum-like trim on the steering wheel, primary instruments, dash vents, plus the centre stack and lower console controls.
Chevy doesn’t go overboard on soft-touch synthetics, but it does wrap the contrast-stitched leatherette armrests up and over the rear third of the door uppers, and finishes the rest of those uppers in a soft painted synthetic, which also gets used for the dash top and much of the instrument panel, plus the top edges of the centre stack and lower console. Just to be clear, it’s not as if this soft-paint will peel off at any time, as it’s permanently fixed to the plastic and therefore provides a much nicer texture than this segment’s usual hard shell plastic.
Moving such premium touches even further upmarket are really nice steering wheel controls, my tester even incorporating a heatable steering wheel rim plus adaptive cruise control, while much of these buttons modulate a colour multi-information display within the otherwise analogue gauge cluster, this featuring a digital readout for traffic sign information, and a back seat reminder that prompts when turning off the engine if you happened to open a rear door before starting off.
Leaving what I think is best for the last, the Equinox’ centre touchscreen infotainment system is really impressive. I love the simple circular graphics rimmed in mostly primary colours, which are bright, modern and ultra-easy to figure out. This is one of the better infotainment systems available in this class, and while I’ve seen larger displays this one is wonderfully crisp and clear, with superb resolution plus nice, deep, rich colours and good contrast. The navigation system’s map provides clear instructions, and it worked accurately throughout my test week. My only infotainment disappointment was a lack of album cover graphics when using satellite radio, which was a bit unexpected being that GM basically gave satellite radio a leg up by adding it across virtually all models when the service first started. Nevertheless, satellite radio is always appreciated.
The infotainment system also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus my tester included one of the better surround parking cameras I’ve ever used, with the ability to transfer the view from a default mode, which makes the overhead camera smaller and to the left of the display with a larger backup camera with dynamic guidelines to the right, over to a full backup camera with dynamic guidelines, or alternatively to a different view of that same reverse camera, an overhead view of that rearview camera, or alternatively a bizarre frontal view that actually seems as if it’s filming the SUV from outer space, really handy close-ups of curb or road on both sides, to an extreme close-up of the front, and more. Believe me, this camera will keep you spellbound for hours, and once you figure out all the viewpoints you’ll never scratch a set of wheels (or another vehicle) again. Incidentally, this top-line parking camera and the base version were upgraded with improved image quality for this 2019 model year.
Below the infotainment display is a dual-zone automatic climate control interface that’s well organized and attractive enough, but my favourite set of buttons were for activating the three-way heated and/or ventilated front seats, the latter not always available in this class, but really helpful for keeping backside dry and cool against leather in the summer.
The base of the centre stack features a large opening with a rubberized compartment that’s carved out to ideally fit a large smartphone in its elongated position. A wireless charging pad was included, plus GM now incorporates the usual USB-A plug as well as one of the newer USB-C ports (both capable of charging and used as inputs to the infotainment system), which might have been needed for my Samsung S9 if it wasn’t already charging on the just-noted wireless pad. The usual aux plug and 12-volt charger are included too, so your devices will be nicely taken care of in that little compartment alone, although moving slightly rearward results in two more USB charging ports under the front centre armrest.
Look skyward and you’ll see an overhead console with a handy sunglasses holder that I used all week, plus LED reading lights, and controls for OnStar, SOS, and more. Two of those switches open the panoramic sunroof or its sunshade. I always appreciate large glass roofs like this as they bring a lot of light inside resulting in a nicer, more open ambiance.
Speaking of room, the Equinox provided plenty for my medium-build five-foot-eight frame, plus a really good driving position that allowed me to get comfortable while maintaining full control. This isn’t always the case, by the way. I actually have trouble getting the tilt and telescopic steering columns of some competitors to reach far enough rearward when my seat is set ideally for my legs, particularly the aforementioned Toyota RAV4 that doesn’t have anywhere near enough adjustability, but no such difficulty in the well designed Equinox cabin.
What’s more, when my driver’s seat was set up for my long-legged short torso body type, I still had about eight inches of space ahead of my knees when sitting just behind in the second row, plus plenty of room from side to side and about two inches above my head, that panoramic sunroof mentioned a moment ago pushing the surrounding roof area down a couple of inches than it probably would have been if not included. Still, I’d take the roof, but I can imagine those with really tall six-foot-plus teens might find it a bit too low back there.
As far as rear seat amenities go, Chevy includes LED reading lights on both sides, two more USB-A charge ports (new for 2019), a three-prong household-style 120-volt plug, and the best rear outboard seat heaters I’ve ever tested, in that their three-way temperature controls adjust both lower cushion and backrest heat, or just the back alone. You shouldn’t hear too many complaints from your kids, although being that the rear seatback is divided in a simple 60/40 configuration instead of some competitors’ 40/20/40 split or 60/40 with a centre pass-through, families that ski will need to draw straws for the lucky rear seat passenger getting the bun warmer for the ride home.
At least Chevy provides levers on the cargo wall for automatically folding those rear seatbacks down. Just give them a tug and the seats lay flat immediately. There’s also a fairly sizeable storage compartment under the load floor, which I certainly would put to good use if this were my SUV, while the area behind the rear seatbacks measures a generous 847 litres (29.9 cu ft), expanding to 1,809 litres (63.9 cu ft) when those seats are folded down.
While the 2019 Equinox doesn’t look any different from the redesigned 2018 model, Chevy put a lot of effort into reconfiguring trims and packages to better suit their customers. For starters, a new Lights and Bright package can be had with second-rung LT trim, which adds a chrome grille surround, LED headlamps and taillights, plus unique 19-inch wheels. On the negative, front-drive LT models no longer get a standard leather-trimmed shift knob, this now available as part of an option package.
My tester included a $2,995 Driver Confidence and Convenience II package that’s exclusively available with Premier trim and features the surround parking camera noted earlier, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, a safety alert seat that vibrates if you veer out of your lane or cause any number of other issues, a heatable steering wheel rim, an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat with powered lumbar support, ventilated driver and front passenger seats, and the heated rear seats noted a moment ago.
Alternatively you can opt for either the Driver Confidence II or Driver Convenience II package that includes the tech or luxury updates individually, while my tester also included a no-cost set of 19-inch five-spoke alloys. I won’t go into all the available options, but suffice to say those wanting to personalize their Equinox will be well taken care of.
My tester also included a $1,305 Infotainment II package with the previously noted panoramic sunroof, navigation, a seven-speaker Bose audio upgrade, HD radio, and 19-inch alloys, while some notable Premier trim features include LED headlights and taillights, chrome door handles and mirror caps, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, a universal garage door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control, a one-inch larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, rear park assist, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a hands-free powered liftgate, etcetera.
There’s plenty more that makes the Equinox worthy of your attention, but take note the diesel option will be discontinued for 2020, so you’ll need to act fast if you want to get your hands on one.