Porsche has been an automotive innovator since inception, and continues to show plenty of creativity with each passing year.
After decades of four- and six-cylinder, horizontally opposed, rear-engine sports cars, plus front-engine, rear-drive, inline-four- and V8-powered GTs, Porsche became the first dedicated sports car maker to introduce a volume production sport utility in 2003, with that wholly successful Cayenne followed up by the smaller Macan in 2014.
The Macan has become Porsche’s global sales leader with 86,031 units delivered last year compared to the Cayenne’s 71,458 deliveries, these two models making up the bulk of the Stuttgart, Germany automaker’s best-ever 256,255 worldwide sales (next in line was the Panamera with 38,443 sales after ultra-strong 38-percent year-over-year growth, while 911 deliveries grew to 35,573 units sold. The remaining 24,750 unit sales came from Porsche’s entry-level mid-engine 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster sports cars, while the new all-electric Taycan four-door coupe, plus a completely redesigned range of 911 models and the new Macan should help boost sales for calendar year 2020.
Porsche’s new 2019 Macan went into production in August of 2018 and became available in base and S trims toward the end of that year, the entry model sporting 248 horsepower and the S making 100 horsepower more for a total of 348 (see Refreshed 2019 Porsche Macan S to receive new 348-hp single-turbo V6). Just as the carryover 2020 Macan was hitting dealer showrooms this fall a new 440-horsepower 2020 Macan Turbo was introduced (see New 440 hp 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo faster than ever), this model slated to arrive early next year (2020). Of course, anyone who follows things Porsche will know which trim comes next, and so, just like clockwork, the Macan is now available to order as a 2021 GTS (check out CarCostCanada for up-to-date 2019 and 2020 Macan trim, package and option prices, plus manufacturing rebate info, factory financing deals, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
For $77,100 (plus freight and fees), which is exactly $4,000 more than the last GTS sold for back in model year 2017, the new 2021 Macan GTS slots in between mid-range S and top-tier Turbo trims, albeit with its own even sportier flavour. Engine output is up by 15 horsepower over the previous model, and its new 261-km/h top speed is commensurately 5 km/h faster.
A 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 makes an energetic 375 horsepower plus 383 lb-ft of torque, ahead of sending it to all four wheels via a seven-speed automated dual-clutch transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddles. Zero to 100 km/h takes just 4.9 seconds, or 4.7 seconds with the available Sport Chrono package, which makes it 0.3 seconds quicker than the previous Macan GTS was off the line. Standard sport exhaust reportedly makes the Macan GTS sound just as good as it drives.
Just like the original GTS, the new version has been lowered by 15 millimetres to improve handling, while its standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) damping control system was specially tuned for heightened performance all around. High-speed control can be further improved by opting for an adaptive air suspension that drops the GTS by an additional 10 mm.
Standard red brake calipers bite into 360 by 36 mm front and 330 by 22 mm rear cast iron rotors, but braking performance can be improved yet further with the Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) upgrade that features a tungsten carbide coating, while the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) option is also available.
Without detailing out all the 2019 Macan styling changes that were covered in a previous story (see Porsche refreshes its best-selling Macan for 2019), some highlights including standard LED headlamps as well as Porsche’s now trademark LED light bar-infused three-dimensional taillights, the new Macan GTS incorporates darkened lenses front and back, plus adds an exterior Sport Design package that includes a revised front fascia with new grille inserts, and a completely redesigned lower front section, while changes moving rearward include special body-coloured side sill extensions below thick matte-grey/black side trim sections featuring “GTS” script. Porsche adds more body-colour paint to the lower rear bumper, while high-gloss black accents are added elsewhere from nose to tail. Lastly, satin-gloss black-painted 20-inch RS Spyder Design alloy rims frame the sporty red brake calipers noted a moment ago.
Porsche continues the GTS’ sporty red theme inside where the primary gauge cluster includes a red facing for its centre-mounted tachometer, totally setting it apart from any other Macan model and anything within the compact luxury SUV segment, while Carmine Red or Chalk stitching can be added to spice up the dash, door panels and seats.
Those eight-way adjustable sport seats are upholstered with leather bolsters and grippy suede-like Alcantara inserts, all four of embroidered with GTS logos on their headrests. Alcantara covers the door panel inserts too, as well as the side and centre armrests, not to mention the roofliner and pillars, while genuine brushed aluminum accents brighten up key areas around the interior, the exclusive GTS steering wheel a particularly good example of metal craftsmanship.
The 2021 Macan GTS is now available to order from your local Porsche retailer, with deliveries expected to arrive during the summer of 2020.
Until we see get to test one for ourselves or even see this impressive new Macan on the street, enjoy this video provided by Porsche:
The new Macan GTS. More of what you love. (1:34):
Hold on. Subaru’s BRZ now outsells the Scion FR-S… er… the Toyota 86 by 2.5-to-one? What’s going on? Toyota has the stronger brand, right? Boy was I wrong. I was sure that rebadging Scion’s…
Hold on. Subaru’s BRZ now outsells the Scion FR-S… er… the Toyota 86 by 2.5-to-one? What’s going on? Toyota has the stronger brand, right?
Boy was I wrong. I was sure that rebadging Scion’s sports car with Toyota’s much better-known logo would cause some sort of uptick in popularity, but its sales decline has been brutal over the past couple of years. In fact, since the car first became available in 2012, which began with a level of excitement from performance and tuning car enthusiasts that I hadn’t seen for a very long time and resulted in 1,470 Canadian deliveries in its first seven months, its sales have steadily dropped from a bullish 1,825 units in 2013, to 1,559 in 2014, 1,329 in 2015, 988 in 2016, 919 in 2017, and 550 in 2018, while as of November 2019 Toyota has only sold 250 units, representing a 53.3-percent drop over the same 11 months last year. Adding insult to injury, Subaru’s aforementioned BRZ, which only started edging out the 86 last year, is now sitting at 625 deliveries after 8.1 percent growth so far this year.
The BRZ’s recent upsurge should be an important indicator when analyzing the 86’ fall from grace. The fact is, not all sports cars are experiencing a downturn, but instead some, such as the BRZ and Mazda’s venerable MX-5, which has sold 767 examples so far this year for a 26.99-percent bump in popularity, are showing there’s renewed interest in the entry-level sports car segment, as long as its ardent customer base gets what they want.
Truth be told, Toyota’s 86 hasn’t changed much since it was refreshed for 2017 as part of its Scion FR-S transformation, and while part of me believes it doesn’t need much if any modifications, the numbers don’t lie. Truly, despite a U.S.-market Toyota spokesperson declaring last year that the 86 is here to stay for the foreseeable future, its current numbers should have the model’s handful of diehard fans feeling uncomfortable.
But the quoted numbers are just for Canada, right? What about the U.S.? Sales are certainly brighter south of the 49th where they’d need about 2,500 deliveries to match Canada’s output per capita. Year-to-date Toyota’s U.S. division has seen 86 sales grow by 3.9 percent to 3,122 units, which while hardly worthy of streamers, party horns and other New Year’s noise makers, at least beat Subaru at the very same game by trouncing U.S.-spec BRZ sales by 70.5 percent due to that model’s 36.8-percent plunge to 2,203 units. How did the MX-5 “Miata” do in the States? Not well at 7,314 units, a 13.5-percent drop, but at least none of them are the Fiat 124 Spider that’s only sold 687 units as of November 2019, a 32.7-percent downward spiral from a position that some might say was already well underwater (or six feet under?). Such results make Fiat Canada’s 204-unit 124 Spider sales look awesome per capita despite a 25.8-percent hit (U.S. deliveries should be about 2,000 units by comparison), and really Fiat shouldn’t feel so bad when comparing its current 124 Spider success to the 86.
There’s kind of good news on the horizon for Toyota’s most affordable sports car, however, and no I’m not talking about any increase in straight-line performance, an improvement most have been calling for since the model’s inception, but rather a much-needed upgrade to its infotainment system arriving for the upcoming 2020 model year. As it is, the 2019 Toyota 86 GT you’re looking at on this page appears identical to the one I tested in 2017, other than this car’s coat Raven Black paint and the 2017 model’s now discontinued burnt orange-like Hot Lava.
Toyota redesigned the entire front fascia for 2017, with those changes continuing into 2019 as well. Attractively detailed standard LED headlamps were part of the upgrade, and still provide a more sophisticated appearance, while the elongated front fender vents and redesigned “86” insignia, now positioned lower on the side panel, were at least different, as were the revised taillight lenses updated with brighter LEDs.
The cabin has always been pretty decent, but the earlier FR-S examples I drove never let me inside with proximity-sensing keyless access, nor did they start with a pushbutton, keep me warm via dual-zone automatic climate control, skinned their seats in leather trimmed with suede-like Alcantara, or covered their primary instrument hoods and passenger-side dash sections in padded and stitched microsuede like this 2019 86 does, but I must say the infotainment update promised for 2020 will be welcome.
Back in 2017, the current 6.1-inch centre touchscreen stopped paying tribute to Pioneer by upgrade its graphics to an attractive blue on black patterned background with cyan links, plus adding Toyota branding. It continues to look pretty good, but doesn’t come off as advanced as the automaker’s new Entune system, because it clearly isn’t. Other than the usual radio functions it allows for USB integration, plus it connects wirelessly via Bluetooth for talking on the phone and streaming audio, but believe it or not it doesn’t project the backup camera’s image. Instead, it blocks half of the rearview mirror’s usefulness with a tiny image that’s hardly useful at night in the rain, seeming more like a way for Toyota to satisfy regulators that now demand rearview cameras, than improve safety. I was therefore shocked to learn that the completely new 7.0-inch centre touchscreen in the 2020 86, which positively includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, doesn’t include the rearview camera. This means you’ll still be squinting at the mirror when backing up, which simply isn’t good enough.
This said, with North American sales numbers as poor as they are, should we expect any more investment in the 2020 86? Then again, are those numbers as bad as they are because Toyota hasn’t invested enough in this car? Even hindsight can’t help us answer this question, but one thing is certain, the 86 remains one of the most enjoyable cars in its class to hustle down a winding mountainside road.
I specified “down” because its Subaru-sourced 2.0-litre horizontally opposed “boxer” four-cylinder engine continues to make just 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque, which while pretty good for most cars that weigh in at just 1,252 kilos (2,760 lbs), isn’t as formidable as many of its peers. Those numbers were bumped up five points each for 2017, which was an improvement, but 2.5 and 3.3 percent upgrades respectively didn’t answered the ongoing call for more performance requested by the very same customers buying it.
Of note, only six-speed manual (6M) equipped cars received the increased power, which came together with a reworked rear differential designed for quicker launches from standstill. Cars like my previous 2017 tester that utilize Toyota’s paddle-shift actuated six-speed automatic (6A), which incorporates a downshift rev-matching system dubbed “Dynamic Rev Management,” continued forward with the unmodified powertrain, but at least Toyota added hill start assist.
I have to admit to not minding the autobox as much as I expected, as it’s a decent transmission and a lot easier to live with around town, but this is a rear-wheel drive sports car folks, not merely a sporty looking front-drive coupe based on a compact commuter sedan, so if this were my personal ride I’d only own it with a manual gearbox.
Modulating the clutch and letting the revs climb right up to 7,000 rpm for maximum power is the best way to get the most out of the engine’s available power, whether taking off in a straight line or exiting a corner, and on that last note the 86 continues to be one of the nimblest chassis’ available in its price range.
It gets MacPherson gas struts up front and double wishbones in back, plus if you ante up from this GT trim line to the top-tier manual-only SE, SACHS performance dampers are included, while the already strong four-wheel discs get upgraded to Brembos and usual standard 215/45R17 summers grow to 215/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 performance tires, although my tester included Bridgestone Blizzak winters that really made it easy to slide the back end out; no bad thing.
The 2019 86 comes in base, GT and just-noted SE trims, by the way, some base model highlights not yet mentioned including a limited slip differential, auto on/off LED headlamps, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, remote keyless entry, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction three-spoke sport steering wheel, a leather-clad shift knob and handbrake lever, aluminum sport pedals, a trip computer/multi-info display, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, single-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker AM/FM audio with aux and USB inputs plus an Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL), Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, power windows with auto up/down all-round, dual vanity mirrors, all the usual active and passive safety equipment, and more for only $29,990 plus freight and fees.
The automatic transmission will set you back $1,200, this being the same price whether choosing a base 86 or opting for $33,260 as-tested GT trim. Of note, the GT wasn’t available when I last reviewed the 86 in 2017, with most of its features part of a Special Edition that now shares its more performance-oriented upgrades with the new SE, or TRD Special Edition. Before getting into that top-line model, GT trim provides the proximity-sensing access and pushbutton start/stop, dual-zone auto HVAC, and fancier leather/microsuede upholstery and trim mentioned earlier, those front seats also including warmers as part of this upgrade, while additional GT features include LED fog lamps, a rear spoiler with black-painted accents, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display with vehicle performance data, and a theft deterrent system.
Lastly, the $38,220 TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Special Edition, which once again can only be had with the manual transmission, adds a TRD aero kit, TRD performance dual exhaust, black side mirror housings, special cloth sport seats with red accents, red seatbelts, and red interior stitching to the upgraded wheel and tire package plus the suspension tweaks mentioned earlier.
Speaking of trims, packages and pricing, those interested in a 2019 86 can access up to $2,000 in additional incentives by visiting the 2019 Toyota 86 Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada, or if the new infotainment system in the 2020 model seems like the better bet, check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 Toyota 86 Canada Prices page, which will tell you how to access factory leasing and financing rates from 3.49 percent, plus other manufacturer rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
The 2020 model replaces the TRD Special Edition with a new Hakone Edition, by the way, which comes painted in unique Hakone Green and rides on 17-inch bronze-coloured alloys, while the name “pays tribute to one of the greatest driving roads in the world,” says Toyota, but so far the only way to find out about it is to visit Toyota’s U.S. retail website (where I sourced this info) as the automaker’s Canadian site has no info about the 2020 86 (again, go to CarCostCanada for 2020 86 pricing, trims, etcetera).
I’ve mentioned a number of 86 competitors already, but the one that probably comes closest to matching Toyota’s sports coupe in layout is Nissan’s 370Z Coupe, and you might be surprised to learn it retails for only $30,498 in its most basic trim, and with that solves the 86’ most criticized performance issue with a 350 horsepower base 3.7-litre V6. Its tech will take you a dozen years back in time, however, so get ready to be deflated if you want hook your smartphone up to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, or even stream a podcast via Bluetooth (the base model will only let you take calls that way), but the orange liquid crystal displays provide a cool ‘80s retro digital Seiko look if you’re into that sort of thing, and it’s hard to argue against all that straight-line power.
Before you run down to your local Nissan store and snap up a new Z, consider that it weighs 260 kilograms (573 lbs) more and feels like it, the Nissan doesn’t come with a rear bench seat so two (small) folks will need to stay home, and the 370Z’s fuel economy is nowhere near as efficient as the 86, Toyota achieving a claimed 9.9 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.7 combined with the manual or 11.3 city, 8.3 highway 9.9 highway with its automatic, and Nissan only managing 12.6 city, 9.3 highway and 11.1 combined with the Z’s six-speed manual or 13.3, 9.3 and 11.5 respectively for its seven-speed auto.
Of course, most of us don’t base the purchase of a future sports car on its fuel-efficiency, but this day and age it’s certainly a bonus, while anyone with kids will appreciate those rear seats. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Toyota’s 86 practical, but it’s easier to live with than many of its two-seat competitors and its one-piece rear seatback even folds down to expand on a reasonably sized 196-litre (6.9 cubic-foot) trunk to boot. Add to that good expected reliability and the 86 is a good choice for anyone wanting a daily driver with much better performance than most anything else available under $30k.
What’s the best-selling SUV in Canada? It’s not the Honda CR-V, but falling short by only 506 units at the close of calendar year 2018, representing less than one percent of total sales, must have…
What’s the best-selling SUV in Canada? It’s not the Honda CR-V, but falling short by only 506 units at the close of calendar year 2018, representing less than one percent of total sales, must have been a hard pill to swallow when the Markham, Ontario-based automaker’s sales and marketing teams departed for their New Year’s Eve celebrations last year.
Honda sold 54,879 CR-Vs to Toyota’s 55,385 RAV4s through 2018, the race for top spot on the compact SUV podium having always been heated; Honda actually led every year before Toyota took over in 2015. After Q3 of 2018, Honda was once again ahead with 41,023 CR-V deliveries to 41,023 RAV4s, but weaker than expected Q4 sales must’ve only made the finally result burn all the more.
Just in case you’re wondering, rivalries like these are gladiator-level sporting bouts to automakers, and Honda versus Toyota in the compact sector is the equivalent of the Yankees vs the Red Sox, Packers vs the Bears, the Lakers vs the Celtics, Frazier vs Ali, and yes, the Bruins vs the Canadiens, or the Habs vs the Leafs for that matter, we are talking about the Canadian market after all.
Unfortunately for Honda the 12th month of 2019 won’t be a nail-biter, the deep sales chart divide between RAV4 and CR-V starting to look a lot like Civic’s lead over Corolla in the compact car segment. Toyota’s all-new fifth-generation RAV gained 19.68 percent for 61,455 deliveries over the first 11 months of the year, whereas the CR-V’s 3.99-percent growth, while impressive for a vehicle three years into its lifecycle, has only resulted in 53,218 year-to-date unit sales.
The CR-V should do even better next year thanks to an edgy 2020 refresh (although a downturn in the overall market could dictate otherwise), updating its grille and front fascia with a sportier look that includes a deeper front apron with larger lower intakes, but it’s hardly a wholesale change so any uptick won’t be dramatic.
All said few compact SUVs are as good as this 2019 CR-V Touring. I’ve recommended Honda’s entry in this class more than any challenger, including Toyota’s, although the new RAV4 is superb. Still, there’s a level of solidity to the CR-V’s build quality that few in this category can match, the lack of hollowness when the doors are slammed shut, the higher end soft-touch composites found on more interior surfaces, the satisfying near silence hardly heard when the rear seats are effortlessly laid flat via cargo wall-mounted levers no less. It’s not the best cabin in the segment, Mazda’s near premium CX-5 Signature taking that title, but with just 26,587 examples sold so far this year despite a 4.7-percent gain, the CR-V wins the game that matters most.
Along with interior quality that’s at least second in the segment, the CR-V might come closer to actually leading in overall comfort. Of course, the way a front seat and steering column fits a given driver will vary depending on body type, but my longer legged, shorter torso frame really likes the CR-V. Its tilt and telescopic steering column reaches farther rearward than most others, and the Touring model’s 12-way powered driver’s seat provides ample adjustment for near optimal comfort and control. Yes, the CX-5 still beats the CR-V in this test, the Mazda allowing me to set my seat up comfortably while resting my wrist overtop the steering wheel rim, which wasn’t possible with the CRV, this setup recommended for best-possible control with hands placed at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Still, the CR-V Touring’s four-way powered lumbar support was sublime for meeting the small of my back and would likely work for yours as well, Toyota’s premium Lexus brand not even offering this on some of its models, and Mazda not doing so either.
The 12-way powered driver’s seat comes standard in CR-V Touring trim, and does with mid-range EX and EX-L trims as well. Honda divvies up the CR-V five ways for 2019, including LX-2WD and LX at the bottom end, with pricing for the front-wheel drive model starting at $27,690 and the first all-wheel drive trim from $30,490. Moving up through the line, all remaining trims coming standard with Honda’s Real Time AWD, an EX can be had for $33,990, the EX-L from $36,290, and this Touring model for $39,090 (plus freight and fees throughout the line).
Of note, along with its refresh the 2020 CR-V gets a significant $1,000 base price bump that allows the entire Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems to become standard on the entry-level LX-2WD model. Forward collision warning was already standard with the base 2019 model, so the new standard additions (currently found on all AWD-equipped 2019 CR-Vs) include autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow.
Together with all of the usual active and passive safety features expected the North American markets, the upgrade should help the new CR-V hold onto its IIHS Top Safety Pick status at the very least. In order to achieve the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick “+” rating it’ll need to upgrade its standard headlamps from projector-beam halogens to HIDs or LEDs with cornering capability. Currently Honda achieves “Marginal” and “Acceptable” headlight ratings depending on trim, with LED low- and high-beam headlights only available with my tester’s top-line Touring trim (and soon Black Edition trim too), while it gets best-possible “Good” marks in every other category except for “LATCH ease of use” where it only receives an “Acceptable” rating.
By comparison, the RAV4 achieves the highest Top Safety Pick + status because one (or some) of its trims get a “Good” headlight rating, although its lesser trims only manage “Marginal” and even “Poor” rankings for their headlights, so the IIHS is say that in the real world they may not even work as well as the CR-Vs. To be fair to Toyota, this is a strange result being that the brand fits all RAV4 trims identically with its new parabola LED headlamps, only adding halogen fog lights to mid-range trims and a set of LED fogs to top-tier models, and there’s no mention of fog lamps in the IIHS data.
While chasing after safety ratings might now seem like a fool’s errand (it certainly can be with J.D. Power ratings), no one should question the benefit of adding Honda Sensing features to its base model and keeping them standard throughout the rest of the range, and speaking of the rest of the range the new 2020 model replaces this year’s EX with a new Sport trim that’s also priced $1,000 higher, while Honda ups the EX-L’s window sticker by $1,500 and adds $2,000 to this Touring trim for 2020. Lastly, Honda tops off the 2020 CR-V line with a new $42,590 Black Edition that adds some darkened chrome trim as well as black-painted alloys, plus it’s only available in Crystal Black Pearl or $300 optional Platinum White Pearl exterior paints.
Other than some minor interior modifications the 2020 CR-V should mostly be like this 2019, and while I’d normally recommend snapping up an end-of-year 2019 in order to get a better deal (and there are certainly some left), the savings aren’t as notable as with most other brands. While there’s the obvious savings right off the top, as noted by the 2019 to 2020 price increases that range from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on trim, CarCostCanada is only showing up to $1,000 in additional incentives for the 2019 model if purchased at the time of writing (December 17, 2019), compared to the same $1,000 for the 2020 model.
Also, CarCostCanada members are only saving an average of $1,869 when purchasing either model, which while hardly an insignificant amount, doesn’t make going back a model year worthwhile. Your best bet is to get your CarCostCanada membership to find out about all available manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing before negotiating your best deal, and then compare the two models at a Honda retailer before buying.
Being that both 2019 and 2020 CR-V Touring (and new Black Edition) trims should be similar as far as materials quality and refinement go, I feel safe recommending both even though I haven’t even sat in the 2020 model. On that note, while I’ve already mentioned my tester’s Touring trim offered higher end composites found on more interior surfaces than most competitors, I’ve yet to say exactly how it’s nicer inside. Its dash top and front door uppers are made from soft-touch synthetic panels, the latter finished in very nice stitched leatherette.
This mirrors the surface treatment found on the instrument panel, which is one of the more attractive in its class due to the same faux leather stitched down the middle, yet bisected with a glossy piano black lacquer inlay. Additionally, this Touring model’s imitation hardwood gets a nice matte finish, plus a fairly realistic looking grain and solid feeling dense composite in behind. It’s some of the best fake wood I’ve ever seen, and while not as impressive as the aforementioned CX-5 Signature’s authentic hardwood, the imitation stuff suits Honda’s environmental stance well, even though Mazda’s wood is reclaimed.
Now that I’m talking CX-5, that model’s top Signature trim beats the CR-V Touring in a couple of ways, particularly another soft-touch door upper in back, fabric-wrapped A-pillars, and a 40/20/40-split rear seatback that even includes two-in-one release levers on the cargo area side wall. Honda was one of the first to provide auto folding seatback levers, noted earlier, but its 60/40 split-folding rear seats are nowhere near as accommodating for active lifestyle families that want to stow longer cargo, such as skis, down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable window seats (and neither is the RAV4’s rear row). When rear outboard seat heaters are added, these included in most rivals’ top trims including the CX-5’s Signature (and GT) model, the RAV4 Limited, and this CR-V Touring (plus the EX-L), you’ll also be mitigating potential petitions from wet, cold kids wanting the only heated rear window seat left (I can hear the whining now).
In the CR-V’s corner is a cargo floor that can be moved up or down about three inches to provide more height for taller items or meets up with the front portion of the load floor when laid flat, and those seats really do lay flat, at least much more so than the previous generation CR-V did, which had a big hump in the middle and was therefore not as accommodating as some of its peers. A retractable cargo cover sits right behind the rear seatbacks, and can be easily removed, although you’ll need to store it somewhere on the load floor or on the rear passenger’s floor, which may get in the way of your kids’ feet. The new RAV4 provides a spot to neatly store its cargo cover underneath the load floor, which I think is a very smart idea and not wholly unusual amongst SUVs. If you try to do likewise below the CR-V’s cargo floor (believe me I tried), it won’t lay flat (ditto for the CX-5, although my tester didn’t even have a cargo cover).
As for cargo capacity, the CR-V clearly wins with 1,110 litres of dedicated volume and 2,146 litres maximum with the rear seats folded, compared to 1,059 and 1,977 litres respectively for the RAV4, or 875 and 1,687 litres for the CX-5.
Speaking of space, there’s no shortage for front or rear occupants, with the driver’s position already covered at length, and the latter resulting in about 10 inches from my knees to the driver’s seat’s backside when it was set up for my long-legged five-foot-eight frame, plus more than enough room to completely stretch out my feet under the front seat’s frame. I also had more than enough headroom and side-to-side space, even with the nice thick centre armrest folded down, while the outboard rear seatbacks provide good lower back support, and the buttons for their aforementioned warmers are most conveniently placed on panels ahead of the door armrests, right next to the power window switches.
Two USB-A charging ports can be found on the backside of the front console, dual cupholders within the centre armrest, and bottle holders in the lower door panels. With soft-touch rear door uppers and 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, or at least a centre pass-through, it’d be near perfect.
Back up front, the CR-V Touring’s nicely shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel provides a little heater button on its left side spoke to ease cold winter mornings, while both spokes’ switchgear is beautifully done, matching up nicely with the mostly digital instrument cluster the rim frames. The centre stack gets a fixed touchscreen up top, the display seamlessly set within a gloss-black surrounding surface and, other than a rotating power/volume knob replete with touch-sensitive controls. While it looks massive when the ignition is turned off, press the engine start/stop button (a proximity-sensing key fob gets you inside too) and an average-sized 7.0-inch high-resolution monitor lights up within.
Being top of the line navigation was included, and its route guidance was reliably accurate. The maps and other infotainment graphics are attractive, the colours and depth of contrast good, and the system’s overall functionality, ease of use, and response to input impressive, while the audio system includes all the usual suspects such as AM, FM, satellite radio, USB input, iPod, Bluetooth streaming, while your smartphone can be connected via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay too. On top of this, the CR-V includes HondaLink and the ability to download various apps, while the backup camera includes dynamic guidelines to help you ease your way into a parking spot, these not included in the top-line CX-5.
Another CR-V bonus is an overhead sunglasses holder with a built-in rearview conversation mirror, helpful for keeping an eye on your kids or chatting with the parents, something easy to do in an SUV that was primarily created for comfort over speed. That’s not to say the CR-V’s sole 1.5-litre, direct injection, 16-valve, DOHC, turbocharged four-cylinder engine is by any means sluggish, its 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque more than adequate for spirited performance off the line, although it’s a bit down on the RAV4’s 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft, and quite a bit off the top-line Ford Escape’s 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque (although the base Escape only makes 168 hp and 170 lb-ft).
Suffice to say the CR-V’s acceleration is strong enough, and its continuously variable transmission (CVT) is inherently smooth if not remotely sporty. The RAV’s eight-speed automatic provides a more connected feel, albeit like the CR-V lacks paddle shifters, while upper-crust versions of the CX-5 are sportier due to paddles, yet the Mazda’s six-speed gearbox doesn’t earn points from a marketing or fuel economy perspective. Top line trims of Ford’s new 2020 Escape will probably get the most performance kudos for mixing paddles with an eight-speed auto, plus even more power than just noted.
Of these four the CR-V is the most efficient around town and thriftiest overall when powering all wheels, its claimed rating being 8.4 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 7.8 combined with FWD and 8.7, 7.2 and 8.0 respectively with AWD. Comparatively only the RAV4 with FWD is better, but merely on the open road with an estimated rating of 8.8 city, 6.7 highway and 7.8 combined, whereas the same SUV with AWD is rated at a respective 9.2, 7.1 and 8.3. This said Toyota offers a RAV4 Hybrid that ekes out a best-in-class 5.8 city, 6.3 highway and 6.0 combined, which even makes the CX-5’s new turbo-diesel rating seem ho-hum at 8.9 city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined.
Yah, that’s not very impressive for a diesel despite including AWD, as it doesn’t even match the CR-V and RAV4’s AWD ratings. The CX-5’s other fuel economy numbers are all slightly less impressive than the diesel, ranging from 8.5 to 8.8 combined city/highway with FWD trims and 9.0 to 9.8 with AWD, whereas the Escape is hardest on fuel amongst these top sellers, with combined ratings of 9.1 for the FWD model, 9.9 with AWD, and 10.2 L/100km for the much more powerful version.
While the CVT is an obvious positive for fuel economy, its noise at higher revs is a negative. Common with this type of transmission, the engine can drone when getting hard on the throttle or traveling at high speeds, a factor that’s not present with the others just mentioned, but taking off more smoothly from standstill and maintaining more moderate speeds makes it a good match to the CR-V’s turbocharged engine.
That said, when comparing overall quietness the new RAV4’s cabin comes across like a two-stroke engine in a steel drum next to the CR-V. The new Toyota is easily one of the noisiest compact SUVs I’ve driven to date, although before Honda gets its head swollen with pride they could still add some more sound deadening material to the CR-V’s front firewall in order to exorcise a few of its nattering gremlins away.
Comfortable refinement is king in this class after all, and to that end the CR-V’s ride is sublime and handling more than capable through fast-paced curves. It gets a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup that’s as good for navigating inner city traffic as it is for cruising the highway, its only crime being a tendency to lean hard when pushed hard through tight corners at high speeds. Those wanting more performance may want to once again look at the CX-5, which delivers much more engaging maneuverability at high speeds, yet provides a similarly comfortable ride despite being shod in 19-inch alloys compared to the CR-V Touring’s 18s. To each his own, however, and to that end Honda’s faithful have spoken loud and clear.
The CR-V is a comfortable, practical family hauler, which is exactly why it sells so well. I can’t say I’d recommend it over every competitor, at least before understanding the priorities of the would-be buyer, but it does most everything more than well enough, has a reputation for dependable quality, and holds its resale value well. In fact, it took top spot amongst car-based compact crossover SUVs in the Canadian Black Book’s 2019 Best Retained Value Awards, was similarly honoured in the “Compact Utility” category of ALG’s 2019 Residual Value Awards, and as far as overall value goes, won its “Compact SUV/Crossover” class in Vincentric’s 2019 Best Value in Canada Awards. Need I say more? Probably not.
Despite being well into its fourth model year, you’ll have a hard time finding a more beautifully finished, or more luxuriously appointed mid-size luxury SUV. The Volvo XC90 is exquisitely detailed,…
Despite being well into its fourth model year, you’ll have a hard time finding a more beautifully finished, or more luxuriously appointed mid-size luxury SUV. The Volvo XC90 is exquisitely detailed, particularly when outfitted in its most opulent Inscription trim, which is exactly how I most recently drove it.
The 2019 XC90 on this page is fourth on my list of second-generation testers, and the second to wear Inscription badging, the other two outfitted in sportier R-Design trim, while two have utilized the 316 horsepower mid-range engine with the other duo bridled to the much more potent 400 horsepower plug-in hybrid drivetrain. This in mind, the last non-electrified XC90 I drove was way back in 2016 when this wholly reimagined luxury utility ushered in an entirely new look and much higher level of luxury for the Swedish brand, and by so doing turned Volvo’s fortunes completely around.
Volvo more than doubled its Canadian sales toward the end of calendar year 2015 when the 2016 XC90 was introduced, from 10,964 units in Q4 of 2014 to 22,507 in the final three months of 2015, while the XC90’s sales volume grew from 427 units throughout all of 2014 to 957 in 2015 and a stellar 2,951 in calendar year 2016. This said the growth hasn’t stopped, verified by the XC90 hitting a new record of 3,059 deliveries last year, making it the most popular model in Volvo’s lineup.
Yes, the XC90 sells even better than the completely redesigned XC60, the smaller two-row compact luxury model having consistently outsold this three-row mid-size contender prior to both models’ redesign. This is the complete opposite of most others in the class, incidentally, which are consistently outsold by their smaller, more affordable compact luxury SUV siblings.
I could only hazard to guess why this occurs, because the XC60 comes closer to matching the XC90’s materials quality, refinement, electronic interfaces and powertrain options as any rival brand, and would save its would-be buyer nearly $13,000 at the bottom end and almost $12k in top-line Inscription T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid trim, but either way it appears Volvo SUV buyers are generally wealthier than the class average, or prefer larger, roomier, more substantive machinery.
The XC90 is a true mid-size three-row luxury crossover SUV, measuring 4,950 mm (194.9 inches) from front to rear bumpers with a 2,984-mm (117.5-inch) wheelbase in between, plus 2,140 mm (84.3 inches) wide including its side mirrors, and 1,775 mm (69.9 inches) tall including its roof rails, while providing a considerable 237 mm (9.3 inches) of ground clearance, which helps it trudge through deep snow easily.
That size makes it more than just accommodating. Its superbly comfortable front and rear seats confirm this just as notably upon first climbing inside as after a long road trip, a particularly elegant Magic Blue Metallic painted 2017 XC90 T8 Twin Engine eAWD Inscription tester having taken my partner and I out of Greater Vancouver, up the steeply inclined Coquihalla Highway and then over the 97C connector to Kelowna, BC’s wine country during the particularly warm fall of 2016, and while we took no passengers in back we hauled a fair bit of gear (including wine) in the 1,183 litres (41.8 cubic feet) of cargo space available when laying the third row flat.
That’s how I’d leave the seats more often than not if this were my personal ride, as I’d have little need for a third row now that my kids are grown, despite the nicely separated buckets in the very back accommodating my five-foot-eight frame comfortably. Volvo provides a reasonably large 447 litres (15.8 cubic feet) of dedicated cargo volume behind that third row, and trips to the hardware store for building materials are doable thanks to 2,427 litres (85.6 cubic feet) of available space when both rear rows are lowered. As good as all this is, I’m even more impressed by its overall passenger/cargo flexibility, the XC90’s second row divided into thirds so that everyone’s skis can be laid down the middle, thus mitigating potential whining about who gets the three-way-warming window seats.
Yes, this Inscription model comes well packed with features, second-row seat heaters just one of many upgrades included after choosing to move past base Momentum trim. For 2019 the Momentum starts at $59,750 plus freight and fees, with the more sport-oriented R-Design coming in at $69,800, and the Inscription starting at $71,450. All three Volvo powertrains are offered in the XC90, the Momentum’s exclusive T5 displacing 2.0-litres in four cylinders and using a turbocharger to make 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the as-tested T6 adding a supercharger to the same powertrain for 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and the T8 plug-in hybrid combining a 60-kW electric motor for a grand total of 400 net horsepower and 472 net lb-ft of torque. The T6 powertrain adds $4,250 to Momentum trim, whereas the T8 will set Momentum buyers back another $10,950, while the increase from T6 to T8 will cost you $12,650 in either R-Design or Inscription trims.
By the way, the 2020 XC90, which will start arriving at Volvo Canada retailers when this review gets published, continues to be available with the same three trim lines as the outgoing 2019 model, although a new six-passenger variant, available solely with T6 AWD Momentum and Inscription trims, provides a more luxuriously-appointed second row and easier access to the very back thanks to captain’s chairs and an aisle down the middle. The 2020 update includes a stylish new concave grille design as well, plus some less noticeable changes, all for a $1,500 hike in base price, less $1,000 in potential incentives at the time of writing. If personal savings matter more to you than getting the latest, greatest model, consider this 2019 XC90 that can provide up to $5,000 in additional incentives. Just visit the 2019 Volvo XC90 Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada, where you can also peruse through trim, package and individual option pricing, as well as find manufacturer rebate info and dealer invoice pricing.
An eight-speed Geartronic automatic with auto start-stop plus all-wheel drive comes standard across the line, although the transmission and AWD systems are unique to both conventional and electrified powertrains, the latter dubbed eAWD for sourcing all of its rear-wheel power from its electric motor.
While a person could theoretically drive their XC90 T8 on electric power alone, its approximate 30-km EV range would necessitate a very short commute with very little highway time, and after that it’s merely a very potent hybrid. Still, as long as you’re not attempting to utilize its full 400 horsepower all the time, this model’s fuel economy improves over both the base T5 and mid-range T6 powertrain from 11.3 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway and 10.0 combined for the T5 AWD, 12.1 city, 8.9 highway and 10.7 combined for the as-tested T6 AWD, to 10.1, 8.8 and 9.5 respectively for the T8.
Despite the vehicle I tested being thirstiest on this list, it’s only worst amongst a very efficient lineup of Volvo mid-size luxury SUV trims. Comparatively the segment sales-leading Lexus RX now offers an extended three-row variant that’s nowhere near as roomy in back as the XC90, but can be had in 450h L hybrid form that’s good for the best fuel economy in this class at 8.1 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 8.1 combined, while the same model in 350 L trim only manages a rating of 13.1 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.1 combined. Likewise, the next most popular Acura MDX does a bit better than the conventionally powered Lexus with a respective 12.2, 9.0 and 10.8, while its hybrid variant achieves 9.1 city, 9.0 highway and 9.0 combined.
Both Infiniti’s QX60 and Audi’s Q7 split the conventionally powered MDX and RX 350 L results with respective ratings of 12.5 city, 9.0 highway and 10.9 combined and 12.2, 9.5 and 11.0, while, again in order of popularity, Buick’s Enclave rating doesn’t measure up to the XC90 T6 either at 13.8 city, 9.5 highway and 11.9 combined (while also not measuring up in luxury, but I included it because it represents entry-level luxury in this class).
The XC90 is next in the sales hierarchy, followed by Mercedes’ three-row GLS 450 4Matic that only manages an estimated 14.9 city, 11.2 highway and 13.2 combined (how I wish they still offered their diesel), while BMW’s new X7 is rated at 12.0, 9.4 and 10.8, which isn’t too bad for this elongated three-row X5. Land Rover’s Discovery is the only non-hybrid model to beat the XC90, but not with its base V6 that can only manage 14.8, 11.4 and 13.0, this model’s diesel just sneaking below the least stingy XC90 at 11.3, 9.2 and 10.4, while the new 2020 Cadillac XT6 (the more luxurious version of the Buick Enclave) gets an estimated rating of 13.5 city, 9.7 highway and 11.5, and the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator achieves a slightly less efficient 13.7, 9.7 and 11.6 rating.
Such incredible efficiency and the XC90 also outhustles many of the just-noted utilities in the base trims used to compare fuel economy (including the two hybrids, which incidentally the T8 eAWD model annihilates), its mid-range T6 AWD powertrain surprisingly strong for a small displacement four-cylinder thanks to the aforementioned turbo and supercharger combination, its zero to 100 km/h acceleration time being a very spirited 6.5 seconds, which is 1.4 seconds quicker than the base XC90 T5 AWD that manages the feat in 7.9 seconds, and only 0.9 seconds slower than the ultra-advanced T8 eAWD powertrain that scoots the big Volvo from standstill to 100km/h in just 5.6 seconds.
My T6 AWD tester not only looks quick on paper, but it really felt strong off the line and even more confidence inspiring when passing slower moving vehicles on the highway, while it takes to the curves effectively too. No, it doesn’t track through quick corners or feel as generally hooked up as the sportiest of Germans in this elite pack, but it can certainly hold its own against all the rest, while it delivers one of the smoothest rides in its class combined with seat comfort that’s hard to beat.
I will refrain from itemizing every feature offered in each trim level as that would be a dreadful bore for both of us and hours of painstaking work for yours truly to endure, although those wanting all the info are free to check out my 2018 XC90 R-Design review in which you can pour over all this insufferable data to your heart’s content, and for those of us who’d rather not, suffice to say the XC90 represents good value for what’s being offered, which as a reminder includes one of, if not the most opulently attired interior in its class this side of a Bentley Bentayga, and honestly much of this Volvo’s switchgear is a helluvalot better than the big winged Brit, while all of its electronic interfaces are miles more advanced.
Ahead of the driver is a fully digital instrument cluster with the ability to add navigation mapping and route guidance to its centre-mounted multi-information display, amongst most other functions from the vertical, tablet-style Sensus infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack. This is one of my favourite centre displays and it’s packed full with every key feature currently offered by competitors, plus one of the best overhead cameras in existence.
My tester included the awesome sounding $3,250 1,400-watt 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins optional audio system, complete with its lovely drilled aluminum speaker grilles including a tiny centre dash-mounted tweeter, but this particular XC90 didn’t include the jewel-like Orrefors crystal and polished metal shifter found in last year’s R-Design tester, c’est la vie.
The glittering diamond-pattern metal-edged rotating dial on the centre stack was exquisitely detailed, however, as were the twisting engine start/stop switch and cylindrical drive mode selector on the lower console, while the open-pore hardwood used for the scrolling bin lids around the latter switchgear and shifter, which was also found on the instrument panel and doors was absolutely stunning, not to mention the superbly crafted contrast stitched padded leather covering almost every other surface, which was backed up elsewhere by more high-quality soft-touch composite surfacing than you’ll find on most competitors.
So next time you see someone drive by in a Volvo XC90 you may want to show a similar deference offered to Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Range Rover Autobiography owners, because they’re rolling in a similar level of luxury while doing a lot more to limit fuel usage and mitigate local emissions, plus they’re obviously intelligent enough to get all of the above for hundreds of thousands less than the ultra-utilities just noted.
As you can probably tell I continue to like the XC90 very much, and therefore highly recommend it.
When I first saw Lincoln’s new grille design I wondered how they’d graft it onto their smallest models so it wouldn’t look like the modern interpretation of a ‘70s VW Beetle with a faux Rolls-Royce…
When I first saw Lincoln’s new grille design I wondered how they’d graft it onto their smallest models so it wouldn’t look like the modern interpretation of a ‘70s VW Beetle with a faux Rolls-Royce chromed waterfall grille tacked onto its otherwise sloping hood, a semi-popular, somewhat humourous theme back in the day, that occasionally augmented into fake BMW twin-kidneys adorning the fronts of Lada Signets, but now that I’ve seen the renewed MKC in the metal I have to say it works well.
On that note I also need to eat some crow regarding the new Bentley-esque radiator-style grille itself? I initially criticized Lincoln for its seemingly never-ending identity quest, despite having created something truly original in its previous split-wing front-end design, but once again I need to submit to the fact that fewer folks buying luxury prefer subtle minimalism over glittering, chrome-laden bling, so the tastefully discrete previous grille design had to go, and I must simultaneously admit that Lincoln got this new grille right as well, and hope they don’t even consider changing it. It’s bold, ritzy and wholly Lincoln. The new chrome mesh design is at the very least as loud and proud as the numerous chromed grille designs from the domestic luxury brand’s glorious past, and it seems to be a relative hit with premium buyers too.
I first fell for it on the soon-to-be-discontinued Continental (I’m plenty chuffed about losing this wonderful car, so don’t get me started) and warmed up to it on the MKZ as well (RIP—eventually—too). You can expect reviews of that MKZ as well as the updated Navigator and new Nautilus soon. They all look grand, but the current 2019 MKC, soon to be replaced by the 2020 Corsair as part of Lincoln’s much-appreciated renaming strategy that says goodbye to confusing alpha designations and hello to cool navy-themed flotilla (although the Vought F4U Corsair was actually a WWII fighter plane that first flew in the U.S. Navy, and the upcoming 2020 Aviator purely aeronautical), will soon become one of the rarest compact luxury utilities to ever be produced.
In fact, this little utility has most of the markings of a future collectable, as long as compact luxury SUVs are considered more than disposable appliances by the time anyone thinks of restoring one. This 2019 model is one of a kind in that its new grille was attached to a mostly unchanged 2015-2018 MKC, and as just noted will soon be replaced by the entirely new 2020 Corsair, making it one of the shortest durations for a mid-cycle refresh in modern times. Fortunately Lincoln didn’t invest too much in the makeover, merely adding the redesigned front clip, which includes the new grille, a slightly freshened set of headlamps and a reworked lower front fascia, plus a chrome garnish splashed onto the rear hatch, but otherwise it’s an unchanged model. This said only the grille appears to carry over to the 2020 Corsair.
I won’t go into too much detail about the differences from 2019 MKC to 2020 Corsair, but suffice to say the old one is based on the outgoing 2019 Ford Escape and the new one rides on the all-new 2020 Escape, complete with revised 2.0- and 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines that make 250 and 280 horsepower respectively, which is five more and five less than this year’s MKC respectively, albeit torque is an identical 275 lb-ft for the former and five lb-ft more at 310 lb-ft for the latter, while providing expected thriftier fuel economy, partially due to a new eight-speed automatic transmission that’s controlled via new horizontally organized “piano key” shift toggles that replace this MKC’s vertical row of centre stack-mounted buttons. LEDs for the signature-enhanced headlamps, turn signal indicators and taillights continue to be standard, but the interior is now fully modernized with a digital gauge cluster and new fixed tablet-style centre touchscreen.
The Corsair’s $44,700 base price is only $550 more than the 2019 MKC’s $44,150 point of entry, while a 2018 MKC could be had for $43,950 when new (see all MKC and Corsair pricing at CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, CarCostCanada claiming up to $5,000 in additional incentives at the time of publishing this review). Interestingly, the MKC’s base price when it debuted in 2015 was just $39,940, which probably says as much about our Canadian dollar steadily losing its value over the past four years as it does about Lincoln having streamlined trim offerings by eliminating its former base Premier trim for 2017 and thus adding more standard features.
The MKC is available in two trim levels for 2019, Select and Reserve, the latter model starting at $48,800 plus freight and fees. Choosing the top-line trim is the only way to qualify for the just-noted most potent engine, which makes a total of 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, and added $2,150 to the price of my tester. Both 2019 models are two forward speeds shy of the new 2020 Corsair, leaving the MKC with FoMoCo’s tried and tested six-speed SelectShift automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters.
The 2.3-litre comes standard with idle start/stop that automatically shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be idling, and then immediately restarts it when lifting your foot from the brake pedal, whereas this feature is optional with the smaller 2.0-litre engine. The result at the pump is nominal for the latter, the non-idle start/stop base engine achieving a claimed Transport Canada fuel economy rating of 12.3 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 11.0 combined, and idle-stop merely decreasing the combined rating by 0.1 L/100km to 10.9. Of course, local emissions are reduced so that’s a good thing, but the difference might only get you a few hundred feet farther down the road before needing to refuel.
As for my tester’s 2.3-litre, it’s good for a claimed 13.1 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.5 combined, which isn’t all that great as far as compact luxury utilities go, with the BMW X3 xDrive30i achieving a claimed 9.6 combined, the Audi Q5 estimated to get 9.9, and the M-B GLC 300 4Matic said to be good for a combined rating of 10.0. The 2020 Corsair should improve things, but I can’t see it getting dramatically better.
This in mind, I doubt many prospective compact luxury SUV buyers realize how much priority Lincoln has put on performance, but the MKC has long been a strong contender off the line and more than decent through a fast-paced set of curves or over a long stretch of highway, the MKC even sporting a standard adaptive suspension controlled by various Lincoln Drive Control systems including Normal, Sport or Comfort driving modes, while fairly precise electric power-assist steering joins grippy standard all-wheel drive. Its ride is smooth and inner sanctum quiet, of course, luxury being of the utmost importance and therefore laminated acoustic front door glass and active noise control coming standard, not to mention the just-noted adaptive suspension that also aids compliance, so there’s no need to compromise straight-line speed or handling when choosing a new Lincoln these days.
My tester’s sporty 20-inch alloy wheels make this reality easy to see even before experiencing the MKC Reserve’s performance firsthand, but then again it would be easy to continue the belief that Lincoln is only about luxury when climbing inside. The classy White Platinum exterior (a $700 option) turned to Espresso brown inside my tester (dark grey Ebony, creamy Cappuccino, and dark Rialto Green are alternative interior colourways), at least this was the case above the waistline and for the perforated Bridge of Weir Deepsoft leather-upholstered seats, with a light beige getting used for the lower dash, centre console and lower door panels, plus the roofliner, pillars and carpets. It’s a rich looking interior, made even more so thanks to standard genuine hardwood inlays on the instrument panel and doors, the tasteful application of satin-finish aluminum accents elsewhere, plenty of aluminized and/or chrome trimmed switchgear, and other premium-level niceties.
Possibly even better, Lincoln went to new levels of pampering when finishing off the dash top and door uppers, with these surfaces feeling like soft padded leather more than anything synthetic. There are plenty of pliable surfaces elsewhere as well, although they’re more obviously high-quality composites, while the ones used to cover the lower dash have more of a rubberized feeling. That rubbery surface treatment is likely used for protection from shoes and boots, while the fact soft-touch surfaces are even used on the lower portion of the dash at all is a major positive. This padded treatment flows down each side of the centre stack and lower console, so the inside knees of the driver and front passenger won’t chafe against a harder surface, and extends ahead of the front passenger including the glove box lid. Surfaces just above the driver’s knees and those over on the lower door panels are made from harder composites, which is par for the course in this compact luxury class.
The top of the console is pretty minimalist thanks to the aforementioned gear selector buttons on the centre stack. It simply includes two cupholders and a little bin below the stack incorporating a 12-volt charger and two charged USB ports. It’s finished nicely inside with a sort of peach fuzz covering, but the lid itself feels cheap and rickety, not up to the class standards. It does push and close softly, but that’s about it for praise. I should also mention the same kind of velvety finish can be found inside the glove box as well, not to mention the centre console bin that includes a removable tray and another 12-volt charger, but there’s also a hole in the bottom that could easily lose smaller items forever, so I’m guessing there’s a piece missing from this particular vehicle as it makes absolutely no sense to have a hole there.
Also unusual, albeit entirely positive are fabric-wrapped A and B roof pillars, the practice of extending the roofliner downward more often than not kept to the two front pillars in this segment. In fact, I recently noted this shortcoming in a 2019 Acura RDX, a very good luxury SUV in most every other respect, other than its unorthodox gear selector, a foible it shares with this Lincoln.
The two brands go about gear selection in different ways, the Acura providing a long, narrow vertical strip of complicated buttons and pull-tabs on the lower console that took me many test weeks to get used to, and this Lincoln including a simpler line of buttons on the left side of the centre stack that force the driver to lean forward in order to engage. Acura has a very short history so the brand came up with its design out of thin air, where it probably should’ve stayed, while Lincoln looked to its long and storied past for inspiration. As nifty as this looks I longed for a classic column shifter a la Mercedes, something Lincoln could’ve also dug up from its glory days, but as noted earlier, the brand provides a new approach to its button design in the upcoming Corsair, so they seem to agree that this MKC’s approach (shared with all other Lincoln models of the MKC’s generation prior to the brand’s newest additions) is less than ideal.
I like how Lincoln integrates the “ENGINE START STOP” button and “S” sport mode button within the MKC’s regular “PRND” selections, however, but I’d rather stay comfortable planted in the SUV’s excellent driver’s seat and modulate something closer at hand. Along with an inherently good design and the usual fore/aft, up/down and recline power adjustments, both driver and front passenger receive four-way power lumbar support and four-way manual head restraints, resulting in 12-way adjustability apiece. They’re three-way heated in base trim too, and three-way ventilated when stepping up to this Reserve model, while both trims get driver’s seat memory.
Speaking of comfortable, the multifunctional steering wheel is nicely shaped for optimal 9 and 3 o’clock hand positioning, while its rim is wrapped in special Wollsdorf leather for a soft, high-quality feel. I should also mention the Bridge of Weir Deepsoft leather noted earlier is standard across the MKC line, so no cheap corrected-grain, split-skin, synthetic polymer paint-coated hides with Lincoln (you’ll need to move up to a BMW for that). Instead, the MKC’s standard features list is replete with items you’d normally be asked to pay more for in this class, such as a powered tilt and telescopic steering column with memory, plus reverse parking sensors complementing auto-dimming centre and driver’s side mirrors, those outside power-folding with memory no less.
I’ve started listing standard Select features so I might as well continue with its 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, and Lincoln Embrace system that turns on the headlights when you approach at night, while simultaneously lighting up the door handles, interior lights and more. That’s even without using remote engine start and before unlocking via the MKC’s SecuriCode keyless entry keypad or proximity-sensing keyless access (or the remote key fob for that matter), while the standard menu continues with illuminated entry, ambient lighting, LED map lights, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, particulate-filtered dual-zone automatic climate control, an overhead console with handy sunglasses holder, and a universal garage door opener.
The centre stack is topped off with a large, easy to use 8.0-inch touchscreen (which incidentally is identically sized to the new Corsair’s 8.0-inch centre display) incorporating Lincoln’s impressive SYNC 3 infotainment interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera with active guidelines, individual digital panels for the climate control system, the 10-speaker, subwoofer, satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming-capable audio system, phone functions, etcetera. The display is a bit smaller and not quite as high in definition as some of its competitors’ widescreen, high-definition infotainment systems, but it works quickly, is easy to navigate through, and has nice gold graphics.
The MKC also provides standard Lincoln Connect with a 4G LTE modem, the Lincoln Way App that lets you unlock, lock, start or find your modem-equipped MKC and much more from the convenience of your smartphone, two USB charging ports, four 12-volt power points, a powered rear liftgate, a retractable cargo cover, Ford/Lincoln’s Easy Fuel capless fuel filler, all the expected active and passive safety equipment including a driver’s knee airbag, plus SOS post crash alert, SecuriLock passive anti-theft system, a perimeter alarm, and more.
Base Select trim can be upgraded with a blind spot warning and cross-traffic alert system, that part of the $1,250 Select Plus package that also includes voice-activated navigation, and if you’re going to add that you might as well upgrade to the $675 Climate package with its automatic high beams, heatable steering wheel rim, rain-sensing wipers, windshield wiper de-icer, and heated rear seats, plus you can add a $2,200 panoramic Vista Roof with a powered sunshade.
All of the above comes standard with my as-tested MKC Reserve, although the 18-inch wheels normally found on this model improve from simple painted silver rims to sportier machine-finished alloys with painted pockets. The Reserve’s front seats feature forced ventilation, and the otherwise body-coloured door handles include bright chrome inserts, while the powered liftgate gets hands-free convenience, with the latter merely needing the wave of a foot under the back bumper from someone carrying the key fob.
Choosing Reserve trim means you can upgrade the just-noted 18-inch aluminum wheels to $500 19-inch painted five-spoke alloys or the fabulous set of $750 20-inch machined rims with black painted pockets that underpinned my tester, but take note you’ll need to choose the more potent 2.3-litre twin-scroll turbocharged engine in order to get the largest wheels, plus you can also ante up for $2,420 Technology Package that adds forward parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping warning and assist, and semi-autonomous active park assist.
Lastly, both Select and Reserve trims can be optioned out with alternative Sonata Spin aluminum trim on their doors and instrument panel, and upgraded further with a superb sounding $1,100 THX II audio system, included in my tester and well worth the money, plus a $500 Class II trailer towing package is also on the menu, which together with the 2.3-litre engine provides up to 1,360 kilos (3,000 lbs) of trailer hauling capability, not too shabby for a compact luxury utility. With most available options added to my tester its price popped up and over $55k, which sounds like a lot until compared against the similarly equipped BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC or Audi Q5, either of which would add at least $10k to your investment without packing in as many premium features and not providing as much straight-line performance.
As for daily practicality, the MKC is spacious enough for average-sized Canadian families and more than enough for most empty nesters. The previously noted power-adjustable tilt and telescopic steering wheel had ample reach so I could push the seat rearward far enough for my relatively long legs, without leaving my shorter than average upper body stretching awkwardly to grasp the steering wheel. As I’ve learned, not all of us were born with perfectly proportioned bodies, and this can cause problems when trying to set up an ideal driver’s position for optimal comfort and control. No such issues with the MKC, however, this SUV apparently designed to fit the majority of human frames.
This said the MKC’s rear seating area is definitely not largest in class, so this may cause problem if your teens or grandkids are taller than average. I had the driver’s seat positioned for my just-noted long-legged, shorter torso five-foot-eight body, and when sitting just behind I was only left with three and half to four inches ahead of my knees, and I couldn’t stretch my legs out much at all. This is not as spacious as many subcompact SUVs, such as Volvo’s XC40 that I was testing during the same week. Likewise, the XC40 had more headroom, although approximately the same width side to side. The Swede also provided a wider, nicer armrest, the MKC’s armrest too small to rest an elbow on comfortably due to cupholders down the middle, which were also quite small.
On the positive, the MKC’s rear door panels are finished just as nicely as those up front, and on the backside of the centre console you’ll find a set of buttons for the two-way heated window seats, plus a three-prong household-style socket, and two USB charging ports.
Also positive, the MKC provides loads of cargo capacity with 712 litres (25.2 cubic feet) when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are upright and 1,505 litres (53.1 cubic feet) when they’re lowered. The compartment is nicely finished with plush but durable looking carpeting on the removable cargo floor, seatbacks and each sidewall, but Lincoln doesn’t include any levers for automatically lowering the rear seatbacks where that carpet ends, a common place to find them on competitors. I can live with this tiny bit of additional manual labour, but choosing not to include a centre pass-through or an even more flexible 40/20/40-split rear row may be a deal-breaker for those who want to keep their skis inside while transporting four in the most comfortable window seats, the 60/40-split also rendering one of the heated rear seats useless when it would be needed most, after a cold, wet day on the slopes.
All in all the 2019 Lincoln MKC misses the mark in some respects, but hits the bull’s-eye more often than not. It’s a strong performer, is nicely finished inside, comes well stocked with features, offers a wide variety of options, and provides better than average value. If its less than ideal fuel economy, smaller rear seating area, and less flexible cargo configuration don’t impinge too much on your lifestyle (you can buy a lot of gas for the initial money saved over its German competitors), consider it seriously.
Buick might be the world’s most global brand. Yes, Buick, General Motors’ problem child that only continues to exist due to its relevance in China. Granted, it’s been part of the Chinese market…
Buick might be the world’s most global brand. Yes, Buick, General Motors’ problem child that only continues to exist due to its relevance in China. Granted, it’s been part of the Chinese market since emperors ruled, while the brand more recently positioned itself well as a purveyor of true premium products that suited Chinese market tastes to a tee, both stylistically and luxuriously, but China isn’t the only reason Buick can claim such jet-setting status.
The Regal GS (see the latest version here) I most recently reviewed, for instance, was designed cooperatively by GM’s German and Australian divisions, with input from its Chinese and North American operations, and assembled in Rüsselsheim, Germany, and Shanghai, China, for the Chinese market, the latter factory also producing the LaCrosse that I tested and reviewed way back in 2017 (see the 2019 LaCrosse here), although our version of Buick’s flagship sedan is built in GM’s Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly.
Even more exotic, the compact Envision crossover SUV (see the updated version here) I covered the same year, while related to the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, was mostly designed and produced in China, and is actually the first mass-produced vehicle to follow that Chinese production path (not without ever-changing regulation challenges).
The only American-made vehicle to remain under the Buick brand after the LaCrosse is discontinued later this year will be the mid-size three-row Enclave SUV (see the redesigned Enclave here), produced in Lansing, Michigan. Even the upcoming mid-size five-passenger Envoy, based on the new Chevy Blazer, will likely hail from GM’s Coahuila, Mexico facility, where the Blazer is currently built, but it’s possible the new Enspire, slated to fit between the Encore and Envision, will be built at the GM Fairfax plant in Kansas, being that initial plans to bring it over from China aren’t looking as appealing as they once did.
Lastly, the Encore being reviewed here is the product of GM’s South Korean enterprise that resulted from taking over Daewoo, and is built in Bupyeong-Gu, Incheon alongside the Chevy Trax, which is virtually the same vehicle under the skin.
The Encore will be completely redesigned for 2020, although we won’t see it until spring. The current model hasn’t changed noticeably since it was given a thorough and attractive refresh for 2017, with its basic underpinnings remaining unchanged since it first came on the scene in 2012. I’ve tested it all the way through the years, and always enjoyed it for what it was and still is, a comfortable yet surprisingly quick, highly fuel-efficient, well-featured, roomy little urban runabout with decent all-season capabilities.
For the reasons just stated, I think the Encore is one of the smarter vehicles to buy in its subcompact near luxury class, at least for those of us who prefer a bit of premium pampering. The 2019 model starts at a mere $26,400 plus freight and fees, and tops out at just over $41k with all options and most useful accessories added, which is where most others in the luxury subcompact SUV class start off, but to be fair to the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3 et al, the little Buick is not fully in this class.
First off, it’s a Buick, and outside of China the name doesn’t conjure up as much prestige as Cadillac, which unfortunately doesn’t wow the neighbours as much as one of those just-noted German brands, or for that matter Lexus. Lexus just entered this market with a model that more closely targets the type of comfort/efficiency-first buyer that the Encore attracts, and the UX has quickly run up the sales charts to displace Audi’s Q3 in third behind the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, or fourth if we include the Encore in this list, but once again it’s priced closer to mainstream volume-branded subcompact SUVs than anything in the luxury sector, so it would be unfair to do so.
Just the same, with 10,637 Encores sold in Canada last year it continues to do pretty well in the mainstream sector too, placing fifth out of 17 volume-branded subcompact SUVs in 2018, with all others priced cheaper, excepting the near-luxury Mini Countryman that starts at $31,690 and reaches over $50k before adding accessories. That top-line Mini is one of the best performing subcompact SUVs at any price, however, where Buick’s buyers are more interested in comfort, quietness, and fuel efficiency, as noted earlier.
If you hadn’t already noticed, the Encore is small. In fact, it’s smaller than both Countryman generations, the older Mini not as large as the current one, and smaller than all premium-branded subcompact SUVs. Nevertheless, it’s larger than Honda’s HR-V, Kia’s Soul, Ford’s EcoSport and a few other mainstream subcompact SUVs, while it’s smaller than Nissan’s Qashqai, Toyota’s C-HR and Jeep’s Compass, in fact sized closer to Mitsubishi’s RVR, Nissan’s Kicks and Hyundai’s Kona, and almost identically to Jeep’s Renegade and Mazda’s CX-3. Yet it’s tall, so much so that few will run out of headroom, while its available cargo capacity is surprisingly generous.
With all seats lowered the Encore can haul up to 1,371 litres (48.4 cubic feet) of gear, and the 60/40-split rear seats lay flatter than most rivals thanks to a folding process requiring each lower rear cushion to be flipped forward first, before manually lowering each headrest, and then tucking each backrest in behind. The process is a bit more labourious than most competitors, but the final result makes it well worth the effort. Buick dedicates 532 litres (18.8 cubic feet) to cargo behind those rear seats, which is about as much as a full-size sedan’s trunk. Even better, for those moments when you need to transport something really long and awkward, like some extra 2x4s for the extension you’re building or that perfect area rug you saw at the country fair or garage sale, you can lay the front seatback flat as well for up to 2.4 metres (8.0 ft) of extra storage. The Encore’s passenger/cargo flexibility truly makes it a practical companion to ease daily life.
If you want something easy to drive, with excellent sightlines in all directions thanks to a tall ride height and large greenhouse, you can’t get much better than the Encore. Its ride is very good, a Buick trademark, soaking up road irregularities with ease, while its MacPherson strut front and compound crank (torsion beam) rear suspension proved agile enough too, not so much as some of its fully independent sprung premium competitors, but easily up to most of its volume-branded rivals. Buick’s QuietTuning makes a real difference when it comes to reducing road and wind noise, of course, thanks in part to standard active noise cancellation, but it also adds to the Encore’s feel of quality, this process requiring more insulation than average, which results in a sense of solidity and better than average workmanship.
Buick can outfit your Encore with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the latter costing $2,000 and therefore boosting the base model’s price up to $28,400, while the standard 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine can have its sequential multi-port fuel injection replaced with Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI), which raises output from 138 to 153 horsepower and torque from 148 lb-ft to 177, and its six-speed automatic transmission upgraded to include Start-Stop technology that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, and automatically restarts it when the brake pedal is let off, all for just $1,030 extra.
My tester included both upgrades and the combination made a massive difference off the line (especially in the wet), when powering up to highway speeds, when exiting corners and during passing manoeuvres, transforming the feel of the little SUV from a eco-commuter SUV into a feisty little pocket rocket. With a curb weight of 1,386 kilos (3,056 lbs) the AWD model doesn’t need a lot of power to get moving, while its overall lightness makes the Encore easy to slot through congested city traffic too, not to mention it helps keep fuel costs down.
Transport Canada rates the base FWD model at 9.4 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 8.7 combined, while the same engine with AWD is good for 9.9 city, 8.1 highway and 9.1 combined. Offsetting the extra power of SIDI with auto idle-stop actually reduces overall fuel use to 8.9 city, 7.5 highway and 8.3 combined with the FWD model or 9.4, 7.9 and 8.8 respectively with the top-line AWD SIDI version, making this upgrade a true “have your cake and eat it too” scenario.
The automatic gearbox, which shifts nicely and is a lot more enjoyable to drive than a continuously variable transmission or CVT, especially when factoring in the thumb-actuated rocker switch that allows for do-it-yourself manual mode after pulling the shift lever to its rearmost position, adds sporty feel to the driving experience, albeit only a little. Rev too high and the engine is a bit on the buzzy side, normal in this class amongst entry-level SUVs. Interestingly, the transmission will hold its gear in manual mode without shifting if you so desire, which does add an element of sportiness that most of its competitors don’t allow for, but all said the Encore is best enjoyed at a more relaxed pace, where it makes the most of its compliant ride and overall comfort.
The Encore includes one throwback feature that shows its age, a well-made, sturdy handbrake lever between the two front seats, that’s not leather-wrapped incidentally. It’ll likely give way to an electromechanical one for the next-generation Encore, but I certainly didn’t mind seeing it there and almost used it all week without noticing.
While the handbrake is a non-issue, the rake and reach of the Encore’s tilt and telescopic steering column is a definite bonus. It allowed me to set up the driver’s position ideally for my long-legged, shorter torso five-foot-eight body, that, when matched up with its power-actuated driver’s seat, resulted in a comfortable driving position that also left me fully in control. To be clear, only the lower cushion is powered with the backrest needing manual recline, while the two-way powered lumbar support just happened to meet the small of my back quite well. This said it might not line up with your lower back, or at least not the way you like it, so you may want to check this feature during your test drive. Hopefully Buick will offer four-way lumbar adjustment in the upcoming 2020 model.
As mentioned, those front seats are very comfortable, the driver’s even providing a minivan-style folding armrest, but other than their Shale beige leather upholstery (Ebony black or Brandy wine are available too) and nice contrast stitching there’s nothing fancy about them. For instance, there’s no forced ventilation or even perforations in the leather to cool off during summer, but the three-way seat warmers were downright therapeutic in there hottest setting, and the heatable steering wheel could be set up to automatically turn on with the ignition. I love that, and only wish the seats would do likewise.
Buick simplified the Encore for 2019, with Preferred, Sport Touring and Essence trims, the base model including 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a large 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen incorporating a rearview camera with active guidelines, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and many other features, while additional standard features include a hard cargo cover and 10 airbags to go along with other passive and active safety features, while the move up to $28,400 Sport Touring trim adds fog lamps, a rear rooftop sport spoiler, and remote engine start.
My tester was outfitted in top-tier $31,700 Essence trim, albeit with AWD and the upgraded engine so its base increased to $34,730. Essence features include a heated steering wheel rim, heated (front) leather-upholstered seats with driver’s memory, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, and side blind zone alert with rear cross-traffic alert.
The last two items can be had in the two lesser trims as part of a Safety Package, along with a three-prong household-style 120-volt power outlet located at the rear of the centre console, while my Essence trimmed tester was upgraded with the $1,110 New Safety Package II incorporating the above items as well as forward collision alert, lane departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, an air ionizer, plus front and rear parking assist. It also featured the $3,050 Experience Buick Plus Package, which first removes $650 because it includes everything in the just-noted New Safety Package II, while adding special seven-spoke 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels, a navigation system, and a powered glass sunroof.
It all made for a nice little subcompact luxury utility, with a better interior than you’ll find in most non-premium rivals and only slightly short from achieving the interior finishing of the true luxury set. Details like fabric-wrapped A-pillars set it apart, while its soft-touch dash top and door uppers, both front and back, are nicer than average too, as is the beautifully padded and stitched leatherette instrument panel bolster that begins to the left of the primary gauge cluster before visually continuing below the centre touchscreen and then widening as it crosses ahead of the front passenger.
The dash looks elegant and provides a good background for the instruments, the gauge cluster traditional in layout, with an analogue tachometer to the left and speedometer to the right, plus the usual gas and temperature gauges hovering over a nice full-colour multi-information display that’s quite comprehensive in its capability, albeit not a more modern fully digital gauge cluster as offered by a number of premium brands.
A sporty, thick, nicely shaped steering wheel frames the gauges elegantly, while the leather it’s wrapped in feels very upscale. The attractive satin-silver trim that’s added to the lower portion of the wheel feels cool to the touch and therefore comes off as genuine aluminum. There’s more on the instrument panel as well as chromed door handles to bling things up, as well as some de rigueur piano black lacquer tastefully applied in key areas.
The centre touchscreen shows off Buick’s latest interface design that mimics Chevy’s impressive system layout, albeit with fewer colours and a more sophisticated looking blue on black look. Both work well, with this one providing accurate navigation, easy to use audio functions, a good backup camera with aforementioned active guidelines, plus more, but there was no overhead camera option, which was a bit disappointing in this class and price point. Also disappointing was its lack of wireless smartphone charging capability (aren’t we getting spoiled), but I suppose it wouldn’t have been easy to fit one in as the rubberized tray provided at the base of the centre stack wasn’t even large enough to fit my medium-sized Samsung S9 smartphone. Yes, this SUV’s age does show through here and there, but at least there were USB charge ports close by, not to mention an auxiliary input and 12-volt charger.
I imagine Buick will take care of wireless charging and the other shortcomings I’ve mentioned thus far in the upcoming second-generation Encore, but they don’t need to update the dual-zone automatic climate control interface, which uses traditional buttons and knobs for all functions, resulting in an easier process than being forced to hunt around for the same features in an infotainment interface.
I’ve allowed myself to get a bit more granular with this review than I planned to, but the Encore deserves this attention to detail. It might be an old model on its way out, but this little Buick represents very good value in every respect, which is no doubt why it sells so well. You can choose to wait until spring 2002 for the new one, which will likely improve on this aging Encore in every way, or you can opt for tried and tested.
No doubt Buick would be happy no matter which of these two choices you make, but to sway you towards the 2019 they’re offering up to $5,390 in additional incentives. To learn more, check out CarCostCanada where you can find pricing on all trims, packages and individual options, plus information on available manufacturer rebates and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing.
BMW’s X1 was the very first subcompact luxury crossover SUV ever produced, having arrived on the European scene in 2009 as a 2010 model, two years before we saw it as a 2012. Even when it showed up…
BMW’s X1 was the very first subcompact luxury crossover SUV ever produced, having arrived on the European scene in 2009 as a 2010 model, two years before we saw it as a 2012. Even when it showed up on our shores in April of 2011, nothing else was around to compete against it, unless you consider the near-luxury Mini Countryman as a direct rival, that model having arrived in February of the same year.
Once October 2011 rolled around, the Range Rover Evoque entered the market and a new automotive category was created, but it would take another three years for Audi and Mercedes-Benz to add more variety to North America’s new subcompact luxury SUV segment with their respective Q3 and GLA-Class (unless you count the Buick Encore that arrived in 2013), plus an additional two years for Infiniti to show up with its QX30 (not that many noticed), three more for Jaguar’s E-Pace, Volvo’s XC40 and BMW’s second offering, the sportier X2, and one more for Lexus’ new UX.
More are on the way, including Alfa Romeo’s Tonale for 2022, and possibly something eventually from Acura (long rumoured to be called the CDX), but Infiniti has already cancelled its QX30 so Acura may have been wise to hold out. Then again, aforementioned Buick has done very well with its Encore, and while the brand sits at the lowest end of the premium market in price and prestige, the model’s upcoming second-generation (expected for 2020) could make an even bigger dent in the market.
If we were to consider Buick a true luxury brand the Encore be the sales leader in this category, but with a base price of $28,400 (not even as high as the Mini Countryman’s base of $31,690) it’s not really a contender for premium status. Buick sold 10,637 Encores in 2018 and 8,322 as of October 31, 2019, which represents considerably more buyers than BMW has been able to find with its second-bestselling X1, which found 5,308 buyers in 2018 and 3,753 so far this year. The X1 starts at $41,500, however, so it’s not really a fair comparison. One is a gussied up Chevy Trax that delivers big on fuel economy and reasonably on features, but not so much on performance or refinement, and the other is a leader in all of the above (see 2019 BMW X1 pricing at CarCostCanada, where you can learn about all its packages and individual options in detail, plus find out about valuable rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, BMW currently offering up to $2,000 in additional incentives on 2019s and $1,000 on the new 2020 model).
To be fair to Buick, some of the X1’s rivals wouldn’t have initially received high marks in all the just-noted categories. Audi’s first-generation Q3 was a bit weak on performance and refinement, and honestly the original X1 was regularly criticized by pundits for cheaper interior plastics than any other BMW, my first review of this model claiming that Ford’s Escape Titanium “even offers more soft-touch interior surfaces than this X1.” I lauded the X1 for its overall solidity and performance, mind you, both important differentiators expected from premium SUVs.
The X1, now in its second generation and ironically having traded its lovely rear-wheel drive E91 3 Series Touring-platform (arguably its best asset) in for the aforementioned Mini Countryman’s second-gen front-wheel drive-biased UKL2 architecture (hardly a slouch either), today’s entry-level BMW SUV is a wholly different vehicle than its predecessor. It started out as a low, hunkered down, rear-wheel drive-biased AWD five-door crossover, but now it’s grown up into a much more conventionally shaped and sized subcompact luxury SUV, looking a lot more like its larger X3 and X5 siblings. Its considerable sales growth in 2016 and 2017 back up BMW’s decision to take the X1 in this new direction, and while deliveries dipped a bit in 2018 and so far this year, this probably has more to do with BMW’s introduction of the X2 than anything else, while more importantly it’s managed to remain in its number one position (amongst true subcompact luxury SUVs) even without factoring in the X2.
Specifically, the X1’s aforementioned year-to-date Canadian sales of 3,753 units is considerably higher than the second-place GLA’s 3,021 deliveries over the same 10 months, and likewise when compared to Lexus’ new UX that’s already taken third-place way from Audi’s Q3 with 2,374 units against 2,303. As for the success of the also-rans, Volvo’s new XC40 managed 1,690 units, Land Rover’s redesigned Range Rover Evoque secured 1,333 new buyers, BMW’s own X2 attracted 1,159 new owners, and Jaguar’s E-Pace wasn’t last (yet) with 372 customers, while Infiniti’s now discontinued QX30 brought up the rear with 93 deliveries (too bad, because it’s more than decent offering).
BMW shows its dominance even more when combining X1 and X2 sales that reached 4,912 units at the close of October, and that’s even before adding in the 2,082 Countryman (should we call them Countrymen?) SUVs sold over the same three-and-a-third quarters (most of which reach into the mid-$40k range), boosting deliveries to almost 7,000 units (6,994), they almost tally up to everything Mercedes, Lexus and Audi (2, 3 and 4 in the category) can sell combined (7,698 units). Ah, the sweet smell of success.
The smell of my tester was leather thanks to its beautiful milk chocolate brown Mocha Dakota Leather upholstered cabin, the $950 upgrade from base leatherette requisite when opting for its pretty $895 Mediterranean Blue Metallic exterior paint (the satin aluminum silver trim across the front and rear undertrays plus the rocker panels comes standard, while optional Oyster Grey and Black leather interiors are also available with this colour). The open-pore Oak Grain wood inlays with chrome and brush-metal highlights are no-cost bonuses that make the cabin look so upscale (additional woods, brushed aluminum and piano black lacquered inlays can be had too) as are all the high-quality soft-touch composite surfaces that step the X1 up and over most rivals.
To be real, Dakota leather is BMW’s lower grade hide, but Nappa and Merino aren’t offered with the X1. It’s still the real deal, however, but it can be corrected-grain or even formed from the leather split and then coated with synthetic polymer paint, with its surface artificially embossed for a grain effect. What matters is it smells right, looks good and lasts, with the X1’s seat inserts even perforated for breathability. The seats didn’t include forced ventilation or anything so fancy, but the three-way front derriere warmers heated up to therapeutic levels quickly when set to their topmost temperature, adding a coziness to the already comfortable driver’s seat.
The front driver and passenger four-way lumbar support isn’t standard, but rather comes as part of two available packages, the first a $3,500 upgrade dubbed Premium Package Essential that also includes power-folding side mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless Comfort Access, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, a large panoramic sunroof, a “HiFi” audio system, and an alarm, and the second as-tested $5,900 Premium Package Enhanced including everything above plus a head-up display, a universal remote, satellite radio, navigation, BMW’s semi-autonomous Park Assistant, the BMW ConnectedDrive Services Package, and a powered liftgate.
Both packages are also available with a heatable steering wheel, plus a $1,000 Driving Assistant Plus package that adds approach warning with pedestrian alert and light city braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go plus traffic jam assist, high-beam assist, and speed limit info.
Now that we’re talking upgrades, my tester also included a $950 Sport Performance Package featuring a Sport automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddles (worth the upgrade alone), more reactive M Sport Steering, and 19-inch alloy wheels, although my tester was smartly outfitted for this colder season and therefore included a set of 225/50R18 Continental ContiWinterContact tires on special M Sport split five-spoke alloys.
As anyone who’s driven on winter rubber will know, performance on anything but snow or ice is compromised, and therefore my tester’s at-the-limit grip couldn’t possible measure up to the stock wheel and tire combination. This said it proved more agile than the same SUV shod in 17-inch winter tires for my 2016 X1 xDrive28i review, which were smaller due to the older model coming with 18s in base trim.
Not much else seems to have changed since then, however, which obviously (by the aforementioned sales numbers) doesn’t matter to X1 buyers, or for that matter to me. The model’s only engine, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, still makes 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, potent when sidled up beside some of its rivals, like a Lexus UX or the base Mercedes GLA, but nowhere near as energetic as the latter model in 375-horsepower AMG trim, or for that matter top-line versions of the Jaguar E-Pace, Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40, but once again popularity proves this isn’t an issue.
I found it more than adequately powered, especially with Sport mode engaged, which meant the standard ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission responded more immediately to shifts, whether prompted by its paddles or left to its own devices. All-wheel drive is standard, and in the wet improved grip off the line and mid-turn, while the little utility feels poised compared to some in this class, but not as agile as the aforementioned AMG GLA 45, for instance, or its predecessor that was little more than a raised 3 Series wagon. More importantly, today’s X1 is more comfortable than its predecessor and many competitors, whether the powertrain is set to more relaxed Comfort or Eco modes or not, its ride particularly good for such a compact SUV. Eco mode in mind, claimed fuel economy is even decent at 10.7 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.3 combined.
It’s actually one of the more well-rounded entry-level SUVs in the premium sector, and amongst the most practical. Along with the comfortable front seats, the lower cushions even including adjustable side bolsters and manual thigh extensions, the steering column provided at least four inches of reach that, together with the amply adjustable driver’s seat, allowed my long-legged, shorter-torso five-foot-eight frame to fit in ideally, optimizing both comfort and control (this is often not the case). The aforementioned four-way powered lumbar support aided comfort, especially during long hauls, while the adjustable side bolsters cupped the torso nicely and the thigh extensions added support under the knees. BMW has thought of just about everything to make the X1’s front occupants comfortable.
The rear passenger compartment is more accommodating than you might think for a vehicle in this class too, while the outboard backrests are plenty supportive and centre position not wholly uncomfortable (normally the case with subcompacts). Two is better in back, however, allowing a wide (albeit slightly low) centre armrest with smallish pop-out cupholders to be folded down in between. When positioned behind the driver’s seat, which once again was extended further rearward than for most five-foot-eight folks, allowing approximately four inches ahead of my knees, at least another four to five above my head, plus about four next to my hips and shoulders. I certainly never felt cramped.
Of course the large panoramic sunroof overhead made for a much more open and airy rear passenger experience, while the LED reading lights overhead can add light at night if those in back want to read. There were no seat heaters in back, a bit of a letdown, but on the positive the rear quarters are finished just as nicely as those up front.
The cargo compartment is nicely finished as well, with high-quality carpeting up the sides of each wall, on the cargo floor, of course, which can be removed to expose a large hidden stowage area, plus on the backsides of the ideally 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks. If you have any intention of using your future SUV for skiing, or any other type of activity that might have you carrying longer cargo down the centre with passengers in back should consider this more flexible cargo configuration. BMW provides 505 litres (17.8 cubic feet) of dedicated gear-toting space behind those seatbacks, and gives you a convenient set of levers to drop them down, resulting in a sizeable 1,550 litres (54.7 cubic feet) of total capacity.
Back in the driver’s seat, the X1’s primary instrument cluster consists of the usual two analogue dials, although they appear as if floating within a colourful digital background, which looks really nice when lit up at night. Of course that background is a multi-information display at centre, plus warning lights, info about the active cruise control and more around the outer edges.
Propped up at the centre leading edge of the sloping dash-top is a beautiful wide high-definition display with fabulous depth of colour and contrast, and stimulating graphics. Unlike most premium rivals that don’t include touchscreens, BMW’s display is fully capacitive, allowing tap, pinch, and swipe capabilities just like a tablet or smartphone. You can also use the traditional iDrive rotating controller and surrounding buttons on the lower console for quick control. It’s an intelligent system, expected from the brand that initiated modern infotainment way back in the early aughts, while all the functions performed flawlessly including the route guidance that got me to my destinations perfectly each time. The upgraded audio system was very good too, and included a power/volume knob and row of quick-access radio presets just below a set of HVAC vents positioned under the display, and just above a comprehensive dual-zone auto climate control interface. Everything is well laid out, adding to the X1’s all-round goodness.
As is always the case, vehicles don’t become number one in their respective classes by accident, which is why anyone contemplating a small luxury SUV should seriously consider BMW’s X1.
It would be easy to look at the Veloster as an automotive anomaly, a car that doesn’t quite fit into the compact sport coupe segment, but I prefer to think of it as a more practical sports coupe. …
It would be easy to look at the Veloster as an automotive anomaly, a car that doesn’t quite fit into the compact sport coupe segment, but I prefer to think of it as a more practical sports coupe.
After all, there’s good reason only a handful of volume-branded compact sports coupes remain in today’s auto sector. Owners finally got tired of hearing complaints from family and friends trying to access their rear seats, so they bought sporty four- and five-door alternatives. Heck, even the mighty VW GTI can only be had with four doors these days, yet instead of conforming to near wagon-like levels of practicality Hyundai took a good idea that was poorly executed by GM’s Saturn division for its 1999 SC sports coupe, that saw a second rear-hinged half-door added to the driver’s side for easier back seat entry, and adapted it to the more appropriate passenger’s side with an easier to use conventional hinge on a larger three-quarter sized door. Voila! A car that looks like a coupe from the driver’s side and a particularly sleek four-door hatch from the passenger’s side.
Sales were initially quite strong in Canada, but have steadily tapered off since its first full year of 5,741 units in 2012, but thanks to a ground-up redesign for this 2019 model year the Veloster has responded with a 36.6-percent uptick to 1,295 units as of October’s close, although only 279 examples were sold during July, August and September of this year, representing a collapse of 55.1 percent compared to Q3 of 2018, so we’ll have to wait and see if 2019’s final three months fare any better.
Before we see Hyundai transform the Veloster into a volume-branded BMW X4 in order to keep its coupe alive while the world transfers interests from cars to crossover SUVs (an interesting prospect), those who still appreciate sports coupes for their lower centre of gravity and inherently better handling should take note of the new Veloster’s change from a torsion beam rear suspension design (the old car’s Achilles heal) to a new independent multi-link setup, the update thoroughly transforming its ride and handling.
The new Veloster’s underpinnings are much more compliant than the previous model’s, providing comfortable cruising around town with less drama over rough pavement, yet the little coupe remains firm enough to feel like a sport model. Still, despite what feels like a more docile suspension setup it’s much better through the corners, especially when pushed hard over broken asphalt mid-turn, which would have upset the outgoing model. Now you can cut the apex with less concern of finding an unforeseen bump or pothole, the rear suspension now absorbing such obstacles with no rear shudder or loss of tire patch contact.
While the Veloster comes standard with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine good for 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, which drives the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic, my Veloster Turbo tester uses a 1.6-litre turbo-four making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. It still twists the front wheels through an as-tested standard six-speed manual gearbox, although those wanting automation can choose a new seven-speed dual-clutch EcoShift DCT gearbox with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. I’ve driven a six-speed version of the latter in previous Velosters (see 2016, 2015 and 2014 reviews), and it proved to be quick shifting and very engaging, so I can only imagine the new seven-speed unit is even more fun to row through the gears, but being a purist when it comes to sports cars I’d be inclined to save the $1,500 and keep the DIY transmission.
It’s a well sorted six-speed with easy, progressive clutch take-up that feels ideally suited to the torque-rich turbocharged four-cylinder. Maximum torque arrives at 1,500 rpm and continues all the way up to 4,500, while max power, arriving at 6,000 rpm, makes laying further into the throttle worthwhile. The little engine hits redline at 7,000, although it’ll spin higher if you enjoy hearing the high-pitched mechanical whine, with sport mode really improving performance along the way. Really, push the big, grey “SPORT” button to the left of the shifter and the Veloster Turbo immediately transforms from nice economical runabout to a truly enthusiastic performance car.
Even better, there are zero negatives when choosing the Turbo over the base Veloster at the pump, with the manual transmission resulting in 9.4 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.4 combined for the base engine and an even better 9.4 city, 7.0 highway and 8.3 combined for the Turbo, while the base car’s six-speed auto is good for a claimed 9.1 city, 7.1 highway and 8.2 combined compared to just 8.5, 6.9 and 7.8 respectively for the Turbo with its seven-speed DCT. Yes, you read that right. Opt for the better performing Turbo and you’ll save on fuel, at least if you don’t bury your foot in the throttle every time you take off.
A quick drive will be more than enough for you to attest to the Veloster’s sport coupe credentials, but once again living with the car for a week reminded me of just how practical it is. The rear liftgate opens high and wide enough to stow big items, and while not as accommodating as most compact hatchbacks the dedicated cargo area measures a reasonable 565 litres (20 cubic feet), or about the size of a full-size sedan’s trunk, and a considerable increase over the old first-generation Veloster’s 440-litre (15.5 cu-ft) trunk. Of course, you can lower the rear seats to expand its usability, their divide placed at the 66/33-position instead of the usual 60/40, which makes sense for a car that only seats four. With both rear seatbacks laid flat the Veloster allows for 1,260 litres (44.5 cu ft) of gear-toting space, which is once again a significant increase over the previous model’s 982 litres (34.7 cubic feet) of maximum load carrying capacity.
The long driver’s door and proximity-sensing keyless entry make access to the cockpit ultra-easy, and the two passenger doors means that no one needs to compromise when coming along for the ride. Sure the first rear passenger to enter needs to slide along the seat to get to the other side, making me wish Hyundai hadn’t included a fixed centre console with cupholders and a storage bin in between, but it’s not too difficult to negotiate and provides some useful functionality (a folding centre armrest would work better).
With the driver’s seat positioned for my five-foot-eight, long-legged, short-torso frame I had about four to five inches ahead of my knees, plus a reasonable amount of space for my feet, although it was a bit tight for my toes underneath the driver’s seat. There was plenty of space from side to side, however, plus about three inches remained above my head, so it should be roomy enough for somebody under six feet.
The two rear seats are nicely carved out for good lateral support, while their backrests push outward slightly at the lower back to improve comfort on road trips. Amenities are limited to power window switches on the left panel and rear door, while the armrests are the only padded surfaces other than the seats.
This is also true for the front seating compartment, incidentally, the Veloster’s almost complete lack of soft-touch surfaces disappointing. Even the dash top and instrument panel or hard plastic, but at least some of these were given a matte textured treatment, whereas each door panel, armrests aside, were entirely comprised of glossy hard composite.
The red on black sport driver’s seat is as comfortable and supportive as it looks, while its two-way powered lumbar support almost ideally met the small of my back. I was able to set up the seat to my preferences thanks to fairly long reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column, further optimizing comfort and control, while the seat warmers and heatable steering wheel rim came on quickly and strong.
Upon ignition, via a button on the centre stack to the right of the steering column, a transparent head-up display powers up out of the dash top. I must admit it was a bit distracting at first, as it’s right in the line of sight (as it should be), but when selecting sport mode it provided a nice tachometer graphic that proved helpful when pushing the engine to redline, while I grew to appreciate it for other functions too. Just below, a colour multi-information display is set without an easily legible set of analogue dials, while controls on the steering wheel spokes, plus to the left and right of the dash were high in quality, well damped, and easy to reach.
Likewise for the infotainment display atop the centre stack, although the only button at its base was for the car’s hazard lights. Its quick-access switchgear can be found lower down the centre stack, between the audio system’s power/volume and tuning knobs, but I ended up using the steering wheel controls mixed with the touchscreen for most functions.
Thanks to a $3,000 Turbo Tech package, which includes the just-noted head-up display, leather upholstery, driver’s seat lumbar support, and Sport mode function noted earlier, not to mention rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, and automatic climate control (with an auto defogger), my test model had a bigger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with integrated navigation and a great sounding eight-speaker Infinity audio system with an external amplifier.
Before I get ahead of myself, the 2019 Veloster starts at $20,999 plus freight and fees, with the Turbo hitting the road at a base of $25,899. The Turbo Tech package boosts that price up to $28,899, while a $500 Performance package can be added with or without the Tech upgrade, and includes a special set of 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/40 Michelin Pilot summer-performance tires.
The base Veloster sports 18-inch alloys too, by the way, plus auto on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable heated side mirrors, remote entry, a leather-wrapped heatable multifunction steering wheel, a tilt and telescopic steering column, cruise control, power windows, illuminated vanity mirrors, a sunglasses holder, filtered air conditioning, a one-inch smaller 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, six-speaker audio, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity with audio streaming, a leather-wrapped shift knob, heated front seats, manual six-way driver and four-way front passenger seat adjustments, blindspot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, all the expected active and passive safety features, plus more.
Upgrading to the Turbo adds LED headlights, LED side mirror turn signal repeaters, LED taillights, a unique grille and extended side sills, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display replacing a more conventional 3.5-inch trip computer within the gauge cluster, a large powered glass sunroof, silver vent rings, checkered dash trim, partial cloth/leather upholstery with red stitching instead of blue, leatherette door trim, red interior accents, and more.
I could delve into available colours and more, but being that this review is being published as 2020 Velosters are arriving, you’ll need to accept what you can get if you want to take advantage of year-end discounts and zero-percent financing (the 2020 model was being offered with 0.99-percent financing at the time of writing). By the way, you can learn about these deals and more at CarCostCanada, where all pricing for trims, packages and individual options are itemized, plus info about available manufacturer rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Something else to consider is the new Veloster N, which gets a new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for a lofty 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It comes solely with a six-speed manual gearbox incorporating downshift rev-matching, while an electronically controlled limited slip differential helps get all that power down to the road, and an electronically controlled suspension connecting to 19-inch alloys on 235/35 Pirelli summer-performance tires maximize grip. Normal, Sport, N and Custom drive mode selections, plus a driver-adjustable active exhaust system, make this very special Veloster even more engaging, while fuel economy is still reasonably low at 10.6 L/100km in the city, 8.3 on the highway and 9.5 combined. It can all be had for a very affordable $34,999, so I urge you to take a look.
Something else to consider with the 2019, base model 2020s are no longer available with the manual transmission, which is a bit of a shame as this entry-level model is no longer a cheap fix for performance purists and custom tuners, while the new entry price rises by $1,400 to $22,399. Of course, Hyundai wouldn’t have dropped it if buyers were demanding an entry-level six-speed manual, but it’s nevertheless a negative. Soon, the only way to get a manual will be the $27,499 Turbo, so therefore budget-oriented performance fans will want to start searching for their base 2019 Veloster now. Also noteworthy, Hyundai has changed up some trim names for 2020, dropping GL and Tech from the 2019 car and adding Preferred and Luxury to the new version. The Veloster N is still available in one single trim line for the same price, but if you’re looking for it at CarCostCanada, take note it’s now a separate model for 2020.
No matter the model year or trim designation, the redesigned Veloster is wholly better than the car it replaces, with much better performance and nicely updated electronics, while it retains an ideal mix of sporty coupe styling elements and practical hatchback livability.