Sometimes being late to the game is a good thing, evidenced by Hyundai’s standalone luxury brand, Genesis. They’ve only been in business for five years, but with each new model they gain accolades aplenty and more premium buyers, with that ownership base ready to explode now that their three-car lineup is adding two new crossover SUVs.
Up until now, Genesis weakness had nothing to do with styling, performance, quality or reliability, the luxury marque achieving high marks for all of the above, but rather it only offered four-door sedans in a market that’s in love with sport utilities. Enter the new GV70 and GV80, the production version of the latter introduced in early 2020 to popular applause and now getting rave reviews from those fortunate enough to drive one. The GV70 expands the lineup downward into the compact luxury SUV segment, where the bulk of its competitors’ sales are already driven.
One glance will tell you the GV70 is the GV80’s little brother, the brand’s new familiar diamond-shaped pentagonal grille flanked by uniquely twinned LED headlamp strips that visually join up with similarly styled LED taillights in back. The SUV looks sleek and wind-cheating, with a sporty yet elegant design that should be just as appealing to premium buyers as the new GV80, but in a smaller, more affordable package.
Even more intriguing than the exterior shape is an interior that’s like nothing else available in this class, or at least the ovoid lower instrument panel design is wholly unique. A more traditional looking digital gauge cluster gets fitted to the usual spot ahead of the driver, while the large widescreen centre display atop the dash is nothing new either, nor is the rotating dial on the lower console for controlling it, but the surfboard-shaped interface stretching from the left side of the steering column to just past the centre stack (or where the centre stack would be if there was one) is a major interior design departure, both visually and functionally.
Planned solely as a five-seater, the GV70 will likely ride on the compact G70 sedan’s chassis architecture, which bodes well for performance. The G70 rivals BMW’s 3 Series for straight-line acceleration and handling, so it’s likely Genesis has its sights set on dethroning BMW’s X3, as well as Audi’s Q5, Mercedes’ GLC, Acura’s RDX, and other strong performers in this highly competitive class.
Genesis is not only being silent about the GV70’s chassis origins, but they haven’t said a thing about its powertrains either. This said, using the G70’s mechanicals would make sense, so we’re expecting the updated sport sedan’s new 2.5-litre turbo-four in entry-level trims and its soon-to-be revised 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 in pricier models. In the new G70 the four-cylinder produces 290 horsepower and 310 and lb-ft of torque, while the upgraded V6 in the GV80 makes a considerable 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. Performance like this means the new GV70 will have no problem keeping up with the Müllers and Schmidts, let alone the Satos and Takahashis.
With this GV70 debut, Genesis should be done for 2020, as the South Korean brand promised two new models per annum for three years, and remember that they’ve already introduced the GV80. What’s in store for 2021? A smaller entry-level car and SUV are probable next steps, although a quick glance at the Mercedes, BMW and Audi lineups show no shortage of potential alternatives. Genesis has many holes to fill, from sport coupes and convertibles to hybrids and EVs, not to mention ultra-performance models at the other end of the spectrum. We can hardly wait.
Hyundai hasn’t announced GV70 launch date yet, but they designated it a 2022 model so we can certainly expect it to go on sale next year. Until then, check out the Genesis G70, G80 and G90 sport-luxury sedans and the new mid-size GV80 SUV at CarCostCanada, where you can learn about factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on all 2020 and 2021 models, plus when you become a member you’ll also access info about manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Find out how CarCostCanada works now, and make sure to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store in order to have all of this critical info with you wherever and whenever you need it.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Genesis
The health crisis has caused mayhem in many industries, and while the auto sector hasn’t been hit as hard as travel and hospitality, it’s definitely taken its toll. This reality, while bad for many…
The health crisis has caused mayhem in many industries, and while the auto sector hasn’t been hit as hard as travel and hospitality, it’s definitely taken its toll. This reality, while bad for many manufacturers and their independent retailers, poses some opportunity for those that want to make a deal.
Many Volkswagen dealers, in fact, have new, non-demo 2019 models available. Yes, I realize we’re entering the 2021 model year, and even the “peoples’ car” brand is advertising 2021 versions of its cars, but that doesn’t change the fact that many 2019 vehicles remain unsold.
Believe it or not, one of such vehicles is the mid-size three-row Atlas crossover SUV, a relatively new model that’s received a lot of praise from pundits like me, and reasonably good sales. Nevertheless, some dealers have multiple new 2019 Atlas models in their inventory, which is reason enough for VW to offer up to $6,000 in additional incentives on models like the top-line $54,975 Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line being reviewed here, shows CarCostCanada on their 2019 Volkswagen Atlas Canada Prices page (find out more about CarCostCanada here and remember to download their free app from the Apple Store and Google Play Store).
They’re also reporting up to $700 in incentives on the subtly refreshed 2021 Atlas, so there’s even a small discount available despite these having just arriving on retailer lots, but the big money is on the 2019, as Volkswagen and its dealers are highly motivated to get rid of this nearly two-year old SUV.
To be clear, VW Canada never imported the 2020 Atlas from Chattanooga, Tennessee where it’s built, but instead received its allotment of all-new five-passenger 2020 Atlas Cross Sport models, while allowing nationwide inventory of the larger seven-passenger version to slowly sell off. Seeing that 2019s are still available, this was a very smart move.
Moving into 2021, VW has given the Atlas a deeper grille that now includes a third bright metal-like crossbar, plus new LED headlamps, and fresh front and rear fascias that add 75 millimeters (2.9 in) to the SUV’s overall length. Inside, the steering wheel is new while contrast stitching is added to higher end trims with leather. Mechanically, all-wheel drive is now standard across the line, and the base turbocharged four-cylinder engine is more widely available.
As you might imagine, the 2021 Atlas’ starting price is considerably higher now that it comes standard with AWD, the new MSRP being $40,095 (plus freight and fees) for its base Trendline trim, compared to $36,740 for this same trim line in the 2019 model year, a difference of $3,355. Comfortline, Highline and Execline trims are still available, all of which are priced higher except for Highline, which now comes standard with the aforementioned 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. Just-above-base Comfortline trim continues to offer both engines, but the entry-level 2021 Trendline can now only be had with the turbo-four, while 2021 Execline trim continues to come standard with the 3.6-litre V6.
I won’t go into much more detail about the 2021, because, frontal styling, new steering wheel and some contrast-coloured thread aside, it doesn’t appear to have changed much from this outgoing model. This is no bad thing, however, as its first two model years were well received. I tested a 2018 and this 2019, the first version experiencing a couple of teething problems including a broken second-row sliding seat handle. Otherwise it was an exceptionally good SUV that I enjoyed spending a week with, just like the even more luxuriously appointed 2019 model.
I was surprised by all the positive comments I received from friends and even passersby during my test week, all shocked that VW would produce anything so big and truck-like, the latter when it comes to styling at least, but I quickly reminded all that the old beloved Vanagon and front-engine T5 van (which were available here a long time ago) weren’t exactly small, and pretty boxy as well, so the Atlas mostly fits into the brand’s DNA. I think they made a good choice from a styling perspective, as the majority of today’s crossover SUV buyers seem to want a rugged looking utility, the Atlas’ bulky fender flairs and ample chrome doing a fine job of relaying visual toughness.
Inside, even without the 2021 updates, the Atlas provides a nice ambience, with wide open spaces and no shortage of attractive design elements. This is especially true in my tester’s top-tier Execline trim that came with cream-coloured perforated leather upholstery, woodgrain and satin-silver accents, plus loads of impressive display screens including a fully digital and brightly coloured instrument cluster, along with a large centre touchscreen display.
Before I get too far into this review, I need to mention what I see as the elephant in VW’s garage. Where Volkswagen was once the go-to mainstream volume brand for those of us who prefer premium-like interior quality and finishings, this is no longer the case. Some of the Atlas’ details are excellent, like the steering wheel, that’s one of the best in its class as far as the way it feels in the hands as per to leather quality and shape, plus its overall sporty design, while no one should complain about the SUV’s front seats that are Germanic in their firmness and therefore wonderfully supportive, but VW is now falling short by failing to nail the interior refinement details that used to make them reign supreme, such as fabric-wrapped roof pillars, plus the tactile quality of plastics used below the waistline, and in some cases even above.
The dash-top is a rubberized black synthetic, which is reasonably good, but the woodgrain on the dash and doors feels cheap and hollow, similar to what GM used to offer years ago. The same can be said for the metallic trim that surrounds it, which only feels a little bit denser due to being closer to the trim piece’s outer extremities and therefore strengthened by its complex construction. Volkswagen does add padded leather inserts on the doors, and does a decent job with the armrests, but that’s it for soft-touch surfaces. The lower doors and lower portion of the dash and centre stack are all made from hard plastic, and while most is finished with a matte semi-soft paint, it’s nowhere near up to the levels offered by others in this class.
For instance, just after my weeklong Atlas test, I spent another week in an almost loaded Kia Telluride SX, plus the week after that I drove Hyundai’s Palisade, and must say that both are as close to premium products as anything ever offered by mainstream brands. The former even wrapped both A and B pillars in the same high-quality fabric used for the roof liner, while the latter does so with a plush suede-like material. Additionally, Kia’s faux wood felt so dense and realistic I had to verify that it wasn’t real. Likewise, the interior metals are excellent and feel genuine, while even the exterior metal surrounding the windows felt like Lexus’ polished nickel.
Volkswagen does a better job when it comes to gauge clusters and infotainment, but only when compared to the Kia. Hyundai’s fully digital cluster in the Palisade includes side-view cameras within its outer “dials” when changing lanes, a wonderfully useful safety feature on such a large vehicle, while Kia does similar, albeit places the image within the multi-information display between conventional analogue dials.
All said, I’m not about to bash Volkswagen for having one of the best digital driver displays in the industry. It actually comes very close to matching the Audi Virtual Cockpit, which I consider to be one of the best in the industry. I especially like how VW’s display reduces the size of its analogue-style speedometer and tachometer to the size of wristwatch faces as it fills the entire screen with a given infotainment function, such as navigation directions complete with full digital mapping.
The centre touchscreen is also amongst the best in the business, with superb high-resolution quality including beautiful depth of contrast and superb colours, as well as excellent graphics and speedy actuation. It’s filled with all the features you might expect in this class, such as aforementioned navigation, a large, clear and useful backup camera, full climate control and audio functions, the latter system including Bluetooth streaming and satellite radio capability, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, etcetera.
The Atlas’ switchgear is fairly good overall, but the rotating outer dials around the tri-zone automatic climate control interface were wiggly and sloppy, something I didn’t find on the just-noted Kia or Hyundai, or for that matter the majority of their competitors.
Now that I’ve once again mentioned the two South Koreans, it should be noted that both fully loaded SUVs are less expensive than the Atlas, but not by much. The Telluride SX that I tested just after the Atlas was quite a bit more approachable at only $49,995, but since then a fancier 2021 Telluride SX Limited with Nappa leather was added to the lineup, increasing its retail price to $54,695 before discount. That’s a nominal difference of $280, incidentally, so make sure to drive both the Kia and VW when it comes time to buy. The top-tier 2020 Palisade Ultimate would now be the least expensive of the bunch at $54,199, but the $54,699 2021 Ultimate Calligraphy just happens to be $5 more than the priciest Telluride. Either way I recommend spending some time with this one as well, not to mention Toyota’s latest Highlander and Mazda’s CX-9 that deserve high praise in this class too.
My Atlas tester’s heatable steering wheel rim was nice, and the driving position superb. The tilt and telescopic steering column reaches far enough rearward to provide the type of control and comfort I required, due to having a body with proportionally longer legs than torso. The seats were comfortable too, with good lower back support.
Additionally, the rear seating area is very accommodating, even for those in the third row that received comfortable backrests and ample space for feet under the upgraded second-row captain’s chairs in my test model. Those individual second-row chairs allowed space in between to access the rearmost seats, making life easier when kids are aboard. There’s a place for what-have-you plus cupholders to each side, and also good you’ll find third-row vents in the C pillars so rear passengers won’t feel claustrophobic. This in mind, the rear side quarter windows are easy to see out of, and Volkswagen also includes reading lights overhead. I can’t see any child or average-sized person complaining about the Atlas’ rearmost compartment, even during a long trip.
Back to the second-row seating area, VW includes ventilation on the backside of the front console, as well as a digital display for the SUV’s automatic rear temperature control system’s third zone. The only negative about the Atlas’ otherwise excellent HVAC system is that the aforementioned Telluride and Palisade offer quad-zone auto climate control systems. They also make heated and cooled second-row seats available, whereas this VW only included three-way warmers in back, plus the South Korean models get USB charging ports in the third row, this important feature found only in the Atlas’ first and second rows.
Volkswagen provides a powered rear door to access the large cargo area, par for the course in this class, which impressively measures 583 litres (20.6 cubic feet) behind the third row, 1,571 litres (55.5 cu ft) behind the second row, and 2,741 litres (96.8 cu ft) when all seats are folded flat.
Lifting up the load floor exposes the usual tire changing equipment and a subwoofer for the audio system, but unexpectedly appreciated was a handy storage location for the retractable cargo cover when not in use. The 50/50-split third row folds down easily and provides a flat loading floor, and while you’ll eventually get a nice, mostly flat loading floor from lowering the second-row seats as well, you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors in order to do so. The Kia and Hyundai competitors provide power-folding rear seats.
As you may have guessed, Volkswagen delivers in spades when taking the Atlas out on the road. The brand has long been respected for endowing its vehicles German performance characteristics at a budget price, and to that end the big SUV’s 3.6-litre V6 really gets up and goes thanks to 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque mated to a smooth and snappy eight-speed automatic transmission. Still, that’s not quite as much oomph as the Telluride and Palisade’s V6, which puts out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque while also conjoined to an eight-speed automatic, and while all three SUVs sport all-wheel drive, the South Koreans weigh about 300 lbs less, so they feel a bit more engaging off the line.
That extra weight may be contributing to the Atlas’ less appealing fuel economy, which at a claimed 13.7 L/100km in the city, 10.1 on the highway and 12.1 combined is a bit thirstier than the two Koreans’ 12.3 city, 9.6 highway and 11.1 combined ratings. All of these estimates pale in comparison to the Subaru Ascent’s 11.6 city, 9.0 highway and 10.4 combined rating, mind you, not to mention the Toyota Highlander’s respective 11.7, 8.6 and 10.3 rating, plus the Mazda CX-9’s phenomenal rating of 10.6, 8.4 and 9.6.
The Atlas’ handling is better than most in this class, however, prompting me to call this the driver’s SUV of the three-row bunch. This is where its German engineering pays off, even without as much power, and while the two Koreans and most others in this class should keep up through the curves without much effort, the Atlas feels better then pushed hard. Nevertheless, I noticed more interior noise in the Volkswagen than others, and I’m not necessarily talking about road and wind noise, but instead what seemed like the sound of plastic panels chafing up against each other when traveling over rougher roads.
To be fair, Volkswagen may have exorcised out some of the gremlins that plagued my tester since introducing the Atlas, so I’ll need to spend a week with a new one in order to learn how it measures up. I certainly appreciate the way it drives, can give it two thumbs way up for exterior styling and interior design, was impressed with its spacious, comfortable cabin, and truly like its advanced electronics, but some tactile and very real quality issues lowered its score, as well as a number of convenience and luxury features that were missing compared to rivals.
All in all, the Atlas is a solid first effort in the highly competitive three-row SUV segment, and I look forward to experiencing any improvements in the new 2021. As far as buying a 2019 model goes, the deep discount now available could make it very worthwhile.
Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann
So, you need to get rid of your old car and want something that looks good, rides high enough to see out of easily, is fun to drive yet provides good ride quality, is easy on fuel, nice and refined inside,…
So, you need to get rid of your old car and want something that looks good, rides high enough to see out of easily, is fun to drive yet provides good ride quality, is easy on fuel, nice and refined inside, comfortable and roomy from front to back, well stocked with convenient features, and maybe a bit different than every other cookie-cutter appliance roaming the suburbs. I understand your dilemma. How about a Volvo XC40?
You’ve got to admit, this little guy is cute, in a sophisticated, upmarket kind of way. Full disclosure: I actually drove this particular example last year, and its stylish Amazon Blue hue is no longer available, but other than exterior colour choices there were no changes for 2020, while updates to the new 2021 model are minimal as well.
I’ll get to those in a moment, but first let’s consider why I think you’ll love the XC40. Styling is objective. You’re either going to like it or not. I happen to like it, but can also appreciate that some folks might want something a little more rugged and tough looking. The XC40 better represents the cute ute category, although it still wears its modernized Volvo heritage proudly, with the brand’s bold new rectangular, crested grille up front and centre, its Thor’s hammer LED headlamps to each side, a sporty front fascia below, and a classic pair of tall “L” shaped LED taillights in back.
Dark grey lower body cladding adds a little muscle to the front corners, down each rocker panel, and along the rear bumper, while Volvo adds some classy satin-silver accenting in key areas. My tester’s optional white roof offsets the lower light blue colour nicely (a black roof comes standard in sportier R-Design trim, if you’d rather go dark), while helping reduce sun-induced interior heat.
This is the base trim, by the way, dubbed Momentum in Volvo speak. It comes well equipped despite now only being offered in standard Black Stone or Ice White and three optional metallics, including Glacier Silver (replacing Bright Silver), Fusion Red, and Onyx Black. Along with Amazon Blue, Osmium Grey was discontinued for 2020. Identical base colours continue forward into 2021, but alas the white roof won’t be available at all. If colour options are important to you, there’s a plethora available in the XC40’s most luxurious Inscription trim.
A sizeable set of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels on 235/55 all-season tires come standard with the Momentum, and don’t appear to be changing for 2021, but my tester wore sharp looking 19s on grippier 235/50 Michelin all-seasons, also carried forward into next year. They’re attached to a fully independent suspension with aluminium double wishbones in front and a unique integral-link setup featuring a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring in back, which delivered a thoroughly comfortable ride, even with the larger tires. It really feels like a bigger and more substantive vehicle than it is, and not just because its compliant suspension is endowed with ample travel to absorb bumps and dips well, especially in Momentum trim, but its doors and hatch close with a solidity unlike most rivals, plus it’s quite quiet and feels impressively rigid when coursing down the road.
Speaking of the road ahead, the 2020 XC40 Momentum is available with two versions of a single 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. To be clear, the base T4 powertrain can only be had in this entry-level trim, meaning my tester’s T5 upgrade comes standard with the R-Design and Inscription. The T4 makes 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which should be ample for most subcompact luxury SUV buyers, but the sportier T5’s 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque is best for those wanting considerably more get-up-and-go off the line and when passing.
Both engines come mated to an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission as standard, complete with fuel-saving auto start/stop technology that helps the T4 achieve 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined, and the T5 get a 10.7 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined rating, while standard all-wheel drive makes sure you’ll be ready when the white stuff starts falling.
Comfort or Eco driving modes are best used when things get slippery, the Momentum being the only model without an Off-road setting, but take heart that Volvo didn’t forget to include a Dynamic sport mode and a special Individual setting for those who want to extract the most performance possible from the XC40’s drivetrain.
Dynamic mode engaged, both T5’s I tested went like pocket rockets, jumping off the line and blasting forward with more energy than most in the class. The only performance differentiators from Momentum to R-Design, other than their wheel/tire packages and suspension tuning mentioned earlier, is the lack of paddle shifters for the lesser model, the Momentum not quite as engaging when pushed hard.
I must say it still handles very well, always feeling nicely poised and easily controllable, yet remaining glued to the road amid fast-paced cloverleafs and even quicker runs through tight, twisty S-turns, plus it was plenty of fun during point-and-shoot manoeuvres around town. It also brakes strongly, no matter the situation, and generally feels like a Volvo should, nice and agile, plenty solid, and solidly built.
Visibility is excellent thanks to the taller ride height noted before and no shortage of glass in every direction, plus in Volvo tradition the seats are amply adjustable, wonderfully comfortable, and wholly supportive, including good side bolstering as well as extendable lower cushions that cup nicely under the knees.
Now that we’re inside, this base Momentum provides almost the same level of luxury as the R-Design. The front roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, the dash-top and door skins are finished in soft-touch synthetic, the insides of the door pockets are carpeted and large enough to accept a 15-inch laptop as well as a big drink bottle, and the armrests are padded and covered in stitched leather. There’s no pamperingly soft surfacing below the waistline, whether discussing the doors, dash or centre console, the latter merely getting a soft-painted plastic above some carpeting that wraps around its lower portion, but the woven roof liner is high in quality and surrounds a massive optional panoramic glass sunroof with a slick powered translucent fabric sunshade, that’s powered via an overhead console otherwise filled with LED lights resting above a slick looking frameless mirror.
Those comforting seats noted a moment ago are upholstered in optional soft leather front to back, and I have to say the rear quarters are generously sized for such a small SUV, even capable of fitting large six-foot-plus passengers with room to spare. Volvo provides a centre folding centre armrest that doubles as a pass-through for stowing longer items like skis down the middle, while the rear seats otherwise fold in the usual 60/40 configuration, expanding cargo capacity from 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) to 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet).
Just like in the R-Design, my Momentum tester included a portion of the cargo floor that flips up to divide whatever you’re hauling. The divider itself is topped off by three handy grocery bag hooks that I tested after shopping, and I’m glad to report they worked perfectly.
Speaking of handy, all XC40s include a super useful fold-out hook from the glove box up front, ideal for hanging a waste bag, while the two narrow slots left of the driver’s knee are ideal for gas cards. Yes, this little SUV is as convenient as vehicles come, and really should win some sort of award for thoughtfulness.
Either way, its fully digital gauge cluster and vertical tablet-style infotainment touchscreen will likely earn even bigger smiles, as these are some of the best in the class. The former measures 12.3 inches and includes digital versions of an analogue speedometer and tachometer as well as a large centre display showing available navigation directions including detailed mapping and actual road signs, plus phone info and more, all of which expand the centre area while shrinking the primary driving controls for greater visibility when in use. This is top-tier kit normally found in higher trims, so Volvo deserves kudos for making such an excellent driver’s display standard.
The 9.0-inch centre touchscreen is Volvo’s Sensus system that’s found in every other model, from this entry-level five-occupant compact SUV right up to the fanciest mid-size, three-row XC90. If you know how to use an Apple iPad or Android-based tablet (or for that matter a smartphone) you’ll feel right at home, and even more so if you take the time to hook up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration, which also comes standard.
The aforementioned navigation system is programmable from here, as is one of the most intelligently organized dual-zone climate control systems I’ve ever used (the base model gets a single-zone system), the interface complete with a brilliant pop-up menu for each zone’s temperature setting and an easily figured out pictograph design for directing ventilation. The audio system sounds good too, and features Bluetooth streaming and satellite radio, while the backup camera is clear and bright, plus incorporates active guidelines for pinpointing a chosen parking space.
A narrow row of nicely crafted switches can be found just below the touchscreen, featuring a hazard lights button and some quick-access HVAC and audio controls, the latter including a beautifully detailed metal volume knob, while to the very right is the previously noted drive mode selector.
Just below is a big compartment capable of stowing a large smartphone with sets of sunglasses to each side, plus a dedicated USB-A charging port as well as one for connecting to the infotainment system just above (that are joined by two more on the backside of the front console), these sidled up beside a classic 12-volt charger.
Standard features not yet mentioned include remote engine start from a smartphone app, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sensors with a visual indicator on the centre display, Volvo On Call, front and rear collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, all the expected airbags including two for the front occupants knees, and much more, all in a compact luxury SUV that starts at just $39,750 plus freight and fees.
For 2020, the White Contrast Package increases the price by $1,250, the 4-C suspension upgrade adds $1,000, 19-inch alloys adds $975, panoramic sunroof adds $1,000, navigation adds $1,000, harman/kardon premium sound adds $950, the leather upholstery upgrade adds $1,100, and a charcoal headliner adds $250.
Additionally, 2020 models can be upgraded with a $2,750 Momentum Plus Package that includes front LED fog lamps with bending/cornering lights, power-folding side mirrors with puddle lights, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, passive keyless access, high-level interior illumination, the dual-zone automatic climate control upgrade mentioned earlier, a Clean Zone air quality system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener and compass, an always appreciated wireless smartphone charger, a heatable steering wheel rim, four-way powered lumbar support, a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, a nifty storage box under the driver’s seat cushion, heated rear outboard seats, a powered liftgate, the handy divider/grocery bag holder mentioned before, and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, which becomes standard for 2021.
Speaking of 2021, the XC40’s options and packages have been modified with a $1,000 Climate Package now available for Momentum trim adding heated wiper blades, the just-noted heated steering wheel and rear seat warmers, all highly recommended for obvious reasons, while a new $1,950 Premium Package includes passive entry with rear liftgate gesture control that only requires a quick kick under the back bumper to operate, plus front parking sensors and the dual-zone auto HVAC system, powered passenger seat, HomeLink universal remote, navigation with road sign information, power-folding rear headrests, grocery bag holder, and under-seat storage mentioned earlier.
Lastly, a $2,200 Advanced Package adds headlamp washers plus the brighter interior lighting and wireless phone charging noted a moment ago, as well as an excellent 360-degree surround parking camera, adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous Pilot Assist driver assistance, and a 12-volt power outlet in cargo area.
I hope you can gather by the detail I’ve provided throughout this review, the XC40 isn’t your average entry-level SUV. Its thoughtful touches, artful design and overall liveability set it apart from all competitors, and when combined with an easy-going demeanour on the road, that can get mighty fiery when called upon, it’s easily one of the best offerings in its class all around. I highly recommend it.
Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann
When an automaker creates a sports car as immediately classic as the now legendary 240Z, it’s often all downhill from there. It’s like the band that has a top-10 hit on their first album, and never…
When an automaker creates a sports car as immediately classic as the now legendary 240Z, it’s often all downhill from there. It’s like the band that has a top-10 hit on their first album, and never achieves the same level of musical genius again. Could the next Z be the one that finally outdoes the original?
Sometimes we forget that Nissan (then Datsun in North America) had already experienced relative success with another great sports car before the 240Z arrived in 1969. In fact, the 1965–1970 1600 roadster (and predecessors), named Fairlady in Japan and raced in SRL 2000 form by actor Paul Newman at the very beginning of his motorsport career, was the 240Z’s (Fairlady Z’s) predecessor despite looking nothing like it. Where the 1600 roadster looked and performed similarly to British and Italian sports cars of the era such as the MGB, Triumph TR4/TR5, Alfa Romeo Duetto/Spider and Fiat Spider, the 240Z left every other entry-level competitor in the visual and literal dust, and became an instant hit because of it.
The Zs that followed gained displacement to overcome pollution equipment and therefore weren’t quite as appealing, while the 280ZX added luxury and weight, a scenario that continued to play out with the 300ZX, although the second-generation 300ZX was absolutely gorgeous and extremely powerful for the era, and is therefore considered by many as the best Z since the 240. This said the 350Z was lauded for styling and performance when it arrived, while the 370Z added more luxury and weight, and has kind of worn out its welcome after 12 years on the market. This brings us to the here and now, with hopes that the yellow beast before us all is a thinly disguised seventh-gen Z.
The Z Proto, as it’s called, appears more than just a concept. The name Proto is short for prototype after all, which outside of sports car racing circles means a near production ready concept designed to test the waters before a full introduction. Nissan has a history of near-production concepts, which bodes well for this car becoming the new 400Z, as netizen pundits are calling it.
Nissan has been teasing the next-gen Z for quite a while, first with a teaser video showing the car in silhouette a few months ago. This caused quite the stir, with many expecting a production-ready car to appear, but alas we only have a concept, albeit a nicely fleshed out one at that. The Z Proto looks like it could easily be a production model, from its graceful lines that pay greater respect to the original than any Z since the ‘70s, to its fully formed interior that continues forward with many of the key design elements that have always been part of Nissan’s much-loved super coupe.
From the front, the Z Proto immediately reminds of the early 240, 260 and 280 Z cars, particularly the blocky, rectangular grille that seems to pay tribute to a popular mod of the era which saw owners removing the thin chromed front bumper (this practice became even more popular amongst 280Z owners due to its larger safety regulated front bumper), but also shares similar sizing to the current 370Z’s frontal opening. Just the same, this has been the new Proto Z’s most criticized design element, with some thinking it’s just too big and square.
The Proto’s elegantly formed hood plays off early Zs too, but with a much wider domed centre section that begins farther rearward after a more pronounced crease down the middle. The ovoid headlights are entirely new, however, sharing some circular symmetry with the first Z, particularly the daytime running lights that are supposed to represent the circular reflection of the transparent headlamp fairings used on Japanese-domestic-market (JDM) models (and aftermarket upgraded North American cars). Their flush glass-covered sealed beam look is more in-line with the fourth-generation Z32, mind you, which incidentally housed the Z’s first Xenon HIDs as part of its 1998 makeover, but the new concept uses LED technology.
The Z Proto’s roofline, rear quarters and hatch, on the other hand, pull cues from a variety of eras, albeit mostly from the ‘70s due to moving most of its visual weight to the rear, which sees nicely upswept quarter windows as well as pillars with integrated “Z” logos, paying direct homage to first-generation models. This said, the rear lighting elements and back panel garner more influence from both the refreshed 1987-1989 Z31 and all Z32 300ZX models thanks to their large, horizontal taillight treatments, while the entire car is a major departure from both 350Z and 370Z models, necessary to provide a fresh approach to such an outdated model.
For those wanting a return to what arguably made the original 240Z a great car to drive, its superb power to weight ratio, the Z Proto’s five-inch longer body won’t be good news unless Nissan constructs it from lightweight metals and composites. Doing so, of course, would drive the price up substantially, which means we’re only likely to see the same types of high-strength steels and alloys used in the platform-sharing Infiniti Q60’s body structure, with any exotic materials allocated to the much pricier GT-R.
The new Z Proto measures 4,381 mm (172.5 in) long, 1,849 mm (72.8 in) wide, incidentally, which is exactly the same width as the Q60, plus it’s 1,310 mm (51.6 in) tall. We can expect a production version to use at least as much aluminum for its body panels as the current 370Z, which gets a lightweight hood, door skins and hatch. Aluminum suspension components will make the grade too, the current Z already using an aluminum-alloy front subframe, engine cradle, and forged aluminum control arms (upper and lower in the rear), steering knuckle, radius rod, and wheel carrier assembly.
Within that just-noted engine cradle will be Nissan’s impressive twin-turbo 3.0-litre VR30DDTT engine, an advanced power unit that delivers superb performance and much better fuel economy than the 3.7-litre V6 currently in use. It comes in two states of tune in the Q60, including 300 and 400 horsepower variants, with most pundits expecting a 400Z nameplate to accompany the most potent version. This said it would be an unusual move to limit the upcoming Z to just the top-line engine, as a 300Z’s lower price point would allow for many more sales, while a potential 300ZX could denote available all-wheel drive, currently standard in Canada in the Q60, while provide an ideal marketing connection to the aforementioned historical Z models. A six-speed manual is shown in the concept, nothing new here, while it’s possible the new Z will debut more forward gears for the automatic, which currently houses seven.
As has mostly been the case through the decades, the new Z Proto’s interior is heavily influenced by first-gen Z cars, albeit with modern-day refinement and technology that far surpass today’s model. A key giveaway includes the sport steering wheel with its classic circular centre pad endowed with a “Z” logo instead of Nissan’s usual crest, but fans will appreciate the trio of driver-canted ancillary gauges atop the centre dash even more. Along with the usual oil pressure and voltmeter dials, the Z Proto replaces the current model’s digital clock with a boost gauge, a nod to the twin-turbo V6 housed just ahead.
The digital gauge cluster and large high-definition infotainment touchscreen are the most notable improvements over all predecessors, the former necessary for respect in this segment, and allowing for much more driver usability due to the ability to incorporate sophisticated performance readouts, while the latter should come equipped with all the usual modern amenities including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a big, clear backup camera with the possible option of a 360-degree overhead bird’s-eye view, and more.
The three rotating dials used for the heating and ventilation system strangely don’t appear to provide dual-zone capability, but it is automatic so this version is at least up to par with the current car.
Speaking of the current car, the Z Proto’s side-window defog vents on the outside corners of the dash, and its uniquely shaped door handles with integrated air vents, appear directly pulled from today’s Z, a strange choice if the brand wants to wholly differentiate the upcoming model from the one it replaces.
The seats look fabulous, but such can be said for the current model’s top-tier Recaros too, all of which help to make the new Z Proto appear like a production model in waiting. Then again Nissan is calling it a “development study vehicle,” so we shouldn’t get our hopes up too high, even though the 2001 Z Concept ended up looking a lot like the 2003 350Z. Reports claim the production vehicle has been signed off and development is well under way, but so far we haven’t been given a launch timeline. Considering today’s Z is now the oldest generation of any model sold in Canada, they may want to get a move on.
Did you see the new Z (check out the gallery above)? The Z Proto, which dropped on September 16, isn’t production ready, but its level of interior detail, its prototype-referencing name (prototypes normally refer to near production cars, rather than concepts that may only be built to gauge public reaction to a proposed design language or garner some press for a brand while having a little fun), and Nissan’s history of building production vehicles that closely resemble their prototypes/concepts, make it appear more like the real deal than merely a dream car. Either way one thing is clear, the 2020 370Z Nismo I’m reviewing here has quickly become last year’s news, if not the last decade’s news.
Unfair? That’s what I’ll try to determine in this review. After all, if you’re reading this review, you’re obviously still interested in a car that’s been around for a very long time. Nothing I can tell you here will be any different than what I could’ve told you a couple of years ago, other than news you may have missed about the 2020 370Z 50th Anniversary model, that gets two, thick diagonal stripes on each door along with special badging and some other nice extras.
Nice, but I’m reviewing a Nismo, which is the best Z currently available. Its seasoned 3.7-litre V6 gets an extra 18 horsepower over lesser trims’ 332 for a total of 350, plus 6 more lb-ft of torque for a maximum of 276, and can only be had with a six-speed manual gearbox, a seven-speed automatic with paddles available in lesser trims. This is a performance purist’s machine after all, so why bother with a slush-box?
It costs a lot more than the $30,498 base Z too, at $48,998, but for that money you get special red and black accented trim, a gorgeous set of 19-inch Nismo Rays forged alloy wheels wrapped in 245/40YR19 front and 285/35YR19 rear Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT600 performance tires, a Nismo-tuned suspension setup comprised of increased spring, dampening and stabilizer rates, front and rear performance dampers, a reinforced three-point front strut tower brace, and a rear underbody V-brace, plus a Nismo-tuned free-flow dual exhaust system with an H-pipe configuration.
Fabulous black leather Recaro sport seats with red perforated Alcantara inserts and harness slots on their backrests are included too, as well as numerous comfort and convenience features pulled up from lower trims, a shortlist including auto on/off HID headlamps, LED DRLs, LED taillights, proximity entry with pushbutton start/stop, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated backup monitor, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, automatic climate control with an in-cabin micro-filter, navigation with SiriusXM NavTraffic, Bose audio with satellite radio, a USB port, and much more.
For all points and purposes the 2020 370Z Nismo is a great value proposition, that is until factoring in its age. In automotive terms its 11 years without a significant update make it ancient. In the entire consumer industry, Nissan’s own Frontier pickup truck is the only vehicle that’s has lasted longer, having arrived in 2004. A new Frontier is expected sometime in the near future, as is the redesigned Z noted earlier, and both will likely be much pricier than the vehicles they replace due to more sophisticated body shells, powertrains and electronic interfaces. The big question is whether the introduction of the new 400Z, as most are starting to call it, will cause today’s 370Z values to crash or, alternatively, allow them to hold in place thanks to the current model’s reasonably priced range. There’s no way this can be predicted, so we’re left with the gamble of choosing an ultra-old-school sports car that’s soon to be replaced.
Still, it’s a very good car with plenty to offer performance fans. Acceleration is strong, with its zero to 100 km/h time coming in under five seconds, which might seem like a laggard when put side-by-side with a GT-R Nismo that achieves the same in the low threes, but it’s still pretty good. Likewise, where the GT-R Nismo tops out at 321 km/h (200 mph), the 370Z Nismo hits its terminal velocity at a respectable 286 km/h (178 mph). Nothing wrong with that.
Fortunately braking is equally impressive, thanks to four-piston opposed aluminum front calipers clamping down on 14- by 1.3-inch vented discs, and two-piston calipers biting into 13.8- by 0.8-inch rotors in back, plus high-rigidity brake hoses and R35 Special II brake fluid. Stomp down on the centre pedal and speed gets scrubbed off quickly, but I recommend doing so in a straight line as the car’s 1581-kg (3,486-lb) mass can be a bit unsettling when diving too deeply into a corner without reducing speed enough first.
Of course, this can be said for a long list of performance cars, many of which cost a great deal more than this Z. Hidden below the shapely bodywork is a double-wishbone suspension in front and four-link design in the rear that collectively ride smoothly considering the higher spring and stabilizer bar rates, plus stiffer roll calibrations and increased damping levels. The Nismo even gets a 0.6-inch wider track than non-Nismo trims, which together with a carbon-fibre composite driveshaft and viscous limited slip differential that come standard across the range, add to that planted feel I noted earlier.
All of this is great, but the aforementioned six-speed manual is even better. It features SynchroRev Match, a technology that instantly spins engine revs up to the ideal rotation in order to synch up with the upcoming downward gear before it arrives, as if perfectly blipping the throttle yourself. It makes any driver feel and sound like a pro, and provides a nice, clean engine-transmission match-up in order to minimize drivetrain jolt. Shifter feel is excellent too, with a wonderfully tight, crisp, notchy feel and positive engagement, while clutch take-up is superb, and the overall pedal arrangement ideal for applying the right-foot’s heel and toe simultaneously on the brake and throttle, a useful technique for modulating engine revs when braking into a corner.
Those pedals are aluminum with rubber grips, incidentally, and look great, Nissan even finishing the dead pedal in vertically striped brightwork. There’s more brushed and bright metal throughout the cabin, but the theme is more of a red on black affair, the Nismo getting crimson red thread highlighting most of its key visual points, not to mention a red centring stripe at the top of the leather and psuede steering wheel rim, red gauge accents and those fiery red ultra-suede seat inserts mentioned earlier.
Suede-like Alcantara trims off the door inserts and armrests too, not to mention the sides of the lower centre stack, the latter protecting inside knees from chafing, while the dash top and door uppers were nicely wrapped in a thickly padded stitched leatherette for a premium feel. Following that theme is red-stitched leatherette flowing around the gearshift lever, and no I’m not just talking about the boot. Nissan actually finishes the top of the lower console in what appears like leather, making the car feel more like a luxury-lined Maxima than anything so sporty.
Back to those lightweight Recaro sport seats, along with superb support all over, their backrests get a set shoulder harness holes that look fabulous. The driver’s seat is eight-way adjustable and the passenger’s just four, and true to its performance mission these aren’t power-adjustable, but instead require hand-wrenching via a set of dials in the usual positions. Once set they deliver the goods, but those with oddly shaped bodies (like mine that has longer legs than arms) might find the steering column’s lack of telescopic reach disconcerting. This forced me to twist my seatback rake farther forward than I would normally have liked off the track in order to maintain optimal control, but it was never uncomfortable, just not as comfortable as it could’ve been.
If merely offering tilt steering wasn’t already enough of a faux pas, the 370Z’s gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen are throwbacks to a bygone era. The former is actually quite nice for any lover of classic sports cars, thanks to a lovely set of analogue dials that include a centre-mounted tach and a right-side speedo, plus a tiny little red liquid-crystal display for the odometer (yah, an LCD, just like anyone old enough will remember from their high school calculator or better yet, early ‘70s digital watch, while the circular binnacle on the left is filled with two bizarre rows of tiny red diodes that light up to show the fuel tank level and engine temperature. This hover above and below another red readout, but this time more of a heavily-pixelated monochromatic Minecraft encounter trying to double as multi-information display, albeit with less convincing graphics.
Comparatively the centre touchscreen is advanced tech, but don’t get too excited just yet. Features include navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a number of car settings, but it’s displayed with yesteryear’s resolution quality, processing speed and graphic designs. My recommendation is to use its functions as required, because all work reasonably well, and then rest your eyes on the always wonderful row of ancillary oil pressure and voltmeter dials (plus a digital clock) just above (the upcoming Z Proto is showing off a boost gauge within its hooded threesome, hinting at the twin-turbo V6 ahead of the firewall).
Cargo space isn’t the 370Z’s forte, but you should be able to throw in a weekend’s worth of bags for two if you pack light. Forget the clubs, of course, and don’t even think about going camping, the sporty Nissan’s gear-toting capacity just 195 litres (6.9 cu ft).
Getting a new 370Z for less than $30k would be quite the bargain, or for that matter lopping a couple of grand off the price of this Nismo model, or one of the 2020 370Z 50th Anniversary editions if any are still available. None provide fresh styling or new-edge tech, but each one looks great, delivers superb performance and pampers with a reasonable level of refinement.
Photos and story by Trevor Hofmann
Just in case you missed it, racing legend Jeff Zwart, already with 16 Pikes Peak hill climbs to his credit, blasted up the steep 20 km road course in a 700 horsepower, rear-wheel drive 935 remake worth…
Just in case you missed it, racing legend Jeff Zwart, already with 16 Pikes Peak hill climbs to his credit, blasted up the steep 20 km road course in a 700 horsepower, rear-wheel drive 935 remake worth some $780,000 USD when introduced in 2018 (which equals $1,032,696 CAD at the time of writing).
Despite achieving a time of 09:43.92 minutes for fifth overall and second in the car’s Time Attack 1 class, the latter specifically for track and race cars based on production models, Zwart admitted taking it a bit easier than he might have otherwise driven due to the 935 in question being someone else’s car and not having driven the course for five years. He nevertheless praised the 935 for ease of use.
“It’s the most comfortable race car I’ve ever driven,” commented Zwart. “The combination of the turbo, the bodywork and the motorsport chassis is wonderful.”
The 935, which weighs in at just 1,380 kilos (3,042 lbs), is one of just 77 produced since introduced during the historic “Rennsport Reunion” motorsport event at California’s Laguna Seca Raceway on September 27, 2018. It’s a race-prepared single-seater that rides on Porsche’s 991-generation 911 GT2 RS platform (that sold for a lofty $334,000 on its own in 2018), but gets completely unique 935-like bodywork from front to rear, the latter featuring an elongated tail section (like the original) designed specifically to increase downforce.
This specific 935 reissue is owned by Porsche collector Bob Ingram, and ran in support of his son Cam’s Porsche restoration shop. It was painted in a white, grey and red livery with a stylized Pegasus on each rear fender due to Mobil 1 sponsorship.
The fastest time belonged to Clint Vahsholt who drove a Formula Ford in the Open Wheel category, with a time of 09:35.490, while the quickest Porsche was a GT2 RS Clubsport driven by David Donn, who, also in the Time Attack 1 class, managed a time of just 9:36.559.
Colorado’s Pikes Peak road course is officially 19.99 kilometres (12.42 miles) long and includes 156 turns, climbs an elevation of 1,440 metres (4,720 ft) that average 7.2-percent grades. It starts at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway and ends at an elevation of 4,302 metres (14,115 ft). Multiple classes of vehicles compete yearly in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, making it a must-see event for motorsport fans.
To learn more about 911s that we mere mortals can potentially buy (935s like the one Jeff Zwart used to scale Pikes Peak now fetch upwards of $1.5m USD on the used market), check out CarCostCanada’s 2021 Porsche 911 Canada Prices page and 2020 Porsche 911 Canada Prices page, where you’ll find important information about factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, as well as all the latest rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Remember to download the free CarCostCanada app too, so you can have all their money-saving info with you when you need it most.
Now, be sure to check out the video of Jeff Zwart piloting the 935 at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb below:
Jeff Zwart | Full Run Onboard + Driver Interview | 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (11:00):
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Porsche
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer…
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer back in ’96 (that eventually became Canada’s top seller) was selling his pre-owned E34 M5. The car was gorgeous, wickedly fast and semi-exotic, or at least as exotic as a four-door sport sedan could get.
I ended up working for that BMW dealership almost every day during the slow months in my seasonal business, because I was already a customer. I’d previously owned a wonderful ’74 Bavaria 3.0S and a bulletproof ‘82 528e, and was driving a little 325e while working there, so appreciated taking home whatever they’d give me on the pre-owned lot; a little green E36 325is being a regular that summer. I liked it so much, in fact, that I ordered my then-wife a brand new ‘96 325i Cabriolet with the factory aluminum hardtop. After missing out on the E34 M5 that went for silly money (or so I thought at the time), I settled for a similarly sleek ’89 E34 525i that was at least a step up in performance from my old, boxy Eta engine-powered 3 and 5 (albeit nowhere near as reliable).
I know I’m not alone when it comes to unfulfilled dreams, particularly with respect to the cars we enthusiasts initially wanted and the ones we settled for, that list a lot longer and more painful than I want to delve into right now, but at least after becoming an automotive pundit I earned the opportunity to drive some of the best cars ever made, some of which wore BMW roundels. Certainly, the various weeks spent with numerous M5s or an even better four days in Bavaria’s fabulous Z8 don’t quite measure up to the Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Ford GT, Porsche Carrera GT, Bugatti, etcetera I’ve driven over the years (although the Z8 was one of the prettiest of them all), but truth be told I’d choose the M5 to drive every day.
BMW’s quintessential sport sedan has been a go-to conveyance for well-heeled commuters for three dozen years, with engine output having increased from 256 horsepower in the North American-spec E28 version to a stellar 617 in this year’s Competition model. The regular 2020 M5 makes do with “just” 600, which is good for a 3.4-second blast from standstill to 100 km/h, while the Competition knocks another 0.1 seconds off the clock.
Of course, if all that any of us wanted were straight-line performance we’d buy an old Fox-bodied Mustang, stuff a 5.2-litre crate engine into it and hit the strip (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The M5 has become legendary for how it bends its sizeable four-door body through curves, initially for being first this side of a Maserati Quattroporte and a few other exotics to do so, and second for being comparably affordable.
Times have changed and you can now get into a four-door Maserati for less than an M5, but I’ll delve into such minutia in a moment or two. For now, after noting the base M5’s 176 horsepower and 1.3-second to 100 km/h advantage, while admitting Maserati will soon ante up with a more potent Ghibli Trofeo that’s 20 hp shy of the entry-level M5 before even getting out of the gates, and without getting thrust into the deep comparison void that obviously includes AMG-Mercedes’ E63 S, Audi’s RS 6 (oddly only available as an Avant wagon), Cadillac’s CT6-V and Lexus’ GS F (although the American and Japanese entrants will soon be ranked alongside other discontinued super sedans such as Jaguar’s XF RS), I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the Bimmer is the most capable of its class members in the corners too.
It feels lighter and more agile when pushed hard, more E39-like than the F10’s somewhat cumbersome road manners, the carbon fibre roof and other nips and tucks slicing a critical 45 kilos (100 lbs) or so from its predecessor’s curb weight. All-wheel drive keeps all the aforementioned power at bay, and the eight-speed transmitting torque to the wheels shifts much quicker than any conventional automatic should.
A bright red “M2” button on the right-side steering wheel spoke triggers Sport+ mode, which eliminates a bevy of safety features in its default setting, resulting in lickety-split launches and even some power-induced oversteer when the car’s rear drive-biased underpinnings are coaxed beyond containment. Of course, such shenanigans should only be attempted on a track, particularly when having designs to attain the M5’s 305 km/h (190 mph) terminal velocity.
Out on the road, preferably a rural one that winds and undulates like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey, get ready to dust off slower moving traffic as if it’s floating in stasis. Passing power borders on the ridiculous, with braking force so strong you’ll hardly need to worry about fast-approaching curves. The rate this car can gobble up tarmac is hard to fathom until experiencing it first hand, and that it does so comfortably is even more amazing. Of course, it hardly rides on BMW’s most cosseting suspension setup, yet while firm it’s far from unpleasant.
The cabin is a cocoon silent too, other than the ideal amount of combined engine and exhaust note, a critical ingredient for petrolheads buying into this high-powered class. This quiet demeanor will be especially appreciated during everyday driving when you’re more likely to leave its sport modes off and turn the 1,400-watt, 16-speaker, 10-amplified-channel Bowers and Wilkins surround audio system up, and believe me the sound quality is almost as awe-inspiring as the driving experience.
More on that just-noted M2 button, it’s combined with an M1 button on the left-side spoke, both featuring pre-set sport settings with the option of personalizing them for your specific driving taste. I tend to like a combination of suspension compliance and engine/transmission eagerness, so to speak, the latter for obvious reasons and the former to overcome the poorly kept country backroads that allow me to test a car like this to its maximum (ok, for the record I was nowhere near the M5’s maximum, but out in the boonies I was able to experience much of its capability when safe to do so). I chose to set my M1 button up like that, and added firmer suspension setting to the M2 button, so when the road smoothed out, I could quickly switch over to maximize Gs. I increased shifting speed from D2 to D3 in M2 mode too, turned off the DSC, and more.
The M5’s gauge cluster is perfect for those who want a full digital experience while still maintaining some semblance of analogue design, this due to a set of aluminum rings wrapping the tachometer and speedometer screens. This doesn’t allow the complete takeover of a navigation map, for instance, which is a cool feature offered by other manufacturers, but most should find the large multi-info display at centre large enough for such purposes. No shortage of functions can fill the MID, all scrollable via steering wheel controls, while the system’s graphics and display quality is top notch.
As for the main infotainment touchscreen on top of the centre stack, it was good enough for my needs, although gets better for 2021, growing by more than two inches for a new total of 12.3 inches. And you heard me right, by the way, it is a touchscreen and therefore is as easy to use as a tablet or smartphone, but BMW continues to provide its rotating iDrive controller on the lower console, so spin the dial if you prefer or alternatively tap, swipe and pinch to your heart’s content.
I did my fair share of tapping and pinching elsewhere around the cabin too, my incessant quality checks annoying enough to drive a previous significant other nuts (hence, previous). Suffice to say the M5 offers up one of the nicest interiors in the super sedan segment, with some of the best quality materials available and workmanship that should make anyone proud. I mentioned the Bowers and Wilkins stereo already, so I might as well laud the system’s beautiful drilled aluminum speaker grilles first, as they’re lovely. The plenty of other metalwork throughout the interior, some accents made from brushed aluminum and others from bright, while glossy carbon fibre could be found in key locations, as could exquisitely stitched leathers.
The front seats are gorgeous and wholly comfortable, with more support than any other BMW product I’ve tested, and at least as much as its competitors. They boast complete adjustability including extendable lower cushions, while the driving position was superb thanks to a generous supply of steering column reach. Those in back should be comfortable enough, as long as they’re seated next to the windows, with the entire rear compartment finished to the same high quality as the front compartment. Lastly, the M5’s trunk is large and accommodating, plus best of all its usefulness can be expanded via 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.
If you like the 2020 M5’s styling you’re not alone, as the car has been a relative hit. This said the 2021 M5 will undergo some visual surgery, squaring off a slightly enlarged grille, modifying the headlights and tail lamps, plus tweaking some other design details as well. Most should be ok with the changes, but those happy with the 2020 might want to snap one up while they can. This said, BMW isn’t offering any greater deal with the 2020 model, at least not yet, with both 2020 and 2021 models available with up to $1,500 in additional incentives, according to CarCostCanada. Check out the 2020 BMW M5 Canada Prices page and 2021 BMW M5 Canada Prices page for more info, plus find out how you can access all the available incentives on the M5 and most other cars available on the Canadian market, including rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Also, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can access all of this critical decision-making info on the fly.
To many sports fans, esports aren’t actually counted as sport. Certainly, esports require high levels of stamina and skill, not to mention finite concentration, coordination and a modicum of intelligence…
To many sports fans, esports aren’t actually counted as sport. Certainly, esports require high levels of stamina and skill, not to mention finite concentration, coordination and a modicum of intelligence to reach the top echelons of a given game, which are all attributes of top-tier athletes, but as anyone who’s driven a car on a track knows, merely mastering a simulator doesn’t make for a competitive racer in the real world.
This said, every modern-day Formula One driver spends countless hours at the controls of their teams’ high-end simulators, virtually tackling every track on the calendar in order to hone their race craft and likewise prepare their team for what they may be facing ahead of an F1 weekend. The same can be said for most any professional car racing series, which makes esports particularly relevant in the motorsport community. In fact, F1 drivers and other series competitors have gone head-to-head in the digital arena, especially this year before cars took to the track, putting the e-drivers that took part in Porsche’s new Esports Sprint Challenge in rarified company.
Porsche doesn’t compete in F1, or for that matter in sports prototype racing series at tracks like Le Mans anymore, its 919 hybrid having taken the overall win at that renowned 24-hour event three years in a row from 2015 through 2017. Porsche also holds title to the winningest brand at the famed circuit, while special race prepped versions of its road cars are fielded by many teams in other FIA sports car categories and additional series, plus the performance brand is now heavily invested in Formula E, the FIA-sanctioned all-electric racing series. Now we can add esports to Porsche’s motorsport activities, thanks to the Porsche Esports Sprint Challenge Canada one-make virtual race series.
The Esports Sprint Challenge Canada series was launched in May, 2020, together with renowned online games company iRacing.com. iRacing, which is best known for its “Grand Prix Legends” and NASCAR 2003” games, created a game that pitted virtual 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport cars against each other on popular race tracks, the final at the famed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
While 30 contestants took part, the series was dominated by Brandon Hawkin from Lindsay, Ontario, who won every race.
“The series was organized very professionally and it was a pleasure to race with everyone – what a fantastic experience,” commented Hawkin. “It will be extremely memorable based on how competitive the series was with lots of track battles.”
William Levesque ended up second in the Esports Sprint Challenge Canada championship, with Giovanni Romano taking a respectable third place. Along with the pride of winning and the series trophy, Hawkin will join Porsche Canada at an actual race track for the Porsche Experience program, an opportunity of a lifetime for any sports car enthusiast.
“Driving a Porsche on track is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child,” added Hawkin. “I’m so excited and thankful that I’ll now get that chance and join the Porsche Track Experience program!”
Porsche provided alternative prizes for the 29 contestants that trailed Hawkin, while iRacing provided credits to take part in online games.
“It was incredible to see the group of talented sim racers we have across Canada push each other in the virtual racing world,” stated Marc Ouayoun, President and CEO, Porsche Cars Canada, Ltd. “Congratulations to all the competitors, especially to Brandon Hawkin, as he will have the chance to bring his skill sets to life at Porsche Track Experience in the very near future.”