With a maximum of 631 horsepower, the new Cayenne Turbo GT isn’t the most powerful super-SUV on the planet, but it’s nevertheless quickest off the line and fastest over one lap on the legendary Nürburgring…
With a maximum of 631 horsepower, the new Cayenne Turbo GT isn’t the most powerful super-SUV on the planet, but it’s nevertheless quickest off the line and fastest over one lap on the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack.
Porsche has clearly marked its territory. The 20.8-km mountainside racetrack, otherwise known as the “Green Hell,” is one of the most challenging road courses on earth, and Porsche currently owns the top podium for every sector it sells in.
With the introduction of the new Cayenne Turbo GT, available solely in the Cayenne’s Coupe body style, Porsche has once again taken the top spot away from another automaker, this time Alfa Romeo that claimed the position from the last-generation Cayenne Turbo S (958.2) last November, its Stelvio Quadrifoglio managing the feat in just 7:51.7 minutes. The new top-tier Cayenne didn’t just shave a few milliseconds off the tricked out Stelvio’s lap time, however, but in fact chopped a 12.775-second chunk from its pride, with a new SUV lap record of 7:38.925 minutes.
There’s more to making a winner that simply bolting a more powerful 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 onto its mounts in the engine bay, although upgrades to the powerplant certainly helped. Porsche upgraded the crankshaft drive, turbochargers, direct fuel injection system, induction system, and intercooler, plus specifically revised the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, timing chain drive, and torsional vibration dampers after starting with the regular Cayenne Turbo Coupe’s V8. The net result is 631 horsepower and 626 pound-feet of torque, for a respective 90 hp and 59 lb-ft gain.
Porsche also added a faster-reacting eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic gearbox, plus a new water-cooled transfer case for its Porsche Traction Management all-wheel drive system, the latter improving the drivetrain’s thermal capacity under heavier loads.
Next is a centrally-mounted sports exhaust system tailpipes, unique to the Cayenne Turbo GT. It’s made from lightweight, heat-resistant titanium, made even lighter by eliminating the centre silencer.
That’s where the Urus is dominant at 305 km/h, just whisking past the Cayenne Turbo GT’s 300-km/h terminal velocity. Audi’s RS Q8 and Maserati’s Levante Trofeo claim faster top speeds too, but not by much, and we’re curious whether they can keep up with the new Cayenne over the quarter mile, where it scores an official 11.6-second run.
Keeping the Cayenne Turbo GT in constant contact with the pavement are Pirelli P Zero Corsa performance tires wrapped around exclusive 22-inch GT Design alloys, these connected to a 15-percent stiffer three-chamber air suspension, which not only receives upgraded performance-oriented control software, but also incorporates a special damper calibration of Porsche’s Active Suspension Management, as well as an improved Power Steering Plus system and a revised rear-axle steering system. Active Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control is also standard, as is a 17-mm reduction in ride height when compared to the Cayenne Turbo Coupe, while Porsche’s Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system provides stronger stopping power with less fade for yet more racetrack capable performance.
As always, aero plays a big part in the Cayenne Turbo GT’s road-holding too. To that end the new model gets a redesigned front apron featuring a more aggressive lip spoiler, plus bigger side cooling air intakes. Following the front fenders rearward, past the standard LED-Matrix headlights, shows muscular black composite wheel arch extensions, while a contoured roof feeds flowing air below a rooftop rear spoiler that pushes it down the rear glass onto a 25-mm larger rear wing, which once again deploys as speed increases, adding up to 40 kilos of extra downforce. Meanwhile, a sizeable rear diffuser directs air traveling below the Cayenne Turbo GT away from its rear end, all combining for one very well-engineered aero package.
That rear diffuser, the larger wing, the end plates of the rooftop spoiler, and the entire roof are made from lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), as are the side mirror housings.
CFRP isn’t the go-to theme inside, however, although illuminated carbon fibre door sill guards, floor mats, and owner’s manual wallet are available. Rather, Porsche applies a matte black finish to key trim areas, while some other unique features include a yellow leather stripe at the 12 o’clock position of the Alcantara-clad steering wheel rim, the latter part of an extended Alcantara package that comes standard. This includes perforated centre panels for the upgraded eight-way powered front sport seats and bucket-styled sport seats in back, while contrasting accents are available in Neodyme or Arctic Grey, and “turbo GT” script is added to the headrests.
Additionally, Cayenne Turbo GT owners will be first to experience Porsche’s updated PCM 6.0 infotainment system, which gets an updated user interface, a faster operating logic system, and full integration of Apple Music and Apple Podcasts via Apple CarPlay. On the other side of the smartphone spectrum, Android Auto is finally part of the package.
Those wanting a new 2022 Cayenne Turbo GT can order now, but you’ll be waiting until early next year for delivery. The price is $200,700 plus freight and fees, making it the most expensive SUV in Porsche’s ever-growing fleet.
As far as subcompact hatchbacks go, Chevy’s Bolt is la crème de la crème. Some time ago I might have said something similar about Ford’s Fiesta ST when referring to straight-line performance and handling, or Honda’s Fit as far as cargo carrying capability, but those two, like so many others in this class, are gone, leaving a shrinking subcompact market segment that’s now a mere shadow of what it once was only a few short years ago.
Fortunately, the current 2021 Bolt includes a few crossover-like styling cues, such as roof rails plus some thick black cladding around its wheel cutouts and rocker panels, as well as an ever-so-slightly raised stance, so it kind of qualifies for subcompact SUV status. Either way, the tiny rocket would probably beat the aforementioned Fiesta ST off the line, let alone a Mini Cooper JCW, while the impressive load of features in my top-level Premier model comes close to promoting it to premium status.
By all accounts it’s a rather unassuming looking hatchback, not unlike the Spark and Sonic that came before. It’s sized more like the latter car, but provides a sleeker, more windswept look than the now discontinued Chevy subcompact, and certainly more road presence than the tiny little Spark, which has now taken over the mantle of Canada’s most affordable new car from Nissan’s cancelled Micra and Mitsubishi’s slightly pricier Mirage.
Having only arrived in 2017, the Bolt has quickly taken over sales chart superiority in the subcompact segment, with last year’s 4,026 Canadian deliveries clearly outpacing the category’s second-best-selling Kia Rio that only managed to find 3,868 buyers, a far cry from the 15,601 new owners it earned in 2013, a year that saw Hyundai’s Accent in first with 18,884 sales. Interestingly, 2013 wasn’t even the Accent’s most successful year, with 2008 notching up 29,751 unit-sales, this being the highest number of sales that a vehicle in this class has ever managed over a calendar year in Canada. The entire segment didn’t even break 16,000 deliveries in 2020, incidentally, and if it wasn’t for the Bolt, it probably wouldn’t have come close to that number. Looking back now, it’s bizarre to fathom that Canada’s subcompact category almost hit 100,000 units in 2014.
Of course, the Bolt has about as much in common with today’s Kia Rio or Nissan Versa (the only two mainstream volume-branded subcompact models left) as a BMW 3 Series. Sure, it might be sized like the little Korean and Japanese models, but it’s plug-in battery-powered and therefore priced more like the Bavarian luxury sedan. In fact, you can buy the Bimmer for $48 less (not factoring in dealer discounts or government subsidies); the 330e plug-in hybrid starting at $44,950, compared to the base Bolt LT’s starting price of $44,998.
My Bolt Premier tester will set you back $50,298, including its vibrant Oasis Blue paint, this standout hue of blue being one of two standard colours including Summit White, while Silver Ice Metallic (exclusive to this trim), Nightfall Grey Metallic, Mosaic Black Metallic, Kinetic Blue Metallic, Cayenne Orange Metallic, and Slate Grey Metallic cost $495 extra, and Cajun Red Tintcoat is slightly more at $595.
You’ll need to pay $750 more for a Driver Confidence II package if you want to get following distance indicator, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking with front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and IntelliBeam automatic high beams, items normally standard in this price range, thus pushing the base price up over $51,000, while Chevy also offers a 120-volt charging cord for $850, plus aluminum sill plates for $155, a number of carpeted and all-weather floor and cargo mats, an interior protection package, a cargo net, and the list goes on.
While the price of entry is staggeringly high for the Bolt’s subcompact class, its base sticker costing more than twice as much as the most expensive 2021 Kia Rio 5-Door EX Premium, keep in mind that base models qualify for the federal government’s $5,000 rebate, while BC offers another $5,000 rebate (my total rebate was shown as $8,000 after configuring) and residents of Quebec a maximum of $8,000 (check with each jurisdiction for eligibility), so other than the fact that these incentives are paid by regular Canadian taxpayers (many of which are poor folk barely managing to keep making payments on their Sparks, Micras and Mirages, let alone bus passes), it can significantly reduce the cost of EV ownership.
With or without the just-noted extras, the Bolt Premier’s cabin is very inviting, with a lot of light and medium grey colour tones combined with orange stitching on the perforated two-tone leather seats. It’s a sporty look that nicely matches the little electric car’s spunky character.
Most eye-catching is the digital gauge cluster and large infotainment touchscreen, the former bright, colourful and filled mostly with primary driving information, albeit featuring a useful multi-information display at centre. The main touchscreen on the centre stack was bright and colourful too, plus extremely well-organized with most of the features new car buyers expect these days, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as all the usual audio features like SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming. Redundant controls are included for the single-zone auto climate system too, plus in-depth pages for powertrain efficiencies.
Considering the lofty price, I found it odd that no navigation system was included, especially now that some electric cars provide sophisticated navigation equipment that effectively maps out range and finds the nearest public charging location. Of course, you’ll be able to use your smartphone’s navigation via the aforementioned Google and Apple apps for directions, even if these don’t include the types of EV-specific functions $50k should provide. Fortunately, the just-noted audio system is a good enough distraction to lessen any range anxiety that might develop by not knowing where to hook up, while the moving guideline-enhanced backup camera with its separate overhead view will make slotting into the EV charger’s parking spot a near effortless experience when you’ve finally located one.
Charging is almost a non-issue, by the way, thanks to so much range that you might find yourself blasting up and down the highway just to see if you can drain it, like I did for part of my test. In fact, I drove it most of the week without the need to charge, but take note that larger batteries need longer to top up. Chevy claims about 40 km of range per hour of charging on a 240-volt system, which you can purchase for your home or find elsewhere in shopping mall parking lots, public building parking, or private charging resellers like ChargePoint or Flo, while a public-access DC fast charger only needs 30 minutes on the plug to generate up to 145 km of range.
Max range on a full charge is 417 km, although this is an estimate that depends on plenty of factors, from the load you’re carrying (including bodies and cargo), exterior temperature (colder weather means less range), driving style (if you’re stomping on the throttle all the time, or putting on a lot of highway miles, you’ll dramatically reduce distance to empty), plus more.
Yes, the “tiny rocket” descriptor I used at the beginning of this review says it all, the Bolt lives up to its name and then some. Jabbing right foot to the floor results in seriously neck-snapping straight-line acceleration, the direct result of all the big battery’s 66-kWh capacity and the immediacy of an electric motor’s power delivery, especially one putting out 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. With Sport mode engaged (which really does make a difference), it’s 0.2 seconds quicker off the line than the long-gone Fiesta ST, by the way, the Bolt launching from standstill to 100 km/h in just 6.5 seconds, but its 1,616-kilo (3,563-lb) curb weight is just too much to make it as agile through the corners as the 1,234 kg (2,721 lb) blue-oval hatchback.
It holds its own nonetheless, and provides a more comfortable ride, which no doubt matters more to the majority of EV buyers. On that note, I left it in one-pedal mode most of the time, what you get by pulling the gear lever rearward to its L position. This allows you to drive by just using the throttle; what might otherwise be called the gas pedal in a conventional vehicle, or we could call it the go-pedal if you prefer. So set, braking is mostly automatic via electric motor drag when lifting the right foot. It’s an incredibly smooth operator, much better, in fact, than any previous system like this I’ve used. Normally there’s too much braking power, causing everyone’s heads to bob back and forth uncomfortably when pressing and lifting off the go-pedal, but the Bolt was really smooth and easy to modulate.
Chevy also provides a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that effectively does the same when it comes to braking, so if you prefer to have less rolling resistance for a more traditional feel when driving around, you can just leave it in drive and use the steering wheel paddle to brake when needed. Of course, there’s a big brake pedal in the usual spot, just in case you need to stop quickly.
The steering wheel rim next to braking paddle is heatable, incidentally, while the Bolt Premier’s three-way heated front seats were capable of therapeutic levels of warmth. Additionally, a wireless device charger was integrated within the lower centre console, purposely tucked away so drivers won’t be tempted to glance down at an incoming message when on the road. Chevy made sure that texts can be viewed and responded to (via stock answers) on the centre display, so there’s less need to touch it while driving. Two USB-A connectors and a powered auxiliary port can be found right beside the wireless charging pad, while another two USB-A charging points are located on the backside of the front console for rear passengers.
In case you were wondering if the Bolt Premier’s $50k-plus retail price buys you lavish levels of luxurious finishings, Chevy wasn’t feeling generous when applying the types of soft-touch synthetic surfaces found in cars costing upwards of $30,000. Instead, it gets a small rubber armrest on each door panel, plus a more comfortable padded leatherette one in the middle. I found the seats excellent, offering good support all around, but surprisingly they’re not powered. Should we chalk that up to environmentally conscious weight savings?
Along with the manual seats and lack of navigation, my top-line Bolt was also missing a sunroof, and just in case you didn’t notice me mention it above, the automatic HVAC system only has one single zone. Some of these items can be found in similarly sized subcompact hatchbacks sold in the low $20,000s, so when it comes to these creature comforts, at least, be prepared to pay more for less.
Of course, the majority the money goes towards the big battery pack and electrical drive system that makes driving it so much fun, and so ultimately efficient. It’s also roomy, especially for legroom and headroom. Chevy designed it with a long wheelbase to accommodate the battery, which spans the entire floor, from the front foot well to rearmost portion of the back seat. The end result is a noticeable improvement in legroom over its subcompact peers, while head space in this class is almost always open and airy. This said it’s narrower than compacts like Chevy’s old Cruze and Volt, but not by much, while it’s a lot wider than the little Spark, so there’s more room for elbows and knees.
The driver’s position fit my long-legged, short-torso body ideally, with excellent reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, while most rear passengers should be able to stretch their legs out to some extent, due to feet slotting easily underneath the front seat. A nice large folding armrest can be found at the centre of the rear row, while heated seats are included in back too. There’s decent storage as well, with 1,603 litres (56.6 cu ft) available when the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat, making this a very practical little electric. Chevy even includes a removable cargo floor for fitting in taller cargo or stowing belongings below, one item of which was the aforementioned 120-volt household-style charge cord that can be used at home while waiting for a 240-volt system to be installed.
So that’s the 2021 Chevy Bolt from front to back, with a little sales info and road testing to spice things up in between. If you’re looking for the best deal on a subcompact hatchback it’s probably not the car for you, but if you want the most advanced small hatch on the market, not to mention one of the more affordable new electric cars available, it’s a very good choice that I can’t help but recommend. Its overall performance is strong, range superb, infotainment technology impressive, overall livability great for the small car sector, and overall design appealing for a car in its class.
The all-new 2022 model will remedy a significant portion of my pricing complaint, so if you’re considering one of these outgoing 2021 models, make sure to aggressively push for a final price that comes closer to matching the much more affordable new version. If your Chevy dealer can’t do that, you should probably choose a 2022.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
There’s nothing better than driving a model’s base trim if you want to find out how good its basic elements are, so let me be clear, BMW’s X3 xDrive30i is one very good compact luxury SUV. It arrived…
There’s nothing better than driving a model’s base trim if you want to find out how good its basic elements are, so let me be clear, BMW’s X3 xDrive30i is one very good compact luxury SUV.
It arrived for 2018 and hasn’t changed much since, only adding automated emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and parking sensors as standard equipment for 2019, plus LED headlamps with cornering lights and navigation standard for 2020 (along with the option of a new plug-in hybrid xDrive30e variant), and finally SiriusXM satellite radio, Android Auto smartphone connectivity (which was never offered previously), lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring as standard for 2021. There have been a few other small details changed along the way, such as paint colours and some minor interior trim bits, but it’s mostly been the exact same SUV for the past five years.
This said, 2022 will bring some significant styling updates as part of a mid-cycle refresh, including a squarer grille to align it more cohesively with BMW’s latest design philosophy, plus new LED headlamps, updated taillights, revised front and rear bumpers, new wheel designs, and massaged exhaust tips. All mechanicals remain the same, other than the plug-in hybrid xDrive30e that will be discontinued.
Changes inside will include an updated centre stack and lower console, now featuring a standard 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster as well as an identically sized infotainment display at centre, with a 12.3-inch option for each. A number of secondary controls have been moved around and modified, making it almost seem like an all-new model, but make no mistake, the crossover you see here is basically the same SUV you’ll be buying next year, other than styling and electronics.
Then again, it may have better interior quality. This will take a personal deep-dive in order to verify, but then again, the current X3 is so well finished inside and out that I’d question BMW’s ability to make it much better. Certainly, they could spend Rolls-Royce dollars and blow us all away, but so far not many competitors can touch BMW’s interior quality in the X3’s $50k price point.
Pricing in this class is all over the map, incidentally, with the cheapest entry being Buick’s Envision at $35,998, if it really does qualify as a true compact luxury SUV competitor. But Cadillac’s XT4 does, of course, and it’s priced a mere $100 higher at $36,098, making the price gap between most affordable and priciest a shocking $27,400. The X3’s more popular competitors’ window stickers come closer to the $50k mid-point, mind you, with the segment’s best-selling rival in 2020 being the $44,505 Acura RDX, followed by the $46,550 Audi Q5 (that includes sales of the sportier $55,400 Q5 Sportback), plus the $49,900 Mercedes-Benz GLC (its sales totals also including the $53,900 GLC Coupe), and finally the $47,100 Lexus NX, putting the X3 in fifth place last year.
The X3 has dropped down to sixth so far in 2021 (it stays fifth when including X4 sales), thanks to Q2 sales of 3,120 units, and Tesla’s Model Y managing 3,200 deliveries, although with perfectly even totals of 1,600 sales per quarter it’s difficult to believe the U.S. tech firm’s numbers. There’s been some shuffling on top too, with 2021 Q2 totals placing the Q5 well into the lead with 5,702 deliveries, followed by the GLC with 3,806, NX with 3,619, and finally last year’s top-selling RDX with just 3,456, but these standings could very well change before the year is out, plus this by no means speaks to each model’s popularity, being that many automakers are having problems producing at full capacity due to chip shortages.
In the US, incidentally, the X3 was number one in 2020 with 59,777 deliveries, followed by the NX with 55,784, RDX with 52,785, GLC with 52,626, and Q5 with 50,435, while the Q5 has jumped right up behind the X3 so far this year thanks to 33,566 unit-sales compared to 36,273 respectively. This said, the Model Y had more than doubled X3 sales as of June’s end, with a total of 76,429 units (and the U.S. division’s numbers appear legit).
Maintaining best-selling status amongst gasoline-powered internal combustion engine offerings (including a PHEV) in the U.S., and top-five in Canada (or fourth including the X4) is impressive no matter what factors have been at play, and this despite a higher-than-average base price. Model Y aside, the Stelvio (at 487 units), Macan (at 2,283), F-Pace (at 1,446), and Velar (at 1,339) sell in much smaller numbers, so the X3 may just be one of the more profitable models in the class.
I, for one, would be willing to pay significantly more for its superb interior, which includes one of the best driving positions and driver’s seats in the category, plus the X3’s impressive driving dynamics. The latter has always been a BMW hallmark, but it’s not necessarily because of engine performance in xDrive30i trim. The 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out a reasonable 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque in this base model, which makes it good for spirited 6.3-second sprints from standstill to 100 km/h, and a top track speed of 210 km/h (130 mph), but it’s by no means class-leading when it comes to straight-line performance.
I’ve long known BMW to be conservative with all performance specs, however, and can honestly say it felt quicker off the line than its official claimed time, but either way its eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly overall, plenty quick in Sport mode, was even more engaging when using its steering wheel-mounted paddles, and certainly couldn’t achieve the model’s 10.2 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 9.3 combined fuel economy rating when driving so aggressively.
Now that we’re talking practicalities, I’ve only mentioned how well the X3 handles, without commenting on its excellent ride quality. It truly is a comfortable city conveyance, even with my tester’s uprated 20-inch alloys on 245/45 Pirellis. Likewise, it can eat up highway miles easier than most in this size class, its adaptive cruise control flawless at maintaining a desired speed no matter the weather or topography.
It’s just such moments that the aforementioned near-best-in-class driver’s seat and overall top-notch driving position proved this SUV worthy of its increased price, the tilt and telescopic steering wheel reaching rearward enough to provide ideal comfort and control, despite my long-legged, short-torso body type. The rim of that wheel is wrapped in a very high-grade leather, plus is heatable for keeping fingers warm mid-winter, while the seat leather feels higher in grade than some competitive hides, despite being the most basic in BMW’s line.
The Bavarian automaker provided an attractive leather-like soft-touch synthetic across the entire dash top too, which was beautifully stitched together with contrasting thread. My X3 received the same surfacing for the door uppers, inserts and armrests, albeit these last items were even more padded for added comfort, while the door inlays were finished in a nicely textured aluminum. There was no shortage of aluminized trim elsewhere, not to mention piano black lacquered composite across the lower console, of all places, where it will be more likely to attract dust and scratches (this is not one of my favourite trends), but nonetheless the workmanship is as good as this class gets, and overall solidity and refinement bar none.
All the roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, with the only weakness being hard plastic used for the lower door panels, but this is par for the course in the X3’s compact luxury SUV segment. Then again, the entire lower dash is soft synthetic, which is unusually good for this segment, even including the sides of the centre console, making it nicer for larger folk whose knees might otherwise chafe.
The rear compartment is almost as comfortable as up front, with ample room in all directions, plus the same level of fit, finish and materials quality. My well-equipped model provided plenty of back seat toys too, some for warming derrieres, others shading eyes from sunlight, and yet one more for providing additional sun if desired, the latter two achieved via side window sunshades and a big panoramic glass sunroof.
On that note, my tester was upgraded with the $12,100 Ultimate Package, which includes the extra-large sunroof as well as a proximity-sensing entry system, ambient lighting, universal remote, and wireless device charging, these otherwise found in the $4,500 Premium Package Essential upgrade; plus the head-up display, wonderful sounding Harman/Kardon surround audio system, four-way powered lumbar support, heated rear outboard seats, rear sunshades, storage compartment package, and more from the $6,500 Premium Package Enhanced; while ultimately adding adaptive full LED headlights with High Beam Assistant, Parking Assistant Plus with a 360-degree overhead surround monitor, Driving Assistant Plus, BMW Gesture Control, adjustable rear seats, and more.
This package pushed the price of my X3 xDrive30i over $65k, with a few items not mentioned included as well, but take note that BMW is providing up to $2,000 in additional incentives right now, with CarCostCanada members saving an average of $2,181 thanks to learning about the X3’s dealer invoice pricing before negotiation. Find out how the CarCostCanada system can work for you, and be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store before you start shopping, so you can have all of their critical info at your fingertips when you need it most.
BMW electronics are some of the best available, by the way, with my X3 featuring high-definition displays and bright, colourful graphics that never ceased to delight. As expected, the primary gauges were digital and fully configurable, while the centre display is a nice widescreen tablet-style design featuring a convenient, easy-to-use tile layout.
At the opposite end of the SUV, you may have noticed me mention a storage compartment package when previously listing out options. The upgrade, amongst other items, includes really useful aluminum rails in the cargo compartment for lashing down large items. Of course, the usual tie-down latches can be found in the rearmost cargo compartment’s four corners, plus a small netted stowage area to the left, and best of all, an extremely deep hidden compartment below the rigid cargo floor, along with a spot to lock down the retractable cargo cover when not in use. This is a hefty piece of German handiwork, by the way, and takes a fair bit of strong-armed finesse to remove.
The X3’s dedicated stowage area is reasonably generous for the class, measuring 813 litres (29 cu ft), but keep in mind that it grows to 1,775 litres (62.7 cu ft) when lowering the rear seatbacks via convenient release levers on each sidewall. I’m an even bigger fan of the large centre pass-through provided by the rear seat’s 40/20/40-split configuration, which allows for longer belongings like skis to be stuffed down the middle while both rear passengers enjoy the benefit of those previously mentioned butt warmers.
If an over-engineered cargo cover is all I can find to complain about, it’s obvious that BMW has done a very good job engineering this much-loved SUV. The X3’s overall build quality is excellent, finishing impressive, feature set right up at the top of this category, and overall drivability in a class of few. No wonder it still sells so well after all these years.
Review by Trevor Hofmann
Photos by Karen Tuggay
Comparisons between Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade are starting to sound a lot like folks my age bantering about Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy preferences back in the ‘70s, with some liking…
Comparisons between Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade are starting to sound a lot like folks my age bantering about Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy preferences back in the ‘70s, with some liking Chevy’s subtler grille design more than GMC’s bolder iteration, or vice versa. I hear this type of talk a lot in chats about the two South Korean SUVs, and more often than not the Telluride gets two thumbs up when it comes to styling.
To be clear, I talk more often to gents about such things than ladies, and we should all know by now how important a women’s decision is in the buying process, especially in the family-friendly three-row crossover category. This might have something to do with the Palisade outselling the Telluride by more than two to one in Canada last year, Hyundai’s numbers reaching 7,279 units compared to just 3,474 deliveries for Kia. The divide is narrowing for 2021, with Hyundai growing Palisade sales to 4,037 examples during the first two quarters, and Kia stepping up with 2,531 Telluride deliveries.
Looking at these numbers, we can’t underestimate the power of the Hyundai brand in Canada, compared to Kia which got a much later start. While Hyundai arrived here in 1984, it only took two years to enter the U.S. market. Kia, on the other hand, didn’t travel north of the 49th until 1999, a full six years after a solid head start in the U.S. Kia has certainly been gaining ground over the past 20 years, but it’s always been a case of playing catchup in both markets.
Interestingly, despite only being on the market for a bit over two years, the Telluride is already outselling the Acadia, its three-row competitor from aforementioned GMC. To clarify how significant this is, the Acadia has been on the market since 2006, giving it a 13-year advantage, while 2021 saw a bolder new face thanks to a mid-cycle refresh. To be fair to the General, the second-generation Acadia is now in its fifth year of availability, although it should also be noted that the Telluride is currently on track to beat the newest Acadia’s best year of sales. As it is right now, Kia’s largest offering is outselling a whole host of similarly sized three-row rivals, from Nissan’s Pathfinder to Subaru’s Ascent.
This said, the two Korean automakers took a different styling direction with the Telluride and Palisade than those just mentioned. They’re designs are more upright and squared off, making them appear more like traditional body-on-frame SUVs than sleek, car-like crossovers. This is even truer for the Telluride, which completes its chunky design with a rectangular front grille, squarish stacked LED headlamps, and a sharply angled lower front fascia, while its blocky side profile culminates in a similarly rectangular-shaped liftgate that’s bookended by two vertical taillights curving inward elegantly as they rise up from the rear bumper. It’s at once rugged and refined, providing a best of both worlds image that’s not unlike something from Range Rover, and just like that British icon the Telluride only gets better upon closer inspection.
Its side window trim, for instance, feels as if it’s made from highly polished billet nickel, similar in fact to Lexus’ application of its bright metal window dressing. Kia just calls it “satin chrome,” so it’s probably not made from nickel, but either way these are some of the nicest window surrounds in the industry.
Inside, the A and B pillars are fabric-wrapped with the same high-quality woven material used for my SX Limited trim’s headliner, which itself is hollowed out from dual glass sunroofs, these including a regular moonroof up front and a large panoramic one in back. The look and feel of everything above the shoulders is premium, including the overhead console that houses switchgear to open the just-noted sunroofs and their powered fabric shades, plus the LED reading lights and buttons for activating the standard UVO Intelligence connected car services and emergency assistance system. A second overhead console can be found in between the two sunroofs, this one housing larger LED dome lights as well as controls for the automatic climate system’s third zone.
Moving downward, the dash top is finished in a nice rubberized soft-touch synthetic, with what feels like real stitching, while the same pliable composite is used for the front and rear door uppers. Below these is the closest reproduction of matte finish hardwood I’ve ever seen, with a substantive density that really had me questioning whether it was real or not (I checked, it isn’t).
No shortage of satin silver trim brightens up much of the rest of the cabin, plus a reasonable amount of piano black lacquered plastic, although this inky surface treatment was only kept to the lower console. This, however, is strange, because the lower console is the most likely place to get scratched, so it would be much better for Kia to come up with a less scratch-prone surface treatment for this high-use area.
At least this central divider is bordered by stitched leatherette-wrapped grab handles for the driver and front passenger, these also housing switchgear for the three-way heated and ventilated front seats. The console itself is filled with a wireless charging pad, two USB-A ports and a 12-volt charger hidden below a pop-up door, while a leather-wrapped and skirted shift lever rests ahead of a purposeful looking metal-edged rotating Drive/Terrain mode selector, complete with Comfort, Eco, Sport, Smart, Snow, Mud and Sand modes that are capable of tackling all sorts of driving situations, while a bunch of quick-access driving function buttons surround the electromechanical parking brake lever just behind.
The rest of the Telluride’s instruments are well organized, with my SX Limited tester’s primary gauge cluster comprised of two conventional analogue dials surrounding temperature and fuel sub-dials, centered by a large comprehensive multi-information display in full colour. This MID’s most unique feature is the live projection of two rear-facing cameras that completely eliminate blind spots upon applying the turn signals. Honda and Acura have long offered a right-side camera that displays on the larger centre infotainment screen, but only in models that don’t include their lane-change warning system. Kia, on the other hand, provides both technologies simultaneously to make double sure the adjacent lane is clear from traffic. On top of this, literally, is a head-up display, exclusive to SX Limited trim.
The Telluride’s centre infotainment display is a touch-sensitive widescreen that’s wonderfully easy to use and filled with attractive graphics in a tile-style layout. You can swipe it back and forth for additional features, plus use smartphone and tablet-style pinch gestures for specific functions including the navigation map, which just happens to be the default selection on the menu’s left-side tile. Audio system info can be found on the menu’s centre tile, while Hyundai’s proprietary “Driver Talk” rear passenger communication system is set to the right, while owners can customize the tiles in system setup if this default assortment doesn’t suit their personal requirements, and believe me there’s a lot of options to choose from.
Infotainment features not yet mentioned include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a voice memo, driving info, media, and more, while just below the touchscreen is a row of satin-metallic finished quick access buttons for the navigation system’s map, route guidance setup, the radio, media functions like satellite radio and Bluetooth audio, seek and track functions, favourites, and vehicle setup. Just under this is a dual-zone automatic HVAC interface that includes some switchgear for the third rear zone, plus a button for the heatable steering wheel that would no doubt keep its leather-wrapped rim toasty warm in winter, but being that I tested this SUV mid-summer, the top of the wheel already felt as if it was on fire after being parked.
That steering wheel spokes are filled with high-quality satin-finish metal and piano black switchgear, some of which include knurled-metal rocker switches for performing functions like adjusting the audio volume to answering the phone, or applying the adaptive cruise control and using the multi-information display. Likewise, the door panel-mounted power window and mirror controls are made from high-quality materials, with good fitment and nice damping, a theme that carries through the entire cabin. The doors’ lower panels, which are made from a harder composite, feature attractive metal-rimmed Harman Kardon speaker grilles, while the sound emanating from within is even more impressive.
My SX Limited’s six-way powered driver’s seat was comfortable and its positioning superb, with plenty of rake and reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, which oddly is not powered despite Kia having provided memory in this near top-tier trim (only an all-black Nightsky edition costs more, and includes all of the same features as the SX Limited). I thought maybe the top-line Hyundai Palisade would provide a powered steering column, but not so for that SUV either.
Nevertheless, the driver’s seat includes a powered lower cushion extension for comfortably cupping under the knees, plus two-way powered lumbar support that met the small of my back nicely, while the driving position is excellent as noted, this not always the case for my long-legged, short-torso frame, but I felt comfortable and fully in control at all times. The seats provide excellent lower back support and plenty of comforting padding all-round, with reasonable side bolstering too. I believe they’ll be good for most body types, plus the Telluride should be roomy enough for almost anyone.
Like most Kia models, the Telluride’s rear passengers are treated just as nicely as those up front. The finishings are much the same, with near identical door panels, other than manual window shades in back, plus other niceties are added such as leather and mesh pockets in the backsides of the front seats, hooks for a garbage bag or what-have-you, and USB-A charging ports for each rear passenger on the sides of each front seat. The rear outboard seats cool and heat in SX Limited trim too, while the backside of the front centre console provides a 12-volt charger along with a household-style 110-volt power outlet.
Look upward and you’ll see an HVAC vent directly in front of each outboard passenger, while the aforementioned overhead lights and auto climate controls are within easy reach in the middle of the ceiling.
A large, comfortable armrest, complete with dual cupholders, splits the two outboard passengers when the centre position is unoccupied, this made from the same supple Nappa leather as used for the seat surfaces throughout the interior. Making it easier to slide onto those soft leather seats is a large grab handle on the B-pillar, something not always included with competitors.
To access the third row, simply push an electronic release button on the top side of the second-row seatback, after which the entire seat automatically slides forward with plenty of room to climb inside with ease. The third row is very comfortable, with seats that wrap around one’s back and good support in the lower regions, plus this compartment is truly roomy, even when second-row passengers are given more than enough space to move around ahead. In fact, I could easily sit in the very back with room for my feet underneath the second-row seats, plus about three inches above my head and more than enough room from side-to-side, complemented by nice views through the side quarter windows, along with a separate USB-A plug and two cupholders on each side. The rearmost driver-side passenger even has an extra spot for storage, while there are separate overhead vents for each third-row occupant too, as well as some ambient lights so no one feels lost in the dark.
Additionally, the dedicated cargo area behind the rear seats is spacious at 601 litres (21.2 cu ft), and includes a section below the rigid cargo floor for stowing more items out of sight. The 60/40-split third row is easy to fold down, first by automatically dropping the headrests with pull-tabs, and then by a set of buttons on the left side of the cargo wall, just above another 12-volt charger. This opens up 1,304 litres (46 cu ft) of nearly flat cargo space, while lowering the second row provides a maximum cargo volume of 2,455 litres (86.7 cu ft). Of course, the liftgate is powered, opening quickly enough, plus Kia has even gone so far as to finish off the cargo door sill with a polished stainless-steel guard.
As you might expect, the Telluride is more about comfort than speed, and therefore all occupants will appreciate the superb ride that complements those comfortable seats I just spoke about. It’s relatively hefty at 1,970 to 2,018 kilos (4,343 to 4,449 lbs), depending on trim, but nevertheless it’s fairly quick off the line thanks to a strong 3.8-litre V6 that’s good for 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, plus a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic that’s quick to respond to input.
Fuel economy is not great at 12.6 L/100km in the city, 9.7 on the highway and 11.3 combined, especially when compared to the non-hybrid Toyota Highlander’s 11.8 city, 8.6 highway and 10.3 combined rating, but it’s not as thirsty as some in this class either.
On more of a positive, the Telluride handles corners well, within reason of course. Again, it’s primarily built for comfort, but can manage sharp curves with confidence and is especially poised over rough pavement and gravel, my SX Limited tester including a self-leveling rear suspension along with 20-inch alloys encircled by 245/50R20 all-season tires. Its 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) towing capacity means it’s also good for small boats and campers, always important in this family SUV sector.
Additional standard SX Limited features not yet mentioned include rain-sensing wipers and LED taillights, while items pulled up from second-rung SX trim include the just-noted 20-inch wheels, the rear portion of the aforementioned dual-pane sunroof, and the rear sunshades, plus a hot-stamped satin chrome grille, satin chrome door handles, satin chrome beltline trim, a set of high-gloss side mirror caps, anodized roof rails, silver-painted skid plates, single-to-twin exhaust tips, metal door scuff plates, metal-finished foot pedals, ambient mood lighting, the 7.0-inch Supervision LCD/TFT instrument cluster with blind-spot view monitor noted earlier (which replaces a 3.5-inch cluster display), a 360-degree surround parking monitor, front parking sensors, and the fabulous sounding Harman Kardon audio system noted before.
Lastly, some standard Telluride EX features pulled up to SX Limited trim include LED headlamps with high beam assist, LED daytime running lights and positioning lamps, LED fog lights, a solar glass windshield and solar front side windows, the aforementioned front moonroof, automatic power-folding side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, plus the leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob noted earlier, as well as the superb faux woodgrain trim, tri-zone auto climate control with automatic defog, the 10.25-inch centre touchscreen with navigation, HD and satellite radio, the wireless charger and all of the other phone connectivity features mentioned before, a smart key with pushbutton start/stop, smart cruise control, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, express up/down powered windows, and a powered liftgate.
Kia also includes a whole host of advanced safety and convenience features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance assist (FCA), Lane Follow Assist (LFA), Blind-spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA), Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCTCAA), and Highway Drive Assist (HDA), plus a Driver Attention Alert system (DAA), safe exit assist system, rear occupant alert, rear parking sensors, and seven airbags including one for the driver’s knees.
All of these standard features don’t come cheap, causing the base Telluride EX to start at a fairly lofty $46,195 plus freight and fees, but keep in mind that competitors with similar features are priced in this range, and sometimes higher. On that note, the Telluride SX can be had from $51,195, while my SX Limited tester starts at $54,695, with the blackened Nightsky edition just $1,000 more at $55,695.
Summing up the 2021 Kia Telluride, it’s not only a great looking mid-size SUV, but a good choice for those who want a premium-level experience without spending luxury brand pricing. It drives very well, delivers supreme comfort, and comes as well equipped as anything in its segment, while Kia backs up all of its new models with a class-leading five-year or 100,000 km comprehensive warranty. For these reasons and more, the new Telluride has earned its place amongst my favourite three-row SUVs, making it 100-percent worthy of your attention.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
Honda has been a strong player in the subcompact crossover market for decades, although only chose to bring such models to North American markets when our desire for more affordable SUVs firmly took root.…
Honda has been a strong player in the subcompact crossover market for decades, although only chose to bring such models to North American markets when our desire for more affordable SUVs firmly took root.
Those of us that like small, useful crossovers owe thanks to early adopters, such as Honda Element that blazed the trail in 2003. Others followed, like Jeep’s Compass and Patriot in 2006, Nissan’s Cube and Juke in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and the Scion (Toyota) xB that arrived here in 2011, albeit joined the element in the U.S. for 2003. Suzuki’s Samurai actually dates all the way back to 1985, but it (and the Vitara that followed) was a true 4×4 and therefore doesn’t really fit into this crossover segment that often doesn’t even offer all-wheel drive.
Being that AWD is optional and standard on my tester’s Sport trim line, the HR-V isn’t relegated amongst the subcompact SUV segment’s FWD-only alternatives, which are quickly replacing subcompact hatchbacks, but just the same it effectively ousted the once-popular Fit as Honda’s subcompact ride of choice.
The two, in fact, have a lot in common. Both share platform architectures and other unseen components, plus most noticeably their innovative 60/40-split “Magic Seats” system in back, that’s long provided class-leading storage in their respective categories. This last attribute, along with their overall comfort, reasonable performance, impressive fuel economy, and expected reliability, are why I’ve probably recommended them more than any other two cars in their classes.
Honda isn’t alone in discontinuing its subcompact car, by the way. In fact, this once dozen-or-so-strong segment has been whittled down to just three cars, or five when including 2020 models still loitering around unsold on dealer lots. A smattering of new Fits are probably on that list, so for those wanting to save big on a similarly sized car with near identical functionality, may want to take advantage of a $16,390 (plus freight and fees) starting price, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent according to CarCostCanada (whose members having been saving an average of $1,000 when purchasing a new Fit due to their access of dealer invoice pricing info and more).
Honda provides the HR-V in three trims for 2021, including LX, which is available in both FWD or AWD, the latter starting at $27,500, plus as-tested Sport, which as noted earlier comes standard with AWD for $30,500, and finally Touring that starts at $33,700 and also features standard AWD.
With the only available options for each trim being dealer-added accessories and $300 metallic paint colours, my tester finished in eye-catching Orange Burst Metallic, I might as well get such extras out of the way before delving into standard features. With respect to the latter, base LX trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels on 215/55 all-season tires, a front wiper de-icer, heated and powered side mirrors, remote access, heatable front seats, single-zone automatic climate control, a multi-angle rearview parking camera, a centre display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a 160-watt four-speaker stereo, and more, including those fabulous Magic Seats mentioned earlier.
All HR-Vs come with the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and convenience technologies too, such as Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and automatic high beams, plus of course all the usual active and passive safety gear.
Adding AWD to the LX brings nothing more to the trim line, but moving up to the HR-V Sport makes a big difference visually thanks to much sportier looking machine-finished 17-inch alloys with black painted pockets, plus a glossy black surface treatment added to the grille insert, revised front lip spoiler, wheel cut-out and rocker panel extensions, rear bumper and more. Front fog lamps continue the performance theme, as does a chrome exhaust tip in back, while the mirror caps receive integrated LED turn indicators, and the roof becomes more useful due to silver rails at each side and a black glass moonroof in the middle.
That powered glass sunroof is a lot more enjoyable from the inside, where it sheds light on a special leather-wrapped steering wheel with attached paddle shifters above, and chrome-accented sport pedals below, not to mention another zone for the auto HVAC system, two more speakers and 20 additional watts of power for the audio system, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) to help maintain a hushed sense of serenity from the outside world, and possible best of all, proximity-sensing entry for easier access.
Touring trim replaces the wheels’ black paint with a shade of medium grey, swaps out the halogen projector-beam headlights with LEDs and simple auto-off system with auto-on/off, reverts the grille insert to the base LX’ dark chrome hue, paints the Sport’s gloss-black exterior trim elements in body-colour, and adds rain-sensing wipers, leather for the shift knob and seating surfaces, ups the infotainment system with navigation plus HD and satellite radio, and tops everything off with an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
All HR-Vs come standard with Honda’s i-VTEC-enhanced 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine making 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque, resulting in amply spirited performance off the line and a cruising speed that’s considerably faster than the posted limits. The aforementioned paddle shifters are good for downshifting to hold a “gear” when coursing through corners, something the HR-V does quite well despite its torsion-beam rear suspension, although I must admit to being more comfortable recommending this little ute for buyers who rate practicality over performance.
To that end it provides one of the more compliant suspension setups in the class, capable of absorbing any city’s or countryside’s pavement irregularities with grace and composure thanks in part to amplitude reactive dampers, while eking out a pretty decent fuel economy rating of 9.1 L/100km city, 7.7 highway and 8.5 combined. You’ll need to engage the HR-V’s standard Eco Assist system and drive modestly if you want to attain such numbers, but thanks in part to an efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT) it’s easily doable.
If those numbers seem a bit high, the LX FWD is stingier at 8.4 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 7.8 combined, while the same base trim with AWD gets a respective rating of 8.8, 7.5 and 8.2. Some in this class do better, but then again others aren’t quite as miserly. You should also keep in mind that most manufacturers provide more than one model in this burgeoning subcompact SUV category, with many that are smaller than the HR-V, while a few brands include hybrid-electric and full-EV variants as well, which, while initially more expensive, are much thriftier to drive.
Of course, now that this rapidly growing segment includes more than two dozen entries, compared to just 14 when the HR-V arrived in June of 2015, choosing the exact one to serve your needs has become more complicated. This said, despite the HR-V being three years into its fairly comprehensive mid-cycle refresh, and seven years into this second-generation body style (we never saw the first-gen model), its strong fifth-place position on 2020’s subcompact SUV sales chart should help you understand what a superb little runabout it truly is.
The interior has always been finished well, with a premium-like soft composite surrounding the centre display and bolster ahead of the front passenger, plus unique woven black fabric one-piece door uppers and inserts with comfortable padding underneath. The material almost looks like a black denim, but it’s softer and appears more like the cloth used for the roof-liner above. I like the look and the feel, as its plush and easy on arms and elbows. The door panels’ armrests are large and covered in a stitched leatherette, these mirroring the centre armrest and looking much like the sides of lower centre console, which while more rubber-like in feel, protect the inside knees of both front occupants.
Unlike most vehicles in this class, Honda finishes the rear door panels as nicely as those up front, including the same high-quality fabric for the door uppers. This is a big deal, because most competitors downgrade the rear seating areas. This said, don’t expect to find outboard seat warmers in back, or any other luxury touches, but you won’t care as soon as you start playing with the magical seats that I keep going on and on about.
Need to stow a bike (without its front wheel) upright inside? Simply flip the rear cushions upward, pickup truck style, and an otherwise difficult challenge becomes as easy as walking it in. So configured, the second-row floor is ideal for transporting tall potted plants as well, or any other unwieldy cargo, while the dedicated luggage compartment benefits from a lower load floor than most rivals as well, even with the rear seatbacks are folded flat. Combined with its tall roofline, the HR-V’s maximum cargo capacity is cavernous at 1,583 litres in Sport trim, while this model measures 657 litres behind the rear seats.
Back up front, the primary gauge cluster consists of a large centre speedometer, a digital tachometer to the left, and a multi-information display to the right, although the latter is more of a digital display providing oil, fuel, and odometer info. Its legibility is excellent in all lighting conditions, and adding a bit of fun to the functionality, a ring around the
Being that the gauge cluster’s multi-info display is simple, the switchgear on the steering wheel spokes is for controlling the audio system, changing settings on the centre display, engaging and modulating the adaptive cruise control system, and more, while Honda includes some extra switches below those spokes for additional cruise control adjustments, plus answering calls and using the voice command system.
The high-resolution infotainment touchscreen is large, bright and colourful, with attractive graphics and a totally up-to-date look. Honda updated this for the HR-V’s 2019 remake, and made sure to include a physical dial for adjusting audio volume and turning the system on and off. The backup camera is large and clear, while its multi-angle view really assists when trying to get close to the curb without scratching the wheels. I had no issue connecting my phone via Bluetooth or listening to favourite podcasts through streaming audio, while setting up Android Auto was easy and worked well.
As for the dual-zone auto HVAC system noted earlier, you won’t be able to miss its large interface resting just below on the centre stack. It includes nice big digital readouts and its buttons are touch-sensitive for a truly upscale feel. Controls for the two-way heated front seats are included on this panel as well, while its high-gloss black finish seems to flow downwards onto the lower centre console where inky piano black lacquer covers most of the top surface and much of the shifter knob and electromechanical parking brake pull-tab, just like it does on the lower steering wheel spokes and each paddle shifter. It’s a nice look, but this type of surface treatment often scratches too easily and collects dust something awful. On the positive, Honda provides plenty of bright metallic accenting around the cabin too, which should wear well.
The small overhead console isn’t much to write home about, but its two incandescent reading lights brighten the interior well when needed, and power sunroof switch works as required. Much better is the fabric used for the seat upholstery, which covers its bolsters with a similar cloth to the door panels, plus adds an attractively textured and dappled darker black material to the seat inserts.
The HR-V’s driving position is excellent, with good adjustability from the seat and even better reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column. The backrest provides excellent lower back support and the bolsters are even good for keeping body in place during hard cornering. Likewise, rear seats are comfortable, while as you might expect given the HR-V’s cargo capacity, rear passenger roominess is superb for this class.
All summed up, I can’t help but recommend the HR-V once again, because it does everything a small SUV should, plus is more practical than anything else in the class. That’s probably why the Canadian Black Book ranks the HR-V highest for retained value in its Sub-Compact Crossover category, this possibly the single most important reason you should consider purchasing one. All in all, it’s hard to wrong with an HR-V.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
Looking for a great deal on a very good premium sedan? I can think of a number of reasons to consider the Acura ILX, but the opportunity for a heavily discounted final purchase price is definitely on…
Looking for a great deal on a very good premium sedan? I can think of a number of reasons to consider the Acura ILX, but the opportunity for a heavily discounted final purchase price is definitely on top of the list.
To be clear, the ILX isn’t just a Civic with a body kit, as some like to refer to it. Way back in the early days of Acura, the ILX’ predecessor only provided a few mild styling modifications, a leather-trimmed interior, some other cabin enhancements, a slightly stiffer suspension, and Civic Si engine-tuning in its top trim in order to earn its Acura badge. Nevertheless, the long forgotten 1.6EL (1997–2000), which was based on the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Honda Domani and optionally used the same 127-horsepower engine as the Si here in Canada, plus the 1.7EL (2001–2005), which still made 127 horses despite getting a 100-cc bump in displacement, sold quite well, paving the way for the much-improved CSX (2006-2011), a model that was only sold in Canada, and actually inspired the JDM Civic’s styling (not the other way around, like so many critics have wrongly stated).
The ILX entered the import scene in 2012 as a 2013 model, and believe it or not is still based on the ninth-generation Civic that first appeared in 2011 (2022 will see an all-new 11th-gen Civic, to put that into perspective). That’s an antiquated platform architecture, to be sure, but this oldie was a goodie. It looked like it was designed from the ground up to be an Acura too, as did the interior, while performance from its optional 201-hp Si-derived powerplant was strong, albeit this engine’s sole six-speed manual transmission kept it from being as popular as the 150-hp 1.5-litre variant. A Civic-sourced hybrid drivetrain was also offered.
Acura provided a stiffer steering shaft for sharper turn-in, plus special “Amplitude Reactive” dampers to further improve handling as well as ride quality, and voila, its new compact competitor found serious traction on the sales charts, achieving a height of 3,192 Canadian deliveries in 2013, which put it fourth behind Buick’s now defunct Verano (with 5,573 units sold that year), Mini’s Cooper (3,946), and Mercedes’ discontinued B-Class (3,207).
Mercedes dominates this segment these days, its second-generation CLA-Class now joined by a new A-Class Sedan and Hatch for a total of 3,440-unit sales in 2020, while the ILX slipped from fourth to fifth in popularity due to just 774 deliveries last year. Being that the entire premium C-segment (and B-segment) includes a mere six models, that’s nothing to write home about, but then again managing to still sell anything after being around so long is a feat in itself.
To be fair, Acura has made some big changes to the ILX throughout its nine-year tenure, the most significant in 2016 when an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddles was mated to the potent 2.4-litre four-cylinder, which became the standard engine that year. It received a 10 lb-ft bump in max torque as well, the new mill putting out 180 lb-ft in total, while Acura also gave this upgraded ILX its distinctive “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps and a slightly revised “shield” grille for 2016, along with standard LED taillights. Sportier A-Spec trim was added too, the test car shown here finished off top-tier A-Spec Tech trim.
This one wears the much more visually dramatic “Diamond Pentagon” grille, however, which was added for the 2019 model. That car also received more aggressive headlights along with more sharply angled tail lamps, plus updates to most every other exterior panel, while the cabin incorporated new seats, with optional red leather upholstery in the microsuede-enhanced A-Spec. Finally, the infotainment system responded to inputs 30 percent faster than its predecessor, and Acura’s suite of advanced AcuraWatch safety features became standard. The car on these pages hasn’t changed since, which is probably why sales have steadily dropped, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your attention.
Today’s 2.4-litre four still makes 201 horsepower, which while not as strong as some in this class, remains naturally aspirated and therefore a joy to rev well past its 7,000 rpm redline. It sounds fabulous when doing so too, while the fully-automated eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox delivers quick, smooth shifts that are ideally matched to the powerplant, its front-wheel drive layout the only negative in an otherwise wholly positive experience. Even then, the 225/40R18 Continentals hooked up well, with very little pull on the steering wheel at full throttle, even when taking off from a corner, with the overall driving feel coming across like a particularly well-finished Civic Si Sedan.
Yes, I know the 10th-generation Civic Si Sedan’s interior is much more modern than this ILX, especially when it comes to the primary gauge cluster and steering wheel controls. The former is made up of analogue dials bookending a simple two-colour multi-information display (MID), with the otherwise grey screen highlighted by some nice bright greens when using adaptive cruise control, but Acura’s dual-stack of infotainment displays was pretty high-tech when introduced, and still works well. The lower touchscreen is especially easy to operate, and while the graphics are a bit dated and display quality not quite up to today’s high-definition standards, I’m not going to rag on this system or any of Acura’s infotainment foibles right now, other than to say their unnecessary complexity isn’t as appealing to me as Honda’s excellent touchscreen systems. To that tend, the ILX offers a bit of both worlds, resulting in a system I certainly like better than some of the brand’s more recent concoctions.
Just the same, purchasing a car as well-seasoned as the ILX means you’ll need to forgo some of the industry’s latest features and design elements. I didn’t mind the aforementioned MID, as all info was crisply and clearly displayed, plus a fair bit of info was available, from audio stations, to phone and voice prompt controls, plus the aforementioned cruise control. Likewise, the analogue dials were bright and easy to read in all conditions. The steering wheel controls, while not including the outgoing Civic’s ergonomically-designed volume switch and four-way rockers on both sides for most other functions, are made from high quality composites with good fit and decent damping.
The infotainment’s system’s upper display is controlled by rotating a big knob and pressing surrounding buttons found just below the lower centre touchscreen, this top monitor being dedicated to navigation info, smartphone connectivity, car settings, and a few other functions. The touch capacitive screen just below, on the other hand, allows comprehensive control of the audio system. Both displays are full-colour, albeit only various blue hues are used for the latter. Again, it’s dated look will only matter to those enamoured with more modern systems, because the screen is reasonably high in resolution and the interface is nicely laid out with decent enough graphics. It all works well too, while the navigation system was especially accurate. What’s more, my tester’s ELS Studio sound system pumped out tunes brilliantly, plus its satellite radio signal came in nice and clear most of the time.
The ILX’ dual-zone automatic climate control interface is pretty straightforward, with big dials to each side and buttons in between. Again, the quality of the switchgear is pretty good, with nice, tightly fitted buttons, but Acura hasn’t even included a digital display to accompany the controls, so it all looks fairly basic. Likewise, the lower console-mounted two-way rocker switches for the heatable front seats are throwbacks to simpler times, as are the classic Honda-sourced power window and mirror controls on the driver’s door, while the fuel and trunk release levers attached to the driver’s inside rocker panel next to the floor are so old school they’re cool.
A classic handbrake is another sign this is an older model, and I suppose, being that Acura now uses push-buttons and pull-tabs for gear selection on most of its vehicles these days, the conventional gear lever and its time-tested PRND layout is just one more reminder of yesterday. There’s no way to shift manually by the lever itself, but that hardly matters being that, as noted earlier, the ILX comes complete with paddles. Therefore, simply slot it into “D” to eke the most from a tank of fuel or “S” for Sport mode, and drive like a miser or, alternatively, shift to your heart’s content.
Sport mode allows for higher revs between gear changes, the engine freely spinning past 7,000 revs per minute when wrung out for all its worth, resulting in motive force that’s as wonderfully engaging and every bit as capable as when found in the old Si. Yes, I’m aware that I’m repeating myself, but I absolutely love this 2.4-litre four, so allow me some fanboy leeway. I’ll also reiterate that the dual-clutch automated manual is superbly matched to this peaky engine, allowing some playful fun when called upon, yet shifting early enough to save on fuel when in normal default mode.
On that note, claimed fuel economy is thrifty considering the available performance, at 9.9 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 8.6 combined, incidentally beating BMW’s 228i xDrive Gran Coupe that’s only good for 8.8 L/100km combined city/highway, but take note the Bimmer comes standard with AWD, while Mercedes’ A220 4Matic Sedan is even stingier at 8.4 L/100km combined (4Matic means AWD in Mercedes-speak, incidentally), while Audi’s FWD A3 is good for a near hybrid-like 7.8 L/100km combined.
Now that we’ve slowed down, some finely crafted detailing worth noting includes a soft leather-wrapped steering wheel rim with nicely carved thumb spats and contrast-stitched baseball-style stitching around the inside, plus the same treatment applied to the shift knob and the handbrake lever’s grip. That handbrake feels incredibly well-made too, with a level of solidity not normally found with such devices, and this said, I must attest to preferring a hand-applied parking brake to an electromechanical one when driving a performance car. In fact, as good as the eight-speed auto is, the very inclusion of a handbrake made me long for the Si’s phenomenal six-speed manual, although I can understand why Acura didn’t bother bringing one to market, being that the take-rate would probably be less than 10 percent.
Driver’s position is important for any performance car, and to that end Acura has done a fine job with this ILX. The beautifully finished front seats, complete with contrast-stitched leather bolsters and insets, the latter adorned with an hourglass-shaped strip of ultra-suede down the middle, hug the backside nicely for optimal control through tight, twisting curves. The driver seat’s adjustability was excellent, with enough fore and aft movement for most body types, which when combined with ample reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column made for adequate comfort and control.
When seated behind the driver’s seat, which was set up for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, I still had plenty of space for my knees and feet, plus about three inches over my head. Likewise, Acura provides good side-to-side spaciousness, although I wouldn’t have been as comfortable if three were abreast in back. The usual flip-down centre armrest was wide enough for two arms resting, but the dual cupholders infused within were substandard for this class, particularly compared to the innovative drink-holding contraptions offered by the Germans. A magazine pouch on the backside of the front passenger seat sums up everything else provided for rear passenger pampering, while no centre pass-through or divided rear seatback means that skiers are forced to strap boards to a rooftop rack when more than two occupants are aboard.
At least those rear outboard seats are comfortable and covered with the same high-grade leather and suede upholstery as those up front, while the aft compartment’s door panels are finished off just as nicely as the one ahead as well. This means high-quality soft padded synthetic covers the door uppers, while a nicer stitched leatherette with even softer padding is applied to the inserts and armrests, plus this segment’s usual hard composite for the lower third of each door.
Some less significant areas of weakness include a lack of fabric wrapping for the roof pillars, which is kind of a premium brand status staple, plus the ILX only gets a simple moonroof overhead, when others in the class offer larger panoramic glass openings. Also, where the soft-touch synthetic dash top is finished all the way down to its midpoint, and the dark grey inlays are up to par, the plastic used for the lower half of the dash, including the glove box lid, as well as that on the lower centre console, is less than ideal.
Of course, this reflects in the ILX’ aforementioned pricing, and becomes an absolute nonissue when factoring in available discounts. Adding to this car’s list of accolades is Acura’s seventh out of 17 premium brand ranking (Buick, Mini and Tesla were included as premium brands) in J.D. Power’s latest 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, in which it was only beaten by Lexus, Porsche, Buick, Cadillac, Genesis and Lincoln, none of which compete in the ILX’ entry-level B category. Hopefully, now knowing this, plus the ILX’ many additional attributes, might leave you seriously considering a car that might not have caused you much deliberation before reading this review.
Choices, choices, choices. Should you choose the refreshed 2022 G70 that’s now starting to arrive at Genesis retailers across Canada, a car that boasts the premium brand’s stylish new diamond-shaped grille, dual-slit LED headlights and tail lamps, and the list goes on? Or should you snag a 2021 G70 while you can still finance a new one?
Styling will be the key factor, and to be clear the outgoing model is still a great looking car that hasn’t been with us for very long. What’s more, 2021 G70s can be had for bigger discounts than you’ll likely get with the new car, but techies might submit to the updated model due to its bigger infotainment display alone.
The base 2022 G70 2.0T Select starts at $45,000, which is $2,500 more than the 2021 G70 base model, which started in Advanced trim. Select trim wasn’t on the menu in 2021, the G70 available in Advanced, Sport, Elite and Prestige trims since becoming available for 2019, with Dynamic trim dropped after the first year. Equipment levels look very close from when compared the 2022 Select to the 2021 Advanced, except for the new 8.0-inch driver display (up an inch) and redesigned 10.25-inch centre touchscreen (increased by 2.25 inches), plus standard navigation and new Genesis Connected Services on the revised car.
In total I spent three weeks with the G70, the first being a 2019 G70 3.3T Sport AWD tested a few of years back, and since then a G70 3.3T Prestige AWD and another G70 3.3T Sport AWD, the two cars used for this review. As tested, the metallic Himalayan Grey-coloured 3.3T Prestige AWD with the Caramel Brown Nappa leather interior can be had for $56,000 (plus freight and fees), while the top-line Uyuni White-painted 3.3T Sport AWD with its Black and Sport Red Nappa leather cabin is $2,000 more at $58,000.
The twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 tested is one formidable power unit, making 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, and would be my choice if purchasing Genesis’ smallest model. This said I’ve only ever tested the car’s base 2.0-litre turbo-four in Kia’s Stinger, yet another credible sport sedan from the South Korean parent company’s namesake brand that rides on the same underpinnings. That engine makes 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, while both come mated to an in-house eight-speed automatic transmission.
Genesis provides a rear-wheel drive variant exclusively for the G70’s Sport 2.0T trim, but take note that this disappears for 2022. Either way, steering wheel paddle shifters make sure the driving experience is engaging, while Sport mode can be actuated from a lower console-mounted rotating knob adorned with ritzy knurled metal edging. When selected it delivers swift yet smooth shifts that ideally match the engine’s strong output, resulting in standstill to 100 km/h sprints around the mid fours and an eye-popping top track speed of 273 km/h (170 mph). I never even attempted such lofty goals (honestly, officer), but can attest to the G70 quickly transforming from comfortably quiet cruising companion when tooling around town and whiling down the highway, to one of the more intensely satisfying cars to drive in its category.
Behind the Sport’s 19-inch five-spoke alloys and the Prestige model’s classier 19-inch, 10-spoke rims, all G70s incorporate a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension layout that’s more or less the same design type as used by BMW for its 3 Series, as well as most others in this class, which is a very good thing. The Genesis chassis tuning team worked the design to perfection, resulting in one very lively handler that’s equally stable at high speeds on the freeway as it is coursing through tight, twisting two-laners.
To claim that it’s better than (or even as capable as) a 3 Series through corners might be seen as heresy by blue and white roundel zealots, but the once untouchable Bimmer has lost some steering feel since going with an electric rack, leaving the motor-assist powered rack-and-pinion steering setup in the G70 in the same league at least, and feeling much more connected than some others in this segment, while the car’s overall grip when pushed quickly through hard-charging curves is tenacious.
When equipped like any of my testers, I’m comfortable classifying the G70 as a true sport sedan, despite its luxurious accoutrements. Steering input requires constant attention, but such regular redirection is what I like about this car. It doesn’t just drive itself along at high speeds, only needing the odd nudge here and there to keep it in a chosen lane, but instead demands regular hands-on focus, and responding with more positive excitement on the road or track.
Still, the G70’s ride was never uncomfortable, even when its big wheels and sizeable tires were pounding over less than ideal tarmac. Likewise, the Sport’s Brembo brakes are worth the extra couple of grand needed for this model alone, while both cars’ HTRAC all-wheel drive system maintained the feel of a rear-wheel drive car yet provided superb traction at all times.
In fact, the G70 feels a lot lighter and nimbler than it actually is. Hitting the scale at 1,760 kilos (3,880 lbs), it’s not the heaviest in its class, yet hardly the lightest either. I was surprised to find out the G70 actually weighs a couple of kilograms more than the Lexus IS 350 AWD, a car I’d always considered hefty for its size, but BMW’s 3 has gained plenty around the middle as it’s grown older too, the comparable M340i xDrive, weighing in at 1,800 kg (3,968 lbs), is a surprising 40 kg (88 lbs) pudgier than my 3.3T Sport AWD test car.
The Japanese are the true Sumos of the industry, with the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD weighing 1,811 kg (3,993 lbs) and Acura TLX SH-AWD porkiest of all at 1,827 kg (4,028 lbs), which leaves the Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic seeming like a pencil-neck at just 1,740 kg (3,836 lbs). Lighter still, a fully-equipped Audi A4 S Line 45 TFSI is just 1,690 kg (3,726 lbs), while the Cadillac CT4 V-Series is a sprite 1,640 kg (3,616 lbs). So as not to leave Volvo out of the equation, its S60 Recharge T8 eAWD is by far the fattest at 2,017 kg (4,447 lbs), but let’s be reasonable as it’s carrying a plug-in hybrid power unit and battery, as well as an extra supercharger to go along with its turbo.
All of that technology results in a shocking 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque, by the way, while the segment’s ultimate lightweight, the 1,647-kg (3,632-lb) Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport AWD, doesn’t need as much to get it going, although 280-horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque hardly competes with the G70’s V6 or most of the others mentioned, that is until the Italian outfit drops its 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio powerplant under the hood. Too Jaguar’s discontinued its XE, as the 380-horsepower V6 in its 1,721 kg (3,795-lb) S AWD model is a close match to this compact Genesis.
Speaking of the compact luxury segment, fallout like Jaguar’s XE is partially due to newcomers such as the G70. Canadian-market XE sales peaked at 858 units in 2017, and tapered off to 157 in 2019 and just 77 last year, whereas the G70 found 1,119 new owners in its first full year (2019), and grew that into 1,173 buyers throughout 2020.
These numbers are much lower than the segment leaders, mind you, with BMW’s best-selling 3 and 4 Series earned a combined 4,836 deliveries last year (3,873 and 963 units respectively), and that was a very bad 12 months for the model, while Mercedes-Benz’ C-Class sedan, coupe and convertible combined for 3,970 total deliveries. Still, the G70 ranking eighth in a 12-car category is impressive for a newbie, its popularity even passing Infiniti’s Q50. Interestingly, the real segment-leader is Tesla’s Model 3, which pulled in 6,151 buyers for 2020, but being that it’s an EV, it’s not exactly a direct competitor. Having now seen the 2022 G70 in the metal, I’m guessing the refresh will give it a boost further up the sales chart.
If you’re looking for as dramatic a makeover inside, you’ll probably be disappointed. Still, it’s surprising how much visual change occurs just by swapping out centre touchscreens, the new larger display appearing much more modern. Both are laid out horizontally, but the current model’s is just smaller and squarer, with less cohesiveness to the dashboard’s overall design. It’s not ugly or ill-suited to the car, but it is outdated. The current infotainment system works well, however, and includes most of the features buyers will want in my two tester’s upper trims, just like the primary gauge cluster incorporates all of the necessary dials and meters as the newer version, just in analogue form instead of purely digital. Everything else about the 2021 and 2022 interiors remains unchanged, including the diamond-pattern, contrast-stitched and perforated Nappa leather upholstery found in both of my test cars, plus their plentiful metallic accents, and every other high-grade surface treatment.
Some notable features included tilt and telescopic steering that powered far enough rearward for ample comfort and control, which was matched by a very comfortable and supportive set of front seats with four-way power lumbar and powered side bolsters, but unfortunately lower cushions that couldn’t be extended. A two-way heated steering wheel will keep hands at the ideal temperature year-round, while three-way heatable and coolable front seats do likewise to one’s derriere, not to mention three-way butt warmers in the rear. These join a dual-zone automatic climate control system, which is par for the course in this class, yet always appreciated.
Overhead surround parking cameras are standard fare in upper trims too, and the G70’s works well, while the aforementioned infotainment system’s navigation system proved accurate. Genesis remembered to include a wireless device charger too, while a sunglasses holder was integrated into the overhead console next to LED reading lights and controls for the large panoramic sunroof, a feature that helps the rear compartment feel more open and airier.
Access to the trunk was provided by a powered lid, but at just 297 litres (10.5 cu ft) it’s smallest in the class, and made even less practical by splitting the folding rear seatbacks into a simple 60/40 configuration, instead of the much more utile 40/20/40 divide used by all the category leaders.
Another negative is fuel economy, the G70 3.3T AWD only managing 14.1 L/100km in the city, 9.5 on the highway and 12.0 combined, which makes it the thirstiest amongst similarly powered competitors. Model 3 aside, Volvo’shyper-potent plug-in hybrid tops the charts at 7.8 mpg combined (or 3.2 Le/100km), with the next best to worst including aforementioned trims of the A4 (at 8.8 L/100km combined), Giulia (9.2), 340i (9.2), TLX (9.8), CT4 (10.2), IS (10.8), Q50 (11.1), and C43 (11.3). Heck, even the 505-hp Giulia Quadrifoglio provides better combined fuel economy than this Genesis at 11.6 L/100km.
Of course, fuel economy is hardly the first priority for shoppers in this segment, particularly amongst higher performing options, but for those wincing at higher-than-ever gas prices, consider an entry-level G70 2.0T AWD that’s rated a bit better at 11.4 city, 8.5 highway and 10.1 combined, but then again, while this is considerably better than the rear-drive base turbo-four Q50’s 12.5, 8.7 and 10.8 rating, it doesn’t come close to matching Mercedes’ least expensive C300 at 8.7 combined, or Audi’s base A4 and BMW’s miserly 330i that eke out 8.3 L/100km combined apiece.
Sorry for the fuel economy yawn-fest, because Genesis’ G70 is hardly the kind of car I want to lull you to sleep about. For the most part, the upstart Korean brand got its first sport sedan right, with superb straight-line performance, a nice balanced feel through curves, rock-solid highway stability, and enjoyable comfort around town, while its plenty attractive inside and out. Instead of being best at any given attribute, the G70 is an excellent all-rounder, which is exactly what a car in this four-door segment should be. That it can be acquired for thousands less than most rivals despite a slightly longer five years or 100,000 km warranty, not to mention free maintenance, valet service, and more, makes it a sport sedan you should take seriously.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
Following its bigger RX brother’s lead, the Lexus NX came out of nowhere a half-decade ago to immediately become a frontrunner in the compact luxury SUV class. Currently sitting second in U.S. sales…
Following its bigger RX brother’s lead, the Lexus NX came out of nowhere a half-decade ago to immediately become a frontrunner in the compact luxury SUV class. Currently sitting second in U.S. sales and fourth in Canada, Lexus hopes the new second-generation NX, just introduced last week, will become just as dominant as its mid-size offering, and it really doesn’t have far to go in order to catch up to the segment leaders.
While the RX more than doubles deliveries of its next closest BMW X5 rival in the U.S., and comes close to doing likewise to Mercedes’ GLE here in Canada, the gap between NX and X3 sales in the U.S. was narrower than 4,000 units last year, meaning this redesign could push the Japanese model upward enough to claim most popular status. Here in Canada, another 50 sales in 2020 would’ve ranked it third in its class, leaving it about one thousand units behind the Q5 and slightly more than 2,000 deliveries below the RDX.
Exactly how this redesigned 2022 NX will impact the burgeoning compact luxury SUV market is unknown, but Lexus isn’t leaving anything to chance. First off, recently released photos of the all-new model make it clear the premium brand isn’t deviating far from the original NX formula that’s won it so many fans, with evolutionary new styling that should appeal to current buyers and newcomers alike. Its large spindle grille is as easily defined as ever, despite subtle changes all around including a more three-dimensional effect, while new LED headlights with an optional three-projector upgrade, combine some of the design elements from the previous model’s blockier main LED lamps, and the Nike swoosh-style “L-shaped” driving lights, into one curvaceous cluster.
Likewise, the old NX’ chunkier side panels have been smoothed out for a more refined look that’s still plenty muscular, while the rear design replaces the outgoing SUV’s angled individual LED taillights with a set of more organically shaped L-style lenses connected by a thin horizontal strip that spans the entirety of the liftgate, this design, which pulls cues from new UX and IS rear styling, dubbed a “full-width blade rear lamp” by Lexus. New wheels round out the updated package, the F Sport’s gloss black rims growing to 20 inches, but not before Lexus literally signed off on the design with five elegantly placed block letters designating its brand, the new NX becoming the first model in its lineup to replace its usual “L” centre rear branding with this new written logo.
Inside, a completely reworked dash panel adds a high-definition 7.0-inch multi-information display to the gauge cluster and projects an available 10-inch head-up display onto the windshield ahead of the driver, while the top half of the centre stack can been optionally taken over by a massive landscape-positioned 14.0-inch touchscreen display (that incorporates controls for the automatic climate control system and more) in top-line conventionally-powered and plug-in hybrid trims, meaning that Lexus finally appears to being giving up on controlling its infotainment systems through a lower console-mounted joystick or trackpad Remote Touch Interface.
Another sign of progress is the Lexus Interface multimedia system within that infotainment system, which has been designed specifically for the North American market. Along with the usual infotainment features, the new interface incorporates over the air updates and untethered smart phone connection to a user’s unique profile (that includes a new digital key for opening, starting up and remote parking via smartphone verification that can be shared with up to seven confidants), while a new Virtual Assistant, that incorporates multiple microphones, enhanced noise cancellation capability, plus seat-detection sensors for determining where users are sitting, has been designed to become the primary way users interact with the system. Optional wireless charging will keep devices ready for use, while connectivity via wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto comes standard.
The new NX’ standard touchscreen measures 9.8 inches diagonally, incidentally, which is pretty sizeable all on its own, with the end result of both touchscreen displays being a more familiar tap, swipe and pinch user experience for an easier learning curve when Toyota (or other volume-branded mainstream) buyers test this new Lexus SUV for the first time.
Astute readers will have noticed the words “plug-in hybrid” in the previous paragraph, a move that should have been expected by anyone with knowledge of Toyota’s RAV4 Prime. The RAV4 and NX have always shared platform architectures, with the new 2022 version now riding on the same TNGA-K (GA-K) underpinnings found in today’s RAV (codenamed XA50 for the RAV4 and AZ20 for the new NX), so therefore, incorporating the new RAV4 Prime’s PHEV components into the updated Lexus only made sense.
Lexus’s new plug-in hybrid, dubbed NX 450h, is the first of its type for the luxury brand. Its EV range is claimed to be 58 km, depending on how it’s being driven, exterior conditions, and other factors, while it can achieve much higher speeds in EV mode than any previous Lexus hybrid, the latter of which normally kick into gasoline-assisted hybrid mode below posted city speed limits. The new NX 450h will deliver significantly higher levels of performance than previous hybrids too, or for that matter the upcoming non-plug-in NX 350h hybrid, even going so far as to add more drive bias to the rear wheels than the RAV4 Prime’s more comfort and fuel-efficiency focused setup, in order to improve high-speed handling.
Before delving into the regular NX hybrid, the new NX 450h plug-in puts out a fraction more horsepower than the RAV4 Prime it shares components with, with 305 ponies compared to 302, but the more luxurious NX takes 0.2 seconds longer to arrive at 100 km/h from standstill, its time being 6.2 seconds compared to 6.0 seconds flat for the plug-in RAV4, likely due to the extra weight carried by luxury features and refinement-enhancing sound-deadening materials.
Lexus has achieved shorter charging times by installing a standard high-output, high-efficiency 6.6-kW Expedited Onboard Charger that reduces power loss when converting from AC to DC power, which means the NX 450h can achieve a full charge when hooked up to a 240-volt power source for about two-and a-half hours.
While understandable excitement surrounds this new plug-in hybrid variant, it’s important to point out that a total of four power units will be available from the onset of the new NX launch this fall. The base NX 250 model will receive a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder capable of 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. A new standard eight-speed automatic transmission with start/stop technology will help maximize fuel-efficiency, yet it won’t have any trouble keeping up with traffic either thanks to zero to 100 km/h acceleration of just 8.8 seconds. While hardly neck-snapping, the base NX will be quick enough for most peoples’ wants and needs, while this new model could also allow for a more approachable entry-level price point than the current SUV, being that today’s 2021 NX comes standard with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
The second engine in the NX hierarchy, which is expected to be “the volume model in Canada” according to a Lexus press release, will be a 2.5-litre four-cylinder mated to a hybrid drivetrain. The NX 350h will make 239 net horsepower, which is 20 percent more than the outgoing NX 300h hybrid thanks to a pair of high-torque electric drive motor-generators (the second motor is in the rear resulting in eAWD). The combination allows for a 7.4-second sprint from standstill to 100 km/h, which is 1.7 seconds faster than the current hybrid model. Even with this performance upgrade, however, Lexus estimates combined fuel economy of 6.5 L/100km, which is an impressive 1.0 L/100 km improvement over the 2021 model.
Depending on priorities, you can consider the aforementioned NX 450h or the all-new NX 350 top-of-the-line (although pricing may dictate otherwise), the latter model housing a new 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for 275 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. This model’s eight-speed automatic is tuned more for performance, the uprated combination resulting in standing-start acceleration times of 7.0 seconds to 100km/h, making it a significant half-second quicker than its turbo-gas-powered predecessor.
Handling should improve further due to a lower centre of gravity and more rigid body construction, Lexus having increased torsional rigidity via laser peening welding and new high rigidity foam, both firsts for the luxury division. Another first for the brand is a twin hood lock that increases front lateral flexural rigidity while also enhancing aerodynamics overall.
What’s more, both turbo and PHEV buyers can upgrade their suspensions with an F Sport Handling package that adds an Active Variable Suspension (AVS) along with front and rear performance dampers, plus the aforementioned 20-inch wheels and all of this trim’s usual styling enhancements from the outside in.
Additionally, a new electronically controlled, full-time all-wheel drive system improves NX 350 control both on and off the road. The driver now has the ability to optimize front and rear torque distribution in order to adjust for weather and road conditions, while a high level of standard electronic safety equipment will further keep things in check.
These come as part of Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, which now features a new Risk Avoidance Emergency Steer Assist function that helps to avoid accidents via automatic braking and steering inputs. Another update includes a Left Turn Oncoming Vehicle Detection/Braking technology that does exactly what its name describes, while a new Oncoming Pedestrian Detection/Braking function will brake automatically when a driver turns left in front of pedestrians and/or cyclists.
Additionally, new standard Dynamic Radar Cruise Control features a “curve management” feature that will maintain the NX’ cruising speed to align with traffic flow while also keeping speeds in check when cornering. Lastly, a Digital Latch system, that features an electronically-actuated release, opens each door smoothly while scanning the periphery around the SUV with a Safe Exit system that’s been designed to prevent passing pedestrian or cyclist accidents.
Extra head and legroom should make ingress and egress easier, not to mention more comfortable when seated front to back, while a new panoramic glass sunroof visually opens up the cabin to an airier experience. That revised interior will be quieter too, not to mention more calming thanks to 14 nature-inspired Thematic Ambient Illumination settings. Lexus has also redesigned the front seat heaters, and once again makes rear outboard seat warmers available, while the cargo area can now stow more gear.
For a final bit of NX news, the redesigned model will now be built in Canada, making the purchase of the new SUV as much of a patriotic move as a smart choice, the latter being a nod to better-than-average dependability and lower depreciation costs. The NX was a runner-up, next to Mercedes’ GLC, in the latest 2020 Canadian Black Book Best Retained Value Awards, the compact luxury SUV winner being Porsche’s Macan. Considering there are 16 competitors vying for top spot, tying for second is a noteworthy feat.
Lexus also took top honours in the most recent 2021 J. D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, and while the NX once again failed to achieve best-in-class due to the mighty Macan, it earned a respectable second.
NX quality may even improve thanks to its new home of production in Cambridge, Ontario, where it will be built alongside the RAV4 and larger RX. The Cambridge facility was the first production plant outside of Japan to build a Lexus model, and has earned many awards since it first did so in 1986. As for the new NX, its operations retooling and training efforts began in 2019, while production will start in the fourth quarter of 2021, with deliveries expected shortly thereafter. Pricing will be available closer to this launch date.