The health crisis has caused mayhem in many industries, and while the auto sector hasn’t been hit as hard as travel and hospitality, it’s definitely taken its toll. This reality, while bad for many…

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line Road Test

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
Chunky SUV styling gives the Atlas a bold, truck-like look that most buyers should like.

The health crisis has caused mayhem in many industries, and while the auto sector hasn’t been hit as hard as travel and hospitality, it’s definitely taken its toll. This reality, while bad for many manufacturers and their independent retailers, poses some opportunity for those that want to make a deal.

Many Volkswagen dealers, in fact, have new, non-demo 2019 models available. Yes, I realize we’re entering the 2021 model year, and even the “peoples’ car” brand is advertising 2021 versions of its cars, but that doesn’t change the fact that many 2019 vehicles remain unsold.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas is long and large, allowing for a lot of interior space from front to back.

Believe it or not, one of such vehicles is the mid-size three-row Atlas crossover SUV, a relatively new model that’s received a lot of praise from pundits like me, and reasonably good sales. Nevertheless, some dealers have multiple new 2019 Atlas models in their inventory, which is reason enough for VW to offer up to $6,000 in additional incentives on models like the top-line $54,975 Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line being reviewed here, shows CarCostCanada on their 2019 Volkswagen Atlas Canada Prices page (find out more about CarCostCanada here and remember to download their free app from the Apple Store and Google Play Store).

They’re also reporting up to $700 in incentives on the subtly refreshed 2021 Atlas, so there’s even a small discount available despite these having just arriving on retailer lots, but the big money is on the 2019, as Volkswagen and its dealers are highly motivated to get rid of this nearly two-year old SUV.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The 2021 Atlas gets a deeper grille with a third horizontal slat, plus new LED headlights.

To be clear, VW Canada never imported the 2020 Atlas from Chattanooga, Tennessee where it’s built, but instead received its allotment of all-new five-passenger 2020 Atlas Cross Sport models, while allowing nationwide inventory of the larger seven-passenger version to slowly sell off. Seeing that 2019s are still available, this was a very smart move.

Moving into 2021, VW has given the Atlas a deeper grille that now includes a third bright metal-like crossbar, plus new LED headlamps, and fresh front and rear fascias that add 75 millimeters (2.9 in) to the SUV’s overall length. Inside, the steering wheel is new while contrast stitching is added to higher end trims with leather. Mechanically, all-wheel drive is now standard across the line, and the base turbocharged four-cylinder engine is more widely available.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
R Line is VW’s sporty appearance package.

As you might imagine, the 2021 Atlas’ starting price is considerably higher now that it comes standard with AWD, the new MSRP being $40,095 (plus freight and fees) for its base Trendline trim, compared to $36,740 for this same trim line in the 2019 model year, a difference of $3,355. Comfortline, Highline and Execline trims are still available, all of which are priced higher except for Highline, which now comes standard with the aforementioned 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. Just-above-base Comfortline trim continues to offer both engines, but the entry-level 2021 Trendline can now only be had with the turbo-four, while 2021 Execline trim continues to come standard with the 3.6-litre V6.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas’ LED taillights still look sharp after its three years of availability.

I won’t go into much more detail about the 2021, because, frontal styling, new steering wheel and some contrast-coloured thread aside, it doesn’t appear to have changed much from this outgoing model. This is no bad thing, however, as its first two model years were well received. I tested a 2018 and this 2019, the first version experiencing a couple of teething problems including a broken second-row sliding seat handle. Otherwise it was an exceptionally good SUV that I enjoyed spending a week with, just like the even more luxuriously appointed 2019 model.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas Execline can be had with a two-tone grey and beige interior, with attractive woodgrain and satin-silver trim.

I was surprised by all the positive comments I received from friends and even passersby during my test week, all shocked that VW would produce anything so big and truck-like, the latter when it comes to styling at least, but I quickly reminded all that the old beloved Vanagon and front-engine T5 van (which were available here a long time ago) weren’t exactly small, and pretty boxy as well, so the Atlas mostly fits into the brand’s DNA. I think they made a good choice from a styling perspective, as the majority of today’s crossover SUV buyers seem to want a rugged looking utility, the Atlas’ bulky fender flairs and ample chrome doing a fine job of relaying visual toughness.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas’ cockpit is very well laid out and electronics very advanced.

Inside, even without the 2021 updates, the Atlas provides a nice ambience, with wide open spaces and no shortage of attractive design elements. This is especially true in my tester’s top-tier Execline trim that came with cream-coloured perforated leather upholstery, woodgrain and satin-silver accents, plus loads of impressive display screens including a fully digital and brightly coloured instrument cluster, along with a large centre touchscreen display.

Before I get too far into this review, I need to mention what I see as the elephant in VW’s garage. Where Volkswagen was once the go-to mainstream volume brand for those of us who prefer premium-like interior quality and finishings, this is no longer the case. Some of the Atlas’ details are excellent, like the steering wheel, that’s one of the best in its class as far as the way it feels in the hands as per to leather quality and shape, plus its overall sporty design, while no one should complain about the SUV’s front seats that are Germanic in their firmness and therefore wonderfully supportive, but VW is now falling short by failing to nail the interior refinement details that used to make them reign supreme, such as fabric-wrapped roof pillars, plus the tactile quality of plastics used below the waistline, and in some cases even above.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas’ gauge cluster is completely digital, and features a multi-info display that can be expanded to near full proportions.

The dash-top is a rubberized black synthetic, which is reasonably good, but the woodgrain on the dash and doors feels cheap and hollow, similar to what GM used to offer years ago. The same can be said for the metallic trim that surrounds it, which only feels a little bit denser due to being closer to the trim piece’s outer extremities and therefore strengthened by its complex construction. Volkswagen does add padded leather inserts on the doors, and does a decent job with the armrests, but that’s it for soft-touch surfaces. The lower doors and lower portion of the dash and centre stack are all made from hard plastic, and while most is finished with a matte semi-soft paint, it’s nowhere near up to the levels offered by others in this class.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The main infotainment touchscreen is large, very high in display quality and filled with features.

For instance, just after my weeklong Atlas test, I spent another week in an almost loaded Kia Telluride SX, plus the week after that I drove Hyundai’s Palisade, and must say that both are as close to premium products as anything ever offered by mainstream brands. The former even wrapped both A and B pillars in the same high-quality fabric used for the roof liner, while the latter does so with a plush suede-like material. Additionally, Kia’s faux wood felt so dense and realistic I had to verify that it wasn’t real. Likewise, the interior metals are excellent and feel genuine, while even the exterior metal surrounding the windows felt like Lexus’ polished nickel.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas Execline’s woodgrain and faux metal isn’t very authentic feeling.

Volkswagen does a better job when it comes to gauge clusters and infotainment, but only when compared to the Kia. Hyundai’s fully digital cluster in the Palisade includes side-view cameras within its outer “dials” when changing lanes, a wonderfully useful safety feature on such a large vehicle, while Kia does similar, albeit places the image within the multi-information display between conventional analogue dials.

All said, I’m not about to bash Volkswagen for having one of the best digital driver displays in the industry. It actually comes very close to matching the Audi Virtual Cockpit, which I consider to be one of the best in the industry. I especially like how VW’s display reduces the size of its analogue-style speedometer and tachometer to the size of wristwatch faces as it fills the entire screen with a given infotainment function, such as navigation directions complete with full digital mapping.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The seats are ultra-comfortable and driving position excellent.

The centre touchscreen is also amongst the best in the business, with superb high-resolution quality including beautiful depth of contrast and superb colours, as well as excellent graphics and speedy actuation. It’s filled with all the features you might expect in this class, such as aforementioned navigation, a large, clear and useful backup camera, full climate control and audio functions, the latter system including Bluetooth streaming and satellite radio capability, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, etcetera.

The Atlas’ switchgear is fairly good overall, but the rotating outer dials around the tri-zone automatic climate control interface were wiggly and sloppy, something I didn’t find on the just-noted Kia or Hyundai, or for that matter the majority of their competitors.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
A large panoramic glass sunroof provides loads of light from above.

Now that I’ve once again mentioned the two South Koreans, it should be noted that both fully loaded SUVs are less expensive than the Atlas, but not by much. The Telluride SX that I tested just after the Atlas was quite a bit more approachable at only $49,995, but since then a fancier 2021 Telluride SX Limited with Nappa leather was added to the lineup, increasing its retail price to $54,695 before discount. That’s a nominal difference of $280, incidentally, so make sure to drive both the Kia and VW when it comes time to buy. The top-tier 2020 Palisade Ultimate would now be the least expensive of the bunch at $54,199, but the $54,699 2021 Ultimate Calligraphy just happens to be $5 more than the priciest Telluride. Either way I recommend spending some time with this one as well, not to mention Toyota’s latest Highlander and Mazda’s CX-9 that deserve high praise in this class too.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
Optional captain’s chairs provide more second-row comfort, and provide easy access to the third row.

My Atlas tester’s heatable steering wheel rim was nice, and the driving position superb. The tilt and telescopic steering column reaches far enough rearward to provide the type of control and comfort I required, due to having a body with proportionally longer legs than torso. The seats were comfortable too, with good lower back support.

Additionally, the rear seating area is very accommodating, even for those in the third row that received comfortable backrests and ample space for feet under the upgraded second-row captain’s chairs in my test model. Those individual second-row chairs allowed space in between to access the rearmost seats, making life easier when kids are aboard. There’s a place for what-have-you plus cupholders to each side, and also good you’ll find third-row vents in the C pillars so rear passengers won’t feel claustrophobic. This in mind, the rear side quarter windows are easy to see out of, and Volkswagen also includes reading lights overhead. I can’t see any child or average-sized person complaining about the Atlas’ rearmost compartment, even during a long trip.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
Retractable side window shades are great for those with small children or elderly parents.

Back to the second-row seating area, VW includes ventilation on the backside of the front console, as well as a digital display for the SUV’s automatic rear temperature control system’s third zone. The only negative about the Atlas’ otherwise excellent HVAC system is that the aforementioned Telluride and Palisade offer quad-zone auto climate control systems. They also make heated and cooled second-row seats available, whereas this VW only included three-way warmers in back, plus the South Korean models get USB charging ports in the third row, this important feature found only in the Atlas’ first and second rows.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The second-row seats flip out of the way to allow easy access to the rearmost compartment.

Volkswagen provides a powered rear door to access the large cargo area, par for the course in this class, which impressively measures 583 litres (20.6 cubic feet) behind the third row, 1,571 litres (55.5 cu ft) behind the second row, and 2,741 litres (96.8 cu ft) when all seats are folded flat.

Lifting up the load floor exposes the usual tire changing equipment and a subwoofer for the audio system, but unexpectedly appreciated was a handy storage location for the retractable cargo cover when not in use. The 50/50-split third row folds down easily and provides a flat loading floor, and while you’ll eventually get a nice, mostly flat loading floor from lowering the second-row seats as well, you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors in order to do so. The Kia and Hyundai competitors provide power-folding rear seats.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The rearmost seats are very roomy compared to most three row SUVs.

As you may have guessed, Volkswagen delivers in spades when taking the Atlas out on the road. The brand has long been respected for endowing its vehicles German performance characteristics at a budget price, and to that end the big SUV’s 3.6-litre V6 really gets up and goes thanks to 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque mated to a smooth and snappy eight-speed automatic transmission. Still, that’s not quite as much oomph as the Telluride and Palisade’s V6, which puts out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque while also conjoined to an eight-speed automatic, and while all three SUVs sport all-wheel drive, the South Koreans weigh about 300 lbs less, so they feel a bit more engaging off the line.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas’ cargo area is very expansive.

That extra weight may be contributing to the Atlas’ less appealing fuel economy, which at a claimed 13.7 L/100km in the city, 10.1 on the highway and 12.1 combined is a bit thirstier than the two Koreans’ 12.3 city, 9.6 highway and 11.1 combined ratings. All of these estimates pale in comparison to the Subaru Ascent’s 11.6 city, 9.0 highway and 10.4 combined rating, mind you, not to mention the Toyota Highlander’s respective 11.7, 8.6 and 10.3 rating, plus the Mazda CX-9’s phenomenal rating of 10.6, 8.4 and 9.6.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
If the Atlas’ cargo capacity isn’t enough for you, consider a full-size SUV like GM’s Tahoe/Yukon.

The Atlas’ handling is better than most in this class, however, prompting me to call this the driver’s SUV of the three-row bunch. This is where its German engineering pays off, even without as much power, and while the two Koreans and most others in this class should keep up through the curves without much effort, the Atlas feels better then pushed hard. Nevertheless, I noticed more interior noise in the Volkswagen than others, and I’m not necessarily talking about road and wind noise, but instead what seemed like the sound of plastic panels chafing up against each other when traveling over rougher roads.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
Along with tire changing tools and the audio system’s subwoofer, VW includes a handy place to store the retractable cargo cover.

To be fair, Volkswagen may have exorcised out some of the gremlins that plagued my tester since introducing the Atlas, so I’ll need to spend a week with a new one in order to learn how it measures up. I certainly appreciate the way it drives, can give it two thumbs way up for exterior styling and interior design, was impressed with its spacious, comfortable cabin, and truly like its advanced electronics, but some tactile and very real quality issues lowered its score, as well as a number of convenience and luxury features that were missing compared to rivals.

All in all, the Atlas is a solid first effort in the highly competitive three-row SUV segment, and I look forward to experiencing any improvements in the new 2021. As far as buying a 2019 model goes, the deep discount now available could make it very worthwhile.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

So, you need to get rid of your old car and want something that looks good, rides high enough to see out of easily, is fun to drive yet provides good ride quality, is easy on fuel, nice and refined inside,…

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum Road Test

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
This fabulous Amazon Blue hue is not available for 2020 and the white roof upgrade has been dropped for 2021, but the great looking XC40 remains more or less unchanged.

So, you need to get rid of your old car and want something that looks good, rides high enough to see out of easily, is fun to drive yet provides good ride quality, is easy on fuel, nice and refined inside, comfortable and roomy from front to back, well stocked with convenient features, and maybe a bit different than every other cookie-cutter appliance roaming the suburbs. I understand your dilemma. How about a Volvo XC40?

You’ve got to admit, this little guy is cute, in a sophisticated, upmarket kind of way. Full disclosure: I actually drove this particular example last year, and its stylish Amazon Blue hue is no longer available, but other than exterior colour choices there were no changes for 2020, while updates to the new 2021 model are minimal as well.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Chunky styling sets the XC40 apart.

I’ll get to those in a moment, but first let’s consider why I think you’ll love the XC40. Styling is objective. You’re either going to like it or not. I happen to like it, but can also appreciate that some folks might want something a little more rugged and tough looking. The XC40 better represents the cute ute category, although it still wears its modernized Volvo heritage proudly, with the brand’s bold new rectangular, crested grille up front and centre, its Thor’s hammer LED headlamps to each side, a sporty front fascia below, and a classic pair of tall “L” shaped LED taillights in back.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Plenty of key Volvo design cues make sure the XC40 pulls off a premium look despite its small dimensions.

Dark grey lower body cladding adds a little muscle to the front corners, down each rocker panel, and along the rear bumper, while Volvo adds some classy satin-silver accenting in key areas. My tester’s optional white roof offsets the lower light blue colour nicely (a black roof comes standard in sportier R-Design trim, if you’d rather go dark), while helping reduce sun-induced interior heat.

This is the base trim, by the way, dubbed Momentum in Volvo speak. It comes well equipped despite now only being offered in standard Black Stone or Ice White and three optional metallics, including Glacier Silver (replacing Bright Silver), Fusion Red, and Onyx Black. Along with Amazon Blue, Osmium Grey was discontinued for 2020. Identical base colours continue forward into 2021, but alas the white roof won’t be available at all. If colour options are important to you, there’s a plethora available in the XC40’s most luxurious Inscription trim.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The LED headlamps and classy aluminum-look accents come standard, but the 19-inch alloys are optional.

A sizeable set of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels on 235/55 all-season tires come standard with the Momentum, and don’t appear to be changing for 2021, but my tester wore sharp looking 19s on grippier 235/50 Michelin all-seasons, also carried forward into next year. They’re attached to a fully independent suspension with aluminium double wishbones in front and a unique integral-link setup featuring a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring in back, which delivered a thoroughly comfortable ride, even with the larger tires. It really feels like a bigger and more substantive vehicle than it is, and not just because its compliant suspension is endowed with ample travel to absorb bumps and dips well, especially in Momentum trim, but its doors and hatch close with a solidity unlike most rivals, plus it’s quite quiet and feels impressively rigid when coursing down the road.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The white roof and panoramic sunroof are optional for 2020, while the silver roof rails are standard.

Speaking of the road ahead, the 2020 XC40 Momentum is available with two versions of a single 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. To be clear, the base T4 powertrain can only be had in this entry-level trim, meaning my tester’s T5 upgrade comes standard with the R-Design and Inscription. The T4 makes 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which should be ample for most subcompact luxury SUV buyers, but the sportier T5’s 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque is best for those wanting considerably more get-up-and-go off the line and when passing.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Classic “L” shaped LED taillights are nicely detailed.

Both engines come mated to an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission as standard, complete with fuel-saving auto start/stop technology that helps the T4 achieve 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined, and the T5 get a 10.7 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined rating, while standard all-wheel drive makes sure you’ll be ready when the white stuff starts falling.

Comfort or Eco driving modes are best used when things get slippery, the Momentum being the only model without an Off-road setting, but take heart that Volvo didn’t forget to include a Dynamic sport mode and a special Individual setting for those who want to extract the most performance possible from the XC40’s drivetrain.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40 Momentum might be the base trim of Volvo’s entry-level model, but it’s still beautifully finished inside.

Dynamic mode engaged, both T5’s I tested went like pocket rockets, jumping off the line and blasting forward with more energy than most in the class. The only performance differentiators from Momentum to R-Design, other than their wheel/tire packages and suspension tuning mentioned earlier, is the lack of paddle shifters for the lesser model, the Momentum not quite as engaging when pushed hard.

I must say it still handles very well, always feeling nicely poised and easily controllable, yet remaining glued to the road amid fast-paced cloverleafs and even quicker runs through tight, twisty S-turns, plus it was plenty of fun during point-and-shoot manoeuvres around town. It also brakes strongly, no matter the situation, and generally feels like a Volvo should, nice and agile, plenty solid, and solidly built.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40’s cockpit is one of the most appealing in its class.

Visibility is excellent thanks to the taller ride height noted before and no shortage of glass in every direction, plus in Volvo tradition the seats are amply adjustable, wonderfully comfortable, and wholly supportive, including good side bolstering as well as extendable lower cushions that cup nicely under the knees.

Now that we’re inside, this base Momentum provides almost the same level of luxury as the R-Design. The front roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, the dash-top and door skins are finished in soft-touch synthetic, the insides of the door pockets are carpeted and large enough to accept a 15-inch laptop as well as a big drink bottle, and the armrests are padded and covered in stitched leather. There’s no pamperingly soft surfacing below the waistline, whether discussing the doors, dash or centre console, the latter merely getting a soft-painted plastic above some carpeting that wraps around its lower portion, but the woven roof liner is high in quality and surrounds a massive optional panoramic glass sunroof with a slick powered translucent fabric sunshade, that’s powered via an overhead console otherwise filled with LED lights resting above a slick looking frameless mirror.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
A fully digital gauge cluster provides a large multi-info display at centre, that can grow even bigger when in use.

Those comforting seats noted a moment ago are upholstered in optional soft leather front to back, and I have to say the rear quarters are generously sized for such a small SUV, even capable of fitting large six-foot-plus passengers with room to spare. Volvo provides a centre folding centre armrest that doubles as a pass-through for stowing longer items like skis down the middle, while the rear seats otherwise fold in the usual 60/40 configuration, expanding cargo capacity from 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) to 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet).

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The infotainment touchscreen is as easy to use as a tablet, and filled with great graphics and loads of features.

Just like in the R-Design, my Momentum tester included a portion of the cargo floor that flips up to divide whatever you’re hauling. The divider itself is topped off by three handy grocery bag hooks that I tested after shopping, and I’m glad to report they worked perfectly.

Speaking of handy, all XC40s include a super useful fold-out hook from the glove box up front, ideal for hanging a waste bag, while the two narrow slots left of the driver’s knee are ideal for gas cards. Yes, this little SUV is as convenient as vehicles come, and really should win some sort of award for thoughtfulness.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Remember, this is a base model, and the switchgear is this impressive.

Either way, its fully digital gauge cluster and vertical tablet-style infotainment touchscreen will likely earn even bigger smiles, as these are some of the best in the class. The former measures 12.3 inches and includes digital versions of an analogue speedometer and tachometer as well as a large centre display showing available navigation directions including detailed mapping and actual road signs, plus phone info and more, all of which expand the centre area while shrinking the primary driving controls for greater visibility when in use. This is top-tier kit normally found in higher trims, so Volvo deserves kudos for making such an excellent driver’s display standard.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Available wireless charging makes topping up your smartphone as easy as putting your phone down.

The 9.0-inch centre touchscreen is Volvo’s Sensus system that’s found in every other model, from this entry-level five-occupant compact SUV right up to the fanciest mid-size, three-row XC90. If you know how to use an Apple iPad or Android-based tablet (or for that matter a smartphone) you’ll feel right at home, and even more so if you take the time to hook up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration, which also comes standard.

The aforementioned navigation system is programmable from here, as is one of the most intelligently organized dual-zone climate control systems I’ve ever used (the base model gets a single-zone system), the interface complete with a brilliant pop-up menu for each zone’s temperature setting and an easily figured out pictograph design for directing ventilation. The audio system sounds good too, and features Bluetooth streaming and satellite radio, while the backup camera is clear and bright, plus incorporates active guidelines for pinpointing a chosen parking space.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40’s advanced 8-speed automatic gearbox gets shifted via this electronic lever, but no paddles in the base model.

A narrow row of nicely crafted switches can be found just below the touchscreen, featuring a hazard lights button and some quick-access HVAC and audio controls, the latter including a beautifully detailed metal volume knob, while to the very right is the previously noted drive mode selector.

Just below is a big compartment capable of stowing a large smartphone with sets of sunglasses to each side, plus a dedicated USB-A charging port as well as one for connecting to the infotainment system just above (that are joined by two more on the backside of the front console), these sidled up beside a classic 12-volt charger.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
This handy little hook flips out of the glove box for hanging what-have-you, just one of many thoughtful conveniences you’re going to love.

Standard features not yet mentioned include remote engine start from a smartphone app, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sensors with a visual indicator on the centre display, Volvo On Call, front and rear collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, all the expected airbags including two for the front occupants knees, and much more, all in a compact luxury SUV that starts at just $39,750 plus freight and fees.

For 2020, the White Contrast Package increases the price by $1,250, the 4-C suspension upgrade adds $1,000, 19-inch alloys adds $975, panoramic sunroof adds $1,000, navigation adds $1,000, harman/kardon premium sound adds $950, the leather upholstery upgrade adds $1,100, and a charcoal headliner adds $250.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Available leather will only set you back $1,100, but really makes the XC40 feel rich.

Additionally, 2020 models can be upgraded with a $2,750 Momentum Plus Package that includes front LED fog lamps with bending/cornering lights, power-folding side mirrors with puddle lights, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, passive keyless access, high-level interior illumination, the dual-zone automatic climate control upgrade mentioned earlier, a Clean Zone air quality system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener and compass, an always appreciated wireless smartphone charger, a heatable steering wheel rim, four-way powered lumbar support, a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, a nifty storage box under the driver’s seat cushion, heated rear outboard seats, a powered liftgate, the handy divider/grocery bag holder mentioned before, and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, which becomes standard for 2021.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The rear seating area is especially roomy and comfortable, even for tall passengers.

Speaking of 2021, the XC40’s options and packages have been modified with a $1,000 Climate Package now available for Momentum trim adding heated wiper blades, the just-noted heated steering wheel and rear seat warmers, all highly recommended for obvious reasons, while a new $1,950 Premium Package includes passive entry with rear liftgate gesture control that only requires a quick kick under the back bumper to operate, plus front parking sensors and the dual-zone auto HVAC system, powered passenger seat, HomeLink universal remote, navigation with road sign information, power-folding rear headrests, grocery bag holder, and under-seat storage mentioned earlier.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The cargo area can be had with this handy divider that includes three grocery bag hooks on top.

Lastly, a $2,200 Advanced Package adds headlamp washers plus the brighter interior lighting and wireless phone charging noted a moment ago, as well as an excellent 360-degree surround parking camera, adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous Pilot Assist driver assistance, and a 12-volt power outlet in cargo area.

Check out CarCostCanada for 2021 and 2020 XC40 pricing information, which includes all of the details above as well as important manufacturer leasing and financing info, rebate updates when available, and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Right now, Volvo Canada is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives for the 2021 XC40 and up to $2,000 in additional incentives for 2020 models. Learn how the CarCostCanada program works now, and remember to download their free app so you can access all this critical info whenever and wherever you need it.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The rear seats fold 60/40, but include a centre pass-through for longer cargo.

I hope you can gather by the detail I’ve provided throughout this review, the XC40 isn’t your average entry-level SUV. Its thoughtful touches, artful design and overall liveability set it apart from all competitors, and when combined with an easy-going demeanour on the road, that can get mighty fiery when called upon, it’s easily one of the best offerings in its class all around. I highly recommend it.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Did you see the new Z (check out the gallery above)? The Z Proto, which dropped on September 16, isn’t production ready, but its level of interior detail, its prototype-referencing name (prototypes…

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo Road Test

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Still looking good after all these years, the 370Z is even more attractive in top-line Nismo trim.

Did you see the new Z (check out the gallery above)? The Z Proto, which dropped on September 16, isn’t production ready, but its level of interior detail, its prototype-referencing name (prototypes normally refer to near production cars, rather than concepts that may only be built to gauge public reaction to a proposed design language or garner some press for a brand while having a little fun), and Nissan’s history of building production vehicles that closely resemble their prototypes/concepts, make it appear more like the real deal than merely a dream car. Either way one thing is clear, the 2020 370Z Nismo I’m reviewing here has quickly become last year’s news, if not the last decade’s news.

Unfair? That’s what I’ll try to determine in this review. After all, if you’re reading this review, you’re obviously still interested in a car that’s been around for a very long time. Nothing I can tell you here will be any different than what I could’ve told you a couple of years ago, other than news you may have missed about the 2020 370Z 50th Anniversary model, that gets two, thick diagonal stripes on each door along with special badging and some other nice extras.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Nismo trim adds black and red trim details along with more aggressive bodywork.

Nice, but I’m reviewing a Nismo, which is the best Z currently available. Its seasoned 3.7-litre V6 gets an extra 18 horsepower over lesser trims’ 332 for a total of 350, plus 6 more lb-ft of torque for a maximum of 276, and can only be had with a six-speed manual gearbox, a seven-speed automatic with paddles available in lesser trims. This is a performance purist’s machine after all, so why bother with a slush-box?

It costs a lot more than the $30,498 base Z too, at $48,998, but for that money you get special red and black accented trim, a gorgeous set of 19-inch Nismo Rays forged alloy wheels wrapped in 245/40YR19 front and 285/35YR19 rear Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT600 performance tires, a Nismo-tuned suspension setup comprised of increased spring, dampening and stabilizer rates, front and rear performance dampers, a reinforced three-point front strut tower brace, and a rear underbody V-brace, plus a Nismo-tuned free-flow dual exhaust system with an H-pipe configuration.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
We’ll never see LED headlights on this generation of Z car.

Fabulous black leather Recaro sport seats with red perforated Alcantara inserts and harness slots on their backrests are included too, as well as numerous comfort and convenience features pulled up from lower trims, a shortlist including auto on/off HID headlamps, LED DRLs, LED taillights, proximity entry with pushbutton start/stop, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated backup monitor, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, automatic climate control with an in-cabin micro-filter, navigation with SiriusXM NavTraffic, Bose audio with satellite radio, a USB port, and much more.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Gorgeous 19-inch Nismo Rays wheels frame upgraded performance brakes.

For all points and purposes the 2020 370Z Nismo is a great value proposition, that is until factoring in its age. In automotive terms its 11 years without a significant update make it ancient. In the entire consumer industry, Nissan’s own Frontier pickup truck is the only vehicle that’s has lasted longer, having arrived in 2004. A new Frontier is expected sometime in the near future, as is the redesigned Z noted earlier, and both will likely be much pricier than the vehicles they replace due to more sophisticated body shells, powertrains and electronic interfaces. The big question is whether the introduction of the new 400Z, as most are starting to call it, will cause today’s 370Z values to crash or, alternatively, allow them to hold in place thanks to the current model’s reasonably priced range. There’s no way this can be predicted, so we’re left with the gamble of choosing an ultra-old-school sports car that’s soon to be replaced.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
LED taillights are standard, but the Nismo badge denotes something truly special.

Still, it’s a very good car with plenty to offer performance fans. Acceleration is strong, with its zero to 100 km/h time coming in under five seconds, which might seem like a laggard when put side-by-side with a GT-R Nismo that achieves the same in the low threes, but it’s still pretty good. Likewise, where the GT-R Nismo tops out at 321 km/h (200 mph), the 370Z Nismo hits its terminal velocity at a respectable 286 km/h (178 mph). Nothing wrong with that.

Fortunately braking is equally impressive, thanks to four-piston opposed aluminum front calipers clamping down on 14- by 1.3-inch vented discs, and two-piston calipers biting into 13.8- by 0.8-inch rotors in back, plus high-rigidity brake hoses and R35 Special II brake fluid. Stomp down on the centre pedal and speed gets scrubbed off quickly, but I recommend doing so in a straight line as the car’s 1581-kg (3,486-lb) mass can be a bit unsettling when diving too deeply into a corner without reducing speed enough first.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
The Nismo provides nice detailing from front to rear.

Of course, this can be said for a long list of performance cars, many of which cost a great deal more than this Z. Hidden below the shapely bodywork is a double-wishbone suspension in front and four-link design in the rear that collectively ride smoothly considering the higher spring and stabilizer bar rates, plus stiffer roll calibrations and increased damping levels. The Nismo even gets a 0.6-inch wider track than non-Nismo trims, which together with a carbon-fibre composite driveshaft and viscous limited slip differential that come standard across the range, add to that planted feel I noted earlier.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
The 370Z interior, filled with plush suede-like Alcantara, leather and stitched, soft-touch surfaces, is quite refined.

All of this is great, but the aforementioned six-speed manual is even better. It features SynchroRev Match, a technology that instantly spins engine revs up to the ideal rotation in order to synch up with the upcoming downward gear before it arrives, as if perfectly blipping the throttle yourself. It makes any driver feel and sound like a pro, and provides a nice, clean engine-transmission match-up in order to minimize drivetrain jolt. Shifter feel is excellent too, with a wonderfully tight, crisp, notchy feel and positive engagement, while clutch take-up is superb, and the overall pedal arrangement ideal for applying the right-foot’s heel and toe simultaneously on the brake and throttle, a useful technique for modulating engine revs when braking into a corner.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Old-school, but still very nice. The entire gauge cluster tilts with the steering wheel too, but the column offers no telescopic ability.

Those pedals are aluminum with rubber grips, incidentally, and look great, Nissan even finishing the dead pedal in vertically striped brightwork. There’s more brushed and bright metal throughout the cabin, but the theme is more of a red on black affair, the Nismo getting crimson red thread highlighting most of its key visual points, not to mention a red centring stripe at the top of the leather and psuede steering wheel rim, red gauge accents and those fiery red ultra-suede seat inserts mentioned earlier.

Suede-like Alcantara trims off the door inserts and armrests too, not to mention the sides of the lower centre stack, the latter protecting inside knees from chafing, while the dash top and door uppers were nicely wrapped in a thickly padded stitched leatherette for a premium feel. Following that theme is red-stitched leatherette flowing around the gearshift lever, and no I’m not just talking about the boot. Nissan actually finishes the top of the lower console in what appears like leather, making the car feel more like a luxury-lined Maxima than anything so sporty.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
We love the ancillary gauges… even the digital clock.

Back to those lightweight Recaro sport seats, along with superb support all over, their backrests get a set shoulder harness holes that look fabulous. The driver’s seat is eight-way adjustable and the passenger’s just four, and true to its performance mission these aren’t power-adjustable, but instead require hand-wrenching via a set of dials in the usual positions. Once set they deliver the goods, but those with oddly shaped bodies (like mine that has longer legs than arms) might find the steering column’s lack of telescopic reach disconcerting. This forced me to twist my seatback rake farther forward than I would normally have liked off the track in order to maintain optimal control, but it was never uncomfortable, just not as comfortable as it could’ve been.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
The next-generation Z will update the infotainment display, which is much needed.

If merely offering tilt steering wasn’t already enough of a faux pas, the 370Z’s gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen are throwbacks to a bygone era. The former is actually quite nice for any lover of classic sports cars, thanks to a lovely set of analogue dials that include a centre-mounted tach and a right-side speedo, plus a tiny little red liquid-crystal display for the odometer (yah, an LCD, just like anyone old enough will remember from their high school calculator or better yet, early ‘70s digital watch, while the circular binnacle on the left is filled with two bizarre rows of tiny red diodes that light up to show the fuel tank level and engine temperature. This hover above and below another red readout, but this time more of a heavily-pixelated monochromatic Minecraft encounter trying to double as multi-information display, albeit with less convincing graphics.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
The 370Z’s six-speed shifter is superb.

Comparatively the centre touchscreen is advanced tech, but don’t get too excited just yet. Features include navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a number of car settings, but it’s displayed with yesteryear’s resolution quality, processing speed and graphic designs. My recommendation is to use its functions as required, because all work reasonably well, and then rest your eyes on the always wonderful row of ancillary oil pressure and voltmeter dials (plus a digital clock) just above (the upcoming Z Proto is showing off a boost gauge within its hooded threesome, hinting at the twin-turbo V6 ahead of the firewall).

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Some cargo capacity is better than none at all, and the 370Z’s liftback design allows for easy access.

Cargo space isn’t the 370Z’s forte, but you should be able to throw in a weekend’s worth of bags for two if you pack light. Forget the clubs, of course, and don’t even think about going camping, the sporty Nissan’s gear-toting capacity just 195 litres (6.9 cu ft).

Nissan is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives on 2020 370Zs, by the way, this useful info found at CarCostCanada that also provides info about available manufacturer rebates that dealers won’t necessarily tell you about, plus leasing and financing deals, and best of all dealer invoice pricing, or more specifically, the actual price your dealer pays for the car. This way you’ll know how far you can drive down the discount before even entering the dealership. I recommend learning how the CarCostCanada system works, and downloading their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Check out this gorgeous engine cover and fabulous three-point front strut tower brace.

Getting a new 370Z for less than $30k would be quite the bargain, or for that matter lopping a couple of grand off the price of this Nismo model, or one of the 2020 370Z 50th Anniversary editions if any are still available. None provide fresh styling or new-edge tech, but each one looks great, delivers superb performance and pampers with a reasonable level of refinement.

Photos and story by Trevor Hofmann

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer…

2020 BMW M5 Road Test

2020 BMW M5
The 2020 M5 is a tad more subdued than the refreshed 2021 model replacing it, so if you like subtler styling snap one of these ones up while you can.

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer back in ’96 (that eventually became Canada’s top seller) was selling his pre-owned E34 M5. The car was gorgeous, wickedly fast and semi-exotic, or at least as exotic as a four-door sport sedan could get.

I ended up working for that BMW dealership almost every day during the slow months in my seasonal business, because I was already a customer. I’d previously owned a wonderful ’74 Bavaria 3.0S and a bulletproof ‘82 528e, and was driving a little 325e while working there, so appreciated taking home whatever they’d give me on the pre-owned lot; a little green E36 325is being a regular that summer. I liked it so much, in fact, that I ordered my then-wife a brand new ‘96 325i Cabriolet with the factory aluminum hardtop. After missing out on the E34 M5 that went for silly money (or so I thought at the time), I settled for a similarly sleek ’89 E34 525i that was at least a step up in performance from my old, boxy Eta engine-powered 3 and 5 (albeit nowhere near as reliable).

2020 BMW M5
Muscular yet still discreet, the M5 is an ideal performance-oriented commuter.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to unfulfilled dreams, particularly with respect to the cars we enthusiasts initially wanted and the ones we settled for, that list a lot longer and more painful than I want to delve into right now, but at least after becoming an automotive pundit I earned the opportunity to drive some of the best cars ever made, some of which wore BMW roundels. Certainly, the various weeks spent with numerous M5s or an even better four days in Bavaria’s fabulous Z8 don’t quite measure up to the Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Ford GT, Porsche Carrera GT, Bugatti, etcetera I’ve driven over the years (although the Z8 was one of the prettiest of them all), but truth be told I’d choose the M5 to drive every day.

2020 BMW M5
The 2020 M5’s design is even more alluring when viewed close up.

BMW’s quintessential sport sedan has been a go-to conveyance for well-heeled commuters for three dozen years, with engine output having increased from 256 horsepower in the North American-spec E28 version to a stellar 617 in this year’s Competition model. The regular 2020 M5 makes do with “just” 600, which is good for a 3.4-second blast from standstill to 100 km/h, while the Competition knocks another 0.1 seconds off the clock.

Of course, if all that any of us wanted were straight-line performance we’d buy an old Fox-bodied Mustang, stuff a 5.2-litre crate engine into it and hit the strip (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The M5 has become legendary for how it bends its sizeable four-door body through curves, initially for being first this side of a Maserati Quattroporte and a few other exotics to do so, and second for being comparably affordable.

2020 BMW M5
Sizeable performance brakes mean the M5 stops much faster than its obvious mass suggests.

Times have changed and you can now get into a four-door Maserati for less than an M5, but I’ll delve into such minutia in a moment or two. For now, after noting the base M5’s 176 horsepower and 1.3-second to 100 km/h advantage, while admitting Maserati will soon ante up with a more potent Ghibli Trofeo that’s 20 hp shy of the entry-level M5 before even getting out of the gates, and without getting thrust into the deep comparison void that obviously includes AMG-Mercedes’ E63 S, Audi’s RS 6 (oddly only available as an Avant wagon), Cadillac’s CT6-V and Lexus’ GS F (although the American and Japanese entrants will soon be ranked alongside other discontinued super sedans such as Jaguar’s XF RS), I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the Bimmer is the most capable of its class members in the corners too.

2020 BMW M5
The M5’s front fender engine vents are stylishly discreet.

It feels lighter and more agile when pushed hard, more E39-like than the F10’s somewhat cumbersome road manners, the carbon fibre roof and other nips and tucks slicing a critical 45 kilos (100 lbs) or so from its predecessor’s curb weight. All-wheel drive keeps all the aforementioned power at bay, and the eight-speed transmitting torque to the wheels shifts much quicker than any conventional automatic should.

A bright red “M2” button on the right-side steering wheel spoke triggers Sport+ mode, which eliminates a bevy of safety features in its default setting, resulting in lickety-split launches and even some power-induced oversteer when the car’s rear drive-biased underpinnings are coaxed beyond containment. Of course, such shenanigans should only be attempted on a track, particularly when having designs to attain the M5’s 305 km/h (190 mph) terminal velocity.

2020 BMW M5
This carbon fibre roof combined with other weight reduction efforts to drop the current M5’s curb weight by 45 kilos.

Out on the road, preferably a rural one that winds and undulates like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey, get ready to dust off slower moving traffic as if it’s floating in stasis. Passing power borders on the ridiculous, with braking force so strong you’ll hardly need to worry about fast-approaching curves. The rate this car can gobble up tarmac is hard to fathom until experiencing it first hand, and that it does so comfortably is even more amazing. Of course, it hardly rides on BMW’s most cosseting suspension setup, yet while firm it’s far from unpleasant.

2020 BMW M5
This working rear diffuser looks aggressive, as does the M5’s quad of exhaust pipes.

The cabin is a cocoon silent too, other than the ideal amount of combined engine and exhaust note, a critical ingredient for petrolheads buying into this high-powered class. This quiet demeanor will be especially appreciated during everyday driving when you’re more likely to leave its sport modes off and turn the 1,400-watt, 16-speaker, 10-amplified-channel Bowers and Wilkins surround audio system up, and believe me the sound quality is almost as awe-inspiring as the driving experience.

2020 BMW M5
The M5’s interior quality is second to none.

More on that just-noted M2 button, it’s combined with an M1 button on the left-side spoke, both featuring pre-set sport settings with the option of personalizing them for your specific driving taste. I tend to like a combination of suspension compliance and engine/transmission eagerness, so to speak, the latter for obvious reasons and the former to overcome the poorly kept country backroads that allow me to test a car like this to its maximum (ok, for the record I was nowhere near the M5’s maximum, but out in the boonies I was able to experience much of its capability when safe to do so). I chose to set my M1 button up like that, and added firmer suspension setting to the M2 button, so when the road smoothed out, I could quickly switch over to maximize Gs. I increased shifting speed from D2 to D3 in M2 mode too, turned off the DSC, and more.

2020 BMW M5
The M5’s cockpit is very well sorted out for optimal comfort, control and ease of use.

The M5’s gauge cluster is perfect for those who want a full digital experience while still maintaining some semblance of analogue design, this due to a set of aluminum rings wrapping the tachometer and speedometer screens. This doesn’t allow the complete takeover of a navigation map, for instance, which is a cool feature offered by other manufacturers, but most should find the large multi-info display at centre large enough for such purposes. No shortage of functions can fill the MID, all scrollable via steering wheel controls, while the system’s graphics and display quality is top notch.

2020 BMW M5
M1 and M2 buttons allow immediate access to personalized performance settings.

As for the main infotainment touchscreen on top of the centre stack, it was good enough for my needs, although gets better for 2021, growing by more than two inches for a new total of 12.3 inches. And you heard me right, by the way, it is a touchscreen and therefore is as easy to use as a tablet or smartphone, but BMW continues to provide its rotating iDrive controller on the lower console, so spin the dial if you prefer or alternatively tap, swipe and pinch to your heart’s content.

2020 BMW M5
The M5’s widescreen infotainment touchscreen will grow by more than two inches for 2021.

I did my fair share of tapping and pinching elsewhere around the cabin too, my incessant quality checks annoying enough to drive a previous significant other nuts (hence, previous). Suffice to say the M5 offers up one of the nicest interiors in the super sedan segment, with some of the best quality materials available and workmanship that should make anyone proud. I mentioned the Bowers and Wilkins stereo already, so I might as well laud the system’s beautiful drilled aluminum speaker grilles first, as they’re lovely. The plenty of other metalwork throughout the interior, some accents made from brushed aluminum and others from bright, while glossy carbon fibre could be found in key locations, as could exquisitely stitched leathers.

2020 BMW M5
These are some of the best sport seats in this super sedan class.

The front seats are gorgeous and wholly comfortable, with more support than any other BMW product I’ve tested, and at least as much as its competitors. They boast complete adjustability including extendable lower cushions, while the driving position was superb thanks to a generous supply of steering column reach. Those in back should be comfortable enough, as long as they’re seated next to the windows, with the entire rear compartment finished to the same high quality as the front compartment. Lastly, the M5’s trunk is large and accommodating, plus best of all its usefulness can be expanded via 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.

2020 BMW M5
The rear seating area is generous for the class.

If you like the 2020 M5’s styling you’re not alone, as the car has been a relative hit. This said the 2021 M5 will undergo some visual surgery, squaring off a slightly enlarged grille, modifying the headlights and tail lamps, plus tweaking some other design details as well. Most should be ok with the changes, but those happy with the 2020 might want to snap one up while they can. This said, BMW isn’t offering any greater deal with the 2020 model, at least not yet, with both 2020 and 2021 models available with up to $1,500 in additional incentives, according to CarCostCanada. Check out the 2020 BMW M5 Canada Prices page and 2021 BMW M5 Canada Prices page for more info, plus find out how you can access all the available incentives on the M5 and most other cars available on the Canadian market, including rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Also, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can access all of this critical decision-making info on the fly.

2020 BMW M5
BMW’s M division does engine beautification well.

The 2020 M5 starts at $115,300 plus freight and fees for the base car and $123,000 for the Competition model, while the 2021 M5 only comes in Competition trim, but has surprisingly gone down in price to just $121,000. Performance is unchanged, which means the 2021 M5 continues forward as one of the fastest four-door sedans on the planet, as well as one of the nicest to live with.

 

 

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

I promised myself not to harp on Ford for giving up on the midsize pickup truck market segment eight or so years ago, because they know how much that decision has cost them better than any critic, so…

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4 Road Test

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Ranger is a great looking truck, even without some of the more rugged trims offered in foreign markets.

I promised myself not to harp on Ford for giving up on the midsize pickup truck market segment eight or so years ago, because they know how much that decision has cost them better than any critic, so let’s just say it’s great to have them back as a key competitor to Toyota’s Tacoma, Chevy’s Colorado, GMC’s Canyon, Jeep’s new Gladiator (the latter of which more than makes up for the loss of the Dakota that Dodge/Ram should nevertheless bring back as well), Honda’s Ridgeline, and (speaking of not investing in this market for the past decade) Nissan’s Frontier.

2020 Ford Ranger Wildtrak
This Wildtrak has been the sportiest Ranger trim available in some global markets over the past five or so years (more photos of the Wildtrak in the gallery).

This said, when first laying eyes on it in the Philippines about five years ago, I quickly understood why Ford chose not to initially import this Australian-designed and Thailand/South Africa/Argentina/Nigeria/Vietnam-built third-generation (fourth-gen to us) Ranger T6 to its North American markets. The mid-size truck is big. Instead of completely retooling the previous Ranger’s St. Paul, Minnesota and Edison, New Jersey assembly plants to accept the entirely new design, Ford felt it could fill the outgoing Ranger’s void with a lower priced F-150. This was true to a point, but the lack of a small truck to suit differing tastes also opened up a hole in Ford’s lineup that was quickly filled by the trucks mentioned above.

2020 Ford Ranger Raptor
For obvious reasons, plenty of North American blue-oval fans are trying to persuade Ford to sell its global-market Ranger Raptor here (more photos of the Raptor in the gallery).

To be clear, the new mid-size Ranger, while considerably larger than the old compact one, is nevertheless dwarfed by even the smallest 13th-generation F-150, a truck that will soon be replaced by the 2021 14th-gen version that grows a bit larger in some dimensions. As it currently is, the 2020 F-150 SuperCab 4×4 with its 6.5-foot box measures 536 mm (21.1 in) lengthier with a 462-mm (18.2-in) longer wheelbase, 167 mm (6.6 in) wider, and about 155 mm (6.1 in) taller than a similarly configured 2020 Ranger SuperCab 4×4, while the F-150 SuperCrew takes up even more real estate comparably.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Canadian-spec Ranger, showing here in mid-range XLT SuperCrew 4×4 trim, provides a rugged appearance and a lot of value.

Our Canadian-spec Ranger T6 measures 5,354 mm (210.8 in) long with a 3,221-mm (126.8-in) wheelbase, 1,862 mm (73.3 in) wide without mirrors, and a respective 1,806/1,816 mm (71.1/71.5 in) tall for the SuperCab/SuperCrew, by the way, which is actually a smidge shorter than the best-selling Tacoma (and a lot shorter than the long-wheelbase Toyota pickup), plus its narrower albeit a hair’s height taller, so it’s not like the Ranger T6 isn’t an ideal fit for the North American mid-size pickup truck market, now or back in 2011 when it debuted throughout the rest of the world.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The tough mid-size pickup can haul heavier loads than some competitors.

The Ranger is Ford’s primary pickup in most global markets, unlike here in North America where F-Series trucks dominate all blue-oval deliveries, not to mention the production of all competitive pickups. The current third-gen global Ranger, that’s now built in Wayne, Michigan, and available to us as of model year 2019, is actually a nicely facelifted version of a Ranger T6 introduced back in 2015, so even this refreshed truck is no spring chicken.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Sport Appearance package darkens some exterior trim for more performance-oriented styling.

Still, the current third-gen Tacoma has been around a while too (it arrived in 2015), so it’s not like the Ranger, updated the same year, feels in any way outdated, while its powertrain was totally revamped for its 2019 debut in North America. Looking back, the first version that caught my eye was the particularly attractive Ranger Wildtrak found in Asian markets (check out the Wildtrak in the gallery above), but most will probably see the newer Ranger Raptor as the model’s most desirable trim. So far Ford of Canada hasn’t announced this smaller Raptor for our market (we’ve got more Ranger Raptor photos in the gallery), leaving us with base XL, mid-range as-tested XLT, and top-tier Lariat trims.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Only the top-line Ranger Lariat gets LED headlamps, these XLT lights composed of halogen bulbs.

My test truck was an XLT SuperCrew 4×4 in eye-catching Lightning Blue paint, which when optioned up with an available Sport Appearance package and FX4 Off-Road package, looked mighty good, if not as aggressive as the two foreign models. The Sport Appearance package adds a darkened grille surround and Magnetic-Painted (dark-grey) 17-inch alloy wheels to the exterior, plus a leather-clad steering wheel and shifter to the interior, plus power-folding side mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror inside. These are both included in the 302A package, incidentally, while a Bed Utility package added the drop-in bedliner and 12-volt in-bed power adaptor, and an FX4 package added those sweet looking red and grey/black decals on the rear sides of the box.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The FX4 package adds rugged skid plates to key areas, necessary for protection when off-roading.

Of course, there’s a great deal more to the FX4 package than a couple of cool stickers, such as specially tuned off-road monotube shocks, a set of rugged 265/56 Hankook Dynapro AT-M tires, an electronically locking rear differential, Trail Control, that lets you set a given speed between 1 and 30 km/h to crawl over rugged terrain via throttle and braking management, and a Terrain Management System that, via Grass, Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, or Sand modes, utilizes all of the Ranger’s off-road technologies to overcome light to extreme trail surfaces. Additionally, the FX4 package includes a steel front bash plate below the front bumper, plus skid plates cover the electric power steering system, the transfer case, and the fuel tank. Lastly, the FX4 package lets the Ranger’s driver monitor pitch, roll and steering angle info from inside.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
These darkened 17-inch rims come as part of the Sport Appearance package.

Setting the Ranger 4×4’s high and/or low gearing ratios is ultra-easy thanks to a rotating dial on the lower console next to the standard SelectShift 10-speed automatic’s shift lever. Yes, we counted correctly. The Ranger comes standard with 10 forward gears, which is the most offered in its class. This, along with standard auto start-stop that turns the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, provides the Ranger with segment-leading 11.8 city, 9.8 highway and 10.9 L/100km fuel economy too, which is mighty impressive.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
A stylish front fender plate denotes the Ranger’s trim levels.

We shouldn’t expect this kind of economy when off-road, but it should still allow you to go deeper into the woods (or desert) than its non-diesel competitors, which is saying something. What’s more, its 226 mm (8.9 inches) of ground clearance, while not as lofty as the Tacoma’s 239-mm (9.4-in) capability, should get you over most rocks and roots, while its 28.7/25.4-degree approach/departure angles will likely do the same through deep ruts and muddy swamps (the Tacoma’s approach/departure are a respective 29 or 32 to 23 degrees front to rear, depending on trim).

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
4×4 fans will want to order the FX4 package, which adds a lot more than just these stylish decals.

All of this suspension travel results in a comfortable ride, at least as far as body-on-frame trucks go. It feels pretty tight through fast-paced corners too, again as far as pickups are concerned, not exactly the best for snaking quickly through the slalom. Still, the Ranger’s standard 2.3-litre turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder is a blast off the line and anywhere else you step on it, thanks to 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, the former a bit less than the Tacoma’s power output yet the latter substantially more.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Ranger XLT’s interior is nicely put together.

The aforementioned 10-speed autobox runs through its gears quickly enough, allowing for good performance all-round, and I have to say it was smoother in this Ranger than in a turbo-four Mustang I previously tested, while the rocker switch integrated onto the shift knob was once again a good way to manually swap cogs.

Activating the Sport setting is the best way to improve performance, this allowing higher engine revs between shifts for stronger acceleration, while the transmission even held onto its chosen gear when hitting redline, very unusual yet a welcome feature when pushing the limit on pavement, not to mention holding a given gear when off-road.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Nice silver trim and attractive cloth seats add some sporty class to the XLT interior.

In order to maintain its sporty feel and ultimate safety through fast-paced corners, Ford employs Curve Control that detects when a driver enters a turn too quickly, and then adjusts the Ranger’s speed by reducing engine torque, adding braking and increasing stability control automatically. This feature might make you feel a bit more comfortable when lending your truck to a teenage child or employee.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Hardly a new design for Ford, the Ranger XLT’s instrument cluster is nevertheless advanced for the mid-size pickup truck segment.

Together with that nice ride mentioned a moment ago, the Ranger XLT 4×4 I tested provided impressive comfort and plenty of interior room front to back. The model in question came with Ford’s largest SuperCrew cab, which includes regular full-size doors in the rear, as well as more second-row legroom. A smaller SuperCab body is standard Ranger fare, with both configurations available in XL and XLT trims, and the top-line Lariat only offered with as a SuperCrew.

The smaller SuperCab has a longer six-foot bed, incidentally, while my as-tested SuperCrew uses a five-foot bed. Also important is the Ranger’s 707-kilogram (1,560-lb) payload, which is much better than the Tacoma’s 425- to 520-kg (937- to 1,146-lb) payload rating, as is the Ranger’s 7,500 lbs (3,402 kg) of towing capacity, which beats the Toyota by 502 kg (1,107 lbs). Trailer sway control is standard, by the way.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
Ford’s Sync3 touchscreen interface is still advanced compared to many competitors, despite being around for a long time as far as infotainment systems go.

Speaking of standard, the base Ranger XL SuperCab starts at $32,159 plus freight and fees, which is an increase of $1,090 from the same model in 2019, while an XLT SuperCab can now be had for $36,529 or $38,329 for the as-tested XLT SuperCrew, but seeing a price increase of $890 since last year. Lastly, the Lariat SuperCrew is now available from $42,619, which is only an increase of $230.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The display gets inverted for nighttime operation.

Incidentally, CarCostCanada is showing factory leasing and financing rates from 0.99 percent on their 2020 Ford Ranger Canada Prices page, plus up to $4,000 in additional incentives on 2019 models. Before speaking with your local Ford retailer, make sure to check CarCostCanada to learn more about available rates from all brands, plus manufacturer rebates and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Also, make sure to download the free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple Store so you can access all of their valuable information anytime and anywhere you need it.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The infotainment system’s graphics look great and its functions are ultra-easy to use.

The Ranger’s pricing structure compares very well to this year’s Tacoma, incidentally, which has rocketed up in price by $5,625 from $31,825 last year to a new base of $37,450 for the 2020 Access Cab and $38,450 for the 2020 Double Cab, due to losing its 4×2 drivetrain in Canada, while its top-line Limited trim starts at $50,750. Yes, the Japanese truck is in an entirely different pricing league, but give the Ranger a little more time (plus King Ranch, Platinum, Limited and/or Raptor versions) and it will likely catch up.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The shifter gets a manual-mode button on its knob, while choosing 4H or 4L is as easy as twisting a console-mounted dial.

As it is, the current Lariat model adds exterior chrome detailing, LED headlights, and front parking sensors to the XLT’s rear ones, as well as passive keyless access with a pushbutton ignition system, illuminated vanity mirrors, a universal garage door opener, three-way heated front seats with eight-way power, leather upholstery, etcetera.

Features as yet unmentioned on the XLT include 17-inch alloy wheels (in place of 16-inch steel rims from the base model), fog lights, carpeting with carpeted floor mats (the base XL truck’s flooring is rubber), six-speaker audio, auto high beams, lane keeping assist, and more, while a Technology package adds navigation and adaptive cruise control.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Ranger XLT’s driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive, while its driver positioning is excellent.

As for the base XL, notable features include auto on/off headlamps, a four-speaker stereo, a USB charge port, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, a capless fuel filler, plus a pre-collision system with automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert.

While only a mid-range truck, my Ranger XLT tester offered up a well put together interior with comparably good fit and finish. If you’re wondering whether this praise includes pampering padded leatherette or even soft-touch synthetic surface treatments, don’t look any further than the armrests and seat upholstery, the latter finished in a woven black fabric dressed up with sporty cream-coloured contrast stitching.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The SuperCrew’s rear passenger compartment is roomy and comfortable for average sized adults.

The driver’s seat featured two-way powered lumbar support that actually fit the small of my back ideally, a rare occasion for sure, while the Ranger XLT’s overall driving position was very good thanks to more than ample reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column. It includes a comfortably cushy leather-clad rim, while all controls fell easily to hand.

As is the case with all competitors, the Ranger utilizes a cluster of backlit analogue gauges for optimal visibility no matter the exterior light. The differentiator are its aqua-blue pointers that look particularly refreshing, while a high-resolution, full-colour 4.2-inch multi-information display beats most rivals when it comes to wow factor and functionality.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The rear lower seat cushion flips up to make room for cargo.

Speaking of dash flash, a strip of pewter-tone trim brightens up the dash on each side of those primary instruments and ahead of the front passenger, not to mention the upper door panels, while the just-mentioned gauge pointers nicely match the soft blue background of Ford’s 8.0-inch Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen atop the centre stack of this XLT and Lariat models. Even after all the years Ford has offered this system, I still find it graphically attractive and quite advanced due to tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch gesture capability, the inclusion of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, and myriad audio features such as satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, etcetera, while my test model included a navigation system that got me where I was going more than once, plus XM travel link, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a reverse parking camera with dynamic guidelines.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
An available drop-in cargo liner will keep the bed’s paint scratch free.

Now that we’re looking rearward, the Ranger SuperCrew’s second row of seats is certainly roomier than in the SuperCab, and therefore quite comfortable, especially in the window seats, but this mid-range model isn’t as well featured as some rival trucks. I’m not talking about a lack of rear seat warmers, these normally only offered in top-line trims, but Ford doesn’t even provide rear air vents. At least XLT and Lariat owners receive a pair of USB-A charge points on the rear panel of the front centre console, plus a handy 110-volt household-style power outlet.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4x4
The Ranger’s standard 2.3-litre turbo-four simultaneously makes this truck the sportiest and most fuel-efficient in the mid-size class.

Then again, my Ranger XLT didn’t come standard with integrated bumper steps for climbing up on the bed, such as those provided on GM’s trucks, but you can pay extra for a really nice kick-down step from the blue-oval accessories catalogue, an item high on my list of extras for sure.

Although a long time coming, I think the wait was worth it. Yes, that means I have no problem recommending the Ranger to anyone looking for a mid-size pickup truck, as it looks and feels well made, has excellent electronic interfaces, is roomy and comfortable, and is plenty of fun to drive. I think Ford would be wise to bring the sportier Ranger Raptor to our market too, plus other more luxurious models in order to price it higher and attract more premium buyers, but they’ve got a relative hit on their hands as it is, so we’ll need to wait to see how they want to play our market. I’m betting they’ll quickly expand the Ranger range and give sport truck and luxury buyers what they want, instead of potentially losing profits to mid-size truck competitors.

Review and photos: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

If you’re the adventurous type and therefore require something to get you as far into (and out of) the wilderness as possible, there might be more options than you think amongst mainstream volume brands.…

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition Road Test

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Toyota’s new Venture Edition is one of the most 4×4-focused versions of its 2020 4Runner.

If you’re the adventurous type and therefore require something to get you as far into (and out of) the wilderness as possible, there might be more options than you think amongst mainstream volume brands.

Jeep is the go-to-choice for many, its regular-wheelbase Wrangler, four-door Wrangler Unlimited and new Gladiator pickup truck being favourites within the go-anywhere crowd, while Ford has finally anted up with the long-awaited Bronco in regular and lite Sport flavours. Toyota and Nissan have opted out of this compact segment, however, so their respective FJ Cruiser and Xterra SUVs can only be purchased on the pre-owned market.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The 4Runner is long and therefore fully capable of hauling loads of cargo and passengers.

Jeep’s much more refined Grand Cherokee is also respected off the beaten path, but it’s larger, more upscale and therefore pricier than the SUVs just mentioned, while Dodge and Ford provide their Durango and Explorer utilities in this upper class respectively, albeit with limited 4×4 capability.

If you’re willing to move up to something larger, heavier and even more expensive, the full-size Nissan Armada is certainly trail-ready thanks to being nearly identical to the legendary world-market Patrol. Speaking of legendary and large, Toyota’s Land Cruiser is thought by many to be the ultimate 4×4, but it’s not directly available in Canada and quite pricey as well, causing some in the super-sized SUV segment to opt for the Japanese brand’s Tundra-based Sequoia instead.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The 4Runner still looks good after all these years.

Alternatively, more full-size utility buyers will choose a Ford Expedition or one of the General’s Chevy Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon/Yukon XL twins, all of which are as good for transporting a sizeable family with all their gear across town, as they’re capable of seeking out remote campsites at the ends of unmaintained logging roads.

Then there’s the Toyota 4Runner, a good compromise between full-size and compact utilities. As for its 4×4 prowess, those not already familiar with the 4Runner’s superb off-road capability can gain confidence by learning it’s based off of the global-market Land Cruiser Prado (redesigned and sold as the Lexus GX here), so it comes by its rock-crawling tenacity naturally.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The Venture Edition includes some nice 4×4-read features.

Of course, every time I get a 4Runner I put it to the test. This is when I’m glad that Toyota hasn’t made it the most technologically advanced 4×4 on the market, but rather stayed with tried and true (some would say archaic) components. Instead of utilizing a modern eight-speed automatic transmission, its gearbox incorporates just five forward speeds, which according to all the mechanics I’ve ever spoken to means there are three fewer things to go wrong. The first use of this ECT-i five-speed automatic with overdrive in a light truck application was for the 2004 4Runner model year when it came mated to Toyota’s fabulous 4.7-litre V8 (that’s a version I’d love to pick up), Toyota having replaced its old four-speed auto with this five-speed across the line the following year.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Sharp looking 17-inch TRD alloys combine with 265/70 Bridgestone Dueller H/T mud-and-snow tires, a good road/trail compromise.

The 4.0-litre “1GR” V6 under the hood is even more experienced, dating back to 2002 in its old GRN210/215 VVT-I phase. That model only made 236 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, with Toyota introducing the current Dual VVT-I version boasting 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque in 2010 (which actually added 10 horsepower over the old V8 that was discontinued after 2009, albeit 28 fewer lb-ft of torque).

Heaving this hefty 2,155-kilo (4,750-lb) body-on-frame SUV down the road makes a guy wish that Toyota once again offered it with a V8, but the 4.6-litre mill in the aforementioned GX 460 is even thirstier than the 4Runner’s V6, at least on paper. The Toyota SUV’s powertrain sucks back 14.8 L/100km in the city, 12.5 on the highway and 13.8 combined compared to Lexus’ 16.2 city, 12.3 highway and 14.5 combined, and the GX gets an additional forward gear. Yes, fuel economy is the bane of both Toyota/Lexus off-roaders, but before you start worrying about all the regular unleaded you’ll be pumping into your new ride, I’ll refer you back to those mechanics that say you’ll get it all back in a lack of repairs if you keep either past warranty.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
While you should watch your shins, these side steps are really helpful in urban situations, but could get you hung up off-road.

I should probably insert something about the 4Runner’s especially good resale and/or residual values here, the current model expected to depreciate slowest in the “Mid-size Crossover/SUV” class according to The Canadian Black Book 2019 study, with the GX 460 taking top-spot in its “Mid-size Luxury Crossover/SUV” segment. The Toyota brand holds its value best overall too, adds The Canadian Black Book, and has zero vehicles in the fastest depreciating category. A special mention should go out to Jeep that leads its “Compact Crossover/SUV” class with the Wrangler, nothing new here, but only fair to mention.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
This handy cargo basket comes standard with the Venture Edition, but watch your height when parking under cover.

Like that Jeep, the 4Runner uses a part-time four-wheel drive system to power all four wheels. This means only the rear wheels get torque unless the front axle is manually engaged into either four-high or four-low via the second shift lever on the lower console, the latter requiring a bit of muscle. It all has a nice mechanical feel to it that brings back memories of decades past, something I happen to like in an SUV.

That’s probably why I like and collect mechanical tool watches, particularly Seikos and Citizens. Yes, there’s a Japanese theme here, but it’s hard to argue against these brands’ similarly simple, straight-forward, dependable values. The 4Runner is the SKX007 diver of the automotive world, a watch that doesn’t even hack or manually wind. Still, like that forever-stylish timepiece, the ruggedly handsome 4Runner is fully capable of taking a beating, and plenty comfortable too.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
This is where the 4Runner Venture Edition feels most at home (sadly this off-road area has been bulldozed flat in the name of progress).

Those unfamiliar with body-on-frame SUVs tend to believe they ride like trucks (to coin a phrase, as the Tacoma and Tundra ride pretty well too), but due to greater curb weight than their car-based crossover counterparts, and generous suspension travel required for off-road use, the 4Runner is actually quite smooth over rough pavement and easy to drive around town thanks to its tall vantage point and reasonable dimensions. It’s decent through fast-paced curves too, due to an independent double-wishbone front suspension design up front and a four-link setup in the back, plus stabilizer bars at each end, not to mention Toyota’s impressive (and standard) Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that limits body lean by up to 50 percent at higher speeds, but let’s be real, it’s not going to out-hustle a RAV4 or Highlander when the road starts to twist.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Few mid-size SUVs can keep up with the 4Runner on the trail.

On that note, it’s comfortable in all five seats too. And yes, I’m aware it also comes with three rows for up to seven occupants, but I won’t go so far as to say its third row is good for anyone but small kids. Being that my children are grown and grandkids are probably still a long way away, I’d personally opt for the as-tested two-row variant. Rear seat legroom should be more than adequate for all heights, by the way, plus there’s ample side-to-side room for larger folk too.

This two-row version provides 1,336 litres (47.2 cubic feet) of cargo space below its standard retractable cargo cover, aft of its second row, which should be ample for most. Of course, Toyota offers the Sequoia for 4×4 fans that need more, but sales to 543 last year clearly say the 4Runner’s space is enough. I particularly like that its rear seatbacks fold in the most convenient 40/20/40 configuration, which allows longer items like skis to fit down the middle while rear occupants enjoy the optimal window seats. Folding them flat offers up 2,540 litres (89.7 cu ft) of total stowage space, including up to 737 kg (1,625 lbs) of payload. Not enough? The 4Runner can trailer up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) in standard trim thanks to an included receiver hitch and wiring harness with 4- and 7-pin connectors, plus this awesome looking Venture Edition gives you the option of loading gear in the full-metal basket on top of the roof.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Overcoming these types of obstacles is an easy feat for any 4Runner.

This last point makes clear that the Venture Edition was mostly focused on life in the wild instead of navigating the urban jungle, as the just-noted Yakima MegaWarrior Rooftop Basket, measuring 1,321 millimetres (52 inches) in length, 1,219 mm (48 in) in width, and 165 mm (6.5 in) tall, increases the 4Runner’s overall height by 193 mm (7.6 in) for a total road to parkade ceiling-mounted pipe-collision height of 2,009 mm (79.09 in)—the Venture Edition’s 17-inch TRD alloys on 265/70 Bridgestone Dueller H/T mud-and-snow rubber means that it measures in at 1,816 mm (71.5 in) tall, sans basket. Sure, you can remove the rooftop carrier to make it more practical during everyday use, but this limits some of the Venture’s visual appeal while touring around town.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The 4Runner can even give novice off-roaders confidence when tackling rough terrain.

Additional Venture Edition extras not yet mentioned include blackened side mirrors, door handles (featuring proximity entry buttons), roof spoiler and badges, Predator side steps for an easier step up when climbing inside, all-weather floor mats, a windshield wiper de-icer, mudguards, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, dual front- and twin second-row USB ports, a household-style 120-volt power outlet in the cargo compartment, active front headrests, eight total airbags, and Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of advanced driver assistance features, which include automatic Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Options not already mentioned include a sliding rear cargo deck with an under-floor storage compartment.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The Venture Edition’s interior is more refined than previous iterations of non-Limited 4Runners.

Take note, the very helpful side steps just mentioned will most definitely get in the way during extreme off-roading, potentially hanging up on rocks, roots and sharp crests, so while you’re fastening the basket back onto the roof rails you may want to unbolt these before entering the backcountry. As for the 4Runner’s ability when such low-hanging hooks are removed, it’s one of few iconic 4x4s available today as noted above.

Having headed straight over to my local watery mess of a sand, mud and rock infested off-road area I was saddened to find out there wasn’t much of it left, the riverside land being redeveloped for petroleum storage and thus, no longer available to off-road enthusiasts. Normally this little spit of dirt is filled with every sort of 4×4, ATV, dirt bike and the like, but alas it shall no longer enjoy the company of us crazies that it’s allocated to more productive work, and I will no longer have this conveniently close location for my own sandbox playtime and photographic exploits.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Toyota has had plenty of time to get the 4Runner’s cockpit right, and thus it’s well organized and filled with useful features.

I did manage to trek over a few last remaining trails that are now bulldozed flat, showing this 4Runner Venture Edition in its element, so make sure to enjoy our photo gallery above. With “L4” engaged and deep ruts of dried mud below, I engaged the overhead console-mounted Active Trac (A-TRAC) brake lock differential (it’s right next to the standard moonroof’s controls). A-TRAC stops a given wheel from spinning before redirecting torque to the wheel with traction, and locks the electronic rear differential. I also dialled in some Crawl Control to maintain a steady speed while lifting myself up with both feet to more easily see over the hood for any obstacles that might be in my way. Crawl Control provides up to five throttle speeds for this purpose. This reminds me of my dad using the old-school dash-mounted hand throttle/choke to do much the same in his now classic Land Cruiser FJ, but it incorporated a manual gearbox and therefore relied on its low gear ratio to automatically apply engine braking when going downhill, while the wholly modernized 4Runner system in fact applies brake pressure electronically in order to maintain a chosen speed when trekking downhill. The 4Runner’s Hill Start Assist Control system also helps in such situations, albeit going uphill.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The 4Runner’s gauge cluster is simple and straightforward, but it more than does the job.

The dial next to this one is for engaging the automated Multi-Terrain Select system. This sets the drivetrain and electronic driving aids up for the majority of conditions you might face when off-road, from light- to heavy-duty trails, the system’s most capable auto-setting being rock mode. Other settings include its second-most capable mogul setting, which is followed by loose rock. All of the above are only operable when the secondary set of low (L4) gears are in use, incidentally, whereas the least capable mud and sand mode can be utilized when both L4 and H4 are engaged.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The centre stack is well designed and new infotainment touchscreen excellent.

The 4Runner’s 244 mm (9.6 in) of ground clearance and 33/26-degree approach/departure angles mean that it shouldn’t drag over obstacles, but if rocks hit the undercarriage rest assured that rugged skid plates are in place to protect the engine, front suspension and transfer case. Again, those standard side steps could interfere with your forward momentum.

These steps can also be damaging to shins if you’re not paying close attention when climbing inside, something I experienced a couple of times (followed by expletives), but some of that pain will ease once seated in the model’s comfortable driver’s perch. I found the primary seat ideal for my five-foot-eight, long-legged, short-torso body type, with the rake and reach of the steering column ample for comfortable yet controlled operation, which is probably the most important issue I have with any new vehicle I test drive (and have had with many Toyotas in the past—they’re improving).

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The second lever in behind is for engaging 4WD.

Looking around and tapping everything like I always do (so annoying to past significant others), all the 4Runner’s knobs, buttons and rocker switches look and feel heavy-duty, as if Toyota pulled inspiration from Casio’s nearly indestructible G-Shock (the Mudmaster seems fitting, although I prefer my more classic looking and smaller DW-5600BB-1CR). Tolerances are tight, their quality good, and finishing quite impressive overall, at least compared to previous 4Runner models.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Plenty of sophisticated off-road controls can be found in the overhead console.

I can’t remember Toyota using carbon fibre-like trim inside a 4Runner before either. The big, new, glossy 8.0-inch centre touchscreen on the centre stack is impressive too, this coming packed full of the latest technologies such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa, not to mention very accurate Dynamic Navigation featuring detailed mapping. The audio system was pretty good too, thanks in part to standard satellite radio, while the rear camera (incorporating stationary “projected path” graphics combined with rear parking sonar) was much better than previous iterations. Other functions include a weather page, traffic condition information, apps, etcetera, while the primary instruments are less forward thinking yet still do a good job delivering key driving info, with easily legible backlit Optitron dials and a useful multi-info display at centre.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The power-adjustable driver’s perch is comfortable with a good seating position.

Like that G-Shock mentioned a moment ago, the cabin styling theme is mostly rectangular in shape, and thus purposefully utilitarian. Nevertheless, it was refined enough for me, with the rear two-thirds of the front and rear door uppers covered in contrast-stitched and padded faux leather. The door inserts and armrests were wrapped similarly below, the latter softly padded all the up way to the front portion of each door panel, thus protecting outer knees from chafing on what would otherwise be hard plastic. The centre armrest received the identical black and red application, as did the SofTex-upholstered seats’ side bolsters, while both front headrests featured “TRD” embroidered in red for a sporty look. As for the dash top, it was coated in a textured synthetic that reduced glare nicely, therefore, together with the previously-noted glossed carbon-look surface treatment on the lower console, and the metallic glossy black background used for the centre stack surround surfacing and the door pulls trim, the 4Runner Venture Edition looked quite fancy for a non-Limited 4Runner.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Rear seating is roomy and comfortable for three abreast.

What’s new for 2021? Not a heck of a lot, although standard LED headlights are a nice addition for a model expected to be totally revamped for 2022 (I have no verification of a redesign, but that’s the word on the street… or, er, trail). LED fog lamps also join the frontal update, while new Lunar Rock paint will make the entire SUV look at least as good as the one used for this review. Also new, new black TRD alloys will soon be encircled by Nitto Terra Grappler A/T tires, while Toyota is said to have retuned the dampers to enhance isolation off the beaten path.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
40/20/40-split rear seatbacks make the 4Runner ultimately versatile.

At $55,390 (plus freight and fees), the 4Runner Venture Edition isn’t exactly an off-roader for bargain hunters, although it has few mid-size, 4×4-capable competitors, all of which will cost about the same or more if outfitted similarly. Once again, when factoring in resale (or residual) values, and then adding expected long-term reliability, the 4Runner makes the best investment.

Right now, Toyota is offering factory leasing and financing rates on this 2020 model from 3.99 percent according to CarCostCanada, or zero percent on 2019 models (if you can find one). Check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 Toyota 4Runner Canada Prices page or their 2019 Toyota 4Runner Canada Prices page to learn more, and while you’re there, find out how a CarCostCanada membership can help you before entering the negotiation phase of any new car, truck or SUV purchase. Along with any available financing and leasing information, you’ll also receive possible rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that will tell any new buyer the actual cost your local retailer paid for the vehicle you’re attempting to buy, potentially saving you thousands off your next purchase. Also, make sure to download the new CarCostCanada app to your smartphone via the Apple Store or Google Store, so you can be ready whenever, and wherever this critical information is needed.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

When choosing a sports car, plenty of variables come into play. Is it all about styling or performance? How does luxury enter the picture? Of course, hard numbers aside, these are subjective questions…

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible Road Test

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
It’s easy to see why Jaguar’s F-Type SVR Convertible turns heads.

When choosing a sports car, plenty of variables come into play. Is it all about styling or performance? How does luxury enter the picture? Of course, hard numbers aside, these are subjective questions that can only be answered by an individual after contemplating personal preferences. We all have differing tastes, which is why so many competing brands and models exist.

While similarly powerful, a Porsche Turbo provides much quicker acceleration than the Jaguar F-Type SVR being reviewed here, and both are dramatically different through fast-paced curves, with the rear-engine German providing a wholly unique feel when raced side-by-side against the front-engine Brit, and most agreeing the former is more capable at the limit. Nevertheless, the Porsche Turbo is not necessarily more fun to drive.

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
The F-Type Convertible sports a classic roadster profile, and its well-constructed triple-layer fabric roof looks fabulous.

I’ve enjoyed many Turbos over the years, not to mention a plethora of other 911 models, and all have provided thrills aplenty. Likewise, for F-Type SVRs, having spent a week with 2018, 2019 and 2020 models, the first two coupes and the most recent a convertible. I tend to lean toward coupes more often than open air, mostly because the aesthetics of a fixed roof appeal to my senses. Still, there are a number of reasons I’d be pulled in the direction of this Madagascar Orange-painted F-Type SVR Convertible, the sound emanating from its tailpipes certainly high on the list.

Sure, the coupe provided an identical rasping soundtrack from the same titanium Inconel exhaust system, it was just easier to hear with the triple-layer Thinsulate-insulated cloth top down. Likewise, the source of the noise, Jaguar’s 5.0-litre “AJ-8” V8, making 575 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, has been stuffed between the SVR’s front struts all along, but somehow it feels more visceral when accompanied by gusts of wind.

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
If it’s all in the details, Jaguar certainly knows what it’s doing.

That’s how I drove it throughout most of my sun-drenched test week, and while I was never tempted to see how stormy its interior would become with the throttle pinned for a 314 km/h (195 mph) top track speed test (322 km/h or 200 mph with the coupe), I certainly dabbled with its zero to hero claim of 3.7 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h in either body style.

Yes, I know this is a very “well-proven” engine (auto code for old), having been offered by Jaguar since 1997 in one form or another, but I could care less because it sounds so fabulous and delivers such scintillating performance, fuel economy be damned.

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
No shortage of carbon fibre trim throughout.

As for styling, the F-Type is eye-candy no matter which powertrain is chosen, Jaguar even offering an impressively spirited turbocharged four-cylinder in base trims. Of course, along with its sensational straight-line performance, the SVR provides more visual treats in the way of carbon fibre aero aids and trim.

The same goes for the interior, which offers a level of exoticism that sports cars in this class simply can’t match. It’s downright sensational, featuring perforated Windsor leather quilted into a ritzy diamond-style pattern on both the seat inserts and door panels, plus contrast-stitched solid leather on most other surfaces. Additionally, a rich psuede micro-fibre stretches across much of the dash-top, headliner and sun visors, while carbon-fibre and beautifully finished brushed and bright metalwork highlights key areas. The interior clearly appears British in look and feel, yet it’s more modernist than steeped in parlour club tradition (i.e. there’s no wood).

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
The F-Type SVR’s interior is impeccably crafted.

Jaguar infotainment has improved a lot with each new generation too, the F-Type not receiving a full digital cluster, but nevertheless boasting a big, colourful multi-information display between a gorgeous set of primary analogue gauges. It gets most of the functions found in the centre display, is easily legible and no problem to scroll through via steering wheel controls. Similarly, the just-mentioned centre display is a user-friendly touchscreen jam-packed with stylish high-resolution graphics plus plenty of useful features like a navigation interface with detailed mapping and simple directions settings, an audio/media page with satellite radio, a Bluetooth phone connectivity section, a graphically organized climate panel, an camera interface with many exterior views, an apps section with some pre-downloaded and available downloadable applications, and last but not least, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
An advanced multi-information display enhances classic analogue dials.

One more page not yet mentioned is the My Dynamic Setup interface that lets you set up your own individual drive system calibrations. What I mean is, after fine-tuning the SVR’s engine, transmission, suspension and steering dynamics in order to suit outside conditions as best as possible, not to mention your mood, you can mix and match them as much as you like. For instance, you can go for snappier engine response and a quicker shifting transmission along with a more compliant suspension setup, which may be ideal for driving fast over the kind of rough pavement you might find in the types of rural settings that’ll allow you to really open up the car’s performance. For this reason, I’m not a fan of sport settings that automatically firm up the chassis, because a rock-solid suspension setup only works well when coursing over the kind of unblemished tarmac found on recently paved tracks, not real-world patchwork asphalt hack jobs.

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
The infotainment display provides plenty of features plus a useful rearward view.

This is an apropos descriptor for the roads used when pushing my F-Type SVR Convertible tester near its limits, the car’s unbridled power ideally matched to a particularly stiff, light and well-sorted aluminum body structure, chassis and suspension design. Steering response is quick and the rear wheels follow ideally, no matter how much I applied the throttle. Certainly, it was important to remain smooth, other than applying slightly more than needed when wanting to induce oversteer. The massive yellow calipers signify that Jaguar’s available carbon ceramic brakes fill the SVR’s 20-inch alloys, these being brilliant when it comes to quick stops in succession with barely any fade. Yes, this is a wonderfully capable roadster if you’ve got the confidence to push its limits, but I wouldn’t say it provides the same level of high-speed control as a recent Porsche 911 Turbo. This means the Jag can be even more fun for those with performance driving experience.

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
Carbon-fibre and suede-like Alcantara line the SVR’s cabin.

I should mention here that Jaguar’s 2020 F-Type SVR is a relative bargain compared to that just-noted 911 Turbo, the Brit starting at just $141,700 with its “head” fixed and $144,700 for the as-tested retractable fabric roof variety, compared to $194,400 and $209,000 respectively for the latest 2021 German variant. Granted, Porsche’s performance alternative is quite a bit quicker as noted earlier, knocking a full second off its zero to 100 km/h sprint time, with the brand’s Carrera S/4S models in the mid-three-second range. These start at $132,700, or in other words considerably less than Jag’s F-Type SVR, but this is where I must interject (myself) by once again saying there’s a lot more to a sports car than straight-line performance.

After all, a number of much more reasonably priced Ford Mustangs sprint into similar territory, while the new mid-engine Corvette dips into the high twos. I’m not comparing a 911 to a Mustang or even the ‘Vette (although the latter car may be embarrassingly comparable to a number of mid-engine Italians), but hopefully you get the gist of what I’m saying. The F-Type SVR delivers an immense amount of premium-level style crafted mostly from aluminum along with phenomenal attention to detail, much made from high-gloss carbon fibre, plus a beautifully crafted interior, superb musical and mechanical soundtracks, and more to go along with its respectable muscle.

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible
As supportive and comfortable as they’re gorgeous, the F-Type SVR delivers a second-to-none interior for this class.

Better yet, a quick check of CarCostCanada’s 2020 Jaguar F-Type Canada Prices page is showing up to $8,950 in additional incentives, which is one of the more aggressive discounts I’ve ever seen on this highly useful site (CarCostCanada provides members with rebate info, details on manufacturer financing and leasing, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, via their website and the Apple Store and Google Android Store downloadable CarCostCanada app). The refreshed 2021 F-Type is already being discounted up to $6,000, incidentally, and while we’re on the subject of the new model, there’s no 2021 SVR yet. Instead, the updated 2021 F-Type R gets the same 575 horsepower V8 as the outgoing SVR, but don’t just think it’s a discounted SVR, as the significant $20,400 price reduction for the 2021 R Coupe and $20,800 savings for the 2021 R Convertible probably mean that much is missing from the top-tier package. No doubt Jaguar will introduce a more potent 2021 SVR soon, complete with all of its sensational upgrades, so we’ll have to keep our ears to the ground for this one.

All said, the current 2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR is a fabulous offering from a brand that’s steeped in sports car tradition, and well worth its very reasonable entry price. I’ve driven three in exactly the same amount of years, and have enjoyed every moment behind the wheel each time. For those with the means, I recommend it highly.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

If you were smart enough to purchase a 2015-2016 Hyundai Genesis Sedan back when it was new you got an amazing deal. I remember testing a fully loaded 2015 example when it first came out, complete with…

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport Road Test

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80 is the sole model that predates the Genesis brand, but it’s still a great looking car that only gets better once inside.

If you were smart enough to purchase a 2015-2016 Hyundai Genesis Sedan back when it was new you got an amazing deal. I remember testing a fully loaded 2015 example when it first came out, complete with its fabulous 420 horsepower 5.0-litre Tau V8 in top-tier Ultimate trim and couldn’t believe the level of performance and premium quality available for just $62,000. Neither could my friend that managed Canada’s number one BMW dealership, who was shocked by its styling, interior quality, features and engine specs, stating at the time that he had nothing that could compete with it dollar for dollar.

As it was, you could acquire most everything just noted minus some top-level features and the potent eight-cylinder engine for a mere $43,000 back then, which made the base Genesis Sedan the best luxury car value for its time bar none. When the Hyundai variant was laid to rest and the new Genesis G80 appeared unchanged for the 2017 model year the price went up, but not significantly with all features added. In fact, the top-line G80 5.0 AWD Ultimate example I tested at the time was only $3,000 more than the previous Hyundai-badged version, and came with the benefit of concierge purchasing and servicing for a more premium ownership experience.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s long, low profile gives it a four-door coupe presence.

This said, base 2017 G80 Luxury trim saw a price increase of $5,400 from the previous 2016 Genesis Sedan Luxury trim’s $48,600 MSRP, while the previous $43k entry-level model was eliminated from the lineup. Hence, the 2017 G80 saw a significant base price hike of $11,000, resulting in sales plunging from the Hyundai-branded Genesis Sedan’s high of 1,513 units in 2014, and subsequently more modest results of 1,377 deliveries in 2015 and 961 during the 2017 calendar year (these last ones being discontinued 2016 model-year cars), to 433 examples of the Genesis-branded G80 throughout its first full year of 2017, plus 393 units for 2018, and 324 for all of last year.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The second-generation Hyundai Genesis Sedan, which was near identical to this G80, set the design tone for the entire Genesis lineup.

Of course, these final numbers coincide with a general decline in four-door sedan deliveries (and cars overall), although when comparing sales results of the Genesis Sedan/G80 to the segment best-selling Mercedes-Benz E-Class (that also includes the E-Class sedan, coupe and convertible, plus the CLS four-door coupe), which only saw its deliveries drop from 3,789 units in 2014 to 3,452 in 2019, it’s a night and day situation.

Hyundai’s choice to create the Genesis brand certainly appears rosier when comparing the G80’s sales results the BMW 5 Series’ much more dramatic decline over the same six-year timespan, its 2,337 unit sales in 2014 falling to just 1,621 deliveries last year (not including a smattering of 6 and 8 Series models that also compete with the E-Class in this segment, these staying about even at just above 400 units), while Audi’s A6 went from 1,113 examples to 687 respectively (not including 876 to 608 A7s).

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s attractive quadrangular grille will make way for a more V-shaped five-sided opening in 2021.

Of note, 1,119 G70 sales made 2019 somewhat brighter for the Genesis brand, albeit these rays of hope weren’t enough to cast off the shadow of just 82 G90 deliveries (the latter better than the mere 65 Equus models sold in 2014, however, and only slightly down on the Hyundai flagship’s 2012 high of 116 units).

Anyone with some business acumen knows that sales don’t necessarily translate into profits, but only the South Korean brand’s parent company, or a very skilled analyst with time to delve into the intricacies of the publicly trading automaker’s balance sheet, will be able to deduce whether Genesis’ price increases have added to the automaker’s overall bottom line, or if their reductions in volume posed any negative impact.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
These 19-inch multi-spoke alloys come standard with 3.3T Sport trim.

Suffice to say the Genesis brand is a long-term project, with the aforementioned GV80 mid-size luxury SUV and additional future crossover models expected to find many more buyers, but it’s interesting to note that Hyundai Motor Corporation’s share value (see HYMTF on the KRX) has weathered a fairly steady decline from 167,000 KRW ($138 USD; $188 CAD) in October of 2015 to 110,000 KRW ($91 USD; $124 CAD) as of July 16, 2020, a 34 percent downturn.

This is the sort of boring business fodder you may want to peruse while relaxing in the comfortable rear seat of a chauffeured G90, instead of cluttering your mind when at the wheel of the sportier G80. Hard numbers aside, all Genesis models are superb examples of modern engineering excellence that can easily keep up with their Teutonic and Japanese competitors, while they’re also very easy on the eyes, highly refined with impressively finished materials, stocked full of the latest tech, convenience and luxury amenities, and fully deserving of being ranked alongside comparative Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus and other premium-branded models, heritage aside. Truly, the only negative thing I can say about today’s G80 is its six-plus-year-old design, although being particularly attractive and somewhat exclusive it still looks surprisingly fresh.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
A quad of oval tailpipes show this sort sedan means business.

That’s a good thing, because the only change from 2019 to 2020 is the removal of the CD changer, which by perusing our photo gallery can be seen on my test model’s centre stack. The rest of the car is identical in every way, which is no bad thing. This said the G80 will undergo a complete redesign for 2021 with styling that more closely resembles the new G90 up front (particularly the grille) with plenty of GV80 details thrown in all-round for good measure, while its sweptback rear window and deck lid remind me a bit of the Audi A7. In other words, it looks great.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s two-tone interior is truly impressive.

As it is, there are plenty of good reasons to purchase a 2019 or 2020 G80 while you still can, with possibly the most notable being the ability to acquire factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. A quick scan of the 2019 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page or 2020 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada will inform you of this deal, while you can also choose any trim and build your G80 right there, while opting for a CarCostCanada membership will give you info on leasing and financing deals for the majority of vehicles currently sold new in Canada, as well as other manufacturer incentives such as rebates, while CarCostCanada also provides dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating your deal. Find out how it works now and while you’re at it, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The door panels are soft-touch from top to bottom, with Sport trim getting carbon-fibre inlays above stitched leather inserts.

Speaking of Apple and Google, CarPlay and Android Auto come standard in every 2019 and 2020 G80, but before I delve into more of the model’s standard and available features I should mention that trims and prices stayed the same in 2018, although Genesis added a new 365 horsepower 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine to the G80 line, along with a new $62,000 Sport trim level sold exclusively with this high-output engine, while base Luxury trim was dropped for 2019, making the 311 horsepower 3.8-litre V6-powered Technology the new base G80 model at $58,000. The same three-model lineup is available once again for 2020, with pricing for the V8-powered Ultimate trim still unchanged at $65,000.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80 doesn’t dazzle with high-tech digital interfaces, but it delivers big on comfort and quality, plus its infotainment system is highly functional.

If you’re considering a move up to the Genesis brand from a Hyundai model like the Elantra or Sonata, its feature set probably won’t impress you all that much. After all, Hyundai has long made a name for providing a lot more functionality than its peers for similar if not better pricing, but nevertheless the base G80’s menu does kick things up a notch.

Standard items include LED daytime running lights and taillights, 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity-sensing keyless entry with a hands-free power opening/closing trunk lid, open-pore genuine hardwood interior inlays, a heated steering wheel rim, a power-adjustable steering column, a 7.0-inch colour multi-information display/digital gauge cluster, a head-up display, a 9.2-inch centre touchscreen with navigation, a 17-speaker audio system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED cabin lighting, a panoramic sunroof, a 16-way powered driver’s seat, a 12-way powered front passenger’s seat, Nappa leather upholstery, heatable front and rear outboard seats, ventilated front seats, and a host of advanced driver assistive systems such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, lane change assist, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and driver attention alert.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
A large, colourful multi-information display divides the analogue primary gauges.

Both Sport and Ultimate trims replace the base model’s bi-xenon headlights with full LEDs, plus add 19-inch alloy wheels, a microsuede headliner, and a slim credit card-like proximity key fob, while the Sport also includes a special set of 16-way powered front Sport seats that were oh-so comfortable and plenty supportive at the lower back and below the knees thanks to four-way power-adjustable lumbar support and a power-extendable lower cushion.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s nicely organized centre stack is easy to get used to.

The two-tone light grey and charcoal black interior colour-way is truly attractive, the two shades separated by gorgeous gloss carbon fibre trim on each upper door panel and across the dash, while plenty of brushed aluminum accents brightened key areas throughout the cabin, some of the Lexicon speaker grilles even drilled out in a stylish geometric pattern. All switchgear exudes a feeling of quality too, while soft, pliable composites join up with a generous supply of Nappa leather for a plush, refined inner sanctum.

Really. Just go ahead and try to find any hard plastic. There is some, but it’s very difficult to locate, only including a few small pieces below the dash, which otherwise is covered in premium materials all the way down to the nether regions above the knees, including the glove box lid, while the inner doors are skinned with the very best soft synthetics and leathers from top to bottom, as are the top edges of the lower centre console. That console’s lower sides are made from harder plastic, but this is common amongst the majority of competitors so it’s not an issue. In fact, if you were to compare the G80 side-by-side against a new E-Class, for instance, which actually uses hard plastic on the lower door panels, you’d come away thinking that Genesis does a pretty good job of pampering its new owners.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The large centre display includes a very helpful overhead parking camera.

This said Mercedes leads in digital wizardry, its latest E having been first in its family of updated models to incorporate the brand’s now trademark dual-display instrument cluster/infotainment touchscreen, a fully customizable design that makes most rivals seem antiquated at best. This is where the upcoming 2021 G80 will make the biggest gains over this outgoing model, the current car’s mostly analogue gauge cluster being bright, clear and easy to read, but not providing the wow factor of some competitors.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
Classy clock celebrates all things analogue.

Likewise, for the infotainment system that’s fully functional and then some. It provides a nice graphical interface for the impressive Lexicon audio system noted earlier, its parking camera not only offers a rear view with active guidelines, but also a 360-surround overhead vantage point and multiple closeups as needed, while the climate control interface even shows each occupant’s cabin temperature setting on a lifelike interior graphic.

An elegantly square analogue clock is flanked by twinned panels of HVAC buttons and knobs just below on the centre stack, while a similarly useful audio interface rests under that, complete with the optical drive noted earlier. Additionally, USB and aux ports are housed in a lidded compartment in the lower console, right beside a wireless device charger that conveniently tilts towards front seat occupants.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s wireless charging pad tilts toward either front occupant.

Lastly, a nicely finished overhead console features a felt-lined sunglasses holder, LED reading and overhead lights, plus controls for the powered panoramic sunroof, which can be covered by a plush suede-like fabric shade that opens via a separate powered switch. On that note, the roof liner and all the pillars are finished in the same luxurious psuede material, as are the two front sun visors.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
New shift lever connects to a revised electronic eight-speed automatic below.

The G80’s driving position is excellent, made even better by the aforementioned sport seats, while the rear seating area’s spaciousness is about average for the class. When the driver’s seat was set up for my somewhat long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame I had about eight inches room ahead of my knees, lots of legroom to stretch out my lower extremities, plus about four inches to the door panel next to my hips and shoulders, and approximately three inches of airspace over my head. This should allow comfort for most body types.

I wouldn’t say the rear compartment is overly generous with features, but your outboard passengers will get LED reading lights just below the grab handles situated just above the side windows, plus separate vents with scrolling heater controls emanating from within the backside of the front centre console. There are also some very nice pop-out magazine holders on the front seatbacks, and those seatbacks are beautifully finished with what looks like leather all the way down to their bases. This in mind, the rear door skins are as nice as those up front, while a folding centre armrest features the usual dual cupholders as well as controls for the three-way outboard seat warmers noted earlier. Lastly, classy metal clothes hooks on the backside of the B pillars are nice additions.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
These 16-way sport seats are ultra comfortable.

The trunk is also large at 433 litres (15 cubic feet), but take note the rear seats don’t fold for longer cargo, with items like skis needing to alternatively fit within a relatively small and narrow pass-through down the centre or not at all.

Back up front, along with a fresh set of headlights, a revised lower front grille, reworked front and rear facias, new standard 18-inch wheels, a fresh set of primary instruments, the analogue clock noted earlier, and new premium speaker grilles, one of the big changes for last year’s G80 was a redesigned shifter knob, which is now a slicker looking leather-wrapped, metal-surrounded design that merely moves rearward into drive and forward into reverse, plus into the centre for neutral.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s powered panoramic sunroof provides an open, airy interior.

This is due to a new eight-speed automatic below the surface, and I must say that it’s much easier to find neutral with the G80 than with electronic shifters used in some other cars, such as with Chrysler’s 300. One of the benefits of an electronic shifter is a button for Park, or you can simply turn the ignition off and it will go into Park automatically, while Genesis includes a drive mode indicator includes Normal, Eco and Sport selections, with Eco noticeably subduing the G80s performance and therefore enhancing fuel economy, which is fairly good considering all the power available at 13.8 L/100km in the city, 9.7 on the highway and 11.9 combined as tested (the base engine is good for a claimed 13.4 city, 9.6 highway and 11.7 combined, while the V8 manages a projected 15.6, 10.4 and 13.2 respectively), and Sport mode sharpening its drivetrain and tightening its suspension for much more engaging performance.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The rear seating area is roomy and comfortable.

With 365 horsepower on tap the G80 Sport uses the much-lauded powertrain as found in the new Kia Stinger, and while this is great because the latter has become a performance icon amongst import fans, keep in mind the Genesis weighs 100 to 200 kilos more depending on features, so its pull isn’t quite as dramatic off the line. It’s still impressive, however, with all four of my tester’s 245/40R19 Continental’s immediately biting into the tarmac below thanks to Genesis’ HTRAC all-wheel drive, allowing for wonderfully quick launches from standstill and seemingly never-ending highway passing power. I certainly wouldn’t have reason to upgrade to the Tau V8, the turbo-six making a satisfying growl at full throttle, if not the eight’s sonorous bellow and lovely burble at idle.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The trunk is large, but there’s only a centre pass-through for stowing longer cargo.

There’s a little less weight over the front wheels of the V6-powered example, which is always helpful amid tight, fast-paced corners, which the G80 Sport manages very well, incidentally. In fact, despite this car’s 2,120-kg (4,674-lb) curb weight it feels rather really light on its feet, so to speak, and surprisingly agile no matter how it’s thrown into a curve, within reason. It was also one of the nicest, easiest cars I drove around town in all year, so much so it would be ideal for a novice wanting to improve their skills. Its ride quality is smooth, its cabin is quiet and cocoon-like, and just plain comfortable all the time.

Yes, the G80 Sport truly is a superb car. Genesis has been fine-tuning it for years, which likely means it’ll be one of the more dependable mid-size luxury sedans currently available, but just in case something goes wrong it’s backed much longer than any luxury competitor at five years or 100,000 kilometres, which means you get almost comprehensive coverage for mechanical problems or any other issue, plus complimentary scheduled maintenance as well as the convenience of home or office (or these days home office) car pickup via their valet service. That’s one of the best reasons to choose a new Genesis.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay