So what do you think? Can the case be made for a person actually opting for a regular WRX over a WRX STI that isn’t price-related? After spending a week behind the wheel of a 2019 WRX Sport-tech RS…

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS Road Test

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Subaru updated WRX styling for 2018, and the design continues into 2019 unchanged, including this Sport-tech RS model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So what do you think? Can the case be made for a person actually opting for a regular WRX over a WRX STI that isn’t price-related? After spending a week behind the wheel of a 2019 WRX Sport-tech RS I say absolutely, and my tester wasn’t even fitted with its automatic transmission. 

Availability of the automatic is a key regular WRX differentiator when comparing it to the more potent STI, the latter only useful to those who know how to row through the gears of a manual shifter. This means that anyone using their WRX as daily, who wants a more convenient, relaxed drive when commuting, along with the legendary model’s high level of performance, whether charging up serpentine mountainside roads amid weekend getaways or merely pushing the envelope through cloverleaf-style highway entrances and exits on their way to or home from work, can spend just $1,300 more to do so with all regular WRX trims, excepting this specific WRX Sport-tech RS, which is only available with said six-speed manual transmission. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The WRX’ muscular fenders and other go-fast styling details have been mostly the same since its 2015 redesign. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To clarify, you can get a 2019 WRX Sport-tech with an automatic, but the RS designation will need to be swapped out for EyeSight. It’s not as if Subaru brands the car with RS or EyeSight anyway, other than via the roof-height all-seeing-eyes behind its windshield, plus on its website and internal order sheet of course, and it also should be noted the Sport-tech EyeSight isn’t identical to the Sport-tech RS, transmission choice aside, but each model’s similarities should be close enough for those who want a compromise between pure performance and ease of daily use. 

Before deep diving into all that makes each trim unique, and by so doing listing RS and EyeSight features in comparison to other WRX trims, I’d like to detail out my particular Sport-tech RS test model. First off, I couldn’t be happier with the Subaru Canada press communication team’s choice of World Rally Blue Pearl as an exterior colour, which while identical to the Sport-tech RS I reviewed last year, at least almost, is still one of my favourites due to an eye-searing blue hue that is based in the Japanese brand’s significant motorsport heritage, being very close to Subaru’s World Rally Championship winning race team’s livery. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The regular WRX uses a smaller rear spoiler than the STI for a more subtle look, but its rear diffuser and quad tailpipes still look formidable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All good and well, but why would Subaru give me a seemingly identical WRX test car within a given year? That’s simple: Subaru updated the 2019 model’s centre-mounted infotainment display. A critically important feature in any new vehicle these days, the WRX touchscreen is now the same as in other updated models across the Subaru lineup (new 2020 Legacy and Outback aside), or in other words wholly improved with a totally redesigned graphic interface that’s much better looking. For starters it features a bright, smartphone/tablet-style array of colourful digital buttons hovering within floating 3D tiles, on what I can only describe as a dark blue night sky-like background (complete with stars). I like the design and appreciated how fast the new interface responds to input, and while I no longer use an iPhone and therefore could not enjoy what appears like a much more appealing Apple CarPlay interface, iOS integration now comes standard on all WRX trims, as does Android Auto that worked very well with my Samsung S9, if not quite as graphically stimulating. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
How’s that for a hood scoop? Of course, this is a WRX so it’s fully functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Sport-tech trim features a half-inch larger than base 7.0-inch display that once again bookends the screen with rows of touch-sensitive quick access buttons, including Home, Map and Apps on the left side and Info just above two sets of track-seeking arrows to the right side. Near-field communication (NFC) is also incorporated for faster phone connectivity (if your smartphone includes it), while other features include a Micro SD card slot, HD radio, navigation mapping and routing, a rearview camera with active guidelines, and more. I found it easier to use, plus the display’s clarity and depth of colour was superb, matching the best on offer in the mainstream industry, and easily surpassing a number of competitive systems. 

Infotainment system aside, this WRX Sport-tech RS and its non-STI siblings move into 2019 unchanged, meaning they continue to show off last year’s attractive styling enhancements, chassis upgrades, and additional refinements, as well as new safety features. Let me explain. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Completely new frontal styling makes a big difference to the WRX design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

With respect to its outer design, Subaru refreshed the front grille and bumper of the WRX for 2018, as well as the interior door trim, while a new electroluminescent primary gauge package incorporated a nicely sorted new high-resolution colour TFT display. What’s more, the 5.9-inch colour multi-information display atop the dash received new graphical updates too, which look really attractive. This performance-oriented interface, with placement and functions that hark back to ancillary analogue turbo, temp and oil pressure gauges of the past, is totally unique to the segment too, and adds that bespoke allure to the WRX that can’t be found in competitors’ sports models. 

Additionally, passengers in back received a new flip-down centre armrest with integrated cupholders last year, while all occupants still benefit from lower noise, vibration and harshness levels, aiding audio system enjoyment as well as more easily understood conversations. Lastly, a retuned suspension provided improvements to ride quality, while a stronger battery strengthened the electrical system. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The Sport-tech RS’ gunmetal grey alloys look stunning, but the flared fenders with engine vents and chromed garnishes are even more eye-catching. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back to styling, I like what Subaru has done with the grille, particularly its blackened borders and black mesh insert, but the racing-spec-style multi-component lower front fascia with its matte black centre vent looks even better, as do the bigger, squarer, matte black fog light bezels to each side, while the four twinned five-spoke gunmetal grey-painted cast aluminum alloy wheels on 245/40 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx RT performance rubber are stunning, these encircled by sporty red brake calipers that are as racy as this class gets. Of note, base and Sport models come fitted with grey 15-spoke 17-inch alloys on the same tires, albeit sized at 235/45. 

Everything already mentioned, together with all of the other features upgraded for 2018, such as the larger front hood scoop, reworked headlights, and rally car-inspired matte black rear diffuser integrating four chrome tailpipe finishers, as well as all items seemingly pulled up from the 2015-2017 model that preceded, including the coke-bottle fenders with open engine vents trimmed with cool chrome “WRX” garnishes, the subtle rear trunk lid spoiler (which I appreciate more than the STI’s massive wing—the smaller lip spoiler can be had with the STI as well) and more, look sensational. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The WRX’ rear diffuser and quad of chromed tailpipes makes a sporty statement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Also continuing forward into 2019, all regular WRX models feature Subaru’s excellent 2.0-litre direct-injection twin-scroll turbocharged boxer four, producing a generous 268-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. While still a fair ways from the STI’s 310 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, the regular WRX mill is still very strong in its class, especially when factoring in that the car starts at just $29,995 plus destination and fees, or $38,995 in as-tested Sport-tech RS trim, which is considerably more affordable than the STI’s $41,995 base price, or that model’s more directly comparable STI Sport-tech that hits the road at $47,295. It’s also important to factor in that the majority of similarly priced competitors don’t provide the same levels of performance, which we should also consider includes Subaru’s standard Symmetrical-AWD, aiding all types of driving in Canada’s ever-cooling, and seemingly much longer winters, so the WRX makes a strong case to Canadian sports car fans, even if it is more of a sport sedan. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
This is the most refined WRX ever made, getting very close to a premium-level sport sedan. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As mentioned above, a six-speed manual comes standard, but take note the optional automatic is actually a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), normally nothing to brag about amongst performance enthusiasts. Still, continuously variable transmissions have improved a lot over the years, and the WRX’ Sport Lineartronic version is actually very good thanks to an engaging set of steering wheel paddle shifters that actuate both six- and eight-speed manual modes, plus Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE). I realize that it might be difficult for some to accept the inclusion of a CVT in the WRX, but after experiencing this drivetrain two years ago I was surprised in all the right ways. Of course, I personally wouldn’t choose the autobox route, but then again I wouldn’t cut anyone to the core for doing so either. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Sport-tech RS trim provides a lot of sporty upgrades, but this year’s big improvement is the centre touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

With respect to the as-tested manual transmission, it received a redesigned shift lever, improved shifting feel, and refined clutch feel as part of the 2018 redesign, with the result being a shifter that’s still smooth and accurate, and a clutch that’s nicely weighted with ideal take-up, plus is more responsive without any grabby side effects. 

On that note there’s zero change in straight-line performance from the identically powered 2018 car, with the manual model still claiming a 5.4-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, and the CVT remaining respectable at 5.9 seconds for the same feat. Of course neither will get an STI owner excited, but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed my week with the car, happy with its power off the line and rapidity up to highway speeds (and a little beyond). On that note, CVT owners can boast about a higher 240-km/h top-speed over the manually equipped car, which can only manage 232 km/h due to a shorter final gear. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The WRX includes easy-to-read analogue gauges with a nice, large multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As stated in my 2018 WRX Sport-tech RS review, the modifications made were mostly focused on refinements, including better steering feel and a more comfortable, compliant ride that doesn’t compromise at-the-limit road-holding. Truly, I could have cared less about ride quality when I was younger, even driving a raised Jeep CJ-5 on big knobby tires (and massive Alpine speakers hanging off the roll bar) at one point (the fabric roof was rarely attached during the summer), but as I age, like so many WRX owners have, comfort matters more. As it is, the new and improved WRX was a joy during daily jaunts around the city, where I end up driving most of the time, but then again when I took the opportunity to push it to its limits on a few favourite back roads it was every bit the super sedan I’ve enjoyed on multiple occasions over the years. In fact, I’d say it’s even better, because its more compliant suspension, which still remains quite firmly sprung compared to most others in this class, and fully independent, of course, allowed better control over rough patches of pavement that probably would have unsettled the more rigid previous generation. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Subaru provides the WRX with a unique dual-display infotainment setup. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

An area of weakness is fuel economy, which might be surprising to those who choose the WRX for its compact size and supposed four-cylinder efficiency. While an improvement over the STI’s official rating of 14.3 L/100km in the city, 10.7 on the highway and 12.7 combined, the regular WRX is still a bit voracious at 12.6 L/100km city, 9.6 highway and 11.2 combined with its standard manual transmission, or 11.3 city, 8.5 highway and 10.0 combined with the optional CVT. You won’t have to look very hard to find a more formidable competitor with thriftier economy, so Subaru will likely want to address this issue when it updates the 2.0-litre boxer at some point in the future. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The top-screen is more of a multi-information display, providing performance functions as well as other important info. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I suppose I should ask if you really care about fuel efficiency. I imagine those in Vancouver, who were recently paying upwards of $1.85 per litre for 91-octane unleaded (the recommended fuel) might be more averse, but WRX owners in Edmonton, Alberta, who were only paying $1.30 or so for the same litre of mid-grade gas, might not give a rat’s butt. 

Either way the WRX remains practical, with seating for up to five in relative comfort, plus a sizeable enough trunk, when compared to most sports cars at least, which measures 340 litres (12.0 cubic feet), and benefits from 60/40-split rear seatback expandability. That trunk might also matter more to those who live in more crime-ridden Canadian cities, as it provides better security than a hatchback, which is more often than not the body style of choice in this class. 

Speaking of competitors, the WRX’ cabin quality once again impressed. The instrument panel is mostly comprised of a premium soft-touch synthetic material, even stretching across the entire dash top and downward to the halfway point of the centre stack, while all door uppers are comfortably padded too, front to back. Likewise, Subaru adds nice quilted leatherette door inserts with red stitching, and soft, elbow-friendly armrests with the same rosy thread. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The WRX’ new touchscreen interface is really attractive, and ultra-easy to use. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The WRX’ contrast stitching brings up an important point about taste. Subaru, in its experience and wisdom in this category, and understanding that its WRX is now targeting a wider spectrum of age groups than ever, kept its splashes of red interior highlights to a tasteful minimum, making for an attractively sporty cabin design that’s not overly garish. This is in sharp contrast to some rivals, such as Honda’s Civic Type R, which is a brilliant performance car, but hard on the eyes. As it is, the red thread in the WRX Sport-tech RS also adorns the door inserts, leather-wrapped steering wheel, shifter boot, and the side bolsters of each seat, which are also trimmed in a thick strip of crimson leather, this nicely contrasting the rest of the seats’ black leather and suede-like microfibre upholstery. Additionally, Subaru adds a great looking horseshoe-shaped ring of red piping around the mid-portion of the seats, which frame white-embroidered “RECARO” logos, the latter perfectly matching yet more red piping on the headrests above. Finishing things off is an instrument panel inlay that does a good job of mimicking carbon fibre. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Subaru updated the WRX shifter and linkage last year, and it’s now smoother and more refined. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, other than with the STI the interior just outlined is specifically for my tester’s Sport-tech RS (and one special edition) trim, while a variety of additional WRX models are worthy of your investigation too. Together with the aforementioned $29,998 base trim, as well as the $39,095 Sport-tech EyeSight noted earlier, you can also consider Sport trim at $33,195, and this Sport-tech model without the $2,300 RS upgrade for just $36,495. 

What’s more, a new $40,995 雷雨 Raiu Edition joined the fray for 2019, painted in a self proclaimed Cool Grey Khaki hue that I happen to love. It boasts a number of STI-style exterior styling upgrades including a sportier front lip spoiler, wider side skirts, and the gigantic rear deck lid wing spoiler, as well as a sizeable set of 19-inch alloy wheels framing the STI’s yellow-painted Brembo six-pot front and two-pot rear brake calipers over ventilated and cross-drilled discs. The 雷雨 Raiu Edition also includes the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) as standard, which features blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist, while it also comes with a powered glass sunroof, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, and racy red seatbelts adorning the Ultrasuede seats noted a moment ago. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The Sport-tech RS powered front seats are fabulous, thanks to leather, ultrasuede, and their inherently good Recaro design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

By the way, all the 2019 WRX trim, package and option pricing used in this review was sourced from CarCostCanada, where you’ll also find information about available manufacturer rebates and otherwise difficult to find dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

Back to the WRX Sport-tech RS, it features stronger Jurid brake pads that bite down on the standard 316 mm front and 286 mm rear discs via those red brake calipers mentioned a moment ago, while inside the cabin you’ll get the ultra-luxe black and red partial-leather and microsuede upholstery also noted. The driver’s seat is just eight-way powered, but as mentioned it’s a much more inherently supportive Recaro sport seat, as is the front passenger’s, so most won’t complain. I certainly didn’t, finding it fabulously comfortable and wholly supportive, especially when pushing the WRX through fast-paced corners. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
The rear seating area is accommodating enough for three across, and finished to the same high standard as the front. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Along with everything already mentioned, Sport-tech trim adds proximity keyless entry with pushbutton start/stop, the bigger 7.0-inch central touchscreen featuring the upgraded interface mentioned earlier, as well as Subaru’s StarLink app, additional apps like Yelp, Best Parking, Glympse, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stock market information, great sounding 320-watt nine-speaker Harman/Kardon audio, and dual USB inputs. 

Features included with my Sport-tech RS tester that can also be found in Sport trim include wiper-integrated auto on-off LED headlamps with new steering-responsive cornering capability, LED fog lights, LED turn signals within the side mirrors, welcome lighting, the smaller rear deck lid spoiler mentioned before, plus the previously noted powered moonroof and SRVD blindspot safety system. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
While not the largest trunk in the segment, the WRX offers more secured space than most sports cars, plus 60/40-split rear seatbacks. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Finally, 2019 WRX base trim items found with my Sport-tech RS included a high-performance quad-tipped exhaust system, integrated roof rack brackets, a windshield wiper de-icer, a really sporty leather-clad and red-stitched multifunction flat-bottom steering wheel, auto climate control, heated front seats, StarLink smartphone integration (including Aha radio), a reverse camera, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA/satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, an aux connection, USB ports, voice activation, etcetera. 

Being that the Sport-tech RS model comes standard with a manual, it doesn’t get Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistive systems, but I should still go over everything featured with the EyeSight upgrade, such as auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, lead vehicle start alert, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, reverse automatic braking, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and lane keeping assist. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
It’s a WRX, so we just have to show you under the hood where its wonderful 2.0-litre turbo-four boxer resides. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

When equipped with all of the above the WRX achieves a best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating, and believe me the “+” portion of this commendation is very hard to get in the WRX’ small car class, only shared with three rival mainstream volume brands, none being a direct competitor to this go-fast Subie. I was even more impressed to find out that four Subaru models earn this IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating within the WRX small car category, which is a better result than any other brand. 

Also notable, Subaru has more vehicles receiving the top-most IIHS “+” rating than any competitor, completely topping the mid-size class, and represented in every segment it compete in, BRZ aside (a car it designed and builds with Toyota), resulting in eight total models. Speaking of Toyota, how does it fare? Only two of Toyota’s namesake models are rated as highly, while Honda had just had one, and Nissan didn’t have any models achieving safest IIHS status. This impressive safety claim is therefore as good as it gets, especially when combined with the all-weather safety of Subaru’s standard Symmetrical all-wheel drive. 

I’m not going to end this review by claiming a score of 10-out-of-10 for Subaru’s WRX, particularly due to its fuel economy, but suffice to say it’s impressive in most every other way, and as suitable to daily driving as it is for cleaning up at weekend autocross events or those wonderfully memorable days on the track. Of course, you’ll need to pray a WRX STI doesn’t show up, but for those on more of a budget, or city slicker who’d rather not shift for themselves, the regular WRX is an excellent choice, particularly when dressed up in Sport-tech RS trim.

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re probably fully aware what an Acura MDX is, but it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of A-Spec. Don’t worry, because you’re far from alone.…

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec Road Test Review

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Acura has given its MDX a sporty optional A-Spec trim upgrade for 2019, and we think it looks great while playing in the dirt. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re probably fully aware what an Acura MDX is, but it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of A-Spec. Don’t worry, because you’re far from alone. Basically, A-Spec is a performance trim offered across the entire Acura lineup that, depending on the model in question, may or may not include any actual go-fast sport-oriented upgrades. As for the MDX A-Spec, which is new for this 2019 model year, it’s purely a styling exercise. 

Fortunately the new A-Spec enhancements result in a very attractive bit of SUV kit, including gloss-black and darkened chrome trimmings for the grille, headlamps, window surrounds, and rear rooftop spoiler, plus a more aggressive frontal apron, painted front and rear lower skid plates, body-colour door handles, body-coloured rocker panels, bigger exhaust pipes, and a gorgeous set of 20-inch 10-spoke Shark Grey alloys on lower profile 265/45 all-seasons. That rubber might seem like the only upgrade that could possibly improve the MDX’ performance, but it should be noted these are the same as used on this SUV’s most luxuriously adorned Elite model. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Nice and long, the MDX has plenty of room for its three accommodating rows, as well as loads of cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Sliding into any one of the MDX seven seats means that you’ll inevitably have to pass over one of four A-Spec-embossed metal treadplates, while the upgraded cabin also features a unique primary gauge package that’s been brightened with additional red highlights. The latter gets framed by a thicker A-Spec-branded sport steering wheel that’s partially wrapped in grippy dimpled leather, while just below are sporty metal foot pedals. The console between the driver and front passenger gets special carbon-look detailing, and the sport seats flanking it are either covered in a sensational “Rich Red” upholstery or, in the case of my test model, special black leather with high-contrast stitching, plus plush perforated black suede-like Alcantara inserts. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
A-Spec trim blackens trim that’s otherwise chrome, paints out other areas in body colour, and beefs up the rear bumper cap. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So what do you think? I, for one, like what Acura has done to spiff up this aging yet still worthy luxury SUV. The exterior changes add some fresh new life to what is still a good looking package, while the interior mods are as easy on the eyes as they’re tactilely pleasurable (especially the Alcantara), but let’s be clear, none of this does much to modernize an instrument panel layout that has slowly been freefalling into the realms of classic, retrospective designs. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX A-Spec’s frontal design gets black chrome and gloss-black detailing along with a bolder lower front fascia. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, I’m not talking about the MDX’ downright radical, left-field, but now that I’m used to it, perfectly functional and kind-of-cool lower console-mounted pushbutton gear selector, which should never be exchanged for RDX version that takes up much too much valuable space on its centre stack, or for that matter the entry-level crossover’s new rotating drive mode selector that’s equally inefficient in its size and placement and therefore forced the need to position the otherwise superb tablet-style infotainment display atop the dash instead of closer to the driver where it could otherwise be actuated via touch gestures for easier use, instead of a complex touchpad that should only be an extra add-on to complement the overall infotainment package, we all have to admit the MDX two-tiered display setup is pretty outdated. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Like with all Acura models, the MDX receives standard Jewel Eye LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Why two centre tiers? Unlike the new RDX, that fits a fairly large multi-information display (MID) between two analogue dials within the primary package (although a fully digital cluster would be more competitive in top trims), the MDX gets a tall, narrow MID with simple colour graphics and minimal info ahead of the driver, and sends other MID info to the larger 8.0-inch top monitor on the centre stack. You can access the usual info from a rotating/push dial just under the second display below, while the top screen defaults to the navigation map when not in reverse, at which point an excellent multi-angle backup camera with active guidelines comes into play; the available 360-degree surround parking monitor can only be had with the previously noted top-line Elite model. This leaves more easily reached 7.0-inch touchscreen for audio and climate control adjustment, etcetera. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
An attractive set of triple-stacked LED fog lamps enhance the lower fascia design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Before I start getting hate mail for beating up on the MDX’ obviously aging infotainment system, a problem that many other brands are dealing with as their various models attempt to stay fresh and intriguing while undergoing the same old two- to three-year refresh, and four- to five-year redesigned cycles as have been used for decades, some of Acura’s competitors have done a better job of staying ahead of the digital curve and are therefore reaping the rewards of doing so. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s exclusive dark grey 20-inch alloys look fabulous, but the tires are identical to those used in the more luxurious Elite trim, so don’t add a performance advantage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

We’ll have to wait and see what Acura brings to the table, or more specifically the instrument panel when the all-new redesigned MDX surfaces sometime before 2020 or 2021 (so far there has been no official launch announcement), but as you can tell from my RDX comments (which is otherwise one of the best crossover SUVs in its compact luxury class), I’d rather Acura choose a different infotainment direction for the next-gen MDX. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The LED taillights come standard across the MDX line, but the A-Spec badge is exclusive, of course. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All grumbling aside, the current MDX infotainment system works well enough, and even includes such advanced features as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email reading functionality, satellite radio, four USB charge-capable ports, and more, plus as noted my A-Spec tester also had an accurate navigation system with detailed mapping and voice recognition, this pulled up from the MDX’ mid-range Tech trim line, which also provided superb 10-speaker ELS Studio surround sound audio, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, AcuraLink subscription services, and more. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec uses many of the same high-quality materials as found in the regular MDX, but adds plush suede-like Alcantara to the door inserts and seat upholstery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As usual with any Acura model, I feel tempted to list out as many features as possible, because this helps you to appreciate just how good the brand’s value proposition is, but this time around I’ll try to keep my babbling to a minimum and just detail the more important highlights such as LED fog lamps, auto-dimming power-folding outside mirrors, perimeter/approach puddle lamps, keyless entry buttons for the rear doors, and cooled/ventilated front seats as additions to the $60,490 A-Spec features menu, while additional items sourced from the Tech model include sun position detection for the climate control, front and rear parking sonar, and Blind Spot Information (BSI) with rear cross-traffic alert. s

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX hasn’t changed the look of its instrument panel for a very long time, but the Alcantara seat inserts are brand new for 2019. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Advanced driver assistance systems in mind, each and every MDX trim comes standard with the Japanese luxury brand’s AcuraWatch suite of safety and convenience features, including Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with low-speed follow. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
A small colour display gets surrounded by conventional analogue dials. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Finally, some key features sourced from the $54,390 base MDX for my tester’s A-Spec trim include the brand’s signature Jewel Eye LED headlamps with automatic high beams, attractive LED tail lamps, sound-deadening acoustic front glass, a remote engine starter, proximity-sensing front access, pushbutton start/stop, ambient cabin lighting, memory for the standard power-adjustable steering column, side mirrors, and auto climate control system, an electric parking brake, a power-operated glass sunroof with shade, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, an auto-dimming centre mirror, driver recognition, a heatable steering wheel rim, transmission paddle shifters, rain-sensing wipers, tri-zone front and rear auto HVAC, Active Noise Control (ANC), Active Sound Control (ASC), heatable 12-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar, a power liftgate, a 1,588-kilo towing capacity (or 2,268 kilograms with the available towing package), plus more. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s metal pedal upgrade even spiff up the “dead pedal” foot rest on the very left. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of note, all of the 2019 Acura MDX trim, package, and options pricing shown in this review were sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also find helpful rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, so make sure to check click here to save the most money possible when purchasing your next car, truck or SUV. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX’ two-tiered infotainment setup delivers a lot of screen space for the money, but while functional the system is now beyond dated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So far in this review, I’ve criticized the MDX for some of its mostly digital shortcomings, but I have to admit that it’s still enjoyable to drive and very comfortable, no matter where you’re seated. It’s also finished quite well considering its age, particularly in A-Spec trim. Some of this model’s interior upgrades include the aforementioned sport steering wheel, which feels really good in the fingers thanks to a thick, meaty, textured leather rim and well-sculpted spats for each thumb, while the interior is also filled with an attractive combination of satin-silver aluminum trim accents and other premium-finish inlays. Additionally, Acura lays on a heavy dose of premium-quality pliable composites across the dash, each door upper, and most everywhere else including the glove box lid, with just a small section of the instrument panel below the driver’s knees, plus each side of the lower centre console, and the bottom portion of each door panel, finished in harder, less premium types of plastic. Just above, however, are some of the plushest Alcantara door inserts in the business, this exclusive to my A-Spec model. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The top screen defaults to this navigation map, and while the display isn’t the sharpest the route guidance is very accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I was happy to be reminded that the MDX’ driver’s seat includes the four-way powered lumbar mentioned earlier, helping to add just the right amount of pressure in just the right spot for reducing back pain, and only wish all automakers would do likewise, while the comfortable driver’s seat also provided plenty of the usual adjustments this category offers, yet I would have also liked the under-leg support provided by a lower cushion extension, and being that this model is Acura’s sportiest large SUV, a set of adjustable side torso bolsters would be handy too. Unfortunately, even the front seats in A-Spec trim don’t keep one’s backside in place very firmly when tackling corners, but on the positive the side bolsters should provide comfort for those on the larger size. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The top screen is adjusted via these controls, the rotating dial used for scrolling, +/- functions, etc. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Not only comfortable, the MDX provides excellent visibility all around, making it easy to operate in all types of traffic situations, but before delving into its driving dynamics, I should mention how much room this SUV offers. Having set up the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight, long-legged, short-torso frame I still had plenty of room when seated in the second row just behind. That second-row easily slides fore and aft to make more room if needed, but even with it pulled all the way forward I still had a couple of inches of air ahead of my knees and room enough for my feet while shod in winter boots, plus when that second-row seat was pushed all the way back it was downright limousine-like. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The lower touchscreen accesses audio and HVAC functions plus more, and works well enough. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

With the second-row all the way rearward, the MDX’ rearmost row is probably only good for smaller adults or children, but after sliding the middle row forward I had plenty of room and those just mentioned winter boots slotted nicely underneath. I can’t call the third row comfortable, but it should be adequate for kids and mid-size teens, which is makes the MDX more utile than many in this class. Those in the very back shouldn’t get claustrophobic either, thanks to a set of side windows and a decent view out the front, while cupholders and nice reading lamps provide a good atmosphere for long trips. Climbing out from the very back is fairly easy as well, only needing you to press a button on the back of the second-row seat that immediately slides it forward, but this said it’s not the largest throughway to enter or exit from, so take care if you’re past teenage years. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX’ pushbutton gear selector takes up a fair bit of room on the console, but it uses space better than the new RDX system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back in second row, a handy climate control panel is added to the backside of the front centre console for rear passenger comfort, while Acura also provides two USB device chargers below. I would’ve liked to see a set of second-row seat heaters, but these only come in top-tier Elite trim; c’est la vie. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s Alcantara seat inserts aid grip, which is helpful as the side bolsters aren’t very aggressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The powered rear liftgate opens to a properly finished cargo area featuring chrome tie-down hooks and nice, high-end carpeting up the sidewalls and on the seatbacks, while a sharp looking aluminum tread plate pretties up the rear doorsill. It’s adequately roomy too, with 447 litres (15.8 cubic feet) of gear-toting space behind the third row, and a useful underfloor compartment too. Folding the 50/50-split rear seats down is easy enough, but smaller folk might want Acura to add a power option in the upcoming redesign. Dropping the second row down is a manual affair as well, and while it’s easy enough you’ll need to walk around to the side doors to do so. Cargo capacity grows from 1,230 litres (43.4 cu ft) aft of the upright second-row seats to 2,575 litres (90.9 cu ft) when all are laid flat, but take heed that no middle pass-through is available for longer cargo such as skis, meaning the MDX’ European rivals do a more comprehensive job of providing passenger/cargo flexibility. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Special 12-way adjustability with 4-way lumbar make the MDX A-Spec front seats very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for the MDX powertrain, it’s probably the most experienced in its segment, which is a bonus if you’re looking for well-proven reliability, or a bane if you want the latest under-hood technology. Acura’s SOHC 3.5-litre V6 has been around since 2014, and while producing a decent 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque when compared to mainstream volume branded SUVs, doesn’t exactly light a fire under your seat when getting hard on the throttle when compared to some key competitors, like Audi’s 333-horepower supercharged Q7 and BMW’s 335-hp turbocharged X5, plus plenty of others, and making this issue even more pronounced is the fact the older 2007 to 2013 second-gen MDX used a 200-cc larger 3.7-litre variation on the same V6 theme that was 10 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque stronger for max output of 300 hp and 270 lb-ft, which means the MDX has kind of been in reverse when it comes to straight-line performance. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Just a classic front moonroof in the MDX, with no panoramic option available. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Softening the backhanded blow in 2013, when the current 2014 powertrain was introduced, was the nine-speed ZF automatic transmission still doing an admirable job of swapping cogs. While hardly producing lightning-quick shifts, even in Sport mode, it was certainly more fun to flick through the paddles than the previous six-speed unit, and I must say it’s wonderfully smooth about its business, while Acura’s torque-vectoring SH-AWD, standard with the MDX, even makes slippery road conditions confidence-inspiring. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Second-row room, comfort and adjustability is good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I took the MDX up a local mountain road and was thoroughly impressed by its ability through thick, mucky snow, the white fluffy stuff having departed long before I arrived. I can only imagine how well it would work if Acura had provided some winter tires instead, but the 265/ 45R20 Michelin Latitude Alpin all-seasons circling the dark grey alloys mentioned earlier, did a fine job just the same.  

Likewise for the MDX’ capable suspension, which while set up with more focus on compliant comfort than edgy performance, is easily up to fast-paced cornering through circuitous backroads, but it’s even better at high-speed cruising down the freeway thanks to its superbly sorted fully independent suspension that tracks brilliantly while providing an excellent ride. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Third row access is easy to operate, but there’s not much room to slip behind. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sport mode just mentioned comes as part of a drive mode selector that also offers Comfort and Normal settings, plus the ability to stay in a chosen mode even after shutting off the engine and returning later. So therefore, if you’re the type of driver that leaves their SUV in Sport mode all the time, Acura has you covered without any extra fuss, and likewise for those who place Comfort higher on their priority list. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Once inside there’s plenty of space in the very back for small adults or kids. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now that I’m on to more practical subjects, the MDX’ fuel-efficiency is quite good for this class, despite its large V6 engine. This might be due to its relatively stress-free life compared to what a turbo-four would need to do if pushing such a large, weighty SUV, the as-tested MDX A-Spec hitting the scales at 1,945 kg (4,288 lbs). The engine also features some impressive technologies including direct-injection, i-VTEC, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that turns off one row of cylinders when not being pushed hard, auto idle stop/start that reduces consumption and emissions even more, and the nine-speed autobox that’s tweaked to minimize engine revs, all helping this A-Spec model to achieve a Transport Canada rating of 12.2 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.0 combined, which is just a bit more than every other MDX trim that get rated at 12.2 city, 9.0 highway and 10.8 combined. Speaking of fuel economy, I just recently retested the MDX Sport Hybrid, which, due to an innovative two-motor hybrid-electric powertrain, is rated at 9.1 L/100km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 9.0 combined. I’ll make sure to review this top-line MDX soon, so please come back for the rest of this SUV’s story. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Cargo capacity is an MDX strength. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back to the conventionally powered MDX, I must admit to still enjoying my time behind the wheel. It’s not the fastest, best handling or most advanced crossover SUV in the luxury sector, but quick and agile enough, and offers up an excellent ride with superb comfort all-round. It’s the type of SUV you can drive all day and never tire of, and that’s just the kind of luxury I like living with day in and day out. On top of this, 2019 A-Spec trim brings a sporty new look and other refinements to the well-proven MDX package, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of these nicely outfitted models in better Canadian neighbourhoods this year.

The QX50 always provided strong performance and a nicely finished interior, at least comparative to its peers in its earlier years, but its outward design never stirred my senses. Not so for the completely…

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory Road Test Review

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50 is one great looking compact luxury SUV, especially in near top-tier Sensory trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The QX50 always provided strong performance and a nicely finished interior, at least comparative to its peers in its earlier years, but its outward design never stirred my senses. Not so for the completely redesigned 2019 QX50, however, as styling is now its number one asset, critical for making a good first impression. 

It seems like I’m not alone in my thinking, because year-over-year Canadian QX50 sales growth is already up 59 percent as of December 31, and it only arrived partway through 2018, while during the first two months of 2019 the new Infiniti found 113.7-percent more buyers than the previous generation lured in for January and February last year. 

Most should find this ground-up second-generation redesign pleasant to the eyes, thanks to a particularly eye-catching version of Infiniti’s double-arch grille situated under a long, elegantly shaped hood, and bookended by sharp, animal-like LED headlamps. It all hovers over a clean and sporty lower fascia that nicely ties the frontal design together for an overall design that should cause many more would-be buyers to pay attention. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
All of Infiniti’s now trademark design details are rolled up into one stylish crossover. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Likewise, there’s plenty of muscular sculpting to the side panels, these passing by a handsome chromed engine vent garnish on each upper front fender, plenty of additional chrome trim around the side windows, the rearmost of which curves with the brand’s distinctive reverse kink, while at back it’s equally attractive, particularly at the LED taillights, while, depending on trim, a variety of 19- to 20-inch alloys finish off the look. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Front or back? Which side looks best to you? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As visually appealing as the new QX50 is, Canadian SUV buyers need a generous cargo hold of practicality to keep their attention, not to mention premium levels of interior build quality, the latest electronic interfaces, and, of course, performance that matches or exceeds the best in this class. To that end, the new QX50 mostly delivers. 

As noted a moment ago, performance made the previous QX50 stand out, particularly its rear-wheel drive-biased handling, although the compact luxury crossover’s standard 3.7-litre V6, advanced seven-speed automatic, and Intelligent all-wheel drive were nothing to sneeze at either. And just how the new model’s exterior styling changes everything about the way the new QX50 looks, it is now powered by a comparatively tiny 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to send torque to all four wheels, and rolls on a new front-wheel drive-based chassis, or in other words the new SUV is completely different than the outgoing model, down to its very core. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Infiniti has found an attractive and distinctive grille design, while many of its contemporaries are struggling to stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The move from rear-wheel to front-wheel drive platform architectures is nothing new in this class due to interior packaging improvements with the latter, especially when it comes to rear seating and cargo capacity, but how does it impact the way the QX50 drives? On the positive, the new QX50 now provides a more comfortable ride. It floats smoothly over rough patches of pavement, bridge expansions, and other types of road irregularities, while it also benefits from a quieter cabin, partially due to using active engine mounts ahead of the seemingly better insulated firewall and an acoustic windshield plus acoustic side glass. The result is a more refined experience overall, which should bode well for meeting the wants and needs of most premium buyers, but then again those who previously chose the QX50 for its road-holding prowess may be a tad disappointed. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Full LED headlights are standard, but the Sensory gets even nicer signature LEDs with cornering capability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Let’s face it. The old 2008–2017 QX50 (and prior EX35) was based on the old G35/G37 (Q50) sport sedan, and it felt like it, whereas the latest version rides on the Nissan Altima and Murano’s front-wheel drive-biased platform architecture, which while sporting a fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension design, plus standard Active Trace Control which autonomously increases brake pressure mid-corner to maintain a given lane, doesn’t provide enough help to turn this comfortable family hauler into a canyon carver. 

In a nutshell the new QX50 is a bit less planted to the road at highway speeds, especially when pushing hard through corners with broken pavement, and doesn’t achieve the same level of confidence on the open freeway either. This is the trade-off when choosing a front-biased layout, and while Infiniti has gone far to exorcise as many understeering demons from within, there was no way they could’ve make it feel as hooked up as the outgoing version. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50 Sensory’s styling details really catch the eye. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This said the new variable compression turbo engine is brilliant. It provides more immediate power from its small displacement than the majority of rivals’ base engines, despite measuring an identical 2.0 litres. How much more? Try 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque delivered to all four wheels, resulting in quite a bit more output than its entry-level compact luxury SUV market segment’s peers. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These gorgeous deep-tinted 20-inch alloys come standard on Sensory and Autograph trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The top seller is now Mercedes-Benz’ GLC, which only provides 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, while the second-place Audi Q5 is good for just 248 hp and 273 lb-ft (which are identical numbers to the Porsche Macan that uses the same engine). Likewise, the third-place BMW X3 is capable of 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the QX50’s mill is considerably more potent than Lexus’ latest base NX that can only achieve 238 hp and 258 lb-ft, while Cadillac’s fresh new XT4 is rated at a comparatively wimpy 237 hp and 258 lb-ft. All said the new QX50 isn’t the quickest in the segment, with the recently revitalized Acura RDX capable of 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, and Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio leading the segment’s base engine output with 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque (both are more fun to drive, too). Still, the Infiniti CUV’s output is more than respectable. 

In fact, WardsAuto just included the VC-Turbo as on of this year’s 10 Best Engines. The new engine design took Infiniti’s engineering department a full four years to develop, and features special connecting rods between its pistons and crankshaft that vary the compression of the fuel and air mixture, with less increasing power output when called upon, and more improving fuel-efficiency under lighter loads such as when cruising and coasting. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These front fender vents add a touch of class to an already well executed design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I know all this tech talk can be a bit dry, but I’m more concerned that I lost your interest earlier in this review when mentioning that Infiniti swapped out its seven-speed auto for a CVT, being that CVT is usual a three-letter acronym that correctly describes an economical and smooth yet dull and boring technology. Fortunately, however, along with tackling the problem of ever-increasing carbon tax-induced gasoline prices the new transmission is actually a strong performer. It utilizes a completely new shift-by-wire design that features manual shift mode, steering wheel paddles, Downshift Rev Matching (that blips the throttle to match a given gear ratio with engine revs), plus dual transmission fluid coolers, resulting in a fairly conventional feeling transmission. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Of course, LED taillights are standard across the line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The CVT responds better than expected when flicking through its paddles too, and is plenty of fun to drive with Sport mode engaged. The VC-Turbo’s power comes on quickly, but this is where the faux stepped-gear CVT doesn’t quite measure up to its multi-speed automatic rivals, as it allows engine revs to remain too high for too long, thus interfering with performance, adding to noise, vibration and harshness levels, and ironically impinging on fuel-efficiency. 

If driven like most of us do when behind the wheel of a compact crossover SUV, however, it’s a wonderfully smooth and refined transmission that combines a high level of day-in and day-out performance with claimed fuel economy that’s 30 percent better than the outgoing model, now rated at 10.0 L/100km city, 7.8 highway and 9.0 combined, compared to 13.7 city, 9.8 highway and 11.9 combined. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Climb into one of the nicer interiors in the compact luxury crossover SUV class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

If you were to ask me for one key complaint, it’s Infiniti’s Eco Pedal that pushes rearward on the gas pedal (and therefore your right foot) in order to try and influence you not to press too hard. I find it terribly annoying, and therefore never turn Eco mode on when using an Infiniti vehicle, so therefore I end up losing out on all the other benefits that the brand’s Eco mode provides, like the best possible fuel economy just noted. I’m guessing that I’m not alone, so Infiniti would do well to allow its owners to turn off the Eco Pedal when Eco mode is engaged. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Quality materials set the QX50 Sensory’s cabin apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those who don’t mind its interference can choose that Eco mode, as well as all of the QX50’s other drive settings from a “D-MODE” inscribed, metal-adorned rocker switch atop the lower console, just behind a totally new electronic shift lever design. Smaller and shorter, although well crafted from satin-silver aluminum and contrast-stitched leather, the new shifter provides a more normal gear selection process than some others in this class, particularly Acura and Lincoln that are obsessed with buttons. The only button Infiniti uses is a small black one with a “P” label for selecting park. 

Just above the shift lever on a separate lower console section is an elegantly stylish knurled metal infotainment controller surrounded by high-quality buttons, while a volume knob on the centre stack provides nearly the same level of luxury detailing. There’s no shortage of aluminized metal trim throughout the rest of the cabin either, albeit tastefully applied so it’s not overbearing, with personal favourites being the edges of each power window switch and the gorgeous geometrically drilled Bose speaker grilles. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Where are the fully programmable digital gauges? So far, only traditional analog dials and a large TFT MID are available. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This brings up the quality and fitment of all buttons, knobs and switches, which are well damped, tightly fitted, and made from dense composites when not covered in metal, allowing the QX50 to meet the level of refinement delivered by the majority of its rivals, and exceed some. 

Additional niceties include beautiful open-pore natural maple hardwood inlays (a Sensory trim exclusive) and lush black ultrasuede (also exclusive to the Sensory), both used on the instrument panel, centre stack, lower console, front seat bolsters and door uppers front to back, while the two front and second set of roof pillars, plus the roofliner itself, were covered in the charcoal ultrasuede alone. Lastly, classy contrast-stitched leather was also generously applied throughout the interior, the QX50 Sensory’s cabin truly a cut above. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The dual-display infotainment system is a step in the right direction, with high quality screens and good functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, the QX50 provides high-grade premium surfaces, along with nice metal and wood accents above the waist, even coating its glove box lid with soft-touch paint, but like many in this class Infiniti stops pampering at this mid-point, instead applying hard plastics to the lower dash, sides of the centre console, and lower door panels. It’s a cost cutting measure for sure, but some will say the harder composite provides durability, weight savings and even recyclability, yet this is the luxury class, so therefore I think Infiniti should be doing more to measure up to leaders like the aforementioned BMW X3, which applies soft-touch to more surfaces. Still, the QX50 interior is much nicer than some other peers, and should impress most who step inside. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
A best of both world’s scenario, the Sensory’s Around View parking monitor provides multiple views. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, it’s best in near top-line $56,490 Sensory trim, or when equipped with the more bespoke $57,990 Autograph model’s upgrades. These two trims are mostly the same when it comes to features, but differ in the application of some interior colours and materials. For instance, both use luxury-grade semi-aniline leather upholstery, those sumptuous ultrasuede accents just noted, and real hardwood inlays, but the Sensory’s colour theme is charcoal black and the Autograph is a two-tone blue and white motif, while its leather seats get a rich diamond-quilted pattern (in white) and its side bolsters are highlighted with blue piping. It’s a look you’ll adore, and therefore need to acquire, or not, and fortunately Infiniti makes it optional so it’s only a dealmaker, not a deal-breaker. 

Other features found with both trims include two-way front passenger powered lumbar support, three-way cooled front seats, advanced climate control (with auto-recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier and a Grape Polyphenol Filter), extended interior ambient lighting, rear side window sunshades, a gesture-activated hands-free liftgate, and metal cargo area trim, while exterior upgrades include a sweet looking set of 20-inch dark tinted alloys on 255/45 all-season run-flat tires, plus really nice looking cube design LED high/low beam headlamps with adaptive cornering capability. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50’s new electronic shifter is a really upscale bit of advanced kit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The two top-line models utilize many of the features found in lesser trims too, such as the $52,990 ProActive model’s auto high beams, dynamic cruise control (with full speed range and hold), distance control assist, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, blindspot intervention, rear cross-traffic warning, backup collision intervention, steering assist, the ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous self-driving system (which gets very close to full autonomy while traveling on the highway), Infiniti’s exclusive steer-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system (a first for an Infiniti SUV) that’s very reactive to steering input (other trims use vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering), a head-up display unit, and a superb sounding 16-speaker Bose Premium Series audio system. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Check the previous photo to see this infotainment controller’s knurled metal sides. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, a bevy of items get pulled up from $48,990 Essential trim, such as rain-sensing windshield wipers, front/rear parking sonar, reverse-tilt side mirrors, Infiniti’s excellent 360-degree Around View parking camera with moving object detection, very accurate navigation routing with a superbly detailed mapping system, three-zone auto climate control with controls for the rear passengers (upgraded from the two-zone automatic HVAC system found in lesser trims), a power tilt and telescoping steering column, and memory for that steering wheel column, plus the front seats and side mirrors. 

Lastly, $44,490 base Luxe trim provides LED fog lights, LED turn signal repeaters integrated within the side mirrors, LED tail lamps (the Luxe is also standard with LED low/high beam headlamps), chromed outer door handles, chromed tailpipe finishers, a remote engine starter, proximity keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, the previously noted drive mode selector featuring standard, eco, sport, and personal settings, a panoramic glass sunroof with a powered sunshade, a power liftgate (without hands-free), predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blindspot warning, plus plenty more. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These comfortable seats provide plenty of support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of note, all 2019 QX50 pricing for trims, packages, and standalone options were sourced from CarCostCanada, which also provides money-saving manufacturer rebate info and otherwise difficult to find dealer invoice pricing that could help save you thousands. 

For many, the new QX50’s advanced electronic interfaces will be most important, and I must admit they certainly help modernize the look of the interior and the SUV’s overall functionality. First and foremost is the new InTouch twin-display infotainment setup on the centre stack, boasting a bright, clear and colourful high-resolution 8.0-inch monitor on the upper position, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen underneath, plus InTouch safety, security and convenience services, etcetera. I found this system mostly easy to use, with the top display, which provides navigation info, various views from the backup/surround camera system and more, controlled by the beautifully made rotating dial on the lower console mentioned earlier, and the lower one by tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Rich semi-aniline leather and soft ultrasuede can be found all over the Sensory model’s cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for the primary gauge package ahead of the driver, I was somewhat dismayed that Infiniti didn’t take this opportunity to introduce a fully digital cluster, as this is now expected in top-tier trims (VW is even doing so with its latest Tiguan), but the mostly analogue dials the automaker provided worked well enough, and the large colour multi-information display certainly wasn’t short on functionality, all of which were easily controlled by a nicely organized set of steering wheel switches. 

Looking upward, a new overhead console includes the usual reading lights, buttons for the sunroof, plus a wholly redesigned sunglasses holder that, surprise, surprise comes without an intrusive nosepiece so that all of my sunglasses fit inside without issue. Just why previous versions were made with a nosepiece that was too big to hold regular glasses in place is beyond my scope of understanding, but fortunately Infiniti has remedied this problem once and for all. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This big panoramic sunroof is standard across the QX50 line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The sunglasses holder isn’t the only improvement made to passenger and cargo roominess, with rear passengers now benefiting from significantly more legroom and headspace. Infiniti actually claims that the QX50’s rear seating area is larger than both Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3, while rear passengers can now slide their seats forward and rearward in order to increase legroom or alternatively add to available cargo space. 

Unsurprisingly the rear outboard positions were very comfortable, while I had about eight inches of space for my knees when the driver’s seat was preset for my five-foot-eight long-legged, short-torso, medium-build body. Additionally, there was plenty of room for my winter boots, albeit not much for tucking them under the driver’s seat. Speaking of narrow spaces, the compact QX50’s compromised width was made evident by the lack of inches to the door panel, but the outer armrest was comfortable and my shoulder never felt hemmed in. Adults in back might find the flip-down centre armrest on the low side, but it’s perfect for children, and it includes a slot for storing your smartphone plus a pair of cupholders. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Rear seat roominess and comfort is excellent, but where are the heated rear onboard seats? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The previously noted rear climate controls are about as minimalist as such items go, only combining a digital watch-sized black and white LCD display with single red and blue buttons for adjusting the temperature. Infiniti adds a USB device charger and 12-volt socket too, but oddly rear seat warmers aren’t even on the QX50 menu. 

On the positive, cargo capacity has generously increased by 368 litres (13.0 cubic feet) to 895 (31.6 cu ft) behind the standard 60/40-split rear seats, but remember you can slide them forward for another 153 litres (5.5 cu ft), increasing total capacity behind the rear seatbacks to 1,048 litres (37.0 cu ft). A helpful lever on each sidewall folds the respective rear seat flat, opening up a maximum of 1,822 litres (64.3 cu ft) when both sides are lowered. The weakness to the QX50’s 60/40-configured seatback design becomes apparent when wanting to stow longer items such as skis down the middle when family or friends are coming along for the ride, because there’s no centre pass-through or best-possible 40/20/40-division for optimizing passengers and cargo flexibility. If a higher level of real-life practicality matters to you, the Europeans tend to do a better job. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This handy lever drops the right-side rear seatback down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As is now expected in this class, the standard powered liftgate is programmable for height, a very important feature if your parking garage is lower than average, and even more so if pipes hang down further (been there done that). This said I kept bumping my forehead into the open hatch until finding time to reprogram it, not a fault of Infiniti, but something new owners may want to watch out for. All should be happy with the cargo area’s finishings, mind you, thanks to attractive aluminum sill guards and carpeting most everywhere, while the cargo floor can be removed to store smaller items in two shallow stowage bins, the most forward one also housing the Bose amplifier and subwoofer. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The cargo compartment is nicely finished, but the 60/40-split rear seatbacks don’t measure up to others that offer a centre pass-through or an even more convenient 40/20/40 configuration. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

After a week with Infiniti’s new QX50 I’d say the pros more than outweigh the cons, but you’ll need to decide this for yourself when testing. Its styling should be universally positive, and most will probably praise its upgraded interior and much improved electronics too, while its host of advanced driver assistance systems will no doubt be lauded as well. I found it roomy and comfortable, plus its driving position is excellent, important for extracting all of its straight-line performance and maximizing support when pushing it through the corners, but this new QX50 is built more for comfort than speed when compared to the outgoing one, which will probably be just fine for the majority of its buyers. 

I won’t go out on a limb to say it’s best in class, and honestly would truly be hard pressed to claim this about any rivals either, but you really should spend some quality time with this new model before purchasing anything else. In other words, the new QX50 is worthy of your close attention, because it just might fit your wants and needs ideally, and save you a few thousand in the process.

In classic Honda fashion, the update from third-generation 2016-2018 Pilot 1.0 to 2019 Pilot 2.0 is ultimately subtle, but somehow the changes made have resulted in a wholly better looking crossover SUV. …

2019 Honda Pilot Touring Road Test Review

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda has toughened up the look of the 2019 Pilot, and we like what we see. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In classic Honda fashion, the update from third-generation 2016-2018 Pilot 1.0 to 2019 Pilot 2.0 is ultimately subtle, but somehow the changes made have resulted in a wholly better looking crossover SUV. 

The new Pilot’s mid-cycle makeover adds a more assertive looking truck-like grille above a stronger front bumper and fascia design, which tie in better to other models throughout Honda’s lineup. The new look is further improved by a wonderfully complex set of full LED headlamps in top-line Touring trim, sporting Honda’s signature vertical elements for a whole new level of sophistication when compared to lesser trims. 

Incidentally, trims below Touring get standard low-beam-only LED headlights that feature a less distinctive projector-style design, while an attractive set of updated LED tail lamps are the same with all trims, these positioned above a new rear bumper. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot is long and accommodating, seating three row of 7 or 8, plus loads of cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, silver skid plates below both front and rear bumpers toughen up the look of most trims, while matte and glossy black versions of the same garnishes adorn base and Canadian-exclusive Black Edition versions respectively, while Honda adds a little bit of extra exterior chrome to Touring trim, including bright metal door handles, and new 20-inch machine-finished alloys with black painted pockets that result in a more upscale look from front to back. All of these small details have really added up to a handsome mid-size crossover SUV, and while it remains a large three-row family hauler that can actually fit real adults in its rearmost seats, the Pilot somehow appears light and lithe, as if it’s actually fun to drive. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda has tweaked rear end styling as well, but more subtly. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Rather than just refreshing the styling and leaving at that, Honda went further by improving the auto start-stop system in top-tier Touring and Black Edition trims, so that it shuts off and restarts the engine quicker and with less fanfare, a fix that should cause more owners to leave it engaged and therefore do a better job of minimizing fuel consumption and emissions. I’m a big fan of that, and never had a problem with this feature throughout my test week. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The vertical LED elements in the top-line Touring model’s headlamps are really eye-catching. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Likewise, my top-line Pilot Touring tester’s updated nine-speed automatic transmission performed flawlessly, delivering what seemed to be smoother more effortless shifts when tooling around town or cruising along the highway, and feeling more precise when flicking through the gears on the highway. This said I never had a problem with the outgoing nine-speed when testing it in a 2017 model, but some have complained about refinement and therefore Honda made improvements that should appease such disgruntled owners. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Big 20-inch machine-finished alloys add a sporty touch to the otherwise elegantly shaped SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Base LX, plus mid-range EX and EX-L Navi owners would have had no such issues due to their Pilots incorporating Honda’s time-tested six-speed autobox, while the one-size-fits-all 24-valve, SOHC 3.5-litre V6 is about as seasoned as modern-day engines get, remaining quite potent for the class at 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and kitted out with direct-injection, i-VTEC, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that shuts off a bank of cylinders under light loads to improve fuel economy, plus an Active Control Engine Mount (ACM) system to help reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels, which it seems to do effectively. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda updated these LED taillights as part of the 2019 redesign. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Thanks in part to standard Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD, supported by Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management System, the latest Pilot felt as sporty off the line as its new look lets on, while it carried that newfound nimbleness through fast-paced corners with an easy, composed nonchalance that defied its near full-size proportions, combining this agile handling with a thoroughly comfortable, compliant ride that only became unsettled when pushed beyond what’s reasonable on a particularly poorly paved section of curving roadway. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Comfort is king in the driver’s seat of the 2019 Pilot Touring. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Driven at calmer speeds my Pilot Touring tester was not only ideally stable and thoroughly comfortable, but came very close to achieving its claimed Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 12.4 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 11.0 combined, with my weeklong average being 11.7 L/100km of mostly city driving on flat roadways. Of note, six-speed models are estimated to achieve 13.0 city, 9.3 highway and 11.3 combined. Factoring in new carbon tax-infused pump prices, these numbers are quite good for such a large utility. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot Touring provides a modern, well-made cockpit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I didn’t have opportunity to tow a trailer during my test week, but take note there’s no difference in ability with either transmission, the Pilot’s rating set to 1,588 kilograms (3,500 lbs) in base form or 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) when fitted with its available towing package. 

Hauling in mind, the Pilot provides plenty of cargo space for all your load carrying needs, with 524 litres (18.5 cubic feet) behind the third row, or 510 litres (18.0 cubic feet) with the Touring and Black Edition; 1,583 litres (55.9 cubic feet) when that 60/40-split third row is folded flat; plus a range from 3,072 to 3,092 litres (108.5 to 109.2 cubic feet) when both rear rows lowered, but take note that models with second-row captain’s chairs are missing a centre section that may need to be gapped when trying to fill it fully with gear. Some others with this problem attach a carpeted extension to the backside of one seatback that can be flipped over the open section of load floor when filling with cargo, but no such innovation was shown here. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot’s mostly digital dash is much more advanced than most rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

These sliding and reclining captain’s chairs, which straddle a slightly raised floor-mounted console with cupholders and shallow bin, don’t come standard in Touring trim, but instead replace a regular bench seat that’s good enough for three adults abreast. The model tested, therefore, only provided for seven occupants, whereas the base version is one of the more capable family haulers thanks to eight available seatbelts. I’ve tried both, and the captain’s chairs are certainly more comfortable, thanks in part to fold-down armrests and seat heaters. I also appreciated the much more open and visually airy interior provided by the big panoramic sunroof included with Touring and Black Edition upgrades—all other trims but the base model include a regular powered moonroof up front. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot gets a nicely sorted centre stack, wth one of the best infotainment systems in the market. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Features in mind, top-tier $52,690 Touring trim comes well stocked, with items not yet mentioned including a more advanced set of LED high beam-infused headlamps, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, blue ambient lighting inside, front window acoustic glass to subdue NVH levels, rain-sensing wipers, an electronic gear selector, ventilated front seats, a premium 600-watt audio system with 11 speakers including a subwoofer plus 5.1 Surround Sound, wireless device charging, Honda’s ultra-useful new CabinTalk in-car PA system (it really works well), HondaLink Subscription Services, a Wi-Fi hotspot, the “How much Farther?” app, a rear entertainment system, HDMI input jack, a 115-volt rear power outlet, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
This nice big reverse camera, with standard multiple views, makes backing up much safer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, features pulled up from EX-L Navi trim to the Touring model including an acoustic windshield, memory-linked side mirrors with reverse tilt, a heatable steering wheel rim, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, navigation, satellite and HD radio, front and rear parking sensors, the heated outboard second-row seats noted earlier, one-touch third-row access buttons that make getting in and out of the rearmost seating area ultra-easy, second-row sunshades, a powered tailgate and more, while items pulled up from EX trim include LED fog lights, LED turn signals within the side mirrors, roof rails, illuminated vanity mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory, and the just noted power moonroof. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
And now for something completely different… The Pilot Touring’s digital gear selector takes some time to get used to. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lastly, I should also mention a number of standard $41,290 Pilot LX features that are also part of the Touring trim package, such as a remote engine starter, keyless proximity access, pushbutton ignition, a windshield wiper de-icer, an overhead console-mounted conversation mirror that doubles as a sunglasses holder, tri-zone automatic climate control, three-way heatable front seats, the HondaLink Assist Automatic Emergency Response System, and the list goes on (all prices are sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also get all the latest rebate info as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Nice big and comfortable front seats make day in and day out especially enjoyable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Particularly notable, all Pilot trims feature a large 7.0-inch TFT multi-information display (MID) within a mostly digital gauge cluster, the former featuring bright and clear high-resolution colour graphics, plus easy operation via steering wheel-mounted controls, while the 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen atop the centre stack is even more fully featured, starting with a wonderfully colourful array of tile-like graphics that appear to be inspired by the iPhone and iPad. The inclusion of standard Apple CarPlay is therefore fitting, although take note that Android Auto is also standard, plus Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with streaming audio, a superb multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Big dual sunroofs provide plenty of overhead light. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Part of that ongoing features list includes a whole host of standard Honda Sensing advanced driver assistance systems such as automatic high beams, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Road Departure Mitigation, which means that together with the Touring model’s cornering-capable full LED headlights the 2019 Pilot now achieves a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS (last year’s versions didn’t achieve the “Plus” or “+” rating), while it also received a five star safety rating from the NHTSA. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
No issues getting comfortable in these optional second-row captain’s chairs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While most everything I’ve said thus far has been positive, I was somewhat surprised that the Pilot only provides soft touch synthetic surfacing across its dash top, as well as a piece on the instrument panel just ahead of its front passenger that wraps overtop the centre display, and the front door uppers, plus of course the usual door inserts and armrests. This means the rear door uppers were hard plastic, which is strangely low-rent for this class, while some rivals even go so far to provide the pliable synthetic treatment to the lower dash including the glove box lid, while also wrapping the A pillars in fabric to improve refinement further. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Let’s get this show on the road… literally! (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

On the positive, the driver’s seat was very comfortable, but this said its two-way powered lumbar support didn’t meet up with the small of my back, so I didn’t use it the way I would if it also adjusted for height. Speaking of seats, I should say more about the third row that actually was quite comfortable, with plenty of legroom for a five-foot-eight adult (with long legs and a shorter torso), about three to four inches available for the knees when the second row was pushed back to its rearmost position, and loads of headroom. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The third row is surprisingly roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My last and final complaint won’t be an issue for many Pilot owners, but I found it odd that Honda expended so much energy (and money) creating the Touring (and Black Edition) model’s electronic gear selector yet didn’t replace the foot-operated parking brake with an electromechanical unit. It’s not like lifting the foot and pressing down on a parking brake is a big negative, but it certainly ties what is otherwise a modern and advanced vehicle to the past. I’m guessing Honda will replace it for the next generation Pilot, so I, like some others, will look forward to this upgrade. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot is one of the most cargo friendly SUVs in its mid-size class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

And yes this is where I need to say, if a foot-operated parking brake, two-way lumbar support, and a little more hard plastic than I’d like to see is all I can find to complain about after a weeklong test, Honda is doing pretty well with the new Pilot. All in all this is easily the best Pilot I’ve ever driven, and one of the more competitive crossover SUVs in its three-row mainstream volume class. I like its new styling, appreciate the amount of effort Honda’s engineers put into refining the new model’s drivetrain and suspension, and therefore enjoyed my time behind the wheel. It’s certainly an easy SUV to live with thanks to ample passenger and cargo space, while its fuel economy didn’t put me in the poorhouse. For these reasons and more the 2019 Pilot is easy to recommend.

What would you do? Despite having long since closed off my 2018 model year reviews thanks to most manufacturers’ 2019 models having been available since fall of last year, I was staring at the keys…

2018 Porsche Macan Road Test Review

2018 Porsche Macan
Still a great looking compact luxury SUV, the 2018 Macan remains available brand spanking new from a Porsche dealer near you. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

What would you do? Despite having long since closed off my 2018 model year reviews thanks to most manufacturers’ 2019 models having been available since fall of last year, I was staring at the keys of a nicely outfitted 2018 Porsche Macan, and it only made sense to drive it. Then again, if I drove it I’d need to review it, and here we are. 

Fortunately for me the refreshed 2019 version is a late arrival, starting to show up at Porsche Canada dealers as I stare at another set of keys while hammering out this last-minute review. It’s also good the Stuttgart-based brand made sure that its retailers were well stocked with 2018 Macans, a fact that still makes this somewhat late arrival of a road test review relevant. I’m ok with that if you are, and besides, it’s not like the 2019 model is a radical departure from this 2018 version anyway. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The biggest styling difference between 2018 and 2019 Macans can be seen from this rear vantage point. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

That said, toward the end of this 2018 Macan review I’ll make sure to point out a few notable changes made to the new 2019, so you can decide what matters most when choosing your new Porsche SUV, because it’s probably safe to say you’ll be able to get a better deal on the outgoing model than the refreshed version, not to mention that it’s even more ok than usual to purchase a one model-year older vehicle when factoring in Porsche’s much better than average resale values. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The base 2018 Macan incorporates Porsche’s four-point LED signature lights and offers full LED headlamps optionally, but those LED headlights come standard with the new 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

First off, both 2018 and 2019 Macans qualify for sportiest compact luxury SUV status, and saying that I’m not forgetting about some pretty impressive iron currently available, or should I say aluminum when referring to some of its challengers, particularly the Jaguar F-Pace and Range Rover Velar (the Macan utilizes an aluminum hood and liftgate, plus elsewhere it uses an assortment of high-strength micro-alloyed steel, multi-phase steel, deep-drawn steel, and boron-alloyed steel). 

2018 Porsche Macan
The 2018 Macan gets a sporty front fascia with powerful fog lamps in standard trim, but take note these details are updated for 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yet there’s also the new steel-bodied Alfa Romeo Stelvio (I drove the Ti Sport AWD and it was loads of fun, and on that note the 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio might even impress more than the Macan Turbo, but I’ll reserve judgment until after I’ve spent time behind the wheel), plus the recently renewed Audi SQ5, BMW’s X3 M, and Mercedes-AMG’s dynamic duo, the GLC 43 and 63 S, while I should also give honourable mentions to the new Acura RDX and Infiniti QX50 that do an admirable job of performing off the line and through the curves when sidled up beside the base Macan I’m reviewing here. 

2018 Porsche Macan
These 19-inch Turbo alloys aren’t standard, as the base model gets 18-inch rims and rubber. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Still, even this entry-level Macan delivers a higher level of performance feel than these very worthy rivals, the sound of rasping exhaust and the quick-shifting response of its seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission, which comes complete with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a far cry more engaging than most anything it’s put up against. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Say goodbye to these discrete rear lamps, which make way for a much larger single-unit taillight that spans the 2019 Macan’s entire backside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

This most basic of Macans receives a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine endowed with VarioCam technology and kinetic energy recovery that’s capable of 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, the former number about average for the class yet the latter more than most rivals provide. This results in a spirited 6.7-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, or 6.5 seconds when upgraded with the $1,500 Sport Chrono Package that incorporates a set of Sport and Off-Road buttons within the drive mode selector, plus launch control and a special performance display within the infotainment touchscreen. The Macan’s standard Active all-wheel drive made the most of the road surface below, feeling especially controlled when accelerating around corners. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Our 2018 Macan tester’s interior was impeccably finished in Garnet Red leather. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

My tester wasn’t upgraded with the Sport Chrono Package, however, nor did it have the $1,560 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system that boasts an electronically variable active damping system with Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes, or the even more advanced $3,140 Air Suspension that also includes PASM, or a number of other performance upgrades, but nevertheless it drove brilliantly, with good jump off the line and superb stability when flung through corners, its standard aluminum double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear setup fully living up to the legendary crest on its hood and scripted name on its backside. 

2018 Porsche Macan
We dare you to find any cheap, hard plastic in this well made 2018 Macan interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

My test model did include $790 Lane Change Assist, however, one of many advanced driver assistance systems that are less about hands-on performance and point more toward a future of hands-off relaxation, albeit this one merely provides warning if the Macan wanders from a chosen lane, veers off the road, or if a vehicle comes up to its side when a turn signal is engaged. Another $790 buys Lane Keeping Assist, which momentarily takes control at speeds of 65 km/h and higher when such circumstances occur, while my tester also included $1,650 adaptive cruise control, a must for those who travel long distances. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Porsche’s classic three-dial gauge cluster fits a colour multi-info display into its rightmost position. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Other extras included a $2,230 Garnet Red leather package that also adds $1,960 14-way powered front seats with memory, although it should be noted those upgraded buckets (sans the rosy colour treatment) are included with the $7,250 Premium Package Plus (and can be further upgraded to 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats for just $430) that also adds proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming side mirrors, a panoramic glass sunroof, three-way ventilated front seats, three-way heatable rear outboard seats, terrific sounding Bose surround audio (or you can spend $5,370 more for the same package with the sensational 1,000-watt 16-speaker Burmester surround upgrade), Bi-Xenon headlights with the corner-bending Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) (alternatively you can spend $1,340 more for the same package with full LED headlamps), while some standalone items included $1,890 worth of 19-inch Macan Turbo wheels wrapped in 235/55R19 Pirelli tires, and lastly a set of black roof rails for $440, with all the additions totaling $14,250 for a final price of $68,350, not including one of the least expensive freight charges in the industry at $1,250. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Choosing navigation mode within the multi-info display allows easy-to-follow directions without much need to remove eyes from the road. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I haven’t even scratched the surface as to all you can get with the Macan if you’d like to load one up, nor for that matter all that comes standard for its base $54,100 entry price, this number making it the most affordable Porsche model in Canada, but suffice to say it’s nicely outfitted with 18-inch alloy rims, fog lights, LED tail lamps with adaptive brake lights, an electromechanical parking brake, one of the nicest heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheels in the industry (I love the thin spokes and superb switchgear), a colour multi-information display that shows a map when set to navigation plus plenty of other functions, rain-sensing wipers, a HomeLink garage door opener, power-adjustable and three-way heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control with active carbon and pollen filtration, a 7.2-inch Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment touchscreen featuring standard navigation and a backup camera with active guidelines (the latter even including an overhead graphic of the Macan showing how close you’re getting to objects when parking via standard front and rear parking sensors), HD and satellite radio, and much more. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The base Macan comes with an attractive clock atop the dash, which gets exchanged for a more functional tachometer version when opting for the Sport Chrono Package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The standard Macan’s liftgate powers open automatically too, with the spacious cargo area good for 500 litres (17.6 cubic feet) of gear behind its ultimately utile 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks. I love this configuration compared to the more common 60/40 divide, even if the asymmetrical arrangement includes a centre pass-through, because you can load more skis and/or other long cargo down the middle when four are aboard. Porsche also includes a sturdy standard cargo cover to hide valuables, which can be removed when laying the rear seats flat, a process that opens up 1,500 litres (53.0 cubic feet) for serious cargo hauling capability. I know I’m getting all practical while talking about a Porsche, but while it’s true the Macan is amongst the sportiest in its class, at least in its highest trims, it’s also a perfectly useful tool for hauling family and gear. 

2018 Porsche Macan
While the 2019 Macan grows its centre display to 10.9 inches, the outgoing 7.2-inch system is still fully up to task. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Then again, calling something a tool that’s finished so impeccably inside doesn’t seem right either. The dash top was covered in red contrast-stitched leather, while a high-grade soft-touch composite material surfaces the bottom half of the instrument panel plus everything below the dash including the glove box lid and lower console sides. Likewise, the door panels are a mix of leather and pliable synthetic from top to bottom, while interior accents are mostly detailed out in satin-silver metal. Such hard trim elements aside, you’ll have a hard time finding any insubstantial plastic in this luxury SUV. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The standard reverse camera gets dynamic guidelines and a really helpful graphic that highlights standard front and rear parking sensor info. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, it’s wonderfully comfortable too. My tester’s 14-way seats provided plenty of power adjustments including four-way lumbar and extendable seat squabs. Porsche offers a lot of steering wheel reach and rake too, allowing me to get completely comfortable with the driver setup, which instilled a sense of controlled confidence even before setting out. 

Likewise rear seating is roomy and accommodating, with the outboard positions both fully supportive to provide the comfort needed on long trips, and carved out nicely for holding backside in place when the driver lets off a little steam. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The lower centre console is a sophisticated bit of button-infused kit, which moves into 2019 unchanged. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Speaking of going quickly, those wanting more straight-line speed can choose the Macan S that stuffs a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 under its hood good for 340 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, which results in zero to 100km/h in only 5.4 seconds, or 5.2 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, plus a new terminal velocity of 254 km/h compared to the base model’s already lofty 229 km/h. Alternatively the Macan GTS adds an extra 20 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque for a total of 360 and 369 respectively, plus sprint time of 5.2 seconds to 100km/h, or 5.0 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, and a higher top speed of 256 km/h. 

2018 Porsche Macan
These upgraded 14-way powered leather seats were wonderfully comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Turbo (Turbo referring to a model name despite all Macan trims using turbocharged engines) is top of the Macan heap thanks to a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 that makes 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, plus standstill to 100km/h achieved in just 4.8 seconds, or 4.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, and an even faster final speed of 266 km/h. If you still crave more, a Performance Edition, which makes the Sport Chrono Package standard, adds 40 horsepower and 36 lb-ft of torque for 440 of the former and 442 lb-ft of the latter, resulting in a 4.4-second sprint to 100km/h. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The panoramic sunroof is a nice option that makes the cabin feel more open and airy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s likely that fuel economy will matter to those in the more conservative trims, especially now that a new carbon tax is upping pump prices in four Canadian provinces, and others, such as BC, are reeling from an even bigger carbon tax bump, so be satisfied that a fuel-saving and emissions reducing auto start/stop system, with coasting capability, shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, helping the Macan to deliver a claimed rating of 11.6 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 10.5 combined. I certainly could live with this, especially considering how sporty it feels when pushed, and how responsive it is even when lightly applying the throttle. 

2018 Porsche Macan
There’s no shortage of passenger space in back, plus it’s finished beautifully and can be upgraded with as-tested heatable outboard seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

If you opt for a 2019 Macan fuel economy shouldn’t change noticeably, but take note the base powertrain is down some 4 ponies while the next-in-line Macan S gains 8 horsepower. Neither issue should sway Macan buyers either way, but Porsche promises an improved ride and with better handling, the latter hard to believe considering how deft the current model is, so I’ll reserve judgment until I get behind the wheel. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Despite being one of the sportiest performers in its class, the Macan’s 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks make it ultimately practical. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

A greater draw is the new SUV’s styling that’s highlighted by standard LED headlamps on a slightly revised front end design, plus a more dramatic statement made from behind thanks to a single three-dimensional LED taillight that spans the entire width of its backside. I think the 2019 Macan’s biggest draw is inside, thanks to a new standard 10.9-inch high-resolution centre touchscreen, which receives most of the same standard features as with the current version, but gets more up-to-date graphics on a larger display, a quicker operating speed, and Porsche Connect Plus, an app suite filled with functions, like a Wi-Fi hotspot, and services. 

Additionally, the 2019 Macan will offer a driver assist system that, via the adaptive cruise control, provides semi-autonomous driving for acceleration, braking and lane keeping assist at speeds of 60 km/h and below during congested traffic conditions. 

So the choice is yours. Work your best deal on an already discounted 2018 Macan now or choose the updated 2019 version as it starts arriving this month, knowing either option results in a premium crossover SUV that delivers a higher level of style, performance, refinement and luxury than the majority of challengers, while fulfilling all the practical concerns of a life well lived.

The compact luxury sedan market segment is a tough nut to crack. It’s more or less owned by three German makes, including Mercedes-Benz with its C-Class sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible, Audi with…

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Road Test

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The new 2019 Volvo S60 delivers big on style, especially when upgraded to T6 AWD R-Design trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The compact luxury sedan market segment is a tough nut to crack. It’s more or less owned by three German makes, including Mercedes-Benz with its C-Class sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible, Audi with its A4 sedan and tall wagon, plus its A5 coupe, convertible and four-door coupe, and BMW with its 3 series sedan and wagon, plus its 4 Series coupe, convertible, and four-door coupe, leaving a bevy of smaller players fighting over scraps. 

To be clear, most in this class are suffering from the success of their own compact luxury crossover SUV making, which means that while year over year sales of the BMW X3, for example, were up by 48.6 percent from calendar year 2017 to 2018, deliveries of the iconic 3 Series were off by 19.5 percent, and much lower volume 4 Series sales down by 5.4 percent. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
While its optional Fusion Red Metallic paint looks great, the S60’s new C-shaped LED taillights are easier to make out in a contrast hue. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Not every car in the D-segment lost ground, mind you, with the aforementioned C-Class gaining 6.5 percent, the Infiniti Q50 up 6.8 percent, and the Audi A5’s take-rate growing by an amazing 25 percent after a long-awaited redesign, but some saw significantly more shrinkage than BMW’s 3, such as Lexus’ RC coupe that dropped a staggering 37.9 percentage points, Jaguar’s XE sedan that lost 27.8 percent, Cadillac’s ATS sedan and coupe collectively down 25.4 percent, Acura’s TLX sedan off by 25.2 percent, Infiniti’s Q60 coupe down by 24.2 percent, and the Audi A4 sedan and tall crossover wagon’s popularity curtailed by a considerable 20.3 percent. 

Such steep sales declines make the Volvo 60-series’ loss of 5.1 percent seem easier to stomach, and to be yet farer to the Swedish automaker, those 60-series cars’ incredible 99.7 percent year over year increase from calendar year 2016 to 2017 made the slight downturn inevitable, the former upsurge directly resulting from years of pent-up demand for this all-new S60 sport sedan and its V60 sport wagon counterpart. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The R-Design gets a unique take on the S60’s new hexagonal grille. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The aforementioned tough nut to crack comment has less to do with sales volatility and more about actual sales numbers, however, with both 60-series Volvos only managing 1,245 units collectively through 2018, compared to 11,556 for the bevy of C-Class models, 10,173 for the various Audis, and 9,733 for BMW’s offerings—yes, the 3 Series/4Series was once number one in this segment. 

Everything else is much farther down the pecking order, with Infiniti’s sedan and coupe ringing up 3,424 orders, Lexus non-ES offerings (the IS and RC) tallying up to 3,163 deliveries, Acura’s previously noted TLX finding 2,397 buyers, and even Cadillac’s ATS scooping up 1,615 new owners (before it gets axed), while a fair ways below Volvo’s 60-series total was Genesis’ G70 at 967 units, Jaguar’s XE at 571, and Alfa Romeo’s Giulia at 510 deliveries. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps continue to give Volvo’s latest offerings a totally unique look, and this new design looks particularly good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now, before you scurry off to your local Merc, Bimmer or Audi store to sign up for one of their arguably worthy offerings, take note that earning a place in the top three doesn’t necessarily mean the car in question is better than something else on this list, or more specifically, doesn’t mean that something less popular won’t suite your personal style and requirements more agreeably. 

Case in point, this all-new 2019 Volvo S60. Volvo was once most notably known for safety above all, followed closely by bulletproof build quality. The good news here is safety is still high on the marque’s priority list, with its most recent offerings receiving Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus ratings from the IIHS, plus its bevy of standard active safety and advanced driver assistance features amongst the most comprehensive in the industry, some including automatic front collision warning with full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, Driver Alert Control, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, plus a Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation as part of its standard City Safety package, while Volvo also goes over the top by adding an airbag for the driver’s knees, front seat whiplash protection, and pyrotechnical seatbelt pretensioners in all positions front to rear. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Sportier front fascia detailing, including fog lamps that bend around each corner, is exclusive to the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Also noteworthy, if the S60’s sensors detect an imminent head-on collision, the new oncoming braking system will automatically activate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. Volvo says this feature reduces vehicle speed by 10 km/h before that impact occurs, which could potentially be a lifesaver, and should certainly help to minimize injury. 

While tempted to do a deep dive into all of the additional standard features found on this 2019 S60, let alone our sporty R-Design trimmed example, I’d better go over some of its other highlights first. Most of the S60’s design details, like its “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights have been covered in previous Volvo reviews, as have its C- or hook-shaped LED taillights that are similar, at least, to those found on the larger S90. I have to admit to liking the overall shape and design of the S60 best, but this may only be due to its newness, plus the sportiness of this R-Design trim level. In truth, I find both new sedans very attractive, at the very least matching and in many ways surpassing some of their key competitors. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
These 19-inch alloys on Pirelli rubber will add $1,000 to your bill. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I won’t go into detail as to the size difference between these two cars, this S60 clearly fitting into the most popular compact luxury D-segment, and the S90 within the larger luxury mid-size E-segment (going up against the E-Class, 5 Series, A6, et al), but take note this S60 has grown considerably when compared to its 2010–2018 predecessor, now stretching 133 millimetres (5.2 inches) longer from nose to tail at 4,761 mm (187.4 in), with a 96-mm (3.8-in) longer wheelbase measuring 2,872 mm (113.1 in), but strangely it’s 15 mm (0.6 in) narrower at 1,850 mm (72.8 in), while sporting a 53-mm (2.1-in) lower roofline than the outgoing model. 

The longer wheelbase improves rear legroom, which critics charged as a shortcoming on the old S60, and I must say the rear seating area is now much more accommodating with plenty of space to stretch out and get comfortable, plus it provides superbly comfortable outboard positions with excellent lower back support. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Upon closer inspection, it’s easier to see the nice detailing and sharp edges added to the new S60’s taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such is even truer for the driver’s position, which in R-Design trim receives a six-way powered and wonderfully contoured sport seat with four-way powered lumbar support that allows ideal adjustment for the exact lower back pressure point, providing relief on long trips, or for that matter after a long day’s work, while a power-extendable lower cushion nicely cups below the knees for additional comfort and support. Two-way memory sets a favourite position for instant recall, this standard across the entire S60 line, while R-Design exclusive Fine Nappa leather upholstery with contrast stitching covers all seats from front to back, making for a luxurious look and feel. 

As attractive as they look I highly doubt your eyes will rest upon the seats at first entry, however, as the rest of the S60 R-Design’s interior is so spectacular you’ll likely be swept away by the elegant horizontal dash design and beautifully sculpted details everywhere else, let alone its three-spoke R-design leather-wrapped steering wheel, R-Design metal pedals, R-Design carpeted floor mats, R-Design metal sill mouldings, 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, impressive vertical infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, four-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, etcetera, while the black headliner is a nice touch too. Still, the S60 R-Design’s special Metal Mesh decor inlays are particularly eye-catching, as is all of the S60’s jewellery-like switchgear, the rotating instrument panel knobs, glittering ignition switch, and equally dazzling drive mode selector appearing as if provided by one of the auto sector’s ultra-luxe brands, such as Bentley. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Slide inside one of the best interiors in the compact luxury D-segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Much of this glitz and glamour was initially introduced in the dramatically redesigned 2015 XC90 that formed the basis for most everything we’ve seen from Volvo since, so while the S60’s take on the Swedish automaker’s brand-wide interior design theme is nothing new to me or others familiar with the all things Volvo, the lavish luxury infused into each new 2019 model will likely produce eye-bulging levels of shock and awe amongst those trading up from their second-generation S60s. 

Expanding further on this line of thought, I previously spent three wonderful weeks in the V60 sport wagon, upgraded to top-line Inscription trim, which while slightly more expensive than the R-Design, in either V60 or S60 guise, is hardly more replete with features. Think of the Inscription as a more elegant take on luxury and the R-Design offering up a sportier edge, while the base Momentum is plenty impressive as well. Volvo should soon be offering the S60 in T8 AWD Polestar trims too, this model boasting the brand’s hybridized plug-in powertrain that ups performance to 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque via the same turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder as offered with T6 powered models. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The cabin detailing is superb, especially when uplifted with the optional Bowers & Wilkins audio system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That thought segues into currently available powertrains, with both T5 FWD and T6 AWD combinations under the S60’s hood and at its wheels. The T5 FWD is solely available in Momentum trim, featuring the same 2.0-litre four without the supercharger for a healthy 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque driving the front wheels, while the T6 AWD is optional with Momentum trim and standard on the R-Design and Inscription, and thanks to the aforementioned supercharger joining the turbo, it makes a much more satisfying 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque while powering all four wheels. 

As is normally the case in this class, both engines come standard with auto engine start/stop that reduces emissions while improving fuel economy by shutting down the engine when it would otherwise be idling, this helping the base T5 FWD to achieve a claimed 9.9 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 8.4 combined rating, whereas the as-tested T6 AWD is good for an estimated 11.1 city, 7.3 highway and 9.4 combined. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The S60 R-Design’s cockpit is as comfortable as it’s impressively finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Possibly more important to you is how the S60 R-Design drives, and to that end it’s even more dynamic than the V60 Inscription I enjoyed over the holiday season. It’s plenty quick off the line, with all four of its optional 235/40R19 Pirellis immediately locking onto asphalt and its formidable little powerplant whipping through its conjoined eight forward gears with effortless ease, both quickly when set to its sportiest Dynamic drive mode, and smoothly no matter which selection is chosen, Comfort and Eco also on the menu, while the R-Design model’s standard paddle shifters thoroughly enhance the hands-on experience. The engine and exhaust makes a nice snarly combination of notes at full throttle as well, but otherwise is as hushed as the car’s ultimately refined interior, the S60 R-Design balancing performance and pleasantries on an equal scale. 

Similar kudos can be attributed to the S60’s underpinnings, the R-Design’s exclusively lowered sport suspension boasting firmer dampers for tauter, flatter handling through fast-paced corners that results in stable, predictable manners even when flung carelessly into tight off-camber curves, while it doesn’t get unsettled when tossed back and forth through serpentine stretches either. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
This stunning 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster comes standard with the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It rides on the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that Volvo uses for its larger S90 luxury sedan chassis, plus most everything else in the brand’s current lineup, with aluminum double wishbones in front and an exclusive integral link rear suspension design featuring a transverse lightweight composite leaf spring at back. Driver-selectable low, medium and high personal power steering settings combine with the aforementioned driving modes to make the most of any situation, whereas the brakes match handling and acceleration ideally as well, proving strong when called upon and always smoothly progressive, the entire car never forgetting that, while a capable sport sedan, refined luxury, supported by a compliant suspension setup and ultra-comfortable seats, is paramount in the class. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The Volvo Sensus centre touchscreen is all about big, attractive gesture controlled goodness, that’s easy to use and fully functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To that end the $52,400 S60 R-Design, which normally rides on 18-inch alloys, pulls plenty of as-yet unmentioned features up from the $42,400 base Momentum T5 FWD model, such as Road Sign Information (RSI), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, a Clean Zone Air Quality system and a humidity sensor, rear parking sonar, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, voice activation, dual USB ports, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, Volvo On-Call with remote start and vehicle tracking, 170-watt 10-speaker audio, satellite radio, heated front seats with driver’s memory, a 120-volt household-style power outlet in the rear console, power-folding rear seat headrests, and more inside, while standard dual chromed tailpipes are joined by a unique R-Design front grille, plus auto high beams and active bending for the aforementioned LED headlamps, fog lamps with active bending, high-gloss black exterior trim including the side mirror caps, door handle puddle lamps, proximity-sensing keyless access, and the list goes on. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Unique Metal Mesh inlays can be found throughout the cabin, including the scrolling lids atop the centre console. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I loved my tester’s $900 optional Fusion Red Metallic paint, one of five optional colours as well as no-cost standard Black Stone, while all R-Design models get Charcoal black for the interior. If you end up going for Momentum trim you can choose from seven exterior colours and a variety of interior motifs, while Inscription trim provides the choice of eight colours albeit fewer cabin combinations, although the Momentum’s upgradable upholsteries are optional at no cost with the Inscription. 

Those 19-inch alloy wheels mentioned before were a $1,000 upgrade, while additional options included a $1,150 graphical head-up display unit that projected useful information, like navigation directions, onto the windshield for an easy, safe overview, plus the 15-speaker, 1,100-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system was soundsational, and well worth the $3,750 required, even if you choose it for its gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles alone. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
No competitor does jewel-like metal-edged switchgear as well as Volvo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Volvo also added a $1,250 Climate Package that features heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; plus a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s really impressive Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror; and finally an $1,800 Vision Package with very helpful 360-degree surround parking camera, easy to use Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, always welcome front parking sonar, even more appreciated auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert that could potentially save you from backing into oncoming traffic. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
These superb Nappa leather-covered sport seats are exclusive to the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In case you were wondering, the $53,900 S60 Inscription includes most everything from the R-Design, other than the sportier features mentioned earlier, while in their place it adds a classy chromed waterfall grille, chromed window trim, unique 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, beautiful matte Driftwood Décor interior inlays, a tailored instrument panel with stitched soft-touch detailing, perforated Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, and more. 

I sourced all 2019 Volvo S60 pricing from CarCostCanada, incidentally, where you can find detailed prices on each trim level, all packages, and every standalone option for the S60 and every other Volvo, not to mention most other new vehicles sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and money-saving dealer invoice pricing. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Gotta love this massive standard glass sunroof. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My only S60 complaint is a missing overhead sunglasses holder, plus not enough space on the centre console to place my average-sized Samsung S9 smartphone within easy visibility while driving, which was probably planned from onset by this safety-conscious automaker so as to reduce distracted driving. The most forward of two large cupholders, otherwise hidden below a lovely scrolling console lid, solved that problem, with the latter big enough to hold my ever-present water bottle securely, no matter how aggressively I took to corners. 

The S60’s 391-litre (13.8 cubic-foot) trunk was also large enough for my needs and about average for the class, and while its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks included a centre pass-through for skis and other long cargo, I would have preferred a larger opening via a 40/20/40 divided seat configuration instead, but this is still a lot better than no pass-through at all, which is how most Japanese offerings come. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Rear seating is comfortable and plenty accommodating. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In closing, anyone considering a car in the compact luxury D-segment should take a close look at this new 2019 Volvo S60, as it’s a serious contender that delivers at an extremely high level in every way, from styling to performance, leading technology to safety, and overall comfort to accommodating spaciousness. Also important, it’s wonderfully different than anything from Germany or Japan, and for that reason the S60 may very well strike a chord with those who especially appreciate uniqueness and exclusivity, let alone a level of opulence few in this class can measure up to.

It’s déjà vu all over again, or at least that’s how I felt when picking up my 2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD tester. I’d spent a week with an identical model less than a year prior; even down…

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD Road Test

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The 2019 Rogue SL Platinum looks just like the 2018 Rogue SL Platinum, but Nissan has made some key features more affordable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s déjà vu all over again, or at least that’s how I felt when picking up my 2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD tester. I’d spent a week with an identical model less than a year prior; even down to its top-line trim level and most popular Pearl White paint. 

Then I got inside, however, and was reminded of a near identical model I test drove the year prior in lovely Scarlet Ember livery, and therefore also remembered that last year’s SL Platinum wasn’t fully loaded, missing this SUV’s $500 SL Platinum Reserve Interior Package that includes a stylish stitched leatherette dash pad and replaces the regular Charcoal black or Almond beige leather upholstery with special quilted leather in an even richer looking Premium Tan hue, which comes across more like caramel or saddle brown. Either way it looks great, and ideally complements the white exterior paint, although the upgrade package is no longer available with the special metallic red exterior paint, or for that matter Nissan’s beautiful Caspian Blue. A shame. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The Rogue’s rear design remains attractive, while SL Platinum trim’s 19-inch alloys enhance the look. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Not to start this review out on a negative, because there’s very little to fault this popular compact crossover SUV on. As noted, the Rogue is Nissan Canada’s most popular model, and one look should make it easy to understand why. It was refreshed for the 2017 model year with Nissan’s wider, more U-shaped Vmotion 2.0 grille that I happen to like a lot more than the original V, while its then-new quad-beam headlamps with LED daytime running lights, and its updated LED brake lights added premium-level sophistication to the design. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Some of the Rogue SL Platinum’s key elements, including LED headlamps, fog lights and 19-inch alloys, make a big difference to its outward appearance. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That face-lifted 2017 model included additional styling tweaks on the outside plus updates within, a personal favourite being its flat-bottom steering wheel that still makes a sporty statement in the otherwise elegantly appointed top-line 2019 Rogue SL Platinum Reserve model. So equipped, that steering wheel is leather-wrapped with a heatable rim, a much appreciated mid-winter feature, as are the Quick Comfort heated front seats that come standard across the entire Rogue line, albeit the Platinum’s perforated leather upholstery is exclusive to this model. 

There’s actually more to the SL Platinum Reserve Interior’s seat design than quilting and the caramel colour change. The quilting is only used for the centre inserts, with perforated leather added to the inner bolsters and contrast-stitched black leather on top of those bolsters for a little more of a sport look mixed in with the luxury. The seats’ upholstery is complemented by the same Premium Tan on the door armrests, centre armrest, padded knee protectors on each side of the lower centre console, and even the aforementioned dash facing, which incorporates a similarly classy looking stitched leatherette pad ahead of the front passenger. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The $500 SL Platinum Reserve Interior Package includes this classy looking Premium Tan interior motif. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Icing on the proverbial cake comes in the form of Piano Black interior door inlays surrounding the usual chromed door handles, which match up nicely next to the same glossy black treatment rimming the dash vents, centre console, gear lever surround and otherwise leather-wrapped shift knob. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The Rogue SL Platinum’s nicely sorted cockpit includes a heatable leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As you may have guessed, the latest Rogue SL Platinum Reserve doesn’t just look like a premium crossover SUV, but in addition its standard feature set is replete with top-drawer gear that one-ups plenty of luxury brands. For instance, the official name given to this trim level is Rogue SL Platinum with ProPilot Assist, the latter technology standard with all SL Platinum models and really quite impressive. It’s a semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system, which means it has the ability to completely drive itself, but due to safety concerns only lets you remove your hands from the steering wheel for about eight seconds at a time—it warns you to put your hands back on the wheel after that. Still, it’ll impress your friends and might be useful to those who find highway driving intimidating, as it helps keep the Rogue centered within its lane and, along with its Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Intelligent Lane Intervention systems, may even help avoid an accident. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
A traditional analogue gauge cluster includes a colour TFT multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

These latter two advanced driver assistance systems get pulled up to the SL Platinum from mid-range SV trim, as does Intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control, while high beam assist, rear parking sensors, Moving Object Detection (MOD), backup collision intervention and rear autonomous emergency braking join ProPilot Assist as options with the SV and standard equipment with the top-line SL Platinum model. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The centre touchscreen is filled with plenty of noteworthy features, but the dual-screen Around View parking monitor is the highlight. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with all the usual active and passive safety features, some advanced tech incorporated into upper trims from the base Rogue S include Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with a display showing individual tire pressures and an Easy-Fill Tire Alert, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), plus two features normally relegated to top-line trims, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), while Rear Door Alert is an oddly named albeit very welcome feature that actually warns against leaving something or someone in the back seat unattended after turning off the engine, by remembering that you opened a rear door before setting off on your drive. Now that’s smart. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The unique saddle/caramel coloured leather upholstery looks rich, and the seats provide good comfort and support. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As cool as some of this tech is, especially watching the Rogue drive itself, applying hands to said wheel while on the highway, and then winding through some twisting backroads after tooling through town is my usual course of action. As always the Rogue didn’t disappoint, but let me insert a caveat here, I’ve never set my performance expectations too high. This is an SUV built primarily for comfort rather than all-out speed, and to that end it delivers in spades, with a nice compliant ride, smooth, progressive acceleration, and an easy, controlled demeanor on the open freeway. It can manage curves too, and provides strong braking when needed, but if you’re looking for performance there are sportier SUVs in this class, yet few are smoother than the Rogue, such refinement its specialty. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
A large powered panoramic sunroof adds an open, airy ambience to an already spacious interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Behind that V-motion grille is the Nissan’s dependable 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, which continues to make a totally acceptable if not breathtaking 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while its standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) is one of the reasons behind that just noted smooth factor. It’s also partially responsible for the Rogue’s commendable Transport Canada fuel economy rating that comes in at 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 8.7 combined with its as-tested all-wheel drivetrain, or 9.1 city, 7.1 highway and 8.2 combined when opting for front-wheel drive. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The rear seating area is very accommodating. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As is mostly the case in this class, all-wheel drive is more about tackling slippery pavement than anything off-road, although traveling to campsites over logging roads or light-duty trails can benefit from AWD, as well as its various electronic all-weather features, such as Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS). This said others in the class are starting to broaden their appeal, with the latest RAV4 Trail featuring some real 4×4-like go-anywhere technologies, and the Subaru Forester long offering its X-Mode for extracting itself from rougher situations. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
Nissan provides handy storage for the retractable cargo cover under the load floor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Back to earth, or rather asphalt, the Rogue is ideal for slogging through Canadian winters, hitting the slopes, or alternatively heading out on that summer camping vacation. It can tow a small camp trailer or lightweight boat weighing up to 500 kilos (1,100 lbs), plus it can carry plenty of gear in back, up to 1,112 litres (39.3 cubic feet) in the dedicated cargo area and 1,982 litres (70.0 cubic feet) when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat. That rear bench is made more passenger and cargo friendly via a centre pass-through that doubles as a centre armrest with cupholders, which allows longer items like skis to be stuffed down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the benefit of the window seats, although take note they might be grumbling on the way back from the ski hill due to a surprising lack of available rear seat heaters. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
A shelf-like removable load floor offers plenty of cargo space versatility. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with all of the features already mentioned, the $37,398 top-line SL Platinum gets a lot of premium-level upgrades that really make a difference when it comes to performance, safety, convenience and luxury, such as AWD, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated leather steering wheel rim and leather-wrapped shift knob, memory for the six-way powered driver’s seat and side mirrors, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a powered panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a surround parking monitor, great sounding Bose audio with nine speakers including two subs, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a gesture activated liftgate, and more. 

2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum Reserve AWD
The Rogue provides more larger cargo capacity than average. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I won’t tire you by scrolling through lists of everything that gets pulled up to SL Platinum trim from the other two grades, but some highlights from both include remote engine start, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, LED turn signals within the side mirror caps, roof rails, the aforementioned six-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar, a retractable cargo cover and more with the $29,098 SV, plus variable intermittent wipers, overhead LED map lights and sunglasses storage, a colour multi-information display, a 7.0-inch centre touchscreen, NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM Traffic, hands-free text messaging assistant, Bluetooth, mood lighting, and more with the $26,798 base Rogue S. By the way, all pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where all the trims, packages and individual features are itemized, plus otherwise hard to find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing is provided. 

For the most part our 2019 Rogue SL Platinum Reserve was well equipped, especially when it came to advanced driver assistance systems, plus it provided more than enough performance, a smooth, quiet ride, great fuel economy, and a fairly luxurious and comfortable cabin, while it was extremely accommodating for driver, passengers and cargo. I like the way it looks, especially as my tester was kitted out, which, along with all of the above, is likely why it’s such a strong seller, and also why it’s easy to recommend.

I’m not going to lie to you. As curious as I am to spend a given week with seriously important big market cars like the recently redesigned Toyota Corolla, and as interested as I am to find out how…

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR Road Test

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
Beautiful enough for you? Jaguar’s F-Type Coupe SVR drives even better than it looks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I’m not going to lie to you. As curious as I am to spend a given week with seriously important big market cars like the recently redesigned Toyota Corolla, and as interested as I am to find out how far I can go on a single charge with Kia’s latest Soul EV, nothing gets me out of my editor’s chair as quickly or as enthusiastically as a hopped up muscle car, a high-revving super-exotic, or something along the lines of Jaguar’s F-Type SVR, which might be the perfect combination of both. 

Regular readers will remember that I spent a blissful week with this very same car last year in its more eye-arresting Ultra Blue paintwork, so having this 2019 model gifted to me for yet another seven heavenly days was a welcome surprise made better due to its stealth Santorini Black bodywork that thankfully doesn’t attract quite as much attention. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
Gorgeous from all angles, the F-Type SVR makes a formidable visual statement. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s not that I was embarrassed to be seen in it, quite the opposite of course, but rather that this car coaxes my most juvenile impulses from their hardly deep recesses all too easily, which can quickly get a person deep into trouble. 

How quickly? Well that depends on whether you’re thrown into a stupor or moved into action when first laying eyes on the F-Type SVR, as well as which sense moves you most. If you’re visually stimulated first and foremost, you might be stopped dead in your tracks as soon as it comes into view, but then again if your receptors respond more to an auditory trigger you’ll move right past first sight to initial startup, resulting in the rasp of one of the more sensational exhaust notes in autodom, which will either send you to the moon in a momentary daze or turn you toward the street to put some of that wound up energy to good use. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
The SVR’s many finely crafted details impress. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I’m jaded, or maybe it’s just that experience tells me not to waste a moment gawking inanely at something I can relive later in pictures. Certainly one can recall memories of moments well spent, but the more one collects such moments makes recalling them a helluvalot easier. A quick glance of appreciation, out of respect, immediately followed by a quicker descent into a familiar body hug, the SVR’s performance seats are as wholly enveloping as they’re sinfully comfortable. Foot on brake pedal, finger on start button, mechanical machinations ignited and ahhh… glory hallelujah! What a sound! 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
These stunning 20-inch alloys come as part of a $13k carbon ceramic brake upgrade. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Nothing roadworthy this side of an XJR-15 sounds as brutally raw, as purely visceral as an F-Type SVR being brought to life, that is until you’ve given the throttle a few more blips after opening up its two-mode titanium and Inconel active exhaust system via a wee little console-mounted button that makes a great big noise. Any sort of right foot twitch capable of spinning the crank above 4,000 revolutions per minute lets loose a cacophony of crackling barks and blats, the kind of song that’ll have gearheads singing along in dissonant unity, and zero emissions folks sneering. 

Allowing spent gases to exit more freely isn’t exactly the Tesla mantra, and to think the minds behind this wondrous high-test glutton are the very crew responsible for the Model X-beating I-Pace (well, it beats the entry-level Tesla crossover, at least). We’ve all got to love the bizarre dichotomy running rampant in today’s automotive market, where the cars we all lust after are paying for the ones that government mandates are forcing down our throats. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
The SVR’s interior comes filled with red-stitched Suedecloth and quilted leather. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, thanks to companies like Jaguar and Tesla we’re all beginning to realize that going electric isn’t the end of motorized fun, but potentially a new beginning. Could there be an electrified F-Type in our future? Likely, and it’ll be the quickest Jaguar sports car ever. Still, the good folks at Castle Bromwich will need to expend terahertz levels of energy in their artificial sound lab to recreate the auditory ecstasy this SVR composes. Let’s hope they succeed, because we all know that as sensational as this 5.0-litre supercharged V8 sounds, and as fabulously fast as this Jaguar becomes when powered by it, the still impressive yet nevertheless 23-year-old AJ-8 power unit’s days are numbered. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
Equal parts luxury and down-to-business performance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As it is, this 575 horsepower beast catapults from naught to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds before attaining the seemingly unattainable terminal velocity of 322 km/h (200 mph)—that’s 1.1 seconds quicker and 122 km/h (75.8 mph) faster than the I-Pace, in case you were wondering. Certainly a driver’s license would be unobtainable for the remainder of my sorry life if I were so foolish as to attempt the former speed on public roads, and being that no such track is long enough within close proximity of my home we’ll all just need to take Jaguar’s word for it. Suffice to say that zero to all other cars at the stoplight looking like tiny coloured dots happens all of a shockingly sudden, so you’d better gather your stunned thoughts, get into the game and prepare for upcoming corners or you’ll fast be shuffled off this mortal coil. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
I’ll never complain about a beautifully designed set of analogue gauges, while the 5.0-inch MID provides good functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Fortunately the F-Type SVR manages all roads serpentine as easily as it’s guided down the straight and narrow, its brilliantly quick-shifting eight-speed automatic as ideally suited to flicking up through the gears as for rev-matched downshifts. Remember when I mentioned muscle car credentials earlier? That was strictly referencing the engine, its prowess over undulating, curving backroads the stuff of mid-engine exotica. Just look at the meaty 305-section Pirelli P-Zero rubber at back and plentiful 265/35s up front, both ends supported by the lightweight aluminum chassis and riveted, bonded body shell noted earlier, and then factor in that suspension’s Adaptive Dynamics system, the electronic active rear differential, and the brake-sourced torque vectoring. Tap the carbon ceramic brakes to load up the front tires, enter the apex, add throttle and enjoy as the SVR’s backside locks into place while catapulting this leather-lined beast toward the next bend, a process I repeated over and over, as often as opportunity would allow. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
New for 2019 is this large 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All said, you’d think something as fabulously fast as the F-Type SVR would be a handful around town, but that’s where its exotic nature ends and more upright practicality enters. It’s actually a very comfortable coupe to spend time in, while visibility is quite good considering its sleek greenhouse and thick C pillars. The 12-way powered driver’s seat and steering column fit my long-legged, short torso five-foot-eight frame well, and due to much more movement in all directions should provide good adjustability for all sorts of body types, and I certainly had no complaints from my various co-drivers. 

On the practicality question, Jaguar provides a large hatch opening for loading in all kinds of gear, with up to 408 litres (14.4 cubic feet) in total and about half that below the removable hard cargo cover. It’s beautifully finished, as one would expect in this class, but remember that unlike the old XK the F-Type is strictly a two-seater with no rear seats to fold, so there’s no way you’ll be able to fit skis or any other long items aboard, unless you slot them down the middle between driver and front passenger. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
All F-Type switchgear is above par. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I remember stuffing my significant other and kids into an XKR coupe years ago, and while its 2+2 grand touring profile wasn’t carried forward into the F-Type’s design, the interior’s fine workmanship and beautiful attention to detail continues. In fact, I’d say this SVR’s cabin is even better, with rich red stitching and piping providing colour to the otherwise black Suedecloth and quilted leather surfaces, while its electronic interfaces are beyond comparison. 

Classic analogue dials flank a large 5.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display at centre, unchanged from past years, albeit the Touch Pro infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack is all new for 2019, growing from 8.0 to 10.0 inches in diameter and now flush-mounted without buttons down each side. It’s properly outfitted with navigation, a backup camera with active guidelines, Pro Services, InControl Apps, 770-watt 12- speaker Meridian surround audio, satellite and HD radio, and the list goes on, while Jaguar also added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for $300. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
Fabulous looking SVR sport seats are comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

You can get into a 2019 F-Type Coupe SVR for just $140,500, or go topless for an extra $3,000, either of which is a bargain when compared to the Porsche 911 Turbo that will set you back $43,700 more for the hardtop or an additional $54,700 for the drop-top. That easily pays for the aforementioned $13,260 Carbon Ceramic Brake Pack with plenty left over, which includes 398 millimetre rotors up front and 380 mm discs at back, plus massive yellow calipers encircled by a stunning set of 10-spoke 20-inch diamond-turned alloys. Plenty of options were included with my test car and a yet more, like LED headlights, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, auto climate control, front and rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, and lane keeping assist, comes standard, so make sure to check out all the 2019 F-Type trims, packages and options at CarCostCanada, not to mention rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Jaguar F-Type Coupe SVR
A supercar that’s practical too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It’s difficult not to write an epic for such a phenomenal sports car, but instead of running on at the mouth I recommend you head to your local Jaguar retailer and ask them to start one up in the showroom or on the lot, turn on the switchable active exhaust, rev the throttle and then listen to the snap, crackle and pop of the exhaust. If you’re not raring to go for a drive after that, you might be better off moseying down the road to the Lexus store for a smooth, comfortable ride in ES 300 hybrid.