I’m not sure how I feel about the name that Mitsubishi chose for its new compact crossover SUV. I mean, Eclipse Cross makes me think way back to better times when personal 2+2 sports coupes like the…

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC Road Test

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
The new Eclipse Cross, shown here in top-line GT S-AWC trim, takes a striking pose. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I’m not sure how I feel about the name that Mitsubishi chose for its new compact crossover SUV. I mean, Eclipse Cross makes me think way back to better times when personal 2+2 sports coupes like the Japanese brand’s own Eclipse, Honda’s Prelude and Toyota’s Celica, amongst others, roamed city streets, highways and winding byways in wild abandon, but now all of these low-slung two-door fastbacks are gone and we’re left with a gaggle of two-box SUVs. 

Fortunately some of these car-based crossovers are oddly contorted, making this practical sector a bit more interesting than it might otherwise be, with the sporty new Eclipse Cross high on the list of unusual newcomers. It’s an especially good choice for those not needing all of the Outlander’s cargo space and wanting more performance than an RVR can muster, plus its edgy SUV-coupe styling pulls some of the premium flair down from luxury mega-brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz that offer similarly sized upper-crust variants in their respective X4 and GLC Coupe models. I’m not pretending for a minute the lowly Mitsu measures up to these pricey Germans, but it’s got a swagger all its own and therefore deserves a certain amount of respect for being boldly different in a compact SUV segment that all too often plays it safe. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Based on the larger Outlander, the Eclipse Cross provides a much shorter, coupe-like profile. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Most automakers choosing to get funky gravitate to the smaller subcompact SUV segment, where Mitsubishi offers its comparatively straightforward RVR against oddities like Kia’s Soul and Toyota’s C-HR (Nissan’s Juke, the strangest of them all, having finally departed a couple of years ago, replaced by the much more conservative Kicks), while (size aside) Mazda’s CX-3 is probably closest to the Eclipse Cross as far as mainstream acceptability combined with sportier than average styling and performance goes, but alas this considerably larger model is the lone coupe-like SUV in its larger compact class. 

The Eclipse Cross measures 4,405 mm (173.4 in) end to end with a 2,670 mm (105.1 in) long wheelbase, while it spans 1,805 mm (71.1 in) in width and sits 1,685 mm (66.3 in) tall, making its wheelbase identical to its 290 mm (11.4 in) longer Outlander sibling, yet its width just 5 mm (0.2 in) narrower and height 25 mm (1.0 in) shorter. In other words, it’s much the same size as the Outlander excepting length, which together with its sloped rear roofline makes for a much sportier looking ride. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Its very distinctive LED rear lighting splits dual-pane back glass. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As far as the Eclipse Cross design goes, Mitsubishi’s dramatic new “Dynamic Shield” frontal styling works much better on this new utility than with any other application it’s been used for, other than the latest 2020 RVR that I find quite attractive. The drama continues around each side where a deeply sculpted cutline emerges about a third of the way through the front door panels before slashing through each handle and meeting up with the bottom edge of an even more intriguing set of LED taillights, these tied together by a thin strip of lighting that divides two panes of rear glass a la Honda’s second-generation 1988-1991 CRX or more recent 2011–2016 CR-Z, not to mention the automaker’s also defunct Accord-based mid-size 2010–2015 Crosstour, although those three sporty coupes never incorporated the Eclipse Cross’ extra lighting element. More rocker panel body sculpting tapers upward before wrapping around the rear fenders, these mimicking the front fenders as they pay some subtle homage to the sporty 2004–2011 Endeavor (a previous long-term tester that I thoroughly enjoyed back in the day – RIP). 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
LED headlamps get added in top-line GT S-AWC trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Hidden behind a slick looking standard set of 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/55 all-season tires is a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup featuring stabilizer bars at both ends, which all combines for more than enough grip to keep its turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine in control. The little mill makes just 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and puts that output through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s engineered to emulate an eight-speed automatic gearbox via some of the nicest magnesium column-mounted paddle shifters in the industry. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
These sharp looking machine-finish 18-inch alloys with black painted pockets come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Unlike most vehicles in the industry, these elongated paddles are actually fixed to the steering column instead of attached to the steering wheel, just like with the fabulous Evo X MR (RIP once again), making it easy to locate the correct paddle no matter how many times you’ve rotated the steering wheel. 

My Eclipse Cross GT tester really moved along nicely when pushed, feeling much more potent than its claimed horsepower rating, no doubt because of its substantive torque. Its steering was a bit firmer than most others I’ve tested in this class, albeit light enough for easy control, while its ride was slightly stiffer, but never uncomfortable or harsh. That firmness helped it handle well in corners, feeling really planted when pushed hard (Mitsubishi’s renowned chassis expertise pays off once again), but I wouldn’t have guessed it to be so good when tooling around town or otherwise driving normally, because the powertrain feels as if it’s in Eco Mode even when it’s not, meaning there’s plenty of Eco Mode still available by pressing the big green button on the centre stack. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
We love these LED taillights, that make an especially unique statement at night. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This said there is no Sport button, your right foot being the only way to coax more out of the powertrain, and despite those lovely paddle shifters just noted, the CVT is not very sporty (I’m being kind). It’s smooth and linear, exactly how most compact SUV buyers like it, and it’s highly efficient, not only saving fuel, but also allowing more of the engine’s power to get down to the road. 

Some of its straight-line performance and handling prowess comes down to standard Super All-Wheel Control, this being Mitsubishi-speak for all-wheel drive, an advanced torque-vectoring system honed from years of Lancer Evolution rally car breeding. Yes, it’s hard to stomach the thought that this wannabe performance SUV is now the hottest model in Mitsubishi’s once proud lineup, which previously anted up the aforementioned Evo X, an all-wheel drive super sedan that easily outmaneuvered the Subaru WRX STI and most every other compact of the era, but Mitsubishi now has its limited funds (despite being part of Mitsubishi Group, which also owns a top-10 banking institution and so much more) focused on practical SUVs that more people will potentially purchase, not to mention plug-in electrics that give it a good green name if not many actual buyers, at least when comparing the Outlander PHEV’s sales to those of the conventionally powered and milder hybrid compact SUV rivals it’s up against. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
The Eclipse Cross cabin’s refinement will surprise you in a good way. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

We can get glossy eyed over the loss of the Evo, but should commend Mitsubishi for the Eclipse Cross’ fuel economy that’s rated at just 9.6 L/100km in the city, 8.9 on the highway and 8.3 combined, which is quite good in comparison to the segment-sales-leading RAV4 that only manages 10.5 city, 8.3 highway and 9.5 combined, but then again it’s not quite as thrifty as the CR-V’s 8.7 city, 7.2 highway and 8.0 combined rating. 

The aforementioned powertrain is the same no matter which of its three trim levels is chosen. As usual, Mitsubishi supplied this Eclipse Cross tester in top-line form, this GT model going for $35,998 plus freight and fees (go to CarCostCanada for all pricing details, including dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands). This meant it came loaded up with LED headlamps, a head-up display, a multi-view backup camera with dynamic guidelines, a superb 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch audio system with nine speakers including a 10-inch subwoofer, a heatable steering wheel rim, two-way heated rear outboard seats, leather upholstery, a six-way powered driver’s seat, a dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof, and more. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
A nice modern design provides everything you’ll need in a logical layout. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The top-tier GT also features everything from the second-rung SE model’s optional Tech Package that includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated Homelink garage door opener, roof rails, and a nice silver painted lower door garnish. 

Mid-range SE features pulled up to GT trim include the previously noted paddle shifters, proximity-sensing keyless access and ignition, an electromechanical parking brake (the base model gets a regular handbrake), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, auto on/off headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control (an upgrade from the base model’s single-zone auto HVAC system), blindspot warning, and more for $29,998, while features from the $27,998 base ES model that are still incorporated into the GT include LED DRLs, fog lamps, LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror caps, LED taillights, tilt and telescopic steering, a colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an “ECO” mode, micron filtered automatic climate control, two-way heated front seats, and more. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
The attractive, easy to read instrument cluster gets a reasonably sized colour trip computer at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I like the quality inside, thanks to a full soft-touch dash top that curves all the way down to the mid portion of the instrument panel, plus nice pliable synthetic front door uppers, even nicer door inserts, and contrast-stitched armrests side and centre. These match the seat bolsters that also boast contrast stitching in the same orange hue, and unlike the near overwhelming orange overload found in a Subaru Forester Sport I previously tested, Mitsubishi’s subtler colour treatment should appeal to more people. 

The primary instrument cluster is nicely organized and well laid out, with a decent size colour trip computer at centre, while the 7.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen display is especially good, sitting up high atop the centre stack and controlled by the usual tap, pinch and swipe finger prompts. Even better for those who don’t like reaching so far to input commands, Mitsubishi also included a brilliantly designed touchpad on the lower console. That this is all standard kit is most impressive, rivaling some premium brands and outdoing others, such as Lexus that only offers a joystick-like controller or similar touchpad depending on model, not the convenience of both. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
This powered head-up display is helpful if a bit distracting. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The infotainment system also includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, an excellent rearview camera with dynamic guidelines (although the multi-view one on my tester was even better), Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, satellite radio (that I listened to most often), and control of devices hooked up to two USB charging/connectivity ports, located right on the centre stack above a rubberized phone tray below. With all of this included as standard, it makes me wonder why Mitsubishi didn’t bother making the electromechanical parking brake standard as well. 

The driver’s seat is very comfortable, featuring ample powered adjustability for what I found to be an ideal driving position, thanks to enough rake and reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column, but unfortunately the seatback offered no lumbar support adjustment at all. Again, its good inherent design makes additional lower back support less critical, but as learned from many long road trips it’s always nice to make periodic adjustments in order to appease pressure pain points. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
The tablet-style fixed touchscreen infotainment system is impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back to that steering wheel, it’s nicely shaped with a fairly thick leather rim and heatable, which came in handy as summer’s warmth dissipated and evening temperatures delved into single digits. The front seat heaters warmed up nicely too, but with only two temperatures my driver’s seat was often too hot or too cool. 

The rear passenger compartment is very roomy and comfortable too, with a folding centre armrest that includes the usual dual cupholders within. The seat heaters are easy to reach on the backside of the front console, and my tester’s rear sunroof complemented the Eclipse Cross’ good rear window visibility for an open and airy passenger experience. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
If you’d rather not reach too far, Mitsubishi provides a superb console-mounted infotainment touchpad controller. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

There’s no powered liftgate for accessing the cargo compartment, which would be fine by me, and it’s finished as nicely in back as most any other vehicle in this class too. I would’ve preferred more accommodating 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks than the 60/40 divide Mitsubishi provides, or at least a centre pass-through so I could load skis down the middle while rear passengers enjoyed those aforementioned derriere warmers on the way back from the hill, but as it is only a few mainstream volume-branded competitors offer such premium-like convenience anyway, so it’s not like the Eclipse Cross breaks rank with any compact SUV practicality norms. 

Pragmatism in mind, even this sportier SUV needs to measure up when it comes to load hauling capability in order to achieve market acceptance, so it’s good the Eclipse Cross delivers a reasonable amount of cargo space to go along with its generously proportioned passenger compartment. The hard numbers reveal 640 litres (22.6 cu ft) behind the rear seatbacks, and 1,385 litres (48.9 cu ft) aft of the front row when the rear seats are folded down, making it a mere 26 litres (0.9 cubic feet) more accommodating for cargo than the subcompact RVR with both SUVs’ seats upright and 17 litres (0.6 cubic feet) less so when said seats are laid flat. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
The driver’s seat is inherently well designed, but adjustable lumbar would make it better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Comparing it to the larger Outlander that it comes closer to measuring up to externally, the Eclipse Cross loses 328 litres (11.6 cubic feet) behind its rear row and 407 litres (14.4 cubic feet) when both models lower their rear seatbacks. Mitsubishi also includes a heavy-duty removable cargo floor with a hidden compartment below, which is handy for storing dirty items you may not want the nice carpeting above coming in contact with, or for keeping pricier belongings away from prying eyes. 

What’s more, when putting those rear seats back into use, their headrests were almost impossible to pull up from their lowered positions. It took all the strength I had, and while I’m no Ben Weider, the level of effort required was ridiculous. I’m guessing these would loosen over time, but that presupposes the owner has ample strength to muscle them up and down enough in order to ease the process. I recommend prospective buyers check this issue before signing on the dotted line, and also that dealers have their service departments add this test to each model’s pre-delivery inspection regimen. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Enough overhead light for you? The double sunroof’s powered sunshades can be opened and closed separately. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now that I’m complaining, I heard a disconcerting number of creaks, groans and annoying squeaking sounds emanating from the rear seating area while driving. This might have something to do with the previously mentioned removable cargo floor, but it’s more likely fitment of the second sunroof in back or the rear seats themselves, because some of the creaking noises sounded like leather (or something similar) rubbing together. This said I’d like to test this SUV with cloth seats to find out if that sound disappears. 

On the positive, I appreciated having separate power-sliding sunshade controls for the front and rear portions of the panoramic moonroof. This can provide rear passengers with a more fully lit experience, while those up front can have shade drawn if wanted. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Rear seat roominess is generous and comfort very good, plus Mitsubishi added rear seat warmers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Another positive is a rear window wiper that turns on automatically when backing up if the wipers are on up front, and the aforementioned head-up display system was a nice touch too, providing vital information right in front of the driver where it can be seen easily. This is just like the head-up display used by Mazda, in that it powers up a small transparent plastic screen atop the instrument cowl instead of projecting images directly on the windshield, with the only problem in this case being that it’s a bit distracting in some ways, not really blocking the view, but certainly interrupting the mind’s eye. I eventually got used to it to the point that it didn’t bother me one bit, but I’d understand if some complained about it getting in the way. 

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross GT S-AWC
Cargo space is merely ok, and we would’ve appreciated a centre pass-through. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To leave this review on a more uplifting note, I need to point out one of Mitsubishi’s best attributes, its industry-best five-year or 100,000-km basic (mostly bumper-to-bumper) warranty and 10-year or 160,000-km powertrain warranty. Nothing comes close to this, with most competitors coming up two years or 40,000 km short in their basic warranties, and five years or 60,000 km less generous for their powertrain coverage. Considering Mitsubishi is one of the most well respected brands in other markets around the world, thanks to exceptionally good engineering and better than average reliability, this impressive warranty is a major selling point that any new car buyer should factor in when making a decision. 

Overall, Mitsubishi should be commended for establishing the compact SUV-coupe niche within the mainstream volume-branded sector, and while year-to-date 2019 sales numbers of 4,159 units put the Eclipse Cross dead last in its class, when it’s combined with second-to-last Outlander deliveries of 8,568 units, the brand’s 12,727-unit compact SUV total puts it ahead of Subaru, GMC and Kia, which is quite a feat for one of the newest automotive brands in Canada (Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada, Inc. was established in 2002). This, together with the Outlander PHEV, the only plug-in hybrid in the segment, shows that innovation remains key to the company’s continued progress, and while some of us might lament the loss of sportier models like the Evo, as well as the Eclipse this SUV was named after, times have changed and only those that adapt survive.

Few premium models mimic their mainstream volume branded donor platforms so closely as the QX60 does with the Nissan Pathfinder, and by that I’m not talking about exterior styling. Actually, Infiniti…

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory Road Test

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
Infiniti’s three-row mid-size QX60 moved into 2019 almost identical to its recent predecessors, except for a new trim naming convention. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Few premium models mimic their mainstream volume branded donor platforms so closely as the QX60 does with the Nissan Pathfinder, and by that I’m not talking about exterior styling. Actually, Infiniti does a pretty good job of separating the two at birth. The QX60 gets Infiniti’s trademark grille and snake eyes-like LED headlamps up front, plus its squiggly rear quarter window design, and its thinner, narrower wrap-around LED tail lamps, whereas the Pathfinder certainly looks more traditional SUV-like since its 2017 refresh. 

No, the most noticeable similarities are found inside, where the two SUVs are similar in design, layout, and general goodness. See how I did that? You probably thought I was going to say something negative, and while I’d like to see more differentiation between QX60 and Pathfinder cabins, they’re both very good at delivering what people want and need, the QX60 merely stepping things up when it comes to the quality and choice of materials, plus other refinements. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
Stylish from all angles, the QX60 looks especially nice with its top-line Sensory package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

For instance, the QX60 dash top, instrument panel, glove box lid, lower console sides, and front door panels (from top to bottom) are made from high-quality soft-touch synthetics, whereas the Pathfinder leads its class for hard plastics, covering all of these areas except (strangely) for the front door panels that also get the pliable composite treatment all over. The QX60 takes these refinements into the back too, providing soft-touch rear door uppers, while hard shell plastic covers the Pathfinder’s inner doors. Infiniti even goes so far as to wrap all roof pillars in padded cloth, whereas Nissan doesn’t even cover the front pillars, like some close competitors do. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
The LED headlights and fogs come standard, but the stunning 20-inch alloys are part of the Sensory upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, Infiniti adds some more obvious upgrades to the QX60 as well, such as real maple hardwood replacing the fake stuff, a higher grade of leather with intricate hourglass quilting on the seat inserts and contrasting piping around the edges, at least in my top line Sensory trimmed example, but the dated electronics are pretty well the same except for some digital branding, the primary gauge clusters identical except for Infiniti’s classic purple colouring inside the dials, plus the serrated metallic rims around their edges, this colour treatment carried over to the centre display as well, which incidentally is devoid of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and while the buttons, knobs and switches that control these interfaces (and everything else) are mostly unique and nicer all-round, they’re laid out in more or less the same fashion. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
Elegant LED taillights are standard across the line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Along with the rich hardwood and sumptuous leather upgrades, the $4,200 Sensory package adds three-way forced ventilation to the already heatable front seats, while the second-row outboard positions are now heated, and the third row gets a powered return to make loading cargo easier, while accessing the rear luggage area is more convenient thanks to a motion activated power liftgate. Back inside, everyone can enjoy the open airiness of a powered panoramic sunroof overhead, complete with powered sunshades, not to mention a 15-speaker surround-sound Bose audio system upgrade complete with 5.1-channel digital decoding, while they can also appreciate the Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) that includes auto-recirculation, a plasmacluster air purifier and grape polyphenol filter. Last but not least, the Sensory package improves the QX60’s styling and handling with unique 15-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels on 235/55 all-season tires. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
The QX60’s interior is laid out similarly to its Nissan Pathfinder donor model, but it’s a lot more upscale inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Prerequisites for the new Sensory package are the equally new $5,000 Essential and $4,800 ProActive packages, the first including remote engine start, entry/exit assist for the driver’s seat and steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, reverse tilt-down side mirrors, two-way power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, two-way driver’s memory with an Enhanced Intelligent Key, a 13-speaker Bose audio system, leather upholstery, Infiniti InTouch infotainment with navigation, lane guidance, and 3D building graphics, voice recognition, an Around View parking monitor with Moving Object Detection, front and rear parking sensors, SiriusXM Traffic, and more. 

The ProActive package adds auto-dimming side mirrors, high beam assist, full-speed range adaptive cruise control, distance control assist, active trace control, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), Blind Spot Intervention, backup collision intervention, front pre-crash seatbelts, and Infiniti’s exclusive Eco Pedal. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
It’s high time for a QX60 update, but everything is still logically place and mostly well made. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All of this highfalutin gear gets added to a QX60 that’s already well equipped in renamed base Pure form, and competitively priced at $48,695, thanks to features such as auto on/off LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, roof rails, power-folding side mirrors with integrated turn signals, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a six-way power front passenger’s seat, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, a (regular sized) powered moonroof, micro-filtered tri-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch centre touchscreen with a backup camera, SMS/email display, satellite radio, three USB charging ports, a powered rear liftgate, Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection (PFEB), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), and more (see all 2019 and 2020 Infiniti QX60 pricing at CarCostCanada, with breakdowns of trims, packages and individual options, plus make sure to look for special manufacturer rebate info as well as dealer invoice prices that could save you thousands). 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
Classic analogue dials get filled with Infiniti’s hallmark purple/blue backlighting, while a sizeable multi-info display sits at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Some of these features are available with the Pathfinder, incidentally, so it’s not like top-tier trims of the Nissan-badged utility are even remotely spartan, but Infiniti does go further as it should. Where it doesn’t seem to need much differentiation to remain popular is in mechanicals, where the two SUVs utilize the same 3.5-litre V6 and continuously variable transmission incorporating authentic feeling stepped gear ratios. It’s one of the best CVTs on the market, and perfectly suited to these models’ comfort-first focus, although all-wheel drive is standard with the QX60, unlike the Pathfinder that offers more basic front-wheel drive trims as well. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
The centre stack is well organized and filled with features, but it mimics the Pathfinder too closely. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

At 295 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, the QX60’s direct-injection infused V6 also provides 11 more ponies and an identical 11 lb-ft of additional twist over the Pathfinder’s version of the engine, which makes for a bit more energy off the line and when passing on the highway, plus Infiniti massages the CVT with a manual mode in order to extract the most performance from those just-noted stepped gears, not to mention default (a best of all worlds compromise), Sport (that makes adjustments to the engine and transmission to enhance performance), Eco (that adjusts engine and transmission responses to improve fuel economy), and Snow (that controls engine output to reduce wheel spin) driving modes, whereas the Pathfinder pays respect to its more rugged styling by including an “i-4×4” selection on its rotating drive mode selector, this denoting Nissan’s Intelligent 4WD system lets you choose between 2WD, AUTO, and LOCK, the latter for getting out of deep snow, mud, sand, or other types of slippery situations. Nissan’s combination of drive settings is probably best off-road, not to mention its 7.0 inches of ground clearance versus 6.5, but Infiniti’s setup is automated more for slippery conditions and optimized further for pavement, which is where you’re more likely to be driving 99.9-percent of the time. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
While hardly the largest infotainment display in the class, its overhead camera is really helpful when parking. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

How do these differences affect fuel economy? The QX60 does very well with a claimed Transport Canada rating of 12.5 L/100km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 10.9 combined, whereas a fully loaded AWD-equipped Pathfinder is good for an estimated 12.4 city, 9.2 highway and 11.0 combined; more or less the same. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
Beautifully finished genuine maple hardwood inlays add a lot of glamour to the QX60 Sensory interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The QX60 also rides on an identical fully independent suspension made up of front struts and a multi-link design in the rear, plus stabilizer bars and coil springs at both ends, but sameness aside it feels more substantive than its lower-priced alternative. It probably comes down to some of the aforementioned soft-touch surfaces quelling noise, vibration, and harshness levels, not that the Pathfinder I recently tested was particularly harsh. Additional sound deadening materials used where the eyes can’t see no doubt play a part as well, but whatever Infiniti did, the QX60 feels more upscale, effectively shielding occupants from the world outside. 

This makes its ride feel smoother and more comfortable too, and it very well could be due to suspension tuning, but if there’s a difference it’s very minor. Both are excellent when it comes to coddling occupants in suspension nirvana, no matter the road conditions, while the two SUVs are pretty decent at managing high-speed corners too, as long as you don’t get overzealous in your need to travel from A to B quickly. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
The special quilted leather Sensory upholstery is lovely, but the two-way lumbar support doesn’t cut it. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

A feature I would’ve liked to see Infiniti address more completely is lumbar support, the QX60’s two-way powered system identical to the Pathfinder’s, and not good enough for the luxury sector. They should have at least made a four-way system optional, because as it is you’ll either get sufficient pressure exactly where you need it on your lower back or not, the latter being the case for my five-foot-eight frame and particular pain. A four-way system allows upward and downward movement in order to satisfy all body types and conditions. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
The optional dual-pane rear panoramic sunroof adds a lot more light than just the standard one up front. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Other than this the driver’s seat is quite comfortable and should be large enough for most peoples’ requirements, while second-row seating is very accommodating thanks to plenty of room from side-to-side and the ability to slide each 60/40-split portion fore and aft as needed, plus a comfortable armrest with integrated cupholders in the middle. The third row isn’t the largest or smallest in the class, yet should be sufficient for all but large teens and adults. Better than size, access to that third row comes via Nissan/Infiniti’s innovative seat folding mechanism that lets you keep a child safety seat installed (without the child strapped in) while sliding it out of the way. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
The rear seats are very accommodating. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Speaking of this, the QX60 could use more child seat latches, particularly in the third row, but on the positive Nissan/Infiniti’s Rear Door Alert system is brilliant. It uses door sequence logic along with an instrument-panel message alert, plus multiple horn honks to remind its driver to check the rear seating area after parking and turning off the ignition. This is an important step towards eliminating child and pet injuries/death after being left behind to suffer in the summer heat of parked cars. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
The second row seats flip forward and slide out of the way for easy third-row access. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Cargo volume is good, with 447 litres (15.8 cubic feet) available behind the third row, this space made yet more functional thanks to a hidden compartment below the load floor that also houses a removable Bose subwoofer, while up to 1,155 litres (40.8 cubic feet) of gear-toting space can be created by dropping that 50/50-split third row downward via powered switches mounted on each cargo wall. Finally, the 60/40-split second-row seatbacks flip down completely flat via manual levers on their sides, providing a sizeable 2,166 litres (76.5 cubic feet) of maximum cargo volume. Some rivals offer automated second-row seats too, but this setup works well enough and the space provided is very generous. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
Not the largest in its class, but the QX60’s third row is still quite roomy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In the end the QX60 is showing its age, but being a bit older doesn’t necessarily mean it’s outdated. Yes, its instrument panel electronics could use a refresher and I’d like to see more visual separation from the lesser Pathfinder, but it looks good inside and out, is finished in high-quality materials, drives well, and offers seven-passenger luxury SUV buyers a lot of practicality for a very good price. This 2019 model is no different than the 2020 version arriving now, other than its previously noted packages transforming into four trim levels, plus a number of new option packages. 

2019 Infiniti QX60 Sensory
No shortage of cargo space here. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

A complete redesign isn’t far away, however, said to be arriving next year as a 2021 model, but if you can’t wait that long this 2019 model, or the new 2020 version, are good choices that drive a hard bargain in the mid-size luxury SUV class, although I expect the upcoming 2021 QX60 to be improved enough not to need a discount.

When I first heard Jeep was about to can the Patriot and keep the Compass I was a bit put off. It’s not like I particularly loved the Patriot, but it was a helluvalot more appealing than the first-generation…

2020 Jeep Compass North 4×4 Road and Trail Test

2020 Jeep Compass North
Jeep’s Compass compact SUV was all-new for 2018, while this North trimmed model moves into 2020 completely unchanged. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

When I first heard Jeep was about to can the Patriot and keep the Compass I was a bit put off. It’s not like I particularly loved the Patriot, but it was a helluvalot more appealing than the first-generation Compass, at least to my eyes, plus it offered some mild capability off-road. Despite my silent petition Jeep followed through on this rumour and the Patriot was discontinued in 2017, but fortunately Jeep gave the Compass a completely new life that same year for the 2018 model, transforming it from a slightly better looking version of the initial ugly duckling, into something really quite fetching. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
With no shortage of style, the Compass offers up great design from all angles. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Believe it or not, the first-gen Compass ran for 10 years, from 2006 to 2016, with only one significant facelift in 2011. That’s when Jeep turned it from a Liberty wannabe to a mini Grand Cherokee, at least from the front, while the totally new second-generation Compass pulls even more cues from the since-updated and much more handsome Grand Cherokee, resulting in a really smart looking compact crossover SUV front to back. On that note I can’t go without mentioning rear end styling similarities to the all-new Volvo XC40, but to be fair to Jeep this shapely domestic came on the scene a full year before the new entry-level Sino-Swede, so maybe it was Jeep that influenced Volvo. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
The Compass’ wide, narrow grille is unique, other than sharing its design with the larger Grand Cherokee. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It wouldn’t be the first time Jeep made an impression on a luxury brand. Anyone who thinks the Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen (G-Class) merely landed on the scene in ‘79 without any homage paid to Jeep’s iconic CJ/Wrangler (plus Land Rover’s Series I/II/III/Defender and Toyota’s Land Cruiser J40/70) is dreaming, and let me tell you that this Compass not only offers premium styling, but does a pretty good job of aping a compact luxury utility as well. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
This near base model still gets fog lamps and a nice set of 17-inch alloy wheels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

You’d need to step up from this second-rung North example to Trailhawk, Limited or High Altitude trim in order to feel truly pampered, although this just-over-base model is still very nicely finished inside. It gets a soft-touch dash that wraps all the way around the instrument panel and under the infotainment head unit before stretching across each front door upper. The door inserts are made from supple padded leatherette, similar to the armrests that also get nice cream and copper dual-tone contrast stitching to match the leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, shifter boot, and seat upholstery. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
Wonderful little design details are everywhere, like this salamander hiding below the windshield wiper. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Those seats are bolstered in leatherette with attractive hexagonal-patterned black cloth inserts, and are very comfortable thanks to good inherent design as well as four-way powered lumbar support. Yes, four-way lumbar; a feature many premium brands don’t offer until moving up through their options lists. 

The Compass switchgear is all high in quality too, with the standard dual-zone automatic HVAC system’s main dials rimmed in chrome and rubber, while Jeep provides a separate climate control interface within the centre touchscreen that lets you swipe up and down to easily set the temperature, not to mention adjust temperatures of the two-way front seat heaters and ultra-hot heatable steering wheel. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
Sharp looking taillights once again remind of Jeep’s flagship Grand Cherokee. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The infotainment system does much more, with really diverse entertainment choices from the usual radio selections to HD and satellite radio plus Bluetooth streaming audio, as well as navigation with accurate route guidance and really detailed mapping, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a nice big reverse camera with active guidelines, and more. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
The Compass is ideal for all types of off-road terrain. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Some additional $29,645 North model features include 17-inch alloy wheels on 225/60 all-seasons, auto on/off headlamps, cornering fog lights, body-colour side mirror housings and door handles, bright daylight opening mouldings, black roof rails, deep-tint sunscreen glass, proximity-sensing keyless access, LED ambient interior lighting, and illuminated vanity mirrors, while the $26,150 base Sport model just below features an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, heated and power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, cruise control, six-speaker audio, a media hub with an aux input and USB connectivity/charging port, a second-row USB charger, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, two 12-volt chargers, powered windows, a forward folding front passenger seat, a capless fuel filler, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, a block heater, and more. 

2020 Jeep Compass North2020 Jeep Compass North
Even without the raised ride height of Trailhawk trim, the Compass scales off-road obstacles well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The aforementioned eight-way powered driver’s seat is optional, as are the heated front seats and steering wheel, and the 1.4-inch larger 8.4-inch infotainment system with navigation, while my tester also had a really impressive, fully featured, high-resolution 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster display, a windshield wiper de-icer, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, remote engine start, a nice set of all-weather floor mats, a full-size temporary spare tire, a Class III tow package, and more. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
It really is a Jeep! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

You can also replace the standard quad-halogen headlamps with a set of bi-xenon HID headlamps featuring LED signatures and LED taillights, add a set of 18-inch alloys on 225/55 all-seasons, upgrade the audio system with Alpine speakers, add a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and powered liftgate, and finally improve convenience and safety with a host of advanced driver assist systems such as adaptive cruise control with stop and go, automatic high beams, forward collision warning with active braking, advanced brake assist, and lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and that’s just with North trim. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
Too much fun, the Compass can get you in and out of some fairly serious predicaments. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Jeep also offers the Compass in $30,940 Altitude trim, which adds glossy black 18-inch alloys, additional gloss-black exterior trim including a black roof, automatic headlights, upgraded upholstery, dual exhaust tips and other changes, while $31,640 Upland trim adds the 17-inch off-road alloy wheels, a modified front fascia, a front skid plate, and tow hooks from the aforementioned Trailhawk model, plus some other styling changes. 

Full $34,145 Trailhawk trim includes an off-road package with a unique uprated suspension setup, plus off-road tires wrapping around those just-noted 17-inch alloys, while it also adds underbody skid plates, hill descent control, the previously mentioned 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster display, the 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, and rain-sensing wipers, as well as ambient-lit cupholders and leather upholstery. 

Trevor Hofmann
A nice reflection, even in mud. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Limited trim, at $36,145, builds on the more crossover-like Altitude model, by making the previously noted remote engine start, windshield wiper de-icer, heated front seats, and heated steering wheel standard equipment, plus adding a 12-way power driver’s seat, while the topmost $38,340 High Altitude trim includes the HID headlights, LED taillights and navigation system standard, while adding 19-inch rims and rubber, plus perforated leather upholstery (check CarCostCanada for 2020 Jeep Compass pricing, including trims, packages and options, plus make sure to learn about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2020 Jeep Compass North
The Compass North is surprisingly refined for a compact SUV in base trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

No matter the trim the Compass is roomy for what is effectively a subcompact SUV, with plenty of space up front, loads of driver’s seat adjustability, and excellent telescopic steering column reach resulting in an ideal driving position, plus there’s more headroom than you’ll likely ever need. After setting my driver’s seat up for my rather long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, causing me to power it further rearward than most people my height need to, I still had about six inches ahead of my knees when seated directly behind in the second row, plus four inches over my head, and another four next to my hips and shoulders, while Jeep provides a nice wide armrest at centre. The outboard seats are comfortable with good lower back support, and the previously noted rear seat amenities, which also included good air circulation via vents on the backside of the front console, helped to make for a relaxing atmosphere. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
The cockpit is nicely organized. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The cargo compartment gets the usual carpeting on the floor and seatbacks, four chromed tie-down hooks, and the usual standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to expand it from an accommodating 770 litres (27.2 cubic feet) to a generous 1,693 litres (39.8 cu ft). These numbers show this new Compass to be 127 litres (4.5 cu ft) larger than old first-generation version with the seats upright, and 82 litres (2.9 cu ft) smaller when they’re folded flat, a nominal difference likely due to the previous model having more space behind the driver’s side rear wheel well, but usable space is about the same. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
A large 7.0-inch centre display provides loads of functions. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Comfortably positioned back up front in the driver’s seat, there are no Eco or Sport modes to get the most mileage or performance from the standard 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir four-cylinder engine, or its three drivetrains. The engine makes a healthy 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, good for the subcompact SUV class, while fuel economy depends on whether suited up with the base front-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox combination (10.4 L/100km city, 7.3 highway and 9.0 combined), front-wheel drive with the six-speed auto (10.6 city, 7.6 highway and 9.3 combined), which also comes with auto stop/start that automatically shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, or the four-wheel drive, nine-speed auto combo (10.8 city, 7.8 highway and 9.5 combined) that comes with idle stop/start too. Only Sport trim offers the manual, with Sport, North and Altitude trims providing the option of front-wheel drive with the six-speed auto, while all trims can be had with the 4WD, nine-speed configuration, which is standard on Upland models and above. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
The big optional 8.4-inch display is ideal for checking details on this navigation map. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

My Compass tester was great fun to drive, much thanks to steering wheel-mounted paddles. It was quick at takeoff, the little turbo-four delivering plenty of torque for a good smack in the backside during takeoff and no shortage of energy to speedily eclipse highway cruising limits. High-speed stability and fast-paced handling are good too, while the Compass’ ride quality is hardly upset by road imperfections. The Compass’ suspension is fully independent, and interestingly it incorporates rear struts in place of this compact SUV segment’s usual trailing arm or multi-link setup in order to provide more travel to improve off-road capability. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
Choose your drive mode and go. The Compass offers Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud selections. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

And yes, the Compass is fairly decent off-road. Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system is standard, which provides Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud modes, the latter one extremely useful when getting it dirty at a local off-road haunt. Certainly the Trailhawk’s lifted suspension and beefier tires would’ve made it even more confidence inspiring, but I was able to crawl over some reasonably difficult medium-duty terrain, wade through a few big mud puddles, and bring it back in one piece. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
The 8-way powered driver’s seat is especially comfortable thanks to 4-way powered lumbar support. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Compass’ Achilles heel is its advanced nine-speed transmission, which while smooth and refined in its higher ratios, plus includes a sporty rev-matching feature, was often plagued with jerky starts from standstill, seemingly caused by a slight hesitation upon pressing the gas pedal that resulted in an uncomfortable slap in the back affect and distinct clunk on takeoff. Worse, this is the only vehicle to ever stall on me when in idle stop/start mode. While waiting at a light with the engine automatically turned off, the light went green, so I took my foot off the brake and, when nothing happened, feathered the throttle in order to get things going. Instead, the engine tried to start up and then died, stalling in Drive. After figuring out what had happened, returning my foot to the brake, shifting the transmission back into Park, pushing the start button, shifting it back into Drive, and then waiting for a very long time (as if the transmission was slipping) before it clunked into gear and started going again, I wasn’t at all amused. After all, there was a line of (fortunately patient) traffic behind me, looking at this poor sod that obviously didn’t know how to drive. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
Rear seat roominess and comfort is good. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As I’ve since learned, Jeep’s ZF-sourced nine-speed transmission has caused problems for the brand in this Compass and other vehicles (particularly the Cherokee) going back years, and the description of my specific problem doesn’t come close to describing all of the issues that might potentially go wrong. This particular problem still appears to be happening with some customers, as noted by multiple complainants on the U.S. NHTSA website. 

2020 Jeep Compass North
Cargo space is impressive for the class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s such a shame to leave things on a sour note, because I really like this SUV in most every other respect. It looks great, has an impressive interior that’s packed full of features, is priced reasonably well, provides loads of practicality, and is fun to drive (when it’s not stalling and the transmission isn’t clunking). I could recommend it in front-wheel drive trims, but I’d want to test a couple of other examples with the all-wheel drivetrain and nine-speed automatic before recommending anything higher up the food chain.

If you like the looks of this stylish mid-size sport sedan you can breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon. Of course, considering the sheer number of…

2019 Buick Regal GS Road Test

2019 Buick Regal GS
This is the new face of Buick, and it’s a particularly handsome one at that. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

If you like the looks of this stylish mid-size sport sedan you can breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon. Of course, considering the sheer number of four- and five-door models currently getting axed by General Motors, and the fact that its European Opel and Vauxhall Insignia twins will soon need to disappear due to an August 2017 sale of the two brands to France’s Groupe PSA, it’s quite possible we’ll see this change at some point in the future (our Regal is manufactured in Rüsselsheim, Germany after all), but a 2020 Buick Regal is slated to go on sale shortly, so at the very least we’ll enjoy it for another year. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The Regal’s elegant lines come standard, but this GS model’s sportier additions really make it stand out. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I use the word “enjoy” because this mid-size near-luxury sedan is truly a joy to look at, and possibly even better to drive. It helps that my tester was in top-line GS trim, and therefore is one of the mid-size family sedan segment’s sportier cars. It’s also not technically a sedan, but rather a five-door hatchback, Buick choosing to call it a Sportback. As a quick side note they make a raised five-door sport wagon/crossover variant (à la Subaru Outback and Volvo V90 Cross Country) for the U.S. (and Euro markets, plus Australia and New Zealand where the two body styles are sold as the Holden Commodore) dubbed TourX, but just like in China where Buick finds its most ardent followers (and builds its Regal at the SAIC-GM assembly plant in Shanghai), we only get this four-door coupe-like sedan. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
In a rare feat of design mastery, the Regal’s rear angle looks just as good as its front. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Despite its attractive styling and strong performance, the Regal is either one of the least popular cars from a mainstream volume brand or a fairly strong selling luxury model, depending on how you categorize it. With a base price of $32,045 (plus destination and fees), most competitors start $3,000 to $7,000 more affordably, while similarly priced mid-size sedans from volume brands do about the same or worse when it comes to sales numbers. Still, the Regal doesn’t quite measure up to premium status or refinement levels (GM’s Cadillac division occupies that space), so the unique model’s market exclusivity is understandable (see all 2019 Buick Regal pricing at CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The red “GS” insignia and LED headlamps come standard with this top-tier model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Regal GS pictured here starts at a cool $44,045 plus freight and fees and goes up to $51,700 with all options (and a couple of cool accessories added), which while a steal compared to a comparatively sized and equipped premium-branded model, is a fair jump up the desirability ladder from a fully loaded Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Ford Fusion, the top-three sellers in this category, but its fully loaded price is just $205 more than a completely optioned out Kia Stinger and actually $1,880 less than VW’s new Arteon with all features added. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The design details are fabulous! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Granted the top-tier Stinger is a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6-powered AWD super-beast capable of hitting 100 km/h from standstill in just 4.9 seconds, but the 310-horsepower Regal GS’ is plenty respectable at 5.6 seconds from zero to 100km/h, which is (believe it or not) better than the legendary Regal Grand National GNX and about the same as the 265-horsepower Arteon, which is 300 kilos (about 660 lbs) lighter. These acceleration times are estimates, of course, with some manufacturers more conservative than others, Buick seeming not to want to set anyone’s hopes too high considering the GS’ 3.6-litre V6 engine’s generous power rating, not to mention its 282 lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
Yes, you’re looking at Brembo brakes behind those sharp looking 19-inch rims. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, there’s a lot more that makes each of these impressive cars worthy of your attention, and much that sets them apart from their more conventional family sedan peers. I won’t turn this review into a full-scale comparison review, despite recently testing all of the above for a week at a time, but rather will concentrate on the Regal GS and occasionally point out strengths and weaknesses compared to its key rivals. 

As far as styling goes, each respectably holds its own. I find the Regal is thoroughly attractive, but admit my appreciation for its classic lines and overall elegance may have something to do with my 50-something age. On looks alone I could understand why someone would fall for it, especially when enhanced with GS trim details. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
These elegant LED taillights are standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

These upgrades start with bold red italicized “GS” block letters on the otherwise glossy black mesh grille insert framed by a gloss-black grille surround that’s all underscored by yet more of the shiny, inky brightwork on lower fascia. The same piano black treatment highlights the lower side window trim and rear apron, this sporty look complemented by aluminum-like trim on the grille, corner grillettes, upper window surrounds, and exhaust. A subtle body-colour rear deck spoiler and modified rear bumper finish off the performance-oriented design. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The interior is a mix of awesome sport-oriented upgrades plus fit and finish that comes up a bit short. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Climb inside and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Buick is channeling the ghost of Pontiac, as you’ll immediately be greeted by two of the most aggressive looking sport seats in the Regal’s class, not to mention a contrast-stitched, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel to match, complete with a slightly flattened bottom for extra verve. I wouldn’t say the latter is as impeccably shaped as the Arteon’s superbly crafted wheel, or for that matter the Stinger’s paddle shifter-enhanced rim, but they all do much better than average in this family-friendly segment. Like the others (i.e. glossy black plastic is hardly original), Buick adds some additional splashes of piano black lacquer trim here, a bit of carbon weave-like adornment there, plus aluminized and chromed accents elsewhere, and voila, you’ve got a sport sedan. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The Regal’s interior design is conventional, but the GS spiffs things up with a nice sport steering wheel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

A smart looking partially digital gauge cluster with a red GS insignia emblazoned within the 4.2-inch digitized centre speedometer portion reminds that we’re in Buick’s quickest car, a graphic than can be swapped with plenty of useful features by flicking the steering wheel controls. 

Over on the centre stack is the latest version of Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment interface, residing within a very nice high-resolution 8.0-inch touchscreen. The circular aqua-green on black graphics are attractive and a bit more upscale looking than the bright, colourful Apple-style design in the Regal’s Chevy Malibu counterpart, fitting for the Buick’s older and slightly wealthier target clientele. It’s certainly an easy system to use and once again filled to the brim with helpful features, from a large, clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines, to a navigation system with easy-to-input, accurate route guidance with detailed mapping, plus all the usual audio features including HD/satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, phone and text message info/readouts, another panel for OnStar, a big interface for the dual-zone automatic climate control system, and more. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The gauge cluster includes a large colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

A separate HVAC panel just below provides quicker-access analogue controls for the same, not to mention switchgear for the three-way heated and cooled front seats, while other features not yet mentioned that came with my Regal GS tester included a heatable steering wheel rim, a head-up display atop the dash, adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and driver’s side mirror, two-way driver’s seat memory, leather upholstery, eight-speaker Bose audio, wireless charging, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a powered moonroof, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, remote engine start, auto-leveling LED headlamps with cornering capability, 19-inch alloy wheels with grey-painted pockets, front and rear parking sensors, and much more. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The centre stack is nicely sorted, and the infotainment system excellent. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Buick also includes a host of advanced driver assistance and safety features, such as autonomous forward braking with collision alert and pedestrian detection, blindspot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, plus Buick’s first active hood pedestrian safety system that raises the rear portion of the hood by 100 mm (3.9 inches) to lessen impact and help reduce injury. 

The driver’s seat is inherently comfortable and benefits further from four-way lumbar support, a feature some premium-branded luxury sedans don’t even include, not to mention extendable lower cushions that cup nicely below the knees, and big side bolsters that provide excellent lateral support thanks to powered adjustability. Complemented by extensive reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column, the Regal provided an ideal driving position, which isn’t always the case for my long-legged, short-torso frame. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
Get a load of these sport seats, complete with four-way lumbar, extendable lower cushions, and powered side bolsters. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Regal GS’ V6 idles smoothly when it’s not shutting off automatically to save fuel and reduce emissions, a good thing in my books. Quick shifts come from a nine-speed automatic transmission, the GS getting one additional forward gear than four-cylinder AWD trims, which like the engine proved smooth and effortless to operate around town, on the highway, or through more entertaining serpentine stretches. Chagrined to learn this sporty sedan didn’t include paddle shifters, which would have been a great way to improve on its well sorted transmission and fully capable powerplant, I first put it in Sport mode and then slotted the gear lever to the left for a little old school manual fun. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
The rear seats are roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The GS has a lot of punch off the line and the gearbox is a perfect match, shifting quickly yet never harshly, but needing more sport from Sport mode I immediately chose the GS setting, which adds more weight to the steering and feels a lot more engaging overall. Yes I missed having paddles, but I adapted as needed and enjoyed this very well balanced sedan through some tight, twisting two-laners and some open straights as well. The chassis is smooth and comfortable, yet it holds the road very well thanks to active dampers that adjust every two milliseconds. The GS’ active twin-clutch all-wheel drive system aids handling further, particularly in wet weather, while its high-performance Brembo brakes perform as brilliantly as they look. Fuel economy is reasonable for its performance and all-wheel drivetrain, with a rating of 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
Yes, the Regal is a hatchback. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Unfortunately, the GS wasn’t perfect. It suffered from one of the cheapest turn signal stalks I’ve ever experienced, due to flimsy hollow plastic and a loose, sloppy feel, while there’s a lot of low rent hard plastic on the lower dash, glove box lid, and mid to lower door panels. To be fair, the aforementioned Arteon isn’t much better when it comes to the latter, but the Stinger pulls off luxury more convincingly. Most of the GS’ upper surfaces are agreeably soft to the touch, however, and front and rear seat roominess is good, with the rear outboard positions almost as comfortable as the buckets up front, but the moulded black plastic panel covering the backside of the front console looked bulbous, as if it was pulled from a much cheaper vehicle, an issue made worse by its spartan array of twinned air vents up top and dual USB ports below. 

2019 Buick Regal GS
A 40/20/40-split rear seat configuration makes for ultimate passenger/cargo flexibility. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yes, the Regal GS comes up a bit short on back seat features. It doesn’t including rear seat heaters like most $50k-plus competitors, which was a shame as, together with its AWD, its standard 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks and liftback layout, not to mention its strong performance on winding mountainside roads, it would make for an ideal ski shuttle. The cargo cover is weighty, feeling really well made, and seat releases on the cargo walls quickly expand the 892-litre (31.5 cubic-foot) luggage compartment to an accommodating 1,719 litres (60.7 cu ft). 

While missing some key features and not quite measuring up to its peers when it comes to interior fit and finish, the Regal GS is nevertheless an ultra-stylish ride that does some things so well it’s worth a closer look. You’ll probably like its quick and agile performance, reasonably well-equipped, roomy and comfortable cabin, and overall practicality, and therefore will likely be able to look past its few shortcomings.

Lexus’ ES has come a long way in 30 years. Yes, 2019 marks three decades of the quintessential Japanese luxury brand’s best-selling car, which started life as the comparatively humble ES 250 in 1989. …

2019 Lexus ES 300h Road Test

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Lexus redesigned its ES luxury sedan for 2019, with even this 300h hybrid looking sportier than ever before. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lexus’ ES has come a long way in 30 years. Yes, 2019 marks three decades of the quintessential Japanese luxury brand’s best-selling car, which started life as the comparatively humble ES 250 in 1989. 

It was obviously based on the Camry family sedan, yet despite being rushed to market in order to make sure the full-size LS 400 wasn’t alone in the new premium brand’s lineup, it was a handsome, well-built and reasonably strong performing V6-powered mid-size luxury sedan. Lexus has made six ES generations since, releasing this most recent seventh-generation redesign late last year as a 2019 model, and while each new version made improvements on its predecessor, this latest iteration is by far the most dramatic looking, most refined inside, and best to drive yet. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The new ES is stylish from all angles, its new elevated rear deck lid providing a particularly sporty look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In fact, Lexus has done such a good job of pulling the ES upmarket that it’s getting more difficult to justify having two mid-size sedans in its lineup. The two look similar and are near identical in size, the ES’ wheelbase just 20 mm (0.8 in) longer at 2,870 mm (113.0 in), and 4,960 mm (195.3 in) of overall length a bit more of a stretch thanks to an additional 110 mm (4.3 in). The ES is 25 mm (1.0 in) wider than the GS too, measuring 1,865 mm (73.4 in) from side to side, but at 1,445 mm (56.9 in) high it’s 10 mm (0.4 in) lower, the ES’ long, wide and low design giving it proportions arguably more appealing than the sportier, more upscale sedan. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Lexus has taken its trademark spindle grille to new lengths, heights and widths with the new ES. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be fair to the GS, it not only delivers stronger performance, particularly through the corners and off the line, especially in 467 horsepower GS F form, but it generally feels more substantive thanks to a 66-kilo (145-lb) heftier curb weight in base trim and 185-kg (408-lb) difference in hybrid trims, a rear-drive architecture shared with the smaller IS series sedan and coupe, a stiffer, more robust suspension setup, and other improvements that justify its significantly higher price point; the GS ranging from $63,800 to more than $100,000, compared to just $45,000 to $61,500 with the ES (find pricing for all new and past models at CarCostCanada, including trims, packages and individual options, plus money-saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could keep thousands in your wallet). 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
These stunning Tri-LED headlamps come as part of the mid-range Luxury package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Under the base ES hood is a 302 horsepower version of Lexus/Toyota’s ubiquitous 3.5-litre V6, just 9 horsepower and 13 lb-ft of torque shy of the base GS engine yet 34 horsepower and 19 lb-ft of torque more than the previous ES 350, and the Japanese luxury brand now marries it to an eight-speed automatic instead of the comparably antiquated six-speed unit found in last year’s ES and the pricier GS currently on sale. 

My as-tested ES 300h, which incidentally starts at $47,000, combines an upgraded 176 horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder featuring 163 lb-ft of torque with a 67 horsepower (50 kW) electric motor and 29.1-kWh nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery for a net output rating of 215 horsepower and an undisclosed torque rating (the previous ES 300h’ net torque rating was 206 lb-ft). Toyota’s fourth-generation hybrid system once again incorporates a silky smooth electronically controlled continuously variable transmission that suits this car’s luxury role well. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The ultimately angular 2019 ES can no longer be called a bland wallflower. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Fuel economy is incredibly good at a claimed 5.5 L/100km in the city, 5.2 on the highway and 5.3 combined, which despite its performance gains beats last year’s ES 300h hands-down, that model only capable of 5.8, 6.1 and 5.9 respectively. The new ES 300h handily outmaneuvers its Lincoln MKZ Hybrid archrival past the pumps too, the domestic luxury sedan only managing 5.7 city, 6.2 highway and 5.9 combined, while other notable efficiency comparisons include the conventionally powered ES 350 that gets a rating of 10.6 city, 7.2 highway and 9.1 combined, the same car with its F Sport styling upgrade that manages 10.9, 7.5 and 9.4 respectively, and the regular GS 350 AWD with its 12.3, 9.1 and 10.9 rating, while last year’s GS 450h hybrid eked out an impressive 8.0 city, 6.9 highway and 7.5 combined, but it’s no longer available so the point is moot unless you can find a new one lurking around your local Lexus dealer or are willing to live with a pre-owned example. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The top-line Ultra Luxury package includes these stylish 18-inch noise reduction alloy wheels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

You might find the latter difficult being the GS is as rare as the proverbial bird’s teeth, with year-to-date sales a scant 82 units as of August 31, compared to 1,445 down the road for the ES. That latter total makes for the mid-size luxury segment’s second-best results behind the Mercedes-Benz E/CLS-Class, plus the category’s best growth at 55.54 percent over the same eight months of last year. Only two rivals saw any upside at all, Mercedes’ E/CLS-Class (which also includes a coupe and convertible) up by 1.24 percent, plus Audi’s A6 and A7 with 18.87 and 24.28 percent YTD growth respectively, the latter two cars only capable of garnering 441 and 430 unit sales apiece during those eight months, however. 

In case you were wondering, the GS, its sales down 43.84 percent, wasn’t last, with Jaguar’s XF having lost 52.89 percent for 57 deliveries, Acura’s RLX down by 24.53 percent for 40 unit sales, and Infiniti’s Q70 dropping 2.56 percent for a 38 unit total. The segment’s biggest loser by percentage is the Lincoln Continental, dropping 56.88 percent so far this year, while closest to positive without going over is the G80 from Hyundai’s upstart Genesis brand that narrowly missed out with a loss of just 0.44 percent (thanks to GoodCarBadCar.net for the detailed sales results). 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Here’s a closer look at the ES’ raised rear deck lid, that seems to pay some homage to BMW’s once infamous Bangle butt. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

After witnessing the sales carnage in this mid-size luxury sedan class it’s easy to appreciate why Lexus might eventually choose to keep the ES over the GS, and while anyone that’s driven a GS F might lament such a decision. Personally, I’d back a CEO that makes good, sound business decisions over someone merely wanting a hyper-fast executive shuttle in their fleet. Certainly there’s a reasonable case for image cars, but Lexus is already losing money on its gorgeous LC coupe, which will go a lot further to bolster the brand’s image than an aging four-door sedan could ever do, let alone a car that sells in such small numbers there isn’t much image building being done anyway, so let’s see what happens to the Lexus lineup as we move into the next decade. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The ES’ new LED taillights are exquisitely detailed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

One thing is for sure, the ES will continue to fill its unique position within the marketplace, and it will have fewer rivals moving forward. The aforementioned Continental will soon be gone, as will Lincoln’s more directly competitive MKZ, which also comes in electrified hybrid form. Cadillac will also drop its front-drive XTS and CTS, while sales of its newer CT6 are so slow it hardly rates. The only challengers not yet mentioned include BMW’s 5 Series, Volvo’s newish S90, and Tesla’s aging Model S, while some might also shop the ES against Buick’s LaCrosse (also slated for cancellation), the Chrysler 300 (there’s no definitive word about this aging car’s future), and possibly Kia’s impressive Stinger, not to mention large luxury sedans like Toyota’s own Avalon, which is basically the same car as the ES under the sheetmetal, and lastly Nissan’s Maxima, which also gets very close to premium sans highfalutin badge. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
If you think the exterior is appealing, wait until you get inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Still, the ES has long outsold most of these would-be rivals, and this newest iteration should keep that ball rolling for the next few years. As noted earlier, the ES 350 and ES 300h hybrid are completely redesigned for its seventh generation. No matter whether trimmed out as a base ES 350, upgraded to its more athletic looking ES 350 F Sport trim, or delivered in classy as-tested ES 300h form, Lexus’ front-drive four-door now adds an entirely new level of visual drama to its outward design. 

The car’s trademark spindle grille is larger and considerably more expressive, its origami-inspired LED headlight clusters more complex with sharper edges, its side profile longer and sleeker with a more pronounced front overhang and a swoopier sweep to its C pillars that now taper downward over a shorter, taller trunk lid, while its rear end styling is more aggressively penned due to a much bigger crescent-shaped spoiler that hovers above expansive triangular wrap-around LED taillights. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The new ES pulls plenty of design cues from the LFA supercar. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The overall design toys with the mind, initially flowing smoothly from the grille rearward, overtop the hood and down each sculpted side, but then it culminates into a clamour of dissonant creases, folds and cutlines at back. Still, it comes together quite well overall, and certainly won’t conjure any of the model’s previous criticisms about yawn-inducing styling. 

Similar can be said of the interior, but instead of sharp edges the cabin combines myriad horizontal planes and softer angles with higher-grade materials than the outgoing ES, not to mention a few design details pulled from the LFA supercar, particularly the black knurled metal pods hanging off each side of the primary instrument hood, the left one for turning off the traction control, and the knob to the right for scrolling between Normal, Eco and Sport modes. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
This full digital gauge cluster is heavily inspired by the LFA, but modernized with unique hybrid features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Between those unorthodox pods is a standard digital gauge cluster that once again was inspired by the LFA supercar and plenty of lesser Lexus road cars since, this one providing real-time energy monitoring via a nice flowing graphic just to the left of the speedometer, while the infotainment display at dash central measures a minimum of 8.0 inches up to the sizeable 12.3-inch unit tested, yet both look even larger due to all the extra black glass bordering each side, the left portion hiding a classic LED-backlit analogue clock underneath. The high-definition display gets attractive graphics plus deep, rich colours and contrast, plus responds quickly to inputs. 

When opting for the as-tested ES 300h hybrid the infotainment interface now comes standard with Apple CarPlay for those who’d rather not integrate their smartphone via Lexus’ proprietary Enform system. This said Enform is arguably more comprehensive and easier to use than Android Auto, which is not included anyway, while standard Enform 2.0 apps include info on fuel prices, traffic incidents, weather, sports, and stocks, plus it’s also bundled with Scout GPS Link, Slacker, Yelp, and more. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Paddle shifters in a hybrid? The ES 300h is a lot more fun to drive than it used to be. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The 2019 ES 300h also gets an updated Remote Touch Interface trackpad controller on the lower console, which allows gesture controls like tap, pinch and swipe, and works much better than previous versions, with more accurate responses, especially to tap inputs, while other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillights, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a nicely shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, 10-speaker audio with satellite radio, a deodorizing, dust and pollen filtered dual-zone automatic climate control system, truly comfortable 10-way powered front seats with both three-way heat and ventilation, NuLuxe breathable leatherette upholstery, all the usual active and passive safety equipment including 10 airbags, plus much more. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Just like the LFA, these cool pods provide a unique way to adjust driving settings. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Safety in mind, the new ES 300h comes standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 that features an autonomous emergency braking pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection, plus lane departure alert with steering assist and road edge detection, new Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) automated lane guidance, automatic high beams, and full-speed range adaptive cruise control, all of which worked well, without being overly sensitive. 

The just-noted 12.3-inch infotainment display comes as part of an optional $3,800 Premium package that also adds blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse tilting side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a toasty heatable steering wheel that along with the heated front seats comes on automatically upon startup (I love this last feature), front seat and side mirror memory, accurate navigation with incredibly detailed mapping, and Enform Destination Assist that provides 24/7 live assistance for finding destinations or points of interest. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The upgraded 12.3-inch centre display allows for a big backup and overhead camera experience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Alternatively you can choose the even more comprehensive $10,600 Luxury package that combines everything from the Premium package with unique 18-inch alloy wheels, ultra-bright Tri-LED headlamps, much appreciated Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging, full leather upholstery, and a powered rear window sunshade. 

Lastly, the as-tested $14,500 Ultra Luxury package builds on the Luxury package with an attractive set of 18-inch noise reduction alloy wheels, calming ambient interior lighting, a really useful 10-inch head-up display, a 360-degree surround parking monitor that made getting into awkward parking spaces easier, a sensational sounding 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, softer and more comfortable semi-aniline leather upholstery, rear door sunshades, and a touch-free gesture control powered trunk lid. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The new trackpad improves upon Lexus previous Remote Touch Interfaces. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Needless to say this $61,500 model is the most lavishly equipped Lexus ES 300h to date, but it also provides the best ES driving experience by a long shot. Of course, those who love a comforting ride will appreciate the ES for its suspension compliance, the fully independent setup combining front struts and a multi-link rear setup, albeit revised for 2019 with newly developed Dynamic Control Shocks that include an auxiliary valve to complement the main damper valve in order to respond better to subtler movement. The front suspension was reworked for both comfort and stability, while additional adjustments made to the rear trailing arm and stabilizer bar mounting points helped minimize body lean, all resulting in an ES that’s quite adept through fast-paced curves. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
As usual, the ES driver’s seat is excellent, while more reach from the steering column makes for an even better driving position. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The ES 300h is actually quite fun to drive now, something I would not have admitted to previously, Lexus even including steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to swap a set of simulated gears that mimic the real thing quite well when in Sport mode, plus this enthusiast setting also adds torque at low speeds and provides a tachometer within the digital gauge cluster to monitor all the action. Those purchasing their ES 300h for economical or environmental reasons might prefer Eco mode that improves fuel economy, while EV mode lets you cruise silently at low speed for short durations. 

Enhancing efficiency yet more is new Auto Glide Control that allows the ES to coast more freely when lifting off the throttle, instead of slowing down automatically from automatic regenerative braking. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
Rear seat roominess and comfort will impress. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

No matter the speed this wind-cheating ES is now the quietest yet, thanks to twice as much structural adhesive, improving noise, vibration and harshness levels, front fender liners and underbody covers, and sound deadening material coating 93 percent of the ES 300h’s floor pan, a major increase over the previous car’s 68 percent area coverage. 

The aforementioned battery is smaller but more potent, by the way, and is now located under the rear seat and not in the trunk, which makes the cargo area identical in size to the non-hybrid ES 350 at 473 litres (16.7 cu ft). It also allows for a centre pass-through capable of swallowing up skis or other long items, and therefore allows rear passengers to enjoy the more comfortable window seats. And yes, the ES is roomy and comfortable no matter where you’re seated.   

2019 Lexus ES 300h
The ES 300h hybrid’s trunk is now just as large and accommodating as the regular ES 350. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Interior finishings are a lot nicer than previous generation ES models, with higher quality soft-touch composite surfacing being used, and more of it. This said, the lower door panels are still hard plastic, as are the sides of the centre console. Lexus smartly includes the wireless device charger under the armrest in the centre console bin, so you can keep your phone away from otherwise distracted eyes. 

All of the switchgear is improved over previous generations too, with some noteworthy details being those aforementioned pods that stick out each side of the instrument cluster, the little round metal buttons on the centre stack for controlling the radio, media, and seek/track functions, the temperature control switches, and, while not exactly switchgear, the speaker grilles and surrounds for the Mark Levinson audio system. The hardwood trim feels genuine because it’s actually real, and comes in Striated Black, Linear Dark Mocha or Linear Espresso, while the metallic accents are nicely finished and tastefully applied. 

2019 Lexus ES 300h
A centre pass-through adds convenience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Over the past 20 or so years of covering all things automotive I’ve spent many weeks with Lexus’ ES in both conventionally powered and hybrid forms, so therefore now that I’ve spent yet another seven days with this all-new 2019 ES 300h I can confidently promise that ES enthusiasts will like it best of all. It incorporates all previous ES attributes yet makes them better, resulting in one of the most impressive entry-level luxury sedans ever created.

The mid-size crossover SUV segment has more than blown wide open in recent years, with every mainstream volume manufacturer now in the game and most making sure their entries are as fresh and advanced…

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier Road Test

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The new 2019 Ascent combines all of the many trademark Subaru attributes that fans of the brand have grown to love, into a much larger and more accommodating package. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The mid-size crossover SUV segment has more than blown wide open in recent years, with every mainstream volume manufacturer now in the game and most making sure their entries are as fresh and advanced as possible. 

Before the new 2019 Ascent arrived on the scene last fall, Subaru had been out of this market segment for a half decade. Its previous mid-size crossover, the 2005 to 2014 Tribeca, impressed in plenty of ways except for styling and third-row spaciousness, so Subaru made sure its Ascent was large enough and easier on the eyes. 

Despite two-row crossover SUVs leading the mid-size sector in individual sales, Subaru already has the compact five-seat Forester and the mid-size Outback tall wagon, both very successful models, so therefore the Japanese brand made the choice to address those with larger families and a need for more gear-toting space. Others have done likewise, with Honda having made its three-row Pilot available for 17 years before its all-new two-row Passport showed up this summer, so maybe we’ll see a larger five-seat Subaru SUV at some point in the future. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The mid-size, three-row Ascent is the longest Subaru ever produced, and one of the longer crossover SUVs in its class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Until then, the North American-exclusive Ascent is configured for eight occupants in standard trim and seven with its optional second-row captain’s chairs, the latter setup being how Subaru outfitted my top-line Premier test model. It’s not a small SUV, measuring 4,998 millimetres (196.8 inches) front to back with a 2,890-mm (113.8-inch) wheelbase, while its overall height reaches 1,819 mm (71.6 inches) tall including its standard roof rails. Additionally, it spans 2,176 mm (85.6 inches) wide with its side mirrors extracted, while its track measures 1,635 mm (64.4 inches) up front and 1,630 mm (64.2 inches) at the rear. 

To put it into perspective, the new Ascent is 48 mm (1.9 inches) shorter than the mid-size three-row SUV category’s best-selling Ford Explorer, albeit with a 24-mm (0.9-inch) longer wheelbase, while some might also be surprised to find out the new Subaru is 42 mm (1.6 inches) taller than the big blue-oval utility. The only Explorer measurements to exceed the Ascent span from side-to-side, which see Ford’s SUV stretching a sizeable 119 mm (4.7 inches) wider with 66 and 71 mm (2.6 and 2.8 inches) more front and rear track respectively. It should be noted the Explorer is one of the mid-size segment’s largest SUVs. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The Ascent provides handsome styling from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Comparing the new Ascent to other top-sellers shows that it’s longer, wider and taller than the Toyota Highlander and Kia Sorento (but shorter than the new Kia Telluride, with a shorter wheelbase and less width), longer and taller than the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe XL (which is now outgoing, but it’s a fraction longer than the new Hyundai Palisade as well, although its wheelbase isn’t nor its width), wider and taller than the Nissan Pathfinder, merely wider than the Dodge Durango, and only taller than the Volkswagen Atlas. 

By the way, that was only a partial list of the Ascent’s three-row mid-size crossover SUV challengers, the full list (from best-selling to least during the first three quarters of 2018) including the Explorer, Sorento, Highlander, Atlas, Pilot, Durango, Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, Santa Fe XL, Dodge Journey, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, and Ford Flex, plus the just-noted new Palisade and Telluride (which are too new to categorize by sales numbers, but should do well). 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The top-line Ascent Premier offers up some really nice styling details. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Even more important than exterior size is passenger volume and cargo space, which for the Ascent measure 4,347 litres (153.5 cubic feet) for the former and 2,449 litres (86.5 cu ft) for the latter when both rear rows are folded flat. Those numbers are just for the most basic of Ascent trims, incidentally, which also measures 1,345 litres (47.5 cu ft) behind the 60/40-split second row and 504 litres (17.8 cu ft) behind the 60/40-split third row, while all other trims are half a litre less commodious at 2,435 litres (86.0 cu ft) behind the first row, 1,331 litres (47.0 cu ft) aft of the second row, and 498 litres (17.6 cu ft) in the very back. 

These figures compare well against key competitors, with the Ascent’s passenger volume even greater than the Explorer’s, and its standard eight-occupant seating configuration a rarity in the class, while the big Subaru’s maximum cargo capacity makes it one of the segment’s most accommodating too. Also important, rear passenger access is made easier thanks to second-row doors that open to 75 degrees. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Distinctive taillights help set the Ascent apart from its many rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Being that the Ascent is a Subaru SUV, it includes standard full-time Symmetrical AWD, which has long proven to be one of the more capable all-wheel drive systems available. Its initial advantage starts with more evenly balanced weight distribution thanks to a longitudinally-mounted engine and transmission, its competitors’ AWD setups derived from FWD chassis architectures that house transversely-mounted motors, plus Subaru’s horizontally-opposed flat “boxer” engine allows for a lower centre of gravity, which improves handling and packaging. 

Additionally, Symmetrical AWD applies more torque to the wheels with the most grip, and it’s done in such a way that traction not only improves when taking off from standstill in slippery conditions, but it also benefits overall control at higher speeds. This results in an SUV that’s plenty capable no matter the road or trail surface it’s traveling over, while its standard X-mode off-road system, complete with hill descent control, plus its generous 220 millimetres (8.66 inches) of ground clearance for overcoming obstacles, snow banks, etcetera, makes it better than the crossover SUV average for tackling rougher situations. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The Ascent’s X-Mode off-road system performs well in the mud and muck. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

During our off-road test, all we needed to do was press the X-Mode button on the lower console and it responded almost as well as the low gearing range of a truck-based 4×4. You can hear the electronic traction and stability control systems going to work as it was searching for traction, and it went up some very steep, slippery, muddy patches that I would’ve normally only attempted with something with a bull-low gear set, like a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner. 

On that note the Ascent provides one of the nicest rides in its class too, something I really appreciated when off-pavement, but I won’t go so far as to say it’s the sportiest or best handling in this three-row category. It’s still capable of coursing through winding backcountry two-lane roads at a decent clip, but don’t expect it to increase your adrenaline levels unless high-speed body lean is your idea of a good time. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
SUVs always look best when covered in dirt! (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The new SUV utilizes the Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which combines rigid yet lightweight unibody construction with a fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension setup, enhanced further by a stabilizer bar mounted directly to the body at the rear and electric rack and pinion steering up front. It all rolls on 18-inch silver five-spoke alloys shod with 245/60 all-seasons in the Ascent’s two lower trims, and 20-inch machine-finished high-gloss split-spoke rims on 245/50 rubber for the two upper trims, my tester benefiting from the latter. 

And yes, good road-holding is important in an SUV that gets up and goes as quickly as the Ascent. Its horizontally-opposed 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides strong performance off the line and plenty of passing power too, thanks to 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, the latter maximized between 2,000 and 4,800 rpm, but I found it best when driven in a more relaxed manner where the powertrain was wonderfully smooth and didn’t use a lot of fuel. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
If you include black, the Ascent Premier has a three-tone interior that looks fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Subaru claims 11.6 L/100km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 10.4 combined for the new Ascent, compared to 12.0, 8.7 and 10.5 respectively for the larger displacement 3.6-litre H-6 in the considerably smaller Outback. Considering new four-cylinder produces 4 more horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque than that now aging flat-six, we’ll more than likely see this smaller, much more efficient turbocharged engine in a future Outback as well. 

The Ascent also compares well against the base 2.3-litre turbo-four-powered Explorer that gets an estimated 13.1 city, 9.2 highway and 11.4 combined, although the Ford makes considerably more power, while the most efficient version of Toyota’s Highlander V6 AWD actually performs impressively with an almost identical rating to the Ascent, of 11.7, 8.8 and 10.4 respectively. Needless to say the Ascent competes at the pump very well considering its performance and size. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The Ascent’s cockpit provides all the comfort and features owners in this class need. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Aiding efficiency is the Ascent’s High-torque Lineartronic CVT, the continuously variable transmission not only thrifty but also ideal for mid-size crossover SUV applications due to smooth, linear power delivery. Subaru adds a standard set of steering wheel paddle shifters to improve driver engagement, along with a pseudo eight-speed manual mode that does a pretty good job of mimicking a regular transmission’s gear changes while featuring fairly sporty driving characteristics as well as standard Active Torque Vectoring to increase grip at high speeds. Subaru first introduced this advanced CVT for its WRX performance car, and while not set up to respond as sharply as it would in its world rally-inspired sport sedan, it still does a great job of combining positive, smooth shifts with minimal fuel consumption. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
We were surprised not to find a fully digital gauge cluster in the top-line Ascent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Unlike many of the Ascent’s mid-size rivals, its AWD is standard and powertrain a one-size-fits-all affair, no matter the trim level. On that note, the 2019 Ascent can be had in Convenience, Touring, Limited and Premier grades, with standard Convenience features not already mentioned including auto on/off halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights, roof rails, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, three-zone automatic climate control, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, a rearview camera, six-speaker audio, satellite radio, three-way heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, second-row USB ports, a total of 19 cup and bottle holders, and more for just $35,995 plus freight and fees. 

Each and every 2019 Ascent trim also includes standard Subaru EyeSight driver assist technologies such as adaptive cruise control with lead vehicle start assist, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and lane keeping assist, while all the expected active and passive safety features come standard too. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The Ascent’s centre stack is logically laid out and filled with functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

For $40,995 in eight-passenger trim or $41,495 with second-row captain’s chairs, which reduces the total seat count to seven, Ascent Touring trim adds the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system that includes blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking, as well as unique machine-finished five-spoke 18-inch alloys, body-colour side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals and approach lighting, LED fog lamps, a sportier rear bumper cap with integrated tailpipe cutouts, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, front door courtesy lights, chrome inner door handles, a Homelink garage door opener, a windshield wiper de-icer, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, premium cloth upholstery, a powered panoramic sunroof, magazine pockets on the front seatbacks, second-row climate controls, third-row reading lights, a rear cargo cover, a powered liftgate, a transmission oil cooler, trailer stability control, and pre-wiring for a trailer hitch that increases towing capacity to 2,270 kg (5,000 lbs). 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Subaru breaks wth tradition by including a multi-information display atop the centre dash. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Limited trim, starting at $46,495 in standard eight-passenger layout or $46,995 in its seven-passenger configuration with second-row captain’s chairs, adds the larger 20-inch alloys mentioned earlier, plus steering-responsive full low/high beam LED headlights with automatic high beam assist, black and ivory soft-touch interior surfaces, a heatable steering wheel, an upgraded gauge cluster with chrome bezels and light blue needles (in place of red), and a 6.3-inch colour multifunction display atop the dash that shows the time, temperature and dynamic features such as an inclinometer, while a navigation system with detailed mapping is included within the infotainment display, as is SiriusXM Traffic, whereas additional Limited features include a 14-speaker 792-watt Harman/Kardon audio system, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat upgraded to include powered lumbar support and cushion length adjustment, driver’s seat and side-mirror memory, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, leather upholstery, two-way heatable second-row outboard seats, integrated rear door sunshades, third-row USB ports, and more. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The backup camera is bright and clear, but where is the 360-degree overhead cam? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Top-tier Premier trim, which comes fully equipped at $49,995, even including standard captain’s chairs, adds an upgraded high-gloss black grille insert, satin-finish side mirror caps, chrome exterior door handles, rain-sensing wipers, ambient interior lighting, a front-view camera, a Smart Rearview Mirror with an integrated rear-view camera, woodgrain inlays, brown perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a 120-volt power outlet on the rear centre console, and more. 

Incidentally, all 2019 Subaru Ascent pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new model sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The navigation system worked well, as did all other features in the excellent infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for interior accommodations and finishings, the dash top in our Ascent Premier was mostly covered in a leather-look soft-to-the-touch synthetic, featuring stylish stitching across the middle in front of the passenger. Just below is a handy shelf that’s similar to the Highlander’s in function, while more leather-like composite, also stitched with real thread, supports that shelf across the lower portion of the dash before visually melding into the door panels, this surface treatment in a lovely ivory colour. The black and ivory colour theme is nicely complemented by brown armrests in the same tone as the aforementioned brown leather seats, while Premier trim also includes woodgrain inlays that don’t even try to look or feel genuine despite having a slight matte finish. I should also mention that elbow-pampering soft-touch door uppers can be found front and back, but don’t expect fabric-wrapped roof pillars as on some other mainstream mid-size SUVs. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Subaru even lights up the cupholders with LEDs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The primary instruments are nicely done, but this top-line model does not include a full digital gauge cluster, a feature that’s starting to show up in many of the Ascent’s recently new or redesigned competitors, such as the Volkswagen Atlas and Hyundai Palisade. Just the same, the dials’ blue needles are a nice touch instead of the usual red found in lower trims, while the vertical TFT multi-information display includes a nice graphic of the SUV’s backside with taillights that light up when you press the brake. It’s kind of fun to watch, but this display is even more useful for reminding drivers they may have left something, someone or some pet in the rear seating compartment by notifying via a visual alert and audio alarm chime, as well as other functions. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The driver’s seat is superbly comfortable and very adjustable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This said the larger multi-information display atop the dash goes to work when the aforementioned EyeSight ADAS systems are put into action, with really attractive and detailed graphics, while this display also provides speed limit information, navigation system info, an inclinometer and other off-road features, and more. 

Just below on the centre stack, the Ascent gets Subaru’s beautiful new high-resolution 3D-like infotainment touchscreen that we first enjoyed in the new Forester and WRX models. It’s a giant step up in visual attractiveness and functionality, getting all of the features and apps noted previously while I listed off standard and optional items, while responding to input quickly and reliably. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
How’s that for a sunroof? This panoramic glass roof really brightens the interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Speaking of quick response times, the heated steering wheel rim and three-way heatable front seats come on quickly and remain hot as well, instead of slowly cooling off like so many others are programmed to. The switch for steering wheel heat is logically located just under the right-side spoke where it’s easy to find, while the adaptive cruise control system, activated via buttons just above, works perfectly in both high-speed and stop-and-go situations. Similarly, the lane departure system held the Ascent in place when cruising down the freeway, but it tended to bounce off the lines instead of maintaining the centre of a given lane when my hands weren’t on the wheel (not that I recommend driving without hands on the wheel, but I was testing the system out). 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The optional second-row captain’s chairs are very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Speaking of technologies, the Ascent Premier’s centre mirror gets pretty close to mirroring a sophisticated smartphone or tablet. It does double-duty as a backup camera when a switch just below is flicked rearward, whereas pulling that lever forward causes it to revert to a regular auto-dimming mirror. Less sophisticated yet also appreciated, the Ascent’s handy sunglasses holder doubles as a conversation mirror. 

The seats are extremely comfortable and wide, good for large people yet also accommodating for my five-foot-eight medium-build body type. With the driver’s seat set up for my long-legged, short-torso frame, meaning that it was pushed farther rearward than it would be with some other people of my stature, I still had no problem comfortably reaching the steering wheel when the column was extended as far back as possible, plus when walking around to the second row and climbing in directly behind the driver’s seat I found the rear passenger accommodations very spacious and comfortable. In fact, there was about 10 inches of nothing between my knees and the front seatback, plus more than enough room to move my head and shoulders around. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The third row is surprisingly roomy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Even more amazing, with the middle row pushed as far back as possible I still had ample room in the third row. To be clear, my knees were touching the second-row seatbacks, so moving those seats forward a smidge would’ve made it easier to move around in the very back, but I had close to three inches over my head, meaning the third row could be used for average-sized adults, even when larger adults are sitting in the first two rows. 

As noted earlier, there’s a fair bit of room behind the rearmost seats for gear, this space about as large as a full-size sedan’s trunk, while below the load floor there’s another compartment for stowing what-have-you along with the retractable cargo cover when not in use. Folding the 60/40-split third row down is a little bit awkward, but it works well enough. First you’ll need to manually slide the headrests into the seatbacks, and then tug a strap on top of the seats before pushing the seats forward. To get them back up, just pull the longer strap that’s attached to the cargo floor/seatback. The second row folds down by first unlatching it, so you can slide it forward, and then unlatching a second release at which point you can slide them back if you want to match up each side. There’s certainly a lot of space for luggage or building materials, but the captain’s chairs don’t form a very flat loading surface. I’m guessing it would work better with the standard bench seat, so if you’re doing a lot of hauling you may want to purchase one of the Ascent’s lesser trims. 

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier
The Ascent is big on cargo room. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As far as purchasing an Ascent at all, I think Subaru has done a very good job with its second-ever mid-size SUV. First, it looks like a Subaru, albeit on steroids, and should be attractive to those buying into this category, while its overall size and ability to haul plenty of passengers in comfort plus loads of cargo should appeal to all but those looking for a full-size utility. The Ascent’s fit and finish is quite good for the class, electronics very good, standard and optional features set impressive, performance and fuel economy compromise spot on, and overall feeling of quality more than up to par. Therefore if you like Subaru and you need to add space and utility to your mobility, the Ascent is well worth your time and attention.

A diesel in a compact crossover SUV? Now that’s marching to a different drummer.  In fact, that distinctively domestic rat-a-tat-tat is the staccato snare of General Motors following through on promises…

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier Road Test

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
Chevy redesigned its popular Equinox for 2018, but nevertheless made plenty of positive change this year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

A diesel in a compact crossover SUV? Now that’s marching to a different drummer. 

In fact, that distinctively domestic rat-a-tat-tat is the staccato snare of General Motors following through on promises made by Asian competitors Hyundai and Mazda. The Korean and Japanese brands were supposed to arrive with diesel-powered variants of their Santa Fe and CX-5 crossover SUVs this 2019 model year, but so far there’s no sign of this ultra-efficient engine option on their retail websites, yet GM showed up in late 2017 with a turbo-diesel option as part of a three-engine lineup for its then redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain compact SUVs, a welcome first in this category, that is if we were to forget about the short-lived 2005-2006 Jeep Liberty Diesel. Let’s just say it’s a welcome first amongst compact crossovers, these more car-like GM models hardly as off-road capable as the boxy little Jeep was, that long-gone model since replaced by the Cherokee that remains a capable 4×4 less a diesel option. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
The handsome looking Equinox should appeal to everyone in the family. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I drove a 1.5-litre turbo-four gasoline-powered Equinox Premium model first (the white SUV in the photos), and have since spent a week with the same trim and its 1.6-litre turbo-diesel powerplant (the blue version). As much as I’d certainly enjoy the experience, I’ve yet to test out the most powerful top-line 2.0-litre turbo-four. 

The base engine might seem a bit underwhelming on paper with just 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque on tap, particularly for those wanting or requiring quick shots of energy on command, but I found it more than sufficient for this relatively lightweight crossover SUV, and it’s very easy on the budget with a claimed five-cycle Transport Canada fuel economy rating of 9.2 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.3 combined in FWD, or 9.3, 7.8 and 8.6 respectively with AWD. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
Or maybe you’d rather have your Equinox in white with a different powertrain behind that bisected grille? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The 2.0-litre four that comes standard with AWD is good considering its 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which vaults the Equinox up into luxury compact SUV territory, yet despite an impressive nine-speed automatic, which is three forward gears more than the two lesser engine’s six-speed autoboxes, it manages just 10.9 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.7 combined. 

Both transmissions come standard with automatic stop/start, by the way, which automatically shuts off the engine when the Equinox comes to a stop and then instantly restarts it when lifting off the brake in order to reduce emissions and running costs. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
Lighter colours show off its unique floating rear roofline. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be fair, this is quite good when compared to similarly powerful competitors, but both gasoline-powered models pale in comparison to the “conventionally” powered crossover SUV category’s fuel economy champ, the Equinox Diesel that’s rated at an extremely thrifty 8.5 L/100km in the city, 6.0 on the highway (6.1 with AWD) and 7.4 combined, unless compared to the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid that solidly beats Chevy’s oil burner at 5.8 city, 6.3 highway and 6.0 combined, while its $32,090 base price is a surprising thousand and change less expensive than the cheapest Equinox LT FWD model, an SUV that starts at $33,100. It’s a significant $6,400 more than the $26,700 base Equinox LS too, and $5,300 less than the $38,400 Equinox AWD Premier Diesel being reviewed here. AWD, incidentally, adds $2,400 to the base LS, while the Equinox AWD 2.0 Premier starts at $37,900. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
The Premier gets sporty design details, while these 19-inch alloys are optional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All noted prices are not including freight and fees, but these details as well as additional pricing for trims, packages and individual options can be found at CarCostCanada, where you can also source the latest manufacturer rebates (especially important during year-end clear-outs) and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

Savings in mind, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is by far the compact SUV class’ efficiency leader, albeit at $43,498 before government rebates it’s a helluvalot pricier too, leaving the two GM diesels as the most efficient non-electrified crossovers in the compact category. Even the 2.0-litre turbo beats the few similarly powerful crossovers in the class, so kudos to GM for offering such a wide variety of engine and transmission alternatives, plus making them all achieve better than average fuel economy. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
LED headlamps are worth the upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I must say that I prefer the diesel upgrade to the base engine from both performance and efficiency perspectives. The diesel might only make 137 horsepower, but it puts a much more motivating 240 lb-ft of torque down to its front wheels or all four, also from just 2,000 rpm, the same as the base engine. 

The Equinox AWD system improves fuel economy even more. In fact, unlike most competitors that provide full-time AWD or engineer the rear wheels to engage automatically, the Equinox drives with its front wheels unless you’ve added traction at the back via a button on the centre console. You’ll get a warning when four-wheel grip is recommended, but any other instance you can save fuel by driving what is effectively a front-wheel driven SUV. I noticed this when the front tires kept skidding at takeoff, the diesel providing so much torque at launch it was hard to hold them back, but pressing the AWD button cured this problem, making the Equinox more sure-footed at take off and of course better at holding the road during wet weather too. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
Great looking rims, Chevy! (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Both models’ six-speed automatics were highly responsive. Each includes a rocker switch atop the shift knob for rowing through the gears in manual mode, which is an interesting alternative to shifting the entire gear lever or using steering wheel paddles (on that note don’t try shifting the gears with the buttons on the backside of the steering wheel, because you’ll probably only switch radio stations). I never once found it lacking gears, as the two engines provide ample torque over wide rev ranges, while they shifted smoothly whether toggling through the cogs manually or leaving them in Drive. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
Extra chrome trim helps to spiff up the Equinox exterior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Likewise the Equinox has a nice compliant suspension, normal for any GM product other than performance-dedicated models like the Corvette Z06. For its class the Equinox handles very well too. It really feels lightweight and nimble, whether zipping in and out of congested traffic, pushing hard on a winding backcountry road, or stably cruising through fast-paced bends on the open highway. 

No matter the exterior environment, most should be impressed with the Equinox Premier’s interior that’s finished to a higher grade than many of its contemporaries. It starts upon closing the driver’s door, which feels more solid than some of its tinny competitors, and continues through with some really nice details like smooth and perforated patterned and contrast-stitched leatherette surface treatments across the entire instrument panel, plus tasteful application of truly attractive aluminum-like trim on the steering wheel, primary instruments, dash vents, plus the centre stack and lower console controls. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
Pretty ritzy door handles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Chevy doesn’t go overboard on soft-touch synthetics, but it does wrap the contrast-stitched leatherette armrests up and over the rear third of the door uppers, and finishes the rest of those uppers in a soft painted synthetic, which also gets used for the dash top and much of the instrument panel, plus the top edges of the centre stack and lower console. Just to be clear, it’s not as if this soft-paint will peel off at any time, as it’s permanently fixed to the plastic and therefore provides a much nicer texture than this segment’s usual hard shell plastic. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
The Equinox Premier interior is very refined and well stocked with upscale features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Moving such premium touches even further upmarket are really nice steering wheel controls, my tester even incorporating a heatable steering wheel rim plus adaptive cruise control, while much of these buttons modulate a colour multi-information display within the otherwise analogue gauge cluster, this featuring a digital readout for traffic sign information, and a back seat reminder that prompts when turning off the engine if you happened to open a rear door before starting off. 

Leaving what I think is best for the last, the Equinox’ centre touchscreen infotainment system is really impressive. I love the simple circular graphics rimmed in mostly primary colours, which are bright, modern and ultra-easy to figure out. This is one of the better infotainment systems available in this class, and while I’ve seen larger displays this one is wonderfully crisp and clear, with superb resolution plus nice, deep, rich colours and good contrast. The navigation system’s map provides clear instructions, and it worked accurately throughout my test week. My only infotainment disappointment was a lack of album cover graphics when using satellite radio, which was a bit unexpected being that GM basically gave satellite radio a leg up by adding it across virtually all models when the service first started. Nevertheless, satellite radio is always appreciated. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
The top-line Equinox parking monitor is one of the best we’ve ever tested. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The infotainment system also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus my tester included one of the better surround parking cameras I’ve ever used, with the ability to transfer the view from a default mode, which makes the overhead camera smaller and to the left of the display with a larger backup camera with dynamic guidelines to the right, over to a full backup camera with dynamic guidelines, or alternatively to a different view of that same reverse camera, an overhead view of that rearview camera, or alternatively a bizarre frontal view that actually seems as if it’s filming the SUV from outer space, really handy close-ups of curb or road on both sides, to an extreme close-up of the front, and more. Believe me, this camera will keep you spellbound for hours, and once you figure out all the viewpoints you’ll never scratch a set of wheels (or another vehicle) again. Incidentally, this top-line parking camera and the base version were upgraded with improved image quality for this 2019 model year. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
Good seats and a great driving position. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Below the infotainment display is a dual-zone automatic climate control interface that’s well organized and attractive enough, but my favourite set of buttons were for activating the three-way heated and/or ventilated front seats, the latter not always available in this class, but really helpful for keeping backside dry and cool against leather in the summer.  

The base of the centre stack features a large opening with a rubberized compartment that’s carved out to ideally fit a large smartphone in its elongated position. A wireless charging pad was included, plus GM now incorporates the usual USB-A plug as well as one of the newer USB-C ports (both capable of charging and used as inputs to the infotainment system), which might have been needed for my Samsung S9 if it wasn’t already charging on the just-noted wireless pad. The usual aux plug and 12-volt charger are included too, so your devices will be nicely taken care of in that little compartment alone, although moving slightly rearward results in two more USB charging ports under the front centre armrest. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
The rear seating area is spacious and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Look skyward and you’ll see an overhead console with a handy sunglasses holder that I used all week, plus LED reading lights, and controls for OnStar, SOS, and more. Two of those switches open the panoramic sunroof or its sunshade. I always appreciate large glass roofs like this as they bring a lot of light inside resulting in a nicer, more open ambiance. 

Speaking of room, the Equinox provided plenty for my medium-build five-foot-eight frame, plus a really good driving position that allowed me to get comfortable while maintaining full control. This isn’t always the case, by the way. I actually have trouble getting the tilt and telescopic steering columns of some competitors to reach far enough rearward when my seat is set ideally for my legs, particularly the aforementioned Toyota RAV4 that doesn’t have anywhere near enough adjustability, but no such difficulty in the well designed Equinox cabin. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
These levers lower the rear seatbacks automatically. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

What’s more, when my driver’s seat was set up for my long-legged short torso body type, I still had about eight inches of space ahead of my knees when sitting just behind in the second row, plus plenty of room from side to side and about two inches above my head, that panoramic sunroof mentioned a moment ago pushing the surrounding roof area down a couple of inches than it probably would have been if not included. Still, I’d take the roof, but I can imagine those with really tall six-foot-plus teens might find it a bit too low back there. 

As far as rear seat amenities go, Chevy includes LED reading lights on both sides, two more USB-A charge ports (new for 2019), a three-prong household-style 120-volt plug, and the best rear outboard seat heaters I’ve ever tested, in that their three-way temperature controls adjust both lower cushion and backrest heat, or just the back alone. You shouldn’t hear too many complaints from your kids, although being that the rear seatback is divided in a simple 60/40 configuration instead of some competitors’ 40/20/40 split or 60/40 with a centre pass-through, families that ski will need to draw straws for the lucky rear seat passenger getting the bun warmer for the ride home. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
There’s plenty of room for all your gear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

At least Chevy provides levers on the cargo wall for automatically folding those rear seatbacks down. Just give them a tug and the seats lay flat immediately. There’s also a fairly sizeable storage compartment under the load floor, which I certainly would put to good use if this were my SUV, while the area behind the rear seatbacks measures a generous 847 litres (29.9 cu ft), expanding to 1,809 litres (63.9 cu ft) when those seats are folded down. 

While the 2019 Equinox doesn’t look any different from the redesigned 2018 model, Chevy put a lot of effort into reconfiguring trims and packages to better suit their customers. For starters, a new Lights and Bright package can be had with second-rung LT trim, which adds a chrome grille surround, LED headlamps and taillights, plus unique 19-inch wheels. On the negative, front-drive LT models no longer get a standard leather-trimmed shift knob, this now available as part of an option package. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
A flexible cargo floor allows for all types of cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My tester included a $2,995 Driver Confidence and Convenience II package that’s exclusively available with Premier trim and features the surround parking camera noted earlier, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, a safety alert seat that vibrates if you veer out of your lane or cause any number of other issues, a heatable steering wheel rim, an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat with powered lumbar support, ventilated driver and front passenger seats, and the heated rear seats noted a moment ago. 

Alternatively you can opt for either the Driver Confidence II or Driver Convenience II package that includes the tech or luxury updates individually, while my tester also included a no-cost set of 19-inch five-spoke alloys. I won’t go into all the available options, but suffice to say those wanting to personalize their Equinox will be well taken care of.  

2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier
No compact rival offers as many options under the hood. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My tester also included a $1,305 Infotainment II package with the previously noted panoramic sunroof, navigation, a seven-speaker Bose audio upgrade, HD radio, and 19-inch alloys, while some notable Premier trim features include LED headlights and taillights, chrome door handles and mirror caps, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, a universal garage door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control, a one-inch larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, rear park assist, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a hands-free powered liftgate, etcetera. 

There’s plenty more that makes the Equinox worthy of your attention, but take note the diesel option will be discontinued for 2020, so you’ll need to act fast if you want to get your hands on one.

If you like the current Ford Explorer, or more accurately the outgoing Explorer, now is the time to act. The version I’m referring to is the unabashedly Range Rover-inspired fifth-generation introduced…

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4×4 Road Test

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
This 2019 Explorer is the last of a breed, the redesigned 2020 model currently ushering in a new era for Ford’s ultra-popular mid-size SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

If you like the current Ford Explorer, or more accurately the outgoing Explorer, now is the time to act. The version I’m referring to is the unabashedly Range Rover-inspired fifth-generation introduced in 2010 for the 2011 model year, and it’s now being replaced by an entirely new 2020 model that’s quickly making this well-seasoned SUV sort of forgettable, just like most ground-up redesigns of decade-old vehicles do. 

Let’s be reasonable, the sport utility on this page isn’t exactly a spring chicken, so it was beyond time to send it to pasture. What’s more, it rides on the Ford D4 platform that dates back to the 2004 Five Hundred/Taurus family sedan (a low point for the once-great designer J Mays, the Five Hundred looking geriatric when it was brand knew) and 2007 Freestyle/Taurus X (I was on the private Five Hundred unveiling as part of a Mercury event, and the Five Hundred and Freestyle launch trips), and that D4 architecture actually dates back to the 1999 Volvo S80 (P2 architecture), introduced the year before (Ford purchased Volvo in 1999). The D4 has served blue oval product planners very well since then, underpinning a couple of US-only Mercurys (RIP), the Lincoln MKS and MKT, and Ford’s Flex. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
Three mid-cycle updates have kept the fifth-generation Explorer fresh throughout its nine-year tenure. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Despite its age the 2019 Explorer remains a very handsome and mostly up-to-date SUV. As its styling has developed over the years, it has taken on more Ford DNA and eschewed its once copycat Range Rover look, which is a good thing as it was important for the American brand to proudly display its own identity rather than aping a premium image pulled from a brand once owned. I particularly like the look of this Limited model, as it’s chrome-enhanced exterior features large 20-inch alloys and plenty of other styling upgrades, yet it’s still less optioned out when compared to its pricier siblings, making its design ideally clean and elegant. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
Last year’s styling update nicely revised the front fascia. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This generation of Explorer has served Ford and ultimately its loyal owner base well throughout its nine-year tenure, with a number of exterior styling updates, new powertrains, and improved infotainment interfaces keeping it fresh and modern. Every time I spend a week with one I’m reminded why it’s so incredibly popular, with Canadian sales consistently in the top three or four amongst mid-size SUVs and number one as far as three-row entries go, but despite looking good, delivering strong performance, and providing all the features buyers in this class expect, it’s starting to show its age in other ways, particularly some of the rubberized soft-touch and harder composite materials chosen inside. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
LED signature lamps enhance the look of the headlamp clusters, which also feature LED low beams. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The 2019 Explorer shown on this page looks identical to last year’s refreshed 2018 model, that version a subtler styling update of the more comprehensive 2016 mid-cycle makeover. Of course, Ford changed up the wheels and plenty of features since then, but it’s pretty much the same under the skin. 

Three engines are available, starting with Ford’s standard 2.3-litre Ecoboost that makes a healthy 280 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, this turbocharged four-cylinder followed up by a 3.5-litre Ti-VCT V6 good for 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque for $1,000 extra (interestingly the opposite of last year’s powertrain lineup that made this comparatively old-school V6 standard), its advantage being towing capacity that moves up from 2,000 pounds standard and 3,000 lbs maximum (907 and 1,360 kilos), depending on the inclusion of its Class II tow package or not, to 2,000 and 5,000 lbs (907 and 2,268 kilos), the latter with its Class III trailering upgrade, which are the same tow ratings given to the top-line turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost that turns this family workhorse into a fiery thoroughbred thanks to 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
All trims include LED taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My tester was trimmed out in $46,034 Limited grade, one above the new base XLT that now starts at $39,448 (last year’s no-name front-drive base model is history, along with its more affordable $34,899 entry price), these two versions offering the first two engine choices, whereas $49,683 Sport and $55,379 Platinum trims come solely with the more formidable powertrain (check out CarCostCanada for all 2019 Ford Explorer pricing including trims, packages and individual options, plus available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
Ford’s handy SecuriCode entry keypad let’s you leave your keys in the car when at the beach or out for a hike, and get back inside with a passcode. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Fortunately for me and my wallet Ford left my tester with its base powertrain, its standard engine providing good economy at 13.1 L/100km in the city, 9.2 on the highway and 11.4 combined, which is great for such a large, capable and powerful SUV, and much better than the normally aspirated V6 engine’s rating of 14.5 city, 10.6 highway and 12.7 combined, and infinitely easier on the budget than the V6 Ecoboost’s V8-like 15.2, 10.9 and 13.2 respectively. You’ll need to fill it with 93-octane premium fuel to achieve those numbers with both Ecoboost engines, by the way, but not so with the lesser V6, so real-life running costs between the base and mid-range engines are probably very close. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The Explorer’s interior isn’t quite up to the refinement levels of some rivals, but it’s still very good and well equipped. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Before you start comparing the Explorer’s base fuel economy with its challengers you’ll need to factor in that this SUV now comes standard with Ford’s Intelligent 4WD, not front-wheel drive like it used to in Canada, and most competitors still do. Along with its standard 4WD, the Explorer also features the domestic brand’s Range Rover-like Terrain System that manages all types of on- and off-road surfaces, simply by its driver turning a console-mounted dial. Not a serious 4×4 like Ford’s own full-size Expedition, the Explorer nevertheless is quite capable over light- and even medium-duty trails by using its Snow, Gravel, Grass Mode, Sand Mode, or Mud, Rut Mode terrain management selections, optimized by standard Hill Descent Control and the SUV’s regular traction and stability control systems, while default Normal Mode is optimal for everyday use. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The cockpit is nicely laid out, plus spacious and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Off-road capability in mind, the Explorer rides higher than most crossover SUVs in the mid-size segment, feeling more like a true truck-based utility, yet as mentioned earlier in this review it’s based on a regular unibody platform architecture. This helps it maintain a tight, rigid body structure, something that’s noticeable as soon as bumps, dips and other road surface irregularities try to impede forward momentum, the result of Ford’s fine tuning over the years, as well as its inherently stable independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension design that comes complete with a 32-mm stabilizer bar up front and a 22-mm one in the rear, all providing an excellent balance of ride quality and handling. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The gauge cluster gets one large colour multi-info display per side. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The as-tested Explorer Limited is no lightweight, hitting the scales at 2,066 kg (4,556 lbs) despite only harnessing its base 2.3-litre Ecoboost, but the previously noted thrust and twist figures make for a powerful punch off the line, and the sole six-speed automatic transmission is certainly a good match to the engine, not to mention much more proven than all the new eight-, nine- and even 10-speed autoboxes showing up on the market these days; the redesigned 2020 Explorer getting the latter. I found the six-speed shifted smoothly and positively, aided by a thumb rocker switch on the shift knob for manual mode, and therefore I’d have no problem with its performance for reliability tradeoff. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
There’s certainly nothing wrong with the Explorer’s on-screen electronics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Comfort is one of the Explorer’s greatest assets, and it comes with room to spare. It seats seven in standard trim or six with its second-row captain’s chairs, the latter providing an easy passageway for kids to climb through, which can be helpful if you’ve got a child strapped into a booster or safety seat. My tester seated three abreast comfortably in the second row, the outboard positions benefiting from two-way heatable cushions with switchgear located on the backside of the front centre console next to a manual HVAC interface, two USB charge ports and a three-prong household-style 110-volt socket, while each 60/40-split side of seats flip forward almost completely out of the way when needing to access the third row. The two rearmost passengers should be comfortable enough unless particularly tall, with my five-foot-eight frame finding room enough in all directions. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The centre stack features a large, bright and colourful touchscreen display with great graphics and loads of functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those 50/50 split folding third-row seats can be lowered into the deep luggage well via available power controls on the cargo wall, and they stow much like they would in a high-end minivan (something Ford no longer sells), while the second-row seats need to be manually lowered via the rear side doors. When completely laid flat the Explorer’s cargo capacity expands from 595 litres (21.0 cubic feet) behind the third row, or 1,240 litres (43.9 cubic feet) behind the second row, to a maximum of 2,313 litres (81.7 cubic feet) behind the first row. That’s pretty sizeable, and easily on par with most three-row competitors. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The navigation system is very accurate and easy to use. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back up front, the Explorer Limited’s 10-way powered driver’s seat should be comfortable for the majority of body types, with a good inherent design and plenty of adjustments including four-way powered lumbar support and memory. The powered steering column provides plenty of reach, which allowed me to set up my driving position for optimal comfort and control, while the majority of buttons, knobs and switches across the instrument panel and console were within easy reach. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
Limited trim includes a 7-speaker Sony audio system that sounds great. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The centre touchscreen comes filled with Ford’s excellent Sync 3 infotainment interface. Its white and black (and sometimes maroon) on light blue graphics continue to look fresh and attractive, and it remains fairly fast reacting if not the highest in resolution compared to some newer systems in more recently updated models offered by competitors as well as Ford itself, such as the new 2020 Explorer. Still, despite its matte display, which helps limit fingerprint smudges, it’s bright and clear, unlike some rival interfaces that are so washed out you can’t see any details on a sunny day due to glare. For instance, I found it near impossible to read a 2019 Toyota Highlander’s centre display in certain lighting conditions (which incidentally was not yet equipped with Toyota’s latest Entune system), and it became even worse when wearing my polarized sunglasses. In the Explorer this is not a problem. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The six-speed automatic transmission can be manually shifted via this rocker switch on the shift knob. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The quality of all Explorer switchgear is certainly up to par with others this class too, some of it actually quite special. The rotating audio dial, for instance, features knurled metal-look edging that gives it a premium appearance and feel, while I was also impressed with the woodgrain trim’s density, this spanning the dash and each door panel, and I love the way the satin-finish aluminum accents wrap around the wood before butting up against each piece of door trim. It would’ve been better if said sections of decorative dash and door inlays matched up with each other, these pieces not aligned properly during assembly (see photos 28 and 29 in the gallery), but Ford should get kudos for the quality of materials and overall design just the same (you can request that your dealer properly hangs the doors at the point of sale, so all the interior trim bits line up better). 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
Ford’s Terrain System let’s you choose an optimal setting to tackle all types of road and trail surfaces. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The woodgrain and metallic trim is standard, while over and above features already mentioned the base XLT also comes with LED signature lighting around the otherwise automatic LED low-beam headlamps, plus LED fog lamps, LED taillights, 18-inch alloy wheels on 245/60 all-season tires, silver roof rails, Ford’s Easy Fuel capless refueling filler, remote engine start, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, Ford’s SecuriCode entry keypad, MyKey, forward and reverse parking sensors, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a leather-clad shift knob, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment with a rearview camera, seven-speaker AM/FM/MP3 audio with satellite radio, FordPass Connect with a Wi-Fi Hotspot, a media hub with a smart-charging USB and four 12-volt power points (two in the first row, one in the second row, and one in the cargo area), filtered dual-zone automatic temperature control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and much more. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The seats are large, comfortable and very adjustable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Also standard is an amply strong body shell and enough safety equipment to achieve an NHTSA 5-star crash safety rating, while Ford also offers a new (last year) $1,000 Safe and Smart Package that includes rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with brake support, and lane-keeping assist. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The dual-pane panoramic sunroof really opens up the interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Ford added the Safe and Smart Package to my Limited tester, which otherwise gets upgraded with a fair bit of extra chrome trim outside, two-inch larger 20-inch alloys on 255/50 rubber, power-folding side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, ambient interior lighting, a heatable steering wheel rim, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, a universal garage door opener, standard perforated leather upholstery featuring three-way forced ventilation and memory (that also controls the mirrors and steering column), a 10-way powered front passenger seat, a 180-degree split-view front parking camera, voice-activated navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, a hands-free foot-activated powered liftgate, great sounding 12-speaker Sony audio, the 110-volt AC power outlet, heated second-row seats, and power-folding third row I mentioned earlier, plus Ford added a $1,750 dual-pane powered panoramic sunroof overhead, all of which kept this particular Explorer below the $50k threshold, including its destination charge. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
Second-row seating is very roomy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Plenty of additional options and packages are available, including a $1,500 XLT Desert Copper Package that adds special 20-inch alloys, chromed side mirrors, and black/copper leather upholstery to the entry-level XLT trim; plus the $1,600 XLT Sport Appearance Package with special “EXPLORER” block lettering on the lip of the hood, unique Magnetic Metallic-painted (black) 20-inch rims, additional exterior accents painted in the Magnetic Metallic hue, black roof rails, “EXPLORER” embroidered front floor mats, special door trim panels with Fire Orange contrast stitching, exclusive black leather upholstery with perforated Miko inserts, Foxfire scrim and the same Fire Orange contrast stitching, etcetera. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
The second-row seats tumble forward for easy access to the third row. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My Limited tester could have included a $2,900 301A package that includes the Safe and Smart Package plus a set of Multicontour front seats with Active Motion massage, enhanced active park assist, and exclusive inflatable rear outboard safety belts. 

As for aforementioned Sport trim, the much more powerful and notably sophisticated looking model replaces any exterior chrome with high-gloss black trim, including the mirror caps and door handles, plus adds a unique blackout treatment to the headlamps and taillights, while also adding its own set of black 20-inch alloys, upgrades the cabin to include perforated leather seating with red stitching and an enhanced Sony audio system with Clear Phase and Live Acoustics, while including all of the Limited trim’s features as well as the Safe and Smart Package as standard. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
There’s a surprising amount of room in the very back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lastly, top-tier Platinum trim includes everything already mentioned except for replacing all of the black trim with satin-chrome silver and adding a set of quad tailpipes to its backside, this variation on the Explorer theme being the most Range Rover-esque from a design perspective, but nevertheless a very sharp looking family hauler. The Explorer Platinum also makes the twin-panel moonroof standard, adds power-adjustable foot pedals and active park assist, plus upgrades the interior with Ash Swirl hardwood trim bordered by genuine aluminum accents as well as rich Nirvana (not the band) leather upholstery featuring micro-perforations and quilted bolsters. Also included are the massaging Multicontour front seats from the previously noted 301A package, an upgraded instrument cluster, a leather-covered instrument panel and door uppers, more leather over the door and centre console armrests, a special headliner, and active noise reduction. 

2019 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4
Cargo space is not a problem. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Certainly the Platinum would’ve been a nicer ride than my Limited-trimmed tester, but for about $6k less it was still very good looking, enjoyable to drive, fuel-efficient, loaded with luxury features, incredibly accommodating from front to back, and pretty well finished inside, give or take a couple of unaligned trim bits. 

All in all the outgoing 2019 Explorer is still a great three-row SUV that no doubt can be had for quite a bargain now that it’s life-cycle is ending and an all-new Explorer is in the midst of launching.