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

2020 BMW M5 Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

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

2020 Ford Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4 Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review and photos: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

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

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

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

2020 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

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

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

Anticipation. Sometimes it’s better than the real thing. Just think back to someone you fell head over heels for in junior high, only to finally go out on a date and realize they weren’t the perfect…

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Did you know Mazda was offering a twin-turbo diesel-powered CX-5 last year? Some were still available at the time of writing.

Anticipation. Sometimes it’s better than the real thing. Just think back to someone you fell head over heels for in junior high, only to finally go out on a date and realize they weren’t the perfect match your idealistic imagination conjured them up to be. As we age, most of us become a little more cautious in our approach to everything, including our next best ride.

Enter the Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel or SkyActiv-D, a compact crossover SUV that most buyers in this class never realized was even on the radar, let alone available for the 2019 model year. Amongst the auto industry media, Mazda’s upcoming turbo-diesel was a highly anticipated new powertrain in a model that’s long earned high marks, but it took longer to arrive than expected and only lasted one single model year, a shocker that’s caused some disappointment within a small following of diesel engine fans, and as I just noted, not even a whimper from most Mazda buyers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
It’s just as attractive and beautifully finished inside as the regular CX-5 thanks to top-tier Signature trim, but Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine is more fuel efficient.

Of course, the latter group matters much more in the grand scheme of things than a tiny handful of oil-burner zealots and enthusiastic auto journalists, and to be fair to Mazda that’s now looking as if it made a major product planning error, Volkswagen’s Diesel-gate fiasco wasn’t a thing when the 100-year-old independent Japanese brand first decided to bring its SkyActiv-D to market (yes, Mazda is 17 years older than VW). As it is, the very fact the new turbo-diesel engine met Canadian regulations for the 2019 model year shows that it was cleaner than anything offered by the Germans, all of which dropped their diesel powerplants soon after the Diesel-gate scandal.

I’m speaking in past-tense because this review is coming out after the fact, although being that 2020 is one of the most unusual years we’ve ever experienced in the car industry, or any other sector for that matter, I was still able to find some of these unique 2019 CX-5s available to purchase new when perusing online.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature Diesel’s stylish design with narrow LED headlamps, tiny fog lights and attractive 19-inch alloys, truly makes a visual statement.

In this review I’m going to cover the 2019 model shown, as well as the 2020, particularly the changes moving up to the latest model year, being that there are many more 2020s available to purchase than 2019s, with or without the SkyActiv-D powertrain with respect to the latter. If you can find a 2019 model that suits your needs, you’ll be able to benefit from up to $2,500 in additional incentives, while 2020 models are only being offered with incentives up to $1,000, as per CarCostCanada’s comprehensive 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page and 2020 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page. CarCostCanada’s very affordable membership provides plenty, by the way, including manufacturer rebate information, details about any available manufacturer financing and leasing deals, dealer invoice pricing info that could save you thousands, and more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5’s distinctive LED taillights are similar to its LED headlight design.

A quick look at the just-noted 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page will immediately show the 2.2-litre twin-turbo-diesel only being available in top-line Signature trim at a price of $45,950 plus freight and fees. Signature trim is a new for 2019 premium brand-like level that’s never previously been offered to CX-5 clientele. Other CX-5 trims include the base GX that starts at $27,850 with front-wheel drive or $29,850 with all-wheel drive, the mid-grade GS at $30,750 with FWD or $32,750 with AWD, and the previous top-line GT that starts at $37,450 and tops out at $39,450 with its 2.5-litre turbocharged gasoline with engine upgrade. GT and Signature trims include Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard equipment.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature is a step above all mainstream branded competitors when it comes to luxury, thanks to soft Nappa leather and real hardwood trim.

The CX-5 Signature, available with the just-noted 2.5-litre turbo gas engine for $40,950 and the aforementioned diesel, builds on the already impressive CX-5 GT with features like LED cabin lighting, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, a slick looking frameless rearview mirror, genuine Abachi hardwood inlays on the dash and door panels (yes, real wood, folks), plus dark chocolate brown Cocoa Nappa leather upholstery and trim, while items pulled up from the GT include front and rear signature lighting, adaptive headlamps, LED fog lights, power-folding side mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless entry, traffic sign recognition, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a 10-speaker audio system including satellite radio, a garage door opener, leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a six-way powered front passenger’s seat, plus more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Soft-touch surfaces abound, as do beautifully finished metal accents.

Details like fabric-wrapped A pillars and luxuriously padded interior surfaces including the dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, lower console side edges, door uppers front to back and armrests side to centre go further to make the CX-5 a near-luxury experience, while Mazda also adds a tasteful assortment of anodized aluminum accents throughout the compact SUV’s cabin, with some of the brushed metal switchgear receiving rich knurled metal edging for an extremely upscale appearance. It’s pretty fancy stuff from a mainstream volume-brand, leaving some in the industry to wonder (including yours truly) whether or not Mazda is making a long play for luxury brand status.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5’s centre dial is purely digital, despite looking as if it’s merely another analogue instrument.

The diesel option fits the premium sector well too, being this engine type has mostly been sold through luxury brands (Volkswagen aside) such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and the like, with Jaguar offering a bevy of diesel-powered models up until last year (so there are probably plenty of these around if you’re interested too) and Land Rover having only dropped the oil-burner in its Velar, yet not offering diesel-power in the one vehicle 4×4 enthusiasts would most likely want it in, the all-new 2021 Defender.

Back to Mazda’s diesel, it makes a rather meagre 168 horsepower yet a very healthy 290 lb-ft of torque; the low horsepower, high torque ratio normal for diesel powertrains. This said the same CX-5 Signature’s base gasoline-fed powerplant is good for 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque (take note, this engine has just been announced for the AWD Mazda3, and should be a real screamer in such a lightweight car), as long as you fill it with 93 octane premium fuel. If you don’t, and I can’t see most owners throwing that much cash into the ether, it puts out a commendable 250 horsepower and the same 310 lb-ft of torque, while the 2020 model gains an additional 10 lb-ft of torque to 320 lb-ft when fuelled with high-octane gas.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The centre display can be modulated via a dial and set of buttons on the lower centre console, just like with premium brands.

Drive both CX-5 powertrains back-to-back, as I’m sure many would-be CX-5 Diesel buyers would have done, and the benefits of the gasoline-powered version are immediately clear, at least from a performance perspective. Of course, opting for the diesel is more about fuel economy, and to that end it’s thriftier than its gasoline-powered counterpart, but probably not enough to cause a large volume of CX-5 buyers to choose it over the more conventional powertrain. The diesel’s claimed 8.9 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined fuel economy is certainly better than the gasoline engine’s 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating, but the extra $5,000 needed to upgrade makes any savings less reasonable.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
An attractive dual-zone automatic climate control system is easy to use.

Something else to consider is the nicely equipped CX-5 GT mentioned earlier, which for $37,450 offers a lot of luxury along with an even thriftier 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder good for 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, plus a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.8 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 9.0 combined, while the same engine with front wheel drive gets 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5 respectively.

Last year I reviewed a GT with its base engine and was very pleased with its fuel economy, performance and level of luxury after my usual weeklong test, but this said I more recently spent three months with a 2020 CX-5 Signature 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbo and was even more enamoured, particularly with its performance and premium fittings. I’ll be sure to review it in full detail soon, although for the sake of this review I’ll only say that Mazda made the right choice in keeping its top-line gasoline engine over its even more exclusive diesel.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Knurled metal edging makes many of the CX-5 Signature’s controls look and feel very upscale.

Don’t get me wrong as the two models’ fuel economy disparity was even more pronounced during real life duty than on National Resources Canada’s downloadable Fuel Consumption Ratings spreadsheet. This was made even more obvious thanks to diesel fuel pump prices that are normally much lower than regular gasoline (let alone premium), but the biggest reason for the two models’ fuel economy disparity came down to the sportier 2.5-litre turbo-gasoline engine making the paddle-shift actuated 2020 CX-5 Signature way too much fun to merely coast along in comfortable bliss. With the knurled-metal, console-mounted rocker switch pulled rearward for Sport mode, the most potent CX-5 is a rarified dynamo amongst mostly dawdling compact crossover competitors, while the turbo-diesel version is much more sedate after its initial launch from standstill.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature’s Nappa leather covered driver’s seat is very comfortable and supportive.

Yes, the diesel-powered CX-5 provides a lot of twist from lower speeds, and I certainly never had any problem passing slower moving traffic on the highway. It just doesn’t provide the level of sporty performance as the conventionally-fuelled turbo-four, and due to the subtle yet still evident rat-a-tat-tat sound emanating from ahead of the engine firewall, it makes the CX-5 sound a bit more truck-like than the gasoline version. This will either be good or not so good depending on your preferences. I happen to like the sound of a diesel engine, so it was kind of comforting, while its standard 19-inch Gunmetal grey Signature wheels and equally large tires provided plenty of pavement adhesion when hustling it through corners.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The rear seats are comfortable and the surrounding area spacious.

Unlike the gasoline-powered Signature, the diesel doesn’t provide steering wheel paddles, so its six-speed automatic transmission isn’t quite as engaging as the gearbox I more recently tested. Yes, you heard me right, like Hyundai’s Tucson and Kia’s Sportage, the CX-5 uses a conventional six-speed automatic instead of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has become more commonplace in this small SUV market segment, while more complex eight-speed autoboxes are now incorporated into VW’s Tiguan and Ford’s latest Escape, and even fancier nine-speed automatics can be found in the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Jeep Cherokee. More gears can add problems, however, with most of the eight- and nine-speed automatics just noted commonly cited for reliability issues, making Mazda’s well-proven six-speed SkyActiv-Drive transmission a good choice for those wanting something they can rely on.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Loads of cargo space make the CX-5 a winner in its compact SUV class, but its 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, featuring a full pass-through down the middle, are amongst the segment’s most useful.

Along with commendable handling, all second-generation CX-5 models I’ve driven so far have provided a comfortable ride, albeit firmer in the more performance-oriented Germanic sense than most competitors. This said, the SUV’s fully independent suspension was never harsh in any way, but instead felt wholly confidence-inspiring when pushed hard through circuitous two-lane roadways, and wonderfully controllable at higher speeds on the freeway. This is a crossover SUV I was able to spend many hours in at a time without discomfort, while its roominess from front to rear is very generous and therefore competitive with compact SUV challengers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Say hello and goodbye to Mazda’s SkyActiv-D twin-turbo diesel engine, which provided good fuel economy in real world conditions.

Feel free to check out my 2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test for even more detail, particularly about its best-in-class 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with convenient cargo sidewall-mounted release levers, cargo measurements and more, and remember to download the free CarCostCanada app to your smartphone from the Apple Store or Google Play Store so you can get the best deal possible on this impressive compact SUV.

I won’t try to claim that I know which engine will best suit your needs, because those who already like diesels will love the short-lived SkyActiv-D, and performance fans will no doubt want the much quicker SkyActiv-G turbo, while some will prefer to save as much as possible by purchasing a more affordable trim and therefore be happy with the naturally aspirated SkyActiv-G powerplant, as I was. Either way Mazda has you covered, at least for a little while longer, unless you’re looking for a hybrid. If that’s the case, you may want to wait for Mazda’s sporty looking electric crossover just unveiled at the Tokyo auto show.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

Hyundai’s popular Accent hasn’t changed all that much since generation-five was introduced for the 2018 model year. Still, the adoption of a new brand-wide trim level naming convention for the 2019…

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s big, bold grille gives it a lot of presence, while this model’s top-line Ultimate trim adds chrome detailing, fog lights and 17-inch alloys.

Hyundai’s popular Accent hasn’t changed all that much since generation-five was introduced for the 2018 model year. Still, the adoption of a new brand-wide trim level naming convention for the 2019 version probably threw a few diehard Hyundai buyers for a loop, with the previous L, LE, GL and GLS lines being creatively redubbed Essential, Preferred and Ultimate.

The car before you would’ve been named the Accent GLS 5-Door Manual back in 2017 when the 2018 model debuted, but for 2019 was renamed the Accent Ultimate 5-Door Manual. The manual in this top-line trim won’t exist for 2020, incidentally, so being that this exact model in 2019 form was still available at the time of writing, I thought I’d tell you about it along with changes made to the new 2020 Accent, plus let you know about any potential savings on either car.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
That’s a very aggressive rear bumper design for the subcompact commuter class.

For starters, the Accent Sedan is gone. Yes, those who love subcompact four-door sedans can no longer look to Hyundai to satiate their desires. Hyundai isn’t alone, with Toyota dropping its Mazda-built Yaris Sedan for 2020 as well, Nissan saying goodbye to its Versa Note and not bringing its redesigned Versa sedan north of the 49th, Ford killing off its entire Fiesta line that included a sedan and hatchback last year, and Chevy having done likewise with its Sonic the year before, leaving Kia’s Rio as the sole option for three-box city car buyers.

Also new, the Accent gets a fully redesigned engine for 2020, plus a new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). Gone is this car’s very reliable 1.6-litre four-cylinder that’s good for a commendable 132 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, replaced by the South Korean brand’s all-new 1.6-litre Smartstream four-cylinder engine making 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Along with these larger 17-inch alloy wheels, the extra chrome trim, fog lamps and LED headlights are classy additions exclusive to Ultimate trim.

The new powertrain is obviously more about fuel economy than performance, having said goodbye to 12 horsepower plus 6 lb-ft of torque, and to this end it achieves an impressive 7.8 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.0 combined with its base six-speed manual, or an even better 7.3 city, 6.0 highway and 6.7 combined with its most fuel-efficient CVT. It really shines when compared to the outgoing model shown here, which could only achieve a claimed rating of 8.2 city, 6.3 highway and 7.3 combined no matter whether using its six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

Of course, the 2019 example before you really shines when taking off from a standing start or passing on the highway. True, I haven’t driven the new 2020 model yet, so Hyundai may have made up for its engine output disadvantage with shortened initial gear ratios, but I’m guessing those trading up from old to new will still find it difficult not to notice a sizeable difference in performance. Hyundai is no doubt hoping the car’s fuel economy improvements will more than make up for any accelerative shortcomings.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s finer details are very nice.

This said, fewer and fewer new vehicle buyers are trading up from subcompact cars to the same type of vehicle, but instead are opting for a small SUV. Hyundai has the subcompact SUV category fully covered with its new city car-sized 2020 Venue and slightly larger Kona, the latter model introduced for 2018. The sales of these two have grown exponentially, whereas the Accent’s numbers are dropping at a relatively rapid rate. From a high of 29,751 units in 2018, and still strong Canadian sales of 23,173 in 2014, the Accent’s deliveries have steadily slumped downward from 19,371 in 2015, 19,198 in 2016, 13,073 in 2017, 9,021 in 2018 and just 5,989 in 2019.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Here’s a closer look at the sporty rear bumper.

As noted, small SUV sales have been the benefactors, with the Kona finding 14,497 new buyers in its first partial year (it arrived in March) of 2018 and a whopping 25,817 units throughout 2019, making it number one in its class last year, and the same over the first three months of 2020 too. The Venue is too new and the 2020 calendar year too wonky to make any sense of how it will do overall when things normalize, but if it sells anywhere near as well as the similarly sized Nissan Kicks it should rank somewhere amongst the subcompact SUV segment’s top three or four (the Venue outsold the Kicks in March and had its best sales in May, but Nissan Canada only reports its sales quarterly so we’ll need to wait a little longer to find out—I’ll tell you in my upcoming 2020 Venue and Kicks reviews). Of more importance to this review, in Q1 of 2020 the Venue outsold the Accent by about 1.6 to 1, making it easier to appreciate why Hyundai dropped the slower selling sedan variant.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Check out the sharp looking two-tone red and black interior.

This said there are a lot of reasons to choose the Accent over one of its taller more SUV-like brethren. I say SUV-like because most modern SUVs are little more than raised hatchbacks or wagons with chunkier, beefier styling. Some, like the Venue, don’t even offer all-wheel drive, so their buyers are opting for a more rugged go-anywhere design and a taller ride-height for better outward visibility. They give up some handing chops and oftentimes fuel economy too, but that’s ok in today’s oh-so image conscious society.

The Accent’s 2018 redesign was a major improvement over its more sheepish predecessor, its much bolder wide mouth grille adding a little Audi-like presence to this entry-level commuter. In Ultimate trim there’s more chrome bits to brighten the exterior, particularly on the front fascia that incorporates a set of fog lamps with metal brightwork bezels on each corner, while the side window belt mouldings and each of its four door handles are chromed as well. The LED headlamps with LED signature accents help spiff up this top-line trim too, as do the LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, while a sporty set of 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels round out the look nicely, these framing a set of four-wheel disc brakes in Ultimate trim (lesser versions use rear drums).

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s driver cockpit is nicely organized and filled with high-quality controls.

I have to say, the Accent’s exterior styling never left me feeling as if I was living at the entry level of the market. Along with the big, bold grille is a wonderfully detailed front fascia worthy of hot hatch respect, albeit the car’s dramatically sculpted rear valance is even more eye-catching thanks to a large, body-wide black mesh grille insert resulting in a particularly aggressive look. A rear roof top spoiler gives the Accent’s profile a longer, leaner appearance, although it’s not as if they need to visually stretch this car in order to make it look longer than it actually is.

This is the largest Accent in its 18-year tenure, or at least it’s been on the Canadian market for 18 years. The Accent nameplate has been in existence longer, but here in Canada it was previously dubbed Excel, and before that Pony. I’ve driven every generation since the mid-‘80s rear-wheel drive Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed original took our market by storm, and believe me it’s come a long way (as has everything else).

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The primary gauge cluster is nothing special, but it’s clear and easily legible.

The current 4,190-mm long Accent hatchback is 90 mm lengthier than its 18-year-old predecessor, with a 2,580-mm long wheelbase that now spans 180 mm more, while the new car’s 1,729-mm width shows its greatest growth at 109 mm from side-to-side, its 1,450 mm in height only 55 mm taller. Of course, this makes today’s subcompact more like the compacts of yesteryear, which actually means they’re better value than ever when factoring in that the Accent’s price hasn’t really gone up when compared to inflation.

The base Essential starts at just $14,949 plus freight and fees for 2020, by the way, which is quite a bit cheaper than last year’s $17,349 base price. Unusual I know, especially when factoring in the thrifty new engine, but the 2019 model came standard with a Comfort Package that’s extra with the 2020 model, the new 2020 Essential with Comfort Package now starting at $17,699. The price for the Accent’s second-rung Preferred trim has increased too, from $17,549 last year to $17,899 this year, while the as-tested Ultimate has added $1,250 from $20,049 to $21,649, but take note the new CVT auto is now standard whereas last year’s six-speed automatic was an extra (what do ya know?) $1,250 across the line.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The centre stack is well laid out with all the essentials, even including automatic climate control.

Another interesting point about small car value that most Canadians don’t realize is the great deal we’re getting here compared to the U.S. The base 2020 Accent south of the 49th (that just happens to be a sedan as no hatchback is offered there) is $15,295 USD, which was $20,735 CAD after calculating the exchange rate at the time of writing. Likewise, their top-line 2020 Accent Limited is $19,400 USD or $26,300 CAD, while our full-load Ultimate is once again just $21,649. We’re getting a stellar deal.

On top of this, Hyundai Canada is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on 2019 models or up to $750 in additional incentives for 2020 models according to CarCostCanada, where you can find out about available rebates, financing rates and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next new car purchase. They’ve even got a free mobile app to make your car shopping experience easier, so make sure to find out how their smart system can save you big time before you purchase your next car.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The backup camera is large, providing a good view to the back, plus it includes active guidelines.

The Accent’s larger exterior dimensions translate into a much roomier subcompact hatchback than you might have been expecting, especially when it comes to width. The seats offer plenty of adjustability as long as you’re not looking to modulate the driver’s lumbar area, which is static as is usually the case in this class. I could’ve used a more pronounced lower backrest and better side bolstering, but I can understand this is a one-seat-fits-all compromise and therefore it’s not going to match everyone’s body type ideally. The rest of its adjustments are more than adequate, however, while the tilt and telescopic steering column’s reach was particularly good, enough so that my long-legged, short-torso frame was able to feel right at home with excellent control of the wheel and pedals, not always the case in this category.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The six-speed manual really adds driving enjoyment, but take note that it’s gone in Ultimate trim for 2020.

Rear seat spaciousness was very good too, but take note that even in this top-line trim there’s no folding centre armrest in back. Instead, the seatbacks fold 60/40 to expand the already generous dedicated cargo area when the need to load in longer items arises. When folded the seatbacks are about four inches above the load floor, which therefore isn’t flat, but most will probably prefer that Hyundai chose to maximize available volume instead of creating a level load area when the rear seats are lowered. A spare-saver tire and some tools can be found below the load floor, while a hard-shell cargo cover hovers above, all par for the course in this segment.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
These sport seats are really attractive and quite comfortable.

More out of the norm for this subcompact segment is the Accent 5-Door Ultimate’s tastefully sporty interior design, plus its impressive load of features. The fact you can leave its key fob in your pocket or purse when opening the door via proximity-sensing access before starting the engine with a button just goes to show how far Hyundai has gone to lift up this lower class into a more sophisticated crowd. The cabin is further enhanced with a sharp-looking two-tone red and black motif. Hyundai doesn’t go so far as to finish any surfaces with soft-touch synthetics, other than the padded leatherette armrests and of course the nicely upholstered seats, these complete with red leatherette side bolsters, red stitching and a stack of six hexagonal shapes embroidered onto their cloth backrests, all of which match the door panel inserts, the red stitching on the shifter boot, and the red baseball stitching on the inside rim of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Once again everything mentioned impresses more than most shopping in this category will expect.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
A powered moonroof comes standard in Ultimate trim.

The steering wheel spokes include very high-quality switchgear left and right, the toggles on the former for the audio system and surrounding buttons for audio mode control, voice activation, and connecting to the phone, whereas the latter spoke’s switches are for scrolling through the monochromatic multi-information display and cruise controls.

The gauges ahead of the driver are a simple fare, with backlit dials surrounding the just-noted multi-info display, so if you want to be impressed by a digital interface as you’ll need to look to the right at the centre stack which gets a large touchscreen infotainment display complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, regular audio functions, the latter including satellite radio, plus more.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Rear seat roominess and comfort is impressive.

Just below is a single-zone automatic climate control interface that’s made easy to use thanks to large dials that accept winter gloves, while below that is a row of buttons for three-way heated front seats and even a heatable steering wheel rim. At the base of the centre stack is a large bin for storing your smartphone, with connections for a USB-A charge port and an auxiliary plug.

Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is included in the top-line Accent, as is a powered glass sunroof, while features pulled up from lesser trims include the tilt-and-telescopic steering (an improvement over the tilt steering wheel in base trim), cruise control, front seat warmers and the 7.0-inch infotainment display noted earlier (the base model gets a 5.0-inch colour touchscreen), plus automatic on/off headlights, six-speaker audio (up from four speakers in base trim), keyless entry, and a rear seating area USB-A charging port from Preferred trim, the automatic transmission and Bluetooth mentioned before, plus power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, air conditioning and power windows from the Essential Comfort package, and lastly variable intermittent front wipers, six-way driver and four-way front passenger manually adjustable seats, plus power door locks from base Essential trim.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
There’s plenty of cargo space, making the Accent very practical.

As noted earlier my test car came with a six-speed manual gearbox that’s no longer available in top-line Ultimate trim, this a shame to those of us who appreciate the sportier nature of a DIY transmission. The little car really comes alive with the manual, which makes the most of its aforementioned 138 horsepower. Takeoff from standstill is quick, the shifts are smooth and clutch take-up good, while braking is strong too. High-speed handling is more than adequate for the class, the Accent’s previously noted width and lower ride height (than an SUV) allowing for less body roll than you might expect. Likewise, it feels nice and stable at highway speeds, making this a car I could cruise in all day. Truly, it’s a comfortable and confidence inspiring little ride, which is no doubt a key reason it remains such a strong seller in this class.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Hyundai has replaced this sporty little engine with a more fuel-efficient one for 2020.

Yes, the Accent’s entry-level car category might seem like a dying breed, but all it would take to reignite interest in small, cheap commuters like this is an extended downturn in the economy, and that could very well be just around the next corner. Combined with rising fuel prices (we’re once again experiencing that too), the Accent makes a good case for itself, with the icing on its cake being a five-year, 100,000 km comprehensive warranty. I recommend you check this little car out, and remember to opt for the 2019 if your prime focus is performance, or 2020 if you’re looking to save a bit more at the pump.

 

 

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

Just like any Mercedes-Benz, the new A 220 gets a lot of attention for its good looks and prestigious three-pointed star. That iconic emblem is a key reason for purchasing any Mercedes product, as it…

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Long, low and lean, the new A 220 looks more like a four-door coupe than a traditional luxury sedan.

Just like any Mercedes-Benz, the new A 220 gets a lot of attention for its good looks and prestigious three-pointed star. That iconic emblem is a key reason for purchasing any Mercedes product, as it shows you’re either well on the way up society’s hierarchal ladder or have fully arrived. Only an affluent person can own a Mercedes-Benz after all, right? While that may have mostly been true in the past (2002-2008 C-Class 230/320 Sport Coupe aside—codenamed CL203), once you see the price of this A 220 you might start questioning that premise.

The 2020 A 220 4Matic starts at just $37,300 plus freight and fees, which is a bit of a jump from last year’s all-new model that wowed all comers at a mere $34,990, due to standard all-wheel drive in today’s version, but it’s still well within the majority of middle-class earners’ income brackets. After all, a number of similarly sized mainstream volume-branded compact models top out where the entry-level Mercedes begins, so as long as you don’t mind going without a few highfalutin features available with the A 220’s various packages, you’ll get an inherently better car.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Despite the A 220’s sleek profile, it provides plenty of headroom front to back.

Just one look had me hooked. Yes, the A 220 is gorgeous. It looks too long, lean and low to the ground to be a compact, but indeed its 4,549 mm length, 1,796 mm width, 1,446 mm height and 2,729 mm wheelbase means that it fits within the shadow of mainstream compacts you might know better, such as Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Hyundai’s Elantra and Mazda’s 3 to name a handful (it’s actually shorter and taller than all of the above), while competing head-to-head more accurately in size and especially price with premium-branded sedans like Audi’s A3 and BMW’s new 2 Series Gran Coupe (although the latter model more directly targets Mercedes’ even lower, longer and wider CLA-Class), not to mention Acura’s considerably longer (than the A 220) ILX.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
It might cast a small shadow, but the A 220 is big on style.

Mercedes slaughters the premium competition on Canada’s subcompact luxury sales charts, with more than 5,000 collective A-Class (which includes the A 250 hatch as well), CLA-Class and B-Class (yes more than 300 of the now discontinued models sold last year, and another 200-plus during the first quarter of 2020) deliveries in Canada throughout calendar year 2019, compared to the next-best-selling Mini Cooper (which is a collection of body styles as well, and mostly lower priced) at just over 3,700 unit sales, the A3/A3 Cabriolet/S3 at 3,100-plus examples, the ILX at nearly 1,900 units, the 2 Series (before the new four-door model arrived) with a hair over 1,200 down the road, and BMW’s long-in-tooth i3 EV pulling in 300 new buyers. By the way, the A-Class, which was the only model in its class to see positive growth last year at just under 14.5 percent, pulled in 3,632 customers alone last year, putting it just behind the aforementioned Mini that saw its year-over-year sales slide by 17 percent.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Hard to believe, but this classy looking three-pointed star can be yours for less than $40k.

While the A 220’s good looks and attractive pricing have no doubt helped lure in its high volume of Canadian luxury buyers, there’s a lot more to the sleek four-door sport sedan than a pretty face and affordability. First and foremost is an interior that’s oozing with style and generous with cutting edge features, some of which hit high on both marks. For instance, Mercedes’ new all-in-one instrument panel and infotainment display is digital art, not only with respect to the colourful, creatively designed and wholly functional graphics within, but also with the fixed tablet-style frame that surrounds it.

This last point highlights an important differentiator between this entry-level Mercedes and compact models from mainstream volume brands. While the A 220’s lower dash and door panel surfaces aren’t much more upscale than what you’d find in a common compact sedan like Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Hyundai’s Elantra or Mazda’s 3, most everything above is as good as being offered in pricier three-pointed star models, such as the C-Class and even the E-Class. Along with the eye-arresting electronic interfaces are beautifully crafted leather door inserts, rich open-pore textured hardwood on those doors and dash, while brushed aluminum accents can be found everywhere, my favourite application being the stunning jet turbine-like dash vents.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Sharp looking LED headlamps join plenty of other distinctive design elements.

Back to that all-in-one MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) instrument cluster/infotainment display, the former integrates various screen themes such as Modern Classic, Sport, Understated and the ability to create your own themes, plus an alternative gauge cluster that changes the traditional-looking speedometer into a numeric format while using the rest of the screen for other functions such as navigation mapping, fuel consumption info, regenerative braking charge info, Eco drive setting info and more, while the latter allows for at least as much personalization.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
These 18-inch five-spoke alloys are available for just $500.

The usual infotainment features were included in my tester, such as navigation, albeit with the ability to choose an augmented reality function that shows a front camera with upcoming street names and directional indicators; an audio interface with satellite radio; the just-noted drive settings that also include Comfort, Sport and Individual modes (also adjustable via a rocker switch on the lower console); advanced driver assistive systems settings; calls, contacts and messages; a large, clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines; and more, while controlling the centre display is the most versatile in the industry.

You can simply use it like a tablet thanks to full touchscreen capability, or alternatively talk to it via Linguatronic Voice Control, one of the best voice command systems in the industry (although “Mercedes” is a bit too willing, inquisitively responding with “How can I help you?” anytime you mention her name), or provide inputs with the tiny BlackBerry-style optical trackpads on each steering wheel side spoke, or lastly utilize the lower console touchpad surrounded by large easy-to-use quick access buttons. The touchpad itself, which is the best of its kind I’ve ever tested, is ideally sensitive to the usual tap, swipe and pinch inputs, is easily within reach, and never caused me the need to divert too much attention away from the primary role of driving.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
LED taillights come standard.

This in mind, intuitively organized climate controls can be found on a slender interface just underneath the centre display screen, designed with nice readouts and a gorgeous row of knurled aluminum toggles, all sitting above a large rubberized tray for storing your smartphone, complete with inductive charging. All-round the A 220 provides a well-organized cabin that’s filled with most everything you’ll need and some things you probably won’t, but I loved the purple ambient lighting anyway.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The available two-tone interior colour scheme looks rich.

All said I was a bit shocked with the small, delicate size and lack of density of the A 220’s steering wheel stalks, and am wondering if they’re part of the brand’s weight-saving, and therefore fuel economy and performance benefiting philosophy. To be clear, their quality is actually quite good in their detailing wonderful, but they’re so light and hollow feeling that someone who prizes substantive solidity over lightweight efficiency might think Mercedes was cutting quality corners. Truly, these are the lightest and least substantive feelings column stalks I’ve ever tested in any car. That the one on the right-side is needed for putting the transmission in drive, neutral, reverse or park makes its minimalist approach even more obvious, which is why I believe the lightweight design was about reducing mass. Even the paddle shifters feel meatier in the fingers, and then when looking around the cabin at all the ritzy aluminum detailing makes it pretty obvious there was something else at play when deciding to make its column stalks so delicate.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Nothing in this class is as dramatically styled as the A-Class interior.

Even before touching the stalks, I was surprised at how thin the plastic was on the lower door panels, thinking at the time it must be due to weight savings as well. Their construction is excellent, and the detail that went into making them lightweight yet still strong impressive, but they don’t exactly exude a feel of premium quality. Thankfully everything above the waist is top-tier luxury kit as noted earlier, but the hard-plastic centre console could be a bit disappointing for those stepping out some of those volume-branded models mentioned earlier, which cover such areas in padded soft composites.

Overhead is a lovely console with controls for the large glass sunroof, jewel-like LED dome and reading lights, plus more. I was a bit surprised to find only the A pillars were fabric wrapped, with the B and C pillars finished in a hard-shell composite, but again this is not too uncommon in this smallest class of luxury car. What matters is that all of the components fit together well, with the various lids and doors closing with a nice firm German solidity, except for the glove box lid that’s very lightweight as well.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes’ new MBUX digital gauge and infotainment system is in a class of one.

The light grey and black two-tone leather-covered seats are wholly comfortable with excellent side bolstering and include manually-operated lower thigh extensions, a wonderful addition. My tester also used the light grey for the door inserts, making the cabin look decidedly upmarket. Like those up front, the rear outboard seats provide good comfort thanks to nicely sculpted backrests and fairly good room for legs and feet, not to mention headroom. With the front seat set up for my long-legged, short torso five-foot-eight frame, I still had about five inches ahead of my knees and plenty of room for my feet while wearing boots, plus ample space from side-to-side. About three inches remained above my head, so taller teens and adults (just above six-feet) should fit in just fine, while the rear headrests provide excellent support and are blissfully soft as well. The folding centre armrest was slightly low for my height, but would no doubt be perfect for smaller adults or kids, and includes two pop-out cupholders that secure drinks nicely. Mercedes includes netted magazine holders behind each front seatback, plus individual vents can be found on the backside of the front console, and under that a pull-out compartment with a small bin for what-have-you as well as two USB-C charging ports. There were no rear seat heaters in this particular model, but a small panel over each side window includes LED reading lights and a tiny yet strong hook for hanging a jacket or shirt.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s centre stack is ideally laid out for easy use while driving.

The trunk is fairly large for a sedan of the A 220’s compact dimensions, and I love the fact that it can be expanded by a 40/20/40-split rear seatback that allows longer items such as skis to be laid down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the window seats. This is super helpful in a small car like this, because the rear centre position is a bit small compared to what you’d find in a larger car, so you want to save it for storage rather than force one of your rear passengers into the middle. Mercedes provides trunk-mounted levers for folding those seats down, while the finishing is very nice inside.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Four driving modes come standard.

Along with all the niceties mentioned, the 2020 A 220 is packed full of standard goodies like LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, brushed or pinstriped aluminum interior trim, pushbutton ignition, MBUX infotainment including a 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster and 7.0-inch infotainment display, six-speaker audio with nice deep resonant bass plus good highs and mids, a powered driver’s seat with memory, heatable front seats, a large panoramic sunroof, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and much more.

Just to be clear, my tester also included $890 Mountain Grey Metallic paint; $500 worth of 18-inch twinned five-spoke alloys; a $3000 Premium package that adds proximity entry, power folding mirrors, larger 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and centre displays with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, voice control, wireless charging, auto dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, ambient lighting, a foot-activated trunk release, vehicle exit warning, and Blind Spot assist; a $1,600 Technology package adding multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and Active Distance Assist; and a $1,000 Navigation package with a navigation system, live traffic, Mercedes’ Navigation Services, the augmented reality feature mentioned earlier, a Connectivity package, and Traffic Sign Assist.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes offers four ways to connect to its new MBUX infotainment system, this trackpad being amongst the best in the biz.

The extras continued with a $1,900 Intelligent Drive package (new for 2020) featuring Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Active Lane Change Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Map-Based Speed Adaptation (that uses navigation system info to modulate the car’s speed based on upcoming road conditions before even being visible to the driver), Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance package, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist, Pre-Safe, and Active Speed Limit Assist; $900 Active Parking Assist; satellite radio for $475; and black open-pore wood trim for $250 (walnut is available for the same price); all of which added $10,515 to the 2020 A 220’s aforementioned $37,300 base price, making for a pretty ritzy little Mercedes for just $47,815 plus freight and fees.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s driver’s seat is superbly crafted, wholly comfortable and seriously supportive.

Believe it or not it was missing a fair bit of extra kit like the $1,500 Sport package or $2,000 Night package, available $500 19-inch alloy wheels, $250 heatable Nappa leather steering wheel, $1,500 head-up display, $650 surround parking camera, $700 12-speaker, 450-watt Burmester surround audio upgrade, $300 universal garage door opener, $450 powered front passenger’s seat with memory, and $1,200 ventilated front seats (this last feature new for 2020).

As good as the A 220’s exterior styling, interior design, execution and feature set is, its Mercedes heritage shines through even more when out on the road. Performance off the line is strong and gets even stronger in Sport mode, where shifts from its seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox are quick and precise, and strength from the engine is plenty enjoyable despite only offering up 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. The 4Matic in the name means all-wheel drive is standard as noted earlier, so therefore all four of my tester’s 225/45R18 Michelins were able to bite into the tarmac simultaneously for very quick immediate response, while it held to the road wonderfully at speed, even in wet weather.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
This large panoramic sunroof comes standard.

The standard paddle shifters enhance the A 220’s performance edge when pushed hard in Sport mode, but they can also be for short shifting to save fuel. I selected Eco mode for that, where shifts are smooth and relaxed, resulting in a favourable fuel economy rating of 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway or 8.5 combined. By the way, last year’s front-wheel drive model didn’t save that much more fuel with a claimed rating of 9.7 city, 6.8 highway and 8.4 combined, so the move to standard AWD hardly hurts anyone’s ongoing fuel budget.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Rear seat roominess is excellent for this class, and refinement in back is just like up front.

Traveling slower with an eye on saving fuel is when I really appreciated the A 220’s comfortable ride, although keep in mind it’s set up with traditional German tautness, so it’s firmer than what you might find in most Japanese luxury cars, but the majority of premium buyers should find it plush enough. So driven, the A 220’s overall quietness adds its luxurious ambiance, making it the ideal compact for hushing inner-city noise and limiting buffeting wind on the highway.

If my personal money were on the line in this class, I’d choose the A 220 over its four-door subcompact luxury peers, as it delivers high marks in every way. It’s fabulous looking both outside and within, provides good tactile quality for the category, is packed full of all the features I want, is really enjoyable to drive no matter the situation, and is wholly practical as far as four-door sedans go.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s sizeable trunk provides a centre pass-through for optimal passenger/cargo flexibility.

Notably, I haven’t driven BMW’s new 2 Series sedan entry yet, but its four-door coupe profile won’t likely provide the same level of rear seat roominess as the A 220, and the only other two subcompact luxury competitors are Audi’s A3, that’s been with us for over seven years with only a minor facelift, and Acura’s ILX, that’s just as old, albeit with a more dramatic refresh just last year, but the Japanese entry is really a previous-generation Honda Civic with an upgraded powertrain under the heavily modified skin.

No matter which car I decided upon, however, I’d first check for any manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, or other incentives at CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about detailed pricing, build your vehicle, and even access otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. At the time of writing the 2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 was available with up to $750 in additional incentives, whereas any 2019 models still available could be had for up to $2,000 in incentives. Make sure to visit CarCostCanada to learn more, plus download the new CarCostCanada Mobile App at Google’s Android Play Store or Apple’s App Store so you can access this valuable information while at the dealership, where you’ll need it most.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay