None of us should be surprised when an automaker launches a new sport utility vehicle these days, but some new entries make more sense than others. For reasons that likely have something to do with North…

Honda introduces all-new 2019 Passport mid-size SUV

2019 Honda Passport
The 2019 Honda Passport slots between the brand’s compact CR-V and 3-row Pilot SUVs, and promises 5-occupant seating and off-road capability. (Photo: Honda)

None of us should be surprised when an automaker launches a new sport utility vehicle these days, but some new entries make more sense than others. For reasons that likely have something to do with North American average sized families (which as of 2016 were estimated at 2.9 persons in Canada, and as of 2017 were 3.14 in the U.S.—which is larger than the EU’s 2.3-person average), five-passenger mid-size SUVs sell better than their larger seven-passenger siblings. 

For example the best-selling five-passenger Santa Fe obliterated the larger Santa Fe XL last year with 21,615 deliveries compared to just 6,787, while the next most popular Ford Edge merely nosed out the Explorer with 19,967 unit sales to 17,333. Likewise, the five-occupant Nissan Murano was ahead of the Pathfinder with 15,120 sales to 9,838, and just in case you’re wondering whether brands that only offer seven-passenger crossovers sell much more than those that provide both, consider that the Kia Sorento only sold 15,990 units, the Toyota Highlander just 15,259, the Dodge Journey 13,745, and the Pilot just 8,905. 

2019 Honda Passport
The new Passport pulls plenty of styling cues from the larger Pilot, but toughens up the look with sporty black trim and a high-riding 4×4 stance. (Photo: Honda)

Other brands fared worse than Honda, with the Dodge Durango down at 6,505 units, GMC Acadia at 5,380, Chevrolet Traverse at 4,710, Volkswagen Atlas at 4,534 (after just seven months of sales), Mazda CX-9 at 3,943, plus a couple of stragglers not worth mentioning, but no doubt the brand that produces the CR-V, Canada’s best-selling compact SUV, and does nearly as well with the HR-V in the subcompact SUV segment, wants to find similar success in the mid-size utility class. 

Set to arrive in Honda dealerships across Canada early next year, the 2019 Passport will attempt to recharge the brand’s lagging mid-size sales by targeting two types of SUV buyers, those who simply want more passenger and cargo space than a CR-V can provide, without the added length of a three-row utility, and more adventurous owners who’d like to take their new SUV off the beaten track. 

2019 Honda Passport
Shown here with an accessory roof rack and running boards, the new Passport is designed for a more adventurous lifestyle than average. (Photo: Honda)

If you’ve been watching Honda’s automotive news stream lately you’ve probably seen greater focus than usual put on off-road performance, with last month’s Ridgeline-based Rugged Open Air Vehicle Concept now seeming like a precursor to a couple of similarly styled all-terrain vehicles, the Talon 1000X and Talon 1000R, introduced alongside the new Passport on Tuesday, November 27. Those not familiar with Honda’s motorcycle and ATV divisions might find all of the above a surprise, but the idea of Honda going off-road will be nothing new to fans of the brand who were weaned on CRs, XLs and XRs, ATCs, TRXs and Four-Trax’s, and most specifically FLs, otherwise known as Honda Odysseys, which were little single-seat four-wheel off-roaders around well before anyone ever heard of a minivan (Honda also made a Pilot ATV in 1989 and 1990), and are closest in concept to the two new Talon ATVs. 

2019 Honda Passport
The new Passport, shown here with a roof rack-mounted cargo basket from Honda’s accessories catalog, promises to take you further than most rival SUVs. (Photo: Honda)

Tapping into Honda’s off-road heritage makes a great deal of sense for the brand’s SUV lineup as well as its sole Ridgeline pickup truck, as there’s a lot of missed opportunity for cross-marketing Honda SUVs with Honda dirt bikes and ATVs, not to mention Honda generators and water pumps that would fit nicely into camping lifestyle ad campaigns, and its lawnmowers, handheld edge trimmers, tillers, snowblowers, and more that fit ideally into the lives of home and cabin/cottage owners. The Ridgeline is the more appropriate cross-marketing product for the latter items, but the new off-road capable Passport makes a good fit for anything camping related. 

2019 Honda Passport
Honda provides new Passport owners with an available roof rack, running boards, fender flares, tow hitch, and other accessories. (Photo: Honda)

The new Passport would be ideal for trailering all of the recreation vehicles and handy tools noted above (see photos of it towing the new Talon and a camp trailer in the gallery), not to mention boats powered by Honda Marine outboard engines and Honda AquaTrax personal watercraft (although you’ll need to have a used one of the latter being that Honda recently pulled out of the industry), thanks to an optional tow package rated at 1,588 kilograms (3,500 lbs) for front-wheel drive models and 2,268 kilos (5,000 lbs) with all-wheel drive. What’s more, the “overhead” option found in the new Passport’s standard multi-view rearview camera makes connecting hitch and trailer easier than ever before. 

2019 Honda Passport
Honda wants us to be clear that its new Passport is more capable than average off-road. (Photo: Honda)

Off-road enthusiasts who might have considered a Ridgeline, but never a Pilot or CR-V, will find the new Passport a serious alternative to other medium-duty 4×4 capable SUVs thanks to Honda’s upgraded i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system, which uses active torque vectoring to send up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear axle and 100 percent to either the left or right rear wheels. Honda promises handling excellence no matter the conditions, citing “rain-slicked or snowy roads or sandy trails,” whereas on pavement it also responds better by overdriving the outside rear wheels amid turns. 

2019 Honda Passport
We’re guessing most Passport owners won’t be driving their new SUVs like this. (Photo: Honda)

Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management (ITM) adds another element to the Passport’s off-road prowess, thanks to four driving modes that work in tandem with the optional i-VTM4 all-wheel drive, including normal, snow, mud and sand selections. ITM is actually standard with both FWD and AWD models, although the drive modes for the former only include normal and snow settings. Also notable, the new Passport adds 13 mm (0.5 in) of ground clearance over its Pilot sibling in FWD guise, and 28 mm (1.1 in) with AWD, allowing greater ability to overcome obstacles like rocks and roots found on the trail.  

2019 Honda Passport
Someone was having a lot of fun in this Passport. (Photo: Honda)

So how does the Passport AWD do in off-road conditions? As you can see by the photos provided with its launch material, it certainly looks more capable than any previous Honda SUV, at least anything designed and produced by Honda (let’s not forget about the 1993–2002 Isuzu Rodeo-based mid-size model of the same name that could be considered the spiritual successor to this new Passport, and the reason Honda may have chosen to dig up this old name from the mostly forgotten past. Back to the here and now, Honda thoroughly tested the new Passport in “the world’s harshest environments” like “the sands of Dubai, muddy country roads of Russia, and snowbound trails in Minnesota,” and claims that it’s “more capable off road than many unibody SUVs.” Basically they’re saying not to expect it to out-4×4 a Jeep Wrangler, but when up against a similarly equipped unibody crossover SUV that doesn’t offer a bull-low gear ratio, the combination of i-VTM4 and ITM allow AWD-equipped Passports hold their own. 

2019 Honda Passport
Thanks to its Pilot-sourced underpinnings, the new Passport promises excellent on-road stability combined with a smooth, comfortable ride. (Photo: Honda)

While all of this is fun and interesting, we all know the majority of Passport owners will never take their SUV off pavement and therefore might only ever experience slippery road conditions from rain, snow and ice. As noted earlier Honda has this covered too, while also providing the most powerful base engine in its class, which is both a boon and a bane. The automaker turns to the same i-VTEC valvetrain-enhanced 3.5-litre V6 found in the larger Pilot and Ridgeline pickup truck, not to mention the Odyssey minivan mentioned earlier. On the positive this sole engine makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and while it’s usually good to offer the strongest performance in a segment it’s not necessarily the best to come up short when it comes to fuel economy. 

2019 Honda Passport
This Passport is towing the new Honda Talon ATV, introduced together with the new SUV at the LA auto show. (Photo: Honda)

Of course, Honda makes no official fuel consumption claims yet, but we can assume the new model will do better than the base Pilot’s 13.0 L/100km city, 9.3 highway and 11.3 rating due to weighing considerably less and featuring a standard nine-speed automatic transmission with pushbutton gear selection, instead of the more traditional lever operated six-speed unit offered in lower trims of the larger SUV. Higher Pilot trims feature the same nine-speed, and its fuel economy reflects this with a thriftier rating of 12.4 city, 9.3 highway and 11.0 combined, so the new Passport should be able to improve on the latter numbers, while providing smoother and more refined performance than four-cylinder powered competitors that achieve better mileage. 

As you may have guessed the new Passport rides on the same fully independent chassis as the Pilot, the Honda Global Light Truck platform consisting of a rigid unibody structure with a fully boxed floor held up by a MacPherson strut front and independent multi-link rear suspension setup, and featuring electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering directing standard 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 245/50 all-season tires in base Sport and EX-L trims or 265/45 tires in Touring and Elite trims. 

2019 Honda Passport
The new Passport can tow up to 5,000 lbs. (Photo: Honda)

Of note, the Passport launch model, which was introduced as part of the Los Angeles Auto Show, was in U.S. specification and therefore Canadian-spec trims and features won’t likely be identical. The information provided shows the four trims just mentioned, clarifying them as the “well-appointed Sport, upgraded EX-L, high-tech Touring, and the fully equipped Elite,” but for comparison our Canadian-spec Pilot is offered in LX, EX, EX-L Navi, Touring, and Black Edition trims. These are mostly the same in the U.S. market, except for no Black Edition, whereas we don’t offer Elite trim, instead including all of that model’s features in the top-line Touring. 

2019 Honda Passport
The Passport offers best-in-class cabin space, and should also provide plenty of high-quality finishings. (Photo: Honda)

Along with the 20-inch alloy wheels noted earlier, which is the standard diameter across the entire Passport line, we can safely assume that Canadian-spec models will also get the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistive and safety systems as standard equipment, that includes Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) including Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assistance System (LKAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). These advanced electronics are joined by the industry’s usual assortment of active and passive safety features and Honda’s proprietary Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, resulting in a mid-size SUV designed to exceed current crash test standards. 

2019 Honda Passport
Honda promises plenty of premium soft-touch surfaces in a well-organized, ergonomically friendly cabin. (Photo: Honda)

Additional standard features available south of the 49th that should be included in our Passport include LED headlights, LED DRLs, LED fog lamps, and LED taillights, proximity-sensing keyless Smart Entry and Smart Start, a 7.0-inch digital colour TFT primary instrument cluster, a configurable multi-information display featuring audio, trip and phone info (plus turn-by-turn route guidance on models with navigation), tri-zone automatic climate control, a 5.0-inch infotainment display, the aforementioned Multi-Angle Rearview Camera with dynamic guidelines, six-speaker 215-watt audio with a subwoofer, and much more. 

2019 Honda Passport
A fully digital TFT instrument cluster will set the Passport apart. (Photo: Honda)

In the U.S., Honda includes Blind Spot Information in EX-L, Touring and Elite trims, and adds Rear Cross-Traffic Detection plus front and rear parking sensors to the Touring and Elite, while additional upgrades (depending on trim) include power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and smartphone/tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture capability, satellite-linked navigation, 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi that can support up to seven devices, wireless phone charging, 590-watt 10-speaker premium audio, various HondaLink cloud-based services such as remote unlocking, concierge services, and stolen vehicle tracking, a powered moonroof, second-row sunshades, a power tailgate with available hands-free operation, plus more. 

2019 Honda Passport
The optional 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and more. (Photo: Honda)

Plenty of Honda Genuine Accessories will also be available for the new Passport, many of which were shown off in the photos provided for this overview. Included are various sizes of roof storage boxes, a roof basket, plus roof-mounted bike, kayak and ski/snowboard racks, while Passport owners can also protect the cargo area with hard plastic floor, side, and seatback covers. Additionally, the storage area under the load floor can be sectioned off with individual, removable, washable bins. 

2019 Honda Passport
Honda’s new infotainment interface is one of the most intuitive in the industry. (Photo: Honda)

Honda will also be offering a number of cosmetic upgrades including a coloured graphics package, undercarriage welcome lights, and illuminated doorsills, while two accessory packages will be available as well, including The Adventure Package that adds fender flares, running boards, a trailer hitch, and more, plus The Urban Package featuring unique 20-inch alloy wheels, front and rear underbody spoilers, roof rails with crossbars, and the just noted cargo storage bins. Again, we’ll need to wait until Honda Canada reveals our Canadian-spec Passport before confirming everything on this list, but we can be certain that some, if not all of these items will be available here. 

As noted earlier, a key reason for stepping up into a mid-size five-occupant SUV over a compact one like the CR-V is increased interior volume, so along with more passenger volume front to back the new Passport provides 368 litres (13.0 cubic feet) of additional passenger volume over its smaller sibling, its 3,282 litres (115.9 cu ft) ahead of the rear seatbacks resulting in segment-leading status, while the Passport’s 4,448 litres (157.1 cu ft) of overall interior volume is also best-in-class. 

2019 Honda Passport
The Passport delivers best-in-segment cargo capacity. (Photo: Honda)

The Passport continues to lead the class when it comes to cargo hauling too, with 1,166 litres (41.2 cu ft) of luggage space behind the rear seats and 2,206 litres (77.9 cu ft) with the rear row lowered, which is also 56 litres (2.0 cu ft) more cargo space than the CR-V offers in the very back, and 60 litres (2.1 cu ft) more overall. Like with the CR-V, the Passport’s 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold automatically via releases in the cargo area, but the larger SUV uses electric buttons instead of levers, while the Passport also provides a reversible cargo floor that swaps out the carpeting for an easily maintained hard plastic surface. 

2019 Honda Passport
Roomiest-in-class underfloor storage can be upgraded with accessory bins. (Photo: Honda)

Another segment-leading bonus is underfloor storage, which measures 71 litres (2.5 cu ft) on its own and can be accessorized as noted earlier. 

Stowage in mind, all Passport trims feature a large centre console bin between front occupants, while its roll top cover doubles as a handy tray when closed. There’s more centre console storage ahead of the gear selector, while the door panels provide even more places to put things. 

Honda promises “high-quality interior appointments” including “generous use of soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors,” plus “attractive and durable” fabric upholstery in the base Sport model and optional perforated leather with EX-L, Touring and Elite trims. 

2019 Honda Passport
Roomiest-in-class underfloor storage can be upgraded with accessory bins. (Photo: Honda)

After all is said and done, no one should discount the role styling plays in automotive decision-making, and fortunately the Passport benefits from the new 2019 Pilot’s design influence. The latter is better looking than previous generations and the new Passport is arguably more so, thanks to a taller more 4×4-capable looking stance and sporty matte black used for the grille, headlights, bumpers, and wheels, plus glossy black trim in key areas, sharp looking LED headlight accents, unique floating C-pillars, and sporty chrome dual exhaust outlets. Each trim will get exclusive alloy wheel designs too, but so far there’s no word about Honda replacing some of the scratch-resistant blackened trim with dressier body-colour paint and satin-silver or chrome for a city-slicker version, but something similar makes sense for a future base model as well as alternative high-end trims. 

2019 Honda Passport
The new Passport is a different kind of crossover SUV for Honda, and could open up a much more adventurous future for the brand. (Photo: Honda)

All in all it appears Honda has a winner on its hands, particularly because it targets the more popular five-passenger mid-size SUV market segment with an attractive, roomy, well-equipped entry sporting above-average performance and no shortage of high-tech features. Its rugged styling and off-road capability make certain the Passport targets a different kind of customer than the smaller CR-V, and truly opens up opportunity for a more rugged Ridgeline and other more adventuresome products in the future. Hopefully this new Honda swagger is a sign of things to come. 

Now, make sure to check out the photo gallery above and watch the following short video that was released as part of the Passport’s Los Angeles Auto Show launch event:

 

Introducing the All-new 2019 Honda Passport (0:54):

When Audi’s Q3 showed up on the Canadian subcompact luxury SUV scene in 2014 for the 2015 model year it was already old news in other parts of the world. It had originally launched as a 2012 model in…

Redesigned 2019 Audi Q3 adds style, size and technology to subcompact SUV class

2019 Audi Q3
Audi will introduce an entirely new second-generation Q3 subcompact luxury SUV next spring, and it looks much more upscale than the outgoing version. (Photo: Audi)

When Audi’s Q3 showed up on the Canadian subcompact luxury SUV scene in 2014 for the 2015 model year it was already old news in other parts of the world. It had originally launched as a 2012 model in Europe, so the heavily refreshed 2016 version that soon replaced the first-generation Q3 was a complete surprise for many when it arrived in late 2015. 

That mid-cycle update ushered in a new look for Audi SUVs on the whole. Its equiangular hexagonal singleframe grille grew broader and more sharply edged, with new satin-silver exterior trim for a more sophisticated look. Its headlamps received some subtle revisions too, while a new aluminum hood with reworked sculpting sat overtop, and the lower apron received some minor updates too, depending on trim. Other small updates to the rocker panels and rear bumper cap let aficionados know which model they were looking at no matter the direction of view, but for the rest of us it was the grille up front that made the 2016 Q3 look entirely new. 

2019 Audi Q3
The new Q3 will once again be offered with an S line exterior package, and it looks even more dramatic than the previous generation. (Photo: Audi)

Now, three more years into what is effectively a seven-year model run has the current Q3 showing its age, so this completely redesigned second-generation Q3 will be a much needed breath of fresh air for Audi retailers and fans of the little utility, many of which have been patiently waiting for a redo before upgrading. 

Audi introduced the new and improved 2019 Q3 online over the summer and in the metal at the Paris Motor Show last month, and it’s expected to go on sale during the second quarter of next year. Larger than its predecessor and therefore getting closer to true compact status, the new Q3 rides on parent company Volkswagen group’s MQB platform architecture that also underpins the namesake brand’s much improved Tiguan. 

2019 Audi Q3
The 2019 Q3 is considerably larger than the current model. (Photo: Audi)

To put it in perspective, with a 4,485-mm (176.6-inch) overall length the new 2019 Q3 is 97 mm (3.8 inches) longer than the outgoing model from nose to tail, with a 77-mm (3.0-inch) longer wheelbase that now measures 2,680 mm (105.5 inches). It’s also gained 25 mm (an inch) in width, now spanning 1,856 mm (73.1 inches) from side-to-side, while the new model’s 1,585-mm (62.4-inch) height means that it’s shrunk by 5 mm (0.2 inches) compared to the old Q3. 

Sidle the new Q3 next to the new Tiguan and you’ll find it’s almost identical in length and wheelbase, albeit only when compared against the short-wheelbase VW offered in Europe. The long-wheelbase version we get here is a significant 227 mm (8.9 inches) longer than the new Q3, with 111 mm (4.4 inches) more distance between the axles, but the Q3 is 17 mm (0.7 inches) wider and interestingly 88 mm (3.4 inches) lower overall. This should give the Q3 a sportier stance, thus leaving the Tiguan to more practical utility duties. 

2019 Audi Q3
Performance should be much stronger thanks to a new optional 230-hp 2.0L turbo engine and a more advanced 8-speed automatic. (Photo: Audi)

Of course, Q3 buyers wouldn’t normally be shopping the little Audi against the Tiguan or any other mainstream volume branded SUV, but instead other subcompact luxury SUVs, but how has its increased size placed it amongst its premium peers? The list of subcompact luxury SUVs is long and ever-increasing, with longstanding models like BMW’s X1, Mercedes-Benz’ GLA, Range Rover’s Evoque and Mini’s Countryman more recently joined by Infiniti’s QX30, Jaguar’s E-Pace and Volvo’s XC40, with Lexus’ new UX getting ready to enter the fray next year and Acura recently teasing North American buyers with its China-only CDX. Without going into too much detail, the new Q3 is currently the longest in its class, but will soon be outflanked by the new UX. Its right in the middle with respect to wheelbase length and width, however, while its roofline is lower than class average. 

2019 Audi Q3
The new Q3’s longer wheelbase, wider track and newer chassis architecture should provide for better handling and improved high-speed stability. (Photo: Audi)

So Audi has taken one of the smaller utilities in the class and made it one of the largest, and therefore potentially opened the door to a future Q1. Rather than climb down that rabbit hole, more Canadians will be happier to know the new Q3 has grown as much inside as it has outwardly. For instance, the longer wheelbase translates into more rear legroom, while the rear seats are capable of moving a full 150 mm (5.9 inches) back and forth. What’s more, the rear bench is now fully split in the most convenient 40/20/40 configuration, instead of just 60/40 with a centre pass-through like the previous model. This means there’s more space down the middle to fit longer items like skis when the rear outboard seats are in use, and those rear backrests are even more comfortable thanks to a recline function that can be tilted in seven increments. 

2019 Audi Q3
Even Q3 trims without the S line exterior package deliver a lot more visual presence than the outgoing model. (Photo: Audi)

Back to those skis, you might be able to fit the kids’ boards diagonally in the back thanks to 57 more litres of cargo space behind the rear seatbacks, the new total amounting to 530 litres (18.7 cubic feet), while 160 additional litres of gear-toting room can be had when the rear seatbacks are laid flat for a new maximum of 1,525 litres (53.9 cubic feet). Aiding flexibility, a new removable loading floor can be repositioned in three levels, while the parcel shelf can be stowed beneath the floor when not in use. Lastly, a powered liftgate with “kicking motion” gesture control access is optional. 

2019 Audi Q3
The new eight-sided singleframe grille pulls design cues from the Q8. (Photo: Audi)

Audi hasn’t revealed standard and optional Canadian-specification information yet, but they have announced that a 10.25-inch version of their Audi Virtual Cockpit will be standard across the line in all markets, which will be a big bonus being that similar digital primary gauge clusters are normally pricey options if available from the competition at all—currently the Volvo XC40 is the only rival to offer one as standard kit. As per usual it operates via steering wheel controls, while when upgrading to a higher trim grade featuring optional MMI navigation plus the Virtual Cockpit comes in a larger 12.3-inch form that allows digital mapping, plus other functions, to appear larger in the more configurable multi-information portion of the display, between the speedometer and tachometer. The optional display also includes three different views, featuring new performance graphics that Audi promises to be “particularly sporty”. 

2019 Audi Q3
The exterior detailing is exquisite, and Matrix LED headlamps, complete with sequential turn signals, give off a jewel-like brilliance. (Photo: Audi)

An attractive high-gloss black MMI Touch display with a sophisticated glass-look surround can be found just to the right of the driver within the horizontally designed centre stack that, together with the climate controls just below, is tilted 10 degrees toward the driver. Audi claims its all-new MMI Touch Response infotainment system, which no longer uses a separate controller on the lower console and therefore is more tablet-like in operation, has an “intuitive operating concept” featuring a “flat menu structure” that’s “supplemented by natural-language voice control.” 

In fact, the Q3’s new voice control is said to understand “freely structured wording,” which means it should respond to voice prompts like a modern-day smartphone. According to Audi, the dialog manager can even ask questions if required, plus it “allows corrections, offers choices and defers to the speaker when interrupted.” Now if Audi could only make the front seat passenger so cooperative. 

2019 Audi Q3
The LED taillights include the same trademark sequential turn signals for a cohesive look from front to back. (Photo: Audi)

Additionally, top-tier Q3 trims get an infotainment system with new LTE Advanced standard connectivity featuring a Wi-Fi hotspot, while the navigation interface remembers preferences from previous journeys and then provides possible route suggestions. Audi connect also uses real-time traffic information when guiding via navigation, while point-of-interest searches plus parking space and filling station info appears directly in the map. 

Regarding the search for that illusive parking spot, the new Q3 actually uses swarm intelligence to forecast the availability of roadside parking spaces, plus it also provides info on road hazards and speed limits. 

2019 Audi Q3
The Q3’s interior provides a high level of style and materials quality, even including suede-like Alcantara on key surfaces. (Photo: Audi)

Additional options will include Google Earth and hybrid radio, which automatically switches between FM, DAB and online streaming to provide the best reception possible. 

What’s more, the myAudi app lets you to connect your smartphone to the Q3, so you can transfer your schedule via a calendar app and any pre-organized navigation routes to the car’s MMI infotainment system, or even locate where your Q3 is parked. 

Speaking of phone connectivity, the Audi phone box inductively charges the owner’s smartphone through the Q3’s antenna, while the Audi smartphone interface lets said smartphones link to the MMI display via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. 

Of course, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming will come standard, but you’ll need to pay extra for the top-line Bang & Olufsen premium audio system that provides three-dimensional virtual sound via 15 speakers including a subwoofer. 

2019 Audi Q3
A 10.25-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit comes standard, but this larger 12.3-inch version is optional. (Photo: Audi)

Technologies that aid driving may be appreciated even more by Q3 owners, such as advanced forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and available adaptive cruise assist that combines the functions of adaptive speed assist, low speed traffic jam assist and active lane assist together in one. Audi claims that adaptive cruise assist helps with longitudinal and lateral control to particularly improve “comfort on long journeys.” 

What’s more, the Q3’s four 360-degree cameras, which display on the infotainment touchscreen, make it easier to manoeuver in tight surroundings like parking lots. Even better, when using the available park assist semi-autonomous parking system the Q3’s driver only needs to watch the proceedings on the screen while shifting into the correct gear, applying the throttle, and stepping on the brake when necessary, while the car automatically steers itself in and out of parking spaces. Audi also offers cross traffic assist to warn of oncoming vehicles when reversing out of a parking space, while lane change warning is also part of this suite of safety features. 

2019 Audi Q3
The centre stack is beautifully laid out and appears made from high-quality materials. (Photo: Audi)

Along with interior styling that’s much more dramatic, delivering a true sense of occasion even in this more price-sensitive entry-level luxury class, not to mention interior fit, finish and materials quality that should be a considerable upgrade over the previous Q3, especially if we receive the same two-tone suede-like Alcantara dash, armrest and seat trim being offered to Europeans, Audi also promises an ergonomically designed cabin, which is a claim that’s certainly consistent with its latest offerings. This means that “all displays, buttons and controls” are within easy reach and logically laid out for intuitive operation, while the steering wheel is “steeply angled” to coincide with the “sporty”, albeit “comfortable” driver’s seat. 

2019 Audi Q3
The large MMI infotainment interface no longer includes console-mounted controls, but only works via tablet-like touchscreen gestures. (Photo: Audi)

The outgoing Q3’s driver’s seat delivered a nicely raised view to the road ahead with good visibility all-round, important being that the sense of control that comes as part of this commanding driving position is a key reason that SUVs have become so popular. The new model will continue with its similarly raised profile, while also providing some very real performance improvements to enhance the overall driving experience. 

This will be critical to the new Q3’s success, being that a weakness of the outgoing model was its one-size-fits-all 2.0-litre turbocharged powertrain that made 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Such output is quite reasonable for a base engine, yet when put up against some of its competitors’ upgraded powerplant options it was a tad underwhelming. Therefore, the Canadian-spec Q3 will be available with a new 2.0-litre turbocharged and direct injected four-cylinder making 190 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque in base trim, while a new 230 horsepower variant of the same four-cylinder engine with 258 lb-ft of torque will also be available. 

2019 Audi Q3
Audi offers three transmissions in Europe, but we’ll probably only get the eight-speed automatic here in Canada. (Photo: Audi)

Likewise, six-speed manual, “fast-shifting” seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic automated, and eight-speed automatic transmissions will be on offer, but likely only the latter, which adds two more gears over the outgoing Q3’s six-speed Tiptronic automatic, will make it here, with permanent Haldex-type Quattro all-wheel drive as standard equipment, a marked change from the outgoing Q3 that offered Quattro as an upgrade to a base FWD layout. Audi says the Q3’s new hill descent control will maintain a preset speed on steep downhill gradients by simply pushing a button, which should aid the model’s off-road capability. 

Back on the street, the new Q3 will sport an upgraded Audi drive select with a total of six profiles, from “markedly comfortable, highly efficient through to out-and-out sporty.” Audi drive select can also enhance the suspension with adjustable damper control when equipped, which uses sensors to “measure the movements of all four wheels as well as the vehicle’s lateral and longitudinal acceleration,” before automatically making adjustments. 

2019 Audi Q3
Rear seat roominess should be much improved thanks to a longer wheelbase. (Photo: Audi)

Alternatively, the S line exterior package includes a sport suspension that provides more progressive steering tuning with a more direct feel via increased steering angle, while it firms up the Q3’s springs and dampers too. Previously, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters were also added as part of the upgraded sport package, but we’ll need to wait and see what Audi has in store for our Canadian-spec model. 

We also won’t know about the 2019 Q3’s fuel economy until closer to its arrival, but if it’s anywhere close to the current model’s 11.9 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 10.3 combined AWD rating, it will be very competitive. 

2019 Audi Q3
The new 2019 Q3 should find a lot of entry-level luxury SUV buyers when it arrives next spring. (Photo: Audi)

Lastly, the new model is arguably better looking too, with its most striking feature a new equiangular octagon grille, adding two more sides to Audi’s now trademark singleframe design. We first saw this with the new Q8 four-door crossover/coupe, and it’s also appeared in various Q2, Q4 and Q6 renderings and concepts, so we can feel pretty confident it’s the new face of Audi SUVs, at least. All of the new cars still feature versions of the now classic six-sided grille, albeit featuring sharper edging with each new model, but this new ovoid look is appealing within the brand’s crossover SUV lineup, giving the Q3 distinctive character. 

The new grille gets divided up with vertical bars and large air inlets, the look made more dramatic when opting for the aforementioned S line exterior package that brightens the vertical strakes with aluminized highlights, or alternatively with available glossy black and dark grey trim. Moving up to the S line also enhances the lower front fascia with unique floating satin-silver detailing within deeper cut corner vents, and then pulls the brightwork inward with a horizontal metallic strip. There’s much more to the S line exterior package than that, making it a good choice for those who want their Q3 to stand out in the subcompact luxury SUV crowd. 

Depending on trim, the Q3’s narrow headlamps can be fitted with one of three lighting sources, topped off with Matrix LED technology and adaptive high beams. 

We’ll know more about all of these details when the 2019 Audi Q3 goes on sale next year, but until then enjoy our photo gallery above and video below. 

 

Audi 2019 Q3 Defined: Design (3:04):

Not long ago the only way you could’ve purchased advanced driver assist systems would have been by upgrading to an expensive luxury brand, but future-think features like autonomous emergency braking,…

Nissan to expand Safety Shield 360 technologies across majority of brand

Nissan to expand Safety Shield 360
Rear Automatic Braking is one of six advanced systems included in the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced driver assist systems. (Photo: Nissan)

Not long ago the only way you could’ve purchased advanced driver assist systems would have been by upgrading to an expensive luxury brand, but future-think features like autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, semi-autonomous self parking, and even self-driving capability are now the stuff of mainstream volume brands, with Nissan being at the forefront of the technology curve. 

Rather than merely include them as new features, the Japanese brand has decided to combine six of the most important active safety and driver-assist technologies into a new suite dubbed Nissan Safety Shield 360, and what’s more they’ll provide the package as standard equipment with all of their top-selling models by 2021. This means that more than one million vehicles will be upgraded with new Nissan Safety Shield 360 annually. 

2019 Nissan Altima
The 2019 Nissan Altima will be one of the first vehicles to highlight Safety Shield 360 features. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan Safety Shield 360, which earns its name by providing front, side and rear sensing technologies, will include Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking, and High Beam Assist. 

“Our philosophy is to bring Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies to market in our most popular and affordable vehicles,” said Denis Le Vot, chairman, Nissan North America. “Safety Shield 360 combines six advanced systems to give models like Altima and Rogue a class-leading package of technologies that can improve safety and the overall driving experience for Nissan owners.” 

2019 Nissan Rogue
The 2018 Rogue was one of the first Nissans to offer ProPilot Assist self-driving capability, and will include many Safety Shield 360 features for 2019. (Photo: Nissan)

The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claims that Rear Cross Traffic Alert reduces accidents by 22 percent, while the results improve to a 42 percent reduction in crashes when combined with a backup camera and parking sensors. Additionally, accidents are reduced by 78 percent when Rear Emergency Braking is added to the mix, so it’s clear that making these technologies available to more new car owners is of critical importance. 

As the program rolls out, Nissan Safety Shield 360 technologies will be made available with the 2019 Rogue compact SUV as well as the entirely new 2019 Altima mid-size sedan, both available now. The 2019 Rogue starts at $26,798 plus freight and fees, while the 2019 Altima can be had for $27,998 (check CarCostCanada for all 2019 Rogue and 2019 Altima features, trims and prices, plus you can get dealer invoice pricing and rebate info that could save you thousands). 

2018 Nissan Rogue ProPilot Assist
ProPilot Assist made its North American debut on the 2018 Rogue. (Photo: Nissan)

Of note, Nissan was one of the first automakers to offer semi-autonomous self-driving capability in its production cars. Introduced with the 2018 Rogue and the 2018 Leaf EV, ProPilot Assist takes over the majority of driving duties, including acceleration, steering and braking inputs when driving in a single lane on the highway. The driver is only required to regularly touch the steering wheel, yet it helps to reduce a driver’s workload by maintaining a set vehicle speed and distance to the vehicle ahead, keeping the car centered within a chosen lane, and easing stop-and-go traffic. 

Nissan claims that ProPilot Assist is the foundation for a future of fully automated vehicles, and making the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced driver assist technologies available to key models within its lineup certainly furthers that goal.

This isn’t the first time a street-legal Porsche broke a lap record on the famed Nürburgring-Norschleife, and we’re pretty sure it won’t be the last either.  Back in April of this year we reported…

Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR is the now fastest street-legal sports car on the ‘Ring

2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR
This Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR, specially tuned by Manthey-Racing, just became the fastest street-legal car to lap the Nürburgring-Norschleife at just 6:40:33. (Photo: Porsche)

This isn’t the first time a street-legal Porsche broke a lap record on the famed Nürburgring-Norschleife, and we’re pretty sure it won’t be the last either. 

Back in April of this year we reported on the amazing new Porsche 911 GT3 RS breaking the seven-minute mark with a time of 6:56.40, but on Thursday, October 25 it was the even more formidable GT2 RS MR lapping the 20.6-km (12.8-mi) circuit in a mere 6:40.33 minutes, knocking 6.95 seconds off the September 2017 lap time of the non-MR tuned GT2 RS. 

Lars Kern, the 31-year-old development engineer and race driver who first piloted the 911 GT2 RS to its now broken record, was once again at the wheel, which makes this most recent result a more accurate representation of the two cars’ performance thanks to taking some driver discrepancy out of the equation. 

2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR
The 911 GT2 RS produces an incredible 700 hp, making it the most powerful and fastest production 911 of all time. (Photo: Porsche)

“The drive was great fun,” said Kern, who is very familiar with the ‘Ring’ due to plenty of test drivers, record runs and VLN races. “The balance of the car is also very good with the new package. I did not have to take any great risks to be fast. But I only had one attempt because it was already getting dark. It worked out first time though.” 

Both 911 GT2 RS models produce the same incredible 700 horsepower, making this model the most powerful and fastest production 911 of all time, but the MR was set up by Manthey-Racing specifically for tackling the Nürburgring-Norschleife, and the 160-plus strong motorsports team knows a lot about shaving seconds from the popular German racetrack near the Belgian border. 

“We are very proud,” said Manthey-Racing CEO Nicolas Raeder. “It was a great challenge to make the already tremendously fast Porsche 911 GT2 RS even faster.” 

Of course, conditions were dry, allowing Kern to make the most of his record lap run. Esso supplied the fuel, while the only major modification made to the car was the addition of a racing-spec driver’s seat that can be ordered from Manthey-Racing if choosing to upgrade to their GT2 RS MR club sport and track day special. According to Porsche the seat was only fitted to alleviate safety concerns, and didn’t subtract any weight from the stock GT2 RS. 

2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR
The 911 GT2 RS MR was set up by Manthey-Racing specifically for tackling the Nürburgring-Norschleife. (Photo: Porsche)

“We kept our eye on the weather all day and thought hard about whether such a drive was possible. We would not have taken any risks if it was raining or if the track was slightly damp,” says Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Motorsport and GT Cars.  

Of note, the otherwise stock 911 GT2 RS featured Manthey-Racing’s new performance kit that includes minor chassis and aerodynamics modifications. Thanks to being set up specifically for the Nürburgring-Norschleife circuit’s characteristics, this MR-specified model became the fastest road-legal vehicle to ever lap ‘The Green Hell’ track. 

“In this test drive, we simply wanted to assess the potential of the vehicle once more,” added Walliser. “The result is quite impressive. It really is a fabulous time. This shows again very clearly the exciting possibilities of this sports car.” 

2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR
The record-setting car was driven by 31-year-old Lars Kern, who also set the previous 911 GT2 RS record last year. (Photo: Porsche/Gruppe C Photography)

The stock GT2 RS, which debuted in June 2017 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex, England, uses a twin-turbo 3.8-litre version of Porsche’s legendary horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine to make 700 horsepower at a lofty 7,000 rpm (that’s an astonishing 184.2 horsepower per litre) and 553 lb-ft from 2,500 to 4,500 rpm. 

Thanks in part to weighing just 1,470 kilograms (3,241 pounds) the rear-wheel drive GT2 RS is capable of sprinting from standstill to 100km/h in a shocking 2.8 seconds, can achieve in-gear acceleration from 80 to 120 km/h in just 1.5 seconds, and attain a top speed of 340 km/h (211.2 mph). Amazingly, this road-going production GT2 RS is capable of a very reasonable 15.4 L/100km in the city, 11.3 on the highway and 13.5 combined, important for a car that also gets used for endurance racing. 

The new Porsche 911 GT2 RS is now available from $334,000 (see all 2018 Porsche 911 pricing including the 911 GT2 RS at CarCostCanada, plus access money saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

Before you go, make sure to check out our photo gallery as well as some incredible video footage of the entire record-setting lap from within the 911 GT2 RS MR cockpit:

 

New record: 911 GT2 RS MR laps the Nürburgring Norschleife in 6:40.3 minutes. (7:14):

Anyone familiar with the new Nissan Titan already knows it’s one seriously capable full-size truck, which makes it ideal for extreme service duty.  Starting with a 2018 Titan XD Diesel Midnight Edition…

Nissan creates special Ultimate Service Titan 4×4 and donates to Red Cross

Ultimate Service Titan 2018
Based on a 2018 Titan XD Diesel Midnight Edition Crew Cab, Nissan transformed into a mobile response unit and then donated to the Red Cross. (Photo: Nissan)

Anyone familiar with the new Nissan Titan already knows it’s one seriously capable full-size truck, which makes it ideal for extreme service duty. 

Starting with a 2018 Titan XD Diesel Midnight Edition Crew Cab, complete with Cummins’ formidable 5.0-litre V8 Turbo Diesel featuring 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque, Nissan created a purpose-built, one-off “Ultimate Service Titan” mobile command centre for the Red Cross non-profit disaster-relief organization. 

The special project truck was presented to the American Red Cross of South Florida at the 2018 Miami International Auto Show (MIAS) last month, as part of Nissan’s Calling All Titans service vehicle campaign that has already seen vehicles donated to Habitat for Humanity and the National Parks Service. 

Ultimate Service Titan 2018
The Ultimate Service Titan has been lengthened and fitted with a completely customized box section. (Photo: Nissan)

Some of the custom work that transformed the stock truck into a go-anywhere rescue vehicle included lengthening the ladder frame, increasing ground clearance with a factory-authorized ICON 3.0-inch lift kit, adding an airbag suspension-leveling system, upgrading the sway bar, equipping it with special ICON wheels wrapped in Nitto Ridge Grappler tires, adding body armour including an Addictive Desert Designs stealth bumper, providing a Warn Zeon Platinum 12S winch to aid rescue efforts including the removal of debris, enhancing lighting with a bevy of Baja Designs LEDs, upgrading the fuel tank to 284 litres, and more. 

Ultimate Service Titan 2018
The one-of-a-kind Titan is fitted with all the types of features a Red Cross rescue operation would need. (Photo: Nissan)

The rear box and bed were removed as well, and replaced with a command centre and shelter designed by B&S Customizing. The rear quarters incorporate “all the necessities for work and rest,” says Nissan, including an emergency response bed for administering medical assistance, storage racks, first aid supplies, a SnoMaster refrigerator for storing blood, a desk, a mobile kitchen with a stove, microwave and sink, a dining area, and a couch that provides an area for workers and volunteers to recuperate between shifts. Additionally, Nissan included built-in Wi-Fi, an upgraded navigation system, a wireless charging station, and a solar generator that ensures all onboard electronics can be kept in use even when access to the grid isn’t possible. 

Ultimate Service Titan 2018
This table and sitting area converts into a bed, while the walls are filled with all types of amenities. (Photo: Nissan)

“Built on the foundation of a rugged Titan XD Diesel – and with aftermarket accessories from some of the most reputable companies in the industry – the Ultimate Service Titan ensures that titans of the community are able to get anywhere, at any time, with the tools they need to get the job done,” said Fred DePerez, vice president of Nissan’s truck division. 

Ultimate Service Titan 2018
The Ultimate Service Titan is serving in Florida, so there’s a chance Canadian Snowbirds might see it pass by, or even find themselves receiving aid from this impressive off-roader. (Photo: Nissan)

As a bit of a backgrounder, Nissan pledged $1 million USD in donations to each of its three Calling All Nissans strategic partner organizations. Depending on requirements the donations may be in cash or a combination of cash and Titan trucks. Thus far, Nissan and the Red Cross have collectively raised more than $2.5 million for the program. 

Of note, the 2018 Titan is available from as low as $36,498 for the regular half-ton or $47,998 for the heavy-duty Titan XD with a 5.6-litre V8 gasoline engine and $55,498 for the same model with the Diesel. Additionally, the new 2019 Titan that will soon be available features some key updates including a larger standard touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a new optional 12-speaker Fender audio system. 

This Ultimate Service Titan will assist the Red Cross in a variety of duties including blood drives and emergency care, and being that it resides in Florida may even be responsible for saving the lives of Canadian snowbirds.

Polestar is Volvo’s new plug-in electric division that will soon bring its own Polestar 1 sports coupe to market in 2019, but it was previously just known for providing performance-tuned versions of…

Latest Polestar Optimization improves rear-wheel bias in Volvo models with AWD

Polestar 1
The Polestar 1, scheduled to arrive next year, wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the latest Polestar Optimization software upgrade due to being a plug-in hybrid. (Photo: Volvo)

Polestar is Volvo’s new plug-in electric division that will soon bring its own Polestar 1 sports coupe to market in 2019, but it was previously just known for providing performance-tuned versions of the icon Swedish brand’s luxury models as well as dealer-installed Polestar Optimization software upgrades for enhancing the performance of otherwise stock models. 

While we all await the beautiful new 100-percent electric two-door model just mentioned, the performance tuning division just came out with a new version of its Polestar Optimization software upgrade to remind us just how capable it is at fine-tuning stock Volvos. 

2019 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD
Volvo models like this 2019 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD can get a performance boost if their owners opt for the dealer-installed Polestar Optimization upgrade. (Photo: Volvo)

This new upgrade to the upgrade is said to increase torque distribution to the rear wheels of Volvo vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD), resulting in better high-speed driving dynamics. 

This latest Polestar Optimization software upgrade “increases the amount and frequency of torque distributed to the rear wheels,” says Volvo in a press release, helping to enhance steering turn-in to provide greater control and more enjoyable driver engagement during cornering, while also improving traction when taking off from a standstill. 

2019 Volvo S60 Inscription
Both new 2019 Volvo crossover SUVs and the Swedish brand’s latest cars, like this 2019 S60, can benefit from the Polestar upgrade. (Photo: Volvo)

“We are always fine-tuning the driving experience of Volvo cars and this upgrade makes the all-wheel drive both smoother and more dynamic,” said Henrik Green, senior vice president of research and development at Volvo Cars. 

After having the Polestar Optimization software upgrade installed, owners simply need to select their car’s sportiest Dynamic drive setting in order to engage the new optimized AWD system. Likewise, the optimized AWD system also engages if they disengage electronic stability control. 

2019 Volvo V60 Cross Country
More rear-wheel bias would make rally crossing this 2019 V60 Cross Country through a muddy backroad a lot more fun. (Photo: Volvo)

This rear-wheel torque distribution feature gets added to a whole host of optimization functions already part of the Polestar software upgrade, with the five existing improvements being sharpened throttle response, quicker off-throttle response, faster gear changes, performance-enhanced transmission shift points with in-corner gear holding, plus stronger engine output. 

2019 Volvo XC40
The latest Polestar Optimization software upgrade is available for 2019 SPA- and CMA-based models, this new XC40 the only Volvo to use the latter chassis architecture so far in North America. (Photo: Volvo)

The updated Polestar AWD optimization is now available for all non-hybrid Volvo models with AWD that are built on SPA and CMA architectures from model year 2019 onward. 

Of note, plug-in hybrid models already incorporate Volvo’s electric rear axle drive (ERAD) system that adds a similar rear-wheel bias, so therefore don’t need the upgrade. 

Also important, Polestar optimization upgrades are manufacturer approved and therefore don’t interfere with Volvo factory warranties. 

Contact your local Volvo dealer if you’d like to find out more.

Volvo is enjoying a major upswing in popularity this year, all because of its fully renewed lineup of attractive, efficient, fun to drive, luxurious, and always safe new models.  While year-over-year…

Volvo unveils Canada’s first vehicle subscription service

CARE BY VOLVO
Volvo has just introduced its new “CARE BY VOLVO” subscription service that takes the hassle out of owning a car. (Photo: Volvo)

Volvo is enjoying a major upswing in popularity this year, all because of its fully renewed lineup of attractive, efficient, fun to drive, luxurious, and always safe new models. 

While year-over-year sales have been strong, up 3.8 percent in October alone, representing 37 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth for the brand, not to mention 38 percent sales growth year-to-date, it’s always better to be proactive about finding new customers than merely reactive. 

Therefore, rather than have its salespeople sit and wait for new business to pick up the phone and call or walk in through the dealership doors, a new Care By Volvo initiative hopes to lure in luxury buyers looking for a totally different kind of ownership experience. 

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design
The new made-in-the-USA 2019 Volvo S60 R-Design is one of two new models available in the Care By Volvo subscription program. (Photo: Volvo)

Care By Volvo is Canada’s first subscription-based car ownership program. All it takes is a few clicks on a smartphone, says Volvo, and Canadians can order a new Volvo in less than 10 minutes. 

The first cars available through the new program include the 2019 Volvo V60 sport wagon and the 2019 Volvo S60 sport sedan, both compact luxury D-segment vehicles priced to go up against industry stalwarts like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. 

Where the Care By Volvo subscription service differs from anything offered by these German automakers or any other competitors is that it includes the car as well as all the regular services that go with it, such as winter tire installation and storage, 24/7 roadside assistance, and a concierge service that assists subscribers through every step of the purchasing process including coordinating delivery with their local Volvo retailer. 

2019 Volvo V60 Inscription
Need more cargo space and versatility? Volvo also lets you choose a V60 sport-luxury wagon. (Photo: Volvo)

“Traditional models of ownership need to be challenged and that’s exactly what we’re doing with Care By Volvo,” says Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director, Volvo Car Canada Ltd. “The subscription service combines the benefits of tomorrow’s technology with the everyday needs of people today – more time for the things they love, fewer distractions, and a clearly defined and predictable cost. We’re proud to be the first in Canada to offer consumers a different way to own and enjoy a car.” 

2019 Volvo S60 Inscription
If you’d like to try something new in 12 months, the Care By Volvo subscription service let’s you choose something totally different. (Photo: Volvo)

Subscription pricing starts at $949 plus tax per month, and includes all professional maintenance, 24/7 roadside assistance, winter wheels and tires, winter tire installation and storage, wear-and-tear protection, appearance protection, road hazard protection, concierge services, and the best part, the ability to upgrade to a new model every 12 months.  

Yes, Care By Volvo subscribers get to upgrade to a new Volvo free of charge after a year of use, or they can keep their existing vehicle for the full 24-month subscription. 

Volvo is hoping this new service is the type of lifestyle choice Canadians want, and if so will have another way of attracting new Volvo owners into the fold. If Care By Volvo sounds like your type of program, check it out at the Volvo Canada website.

Now moving into the third year of its second-generation redesign, the thoroughly improved Panamera four-door coupe is once again available in the purest of Porsche performance trims, GTS.  The new GTS…

2019 Panamera lineup gets sporty new 453 horsepower GTS

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
New for 2019, Porsche has added a sporty GTS model to its Panamera lineup. (Photo: Porsche)

Now moving into the third year of its second-generation redesign, the thoroughly improved Panamera four-door coupe is once again available in the purest of Porsche performance trims, GTS. 

The new GTS model slots in between the $118,500 Panamera 4S and $116,800 4 E-Hybrid models and the $172,500 Panamera Turbo line in both price and performance, with a starting MSRP of $146,200 plus freight and fees in the regular five-door liftback body style or $153,300 in Sport Turismo guise. 

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
The new Panamera GTS gets the model’s telltale blackened exterior trim and other upgrades. (Photo: Porsche)

Unlike the previous Panamera GTS that stuffed a big naturally-aspirated 4.8-litre V8 with 440 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque under the hood, the new one uses the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine found in the latest Panamera Turbo, albeit detuned to make 453 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, which is 13 horsepower and a sizeable 73 lb-ft of torque more than the outgoing model, resulting in a zero to 100km/h sprint time of just 4.1 seconds, compared to 4.4 seconds with the previous GTS as well as the current 440 horsepower Panamera 4S (or 4.2 seconds with the optional Sport Chrono Package), 4.6 seconds with the 462 net-horsepower 4 E-Hybrid, and 3.8 seconds (3.6 seconds with Sport Chrono) with the 550 horsepower Panamera Turbo. 

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
Regular and Sport Turismo body styles can be had with the GTS upgrade. (Photo: Porsche)

The Panamera’s standstill to 100km/h straight-line performance ranges from 5.7 seconds with the base 330 horsepower rear-wheel drive Panamera to 3.4 seconds in the almighty 680 net-horsepower all-wheel drive Turbo S E-Hybrid, so the new GTS fits right into the quicker side of the equation, while it also powers from zero to 160km/h in just 9.6 seconds before attaining a top speed of 292km/h (289 km/h for the GTS Sport Turismo). By comparison, the 4S takes 10.3 seconds to arrive at 160km/h and peaks at 289km/h, whereas the Turbo S E-Hybrid hits the 160km/h mark by 7.6 seconds and maxes out at 310km/h. 

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
Grey lighting elements help to distinguish GTS styling. (Photo: Porsche)

Like all other Panamera models, the new GTS utilizes Porsche’s new in-house designed and built eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission, while Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive makes sure that all available power is put to efficient use. 

Being that most owners will never see the top speed of any Panamera, with even the base model capable of 264km/h, the GTS sets itself apart from its siblings with styling and handling. With respect to the latter, the new model utilizes a standard three-chamber adaptive air suspension preset 10 millimetres lower than the regular Panamera, with the standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system modified for an even sportier setup than usual. Larger 390-mm front and 365-mm rear disc brakes harness all the GTS’ forward momentum, making sure the big four-door is as capable at stopping as it is at going. 

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
Unique GTS details include blackened side vents and wheels. (Photo: Porsche)

If you don’t happen to see the italicized “GTS” script on the lower front door panel or rear liftgate as it speeds past, the new model is as easy to spot from a distance as other GTS models in the Porsche lineup thanks to blackened exterior trim in place of body-colour and metal brightwork. Additionally, a standard Sport Design package means that a black lower lip spoiler, side skirts and rear diffuser get added, while grey accented headlamps and taillights maintain the darkened theme. Lastly, glossy black 20-inch multi-spoke Panamera Design alloys round out the exterior look. 

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
Trademark GTS design elements get applied generously inside, particularly soft black suede-like Alcantara and beautiful anodized aluminum accents. (Photo: Porsche)

Inside, trademark GTS design elements get applied generously, particularly soft black suede-like Alcantara and beautiful anodized aluminum accents. Both are applied to the standard sport steering wheel, with just the former dressing up each insert of the otherwise leather sport seat upholstery front to back. Alcantara gets used for all armrests as well. 

Additionally, as part of the standard GTS Interior Package, Porsche covers the steering wheel hub, the upper and lower sections of the dash including the glove box lid, the edges of the centre console, and each door panel in its entirety with soft leather for a downright hedonistic experience. 

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
The Alcantara enhanced sport seats can be upgraded with Carmine Red embroidered GTS logos, red contrast stitching and red seatbelts, or other colours if you prefer. (Photo: Porsche)

The aforementioned sport steering wheel includes its own heatable element to match those in the front seats, plus each spoke is filled with multifunction switchgear that includes Connect Plus for accessing a variety of digital services, while at the backside of each spoke you’ll find a set of metal paddle shifters. 

The aforementioned GTS Interior Package can also be combined with a Carmine Red or Chalk grey two-tone effect for an extra $3,980, or if you want to personalize the look further you can choose from myriad leather colourways. Porsche also offers the ability to upgrade the interior with a unique tachometer face, Carmine Red or Chalk contrast stitching throughout the interior, embroidered GTS headrest logos in Carmine Red or Chalk, matching seatbelts, etcetera. 

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
At the heart of the new 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS is this glorious 453-hp twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8. (Photo: Porsche)

All of the special GTS features get added to a new Panamera that was much improved for its second-generation makeover, with all 2019 models including the Porsche Advanced Cockpit digital gauge cluster as standard, not to mention advanced driver assistance systems like the highly sophisticated Porsche InnoDrive adaptive cruise control system with stop and go capability plus more. 

Also, new to the Panamera range yet standard with the GTS is a full colour head-up display unit that projects vital information onto the windscreen ahead of the driver. 

The new 2019 Panamera GTS is available now at Porsche retailers across Canada.