There’s been a V8 in Aston Martin’s lineup since 1969, and while the latest version wasn’t designed in-house by famed engine-builder Tadek Marek or massaged from the Ford-sourced albeit hand-assembled…

Lighter, nimbler Aston Martin DB11 gets twin-turbo V8 power

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
Aston’s relationship with Mercedes-AMG bears fruit with this fabulous 503-hp V8-powered DB11. (Photo: Aston Martin)

There’s been a V8 in Aston Martin’s lineup since 1969, and while the latest version wasn’t designed in-house by famed engine-builder Tadek Marek or massaged from the Ford-sourced albeit hand-assembled AJ37, it’s very special just the same.

This one hails from Mercedes’ AMG headquarters, unlike the in-house engineered and produced 600 horsepower twin-turbo 5.2-litre V12 that’s currently under the DB11’s long, elegant hood, but it nevertheless remains individually hand-built.

The new 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 makes a considerable 503 horsepower and 498 lb-ft of torque, which is a major step up from the current A-M 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 that puts out 430 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque in top-line “S” guise. This allows for a near identical standstill to 100km/h sprint time of 4.0 seconds to the V12-powered DB11 that manages the feat in 3.9 seconds, whereas the V8’s top speed is rated at 301 km/h (187 mph) compared to the V12’s 322 km/h (201 mph).

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
A cleaner design sans twinned centre hood vents and smoked headlamp bezels help distinguish V8-powered DB11s. (Photo: Aston Martin)

Being that terminal velocity is more about bragging rights than anything useful, similar to the “need” for a 390 bar Rolex Deepsea or even a 120 bar Sea-Dweller when a regular 30 bar Sub will do just fine (serious divers use wrist computers anyway), most DB11 buyers should be more than satisfied with the V8’s everyday performance, while even more appealing is the smaller engine’s 115-kilo (254-pound) weight reduction, most of which is over the front wheels, as well as the car’s lighter 1,760-kg (3,880-lb) curb weight, plus the fact the V8 gets pushed rearward behind the front axle for better weight distribution.

According to A-M’s press release, the new layout and reduced weight makes for “an increased sense of agility,” although such improvements also need to be attributed to “detailed revisions to the suspension bushing, geometry, anti-roll bars, springs, dampers and ESP software.” Therefore, “the V8 appeals to those customers drawn to a refined and comfortable GT with a more sporting bias,” continues Aston Martin. We’re certainly ok with that.

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
V8-powered DB11s get unique wheel designs as well. (Photo: Aston Martin)

While the engine comes completed from AMG, Aston adds its own air intake, exhaust system, and slimline wet sump lubrication design, the latter allowing a lower centre of gravity, before creating new ECU software and reprogramming the engine and throttle mapping, giving it performance characteristics and sound qualities more familiar to Aston Martin owners, and finally fastening it into the DB11’s engine bay via bespoke engine mounts.

“As an engineer I find the DB11 a fascinating car,” said Max Szwaj, Aston Martin Chief Technical Officer. “One with great depth of character and ability. Of course the V12-engined variant is an icon – an ultimate, if you like, but the V8 is very much its own car. One with a distinct and carefully crafted character that’s truly seductive. It has been hugely rewarding to put our stamp on this new engine – both in the way it sounds and performs – and to use its impressive attributes as the impetus to reveal a little more of the DB11’s sporting character.”

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
Powertrain and few exterior trim items aside, the DB11 V8 gets the same standard and available features as the V12. (Photo: Aston Martin)

As for distinctive characteristics that set the V8-powered DB11 apart from the V12 model, A-M removes the two nostril-style engine vents from the hood’s centre panels for an arguably cleaner look, adds darkened headlamp bezels, and leaves all other differentiation up to unique wheels all-round. The two remaining engine vents are available in black or a titanium-finish mesh.

There are no differences with either V8 or V12 cabins, as each car receives an identical list of standard features and the same extensive menu of available colours and optional trims.

We’d like to think Aston Martin owners are environmentally conscious, although such issues probably don’t matter as much to the brand’s performance- and luxury-oriented clientele as to the automaker itself, which is forced to deal with a literal world of regulating bodies that are forever increasing their emissions restrictions. Therefore A-M is proud of the new V8 engine’s CO2 figure of 230g/km, which allows for lower taxation rates in key growth markets like China.

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8
New AMG-built twin-turbo V8 gets plenty of Aston handiwork, plus a signature on top to verify that it’s handbuilt. (Photo: Aston Martin)

“The DB11 is the most complete and sophisticated car Aston Martin has ever made,” said Dr. Andy Palmer, Aston Martin President and CEO. “Now, with this new V8 engine option we have broadened its appeal by offering a car that will bring the DB11 to more customers around the world while still blessed with the exceptional performance and memorable character that sets Aston Martin apart from its rivals. Having driven the car during its development phase, it is not just the engine that has changed the character of the car, but also the resulting dynamic changes to create a remarkable GT car with its own distinct personality from the V12.”

The new V8-powered DB11 will be available in the North American markets during Q4 of 2017, with pricing starting at $198,995 USD. Expect Canadian pricing and other details closer to availability.

Anyone who’s driven Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid knows it’s an especially impressive sport-luxury sedan, especially in top-line Elite trim. It’s just suffering from forgetful styling, which is nothing…

Dramatic new 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid revealed

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura has given its RLX a dramatic mid-cycle makeover for 2018, with its sharply chiseled diamond pentagon grille front and centre. (Photo: Acura)

Anyone who’s driven Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid knows it’s an especially impressive sport-luxury sedan, especially in top-line Elite trim. It’s just suffering from forgetful styling, which is nothing a mid-cycle makeover can’t fix.

That’s what Acura has planned for the 2018 RLX, following the same Precision Crafted Performance design language theme as the recently rejuvenated 2018 TLX, and the MDX that underwent extensive cosmetic surgery for the 2017 model year.

Acura plans to show the new 2018 RLX in the metal at the upcoming Monterey Automotive Week that runs from August 15 through 19 in Monterey, California, where it hopes to find favour with its ideal target market.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The new RLX now looks as fast as it actually is. (Photo: Acura)

The most noticeable change to the new RLX is the adaption of Acura’s new signature diamond pentagon grille and more pronounced Acura badge at centre, which transforms its front end while giving a new sense of purpose to the entire car.

“This redesign of the 2018 Acura RLX is transformational, creating road presence and styling that better reflect underlying performance capabilities of the vehicle,” said Gary Gill, Acura Senior Manager, Acura Sales and Marketing.

After decades of searching for a trademark brand identity that’s both unquestionably unique and undeniably attractive, Acura created the new diamond pentagon grille first seen on the dramatic 2016 Acura Precision Concept that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 2016, a car we’d love to see brought to production as soon as possible.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Rear changes are less obvious, but new LED taillights, a revised bumper and reshaped dual exhaust tips complete the refresh. (Photo: Acura)

Additional exterior enhancements with the new RLX include reworked five-element LED headlamps featuring new LED character strips around their outside edges, a totally revised more aggressively styled lower front fascia, a more sharply sculpted hood, more detail along the extended rocker panels including unique chrome mouldings that visually extend from those on the front and rear fascias, redesigned LED taillights, a new rear bumper with an integrated gloss black diffuser, new dual exhaust finishers, and new alloy wheels.

The 2018 RLX is Acura’s third production model to receive the new diamond pentagon grille design, the fabulous NSX Sport Hybrid ironically using a modernized version of the outgoing grille’s general shape, although it might be challenging to graft the bold new look onto the sleek mid-engine supercar’s narrow front fascia.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The new LED taillights are quite complex close up. (Photo: Acura)

The NSX marked the second hybrid in Acura’s lineup when it arrived late last year as a 2017 model, the first being the RLX since model year 2015, while the Japanese luxury brand added the new MDX Sport Hybrid earlier this year.

The RLX Sport Hybrid powertrain bridges the gap between the blisteringly quick NSX Sport Hybrid and the more family-oriented MDX Sport Hybrid. The former utilizes a similar tri-motor electrified setup as the more conventional models, albeit completely reversed due to its mid-engine sports car layout. The NSX puts out a sensational 573 net horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque, which makes it an honest challenger to the Audi R8 e-tron, BMW’s i8, and other hybrid supercars, whereas the MDX Sport Hybrid produces a more modest 321 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque due to a smaller 3.0-litre V6. This makes the 3.5-litre V6-powered RLX Sport Hybrid’s 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque the mediator, an apropos position to be in for an executive sedan.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura has reportedly improved interior materials quality, although the outgoing RLX was already nicely put together. (Photo: Acura)

Of note, the 310 horsepower conventionally powered front-wheel drive model sold in the U.S., featuring a new 10-speed automatic transmission as well as Acura’s Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS) won’t be offered in Canada.

Like the other Sport Hybrid models, the RLX Sport Hybrid uses Acura’s three-motor powertrain with electric torque vectoring, featuring an internal combustion engine (ICE) powering the front wheels in concert with an electric assist motor. The RDX defaults to this most fuel-efficient mode in the dry or under light loads, but if increased throttle input, hard cornering, or driving on slippery surfaces causes the need for rear-wheel propulsion an electrified version of Acura’s torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) provides traction from all four tires via two rear wheel-mounted electric motors.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
There won’t be a fully configurable TFT gauge cluster for this refresh, but the multi-info display is nice and large. (Photo: Acura)

Acura dubs this system Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (Sport Hybrid SH-AWD), resulting in a long enough name to make the German’s proud, and while it’s a particularly advanced hybrid powertrain, its sophistication only scrapes the surface of all the technology aboard the RLX.

Like the 2017 RLX Sport Hybrid we reviewed earlier this year, the new 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid will carry forward with the AcuraWatch suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) including forward collision warning with autonomous collision mitigation braking, blindspot monitoring and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation, and rear cross-traffic alert, which was enough to earn the 2017 RLX an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating, while new for 2018 is Traffic Jam Assist, a first for Acura.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura’s dual-screen infotainment system will soldier on for 2018, complete with standard navigation and more. (Photo: Acura)

Traffic Jam Assist works together with another AcuraWatch feature, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow, helping reduce driver fatigue and stress amid congested traffic by keeping the RLX within its lane at a set interval behind the car ahead. Consider it low-speed autopilot, which is certainly a safer way to implement fully autonomous driving than some premium carmakers.

AcuraWatch combines millimeter wave radar together with monocular camera sensing technology in order to detect lane markings and surrounding vehicles, which not only keeps the car within its lane, but can also intervene in order to prevent a collision or mitigate the severity of impact.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The old model’s seats were superb and still appear plenty comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Acura)

Additional standard 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid features include LED fog lamps, remote start, colour head-up display, navigation, voice recognition, a heated steering wheel, heatable front and rear seats, and more, while the sensational Krell audio system will continue forward in the new model.

Acura will offer three new exterior colour choices to 2018 RLX customers, including Brilliant Red Metallic (shown) and Majestic Black Pearl that fall under the premium paint category.

Premium in mind, Acura promises some interior enhancements including improved materials on key touch points, such as redesigned seats featuring high-contrast stitching and piping, plus a new Espresso interior option.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The RLX was the first of Acura’s Sport Hybrid models, with three now available. (Photo: Acura)

A more detailed list of features, prices and fuel economy information will be released ahead of the car’s November 2017 on-sale date.

Rarely does a mid-cycle refresh make such a dramatic difference, and no doubt Acura is hoping the new design direction helps raise the RLX Sport Hybrid’s currently slow sales volume, which resulted in just 37 Canadian sales over the first six months of 2017 and a mere 107 during all of last year. This meant that at the close of 2017 the RLX was the sixth slowest selling car in Canada, right behind the seventh slowest selling Infiniti Q70 that’s arguably its closest competitor. At least Acura can take some solace in selling more flagship luxury sedans than Lexus and Kia sold full-size LS and K900 models, the latter Canada’s least popular car of all, whereas Audi, Porsche, Maserati and Jaguar won’t be feeling too smug in ninth, 12th, 13th and 14th slowest for their A8, Panamera, Ghibli and XJ respectively—Lexus’ GS sedan’s 17th placement making it the top-selling direct rival on the bottom 20 list.

Expect the 2018 Acura RLX to climb up through the ranks after November, but don’t count on it catching up to the ultra-popular RDX and MDX crossover SUVs anytime soon.

Anyone who follows the car industry wouldn’t have been shocked to see the new 2018 XC60 when Volvo unveiled it at the Geneva auto show on March 7th of this year. It looked much like we all expected…

Redesigned 2018 XC60 arriving at Canadian Volvo dealers this month

2018 Volvo XC60 R-Design
The new 2018 XC60 promises to be a game-changer for Volvo. (Photo: Volvo)

Anyone who follows the car industry wouldn’t have been shocked to see the new 2018 XC60 when Volvo unveiled it at the Geneva auto show on March 7th of this year. It looked much like we all expected it to, a smaller, sportier variation on the XC90 theme with a little V90 thrown in, a good thing as the former SUV is mostly responsible for returning the Swedish brand to the forefront of the luxury industry.

The XC60 is a critically important model for Volvo, representing 30 percent of its worldwide automotive sales. What’s more, the outgoing first-generation XC60 is now nine years into its lifecycle, resulting in slowing sales despite a growing compact luxury SUV market segment, so this totally new 2018 redesign couldn’t come soon enough.

2018 Volvo XC60 Inscription
Volvo Canada will offer three trims, the base Momentum, sporty R-Design (in white), and this classy Inscription model. (Photo: Volvo)

Fortunately we won’t have to wait much longer, as the new 2018 XC60 will start arriving at Canadian Volvo dealers later this month. Pricing starts at just $45,900 plus freight and fees for the T5 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, standard AWD, and base Momentum trim.

The T5 engine is Volvo’s direct-injection turbocharged 2.0-litre “Drive-E” four-cylinder, making 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Two optional engines will join the XC60 lineup at launch, including a 316 horsepower (and 295 lb-ft of torque) version of the same four-cylinder in the T6, boosted by a supercharger as well, plus a 400 horsepower T8 variant with 472 lb-ft of torque that includes assistance from the same Twin Power plug-in hybrid technology found in the current XC90 T8. The XC60 T8 is claimed to sprint from zero to 100km/h in just 5.3 seconds.

2018 Volvo XC60 R-Design
With stylish new sheetmetal and attractive design details, the XC60 is sure to be a hit. (Photo: Volvo)

All powertrains are assisted by automated engine start/stop functionality to reduce emissions and save fuel, the technology helping the new 2018 XC60 achieve a five-cycle Transport Canada claimed rating of 10.6 L/100km city and 7.6 highway for the XC60 T5 AWD powertrain, or 11.4 L/100km city and 8.7 highway for the XC60 T6 AWD, albeit no estimate yet for the XC60 T8 eAWD.

We can guess, however, that the smaller, lighter SUV will be a bit thriftier on fuel than mid-size XC90 T8 eAWD, and that model is rated at 10.1 L/100km in the city, 8.8 on the highway and 9.5 combined. This said, when factoring in regular charging an owner could potentially drive the XC90 T8 eAWD every day without ever needing to fill the gas tank, although its official Le/100km (gasoline litres equivalent per 100 kilometres) rating is more conservatively estimated at 4.7 combined city/highway. A slightly better rating should be achievable with the new XC60 T8 eAWD.

2018 Volvo XC60 R-Design
All models get unique exterior detailing, this R-Design being the sportiest in the range. (Photo: Volvo)

XC60 trims will include Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. Base Momentum trim is also available with the T6 powertrain for $52,200, whereas the T6 in R-Design and Inscription trims will be priced at $55,450 and $57,050 respectively. Lastly, the top-tier XC60 T8 will only be available in R-Design and Inscription trims, with MSRPs of $69,550 and $71,150 respectively.

Standard Momentum features include 18-inch 5-Y-Spoke silver alloys on 235/60 all-season tires, LED headlights with integrated “Thor’s Hammer” DRLs, LED taillights, bright metal for the side window surrounds and roof rails, dual chromed tailpipes, metal doorsills with “Volvo” branding, a three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped gear knob, powered and heated front seats with four-way powered lumbar support and driver’s memory, Charcoal black leather upholstery, Iron Ore aluminum inlays, and dual-zone auto climate control with CleanZone that monitors incoming air and closes the intakes if harmful substances are detected, incorporates a multi-filter to reduce dust, pollen, particles and chemical odours, and automatically ventilates the cabin upon unlocking.

2018 Volvo XC60 Inscription
The new XC60 promises an opulent cabin in upper trims, in similar fashion to its larger XC90 sibling. (Photo: Volvo)

Tech fans will appreciate the new standard 8.0-inch colour TFT instrument cluster, while additional standard features include rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, voice activation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Sensus touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rear parking camera, 224-watt audio, satellite radio, one auxiliary and two USB connections, Volvo On-Call, illuminated vanity mirrors, a powered panoramic sunroof, a powered tailgate, a cargo cover, a metal scuff plate on the cargo sill, and much more.

Volvos are renowned for the highest standards of safety, and the XC60 appears to be no different from models’ past with its standard safety equipment including front collision mitigation support (between 60 and 140 km/h), lane keeping assist (between 65 km/h and 200 km/h), front seat whiplash protection, seatbelt pretensioners on all positions, all the usual airbags including one for the driver’s knees, hill start assist, hill descent control, tire pressure monitoring, and more.

2018 Volvo XC60 R-Design
The upgraded R-Design interior includes some aggressively bolstered sport seats. (Photo: Volvo)

Building on base Momentum models is a multitude of option groups including the $3,100 Momentum Plus package that adds full-LED headlights with auto high beams, dynamic corning ability and high-pressure cleaning, proximity-sensing keyless entry with hands-free tailgate opening, “High-Level” cabin illumination, a 12.3-inch configurable TFT gauge cluster, and four-zone auto HVAC with a cooled glove box; a $1,400 Sport package featuring a performance-tuned suspension, a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, sport seats with manual cushion extensions, and a black roofliner; $1,350 Climate package with heatable wiper blades, windshield, steering wheel and rear outboard seats; a $2,300 Climate package with HUD, that includes everything from the just noted Climate package plus a head-up display; an $1,800 Vision package with power-folding and auto-dimming side mirrors, a 360-degree Surround View parking camera, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus Park Assist Pilot with front and rear parking sensors; and a $2,200 Convenience package with Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous Drive System that has the ability to steer, accelerate and brake on well-marked roads up to 130 km/h, adaptive cruise control, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, an integrated compass in the rearview mirror, power-folding rear headrests, and power-folding rear seatbacks.

2018 Volvo XC60 R-Design
This powered panoramic sunroof is standard kit. (Photo: Volvo)

Standalone Momentum options include $900 for metallic paint, $1,000 for 19-inch twinned spoke diamond cut alloys on 235/55 all-season tires (which are standard if opting for the T6 drivetrain), 20-inch twinned five-spoke diamond cut alloys on 255/45 tires (with T6 trim only), no-cost Charcoal black, Amber tan, or Blonde interior colour schemes including upholstery (or Charcoal and Blonde with the Sport package in T6 guise), $1,150 for the aforementioned head-up display (without the package), $3,250 for a 1,100-watt 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system, and exclusively for T6 models a $2,350 4-Corner Air Suspension with a Four-C Active Chassis to improve comfort, handling and off-road capability.

R-Design trim includes unique exterior details such as a horizontal mesh patterned grille insert, brushed aluminum-like silk metal trim around that grille and the side windows, matte silver side mirror housings, sportier looking front and rear lower fascias, and 19-inch twinned five-spoke diamond cut alloys with matte black pockets on 235/55 tires, while the interior gets R-Design doorsill plates, R-Design floor mats, a special perforated leather-wrapped R-Design sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, perforated leather on the shift knob, metal pedals, unique Metal Mesh inlays, a black headliner, Nubuck R-Design Charcoal black leather upholstery with contrast stitching, special sport seats with manual front cushion extensions, and more.

2018 Volvo XC60 R-Design
A crystal shift knob? This option adds to the XC90’s upscale ambience. (Photo: Volvo)

Additional standard R-Design kit includes everything from the previous Momentum package plus fog lamps, illuminated door handles with puddle lights, proximity-sensing keyless entry with hands-free tailgate opening, road sign info, personal steering settings with low, medium or high assistance, four-zone auto HVAC with a cooled glove box, Sensus Navigation with real time traffic info, rear parking assist, netted pockets on the transmission tunnel, active noise control with engine/exhaust sound enhancement, and more.

Due to the R-Design model’s increased standard content, available option groups are limited to the Climate package, Climate package with HUD, Vision package, Convenience package, plus a new $1,500 Tailored Dashboard package featuring a full leather covered instrument panel with contrast stitching and a 12-volt charger in the cargo area, while standalone options include the same $900 for metallic paint, $1,000 for unique 21-inch triple-spoke diamond cut alloys with black painted pockets on 255/40 performance tires, and the previously noted 4-Corner Air Suspension.

2018 Volvo XC60
Inscription trim adds a two-tone leather-wrapped steering wheel and a fully configurable TFT gauge cluster. (Photo: Volvo)

Lastly, Inscription trim takes a more traditional luxury approach to the XC60’s look and feel and therefore does away with the R-Design’s sportier styling and performance enhancements, but it keeps all the other upgrades while adding a unique grille insert with bright metal vertical slats, 20-inch eight-spoke diamond cut alloys with black painted pockets on 255/45 tires, driver-selectable Comfort, Eco, Dynamic, Off-Road and Individual “Drive-Mode” settings for adjusting powertrain and steering characteristics, perforated Nappa Leather upholstery in all the colours noted previously as well as Maroon Brown, powered front seat bolsters and extensions, ventilated front seats, front passenger seat memory, Driftwood grey hardwood inlays, the Tailored Dashboard instrument panel upgrade, and more.

Inscription trim gets the same four packages and three standalone options as the R-Design, while adding available $425 Linear Lime hardwood inlays to the latter list.

2018 Volvo XC60 Inscription
The XC90’s tablet-style Sensus infotainment system has won awards, and this XC60 system appears identical. (Photo: Volvo)

The new XC60 appears to incorporate the same elevated attention to detail and excellent materials quality inside as the XC90, its two-tone leather-wrapped steering wheel, metal and open pore hardwood inlays, finely crafted metal-adorned switchgear, and superb digital interfaces of particular note. The XC90 won almost every award it possibly could have in its first two years, which certainly bodes well for the new 2018 XC60.

Expect Canadian XC60 sales to improve dramatically starting this fall, likely on a similar trajectory to the XC90 that only found 427 buyers in 2014, the final full year of its old body style, yet improved to 957 customers during 2015 when the new XC90 was introduced partway through the year, and finally 2,951 after its first full year of 2016. In comparison, Volvo Canada sold 1,526 XC60s last year, which is more than three times the XC90’s pre-makeover unit sales, so therefore deliveries could potentially grow to the 4,000–5,000 unit range, which would still find it below its Audi Q5, Acura RDX, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC competitors, but result in a massive turnaround for the previously embattled Swedish brand.

In today’s SUV-crazed world it’s getting harder and harder to hawk sedans, even by premium brands. The compact D-segment, which appeared impenetrable just a couple of years ago, saw every single model…

New 2018 Acura TLX revs up premium D-segment with stylish new look

2018 Acura TLX
The dramatically refreshed 2018 TLX, seen here in V6 SH-AWD Elite trim, should help Acura hold its best-of-the-rest D-segment status. (Photo: Acura)

In today’s SUV-crazed world it’s getting harder and harder to hawk sedans, even by premium brands. The compact D-segment, which appeared impenetrable just a couple of years ago, saw every single model less Audi’s A4 lose market share from the 2015 calendar year through 2016. That list includes BMW’s mighty 3 Series and Mercedes’ equally strong C-Class, plus Acura’s TLX that outsells all non-German contenders.

While far behind BMW and Mercedes on the D-segment sales chart, Acura came close to matching Audi at the close of 2015, the TLX’ first full year, with 5,075 sales compared to 5,461 for the A4, and the four-ringed German brand was able to boost its numbers by including A4 Allroad crossover wagon deliveries. More importantly, the TLX blew away its Japanese rivals with Lexus only selling 3,401 IS sedans and Infiniti just 3,295 Q50s.

2018 Acura TLX
The A-Spec package offers a much sportier take on the TLX look, and should prove very popular. (Photo: Acura)

Still, as calendar year 2016 ended the entire D-segment had slowed considerably, with the TLX accounting for just 4,137 sales (compared to 3,033 IS sedans and 2,969 Q50s), while by the close of Q2 2017 its numbers had fallen further to 1,818 units compared to 2,082 after the first six months of 2016 (although still ahead of the IS at 1,607 and Q50 at 1,131), which means the dramatically refreshed 2018 model couldn’t come soon enough.

TLX sales are looking more positive since the new model went on sale June 1, with a monthly total of 391 units compared to 348 during the same 30 days last year. What’s more, this new high resulted in the TLX’ best June ever. Of course, judging the full impact of the updated model will take more time, but it has certainly started off on the right track.

2018 Acura TLX
A-Spec models get unique blacked out details including an aggressive rear diffuser. (Photo: Acura)

In the TLX’ corner is a dramatic mid-cycle refresh that gives the car a fresh new look, its Acura Precision Concept-inspired “diamond pentagon grille” making the biggest visual statement. Its sharply chiseled appearance should look familiar, as the ultra-popular 2017 MDX crossover SUV received its version first.

The bold new grille is underscored by a complementary lower front fascia, which either comes to a body-colour point at centre or gets filled with a wide engine vent featuring a sporty honeycomb mesh insert. The 2018 TLX’ hood gets more sharply sculpted creases, whereas the front fenders have been reshaped to meld cleanly into the new front styling. Milder changes down each side and in the rear finish off the look, while all models now sport dual exhaust ports.

2018 Acura TLX
Grey-painted twinned five-spoke 19-inch alloys are exclusive to the A-Spec. (Photo: Acura)

The sportier lower fascia just mentioned is exclusive to the new A-Spec variant that adds yet more visual drama due to a unique matte-black grille insert, a dark appearance for Acura’s signature five-lamp Jewel Eye LED headlights, unique black honeycomb mesh bezels for the circular LED fog lamps, body-colour rocker extensions down each side, “smoked” LED taillights, and an aggressive black diffuser below the rear bumper, housing bigger four-inch dual exhaust finishers.

The A-Spec also replaces the regular model’s chrome trim with matte black side window surrounds and dark chrome around the front grille, making the latter look larger in the process, while bright chrome trim is deleted from the front fascia and the usual body-colour rear deck lid spoiler gets a glossy black treatment. Acura rounds out the A-Spec design with a set of menacing looking twinned five-spoke Shark Grey 19-inch alloy wheels on Michelin Primacy 245/40R19 tires, in place of the more luxury-oriented model’s bright machine-finished multi-spoke 17-, 18- and 19-inch rims mounted on more modest rubber. As a finishing touch, A-Spec badges are added to the front fenders and rear deck lid.

2018 Acura TLX
The A-Spec interior features unique red and metal highlights. (Photo: Acura)

“We’re enhancing the already outstanding dynamic performance of the Acura TLX by carrying our Precision Crafted Performance direction through to the exterior design,” said Gary Gill, Senior Manager Acura Sales and Marketing. “The addition of the new A-Spec further advances the TLX to a more distinctive position in the segment and enhances its appeal to a more performance oriented buyer.”

Acura retuned the A-Spec chassis to match the uprated wheel and tire package, with a focus on electric power steering and damper settings, whereas SH-AWD-equipped cars also incorporate a quicker, more responsive steering ratio, stiffer spring rates, and a thicker rear stabilizer bar.

2018 Acura TLX
A wide variety of interior colour themes and materials will help owners customize the look and feel of their TLX. (Photo: Acura)

Additionally, the A-Spec model gets a sportier interior that includes an exclusive leather-wrapped steering wheel with a thicker rim and an A-Spec badge, bright red needles and indices for the primary gauge cluster, brushed aluminum-look trim for the instrument panel and lower console edges, red ambient LED light piping under the inlays, along the edges of the lower console, and within the cupholders, a black headliner and roof pillars, plus heavily bolstered front seats featuring contrast stitching and piping.

All 2018 TLX models will benefit from Acura’s completely redesigned ODMD 2.0 dual-screen infotainment interface, which is claimed to include “more intuitive menus and command structures.” The old resistive touchscreen has been replaced by a new 7.0-inch capacitive version, with 30-percent quicker response times plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

What’s more, every new 2018 TLX receives a standard suite of AcuraWatch advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) including Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel haptic feedback, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation, while blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is optional.

2018 Acura TLX
Acura has revised the infotainment system for faster operation and the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Photo: Acura)

Two engines are available, including a base 16-valve, DOHC, direct-injection i-VTEC 2.4-litre four-cylinder that makes 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque and drives the front wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch automated transmission with Sequential SportShift manual mode and paddles on the steering wheel, the latter component benefiting from standard Precision All-Wheel Steering or P-AWS, while an optional 3.5-litre V6 puts 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels via a conventional nine-speed automatic with manual-mode and paddles.

As per usual in the luxury class, pricier premium unleaded is recommended for both engines in order to achieve best possible performance and fuel economy, but they’re reasonably efficient with five-cycle ratings ranging from 10.0 to 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.1 to 7.4 on the highway, and 8.7 to 8.9 combined for the four-cylinder FWD model, or 11.4 to 12.0 L/100km city, 7.7 to 8.2 highway, and 9.8 to 10.3 combined for the V6-powered SH-AWD model.

The 2018 TLX undercuts most of its competitors with a starting price of $35,990 plus freight and fees, while SH-AWD models start at $40,990. The new A-Spec package can be had for just $42,190 when fitted to four-cylinder FWD trims, whereas the TLX A-Spec SH-AWD models start at $47,390.

Anyone not cognizant of a steady increase in luxury SUV sales has been focused on other things than the automotive market, but they’ll likely become amply aware when it comes time to trade in their…

New AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ to leave sport ute rivals far behind

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe
New 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe models to dominate compact SUV performance segment with 503-hp apiece. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Anyone not cognizant of a steady increase in luxury SUV sales has been focused on other things than the automotive market, but they’ll likely become amply aware when it comes time to trade in their ride and they visit the showroom of their favourite premium brand.

Along with the usual assortment of sport-luxury sedans, two- and four-door sport coupes, convertibles, and traditional sport wagons, they’ll be met by more new SUVs than they’ve ever seen, filling ever-increasing segments as well as micro niches never before imagined.

The new GLC Coupe is just one of those unusually welcome alternatives within the burgeoning luxury SUV sector, helping to fill out a particularly focused market segment that was previously only occupied by BMW’s X4.

The sporty Mercedes SUV arrived in similar fashion as the German brand’s GLE Coupe, which now handily goes up against BMW’s long-running X6 in the larger mid-size SUV category. The fastback Merc went on sale in 2014, a considerable eight years after the Bimmer, with Stuttgart appearing to have waited in order to judge market reaction to the Bavarian’s entry. Surprising many, Mercedes took no time bringing the smaller GLC Coupe to market the following year as a 2016 model.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV
The AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV is the more practical of the two due to its traditional SUV design. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Now that we’re about to enter model year 2018, things are heating up a lot more thanks to the expected arrival of Mercedes-AMG’s new GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe. It’s a perfect example of how the top German brands lead all premium competitors by filling niches within niches. In this case BMW was first with its X4 M40i, but that sporty model in no way diminishes the impact of this exciting new three-pointed star entry, especially considering that along with the SUV coupe version comes a more practical AMG-tuned compact SUV.

That would be Mercedes-AMG’s GLC 63 S 4Matic+ that first showed up alongside the SUV Coupe variant at the 2017 New York International Auto Show in early April, a model that only has Audi’s SQ5, Jaguar’s F-Pace S and Range Rover’s new Velar for competition, being that BMW has yet to modify its more traditional compact X3 SUV. Just the same, both AMG-tuned M-B SUVs deliver a level of potency that should cause their rivals to shy away from a direct fight on the track.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe
The sweptback AMG GLC 63 S Coupe 4Matic+ gets a unique “Race” mode for track dominance. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Where the X4 M40i and SQ5 put out a similar 355 and 354 horsepower respectively, plus 343 and 369 lb-ft of torque, and the slightly larger supercharged 3.0-litre V6 powered F-Pace and Velar improve on both with 380 horsepower apiece, albeit only 332 lb-ft of torque, Mercedes seems to have its targets set more directly on Porsche’s Macan Turbo that unleashes 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque in regular trim or 440 and 442 respectively with its Performance package. Still, as impressive as Porsche’s top compact SUV is, in all-conquering AMG style the two new GLC 63 S 4Matic+ models produce 503 scorching horsepower and 516 lb-ft of tire smoking torque.

The dominant engine is nothing less than Mercedes-AMG’s handcrafted and individually signed twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, a dry-sump version of which is shared with the mighty AMG GT sports car, whereas cog swapping duties come by the brand’s new in-house designed and built AMG SpeedShift MCT 9-speed automatic that debuted in the E 63 S 4Matic+, a lightweight paddle shifter-actuated transmission boasting a start-off wet clutch (that replaces the torque converter), ultra-short shift/response times, and double-declutching functionality.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe
Both AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe models boast the same hand-built twin-turbo V8. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Of course, such specifications result in a very quick tag team of sport utilities, with zero to 100 km/h sprints of 3.8 seconds each, aided by an electronic limited-slip rear differential and constantly variable front-to-rear torque distribution from the standard 4Matic+ all-wheel drivetrain that’s also tuned by AMG. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h.

Four wheel grip is further enhanced by a standard set of twinned five-spoke lightweight 20-inch alloys on 265/45 front and 295/40 rear performance tires (or optional 21-inch forged alloys with 265/40 front and 295/35 rear rubber) that also help it stop faster via special high-performance brakes featuring 390-millimetre drilled and internally-ventilated discs front and back, whereas an adjustable air suspension with adaptive adjustable damping optimizes cornering capability.

What’s more, in order to give the GLC 63 S Coupe 4Matic+ an edge over its more pragmatic sibling, Mercedes has added a “Race” mode to its usual Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual driver-selectable AMG Dynamic Select performance settings. These modify engine, transmission, suspension, steering, ESP, and all-wheel drive responsiveness depending on demands.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe
Interior detailing includes high grade materials finished with unique AMG detailing in black and red. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

An easy way to tell these ultimate performance SUVs apart from their less formidable brethren are AMG Panamericana-style frontal grilles with unique vertical strakes, similar in design to those found on the much lauded Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster and GT R sports coupe. The GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe also benefit from unique front and rear bumper designs, while the wheel arches are widened to fit their meatier rims and rubber, plus the SUV body style gets its first rear rooftop spoiler.

Inside, special sport seats are covered with Mercedes’ exclusive Artico leatherette bolsters and suede-like Dinamica microfibre inserts, these materials showing up elsewhere around the cabin as well. Additionally, a tasteful supply of aluminum trim joins a mostly black interior that gets spiced up with red accents, not to mention the expected AMG-embossed badges. Beautifully finished carbon-fibre trim is also available, inside and out.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV
The new Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe promise superb handling for both road and track. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“For us, the new GLC 63 S 4MATIC+ is quite a special vehicle,” said Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “It is no easy job designing an SUV to be highly sporty and dynamic, while at the same time offering exceptional driving stability. This required us to put our heart and soul, along with our many years of SUV expertise, into the development of this vehicle. The result is an SUV that can be driven with high precision and agility and which, if required, is equally at home on a high-speed lap of the racetrack. With our V8 biturbo engine, we hold a decisive USP in the Performance market. What is more, with SUV and Coupe, we offer the widest choice in the segment. Also, the technical closeness to our sports cars is underscored visually by the Panamericana grille, which was previously reserved for our AMG GT models.”

Of note, the Canadian market will not be getting the 469 horsepower non-“S” AMG GLC 63 variant of these two SUVs, models that are available in the U.S. as well as other markets.

When the 2018 Mercedes-AMG 63 S 4Matic+ SUV and Coupe arrive in showrooms across Canada later this year, pricing will likely start in the high $80k to low $90k range.

On Friday July 14th Honda announced they would be recalling 2.1 million Honda Accords worldwide. Of the 2.1 million Accords being recalled 1.15 million are in North America of which 51,995 are in Canada.…

Honda Recalls Over Two Million Vehicles Worldwide

On Friday July 14th Honda announced they would be recalling 2.1 million Honda Accords worldwide. Of the 2.1 million Accords being recalled 1.15 million are in North America of which 51,995 are in Canada. The Honda Accord models, built from 2013-2016, are being recalled due to a malfunctioning 12-volt sensor that monitors the battery state of charge.

According to Honda “the battery sensor may have been improperly manufactured with gaps that could allow for moisture intrusion.” Honda says that it affects the negative terminal on the battery. If moisture or road salt enter the gaps it could then cause the sensor to malfunction and potentially cause an electrical short. This increases the risk of the battery catching fire.

Honda says that there have been four reports of engine compartment fires however, no injuries have been confirmed. Honda says the risk of the battery sensor malfunctioning is higher in places that use road salt during the winter.

Honda dealerships will inspect the sensors and replace them if they are corroded. Those sensors that are found to be in working order will receive an adhesive sealant and the sensors will be replaced when parts become available.

Honda says they will start contacting owners of the affected Accords later this month. The battery sensors will be replaced free of charge at Honda dealerships.

No sports car brand is more respected than Porsche, and no model in the entire industry more revered than the mighty 911. It’s been in constant production for more than 50 years, having celebrated quinquagenarian…

Porsche celebrates one-millionth 911 milestone

2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Dr. Wolfgang Porsche poses with the one-millionth 911, a special Carrera S that will soon begin a world tour. (Photo: Porsche)

No sports car brand is more respected than Porsche, and no model in the entire industry more revered than the mighty 911. It’s been in constant production for more than 50 years, having celebrated quinquagenarian status in 2013. Now just four years later it has achieved yet another milestone, the production of its one-millionth car.

On May 11, 2017, Porsche rolled a special Irish Green coloured 911 Carrera S Coupe off of its Zuffenhausen plant assembly line as part of its million-unit celebration, the car featuring exclusive details in homage of the 1963 original.

While no longer the bestselling vehicle in the German brand’s lineup, the 911 remains its most popular car as well as its most important model due to its heritage and performance credentials. The 911 is “key in helping Porsche maintain its position as one of the most prestigious car manufacturers in the world,” said Porsche in an associated press release.

2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S
This unique 911 Carrera S Coupe boasts Irish Green paint, gold emblems and 20-inch alloys. (Photo: Porsche)

Unlike the 911’s competitors, many of which have come and gone since 1963, the 911 is a car that can be driven comfortably and reliably each and every day, no matter the weather conditions, quality of road surface, traffic congestion, or any other external circumstance, yet despite its daily ease of use it can be taken to the track on the weekend and put through its paces without any modification.

In fact, more 911s have won races than any other roadworthy sports car, by professionals and amateurs alike. What’s more, Porsche credits the 911 with more than half of its own race wins, which says a lot when considering the many formidable models the brand has contested over the past five and a half decades, many of which were designed purely for motorsport.

2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Porsche should consider offering a “Classic” model like VW does with its Beetle, as the gold emblems are beautiful. (Photo: Porsche)

Performance in mind, Porsche has never deviated from the original 911 concept, although according to Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, “…. we have continued to enhance the technology of the 911, refining and perfecting the sports car. That’s why it remains a state-of-the-art and technically innovative vehicle. We have also been able to expand the model line very successfully through derivatives.”

Today, Canadian sports car enthusiasts can purchase a 911 in three separate body styles and no less than 22 unique variants, the former including the Coupe, Cabriolet and Targa, while the latter is replete with names like Carrera, Carrera 4, S, GTS, Turbo, Turbo S, Exclusive Series, GT3, GT2 RS, and various permutations of each.

2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Only one Porsche will ever wear this “911 Nr. 1000000” plaque. (Photo: Porsche)

One of the reasons Porsche is able to build so many different 911s is its advanced production facility in Zuffenhausen, which has been the home of 911 assembly since day one. Now the storied factory incorporates all two-door Porsche models, including the 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster, which are all built on the same line “thanks to a sophisticated production approach” that includes workers who “are experts in up to 200 different tasks,” says Porsche.

“I cannot imagine the success story of the 911 without our unique Porsche employees,” said Uwe Hück, Chair of the Group Works Council of Porsche. “Today, we have the one-millionth 911. The good thing about it is that our colleagues still make them with the same devotion as the first car. The construction of the Mission E at the Zuffenhausen site is ringing in a new era at Porsche. And it is clear that if we are to make it a success, we will need our highly qualified and motivated employees. They will make sure that the Mission E is an emotional experience just like our 911 has always been – and always will be.”

2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S
Porsche’s Zuffenhausen plant has been home to the 911 since day one. (Photo: Porsche)

On hand for the one-millionth line-off celebration was Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche AG, who has been a part of the development of the 911 since job one (or rather job 901).

“54 years ago, I was able to take my first trips over the Grossglockner High Alpine Road with my father,” said Dr. Porsche. “The feeling of being in a 911 is just as enjoyable now as it was then. That’s because the 911 has ensured that the core values of our brand are as visionary today as they were in the first Porsche 356/1 from 1948.”

To call Porsche’s 911 a success would be an understatement of major proportion, and the car’s popularity is hardly slowing down. Last year Porsche delivered 32,365 911s worldwide, which resulted in the model’s best annual sales tally ever. Still, while it enjoys strong sales for a premium sports car, the 911 remains relatively exclusive and therefore holds its value very well. In fact, many 911 models have become coveted collector’s cars, with values that have escalated far higher than their original list prices.

1964 Porsche 911
The original 911 is a sought after collectible worth many times more now than it was 54 years ago. (Photo: Porsche)

Also impressive, over 70 percent of all Porsche cars ever produced are still on the road. One of the key reasons for their longevity is dependable operation, Porsche consistently found on top of third-party quality rankings, including J.D. Power’s Initial Quality and Vehicle Dependability studies.

If you were thinking of purchasing the one-millionth 911, consider one-million-and-one as this milestone car won’t be up for sale. You may be able to see it in person, however, as Porsche will soon be sending it on a world tour of road trips to include the Scottish Highlands, Germany’s famed Nürburgring, the U.S., China, and beyond.

Alternatively you can visit your local Porsche retailer and order a 2017 911 Carrera S in custom Irish Green with gold painted “PORSCHE” and “911” emblems, satin-silver mirror caps, 20-inch Carrera Sport alloy wheels, circular tailpipes, a leather interior with Sport-Tex seat centres in black and dark silver, a special plaque with your car’s build number, etcetera. No matter how you decide to have it built, a car collection is not complete without a Porsche 911.

It’s only fitting that Canada’s favourite family shuttle was the official conveyance in our capital city for our 150th confederation celebrations. Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s ultra-popular Dodge…

Chrysler Pacifica was official vehicle of Canada Day

2017 Chrysler Pacifica
A total of 26 Chrysler Pacificas shuttled Ottawa’s Canada Day celebrants around various events during the weekend. (Photo: FCA)

It’s only fitting that Canada’s favourite family shuttle was the official conveyance in our capital city for our 150th confederation celebrations.

Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s ultra-popular Dodge Grand Caravan, dearly departing Chrysler Town & Country, and advanced new Chrysler Pacifica minivans combine for unsurpassed annual seven- to eight-passenger vehicle sales, having found almost twice as many Canadian buyers as all other minivans combined in calendar year 2016. In fact, if commercial vehicle sales were taken out of the overall equation, FCA’s minivans would have accounted for more business than almost any other vehicle line in Canada last year.

Canada’s most popular Ford F-150 and runner-up Honda Civic might have been appropriate official Canada Day 2017 vehicles for our July 1st weekend celebrations too, but for the purpose of conveying visitors around Ottawa, the fleet of 26 seven-seat Velvet Red Pearl-painted and “Canada 150” maple leaf decaled Chrysler Pacificas were much more useful.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica
The choice of FCA vans was fitting for Canada Day, as they’re the most popular large family haulers in Canada. (Photo: FCA)

It didn’t hurt matters that these vans were produced in FCA’s Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario; the result of 6,000 hourly workers on three full shifts.

The Windsor facility builds both the conventionally powered Pacifica as well as the Pacifica Hybrid, the former featuring the brand’s class-exclusive second-row “Stow ‘n Go” seating that fold completely into the floor when more cargo space is required, while the latter includes a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain capable of 53 kilometres of pure EV range, up to 911 kilometres of total range, and a five-cycle Transport Canada claimed fuel economy rating of 2.6 Le/100km in the city.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica
All conventionally powered Chrysler vans offer second-row “Stow ‘n Go” seats that fold completely into the floor for added convenience. (Photo: FCA)

During the Canada Day weekend, Ottawa hosted a three-day festival in three venues including Parliament Hill, the Canadian Museum of History, and Major’s Hill Park.

“I can’t think of a more fitting vehicle than the Windsor, Ontario-built Chrysler Pacifica as the official vehicle of Canada Day 2017,” commented Bill Levasseur, VP, Sales and Marketing, FCA Canada. “Our Chrysler and Dodge minivans have been an integral part of millions of Canadian families’ lives over the years and we are honoured to have Chrysler Pacifica showcased in celebration of our nation’s milestone 150th birthday.”

Along with the fleet of vans shuttling event-goers from attraction to attraction, those in attendance were able to view 30-second video spots as part of the Major’s Hill event, plus FCA branding broadcasted on big screen displays at other event locations.