Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up. Take Lexus for example, or…

Top 5 Subcompact Luxury cars: Mini Cooper still crushing the competition

2016 Lexus CT 200h
Lexus’ CT 200h was discontinued from the compact luxury B-segment four years ago, the brand now targeting entry-level premium buyers with its UX subcompact luxury SUV.

Small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they once did, but some brands are succeeding where others are either floundering or have completely given up.

Take Lexus for example, or for that matter Volvo. The former was selling its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback into North American markets as recently as 2017 (check out our road test), but after seven years of production, plus a couple of down years with nothing in an entry-level segment at all, it was effectively replaced with the UX subcompact crossover SUV. As for Volvo, we need to go all the back to 2013 for the final 300-plus (new) C30s that found Canadian buyers, and then had to wait five additional years for its XC40 subcompact SUV replacement. Likewise, a new C40 electric crossover is expected from the Chinese-owned Swedish brand later this year or early 2022.

2010 Volvo C30
Volvo’s C30 provided a lot of upscale luxury to the small car sector when last available eight years ago.

See the trend? It wasn’t like the compact B-segment (subcompact luxury) was ever a big deal here in Canada, at least not like it’s been in Europe where Audi’s A1 has been pulling in premium buyers for almost a dozen years, plus its similarly sized A2 before that, and larger A3 even longer, as have BMW’s 1 and 2 Series, not to mention Mercedes’ A-Class, but amongst the few small luxury-branded cars we’ve enjoyed, some are leaving for good, never likely to return.

Still, premium brands need gateway products to entice new customers into the fold, and while small sedans and hatchbacks still attract such buyers to well-established German automakers, luxury buyers are more likely to opt for a subcompact crossover SUV instead. So therefore, while the entry luxury car category won’t likely grow much larger in the coming years, it still has a faithful following that’s passionate about their stylish, low-slung little rides, so let’s see which models are pulling in the most Canadian customers.

Mini Cooper dominates the small luxury car sector

2022 Mini Cooper S 5 Door
Mini (Cooper S 5 Door shown), might not be considered a luxury brand by everyone’s standards, but based on interior materials quality, available features, performance and the pricing of most models, it fully measures up.

When the words “luxury” and “car” get combined, most probably don’t immediately conjure up images of the cute little Mini hatchback. After all, it was initially Britain’s answer to Germany’s peoples’ car (and the “Suez Crisis” fuel shortage) way back in 1959, a micro hatchback that was as inexpensive to buy as it was efficient to operate. BMW purchased the Mini nameplate as part of its Rover group takeover from British Aerospace and Honda (20-percent) in 1994, and since 2001 has sold a variety of body styles and models, including a compact luxury SUV, dubbed Countryman.

Clubman aside, Mini’s car model line gets a refresh for 2022, with notable changes made to the front fascia and important updates inside (see our full 2022 Mini Cooper overview here). Body styles include the 3 Door, 5 Door, Clubman, and Convertible, while its trims range from the base Cooper with 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, to the fully-loaded John Cooper Works (JCW) Convertible with 228 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque (the 231-horsepower John Cooper Works GP is no longer available), the latter a super-mini drop-top that’s one of the most enjoyable performance cars in the entire class.

2022 Mini John Cooper Works family
The 2022 John Cooper Works Convertible bypasses $60k with all options added.

And just in case you don’t understand the logic behind including a brand with pricing that begins where a fully-loaded Kia Rio ends, at $23,490 for a base Cooper 3-Door, consider that most Mini owners don’t purchase stripped-down examples. To that end, a JCW Convertible will set you back more than $60k after all of its extras are tallied up. So, if 60-grand for a subcompact hatchback doesn’t qualify Mini’s Cooper for luxury car status, not to mention sharing underpinnings with some of BMW’s smaller models, it’s difficult to surmise what will.

Mini’s car lineup is powered by three-cylinder and four-cylinder turbocharged engines displacing 1.5 and 2.0 litres respectively. As noted, the 1.5 makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, and when installed in the base Cooper 3-Door, hits 100 km/h from standstill in 8.1 seconds with either the six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and manages 8.8 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.7 combined with the former if driven more modestly, or 8.4, 6.5 and 7.5 with the latter. Obviously, performance and fuel economy won’t be quite as good in either the 5 Door, Clubman, or Convertible due to weight gains, a reality that affects the other engines in the lineup too.

2022 Mini Cooper S 5 Door
Minis have grown considerably over the generations, with the new five-door being quite roomy inside.

On that note, the 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque in the second-tier Cooper S, and once again comes with both six- and seven-speed transmissions, while the quickest and thriftiest Cooper S 3-Door manages a standing start to 100 km/h in just 7.2 seconds with either gearbox, plus fuel economy ratings of 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.8 combined with the manual, or a respective 8.9, 6.6 and 7.9 with the auto.

The best fuel economy of all, however, comes from Mini’s Cooper SE, which uses a 181 horsepower electric motor (with 199 lb-ft of torque) and 32.6-kWh lithium-ion battery to drive the front wheels, resulting in “fuel economy” of about 16.9 to 14.9 kWh/ 100 km (according to NEDC). Its 177-km range, makes it only suitable for urban use, however, which means you’ll need to leave it at home for longer road trips… a shame.

2022 Mini Cooper SE
The 2022 Mini Cooper SE is driven by its front wheels via a 181-hp electric motor and 32.6-kWh lithium-ion battery.

The Mini Cooper 3 Door and Convertible only have four seatbelts, which is probably all you’d ever want to try and fit in anyway (especially in the latter), while 5 Door and Clubman models feature seating for five, the latter housing five adults (kind of) being that it’s not only 454 mm (17.9 in) lengthier than the 3 Door and 293 mm (11.5 in) longer than the 5 Door, with a wheelbase that spans an extra 175 mm (6.9 in) and 103 mm (4.0 in) respectively, but also 74 mm (2.9 in) wider, which of course matters even more when stuffing three abreast. At 1,801 mm (70.9 in), the Clubman is also wider than anything in this class save Audi’s A3, while its wheelbase is identical to Acura’s ILX and BMW’s 2 Series Gran Coupe, plus longer than the A3’s and BMW’s diminutive i3, the latter of which is still longer than both 3 and 5 Door Minis.

As you might have imagined, dedicated cargo capacity is most generous in the Clubman too, growing from just 160 litres (6.0 cubic feet) in the Convertible, 211 litres (7.0 cu ft) in the 3 Door, and 278 litres (10 cu ft) in the 5 Door, to 495 litres (17.5 cu ft) in the Clubman, which, in fact, is the same as the Countryman SUV.

2022 Mini John Cooper Works
Minis have long been a wonderfully fun to drive, the JCW slotting in right at the top of the amusement category.

As far as sales go, Mini delivered 2,739 examples of its four-model car lineup to Canadians in 2020 (not including the Countryman crossover), and also saw another 2,111 low-slung units leave its dealerships over the first nine months of this year, which makes it look like the brand will surpass last year’s rather poor showing when 2021 comes to an end, but it probably won’t realize as many car sales as in decades past. Prior to 2020, Mini’s worst calendar year on record for car deliveries was 2004 when it only sold 2,800 Cooper hatchbacks, but most other years the brand’s cars ranged between 3,500 and 5,500 Canadian sales.

So far, there’s no serious challenger to Mini’s collective Cooper car line when it comes to sales success in this class, but as mentioned earlier in this report, the real growth in the entry-level luxury sector is happening in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV category, in which Mini’s Countryman sits ninth out of 12 competitors (see the “Top 5 Subcompact Luxury Crossover SUVs: Audi’s Q3 still in the lead… for now” story). Mini will likely need to achieve much greater success in that burgeoning category in order to keep funding the niche models in its car lineup, so as not to continue eroding what is currently a diverse offering.

2022 Mini Clubman JCW
The Clubman, which uses dutch-oven doors to access its larger cargo area, remains unchanged from 2021.

Notably, Mini both expanded and contracted this car line dramatically from 2012 through 2017, with the introductions and then cancellations of the 2012–2015 Cooper Coupe and Cooper Roadster models. The 2013–2016 Cooper Paceman (a three-door crossover coupe based on the Countryman) was its attempt to widen its small SUV offering, a la BMW X2, but slow take-rates for all of these creative offerings have now turned them into modern-day collectables. To be clear, like all Minis these were brilliantly fun niche models that we were admittedly excited about initially, and while all three might now be seen as mistakes that negatively impacted the brand’s bottom line, having eaten up significant R&D money that could’ve gone elsewhere, it’s hard to criticize the brand for thinking outside of the box, or rather two-box design layout, and trying something completely different.

Still, it’s hard to keep a brand that’s as enjoyable to drive as Mini down (even its perennially low Consumer Reports reliability rating can’t do that), and while parent company BMW’s 2 Series is on a roll that could possibly see it pass by the Cooper for overall sales leadership in Canada (read about that below), diehard Mini enthusiasts (and there are many) continue to love what makes these little sprites segment best-sellers.

Mercedes’ A-Class leads sales of traditionally desirable subcompact luxury cars

2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Sedan
Mercedes’ A-Class is the best-selling model in the entry-level compact B-segment from a traditionally desirable premium brand.

Mercedes-Benz is arguably the most premium of luxury brands overall, this side of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, the Stuttgart-based automaker’s own Maybach marque, and a bunch of supercar makes like Aston Martin, Lamborghini, McLaren, and of course Ferrari, so therefore, acquiring a sleek sport sedan or hot hatch bearing the famed three-pointed star will be seen by many as quite the accomplishment. This said, the most affordable way to do so comes by way of the A-Class, made available to Canadian new car buyers as of the 2019 model year.

The A-Class, available in both A 220 4Matic four-door sedan (see our review of the A 220 4Matic here) and A 250 4Matic five-door hatchback (see our review of the A 250 4Matic Hatch here) trims and body styles, plus sportier AMG A 35 versions of each, quickly earned the top-spot in the compact B-segment amongst traditionally desirable brands, thanks to managing 2,355 deliveries amidst a difficult 2020, which saw sales of most models in this category slide south, although 2021 already looks stronger for the entry-level Mercedes model thanks to 1,517 units sold throughout the first three quarters of the year, even though this positive growth now leaves it in the negative when compared to BMW’s increasingly popular 2 Series, which was made available with four doors as of model year 2020 (more on that in a minute).

2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Hatch
Unlike the U.S. market, Canada gets Mercedes’ A-Class Hatch in both A 250 and A35 (shown) varieties.
2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Hatch

To be totally fair, CLA-Class numbers should really be included in Mercedes’ overall segment sales, because it’s really the same car as the A-Class under its sleeker, more coupe-like skin, while most three-pointed star competitors, such as the just-covered Mini Cooper and BMW’s 2 Series, lump all of their subcompact body styles under one model name. This said, combining all the 2020 A-Class deliveries with the 1,085 CLAs sold in the same year results in a total of 3,440 B-segment sales for Mercedes, along the number-one position overall. Then again, if we’re looking at total automaker sales, BMW AG’s namesake brand and Mini combined for 3,881 deliveries in 2020 (including 168 i3 EVs), which puts the Bavarian marque on top. Likewise, the German and British brands’ combined Q3 sales of 4,033 units give it an even stronger lead so far in 2021, so Mercedes has some catching up to do.

2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Sedan
Mercedes knows how to create a sense of occasion.

This shouldn’t be a problem, thanks to a diverse A-Class engine lineup. The base A 220 sedan comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder good for 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, while the same engine in the A 250 hatch makes 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Move up to the A 35 in either model, and the little 2.0-litre powerplant puts out an impressive 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, making them two of the most exciting cars in their class to drive. What’s more, all A-Class models are some of the easiest to keep in their respective lanes, no matter the weather condition, due to standard 4Matic all-wheel drive.

Paddle-shifters enhance control of a standard 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which also includes a standard ECO Start/Stop system to save on fuel, resulting in a 9.6 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.4 combined rating for the A 220 sedan; a 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.2 combined rating for the A 250 hatch; or a respective 10.7, 8.2 and 9.5 for both AMG A 35 models.

2022 Mercedes-Benz A 250 Hatch
The A-Class’ MBUX system combines a configurable high-definition driver’s display on the left and infotainment touchscreen on the right.

The A-Class’ near-longest 2,729 mm (107.4 in) wheelbase means both front and rear seating is comfortable for this small car category, while its fractionally narrower than average 1,796 mm (70.5 in) width (not including mirrors) shouldn’t make much of a difference from side-to-side.

At 243 litres (8.6 cu-ft), the sedan’s trunk is the smallest in the class, however, other than the two aforementioned Mini 3 Door models, but the hatchback’s cargo compartment is larger than average at 370 litres (13.0 cu ft), plus both provide more space when the rear seat is folded forward, made even more convenient with a 40/20/40-divided split.

Due to very few negatives, most A-Class customers are very satisfied with their purchases, as evidenced by the model’s top ranking in the “Compact Luxury Car” category in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, while J.D. Power named it runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” segment of its latest 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study (the sportier CLA-Class earned the top position). Last but hardly least, Vincentric placed it on top of the “Luxury Compact” class of its Best Fleet Value in Canada Awards, something it also achieved in the U.S.

2022 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Sedan
A-Class rear seat room (sedan shown) is generous.

Interestingly, none of the cars in this top five list even rated in the “Entry-Luxury-Car” category’s top three for Canadian Black Book’s latest 2020 Best Retained Value Awards, but this is (at least partially) because CBB includes pricier C-segment models, such as Mercedes’ own C-Class that claimed the highest accolades, as entry-level models. Likewise, Lexus’ mid-size ES, which was one of the runners-up, is considered entry-level by CBB too.

Ironically, being that residual values are all about pre-owned cars, with CBB’s awards going to three-year old vehicles, the ES was tied with Lexus’ now discontinued CT 200h. Obviously, Lexus models hold their value very well amongst small luxury cars, but then again, Mercedes does too, so it’s possible we’ll see the A-Class replace the CT for top-three residual value leadership when it’s been on the market long enough to qualify.

Notably, Mercedes is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $3,350 on the purchase of a new A-Class.

Expect major upsurge in Audi A3 sales when redesigned model arrives for 2022

2022 Audi A3 Sedan
Audi’s A3 Sedan is all new for 2022.

Audi deserves credit for being the first German luxury carmaker to offer a four-door sedan in this compact B-Segment, with the advent of the redesigned 2015 A3 that was also available in higher performance S3 tune, plus as an A3 Cabriolet (Acura’s EL was the first entry-luxury sedan when it arrived in 1997, while the A3 was a five-door hatch from model years 2006 to 2014). An even more potent RS 3 sedan made this class of subcompacts shine in 2018, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Moving into the 2022 model year after technically not providing a 2021 car, the Cabriolet has been discontinued and all-new redesigned A3, S3 and RS 3 sedans are on the way. These should help boost the Ingolstadt-based brand’s future prospects in this waning segment, thanks to sharper styling, a modernized interior, and upgraded performance.

Now in its fourth generation, the new A3 rides on the same MQB platform used for the eighth-generation 2022 Volkswagen Golf (which kind of qualifies for entry-level luxury status on its own, at least in GTI and R trims), making it slightly longer, a bit wider and fractionally taller than the outgoing model, but the sedan’s 2,636 mm (103.8 in) wheelbase doesn’t change, so the extra 40 mm (1.6 in) of length has mostly gone to cargo capacity that’s up 64 litres (2.2 cu ft) to 348 litres (12.3 cu ft), from just 284 litres (10.0 cu ft) in previous years.

2022 Audi A3 Sedan
Audi was one of the first in the B-segment to offer an entry-level luxury sedan.

Just like its predecessor, the Canadian-spec A4 and S4 will receive one S Tronic seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox shared between them, plus two different versions of the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, although staying true with the times means that a 48-volt mild hybrid system has been added to the mix. While fuel economy will no doubt improve, aided further by coasting capability the shuts the internal combustion portion of the drivetrain off when not needed to maintain speed (i.e. going downhill), the hybrid system will also boost base performance from 184 horsepower to 201, although torque actually inches downward from 222 lb-ft to 221. This should result in a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time than the current car, which is rated at 6.2 seconds, but so far Audi hasn’t announced such numbers for the new model.

2022 Audi A3 Sedan
An all-new interior provides all the expected luxury features.

The 2022 S3, on the other hand, can dash from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, shaving a tenth from the old car’s sprint time thanks to a move up from 288 horsepower to 306, whereas its electronically-limited top track speed of 250 km/h is identical to the outgoing model.

Lastly, a new RS 3 is on the way, with a reported 401 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. It catapults from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds before topping out at 290 km/h (180 mph), while the new car’s handling will be improved with a torque-vectoring rear axle dubbed Torque Splitter, which was designed to reduce understeer while maintaining the Quattro AWD system’s legendary high-speed grip.

Identically to the outgoing A3, 2022 Canadian-spec trim levels include Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, but the new car now comes standard with Quattro AWD, which has caused base pricing to increase substantially from $34,500 in 2020, to $38,900 (plus freight and fees) this coming year. The S3, which already included Quattro as standard, will now start $47,900. This is actually a decrease of $500 due to base Komfort trim now becoming available (Progressiv was the S3’s previous base trim). Of note, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives when purchasing a new 2022 A3.

2022 Audi A3 Sedan
Audi has ditched the old A3’s powered centre display, instead opting for a much larger touchscreen fitted within the centre stack.

Improvements inside the 2022 A3 include a 10.3-inch version of Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster as standard equipment, plus a new 10.1-inch fixed infotainment display at centre, or a 12.3-inch upgrade, instead of the old pop-up unit that, while kind of awesome in its own way, is about as useful as pop-up headlights now that most jurisdictions require us to run with our front lamps on during the day. Therefore, as much as we might miss the main monitor powering up out of the dash during startup, or better yet, disappearing altogether on a night drive, the new larger display is more in keeping with today’s technology-first world, while it also integrates much more advanced high-definition capability along with updated graphics.

AS far as awards go, the outgoing A3 earned runner-up in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which was won by BMW’s 2 Series.

Gran Coupe has given BMW’s 2 Series line the shot in the arm it’s always needed

2021 BMW 235i xDrive Gran Coupe
The four-door 2 Series Gran Coupe (235i xDrive trim shown) is responsible for the model’s strong surge in sales.

BMW’s 2 Series made the greatest B-segment gains in sales over the past year, mostly due to the aforementioned Gran Coupe. While year-over-year 2 Series deliveries only grew by 13 percent in 2020, up from 1,202 to 1,358 units, sales have already increased by more than 33 percent over the first nine months of 2021, now totaling 1,811 units for a current ranking of third in class. Of course, we need to factor Audi’s lack of 2021 A3, S3 and RS 3 models into any future prognostications, which, as noted earlier, caused their deliveries to almost completely disappear, thus we’ll need to see how well the new A3, and the completely redesigned 2 Series Coupe, fare in the coming year.

Yes, while the four-door variant of this model only gets minor package and standalone options changes for 2022, the two-door coupe has undergone a ground-up redesign, and most should like what they see. For starters, BMW chose a more conventional twin-kidney frontal grille compared to its larger 4 Series counterpart, which can best be described (in the kindest way possible) as controversial.

2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe
BMW has an all-new 2 Series Coupe for 2022 (M240i xDrive shown).

The “G42”, as it’s known internally, will once again feature rear- and all-wheel drive layouts in the U.S. and other markets, albeit so far only the latter has been announced for Canada. Additionally, no 255-horsepower 230i variant is expected in the land of the almost free either, but instead we’ll only get the 382-horsepower inline-six engine mated to a standard paddle shifter-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission—yes, no six-speed manual is available in either market, at least until we see a new M2 (which, fingers crossed, will hopefully have a DIY gearbox). That’s 47 additional horsepower than the outgoing M240i, incidentally, so despite its torque figure dropping down to 369 lb-ft, it still manages a quicker zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 4.1 seconds, while its top track speed remains limited to 250 km/h (155 mph).

2022 BMW 220i Coupe
The more affordable rear-wheel drive 2 Series Coupe may not be coming to Canada.

An available adaptive M suspension will make the most of a 51-mm (2-in) longer wheelbase, its track also growing by 54 mm (2.1 in) up front and 31 mm (1.2 in) at the back, with near 50:50 weight distribution for almost ideal balance, so handling should be just as crisp. Overall, the 19-kg (42-lb) heavier, 1,755-kg (3,869-lb) 2 Series coupe grows 88 mm (3.4 in) longer and 66 mm (2.6 in) wider than its predecessor, although its 2.5-mm (1.0-in) height reduction makes for slipperier styling.

The longer wheelbase should aid cabin comfort, particularly in the rear, while those up front will benefit from deeper bolsters when upgrading the seats. Some standard niceties include three-zone automatic climate control, showing BMW really does have plans to market this 2 Series to folks with more than one friend, while an upgraded iDrive infotainment system boasts up to 10.3 inches of screen space, with new functions including an upgraded voice control system that can distinguish between driver and passenger commands, plus Connected Parking that notifies the driver of a given destination’s parking issues.

2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe
Most BMW fans will be happy the new 2 Series takes a more conservative approach to styling than the latest 4 Series.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is also standard, with the latter providing full Google Maps integration, but iPhone users shouldn’t feel left out, because they can use NFC connectivity for up to five devices. Additionally, a mobile app makes the new 2’s LTE wi-fi function available from further away, providing the ability to check the car’s location or status, lock or unlock its doors as needed, and even access its external cameras for security’s sake.

The 2 Coupe’s new standard audio system provides 10 speakers and 205 watts of power, but audiophiles will want to upgrade to the Harman Kardon Surround Sound system thanks to its 14-speaker, 464-watt output. Additionally, a colour head-up display system has been added to the options list, projecting current speed, speed limit, and even passing restrictions onto the windshield ahead of the driver.

2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe
The M240i’s interior looks very high end.

The new 2022 M240i xDrive is expected to show up at Canadian dealers in November, with pricing starting at $56,950, but as noted earlier there hasn’t been any announcement about the rear-wheel drive 230i. In fact, only the all-wheel version is currently offered on BMW Canada’s retail website, and CarCostCanada’s 2022 BMW 2 Series Canada Prices page isn’t showing a RWD version for 2022 either. This may mean the much-loved and considerably more affordable rear-wheel drive 2 Series coupe won’t be coming north of the 49th.

Likewise, only the M235i xDrive version of the four-door Gran Coupe can currently be seen at CarCostCanada, while the 2022 version of this car isn’t showing up at BMW’s website at all. Instead, the automaker’s new car configurator just allows the 2021 model to be built, with two engine options, the other being the lesser 228i Gran Coupe, which at $38,990 remains the most affordable car in BMW’s Canadian lineup for the time being. If BMW has chosen not to bring its least expensive sedan to Canada, and instead price the most affordable 2 Series at $51,400, expect to see 2 Series sales drop off dramatically moving into the new year.

2021 BMW 235i xDrive Gran Coupe
The 2 Series’ four-door Gran Coupe body style provides a lot more practicality than the regular Coupe and outgoing convertible.

At least the 2021 2 Series represents good initial value, while all 2 Series trims do well when it comes time to trade in. As noted earlier, it earned the top spot in the “Premium Compact Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, and making it an even better bet, the 2 Series took best-in-class honours in the same third-part analytical firm’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), within its “Small Premium Car” segment. Additionally, it earned a best-in-class score in the same category of the coveted 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) too. That’s a lot of metal in the trophy cabinet, and reason enough to consider a new 2 Series if your budget allows, or a 2021 model while new ones remain available.

Of importance, BMW is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives when purchasing a new 2022 2 Series, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,000 thanks to dealer invoice pricing and other membership privileges.

Mercedes takes fifth in sales with its sporty CLA four-door coupe

2022 Mercedes-AMG CLA
Mercedes’ CLA-Class is a basically stretched and widened A-Class, its four-door body more couple-like in its rear quarters.

The previously mentioned Mercedes CLA-Class earned a solid fifth place in the compact B-segment, with 1,085 deliveries last year and 1,031 more over three quarters of 2021. Longer, wider and lower than the A-Class sedan, the CLA makes up for its size increase by being powered by the 221-horsepower version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which is also used in the A 250 Hatch. It boasts an identical 258 lb-ft of torque too, but its 75 kg (165lbs) of extra mass means that it’s slightly slower off the line than the hatchback, but its wider track should make up time in the corners.

The gap in off-the-line acceleration narrows to an unnoticeable 0.1 seconds in AMG CLA 35 trim, however, this model using the same 302 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo four as found in both AMG-tuned A-Class models, but the even more formidable AMG CLA 45 leaves all of its lesser siblings far behind with a sprint from zero to 100 km/h of only 4.1 seconds, thanks to 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque from a heavily massaged version of the same 2.0-litre engine. The CLA 45 gets another cog in its dual-clutch gearbox too, totaling eight, aiding its higher top speed of 270 km/h (168 mph), while 4Matic all-wheel drive is once again standard.

2022 Mercedes-AMG CLA
The top-line AMG CLA 45 puts out 382 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.

Otherwise, the CLA-Class is very similar in look and feel to the A-Class, particularly inside where it’s dash design and MBUX digital driving display and infotainment interface combination is identical. The current model is moving into the third year of its second generation (see the “Mercedes improves 2020 CLA in every way” news story for more details).

For 2022, the CLA 250 4Matic starts at $43,600, while the AMG CLA 35 4Matic can be had from $52,100, and AMG CLA 45 4Matic from $62,900. Mercedes is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives on 2022 CLA models, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $3,000.

How the rest of the subcompact luxury car field stacks up

Acura’s ILX remains a very competent offering in this class, despite its age (see a recent review of the ILX here). It received the brand’s new “Diamond Pentagon” grille as part of a refresh for 2019, and received a boost in sales that year because of it. Deliveries dropped by 58.6 percent in calendar year 2020, with just 774 new buyers compared to 1,871 the year before, but 2021 has seen some strength with 729 down the road as of September 30th, and now with a new 2023 Integra expected to debut soon, Acura’s future in this class is brightening, as is the future of the entire segment that’s soon bolstering its ranks with another new entry. Moving into 2022 it will be last in the class, however, being that BMW’s i3 EV is being discontinued.

2022 Acura ILX A-Spec
Acura gave its ILX a major refresh for 2019, and it still looks striking today.

On the positive, the ILX achieved runner-up status in the “Small Premium Car” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), which means the new 2022 ILX, which moves into the new model year without any notable changes, should be just as well built. It continues forward with one, single, high-revving, naturally aspirated 201-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with standard paddle-shifters, front-wheel drive, standard Jewel-Eye LED headlamps, a twin-display infotainment system inside, and a full assortment of AcuraWatch safety and convenience features including Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation, much like the rest of the cars in this class.

ILX prices start at $31,400 in base trim for 2022, and move up to $33,900 for the Premium model, plus $35,400 for the Premium A-Spec, and finally $36,800 for the top-line Tech A-Spec. All ILX trims represent very good value in this segment, especially considering the model’s size and performance, while 2021 models are an even better deal, not only because they’re priced slightly lower, but also due to Acura currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are averaging big savings of $6,375.

2021 BMW i3
BMW’s i3 won’t be produced after 2021, but it remains a great alternative amongst urban EVs.

Finally, a special mention should be given to BMW’s all-electric, or optionally range-extender-enhanced (REx) i3, which despite being an elder statesman in this class, and on its way to pasture, provides one of the most inviting interiors in any class, plus supercar-like carbon-fibre composite construction, all for a 2021 base price of $44,950, or $53,600 with the REx. BMW is also offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,000 from that list price, plus government rebates are available due to its battery plug-in powertrain. As noted previously in this article, the little Bimmer only sold 168 units last year, while just 111 examples have found home in 2021 so far.

There probably won’t be many if any new compact B-segment cars added to this category in the near future, unless Tesla or one of its EV rivals decides to offer an even smaller four-door sedan than the Model 3, or if Mazda’s 3 sedan and hatch move even further upmarket than their near-luxury top-tier GT has already gone, with higher pricing to match, but we may see alternative body styles of current models remerge, such as an A3 Sportback to counter Mercedes’ A-Class Hatch (see our review of the A 250 4Matic here), being that such layouts very popular in Quebec where European tastes remain dominant. Audi may also want to consider its A1 Sportback, especially if fuel costs keep rising and target entry customers’ expendable incomes are impacted by market instability, while BMW might be wise to consider its five-door 1 Series for the same reasons.

Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury car mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use all the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each car. Also, be sure to find out how CarCostCanada can save you thousands off your next new vehicle purchase, and remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos

With an automotive world shifting away from gasoline- and diesel-powered internal combustion engines, and toward battery electric or other types of alternative fuels like hydrogen, plus major FIA-sanctioned…

The future of Porsche customer racing cars: Porsche’s 1,073 hp Mission R Concept

2021 Porsche Mission R Concept
For an EV, Porsche’s Mission R Concept has a lot of ducts.

With an automotive world shifting away from gasoline- and diesel-powered internal combustion engines, and toward battery electric or other types of alternative fuels like hydrogen, plus major FIA-sanctioned motorsport series, such as Formula One, its Formula E offshoot, and sports car prototypes competing in the World Endurance Championship, utilizing various degrees of hybrid to full-EV powertrains, it was only a matter of time before Porsche, one of the globe’s leaders in customer racing car production, started looking at electrifying on a smaller scale.

Enter the Mission R Concept, a very real prototype of a possible future customer racing car that just might end up filling the well-worn shoes of Porsche’s 718 Cayman, which, along with the 718 Boxster and venerable 911, have become ideal track cars for “one-make” spec series, such as the Porsche Supercup that supports F1, and a Cayman GT4 Clubsport-spec series that ran ahead of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and British GT series in 2019.

2021 Porsche Mission R Concept
The Mission R Concept is built around an exposed carbon-fibre composite exoskeleton.

Certainly, something along the lines of the Mission R Concept could support any one of the just-noted motorsport events, especially now that Porsche is rumoured to be interested in powering the next-generation of F1 cars, although it’s more likely the new model would support Formula E, in which the German performance brand currently competes with its TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team.

The Mission R Concept casts a similarly sized shadow as the 718 Cayman too, other than being slightly wider and significantly lower than the road-going model. It’s not a mid-engine sports car either, instead incorporating an electric motor at each end to provide equal balance and all-wheel drive. These receive power from a 80.0-kWh battery, the resultant energy combining for a maximum of 429 horsepower at the front axle and 644 at the rear. To save you the trouble of calculating in your head, that’s 1,073 horsepower, albeit this lofty number is only available in Qualifying mode, with Race mode “only” providing 671 horsepower.

2021 Porsche Mission R Concept
The Mission R’s active rear wing incorporates a Drag Reduction System (DRS) that opens to minimize drag on straights.

According to Porsche, the Mission R Concept can maintain race pace for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on many variables including track battles, while it’ll actually beat one of today’s F1 cars off the line, the svelte newcomer capable of sprinting from standstill to 100 km/h in just 2.5 seconds, compared to 2.6 seconds for the open-wheel racer, not to mention 2.8 seconds for a Formula E car.

It had better be careful not to embarrass the latter open-wheel car on its own turf, either, because the Mission R’s top track speed exceeds a Formula E car’s 280 km/h (174 mph) capability with a terminal velocity of 299 km/h (186 mph)—F1 doesn’t need to worry about being upstaged, however, with the fastest on the grid capable of speeds upwards of 360 km/h (224 mph). Porsche also claims the Mission R Concept can match one of today’s 911 GT3 Cup cars on a road course, so it’s easily up to the job of a customer race car, let alone outperforming any potential competition.

2021 Porsche Mission R Concept
Don’t let its lack of an internal combustion engine fool you into thinking the Mission R is underpowered, as it’s two electric motors make a staggering 1,073 hp.

“Porsche is the brand for people who fulfil their dreams,” commented Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, in a press release. “This is also true in motorsports. We experience our innovative strength on the race track, demonstrate courage in pursuing new avenues and delight car owners with sporting performance. In addition to our involvement in the Formula E World Championship, we are now taking the next big step forward in electric mobility. The concept study is our vision of all-electric customer motorsports. The Mission R embodies everything that makes Porsche strong: performance, design and sustainability.”

The Mission R is not only quick around the track, but its 900-volt electrical system and the Porsche Turbo Charging setup makes it lightning quick during charging. A nearly depleted battery only takes 15 minutes to replenish from five to 80 percent, making the Mission R’s storage cell even faster to refill than the 22.5-minute duration required when recharging a Porsche Taycan from five to 80 percent via its 800-volt system.

2021 Porsche Mission R Concept
Everything about the Mission R is designed with a purpose.

Introduced earlier this month at the IAA motor show in Munich, the Mission R was purely designed for the track. This is made clearly evident by its exposed carbon-fibre composite exoskeleton, which is completely integrated into the car’s structure in order to improve rigidity. The purposeful appearance is the result of Porsche’s engineering and design teams working together on the project from the start, the lead designer having also worked on the Vision Spyder concept we covered in detail last year.

2021 Porsche Mission R Concept
The Mission R’s cockpit has seating for just one.

Speaking of a purposeful appearance, the Mission R’s bevy of cooling ducts aren’t just for show, but instead are vitally important for maintaining a stable battery temperature when the electrical system is being pushed hard. The large frontal grille even features active louvred air intakes that open and close as needed, while the rear wing incorporates a Drag Reduction System (DRS) that can be opened to minimize drag on straights, and then closed to add downforce when corners arrive.

Additionally, the materials used to make the Mission R’s key components have sustainability in mind, with the front lip spoiler, side skirts, and the diffuser made from natural fibre reinforced plastic (NFRP) utilizing farmed flax. NFRP makes up much of the cabin too, while special 3D-printed foam components add another element to the design.

2021 Porsche Mission R Concept
A digital gauge cluster is incorporated into the Mission R’s steering wheel hub, because it doesn’t need an airbag.

Yet more intelligent tech can be found in the Mission R’s digital primary display that’s incorporated into the steering wheel’s centre hub, while just above and slightly behind is another monitor for the side and central/rear cameras. Even more unexpected are remotely adjustable interior cameras that allow fans to see all the livestreaming action in the cockpit during a race. What’s more, a touch display beside the driver’s seat allows for biometric data information.

While all of this “concept” talk is exciting, news that the Mission R might be more than just a design study will be welcoming news to anyone that’s made it this far into today’s story. In fact, Porsche has been testing a running prototype on the track with hopes of delivering a customer race car by 2025 or 2026. This said, the Mission R has not been cleared for production yet, but the concept definitely lines up with the brand’s future EV strategy, while such a car makes a lot of sense considering Porsche’s customer race cars legacy.

Notably, Porsche’s motorsport division has built and sold more than 4,400 Cup cars over the last three decades, the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland event being the first spec-series when it was launched 31 years ago. Now, a total of 30 one-make Porsche cup series are held globally each year, with the latest 911 GT3 Cup, featuring 992-series 911s, already underway for the 2021 season. If the Mission R Concept comes to reality, we certainly have a lot to look forward to.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

Subcompact crossover SUVs are the new gateway to the luxury market sector, so therefore if a premium brand doesn’t have one in its lineup, it’s missing out on an important conduit for conquesting…

Top 5 Subcompact Luxury Crossover SUVs: Audi’s Q3 still in the lead… for now

2022 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic
Subcompact luxury cars, like this Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic sedan, are quickly being overshadowed by entry-level crossover SUVs, such as the same brand’s GLA- and GLB-Class.

Subcompact crossover SUVs are the new gateway to the luxury market sector, so therefore if a premium brand doesn’t have one in its lineup, it’s missing out on an important conduit for conquesting new luxury buyers.

Let’s face it, small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they used to. Certainly, Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed recent success with its affordable new A-Class sedan and hatchback thanks to 2,355 buyers in Canada throughout 2020, plus a reasonable take-rate for its updated CLA four-door coupe at 1,085 units over the same 12 months, while BMW’s new four-door 2 Series Gran Coupe (redesigned for 2022) helped that three-model line stay relevant with 1,358 deliveries last year (the 2 Series Cabriolet will be discontinued for 2022), although Audi’s A3 (plus the S3 and RS3), that was doing decently with 1,720 sales in 2020, saw its numbers fall off a cliff over the first six months of this year with just 131 down Canadian roads, but this was more than likely due to an all-new 2022 model arriving in four-ringed dealers as “pen” goes to “paper” (the A3 Cabriolet was just cancelled, but an all-new 400+hp RS 3 Sedan is expected soon).

2022 Audi S3 Sedan
Audi’s A3 and S3 (shown) sport sedans remain popular options in the small luxury car segment, but its Q3 crossover SUV found nearly three-and-a-half times the buyers last year.

That’s a good sign for small sedan lovers, but the return of this now niche model is only possible because Audi does so well in the crossover SUV sector. The same goes for its German counterparts, plus Japan’s lone small sedan contester, Acura, that only sold 774 ILX sedans in Canada last year. They’d better get a move on with their long rumoured CDX subcompact luxury SUV, because as noted a moment ago, they’re missing out on an important gateway for Honda HR-V fans (and there are plenty of them) that want something a bit more upscale (will it happen when the soon-to-be nine-year-old HR-V gets a redesign for 2023?).

2022 BMW M240i xDrive_Coupe
BMW just came out with an all-new 2 Series coupe, with the updated four-door Gran Coupe expected to follow soon, but the X1/X2 pairing sold 2.3 times more examples in 2020.

To put things into perspective, last year’s best-selling subcompact luxury car was Mini’s Cooper with 2,739 units down Canadian roads (thanks to 3-Door, 5-Door, extended Clubman, and Convertible variants), while the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment’s chart-topping Buick Encore found 6,650 new buyers last year, plus that model’s stretched and modernized Encore GX sibling pulled in another 5,045 for a total of 11,695 units. Granted, some will find it another stretch to consider Buick a premium brand at all, this especially true in the smallest of SUV categories where the Encore is priced tens of thousands lower than most “rivals” at under $25k (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $10,000), but it does go to show how important this burgeoning segment is to luxury carmakers (and entry-level luxury brands).

Audi Q3 tops the subcompact luxury SUV list amongst desirable premium brands

2022 Audi Q3
Audi’s Q3 is once again the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment sales leader, with 4,224 deliveries as of Q2 2021, compared to the next-best Volvo XC40 with 1,829 new buyers.

No doubt, some of the dwindling Audi A3 buyers mentioned a minute ago have gravitated to the taller, more utile Q3 in recent years, noted by sales that have steadily grown from 1,566 units in 2014, when it first arrived, to 5,949 deliveries throughout 2020, making the Q3 the true best-selling model in the subcompact “luxury” crossover SUV class (sorry Buick). Even better, Audi sold 4,224 Q3s over the first half of 2021, once again showing every competitor how critically important this new category is to securing future growth.

Moving into the 2022 model year, Canadian-spec Q3s are available in three trims including Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, all standard with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, eight-speed automatic, and the brand’s renowned Quattro all-wheel drive system. The base “40” engine makes 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a 9.1-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, while a more potent version of the same powerplant, dubbed “45”, is good for 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a much more satisfying 7.4 seconds from zero to 100 km/h.

2022 Audi Q3
Most buying into the entry-level luxury sector believe a small SUV will take care of their needs more than a small car, and the Q3 fulfills this objective ideally.

Fuel economy is a Q3 strongpoint, with a claimed rating of 10.4 L/100km in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 9.2 combined for the more economical 40 engine tuning, or 11.7, 8.4 and 10.2 respectively when moving up to the 45. A fully independent MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension setup makes sure handling is nimble too.

The base 2022 Q3 40 TFSI Quattro starts at $38,400 (plus freight and fees), while the top-line Technik 45 TFSI Quattro is available from $47,200, plus nearly $5,000 in options are available. What’s more, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives for 2022 Q3 buyers, although average CarCostCanada membership savings are currently $2,200, so therefore, make sure you find out how dealer invoice pricing can save you thousands too.

2022 Audi Q3
The Q3 interior provides a lot of luxury for its reasonable price.

Those buying a new Q3 have the confidence that it’ll hold its value better than some competitors, thanks to its runner-up status in the latest Canadian Black Book 2020 Best Retained Value Awards in the “Sub-Compact Luxury Crossover” category, where the Győr, Hungary-made crossover matched BMW’s X1, and was beaten by Mercedes’ GLA.

The Q3 also tied for runner-up in the “Small Premium SUV” segment of the latest 2021 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS), matching the Volvo XC40, but both Europeans were edged out by Lexus’ new UX. Additionally, the same third-party analytical firm’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) has it solely owning the runner-up position in the same category, once again behind the GLA.

Lexus UX second in sales after just two years on the market

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
in less than two years, Lexus new UX (shown here in 250h F Sport trim) has charged into second place in the subcompact luxury SUV class.

Lexus smartly said goodbye to its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback in 2017, and hello to the new UX soon after in 2019, thus helping to pave the way for other automakers to do likewise once realizing the Japanese luxury brand’s ability to earn second place on the sales charts in less than two years of availability.

A total of 2,520 UX models rolled out of Lexus dealerships in 2020, beating a best-ever total of 1,640 CT 200h deliveries in 2012, which is a gain of more than 50 percent, while at the close of Q2 2021 the UX had found 1,525 new buyers, showing that it’s on target for an even stronger third year.

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
For 2022, all UX models sold in Canada will be powered by a fuel-efficient hybrid drivetrain.

For 2022, the UX is only available with one drivetrain in Canada, having dropped its entry-level front-wheel drive UX 200 designation north of the 49th parallel (and we’re guessing Alaska, Hawaii, etcetera, too). This means last year’s base window sticker of $38,450 gets a $2,250 bump up to $40,700 for 2022, but that’s a small price to pay for all-wheel drive, via an electric motor driving the rear wheels, plus a more potent hybrid drivetrain that’s better on fuel. Before segueing into the UX 250h model’s performance and fuel-efficiency advantages, it should be said that Lexus is currently offering factory leasing and financing rates from 2.9 percent, while CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $1,964 at the time of writing.

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
F Sport trim adds a lot of performance-oriented style to Lexus entry-level model.

Where the outgoing UX 200 only put 169 horsepower down to the front wheels, the UX 250h once again makes 181 net horsepower, which gets close to base Q3 performance on paper, and actually matches it on asphalt as well, evidenced by its 9.1-second 0-100 km/h acceleration in a straight line (the discontinued UX 200 managed 9.2 seconds).

The UX 250h also delivers much better fuel economy that’s estimated at 5.7 L/100 city, 6.2 highway and 6.0 combined, a feat that’s no doubt assisted by a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT), albeit expensing some performance. More engaging F Sport trim adds paddle shifters, however, making the most of the equipment on hand, which includes standard Sport mode that, together with the UX’ well balanced front strut and multi-link rear suspension setup, improves fast-paced handling.

2022 Lexus UX 250h
Shown here with the Luxury package, the regular UX 250h provides a comfortable and roomy rear seating for such a small crossover.

As noted earlier, the UX claimed top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, while it also tied for runner-up with the GLA in the same company’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, only beaten by the XC40, while the entire Lexus brand topped J.D. Power’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study overall, and is also the most reliable luxury brand according to Consumer Reports.

Additional reasons to consider the new UX include J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards that ranked it number one in its Premium Subcompact Utility Vehicle” category, while the UX also achieved a best-in-class score in the “Luxury Compact SUV/Crossover” segment of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards (be sure to check out our 2021 Lexus UX Road Test).

BMW X1 slipping in popularity yet still a top-three contender

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
BMW’s X1 xDrive28i is the the largest and most accommodating entry in the subcompact luxury SUV segment, and one of the most enjoyable to drive.

Talk to anyone considering a step up from a mainstream volume brand into the luxury sector and the names BMW and Mercedes-Benz will inevitably be included in the conversation, and for good reason. With almost and more than a century respectively behind them, the two German brands have earned most consumers’ respect, and the prestige that followed plays an important part in premium brand decision making.

While priced near the bottom of BMW’s lineup, at $42,425 (the aforementioned 2 Series Gran Coupe is $1,000 less), the base 2022 X1 xDrive28i is hardly the least expensive SUV in the subcompact class (although up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $2,000 might help). Still, 2,384 new buyers didn’t mind paying close to that much in calendar year 2020.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
It might look solely like a BMW, but the X1 actually shares underpinnings with Mini’s Countryman.

What’s more, after six months of 2021, the X1 had managed to sneak past Lexus’ UX with 1,616 deliveries to its credit, but these numbers are a far cry from sales in 2017, 2018 and 2019, that saw the X1’s popularity steadily slipping downward from its once grand heights of 6,120, 5,308, and 4,420 units respectively.

This negative trajectory might have something to do with the sportier X2 stealing 1,856 buyers after arriving in 2018, although the sleeker SUV’s sales have been sliding too, with 1,383 delivered in 2019 and just 790 in 2020. As of Q2 2021’s close, a 495-unit midterm tally looks like it might be improving on last year’s total, so we’ll need to see how things shake out after the rest of the year gets added up.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
The X1’s cabin is very upscale for the class, and easily worthy of the good BMW name.

The X1’s performance wouldn’t be the issue holding buyers back from signing on the dotted line, however, as its sole 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a blistering (compared to most competitors) 6.2-second sprint from zero to 100 km/h, thanks in part to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and standard all-wheel drive, while the latter aids the front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension make BMW’s usual magic through the corners (although take note, the first-generation X1 was a sharper handler, with this one increasing the comfort quotient).

The X1 also performs well when it comes to utility, offering the most dedicated cargo volume available in the entire class at 767 litres (27.1 cu ft). Additionally, folding its conveniently-divided 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks forward results in a grand total of 1,775 litres (58.7 cu ft) of gear-toting space, also the most in the segment.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
The X1’s spacious rear seating area can be made to feel even roomier with a panoramic glass sunroof.

The next best is Mercedes’ new GLB-Class, incidentally, with 700 and 1,680 litres (24.0 and 62.0 cu ft) respectively, while the worst when it comes to dedicated cargo room is the same automaker’s GLA-Class with a token 435 litres (15.0 cu ft) to its name, which it mostly makes up for when dropping its rear seats down, resulting 1,430 litres (50.5 cu ft) of load-hauling capacity. In case you were wondering, Infiniti’s decommissioned QX30, which was developed alongside the GLA-Class, offered more space behind the rear seats at 543 litres (19.2 cu ft), but it suffered from the least amount ever offered in this class when laid flat, at 963 litres (34.0 cu ft). This may have been one of the key reasons for its slow sales, as the great-looking QX30 was a wonderful little SUV other than that.

Volvo XC40 earns a well-deserved fourth place on the sales charts

2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge
Volvo XC40 Recharge is fully electric, giving the Swedish brand a serious edge in this burgeoning entry-level luxury segment.

Speaking of cargo shortcomings, Volvo’s XC40 can’t attribute its top-five success to luggage carrying prowess, being that it only manages a scant 586 litres (20.7 cu ft) of volume behind the rear seats, and 1,336 litres (47.2 cu ft) when folded, making it the third smallest in the segment (not including the Encore) with respect to the former, and second smallest (including the Encore) for the latter, but it does most everything else so well that its consumer take-rate truly deserves to be above average.

Like the majority in this subcompact luxury SUV class, the XC40 is the most affordable way to own a new Volvo, not to mention that it’s one of just five contenders in this 10-model segment priced below $40k. Specifically, the base XC40 Momentum T4 AWD starts at $39,950 for 2022 (plus Volvo is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,250), and packs a lot of style, quality, performance and versatility for its small package.

2022 Volvo XC40
Volvo’s XC40, shown here with its conventional powertrain, rides on a long wheelbase for such a diminutive SUV, providing a comfortable ride and handling prowess that matches its strong straight-line performance.

At 4,425 mm (174.2 in), it’s actually the shortest from nose to tail amongst the top five, yet its 2,702-mm (106.4-in) wheelbase is longer than all of the above (although not the Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class below), which gives it an athletic visual stance while making as much of the available interior space as possible.

Another bonus is the XC40’s multiplicity of powertrains, starting with the T4 designated engine only available in base Mlomentum trim. With 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, it’s nowhere near the least potent in the category, and at just over 8 seconds from a standing start to 100 km/h, it’s hardly the slowest base model either. Much of its energetic takeoff can be attributed to its precise-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and just-noted standard AWD, while the fuel economy tradeoff is reasonable at 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined.

2022 Volvo XC40
The XC40 provides a lot of interior room for its small dimensions, plus a lot of innovative features.

Moving up to the T5, a stronger version of the same engine doesn’t impact efficiency much either, with a claimed rating of 10.7 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined, especially considering output increases to 248 horsepower, torque to 258 lb-ft, and its zero to 100 km/h time comes down to just 7.2 seconds.

So far so good, but speed demons will want to move up yet another notch on the ladder to the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, an EV version of the little SUV that’ll blast from standstill to 100 km/h in a mere 4.9 seconds, making it one of the fastest subcompact luxury SUVs currently available. The Recharge incorporates a 75-kWh battery and two electric motors for a resultant 402-horsepower, plus the grip of AWD. What’s more, it can travel up to 335 km (208 miles) on a single charge.

2022 Volvo XC40
The XC40’s headroom is very generous.

The XC40 Recharge is already gaining respect in the industry too, with highest marks in the “Luxury Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards for consumers. The regular XC40 has also done well, with a top-tier result in the “Compact Luxury Crossover SUV” class of AutoPacific’s most recent 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards, plus as noted earlier, it tied with the Q3 in the “Small Premium SUV” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, while also receiving best-possible honours in the same firm’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. That’s quite the trophy case!

As for sales numbers, both conventional and electric versions accounted for 2,254 Canadian deliveries in 2020, its best year yet (out of two full years), while it already achieved sales of 1,829 units by this year’s halfway mark, putting it on target for second in the class if momentum (sorry for the pun) continues. Again, the XC40 deserves its success.

Mercedes GLB newcomer edges ahead of GLA for top-5 honours

2022 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic
The smart looking new GLB, shown here in potent AMG 35 4Matic trim, is the second roomiest vehicle in the subcompact luxury SUV class.

Mercedes believes so much in the entry-level luxury SUV sector that it introduced a second entry for 2020, and despite being the new GLB’s first full year on the scene it still managed to edge out the smaller GLA with 1,775 units to 1,759. Any question about which model will dominate moving forward is being answered this year, with the first six months of 2021 resulting in 1,474 deliveries for the GLB and 1,291 for the GLA.

To be totally fair to Mercedes, like BMW and its X1/X2 combo, the GLA/GLB duo actually compete with each other as much as they battle against rival brands, so therefore when combining the sales of both SUVs into one, the three-pointed star brand ended up second in the class with 3,534 units rolling out of its Canadian dealerships last year, while even better, it found 2,765 new subcompact crossover SUV buyers over the first two quarters of 2021.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB provides a more traditional, upright design, which aids cargo space.

While the two models offer very different takes on styling, size and utility, the fact you can get into the larger GLB for only slightly more than the diminutive GLA might have more to do with its success than its more traditional, upright, SUV-like design. Size in mind, the new GLB-Class is 224 mm (8,8 in) longer than the GLA-Class, at 4,634 mm (182.4 in) from front to back, while its wheelbase spans 100 mm (3.9 in) more. That makes it just 22 mm (0.9 in) shorter than the compact luxury GLC-Class, although true to its subcompact classification, the GLB’s 1,834-mm (72.2-in) width is 56 mm (2.2 in) narrower than the GLC, while identical to the GLA’s width. Its height, however, is 20 mm (0.8 in) taller than the larger GLC, and 47 mm (1.8 in) higher than the GLA, making it the clear winner for headroom.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB, and its GLA sibling, arguably provide the most luxurious experience inside, thanks in part to the most advanced electronics in the industry.

The GLB’s second-best-in-class cargo capacity was already noted (in the X1 overview), but differences between the GLB and GLA weren’t covered, those being 265 litres (9.3 cu ft) of extra space behind the larger SUV’s rear seats, and 250 litres (8.8 cu ft) more when both second-row backrests are laid flat.

Pricing for the GLA starts at $42,400 (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,750), whereas the most affordable GLB begins at $46,500 (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $2,450), while AMG 35 variants of both models are priced at $52,900 and $57,500 respectively.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB can even be had with three rows, the only vehicle in the category to do so.

AMG? That’s right. Mercedes hasn’t forgotten to include performance variants, even in this more affordable market segment. Both M-B models offer a fuel economy-focused variant and at least one that makes daily commutes and weekend getaways a lot more fun, with the GLA and GLB 250 4Matic duo utilizing a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that’s good for 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, plus the AMG GLA and GLB 35 4Matic models make a sizeable 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

2022 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S 4MATIC+
The tiny little GLA can be had in 382 hp AMG 45 S 4MATIC+ trim, which makes it the fastest SUV in the class by far.

Straight-line acceleration equals 6.7 seconds to 100 km/h for the base GLA and 6.9 for the GLB, while the AMG versions scoot away to the same speed from a stoplight at 4.9 and 5.2 seconds apiece. Shifts are lightning quick too, thanks to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, while economy is decent considering their go-fast capability, with the GLB rated at 10.3 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.2 combined in its most efficient form, or a respective 11.1, 8.9 and 10.1 with its formidable AMG badging. Similarly, the GLA is good for a claimed 9.8 city, 7.2 highway and 8.7 combined rating in base form, or 10.4, 8.1 and 9.4 with its mid-range AMG-lite upgrade.

AMG-lite? Yes, there’s more. Mercedes’ GLA can also be had in brilliantly fun AMG GLA 45 4Matic trim, which means for $60,500 its 2.0-litre turbo four puts out a whopping 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, resulting in the segment’s fastest acceleration at just 4.4 seconds to 100 km/h.

How the rest of the subcompact luxury crossover SUV field stacks up

2022 Mini Cooper Countryman ALL4
Mini’s Cooper Countryman easily qualifies for premium status, plus is one of the sportiest in the class in top-tier trim.

Enough has already been said about the sixth-place GLA-Class throughout this top-5 review, particularly when it comes to its many awards, which left the Mini Countryman (available from $32,990, less up to $3,000 in additional incentives) in the luxury crossover SUV segment’s seventh sales spot last year with 1,637 deliveries, although 2021 might lower its ranking significantly, as the BMW-owned British brand had only sold 310 examples as of Q2 2021’s end (a chip shortage issue?).

2022 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque is one classy little contender.

The Countryman’s lacklustre 2021 sales performance is just a bit more than half as much of the ninth-place Land Rover Range Rover Evoque’s January-through-June year-to-date tally of 609 deliveries ($49,950 for the P250 AWD, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,000), after selling 1,410 units last year, while BMW’s X2 ($44,950, plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $3,000) once again found 790 customers in 2020 and 495 over the first six months of this year.

Last, but nowhere near least when it comes to premium-level accoutrements, features and performance, is Jaguar’s somewhat pricier E-Pace ($51,500, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,250) that earned just 265 sales last year and a nominal 80 as of June 30, 2021. The E-Pace, which initially hit our market in 2017, was stylishly refreshed from the outside in for 2021, and truly deserves more love than it gets.

2022 BMW X2 M35i
BMW’s X2, shown here in M35i trim, is one of the sportiest designs in the category.

That covers everything in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment, so far at least, but stay tuned for Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale, which should provide a lot of performance in a small package, and who knows, maybe Acura’s CDX, or whatever they’ll eventually call it, will arrive alongside the upcoming HR-V. We should also expect an entry-level Genesis crossover in this class, because the South Korean premium upstart is working feverishly to fill holes in its new lineup, evidenced by their new 2022 GV70 compact luxury SUV, and the just-announced all-electric GV60. Being that we all now know how important this smallest of SUV categories is, could a Cadillac XT3 be in the works? Lincoln needs to attract new entry-level buyers too, so due to their naval naming scheme theme we think a new Patrol is in order (although Nissan may own the global name for its Armada in our market too, so maybe the tiny ship’s “Cyclone” class designation would be more fitting. We don’t think a new Infiniti QX30 is in the works, however, being how terribly Nissan’s luxury brand is struggling to survive right now.

2022 Jaguar E-Pace
It’s hard not to like Jaguar’s impressive E-Pace, but it’s base price is the highest in the class.

Likelier, expect larger, more profitable luxury brands such as Audi and Lexus to double down on their efforts by supplementing their existing models with roomier alternatives, just like Mercedes has done with the GLB, or sportier variants like BMW’s X2.

Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview (even the Buicks), plus use the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each SUV.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos

The fabulous 911 GTS is back, and just like in 2019, the last time Porsche offered the performance-first model with the car’s previous seventh-generation 991 body style, it comes in five distinct variations.…

New 2022 Porsche 911 GTS debuts with 473 horsepower

2022 Porsche 911 GTS
The SportDesign package comes standard on all GTS models, making the front fascia, side sills, and rear styling unique.

The fabulous 911 GTS is back, and just like in 2019, the last time Porsche offered the performance-first model with the car’s previous seventh-generation 991 body style, it comes in five distinct variations.

Now based on the 911’s eighth-generation 992 model (see our first story about the 922 model here), the 2022 version is available as the $150,700 Carrera GTS coupe, $165,300 Carrera GTS Cabriolet, $159,100 Carrera 4 GTS, $173,700 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet, and lastly the $173,700 Targa 4 GTS (see all other 2022 Porsche 911 models here).

The 3.0-litre flat-six engine’s displacement is unchanged as well, as is its twin-turbo forced induction system, but a new sport exhaust, together with reduced interior insulation, provides louder, more exhilarating sounds, while the GTS’ engine output has been pumped up by 23 horsepower to 473, while torque has increased by 15 lb-ft to 420, both thanks to 2.3 psi of additional boost.

2022 Porsche 911 GTS
With 473 hp to draw from, this is the side of the new 911 GTS you’ll likely see more often than not, unless you step up to purchase your own.

The massaged powerplant slices 3/10ths from the old GTS’ launch time when utilizing its eight-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox together with the standard Sport Chrono Package (which includes dynamic engine mounts, launch control, and Sport Plus mode), combining for standstill to 100 km/h sprint time of just 3.4 seconds in base Carrera GTS coupe trim, all before a 1-km/h-faster 311 km/h top track speed.

The AWD-enhanced Carrera 4 GTS is even quicker off the line, launching from zero to 100 km/h a mere 3.3 seconds, but its terminal velocity is a hair slower at 309 km/h. The Carrera GTS Cabriolet can achieve the same top track speed as the Carrera 4 GTS, although at 3.6 seconds to 100 km/h it’s the slowest of the five. This said, the Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet and Targa 4 GTS coupe each shave a 10th from the most affordable GTS convertible, with 0-100 km/h sprints only requiring 3.5 seconds, and their top speeds maxxing out at 307 km/h.

2022 Porsche 911 GTS Targa
The Targa is the way to go if your summers aren’t as long as the winters.

Of note, those wanting a DIY transmission can opt for Porsche’s seven-speed manual, at no difference in price from the PDK. The short-throw shifter is a full 10 mm stubbier than the gear lever in the regular 911, but this isn’t the drivetrain to get if drag racing is your thing, as straight-line acceleration is down some 0.7 to 0.8 seconds (depending on the model) compared to the PDK. Instead, the manual is best for those who enjoy the art of driving.

The best of such moments can often be found when a given road starts to wind, and to that end the new GTS includes a Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system that was pinched from the newest 911 Turbo, while coupe and convertible models now roll on a 10-mm lower sport suspension that to improves aerodynamics and provides enhanced transitional response.

2022 Porsche 911 GTS Targa
The 911 GTS Targa gets a special darkened roll hoop with black lettering.

The GTS’ 20-inch front and 21-inch rear Satin Black alloys were pulled from the 911 Turbo S, however, as were their 245/35R20 front and 305/30R21 rear summer performance tires, while the high-performance brakes hiding behind the spokes were initially developed for the regular 911 Turbo. These boast red-painted six- and four-piston aluminum monobloc fixed calipers, with 408- and 380-mm cross-drilled and internally vented rotors front to back.

Additionally, a new Lightweight Design package, that chops up to 25 kilograms from the model’s curb weight, can be had for the first time on a GTS, featuring a set of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) full bucket seats, lightweight side and rear window glass, deleted rear seats, plus more.

2022 Porsche 911 GTS
The steering wheel is covered in a suede-like microfibre dubbed Race-Tex.

As far as aesthetics go, the SportDesign package is standard on all GTS models, so therefore the front fascia, side sills, and rear styling is unique when put side-by-side with other 911 models. Additionally, black is once again the theme from the outside in, most noticeable with the cars’ tail lamps that feature darkened lenses, while the Targa features a darker roll hoop with black lettering on both sides.

Inside, black suede-like Race-Tex microfibre surfaces the steering wheel rim, shift knob, centre seat panels, door handles, armrests, and the centre storage compartment lid/armrest, aiding grip and adding plush style. What’s more, buyers can opt for optional red stitching in key areas, or just keep it black on black.

2022 Porsche 911 GTS
A set of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) full bucket seats can be had when ordering the new Lightweight Design package.

Being based on the new eighth-gen 911, the new GTS features the upgraded Porsche Communication Management (PCM) 6.0 infotainment system, that features a more user-friendly interface design, faster response to inputs, plus Android Auto smartphone integration (joining Apple CarPlay that was already available).

Porsche improved the PCM’s voice assistant as well, which can now recognize natural speech more easily. All a user needs to do to activate the upgraded system is say, “Hey Porsche,” and then follow the prompts. Another PCM 6.0 bonus is the Porsche Track Precision app that lets track driver’s time laps and much more, plus a tire temperature display is also part of the standard package when choosing a GTS.

2022 Porsche 911 GTS
PCM 6.0 comes standard, as does more psuede.

You can order a new 2022 Porsche 911 GTS now, and likely qualify for factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. Check out CarCostCanada’s 2022 Porsche 911 Canada Prices page to learn more, and while you’re at it find out how dealer invoice pricing can save you thousands off your next new car. You can also download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, to guarantee you’ll have all the information you need to get the best deal possible on your next new vehicle.

The new 911 Carrera GTS: More of What You Love (2:41):

The new 911 Carrera GTS: Drone POV (1:00):

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

In the automotive industry, especially the premium sector, there’s no set formula a brand can simply follow in order to find success. Lexus and Infiniti both arrived on the North American luxury scene…

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD Road Test

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
The affordable UX is now the gateway to Lexus, and a mighty fine subcompact luxury SUV it is.

In the automotive industry, especially the premium sector, there’s no set formula a brand can simply follow in order to find success. Lexus and Infiniti both arrived on the North American luxury scene around the same time in 1989, about three years after Acura, but Lexus has achieved far greater overall sales success than the other two Japanese marques.

Last year, Lexus sold 23,793 new vehicles into the Canadian market and 275,042 units in the U.S., while Acura sold 16,712 and 136,982 cars and crossovers respectively, but Infiniti found just 5,786 and 79,503 buyers. Where Lexus placed fourth in both markets, and Acura a respectable fifth and seventh, Infiniti only managed 12th out of 17 luxury brands (including Buick and Mini, but not Maserati, Bentley, etcetera).

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
The F Sport package provides more aggressive styling details than the regular model.

The same scenario has played out in separate segments, where Lexus’ RX has dominated in the two-row mid-size SUV arena and Acura’s MDX amongst three-row mid-size utilities, whereas the latter brand’s RDX has mostly topped the Canadian sales charts in the compact luxury SUV class, although in the US it’s dropped down the podium thanks to Lexus’ NX that sat in second place as of the close of 2020.

Infiniti should be given a shout out for helping to initiate the subcompact luxury SUV category along with Mercedes-Benz, the two brand’s codeveloping the GLA and QX30, but alas the latter left the market after 2019, just when Lexus swooped in to sweep up the spoils with its tiny UX. That ultra-angled utility now sits third in the Canadian subcompact luxury SUV segment and sixth in the U.S., behind Buick’s Encore and Audi’ Q3 in the northern jurisdiction, plus the just-noted GLA, Volvo’s XC40, and Mercedes’ slightly larger GLB in the mostly southern nation.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
The regular UX 250h looks classy in its taupe-like Nebula Grey Pearl paint.

Acura has yet to offer anything in this class, which is odd considering Mini and Jaguar, two of the slower selling brands in the premium sector, do. Even Alfa Romeo will enter the fray with their Tonale next year, so we may eventually see a CDX, as the rumour-mill has been calling it, at some point in the future. As it is, the Encore, Q3 and UX are followed by the BMW X1, XC40, GLB, Mini Countryman, GLA, Range Rover Evoque, the coupe-like BMW X2, and the Jaguar E-Pace. As for others that might come down the pipeline, Cadillac is enjoying a reasonable take-rate for its larger compact XT4, so an XT3 could potentially be based on Buick’s slightly larger new Encore GX, and we’ve got to expect that Hyundai’s upstart Genesis brand will want in on some of this action too.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
A lighter shade, like Ultra White, makes a big difference to how this little SUV looks, truly defining its many angled elements.

This is becoming the entry-level gateway for many luxury brands, after all. Lexus gave up on its smallest CT 200h hatchback back in 2017, only leaving the Germans (including Mini) and Acura’s beleaguered ILX to fight over the remaining scraps, so it’s either join the subcompact luxury SUV party or hope you’ll manage to snag up-and-coming premium customers that bypass the subcompact sector altogether. That’s a choice most are finding too risky to take, hence the quick buildup of new offerings in this relatively new category, despite significantly lower sales than larger compact SUVs.

At first glance, it’s difficult to tell the UX shares underpinnings with Toyota’s CH-R, but of course a lot of cars and SUVs utilize the Japanese automaker’s TNGA-C platform architecture, including the Corolla and Prius. Where the CH-R is swoopy and curvaceous, the UX is all angles and sharp creases, plus its big spindle grille could never be mistaken for anything but a Lexus. A menacing set of LED headlamps, complete with Lexus’ checkmark signatures, hover above vertical corner vents for some sportiness, while at the rear, even more angular taillights appear as if they’re being stretched apart by a narrowing strip of LEDs at centre.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
Cadillac may have initiated the angled and creased look, but Lexus owns it now.

This seems as good a point as any to point out that I tested two different UX trims, both featuring Lexus’ electrified 250h AWD running gear, the Nebula Grey Pearl (more of a taupe) example featuring the regular body style and the Ultra White version dressed up with Lexus’ more performance-oriented F Sport design details. Rather than thinking that one is lesser than the other, I found the regular one classier and the F Sport, well, sportier, so your choice will come down to personal taste.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
The biggest difference between regular and F Sport styling up front is the blacked out grille surround and wider, sportier corner vents.

If you just want the sportier styling, Lexus makes a basic $2,000 F Sport Series 1 package available that adds a larger, more aggressive F SPORT front grille, LED fog lights and cornering lamps, as well as 18-inch F SPORT alloy wheels to the outside, and on the inside a digital primary gauge cluster, a three-spoke F SPORT steering wheel with paddle shifters, an F SPORT shift knob, active sound control that mimics shifts to make it feel like the continuously variable transmission is changing gears, special Nuluxe (breathable leatherette) F Sport seat upholstery (mine done out in two-tone Circuit Red), plus eight-way power-adjustable driver and front passenger sport seats.

If you want the same look with more goodies, the $8,800 F Sport Series 2 package includes all of the above before adding triple-beam LED adaptive headlamps, driver’s seat and side mirror memory with reverse auto-tilt, a full TFT instrument cluster, a head-up display that projects key info onto the windshield ahead of the driver, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation with Destination Assist embedded within a larger 10.3-inch infotainment display that also includes Enform Remote, Enform Safety Connect, and Enform Service Connect, as well as a wireless device charging pad, an eight-speaker audio upgrade, a remote garage door opener, and a gesture-controlled (kick motion) powered rear liftgate.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
LEDs have given automakers a lot more creative license with lighting elements.

The white UX 250h in the photos came with the latter package, while the taupe-coloured one included a $5,300 Luxury package that added many of the same features, such as the seat and mirror memory, head-up display, wireless charging, auto-dimming centre mirror, garage door opener, upgraded display with navigation and Enform functions, improved stereo, and gesture/powered rear hatch, plus on top of these it also came with a special Washi instrument panel design, a wallet-sized smart key, and Lexus’ Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking, a.k.a. self-parking. My tester’s fabulous looking “Glazed Caramel” seat, dash bolster and door armrest upholstery is only available with the Luxury package too, an upgrade that really makes the interior look rich compared to the regular all-black colourway.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
Black with red highlights means “performance” in the automotive industry, but the F Sport’s greater abundance of red is certainly more eye-catching.

Speaking of all-black, the only other package Lexus is offering UX customers for 2021 is an $1,100 upgrade dubbed Black Line Special Edition, which rides the current wave of blackened trim replacing otherwise chrome accents (or in this case, mostly black, as there’s still some metal brightwork blinging up the side mirrors, side window surrounds, and branding/badging), with glossy black being added to the grille surround, wheels, and roof rails, plus the mirror caps that remain black even if choosing a non-black (or Caviar, as Lexus calls it) exterior colour, while inside it gets blue stitching around the inside of the black leather-wrapped steering wheel, and yet more blue accents elsewhere, while Lexus includes LED headlights with auto high beams for this package as well.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
If classy is more to your liking, choosing the “Glazed Caramel” interior when opting for the Luxury package in the regular 250h is the way to go.

Attested by the sales numbers noted earlier, I’m not alone in liking the way this little SUV looks, either on the outside or from inside the cabin. The protruding instrument hood is bookended by the same types of control pods first used in Lexus’ now legendary LFA supercar, the one of the left for turning off the traction/stability control, and the right-side knob for switching between Normal, Sport, and Eco driving modes (the EV mode is a separate button found on the lower centre console). The instruments under the hood are digital, as noted above, so only similar to the LFA, from a design perspective, while the widescreen display atop the dash is a real feast for the eyes, thanks to the organic way Lexus laid it out, to the beautifully detailed colour graphics on the high-definition monitor itself.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
The UX has a nicely organized driving environment. with great visibility all-round.

It’s not a touchscreen, as it would be a bit too far to reach for most drivers, but Lexus has upgraded the old lower centre console-mounted joystick-style Remote Touch Interface with the newer RTI 2.0 touchpad that I prefer more, if only because it looks more up-to-date and takes up less space. It works well enough too, but then again, I’d rather have the option of a touchscreen, because, like most people, that’s what I’m used to.

The backup camera is excellent, thanks to the big, high-definition display and active guidelines, while the array of quick-access buttons and dials around the front portion of the centre armrest, just behind the trackpad, is an innovative way to search through and select infotainment features, of which there are plenty. Navigation is included in upper trims, of course, although I prefer using Android Auto via my smartphone, which is included with the UX, as is Apple CarPlay. A colourful array of climate controls show up on the centre display too, and while you can modulate them there, I appreciate the narrow strip of quick-access buttons just below on the centre stack, while a second row of switches incorporates buttons for the three-way heatable front seats and two-way heated steering wheel rim.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
The UX’ superb seating position should work well for most body types.

Overall, the UX is an enjoyable place to spend time, from the interior’s aesthetics to its overall comfort and roominess. The driver’s seat is generously adjustable and the powered steering column provides ample reach and rake that should allow for a good seating position no matter your body type, which isn’t always the case for my long-legged, short-torso frame. The seatback provided decent lower support too, the same for both cars, other than the two-way powered lumbar support that didn’t quite meet up to the small of my back. The F Sport’s front seats were certainly bolstered more effectively up by the shoulders, however, yet they’re designed to fit a wider backside than mine, so they’d probably do more to keep a larger person in place during fast cornering than me.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
The fully digital gauge cluster, this one in the regular UX 250h, is impressive.

Despite the F Sport’s steering wheel looking sportier and receiving textured leather for its lower two-thirds, both rims felt equally thick and padded and therefore good in my hands, with identically comfortable thumb to optimize control. Of course, I preferred the paddles attached to the F Sport’s wheel more than merely shifting via the console-mounted gear lever on more luxuriously appointed UX, but honestly, I drove these little SUVs conservatively throughout each two-week stint, other than for testing purposes, so I doubt I would end up missing the paddles all that often if this were my regular daily driver.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
This is one very advanced infotainment display, filled with all the features you’ll ever need.

Instead of taking advantage of this perfect segue into the UX’ driving dynamics, I best finish off my tour of the cabin, particularly how the rear seating area measured up to my average-sized (for a teenager) five-foot-eight stature. For starters, I wouldn’t try stuffing three adults into the second row, unless they’re smaller folk, but there should be plenty of space for two in all directions, no matter their shape or size. They shouldn’t be thrown around if you decide to get enthusiastic behind the wheel either, thanks to good bolstering in the outboard positions. They’re comfortable too, with decent lower back support, plus a wide armrest filled with cupholders folds down at centre to improve things more. Two USB charging ports can be found on the backside of the front console, just below a set of HVAC vents, but that’s it for rear seat luxuries.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
All UX trims utilize Toyota’s continuously variable transmission, but the F Sport gets a set of steering wheel paddles for more driver engagement.

As far as touchy-feely surfaces go, the entire dash-top is made from a pliable composite and includes a wonderfully upscale stitched and leather-wrapped section that visually flows all the way from the left side of the gauge cluster, under the centre display, to right side of the dash. This is joined by a padded section just below, ahead of the front passenger, which perfectly matches the back half of the door uppers and inserts. The front portion of those door uppers are finished in the same premium composite as the front dash section, which Lexus also finished the edges of the centre console in a really soft, plush leatherette to protect the inside knees of larger occupants from chafing. Other niceties include cloth-wrapped A pillars and touch-sensitive LED overhead lamps, while all of the switchgear was made from a high-grade dense plastic, with tight fitment and good damping. I was surprised, however, to learn that the rear door uppers were finished in hard plastic, which just isn’t good enough for this class, plus rear seat heaters aren’t available either.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
Lexus’ Remote Touch Interface 2.0, a trackpad, was a step in the right direction for its infotainment controller.

The cargo compartment is luxurious enough too, with a nice quality of carpeting in all the expected places, plus chromed tie-down hooks at each corner, but Lexus didn’t go so far to add stainless steel sill plates. They did upgrade the 2021 UX 250h’s cargo floor with an adjustable section, however, which adds 141 litres (5 cu ft) to its dedicated volume, increasing from 481 (17) to 623 litres (22 cu ft). When folding the 60/40-split rear seats down, available stowage space increases to 1,231 litres (43.5 cu ft), but this brings up one of my lone complaints, the lack of a centre pass-through or even better 40/20/40 rear seat configuration.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
The F Sport package certainly ups the appearance of performance, but keep in mind you can get black upholster if red isn’t your thing.

I should also mention that all UX trims now come standard with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as part of the Lexus Safety System 2.0 for 2021, which also includes the brand’s Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Bicycle Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Road Edge Detection, Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), All-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beam assisted headlamps.

Even before being upgraded, the 2020 UX received a five-star rating from the U.S. NHTSA (there was no info for the 2021 model), but the IIHS gave it Top Safety Pick status, with best-possible “G” (for good) ratings in all categories except for the headlights that received a worst-possible “P” (for poor) result due to excessive glare when using the low beams around sharp corners, plus only fair nighttime visibility scores in both sharp and gradual corners. I certainly didn’t notice any negatives after dark, but I’m not about to argue with America’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The only utility in this class to earn higher Top Safety Pick Plus status was Volvo’s XC40, while Buick’s Encore GX was the only competitor to match the UX, albeit with a mixture of “A” (for acceptable) and “M” (for Moderate) headlight and child seat LATCH results. All others didn’t receive either Top Safety Pick honour, so kudos to Lexus for being much better than average.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
The seats from the Luxury package are more comfort-oriented, plus feature some elegant stitching on the bolsters (see the gallery above for a better look).

Straight-line performance and at-the-limit handling aren’t better than average, however, but ride quality, quietness and other types of refinements are near the top, which means Lexus has managed to give its smallest, entry-level model a level of driving comfort and poise that comes near to matching the larger compact NX. The 250h is the UX you’ll want to own if the traction benefits of all-wheel drive are important to you, incidentally, thanks to an electric motor driving the rear wheels that automatically adjusts the torque-split between both front and rear axles. This improves handling when accelerating and cornering, especially when driving on slippery roads, plus it makes the UX easier to get off the line. The base UX 200 utilizes a front-wheel drivetrain, by the way, so the hybrid is really the way to go for both performance and fuel economy.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
The rear seating area is generously proportioned, especially for headroom.

Regarding the former, the base UX 200 slots a 169-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine behind its gaping grille, while the 250h gets a net horsepower rating of 181. As noted earlier, a CVT transmits torque to the front axle, resulting in power delivery that’s smooth and linear, rather than aggressive. Then again, the aforementioned active sound control made the F Sport version sound more exciting, and Sport mode (standard across the line) elevated performance parameters, improving shift response, but all said, this is probably the type of SUV best left in Eco mode more often than not, because that’s how you’ll eke out its impressive 5.7 L/100 city, 6.2 highway and 6.0 combined fuel economy rating, which gives the hybrid a significant edge over the base UX’ 8.0 city, 6.3 highway and 7.2 combined results.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
The 2021 UX 250h provides a bit more cargo space below a removable floorboard.

This efficiency makes the UX 250h easy to live with, but the little luxury SUV’s resale value might pad your wallet even more when it comes time to trade-in or sell. It was deemed best-in-class in the “Premium Subcompact Utility Vehicle” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, while it also came out on top in the “Luxury Compact SUV/Crossover” segment of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards.

Also notable, the UX was the highest ranked “Small Premium SUV” in J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, and tied for runner-up in the same third-party analytical firm’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, while Lexus topped J.D. Power’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, and is also the most reliable luxury brand according to Consumer Reports.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
The UX is missing the utility of a centre pass-through.

If that’s not enough to interest you in a new UX, consider that Lexus least expensive model starts below the $40k threshold, at $38,450 (plus freight and fees), which is the mid-point in this class, once again if we include Buick and Mini as luxury brands. The Encore starts at just $24,998, which really doesn’t qualify it for premium status in base form, but the price rises to more than $35k when loaded up, while the Encore GX can easily be optioned past $40k. The Countryman, on the other hand, starts at $32,990 and can be upgraded to almost $60k, so it definitely qualifies as a luxury contender. In fact, a fully loaded UX 250h, which starts at $40,250, doesn’t even break $50k, at $40,090 (plus freight and fees), while Lexus was throwing in up to $1,000 in additional incentives at the time of writing, as per CarCostCanada’s 2021 Lexus UX Canada Prices page.

2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport
You’ll love the UX 250h’ fuel economy above all.

Important for 2022, Lexus will eliminate the base UX 200 trim, causing the base price to rise to $40,700, so we’ll need to see how this impacts sales. I’m guessing not too much, because it this FWD variant wouldn’t be getting the axe if it sold well. If you’d rather have the initial savings of the less expensive UX, however, you’ll need to act quickly, if any are still available.

Whether you go for a 2021 UX or a 2022, you’ll be getting a very comfortable, well-appointed and efficient subcompact luxury SUV. It’s got to be one of the easiest vehicles to drive in any class, and thanks to its diminutive dimensions it’s even easier to park. If you, your partner, or child is learning to drive, or if they simply feel uncomfortable wielding a big, heavy utility around the city, yet appreciate the outward visibility gained from a small SUV’s ride height, this little Lexus is a very good choice. Of course, the UX can be seen as a smart decision for all the other reasons outlined in this review too, therefore it’s easy to recommend.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

It’s been a strong year for Porsche’s new Taycan so far, and the German performance brand isn’t about to let the all-electric model’s momentum ebb anytime soon thanks to new updates for the 2022…

Porsche enhances connectivity and personalization options in updated 2022 Taycan

2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Porsche’s Taycan receives some important updates for 2022.

It’s been a strong year for Porsche’s new Taycan so far, and the German performance brand isn’t about to let the all-electric model’s momentum ebb anytime soon thanks to new updates for the 2022 version of both its regular four-door coupe body style and the new sport-wagon-like Taycan Cross Turismo.

Number one of the update list is a revision of the sixth-generation Porsche Communications Management (PCM 6.0) infotainment system within the centre stack, which now adds Android Auto to a smartphone integration package that already included Apple CarPlay.

2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
The Taycan Sport Turismo adds right height for some useful off-pavement capability.

Android Auto permits users of Google Android-based smartphones to completely connect to the centre display for greater ease of use. A 2022 Taycan owner can now simply plug their Android handheld device into the assigned USB-C port and follow the necessary prompts, at which time a modified version of their phone’s features, apps and personal info is displayed within the in-car touchscreen.

Porsche has updated the new PCM 6.0 operating system’s graphic design as well, with five menu options on the left side of the display rather than merely three, while each icon can now be organized separately.

2022 Porsche Taycan
Some not new colours really spice up the Taycan palette.

What’s more, the 2022 Taycan’s Voice Pilot auditory assistant is now capable of better understanding instructions in everyday language, plus the PCM 6.0 satellite navigation system is quicker to respond to inputs, and also displays info with more clarity thanks to the just-noted graphics refresh.

Better yet, owners of 2022 Taycans will also be capable parking and retrieving their car remotely via their smartphones, by downloading Remote Park Assist. Remote Park Assist, which can remotely park perpendicularly and parallelly, will automatically detect a given parking space by first measuring it with ultrasonic sensors and cameras, and if ample space is available will park the Taycan by using the Porsche Connect app’s smartphone prompts.

2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
The Cross Turismo offers up a lot of practicality to the EV market.

Also important for this higher end premium class, new 2022 Taycan owners can now utilize more personalization options, such as Paint to Sample and Paint to Sample Plus. Along with the 17 standard paint colours already offered, Porsche will provide the choice of 65 Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur colours (so far) when opting for Paint to Sample, the palette including a number of past favourites like Acid Green, Moonlight Blue Metallic, Riviera Blue, Rubystar, and Viola Metallic.

The Paint to Sample Plus option, on the other hand, lets customers provide a unique sample of any colour, after which their Taycan will be doused in a coat of colour-matched paint from the factory.

2022 Porsche Taycan
Taycan personalization has taken a big step forward for 2022.

To learn more about the 2022 Taycan, check out CarCostCanada’s 2022 Porsche Taycan Canada Prices page, which is currently showing factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. CarCostCanada members benefit from plenty of money-saving car-buying help, with everybody’s favourite being dealer invoice pricing that lets you know exactly what the retailer is paying for the vehicle, before you go into negotiate your best deal. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works now, and remember to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store now.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

About a decade into my automotive journalism career, and a bit more than 10 years ago, in 2010, there were a grand total of nine competitors in the compact-to-mid-size pickup truck segment. Jeep’s new…

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Road and Trail Test

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The fabulous looking new Jeep Gladiator is the latest entry into the burgeoning mid-size pickup truck segment.

About a decade into my automotive journalism career, and a bit more than 10 years ago, in 2010, there were a grand total of nine competitors in the compact-to-mid-size pickup truck segment. Jeep’s new Gladiator wasn’t part of the picture back then, but Chrysler Group LLC’s Dodge Dakota was, although due to a misguided DaimlerChrysler redesign that took it from one of the best-looking pickups in the class to one of the least appealing trucks ever, combined with a cheap, plasticky interior, it was struggling near the bottom of its category in sales and was phased out soon after.

Fast-forward to 2021 and there’s just six rivals competing in this category, including one from the newly-minted Dutch-formed Stellantis N.V. that, via its Jeep division, is once again back to making great looking trucks. Without purposely trying to tick off Toyota Tacoma fans, I think the new Gladiator is the most alluring pickup in the mid-size segment, but I can understand why this serious off-roader only finds a narrow niche of hardcore enthusiast buyers.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
While it looks like a Wrangler Unlimited from the front to its rear doors, it’s pure pickup truck from that point rearward.

It’s priced much higher than most of its rivals, after all, with a 2021 window sticker starting at $49,315 (plus freight and fees) before growing to $64,405 in top-line High Altitude trim. Incidentally, when configuring the same trim at CarCostCanada, which shows the starting price at $53,315, it comes out to an identical $64,405 when adding the requisite $9,295 CPOS PKG and $1,795 Customer Preferred Package 24N, while combining all of the most expensive options on either configurator will push the fully-loaded price well past $80k.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Pulling memories of the old CJ-8 Scrambler from 1981–1986, the Gladiator utilizes a box and bed that’s completely separate from the interior.

Some of these extras include the $7,395 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6, or $345 to $445 in exterior paint options, as well as thousands more in additional equipment if you so choose, such as $1,520 for dual tops including a black Sunrider soft top and body-colour Freedom Top 3-piece modular hardtop; $1,450 for an Advanced Safety package featuring Advanced Brake Assist, Forward Collision Warning Plus with Active Braking, and automatic high beams; a $995 Cargo Management Group with a Trail Rail system, including a 240-amp alternator (up front 220 amps), a 400-watt inverter, an 115-volt auxiliary power outlet on the outside, and lockable rear under-seat storage, a $525 Trailer Tow package with a class IV receiver, heavy-duty engine cooling, and trailer hitch zoom for the backup camera, plus more.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The Gladiator’s grille openings are a bit wider than the Wranglers, important for cooling the engine when towing.

My $56,315 Rubicon trimmed tester sits in the middle from a pricing standpoint, and like the High Altitude can be had with the upgraded EcoDiesel, albeit adding this feature automatically ups the ante by $1,795 for an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission that comes standard with the top-tier Gladiator. It’s the same price if replacing the standard six-speed manual attached to the as-tested gasoline-fed base 3.6-litre V6, while Jeep will also be happy to provide you with $995 worth of 17-inch polished black alloys, plus $295 for a set of 285/70 BSW M/T tires (although the standard All-Terrains should be just fine for most), not to mention $1,495 for Black or Dark Saddle/Black leather seat upholstery (with unique Rubicon and Utility Grid designs), etcetera.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The Gladiator (and Wrangler) might look like a classic truck, but its LED headlamps a good sign that it’s completely up-to-date.

Of course, this premium price level puts the Gladiator out of reach for many pickup buyers, which up until recently (2019) could purchase a Nissan Frontier for just $24,598 (it’s no longer available in its current form, nor as a redesigned 2022 model, at least not yet) and only reached $39,498 in its priciest trim (before additional options), while the Chevrolet Colorado’s 2022 model-year pricing ranges from $27,948 to $48,348 before options, the 2022 GMC Canyon’s from $28,648 to $49,748, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma’s from $38,350 to $52,490, and finally the 2022 Honda Ridgeline’s from $45,535 to $54,235, which is probably a good reason why this unibody truck’s sales are at the lower end of the spectrum too.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Rubicon trim includes these all-terrain tires, as well as other 4×4-specific features to make it more capable off-road.

There’s still no sign of a forthcoming Dakota (or 1000) from Dodge, er, Ram (the latter thanks to a separate Ram Truck Division spin-off in 2010), so the glory days of Chrysler group (or Ram) selling 12,000-plus units per year in this class, like the Dakota did in 2004, might be some ways off. As it is, Ram’s most affordable 1500 Classic starts at just over $37k in base Regular Cab two-door, 4×2 Tradesman trim (plus you can get more than $10,000 off of that price in discounts at the time of writing), which is about the same as a base Tacoma, and while it’s filling the same void Ford tried to with its F-150 and GM temporarily did with its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, both rivals came scurrying back to the smaller, more affordable mid-size truck market so as not to lose out. Ford is even re-entering a re-emerging compact truck segment, it’s new Maverick soon going up against Hyundai’s Santa Cruz, so time will tell whether competitive brands take the bait, as clearly one size does not fit all.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Unlike every other pickup truck available (other than the rare, used ’89–91 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible, you can completely take the Gladiator’s roof off, or alternatively remove individual panels.

Back to sales, the Tacoma reigned supreme at the top of this segment with a grand total of 16,946 deliveries in 2020, which despite all the hardship last year was its best year ever. The combination of General Motors trucks came second with an 11,678-unit tally, the Colorado earning 6,648 new buyers and the Canyon totalng 5,030, although the Ranger is really the second-place brand at 10,840 units. The Gladiator’s respectable 4,481 sales total puts it fifth on the 2020 calendar year list, just ahead of the Ridgeline’s 3,369 deliveries, leaving the market dregs to the outgoing Frontier that only managed 1,355 sales.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Our tester included an optional folding and/or removable cargo cover.

While last place is never good, at least Nissan had some mid-size pickup sales in 2020. As of Q2 this year, the Frontier found zero buyers, or more likely the Japanese brand’s dealers managed to sell the last remaining examples before the new year started. The new 2022 model should remedy this problem quickly when it arrives later this year, but it will nevertheless be attempting to win back once-loyal fans that have long given up on the brand due to the previous Frontier’s seemingly never-ending lifecycle.

At least the Tacoma looks to be on track with 7,349 deliveries over the first two quarters of 2021, while the two GM trucks are doing fairly well too, resulting in 6,239 sales over the same half-year period (split up into 3,295 for the Chevy Colorado and 2,944 for the GMC Canyon). As for Jeep, it sent a reasonable 2,075 Gladiators down Canadian roads (and trails) during Q1 and Q2 of this year, while the almost as pricey Ridgeline only managed 1,582 deliveries during the same six months, despite what appears to be shaping up to be a very strong year in the Canadian mid-size pickup truck sector, shown by 23,467 total sales so far (excluding any Q3 figures).

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Here’s a better look at that retractable cargo cover rolled up.

It’ll need to be strong to surpass last year, however. The mid-size pickup segment sold a total of 48,669 units throughout 2020, which was not only surprising considering the tumultuous year we all experienced, but also when factoring in that the last time we saw numbers this high was back in the late aughts and early teens when Ford was blasting $15-20k-something Rangers out into the market by the bucketful (the retail on a base Ranger was $13,999 back in 2011, plus they offered zero-percent financing), and we had so many other players trying to keep up, Mazda even selling its B-Series variant, and Suzuki trying to purvey an equatorial version of GM’s trucks (I actually went to the U.S.-only launch of the 2006–2009 Mitsubishi Raider too, a Dakota based truck that never made sense to bring here… or there for that matter, evidenced by its scant four-year run).

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The Gladiator’s five-foot box is a perfect fit for campers, ATVs and other types of outdoor gear.

The Gladiator is all Jeep, however, and not just in name, which in fact came from the 1962-1971 Gladiator that was made famous (to us older folks) in the TV series Daktari. Even more so than that original Gladiator, and therefore more similar to the 1986–1992 Comanche that was obviously derived from the 1984-1990 Cherokee, few will make the mistake of judging Jeep’s latest truck for evolving from anything other than a JL-series Wrangler. It’s an assumption that’s true of its powertrains, drivetrains, chassis and most everything else, despite plenty of body panels that differ.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The Gladiator’s taillights pay tribute to the rectangular assemblies found on early CJ-4-to-present Wranglers, not to mention Scramblers.

Obviously, the box is unique, and suits the classic Jeep’s look perfectly, but some might not notice that the brand widened the front grille slats to better cool the engine when towing, the mid-size pickup capable of 3,469 kilos (7,650 lbs) on the hitch and 771 kg (1,700 lbs) on the bed, compared to the Wrangler Unlimited’s max trailer weight of 1,587 kg (3,500 lbs) and total payload of 453 kg (1,000 lbs). Throw a short-bed truck camper on the back of that, or even better, a carbon-fibre C-Class RV-style setup from GEO-Cab or EarthRoamer, not to mention a specially equipped off-road trailer from any number of suppliers, and the Gladiator will happily take you to your new home-away-from-home off the grid.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
It just wouldn’t be an off-road-ready Jeep without tow hooks.

Any of the Gladiator’s trims would do well for such purposes, as all are capable of getting you and your family just about anywhere. Of course, the aforementioned top trims, which also include the Mojave, are most suitable, my Rubicon-equipped version ideal for tackling all types of wilderness treks thanks to front- and rear-axle electric lockers (the wide heavy-duty axle up front from Dana) and an electronic disconnecting front sway-bar, not to mention Jeep’s Command-Trac part-time, shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system, a 43.4-degree approach angle, 20.3-degree breakover angle, and 26-degree departure angle, the only one (that I could find specs for) mostly better being the Mojave that’s good for 44.7, 20.9, and 25.5 degrees respectively.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The Gladiator Rubicon doesn’t mess around when off-road… or maybe it does?

Both Gladiator trims compare well against the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, by the way, with the latter achieving a slightly better 43.9-degree approach angle and 22.6-degree breakover angle, but then again, the SUV’s 37-degree departure angle is massively better, while the two-door Wrangler Rubicon manages a 44-degree approach angle, 27.8-degree breakover angle, and (once again) a 37-degree departure angle.

Of course, I went mud wrestling to find out how the Gladiator performed in its element first-hand, and it was easily up to the task in a local 4×4 hotspot (that’s sadly been closed off since). Of all the 4×4 pickups I’ve taken through this course, the Gladiator Rubicon was at least on par with Chevy’s Colorado ZR2 and felt easier to negotiate through the rougher sections than every stock Tacoma, while it’s much more capable than all others listed above. It climbed up and crawled down steep rock-strewn embankments without breaking a sweat, managed deep sand without a moment’s notice, and casually waded through deep puddles that actually came up over the hood (just like the ZR2), as if it was on a lazy Sunday stroll, finding grip everywhere, while the suspension actually remained comfortable.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
There’s little you can throw at this truck that it can’t overcome.

An available front camera system, dubbed TrailCam, allows visibility of obstacles in front and to the sides when off the beaten path, plus Jeep also provides an “Off-Road Pages” section within the Apps menu of the Gladiator’s Uconnect infotainment system that monitors vehicle status, such as ride height, pitch and roll (if equipped), transfer case settings, and the Selec-Terrain traction management mode. Both are really useful features, and wholly unique to Jeep.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Despite its impressive capability, the Gladiator Rubicon never beats up its occupants, just the ground below.

The Gladiator’s 3,487-mm (137.3-in) wheelbase, which is 479 mm (18.8 in) longer than the Wrangler Unlimited’s and spans 1,027 additional mm (40.4 in) over the base Wrangler, didn’t pose a problem, at least where I was travelling, but probably would around some of the rock abutments I experienced when coaxing a Wrangler Unlimited down the Rubicon Trail, or winding that longer SUV through some of the massively treed forests I’ve negotiated locally on the West Coast, these even making the Unlimited more challenging to operate than the regular-wheelbase Wrangler. Still, as far as pickup trucks with useful beds go, the Gladiator is absolutely brilliant off-road.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The Gladiator Rubicon might be all might and muscle on the outside, but inside it’s surprisingly refined.

Stuffed under its classic latched hood, Chryco’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 is plenty potent for everything I asked it to do, thanks to 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, but I’d sooner have the 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 for the sake of four-wheel twist, fuel economy, and therefore, the ability to go further into the bush without worrying about bringing along as many extra Gerry cans of fuel. Still, that decision might only make sense to diehard off-roaders, because the chance of paying off more than $7k worth of engine upgrades for savings of about 10 cents per litre at the pump and maybe 10 percent more range, will take many years of ownership and an odometer spinning well into six figures.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The cabin features exposed exterior paint like its forebears, although the red on the dash is a metallic-finished composite.

I’ve tested the diesel in an absolutely wonderful near-full-load Wrangler Unlimited Sahara that I’ll be reviewing soon, and I must say I was impressed with its similar thrust of 260 horsepower, and much stronger 442 lb-ft of torque. The Gladiator is not available with the Wrangler’s base 2.0-litre turbo-four, however, which might make a suitable companion for those not needing to haul heavy loads, and could potentially get the price down to commoner levels. The engine makes more torque than the base V6 at 295 lb-ft, while its power is a bit stronger than the diesel at 270, but Jeep obviously felt the four-banger’s expected take-rate wouldn’t make for a good business case, so the Gladiator’s fuel economy option can’t truly be considered an economical choice from a financial perspective.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
We’re glad Jeep stayed with analogue gauges, because the Gladiator’s high-def 7.0-inch colour MID leaves little to be desired.

Jeep appears to be preparing a plug-in hybrid alternative for Gladiator’s engine bay, however, based on the Wrangler Unlimited’s new 4xe model, which will also make a difference at the pump thanks to an estimated 4.8 Le/100km combined city/highway in the SUV. That model represents a $6,900 bump over the equivalently-equipped V6-powered Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, mind you, which probably makes it a better long-term financial bet when compared to the diesel variant, if most of your driving occurs over short distances. This said, its non-electrified fuel economy, which is how you’d be driving it on a road trip due to full-EV range that’s merely 40 km, is 11.7 L/100km combined, which is only slightly better than the regular Wrangler Unlimited Sahara’s 12.2 L/100km combined rating.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
That’s one sophisticated looking centre stack. Fortunately it’s easy to figure out.

While we’re on the theme of fuel economy, the Gladiator’s base V6 is rated at 14.3 L/100km in the city, 10.4 on the highway and 12.6 combined when hooked up to its six-speed manual, or 13.7 city, 10.7 highway and 12.3 combined with its eight-speed automatic, while the diesel is good for a claimed 10.8 L/100 city, 8.5 highway and 9.8 combined.

The Gladiator’s smooth off-road suspension translates into decent on-pavement comfort too, at least for this class, but while its longer wheelbase means that it tracks better than a Wrangler on the highway, it needs more small steering adjustments than one of its less 4×4-oriented competitors when doing so. I suppose this is a small price to pay for its amazing off-road capability. Still, I found it enjoyable and relaxing at freeway speeds, stable and safe feeling through tighter curves, plus it’s a good size for city traffic.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The Rubicon’s 7.0-inch centre touchscreen isn’t the market’s largest, but it’s an excellent system nonetheless.

Its cabin is an enjoyable place to while away the time as well, especially if you already like the Wrangler’s classic, retrospective take on interior design. It features body-colour surfaces in key areas, such as the inside door surrounds and above the head as part of the roll bar structure, while my Rubicon’s dash facing was covered in a metallic red composite, also used for the differential bias switch. Matching red stitching can be found throughout the cabin for a sporty look, the front seats even getting embroidered “RUBICON” branding on their backrests, albeit black was my tester’s dominant shade, with both rows covered in optional leather as noted earlier (base Rubicons receive premium cloth).

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
That’s a USB-C charger/connector, showing just how up-to-date the Gladiator is.

The Gladiator features all the same improvements in materials quality and design as the current Wrangler, which was last fully updated in 2018. This means my tester boasted a stitched leatherette dash-top, soft-touch, padded door uppers that continue right down to the tops of the even plusher armrests in one single piece, plus a comfortable centre armrest in leather.

All of the Gladiator’s switchgear is excellent, much of it rubberized with nice big, notchy rims that could easily be used with winter gloves, while Jeep even includes a flip-up lid on the centre stack exposing an auxiliary plug, a USB-A charging/connectivity port, as well as a more up-to-date USB-C port. The front seats and steering wheel rim are three-way heatable, to therapeutic levels no less, plus a large interface for the dual-zone automatic climate control system makes maintaining chosen temperatures easy.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The 8-speed automatic is superb, and secondary shifter for the 4×4 system easy to operate.

In-car electronics include a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen between the two middle vents on the top of the centre stack, and while it’s slightly smaller than average (you’ll need to move up to top-line High Altitude trim to get the 8.4-inch display) the fully-featured Uconnect system comes with most everything an owner could want. Along with the aforementioned Off-Road Pages, my Rubicon’s featured an accurate, easy to use navigation system, fully redundant climate controls that provide nice, big pictographs for selecting ventilation preferences and even let you set the heatable steering wheel and seat warmers, while the audio page includes the usual AM/FM radio selections, plus satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, all played through an eight-speaker stereo with good sound. You can adjust the backup and forward camera angles from the centre display too, plus the mirror dimmer, which is connected to one of the industry’s new higher-end classic-style frameless mirrors that runs flush to the edges.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The driver’s seat isn’t powered, but it’s comfortable, supportive, and provides a good seating position.

Ahead of the driver is a clean, nicely organized primary instrument cluster with analogue gauges to each side of a large 7.0-inch, customizable, full-colour multi-information display, this doubling for the temperature and fuel gauges as well. It’s as close as it gets to a fully digital gauge cluster while remaining mostly analogue, something I don’t think the Gladiator (or Wrangler) needs, nor many of the two models’ fans probably want.

I have to say the driver’s seat was comfortable, necessary for a vehicle that will more than likely be used for overcoming big, bumpy obstacles, but adjustment is purely manual. Again, this wasn’t an issue for me, and makes sense for this type of truck, with even the loftily priced High Altitude receiving the same six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat (featuring seat height) with two-way manual lumbar support, plus just four-way adjustability for the front passenger.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The rear seating area is roomy, plus the seats should be comfortable enough for most.

The rear seats are well designed for good comfort and support too, even for the lower back, plus plenty of leg, foot, elbow, shoulder, and headroom comes standard. A large, wide centre armrest can be folded down in the middle, incorporating the usual dual cupholders, although the bigger bottle holders on the backside of the front console do an even better job of holding drinks. Just above these is a three-prong household-style 115-volt power source, plus overtop this is a compact interface housing two USB-A and two USB-C charging ports. The side window switches hover just above, while two big air vents keep rear passengers warm or cool depending on the season. Additionally, an intricate pattern of webbing can be found on the backside of each front seat.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks drop forward for placing cargo on top.

The rear seats fold down to make a large, wide carpeted cargo shelf, and also flip upwards for taller items, the latter position revealing a handy storage box system with integrated dividers underneath.

Speaking of boxes, my tester had a covered bed, but it was easy to unlatch and roll forward out of the way. The inner tailgate, sidewalls and floor were nicely finished with a spray-in liner, which looked durable and therefore capable of lasting the test of time. The tailgate folds down easily, by the way, while I found the bed wasn’t too difficult to jump onto thanks to exposed bumpers with grippy surfaces. Of course, corner steps like those found on GM’s trucks would’ve been even more helpful, but that has more to do with my aging body than anything you may need to worry about (for now).

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Lift the rear seat cushions up, and there’s now room for taller cargo.

As for problem areas, the proximity-sensing locks were a bit frustrating, and this wasn’t the first time I’ve had similar challenges with Chrysler group vehicles. It simply wouldn’t lock with the exterior door handle button every time I tried, and therefore needed multiple pressings before locking. I’m guessing this isn’t a common issue with others, or the Gladiator wouldn’t be getting such major praise from owners in J.D. Power’s most recent 2021 Initial Quality Study (IQS), which ranked it number one in their “Midsize Pickup” category. The entire Jeep division managed to finish seventh amongst mainstream volume brands in that study too, which is a significant improvement over previous years, but get this, the Ram truck brand was number one overall, while Dodge was second. The folks at Auburn Hills (and Windsor) have obviously been working hard to address past problems, so kudos to them for this impressive result.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Jeep provides handy divided storage boxes below the rear seats.

There’s so much more I could say about the Gladiator, but I’ve got to leave something for you to discover. It really is an impressive mid-size pickup truck, and like all Jeeps, a very capable 4×4, plus it’s hardly short on style, features and refinement, from the outside in. As noted earlier, it won’t be as easy on your pocketbook as some of its rivals, both initially at purchase and at the pump, but this should pay off when it comes time to sell, or at least that’s the case with the Wrangler that currently sits on top of its “Compact SUV” category in the latest Canadian Black Book 2020 Best Retained Value Awards, as well as the Vincentric Best Value in Canada Awards for 2021.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
The V6 is a good match for this truck, but we’d prefer the diesel.

As far as getting a deal goes, CarCostCanada is reporting up to $2,684 in additional incentives on new 2021 Gladiator models, while their average member savings were $2,000 at the time of writing. That’s the most aggressive incentives program available to mid-size truck buyers right now, so well worth checking out. Be sure to learn exactly how CarCostCanada’s affordable membership works as well, including how dealer invoice pricing can help you save thousands when purchasing any new vehicle, plus remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you can have all of their valuable information with you exactly when you need it.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Although some automotive brands struggled last year for reasons I shouldn’t need to explain, Porsche’s Taycan EV was on a mega roll. In fact, the upstart electric nearly demoted Tesla’s Model S…

Porsche Taycan EV outselling Tesla Model S in Canadian market

2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Porsche’s Taycan, shown here in its new more accommodating Cross Turismo body style, is now beating the Tesla Model S in Canadian sales.

Although some automotive brands struggled last year for reasons I shouldn’t need to explain, Porsche’s Taycan EV was on a mega roll. In fact, the upstart electric nearly demoted Tesla’s Model S from the top step of the podium, but when the checkered flag finally waved at the end of 2020, the champ was still in the lead with 960 deliveries, although the new contender was uncomfortably close with 824 sales of its own.

This said, six months into 2021 the story completely changed, with Porsche having sold 445 new Taycan models, and Tesla only able to push 300 examples of its Model S out of company store doors over the same two quarters.

To be fair to Tesla, or maybe more accurately to question the company’s priorities, the Model S, at nearly a decade old, is downright antiquated compared to the fresh, new Taycan. Good on them for making the most of a very well executed initial design that’s managed to last the test of time, the flagship model still arguably more attractive than anything else in the California-cum-Texan tech company’s four-model lineup, but even Tesla’s most ardent fans must be hoping for something new in this class.

2021 Porsche Taycan
The Taycan not only sells fast, but it’s brilliantly quick too.

The Taycan, on the other hand, is that “something new” that EV fans have been waiting for, a two-bodied, four-door coupe and five-door crossover-style sport wagon capable of duking it out with the best electrics in the business, and coming up on top.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like the way it looks, while its levels of luxury, refinement, electronics, and features are all as good as it gets, but Porsche might need to return to Germany’s legendarily demanding 20.8-km Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack in order to claim its production car single-lap title back, where the geriatric Model S just laid waste to its EV-powered record.

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla’s Model S, shown here in fabulously funny Plaid trim, is once again king of Germany’s Nurburgring, something Porsche will want to remedy soon.

A stock Taycan Turbo (funny name for an EV, we know) easily smacked down the old 2015 Model S P85’s single-lap record of eight minutes and 50 seconds flat (8:50) in August of 2019, with a superb seven-minute and 42-second lap time of its own (7:42.34, to be exact), but Tesla’s brilliantly named Model S Plaid (you’ve got to love Elon Musk’s hilarious “Spaceballs” reference—as if the 1987 sci-fi comedy’s Ludicrous speed wasn’t fast enough) just managed a new record-setting lap of seven minutes and 35 seconds (7:35.579) on September 9, so Porsche will want to “run the ‘Ring” in its new Taycan Turbo S in order to maintain bragging rights.

Fortunately for Porsche, more buyers are interested in how the Taycan performs on city streets, winding backroads and highways than racetracks, not to mention styling and everything else it does well, evidenced by its recent sales gain. As for its ability to hold onto this top spot, only time will tell, but upcoming Q3 sales results will shed new light on this exciting new rivalry, allowing a better idea of which EV will outshine the other over the entire year.

2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
There’s more to sales success than merely going fast, giving the Taycan Cross Turismo an edge for real-life livability.

The just-noted Taycan Turbo S is capable of sprinting from zero to 100km/h in a mere 2.8 seconds, by the way, before attaining a top track speed of 260 km/h, or when driven more conservatively can achieve a total range of 340 km between charges. That model starts at a cool $215,000 (plus freight and fees), while the more accommodating Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo can be had for $218,000.

The most affordable Taycan, at $119,900, is also from the Cross Turismo line, and given the 4 designation for its standard all-wheel drivetrain, while the least expensive regular four-door coupe, dubbed Taycan 4S, will set you back at least $121,700. Additionally, a Cross Turismo in 4S trim can be had for $128,000, while bridging the gap between 4S and Turbo S is the Turbo model that ran the ‘Ring, starting at $175,000 for the four-door coupe and $178,000 for the Cross Turismo.

2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Porsche is even touting the Cross Turismo’s light off-road capability.

To find out more about the latest Taycan, check out CarCostCanada’s 2022 Porsche Taycan Canada Prices page, where you’ll be able to learn how to take advantage of factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent, not to mention the ability to obtain valuable dealer invoice pricing information that could save you thousands upon purchase. Likewise, CarCostCanada’s 2021 Tesla Model S Canada Prices page will show you the same zero-percent leasing and financing rate, which you can also access by downloading CarCostCanada’s free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche