Well executed, affordable sports cars are few and far between these days, with Subaru’s BRZ being much-loved amongst purists. It’s compact, lightweight, nicely finished inside (for the money), adequately…

Subaru’s BRZ gets ground-up redesign plus more power for 2022

2022 Subaru BRZ
Subaru has completely redesigned its sporty BRZ for 2022, with more dramatic styling and quicker performance.

Well executed, affordable sports cars are few and far between these days, with Subaru’s BRZ being much-loved amongst purists. It’s compact, lightweight, nicely finished inside (for the money), adequately powered and fabulous through the corners, therefore the BRZ has been a performance enthusiasts’ go-to alternative since arriving on the scene nine years ago, at least for those choosing not to purchase the import sector’s best-selling Mazda MX-5, or a Fiat 124 Spider (that shares the latter car’s underpinnings), an entry-level Nissan 370Z, or of course, Toyota’s near-identical 86 (née Scion FR-S).

After no shortage of rumours that both the BRZ and 86 would get the axe after the first-generation cars ran their course, lo and behold an all-new second generation of Subaru’s version was unveiled online earlier this month, and at first glance it just might offer the right mix of ingredients to give the previously-noted MX-5 a run for its money.

2022 Subaru BRZ
There’s no mistaking the new BRZ for anything but Subaru’s low-slung sports car, other than possibly Toyota’s renewed 86 when it eventually debuts.

Most immediately noticeable is a fresh new look that tosses aside the old car’s simpler, sporty elegance for arguably more aggressive character traits. Many of the new BRZ’s design cues pay homage to the one it replaces, such as the general shape of its front fascia, long hood line, fender bulges, arcing greenhouse, and short rear deck lid, but a great deal has changed too, and while some of its updated details could be arbitrarily, and possibly unfairly attributed to other sport coupes that have come before, on the whole its appearance stands out amongst its peers.

In an automotive world that seems to be augmenting front grilles beyond reason, Subaru chose a welcome reduction in grille size for the 2022 BRZ, or at least it looks smaller now that the bumper is more cleanly integrated within the design instead of topping off the outgoing model’s central opening. Air vents are once again housed to each side, but they now look larger and more pronounced. On the contrary, the simpler headlamp design doesn’t appear as wide, narrow and eye-like when seen from the front.

2022 Subaru BRZ
The BRZ’s narrow, animal eye-like headlamps have been replaced by these seemingly more upright lenses.

More side creases and new front fender ducts that pay respect to those found on Subaru’s own ultimate performer, the WRX STI, embellish the BRZ’s flanks, while the aforementioned fender swells and sweptback rear glass now culminate into an integrated ducktail-like deck lid spoiler that sits above the new three-piece combination taillight’s narrow, centre strip for a totally new look from behind. It doesn’t hurt that the license plate cutout has been moved much farther down the rear fascia, this causing the need to carve some space out of the more organically shaped rear diffuser that continues to house twin exhaust ports as well as a centre-mounted reflector and backup lamps, although Subaru has squared the latter lighting elements off compared to the older model’s angular design.

2022 Subaru BRZ
Performance gets a big boost from a new 228 hp four-cylinder.

Those hoping for WRX STI levels of grunt under the new BRZ’s lovely long hood can begin their sob session now, as Subie’s new sports car won’t see a turbo attached to its 2.4-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, at least not yet. It’s a bigger mill than the 268-horsepower base WRX’ turbocharged 2.0-litre four, incidentally, albeit 100 cubic centimeters smaller than the WRX STI’s 310-hp lump.

In fact, this 2.4-litre engine is a naturally aspirated version of the engine first introduced in Subaru’s Ascent SUV and now optional in the Legacy and Outback, so there’s always potential for the Japanese brand (or someone with tuning skills) to push its performance up to the three-row family crossover’s heights of 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Nevertheless, those wanting more power from the new off-the-rack BRZ can at least be satisfied that its stock powerplant produces 23 more horsepower and 28 additional lb-ft of torque than the outgoing model, the new specs being 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, so it should be a lot more fun to drive.

2022 Subaru BRZ
The rear design is shows a significant styling shift from the current model.

Another BRZ strongpoint was Subaru’s ability to maintain the car’s light curb weight, which only increases by a scant 7.7 kilos (17 lbs). It now hits the scales at 1,277 kg (2,815 lbs), even though it has grown from end to end by 25 mm (1 in) to 4,265 mm (167.9 in), and has a 5-mm (0.2-in) longer 2,575-mm (101.4-in) wheelbase.

At least as positive, the new BRZ’s Subaru Global Platform-sourced body structure is an impressive 50-percent stiffer than the outgoing model. Key areas of strengthening include “a reinforced chassis mounting system, sub-frame architecture and other connection points,” stated Subaru in their press release. What’s more, the car’s front lateral bending rigidity has been increased by 60 percent, which is claimed to “improve turn-in and response.”

2022 Subaru BRZ
The only curving element of the dash design, other than the corner vents and various dials, is the hood that covers the primary instruments.

The BRZ’s general suspension layout remains unchanged, however, including its front struts and double-wishbone rear design, but Subaru has reportedly made plenty of updates, while its standard 17-inch and optional 18-inch alloy wheels will be shod with 215/45R17 and 215/40R18 tires respectively.

Most BRZ buyers will probably choose the standard six-speed manual gearbox that carries forward from the previous car. It once again features a short-throw shifter, while a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters and downshift rev-matching continues forward into the 2022 model as well. Also staying the same, all BRZ trims will receive a standard limited-slip differential.

2022 Subaru BRZ
The new gauge cluster features seven inches of colour display screen and some pretty snazzy graphics.

New BRZ owners will be able to see those revs spinning from an all-new gauge cluster incorporating a large 7.0-inch digital display, while a new 8.0-inch centre touchscreen will house standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration along with the usual array of infotainment and convenience features.

The larger centre touchscreen is housed within a new centre stack that boasts a larger more modern trio of HVAC dials above a fresher row of silver toggle switches, while those familiar with the old car’s arcing centre air vent module and rounded outer dash top sections will be greeted by a new more linear instrument panel design overall. Circular side vents are still included, albeit now infused with a propellor-style design featuring a control knob in the middle instead of the previous conventional flap system. Additional changes go even further to differentiate the second-gen BRZ from the first, all of which should be more appealing to sports car buyers.

2022 Subaru BRZ
Subaru’s familiar (and very good) infotainment interface fills the eight-inch centre touchscreen.

Prospective customers in mind, the brutal truth (that Subaru would probably rather not have mentioned) are sales numbers, which as of 2019 (let’s not use 2020’s as they’re totally out of whack) were just 647 units for the entire year. While that will sound like peanuts when compared to Subaru’s top-selling Crosstrek that found 15,184 new owners last year (up 4.4 percent), it wasn’t actually all that bad when factoring in more than 7 percent in year-over-year growth and, even better, 348 more sales than Toyota’s 86 (Ouch! Toyota 86 sales were down more than 52 percent last year). The BRZ sold 147 more units than the 300Z too (its sales down 28.5 percent), and actually came very close to unseating the MX-5’s rather lacklustre 774-unit total (and it’s sales were up almost 26 percent from 2019, when these two models almost tied for popularity).

2022 Subaru BRZ
The BRZ’s six-speed manual and six-speed auto continue forward into the new 2022 model.

The big winners in this category are American muscle cars, however, notably Chevy’s Camaro with 2,220 sales (albeit down nearly 18 percent), the Dodge Challenger with 2,341 deliveries (up by almost 3 percent), and Ford’s Mustang with 7,628 units sold (down a hair over 5 percent). Interestingly, Volkswagen delivered 2,910 examples of its now discontinued Beetle last year, thanks to a staggering 40-percent upsurge in YoY growth.

Yes, it’s bizarre to contemplate why VW would cancel such a comparatively successful sports car when Subaru is renewing one that regularly sells at about one-quarter the rate in both Canada and the U.S., but the Japanese brand obviously believes the sportier side of its mostly practical lineup needs an image car, despite the more formidable WRX STI still being its performance flagship.

2022 Subaru BRZ
Once again, the BRZ’s seats look comfortable and totally supportive.

We’re not at all upset about this news, of course, being that Subaru’s BRZ and its Toyota 86 cousin are true sports cars that already were revered amongst enthusiasts long before the 2022 updates will arrive sometime next year, and on that latter note stay tuned to these pages for a similar overview of the incoming 2022 86 when Toyota drops the details.

All said, we’re not expecting a big price increase despite the improvements, but then again, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to get up to $2,500 in additional incentives on the 2022 when it hits Subaru retailers next year, at least not initially. Check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 Subaru BRZ Canada Prices page for more information, and while you’re at it, find out how their inexpensive program can save you thousands off your next car purchase, via timely information about manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, and dealer invoice pricing that will really help when it comes time for you to negotiate your deal.

Also, make sure to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, which provides all of this helpful, money-saving information exactly when you need it most, at the dealership.

Before signing off, make sure to check out the massive 2022 Subaru BRZ photo gallery above, as well as the videos Subaru provided below.

The 2022 Subaru BRZ Global Reveal (5:54):

The 2022 Subaru BRZ. Sports Car Purity, Subaru DNA (2:11):

Scott Speed Test Drives All-New 2022 Subaru BRZ (4:33):

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Subaru

After doing an exhaustive preview of the 2021 G80 M3 Sedan and G82 M4 Coupe that introduced the brand’s polarizing new bucktooth grille design, which BMW quickly followed up by revealing their near…

2020 BMW 440i Coupe and Cabriolet Road Test

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
Some might think the outgoing 4 Series looks old compared to the radically styled new one, but we consider it a modern-day classic.

After doing an exhaustive preview of the 2021 G80 M3 Sedan and G82 M4 Coupe that introduced the brand’s polarizing new bucktooth grille design, which BMW quickly followed up by revealing their near equally maligned regular 4 Series G22, G23 and G26 Coupe, Cabriolet and Gran Coupe five-door liftback, I thought it would be fitting to say so-long to the lovely 2013-2020 F32, F33 and F36 Coupe, Cabriolet and Gran Coupe 4 Series trio that most BMW fans have now grown even fonder of.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a 2020 Gran Coupe available for this review, so instead I’ll point you back to a 2015 BMW 428i xDrive I previously reviewed, and on that note the two cars featured in this road test are actually 2019 models that fell between the cracks, so allow me some creative license as these two were not fundamentally changed from model years 2019 to 2020, and reviewing them now allows the opportunity to point out where aesthetic updates and trim modifications were made.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The Coupe and this Cabriolet take on different personas, the hard-top being sportier and the drop-top oh-so classy.

This last point is fairly easy, with the only changes made from 2019 to 2020 being colour options, the Coupe losing Glacier Silver and Melbourne Red metallics and thus reducing its exterior colour count to two standard solid shades and three metallic options. The same seven interior motifs are available, and there are no changes with its myriad option packages. The Cabriolet loses its alternative black mirror caps in base trim (at least from the factory) and drops the same two hues as the Coupe, but adds a new metallic called Sunset Orange, while swapping Tanzanite Blue for Tanzanite Blue II. Lastly, the Gran Coupe eliminates Glacier Silver too (it didn’t have Melbourne Red), while adding Aventurine Red II Metallic, plus it trades the same two Tanzanite hues while swapping Frozen Silver for Frozen Dark Grey. And that’s it.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
Unfortunately, classic Glacier Silver is no longer available.

My two testers were painted in $895 optional Glacier Silver and Estoril Blue metallics, by the way, the latter getting plenty of looks with the top down thanks to beautifully contrasting Ivory White leather clad interior. It’s hard to believe that BMW no longer offers three of its sportiest models in Germany’s official racing livery, but the brand was never part of the silver arrows era anyway, its chosen colour in motorsport always being white with mostly blue accents. It nevertheless looks good in classic silver, especially with the blackened trim and wheels.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The Cabriolet’s retractable hard-top looks just as nice as the Coupe’s fixed roof, but it does take on a look of its own.

Both testers were near fully loaded, being 440i powered and xDrive controlled. Base 4 Series models come with the 430i powerplant, which denotes BMW’s 2.0-litre turbo-four with 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in lively performance albeit par for the course in this class, whereas 440i models receive the automaker’s turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six good for a much more spirited 326 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. The only model available without all-wheel drive is the 440i Coupe, but a quick glance at the back of my tester reveals the BMW’s “xDrive” emblem, which meant mine was not one of these rare rear-drive beasts.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
Full LED headlamps come standard, and look fabulous.

Much to my chagrin, BMW didn’t include its wonderful six-speed manual in either car, although it is (was) available in the 440i Coupe (only). Was? Yes, this time of year you’ll need to take whatever you can get, meaning snap up a rear- or all-wheel drive 440i Coupe with a manual if you can find one, because there are obviously no more factory orders for this now updated car, and only M4s will offer manuals hereafter.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The 4 Series’ sporty front fascia still looks sharp after all these years.

Alas, BMW has abandoned both the manual transmission and silver, no less at a time when we should all be considering investing in precious metals. What could be next? I’ll point you to my exhaustive overview of the new M3 and M4 for some of those details, at which point you’ll clearly appreciate that the German brand’s twin-kidney grille remains at large for 2021, or rather larger than life, which, I reiterate, is a good reason any available 2020 models will be hot commodities right about now. Let’s face it, while BMW deserves kudos for bravery, its significant stretch from conservatism hasn’t been universally praised to say the least.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
These optional alloys look sensational, contrasting nicely with the silver paint.

I, for one, happen to love these two cars’ styling, and might even appreciate the outgoing Gran Coupe more. They’re all elegantly balanced designs with classic BMW cues as well as more visual muscle than any predecessors, plus they combine the most impressively crafted interiors, highest levels of technology, and best overall performance offered in any non-M-branded compact BMW ahead of the new 2021 models.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The 4 Series’ LED taillights are an attractive design, as are the new 2021 cars’ rear lamps.

The 440i’s cabin is at a level of quality and refinement above most everything in this class. Along with the expected soft-touch synthetic surfaces normally found in this segment, BMW covered the entire dash-top and door uppers of the Cabriolet in rich, high-quality French-stitched leather, while the door panels received gorgeous white diamond-pattern leather inserts. The Coupe was less opulently attired, preferring a sportier black on black interior with a regular pliable composite dash and a tighter diamond pattern for its leather door inserts. Either way, both 4 Series doors wore premium soft-touch surfaces right to their very bottoms.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
The 440i Coupe’s interior is traditional black, the only way many BMW faithful want their car’s cabin.

Both cars’ seats were exquisitely detailed in perforated hides, the Coupe’s even sporting contrasting light grey piping and stitching, whereas the Cabriolet’s creamy leather was sewn together with black thread. Plenty of satin-finished aluminum and piano black lacquered trim highlighted key areas in both models, while the instrument panel, lower console and doors were enhanced with a tasteful array of glossy dark hardwood in the Cabriolet and ideally suited patterned aluminum inlays for the Coupe. The switchgear in both cabins was once again of the highest quality, BMW cutting zero corners in this respect.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
This Cabriolet’s interior is anything but conventional as far as BMWs go, but it certainly turned smiling heads.

Moving up to 2021 4 Series models will allow for a fully digital primary gauge cluster, which for some will be a worthwhile expense, and while I’ve enjoyed playing around with such devices from other brands, I’d have no issue staying put with the outgoing 4’s mostly analogue dials. They’re classic BMW kit after all, with a small full-colour, high resolution multi-information display at centre, but all infotainment features, such as navigation mapping, audio details, phone queries, car setup functions, parking camera, etcetera are best done from the widescreen display atop the centre stack.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
The 4 Series dash layout is ideally organized and made from the best materials.

Again, there are more advanced infotainment systems in the industry, particularly in the new 4 Series, but this setup is easy on the eyes, fully featured and responds to inputs more than fast enough. I like BMW’s tile layout that allows finger swiping from function to function or modulation from the console-mounted rotating iDrive controller and surround quick-access buttons. This is well sorted and should be easy for anyone to learn how to use, given some time and practice.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
A closer look shows a cockpit where everything falls precisely to hand.

Tooling around town is a wholly different experience depending on which model you purchase. The 440i Cab made for a wonderful winter reprieve, almost causing me to feel as if summer was back and the good times of evening drinks on patio bistros were around the corner. Yes, that thought might seem masochistic to contemplate amid our current health crisis, but personal luxury cars like this 4 Series Coupe and Convertible are ideal for getting away from all the madness, whether during your daily commute or on a weekend retreat. The well-insulated retractable hard-top made it feel coupe-like as well, and it takes barely a moment to lower, plus can be done while on the move.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
All 2020 4 Series receive this mostly analogue gauge cluster, which works well and looks classically BMW.

Getting off the line and ahead of packed traffic is no issue when the “440i” emblem is stamped on the rear deck lid, each car’s ability to shoot forward from standstill smile inducing to say the least. Then again, the 430i Coupe doesn’t give up much forward momentum, scooting from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.8 seconds compared to the all-wheel drive Coupe’s 4.9 and rear-drive version’s 5.1 seconds. Yes, four-wheel traction matters more than the extra 39 kilos of curb weight, but mass does cut into the 200-kilogram heavier Cabriolet’s performance with less energetic times of 6.4 and 5.4 seconds for the 430i and 440i variants respectively. The Gran Coupe merely adds 0.1 seconds to each all-wheel drive Coupe sprint, resulting in 5.9 and 5.0 seconds from 430i to 440i. All 4 Series models are limited to a 210-km/h (130-mph) top speed.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
The infotainment display is extremely well designed and easy to use.

Likewise, I could feel the Cabriolet’s heft in the corners, but not so much that it became unwieldy. In fact, if I had never driven the Coupe before I’d be wholly satisfied, as its handling is wonderfully predictable and oh-so capable when coursing through serpentine stretches at high speeds. The Coupe is just that much better, its lighter curb weight and stiffer body structure providing a more playful attitude that seems to always want to please.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
Both cars’ front seats were wonderfully supportive and wholly comfortable.

This side of an M4, the only way to make the 440i Coupe better would’ve been the six-speed manual, but the eight-speed auto was impressive as far as commuter transmissions go, shifting quickly in its sportiest mode, when the steering wheel-mounted paddles came into play, yet smooth all the time.

Likewise, both cars’ suspensions soaked up road imperfections well, and never unsettled my forward trajectory, even when pushing hard over some poorly paved sections of curving backroad. They were a pleasure to drive around town too, their comfortable seats, both featuring extendable lower cushions, wonderfully supportive.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
The Cabriolet’s rear seats aren’t as roomy as the Coupe’s or Gran Coupes, but will do the job in a pinch.

The Cabriolet is about as practical as this class gets in back, which isn’t all that much, but the Coupe offers room enough for two adults and the Gran Coupe more so. The same goes for cargo space that ranges from 220 litres in the Cab to 445 litres in either hard-top car, while all cars get a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat with a particularly wide and accommodating centre pass-through.

2020 BMW 440i Coupe
The Coupe’s trunk is more spacious than the Cabriolet’s.

Now that I’m being pragmatic, fuel economy is actually quite good in all of the 4 Series models, the best being the base 430i Coupe and Grand Coupe that share a 10.2 L/100km city, 7.2 highway and 8.8 combined rating, whereas the 430i Cab is good for a claimed 10.6 city, 7.3 highway and 9.1 combined. The thriftiest six-cylinder 4 Series is the rear-drive automatic 440i Coupe at 11.2 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 9.4 combined, followed by the both the 440i xDrive auto Coupe and Gran Coupe with ratings of 11.4 city, 7.6 highway and 9.7 combined. The 440i Cab achieves a respective 11.8, 7.9 and 10.0, and lastly the two manually-driven Coupes come in at 12.8, 8.8 and 11.0 for the rear-drive model and 13.0, 8.5 and 11.0 for the xDrive version. All require pricier premium fuel, but that’s par for the course with German luxury vehicles.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
You can lift the divider up and out of the way to make the Cabriolet’s trunk roomier when the top is up.

Now that I’ve lulled you to sleep, I should wake you up by mentioning that BMW is currently offering up to $10,500 in additional incentives for 2020 4 Series models, one of the most aggressive discounts I’ve ever seen offered by any manufacturer on any car, so you might want to head over to the CarCostCanada 2020 BMW 4 Series Canada Prices page to learn more. You can build each model right down to their 20-plus options and aforementioned colours, plus you can learn about any manufacturer leasing and financing deals, available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that will give you a major edge when negotiating your deal. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works, and make sure to download their free app so you can have all of this critical info with you when you’re at the dealership.

2020 BMW 440i Cabriolet
All 4 Series get a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat with a massive centre pass-through for loading long cargo.

I can’t look into the future to guess whether or not the new 2021 4 Series models will eventually be accepted by pre-owned BMW buyers in order to predict their future resale values, because it really will take some time for fans of the brand to make up their collective minds. I don’t even want to think too far ahead regarding my own future tastes, but I can say for sure this most recent 4 Series design has weathered the test of time well. I see it as a future classic, and would be more inclined to pick one of these sure bets up instead of risking my investment on its unorthodox replacement. All I can say is, get one while you can.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

If you’re thinking you’ve read this story on these pages before, you’re not losing your mind. We only recently reported on battery output improvements for the new 2021 Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid…

Porsche grows battery size and increases EV range of 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid models

2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid
All Cayenne E-Hybrid SUVs get a larger battery for 2021, lengthening their EV capability by up to 30 percent.

If you’re thinking you’ve read this story on these pages before, you’re not losing your mind. We only recently reported on battery output improvements for the new 2021 Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid models, and now we’re providing a similar update regarding the upgraded 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrids as well.

The new model year will once again see two body styles with two trims apiece, both the more upright Cayenne sport utility and newer, more rakishly shaped Cayenne Coupe getting E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid drivetrains, but better optimized cells that improve energy density has allowed the battery in each model to increase its output by 27 percent from 14.1 to 17.9 kWh, resulting in almost 30 percent more range.

2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
The larger battery doesn’t improve performance over last year’s Cayenne E-Hybrid models.

Now, 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid owners should expect seven to eight kilometres of extra EV mobility, from approximately 22 or 23 km to nearly 30 km, which could provide some owners zero-emission commuting capability during daily commutes. The heavier Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid improves its EV range similarly, albeit from 19 or 20 km to about 24 or 25 km.

On top of this, Porsche has changed the way electrified Cayennes use their internal combustion engines (ICE) to charge the battery, now topping it off at just 80 percent instead of 100. While seeming to be making backward progress, the upgrade actually saves fuel and reduces emissions, because the E-Hybrid’s various kinetic energy harvesting systems, such as regenerative braking, are always in use. If the battery were to reach 100 percent, there’s no longer a need to harvest kinetic power.

2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
To achieve a 100-percent charge, the new Cayenne E-Hybrid models must be plugged in, because the redesigned kinetic charging system will only bring the battery up to 80 percent.

What’s more, the new 17.9 kWh battery is able to charge at a faster rate in Sport and Sport Plus performance modes, which results in the drive system always have plenty of boost ready and waiting for quicker acceleration runs and easier passing manoeuvres.

Despite the larger battery, there’s no change in net horsepower or combined torque from last year’s Cayenne plug-in hybrids, the new 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid continuing to produce a substantial 455 net horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, and the two Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid models putting out a staggering 670 net horsepower and 663 lb-ft of torque.

Pricing for the 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid starts at $93,800 plus freight and fees, whereas the Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe can be had from $100,400, the Turbo S E-Hybrid from $185,600, and the Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe from $191,200. Porsche is already offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent according to CarCostCanada, so make sure to visit their 2021 Porsche Cayenne Canada Prices page to learn more, plus find out how the CarCostCanada system works so you can access the latest leasing and financing rates from all models, plus rebate information and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, and remember to download the free CarCostCanada app so you can access all this information exactly when you need it.

2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid
All Cayenne models have a beautifully detailed interior with premium quality materials and the latest electronics.

The standard Cayenne E-Hybrid will hit 100 km/h from a standing start in only 5.0 seconds flat when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package, ahead of a top track speed of 253 km/h, while a Sport Chrono Package equipped Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe needs 0.1 seconds more to reach the same speed, although tops out at the identical terminal velocity. Both regular and coupe Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid models achieve the same 3.8-second sprint to 100 km/h, mind you, while their collective top speed is 295 km/h.

The 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid and 2021 Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid are now available to order at a Porsche retailer near you, while deliveries are expected in the spring of 2021.

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

Icons can be a blessing and a curse, as so many auto manufacturers have learned. From Volkswagen’s rear engine, rear-drive Beetle that was reincarnated as the front-engine, front-drive New Beetle and…

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550 Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Mercedes totally redesigned the G-Class for 2019, but you’d need to be a serious fan to notice the changes between the first-gen model and this 2020 G 550.

Icons can be a blessing and a curse, as so many auto manufacturers have learned. From Volkswagen’s rear engine, rear-drive Beetle that was reincarnated as the front-engine, front-drive New Beetle and saw reasonable short-term success from mostly gender-specific non-enthusiasts, and British Leyland’s Mini that eventually became BMW’s entry-level Mini brand, even incorporating a subcompact SUV and accepted by regular consumers and diehard petrolheads alike, to Ford’s Mustang that, after going through some dark years is once again the quintessential muscle car, and Porsche’s 911 that has quite possibly been the best managed icon of all, gracefully transitioning through the decades with its only blight being the somewhat awkward looking 1998–2005 996 variant.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The new G produces the aerodynamic slipstream of a brick with slightly rounded edges.

That last example shows how important it is not to mess with the secret sauce that makes an icon iconic. In Porsche’s case it came down to replacing the 911’s 34 years of circular headlamps with Boxster/RSK-inspired teardrops, which, along with the demise of the air-cooled flat-six and a totally revamped interior, caused near “New Coke” levels of outrage.

Land Rover’s Defender 90 and 110 fall into iconic territory as well, which is why many have criticized the British brand’s entirely new Defender, that shares no similarities with its predecessor. Like Ford’s Bronco, the Defender has been gone from the market for long enough that enthusiasts may not only allow it to live, but might possibly become its defenders (sorry for the pun). This said, Mercedes doesn’t have to worry about such issues with respect to its new second-generation G-Class, because no one will mistake this SUV for anything but the real deal.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
No one will mistake the redesigned G-Class for anything else, which is a good thing for its many fans.

Like anything, whether you love it or loath it is personal. I happen to love it. I’m more of a classic Geländewagen fan, mind you, but only because it can be had with a fuel-saving, torque-rich diesel, it wouldn’t be worth crying over if scratched when out in the woods, and it falls within the realm of possibilities with respect to my personal budget, but 4×4 capability aside, the recently updated G 550 I’m reviewing here has very little in common with the original civilian 460 or military-spec 461 that arrived in 1979, or for that matter those made in the ‘80s that added a four-door option along with an automatic transmission, plus more comfortable Mercedes sedan seats, air conditioning, power windows, luxury trimmings, and much, much more. In fact, this new W463 is monumentally improved over first-generation examples I tested just a few years back, even if those less familiar with this SUV won’t notice its many visual updates.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s classic circular headlamps gain LED technology.

The new second-gen G-Class launched in 2018 as a 2019 model, in both G 550 and sportier AMG G 63 trims. The more trail-spec’d 2017-2018 G 550 4×4 Squared and the even more performance-oriented 2016-2018 AMG G 65 have yet to appear in this new generation, nor has the outrageous six-wheel variant, so we’ll just have to wait and see if Mercedes wants to take this latest version to similarly extreme levels. Updates include many new body panels, completely fresh lighting designs (that most notably don’t deviate too far from the original), and trim changes all around. The SUV’s boxy, utilitarian shape remains intact, which means its numerous fans remain faithful.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The entire frontal design has changed, but Mercedes was careful to maintain the G-Class’ iconic details.

Unlike the exterior design that only appears different to the trained eye, the renewed G-Class is dramatically redesigned inside. It now incorporates the level of refinement and jewel-like finishings found in Mercedes’ other offerings, not to mention renewed electronic interfaces that completely change the cockpit’s look and usability. On that last note, Mercedes installed its latest MBUX digital instrument cluster/infotainment touchscreen design that houses twin 12.3-inch displays behind one long, cool, sheet of transparent glass-like surfacing.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
These 20-inch alloys and 275/50 Pirelli Scorpion Zeros are best left to street duty, a shame considering the G’s unparalleled off-road capability.

The left display isn’t touch-capacitive, but amongst other switchgear it’s controlled by a micro-pad on the left steering wheel spoke, just like the infotainment system’s otherwise touch-sensitive screen can be actuated via the usual fingertip-activated palm rest/scrolling wheel combination as well as an identical Blackberry Trackpad-like controller on the right-side steering wheel spoke. It all works brilliantly, making this one of my favourite multi-information/infotainment system setups, which incidentally comes filled with all the functions expected in this class.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Rudimentary details like these unpainted plastic door handles are part of the G-Class’ charm.

Most other buttons and switches are made from satin-finish or knurled aluminum for a truly upscale environment, which as noted earlier is nothing new for Mercedes, but some of these details majorly upgrade the G 550. Knurled metal can be found elsewhere in the cabin, as can plenty of additional satin-finish aluminum, the beautifully drilled Burmester surround sound speaker grilles amongst the nicest I’ve seen, while gorgeous open-pore hardwood envelopes the primary instrument/infotainment binnacle as well as the lower console surface and door armrest trim.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
New LED taillights are wonderfully discreet.

Some harder plastics exist, but I wouldn’t sound an alarm for centre console side panels that don’t quite measure up to pricey expectations, especially when the door panel and seat upholstery leatherwork is so rich, supple and finely detailed. My tester wore a lovely chocolate brown hue that worked well against its electrifying blue exterior paint, the combination doing a great job of pulling off bold and daring while coming across almost conservative, if that’s even possible.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s full-size spare tire hangs on the outside of the side-swinging rear door.

The driver’s seat has excellent side bolsters and most of the adjustments I’d want if purchasing as an everyday commuter, only missing an extendable thigh support. This said the static lower cushion cupped nicely below my knees, which while potentially problematic for shorter drivers was nice and comfortable for me. Mercedes makes no such mistakes with its lumbar support, however, which is four-way powered and therefore should be a perfect fit for most body types. The G’s tilt and telescopic steering column provided more than enough fore and aft adjustability too, leaving me with a great driving position in spite of my shorter-torso, longer-legged body.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G550’s interior is gorgeous and highly refined.

Mercedes has importantly added much more rear legroom behind the G’s front seats, so that even tall rear passengers can stretch out comfortably. In addition, the upgraded back seats are almost as supportive as those up front, with those sitting next to the window ultra-easy on the backside. The centre position is best left for smaller folks, with anyone placed there crowding all three rear passengers. Such is the reality with an SUV designed for negotiating tightly treed trails, or narrow rocky crevices, depending on where you’re tackling the wild. Let’s not forget, especially this time of year, that the G-Class was designed for military and rescue purposes first and foremost, and even put into service by our Canadian armed forces.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s dash is completely updated and modernized, leaving its predecessor far in the past.

Before anyone starts complaining about taxpayer dollars funding six-figure SUVs for our military elite, CAF-spec’d models are utilitarian at best, and don’t cost anywhere near a 2020 G 550’s base price of $147,900 plus freight and fees. On this note, CarCostCanada is currently reporting factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, which can certainly go a long way to making a new G-Class affordable. The zero-interest rate deal appears to apply to the $195,900 G 63 AMG too, which is a lot of paper for Mercedes to carry.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G 550’s new driver display is more advanced than anything else in the class.

This is a good time to point out that CarCostCanada also provides Canadian consumers with information about manufacturer rebates, when available, as well as dealer invoice pricing that can give you a significant edge when negotiating on any new vehicle. Find out more about how the CarCostCanada system works so you can take advantage of the savings that could put thousands back into your pocket, and while you’re at it, download their free smartphone app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s new infotainment touchscreen leaves nothing to be desired.

There’s no need to spend all those savings on aftermarket 4×4 gear if you’re at the wheel of a G 550, as this ute is about as capable off-road as anything on the market. I’ve had plenty of fun guiding this tank of an SUV into and out of otherwise unsavoury situations over the decades, including swampy marshes, even swampier mud holes, fast-running creeks, loose rocky embankments, solid rock abutments, and more, and can attest to its unwavering abilities. This said I wasn’t willing to risk damaging my G 550 tester’s stylish set of 14-spoke alloy wheels on hardly off-road spec 275/50 Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires, at least anywhere near my usual 4×4 playgrounds. This one was set up for the street, where most G-Class owners will spend the majority of their driving time.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The jewel-like detailing on the G 550’s centre stack is impressive.

Even with these lower-profile performance tires, the G 550 rides sublimely. Really, those who think truck-based SUVs are less refined than their car-based unibody alternatives need to spend some time in a new G-Class, because its tight body structure, rigid frame and ample suspension travel result in one very comfortable riding utility. I found it ideal for city traffic, its suspension reducing deep ruts, bridge expansion joints and other pavement imperfections to minor intrusions while its towering height allowed for superb visibility all-round.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The main infotainment controller is easy to use and beautifully made.

The G 550 was equally adept on the open highway, and while I never tested its 7,000-pound trailer rating I have no doubt it’s up to the task, especially considering its 2,650-kilo (5,845-lb) curb weight. That heft adds to its ride quality while keeping it planted nicely in its lane at high-speed, not even allowing sharp wind gusts to push its slab-sided body around. It performs well through curves too, those aforementioned Pirellis providing a nice, wide contact patch for what would’ve been surprisingly adept manoeuvrability if I hadn’t already experienced just how capable the G-Class can be on the road. I’d previously experienced an AMG-tuned G 63 on California’s circuitous coastal highway system, not to mention the fabulous Laguna Seca racetrack, so believe me when I tell you that this SUV is much more fun to drive on pavement than its brick-like profile makes one assume, although arriving at the famed downward spiralling Corkscrew turn from such great heights is akin to plunging down the initial drop on Vancouver’s Playland ‘Coaster (or, I can imagine, while riding the even larger classic wooden Wilde Beast at Canada’s Wonderland—or the Toronto-based theme park’s 16 other roller coasters). The G 550 won’t deliver the same handling agility as the AMG version, but it’s more than capable through the corners, while its braking is impressive as well.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Just one of the Burmester stereo’s stunning speaker grilles.

Stopping power is critical in such a heavy SUV, particularly one that can get up to speed so quickly. While the 416-horsepower G 550 can’t sprint from zero to 100 km/h in the 577-hp G 63’s 4.5-second time frame, it is capable of a relatively quick 5.9 seconds, all thanks to a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 capable of 450 lb-ft of torque and a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic sending power down to all four wheels, not to mention a really reactive Sport mode.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Some of the best seats in SUV industry.

This is where it might even be too jarring for some peoples’ tastes, the G 550’s snap off the line so responsive that the backside of my head met up with the comfortably padded headrest more abruptly than expected, albeit only when slamming right foot to throttle in Sport mode. I tried adjusting this more aggressive driving style by delicately feathering the go-pedal during quick takeoffs, but alternatively found it was easier to maintain a smoother response while still being fast after selecting the SUV’s Eco setting, and trust me it was still plenty quick in this more environmentally sensitive setup.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Even the rear seating compartment’s detailing is exquisite.

Going green in mind, there’s really no way to get past the G 550’s previously mentioned mass and just-noted power, resulting in a Transport Canada fuel economy rating of 18.0 L/100km in the city, 14.1 on the highway, and 16.3 combined. This is no worse than many other full-size, V8-powered SUVs, nor is its thirst for pricier premium fuel, but there’s a reason military-spec models still come with turbo-diesel powertrains.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Way more rear legroom makes a big difference to G-Class second-row comfort.

Just a side note for diesel-lovers like me, earlier examples came with Rudolf’s highly efficient, torque-rich creation, and while kind of expensive for decades-old 4x4s, they’re reasonable considering their cult-like collector status, ultimately dependable service and off-road capability. This is where I would personally look for a future G wagon, because it’s possible to get into an early ‘80s two-door 230 GE or 280 GE in the mid-$20k range. I’d prefer one of the 5-door LWB station wagons, but take heed even older version will likely sell for more than $30k, with really nice ones sporting the larger 300 GD engine going for more than $40k. Do some searching and you’ll quickly find more advanced V8-powered G’s from the early 2000s for similar prices, even some AMGs, but you’ll need a thick wallet to keep these fancy beasts on the road, as their reliability is not as bulletproof as the earlier diesels, and they require sophisticated diagnostic equipment to source problems.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The side-swinging door isn’t as convenient to use as a liftgate, but at least it provides curb-side access.

Now that I’m talking practical issues, all G-Class models come up a bit short on cargo space when compared to full-size American alternatives like Cadillac’s Escalade, Lincoln’s Navigator or their less luxurious volume-branded counterparts. G’s fare better when put up against similarly equipped premium Europeans, however, with the 1,079-litre (38.1 cu-ft) luggage area behind my tester’s rear seats a significant 178 litres (6.3 cu ft) more accommodating than the full-size Range Rover’s dedicated gear-toting maximum, and both SUV’s top load-carrying capacity identical at 1,942 litres (68.6 cu ft). I certainly could live with that.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
G-Class cargo space is more than adequate and better than its closest Range Rover rival.

In the end there’s not much I can complain about with Mercedes’ new G-Class update. Sure, I was initially a bit miffed at the smallish powered glass sunroof overhead, at least in these days of expansive panoramic light emitters, but in truth I could care less if there were no sunroof at all, and a larger one would likely weaken the SUV’s body structure and potentially crack under pressure. I would’ve appreciated a wireless phone charger, mind you, and would install one if these were my long-term ride.

I’m also hoping to enjoy future forays into the wild green (and brown) yonder in a modernized gen-2 G 550 4×4², previous examples of which incorporated portal axles like Mercedes’ outrageously capable Unimogs, but in most every other respect I’m over the moon about this impeccably crafted luxury ute, and I’m especially grateful that Mercedes stayed true to its iconic 4×4 roots. This, to me, is the ultimate off-roader, and I’d purchase one today if money were no object.

Story and photos: Trevor Hofmann

Sometimes being late to the game is a good thing, evidenced by Hyundai’s standalone luxury brand, Genesis. They’ve only been in business for five years, but with each new model they gain accolades…

Genesis to expand lineup with GV70 compact SUV for 2022

2022 Genesis GV70
The new GV70 pulls plenty of design cues from its bigger GV80 brother, as well as the all-new G80 sedan.

Sometimes being late to the game is a good thing, evidenced by Hyundai’s standalone luxury brand, Genesis. They’ve only been in business for five years, but with each new model they gain accolades aplenty and more premium buyers, with that ownership base ready to explode now that their three-car lineup is adding two new crossover SUVs.

Up until now, Genesis weakness had nothing to do with styling, performance, quality or reliability, the luxury marque achieving high marks for all of the above, but rather it only offered four-door sedans in a market that’s in love with sport utilities. Enter the new GV70 and GV80, the production version of the latter introduced in early 2020 to popular applause and now getting rave reviews from those fortunate enough to drive one. The GV70 expands the lineup downward into the compact luxury SUV segment, where the bulk of its competitors’ sales are already driven.

2022 Genesis GV70
Sleek lines not only make the GV70 look good, they reduce wind noise and improve highway efficiency too.

One glance will tell you the GV70 is the GV80’s little brother, the brand’s new familiar diamond-shaped pentagonal grille flanked by uniquely twinned LED headlamp strips that visually join up with similarly styled LED taillights in back. The SUV looks sleek and wind-cheating, with a sporty yet elegant design that should be just as appealing to premium buyers as the new GV80, but in a smaller, more affordable package.

Even more intriguing than the exterior shape is an interior that’s like nothing else available in this class, or at least the ovoid lower instrument panel design is wholly unique. A more traditional looking digital gauge cluster gets fitted to the usual spot ahead of the driver, while the large widescreen centre display atop the dash is nothing new either, nor is the rotating dial on the lower console for controlling it, but the surfboard-shaped interface stretching from the left side of the steering column to just past the centre stack (or where the centre stack would be if there was one) is a major interior design departure, both visually and functionally.

2022 Genesis GV70
Check out the new GV70’s inspiring dash design.

Planned solely as a five-seater, the GV70 will likely ride on the compact G70 sedan’s chassis architecture, which bodes well for performance. The G70 rivals BMW’s 3 Series for straight-line acceleration and handling, so it’s likely Genesis has its sights set on dethroning BMW’s X3, as well as Audi’s Q5, Mercedes’ GLC, Acura’s RDX, and other strong performers in this highly competitive class.

Genesis is not only being silent about the GV70’s chassis origins, but they haven’t said a thing about its powertrains either. This said, using the G70’s mechanicals would make sense, so we’re expecting the updated sport sedan’s new 2.5-litre turbo-four in entry-level trims and its soon-to-be revised 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 in pricier models. In the new G70 the four-cylinder produces 290 horsepower and 310 and lb-ft of torque, while the upgraded V6 in the GV80 makes a considerable 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. Performance like this means the new GV70 will have no problem keeping up with the Müllers and Schmidts, let alone the Satos and Takahashis.

2022 Genesis GV70
Genesis has taken a welcomely unusual interior design direction with the GV70, and we like what we see.

With this GV70 debut, Genesis should be done for 2020, as the South Korean brand promised two new models per annum for three years, and remember that they’ve already introduced the GV80. What’s in store for 2021? A smaller entry-level car and SUV are probable next steps, although a quick glance at the Mercedes, BMW and Audi lineups show no shortage of potential alternatives. Genesis has many holes to fill, from sport coupes and convertibles to hybrids and EVs, not to mention ultra-performance models at the other end of the spectrum. We can hardly wait.

Hyundai hasn’t announced GV70 launch date yet, but they designated it a 2022 model so we can certainly expect it to go on sale next year. Until then, check out the Genesis G70, G80 and G90 sport-luxury sedans and the new mid-size GV80 SUV at CarCostCanada, where you can learn about factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on all 2020 and 2021 models, plus when you become a member you’ll also access info about manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Find out how CarCostCanada works now, and make sure to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store in order to have all of this critical info with you wherever and whenever you need it.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Genesis

The health crisis has caused mayhem in many industries, and while the auto sector hasn’t been hit as hard as travel and hospitality, it’s definitely taken its toll. This reality, while bad for many…

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line Road Test

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
Chunky SUV styling gives the Atlas a bold, truck-like look that most buyers should like.

The health crisis has caused mayhem in many industries, and while the auto sector hasn’t been hit as hard as travel and hospitality, it’s definitely taken its toll. This reality, while bad for many manufacturers and their independent retailers, poses some opportunity for those that want to make a deal.

Many Volkswagen dealers, in fact, have new, non-demo 2019 models available. Yes, I realize we’re entering the 2021 model year, and even the “peoples’ car” brand is advertising 2021 versions of its cars, but that doesn’t change the fact that many 2019 vehicles remain unsold.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas is long and large, allowing for a lot of interior space from front to back.

Believe it or not, one of such vehicles is the mid-size three-row Atlas crossover SUV, a relatively new model that’s received a lot of praise from pundits like me, and reasonably good sales. Nevertheless, some dealers have multiple new 2019 Atlas models in their inventory, which is reason enough for VW to offer up to $6,000 in additional incentives on models like the top-line $54,975 Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line being reviewed here, shows CarCostCanada on their 2019 Volkswagen Atlas Canada Prices page (find out more about CarCostCanada here and remember to download their free app from the Apple Store and Google Play Store).

They’re also reporting up to $700 in incentives on the subtly refreshed 2021 Atlas, so there’s even a small discount available despite these having just arriving on retailer lots, but the big money is on the 2019, as Volkswagen and its dealers are highly motivated to get rid of this nearly two-year old SUV.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The 2021 Atlas gets a deeper grille with a third horizontal slat, plus new LED headlights.

To be clear, VW Canada never imported the 2020 Atlas from Chattanooga, Tennessee where it’s built, but instead received its allotment of all-new five-passenger 2020 Atlas Cross Sport models, while allowing nationwide inventory of the larger seven-passenger version to slowly sell off. Seeing that 2019s are still available, this was a very smart move.

Moving into 2021, VW has given the Atlas a deeper grille that now includes a third bright metal-like crossbar, plus new LED headlamps, and fresh front and rear fascias that add 75 millimeters (2.9 in) to the SUV’s overall length. Inside, the steering wheel is new while contrast stitching is added to higher end trims with leather. Mechanically, all-wheel drive is now standard across the line, and the base turbocharged four-cylinder engine is more widely available.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
R Line is VW’s sporty appearance package.

As you might imagine, the 2021 Atlas’ starting price is considerably higher now that it comes standard with AWD, the new MSRP being $40,095 (plus freight and fees) for its base Trendline trim, compared to $36,740 for this same trim line in the 2019 model year, a difference of $3,355. Comfortline, Highline and Execline trims are still available, all of which are priced higher except for Highline, which now comes standard with the aforementioned 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. Just-above-base Comfortline trim continues to offer both engines, but the entry-level 2021 Trendline can now only be had with the turbo-four, while 2021 Execline trim continues to come standard with the 3.6-litre V6.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas’ LED taillights still look sharp after its three years of availability.

I won’t go into much more detail about the 2021, because, frontal styling, new steering wheel and some contrast-coloured thread aside, it doesn’t appear to have changed much from this outgoing model. This is no bad thing, however, as its first two model years were well received. I tested a 2018 and this 2019, the first version experiencing a couple of teething problems including a broken second-row sliding seat handle. Otherwise it was an exceptionally good SUV that I enjoyed spending a week with, just like the even more luxuriously appointed 2019 model.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas Execline can be had with a two-tone grey and beige interior, with attractive woodgrain and satin-silver trim.

I was surprised by all the positive comments I received from friends and even passersby during my test week, all shocked that VW would produce anything so big and truck-like, the latter when it comes to styling at least, but I quickly reminded all that the old beloved Vanagon and front-engine T5 van (which were available here a long time ago) weren’t exactly small, and pretty boxy as well, so the Atlas mostly fits into the brand’s DNA. I think they made a good choice from a styling perspective, as the majority of today’s crossover SUV buyers seem to want a rugged looking utility, the Atlas’ bulky fender flairs and ample chrome doing a fine job of relaying visual toughness.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas’ cockpit is very well laid out and electronics very advanced.

Inside, even without the 2021 updates, the Atlas provides a nice ambience, with wide open spaces and no shortage of attractive design elements. This is especially true in my tester’s top-tier Execline trim that came with cream-coloured perforated leather upholstery, woodgrain and satin-silver accents, plus loads of impressive display screens including a fully digital and brightly coloured instrument cluster, along with a large centre touchscreen display.

Before I get too far into this review, I need to mention what I see as the elephant in VW’s garage. Where Volkswagen was once the go-to mainstream volume brand for those of us who prefer premium-like interior quality and finishings, this is no longer the case. Some of the Atlas’ details are excellent, like the steering wheel, that’s one of the best in its class as far as the way it feels in the hands as per to leather quality and shape, plus its overall sporty design, while no one should complain about the SUV’s front seats that are Germanic in their firmness and therefore wonderfully supportive, but VW is now falling short by failing to nail the interior refinement details that used to make them reign supreme, such as fabric-wrapped roof pillars, plus the tactile quality of plastics used below the waistline, and in some cases even above.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas’ gauge cluster is completely digital, and features a multi-info display that can be expanded to near full proportions.

The dash-top is a rubberized black synthetic, which is reasonably good, but the woodgrain on the dash and doors feels cheap and hollow, similar to what GM used to offer years ago. The same can be said for the metallic trim that surrounds it, which only feels a little bit denser due to being closer to the trim piece’s outer extremities and therefore strengthened by its complex construction. Volkswagen does add padded leather inserts on the doors, and does a decent job with the armrests, but that’s it for soft-touch surfaces. The lower doors and lower portion of the dash and centre stack are all made from hard plastic, and while most is finished with a matte semi-soft paint, it’s nowhere near up to the levels offered by others in this class.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The main infotainment touchscreen is large, very high in display quality and filled with features.

For instance, just after my weeklong Atlas test, I spent another week in an almost loaded Kia Telluride SX, plus the week after that I drove Hyundai’s Palisade, and must say that both are as close to premium products as anything ever offered by mainstream brands. The former even wrapped both A and B pillars in the same high-quality fabric used for the roof liner, while the latter does so with a plush suede-like material. Additionally, Kia’s faux wood felt so dense and realistic I had to verify that it wasn’t real. Likewise, the interior metals are excellent and feel genuine, while even the exterior metal surrounding the windows felt like Lexus’ polished nickel.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas Execline’s woodgrain and faux metal isn’t very authentic feeling.

Volkswagen does a better job when it comes to gauge clusters and infotainment, but only when compared to the Kia. Hyundai’s fully digital cluster in the Palisade includes side-view cameras within its outer “dials” when changing lanes, a wonderfully useful safety feature on such a large vehicle, while Kia does similar, albeit places the image within the multi-information display between conventional analogue dials.

All said, I’m not about to bash Volkswagen for having one of the best digital driver displays in the industry. It actually comes very close to matching the Audi Virtual Cockpit, which I consider to be one of the best in the industry. I especially like how VW’s display reduces the size of its analogue-style speedometer and tachometer to the size of wristwatch faces as it fills the entire screen with a given infotainment function, such as navigation directions complete with full digital mapping.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The seats are ultra-comfortable and driving position excellent.

The centre touchscreen is also amongst the best in the business, with superb high-resolution quality including beautiful depth of contrast and superb colours, as well as excellent graphics and speedy actuation. It’s filled with all the features you might expect in this class, such as aforementioned navigation, a large, clear and useful backup camera, full climate control and audio functions, the latter system including Bluetooth streaming and satellite radio capability, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, etcetera.

The Atlas’ switchgear is fairly good overall, but the rotating outer dials around the tri-zone automatic climate control interface were wiggly and sloppy, something I didn’t find on the just-noted Kia or Hyundai, or for that matter the majority of their competitors.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
A large panoramic glass sunroof provides loads of light from above.

Now that I’ve once again mentioned the two South Koreans, it should be noted that both fully loaded SUVs are less expensive than the Atlas, but not by much. The Telluride SX that I tested just after the Atlas was quite a bit more approachable at only $49,995, but since then a fancier 2021 Telluride SX Limited with Nappa leather was added to the lineup, increasing its retail price to $54,695 before discount. That’s a nominal difference of $280, incidentally, so make sure to drive both the Kia and VW when it comes time to buy. The top-tier 2020 Palisade Ultimate would now be the least expensive of the bunch at $54,199, but the $54,699 2021 Ultimate Calligraphy just happens to be $5 more than the priciest Telluride. Either way I recommend spending some time with this one as well, not to mention Toyota’s latest Highlander and Mazda’s CX-9 that deserve high praise in this class too.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
Optional captain’s chairs provide more second-row comfort, and provide easy access to the third row.

My Atlas tester’s heatable steering wheel rim was nice, and the driving position superb. The tilt and telescopic steering column reaches far enough rearward to provide the type of control and comfort I required, due to having a body with proportionally longer legs than torso. The seats were comfortable too, with good lower back support.

Additionally, the rear seating area is very accommodating, even for those in the third row that received comfortable backrests and ample space for feet under the upgraded second-row captain’s chairs in my test model. Those individual second-row chairs allowed space in between to access the rearmost seats, making life easier when kids are aboard. There’s a place for what-have-you plus cupholders to each side, and also good you’ll find third-row vents in the C pillars so rear passengers won’t feel claustrophobic. This in mind, the rear side quarter windows are easy to see out of, and Volkswagen also includes reading lights overhead. I can’t see any child or average-sized person complaining about the Atlas’ rearmost compartment, even during a long trip.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
Retractable side window shades are great for those with small children or elderly parents.

Back to the second-row seating area, VW includes ventilation on the backside of the front console, as well as a digital display for the SUV’s automatic rear temperature control system’s third zone. The only negative about the Atlas’ otherwise excellent HVAC system is that the aforementioned Telluride and Palisade offer quad-zone auto climate control systems. They also make heated and cooled second-row seats available, whereas this VW only included three-way warmers in back, plus the South Korean models get USB charging ports in the third row, this important feature found only in the Atlas’ first and second rows.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The second-row seats flip out of the way to allow easy access to the rearmost compartment.

Volkswagen provides a powered rear door to access the large cargo area, par for the course in this class, which impressively measures 583 litres (20.6 cubic feet) behind the third row, 1,571 litres (55.5 cu ft) behind the second row, and 2,741 litres (96.8 cu ft) when all seats are folded flat.

Lifting up the load floor exposes the usual tire changing equipment and a subwoofer for the audio system, but unexpectedly appreciated was a handy storage location for the retractable cargo cover when not in use. The 50/50-split third row folds down easily and provides a flat loading floor, and while you’ll eventually get a nice, mostly flat loading floor from lowering the second-row seats as well, you’ll be forced to walk around to the side doors in order to do so. The Kia and Hyundai competitors provide power-folding rear seats.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The rearmost seats are very roomy compared to most three row SUVs.

As you may have guessed, Volkswagen delivers in spades when taking the Atlas out on the road. The brand has long been respected for endowing its vehicles German performance characteristics at a budget price, and to that end the big SUV’s 3.6-litre V6 really gets up and goes thanks to 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque mated to a smooth and snappy eight-speed automatic transmission. Still, that’s not quite as much oomph as the Telluride and Palisade’s V6, which puts out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque while also conjoined to an eight-speed automatic, and while all three SUVs sport all-wheel drive, the South Koreans weigh about 300 lbs less, so they feel a bit more engaging off the line.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
The Atlas’ cargo area is very expansive.

That extra weight may be contributing to the Atlas’ less appealing fuel economy, which at a claimed 13.7 L/100km in the city, 10.1 on the highway and 12.1 combined is a bit thirstier than the two Koreans’ 12.3 city, 9.6 highway and 11.1 combined ratings. All of these estimates pale in comparison to the Subaru Ascent’s 11.6 city, 9.0 highway and 10.4 combined rating, mind you, not to mention the Toyota Highlander’s respective 11.7, 8.6 and 10.3 rating, plus the Mazda CX-9’s phenomenal rating of 10.6, 8.4 and 9.6.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
If the Atlas’ cargo capacity isn’t enough for you, consider a full-size SUV like GM’s Tahoe/Yukon.

The Atlas’ handling is better than most in this class, however, prompting me to call this the driver’s SUV of the three-row bunch. This is where its German engineering pays off, even without as much power, and while the two Koreans and most others in this class should keep up through the curves without much effort, the Atlas feels better then pushed hard. Nevertheless, I noticed more interior noise in the Volkswagen than others, and I’m not necessarily talking about road and wind noise, but instead what seemed like the sound of plastic panels chafing up against each other when traveling over rougher roads.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas V6 4Motion Execline R Line
Along with tire changing tools and the audio system’s subwoofer, VW includes a handy place to store the retractable cargo cover.

To be fair, Volkswagen may have exorcised out some of the gremlins that plagued my tester since introducing the Atlas, so I’ll need to spend a week with a new one in order to learn how it measures up. I certainly appreciate the way it drives, can give it two thumbs way up for exterior styling and interior design, was impressed with its spacious, comfortable cabin, and truly like its advanced electronics, but some tactile and very real quality issues lowered its score, as well as a number of convenience and luxury features that were missing compared to rivals.

All in all, the Atlas is a solid first effort in the highly competitive three-row SUV segment, and I look forward to experiencing any improvements in the new 2021. As far as buying a 2019 model goes, the deep discount now available could make it very worthwhile.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

So, you need to get rid of your old car and want something that looks good, rides high enough to see out of easily, is fun to drive yet provides good ride quality, is easy on fuel, nice and refined inside,…

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum Road Test

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
This fabulous Amazon Blue hue is not available for 2020 and the white roof upgrade has been dropped for 2021, but the great looking XC40 remains more or less unchanged.

So, you need to get rid of your old car and want something that looks good, rides high enough to see out of easily, is fun to drive yet provides good ride quality, is easy on fuel, nice and refined inside, comfortable and roomy from front to back, well stocked with convenient features, and maybe a bit different than every other cookie-cutter appliance roaming the suburbs. I understand your dilemma. How about a Volvo XC40?

You’ve got to admit, this little guy is cute, in a sophisticated, upmarket kind of way. Full disclosure: I actually drove this particular example last year, and its stylish Amazon Blue hue is no longer available, but other than exterior colour choices there were no changes for 2020, while updates to the new 2021 model are minimal as well.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Chunky styling sets the XC40 apart.

I’ll get to those in a moment, but first let’s consider why I think you’ll love the XC40. Styling is objective. You’re either going to like it or not. I happen to like it, but can also appreciate that some folks might want something a little more rugged and tough looking. The XC40 better represents the cute ute category, although it still wears its modernized Volvo heritage proudly, with the brand’s bold new rectangular, crested grille up front and centre, its Thor’s hammer LED headlamps to each side, a sporty front fascia below, and a classic pair of tall “L” shaped LED taillights in back.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Plenty of key Volvo design cues make sure the XC40 pulls off a premium look despite its small dimensions.

Dark grey lower body cladding adds a little muscle to the front corners, down each rocker panel, and along the rear bumper, while Volvo adds some classy satin-silver accenting in key areas. My tester’s optional white roof offsets the lower light blue colour nicely (a black roof comes standard in sportier R-Design trim, if you’d rather go dark), while helping reduce sun-induced interior heat.

This is the base trim, by the way, dubbed Momentum in Volvo speak. It comes well equipped despite now only being offered in standard Black Stone or Ice White and three optional metallics, including Glacier Silver (replacing Bright Silver), Fusion Red, and Onyx Black. Along with Amazon Blue, Osmium Grey was discontinued for 2020. Identical base colours continue forward into 2021, but alas the white roof won’t be available at all. If colour options are important to you, there’s a plethora available in the XC40’s most luxurious Inscription trim.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The LED headlamps and classy aluminum-look accents come standard, but the 19-inch alloys are optional.

A sizeable set of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels on 235/55 all-season tires come standard with the Momentum, and don’t appear to be changing for 2021, but my tester wore sharp looking 19s on grippier 235/50 Michelin all-seasons, also carried forward into next year. They’re attached to a fully independent suspension with aluminium double wishbones in front and a unique integral-link setup featuring a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring in back, which delivered a thoroughly comfortable ride, even with the larger tires. It really feels like a bigger and more substantive vehicle than it is, and not just because its compliant suspension is endowed with ample travel to absorb bumps and dips well, especially in Momentum trim, but its doors and hatch close with a solidity unlike most rivals, plus it’s quite quiet and feels impressively rigid when coursing down the road.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The white roof and panoramic sunroof are optional for 2020, while the silver roof rails are standard.

Speaking of the road ahead, the 2020 XC40 Momentum is available with two versions of a single 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. To be clear, the base T4 powertrain can only be had in this entry-level trim, meaning my tester’s T5 upgrade comes standard with the R-Design and Inscription. The T4 makes 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which should be ample for most subcompact luxury SUV buyers, but the sportier T5’s 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque is best for those wanting considerably more get-up-and-go off the line and when passing.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Classic “L” shaped LED taillights are nicely detailed.

Both engines come mated to an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission as standard, complete with fuel-saving auto start/stop technology that helps the T4 achieve 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined, and the T5 get a 10.7 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined rating, while standard all-wheel drive makes sure you’ll be ready when the white stuff starts falling.

Comfort or Eco driving modes are best used when things get slippery, the Momentum being the only model without an Off-road setting, but take heart that Volvo didn’t forget to include a Dynamic sport mode and a special Individual setting for those who want to extract the most performance possible from the XC40’s drivetrain.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40 Momentum might be the base trim of Volvo’s entry-level model, but it’s still beautifully finished inside.

Dynamic mode engaged, both T5’s I tested went like pocket rockets, jumping off the line and blasting forward with more energy than most in the class. The only performance differentiators from Momentum to R-Design, other than their wheel/tire packages and suspension tuning mentioned earlier, is the lack of paddle shifters for the lesser model, the Momentum not quite as engaging when pushed hard.

I must say it still handles very well, always feeling nicely poised and easily controllable, yet remaining glued to the road amid fast-paced cloverleafs and even quicker runs through tight, twisty S-turns, plus it was plenty of fun during point-and-shoot manoeuvres around town. It also brakes strongly, no matter the situation, and generally feels like a Volvo should, nice and agile, plenty solid, and solidly built.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40’s cockpit is one of the most appealing in its class.

Visibility is excellent thanks to the taller ride height noted before and no shortage of glass in every direction, plus in Volvo tradition the seats are amply adjustable, wonderfully comfortable, and wholly supportive, including good side bolstering as well as extendable lower cushions that cup nicely under the knees.

Now that we’re inside, this base Momentum provides almost the same level of luxury as the R-Design. The front roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, the dash-top and door skins are finished in soft-touch synthetic, the insides of the door pockets are carpeted and large enough to accept a 15-inch laptop as well as a big drink bottle, and the armrests are padded and covered in stitched leather. There’s no pamperingly soft surfacing below the waistline, whether discussing the doors, dash or centre console, the latter merely getting a soft-painted plastic above some carpeting that wraps around its lower portion, but the woven roof liner is high in quality and surrounds a massive optional panoramic glass sunroof with a slick powered translucent fabric sunshade, that’s powered via an overhead console otherwise filled with LED lights resting above a slick looking frameless mirror.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
A fully digital gauge cluster provides a large multi-info display at centre, that can grow even bigger when in use.

Those comforting seats noted a moment ago are upholstered in optional soft leather front to back, and I have to say the rear quarters are generously sized for such a small SUV, even capable of fitting large six-foot-plus passengers with room to spare. Volvo provides a centre folding centre armrest that doubles as a pass-through for stowing longer items like skis down the middle, while the rear seats otherwise fold in the usual 60/40 configuration, expanding cargo capacity from 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) to 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet).

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The infotainment touchscreen is as easy to use as a tablet, and filled with great graphics and loads of features.

Just like in the R-Design, my Momentum tester included a portion of the cargo floor that flips up to divide whatever you’re hauling. The divider itself is topped off by three handy grocery bag hooks that I tested after shopping, and I’m glad to report they worked perfectly.

Speaking of handy, all XC40s include a super useful fold-out hook from the glove box up front, ideal for hanging a waste bag, while the two narrow slots left of the driver’s knee are ideal for gas cards. Yes, this little SUV is as convenient as vehicles come, and really should win some sort of award for thoughtfulness.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Remember, this is a base model, and the switchgear is this impressive.

Either way, its fully digital gauge cluster and vertical tablet-style infotainment touchscreen will likely earn even bigger smiles, as these are some of the best in the class. The former measures 12.3 inches and includes digital versions of an analogue speedometer and tachometer as well as a large centre display showing available navigation directions including detailed mapping and actual road signs, plus phone info and more, all of which expand the centre area while shrinking the primary driving controls for greater visibility when in use. This is top-tier kit normally found in higher trims, so Volvo deserves kudos for making such an excellent driver’s display standard.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Available wireless charging makes topping up your smartphone as easy as putting your phone down.

The 9.0-inch centre touchscreen is Volvo’s Sensus system that’s found in every other model, from this entry-level five-occupant compact SUV right up to the fanciest mid-size, three-row XC90. If you know how to use an Apple iPad or Android-based tablet (or for that matter a smartphone) you’ll feel right at home, and even more so if you take the time to hook up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration, which also comes standard.

The aforementioned navigation system is programmable from here, as is one of the most intelligently organized dual-zone climate control systems I’ve ever used (the base model gets a single-zone system), the interface complete with a brilliant pop-up menu for each zone’s temperature setting and an easily figured out pictograph design for directing ventilation. The audio system sounds good too, and features Bluetooth streaming and satellite radio, while the backup camera is clear and bright, plus incorporates active guidelines for pinpointing a chosen parking space.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40’s advanced 8-speed automatic gearbox gets shifted via this electronic lever, but no paddles in the base model.

A narrow row of nicely crafted switches can be found just below the touchscreen, featuring a hazard lights button and some quick-access HVAC and audio controls, the latter including a beautifully detailed metal volume knob, while to the very right is the previously noted drive mode selector.

Just below is a big compartment capable of stowing a large smartphone with sets of sunglasses to each side, plus a dedicated USB-A charging port as well as one for connecting to the infotainment system just above (that are joined by two more on the backside of the front console), these sidled up beside a classic 12-volt charger.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
This handy little hook flips out of the glove box for hanging what-have-you, just one of many thoughtful conveniences you’re going to love.

Standard features not yet mentioned include remote engine start from a smartphone app, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sensors with a visual indicator on the centre display, Volvo On Call, front and rear collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, all the expected airbags including two for the front occupants knees, and much more, all in a compact luxury SUV that starts at just $39,750 plus freight and fees.

For 2020, the White Contrast Package increases the price by $1,250, the 4-C suspension upgrade adds $1,000, 19-inch alloys adds $975, panoramic sunroof adds $1,000, navigation adds $1,000, harman/kardon premium sound adds $950, the leather upholstery upgrade adds $1,100, and a charcoal headliner adds $250.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Available leather will only set you back $1,100, but really makes the XC40 feel rich.

Additionally, 2020 models can be upgraded with a $2,750 Momentum Plus Package that includes front LED fog lamps with bending/cornering lights, power-folding side mirrors with puddle lights, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, passive keyless access, high-level interior illumination, the dual-zone automatic climate control upgrade mentioned earlier, a Clean Zone air quality system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener and compass, an always appreciated wireless smartphone charger, a heatable steering wheel rim, four-way powered lumbar support, a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, a nifty storage box under the driver’s seat cushion, heated rear outboard seats, a powered liftgate, the handy divider/grocery bag holder mentioned before, and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, which becomes standard for 2021.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The rear seating area is especially roomy and comfortable, even for tall passengers.

Speaking of 2021, the XC40’s options and packages have been modified with a $1,000 Climate Package now available for Momentum trim adding heated wiper blades, the just-noted heated steering wheel and rear seat warmers, all highly recommended for obvious reasons, while a new $1,950 Premium Package includes passive entry with rear liftgate gesture control that only requires a quick kick under the back bumper to operate, plus front parking sensors and the dual-zone auto HVAC system, powered passenger seat, HomeLink universal remote, navigation with road sign information, power-folding rear headrests, grocery bag holder, and under-seat storage mentioned earlier.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The cargo area can be had with this handy divider that includes three grocery bag hooks on top.

Lastly, a $2,200 Advanced Package adds headlamp washers plus the brighter interior lighting and wireless phone charging noted a moment ago, as well as an excellent 360-degree surround parking camera, adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous Pilot Assist driver assistance, and a 12-volt power outlet in cargo area.

Check out CarCostCanada for 2021 and 2020 XC40 pricing information, which includes all of the details above as well as important manufacturer leasing and financing info, rebate updates when available, and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Right now, Volvo Canada is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives for the 2021 XC40 and up to $2,000 in additional incentives for 2020 models. Learn how the CarCostCanada program works now, and remember to download their free app so you can access all this critical info whenever and wherever you need it.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The rear seats fold 60/40, but include a centre pass-through for longer cargo.

I hope you can gather by the detail I’ve provided throughout this review, the XC40 isn’t your average entry-level SUV. Its thoughtful touches, artful design and overall liveability set it apart from all competitors, and when combined with an easy-going demeanour on the road, that can get mighty fiery when called upon, it’s easily one of the best offerings in its class all around. I highly recommend it.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

When an automaker creates a sports car as immediately classic as the now legendary 240Z, it’s often all downhill from there. It’s like the band that has a top-10 hit on their first album, and never…

Nissan’s latest concept is the Z car we want

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
The new Nissan Z Proto concept combines design cues from past and present into an all-new form.

When an automaker creates a sports car as immediately classic as the now legendary 240Z, it’s often all downhill from there. It’s like the band that has a top-10 hit on their first album, and never achieves the same level of musical genius again. Could the next Z be the one that finally outdoes the original?

Sometimes we forget that Nissan (then Datsun in North America) had already experienced relative success with another great sports car before the 240Z arrived in 1969. In fact, the 1965–1970 1600 roadster (and predecessors), named Fairlady in Japan and raced in SRL 2000 form by actor Paul Newman at the very beginning of his motorsport career, was the 240Z’s (Fairlady Z’s) predecessor despite looking nothing like it. Where the 1600 roadster looked and performed similarly to British and Italian sports cars of the era such as the MGB, Triumph TR4/TR5, Alfa Romeo Duetto/Spider and Fiat Spider, the 240Z left every other entry-level competitor in the visual and literal dust, and became an instant hit because of it.

1969 Nissan (Datsun) 240Z
The now legendary Nissan (Datsun) 240Z was introduced to the world in 1969.

The Zs that followed gained displacement to overcome pollution equipment and therefore weren’t quite as appealing, while the 280ZX added luxury and weight, a scenario that continued to play out with the 300ZX, although the second-generation 300ZX was absolutely gorgeous and extremely powerful for the era, and is therefore considered by many as the best Z since the 240. This said the 350Z was lauded for styling and performance when it arrived, while the 370Z added more luxury and weight, and has kind of worn out its welcome after 12 years on the market. This brings us to the here and now, with hopes that the yellow beast before us all is a thinly disguised seventh-gen Z.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
Long overhangs have caused a 5-inch increase in the Z Proto’s length.

The Z Proto, as it’s called, appears more than just a concept. The name Proto is short for prototype after all, which outside of sports car racing circles means a near production ready concept designed to test the waters before a full introduction. Nissan has a history of near-production concepts, which bodes well for this car becoming the new 400Z, as netizen pundits are calling it.

Nissan has been teasing the next-gen Z for quite a while, first with a teaser video showing the car in silhouette a few months ago. This caused quite the stir, with many expecting a production-ready car to appear, but alas we only have a concept, albeit a nicely fleshed out one at that. The Z Proto looks like it could easily be a production model, from its graceful lines that pay greater respect to the original than any Z since the ‘70s, to its fully formed interior that continues forward with many of the key design elements that have always been part of Nissan’s much-loved super coupe.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
The rear design incorporates styling from the 300ZX, as well as a roofline that pays tribute to the original.

From the front, the Z Proto immediately reminds of the early 240, 260 and 280 Z cars, particularly the blocky, rectangular grille that seems to pay tribute to a popular mod of the era which saw owners removing the thin chromed front bumper (this practice became even more popular amongst 280Z owners due to its larger safety regulated front bumper), but also shares similar sizing to the current 370Z’s frontal opening. Just the same, this has been the new Proto Z’s most criticized design element, with some thinking it’s just too big and square.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
The Z Proto’s creased and domed hood pulls some cues from the first-gen Z.

The Proto’s elegantly formed hood plays off early Zs too, but with a much wider domed centre section that begins farther rearward after a more pronounced crease down the middle. The ovoid headlights are entirely new, however, sharing some circular symmetry with the first Z, particularly the daytime running lights that are supposed to represent the circular reflection of the transparent headlamp fairings used on Japanese-domestic-market (JDM) models (and aftermarket upgraded North American cars). Their flush glass-covered sealed beam look is more in-line with the fourth-generation Z32, mind you, which incidentally housed the Z’s first Xenon HIDs as part of its 1998 makeover, but the new concept uses LED technology.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
Some classic design details separate the Proto from all Z cars after the first generation.

The Z Proto’s roofline, rear quarters and hatch, on the other hand, pull cues from a variety of eras, albeit mostly from the ‘70s due to moving most of its visual weight to the rear, which sees nicely upswept quarter windows as well as pillars with integrated “Z” logos, paying direct homage to first-generation models. This said, the rear lighting elements and back panel garner more influence from both the refreshed 1987-1989 Z31 and all Z32 300ZX models thanks to their large, horizontal taillight treatments, while the entire car is a major departure from both 350Z and 370Z models, necessary to provide a fresh approach to such an outdated model.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
This full fleshed out interior combines classic Z styling cues with modern electronics and refinement.

For those wanting a return to what arguably made the original 240Z a great car to drive, its superb power to weight ratio, the Z Proto’s five-inch longer body won’t be good news unless Nissan constructs it from lightweight metals and composites. Doing so, of course, would drive the price up substantially, which means we’re only likely to see the same types of high-strength steels and alloys used in the platform-sharing Infiniti Q60’s body structure, with any exotic materials allocated to the much pricier GT-R.

The new Z Proto measures 4,381 mm (172.5 in) long, 1,849 mm (72.8 in) wide, incidentally, which is exactly the same width as the Q60, plus it’s 1,310 mm (51.6 in) tall. We can expect a production version to use at least as much aluminum for its body panels as the current 370Z, which gets a lightweight hood, door skins and hatch. Aluminum suspension components will make the grade too, the current Z already using an aluminum-alloy front subframe, engine cradle, and forged aluminum control arms (upper and lower in the rear), steering knuckle, radius rod, and wheel carrier assembly.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
The fully digital gauge cluster modernizes the entire cabin.

Within that just-noted engine cradle will be Nissan’s impressive twin-turbo 3.0-litre VR30DDTT engine, an advanced power unit that delivers superb performance and much better fuel economy than the 3.7-litre V6 currently in use. It comes in two states of tune in the Q60, including 300 and 400 horsepower variants, with most pundits expecting a 400Z nameplate to accompany the most potent version. This said it would be an unusual move to limit the upcoming Z to just the top-line engine, as a 300Z’s lower price point would allow for many more sales, while a potential 300ZX could denote available all-wheel drive, currently standard in Canada in the Q60, while provide an ideal marketing connection to the aforementioned historical Z models. A six-speed manual is shown in the concept, nothing new here, while it’s possible the new Z will debut more forward gears for the automatic, which currently houses seven.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
The usual trio of dash-top dials is included, albeit with a new turbo boost gauge.

As has mostly been the case through the decades, the new Z Proto’s interior is heavily influenced by first-gen Z cars, albeit with modern-day refinement and technology that far surpass today’s model. A key giveaway includes the sport steering wheel with its classic circular centre pad endowed with a “Z” logo instead of Nissan’s usual crest, but fans will appreciate the trio of driver-canted ancillary gauges atop the centre dash even more. Along with the usual oil pressure and voltmeter dials, the Z Proto replaces the current model’s digital clock with a boost gauge, a nod to the twin-turbo V6 housed just ahead.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
A large state-of-the-art infotainment touchscreen will be included in any new Z.

The digital gauge cluster and large high-definition infotainment touchscreen are the most notable improvements over all predecessors, the former necessary for respect in this segment, and allowing for much more driver usability due to the ability to incorporate sophisticated performance readouts, while the latter should come equipped with all the usual modern amenities including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a big, clear backup camera with the possible option of a 360-degree overhead bird’s-eye view, and more.

The three rotating dials used for the heating and ventilation system strangely don’t appear to provide dual-zone capability, but it is automatic so this version is at least up to par with the current car.

2020 Nissan Z Proto Concept
The Z Proto’s 6-speed manual and single-zone automatic climate control are nothing new.

Speaking of the current car, the Z Proto’s side-window defog vents on the outside corners of the dash, and its uniquely shaped door handles with integrated air vents, appear directly pulled from today’s Z, a strange choice if the brand wants to wholly differentiate the upcoming model from the one it replaces.

The seats look fabulous, but such can be said for the current model’s top-tier Recaros too, all of which help to make the new Z Proto appear like a production model in waiting. Then again Nissan is calling it a “development study vehicle,” so we shouldn’t get our hopes up too high, even though the 2001 Z Concept ended up looking a lot like the 2003 350Z. Reports claim the production vehicle has been signed off and development is well under way, but so far we haven’t been given a launch timeline. Considering today’s Z is now the oldest generation of any model sold in Canada, they may want to get a move on.

On that note, the 2020 Nissan 370Z is available with up to $1,000 in additional incentives. Find out about this and other info at CarCostCanada, where you can learn about manufacturer rebates, leasing and financing deals, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. See how the CarCostCanada system works, and remember to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

Also, make sure to check out our full photo gallery above and the three available Z Proto videos below:

Unleash the #PowerOfZ (2:18):

Hear the Z Proto roar (0:33):

Get ready for the Nissan Z Proto (0:29):