Now that the upstart Genesis brand is finding its footing in the luxury sector, having initially taken two of Hyundai’s most premium models (the G80 and G90) with it before adding one of its own (the…

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The totally redesigned 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has a sharp looking new face. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Now that the upstart Genesis brand is finding its footing in the luxury sector, having initially taken two of Hyundai’s most premium models (the G80 and G90) with it before adding one of its own (the new G70), the namesake South Korean giant is in the midst of a rebranding exercise that not only needs to differentiate itself from Genesis, but also keep it separate from Kia, which is arguably fighting over the same mainstream volume customer base. 

I think they’ve done an excellent job so far. Just compare the two brands’ mid-size SUV entries, the third-generation Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia’s current Sorento. They don’t look at all alike from the exterior styling to the interior design and execution, but the two companies benefit from a lot of development and component cost sharing that no doubt boosts the bottom line. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe, now undeniably mid-size, has long been the best-selling SUV in its class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of note, that third-generation Santa Fe is now history, replaced by this much more dramatically penned fourth-generation model for 2019, complete with the new design language I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Its grille is large, deep and certainly distinctive, and its innovative use of frontal lighting, featuring narrow strips of LEDs up top and tightly grouped clusters of secondary driving lights down below, is starting to permeate the brand, showing up on the new Kona at the lower end, as well as the even newer Palisade at the upper end. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe isn’t quite as distinctive from the rear, but nevertheless attractive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Speaking of sizes, not everyone seems to agree on where the Santa Fe fits into the SUV scheme of things. It started life as more of a compact utility than anything truly mid-size, but like so many other vehicles it’s grown over the generations to the point that now it leans more toward mid-size than compact. Despite coming close to matching the length, width and height of five-passenger mainstays like the Ford Edge, some industry insiders still clump it into the compact SUV segment and therefore muddle the marketplace, so I’m here setting the record straight. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Ideal for city, suburbia, or the open road, the Santa Fe is perfect for average sized Canadian families. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

To be specific, at 4,770 millimetres (187.8 inches) long and 1,890 mm (74.4 in) wide the 2019 Santa Fe we’re testing here is a considerable 246 mm (9.7 in) longer than the current Ford Escape compact SUV yet only a fractional 9 mm (0.3 in) shorter than the Edge, while it’s 52 mm (2.0 in) wider than the former and only 38 mm (1.5 in) narrower than the latter. To be fair, the new Santa Fe is actually a full 70 mm (2.7 in) longer and 10 mm (0.4 in) wider than the outgoing model, this improving interior roominess. So while I’ve long considered the Santa Fe a mid-size crossover SUV, now we can all safely categorize it as such. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Now there’s very few styling similarities between Hyundai and Genesis, and none to Kia. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As for the three-row Santa Fe XL, it currently remains available with last year’s design and a 2019 model year designation, but as you’ve probably already guessed it’s currently being replaced by the much more appealing (to me at least) 2020 Palisade noted a moment ago, which just happens to be in my garage this week. Between the smallest (so far) Kona/Kona EV and this Santa Fe is Hyundai’s Tucson, a model that’s still nice but starting to look a bit dated (expect an update next year for the 2021 model year), while an entirely new city car-sized crossover SUV dubbed Venue will slot in under the Kona for the 2020 model year, arriving this fall. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Narrow upper headlamps, LEDs in as-tested Ultimate trim, and secondary lighting clusters below have become trademark Hyundai design details. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Lastly, I recently spent a week with the new 2019 Nexo (review forthcoming), a crossover SUV that’s only slightly smaller than the Santa Fe (albeit with a longer wheelbase), and unlike its spiritual predecessor the Tucson FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) that shared underpinnings with the second-generation Tucson, the Nexo only exists because of Hyundai’s desire to create a dedicated platform to further its hydrogen fuel cell and electric powertrain program. At $73k it won’t find many buyers, a problem made worse by a lack of hydrogen refueling stations (only three in Canada, one of which is in Ontario and the other two in BC — one being a Shell station luckily located a few kilometres from my home. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
These 19-inch alloys are exclusive to the top-line Santa Fe Ultimate. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Unlike the future-think Nexo, the near two-decade strong Santa Fe has always been a really strong seller for Hyundai, especially here in Canada. In fact, last year it was once again number one in the mid-size SUV segment with 24,040 units sold, well ahead of the second-place Ford Edge that only managed to pull in 19,156 new buyers in 2018. The Santa Fe has actually held first place in this category for more than a decade, an impressive feat considering how fierce the competition is. 

One thing you may notice missing from this redesigned 2019 Santa Fe is a “Sport” model designation. The outgoing two-row SUV was named Santa Fe Sport in order to differentiate it from the larger three-row Santa Fe XL, but the brand’s product planners (et al) skipped the Sport nameplate when introducing the ironically sportier 2019 Santa Fe, because at the time they knew what we didn’t, the much grander three-row Palisade was on the way. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Hyundai reserves these LED taillights for the Ultimate model too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I’m not going to go into much detail about the new Santa Fe’s exterior styling, only to say this fourth-gen model had a tough act to follow, and to add that I like the new design. As for the Santa Fe’s interior styling, quality, fit, finish, etcetera, I’m pretty sure it will impress you. It’s one of the most luxurious crossover SUVs in its class, with more soft-touch surfaces than the majority of rivals, the entire middle portion of the dash-top comprised of a stitched and padded composite material that looks like rich leather, this followed up with a similar surfacing on the sides of the lower console, the door panel armrests, and the door inserts. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe will upgrade your expectations for mid-size SUV refinement. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The door uppers get a nice high-quality pliable treatment front and back too, with the Santa Fe’s only hard plastic being the most forward portion of the dash top, including the instrument shroud below the otherwise soft-touch hood, plus a small portion of each upper door panel, the entire lower section, and the lower half of the instrument panel. These areas don’t get touched a lot anyway, which is why most mainstream automakers follow suit, and being how nice Hyundai finished off the meshed metal-look inlays that wrap around the upper edge of the instrument panel into the doors front to back, plus the lovely variation on that metallic theme lower down on each door panel, which are actually speaker grills for the upgraded Infinity audio system, it’s okay that they didn’t go all the way with the soft-touch composites. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
There’s no shortage of soft-touch above the waste, and the quality of materials is truly impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Along with that high-grade metal there’s a lot of nice satin-finish metallic detailing throughout the rest of the cabin too. Hyundai encircled the gauge cluster in metal brightwork, plus tastefully applied it to the steering wheel’s lower spoke switchgear, the tablet-style infotainment touchscreen, the dash vents, the dual-zone automatic climate control interface, the gear selector, the door pulls, the beautifully finished power window switches and side mirror controller, plus more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
A 7-inch TFT LCD multi-information display sits within this colourful primary gauge cluster. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While all this impresses, the first thing I noticed when entering my top-line Santa Fe was its luxurious and totally unique headliner. It’s similar to denim, although not blue jeans, but rather a light beige khaki-coloured material with slightly browner flecks within. It looks rich, plus it wraps all the way down each roof pillar front to back, which is unheard of in this class, while it also opens up overhead thanks to a wonderfully large panoramic sunroof. It’s power-actuated by a double-purpose slider button that opens the sunscreen (made from the same beige denim material) with a light tap, and the glass itself after a slightly harder pull rearward. The overhead console surrounding the powered sunroof button also integrates switchgear for four LED reading lamps, plus it houses one of the softest padded sunglass holders I’ve ever felt. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe Ultimate is one of the most feature-rich SUVs in the mainstream market. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of note, the redesigned 2019 Santa Fe includes some new trim lines, starting with the base Essential, which can be upgraded to Preferred, Preferred Turbo, Luxury, and finally this as-tested Ultimate trim. Before I get into the details of each, let me once again praise Hyundai for saying goodbye to the “Limited” trim designation, not only because it’s way overused, but also because no one ever limits the sale of anything that wears a Limited trim badge. I’m also personally grateful they didn’t swap it out for “Platinum” instead, as that precious metal is becoming ubiquitous too. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The Santa Fe’s touchscreen is one of the fastest reacting systems we’ve ever tested. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I like the name Essential for a base model, especially one that includes standard heatable front seats plus a standard heated steering wheel, not to mention a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a backup camera with active guidelines, dual USB charge ports, Bluetooth, auto on/off projector headlights with LED accents, fog lamps, 17-inch alloys, chrome and body-colour exterior detailing, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, two-way powered driver’s lumbar support, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks with recline, an electromechanical parking brake with auto hold, Drive Mode Select with Comfort, Smart, and Sport modes, and much more for just $28,999 plus freight and fees (make sure to go to CarCostCanada for all the pricing details, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The optional overhead camera, standard in Luxury trim and above, makes parking easy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Pay just $30,199 and you’ll get Hyundai’s suite of SmartSense advanced driver assistive systems including auto high beam assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward collision alert and mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and Driver Attention Warning. 

Adding all-wheel drive will set you back another $2,000 in Essential trim, or it comes standard with the $35,099 Preferred model that also makes the just-noted SmartSense package standard, while including even more safety features such as blindspot detection, rear cross-traffic alert with collision avoidance, a rear occupant alert system that remembers if you opened a rear door prior to driving and then reminds you that someone or something may still be in back when exiting, and finally safe exit assist that warns of traffic at your side when opening your door. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Dual-zone auto HVAC, 3-way seat heaters and coolers, a heated steering wheel and more help make the Santa Fe fabulously comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Plenty of additional features are included in Preferred trim too, such as 18-inch alloys, turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, a Homelink garage door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control (with a CleanAir Ionizer, Predictive Logic and auto defog), BlueLink smartphone telematics, satellite radio, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, fore and aft sliding rear seats, plus more. Of note, the Santa Fe’s 2.4-litre base engine is still standard in Preferred trim, but you can now opt for a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine for $2,000 extra. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
All Santa Fe trims get a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic with auto start/stop to save fuel. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Heading up to $41,899 Luxury trim adds the turbo engine and AWD as standard equipment, plus dark chrome exterior door handles, door scuff plates, LED interior lighting, a 7.0-inch TFT LCD multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster, the aforementioned powered panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree Surround View parking camera, a deluxe cloth roofliner, leather console moulding, memory, four-way powered lumbar support and an extendable lower cushion for the driver’s seat, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, rear side window sunshades, a proximity actuated smart liftgate, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
These are comfortable front seats, the driver’s aided by 4-way powered lumbar support. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Lastly, my $44,999 Ultimate trimmed tester included most everything from Luxury trim plus 19-inch alloys, satin exterior trim and door handles, LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display that projects key info onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and traffic flow info including incident data via HD radio, plus a 12-speaker 630-watt Infinity audio system with QuantumLogic Surround sound and Clari-Fi music restoration technology, a wireless charging pad, and more. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The panoramic sunroof is massive, features a powered sunscreen and powers open. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The two engines just mentioned are carryover, although both receive new variable valve timing for quicker response and better fuel economy. The base 2.4-litre four-cylinder continues to make 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, while the top-line turbo 2.0-litre four increases power to 235 and torque to 260 lb-ft. Santa Fe fans will immediately notice that the upgraded engine is down 5 horsepower, but I can promise you it’s not at all noticeable. In fact, the new Santa Fe feels quicker than the outgoing one thanks to a much more advanced eight-speed automatic replacing the old six-speed unit, the new one also receiving standard auto start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling in order to reduce emissions and save fuel. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Rear seating space is very generous, plus the seats slide forward, rearward, and recline nicely. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Fuel economy is therefore improved over the outgoing model, with the 2.4 FWD base model now rated at 10.8 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 9.6 combined compared to the old model’s respective 11.1 city, 8.6 highway and 10.0 combined; the same engine with AWD now capable of a claimed 11.2 city, 8.7 highway and 10.1 combined compared to 12.0, 9.1 and 10.7 respectively with last year’s Santa Fe 2.4 AWD; and finally 12.3 city, 9.8 highway and 11.2 combined for the 2.0-litre turbo instead of 12.5, 9.6 and 11.2 when compared to the same engine in the previous generation. Yes, a bit surprising the new eight-speed auto and auto start/stop system resulted in zero combined fuel economy improvement with the turbo, but when factoring in that most mileage is done in the city then it’s a positive. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
There’s plenty of room for cargo, but I would have preferred some type of centre pass-through. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Santa Fe’s HTRAC All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system sends most of the powertrain’s torque to the front wheels in order to save fuel unless slippery conditions require additional traction at back, but choosing one of the available driving modes intelligently apportions motive power where it can most effectively improve efficiency or performance, based on need. For instance, Comfort mode splits front/rear torque approximately 70/30 for all-weather stability, while Eco mode pulls more to the front wheels, Sport mode pushes up to 50 percent to the rear wheels, and Smart mode varies all of the above as needed. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The load floor is nice and flat with all seats folded. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Just like the outgoing third-generation Santa Fe, the new model incorporates a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link setup at the rear, plus a stabilizer bar at each end for improved handling. The steering is motor-driven powered rack and pinion, and felt even more responsive than the setup in its regular-wheelbase Sport predecessor, while the suspension setup impressed even more. In fact, I’m not sure how Hyundai made its ride so compliant and easy on the backside, yet didn’t these seemingly soft underpinnings didn’t impact the Santa Fe’s handling one iota. The new Santa Fe manages corners better than the previous one, my tester’s upgraded 19-inch alloys and lower-profile 235/55 all-season tires no doubt assisting in this respect, but then again this should negatively affect ride quality and it certainly didn’t. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
Storage space below the load floor comes in handy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As mentioned earlier, the revised turbocharged engine makes a bit less power than the outgoing one, but it certainly doesn’t feel any less energetic off the line. The eight-speed automatic is ultra-smooth and quite quick through the cogs as well, while the Santa Fe’s Drive Mode Integrated Control System can be set up for Sport mode that lets revs go higher between shifts, provides snappier engagement, improves throttle response, stiffens the steering, and as noted earlier apportions up to 50 percent of the AWD system’s torque to the rear, although I mostly left it in Smart mode as it combines the fuel savings of Eco mode, the smoother drivability of Comfort mode, and the driver engagement of Sport mode, depending on the way the it’s being driven. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
The new 2019 Santa Fe is once again one of the best offerings in the mid-size SUV class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, family vehicles always compromise performance for comfort, which is as it should be because that’s what most buyers in this category want. The 10-way powered driver’s seat was wonderfully comfortable all week, its powered lumbar adjustment finding the small of my back easily thanks to its optimal four-way design. Forced air can blow through the perforations in the upholstery to keep things cool in summer, a relieving feature, and there’s plenty of space up front to move around in. It’s roomy behind too, made even better by seat recliners that go way back, and the second row’s fore and aft sliding feature that provides more space for luggage when necessary. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD
It’s difficult not to recommend this SUV. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The five-seat Santa Fe’s interior volume measures 4,151 litres (146.6 cubic feet), while its maximum cargo capacity is 1,016 litres (35.9 cubic feet) behind the second row and 2,019 litres (71.3 cubic feet) with its 60/40-split rear seatbacks lowered, a process that is made easier via powered release buttons on the cargo wall. Being a skier I would have appreciated 40/20/40 spit-folding rear seatbacks or a centre pass-through, especially considering how much nicer trips to the mountain would be for those in back if they could take advantage of the outboard seat heaters, so maybe Hyundai could consider this for a mid-cycle update in a couple of years. 

Just the same, the new 2019 Santa Fe is easily one of the better five-occupant crossover SUVs available, and should be considered if you’re in the market.

Every luxury brand has models that sell in volume and therefore provide necessary income and hopefully profits, while most also have one or more image vehicle that increases visibility of the entire model…

2019 Lexus LC 500h Road Test

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The Lexus LC 500h makes a dramatic visual statement that looks like nothing else on the road. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Every luxury brand has models that sell in volume and therefore provide necessary income and hopefully profits, while most also have one or more image vehicle that increases visibility of the entire model lineup and, in theory, causes people to buy into the make. On rare occasion a model achieves both, but such is not the case with the beautiful new Lexus LC. 

Putting things into perspective, the LC could actually be considered a runaway success when compared to Lexus’ previous image car. The LFA was purposely limited to just 500 units worldwide over two model years built between 2010 and 2012, 10 of which came to Canada. By comparison the LC, which was introduced in 2017 as a 2018 model, is selling like gangbusters with seven examples finding well-heeled Canadian customers last month alone, and nine the month before. In total, Lexus delivered 55 LCs over the first seven months of 2019, which makes it the second slowest selling model in the Japanese luxury brand’s lineup, just ahead of the LS (with 51 units) but not the slowest selling sport-luxury car in Canada. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The rear end design is almost as visually arresting as the front. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That honour goes to the Maserati GranTurismo that only found 14 new buyers so far this year, while the LC is also doing better than Acura’s NSX that only has 17 units sold, not to mention the Nissan GT-R’s tally of 36, and the Audi R8’s 54. Still, Mercedes-Benz sold 99 SL-Class models year-to-date, BMW’s 8 Series earned 160 new owners thus far, Jaguar’s F-Type found 181 buyers, Merc’s AMG GT pulled in a surprising 258 (considering it starts at $170k), and Porsche’s 911 won over 587. Making matters more interesting, that Porsche sales total represents a 31.74-percent drop in popularity compared to the same seven months last year, due to a lull in availability ahead of the all-new 2020 model arriving now. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The headlamp clusters are downright bizarre, but they fit ideally with the rest of the design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The 911 wasn’t the only sports car to lose ground on this list either, the R8 falling a catastrophic 70.97 percentage points from grace, the GranTurismo losing 48.15 percent, this LC have been knocked down by 48.11 percent, F-Type sales dropping by 29.30 percent, the GT-R down some 21.74 percent, and the SL having dipped by 16.10 percent. Only the AMG GT grew its year-to-date sales, by 55.42 percent, with the 8 Series too new to compare. You might also get a kick out of learning that Lexus’ parent brand Toyota sold 66 new $65k-plus Supra models during its first month of availability in July, which you’ll now know is more than every LC sold so far this year. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
These beautiful 21-inch alloys come standard with the 500h. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

There are other cars competing in this class, but some, like the BMW i8 and Mercedes S-Class Coupe, combine their numbers with other models in their respective lineups (the i3 and S-Class Sedan in these cases), whereas the Aston Martin DB11, Bentley Continental GT and Rolls-Royce Wraith are in a slightly different league when it comes to pricing. Ford sold three Markham, Ontario-built GTs and Dodge even notched one up for the Viper, incidentally, but the former is a purposely low-volume supercar and the latter went out of production two years ago, so the unsteady trickle of deliveries shouldn’t count. A bit further down the pricing hierarchy is Chevy’s Corvette that totaled 840 units year-to-date, and it’s a foregone conclusion the slightly pricier mid-engine C8 will soon fly out of GM showrooms, which will make it even more difficult for very good cars like this LC to find sales traction. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
An upgrade on the regular LC 500, this carbon fibre roof is standard equipment with the LC 500h hybrid. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

When sales don’t stack up, it’s always important to point out that a given car’s popularity isn’t necessarily a reflection of its overall goodness. As one might expect, the very fact the LC is a Lexus is reason enough to give it respect, and other than the most recently introduced fourth-generation LS luxury sedan, the second model to use the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), specifically TNGA-L (GA-L) underpinnings, the LC is easily the best Lexus ever made. 

The initial draw has to be styling. The LC takes the brand’s spindle grille to new widths and depths, but the design gets even more radical to each side, with headlamps that look like some sort of mechanical set of alien-implanted growths, yet the lit areas are actually quite small and filled with tightly grouped trios of LEDs (which Lexus had to reinvent in order to fit within such a small cluster). All of the abstract irregularities are just glossed over black trim, other than the Nike swoosh-style “arrowhead” daytime running lights just below. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The otherwise flush door handles pop out like those on a Jaguar F-Type or most any modern Aston Martin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The LC design continues rearward with additional modern-day Lexus trademark elements, such as the blackened C-pillar “floating roof” effect with nice polished nickel detailing, far-reaching pronged taillights that more or less mirror the supposed “L-shaped” headlamps while infused with 80 individual LEDs per side and sharing design elements with the aforementioned LS (not to mention the Toyota Prius and Camry XSE). Each element might appear a bit bizarre on its own, but the entire package comes together in one surprisingly elegant and undeniably beautiful cohesive whole. 

Come to think of it I almost never comment on styling, unless the designer got something especially right or incredibly wrong. In the LC’s case, the Newport Beach, California-based Calty Design Research centre’s team, led by studio chief Ian Cartabiano, with Edward Lee responsible for the jaw-dropping exterior and William Chergosky plus Ben Chang in charge of the interior, the LF-LC Concept that inspired it couldn’t have been more right. It was miraculously transformed from awe-inspiring prototype to equally stunning LC 500 and LC 500h reality with only minor outer modifications made, the end result quite possibly the closest a production model has ever been to resembling its concept car roots. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The LC’s stylized taillights incorporate 80 individual LEDs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The road-going LC’s interior was completely redesigned, albeit kept the general theme including an LFA-inspired pod-like digital gauge cluster, a horizontally shaped instrument panel with a recessed widescreen centre display, a cockpit-style driver’s compartment that’s semi-enclosed by a buttress-type centre stack extension doubling as a front passenger grab-handle in the production model, a flowing set of downward-swept suede-like alcantara door panel inserts, deeply sculpted, heavily bolstered front sport seats, similarly styled rear sport bucket seats, and more. All the effort spent was immediately rewarded by placement on Wards Auto 10 Best Interiors list when the car came on the scene in the spring of 2017, and I have to agree that it’s a wonderfully artful design that provides all the luxuries and digital modernity expected in a personal sports-luxury coupe starting at $102,750 in 2019 LC 500 form and $103,050 in just-arriving 2020 trim, or alternatively at $118,850 with the as-tested 2019 LC 500h electrified powertrain, or $118,950 as a 2020 500h model (see all Lexus LC 500 and 500h pricing at CarCostCanada for both the 2019 and 2020 model years, plus find out about available rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The LC’s interior is so good it immediately earned placement on Wards Auto’s top 10. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Nothing significant changes from 2019 to 2020, only the elimination of a special $14,800 Inspiration Series package with Flare Yellow semi-aniline leather upholstery (etcetera) for the LC 500 model, and the addition of a new Bespoke White interior theme for the conventionally powered car as well. No matter which powertrain you choose all six exterior colours remain identical, with Infrared the only optional paint at just $650, while the three remaining interiors are also carried over. 

A key reason my 3.5-litre V6-powered hybrid LC 500h tester is pricier than its 5.0-litre V8-powered LC 500 sibling, despite the latter upping horsepower by 113 ponies and without doubt providing a more tantalizing exhaust note, plus fitted with a quicker-shifting, more engaging gearbox than the hybrid’s E-CVT (electronic continuously variable transmission), is equipment, the 500h coming standard with everything from the Performance package that would otherwise cost an LC 500 buyer $13,500 more. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The cabin pulls plenty of design cues from the concept. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The list of upgrades includes four-wheel active variable gear ratio steering, a Torsen limited slip differential, 21-inch forged alloy wheels on Michelin performance tires instead of the standard 20-inch set, a carbon fibre roof in place of the standard glass panel, an active rear spoiler, carbon fibre reinforced polymer scuff plates, an alcantara headliner, upgraded sport seats, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat instead of the usual 10-way unit, plus lane change assist added to a long list of standard advanced driver assistive systems on both models that include a pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams, and dynamic cruise control. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The quality of materials is excellent, and layout optimizing comfort and the driving position. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I should point out a shortlist of standard luxury and convenience highlights while I’m at it, these including LED cornering lights to go along with the triple-LED headlamps noted earlier, a cool credit card-sized smart key to let you inside via proximity sensing, a head-up display to go along with the fully digital gauge cluster mentioned before, power-folding side mirrors, a heatable steering wheel rim that actually lets you adjust the temperature, a powered steering column that works with the front seat memory, cooled front seats (plus heat of course), semi-automated self-parking, and much, much more. 

Also standard is a 10.3-inch high-resolution centre display featuring a regular backup camera with dynamic guidelines, accurate navigation, Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity (but no Android Auto), superb 13-speaker Mark Levinson high resolution surround audio, satellite radio, dual USB ports, traffic and weather info, Lexus’ Enform App Suite 2.0 with Slacker, Yelp, Sports, Stocks, and Fuel apps, Enform Destination Assist with a one-year subscription, and the Enform Safety Connect suite containing Automatic Collision Notification, a Stolen Vehicle Locator, an Emergency Assistance button (SOS), and Enhanced Roadside Assistance with a four-year subscription. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The digital instrument cluster mirrors that on the LFA supercar, as well as others used on Lexus models since. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The display is too far away to reach easily, so Lexus provides its Remote Touch Interface 2.0 touchpad on the lower console, and it works easily enough after some getting used to. A few quick-access buttons and audio controls surround the pad, making it perfectly acceptable yet hardly my favourite infotainment system. Fortunately there are plenty of other reasons to like the LC. 

Despite being based on the same platform architecture as Lexus’ big LS sedan, the LC is a fraction of the size in every dimension except width. It reaches across an extra 20 mm (0.8 in) at 1,920 mm (75.6 in), and you can sense its spaciousness in shoulder room once seated next to a passenger, but its wheelbase is 255 mm (10.0 in) shorter at 2,870 mm (113.0 in), and overall length a whopping 475 mm (18.7 in) less grand, while its obvious height difference is reduced by 116 mm (4.5 in). 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
These cool control nubs poke out each side of the pod-like instrument cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So what’s the closest rival in size and interior roominess? Before comparing measurements I initially thought of the S-Class Coupe being that it’s top of the personal luxury range at Mercedes, but the mid-size E-Class Coupe is actually a lot larger than the LC in every dimension except (once again) width. The LC is actually closer to cars like BMW’s i8 and Aston Martin’s DB11, with a bit more wheelbase, length and height than the exotic looking German and truly rarified Brit, but less width this time. 

The longer wheelbase and length means that four adults can fit inside, although I’d recommend smaller folks in back. I’m just five-foot-eight with taller legs than torso, and I had to bend my neck all the way over to the side in order to fit within, with my head still rubbing up against the rear glass. The seats were comfortable, and there was plenty of room for my legs and feet, not to mention my shoulders and hips, so it was a shame that even medium sized adults can’t fit in back. As for the trunk, it’s a bit smaller in this hybrid model, measuring 132 litres (4.7 cu ft) instead of 153 litres (5.4 cu ft), so you might be forced to stuff one set of golf clubs into that otherwise kids-only back seat. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The LC gets a horizontal dash theme that comes close to resembling its concept car roots. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

And yes, to those reading who don’t understand this market, the number of golf bags that can be stowed in the trunk of a personal luxury coupe is much more important than mere performance, which, together with rear seat room, may be reason enough that sales haven’t caught on as much as they could have. Let’s be clear, the LC is not a pure performance car, especially in hybrid trim, but rather a luxurious personal coupe that also goes quickly. In this respect it’s a lot like the just-noted i8, in that it drives beautifully and handles corners brilliantly, but it’s really a luxury car. As for comfort, the suede-like alcantara covered driver’s seat was as feel-good supportive as any in this class, plus wonderfully adjustable and replete with enough side bolstering for all but my most enthusiastic rally-type antics. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The infotainment display is good, but not the segment’s best. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I was initially scheduled to spend a week in both models, but someone did something naughty to the regular LC 500 just before I was to receive it, so instead of experiencing its 467 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque firsthand, not to mention its reportedly quick-shifting 10-speed automatic, I was shuffled into something else that week, never to see the LC 500 again. This said, not too many weeks later I was able to get into this LC 500h, which comparatively makes a more modest 354 horsepower and an unknown amount of torque from its V6/electric combination, but I have to say it feels a lot more energetic than the numbers claim. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
Strange that there’s no overhead camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The internal combustion portion of this hybrid power unit only makes 295 horsepower and 257 lb-ft of torque, which is actually less than the same engine puts out in Toyota’s Camry, but before we slag this top-tier Lexus for using such a pedestrian mill, take note that a more highly strung version puts out 430 reliable horsepower in the mid-engine Lotus Evora, so it’s in good company at least. Of course, the lithium-ion battery and electric motor fulfill their fast-forward purpose as well, the latter good for 177 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, for a combined 472 horsepower and, well, let’s not bother because net horsepower and net torque don’t exactly work that way, which is why Lexus officially claims 354 horsepower and other sources are estimating about 370 lb-ft of twist at the rear wheels. I think they’re being extremely conservative in this estimate, being that the conventionally powered V8 sprints from standstill to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds and the hybrid a mere 0.5 seconds slower at 5.6, and that’s despite weighing 77 kilos (170 lbs) more at 2,012 kg (4,436 lbs) for the 500h to 1,935 kg (4,266 lbs) for the 500. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
A conventional shift lever doesn’t even hint at the sophisticated E-CVT below. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In order to maximize either model’s fun factor, choose the Drive Mode Select system’s most engaging Sport S+ setting, which may not be as extreme as the sportiest mode in a BMW M car, or a Lexus RC F for that matter, but it certainly allows the engine to rev higher and prompts quicker shifts from the large metal steering wheel-mounted paddles. I have to admit Sport S+ became my go-to position for getting through town quickly, particularly because the engine makes such vicious snarling noises, especially when revs ramp up, and “gear changes” are a lot more direct. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The upgraded sport seats feature alcantara inserts and good side bolstering. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

And yes, in case you were wondering, this may just be the best continuously variable transmission I’ve ever tested, but despite its impressive 10-speed Simulated Shift Control technology, which actually incorporates a conventional multi-gear transmission within, it still has some latent CVT tendencies, which means that even in its sportiest mode the shifts can come so quickly between intervals, albeit without all the snappy positive engagement from a sport-tuned automatic or dual-clutch automated gearbox, that it seems like nothing’s really happened at all, plus the engine tends to whine up and down with a bit of the old rubber band effect in between. This means serious performance fans will want to get the LC with its V8, leaving those wanting to make some sort of environmental statement opting for the hybrid, because I really can’t see anyone spending $100,000-plus for a personal sports coupe caring one whit about how much they pay at the pump. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
Access to the rear is pretty good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The LC 500h’s estimated fuel economy is impressive, however, at 9.0 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway and 8.1 combined compared to 15.1 city, 9.5 highway and 12.6 combined for the LC 500; bragging rights to all but Tesla warriors. 

I imagine the lighter weight LC 500 adds more agility through fast-paced corners than the LC 500h, but this long, wide, low and relatively large coupe is nevertheless a great handling car, taking up a couple of tons of real estate yet able to manage curves with deft precision. This is its forte, the LC providing the same kind of relaxed high-speed confidence found in a big Mercedes coupe, yet with its own Japanese premium flair. Its ideally balanced chassis is expectedly easy on the backside too, with a ride that’s a lot more comfortable than its big wheels and low-slung bodywork suggest, while its also wonderfully quiet when its driving mode is switched to one of its less formidable settings, Comfort, Eco and Sport also on the menu. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The back seats are comfortable, but there’s not enough headroom for regular sized adults. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

At the end of the week the LC 500h is a sensational car, but numbers don’t lie. As good as it is, the people have spoken. Even in the US, where Lexus is one of the strongest luxury brands available, the LC has only found 764 buyers since the first of January, which is a bit better than in Canada per capita, but hardly anything to get excited about. Word of a new more performance-oriented LC F arriving later this year could cause some much-needed interest to return to the nameplate, as will an attractive convertible version that’s starting to show up on the interweb, but then again the lovely LC may just end up as another image-building car, helpful for raising Lexus’ well respected name up to higher, pricier levels of the premium market, yet not capable of making a profit on its own. 

2019 Lexus LC 500h
The LC’s trunk is pretty small, and shrinks further in hybrid form. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This said the LC makes for a wonderfully exclusive piece of automotive art that managed to attract more attention from passersby than many pricier cars with more prestigious branding, having garnered more longing stares, pointing fingers and open mouths of astonishment than I could count, not to mention a completely overcome German tourist who just had to get his photo taken beside it. Still, unlike the usual exotic hardware that causes such adoration, the LC still provides a high level of reliable performance, a standout feature for sure. If you’re looking for something breathtakingly beautiful that’s completely different from anything else on the road, I highly recommend the Lexus LC.

To anyone interested in purchasing a sport sedan from a premium brand or something from the even sportier four-door coupe category, Porsche’s Panamera needs no introduction. It’s one of, if not the…

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
The second-generation Panamera has definitely improved styling with arguably better proportions all-round. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To anyone interested in purchasing a sport sedan from a premium brand or something from the even sportier four-door coupe category, Porsche’s Panamera needs no introduction. It’s one of, if not the sportiest ways to get around with four doors, while its elegantly raked rear liftback makes it one of the more practical entries in its category too. 

This relatively new market sector has expanded considerably since Mercedes-Benz launched the CLS-Class 15 years ago, with the original Panamera first to compete in 2009, the Audi A7 and Aston Martin Rapide following in 2010, and BMW finally showing up with its 6 Series Gran Coupe in 2012. Ideally timed with the latter Bavarian model’s imminent demise and the upcoming 2020 8 Series Gran Coupe’s arrival, Mercedes is now tripling down in this low-slung viertürig segment with a new higher-priced GT 4-Door Coupe model that will soon join up with the recently redesigned second-generation CLA and third-gen CLS, so it’s not as if this category’s expansion is slowing, at least when it comes to entries. As for sales, it remains stronger than the more traditional luxury sedan segment. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera looks more like the iconic 911 Carrera Coupe from the rear than any other Porsche model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While some low-volume offerings have spiced things up along the way, such as the limited production (120 units) Rapide-based 2015 to 2016 Lagonda Taraf that was priced at a cool $1 million-plus, possibly even more interesting is the success of smaller entries from Mercedes, BMW and Audi that have pulled the sleek body style down market almost as far as VW’s CC (now the much more appealing Arteon) and Kia’s stronger selling Stinger. 

Bridging the massive gap between the $40k range and one million-plus, Lamborghini has long toyed with the idea of launching something in this sector, the stunning Estoque concept ruthlessly teasing the supercar world with production rumours for years, while talk of a more rakishly penned Bentley four-door has been circulating the interweb for almost as long. Both make loads of sense being they could utilize the Panamera’s underpinnings and hard points, Bentley already sharing Volkswagen Group’s MSB architecture for the new Continental and Flying Spur, but for the time being those in the $300,000-plus crowd will need to remain satisfied with a fully loaded Panamera. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
These optional 21-inch alloys make the near full-size Panamera look smaller than it actually is. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

And yes, if you completely load up a top-line Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive you’ll be paying in excess of $320k, and its glossy black SportDesign Package enhanced exterior will wear an exclusive colour with matching wheels, its upgraded interior will boast softer, plusher leather nearly everywhere that’s not already covered with hardwood or carbon fibre, and every technology will be included. 

I drove a regular wheelbase version of that new for 2018 model last year (check out the four-model review here), the Turbo S E-Hybrid outrageously quick thanks to a once unfathomable (for a hybrid) 680 (net) horsepower, while I put last year’s new wagon-like Sport Turismo body style through its paces as well (again, see it here), albeit that car was motivated by the very same 440-horsepower twin-turbo V6 powerplant found in the Panamera 4S seen on this page. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
The current model’s LED taillights are elegantly sharp, not unlike the 911s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Moving into 2019, other than small pricing bumps across the line nothing has changed with any of the cars mentioned thus far, the version shown here exactly as it was for the 2017 model year when the second-generation Panamera arrived on the scene. This said, 2019 hasn’t been without additions to the Panamera lineup, thanks to a special 453-horsepower twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8-powered GTS model now slotting between this 4S and the Panamera Turbo in both price and performance (see my overview of the 2019 Panamera GTS here), the car I’m reviewing now starting at $119,600, the new GTS at $147,400, and the Turbo at $174,200. 

Unfortunately no GTS was available at the time of testing, leaving me with the first-world problem of this less potent 4S. Still, it produces 110 more ponies than the 330-horsepower base Panamera (read my review of this model here), and sends them to all four wheels, hence the “4” in its designation. The gurgling exhaust note is sensational in Sport mode, crackling and popping at liftoff, although rest assured its Jekyll and Hyde personality provides luxurious quietude when the drive mode selector is set to default.

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
Porsche made dramatic upgrades to the Panamera’s interior, and now it’s one of the industry’s best. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Its seemingly perfect balance between serene opulence and raucous tomfoolery is the Panamera’s best asset, no other four-door providing its ground-hugging sports car like performance along with such a rarified level of highbrow pampering. It bucks against today’s ride ‘em high SUV trend, Porsche offering its Cayenne (see a 2019 Cayenne Buyer’s Guide overview here), new Cayenne Coupe, and Macan for those wanting performance with a view, the Panamera instead coming across like the ultimate gentrified SoCal low-rider without the hopping and bopping suspension. 

That’s the thing. It slices through fast-paced corners like nothing so large has ever been able to before, yet its ride quality is surprisingly smooth. Whether suffering through inner-city laneways, inundated with poorly paved railroad crossings and ill-engineered bridge expansion joints, or tackling a circuitous back road filled with broken tarmac, the Panamera provides plenty of suspension travel for soaking up the worst bumps and ruts without getting unsettled. Of course its compliance or firmness depends on the trim and wheel options chosen, but I’ve driven every grade besides the new GTS, and all combine racetrack-worthy performance with a level of comfort I’d be happy to live with daily. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera’s cockpit is wonderfully designed and filled with state-of-the-art tech. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My test model’s optional Satin Platinum finished 21-inch alloys on 275/35 front and 315/30 rear Pirelli Cinturato P7 performance rubber are the largest on offer, so it wasn’t as if I was temporarily whisked away on the velvet carpet ride of the base 4S model’s standard 19s, the exact same 265/45 front and 295/40 rear ZRs used for the most entry-level of Panameras, incidentally, which can be had for just $99,300. 

That more luxury-oriented model might not be the quickest in the line, but it still provides a spirited 5.7-second sprint from standstill to 100 km/h or 5.5 seconds with the available Sport Chrono Package, while my tester reduces such stoplight shenanigans, er… such professionally sanctioned launch tests on privately owned drag strips to just 4.4 or 4.2 seconds respectively. Likewise the 4S continues charging onward and upward to 160 km/h in just 10.3 seconds, shaving 3.3 seconds from the base model’s zero to 160 km/h time, all before topping out at 289 km/h, an amazing 25 km/h faster terminal track velocity than the entry Panamera. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
It might look like a classic five-dial Porsche gauge cluster, but only the centre ring is analogue. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As exciting as all this sounds there are still much quicker Panameras on offer, the new GTS doing the initial deed in 4.1 seconds, the Turbo blasting past in just 3.8 seconds, and the Turbo S E-Hybrid needing a mere 3.4, while top speeds rise commensurately, the latter model capable of 310 km/h if you can find a track with a long enough straight to test it on, but suffice to say this Panamera 4S performs better than most sport sedans, its new eight-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox delivering quick, smooth, paddle-actuated shifts, and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive maintaining awe-inspiring grip in all weather conditions, while it looks just as sensational when blurring past at high speeds as when cruising through town. 

As I glossed over earlier, the inky black exterior accents don’t come standard, but my tester’s darkened trim contrasted the white paint beautifully. Satin silver and/or bright metal embellishment is the norm, or alternatively you can paint out the mirror caps, door handles, badges, etcetera, in glossy black. Inside, the possibilities are nearly limitless, but the Panamera’s incredibly fine attention to high-quality details, including the best of composites and leathers, optional woods, aluminum or carbon fibre, and digital interfaces that are so high in resolution it’s as if you can stick your hand right into the depths of their beautifully deep, rich contrasted screens and graphically illustrated artistry. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
The infotainment touchscreen’s resolution is incredibly clear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, this is as good as digitization gets in the automotive realm, whether staring at the classic five-dial Porsche instrument cluster, its centre circle being the only analogue component in an otherwise colourful array of displays, the left-side screen for more driving related information and the one on the right being a comprehensive multi-information unit, or alternatively letting your fingers do the walking over the wide centre infotainment touchscreen, which comes close to 3D when viewing the navigation map. All the expected gesture controls make this as easy to use as a smartphone or tablet, and speaking of your personal device of choice it now syncs up to either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, while providing all of the functions expected in this class including an as-tested overhead camera that, together with audible and visual fore and aft sensors, makes parking much easier. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
The Panamera’s seats are superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Most controls on the sloping centre console are touch sensitive, requiring a subtle push and click to engage. All the switchgear feels extremely high in quality, a real solid piece of work. The surrounding surface is relatively easy to keep clean thanks to a black glass-like smartphone treatment, although the piano black lacquered trim found throughout my tester, especially the section on the ashtray at the very base of that lower console, was always covered in muck, dust and what have you. Fortunately you can opt for any number of surface treatment substitutes that look cleaner even when dirty, although there’s something to be said for being able to easily see what needs cleaning for the sake of keeping things sanitary. 

Ahead of the driver is one of the best leather-wrapped sport steering wheels in the industry. I love the narrow spokes, hollowed out for an even lighter, more sporting look, while the integrated buttons and scrolling knurled metal dials are superbly crafted with wonderful tight fitment and ideal damping. As usual the heated steering wheel button hides within the base of the third spoke, a smart design for sure, albeit some might find it easy to switch on or off when spinning the wheel. This said it comes on automatically when starting up, or likewise stays off, depending on its settings. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
Rear seating space is good as far as four-door coupes go, and if you need more Porsche offers a long-wheelbase Executive version. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My tester included three-way heated and cooled front seats, plus a fabulous optional 710-watt 15-speaker (including sub) Bose Centerpoint 14-channel surround audio system that only gets upstaged by the 1,455-watt 22-speaker (including a 400-watt active sub) Burmester 3D High-End Surround system (I’ve tested this before and it’s out of this world). This said my test model did not include the aforementioned Sport Chrono Package, so therefore was shy 0.2 seconds of sprint time (not that I noticed), plus its centre dash top-mounted clock merely provided a lovely looking black face with white numerals and indices, rather than the chronometer version with digital displays used for lap timing, et al. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
The optional full rear console really improves back seat convenience and comfort. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Then again, thanks to a full rear console with a massive high-definition touchscreen of its own, plus three-way heated rear seat switchgear, dual rear automatic climate controls for a four-way system front to back, powered-side and rear window sunshades, plus a massive dual-pane panoramic sunroof overhead, not to mention the model’s usual snug fitting bucket seats that are as comfortable and supportive behind as they are up front, I’m not sure whether I would’ve rather driven or been chauffeured in my particular test model, but not requiring the funds or available friend for the latter I enjoyed a quiet sojourn in back while taking notes, and otherwise took care of all driving duties without complaint. 

2019 Porsche Panamera 4S
The rear liftgate adds to the Panamera’s everyday liveability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Let’s be reasonable here. The Panamera is now so good in every way it’s impossible to find much fault. Certainly the rear seating area is not as accommodating as an S-Class, but no matter which Panamera model I’ve tested, I’ve never had a problem fitting comfortably within, and remember that Porsche offers the longer-wheelbase Executive version for those who occasionally transport larger family members or friends, which means you don’t have to give up gorgeous design and ultimate performance in order to maintain a practical lifestyle. 

That last point pretty well sums up the Porsche Panamera, and with such a wide variety of trims, packages and options, all available to review in detail at CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about available manufacturer rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, the 2019 Panamera offers something for nearly every sport-luxury car buyer.

Strange, but only a year after this smart little Golf Alltrack crossover wagon came to market, Volkswagen changed things up for 2018. The Alltrack before you is a 2019, a mostly carryover model that didn’t…

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
Volkswagen made a number of changes to the Golf Alltrack’s styling last year, but they were subtle to say the least. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Strange, but only a year after this smart little Golf Alltrack crossover wagon came to market, Volkswagen changed things up for 2018. The Alltrack before you is a 2019, a mostly carryover model that didn’t look updated to my eyes at all until I started comparing the photos I took earlier this week against a 2017 model I reviewed toward the end of that year. 

Most noticeable are the LED signatures within the halogen or LED headlamps, depending on trim, plus the redesigned LED taillights, but VW says it modified the front and rear bumpers too, although I can’t tell the difference. Even the front and rear fascia trim looks identical, not to mention all the detailing down the sides. 

The colour is different from the car I reviewed in 2017, this Peacock Green Metallic version looking comparatively subdued next to my previous tester’s bright Tornado Red, while the 2017 car’s Titan Black innards have been swapped out for Shetland beige. 

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
The Alltrack is a good looking crossover wagon, especially in Execline trim that adds larger wheels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Golf Alltrack’s interior received upgrades from model year 2017 to 2018 as well, including a six-speed manual gearbox for those who enjoy shifting for themselves, or alternatively paddle-shifters with the optional six-speed automatic, while the most dramatic addition was a new state-of-the-art 8.0-inch centre touchscreen replacing the old outdated looking 6.5-inch unit. The new system incorporates the expected (and mandated) backup camera with the unexpected omission of dynamic guidelines, plus Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone integration, and plenty of interfaces for the standard six-speaker audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming connectivity, voice recognition, additional apps, car systems, and more. It even uses proximity-sensing technology to expose digital buttons when your hand gets near. 

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
VW added new halogen and LED headlights (shown) last year. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Other standard features include 4Motion all-wheel drive, 17-inch alloy wheels on 205/55 all-season tires, automatic headlights with coming and leaving functions, fog lamps, silver finished side mirror caps, silver roof rails, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start/stop, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, power windows, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-clad shift knob and handbrake lever, simulated carbon fibre decorative inlays, brushed stainless steel foot pedals, dual-zone automatic climate control, a USB port, three-way heatable and two-way powered front seats (they’re eight-way manually adjustable), leatherette upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, ambient lighting, LED reading lamps, illuminated vanity mirrors, a large powered panoramic sunroof with a powered sunshade made from an opaque fabric, a scrolling rear cargo cover, 12- and 115-volt charging outlets in the cargo area, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a centre pass-through, and the list goes on and on. 

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
VW upgraded the centre touchscreen to 8.0 inches last year too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The base Highline model starts at just $31,200 with the manual or $1,400 more for the automatic (check out CarCostCanada for the latest prices on trims, packages and individual options, plus manufacturer rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands), while the car in our garage this week has been upgraded to Execline trim, which starts at $35,270, and features standard 18-inch alloys on 225/40 all-seasons, LED headlights with active cornering lamps, paddle shifters with the automatic transmission, navigation with detailed mapping, an SD card slot, a Fender audio system with a subwoofer, front sport seats, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar, and leather upholstery. 

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
Execline trim includes standard navigation. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

VW also included the only optional upgrade, a $1,750 Driver Assistance Plus package that adds autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blindspot detection with rear cross-traffic assist, lane assist, automatic high beam control, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, plus park assist with park distance control. 

The Alltrack is mechanically identical to previous model years, sporting Volkswagen’s well-proven turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine making 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is VW’s dual-clutch automated gearbox, and the all-wheel drive system doesn’t offer any low gearing or even a locking diff, so it’s suited more for rain, snow and light-duty off-road. Transport Canada estimated fuel economy numbers are 11.1 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.6 combined for the manual, and 10.7, 8.0 and 9.4 respectively for the automatic. 

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Execline
This massive powered panoramic sunroof comes standard across the line. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The suspension is Volkswagen’s usual front strut and rear multi-link design, but not all cars in the compact class offer the latter so it’s a bonus for sure, while the shocks are exclusive to the Alltrack due to its one-inch ride-height lift over its Golf SportWagen donor car. The power steering is speed-sensitive to improve feel, while the vented front and solid rear brake discs measure 286 and 272 mm respectively. 

The big difference with the Alltrack or the just-noted SportWagen when compared to regular Golf hatchbacks is cargo space, with the two elongated models getting 368 additional litres (13.0 cubic feet) of volume behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 362 (12.8) more when they’re folded flat, the larger car’s cargo capacity measuring 861 and 1,883 litres (30.4 and 66.5 cu ft) respectively. The Alltrack even gets an extra 14 kilos (31 lbs) of additional payload capacity to go along with the added space, resulting in a 459 kg (1,012 lbs) maximum. 

Of course, I’ll talk about how livable, refined and enjoyable (or not) everything is in my upcoming road test review, so stay tuned…

It seems every time I’ve had opportunity to get behind the wheel of Kia’s new Stinger something has come up. Either the car was damaged by a wayward journo or got decommissioned before I could get…

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line Road Test

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Kia Stinger GT-Line makes a dramatic pose, and this is on the base model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It seems every time I’ve had opportunity to get behind the wheel of Kia’s new Stinger something has come up. Either the car was damaged by a wayward journo or got decommissioned before I could get my hands on it, the latter usually due to me being out of town, but just a few days back from my regular winter sojourn in the tropics has me eyeing up a lovely California Red painted Stinger GT-Line in my driveway. 

As premium as this car looks, complete with standard automatic dual-function LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED positioning lights, body-wide bar-type LED taillights, cool dark chrome exterior trim with the same dark chrome used for the side mirror caps, these additionally adorned with LED signal repeaters, not to mention sharp looking 18-inch machine-finished alloy rims on 225/45 rubber, plus chromed dual exhaust and more, it’s hard to believe this GT-Line is actually the model’s most basic of trims. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Stinger’s four-door coupe design is totally different than anything else in the mid-size sedan class. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course the Stinger starts at a fairly substantive $39,995 plus freight and fees, but despite its somewhat bargain basement Kia nameplate it borders closer to premium territory than most anything else in the mid-size class. And yes, the Stinger is a mid-size sedan. I’ve seen some refer to it as a compact because it rides on the same underpinnings as the Genesis G70, which is a compact luxury competitor that goes up against the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, etcetera, but despite having similar wheelbase lengths at 2,910 mm (114.4 in) to 2,835 mm (111.6 in), both longer than the Kia Optima’s 2,805-mm (110.4-in) wheelbase, the Stinger’s 4,830 mm (190.2 in) overall length stretches 145 mm (5.7 in) farther than the G70, and only comes in 20 mm (0.8 in) shorter than the Optima. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
LED headlamps, 18-inch alloys and plenty of sporty design detailing come standard. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Likewise, at 1,870 mm (73.6 in) the Stinger is 20 mm (0.8 in) wider than the G70 and 10 mm (0.4 in) narrower than the Optima, while its height measures 1,400 mm (55.1 in), which is identical to the G70 and 70 mm (2.7 in) lower than the Optima. Those still wanting to call the Stinger a compact will need to take note that it measures a full 190 mm (7.5 in) longer than the Forte sedan (a fairly large compact) with a 210-mm (8.2-in) longer wheelbase, while it’s also 70 mm (2.7 in) wider. In other words, it’s clearly a mid-size model, with a longer wheelbase and more width than the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord too, albeit slightly less overall length and height. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The LED headlights offer up plenty of eye-candy inside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Its long, low and wide dimensions lend to its four-door coupe-like stance, a sporty profile that’s backed up by dramatic styling and a pampering cabin, at least for its mainstream volume brand status. This isn’t Kia’s first foray into premium territory either, nor is it the South Korean brand’s most lavish. Look no further than the Mercedes S-Class/BMW 7 Series-sized K900 for such pretensions, a car that might only be upstaged for all out luxury by the Volkswagen Phaeton amongst non-premium brands, but like that outlandish VeeDub the K900 didn’t gain enough sales traction to merit continued availability in Canada, and therefore is now finished in our market (it’s still available south of the 49th mind you). 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
These hood “vents” aren’t functional, but they look great. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While the K900 was truly impressive, it was nowhere near as viable in Canada as this Stinger, which is considerably more affordable, targets a more popular market segment, and focuses more on performance than luxury. In fact, amongst its mid-size competitors I would’ve previously said it comes closest to targeting the Dodge Charger than anything else available, until the Volkswagen Arteon arrived earlier this year. The Arteon, which is based on the European Passat, has effectively replaced the old CC four-door coupe. Other than being smaller and mostly lighter in weight than the near full-size domestic challenger, the two near identically sized and similarly powered imports are basically going after the same performance-oriented buyer (in the Stinger’s base trim at least), although with a single-trim base price $8k higher than the Stinger the new Arteon is pushing quite a bit further into the premium market. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Black chrome mirror caps add a custom look. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Incidentally, the Stinger’s curb weight ranges from 1,729 – 1,782 kilos (3,812 – 3,929 lbs) with its as-tested 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, or 1,873 – 1,889 kg (4,129 – 4,165 lbs) with its optional V6, while the Arteon weighs in at 1,748 kg (3,854 lbs) and the Charger hits the scales at 1,823–1,980 kg (4,021–4,530 lbs). While lighter than the Dodge, the all-wheel drive Kia and VW models are nevertheless quite a bit heavier than the aforementioned mid-size front-drivers, giving the Stinger, at least (I’ve yet to test the Arteon, which is booked for late August), a more substantive and therefore premium feel. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
There’s more black chrome throughout the rest of the Stinger design, while these base wheels are stunning. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It really does reach to a higher level inside, with luxury brand details such as fabric-wrapped A, B and C roof pillars, a soft-touch dash with a really nicely finished padded instrument panel, plus soft door uppers front and back. All of the switchgear is nicely fitted with good damping, some even aluminized for an upscale look and impressive feel, while the perforated leather is certainly good for a base model from a volume brand. 

Now that I’m talking features, standard kit includes a heatable leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel that’s sized ideally for performance and feels good in the hands, plus a leather and chrome adorned shift knob (ditto), piano black interior trim, comfortable and supportive heated eight-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-folding side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED interior lighting, ambient mood lighting, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s really my only point of contention, being that it’s a bit small and doesn’t fit flush within its fixed upright mounting and therefore looks outdated. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The LED taillights extend across the Stinger’s entire backside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It incorporates the usual rearview camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and Kia’s exclusive UVO Intelligence connected car services bundle, while the nine-speaker audio is pretty decent for a base system, even including standard satellite radio, and the wireless phone charger is a mighty impressive standard item too. 

A proximity-sensing key fob gets you inside and a silver metallic button ignites the engine, again all standard kit, while the electromechanical parking brake releases automatically. The aforementioned backup camera joins standard rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert to make sure the Stinger’s glittering paint remains scratch free, the latter item packaged together with standard blindspot detection. Once facing forward, simply choose the most fitting Drive Mode Select setting from Smart, Eco, Comfort, Sport or Custom, leave the eight-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission in Drive or slot the lever into manual mode to make the most of the standard steering wheel paddles, which is the best way to get all 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque out of the direct-injected turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Kia carries the Stinger’s sharp looking exterior design into the interior where build quality and refinement are also very good. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s just the base powertrain, but thanks to 100-percent of its torque coming on at just 1,400 rpm, and all four wheels engaging the tarmac simultaneously the base Stinger pulls strongly from standstill right up to highway speeds and beyond. Its dual exhaust makes a nice rorty note, complementing the engine’s sonorous tone, the Stinger providing an enjoyable audio track to go along with its rapid acceleration. Certainly the base engine isn’t as intensely satisfying as the optional twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6, that beast making 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque (no optional powertrain is offered in the Arteon), but the turbo-four is a compromise I’d be happy to live with, especially when factoring in its much friendlier fuel economy of 11.1 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 9.7 combined, compared to 13.6, 9.6 and 11.8 for the V6 respectively, both incidentally aided by auto start/stop technology. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
Most of the interior’s upper half is soft touch, while all the roof pillars are fabric-wrapped. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The last thing you’ll be thinking about when coursing down a circuitous mountainside road is fuel efficiency, the Stinger’s fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup, with gas shocks and dynamic dampers, tautly sprung for a firm ride that grips like a sports car, yet despite this athleticism it’s hardly punishing, the suspension plenty compliant. 

Braking is strong too, four-cylinder models utilizing 320 mm (12.6 in) vented discs up front and 314 mm (12.4 in) solid rotors in the rear, with the upgraded powerplant receiving a more robust Brembo braking system featuring 350 mm (13.8 in) vented discs in front and 340 mm (13.4 in) vented discs in back. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The base model gets a simpler instrument cluster, but it works well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Stinger’s long, lean shape not only splits the air easily for maximizing high-speed aerodynamics, it also provides a decent amount of rear headroom (about three inches above my five-foot-eight frame) while lending itself nicely to non-traditional cargo access, at least for the mid-size sedan segment. Where the Optima and most everything else in the class use a conventional lidded trunk, the Stinger follows the raked liftback lead provided by four-door coupe forerunners such as Audi’s A5/A7 Sportback, BMW’s 4 Series, Porsche’s Panamera, Aston Martin’s Rapide, and back down to reality, the Arteon, this Kia’s sizeable opening making the most from 660 litres (23.3 cu ft) of capacity behind the rear seats, or for that matter expanding on the rearmost volume to a total of 1,158 litres (40.9 cu ft) when those 60/40 split seatbacks are folded down. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The base 7.0-inch touchscreen was a bit disappointing. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yes, the Stinger is as practical to live with as it’s great to look at, wonderful to drive, and impressively finished. I’ll need to spend a week with the new Arteon to see if its higher price brings anything more than a German label, but its interior detailing will need to be mighty impressive to upstage this base Stinger GT-Line, and if recent experience with the Passat is anything to go by it may fall a bit short. With all options added the Arteon hits the road at just over $53k, which is more than even the highest priced GT Limited 20th Anniversary Edition of the Stinger that slots in at $51,495 and comes with special 19-inch alloy wheels, carbon-fibre inlays, red Nappa leather upholstery, plus red-stitched “Stinger” floor mats, whereas the mid-range GT starts at $44,995 and the regular GT Limited at $49,995 (check out the prices of all 2019 Stinger trims, packages and options at CarCostCanada, plus find out how you can save hundreds and even thousands through manufacturer rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing). 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
These leather-clad sport seats are comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

These latter two trims get unique 19-inch wheels, an upgraded suspension with Dynamic Stability Damping Control (DSDC), sound-reducing front side door glass, auto-dimming side mirrors, stainless steel door scuff plates, stainless steel sport pedals, carbon-fibre-like inlays (replacing the piano black interior trim), shift-by-wire transmission control (which replaces the base model’s shift-by-cable system) a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, driver’s side memory, an under-floor storage tray, a large “full-width” sunroof, a gesture-control powered liftgate, and a luggage net. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The rear seating area provides plenty of space in all directions. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Lastly, the top-line GT Limited adds exclusive cornering headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, aluminum finish décor trim (in place of the carbon-fibre), a black headliner, a 7.0-inch Supervision LCD/TFT instrument cluster, a head-up display (HUD) unit, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, premium Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, an upgraded driver’s seat with a four-way “air cell” lumbar support system, power-adjustable bolsters, and a powered lower cushion extension, a one-inch larger 8.0-inch centre touchscreen (that should be standard) with a 360-degree surround camera monitoring system and navigation, a 15-speaker Harman Kardon audio upgrade, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking (that’s normally standard), lane keeping assist, and driver attention alert. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Stinger’s convenient liftback adds to its overall livability. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

So there you have it, another great car from a brand that deserves much more respect and success than it gets. Year-over-year sales of the Stinger have dropped off a bit over the first half of 2019, down 14.38 percent with 750 units down Canadian roads, but it’s getting pretty close to the Optima that’s (yikes) down 44.67 percent over the same two quarters at 872 deliveries. In case you’re wondering how it measures up to regular front-drive mid-size models, the Camry kills in this class with 8,586 unit sales over the same period (up 12.87 percent), while the Accord came in second with 5,837 deliveries (down 9.71 percent). As for the Arteon, it only found 184 customers so far this year, but it only went on sale this spring so we’ll have to wait in order to find out how well it does. The Passat, incidentally, only sold 474 units through Q2, which put it down 75.55 percent year-over-year. 

2019 Kia Stinger GT-Line
The Stinger’s load carrying capacity is impressive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of the 14 models competing in the mid-size class (Stinger and Arteon included, and Charger considered a full-size/large car), nine have lost ground, one hasn’t been around long enough to quantify, and four have increased sales, while the Stinger’s small drop in popularity is much less worrisome than most peers, and more resultant of the entire segment’s downturn than disinterest in the car itself. I experienced just the opposite during my test week, with plenty of long smiling stares and positive nods as I drove by. The Stinger gets plenty of respect, and over the long haul should do a lot to raise Kia’s overall brand image. If you’re in the market for a great looking, sporty four-door with the practicality of a hatch, you should take a long look and a quick ride in the Kia Stinger.

If you don’t know about the all-new eighth-generation 2020 Porsche 911 yet, where have you been hiding? It was introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show back in November of 2018, while the Cabriolet arrived…

Porsche adds base Carrera Coupe and Cabriolet to 2020 911 lineup

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet
The new base 2020 911 Carrera Cabriolet looks much the same as the Carrera S that was shown in January, which is a very good thing. (Photo: Porsche)

If you don’t know about the all-new eighth-generation 2020 Porsche 911 yet, where have you been hiding? It was introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show back in November of 2018, while the Cabriolet arrived at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January. Those two cars we first saw seven and nine months ago, however, were mid-range Carrera S models, so it was high time Porsche released images and info about its base Carrera Coupe and Cabriolet. 

The formidable S will soon arrive with 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, resulting in 3.7 seconds from zero to 100km/h for the C2S and 3.6 seconds for the C4S, or 3.5 and 3.4 seconds respectively when the Sport Chrono Package is added, but take note that while the new base Carrera isn’t as intensely capable off the line it’s still a force to be reckoned with. 

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe
This 911 Carrera Coupe certainly doesn’t look like a “base” model. (Photo: Porsche)

The new 911 Carrera Coupe and Cabriolet share the same basic 3.0-litre horizontally opposed twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine, but it features a different set of turbochargers for a more conservative yet still considerable 379 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. Take note these new numbers add 9 horsepower over the outgoing 2019 model, resulting in standstill to 100km/h in just 4.2 seconds or 4.0 with its Sport Chrono Package, which is a big step up from the outgoing base Carrera that could only manage 4.6 or 4.2 seconds respectively. 

In an unusual move, at least for Porsche, the new 911 Carrera will initially only be available with the brand’s new eight-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox, which is up one gear from the outgoing automatic. This upgraded transmission was originally announced with the Carrera S that also won’t see its seven-speed manual arrive until later in the model year. 

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet
The Cabriolet’s stop top is larger in order to cover a more accommodating interior. (Photo: Porsche)

The new 2020 Carrera Coupe maxes out at 293 km/h (182 mph), which is identical to the outgoing 2019 model and slightly below the new 2020 Carrera S Coupe that tops out at 306 and 308 km/h (190 and 191 mph) with and without the Chrono Sport Package respectively. The Cabriolet, on the other hand, will be capable of a 291-km/h (181-mph) top speed, its ability to nearly keep up with the hardtop version due to magnesium surface elements dubbed “bows” integrated within the redesigned fabric roof’s structure that prevent “ballooning” at high speeds. 

Incidentally, that soft top, which is now larger in order to snuggly fit over a more accommodating cabin, can open and close while driving at speeds of up to 50 km/h (30 mph), and takes just 12 seconds to fully perform this function due to revised hydraulics, a process that also powers an electrically extendable wind deflector to keep gusts of air from discomforting the driver and front passenger. 

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet
Get ready for a larger, roomier cabin with better technology and more luxury. (Photo: Porsche)

Below that well insulated top, the new 911 Carreras get a totally updated interior with a big 10.9-inch high-definition centre touchscreen, while new driving tech includes Porsche’s exclusive Wet Mode that allows for more control during inclement weather to improve safety. 

While all features just noted are standard with the Carrera S, the new base model will receive a smaller set of uniquely designed 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/40 ZR performance tires in front as well as a larger set of 20-inch alloy rims wearing 295/35 ZR rubber at the back. What’s more, the regular Carrera’s 330-millimetre brake discs are also smaller than the Carrera S rotors, these pressed down on via black-painted four-piston monobloc fixed calipers, whereas the base model’s exhaust system features special individual tailpipe covers. 

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet
Porsche’s dual-clutch PDK automated transmission, which moves up from 7 to 8 forward speeds, is standard off the mark. (Photo: Porsche)

So far Transport Canada hasn’t provided fuel economy figures for the upcoming 2020 911 models, but Porsche is claiming that its new base Coupe and Cabriolet will be good for 9.0 and 9.2 L/100km city/highway combined respectively on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). 

Fortunately Porsche has announced Canadian prices, with a significant increase over the outgoing model’s $104,000 base price to $111,000, while the Cabriolet’s entry price has increased from $118,100 to $125,600. Porsche is no doubt banking on the two new models’ many improvements justifying those $7,000 and $7,500 price increases, one of which is the standard PDK automatic (prices may be reduced when a manual arrives), but it will be interesting to see how more value-driven competitors, such as the new 526-horsepower mid-engine C8 Corvette, which will start here in Canada at just $69,998, will eat into 911 sales. 

Nevertheless, the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe and Cabriolet can be ordered now and will be delivered early next year, while all-wheel drive versions will be available soon. While you’re waiting to get yours, make sure to enjoy the complete photo gallery above and the lone video below: 

The new 911 Carrera Coupé and 911 Carrera Cabriolet. (1:00):

Bentley only just launched its third-generation Continental GT, and now they’ve got us thinking about what might be coming down the pike in a decade and a half.  The Bentley EXP 100 GT “reimagines…

Gorgeous Bentley EXP 100 GT shows what an electrified future looks like

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
The EXP 100 GT, shown here at its introduction, actually features an illuminated grille. (Photo: Bentley)

Bentley only just launched its third-generation Continental GT, and now they’ve got us thinking about what might be coming down the pike in a decade and a half. 

The Bentley EXP 100 GT “reimagines the Grand Tourer for the world of 2035,” says the ultra-luxury brand’s press release, with a new take on the Continental GT’s elegant long-hooded, sweptback, two-door profile, complete with a massive backlit grille, dazzling circular headlamps, and ornately detailed eye-like OLED taillights, its plentiful body panels featuring special Compass “exterior paint made from recycled rice husks,” says Bentley. 

Where the front end could only be a modern-day Bentley, the car’s rear design is longer and more pointed than anything we’ve seen from the brand since its ‘50s era R-Type Continental, extending this avant-garde carbon-fibre and aluminum-clad prototype to a lengthy 5.8 metres (19.0 feet) for what should be superb legroom front to rear, while occupants of this 2.4-metre (7.9-foot) wide mega-coupe certainly won’t be rubbing shoulders either. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Nothing screams exotic like scissor doors. (Photo: Bentley)

The “100” in the EXP 100 GT’s name, incidentally, pays direct reference to Bentley’s 100th anniversary, W. O. Bentley’s namesake firm having started business in 1919 at Cricklewood, North London, while the Volkswagen-owned brand is now located some 267 km (166 miles) northwest in Crewe, Cheshire, England. 

“Today, on our Centenary, we demonstrate our vision of the future of our Marque, with the Bentley EXP 100 GT – a modern and definitive Grand Tourer designed to demonstrate that the future of luxury mobility is as inspirational and aspirational as the last 100 years,” said Adrian Hallmark, Bentley Chairman and CEO. “Bentley has, and will continue to enhance and enrich every single journey and the lives of every single person who travels in, or has the honour to be a part of creating our extraordinary products.” 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Its rear overhang is lengthy to say the least, adding to the car’s elegant lines. (Photo: Bentley)

As pretty as the EXP 100 GT is, it’s much more than merely a design exercise, but rather a cornucopia of advanced future-think hardware and software. It’s 100-percent electric, a given with far-off concepts these days, but then again its four-motor wheel-integrated “Next Generation Traction Drive” powertrain includes torque vectoring and makes an incredible 1,100 pound-feet of torque (1,500 Nm), resulting in a zero to 100km/h sprint time of “less than 2.5 seconds” claims Bentley, much thanks to its aforementioned lightweight materials that help keep its weight down to just 1,900 kilograms (4,189 lbs) (considerably less than the current base Continental GT’s 2,244-kg/4,947-lb curb weight), while its maximum range should top 700 kilometres (435 miles), as long as cruising speeds are kept far lower than its terminal velocity of 300 km/h (186 mph). 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
The OLED tail lamps should be plenty bright in any light. (Photo: Bentley)

The EXP 100 GT will include “future battery technology” with “intelligent power and charge management” that will allow “five times the conventional energy density,” says Bentley, while recharging the battery from near empty to 80 percent of capacity will only take 15 minutes. Of note, charging is automatically taken care of via the advanced artificial intelligence (AI) infused Bentley Personal Assistant, a do-all system designed to make the most of every journey. 

“The Bentley EXP 100 GT represents the kind of cars we want to make in the future,” said Stefan Sielaff, Director of Design. “Like those iconic Bentleys of the past, this car connects with its passengers’ emotions and helps them experience and safeguard the memories of the really extraordinary journeys they take.” 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Bentley is up to its usual magic inside, but all materials are sustainable and sourced from unusual materials. (Photo: Bentley)

“Whether driving or being driven autonomously” (Bentley promising its car of the future will be capable of both), the EXP 100 GT’s interior is every bit as sumptuously attired as Crewe’s current creations and those from its storied past. With seating for two or four, the big coupe gets all the leather, fabrics, glass, wood and metal anyone familiar with Bentley expects, except that the Bridge of Weir alternative-material hides are actually made from 100-percent bio-based winemaking byproducts, thus saving a handful of Herefords from the slaughterhouse, while its embroidered door panels are made by London-based Hand and Lock using “traditional techniques that date back to 1767 and are used on Royal and Military Dress uniforms,” its electronic interfaces covered with Cumbrian crystal, its sustainable peat bog-, lake- and river-sourced Copper Infused Riverwood harking back half a myriaannum (5,000 years), and its metal being genuine aluminum and copper, the combination apparently paying tribute to an alloy created by the aforementioned founder for his BR1 Aero engine piston, which played a significant role in securing the air theatre during World War 1. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Not your average roof, this clear greenhouse provides natural and synthesized light. (Photo: Bentley)

Bentley sheds both harvested natural light and synthesized light on the EXP 100 GT’s interior via “an innovative glass roof embedded with prisms that collect light and transfer it into the cabin using fibre optics,” while all occupants’ feet will rest upon British Farmed Wool carpets, and embroidered cotton interior surfaces also help to create a more sustainable atmosphere. 

The seats use intelligent, adaptable biometrics configured in three different ways, their positions dependent on whether you’re driving or being driven. Biometric sensors monitor the automatic climate control system too, plus the passenger position, and exterior environmental conditions in order to provide ultimate comfort, while biometric sensors embedded throughout the interior track eye and head movements, blood pressure, plus more in order to deliver a level of in-car comfort that far exceeds anything currently available. The cabin can even be automatically aerated with a refreshing sandalwood and moss fragrance. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Leather from winemaking byproducts? As long as is doesn’t raise our blood alcohol levels we approve. (Photo: Bentley)

Whether or not we’ll see this particular Bentley coupe by 2035 is anyone’s guess, although it should be noted that carmakers need to plan their models far into the future in order to arrive when needed, so something similar may actually be in process. We certainly wouldn’t complain if Bentley offered us a production EXP 100 GT like this to test in 15 or so years, with or without all of this concept’s innovatively sustainable features. 

The EXP 100 GT is a vision of dramatic beauty that would be welcomed to car enthusiasts in any era, and possibly more true to its brand heritage than the all-electric, fully autonomous two-box SUV/MPV they’ll likely show up with by that time. 

Until we truly find out what’s in the AI-dealt carbon-fibre cards, check out our complete gallery above as well as the four videos Bentley supplied below. 

Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept Car Reveal Highlights | Bentley (0:49):

 

Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept car reveal Livestream | Bentley (28:49):

 

The Bentley EXP 100 GT: The Future of Grand Touring | Bentley (2:52):

 

24 Hours to go before Bentley reveals the Future of Grand Touring | Bentley (0:41):

 

An off-road Lexus? To some this might sound like an oxymoron, but in reality two of Lexus’ priciest luxury SUVs started life as ultra-capable go-anywhere Toyota Land Cruisers.  The Land Cruiser name…

Lexus reveals rugged GXOR Concept at FJ Summit

2019 Lexus GXOR Concept
The GXOR Concept shows Lexus in a much more adventurous light, and could make the slow-selling GX 460 much more appealing. (Photo: Lexus)

An off-road Lexus? To some this might sound like an oxymoron, but in reality two of Lexus’ priciest luxury SUVs started life as ultra-capable go-anywhere Toyota Land Cruisers. 

The Land Cruiser name is legendary, and in many markets considered a premium sub-brand of the world’s second-largest automaker. While most Canadians conjuring mental images of iconic Land Cruisers will look back to the now classic 1960–1984 FJ40 series, the larger and longer 1967–1980 FJ55 followed by the much more popular 1980–1989 BJ60, or the most recent 2008–present J200 that does double-duty as the Lexus LX 570, the model shown here is based on the 2009–present J150, or Land Cruiser Prado. 

2019 Lexus GXOR Concept
The GXOR gets plenty of off-road gear to overcome treacherous terrain, plus an ultra-rugged tent trailer. (Photo: Lexus)

Known North American luxury consumers as the Lexus GX 460, this somewhat long-in-tooth albeit still very capable mid-size three-row 4×4 also shared underpinnings with the current Toyota 4Runner and FJ Cruiser (the latter no longer available in North America) in its previous third-generation J120 design (2002–2009), which should help anyone familiar with those no-holds-barred SUVs believe in this Lexus’ off-road prowess. 

It’s no wonder, therefore, that 4×4 enthusiasts looking to add luxury to their off-road lifestyle have opted for the GX 460, so now Lexus is paying homage to these faithful fans with this special creation, and even giving them partial credit for bringing the new GXOR Concept to life. 

2019 Lexus GXOR Concept
Lexus should consider selling this tent trailer too. (Photo: Lexus)

“Concept vehicles are typically created to generate excitement for the enthusiasts, but sometimes, it’s the enthusiasts and their vehicles that give life to the concept,” stated Lexus. “The Lexus GXOR Concept (GX Off-Road) is fueled by the passionate Lexus GX owners that have discovered and embraced the SUV’s perfect combination of ultimate luxury and unrivaled off-road capability.” 

No wonder the Japanese luxury brand chose to launch the new GXOR Concept at the annual FJ Summit in Ouray, Colorado, the 12th of such events having taken place from July 17–21 this year. Similar in concept to a Jeep Jamboree, the FJ Summit provides an opportunity for Toyota 4×4 owners to test their personal driving skills as well as their Toyota/Lexus 4×4’s prowess on challenging trails, gives classes taught by experienced off-road instructors in order to hone those driving skills, and much more. 

2019 Lexus GXOR Concept
All-terrain tires, a lifted suspension, and full skid plates below make for one capable 4×4. (Photo: Lexus)

Despite the GX 460’s impressive capability off-road, and its passionate group of diehard followers, its popularity with the general SUV-buying public has faded in recent months and years, with Q2 2019 sales down 25.41 percent compared to the same six months last year, resulting in only 138 buyers for last place in the mid-size luxury SUV segment (other than the now discontinued Lincoln MKT), while all 12 months of 2018 only found 376 customers after a high of 662 units in 2015. 

To be fair, plenty of competitors have been losing ground this year, with Q2 2019 Tesla Model X sales off by 30.00 percent for 840 units, Audi Q7 deliveries down 36.13 percent to 1,674 units (possibly due to the new Q8’s arrival), the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class dropping 36.66 percent to 762 units, and the same German luxury brand’s GLE-Class plummeting by 42.00 percent to 2,413 units. Even the mighty Lexus RX (and new long-wheelbase RX L) saw a sales drop of 8.50 percent through Q1 and Q2, but its 3,982 deliveries kept it well in front of the entire mid-size luxury SUV pack. 

2019 Lexus GXOR Concept
The cargo compartment gets filled with Goose Gear custom drawers and containers plus a slide-out National Luna fridge. (Photo: Lexus)

To put the GX’ 2018 calendar year sales of 376 units and 2015 high of 662 units into perspective, Lexus sold 9,329 RX crossovers last year, which was its second-best result after a high of 9,402 units in 2017. The RX also outsold Lexus’ next-most-popular NX compact luxury crossover, which had its best sales of 7,859 units last year. Hence, anything that could potentially spur on GX sales would be helpful. 

Enter the GXOR, which while only a concept makes the luxury model’s 4×4 credentials clear to those who might not be in the know, while its ardent fans could potentially build something similar from all of this prototype’s available aftermarket components. 

2019 Lexus GXOR Concept
The GXOR’s roof rack is loaded with off-road goodies. (Photo: Lexus)

On that note, the GXOR’s plentiful upgrades include a custom CBI Stealth front bumper with an integrated Warn 9.5 XPS winch, a Safari snorkel for feeding air to the engine while wading through deep water, Lexus F Sport 18-inch alloys wrapped in General Tire Grabber X3 275/70 all-terrain rubber, a raised Icon 2.5 CDC suspension with remote reservoirs plus billet control arms with delta joints, full underbody armour skid plate protection, CBI frame sliders, a Redarc Tow-Pro brake controller, and lastly an EEZI-AWN K9 roof rack that comes complete with a Rigid 50 LED front light bar, a 160-watt Overland solar panel power supply, Alu-Box storage cases, and Maxtrax recovery boards. 

Inside, the GXOR Concept keeps the GX 460’s already luxurious finishings while adding an Icom 5100A ham radio up front for remote communication, whereas the cargo area is partially filled with a Goose Gear custom drawer system featuring storage compartments and a slide-out National Luna refrigerator. 

2019 Lexus GXOR Concept
The GXOR gets an Icon 2.5 CDC suspension system featuring remote reservoirs as well as billet control arms with delta joints. (Photo: Lexus)

Finally, the GXOR Concept is shown towing a Patriot Campers X1H trailer featuring a power-operated pop-up tent, a hot water system, and more, while its electrical components are powered via the just-noted solar panel. 

On that note, Lexus doesn’t say whether or not the GXOR Concept’s 4.6-litre V8 keeps the production model’s 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque or receives some performance upgrades, but it certainly should be strong enough to haul the hefty looking trailer either way. 

2019 Lexus GXOR Concept
Lexus should consider offering a dealer-installed GXOR kit. (Photo: Lexus)

“To all of the GX enthusiasts that use their rigs to escape on epic adventures, and proudly share the #GXOR, this concept build is for you,” added Lexus to its GX 460’s fan base. “Thank you for inspiring us to Experience Amazing.” 

As with all concepts and prototypes, the question of potential GXOR production needs to be addressed. Considering how successful Mercedes-Benz has been with its rugged G-Class, and similarly how Land Rover Defender enthusiasts have been getting excited about that model’s upcoming arrival, something like this GXOR Concept could find reasonable sales traction if offered in production trim, or at least as a dealer-installed kit. The latter would allow retailers to modify unsold GX 460s, which might bring some much-needed attention to the model. 

Until this happens (or doesn’t), enjoy our complete gallery of GXOR Concept photos above, plus a video that Lexus provided below. Also, to find out how affordable the 2019 Lexus GX 460 is, check out CarCostCanada where you can see complete pricing of trims, packages and individual options, plus learn about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

Lexus GXOR | GX Off-road Concept Build (2:45):