Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly…

Volkswagen reveals rendering of refreshed 2021 Arteon four-door coupe

2021 Volkswagen Arteon
Volkswagen will update the Arteon for model year 2021, but if we were to bring this artist’s rendering back to reality would it look a lot like the already sleek 2020 model?

Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly shows an elongated wagon-like body style similar in concept to Porsche’s Panamera Sport Turismo (see a full road test review of all Panamera models here).

While exciting news for five-door sport wagon fans in Europe, take note the new Arteon Shooting Brake, as it’s called, won’t be available in North American markets. Instead, Canada and the U.S. will only get the refreshed first-generation Arteon in its four-door fastback body style, which means the German automaker will have less opportunity to pull this model up from its sales doldrums.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
It would be hard to imagine that 2021 Arteon getting any lower, longer or wider than the already slick 2019-2020 model.

Yes, as attractive as today’s Arteon is, the sleek sport sedan has been relegated to niche status in Canada. Sales during calendar year 2019 totalled just 456 units (although deliveries started partway through the year in March), which left it dead last in the volume-branded mainstream mid-size sedan segment. The Passat, its more conventional and much less expensive four-door sedan stable mate, finished one step ahead with 672 examples sold, and take note this happened well before 2020’s tumultuous health, economic and social woes shook up the market.

This last point in mind, over the first three months of 2020 (all that’s been reported so far, and mostly before we were hit by hard times) the Arteon’s numbers were even worse with just 81 Canadian buyers (which if extrapolated over four quarters would equal 324 sales), although the new 2020 Passat found 523 new owners during the first three months of the year (theoretically equaling 2,092 unit sales over four quarters), a clear sign that Canadians like the new 2020 model’s ground up redesign.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
The current Arteon’s rear design is almost as alluring as its dramatic front fascia.

At first glance, the Passat’s positive initial 2020 sales results could bode well for the upcoming Arteon mid-cycle makeover, health, social and especially economic issues aside, but the current 2020 Arteon is already a stunner, and while the artist’s rendering appears longer, lower and wider with much larger wheels, typical of such cartoonish drawings, if one were to squeeze it back into reality the update should actually look much like the current car other than a slightly modified grille and lower front fascia, plus similarly mild modifications most likely applied to the rear.

The Arteon’s interior is currently the best Volkswagen has on offer, and while we shouldn’t expect wholesale changes, VW is promising to integrate its latest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for faster application processing, improved connectivity, greater overall functionality, and better entertainment.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon
Today’s Arteon offers the most luxurious cabin in VW’s current lineup, but nevertheless the German automaker promises improvements inside.

Volkswagen will also introduce more intelligent assist systems, such as “Travel Assist” semi-autonomous or “highly assisted driving.” Like other hands-on-the-wheel self-correcting driver assist systems currently offered by other manufacturers, Travel Assist has been designed specifically for long-distance highway use, with the Arteon capable of “steering, acceleration and braking up to speeds of 130 mph [210 km/h],” said Volkswagen in a press release, albeit “under the control of the driver.”

All of this could push the cost of the already pricey Arteon higher, however, the current version of this low-slung sport sedan hitting the road just a hair’s breadth under $50k ($49,960 plus fees to be exact), which is without doubt a key reason its sales are slow.

Kia’s Stinger, the only other four-door coupe in the mainstream volume-branded mid-size sedan segment, found 1,569 Canadian buyers last year, however, while walking away with 2019 Canadian Car of the Year honours, but this similarly sleek alternative is a considerable $5,000 less expensive and comes equipped with stronger base and optional performance as well as more features.

2021 Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake
We shouldn’t expect this sweptback 2021 Arteon Shooting Brake here in Canada.

Right now it’s possible to lower a new 2019 Arteon’s base price to match the Stinger’s window sticker, mind you, with up to $5,000 in additional incentives available from Volkswagen, while the German automaker is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent for the 2020 Arteon. Not to be outdone, Kia is offering the same $5,000 in additional incentives on any 2019 Stingers still in stock or up to $4,000 in additional incentives for the 2020 Stinger, so take you pick. Learn more about these deals as well as available manufacturer rebates and otherwise difficult to source dealer invoice pricing at CarCostCanada. Also, make sure to download the new free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes store.

More detailed information about the 2021 Arteon, and the Euro-market Arteon Shooting Brake, will follow the upcoming world première later this month.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Volkswagen

Have you ever wanted something so bad that your credit card just magically pops out of your wallet, all your personal info auto-fills the various fields, “accept charges” buttons unconsciously get…

New 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition a blast from Porsche’s storied past

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Absolutely gorgeous! The new 2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition will be limited to just 992 examples.

Have you ever wanted something so bad that your credit card just magically pops out of your wallet, all your personal info auto-fills the various fields, “accept charges” buttons unconsciously get pressed and confirmation emails immediately arrive? That’s what Porsche hopes will happen with its new very limited 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition, and while most of us don’t have American Express Centurion cards that allow us to nonchalantly plop $205,900 plus fees for a frivolous sports car when such desires strike, enough high-rolling, Fed-infused Wall Street hedge managers do to make special projects like this happen.

The new 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition fits the phrase “modern-day classic” better than anything we’ve seen for quite some time. It’s based on the new 2021 911 Targa we shared here last month, and we have to say the car’s classic silver roll hoop body style suits this special edition’s retro design perfectly.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Yes of course we want one, complete with its motorsport-inspired livery.

Unless you detest such memory lane recreations, or more specifically in this case, homages paying tribute to the glory days of Porsche’s beginnings, the 911 Targa 4S Heritage probably had you at hello. From its gorgeous Cherry Metallic paintwork (it’s also available in four alternative exterior colours), motorsport-inspired spear-shaped front fender stripes and circular decal-style number livery, and historically true 1963 Porsche Crest badges, rear mounted Porsche Heritage badge, and gold-tone nameplates, to its two-tone Bordeaux Red or Black leather and Atacama Beige OLEA club leather and corduroy-lined cabin, this is one stunning head-turner.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
The gold emblems are period-correct and oh-so cool.

Porsche goes even further with details like green backlighting on the tachometer and centre dash top-mounted “stopwatch”, which being typical of ‘50s and ‘60s cars, plus the microfibre roofliner gets perforations similar to past Porsches (and VWs). And those just-mentioned period-correct Porsche crests? You’ll find them on the key fob, hood, steering wheel and wheel hub covers, those latter items capping off wheels resembling the “five-leaf” Fuchsfelge alloys brought to market for the 1966 911S. Of course the new Carrera Exclusive Design alloys are staggered and much larger than those from Porsche’s past, now measuring 20 inches up front and 21 inches at the back, while framing a set of classic black brake calipers.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
For anyone that grew up in the ’60s or ’70s, there’s corduroy in this car! We’re half expecting to see geometric velour patterns in Porsche’s follow-up Heritage Design Edition.

This is the first example of four collector’s models from Porsche’s Heritage Design strategy, incidentally, and as was shown in this article’s first paragraph, it doesn’t come cheap. There’s always a price paid for exclusivity, and with just 992 of these special Heritage 911 Targas available (the number referencing the latest 911’s internal code name), its lofty window sticker will make sense to those capable of taking advantage. Porsche commemorates the example purchased with a beautiful gold metal “911 Heritage Design Edition XXX/992” dash plaque, with the number “000” shown likely kept for Porsche’s own collection.

The 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition pays obvious tribute to late ‘60s and early ‘70s 911 Targas, but Porsche makes the point of claiming this car represents four decades of classic 911s.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Porsche pulls the green background lighting in the 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition’s gauge cluster from ’50s and ’60s-era 356 and 911 models.

“We are evoking memories of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in customers and fans with the Heritage Design models,” stated Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG in a press release. “No brand can translate these elements into the modern day as well as Porsche. In this way, we are fulfilling the wishes of our customers. With the exclusive special editions, we are also establishing a new product line which stands for the ‘lifestyle’ dimension in our product strategy.”

As noted before, this first example of the four Heritage Design models is based on the all-new 2021 911 Targa 4S, and therefore is as modern as the new the new 992-generation gets under the skin, including all of Porsche’s latest chassis tech, driver assistance systems, infotainment advancements, and more. Below its automatically deployable rear wing is 443 horsepower worth of horizontally opposed, twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder greatness combined with a paddle-shift prompted eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission. It’s capable of shooting from standstill to 100 km/h in less than 3.6 seconds (when Launch Control is engaged) and maxes out at a track speed of 304 km/h.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Each of the 992 examples get this beautiful numbered plaque on the dash shelf.

Classic car aficionados have long appreciated how horology has played an important role in the automotive industry’s beginnings, in that early watchmakers provided the same types of instruments we now refer to as gauge clusters. Porsche remains true to its past with the beautiful analogue clocks found on the centre dash tops of all models, which can usually be upgraded to a complex chronometer stopwatch and lap counter by adding its Sport Chrono Package. Exclusive to 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design owners, Porsche Design, a majority-owned subsidiary of Porsche AG, although a credible luxury watchmaker on its own, has created the 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design edition chronograph wristwatch.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition
Of course, it goes without saying that you must have the matching Porsche Design wristwatch too.

Once again just 992 examples will be manufactured, and come complete with a face featuring a white seconds hand and “Phosphorus Green” rings around its perimeter like the primary instruments in both the 356 and original 911 Targa. Additionally, its Arabic hour indices are styled in typical Porsche block lettering, while the leather strap is produced from the same hides as those found in Porsche interiors.

This watch and the new 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition are available to order now before arriving in Canada this fall. And yes, if you’ve read this far you definitely don’t have an American Express Centurion card, or you would’ve already placed your order. 

Those that end up missing out on the 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition, yet still have some room left over on their platinum cards, should take a look at our recent overview of the 2021 911 Targa 4 and 4S (it only starts at $136,000), and then click on one of CarCostCanada’s 2019, 2020 or 2021 Porsche 911 Canada Prices pages to find out about available manufacturer rebates, financing and/or leasing deals, and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Right now factory leasing and financing rates can be had from zero percent on all of the above model years. Knowledge is everything, and in this case a CarCostCanada membership is a small price to pay for all the savings coming your way. Also, make sure to download the new CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes store.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

Now that the entirely new 2020 Palisade is garnering positive reviews and gaining plenty of new owners, the time was right for Hyundai to give its top-selling Santa Fe a bold new face as well. This said…

Hyundai updates the Santa Fe with a bold new look for 2021

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2021 Santa Fe shows a bold new face for this popular model, and a possible styling risk for Hyundai.

Now that the entirely new 2020 Palisade is garnering positive reviews and gaining plenty of new owners, the time was right for Hyundai to give its top-selling Santa Fe a bold new face as well.

This said not all onlookers are pleased with the design direction the South Korean brand is taking its popular mid-size five-passenger crossover SUV, with a quick CarCostCanada poll showing 100-percent of respondents preferring the outgoing model to the new one. Still, playing it safe can often result in more criticism while sticking your neck out with something daring might only cause initial pushback, so time will tell how buyers respond to the new model when it arrives later this year.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The current 2019-2020 Santa Fe offers a more conservative styling approach, yet still provides a distinctive design.

One thing is for sure. There won’t be many mistaking the 2021 Santa Fe from its competitors, thanks to a distinctive new widened grille that looks one part Hyundai and another part Fisker thanks to extending right out to each corner of the frontal fascia. It’s nevertheless mostly unique, and according to Hyundai’s press release accentuates the SUV’s “wide and well-balanced stance.”

“We modernized the New Santa Fe with premium features and appealing aesthetics that are sure to add value,” said SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and head of Global Design Centre. “The bold lines that extend from one side to the other and from front to back give Santa Fe a rugged yet refined look that SUV customers want. Besides, we’ve added numerous features and functions to create a truly family-focused SUV that is a pleasure to drive.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
This version of the 2021 Santa Fe shows a different grille design with octagonal insert openings, plus medium grey lower bodywork.

Hyundai didn’t explain why the new grille’s “signature geometric patterned inlay” is different depending on which photo is shown, however, the model with body-colour painted lower trim (most likely the new top-line Santa Fe Ultimate) receiving seven rows of isosceles trapezoids, and the model with dark grey lower bumpers and rocker panels getting better aeration via larger octagonal vent openings similar to those currently in use, resulting a sportier appearance. Are these actually different grilles or the result of active grille shutters? We’ll learn more as additional info gets introduced closer to launch.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Flat-planed wheel arches provide a solid looking stance.

As it is, not a lot has been revealed in Hyundai’s 2021 Santa Fe release, other than nine exterior photos of white-painted examples in the two trims just noted. Both receive all-new T-shaped signature LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), however, which distinctly flow from the lower grille extensions up to the headlamp clusters, where each T’s stem gets capped off by its glowing cross-member. The outer tip of each T visually continues rearward along the new Santa Fe’s beltline before meeting up with a crease in the model’s redesigned wraparound LED taillights, while thicker flat-planed wheel arches “accentuate the SUV’s rugged and powerful character,” adds Hyundai, which house large 20-inch alloy wheels featuring a seven-spoke geometric pattern in the two Santa Fe trim-line examples shown.

From the rear, the new 2021 Santa Fe receives more horizontal styling elements to bring attention to its wide stance, including a thin light bar connecting the new taillights just mentioned, and lower down on the bumper a narrow reflector strip spanning most of the model’s width, plus a wider, larger rear vent cutout and metallic skid plate below that, which Hyundai dubs “a unique three-layer look.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Unique 20-inch wheels provide a seven-spoke geometric design.

Although Hyundai provides no photos of the updated 2021 Santa Fe interior, it shares some info in the press release that sheds some light on what we can expect. Keep in mind the current 2019-2020 fourth-generation Santa Fe (read our road test review of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate here) is already one of the more luxuriously equipped two-row crossover SUVs available in the mainstream volume-branded auto sector, but according to Hyundai the new updated model provides “more space, comfort, and convenience,” and adds “a new level of luxury with every component finished in premium soft-touch materials.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The new Santa Fe’s rear design includes a new light bar between the taillights and a horizontal reflector strip spanning most of the bumper.

Hyundai continues by saying the new Santa Fe’s centre console “sits high, giving the driver and front passenger the feeling of sitting in an armchair,” while all switchgear is “centered for intuitive and ergonomic use.” What’s more, like with the new three-row Palisade, the new Santa Fe’s reworked lower centre console receives a quad of buttons for gear selection, replacing the conventional shift lever. This is possible due to the new Santa Fe’s shift-by-wire transmission, and while no photo was provided for publication, we noticed one on the 2021 model’s press site page that’s most likely the real deal. It looks identical to the Palisade’s centre stack and lower console, so therefore, while we can’t be certain which model it comes from, it’s safe to say we’ll see something similar if not exactly the same in the updated Santa Fe. Either way, we’ve included it in our photo gallery above, so make sure to check it out. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The current 2019-2020 Santa Fe gets a more upright design and an arguably more rugged looking rear bumper.

The new button-type gear selector receives a right-side extension housing a new Terrain Mode dial selector with stylish knurled metal edges that optimizes the performance of Hyundai’s HTRAC All-Wheel-Drive system, including Sand, Snow and Mud settings, plus Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart modes (the latter intuitively recognizing and automatically responding to personal driving style). Additionally, five more buttons provide quick adjustment to various driving and parking camera controls.

The new drive controls sit below two redesigned rows of centre stack switchgear, the top silver-painted row mostly for adjusting the larger, wider 10.25-inch AVN (audio, video, navigation) high-definition infotainment touchscreen atop the dash, this interface featuring power/volume and tuning/scrolling/enter knobs with the same knurled metal-look grips as the Terrain Mode selector, and the middle row also including LCD readouts for the dual-zone automatic climate control system, plus the same knurled metal edging on its “Auto” and “Sync” dials. The upscale detailing most likely continues into other areas of the cabin, but we’ll need to wait for more interior photos to know how far Hyundai has gone with such improvements.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Despite photos of the 2021 Santa Fe interior not being provided yet, a single photo of its centre stack and lower console appears on the automaker’s website.

The Santa Fe is Hyundai Canada’s longest running SUV nameplate, having originally arrived for the 2001 model year as a larger than average compact car-based crossover SUV. Now, four generations later it was the second best-selling five-passenger SUV in Canada during 2019 behind the Ford Edge, with 18,929 sales compared to the blue oval brand’s 19,965. This said, it was number one in the entire mid-size segment in 2018 with 24,040 units sold compared to 19,156 for the Edge, and that was after nearly a decade of class dominance with a peak of 28,402 deliveries in calendar year 2017.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The new design feature T-shaped signature DRLs that strike upwards through the extended grille and into the LED headlamp clusters.

While Canadians clearly like the Santa Fe, Hyundai’s more recently introduced models are gaining traction in their various SUV segments too. The aforementioned Palisade was only introduced last year as a 2020 model yet 3,845 units were sold before the close of 2019. Sales were down for the first part of 2020 for obvious reasons, but from January through April the Palisade’s 1,285 units were nearly half of the Santa Fe’s 2,665 deliveries (the latter representing a 56-percent plunge), boding well for the larger utility when stronger sales resume, whereas the Kona (also available as an electric-powered EV) leads its subcompact SUV segment with 4,858 sales, the Tucson is close behind and third after the mighty Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in the larger compact SUV class with 4,733 units, and the all-new Venue has been selling strongly amongst city car-sized utilities with 1,577 down the road.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai promises the 2021 Santa Fe will provide a roomier, more accommodating cabin.

Once again we’ll need to see how Hyundai’s faithful respond to the new 2021 Santa Fe’s unorthodox styling before we predict a return to the top of the mid-size SUV sales charts, but improvements to its already impressive interior won’t hurt. This said, those that prefer the outgoing 2020 model’s styling may want to purchase one now and by doing so take advantage of up to $3,000 in additional incentives. To learn more go to CarCostCanada’s 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Canada Prices page, and just in case you can find a 2019 version still available, CarCostCanada’s 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Canada Prices page shows factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
If you like the look of the 2019-2020 Santa Fe more, check CarCostCanada for up to $3,000 in additional incentives.

Hyundai Canada is also offering zero-percent leasing and financing rates for the 2020 Venue, 2020 Kona Electric, the 2019 Kona Electric and the conventionally powered 2019 Kona, the 2019 Tucson, and 2019 Nexo (a hydrogen-powered EV), while you can access up to $1,000 in additional incentives when opting for a 2020 Kona or Palisade, and like the 2020 Santa Fe up to $3,000 in additional incentives when choosing a 2020 Tucson. Find out more about a CarCostCanada membership that provides all of this info and more, including available manufacturer rebates and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next purchase, by linking to their “How It Works” page, plus download the new CarCostCanada mobile app in the iTunes or Google Play stores.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Hyundai

When Buick first started delivering its Chinese-made Envision to Canadian consumers in April of 2016 it was nice, but arguably a bit dated. As it was, the Jeasoo Kim-designed compact SUV had already been…

Buick gives compact Envision SUV sharp new styling

2021 Buick Envision
The great looking new 2021 Buick Envision strikes a dramatic pose in its highly competitive compact luxury SUV segment.

When Buick first started delivering its Chinese-made Envision to Canadian consumers in April of 2016 it was nice, but arguably a bit dated.

As it was, the Jeasoo Kim-designed compact SUV had already been in production at SAIC GM’s Dong Yue Foundry in Yantai, Shandong for two years, and it never really broke much visual ground when new, so sales over the past three years in a highly competitive market segment that usually includes top-sellers from every luxury carmaker’s lineup, haven’t exactly been overwhelming, with the larger, pricier Enclave actually doing better and the smaller, entry-level Encore totally cleaning up.

2020 Buick Envision
The 2020 Envision is pleasant to look at, but probably won’t pull a lot of eyeballs when it drives by.

One glance at the new 2021 Envision and no one should question whether sales will pick up or not, as this is one very attractive new compact luxury crossover, pulling some cues from the old Envision’s headlamps and taillights and its grille partially from the current model’s 2019 mid-cycle makeover as well as more recently updated Buick models, yet appearing to have much in common with today’s sharply creased new Cadillac XT crossover luxury SUV lineup.

So far 2021 Envision details are limited, Buick not even showing any interior photos, but we do know the old 197 horsepower naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder base engine will give way to a new standard 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which was optional in the outgoing Envision and made 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Also changing is the current model’s six-speed automatic transmission, which will reportedly be replaced by a new advanced nine-speed automatic. Like the current Envision, the new one will likely come to Canada with standard all-wheel drive.

2021 Buick Envision
The new Envision will likely come standard with GM’s 2.0-litre turbo-four and a 9-speed automatic.

The outgoing Envision shares underpinnings with the second-generation Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, and therefore this new follow-up will probably get an update to the current fully independent front strut and four-link rear setup, one of the SUV’s most endearing attributes.

What’s more, the new Envision will ship with standard forward collision alert, autonomous emergency braking for both vehicles and pedestrians, plus lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, rear parking assist and more. Reportedly, much of the new Envision’s advanced driver assistive systems were developed at GM’s Canadian Technical Centre.

2020 Buick Envision
The old Envision comes standard with a 197-hp 2.5-litre four and a six-speed autobox.

Options are said to include front parking assist, semi-autonomous parking assist, a 360-degree surround parking camera, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a head-up display, a rearview mirror camera, plus more.

A 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen display with an HD backup camera will be available, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration as well as Amazon Alexa compatibility, while Buick will also make its top-tier Avenir trim available for the first time in the Envision.

The all-new 2021 Buick Envision will go on sale in early 2021, but we can expect more details in the coming months. 

2021 Buick Envision
This second-gen Envision should attract many more compact luxury SUV buyers to the Buick brand.

If you like the softer curves of the current 2020 Buick Envision design, and want to benefit from available discounts of this still current yet outgoing model, such as manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing offers and the savings that come from learning about otherwise hard to find dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, take note that one inexpensive CarCostCanada membership can provide you with all of the above and more, arming you with everything you need before even talking with someone at your local GM dealership.

Right now CarCostCanada is showing up to $1,000 in additional incentives for the 2020 Envision or 2020 Encore (the 2021 Encore can be had for zero-percent financing), while you can also receive up to $1,500 in incentives on a 2020 Enclave or 2020 Regal Sportback. Check out CarCostCanada to find out more.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Buick

Remember the Venza? Toyota was fairly early to the mid-size crossover utility party with its 2009–2015 Venza, a tall five-door wagon-like family hauler that was a lot more like a CUV (Crossover Utility…

Toyota revises Venza nameplate for new mid-size hybrid SUV

2021 Toyota Venza
Toyota will soon bring its Venza back from the dead, and it’s one slick looking mid-size crossover SUV.

Remember the Venza? Toyota was fairly early to the mid-size crossover utility party with its 2009–2015 Venza, a tall five-door wagon-like family hauler that was a lot more like a CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) or tall wagon than an SUV. Despite decent sales for its first four years, and Toyota’s need for a mid-size five-passenger crossover SUV, the Japanese brand discontinued it without a replacement after six years on the market.

Fortunately for Toyota and all who appreciate the brand for its excellent reliability and better than average resale values, the Toyota Venza will make its return to the Canadian market for the 2021 model year as a new mid-size utility, with standard all-wheel drive and an even more unexpected standard hybrid drivetrain.

2021 Toyota Venza
The Venza’s mid-size two-row SUV segment is even more important to do well in than the larger three-row class.

With the Venza, Toyota is following through on its commitment to electrify its entire lineup by 2025, this new hybrid joined by a completely redesigned Sienna for 2021, which will also be available exclusively with a hybrid electric drivetrain. Other Toyota vehicles sold with the brand’s full hybrid drive system include the iconic Prius, now with available with AWD-e four-season control, the Corolla Hybrid, the Camry Hybrid, the RAV4 Hybrid, and the Highlander Hybrid, while the Prius Prime offers plug-in capability and 100-percent electric mobility for short commuting distances at city and highway speeds, plus last but hardly least is the Mirai fuel-cell electric that’s powered by hydrogen.

2021 Toyota Harrier
Look familiar? This is the 2021 Toyota Harrier (check the gallery for more past photos of this model).

Since the original Venza’s departure, Toyota has lacked a two-row crossover SUV in the mid-size segment (the 4Runner is an off-road capable 4×4 that competes more directly against Jeep’s Wrangler Unlimited), which means that it’s been missing out on one of the more lucrative categories in the industry. Arch-rival Ford, for instance, sells its Edge in this class, along with the ultra-popular three-row Explorer that goes up against Toyota’s Highlander. The Edge was number one in Canada’s mid-size SUV class last year with 19,965 deliveries compared to the Highlander’s 13,811 new buyers. Collectively the Edge and Explorer were good for 29,632 sales during 2019, which is an impressive sales lead yet, but this doesn’t factor in that 2019 was a particularly bad year for the larger Ford due to the slow rollout of its redesigned 2020 model. Ford claimed the problem had to do with production issues, but either way the result was a disastrous 47-percent plunge in year-over-year Canadian deliveries.

1999 Toyota Harrier
The 1999 Toyota Harrier was nearly identical to the first-gen Lexus RX.

As it is there are five two-row mid-size SUVs that regularly sell better than the Highlander in Canada’s mid-size segment, with Ford’s Edge joined by the Hyundai Santa Fe (now only available with two rows due to the new Palisade) that sold 18,929 units in 2019, the Jeep Grand Cherokee that pulled in 18,659 new buyers last year, the Kia Sorento (now only sold with two rows due to the new Telluride) that was good for 16,054 sales during the same 12 months, and the entirely new Chevrolet Blazer that found 15,210 Canadian owners in 2019. When Nissan finally redesigns its Murano it’ll probably attract more buyers than the larger Highlander too, being that its 12,000 deliveries aren’t all that far behind the bigger Toyota and five-seat crossover SUVs mostly do better than seven- and eight-seat variants, so the new 2021 Venza will soon fill a sizeable void in the brand’s SUV lineup.

2009 Toyota Venza
The original Venza offered premium-like interior quality when it arrived for 2009.

Choosing to only offer a hybrid drivetrain is a bold move for Toyota, but as long as pricing is competitive it should be well received. After all, Toyota initiated the modern-day hybrid market segment with its original 1998 Prius (2001 in Canada), and its various hybrid-electric drivetrains have garnered bulletproof reputations for reliability along with plenty of praise for their fuel economy.

While official Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy figures have yet to be announced, the new 2021 Venza has been estimated by Toyota to achieve 5.9 L/100km in combined city and highway driving. Active grille shutters, which automatically open and close electronically to provide system cooling or enhanced aerodynamics as needed, help Toyota achieve this impressive number. All said it should become the most fuel-efficient mid-size SUV in Canada when available, and if pump prices continue to rise across the country, as they have been recently, it could very well be a strong selling point.

2021 Toyota Venza
The new Venza incorporates active vent shutters in order to reduce aerodynamic drag.

For a bit more background, the original Venza shared its underpinnings with the Japanese domestic market Toyota Harrier (amongst other Toyota/Lexus products like the Camry and Highlander), which was even more closely aligned with our Lexus RX (the first-gen Harrier was sold here as the barely disguised 1999–2003 Lexus RX 300). The five-plus years without the Venza in this country, spanning from 2016 until now, saw a third-generation Harrier come and go in Japan, while the fourth-gen Harrier is now nearly identical to the new 2021 Venza.

2021 Toyota Venza
The Venza will only be offered with a hybrid drivetrain including electric all-wheel drive.

Those familiar with Toyota’s 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder hybrid powertrain used in the Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid (plus the Avalon Hybrid in the U.S.) will be happy to hear the new Venza hybrid will utilize the same well-proven powertrain, as will the redesigned 2021 Sienna mentioned earlier. In Venza form the powertrain’s combined system output equals 219 horsepower, which makes it identical to the RAV4 Hybrid while more potent than the Camry Hybrid (208 hp) and not quite as formidable as the Highlander Hybrid (240 hp).

2021 Toyota Venza
The new Venza’s narrow horizontal light bar takes full advantage of the packaging benefits of LED technology.

The updated Toyota Hybrid System II uses a new lighter lithium-ion battery that also improves performance, while the Venza’s two electric motors deliver strong near-immediate torque as well as advanced Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive, the rear-mounted motor powering the back wheels when slippage occurs during takeoff or on slippery road surfaces. The drive system can divert up to 80 percent of motive force to the rear wheels, in fact, although take note the system is designed to utilize the front wheels most often in order to limit fuel usage.

To this end Toyota includes an Eco mode that “changes the throttle and environmental logic” to maximize efficiencies says Toyota, but both Normal and Sport modes, the former “ideal for everyday driving” and the latter sharpening “throttle response,” are also part of the package, while an EV mode will allow limited use of all-electric battery power at “low speeds for short distances,” just like with other non-plug-in Toyota hybrid models.

2021 Toyota Venza
The Venza will be available with a fully digital gauge cluster.

Toyota says the Venza’s regenerative brakes, which capture electricity caused by braking friction before rerouting it to the SUV’s electrical system, provide greater control than in previous iterations, and can actually be employed for a “downshifting” effect via the sequential gear lever’s manual mode. Each downward shift increases regenerative braking in steps, which “fosters greater control when driving in hilly areas,” adds Toyota, while the hybrid system also improves ride comfort by “finely controlling the drive torque to suppress pitch under acceleration and deceleration.” This is called differential torque pre-load, and is especially useful when starting off or cornering on normal or slippery roads. The feature also helps enhance steering performance at higher speeds, plus straight-line stability and controllability on rough roads. Toyota is also employing new Active Cornering Assist (ACA) electronic brake vectoring in order to minimize understeer and therefore enhance driving dynamics further.

2021 Toyota Venza
This 12.9-inch infotainment touchscreen upgrade incorporates all of the latest tech.

The new Venza rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture K (TNGA-K) platform architecture that also underpins the 2018–present Camry, 2019–present Avalon, 2019–present RAV4, 2020 Highlander, and new 2021 Sienna, plus the 2019–present Lexus ES and future Lexus NX and RX SUVs, which in a press release is promised to deliver an “intuitive driving experience” with “greater driving refinement” including “comfortable urban and highway performance” plus “predictable handling, and low noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH)” levels. The new platform incorporates extensive high-strength steel for a more rigid construction that improves the front strut and rear multi-link suspension’s ride comfort and handling, not to mention safety overall.

2021 Toyota Venza
Touch-sensitive capacitive centre-stack switchgear comes with the upgraded infotainment system.

The 2021 Venza LE rolls on 18-inch multi-spoke two-tone alloy wheels, while XLE and Limited come standard with 19-inch multi-spoke super chrome finished alloy wheels.

Take a peek inside a near loaded Venza XLE or top-tier Limited and along with sophisticated touch-sensitive capacitive controls that replace physical buttons on the centre stack you’ll likely first notice the premium-sized 12.3-inch centre infotainment touchscreen, but even the standard 8.0-inch centre display in the base LE is large for an entry-level head unit.

2021 Toyota Venza
Most new Toyotas offer handy wireless device charging, and the Venza will be no different.

The larger uprated system features a premium 12-channel, 1,200-watt, nine-speaker (with a sub) JBL audio system that Toyota describes as “sonically gorgeous,” as well as embedded navigation with Destination Assist and switchable driver or front passenger operation, while both systems include Android Auto (including Google Assistant) and Apple CarPlay (with Siri) smartphone integration, plus Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and the list goes on.

Speaking of cool tech, a fully digital instrument cluster is optional, as is a 10-inch colour head-up display unit that projects key info (such as vehicle speed, hybrid system details, and TSS 2.0 safety and driver assist functions) onto the windscreen, while an electronic rearview mirror with auto-dimming capability and an integrated HomeLink universal remote provides a more expansive view out the back, especially helpful if rear passengers or cargo is blocking the rearward view. The mirror can be switched between conventional and digital operation by the flick of a switch, while parking can be further enhanced by a move up to Limited trim that also incorporates an overhead camera system dubbed Panoramic View Monitor. The standard camera gets “projected path” active guidelines as well as an available “rear camera cleaning system [that] sprays washer fluid to clear away water droplets, mud, snow, and snow-melting road treatments from the lens,” says Toyota.

2021 Toyota Venza
The new Venza interior’s materials quality and refinement appears very good for the class.

Toyota is also leading most competitors by making wireless phone charging available on the majority of its models, so therefore this handy feature will be optional on the Venza, while additional upgrades include ventilated seats, a proximity-sensing Smart Key System that works on all four doors as well as the liftgate, the latter also providing hands-free powered operation, while plenty more features are available.

On the subject of more, an innovative new feature dubbed “Star Gaze” is a fixed electrochromic panoramic glass roof capable of switching between transparent and frosted modes within a single second via a switch on the overhead console. Toyota says the frosted mode “brightens the interior while reducing direct sunlight, giving the cabin an even more open, airy, and inviting feeling.”

2021 Toyota Venza
Toyota describes the optional JBL audio system as “sonically gorgeous.”

All Venza trims come standard with Toyota’s TSS 2.0 suite of advanced safety and driver assistive features including pre-collision system and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blindspot monitoring, lane departure assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane tracing assist, automatic high beam assist, and full-speed adaptive cruise control.

As far as interior roominess goes, expect a passenger compartment similarly sized to the first two rows in a Highlander, which makes it more accommodating than the RAV4. The Venza’s dedicated cargo compartment measures 1,027 litres (36.2 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks, which is in fact 32 litres (1.1 cu ft) less than the RAV4’s 1,059-litre (37.4 cu-ft) capacity behind the second row, and 1,010 litres (35.6 cu ft) less than the Highlander when its third-row is lowered.

The 2021 Venza will arrive in Toyota Canada dealerships this summer with pricing to be announced closer to its on-sale date.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Toyota

With the redesigned 992-generation Porsche 911 Coupe and Cabriolet body styles now widely available, and plenty of trims such as Carrera, Carrera S, Carrera 4, Carrera 4S, and Turbo S already on offer,…

Porsche unveils its new 2021 911 Targa 4 and 4S

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S
Anyone familiar with Porsche’s iconic 911 will immediately know this is the new Targa, complete with a classic silver roll hoop and curved rear glass.

With the redesigned 992-generation Porsche 911 Coupe and Cabriolet body styles now widely available, and plenty of trims such as Carrera, Carrera S, Carrera 4, Carrera 4S, and Turbo S already on offer, it was only a matter of time before a fresh new Targa appeared.

While originally sporting a silver roll hoop and large, curved rear window (although the first 1967 model, first introduced at the 1965 Frankfurt Motor Show, had a removable rear window made from plastic that was replaced with fixed glass in 1968), its roof has gone through a variety of changes. The roll bar wasn’t always wrapped in silver stainless steel as on the first generation, and the initial removable roof panel morphed into a power-sliding glass roof that tucked under the rear window on 1996–1998 993 models, this resulting in new sweptback C-pillars and similarly angular rear quarter windows.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4
From side profile it’s easier to see the differences between the Carrera coupe and this new Targa.

Porsche revived that Targa design for the 2006–2012 997 version of this model, while adding hatchback access to the rear glass, but abandoned it for the 2016–2019 991.2 Targa which received a power-operated retractable hardtop-style roof mechanism that lifts the entire rear deck lid before hiding the roof panel below. This also allowed for a return to the original silver roll hoop Targa design, all of which carries forward into the all-new 2021 911 Targa. Lowering or raising the sophisticated roof takes a mere 19 seconds, incidentally, meaning that it’s easily accomplished while waiting for a red light.

Below the beltline the new Targa benefits from most of the new 992-generation Carrera Coupe and Convertible design cues, which means its hood and lower front fascia say goodbye to the outgoing 911’s combination of mostly body-colour oval shapes and hello to a nearly straight-cut, horizontal slit separating the former from the bodywork below, plus a broad, black rectangle on the latter becomes the first visual clue to its 992 designation that oncoming Porschephiles will take notice of.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S
This is the best angle to see the Targa’s main changes, all of which are above the beltline.

Such gives the entire car a wider, more assertive stance, while the more angular hood now integrates classically tapered creases at each side of its indented centre, much like the original 911’s hood, albeit without a vented end. As for Porsche’s ovoid multi-element four-point LED headlamp clusters, they appear very similar to the outgoing model.

Thanks to the same three vertical slats on the new Targa’s B pillars, which also wear the classic scripted “targa” nameplate, the old and new cars’ profiles look almost identical at first glance. Closer inspection shows front and rear fascias that wrap farther around the side bodywork, slightly more upright headlamps, taillights that extend forward similarly to the rear bumper vents, modified front side marker lights, new chiseled wheel cutouts, fresh mirror caps, more sharply angled flush-mounted door handles that extend outward when touched (replacing the old model’s more classic rounded door pulls), and a much smoother rear deck lid, resulting a modern take on classic 911 Targa styling.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S
The Targa top provides the benefits of a convertible, and then 19 seconds later is as tightly enclosed as the 911 Carrera Coupe.

Those taillights come into clearer view when seen from behind, with the new model building on the old 991’s narrow dagger-like LED-infused lenses and even slimmer body-wide light strip by extending the latter farther outward to each side, and then grafting in some 718-sourced 3D-like graphics at centre, these above seemingly open vent slats below, while chiseling out even more linear lines for the outer lamps. 

Like the Carrera, the Targa’s diffuser-infused lower rear bumper is bigger, bolder and blacker than before, plus it feeds exhaust tips from within rather than forcing them to exit underneath, while hidden beneath the new 911’s gently flowing rear deck lid, just above the aforementioned light strip and below a row of glossy black engine vent strakes, is a much wider and larger active spoiler featuring multiple positions for varying levels of rear downforce.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S
The new Targa gets all the same classic 911 design elements as the new Carrera.

Excluding the bumpers, all 911 Targa body panels are now made from lightweight aluminum, while the front fenders were significantly lightened and the underlying body structure more than halves its steel content from 63 to 30 percent, with the 70 percent remaining now fully constructed from aluminum. All this dieting helps to improve structural rigidity, handling, fuel efficiency, and more.

New 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels come standard with the Targa 4, the former on 235/40 ZR-rated rubber and the latter on a wider set of 295/35 ZRs, while the Targa 4S receives staggered 20s and 21s wrapped in 245/35 ZRs and 305/30 ZRs respectively.

Like the Carreras and Turbos that launched earlier, the new Targa boasts an interior inspired by 911 models from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and even the ‘90s, particularly the wide, horizontal dash design to the right of the traditionally arcing instrument hood, the former even incorporating a narrow shelf mimicking the lower edge of the original dashboard.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4S
The new 911’s interior combines styling cues inspired by classic Porsches from the past with ultra-advanced tech.

The gauge cluster follows Porsche’s classic layout, or at least this mostly digital design appears to. As it is, there’s only one mechanical dial at centre, the tachometer as always, with the four surrounding instruments integrated within two large TFT/LCD displays that can also show route guidance, audio, trip, and cruise information, etcetera. Specifically, the right-side display is for multi-information use as with the outgoing 991, while the left side includes a conventional looking speedometer in default mode or alternatively a number of new advanced driver assistive systems such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, lane keeping assist, and more.

The aforementioned horizontal dash design houses a 3.9-inch larger 10.9-inch high-definition Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment touchscreen with much greater depth of colour than its predecessor, as well as updated graphics, enhanced performance, and more functions from fewer physical buttons, plus most everything else already included with more recently redesigned Porsche models.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4
If you want a 911 you won’t be seeing around every corner, the Targa is for you.

As far as trims go, the outgoing 911 Targa was available as a 4 and 4S throughout its tenure, plus as a Targa 4 GTS from 2017–2019, so it comes as no surprise that Porsche would choose to introduce the new 2021 Targa in 4 and 4S trims as well. While a more potent version will no doubt be on the way soon, for now the Targa 4 utilizes the 911’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo horizontally opposed six making 379 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, plus Porsche’s eight-speed Doppelkupplung (PDK) automated gearbox with steering wheel paddles as standard equipment (this new automatic improved by one forward gear over the previous Targa’s seven-speed PDK), resulting in 4.4 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h in base trim or 4.2 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package.

A seven-speed manual transmission is available as an option when choosing the Sport Chrono Package in the new 911 Targa 4S, which together with a more formidable 443 horsepower 3.0-litre six boasting 390 lb-ft of torque only manages to match the less powerful Targa 4’s 4.4-second sprint to 100 km/h due to the more efficient PDK transmission, but when the more powerful car is hooked up to its dual-clutch automated gearbox the Targa 4S is good for much more lively acceleration equaling 3.8 seconds in base trim and 3.6 with its Sport Chrono Package.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4
Just in case you missed the previous profile shot, here’s one of the other side.

Just like the new all-wheel drive Carrera 4 and 4S models introduced earlier this year, the new Targa 4 and 4S use an innovative water-cooled front differential that incorporates reinforced clutches to increase load capacities and overall durability. When combined with standard Porsche Traction Management (PTM), the updated front axle drive system enhances the two Targa models’ traction in slippery conditions, while also improving performance in the dry.

Additionally, all 2021 911 Targa owners benefit from a new standard Wet mode added to the updated steering wheel-mounted drive mode selector, the unique technology automatically maintaining better control over watery or snowy road surfaces when engaged.

All new 911s receive standard autonomous emergency braking with moving object detection as well, improving safety further, while a high-definition backup camera and rear parking sensors are also on the standard equipment list.

2021 Porsche 911 Targa 4
Feast your eyes, the new 911 Targa is one beautiful sports car.

Additionally standard, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) includes electronically variable dampers with both Normal and Sport settings, while Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), standard with the Targa 4S, is now optional with the Targa 4, and features an electronic rear differential lock with fully variable torque distribution.

The Targa 4’s standard brake discs measure 330 millimetres front and rear, and feature black-painted monobloc fixed calipers with four pistons up front, whereas the Targa 4S model’s 350-mm calipers get a coat of bright red paint and utilize six pistons at the front. The Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system is optional, as are staggered front to rear 20- and 21-inch alloy wheels.

The all-new 2021 Porsche Targa 4 starts at $136,000 plus freight and fees, while the 2021 Targa 4 S can be had for $154,100. Both can now be ordered at your local Porsche retailer.

To learn more about all the 2020 Carrera models and 2021 Turbos, check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 Porsche 911 Canada Prices page and 2021 Porsche 911 Canada Prices page (the 911 Targa and 2021 Carrera models will be added when Canadian-spec details are made available), where you can configure each model and trim with available options, plus find out about valuable rebate info, manufacturer financing and leasing rates (currently available from zero percent), and otherwise difficult to ascertain dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

Make sure to check out our gallery above, and the following four videos (Dreamcatcher filmed in Vancouver) that show the power-operated roof (and car) in action:

 

The new Porsche 911 Targa (1:07):

 

 

The new Porsche 911 Targa – Dreamcatcher (1:21):

 

 

Virtual world premiere: The new Porsche 911 Targa (3:53):

 

 

The 911 Targa – the timeline of a Porsche legend (2:15):

 

Back in early 2017, Volvo asked us to “rediscover [our] passion in life” in a then new V90 Cross Country, yet while the Swedish automaker’s overall sales grew impressively thanks to plenty of freshly…

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD Road Test

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Volvo’s V90 Cross Country is a handsome crossover wagon that might just be ideal for those not wanting to move up to a taller SUV.

Back in early 2017, Volvo asked us to “rediscover [our] passion in life” in a then new V90 Cross Country, yet while the Swedish automaker’s overall sales grew impressively thanks to plenty of freshly redesigned models and some entirely new entries as well, Canadian buyers flocked to its full lineup of SUVs instead of this tall mid-size luxury crossover wagon.

The result is the V90 Cross Country’s cancellation in our market as of 2020, this 2019 model year being its last after just three years. Along with the V90 Cross Country’s demise is the end of the regular V90 wagon too, while the beautiful and highly competent mid-size S90 luxury sedan remains in the lineup for at least another year and hopefully longer.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country has unmistakable Volvo design cues, plus beefier black bumpers, wheel arches and side sills than the regular V90 wagon.

The choice to forgo a crossover wagon for a big flagship luxury sedan flies in the face of convention, with some brands, particularly Volvo’s previous parent Ford (and it’s Lincoln luxury division), eliminating cars almost entirely, but the continuation of the S90 is probably more about maintaining a premium image than adding to the bottom line, because with only 835 combined S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country sales in its peak calendar year of 2018, and merely 295 after a 65-percent plunge in 2019, none of these cars would’ve made much of a difference to Volvo Canada’s profitability.

Standard styling elements include satin-silver bumper garnishes and Volvo’s trademark Thor’s Hammer LED headlamps.

For a bit of background, the V90 Cross Country replaced two generations of XC70 from 2000 through 2016 (it was dubbed V70 XC for the first three years), and by doing so once again brought Volvo’s renowned style, respected quality, sensible pragmatism and turbocharged, supercharged four-cylinder performance to the crossover wagon segment, while upping its luxury quotient to an entirely new level of opulence.

Anyone who’s spent time in a modern-day Volvo knows exactly what I mean, especially when equipped in one of its top R-Design or Inscription trims. The V90 Cross Country doesn’t use the usual trim nomenclatures for the Canadian market, but my tester was nicely outfitted with its Premium package and therefore, together with its generous list of standard features, is quite possibly (or should I say, was quite possibly) the most luxurious crossover wagon available today.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The 2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country comes standard with this attractive 19-inch alloys.

Then again, Audi may have something to say about that. The German brand now offers Canadian urban adventurers their all-new 2020 A6 Allroad in the same rather uncompetitive class, and while the four-ringed contender from Ingolstadt is impressive, Gothenburg’s outgoing alternative looks and feels richer inside despite costing $12,700 less.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Sharply angled LED taillights are standard too.

The 2019 V90 Cross Country starts at a very reasonable $62,500 compared to the A6 Allroad’s lofty $75,200 price tag, and while Audi’s brand image is certainly more upscale than Volvo’s, and its turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 makes an additional 19 horsepower and 74 more lb-ft of torque than Volvo’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that puts out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the Swede is slightly more pragmatic from a fuel economy perspective, with a claimed Transport Canada rating of 11.6 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 10.0 combined compared to 11.8 city, 9.1 highway and 10.6 combined.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Nice silver detailing and “CROSS COUNTRY” inscribed into the black bumper are just some of this model’s unique details.

The 250 horsepower V90 Cross Country T5 AWD was discontinued at the end of model year 2018, by the way, this previously the base model at $59,500, while the $84,900 Ocean Race T6 AWD also said goodbye to the market for 2019.  Now for 2019 there’s just one T6 AWD trim level, but the noted $3,900 Premium package does a good job of making it Inscription-like, thanks to features such as heated windshield washer nozzles, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, LED interior lighting, aluminum treadplates, a heated steering wheel rim, front and rear parking sensors with graphical warnings, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking, a 360-degree Surround View camera system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, four-zone automatic climate control, a cooled glove box, heatable rear outboard seats, power-folding rear seatbacks and outer head restraints, a really innovative semi-automatic cargo cover, an integrated soft safety net to separate cargo from passengers, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and more.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The base V90 Cross Country’s interior is truly upscale, even for a premium luxury car.

The aforementioned $62,500 base price for the 2019 V90 Cross Country T6 AWD doesn’t include $900 for metallic paint, which is included with the Audi incidentally, but the A6 Allroad only provides black and beige leather options inside, and it’s not plush Nappa leather like Volvo’s, which can be had in four no-cost optional hues including Charcoal (black), Amber (dark beige), Maroon Brown (dark reddish brown) and Blond (light grey).

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The dash and controls layout is superb, with everything falling ideally to hand.

It should be noted that despite appearing richly appointed my tester was far from fully loaded, as it was missing the $3,600 Luxury package with its gorgeous tailored instrument panel, sensational upgraded front seats with power-adjustable side bolsters, power-extendable lower cushions, multi-technique massage function, and cooling ventilation, plus manually retractable side window curtains in back. My test model didn’t have the $2,350 optional rear air suspension and Four-C Active Chassis upgrade either, and only had 19-inch alloys instead of $1,000 enhanced 20-inch rims, or for that matter body-colour bumpers, wheel arches and sills, $425 Metal Mesh decor inlays (although the hardwood was lovely), $250 black headliner, $1,500 graphical head-up display, $3,750 Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system (with fabulous aluminum speaker grilles), and $600 dual two-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard positions, with all of the above potentially increasing the 2019 V90 Cross Country’s price by $18,375 to $80,875.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s standard digital instrument cluster is very impressive.

While that might sound like a lot for a mid-size luxury crossover wagon, consider for a moment that the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad Technik starts at $83,100 without a massage, and while it includes that brand’s fabulous “Virtual Cockpit” digital gauge package (the V90 gets a digital instrument cluster too, just not quite as configurable as the A6 Allroad’s), getting said massage, along with upgraded Valcona leather will set you back another $4,050, while adding on all of the V90’s advanced driver assistive systems will cost another $2,400. You can also add the $2,500 Dynamic package with Dynamic Steering and Dynamic All-Wheel Steering, $2,500 for Night Vision Assistant, $500 for quieter dual-pane glass, $350 for Audi Phonebox with wireless charging, another $350 for rear side airbags (some impressive stuff), and $1,000 for full body paint (already priced in to the top-tier Volvo), bringing the German model’s total to $102,650, less an expected $1,000 in additional incentives if you choose to sign up for a CarCostCanada account in order to learn everything you can before speaking to an Audi dealer (see CarCostCanada’s 2020 Audi A6 allroad Canada Prices page).

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The tablet-style Sensus infotainment touchscreen is easy to use and full of features.

That’s $1,000 less than a Volvo dealer is prepared to slice off of the V90 Cross Country, or so says CarCostCanada on their 2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country Canada Prices page, but considerable savings aside the Volvo should really impress anyone considering either of these two fine vehicles. They’re both unquestionably handsome from the outside, and come equipped standard with all expected LED lighting tech and brushed metal accents to dazzle owners and onlookers alike. The minimalist Audi cabin is sublime, as is Volvo’s ritzier interior, their materials and build quality never in question, the only differences being a desire to appeal to varying tastes.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The optional overhead parking monitor is excellent.

Even before sliding into the V90 Cross Country’s enveloping driver’s seat, its high-quality gleaming metal- and leather-wrapped key fob sets the tone. This said its proximity-sensing access means it will most likely remain in your purse or pocket and not be touched at all—such a shame. Once inside, Volvo covers most surfaces with premium soft-touch synthetic or optional contrasting French-stitched leather, plus gorgeous dark oak inlays across the entire instrument panel and all doors. The fancier version gets the previously noted metal inlays instead, but truly there’s enough satin-finish aluminum trim elsewhere that more metal is hardly necessary.   

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Those who want to row their own gears will need to do so via the V90 Cross Country’s shift lever.

Key areas below the waist are soft to the touch, not so with many premium brands such as Lexus (although they sell nothing in this class), while all pillars are nicely wrapped in the same high-quality woven material as the roof liner. The ritzy details spoken of earlier include much of the switchgear that’s downright jewellery-like. Seriously, the exquisite diamond-patterned edging around the main audio knob, plus the twisting ignition controller and scrolling drive mode selector, not to mention the beautifully formed vent knobs, are gorgeous bits of metalwork, while the digital displays are some of the best in the industry.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s interior detailing is exquisite.

Before I continue, I must say that most everything I’m talking about is standard in Canada. Volvo even includes an impressive vertical tablet-style touchscreen on the centre stack, which in my opinion is one of the best in the business. Not only is it brilliantly clear and high-definition, with nice deep and rich colours, plus as easy use of a regular smartphone or tablet, with familiar tap, swipe and pinch functions, but it’s filled with loads of capability, making it one of the most versatile infotainment systems around. I also like that it mostly doesn’t change from one Volvo model to the next, so when you’re stepping up from an XC40 to this V90 or an XC90, you’ll enjoy the same impressive infotainment experience.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
These sport seats really hold the torso and behind in place during hard cornering.

The fully configurable digital gauge cluster is standard too, and provides a nice clear display with a slight matte finish so there’s not much glare. While configurable, I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s as versatile as Audi’s aforementioned Virtual Cockpit, being that you can’t maximize infotainment system features to turn the entire cluster into a map, for instance. Audi’s cluster reduces the primary gauges into tiny dials at each corner, whereas Volvo’s dials remain mostly full-size all the time. Still, the V90’s gauge cluster offers excellent usability in other ways, the gauges shrinking slightly when using some features in the centre-mounted multi-info display, and that area quite large and appealing with plenty of attractive graphics and most features from the infotainment system, including a detailed, colourful navigation map.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
This massive panoramic sunroof comes standard.

As impressive as its interior is, one of the V90 Cross Country’s best attributes is the superb drivetrain noted earlier. Its 315 horsepower and 279 pound-feet of torque provide spirited V6-like performance off the line and quick response for passing manoeuvres. It’s mated to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic with manual mode, but unfortunately no paddles to keep the fingers busy in the more comfort-oriented V90 Cross Country. Rather, those wanting to row through the gears must do so via the shift lever, which is no problem yet not as easy as leaving both hands on the wheel for maximum control. Then again, I almost never bothered to shift the autobox anyway, as it went about its duty with effortlessly quick gear changes needing no prompting.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The rear seating area is spacious and wholly comfortable, plus refinement is above par.

The Cross Country doesn’t provide the same level of handling sharpness as the regular V90 T6 AWD R-Design tested last year, but it certainly comes within a hair’s width of matching it. It’s 58 millimetres (2.3 inches) taller, causing its centre of gravity to raise upwards somewhat, so naturally it can’t provide the same lateral grip as the more hunkered down sport wagon, but you likely won’t notice much difference unless pushing it extremely hard, and that’s not really what the Cross Country is all about. It’s better at getting you out from within a snow-filled ski resort parking lot, or allowing for greater ease and confidence inspiring control while trekking through a muddy cottage country back road.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The removable cargo cover automatically lifts out of the way when opening the tailgate.

The V90 Cross Country is equipped with standard all-wheel drive, but no off-road mode, yet it manages slippery conditions well. I’d even be willing to venture into some light off-roading situations, such as overcoming small stumps and rocks on a logging road, for example, or wading through a shallow river bed, because that’s exactly what Volvo has promised is possible with this all-weather, all-season, multi-activity vehicle.

With standard roof rails on top, plus available cross-members, bike racks, overhead storage containers and more, the V90 Cross Country becomes an ideal companion for outdoor activities such as cycling, kayaking, camping, and more. Volvo provides plenty of other accessories too, such a $1,345 trailer hitch package with electronic monitoring and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA), allowing owners to take full advantage of this crossover’s capabilities.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A cargo divider lifts out from the floor, complete with hooks for grocery bags.

While trekking through the wilderness, or merely overcoming the unkempt lanes in most of Canada’s inner cities, you’ll enjoy a wonderful ride, the V90 Cross Country providing even more comfort than the already impressive V90 wagon. This is a car I could drive all day long and never tire of. Together with its fabulous front seats, which are superbly comfortable and provide excellent support, there’s no real reason to spend more for the fancier massaging buckets unless money is no object.

Even more importantly for me, the driver’s position is ultra-adjustable and therefore should be perfect for the majority of body types. I’m a bit shorter than average at five-feet-eight, but my legs are longer than my torso, which can cause a problem if the steering column doesn’t provide enough reach. No such issues with the V90 Cross Country, however, that provides an ideal setup for both comfort and control.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A webbed divider protects passengers from loose cargo that could become dangerous in an accident.

There as an incredible amount of room in back, too, with almost 10 inches in front of my knees when the driver’s seat was set up for my long-legged frame, plus five inches remained from my shoulder to the door panel, another four or so next to my hips, and about three and a half above my head. Stretching out my legs was easy, with my shoes placed underneath the driver’s seat, while comfort was increased yet more via my tester’s four-zone auto climate control that provided a useful panel for controlling each rear outboard passenger’s temperature. The heated rear seats would no doubt be appreciated for winter ski trips with the family, as would the massive standard panoramic sunroof overhead, this completely eliminating any feelings of claustrophobia that can happen for some when seated in back, but then again it seems bizarre to imagine someone feeling closed in while seated anywhere in the spacious V90 Cross Country. Aiding the V90’s open, airy experience are HVAC vents on the backside of that centre console, and more at the midpoint of each B-pillar, while LED reading lamps hover overhead. A complex centre armrest flips down between outboard passengers, complete with pop-out dual cupholders, a shallow tray, plus a lidded and lined stowage container.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Thin items, such as floor mats, can be stowed below the cargo floor.

The V90 Cross Country’s powered liftgate lets you into the spacious cargo area, while the aforementioned retractable cargo cover automatically lifts up and out of the way. The cargo compartment, which measures 560 litres (19.8 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks and about 1,530 litres (54 cu ft) when the rear row is lowered, is luxuriously finished with plush carpets all the way up the sidewalls and rear seatbacks, plus of course the floor, while below an accessorized rubber all-weather cargo mat (part of a $355 Protection package that includes floor trays for four seating positions, a centre tunnel cover, and the just-noted cargo tray), my tester’s floor included a flip-up cargo divider featuring integrated grocery bag hooks. The floor can be lifted further, exposing a shallow carpeted compartment for storing very thin items, such as the carpeted floor mats while the all-season ones are in place.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The centre pass-through is small, but certainly better than nothing.

Aiding versatility, the V90’s 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks include a small, narrow centre pass-through that’s ideal for a couple of pairs of skis, or alternatively each portion of the seatback can be dropped down flat via powered release buttons attached to the cargo sidewall. These automatically flip the headrests forward too, which incidentally can be lowered from the front to aid rear visibility as well.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
With the rear seats lower there’s plenty of cargo space available.

If you’re currently driving a four-door sedan or wagon and not quite sure if a tall, SUV-like crossover such as Volvo’s XC90 is the right way to go, this V90 Cross Country is a good alternative. All said, I’m not going to recommend it over Audi’s new A6 Allroad mentioned throughout this review, but I will go so far as say that it measures up in all ways other than high-speed performance, and possibly prestige. Then again, Volvo has been reviving its respectability as of late, and has long enjoyed its own diehard following that would consider nothing less. Comfort is arguably better in the Volvo too, and as noted earlier this V90 Cross Country is a bit stingier on fuel. In the end it will come down to personal taste, and the ability of your local Volvo dealer to find a new one still available. If your interest is piqued, I recommend calling now before it’s too late.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

Porsche introduced its 2021 911 Turbo S Coupe and Cabriolet just two months ago, and now we’re getting a look at what’s in store for 911 Carrera, Carrera S, and Carrera 4S trims. The latter two S…

Porsche updates 911 Carrera for 2021

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera S
911 Carrera S and 4S models will be available with a 7-speed manual for 2021.

Porsche introduced its 2021 911 Turbo S Coupe and Cabriolet just two months ago, and now we’re getting a look at what’s in store for 911 Carrera, Carrera S, and Carrera 4S trims.

The latter two S trims will finally be getting a seven-speed manual gearbox, which by 2019 standards would mean these models will be dropping in price by $3,660, being that 2020 models made the new eight-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission standard, but European models will merely make the manual a no-cost option, so we’ll have to wait until Porsche Canada announces pricing in a few months to find out which direction they’ve chosen.

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet
InnoDrive adaptive cruise control will be available for 2021.

Speaking of PDK-equipped 911s, Porsche will offer 2021 examples InnoDrive adaptive cruise control that, in addition to being able to follow the vehicle ahead without the driver needing to manually modulate speed, can also maintain set speed limits automatically and slow down autonomously when approaching corners.

A tire temperature readout gauge for the Sport Chrono Package is also new for 2021, as is Smartlift, an available front axle-lift feature that will raise the 911’s front end in order to clear large speed bumps and steep driveways. Better yet, Smartlift gets its intelligent name from having a memory feature capable of storing a location where the front end has been lifted and then remembering to do so again automatically next time you arrive.

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera
Want a quicker, better handling 911? Coupe models will be available with new lightweight window glass for 2021.

Additionally, just in case you weren’t quite sure whether Porsche was still a purist’s sports car brand and not just another luxury carmaker, you can now order your 2021 911 Carrera with a lightweight glass package that reduces mass up higher in the car and therefore lowers its centre of gravity to improve handling. This said you could choose thicker insulated glass instead, which has been designed to reduce interior noise for a more comfortable drive.

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet
A new Smartlift system will automatically raise the front suspension to overcome steep driveways and large speed bumps.

A new retrospective leather upholstery upgrade package should also be popular for both Coupe and Cabriolet body styles, as it pulls styling cues from the now classic 930-era 911 Turbo. Porsche introduced it as standard equipment for the aforementioned 2021 Turbo S.

To make the ordering process easier to understand, Porsche renamed its seven-colour Light Design Package to the more self-explanatory Ambient Lighting Package, while Python Green has joined the Carrera’s exterior paint palette for 2021, this colour previously available for the 911 Turbo S and 718 Cayman GTS 4.0.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche