It was just last fall that we reported on the sensational Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR setting a street-legal lap record at the famed Nürburgring Norschleife, which only remained beaten by Porsche’s own 919…

Porsche 911 GT2 RS breaks two more production car lap records

2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS
The 2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS stormed to a Road America production car lap record of 2:15.17 minutes. (Photo: Porsche)

It was just last fall that we reported on the sensational Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR setting a street-legal lap record at the famed Nürburgring Norschleife, which only remained beaten by Porsche’s own 919 Hybrid EVO modified World Endurance Championship (WEC) race car, and now the world’s most successful sports car manufacturer has set a new production vehicle record on the highly challenging Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. 

The 6.5-km (4.04-mile), 14-turn road course combines plenty of high-speed straights, radically sharp corners and a fair number of elevation changes, and is therefore the perfect play area for any Porsche 911, although it’s even more ideal for the track-dominating 2019 911 GT2 RS. 

2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS
Plenty of long straights combined with no shortage of tight curves make Road America an ideal playground for the GT2 RS. (Photo: Porsche)

In an attempt to remove the Road America lap record mantle from a GT2 RS privateer that laid down a scorching 2:17.04 banker last year, the 700 horsepower GT2 RS stole the limelight with a new record-setting time of 2:15.17 minutes, slicing almost two seconds (1.87 sec) off the previous lap record. 

Making the day even more interesting, Porsche also showed what its 911 GT3 RS could do on the same track with the same driver, 24 Hours of Daytona and Le Mans class winner David Donohue. Despite being almost 200 horsepower less potent than the GT2 RS, yet given an even more alluring soundtrack thanks to a higher revving engine that nears 9,000 rpm at full song, the 911 GT3 RS pulled off a Road America lap time of 2:18.57 minutes, and needed just three laps to do so, which was one lap shy of what the GT2 RS required. 

2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
The 911 GT3 RS, shown here on the Road Atlanta track, did very well to stay close to the GT2 RS despite being down nearly 200 hp. (Photo: Porsche)

While tracking nearly four seconds off the pace would certainly look like a massive gap if the two cars were racing each other simultaneously, the GT3 RS’ ability to stay as close as it did on a track with such long straights and numerous 90-degree turns says a lot about its cornering prowess. 

Both the GT2 and GT3 RS were shod with road-legal, Porsche-approved Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R N0 tires, which are optional upgrades for RS owners, while this event’s lap time was recorded and validated by Racelogic, as was the vehicle telemetry. 

2019 Porsche 911 GT2 RS
The 911 GT2 RS takes flight during its record-breaking Road Atlanta run. (Photo: Porsche)

Also notable, this 911 GT2 RS set another production car racetrack record at the even more circuitous Road Atlanta circuit in Braselton, Georgia last month with Randy Pobst at the wheel, this time delivering a lap time of only 1:24.88 minutes, which outpaced the previous record-setting Corvette ZR1 by almost 2 seconds, as well as the previously noted Porsche 911 GT3 RS by 1.36 seconds. 

It seems like Porsche is smashing global track records at an unprecedented pace lately, no doubt because of this car’s eventual retirement when the all-new 2020 911 arrives later this year. Then again, being that a new GT2 RS based on the redesigned 911 is probably not going to arrive anytime soon, we’ll likely see more broken track records by the current model in the coming months.  

While we’re waiting for these to make news, make sure to check out our comprehensive photo gallery of the 911 GT2 RS and 911 GT3 RS on the Road America and Road Atlantic tracks above, plus in-car videos of these record-breaking events below: 

Porsche 911 GT2 RS sets production car lap record at Road America – David Donohue onboard camera (2:25):
 

 
911 GT3 RS completes Road America lap in just 2:18,57 minutes (2:28):
 

 
Porsche 911 GT2 RS Record Lap at Road Atlanta – Highlight Film with Randy Pobst Onboard Camera (2:18):
 

 
Porsche 911 GT2 RS sets production car lap record at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta (1:39):
 

 
Onboard video of the 911 GT3 RS at the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta (1:36):
 

 

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re probably fully aware what an Acura MDX is, but it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of A-Spec. Don’t worry, because you’re far from alone.…

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec Road Test Review

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Acura has given its MDX a sporty optional A-Spec trim upgrade for 2019, and we think it looks great while playing in the dirt. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re probably fully aware what an Acura MDX is, but it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of A-Spec. Don’t worry, because you’re far from alone. Basically, A-Spec is a performance trim offered across the entire Acura lineup that, depending on the model in question, may or may not include any actual go-fast sport-oriented upgrades. As for the MDX A-Spec, which is new for this 2019 model year, it’s purely a styling exercise. 

Fortunately the new A-Spec enhancements result in a very attractive bit of SUV kit, including gloss-black and darkened chrome trimmings for the grille, headlamps, window surrounds, and rear rooftop spoiler, plus a more aggressive frontal apron, painted front and rear lower skid plates, body-colour door handles, body-coloured rocker panels, bigger exhaust pipes, and a gorgeous set of 20-inch 10-spoke Shark Grey alloys on lower profile 265/45 all-seasons. That rubber might seem like the only upgrade that could possibly improve the MDX’ performance, but it should be noted these are the same as used on this SUV’s most luxuriously adorned Elite model. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Nice and long, the MDX has plenty of room for its three accommodating rows, as well as loads of cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Sliding into any one of the MDX seven seats means that you’ll inevitably have to pass over one of four A-Spec-embossed metal treadplates, while the upgraded cabin also features a unique primary gauge package that’s been brightened with additional red highlights. The latter gets framed by a thicker A-Spec-branded sport steering wheel that’s partially wrapped in grippy dimpled leather, while just below are sporty metal foot pedals. The console between the driver and front passenger gets special carbon-look detailing, and the sport seats flanking it are either covered in a sensational “Rich Red” upholstery or, in the case of my test model, special black leather with high-contrast stitching, plus plush perforated black suede-like Alcantara inserts. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
A-Spec trim blackens trim that’s otherwise chrome, paints out other areas in body colour, and beefs up the rear bumper cap. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So what do you think? I, for one, like what Acura has done to spiff up this aging yet still worthy luxury SUV. The exterior changes add some fresh new life to what is still a good looking package, while the interior mods are as easy on the eyes as they’re tactilely pleasurable (especially the Alcantara), but let’s be clear, none of this does much to modernize an instrument panel layout that has slowly been freefalling into the realms of classic, retrospective designs. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX A-Spec’s frontal design gets black chrome and gloss-black detailing along with a bolder lower front fascia. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, I’m not talking about the MDX’ downright radical, left-field, but now that I’m used to it, perfectly functional and kind-of-cool lower console-mounted pushbutton gear selector, which should never be exchanged for RDX version that takes up much too much valuable space on its centre stack, or for that matter the entry-level crossover’s new rotating drive mode selector that’s equally inefficient in its size and placement and therefore forced the need to position the otherwise superb tablet-style infotainment display atop the dash instead of closer to the driver where it could otherwise be actuated via touch gestures for easier use, instead of a complex touchpad that should only be an extra add-on to complement the overall infotainment package, we all have to admit the MDX two-tiered display setup is pretty outdated. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Like with all Acura models, the MDX receives standard Jewel Eye LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Why two centre tiers? Unlike the new RDX, that fits a fairly large multi-information display (MID) between two analogue dials within the primary package (although a fully digital cluster would be more competitive in top trims), the MDX gets a tall, narrow MID with simple colour graphics and minimal info ahead of the driver, and sends other MID info to the larger 8.0-inch top monitor on the centre stack. You can access the usual info from a rotating/push dial just under the second display below, while the top screen defaults to the navigation map when not in reverse, at which point an excellent multi-angle backup camera with active guidelines comes into play; the available 360-degree surround parking monitor can only be had with the previously noted top-line Elite model. This leaves more easily reached 7.0-inch touchscreen for audio and climate control adjustment, etcetera. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
An attractive set of triple-stacked LED fog lamps enhance the lower fascia design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Before I start getting hate mail for beating up on the MDX’ obviously aging infotainment system, a problem that many other brands are dealing with as their various models attempt to stay fresh and intriguing while undergoing the same old two- to three-year refresh, and four- to five-year redesigned cycles as have been used for decades, some of Acura’s competitors have done a better job of staying ahead of the digital curve and are therefore reaping the rewards of doing so. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s exclusive dark grey 20-inch alloys look fabulous, but the tires are identical to those used in the more luxurious Elite trim, so don’t add a performance advantage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

We’ll have to wait and see what Acura brings to the table, or more specifically the instrument panel when the all-new redesigned MDX surfaces sometime before 2020 or 2021 (so far there has been no official launch announcement), but as you can tell from my RDX comments (which is otherwise one of the best crossover SUVs in its compact luxury class), I’d rather Acura choose a different infotainment direction for the next-gen MDX. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The LED taillights come standard across the MDX line, but the A-Spec badge is exclusive, of course. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All grumbling aside, the current MDX infotainment system works well enough, and even includes such advanced features as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email reading functionality, satellite radio, four USB charge-capable ports, and more, plus as noted my A-Spec tester also had an accurate navigation system with detailed mapping and voice recognition, this pulled up from the MDX’ mid-range Tech trim line, which also provided superb 10-speaker ELS Studio surround sound audio, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, AcuraLink subscription services, and more. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec uses many of the same high-quality materials as found in the regular MDX, but adds plush suede-like Alcantara to the door inserts and seat upholstery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As usual with any Acura model, I feel tempted to list out as many features as possible, because this helps you to appreciate just how good the brand’s value proposition is, but this time around I’ll try to keep my babbling to a minimum and just detail the more important highlights such as LED fog lamps, auto-dimming power-folding outside mirrors, perimeter/approach puddle lamps, keyless entry buttons for the rear doors, and cooled/ventilated front seats as additions to the $60,490 A-Spec features menu, while additional items sourced from the Tech model include sun position detection for the climate control, front and rear parking sonar, and Blind Spot Information (BSI) with rear cross-traffic alert. s

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX hasn’t changed the look of its instrument panel for a very long time, but the Alcantara seat inserts are brand new for 2019. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Advanced driver assistance systems in mind, each and every MDX trim comes standard with the Japanese luxury brand’s AcuraWatch suite of safety and convenience features, including Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with low-speed follow. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
A small colour display gets surrounded by conventional analogue dials. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Finally, some key features sourced from the $54,390 base MDX for my tester’s A-Spec trim include the brand’s signature Jewel Eye LED headlamps with automatic high beams, attractive LED tail lamps, sound-deadening acoustic front glass, a remote engine starter, proximity-sensing front access, pushbutton start/stop, ambient cabin lighting, memory for the standard power-adjustable steering column, side mirrors, and auto climate control system, an electric parking brake, a power-operated glass sunroof with shade, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, an auto-dimming centre mirror, driver recognition, a heatable steering wheel rim, transmission paddle shifters, rain-sensing wipers, tri-zone front and rear auto HVAC, Active Noise Control (ANC), Active Sound Control (ASC), heatable 12-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar, a power liftgate, a 1,588-kilo towing capacity (or 2,268 kilograms with the available towing package), plus more. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s metal pedal upgrade even spiff up the “dead pedal” foot rest on the very left. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of note, all of the 2019 Acura MDX trim, package, and options pricing shown in this review were sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also find helpful rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, so make sure to check click here to save the most money possible when purchasing your next car, truck or SUV. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX’ two-tiered infotainment setup delivers a lot of screen space for the money, but while functional the system is now beyond dated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So far in this review, I’ve criticized the MDX for some of its mostly digital shortcomings, but I have to admit that it’s still enjoyable to drive and very comfortable, no matter where you’re seated. It’s also finished quite well considering its age, particularly in A-Spec trim. Some of this model’s interior upgrades include the aforementioned sport steering wheel, which feels really good in the fingers thanks to a thick, meaty, textured leather rim and well-sculpted spats for each thumb, while the interior is also filled with an attractive combination of satin-silver aluminum trim accents and other premium-finish inlays. Additionally, Acura lays on a heavy dose of premium-quality pliable composites across the dash, each door upper, and most everywhere else including the glove box lid, with just a small section of the instrument panel below the driver’s knees, plus each side of the lower centre console, and the bottom portion of each door panel, finished in harder, less premium types of plastic. Just above, however, are some of the plushest Alcantara door inserts in the business, this exclusive to my A-Spec model. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The top screen defaults to this navigation map, and while the display isn’t the sharpest the route guidance is very accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I was happy to be reminded that the MDX’ driver’s seat includes the four-way powered lumbar mentioned earlier, helping to add just the right amount of pressure in just the right spot for reducing back pain, and only wish all automakers would do likewise, while the comfortable driver’s seat also provided plenty of the usual adjustments this category offers, yet I would have also liked the under-leg support provided by a lower cushion extension, and being that this model is Acura’s sportiest large SUV, a set of adjustable side torso bolsters would be handy too. Unfortunately, even the front seats in A-Spec trim don’t keep one’s backside in place very firmly when tackling corners, but on the positive the side bolsters should provide comfort for those on the larger size. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The top screen is adjusted via these controls, the rotating dial used for scrolling, +/- functions, etc. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Not only comfortable, the MDX provides excellent visibility all around, making it easy to operate in all types of traffic situations, but before delving into its driving dynamics, I should mention how much room this SUV offers. Having set up the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight, long-legged, short-torso frame I still had plenty of room when seated in the second row just behind. That second-row easily slides fore and aft to make more room if needed, but even with it pulled all the way forward I still had a couple of inches of air ahead of my knees and room enough for my feet while shod in winter boots, plus when that second-row seat was pushed all the way back it was downright limousine-like. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The lower touchscreen accesses audio and HVAC functions plus more, and works well enough. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

With the second-row all the way rearward, the MDX’ rearmost row is probably only good for smaller adults or children, but after sliding the middle row forward I had plenty of room and those just mentioned winter boots slotted nicely underneath. I can’t call the third row comfortable, but it should be adequate for kids and mid-size teens, which is makes the MDX more utile than many in this class. Those in the very back shouldn’t get claustrophobic either, thanks to a set of side windows and a decent view out the front, while cupholders and nice reading lamps provide a good atmosphere for long trips. Climbing out from the very back is fairly easy as well, only needing you to press a button on the back of the second-row seat that immediately slides it forward, but this said it’s not the largest throughway to enter or exit from, so take care if you’re past teenage years. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX’ pushbutton gear selector takes up a fair bit of room on the console, but it uses space better than the new RDX system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back in second row, a handy climate control panel is added to the backside of the front centre console for rear passenger comfort, while Acura also provides two USB device chargers below. I would’ve liked to see a set of second-row seat heaters, but these only come in top-tier Elite trim; c’est la vie. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s Alcantara seat inserts aid grip, which is helpful as the side bolsters aren’t very aggressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The powered rear liftgate opens to a properly finished cargo area featuring chrome tie-down hooks and nice, high-end carpeting up the sidewalls and on the seatbacks, while a sharp looking aluminum tread plate pretties up the rear doorsill. It’s adequately roomy too, with 447 litres (15.8 cubic feet) of gear-toting space behind the third row, and a useful underfloor compartment too. Folding the 50/50-split rear seats down is easy enough, but smaller folk might want Acura to add a power option in the upcoming redesign. Dropping the second row down is a manual affair as well, and while it’s easy enough you’ll need to walk around to the side doors to do so. Cargo capacity grows from 1,230 litres (43.4 cu ft) aft of the upright second-row seats to 2,575 litres (90.9 cu ft) when all are laid flat, but take heed that no middle pass-through is available for longer cargo such as skis, meaning the MDX’ European rivals do a more comprehensive job of providing passenger/cargo flexibility. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Special 12-way adjustability with 4-way lumbar make the MDX A-Spec front seats very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for the MDX powertrain, it’s probably the most experienced in its segment, which is a bonus if you’re looking for well-proven reliability, or a bane if you want the latest under-hood technology. Acura’s SOHC 3.5-litre V6 has been around since 2014, and while producing a decent 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque when compared to mainstream volume branded SUVs, doesn’t exactly light a fire under your seat when getting hard on the throttle when compared to some key competitors, like Audi’s 333-horepower supercharged Q7 and BMW’s 335-hp turbocharged X5, plus plenty of others, and making this issue even more pronounced is the fact the older 2007 to 2013 second-gen MDX used a 200-cc larger 3.7-litre variation on the same V6 theme that was 10 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque stronger for max output of 300 hp and 270 lb-ft, which means the MDX has kind of been in reverse when it comes to straight-line performance. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Just a classic front moonroof in the MDX, with no panoramic option available. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Softening the backhanded blow in 2013, when the current 2014 powertrain was introduced, was the nine-speed ZF automatic transmission still doing an admirable job of swapping cogs. While hardly producing lightning-quick shifts, even in Sport mode, it was certainly more fun to flick through the paddles than the previous six-speed unit, and I must say it’s wonderfully smooth about its business, while Acura’s torque-vectoring SH-AWD, standard with the MDX, even makes slippery road conditions confidence-inspiring. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Second-row room, comfort and adjustability is good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I took the MDX up a local mountain road and was thoroughly impressed by its ability through thick, mucky snow, the white fluffy stuff having departed long before I arrived. I can only imagine how well it would work if Acura had provided some winter tires instead, but the 265/ 45R20 Michelin Latitude Alpin all-seasons circling the dark grey alloys mentioned earlier, did a fine job just the same.  

Likewise for the MDX’ capable suspension, which while set up with more focus on compliant comfort than edgy performance, is easily up to fast-paced cornering through circuitous backroads, but it’s even better at high-speed cruising down the freeway thanks to its superbly sorted fully independent suspension that tracks brilliantly while providing an excellent ride. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Third row access is easy to operate, but there’s not much room to slip behind. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sport mode just mentioned comes as part of a drive mode selector that also offers Comfort and Normal settings, plus the ability to stay in a chosen mode even after shutting off the engine and returning later. So therefore, if you’re the type of driver that leaves their SUV in Sport mode all the time, Acura has you covered without any extra fuss, and likewise for those who place Comfort higher on their priority list. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Once inside there’s plenty of space in the very back for small adults or kids. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now that I’m on to more practical subjects, the MDX’ fuel-efficiency is quite good for this class, despite its large V6 engine. This might be due to its relatively stress-free life compared to what a turbo-four would need to do if pushing such a large, weighty SUV, the as-tested MDX A-Spec hitting the scales at 1,945 kg (4,288 lbs). The engine also features some impressive technologies including direct-injection, i-VTEC, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that turns off one row of cylinders when not being pushed hard, auto idle stop/start that reduces consumption and emissions even more, and the nine-speed autobox that’s tweaked to minimize engine revs, all helping this A-Spec model to achieve a Transport Canada rating of 12.2 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.0 combined, which is just a bit more than every other MDX trim that get rated at 12.2 city, 9.0 highway and 10.8 combined. Speaking of fuel economy, I just recently retested the MDX Sport Hybrid, which, due to an innovative two-motor hybrid-electric powertrain, is rated at 9.1 L/100km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 9.0 combined. I’ll make sure to review this top-line MDX soon, so please come back for the rest of this SUV’s story. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Cargo capacity is an MDX strength. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back to the conventionally powered MDX, I must admit to still enjoying my time behind the wheel. It’s not the fastest, best handling or most advanced crossover SUV in the luxury sector, but quick and agile enough, and offers up an excellent ride with superb comfort all-round. It’s the type of SUV you can drive all day and never tire of, and that’s just the kind of luxury I like living with day in and day out. On top of this, 2019 A-Spec trim brings a sporty new look and other refinements to the well-proven MDX package, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of these nicely outfitted models in better Canadian neighbourhoods this year.

Ask most Canadians to name an electric car and Toyota’s Prius will more often than not get the credit, but the true global EV leader is Nissan’s Leaf.  The Prius isn’t actually an electric vehicle,…

Nissan Canada drops two regular Leaf trims and prices 2019 Leaf Plus

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus arrives with an entry price of $43,998 plus 13-percent quicker acceleration and 50-percent more range. (Photo: Nissan)

Ask most Canadians to name an electric car and Toyota’s Prius will more often than not get the credit, but the true global EV leader is Nissan’s Leaf. 

The Prius isn’t actually an electric vehicle, but rather a hybrid that still relies on a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine to get it from point A to B, while using its battery and electric motor for very low-speed (less than 20 km/h), short-distance travel (parking lots) as well as supplemental power to reduce fuel consumption and therefore improve emissions. Toyota now produces a plug-in hybrid dubbed Prius Prime that allows longer EV-mode distances at higher speeds, but its consumer take-rate has been very modest, while the automaker has no full EV available in our market. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The upgraded Leaf Plus charges more for a different kind of performance, which should work well for EV fans. (Photo: Nissan)

The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, is 100-percent electric, relying solely on its battery and electric motor for propulsion, and therefore requiring regular refills from home and/or public charging stations, instead of the local gas station like the Prius. Where the Prius has long been the world’s best-selling hybrid, the Leaf is similarly dominant when it comes to electric vehicles, having delivered more than 390,000 units since it arrived on the market in 2010. 

Wanting to make sure it holds onto that leadership title, Canadians can now purchase the 2019 Leaf with its regular battery as well as with a more potent powertrain featuring stronger acceleration and greater range. The regular Leaf will continue to use a 40-kWh battery and 110-kW (147-horsepower) electric motor resulting in 243 kilometres of estimated driving distance per complete charge, and will also remain the model’s value leader at $40,698. The new Leaf Plus, however, will house a 62-kWh battery within its floorboards, connecting through to a 160 kW (214 hp) electric motor for an estimated 363 km of range, starting at $43,998. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The Leaf Plus, shown in top-line SL trim, features a reworked front fascia and other upgrades. (Photo: Nissan)

“With the addition of LEAF PLUS, the Nissan LEAF is now available with two battery options and a choice of four trim levels – each featuring the many advanced technologies offered under the banner of Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” said Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada Inc. 

To clarify, the 2019 Leaf is available in four trims as of April, including the just noted $40,698 Leaf SV, the $43,998 Leaf S Plus, the $46,598 Leaf SV Plus, and finally the $49,498 Leaf SL Plus, along with a $1,950 freight charge added across the line. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
Of course, special badging tells all you’re driving the more desirable “PLUS” model. (Photo: Nissan)

This means the regular Leaf S that was available as a 2019 model mid-way through last year and earlier this year for just $36,798 ($3,900 less than the new base model), and the regular Leaf SL that added features like leather upholstery (actually two-tone black and grey perforated leather and microfibre-like Bio Suede PET cloth), an Intelligent Around View Monitor, Driver Attention Alert, seven-speaker Bose premium audio, turn signal repeaters integrated within the side mirror caps, and more for just $42,698, will no longer be available for order in Canada (they’re still offered in the U.S.), although you may still be able to find them at your local dealer. 

An upcharge of $5,900 for more power and approximately 120 km (or about 50-percent) more range might seem like a steep ask for what is basically the same car in mid-range Leaf SV trim, but it’s important to note the non-powertrain/charging system differences between the regular base Leaf and Leaf Plus trims. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The Leaf Plus, shown in top-tier SL trim, features a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen as standard equipment. (Photo: Nissan)

For instance, buyers opting for the new Leaf S Plus receive a modified front fascia design integrating unique blue highlights, an “e+” logo plate on the underside of the charge port lid, and new rear badges depending on trim level, while additional standard upgrades include Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (I-FCW), Rear Door Alert (that reminds if something or someone has been left in the back seat when arriving at your destination), and a one-inch larger centre touchscreen measuring 8.0 inches diagonally (the base 5.0-inch display is no longer available). 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The new larger touchscreen includes standard Apple CarPlay (shown), Android Auto, navigation, and more. (Photo: Nissan)

It should also be noted that both regular Leaf SV and Leaf S Plus models now fill their infotainment systems with standard navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and more, but only SV trims offer voice recognition, NissanConnect EV (for remotely connecting via your smartphone), two more audio speakers for a total of six, and more. 

Also notable, the $3,300 less expensive Leaf SV adds 17-inch alloy wheels compared to 16-inch alloys with the Leaf S Plus, as well as fog lamps, an electromechanical parking brake (instead of a foot-operated one), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink universal remote, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar support, a cargo cover, and a host of advanced driver assistive systems such as Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection (which inherently includes the SV Plus model’s Intelligent Forward Collision Warning), High Beam Assist, Intelligent Cruise Control with Full Speed Range and Hold, ProPILOT Assist semi-autonomous self-driving, Steering Assist, Blind Spot Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and more. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
Despite the larger battery, the new Leaf Plus doesn’t give up any interior space for passengers or cargo. (Photo: Nissan)

The list of features just noted is also standard with the new Leaf SV Plus, while a shortlist of luxury items covered earlier in this story, when mentioning the now outgoing Leaf SL, also gets pulled up to new Leaf SL Plus trim, albeit with a sizeable price difference of $6,800 due to its performance and range improvements. 

This is a good time to explain that many EV owners look at range performance in a similar light to how traditional car buyers might be willing to pay more for quicker straight-line acceleration and better at-the-limit handling. Either way, the new Leaf Plus is “ensuring that there’s a Nissan LEAF to meet the driving needs of a wider range of customers,” stated a press release. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
This convenient electromechanical parking brake is now standard on the base Leaf SV and optional with the new Leaf Plus S. (Photo: Nissan)

With respect to those more traditional performance conventions, despite hitting the scales at 1,737 kilos (3,831 lbs) instead of 1,580 kg (3,483 lbs), the new Leaf Plus is 13 percent quicker off the line than the regular Leaf, which Nissan says will allow its drivers to “confidently pass slower-moving vehicles, exit corners faster and more seamlessly, and merge easily with fast-moving traffic.” What’s more, the Leaf Plus’ top speed is 10 percent higher, which Nissan says is beneficial “for comfortable cruising.”

Many will find its faster charging capability an even better reason to ante up for the Leaf Plus. It comes with a new standard 100kW-capacity quick charging system that allows more efficient charging of up to 80-percent in only 45 minutes (according to the Nissan Canada’s retail website). If you can only find a 75-kW DC quick charger it will take just 5 minutes longer (50 minutes) to reach that 80-percent total, or an hour with a 50-kW DC quick charger (the regular Leaf needs about 40 minutes for an 80-percent charge with the same 50-kW DC quick charger, but can’t hook up to either 75-kW or 100-kW DC faster chargers). 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The new Leaf Plus comes standard with a 100kW-capacity quick charging system that dramatically reduced the time it takes to recharge. (Photo: Nissan)

Lastly, a regular 240-volt home charging station will completely fill the new Leaf Plus’ battery after approximately 11.5 hours, which is only 3.5 hours more than the regular Leaf requires, and take note the Leaf Plus can also receive an extra 35 km of range after about 60 minutes of being plugged into this less potent charging station. 

Utilizing resources in mind, both Nissan EVs are incredibly efficient, with their energy equivalent ratings measuring 1.9 Le/100km in the city and 2.4 on the highway for the regular Leaf, or 2.1 Le/100km city and 2.5 highway for the Leaf Plus. Of course, litres of gasoline never enter the picture, but the Le/100km rating can be used as a guide to help those new to electric vehicles understand how their energy consumption more directly compares with an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle, and how the energy use of EVs compare to each other.

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
Whether or not the new Leaf Plus will keep Nissan ahead of the barrage of new and upcoming EVs is anyone’s guess, but variety certainly can’t hurt in this burgeoning market. (Photo: Nissan)

Also important, the more capable Leaf Plus battery doesn’t impact interior passenger or cargo volume one iota, with front and rear seating still generous in all dimensions, and the rear cargo area capable of swallowing up a sizeable 668 litres (23.6 cubic feet) with its 60/40-split rear seatbacks upright, and 849 litres (30.0 cubic feet) when they’re folded flat. 

If saving a few thousand is more important to you and your budget than increasing performance and range, or alternatively purchasing a more luxurious Leaf SL for considerably less money, make sure to contact your local Nissan dealer as they may have regular 2019 Leaf S and SL stock still available. Then again, if the charging benefits, extended range and added performance of the new Leaf Plus appeal more, these new models are now starting to arrive at said retailers across Canada. 

To learn more about all 2019 Nissan Leaf and Leaf Plus trims, packages and standalone options, including pricing on each, plus find out about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, make sure to check out CarCostCanada.

The QX50 always provided strong performance and a nicely finished interior, at least comparative to its peers in its earlier years, but its outward design never stirred my senses. Not so for the completely…

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory Road Test Review

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The all-new 2019 Infiniti QX50 is one great looking compact luxury SUV, especially in near top-tier Sensory trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The QX50 always provided strong performance and a nicely finished interior, at least comparative to its peers in its earlier years, but its outward design never stirred my senses. Not so for the completely redesigned 2019 QX50, however, as styling is now its number one asset, critical for making a good first impression. 

It seems like I’m not alone in my thinking, because year-over-year Canadian QX50 sales growth is already up 59 percent as of December 31, and it only arrived partway through 2018, while during the first two months of 2019 the new Infiniti found 113.7-percent more buyers than the previous generation lured in for January and February last year. 

Most should find this ground-up second-generation redesign pleasant to the eyes, thanks to a particularly eye-catching version of Infiniti’s double-arch grille situated under a long, elegantly shaped hood, and bookended by sharp, animal-like LED headlamps. It all hovers over a clean and sporty lower fascia that nicely ties the frontal design together for an overall design that should cause many more would-be buyers to pay attention. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
All of Infiniti’s now trademark design details are rolled up into one stylish crossover. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Likewise, there’s plenty of muscular sculpting to the side panels, these passing by a handsome chromed engine vent garnish on each upper front fender, plenty of additional chrome trim around the side windows, the rearmost of which curves with the brand’s distinctive reverse kink, while at back it’s equally attractive, particularly at the LED taillights, while, depending on trim, a variety of 19- to 20-inch alloys finish off the look. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Front or back? Which side looks best to you? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As visually appealing as the new QX50 is, Canadian SUV buyers need a generous cargo hold of practicality to keep their attention, not to mention premium levels of interior build quality, the latest electronic interfaces, and, of course, performance that matches or exceeds the best in this class. To that end, the new QX50 mostly delivers. 

As noted a moment ago, performance made the previous QX50 stand out, particularly its rear-wheel drive-biased handling, although the compact luxury crossover’s standard 3.7-litre V6, advanced seven-speed automatic, and Intelligent all-wheel drive were nothing to sneeze at either. And just how the new model’s exterior styling changes everything about the way the new QX50 looks, it is now powered by a comparatively tiny 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to send torque to all four wheels, and rolls on a new front-wheel drive-based chassis, or in other words the new SUV is completely different than the outgoing model, down to its very core. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Infiniti has found an attractive and distinctive grille design, while many of its contemporaries are struggling to stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The move from rear-wheel to front-wheel drive platform architectures is nothing new in this class due to interior packaging improvements with the latter, especially when it comes to rear seating and cargo capacity, but how does it impact the way the QX50 drives? On the positive, the new QX50 now provides a more comfortable ride. It floats smoothly over rough patches of pavement, bridge expansions, and other types of road irregularities, while it also benefits from a quieter cabin, partially due to using active engine mounts ahead of the seemingly better insulated firewall and an acoustic windshield plus acoustic side glass. The result is a more refined experience overall, which should bode well for meeting the wants and needs of most premium buyers, but then again those who previously chose the QX50 for its road-holding prowess may be a tad disappointed. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Full LED headlights are standard, but the Sensory gets even nicer signature LEDs with cornering capability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Let’s face it. The old 2008–2017 QX50 (and prior EX35) was based on the old G35/G37 (Q50) sport sedan, and it felt like it, whereas the latest version rides on the Nissan Altima and Murano’s front-wheel drive-biased platform architecture, which while sporting a fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension design, plus standard Active Trace Control which autonomously increases brake pressure mid-corner to maintain a given lane, doesn’t provide enough help to turn this comfortable family hauler into a canyon carver. 

In a nutshell the new QX50 is a bit less planted to the road at highway speeds, especially when pushing hard through corners with broken pavement, and doesn’t achieve the same level of confidence on the open freeway either. This is the trade-off when choosing a front-biased layout, and while Infiniti has gone far to exorcise as many understeering demons from within, there was no way they could’ve make it feel as hooked up as the outgoing version. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50 Sensory’s styling details really catch the eye. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This said the new variable compression turbo engine is brilliant. It provides more immediate power from its small displacement than the majority of rivals’ base engines, despite measuring an identical 2.0 litres. How much more? Try 268 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque delivered to all four wheels, resulting in quite a bit more output than its entry-level compact luxury SUV market segment’s peers. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These gorgeous deep-tinted 20-inch alloys come standard on Sensory and Autograph trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The top seller is now Mercedes-Benz’ GLC, which only provides 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, while the second-place Audi Q5 is good for just 248 hp and 273 lb-ft (which are identical numbers to the Porsche Macan that uses the same engine). Likewise, the third-place BMW X3 is capable of 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the QX50’s mill is considerably more potent than Lexus’ latest base NX that can only achieve 238 hp and 258 lb-ft, while Cadillac’s fresh new XT4 is rated at a comparatively wimpy 237 hp and 258 lb-ft. All said the new QX50 isn’t the quickest in the segment, with the recently revitalized Acura RDX capable of 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, and Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio leading the segment’s base engine output with 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque (both are more fun to drive, too). Still, the Infiniti CUV’s output is more than respectable. 

In fact, WardsAuto just included the VC-Turbo as on of this year’s 10 Best Engines. The new engine design took Infiniti’s engineering department a full four years to develop, and features special connecting rods between its pistons and crankshaft that vary the compression of the fuel and air mixture, with less increasing power output when called upon, and more improving fuel-efficiency under lighter loads such as when cruising and coasting. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These front fender vents add a touch of class to an already well executed design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I know all this tech talk can be a bit dry, but I’m more concerned that I lost your interest earlier in this review when mentioning that Infiniti swapped out its seven-speed auto for a CVT, being that CVT is usual a three-letter acronym that correctly describes an economical and smooth yet dull and boring technology. Fortunately, however, along with tackling the problem of ever-increasing carbon tax-induced gasoline prices the new transmission is actually a strong performer. It utilizes a completely new shift-by-wire design that features manual shift mode, steering wheel paddles, Downshift Rev Matching (that blips the throttle to match a given gear ratio with engine revs), plus dual transmission fluid coolers, resulting in a fairly conventional feeling transmission. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Of course, LED taillights are standard across the line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The CVT responds better than expected when flicking through its paddles too, and is plenty of fun to drive with Sport mode engaged. The VC-Turbo’s power comes on quickly, but this is where the faux stepped-gear CVT doesn’t quite measure up to its multi-speed automatic rivals, as it allows engine revs to remain too high for too long, thus interfering with performance, adding to noise, vibration and harshness levels, and ironically impinging on fuel-efficiency. 

If driven like most of us do when behind the wheel of a compact crossover SUV, however, it’s a wonderfully smooth and refined transmission that combines a high level of day-in and day-out performance with claimed fuel economy that’s 30 percent better than the outgoing model, now rated at 10.0 L/100km city, 7.8 highway and 9.0 combined, compared to 13.7 city, 9.8 highway and 11.9 combined. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Climb into one of the nicer interiors in the compact luxury crossover SUV class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

If you were to ask me for one key complaint, it’s Infiniti’s Eco Pedal that pushes rearward on the gas pedal (and therefore your right foot) in order to try and influence you not to press too hard. I find it terribly annoying, and therefore never turn Eco mode on when using an Infiniti vehicle, so therefore I end up losing out on all the other benefits that the brand’s Eco mode provides, like the best possible fuel economy just noted. I’m guessing that I’m not alone, so Infiniti would do well to allow its owners to turn off the Eco Pedal when Eco mode is engaged. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Quality materials set the QX50 Sensory’s cabin apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those who don’t mind its interference can choose that Eco mode, as well as all of the QX50’s other drive settings from a “D-MODE” inscribed, metal-adorned rocker switch atop the lower console, just behind a totally new electronic shift lever design. Smaller and shorter, although well crafted from satin-silver aluminum and contrast-stitched leather, the new shifter provides a more normal gear selection process than some others in this class, particularly Acura and Lincoln that are obsessed with buttons. The only button Infiniti uses is a small black one with a “P” label for selecting park. 

Just above the shift lever on a separate lower console section is an elegantly stylish knurled metal infotainment controller surrounded by high-quality buttons, while a volume knob on the centre stack provides nearly the same level of luxury detailing. There’s no shortage of aluminized metal trim throughout the rest of the cabin either, albeit tastefully applied so it’s not overbearing, with personal favourites being the edges of each power window switch and the gorgeous geometrically drilled Bose speaker grilles. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Where are the fully programmable digital gauges? So far, only traditional analog dials and a large TFT MID are available. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This brings up the quality and fitment of all buttons, knobs and switches, which are well damped, tightly fitted, and made from dense composites when not covered in metal, allowing the QX50 to meet the level of refinement delivered by the majority of its rivals, and exceed some. 

Additional niceties include beautiful open-pore natural maple hardwood inlays (a Sensory trim exclusive) and lush black ultrasuede (also exclusive to the Sensory), both used on the instrument panel, centre stack, lower console, front seat bolsters and door uppers front to back, while the two front and second set of roof pillars, plus the roofliner itself, were covered in the charcoal ultrasuede alone. Lastly, classy contrast-stitched leather was also generously applied throughout the interior, the QX50 Sensory’s cabin truly a cut above. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The dual-display infotainment system is a step in the right direction, with high quality screens and good functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, the QX50 provides high-grade premium surfaces, along with nice metal and wood accents above the waist, even coating its glove box lid with soft-touch paint, but like many in this class Infiniti stops pampering at this mid-point, instead applying hard plastics to the lower dash, sides of the centre console, and lower door panels. It’s a cost cutting measure for sure, but some will say the harder composite provides durability, weight savings and even recyclability, yet this is the luxury class, so therefore I think Infiniti should be doing more to measure up to leaders like the aforementioned BMW X3, which applies soft-touch to more surfaces. Still, the QX50 interior is much nicer than some other peers, and should impress most who step inside. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
A best of both world’s scenario, the Sensory’s Around View parking monitor provides multiple views. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, it’s best in near top-line $56,490 Sensory trim, or when equipped with the more bespoke $57,990 Autograph model’s upgrades. These two trims are mostly the same when it comes to features, but differ in the application of some interior colours and materials. For instance, both use luxury-grade semi-aniline leather upholstery, those sumptuous ultrasuede accents just noted, and real hardwood inlays, but the Sensory’s colour theme is charcoal black and the Autograph is a two-tone blue and white motif, while its leather seats get a rich diamond-quilted pattern (in white) and its side bolsters are highlighted with blue piping. It’s a look you’ll adore, and therefore need to acquire, or not, and fortunately Infiniti makes it optional so it’s only a dealmaker, not a deal-breaker. 

Other features found with both trims include two-way front passenger powered lumbar support, three-way cooled front seats, advanced climate control (with auto-recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier and a Grape Polyphenol Filter), extended interior ambient lighting, rear side window sunshades, a gesture-activated hands-free liftgate, and metal cargo area trim, while exterior upgrades include a sweet looking set of 20-inch dark tinted alloys on 255/45 all-season run-flat tires, plus really nice looking cube design LED high/low beam headlamps with adaptive cornering capability. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The QX50’s new electronic shifter is a really upscale bit of advanced kit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The two top-line models utilize many of the features found in lesser trims too, such as the $52,990 ProActive model’s auto high beams, dynamic cruise control (with full speed range and hold), distance control assist, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, blindspot intervention, rear cross-traffic warning, backup collision intervention, steering assist, the ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous self-driving system (which gets very close to full autonomy while traveling on the highway), Infiniti’s exclusive steer-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering system (a first for an Infiniti SUV) that’s very reactive to steering input (other trims use vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering), a head-up display unit, and a superb sounding 16-speaker Bose Premium Series audio system. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Check the previous photo to see this infotainment controller’s knurled metal sides. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, a bevy of items get pulled up from $48,990 Essential trim, such as rain-sensing windshield wipers, front/rear parking sonar, reverse-tilt side mirrors, Infiniti’s excellent 360-degree Around View parking camera with moving object detection, very accurate navigation routing with a superbly detailed mapping system, three-zone auto climate control with controls for the rear passengers (upgraded from the two-zone automatic HVAC system found in lesser trims), a power tilt and telescoping steering column, and memory for that steering wheel column, plus the front seats and side mirrors. 

Lastly, $44,490 base Luxe trim provides LED fog lights, LED turn signal repeaters integrated within the side mirrors, LED tail lamps (the Luxe is also standard with LED low/high beam headlamps), chromed outer door handles, chromed tailpipe finishers, a remote engine starter, proximity keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, the previously noted drive mode selector featuring standard, eco, sport, and personal settings, a panoramic glass sunroof with a powered sunshade, a power liftgate (without hands-free), predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blindspot warning, plus plenty more. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
These comfortable seats provide plenty of support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of note, all 2019 QX50 pricing for trims, packages, and standalone options were sourced from CarCostCanada, which also provides money-saving manufacturer rebate info and otherwise difficult to find dealer invoice pricing that could help save you thousands. 

For many, the new QX50’s advanced electronic interfaces will be most important, and I must admit they certainly help modernize the look of the interior and the SUV’s overall functionality. First and foremost is the new InTouch twin-display infotainment setup on the centre stack, boasting a bright, clear and colourful high-resolution 8.0-inch monitor on the upper position, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen underneath, plus InTouch safety, security and convenience services, etcetera. I found this system mostly easy to use, with the top display, which provides navigation info, various views from the backup/surround camera system and more, controlled by the beautifully made rotating dial on the lower console mentioned earlier, and the lower one by tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Rich semi-aniline leather and soft ultrasuede can be found all over the Sensory model’s cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for the primary gauge package ahead of the driver, I was somewhat dismayed that Infiniti didn’t take this opportunity to introduce a fully digital cluster, as this is now expected in top-tier trims (VW is even doing so with its latest Tiguan), but the mostly analogue dials the automaker provided worked well enough, and the large colour multi-information display certainly wasn’t short on functionality, all of which were easily controlled by a nicely organized set of steering wheel switches. 

Looking upward, a new overhead console includes the usual reading lights, buttons for the sunroof, plus a wholly redesigned sunglasses holder that, surprise, surprise comes without an intrusive nosepiece so that all of my sunglasses fit inside without issue. Just why previous versions were made with a nosepiece that was too big to hold regular glasses in place is beyond my scope of understanding, but fortunately Infiniti has remedied this problem once and for all. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This big panoramic sunroof is standard across the QX50 line. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The sunglasses holder isn’t the only improvement made to passenger and cargo roominess, with rear passengers now benefiting from significantly more legroom and headspace. Infiniti actually claims that the QX50’s rear seating area is larger than both Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3, while rear passengers can now slide their seats forward and rearward in order to increase legroom or alternatively add to available cargo space. 

Unsurprisingly the rear outboard positions were very comfortable, while I had about eight inches of space for my knees when the driver’s seat was preset for my five-foot-eight long-legged, short-torso, medium-build body. Additionally, there was plenty of room for my winter boots, albeit not much for tucking them under the driver’s seat. Speaking of narrow spaces, the compact QX50’s compromised width was made evident by the lack of inches to the door panel, but the outer armrest was comfortable and my shoulder never felt hemmed in. Adults in back might find the flip-down centre armrest on the low side, but it’s perfect for children, and it includes a slot for storing your smartphone plus a pair of cupholders. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
Rear seat roominess and comfort is excellent, but where are the heated rear onboard seats? (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The previously noted rear climate controls are about as minimalist as such items go, only combining a digital watch-sized black and white LCD display with single red and blue buttons for adjusting the temperature. Infiniti adds a USB device charger and 12-volt socket too, but oddly rear seat warmers aren’t even on the QX50 menu. 

On the positive, cargo capacity has generously increased by 368 litres (13.0 cubic feet) to 895 (31.6 cu ft) behind the standard 60/40-split rear seats, but remember you can slide them forward for another 153 litres (5.5 cu ft), increasing total capacity behind the rear seatbacks to 1,048 litres (37.0 cu ft). A helpful lever on each sidewall folds the respective rear seat flat, opening up a maximum of 1,822 litres (64.3 cu ft) when both sides are lowered. The weakness to the QX50’s 60/40-configured seatback design becomes apparent when wanting to stow longer items such as skis down the middle when family or friends are coming along for the ride, because there’s no centre pass-through or best-possible 40/20/40-division for optimizing passengers and cargo flexibility. If a higher level of real-life practicality matters to you, the Europeans tend to do a better job. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
This handy lever drops the right-side rear seatback down. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As is now expected in this class, the standard powered liftgate is programmable for height, a very important feature if your parking garage is lower than average, and even more so if pipes hang down further (been there done that). This said I kept bumping my forehead into the open hatch until finding time to reprogram it, not a fault of Infiniti, but something new owners may want to watch out for. All should be happy with the cargo area’s finishings, mind you, thanks to attractive aluminum sill guards and carpeting most everywhere, while the cargo floor can be removed to store smaller items in two shallow stowage bins, the most forward one also housing the Bose amplifier and subwoofer. 

2019 Infiniti QX50 Sensory
The cargo compartment is nicely finished, but the 60/40-split rear seatbacks don’t measure up to others that offer a centre pass-through or an even more convenient 40/20/40 configuration. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

After a week with Infiniti’s new QX50 I’d say the pros more than outweigh the cons, but you’ll need to decide this for yourself when testing. Its styling should be universally positive, and most will probably praise its upgraded interior and much improved electronics too, while its host of advanced driver assistance systems will no doubt be lauded as well. I found it roomy and comfortable, plus its driving position is excellent, important for extracting all of its straight-line performance and maximizing support when pushing it through the corners, but this new QX50 is built more for comfort than speed when compared to the outgoing one, which will probably be just fine for the majority of its buyers. 

I won’t go out on a limb to say it’s best in class, and honestly would truly be hard pressed to claim this about any rivals either, but you really should spend some quality time with this new model before purchasing anything else. In other words, the new QX50 is worthy of your close attention, because it just might fit your wants and needs ideally, and save you a few thousand in the process.

In classic Honda fashion, the update from third-generation 2016-2018 Pilot 1.0 to 2019 Pilot 2.0 is ultimately subtle, but somehow the changes made have resulted in a wholly better looking crossover SUV. …

2019 Honda Pilot Touring Road Test Review

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda has toughened up the look of the 2019 Pilot, and we like what we see. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In classic Honda fashion, the update from third-generation 2016-2018 Pilot 1.0 to 2019 Pilot 2.0 is ultimately subtle, but somehow the changes made have resulted in a wholly better looking crossover SUV. 

The new Pilot’s mid-cycle makeover adds a more assertive looking truck-like grille above a stronger front bumper and fascia design, which tie in better to other models throughout Honda’s lineup. The new look is further improved by a wonderfully complex set of full LED headlamps in top-line Touring trim, sporting Honda’s signature vertical elements for a whole new level of sophistication when compared to lesser trims. 

Incidentally, trims below Touring get standard low-beam-only LED headlights that feature a less distinctive projector-style design, while an attractive set of updated LED tail lamps are the same with all trims, these positioned above a new rear bumper. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot is long and accommodating, seating three row of 7 or 8, plus loads of cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, silver skid plates below both front and rear bumpers toughen up the look of most trims, while matte and glossy black versions of the same garnishes adorn base and Canadian-exclusive Black Edition versions respectively, while Honda adds a little bit of extra exterior chrome to Touring trim, including bright metal door handles, and new 20-inch machine-finished alloys with black painted pockets that result in a more upscale look from front to back. All of these small details have really added up to a handsome mid-size crossover SUV, and while it remains a large three-row family hauler that can actually fit real adults in its rearmost seats, the Pilot somehow appears light and lithe, as if it’s actually fun to drive. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda has tweaked rear end styling as well, but more subtly. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Rather than just refreshing the styling and leaving at that, Honda went further by improving the auto start-stop system in top-tier Touring and Black Edition trims, so that it shuts off and restarts the engine quicker and with less fanfare, a fix that should cause more owners to leave it engaged and therefore do a better job of minimizing fuel consumption and emissions. I’m a big fan of that, and never had a problem with this feature throughout my test week. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The vertical LED elements in the top-line Touring model’s headlamps are really eye-catching. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Likewise, my top-line Pilot Touring tester’s updated nine-speed automatic transmission performed flawlessly, delivering what seemed to be smoother more effortless shifts when tooling around town or cruising along the highway, and feeling more precise when flicking through the gears on the highway. This said I never had a problem with the outgoing nine-speed when testing it in a 2017 model, but some have complained about refinement and therefore Honda made improvements that should appease such disgruntled owners. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Big 20-inch machine-finished alloys add a sporty touch to the otherwise elegantly shaped SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Base LX, plus mid-range EX and EX-L Navi owners would have had no such issues due to their Pilots incorporating Honda’s time-tested six-speed autobox, while the one-size-fits-all 24-valve, SOHC 3.5-litre V6 is about as seasoned as modern-day engines get, remaining quite potent for the class at 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and kitted out with direct-injection, i-VTEC, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that shuts off a bank of cylinders under light loads to improve fuel economy, plus an Active Control Engine Mount (ACM) system to help reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels, which it seems to do effectively. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Honda updated these LED taillights as part of the 2019 redesign. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Thanks in part to standard Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD, supported by Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management System, the latest Pilot felt as sporty off the line as its new look lets on, while it carried that newfound nimbleness through fast-paced corners with an easy, composed nonchalance that defied its near full-size proportions, combining this agile handling with a thoroughly comfortable, compliant ride that only became unsettled when pushed beyond what’s reasonable on a particularly poorly paved section of curving roadway. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Comfort is king in the driver’s seat of the 2019 Pilot Touring. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Driven at calmer speeds my Pilot Touring tester was not only ideally stable and thoroughly comfortable, but came very close to achieving its claimed Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 12.4 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 11.0 combined, with my weeklong average being 11.7 L/100km of mostly city driving on flat roadways. Of note, six-speed models are estimated to achieve 13.0 city, 9.3 highway and 11.3 combined. Factoring in new carbon tax-infused pump prices, these numbers are quite good for such a large utility. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot Touring provides a modern, well-made cockpit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I didn’t have opportunity to tow a trailer during my test week, but take note there’s no difference in ability with either transmission, the Pilot’s rating set to 1,588 kilograms (3,500 lbs) in base form or 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) when fitted with its available towing package. 

Hauling in mind, the Pilot provides plenty of cargo space for all your load carrying needs, with 524 litres (18.5 cubic feet) behind the third row, or 510 litres (18.0 cubic feet) with the Touring and Black Edition; 1,583 litres (55.9 cubic feet) when that 60/40-split third row is folded flat; plus a range from 3,072 to 3,092 litres (108.5 to 109.2 cubic feet) when both rear rows lowered, but take note that models with second-row captain’s chairs are missing a centre section that may need to be gapped when trying to fill it fully with gear. Some others with this problem attach a carpeted extension to the backside of one seatback that can be flipped over the open section of load floor when filling with cargo, but no such innovation was shown here. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot’s mostly digital dash is much more advanced than most rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

These sliding and reclining captain’s chairs, which straddle a slightly raised floor-mounted console with cupholders and shallow bin, don’t come standard in Touring trim, but instead replace a regular bench seat that’s good enough for three adults abreast. The model tested, therefore, only provided for seven occupants, whereas the base version is one of the more capable family haulers thanks to eight available seatbelts. I’ve tried both, and the captain’s chairs are certainly more comfortable, thanks in part to fold-down armrests and seat heaters. I also appreciated the much more open and visually airy interior provided by the big panoramic sunroof included with Touring and Black Edition upgrades—all other trims but the base model include a regular powered moonroof up front. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot gets a nicely sorted centre stack, wth one of the best infotainment systems in the market. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Features in mind, top-tier $52,690 Touring trim comes well stocked, with items not yet mentioned including a more advanced set of LED high beam-infused headlamps, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, blue ambient lighting inside, front window acoustic glass to subdue NVH levels, rain-sensing wipers, an electronic gear selector, ventilated front seats, a premium 600-watt audio system with 11 speakers including a subwoofer plus 5.1 Surround Sound, wireless device charging, Honda’s ultra-useful new CabinTalk in-car PA system (it really works well), HondaLink Subscription Services, a Wi-Fi hotspot, the “How much Farther?” app, a rear entertainment system, HDMI input jack, a 115-volt rear power outlet, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
This nice big reverse camera, with standard multiple views, makes backing up much safer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, features pulled up from EX-L Navi trim to the Touring model including an acoustic windshield, memory-linked side mirrors with reverse tilt, a heatable steering wheel rim, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, navigation, satellite and HD radio, front and rear parking sensors, the heated outboard second-row seats noted earlier, one-touch third-row access buttons that make getting in and out of the rearmost seating area ultra-easy, second-row sunshades, a powered tailgate and more, while items pulled up from EX trim include LED fog lights, LED turn signals within the side mirrors, roof rails, illuminated vanity mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory, and the just noted power moonroof. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
And now for something completely different… The Pilot Touring’s digital gear selector takes some time to get used to. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Lastly, I should also mention a number of standard $41,290 Pilot LX features that are also part of the Touring trim package, such as a remote engine starter, keyless proximity access, pushbutton ignition, a windshield wiper de-icer, an overhead console-mounted conversation mirror that doubles as a sunglasses holder, tri-zone automatic climate control, three-way heatable front seats, the HondaLink Assist Automatic Emergency Response System, and the list goes on (all prices are sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also get all the latest rebate info as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands). 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Nice big and comfortable front seats make day in and day out especially enjoyable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Particularly notable, all Pilot trims feature a large 7.0-inch TFT multi-information display (MID) within a mostly digital gauge cluster, the former featuring bright and clear high-resolution colour graphics, plus easy operation via steering wheel-mounted controls, while the 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen atop the centre stack is even more fully featured, starting with a wonderfully colourful array of tile-like graphics that appear to be inspired by the iPhone and iPad. The inclusion of standard Apple CarPlay is therefore fitting, although take note that Android Auto is also standard, plus Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with streaming audio, a superb multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and more. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Big dual sunroofs provide plenty of overhead light. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Part of that ongoing features list includes a whole host of standard Honda Sensing advanced driver assistance systems such as automatic high beams, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Road Departure Mitigation, which means that together with the Touring model’s cornering-capable full LED headlights the 2019 Pilot now achieves a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS (last year’s versions didn’t achieve the “Plus” or “+” rating), while it also received a five star safety rating from the NHTSA. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
No issues getting comfortable in these optional second-row captain’s chairs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While most everything I’ve said thus far has been positive, I was somewhat surprised that the Pilot only provides soft touch synthetic surfacing across its dash top, as well as a piece on the instrument panel just ahead of its front passenger that wraps overtop the centre display, and the front door uppers, plus of course the usual door inserts and armrests. This means the rear door uppers were hard plastic, which is strangely low-rent for this class, while some rivals even go so far to provide the pliable synthetic treatment to the lower dash including the glove box lid, while also wrapping the A pillars in fabric to improve refinement further. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
Let’s get this show on the road… literally! (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

On the positive, the driver’s seat was very comfortable, but this said its two-way powered lumbar support didn’t meet up with the small of my back, so I didn’t use it the way I would if it also adjusted for height. Speaking of seats, I should say more about the third row that actually was quite comfortable, with plenty of legroom for a five-foot-eight adult (with long legs and a shorter torso), about three to four inches available for the knees when the second row was pushed back to its rearmost position, and loads of headroom. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The third row is surprisingly roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My last and final complaint won’t be an issue for many Pilot owners, but I found it odd that Honda expended so much energy (and money) creating the Touring (and Black Edition) model’s electronic gear selector yet didn’t replace the foot-operated parking brake with an electromechanical unit. It’s not like lifting the foot and pressing down on a parking brake is a big negative, but it certainly ties what is otherwise a modern and advanced vehicle to the past. I’m guessing Honda will replace it for the next generation Pilot, so I, like some others, will look forward to this upgrade. 

2019 Honda Pilot Touring
The Pilot is one of the most cargo friendly SUVs in its mid-size class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

And yes this is where I need to say, if a foot-operated parking brake, two-way lumbar support, and a little more hard plastic than I’d like to see is all I can find to complain about after a weeklong test, Honda is doing pretty well with the new Pilot. All in all this is easily the best Pilot I’ve ever driven, and one of the more competitive crossover SUVs in its three-row mainstream volume class. I like its new styling, appreciate the amount of effort Honda’s engineers put into refining the new model’s drivetrain and suspension, and therefore enjoyed my time behind the wheel. It’s certainly an easy SUV to live with thanks to ample passenger and cargo space, while its fuel economy didn’t put me in the poorhouse. For these reasons and more the 2019 Pilot is easy to recommend.

An explanation for the uninitiated: “Polestar Engineered” is like Mercedes’ AMG or BMW’s M brands, but for Volvo.  Yes, once staid and conservative Volvo has not only become a lot more dynamic…

415 horsepower Polestar Engineered Volvo V60 and XC60 arriving in summer

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Volvo will add two new models to the T8 Polestar Engineered lineup for 2020, with this XC60 crossover SUV likely to be most popular. (Photo: Volvo)

An explanation for the uninitiated: “Polestar Engineered” is like Mercedes’ AMG or BMW’s M brands, but for Volvo. 

Yes, once staid and conservative Volvo has not only become a lot more dynamic in recent years, but also has a performance division. Polestar was born and bread in motorsport, just like its German counterparts, and having already provided an assortment of go-fast models in previous generation S60 and V60 models, is now doing the same with Volvo’s updated lineup. 

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
The 2019 S60 T8 Polestar Engineered sold out very quickly. (Photo: Volvo)

“At Volvo Car Canada, we are very excited about the addition of the new Polestar Engineered products in our portfolio,” said Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director, Volvo Car Canada Ltd. “Polestar always played a special role in the Volvo business in Canada, as in the last 2 years we achieved one of the highest levels of Polestar optimized product sales in the world. We plan to fully capitalize on this upcoming opportunity to strengthen both Volvo and Polestar brands in Canada.” 

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered
The Polestar Engineered models receive special glossy black grilles and unique lower front fascia designs. (Photo: Volvo)

Its most recent project was based on the 2019 Volvo S60, but the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered (as it was called) sold out before most of us even knew it existed. Now we have word from Volvo Canada’s Richmond Hill, Ontario office that new Polestar Engineered variants of the V60 sport wagon and XC60 compact crossover SUV are on the way for the 2020 model year, which should cause those in the know to get pretty excited. 

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Flared wheel arches, gold six-pot Brembo calipers, and unique 19-inch forged alloys come as part of the upgrade. (Photo: Volvo)

For starters, the new Polestar Engineered duo are once again based on Volvo’s turbocharged, supercharged and electrified T8 Twin-Engine Plug-in Hybrid AWD powertrain, which is sport-tuned to make 415 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque, 15 horsepower and 22 lb-ft of torque more than the regular T8 powertrain. 

Thanks to software updates, torque arrives earlier making throttle response quicker for more immediate response to input, while more of that twist targets the rear wheels for greater performance feel. To be clear, along with the boosted 2.0-litre four-cylinder, the T8 drivetrain combines an electric motor at each end of the vehicle for a total of two, while its battery pack is fed in both traditional hybrid form and via plug. 

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
A specially designed Öhlins strut bar helps to increase body rigidity. (Photo: Volvo)

Along with the handling benefits of a rear-wheel bias, performance will be further enhanced via an Öhlins-produced strut bar under the hood to aid body rigidity and allow for “more precise and responsive control,” says Volvo in a press release, while the Swedish-based suspension technology brand also designed adjustable dampers for the new models, featuring dual flow valves that respond “quickly to road imperfections.” 

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
A special leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and shift knob enhance the cockpit. (Photo: Volvo)

Additionally, traditional Polestar gold-coloured six-piston Brembo calipers add stopping power, while lightweight 19-inch forged alloy wheels, unique on all three Polestar Engineered S60, V60 and XC60 models, have been designed to provide freer cooling to those upgraded brakes. 

Polestar Engineered models don’t receive the same level of visual stimulation as their aforementioned German competitors, which may help them slide under the radar both figuratively and literally, with styling enhancements including a high-gloss black grille, extended wheel arches, black chrome tailpipes, plus “discreet” Polestar badges front and back. 

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
All Polestar Engineered models, this being the S60, sport unique gold-coloured seatbelts. (Photo: Volvo)

Following a similar theme inside, the two Polestar models will get a special leather-clad sport steering wheel and shifter, metal mesh aluminum inlays, plus signature gold seatbelts over unique charcoal-coloured Nappa leather and “open-grid” textile upholstered seats. 

The V60 T8 Polestar Engineered and XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered will arrive as early 2020 models this summer, so if interested make sure to let your local Volvo retailer know.

What would you do? Despite having long since closed off my 2018 model year reviews thanks to most manufacturers’ 2019 models having been available since fall of last year, I was staring at the keys…

2018 Porsche Macan Road Test Review

2018 Porsche Macan
Still a great looking compact luxury SUV, the 2018 Macan remains available brand spanking new from a Porsche dealer near you. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

What would you do? Despite having long since closed off my 2018 model year reviews thanks to most manufacturers’ 2019 models having been available since fall of last year, I was staring at the keys of a nicely outfitted 2018 Porsche Macan, and it only made sense to drive it. Then again, if I drove it I’d need to review it, and here we are. 

Fortunately for me the refreshed 2019 version is a late arrival, starting to show up at Porsche Canada dealers as I stare at another set of keys while hammering out this last-minute review. It’s also good the Stuttgart-based brand made sure that its retailers were well stocked with 2018 Macans, a fact that still makes this somewhat late arrival of a road test review relevant. I’m ok with that if you are, and besides, it’s not like the 2019 model is a radical departure from this 2018 version anyway. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The biggest styling difference between 2018 and 2019 Macans can be seen from this rear vantage point. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

That said, toward the end of this 2018 Macan review I’ll make sure to point out a few notable changes made to the new 2019, so you can decide what matters most when choosing your new Porsche SUV, because it’s probably safe to say you’ll be able to get a better deal on the outgoing model than the refreshed version, not to mention that it’s even more ok than usual to purchase a one model-year older vehicle when factoring in Porsche’s much better than average resale values. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The base 2018 Macan incorporates Porsche’s four-point LED signature lights and offers full LED headlamps optionally, but those LED headlights come standard with the new 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

First off, both 2018 and 2019 Macans qualify for sportiest compact luxury SUV status, and saying that I’m not forgetting about some pretty impressive iron currently available, or should I say aluminum when referring to some of its challengers, particularly the Jaguar F-Pace and Range Rover Velar (the Macan utilizes an aluminum hood and liftgate, plus elsewhere it uses an assortment of high-strength micro-alloyed steel, multi-phase steel, deep-drawn steel, and boron-alloyed steel). 

2018 Porsche Macan
The 2018 Macan gets a sporty front fascia with powerful fog lamps in standard trim, but take note these details are updated for 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Yet there’s also the new steel-bodied Alfa Romeo Stelvio (I drove the Ti Sport AWD and it was loads of fun, and on that note the 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio might even impress more than the Macan Turbo, but I’ll reserve judgment until after I’ve spent time behind the wheel), plus the recently renewed Audi SQ5, BMW’s X3 M, and Mercedes-AMG’s dynamic duo, the GLC 43 and 63 S, while I should also give honourable mentions to the new Acura RDX and Infiniti QX50 that do an admirable job of performing off the line and through the curves when sidled up beside the base Macan I’m reviewing here. 

2018 Porsche Macan
These 19-inch Turbo alloys aren’t standard, as the base model gets 18-inch rims and rubber. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Still, even this entry-level Macan delivers a higher level of performance feel than these very worthy rivals, the sound of rasping exhaust and the quick-shifting response of its seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission, which comes complete with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a far cry more engaging than most anything it’s put up against. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Say goodbye to these discrete rear lamps, which make way for a much larger single-unit taillight that spans the 2019 Macan’s entire backside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

This most basic of Macans receives a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine endowed with VarioCam technology and kinetic energy recovery that’s capable of 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, the former number about average for the class yet the latter more than most rivals provide. This results in a spirited 6.7-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, or 6.5 seconds when upgraded with the $1,500 Sport Chrono Package that incorporates a set of Sport and Off-Road buttons within the drive mode selector, plus launch control and a special performance display within the infotainment touchscreen. The Macan’s standard Active all-wheel drive made the most of the road surface below, feeling especially controlled when accelerating around corners. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Our 2018 Macan tester’s interior was impeccably finished in Garnet Red leather. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

My tester wasn’t upgraded with the Sport Chrono Package, however, nor did it have the $1,560 Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system that boasts an electronically variable active damping system with Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes, or the even more advanced $3,140 Air Suspension that also includes PASM, or a number of other performance upgrades, but nevertheless it drove brilliantly, with good jump off the line and superb stability when flung through corners, its standard aluminum double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear setup fully living up to the legendary crest on its hood and scripted name on its backside. 

2018 Porsche Macan
We dare you to find any cheap, hard plastic in this well made 2018 Macan interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

My test model did include $790 Lane Change Assist, however, one of many advanced driver assistance systems that are less about hands-on performance and point more toward a future of hands-off relaxation, albeit this one merely provides warning if the Macan wanders from a chosen lane, veers off the road, or if a vehicle comes up to its side when a turn signal is engaged. Another $790 buys Lane Keeping Assist, which momentarily takes control at speeds of 65 km/h and higher when such circumstances occur, while my tester also included $1,650 adaptive cruise control, a must for those who travel long distances. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Porsche’s classic three-dial gauge cluster fits a colour multi-info display into its rightmost position. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Other extras included a $2,230 Garnet Red leather package that also adds $1,960 14-way powered front seats with memory, although it should be noted those upgraded buckets (sans the rosy colour treatment) are included with the $7,250 Premium Package Plus (and can be further upgraded to 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats for just $430) that also adds proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming side mirrors, a panoramic glass sunroof, three-way ventilated front seats, three-way heatable rear outboard seats, terrific sounding Bose surround audio (or you can spend $5,370 more for the same package with the sensational 1,000-watt 16-speaker Burmester surround upgrade), Bi-Xenon headlights with the corner-bending Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) (alternatively you can spend $1,340 more for the same package with full LED headlamps), while some standalone items included $1,890 worth of 19-inch Macan Turbo wheels wrapped in 235/55R19 Pirelli tires, and lastly a set of black roof rails for $440, with all the additions totaling $14,250 for a final price of $68,350, not including one of the least expensive freight charges in the industry at $1,250. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Choosing navigation mode within the multi-info display allows easy-to-follow directions without much need to remove eyes from the road. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I haven’t even scratched the surface as to all you can get with the Macan if you’d like to load one up, nor for that matter all that comes standard for its base $54,100 entry price, this number making it the most affordable Porsche model in Canada, but suffice to say it’s nicely outfitted with 18-inch alloy rims, fog lights, LED tail lamps with adaptive brake lights, an electromechanical parking brake, one of the nicest heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheels in the industry (I love the thin spokes and superb switchgear), a colour multi-information display that shows a map when set to navigation plus plenty of other functions, rain-sensing wipers, a HomeLink garage door opener, power-adjustable and three-way heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control with active carbon and pollen filtration, a 7.2-inch Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment touchscreen featuring standard navigation and a backup camera with active guidelines (the latter even including an overhead graphic of the Macan showing how close you’re getting to objects when parking via standard front and rear parking sensors), HD and satellite radio, and much more. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The base Macan comes with an attractive clock atop the dash, which gets exchanged for a more functional tachometer version when opting for the Sport Chrono Package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The standard Macan’s liftgate powers open automatically too, with the spacious cargo area good for 500 litres (17.6 cubic feet) of gear behind its ultimately utile 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks. I love this configuration compared to the more common 60/40 divide, even if the asymmetrical arrangement includes a centre pass-through, because you can load more skis and/or other long cargo down the middle when four are aboard. Porsche also includes a sturdy standard cargo cover to hide valuables, which can be removed when laying the rear seats flat, a process that opens up 1,500 litres (53.0 cubic feet) for serious cargo hauling capability. I know I’m getting all practical while talking about a Porsche, but while it’s true the Macan is amongst the sportiest in its class, at least in its highest trims, it’s also a perfectly useful tool for hauling family and gear. 

2018 Porsche Macan
While the 2019 Macan grows its centre display to 10.9 inches, the outgoing 7.2-inch system is still fully up to task. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Then again, calling something a tool that’s finished so impeccably inside doesn’t seem right either. The dash top was covered in red contrast-stitched leather, while a high-grade soft-touch composite material surfaces the bottom half of the instrument panel plus everything below the dash including the glove box lid and lower console sides. Likewise, the door panels are a mix of leather and pliable synthetic from top to bottom, while interior accents are mostly detailed out in satin-silver metal. Such hard trim elements aside, you’ll have a hard time finding any insubstantial plastic in this luxury SUV. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The standard reverse camera gets dynamic guidelines and a really helpful graphic that highlights standard front and rear parking sensor info. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Of course, it’s wonderfully comfortable too. My tester’s 14-way seats provided plenty of power adjustments including four-way lumbar and extendable seat squabs. Porsche offers a lot of steering wheel reach and rake too, allowing me to get completely comfortable with the driver setup, which instilled a sense of controlled confidence even before setting out. 

Likewise rear seating is roomy and accommodating, with the outboard positions both fully supportive to provide the comfort needed on long trips, and carved out nicely for holding backside in place when the driver lets off a little steam. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The lower centre console is a sophisticated bit of button-infused kit, which moves into 2019 unchanged. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Speaking of going quickly, those wanting more straight-line speed can choose the Macan S that stuffs a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 under its hood good for 340 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, which results in zero to 100km/h in only 5.4 seconds, or 5.2 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, plus a new terminal velocity of 254 km/h compared to the base model’s already lofty 229 km/h. Alternatively the Macan GTS adds an extra 20 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque for a total of 360 and 369 respectively, plus sprint time of 5.2 seconds to 100km/h, or 5.0 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, and a higher top speed of 256 km/h. 

2018 Porsche Macan
These upgraded 14-way powered leather seats were wonderfully comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The Turbo (Turbo referring to a model name despite all Macan trims using turbocharged engines) is top of the Macan heap thanks to a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 that makes 400 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, plus standstill to 100km/h achieved in just 4.8 seconds, or 4.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package, and an even faster final speed of 266 km/h. If you still crave more, a Performance Edition, which makes the Sport Chrono Package standard, adds 40 horsepower and 36 lb-ft of torque for 440 of the former and 442 lb-ft of the latter, resulting in a 4.4-second sprint to 100km/h. 

2018 Porsche Macan
The panoramic sunroof is a nice option that makes the cabin feel more open and airy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s likely that fuel economy will matter to those in the more conservative trims, especially now that a new carbon tax is upping pump prices in four Canadian provinces, and others, such as BC, are reeling from an even bigger carbon tax bump, so be satisfied that a fuel-saving and emissions reducing auto start/stop system, with coasting capability, shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, helping the Macan to deliver a claimed rating of 11.6 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 10.5 combined. I certainly could live with this, especially considering how sporty it feels when pushed, and how responsive it is even when lightly applying the throttle. 

2018 Porsche Macan
There’s no shortage of passenger space in back, plus it’s finished beautifully and can be upgraded with as-tested heatable outboard seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

If you opt for a 2019 Macan fuel economy shouldn’t change noticeably, but take note the base powertrain is down some 4 ponies while the next-in-line Macan S gains 8 horsepower. Neither issue should sway Macan buyers either way, but Porsche promises an improved ride and with better handling, the latter hard to believe considering how deft the current model is, so I’ll reserve judgment until I get behind the wheel. 

2018 Porsche Macan
Despite being one of the sportiest performers in its class, the Macan’s 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks make it ultimately practical. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

A greater draw is the new SUV’s styling that’s highlighted by standard LED headlamps on a slightly revised front end design, plus a more dramatic statement made from behind thanks to a single three-dimensional LED taillight that spans the entire width of its backside. I think the 2019 Macan’s biggest draw is inside, thanks to a new standard 10.9-inch high-resolution centre touchscreen, which receives most of the same standard features as with the current version, but gets more up-to-date graphics on a larger display, a quicker operating speed, and Porsche Connect Plus, an app suite filled with functions, like a Wi-Fi hotspot, and services. 

Additionally, the 2019 Macan will offer a driver assist system that, via the adaptive cruise control, provides semi-autonomous driving for acceleration, braking and lane keeping assist at speeds of 60 km/h and below during congested traffic conditions. 

So the choice is yours. Work your best deal on an already discounted 2018 Macan now or choose the updated 2019 version as it starts arriving this month, knowing either option results in a premium crossover SUV that delivers a higher level of style, performance, refinement and luxury than the majority of challengers, while fulfilling all the practical concerns of a life well lived.

Mercedes’ CLA has been a strong seller in its subcompact luxury segment since being introduced to Canadians in 2013, dueling it out with Audi’s A3 for top spot while up against its own B-Class, Acura’s…

Mercedes improves 2020 CLA in every way

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The all-new 2020 CLA 250 Coupe shows an altogether more aggressive face, and plenty of other upgrades too. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Mercedes’ CLA has been a strong seller in its subcompact luxury segment since being introduced to Canadians in 2013, dueling it out with Audi’s A3 for top spot while up against its own B-Class, Acura’s ILX, BMW’s 2 Series, and others in a traditional car category that’s now under threat by an ever-burgeoning class of subcompact luxury SUVs. 

Still, while Mercedes-Benz has always offered a bevy of industry segment stalwarts, it’s also become the brand of micro-niches, having invented the four-door coupe body style, so it would be highly unusual behaviour for its leadership to say so long to its plentiful car lineup just because its utilities are currently experiencing more growth. After all, Mercedes has been around longer than most of its competitors, and therefore has endured all the trends the automotive industry has ever weathered. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With a longer hood and a greenhouse pushed further back in more classic GT style, the new CLA looks plenty potent. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Speaking of endurance, or lack therefore, Lexus said goodbye to the entry-level luxury car market by cancelling its CT, Acura hasn’t bothered to update its ILX in too long to remember, everyone’s still wondering if BMW will ever offer North Americans anything in this class with four doors, and all other premium brands haven’t even bothered showing up at all, but take note that Mercedes has been selling its brand new A-Class Hatchback for two months already, and plans to add the completely new A-Class Sedan that more specifically targets the most popular four-door version of the segment-leading A3 (and will become the most affordable Mercedes model) later this year, while the fall of 2019 will also see the arrival of a fully redesigned CLA-Class four-door coupe that promises a serious move up the desirability ladder, not that the current model is particularly lacking. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA should be an even better performer than its capable predecessor. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“With the first CLA we celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 vehicles and created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe in the compact class,” says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. 

Of those new CLA buyers in Canada, more than two thirds were new to Mercedes-Benz at the height of the model’s popularity, while also important, these new Mercedes owners averaged seven years younger than the brand’s typical customer at the time. Starting this fall, Mercedes will offer Canadian entry-level luxury consumers the choice of three recently redesigned or all-new subcompact car and SUV models (four if you split the A-Class into its hatchback and sedan body styles, and five if you count any potentially remaining stock of B-Class models still around when Mercedes wraps up its tenure at the close of this model year), the CLA being the sportiest, most expressive of the bunch, and many of these customers will likely move up to pricier more profitable models within the automaker’s lineup as their careers and personal finances progress. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Its striking new rear design adds visual width for a more planted look. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“The new CLA is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” added Seeger. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets a new benchmark for the entire class.” 

First shown at Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year, an apropos venue considering the ultra-advanced MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment interface that together with the integrated digital instrument cluster covers more than half the dash top, the new CLA looks a bit more grown up thanks to a more serious, almost frowning and forward-slanting M-B sport grille which, in its release, Mercedes claims is “reminiscent of a shark’s nose.” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA’s forward-sloping grille actually reminds us of classic BMWs, but sophisticated LED headlamps and an intricate latticework of F1-inspired front aero enhancements make it thoroughly modern. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

The new grille, found ahead of a longer hood topped with classic Mercedes “powerdomes”, is flanked by sharper, narrower and more complex LED Multibeam headlamps featuring 18 individually-controllable LEDs, all of which is underscored by additional complexity in the lower front fascia, while the updated model sees more muscular lower haunches and its greenhouse moved rearward for a more traditional GT profile. It continues this grand touring tradition with squarer more conventional trunk cutout as part of a revised rear end design featuring narrower, more horizontal LED taillights that sit higher up above the back bumper and therefore add more visual width to the design, its slipperier sheet metal registering a wind-cheating 0.23 coefficient of drag. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
There’s no shortage of LED elements in the new CLA’s front or rear lights. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’. It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear with a strong distinctive ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “In short, the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The outgoing CLA offered up one of the more intriguing interiors for its time, but this new interior immediately makes everything in the class look tired and dated. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Inside, it’s easy to see that Mercedes is targeting the younger market mentioned earlier, thanks to an edgy, sporty look including bright colours, plus those all-in-one digital displays that are large enough to cause screen envy amongst owners of the latest Apple, Microsoft and Samsung tablets. That fixed freestanding gauge cluster and central widescreen display unit eliminates the need for a cowl to shield instruments, with the rest of the completely dash panel including a sporty paddle-shifter-infused leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel ahead of the driver, a very narrow, near retro HVAC interface at centre, and an uncluttered floating-style lower console featuring Mercedes’ exclusive palm rest and new infotainment touchpad controller within easy reach. Only the circular dash-mounted air vents appear carryover, but of course their “avant-garde” turbine-like jet-engine design is entirely new and particularly striking. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new MBUX digital gauge cluster and infotainment combination is as advanced as anything in the industry. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

That MBUX infotainment system, which debuted in the new A-Class a year ago, after a similar system was first integrated into the E-Class, is more than just a very large pretty interface with impressive high-resolution graphics capable of Augmented Reality navigation and fully customizable displays, it also provides serious computing power with integrated software that can even “learn and respond to natural speech,” says Mercedes. 

This will be good news to anyone who has ever been frustrated by the majority of voice recognition systems past and current, which need very precise and often not intuitively thought out commands. Instead, Mercedes’ voice assistant reportedly communicates similarly to Amazon’s Alexa system, only needing an occupant to say “Hey Mercedes” in order to prompt any number of functions via less direct questions, plus it’s smart enough to recognize the person asking the question, rather than others in the car that might be having a separate conversation. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Beautiful high-resolution graphics come standard, but there’s a lot more that the MBUX system offers. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“The latest version of voice control for MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries,” said Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. “What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passenger’s conversations. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.” 

According to Mercedes, the updated voice assistant is now capable of recognizing and responding to more complicated questions than previous voice recognition systems offered, citing the example, “Find Italian restaurants with at least four stars that are open for lunch but exclude pizza shops.” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The fully customizable MBUX infotainment system includes Augmented Reality navigation, and we can’t wait to try it out. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

MBUX can also cover a broader range of topics than previous hands-free voice systems, with an example of a sports query being, “Hey Mercedes, How did the Toronto Raptors play?” The question, “How has the Apple share price performed compared to Microsoft?” may be more concerning to Mercedes drivers these days however, stock market information being one of the subjects MBUX is well versed in. Alternatively, maybe you need a simple calculation performed while driving. Mercedes’ example might be a bit rudimentary for anyone old enough to be behind the wheel of the CLA, but possibly a child in the back seat might ask, “What is the square roof of 9?” or for that matter “How big is Texas?” when it comes to a general knowledge question, but it’s fair to expect that plenty of health-conscious Mercedes owners may want to ask, “What is the fat content of avocados?” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
A new touchpad replaces the old rotating dial, modernizing the MBUX user interface experience. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Also designed make life with a new CLA easier and more accommodating, the upcoming model grows by 48 millimetres (1.9 inches) to 4,688 mm (184.5 in) from nose to tail, and rides on a 30-mm (1.2-in) longer wheelbase that now measures 2,729 mm (107.4 in), while it’s also 53 mm (2.1 in) wider at 1,830 mm (72.0 in), not including the side mirrors, and fractionally (2 mm/0.1 in) lower overall at 1,439 mm (56.6 in). 

According to yet more measurements provided, the result of its mostly increased exterior dimensions is a roomier and therefore more comfortable cabin, with front occupants getting 17 mm (0.6 in) more headroom, rear occupants benefiting from a hair’s-width (+3 mm/0.1 in) of additional head space, and width measurements experiencing the greatest improvement thanks to shoulder room up 9 and 22 mm (0.3 and 0.8 in) respectively front to back, and front to rear elbow room increasing by 35 and 44 mm (1.4 and 1.7 in) apiece. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
An elegantly minimalist HVAC interface is only upstaged by the CLA’s fabulous turbine-look air vents. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Despite the new CLA’s longer wheelbase and greater overall length, front legroom is actually down by a millimetre while rear legroom grows by the same nominal measurement, plus the trunk is also surprisingly smaller, albeit by just 10 litres (0.3 cubic feet) to a nevertheless still commodious 460 litres (16.2 cu ft), but this said the load compartment opening’s width expands by a considerable 262 mm (10.3 in), while the load floor is now 113 mm (4.4 in) wider and 24 mm (0.9 in) deeper. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA is larger in most dimensions, especially from side-to-side. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Under the opposing deck lid, the updated CLA will once again come standard with Mercedes’ 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, currently featuring 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque yet making the same twist and 13 horsepower of additional thrust in the new A-Class, which will more than likely be the go-to powerplant for this future CLA. It will come mated to the premium brand’s in-house developed and produced 7G-DCT twin-clutch automated transmission, while both front- and 4MATIC all-wheel drivetrains will be available. An AMG-powered version is expected after the base CLA 250 debuts, with performance that will likely match or exceed the current model’s 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The sporty seats certainly look comfortable and supportive, making us want to jump inside to test it as soon as possible. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

The new CLA’s increased width makes a difference to the chassis’ track too, widening it by a substantive 63-mm (2.5-in) up front and 55-mm (2.1-in) in back, while it also receives a reduced centre of gravity for what should be especially sporty driving dynamics. Suspension specifications include Mercedes’ Direct-Steer system and front hydromounts, plus a decoupled multi-link rear axle that minimizes noise, vibration and harshness levels, while larger stabilizer bars help reduce body lean when pushed hard. The standard tires should measure 225/45R18, with 225/40R19s being optional. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Is this the Mercedes-Benz that will cause you to step up from mainstream and buy from a luxury brand? If so, you certainly won’t be first to do so. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

As with all new Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, plus most luxury competitors, advanced driver assistance systems play a big part in enhancing ease-of-use and safety, so the CLA will include standard Active Brake Assist automatic braking, and included in the optional Intelligent Drive Package is Active Lane Keep Assist that helps drivers remain centered in their chosen lane while also keeping them from wandering off the road, plus additionally it will include Pre-Safe Plus with rear traffic warning and automatic reverse braking. 

The Intelligent Drive Package, pulled from the ultra-advanced Mercedes S-Class, does more than that, mind you, thanks to its ability to drive the CLA autonomously for short distances. This is a semi-autonomous system requiring “cooperative driver support,” says Mercedes, but in certain situations it can drive itself. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new 2020 CLA should do very well. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

The redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA, which will be built at the Kecskemét assembly plant in Hungary, will arrive this coming fall, at which time it just might reclaim top spot in the subcompact luxury car hierarchy, although Mercedes’ more traditionally sedan-style A-Class will more than likely assume that position. After all, the more upright four-door will start at just $34,990 (see all new A-Class Hatchback and Sedan prices and features on CarCostCanada), about $4k less than the current CLA, so it has a significant advantage in the sales department. Still, with all the big upgrades made to the new CLA it should easily reclaim its loyal following while attracting a fresh set of adventurous newcomers to the Mercedes-Benz brand. 

Until the new model arrives, be sure to check out our comprehensive photo gallery above and these six Mercedes-Benz-supplied videos below: 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): World Premiere | Trailer (1:21):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) World Premiere at CES in Las Vegas | Re-Live (18:40):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) World Premiere at CES | Highlights (1:50):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): The Design (1:06):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) and Jan Frodeno: In the Wind Tunnel (1:41):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) (1:03):