With a line-up that ranges from the robust Laredo 4×4, priced at $55,045, to the luxurious Summit Reserve 4×4, also offered at $77,045, the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee appeals to a broad audience in the Canadian marketplace. But what makes this vehicle stand out?
Engine: Power Meets Efficiency
At the heart of the 2023 Grand Cherokee is Jeep’s new inline-six engine, aptly named “Hurricane.” This engineering marvel is replacing the old V8 and is expected to deliver between 420 to a massive 500 horsepower in its high-performance version. The familiar 3.6-liter V6, producing 293 horsepower, continues to be a reliable option for base models. The cherry on top is a hybrid powertrain based on a 2.0-liter turbo-four engine that offers a combined output of 375 horsepower. Every powerplant in the lineup is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, ensuring smooth and efficient power delivery.
Interior: Luxury Meets Utility
Inside the Grand Cherokee, you’ll find a high-quality interior combining classic elements and modern technology. Quality materials and attention to detail create a luxurious cabin that accommodates passengers comfortably. The standard model comes with two spacious rows of seats, while the optional Grand Cherokee L model features a stretched wheelbase and a third row of seats.
Technology: Intuitive and Up-to-Date
Standard tech includes a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and an 8.4-inch touchscreen. The Grand Cherokee supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ensuring your devices can easily sync with the vehicle. Additional standard features include a Wi-Fi hotspot, a six-speaker audio system, USB ports, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, and push-button start. Jeep has also provided a variety of optional features like a 10.1-inch touch screen, a 10.25-inch passenger-side touch screen, navigation, wireless device charging, a nine-speaker Alpine audio system, and a top-notch 19-speaker McIntosh audio system.
Design: Timeless and Refined
From a design perspective, the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee stays true to its roots. The exterior design is attractive and functional, with the potential for new color options. Despite having a smaller cargo area than some rivals, with about 37.7 feet of space behind the second row and 70.8 cubic feet total, the SUV remains a practical choice.
Performance: Off-Road and Beyond
The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to impress with its off-road capabilities. Composed handling and strong performance make it an attractive option for those who crave adventure. However, potential buyers should be aware that with these impressive attributes comes a relatively high starting price.
The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee offers Canadian drivers a blend of power, luxury, and cutting-edge technology. Despite the high starting price and smaller cargo area, the numerous benefits may tip the scales in favor of this impressive SUV. As always, it’s essential to research, compare, and test-drive to determine if this vehicle meets your needs and preferences.
Explore the Grand Cherokee MSRP & Invoice Price over here
Dive into Factory Incentives, Lease Rates, and Finance Rates over here
Looking for exhaustive information on Vehicle Specifications? Find them here
There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s Forester in 1997, this category has been bulging at the seams ever since.
Not long ago, Honda’s CR-V owned this segment, but Toyota’s RAV4 has ruled supreme since introducing its hybrid variant in 2015 as a 2016 model. This allowed Toyota to stay just ahead of the popular Honda, although introduction of the latest fifth-generation RAV4 in 2018, which now even comes in an ultra-quick plug-in RAV4 Prime variant, has helped to push the roomy RAV4 right over the top.
With deliveries of 67,977 examples in 2020, the RAV4’s sales dwarfed those of the next-best-selling CR-V by 17,842 units, plus it more than doubled the rest of the top-five contenders’ tallies last year.
Interesting as well, Toyota was one of only three models out of 14 compact crossover SUV competitors to post positive gains in 2020, with total deliveries up 4.18 percent compared to those in 2019.
Without doubt, the new RAV4’s tough, rugged, Tacoma-inspired styling is playing a big role in its success, not to mention duo-tone paint schemes that cue memories of the dearly departed FJ Cruiser. Likewise, beefier new off-road trims play their part too, as well as plenty of advanced electronics inside, a particularly spacious cabin, class-leading non-hybrid AWD fuel economy of 8.0 L/100km combined when upgrading to idle start/stop technology (the regular AWD model is good for a claimed 8.4 L/100km combined), and nearly the best fuel economy amongst available hybrids in this segment at 6.0 L/100km combined (not including PHEVs).
Another feather in the RAV4’s cap is top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards for the “Compact Utility Vehicle” category, meaning you’ll hold on to more of your money if you choose a RAV4 than any other SUV on this list.
This feat is backed up by a 2020 Best Retained Value Award from the Canadian Black Book (CBB) too, although to clarify the Jeep Wrangler actually won the title in CBB’s “Compact SUV” category, with the runners up being the Subaru Crosstrek and RAV4. The fact that these three SUVs don’t actually compete in the real world gives the RAV4 title to CBB’s Best Retained Value in the compact crossover SUV category, if the third-party analytical firm actually had one.
The RAV4 was also runner-up in the latest 2021 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) in the “Compact SUV” class, while the RAV4 Hybrid earned the highest podium in Vincentric’s most recent Best Value in Canada Awards, in the Consumer section of its “Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category, plus the same award program gave the RAV4 Prime plug-in a best-in-class ranking in the Fleet section of its “Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” segment.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 starts at $28,590 (plus freight and fees) in LE FWD trim, while the most affordable RAV4 Hybrid can be had for $32,950 in LE AWD trim. Lastly, the top-tier RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid starts at $44,990 in SE AWD trim. To learn about other trims, features, options and pricing, plus available manufacturer financing/leasing rates and other available rebates and/or dealer invoice pricing, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Toyota RAV4 Canada Prices page and the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Canada Prices page.
Honda claims a solid second-place with its recently refreshed CR-V
Lagging behind arch-rival Toyota in this important segment no doubt irks those in Honda Canada’s Markham, Ontario headquarters, but 50,135 units in what can only be considered a tumultuous year is impressive just the same.
This said, experiencing erosion of 10.42 percent over the first full year after receiving a mid-cycle upgrade can’t be all that confidence boosting for those overseeing the CR-V’s success.
Too little, too late? You’ll need to be the judge of that, but the CR-V’s design changes were subtle to say the least, albeit modifications to the front fascia effectively toughened up its look in a market segment that, as mentioned a moment ago, has started to look more traditionally SUV-like in recent years.
Of note, the CR-V took top honours in AutoPacific’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards in the “Mid-Size Crossover SUV” category, not that it actually falls into this class. Still, it’s a win that Honda deserves.
The CR-V is also second-most fuel-efficient in this class when comparing AWD trims at 8.1 L/100km combined, although the Japanese automaker has chosen not to bring the model’s hybrid variant to Canada due to a price point it believes would be too high. Hopefully Honda will figure out a way to make its hybrid models more competitor north of the 49th, as an electrified CR-V would likely help it find more buyers.
The 2021 Honda CR-V starts at $29,970 in base LX 2WD trim, while the top-line Black Edition AWD model can be had for $43,570 (plus freight and fees). To find out about all the other trims, features, options and more in between, not to mention manufacturer rebates/discounts and dealer invoice pricing, go to the 2021 Honda CR-V Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada.
Mazda and its CX-5 continue to hang onto third in the segment
With 30,583 sales to its credit in 2020, Mazda’s CX-5 remains one of the most popular SUVs in Canada. What’s more, it was one of the three SUV’s in the class to post positive growth in 2020, with an upsurge of 10.42 percent.
Additionally, these gains occurred despite this second-generation CX-5 having been available without a major update for nearly five years (the already available 2021.5 model sees a new infotainment system). This said, Mazda has refined its best-selling model over the years, with top-line Signature trim (and this year’s 100th Anniversary model) receiving plush Nappa leather, genuine rosewood trim, and yet more luxury touches.
Its Top Safety Pick Plus ranking from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) probably helped keep it near the top, an award that gives the CX-5 a leg up on the RAV4 and CR-V that only qualify for Top Safety Pick (without the Plus) status.
At 9.3 L/100km combined in its most basic AWD trim, fuel economy is not the CX-5’s strongest suit, but Mazda offers cylinder-deactivation that drops its city/highway rating to 9.0 flat.
The CX-5’s sleek, car-like lines buck the just-noted new trend toward truck-like ruggedness, while, as noted, its interior is arguably one of the most upscale in the segment, and overall performance very strong, especially with its top-tier 227 horsepower turbocharged engine that makes a commendable 310 lb-ft of torque.
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is available from $28,600 in base GX FWD trim, whereas top-level 2021 100th Anniversary AWD trim starts at $43,550 (plus freight and fees), and the just-released top-line 2021.5 Signature AWD trim can be had for $42,750. To learn more about all the trims, features, options and prices in between, plus available no-haggle discounts and average member discounts thanks to their ability to access dealer invoice pricing before negotiating their best price, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page.
Hyundai holds onto fourth place despite slight downturn
With 28,444 units sold during the 12 months of 2020, Hyundai is so close behind Mazda in this category that its Tucson might as well be tailgating, and that’s despite losing 5.42 percent from last years near all-time-high of 30,075 deliveries.
Sales of the totally redesigned 2022 Tucson have only just started, however, so we’ll need to wait and see how well it catches on. Fortunately for Hyundai fans, and anyone else who appreciates things electrified, a Tucson Hybrid joins the fray in order to duel it out with Toyota’s mid-range RAV4 Hybrid.
This last point is important, as the conventionally-powered 2022 Tucson AWD is only capable of 9.0 L/100km combined, making the Tucson Hybrid the go-to model for those who want to save at the pump thanks to 6.4 L/100km. Of note, a new 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid is now the fourth PHEV in this segment.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson starts at $27,799 in its most basic Essential FWD trim, while the conventionally powered model’s top-level N Line AWD trim is available from $37,099. Moving up to the 2022 Tucson Hybrid will set you back a minimum of $38,899 (plus freight and fees, before discount), while this model is substitutes the conventionally-powered N Line option for Ultimate trim, starting at $41,599. The model’s actual ultimate 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid trim starts at $43,499 in Luxury AWD trim, while that SUV’s top-level Ultimate trim costs $46,199. To find out about all the trims, features, options, prices, discounts/rebates, dealer invoice pricing, etcetera for each of these models go to CarCostCanada’s 2022 Hyundai Tucson Canada Prices page, 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Canada Prices page, and 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Canada Prices page.
Nissan Rogue sees one of the biggest sales losses in the segment for 2020
While top-five placement from 25,998 sales in 2020 is nothing to sneeze at, Nissan’s Rogue is a regular top-three finisher in the U.S., and used to do just as well up here as well.
The last full calendar year of a longer-than-average six-year run saw the second-generation Rogue’s sales peter out in 2020, resulting in a year-over-year plunge of 30.73 percent. In fact, the only rival to fare worse was the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that lost 40.66 percent from the year prior, and that sportier model isn’t exactly a direct competitor due to its coupe-crossover-like profile. On the positive, that unique Japanese crossover earned best in its Compact XSUV class in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, which is something Mitsubishi should be celebrating from the rooftops.
Fortunately, an all-new 2021 Rogue is already upon us, and was doing extremely well over the first half of this year, with Q2 sales placing it in third. That model provides compact SUV buyers a massive jump in competitiveness over its predecessor, especially styling, interior refinement, ride and handling, electronics, plus ride and handling, while its fuel economy is now rated at 8.1 L/100km with AWD.
The new Rogue’s overall goodness was recently recognized by the Automobile Journalist’s Association of Canada (AJAC) that just named it “Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021”, even though it falls within the compact camp.
For those who just need to know, sixth in this compact crossover SUV segment is Ford’s Escape at 23,747 unit-sales, although deliveries crashed by a staggering 39.89 percent from 2019 to 2020, and that’s after a 9.37-percent loss from the year before, and another 9.0 percent tumble from the 12 months prior. Back in calendar year 2017, the Escape was third in the segment, but for reasons that are clearly not related to the Escape Hybrid’s best-in-class fuel economy of 5.9 L/100km combined, the Escape Plug-in Hybrid’s even more miserly functionality, or for that matter the industry’s recent lack of microchips that seem to have crippled Ford more than most other automakers, the blue-oval brand is losing fans in this class at a shocking rate.
And yes, that last point needs to be underlined, there can be many reasons for a given model’s slow-down in sales, from the just-noted chip shortage, as well as the health crisis that hampered much of 2020, to reliability issues and the age of a given model’s lifecycle, while styling is always a key factor in purchasing decisions.
All said, Volkswagen’s Tiguan sits seventh in the compact SUV category with 14,240 units sold in 2020, representing a 26.02-percent drop in year-over-year deliveries, while the aforementioned Forester was eighth with 13,134 deliveries over the same 12-month period. Chevrolet’s Equinox was ninth with 12,502 sales after plummeting 32.43 percent in popularity, whereas Kia’s Sportage capped off 2020’s top 10 list with 11,789 units down Canadian roads after a 6.71-percent downturn.
Continuing on, GMC’s Terrain was 11th with 9,848 deliveries and an 18.09-percent loss, Jeep’s Cherokee was 12th with 9,544 sales and a 30.27-percent dive, Mitsubishi’s Outlander (which also comes in PHEV form) was 13th with 7,444 units sold due to a 30.43-percent decline, and finally the same Japanese brand’s Eclipse Cross was 14th and last in the segment with 3,027 units sold and, as mentioned earlier, a sizeable 40.66-percent thrashing by Canadian compact SUV buyers.
Ford’s Bronco Sport newcomer already making big gains
The Rogue wasn’t the only SUV to shake up the compact SUV class during the first six months of 2021, incidentally, with the second honour going to the Bronco Sport that’s already outselling Jeep’s Cherokee at 2,772 units to 2,072, the Cherokee being the SUV the smaller Bronco most specifically targets thanks to both models’ serious off-road capability.
The Bronco Sport was actually ranking eighth overall when this year’s Q2 closed, beating out the Sportage (which will soon arrive in dramatically redesigned form) despite its two-position move up the charts, this displacing the Forester (which dropped a couple of pegs) and the Equinox (that’s currently ahead of the Forester).
The Cherokee, in fact, moves up a place due to sluggish GMC Terrain sales, but to be fair to General Motors, both its Chevy and GMC models (which are actually the same under the skin) would be positioned in eighth place overall if we were to count them as one SUV, while the Hyundai–Kia pairing (also the same below the surface) would rank third overall.
Make sure to check out the gallery for multiple photos of each and every compact crossover SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use the linked model names of each SUV above to find out about available trims, features, options, pricing, discounts (when available), rebates (when available), financing and leasing rates (when available), plus dealer invoice pricing (always available) that could save you thousands on your next new vehicle purchase.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
To say that Toyota’s Tacoma is merely king of the mid-size pickup truck hill is a complete understatement. In reality, it’s king of every single hill it climbs up on, from sales success and dependability…
To say that Toyota’s Tacoma is merely king of the mid-size pickup truck hill is a complete understatement. In reality, it’s king of every single hill it climbs up on, from sales success and dependability dominance, to repeated residual value prowess, the Tacoma sits on top of pretty well every metric is competes in. Above that, it’s easily one of the best-looking trucks in the segment, at least equal in interior and driving refinement to its peers, legendarily capable off-road, supported by more aftermarket suppliers than any competitor, as well as a deep well of OEM TRD parts, backed up by more years of truck heritage than any Japanese rival, and thanks to all of the above the “Taco”, as owners like to call it, is beloved by a massive diehard fanbase the world over.
Such street and trail cred could cause an automaker to merely ride on the coattails of a model’s good name, but fortunately for the Tacoma, Toyota has steadily improved it over the 25 years it’s been available, or 52 years if we also count its predecessor that was simply named “Pickup”. Toyota’s truck heritage goes further back than that, however, its 1935 G1 even predating the Toyota brand name, due to being developed under a then-new automotive division established within the Toyoda Automatic Loom company, while its first compact pickup was the Toyopet SB produced in 1947. The earliest Toyota truck you’ll likely find in North America is the Stout that arrived here in 1964, but most enthusiasts will only be familiar with the first five generations of the now classic Pickup, along with the following three generations of Tacoma.
Enough history, what matters is the Tacoma we have here and now. Until 2024 rolls around, when the current model is expected to arrive in redesigned form, today’s 2020 Tacoma is as attractive as mid-size trucks get. The model tested was dressed up in Limited trim, which is as premium as this model gets at $50,750 (plus freight and fees). You won’t be in the cheap seats with the base Tacoma 4×4 Access Cab SR either, thanks to a starting price of $37,450, with the same standard trim in the full four-door Double Cab body style costing just $1,000 more at $38,450.
That’s how Toyota delivered mine, although my Tacoma 4×4 Double Cab V6 Limited trimmed version came with the one-foot stubbier five-foot short bed in back, which is how most owners buy this truck. I have to say, as classy as this Limited model is, I prefer the tougher looking TRD Pro I spent a week with last year, although instead of a trim line in that latter truck, it’s actually a $13,495 package that gets added on top of the $43,240 TRD Off-Road trim line, meaning it actually was thousands more than the more luxurious Limited I’m reviewing here.
While all that’s interesting (at least to me), what matters more right now are changes made to the 2020 Tacoma, such as the integration of a new infotainment system that measures 8.0 inches in all trims and package upgrades other than in the base SR that’s 7.0 inches, while featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, not to mention new optional multi-terrain and bird’s-eye view cameras for off-roading. The Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite of active safety features was made standard across the entire range too, not that this would affect this top-line Limited model, which previously standard with features like Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning System, Automatic High Beams and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC).
For folks who want a smaller luxury truck, this Tacoma Limited is ideal. Along with standard LED headlights, LED DRLs and fog lamps, plus a tasteful assortment of bright metal bits on the outside, including a classy new grille design, chrome taillamp inserts, and a fresh set of silver-finish 18-inch alloys, access to the Limited model’s interior now includes an upgraded proximity-sensing Smart Key system for the passenger door, which leads to more premium-like materials as well as a new standard Panoramic View Monitor (PVM) for the driver.
Some of those materials include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather seat surfaces, pushbutton ignition, really helpful front and rear parking sensors, an equally useful overhead parking camera, a great sounding seven-speaker JBL audio setup, and a somewhat awkwardly named “Connected Services by Toyota Premium Audio with Remote” system that includes embedded navigation with Destination Assist, Remote Connect, plus Service and Connect.
The new Limited’s finishings are nicer than I remember previous iterations being. It features an attractive padded leatherette bolster ahead of the front passenger, plus padded leatherette half-door uppers that flow downward to become inserts overtop comfortable armrests front and back. This was never supposed to be a luxurious truck, but the Limited’s leather seat upholstery is plenty nice, with a sharp-looking square pattern embossed into each cushion’s centre panel. Additionally, the leather on the steering wheel includes grippy, perforated hides to each side, plus regular smooth skins on the top and bottom. There’s a good assortment of satin-finish metallic accents too, brightening key details, resulting in a truck that’s a cut above every other Tacoma trim as well as many rivals, without losing any of this pickup’s legendary rugged, purposeful, tool-like status.
As mentioned a moment ago, the biggest improvement for 2020 is the infotainment system, which now looks as thoroughly modern as anything else in Toyota’s lineup. I like that it still includes rotating dials for power/volume and tuning/scrolling, plus a row of analogue buttons down each side that provide quick access to key features. The interface itself shows Toyota’s latest Entune design, which is mostly made up of grey tones with splashes of colour when highlighting important info or audio graphics. It’s a totally understated design, but I have to say I like it a lot more now, after many weeks of testing in other Toyota models, than I initially did. It reliably responds to prompts quickly, its route guidance is easy to set up and accurate, and it just works well all-round. I also love that this truck has wireless device charging, Toyota having been ahead of the curve with this ultra-convenient feature.
Then again, I don’t understand why Toyota advertises telescopic steering and only allows about an inch worth of reach extension. Fortunately, Toyota has recognized this problem and therefore started extending the telescopic reach of its steering wheels to fit more body types, so we’ll need to see how they do with future Tacomas. At least the leather-wrapped rim is nicely finished, and the switchgear on each spoke highly functional, as are the buttons, knobs, toggles and rocker switches throughout the rest of the cabin.
Other than the steering column’s telescopic shortcomings, the eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat is comfortable and the overall layout of cockpit controls is very good, as is the rear seating area as far as roominess goes, where I found plenty of leg and foot room, good space overhead and from side-to-side, plus good back support from the outboard seats. Leather seat surfaces aside, there’s not much in back to give rear passengers a “Limited” experience, due to Toyota missing the opportunity to install a rear centre armrest as well as rear HVAC vents, let alone any USB charging ports or heatable outboard seats, resulting in fairly stark accommodations.
The lower rear cushions flip forward to expose handy lidded cargo compartments, however, plus they fold down for securely stowing larger items on top, a process that unveils yet more storage space in behind. Of course, the Tacoma’s outer box is best for heavier hauling. It’s spray-on lined bed is capable of carrying between 1,095 and 1,285 lbs (497 and 583 kilos) of payload, depending on trim, although its usefulness is somewhat negated by not providing standard corner steps like GM’s trucks include, to help older guys like me rise the occasion (although your dealer can bolt on a retractable one from the TRD catalogue), but Toyota does provide this model with a standard cab-mounted bed lamp to assist during nighttime loading, while a 400-watt (120V) cargo bed power outlet is really helpful when using the tailgate as a makeshift outdoor workbench.
I should also mention the Tacoma is an excellent hauler, thanks to an available hitch that can help it trailer up to 6,500 lbs (2,950 kg) when upgraded with its aforementioned tow package. That’s not quite as strong as some in this class, the Gladiator capable of up to 7,650 lbs (3,469 kg) on its hitch, but it should be sufficient for most owners’ needs.
Load or not, the Tacoma Limited rides nicely for a midsize pickup truck, especially one with rear leaf springs, with on-pavement handling about average for the class. Honda’s Ridgeline is the clear winner of the latter, but its slowest-in-class sales clearly show this isn’t a critical factor amongst mid-size truck buyers, a much more important one being off-road prowess.
In this regard, the Tacoma is legend, evidenced by the sheer number of in-house TRD and aftermarket 4×4 parts available to enthusiasts, not to mention the countless Taco off-roading clubs, desert race truck entries, etcetera. Chevy’s 4×4-focused Colorado ZR2 or Jeep’s new Wrangler-based Gladiator (especially in Rubicon, desert-rated Mojave or mountain-focused High Altitude trims) probably put up the most serious off-road challenge against Toyota’s Tacoma TRD Pro, at least until the Raptor-ized Ford Ranger arrives in a few years, or for that matter the ZR2-version of GMC’s Canyon that’s rumoured to be due around the same time, and of course, we’ll need to see how the expected updated Nissan Frontier does in the wild when in shows up a bit sooner than the last two, outfitted in its sportiest PRO-4X guise no doubt, but this Limited-trimmed Tacoma is no slouch off the beaten path either.
While I’ve tested the current Frontier over gravel and rock, through mud, sand and water, and plenty of other obstacles years back, it’s now so old that only diehard Nissan fans would even consider it against a modern-day Tacoma, and even then, it would probably be a financially-based decision, but instead the hardly freshly minted Taco provides superb 4×4 chops with many more advancements than its once arch-rival. It made easy work of a favourite off-road course, although to be clear my local town’s government had since closed down the best part, another sliver of fun-loving nature turned over to developers for yet more waterfront condos. Nevertheless, I drove it over what remained, and while there were no deeply rutted mud trenches to dig itself out of, or miniature lakes to drive through, there was plenty of gravel, sand and other opportunities to get unstuck. Of course, it was a cakewalk for the Tacoma, even in plusher Limited trim, only requiring me to get out for photos (instead of testing the depth of those just-noted lakes, like I was forced to do on previous excursions).
I’m comfortable letting the Tacoma’s reputation fend for itself for this review, not to mention the many opportunities I’ve previously taken to test out the model’s mettle in its backcountry element. Similarly, I’m willing to let third-party analytical firms toot Toyota’s horn when it comes to dependability, all of which place the Japanese company at or near the top of the auto industry, while as importantly the Tacoma regularly hovers above its peers where it can matter most, resale and residual values that truly tell how much you end up paying for a vehicle over time.
To be specific, the Tacoma earned top marks in Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards for its “Small/Mid-Size Pickup” class in the Consumer category, the number one choice in the “Midsize Pickup” segment of J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards, and the highest possible ranking in the “Small Pick-up” category of Canadian Black Book’s (CBB) 2020 Best Retained Value Awards.
One of the reasons the Tacoma holds its value so strongly throughout the years, the just-noted reliability of its well-proven powertrain. My tester’s top-line trim starts with Toyota’s venerable 3.5-litre DOHC V6 featuring VVT-I technology, which does a pretty good job of balancing performance and fuel economy with the dependability that fans of the Japanese brand appreciate. It makes a formidable 278-horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, up 119 hp and 85 lb-ft of twist over the truck’s base 2.7-litre DOHC four-cylinder, while both come mated to an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission (ECT-i) as standard equipment. Depending on trim, a six-speed manual can be optioned for six-cylinder models, while part-time four-wheel drive is standard on all trims above the base truck that offers rear-wheel drive in its most affordable form.
The Tacoma’s fuel economy rated at a claimed 12.1 L/100km city, 10.1 highway and 11.2 combined in the latter 2WD trim, while the same truck in 4WD gets a 12.7 L/100km city, 10.6 highway and 11.7 combined rating. Lastly, larger, heavier Double Cab variants like my tester are said to be capable of 13.8 L/100km in the city, 11.7 on the highway and 12.9 combined, with my Limited model measuring up to these estimates when driving modestly. While these numbers are not best-in-class, no doubt due in part to the just-mentioned six-speed autobox, that component’s verifiable reliability, as well as the build quality of the entire drivetrain, makes a little more fuel used over the duration of its lifecycle worth it to most buyers.
To put that last point into perspective, 12,536 Canadians purchased a new Tacoma in 2019, while 2020 has been looking like it will be even stronger for Toyota’s entry-level pickup. The only automaker to beat Toyota in this segment last year was General Motors that managed a cool 14,067 collective units from both its Chevy and GMC brands, although if we’re measuring individual models against each other the Colorado only managed second with 8,531 examples sold throughout 2019, and the Canyon a mere fourth with 5,536 buyers to its name. As you might have guessed, the Ranger was third with 6,603 sales last year, the Frontier fifth with 3,723, the Ridgeline sixth with 3,405, and finally the Gladiator was seventh and last with 3,050 deliveries, although that rather pricey newbie only entered the market last year, so it wasn’t available for the entire 12 months.
Despite Toyota having some strong competitors in this market, which will only become fiercer once updated rivals arrive, I believe the Tacoma will become even more popular in the coming years, while others in the class struggle to win over new buyers. Market share is critical in the pickup truck sector, something Toyota has learned in reverse when it comes to selling its full-size Tundra, and the Taco has earned faithful fans like no other. For that reason, it’s my best bet in the class over the long haul, and reason enough for you to either maintain your loyalty or choose it over one of its challengers.
To find out more about all Tacoma trim levels, including pricing (with a complete configurator to build out all available features) check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 Toyota Tacoma Canada Prices page, plus make sure to click on any of the links above to check out all of the Tacoma’s competitors along with other vehicles mentioned in this review. A CarCostCanada membership can help you save thousands off of your next new vehicle purchase thanks to accessing dealer invoice pricing before you start negotiating, plus members can gain additional valuable information. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works, and be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store while you’re at it.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but Jeep completely overhauled its Wrangler two years ago for the 2018 model year. The 2019 model shown here was carried forward mostly unchanged, which is par for…
You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but Jeep completely overhauled its Wrangler two years ago for the 2018 model year. The 2019 model shown here was carried forward mostly unchanged, which is par for the course with redesigned models, while it’ll mostly do likewise for the upcoming 2020 model year. I’ll cover the key changes in this review, plus give you my road and trail driving impressions, and on that last note you’ll want to peruse the gallery above for one of the most comprehensive photo sessions I’ve ever published.
Some Jeep fans are as old and storied as this iconic model, and while I wasn’t around in the early ‘40s to witness the famed Willys MB (plus the Bantam BRC 40 and Ford GP examples) in action during WWII and subsequent wars, I went 4x4ing in one as a child with my dad at the wheel and can never forget the experience. Also forever etched in my memory is a blue-decaled black 5.0-litre (304 cu-in) V8-powered CJ5 Renegade that I spent one fabulous summer with, complete with loud headers, even louder aftermarket Alpine stereo speakers hanging from the roll bar, and its soft top permanently removed. Suffice to say I’ve become a fan of this now legendary SUV, so I pay attention to all the little changes undertaken with each new model year.
If you’re new to the Wrangler, and such would be understandable being that the quintessential off-roader lures in new fans with each passing year, you may not have noticed its complete ground-up redesign noted a moment ago, but diehard Jeep advocates can easily point out all of the updates. Visual changes from the 2007–2017 JK body style to the new 2018–present JL include a bolder, broader front grille, new available LED reflector headlamps, an off-road ATV-inspired front bumper (that looks much like the front bumper on the 2016 Wrangler 75th Anniversary Edition I reviewed back in the day) with available LED fog lamps, a more shapely hood (albeit not filled with the Anniversary Edition’s cool power dome and black vents or the Rubicon’s similarly vented hood design), redesigned front fenders with integrated wraparound turn signals/markers, heavily sculpted front body panels with side vents (these making up for the more conservative hood), new integrated side steps, new rear fender flares, new more creatively shaped wraparound taillights with available LED technology, a new tailgate, and a new rear bumper (that’s not as sweet looking as the one on the aforementioned 75th Anniversary Edition, but more shapely than the hunk of metal and plastic used for the previous Sahara).
While you might need to put the new JL next to the old JK to see the subtler differences, such as the updated tailgate, we can surmise that most every panel is new thanks to both regular wheelbase two-door and long-wheelbase four-door models being longer than their predecessors. Specifically, the 2019 Unlimited you’re looking at is 89 mm (3.5 inches) longer than the JK version overall, with a 61-mm (2.4-inch) longer wheelbase. All in all, the new Wrangler manages to look classic and contemporary at the same time, and most importantly it looks mighty good, so job well done to the Jeep design team.
Inside, it’s a much more refined SUV, with doors that slam shut with a thud, and soft touch materials used above the waste-line for the most part. The dash top and instrument panel even get some contrast-stitched leatherette that looks pretty rich, this matching the leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, the leatherette shifter boot and armrests, and the leather surfaced seats. The switchgear is impressive throughout the cabin, particularly the rugged looking audio volume and dual-zone automatic HVAC knobs on the centre stack, while the general quality of most materials and the way everything fits together has improved.
As wholly complete as all of these changes sound, the Wrangler’s primary instrument cluster may have received the interior’s most comprehensive rethink, and while it might have been easier and less expensive to simply substitute its predecessor’s nearly two-dimensionally flat four-gauge layout with an even flatter fully digital display, and thus take the new Wrangler to new levels of modernity in similar fashion to how Mercedes transformed its similarly classic G-wagon from antiquated bushwhacker to digital overlord with its most recent redesign, Jeep created a complex combination of individually hooded primary dials surrounding a massive colour multi-information display (MID).
First factoring in that I’m the type of person who simultaneously wears a Seiko SKX007 on my left wrist and the smaller of the two Samsung Gear S3 smart watches on my right, Schwarzkopf style, in order to garner the best of both analogue and digital worlds (not that the SKX is the best, but the GS SBGA031 is too large and a Rolex Sub too pricey), I really like the new Wrangler gauge cluster’s attractive analogue design and appreciate the depth of functions found in the MID, not to mention the cool background graphics that sometimes show an image of the classic WWII GP mentioned earlier, while the tachometer and speedometer dials looks fabulous in their bright orange on black and white motif. I know that fully digital displays are all the rage right now, just like smart watches, but I believe we’ll eventually be paying more for an upgrade to analogue gauges in some high-end models, just like those of us with a weakness for horology are being asked to pay outrageous sums for high-quality mechanical watches. On that note, Jeep’s new primary instrument cluster balances analogue and digital very well.
Those familiar with Chrysler group products (and by that I mean Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep vehicles that have often shared similar infotainment touchscreens) will already be well versed in the Wrangler’s infotainment touchscreen, which hasn’t changed all that much in function, despite growing in size and modified in shape. The previous 6.5-inch version was more rectangular and laid out horizontally, and featured a row of four buttons down each side, plus a volume/power knob to the left and USB/aux ports (under a pop-off cover) to the right, whereas the new 8.0-inch touchscreen is larger and squarer, with the only quick-access analogue switchgear found in a cluster of dials and buttons just below, mostly for controlling the aforementioned HVAC system. The rightmost dial is for scrolling/browsing and selecting infotainment content, but I found it easier to simply use the touchscreen for such functions, only using the row of external controls for the heated seats and steering wheel (although these could be found within the touchscreen as well), adjusting interior temperatures (ditto), and audio volume.
The larger display provides a much-improved reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, the ability to hook up Android Auto (or Apple CarPlay) to use Google Assistant or any number of other functions, plus all the other features most infotainment systems do so well these days, such as highly accurate route guidance/navigation via a nicely laid out digital mapping system, phone setup and control, audio band and station selection, including satellite and wireless device streaming, plus plenty of apps that come preloaded or more which can be downloaded. The screen’s resolution is good, but I wouldn’t call it high-definition like most premium brands and some new mainstream SUVs, such as Chevy’s new Blazer, now provide, but let’s not get me started on that missed opportunity (albeit relative sales hit) to bring something to market capable of going head-to-head with the Wrangler and upcoming Ford Bronco.
That Blazer in mind, the Wrangler’s ride quality has improved so dramatically that it’s become a high point, something I would’ve never previously expected from this model. Don’t get me wrong, as the JK that I tested during its initial 2005 Lake Tahoe/Rubicon Trail international launch program made massive ride and handling strides over the 1997–2006 TJ, while that comparatively rudimentary appliance was revolutionary when stacked up against the 1987–1995 YJ, and so on down the myriad line of CJs, but this new JL is so much better than any of its predecessors that I’d actually consider owning one again, something I wouldn’t have said about the JK. The fact is, I’m getting older and wouldn’t be willing to get beat up by my daily ride. This new Wrangler is an entirely new level of comfort over its predecessors, and its suspension compliancy is matched by thoroughly improved handling sees this long-wheelbase Unlimited tracking better at high speed and easier to manoeuvre in the city and around parking lots. All round, it’s a much better SUV to live with day to day.
This includes better rear seats with more sculpted outboard positions, plus increased legroom due to its longer wheelbase. This second row is still capable of fitting three abreast, but it’s better if just left to two thanks to a unique folding centre armrest that houses two big rubber cupholders and a personal device holder within the headrest portion, plus a wide padded area for forearms behind.
All said this big armrest was a missed opportunity for a centre pass-through that would have made the cargo compartment much more accommodating for long loads like skis when rear passengers are aboard. The way its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are laid out causes the need to lower the narrowest section when fitting skis, poles and/or snowboards inside, and force one of your rear occupants into the middle position. It’s doable, but not ideal, which can also be said for the swinging rear door that’s still hinged on the wrong side for North American (and most global) markets.
Due to the need to hang a full-size spare on its backside, the side-swinging door is an awkward setup at best, especially when realizing the simple act of flipping up the rear window for quick access requires the door to be opened first, but the top hatch comes as part of the removable roof and is therefore necessary, and the need to potentially walk out into traffic when loading gear into the cargo compartment from curbside pays respect to tradition, Jeep having always hinged its rear door on the passenger’s side. I’ve complained many times and Jeep isn’t about to change, so I merely point it out to Wrangler newcomers as a possible problem.
On the positive, the long-wheelbase Unlimited model’s dedicated cargo space is up by 18 litres (0.6 cubic feet) to 898 litres (31.7 cu ft), while 70 litres (2.5 cu ft) have been added to its maximum capacity, now capable of swallowing up 2,050 litres (72.4 cu ft) of gear when both seatbacks lowered. This said they don’t lay as flat, but are easier to fold down and no longer gobble up rolling fruits, vegetables or sports equipment. The previous rear seats automatically popped their headrests upward and left their mechanicals exposed when folded, whereas the new ones leave the headrests in place and cover the frames and hinges with a folding carpeted panel. Such refinements are nothing new for the majority of crossover SUVs, but it’s a major breakthrough for the Wrangler that’s long stuffed in rear seats as more of an afterthought, the first Unlimited being a 250-mm (10-inch) extended two-door 2004½ TJ (LJ) with a fairly rudimentary rear bench seat. The thicker rear seat cushions cause a slight bump halfway into the load floor, but it’s a compromise most (especially rear seat passengers) should be happy to accept.
The 2019 Wrangler’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, eight-speed automatic transmission and part-time four-wheel drive system is a no-compromise combination, however, unless I were to try and compare it to my old CJ5’s V8, and even then I’m guessing its exhaust note would be the only clear winner in a drag race. The modern engine’s tailpipes emit a sonorous tone too, albeit much more refined than the monster truck mayhem bellowing from past memory, the smooth operating six producing 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque for quick acceleration, while the eight-speed auto’s shifts are quick yet never jarring.
Of note, a six-speed manual is standard, with the eight-speed auto adding $1,595 to the 2019 Wrangler Unlimited Sport S’ $40,745 (plus freight and fees) base price, with this Unlimited Sahara starting at $44,745 and the top-line Unlimited Rubicon getting a $47,745 retail price (a base two-door Wrangler S can be had for $33,695). You can also pay $2,590 for a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with electric assist that comes standard with the eight-speed auto, this more fuel-efficient alternative providing a bit less thrust at 270 horsepower, but more twist at 295 lb-ft of torque. I have yet to test this new engine so can’t comment, but have driven the six-speed manual and, while a very good gearbox, prefer life in this class of vehicle with an automatic, especially one as refined and quick-shifting as this eight-speed (check out all 2018, 2019 and 2020 Jeep Wrangler prices, including trims, packages and individual options, plus manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing at CarCostCanada, where you can now save up to $3,500 in additional incentives on a 2020, or $4,000 on a 2019).
The autobox gives the 3.6 better economy too, with a rating of 12.9 L/100km in the city, 10.2 on the highway and 11.7 combined compared to 13.8 city, 10.1 highway and 12.2 combined for the manual, while the four-cylinder option leads the pack with a claimed rating of 10.9, 10.0 and 10.5 respectively. As for the upcoming 2020 model year, Jeep will soon answer my many requests by providing its 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel as part of its Wrangler lineup. The engine makes 260 horsepower and a substantial 442 pound-feet of torque, while fuel economy should even be thriftier than the current 2.0-litre turbo’s results. The only complaints will come from 4×4 purists, because the diesel will only be available with this long-wheelbase Unlimited model, the more off-road capable regular-wheelbase Wrangler to remain gasoline-powered only.
Saving the best for last, the Wrangler is the quintessential 4×4, with few rivals even trying to measure up. In fact, pickup trucks aside, the Wrangler is the only serious compact off-roader available from a mainstream volume brand, and will remain so until the Bronco arrives. Chevy and GMC stopped building their small pickup-based Blazer and Jimmy in 2005, but that little SUV never quite matched up to the Wrangler’s 4×4 capability, while Toyota’s FJ Cruiser said sayonara from our market in 2014. Likewise, Nissan’s Xterra was gone from our shores in 2015, leaving the venerable Wrangler to scoop up those 4×4 buyers it didn’t already have.
Of course, I took my Wrangler Unlimited Sahara tester to a local off-road playground I utilize regularly, and it performed flawlessly. All the mud and standing water was a cakewalk for this capable ute, reminding me that the even more robust Rubicon is probably overkill for most peoples’ needs (although it looks awesome). Once on dirt I slid the secondary low gear lever into its 4H (four-high) Part Time position, the first 4H position meant more for slippery pavement or gravel, which allowed me to cruise over the less challenging trails.
When mucking through thick mud and deep water I engaged 4L (four-low), at which point its secondary set of gears provided all the crawling traction needed to safely, securely pull me out of most any situation. I’ve tested the JK over much more harrowing terrain, the aforementioned Rubicon Trail being one of many off-road encounters, and it always proved a reliable companion. I can only imagine how much more enjoyable Cadillac Hill would be with the new model’s improved suspension, but alas this will need to wait for a future drive, hopefully powered by the upcoming turbo-diesel.
No doubt that future Wrangler will be the best ever created, but it’ll need to be very special to beat this current model. If you haven’t driven a Wrangler in a long time, possible due to memories of harsh suspensions and hostile surroundings, I highly recommend some time well spent in this new model. Even if you tested the old JK a year or two ago and found it a bit too rough around its edges, don’t let that experience discourage you from giving the new JL a chance.
Lastly, here’s some sound business reasoning for choosing a Wrangler over any other vehicle currently available. According to ALG, the world’s best-known 4×4 has the highest residual value in Canada’s entire automotive sector, with the four-door Unlimited only losing 30-percent of its value over three years, and the two-door version’s value dropping by just 31.5-percent over the same period. On top of this, the Wrangler won the Canadian Black Book’s 2019 Best Retained Value Awards in the Compact SUV category for the 9th year in a row, while this year it achieved a new retained value record of 91 percent (Jeep also achieved the best retained value position with the Renegade in the Sub-Compact Crossover category).
This means the Wrangler doesn’t only have to be about what you want, but can also justifiably represent what you need. In other words, the Jeep Wrangler is quite possibly the most intelligent automotive choice available today.
To say that Ford leads SUV sales in this country is almost as big an understatement as merely stating that the F-Series is Canada’s best-selling pickup truck. F-Series sales were 145,694 units last…
To say that Ford leads SUV sales in this country is almost as big an understatement as merely stating that the F-Series is Canada’s best-selling pickup truck.
F-Series sales were 145,694 units last year compared to 108,569 total full-size GM trucks (55,097 Chevy Silverados and 53,472 GMC Sierras), and 77,951 Ram pickups, with sales actually picking up from January through May 2019 at 59,511 F-Series units to GM’s 41,207 large pickups and Ram’s 37,152 deliveries over the same five months. As for Toyota and Nissan, the full-size Tundra sold 11,738 units in 2018 and 4,238 as of May 31, 2019, while Titan found just 5,445 buyers last year and a scant 1,399 by the end of May this year.
In the commercial van sector Ford’s lead is even stronger, obliterating its competitors with 22,214 Transit, E-Series and Transit Connect models through 2018 plus 10,658 units up until May 31, 2019, compared to 10,796 total GM vans delivered last year and 4,215 over the first five months of this year, 6,538 Mercedes-Benz vans sold through 2018 plus 2,166 from January through May, 4,362 Ram vans delivered last year and 2,627 more up to the close of May 2019, plus 2,527 Nissan vans down the road in 2018 and 1,122 from January through May this year.
How about mainstream SUVs? While Ford benefited from a less comfortable lead in total crossover and SUV sales across Canada last year, it nevertheless remained out front with 92,418 EcoSport, Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex, and Expedition models delivered, but with just 36,861 units from January through May of 2019 compared to 86,964 last year and a new lead of 37,125 units from Nissan up until May 31, 2019, not to mention 85,830 from Toyota throughout 2018 and another higher number of 37,348 sales through May, Ford has its work cut out for it if it plans to stay ahead of its closest rivals this year.
While we’re talking SUV competitors, I should also point out that FCA (Jeep, Dodge and Fiat) sold 84,387 SUVs last year and 35,776 up until May 31 this year, whereas GM’s three brands (Chevrolet, GMC and Buick) managed 78,002 and 39,407 units respectively, Honda delivered 72,022 and 32,802 new SUVs respectively, and Hyundai found 67,171 and 29,613 new SUV customers during the same two periods of time.
Take note that one of Ford’s better-selling SUVs, the Explorer, saw its sales slip by a significant 45.14-percent over the first five months of 2019 in preparation for a totally redesigned model being launched now (they wouldn’t want to stick their dealers with too many older examples when the new one arrives), while Nissan and Toyota had new high-volume subcompact and compact models come online, so we should expect Ford to regain its SUV sales leadership over the final seven months of this year.
Of course, every other volume brand sells into the crossover SUV sector too, and new models designed to disrupt the status quo are arriving regularly, so we’ll just have to wait to see if the blue-oval brand manages to stay on top over the long run, but keep in mind that Ford’s all-new retro-inspired Bronco 4×4 will soon go up against Jeep’s Wrangler, while its rumoured Baby Bronco will provide an off-road alternative in an even smaller package, and likely be more appealing to Canadians than Jeep’s Renegade that’s been an unparalleled flop (only rivaled by its Fiat 500X platform-mate).
Two of Ford’s lowest performing models on the sales charts include the incredibly resilient three-row Flex crossover that surprisingly found 115.71 percent more customers during the first five months of 2019 than it did over the same period last year, its total year-to-date deliveries at 1,812 units as of May 31, 2019, which probably won’t be enough to cause Dearborn to keep the unique model in the lineup after being slated for cancellation next year, while the full-size three-row Expedition being reviewed here (you were probably wondering when I’d get around to talking about it) saw its sales increase by 29.4 percent from January through May, up to 2,007 deliveries, albeit that’s after year-over-year Expedition sales fell by 12.67 percent throughout 2018.
You might remember me using the word “obliterate” to describe Ford’s dominance in the commercial van segment earlier in this review, but that doesn’t even begin to sum up how dramatically GM outperforms Ford and all others in the Expedition’s full-size SUV segment. Where Ford only offers its Expedition and longer Expedition Max to large utility buyers, the General has Chevrolet and GMC anteing up with their Tahoe/Suburban and Yukon/Yukon XL regular and long-wheelbase models respectively, Ford’s aforementioned 2,007 Expedition deliveries over the first five months of 2019, and 2,798 sales throughout 2018 looking pale by comparison to 4,617 deliveries of the four GM models in 2019 (comprised of 1,357 Tahoes, 1,255 Yukons, 1,058 Suburbans and 947 Yukon XLs), and 11,629 total units sold through 2018 (including 3,576 Tahoes, 3,061 Yukons, 2,789 Suburbans and 2,266 Yukon XLs).
The best of the rest is Nissan’s Armada that saw its sales rise to an all-time high of 1,435 units last year, followed by a rather scant 321 units sold up until May 31 of 2019, while the trailing Toyota Sequoia’s sales fell to 684 units in 2018, and have only managed 248 deliveries over the same five months of 2019.
Interestingly, the same scenario plays out within this full-size SUV category’s competing luxury brands, with the Lincoln Navigator doing well thanks to an 80.52-percent year-over-year bump from 2017 through 2018 totaling 1,177 units, plus another 21.83-percent increase from January through May 2019 resulting in 720 deliveries, but despite Cadillac’s Escalade sales having fallen by 5.43 percent last year it still managed a much healthier 2,767 total units, while Escalade deliveries bounced back by 4.90 percent over the first five months of 2019 to 1,050 unit sales.
Now where were we? Oh yes, the difference between the now decade-old Flex dying and the latest Expedition, which was totally redesigned last year, continuing to live, come down to plant availability and profit margins, with the Flex produced at Ford’s Oakville Assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, along with the highly popular Edge, impressive new Lincoln Nautilus, and the equally long-in-tooth and ancient D4 platform-sharing Lincoln MKT that only remains alive to serve in airport limousine and funeral service fleets (oh gods of the universe please don’t let me go to my place of rest in that horrid looking contraption), plus truly unlucky marrying couples and graduates (hopefully the powers that be within Lincoln will find a replacement for the MKT soon—the fabulous looking, wonderfully outfitted, and strong performing Continental anyone?), whereas the new fourth-generation Expedition rides on the same much more recently introduced body-on-frame and aluminum-skinned T-Platform as the F-Series pickup truck mentioned earlier, albeit the larger Super-Duty versions, and therefore gets produced at Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky Truck Assembly plant, alongside the just-noted heavy-duty pickup and Lincoln’s just-noted Navigator.
That Navigator adopted the same aluminum body construction as the Expedition last year, both full-size SUVs having received ground-up redesigns for 2018, hence their recent growth in sales. The mostly alloy (and I must say very good looking) skin joins up with a high-strength lightweight boron steel and aluminium frame to further reduce the Expedition’s curb weight by 44 kilograms to 90 kg (97 to 199 lbs) depending on trim, or 135 kg (just under 300 lbs) for the longer Expedition Max (EL in the U.S.), yet despite such a significant reduction in overall mass the upgraded SUV is more than 100 mm (4.0 inches) longer than the outgoing model in regular wheelbase form, and 28 mm (1.1 inches) lengthier than the old SUV in its larger Max body-style, while its wheelbase gets stretched by nearly 90 mm (3.5 inches) for the regular-length model and by 15 mm (0.6 inches) in the Max, plus it gains more than 25 mm (1.0 inch) from side to side.
The regular-wheelbase Expedition’s size and its lightweight aluminum design are reasons you may want to consider this newest version over the best-selling Tahoe/Yukon pairing, all of these more rugged truck-based SUVs often chosen over unibody car-based crossovers for their passenger carrying and load hauling capabilities, so therefore the more the merrier in this respect.
The new Expedition’s larger dimensions make for an even roomier cabin than the previous generation’s already generous proportions, while the cargo compartment grows to a maximum of 2,962 litres (104.6 cubic feet) in the regular length model, or 3,439 litres (121.4 cubic feet) in Expedition Max form, the latter providing 477 litres (16.9 cu ft) more gear-toting space than the regular Expedition. This means 4×8 sheets of building material can be laid flat on top of the load floor with the tailgate closed.
Addition cargo dimensions include 1,627 litres (57.4 cu ft) behind the regular Expedition’s second row and 2,077 litres (73.3 cu ft) behind that in the Max, or alternatively 1,800 and 2,254 litres (63.5 and 79.6 cu ft) respectively for the same area when the second row is pulled all the way forward, and lastly 546 litres and 972 litres (19.3 and 34.3 cu ft) behind the regular Expedition’s and Expedition Max’s third row respectively, or 593 and 1,019 litres (20.9 and 36.0 cu ft) in the regular and Max models’ rearmost compartment when the third row is fully upright. Got that?
Incidentally, both second- and third-row seats can be powered up and down individually via rocker switches on the cargo wall, a really helpful feature in such a large vehicle, and standard with Limited and Platinum trims (third-row PowerFold seats are standard across the line). What’s more, those rows fold completely flat so that all types of cargo have a better chance of remaining upright throughout the journey.
When compared to the Tahoe and Suburban it’s easy to see the Expedition and Expedition Max are considerably more accommodating, with the Chevy’s shorter wheelbase model’s 2,682 litres (94.7 cu ft) of maximum cargo space shy by a whopping 280 litres (9.9 cu ft), its 1,464-litre (51.7 cu-ft) capacity aft of its second row down by 163 litres (5.7 cu ft), and its 433 litres (15.3 cu ft) of gear-toting space behind the third row short by 160 litres (5.6 cu ft).
As for the Suburban, its 3,446 litres (121.7 cu ft) of maximum cargo capacity is actually 7 litres (0.02 cu ft) larger than the Expedition Max’s grand total, or more or less a wash, while the 2,172 litres (76.7 cu ft) behind its second row make it less accommodating by 82 litres (2.9 cu ft), although the big GM climbs back on top with 94 litres (3.3 cu ft) of extra storage room behind the third row thanks to 1,113 litres (39.3 cu ft) of cargo volume.
If towing is more on your agenda, take note the regular wheelbase Expedition can now trailer up to 4,218 kilos (9,300 lbs) when upfitted with its $1,400 Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package (the base model is good for 4,173 kg/9,200 lbs with the same package), which is an increase of 45 kg (100 lbs) over its predecessor, plus this is the full-size SUV segment’s best result by a long shot. Standard is trailer sway control, which works together with AdvanceTrac traction control and Roll Stability Control (RSC) in order to maintain total command of both SUV and trailer.
Once again comparing the Expedition to the current Tahoe shows 3,901 kg (8,600 lbs) of capacity, but that’s with its most capable version in rear-wheel drive trim, whereas the Expedition comes standard as a 4×4 in Canada. The best the Tahoe 4×4 can do is 3,810 kg (8,400 lbs), a considerable 408 kg (900 lbs) less than the Expedition. Likewise the Expedition Max is good for a maximum of 4,082 kg (9,000 lbs) of total trailer weight, whereas its Suburban rival can only tow up to 3,765 litres (8,300 lbs) in its two-wheel drive layout and just 3,629 kg (8,000 lbs) with its more directly competitive four-wheel drive configuration.
A key reason the Expedition is such an effective beast of burden is its updated twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 that’s now good for 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque in base XLT and mid-range Limited trims, the latter shown here, while an even more potent version puts out 400 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque in top-tier Platinum trim. These two powerplants are mated to a brand new 10-speed automatic transmission that, together with standard idle start/stop technology that automatically shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling and then quickly restarts it when lifting your foot from the brake, helps deliver much better fuel-efficiency than the outgoing model.
By comparison, the Tahoe offers full-size SUV buyers 20 horsepower and a shocking 87 lb-ft of torque less performance with its base 5.3-litre V8, which comes mated to a reliable albeit less sophisticated six-speed automatic, while its top-line engine is a massive 6.2-litre V8 mated up to a version of the same 10-speed automatic used in the Expedition (Ford and GM smartly developed this advanced gearbox together in order to save money), this combination providing 20 more horsepower than the most potent Ecoboost V6, albeit 20 lb-ft of torque less twist.
As noted, the Expedition’s 10-speed really helps reduce fuel economy, something I noticed during my weeklong drive. I actually had no trouble getting close to Transport Canada’s rating of 14.1 L/100km city, 10.6 highway and 12.5 combined when going easy on the throttle, which compares well against the heavier steel-bodied 2017 Expedition with its six-speed automatic that only managed a 15.9 L/100km city, 12.0 highway and 14.2 combined rating in its regular length form. The new Expedition is much thriftier than the 2019 Tahoe 4×4’s best Transport Canada rating of 15.8 city, 11.1 highway and 13.7 combined too, despite the Expedition’s significant power advantage.
Likewise, the long-wheelbase 2019 Expedition Max’s claimed rating of just 14.7 city, 11.2 highway and 13.1 combined beats its steel-bodied predecessor that could only manage 16.1, 12.2 and 14.3 respectively, a significant improvement, while the best Transport Canada rating for the base Suburban 4×4 is 16.8 city, 11.3 highway and 14.3 combined, worse than the old Expedition Max if driven around town most often. Also notable, there’s no stated difference in fuel economy from the base Ecoboost engine to the more powerful version, but the larger optional 6.2-litre V8 in the Tahoe and Suburban slightly increases fuel consumption to 16.4 city, 10.7 highway and 13.8 combined or 17.1, 11.3 and 14.5 respectively.
Along with standard four-wheel drive, the new Expedition also gets a version of the Explorer’s terrain management system, allowing the choice of driving styles, the capability of maximizing traction on various road and trail surfaces, plus the ability to set the SUV up to either tow a trailer or have it hauled behind a larger vehicle (although the latter is a bit hard to imagine given the size this SUV), all from a dial on the lower console.
On pavement, where I spent most of my time with the Expedition, I found its Ecoboost V6 nice and smooth, albeit complemented by the sound of a pleasant V8-like rumble emanating throughout the cabin. Step on the throttle and it feels even stronger than the majority of V8s thanks to all the aforementioned horsepower and torque, and therefore would be my choice in this class unless Ford opts to offer the Expedition with a Powerstroke diesel at some point, but that won’t likely ever happen due to emissions regulations.
The new 10-speed automatic might be an even smoother operator than the engine. It’s truly almost as seamless as a CVT, shifting often albeit without commotion, and responding well to more aggressive digs at the pedal, with fairly quick downshifts and continued silky operation. Likewise, I never tried to defeat the auto idle start/stop system as it shut itself off at stoplights without much notice and restarted immediately, again without even a hiccup.
Speaking of smooth, the Expedition’s ride is a comforting mix of pillows, clouds and whip cream. Ok, that was a stretch, but it nevertheless soaked up bumps, dips and other road imperfections wonderfully around town, out on the highway and pretty much everywhere else, even during some quick tests on gravel roads and wily trails. The Expedition is probably best on the open freeway where it’s ability to cruise for hundreds of miles upon miles in any given stint is superb, this ability made even more relaxing via dynamic cruise control that makes life behind the wheel as easy as can be, while its handling around sharper curves is nevertheless very good for this class, its rear suspension being an independent multi-link design unlike the Tahoe’s non-independent solid rear axle, plus the Expedition’s road and wind noise pretty nominal considering it’s shaped like a big brick.
I even found my Expedition tester quite nimble through traffic, aided by the excellent visibility its extremely tall ride-height provides. This said parallel parking in the inner city or trying to find a large enough spot in a parking garage can be challenging, but then again most of the folks I know who own a full-size SUV have a smaller vehicle for getting around town.
Along with all the performance and luxurious ride is a cabin that’s improved so much over its predecessor that I’m really wondering why there’s a need for a Lincoln Navigator in the lineup. Okay, I probably shouldn’t go that far because the 2019 Navigator I recently tested really impressed me with authentic hardwood and a lot of premium materials all-round, more than making up for the $12k or so price upgrade needed to get into a similarly equipped model, but I certainly wouldn’t need all the fancy stuff in a family hauler like this, and found my Expedition Limited test model incredibly comfortable, especially the driver’s seat that was about as supportive as can be found in this full-size segment. It only includes two-way lumbar support, mind you, although to Ford’s credit that lumbar pad powered in and out exactly where the small of my back required it, so it’s hard for me to complain (but you should to try the lumbar support on for size). I found the driver seat’s squab fit nicely under my knees too, although can’t say how it would feel for someone with shorter legs.
Back to the subject of materials quality, Ford finishes most of the dash top ahead of the driver and front passenger in attractive, soft-touch stitched and padded leatherette, this premium material actually flowing all the way around the sides of the primary gauge cluster, and also forming a separate horizontal strip ahead of the front passenger between chromed metallic inlays. Likewise the top of each door upper was furnished in the same high quality padded and stitched leatherette, front and back no less, while the tops and sides of the armrests are nicely padded as well.
The Limited trim’s woodgrain is finished with a matte treatment, but Ford didn’t even try to make it feel real. I have to say it looks pretty good though, so I can’t see many complaining as this is the way they’ve offered up the Expedition since day one, and if you want more you can move up to the new Navigator as mentioned a moment ago. One thing I like more than the Navigator is the knurled metal rotating dial for swapping gears, this a lot more intuitive than the latest Lincoln’s horizontal row of buttons.
Ford complements its gear selector with a smaller rotating knurled metal dial for choosing drive modes, which include Normal, Eco, Sport, Tow/Haul, Mud and Ruts, Sand, and Grass/Gravel/Snow. I set it to Normal for most of my time behind the wheel, but found that Eco was a good choice when driving around town in busy traffic as well, plus I’m sure there were fuel savings from doing so.
Eco mode retards the 10-speed transmission’s shift points so it doesn’t hold gears as long, amongst other things, although if you need to move off the line quickly to get ahead of slower moving traffic the engine certainly responds well enough. Sport mode doesn’t allow the auto start-stop function to work, so the engine is always primed and ready to go, while shift points are higher in the rev range resulting in more responsive performance. Also important, when still in Sport mode yet driving in a more relaxed manner, the transmission won’t simply hold engine revs high for no apparent reason, making this gearbox design a lot more intelligent than many others I’ve driven.
I scrolled through the other drive mode functions for testing purposes and all seemed up to their various tasks, although only a true test over specified terrain would verify. This said I’ve experienced Ford’s Terrain Management System in other models before, such as the Explorer, and can only imagine it would work even better in this true body-on-frame 4×4.
Back to interior niceties, the instrument panel includes an impressive analogue/digital gauge cluster. It smartly shows a row of 10 gears right next to the tachometer, which move up and down as they slot into place. The standard multi-information display between the two analogue gauges is very large at 8.0 inches in diameter, and extremely high in resolution, plus it’s filled with an eye-arresting array of attractive graphics boasting excellent contrast and depth of colour. Functions include an off-road status panel with an inclinometer and more, a real-time fuel economy average that showed 18.3 L/100km when taking notes (fortunately not my weeklong average), a comprehensive trip mileage panel, some engine information such as driving hours and idle hours (my tester showing 209 total hours of which 63 were idling, so the need for an idle start-stop system in a vehicle like this is understandable), a turbo boost gauge, and more.
If you’re not familiar with the Ford Sync 3 infotainment system then you probably haven’t read many of my other reviews about Ford products, because I’ve been raving about this infotainment system since it was introduced a few years back. I won’t say that it’s still best of the best, but it was at one point and now remains one of the better electronic interfaces in the mainstream industry, continuing forward with stylish light blue graphics and simple, straightforward commands, plus loads of useful features including a very accurate navigation system and, in the case of my tester, an excellent parking camera system with backup and overhead views.
Surprisingly, all Expeditions come suited up with a fabulous 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, while its controls were once again comprised of knurled metal-like dials and tight fitting buttons, as were all the HVAC system controllers that neatly featured temperature readouts within the middle of each dial. Most of the Expedition’s switchgear is nicely made, tightly fit and well damped for a premium feel, with only the steering wheel buttons coming across a bit low rent.
Also, don’t look for premium composites below the beltline, Ford even finishing the glove box lid in shiny hard plastic. That might be good news for those looking to their Expeditions for hard work or play, being that the lower door panels, while hard shell plastic, appear rugged enough to sustain plenty of kicks from steel toed boots. Likewise, you won’t need to worry about grabbing hold of the A-pillar with dirty, sooty gloves or unwashed hands while swinging yourself into the driver’s seat, because Ford doesn’t wrap any of the Expedition’s roof pillars in fabric, so once again look to Lincoln’s Navigator if you’re interested in a higher level of premium pampering.
The Expedition’s passenger compartment is about as spacious as you’re going to get in any class, and no different than the Navigator’s from a size perspective. My tester came with two rear buckets featuring a wide passageway in between to get to the third row. You can also tilt either bucket seat forward to access that rearmost row, which might be easier for some, but I expect smaller kids will just run through the middle. This makes it easier for parents still strapping a child seat into that second-row bucket. Nevertheless, the new Expedition is actually the first full-size SUV to incorporate tip-and-slide second row seats, so kudos to Ford for bringing this convenient feature to the largest SUV segment. No one will complain about third-row seat comfort no matter how they climb in back, because its as accommodating as any large minivan, if not more so.
No one should complain about second-row seat comfort either, plus these lucky folks benefit from a comprehensive rear automatic HVAC and audio system panel on the backside of the front console featuring two USB ports, a three-prong household-style socket for laptops, entertainment/gaming consoles or whatever else you might want to plug in, plus buttons for the heated seats, and more. Even third-row passengers can use the aforementioned sidewall-mounted power controls for reclining their seatbacks, while they also benefit from an available USB charge point for each outboard passenger (highly unusual but wonderfully welcome), good standard overhead ventilation, and wonderful visibility out each side through large squared-off glass, not to mention from above via the massive panoramic sunroof, all helping to minimize any claustrophobic-like feelings of being stuck in the very back.
Additional Expedition tech worth mentioning includes wireless device charging (if you have a smartphone new enough to make use of it), Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and rear-seat entertainment, my tester featuring a separate monitor on the backside of each front headrest. This isn’t ideal for third-row passengers, so you may get some complaints from the very back about not being able to see the movie (my recommendation is to crank up the B&O audio system and not worry about it). In total, the Expedition provides six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets, and the single 110-volt power outlet just noted, which should be enough for most families’ needs. Lastly, Ford includes 17 cupholders for holding all those personal devices, or alternatively for keeping all occupants’ thirst quenched.
That would be a total of eight occupants, by the way, although as noted my tester’s second-row captain’s chairs reduced the big SUV’s people hauling capacity to seven, and by seven I’m referring to seven adults.
The eight-occupant layout comes standard in $53,978 base XLT trim, by the way, with other standard features including 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels, fog lamps, black running boards, black roof rails with crossbars, Ford’s exclusive SecuriCode keyless entry keypad, Ford MyKey, illuminated entry with approach lamps, pushbutton start/stop, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a windshield wiper de-icer, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder and conversation mirror, a universal garage door opener, tri-zone automatic climate control, Sync 3 infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a backup camera, navigation, voice activation, and 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio with satellite radio, with yet more standard features including powered rear quarter windows, a flip-up tailgate window, a useful cargo management system, power-folding third-row seats, Ford’s Easy Fuel capless fuel filler, a Class IV trailer hitch receiver and wiring, tire pressure monitoring, SOS Post-Crash Alert System, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more.
My tester’s Limited starts at $65,288 and includes 20-inch alloys, additional chrome embellishments including chrome detailed door handles, bright stainless roof rails, LED taillights, remote engine start, passive keyless entry, power-deployable running boards in body-colour with polished stainless accents, power-folding side mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming, ambient lighting, woodgrain appliqués, a powered steering column, power-adjustable pedals, driver-side memory, a heatable steering wheel rim, 10-way powered front seats with heat and forced ventilation, perforated leather upholstery, the aforementioned heatable second-row outboard seats with Tip-and-Slide and PowerFold (albeit a 40/20/40-split bench), the previously noted powered panoramic sunroof, a Connectivity package that includes wireless smartphone charging, a FordPass Connect 4G WiFi modem, and the two smart-charging USB ports in the third row noted earlier, plus the Limited also gets additional first/second-row and cargo area power points, a hands-free foot-activated powered tailgate, front parking sensors, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic assist and trailer-tow monitoring, plus more.
My tester also included a $5,000 302A package featuring 22-inch alloys, LED headlamps, LED fog lights, and a Driver’s Assistance Package that would otherwise cost $1,200 while adding automatic high beams, rain-sensing front wipers, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, Pre-Collision Assist with forward collision warning and pedestrian detection, lane keeping alert, lane keeping assist, driver alert, a Split View 360-degree parking camera, and the Enhanced Active Park Assist system with Auto Park.
Lastly, $72,552 Platinum trim makes everything from the 302A package standard while adding its own 22-inch alloys, a unique satin-mesh front grille insert, additional satin-aluminum trim details including its mirror caps, satin-chrome door handle trim, brushed aluminum scuff plates, a similar set of multi-contour front seats as found in the Navigator including an Active Motion massage function, inflatable second-row outboard safety seatbelts, and more (all pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, which provides full details about each trim, package and standalone option, plus otherwise difficult to find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
Considering the 2019 Chevy Tahoe starts at $59,500 with 4WD, which is $5,522 (or about 10-percent) more than the Expedition’s base price, with even the Tahoe’s base 2WD model starting higher at $56,200, the much more advanced 2019 Ford Expedition should really do a lot better than it does from a sales perspective. After all, its powertrains provide more performance plus greater efficiency, its Terrain Management four-wheel drive system is more sophisticated (originally sourced from Ford Motor’s previous Land/Range Rover ownership and since improved upon), its suspension system is fully-independent, its body shell is constructed mostly of lightweight aluminum, its third-row access is much easier and rearmost seat more accommodating, its cargo capacity is mostly larger, and the list goes on and on. If you’re in the market for a new full-size SUV, you may want to consider all of the above before choosing yet another Tahoe, Yukon or Suburban.
Which would you rather have, one of Chevy’s ultra-rugged off-road racing replica Colorado ZR2 pickup trucks with its standard V6 or with its optional diesel? We tested both, using just its default rear-drive…
Which would you rather have, one of Chevy’s ultra-rugged off-road racing replica Colorado ZR2 pickup trucks with its standard V6 or with its optional diesel? We tested both, using just its default rear-drive 4×2 mode on pavement, across some fast-paced gravel roads in 4WD high, and lastly with its 4WD-low gear-set engaged in the dirt and sloshing through some thick winter mud with a bunch of hip-wader-high puddles thrown into the mix.
The diesel-powered version was actually last year’s truck that we decided to cover in one review now that our V6 gasoline-fueled model arrived, allowing us to tell you about all the changes Chevy has made to this 4×4 beast as part of its 2019 model year changeover. Of course, this is a niche vehicle that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the updates affect the majority of Colorado and GMC Canyon models, so it won’t matter whether you’re choosing one of the General’s mid-size pickups for work or for play.
Along with its off-road prowess the 2019 Colorado is better for everyday use too, thanks to a new larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen in all trims except for the base WT (Work Truck) that still does pretty well with a new 7.0-inch main display. The larger of the two boasts beautiful HD graphics and even an HD backup camera, which we’ll make sure to comment on in our upcoming road test review.
Our ZR2 tester even includes a wireless smartphone charger, this feature standard with Z71 trim and above, while all trims include a new smaller Type-C USB port next to the conventional USB-A connection. These are located on the front centre console, next to an auxiliary input jack and an available SD card reader. Additionally, a second microphone mounted closer to the front passenger improves Bluetooth hands-free voice quality, while we really like the ZR2’s heatable steering wheel rim, this now standard on all trims above the LT.
I won’t bore you with all the ZR2’s comfort and convenience features, which are readily available on Chevy’s retail website or at CarCostCanada where I sourced all the 2019 Colorado’s pricing information including trims, packages and standalone options, not to mention money-saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing, but suffice to say it’s very well equipped for just $46,100 plus freight and fees, albeit more focused on off-road prowess than pampering one’s backside.
Like the 2017 and 2018 Colorado ZR2, this new one gets a substantial boost in ride height and therefore ground clearance that’s up by 50 mm (2.0 inches), while any negatives to high-speed handling are offset by a 90-mm (3.5-inch) increase in front and rear track, new stiffer cast-iron lower front control arms, and special 8- by 17-inch alloy wheels cushioned by 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road rubber. Handling off the beaten path, particularly improving suspension articulation is a new 1.0-inch-diameter solid anti-roll bar replacing the usual 1.5-inch hollow one, while leaving the best for last are special Multimatic shocks designed for cushioning the otherwise jarring impacts of rocks, roots and other obstacles you might find along an ungraded back road or trail.
Easier to see are skid plates below and tubular rocker extensions at each side, both designed to protect vulnerable components and bodywork, but the ZR2 is even more noticeable to passersby thanks to its all-business matte black grille and even beefier black hood dome that serve no purpose but looking good, rugged black bumpers that get chopped down a couple of notches to improve approach and departure angles, and muscular black fender flares that make way for those meaty tires just noted.
Between the front wheel wells of this $495 optional Kinetic Blue Metallic painted truck is the standard 3.6-litre V6 that’s good for 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, the latter from 4,000 rpm, driving the rear axle or both via part-time four-wheel drive and an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination gets a claimed 15.0 L/100km city, 13.0 highway and 14.1 combined fuel economy rating, thanks in part to cylinder deactivation under light loads.
The Deepwood Green Metallic coloured truck (it looks grey), the optional colour discontinued for 2019, mates GM’s wonderful 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder, good for 181 horsepower and a best-in-class 369 lb-ft of torque from just 2,000 rpm, to a less advanced yet still very capable and arguably more robust six-speed automatic gearbox, which come together for a much thriftier 12.5 L/100km city, 10.7 highway and 11.7 combined rating, which might not be enough fuel economy gains to justify its considerable $4,090 upgrade unless you happen to put a lot of distance between trade-ins, or require the diesel’s much improved efficiency to travel deeper into the woods than gasoline-powered truck owners dare tread.
So how does this tall, dark (re lack of chrome) and (arguably) handsome cross between the no-trails-barred Jeep Gladiator and off-road race replica Ford F-150 Raptor drive around town, down the highway and into the wild green yonder? Again, we’ll give you a complete buildup and rundown in our upcoming road test review, plus more in-depth details about its Multimatic shocks, suspension upgrades, interior upgrades, etcetera. Until then, enjoy our sizeable photo gallery…
Toyota redesigned the Highlander for the 2014 model year, giving it much more character and impressive refinement inside, while upping the maximum seat count from seven to eight, and then after just three…
Toyota redesigned the Highlander for the 2014 model year, giving it much more character and impressive refinement inside, while upping the maximum seat count from seven to eight, and then after just three years they replaced the simpler truck-inspired front grille and fascia for a ritzier chromed up look that certainly hasn’t hurt sales.
Its popularity within its mid-size crossover SUV segment grew from eighth in the 2016 calendar year, when the updated model was introduced, to seventh the following year, while after three quarters of 2018 it’s risen to fifth overall and just third amongst its dedicated three-row peers.
Obviously Toyota sees no reason to change much for 2019, so the full-load Limited model in our garage this week only gets a nice new set of LED fog lamps. This is true for both the conventionally powered model and our Highlander Hybrid tester, the latter being the only mid-size SUV within the mainstream volume sector to be offered with a hybrid-electric powertrain.
Think about that for a moment. SUVs are taking over the entire automotive market, and electrification is supposedly our future, but only Toyota offers a hybridized mid-size SUV. Like so many things in life, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Kudos to Toyota, mind you, that’s been leading the way for more than a dozen years.
Hybridization means Toyota swaps out its standard 295-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 for the same engine running on a more efficient Atkinson cycle, which when mated to two permanent magnet synchronous electric motors, one for driving the front wheels and the other for those in the rear, plus a sealed nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) traction battery, results in 306 horsepower and an undisclosed amount of torque that’s no doubt more than the 263 lb-ft provided by the gasoline-only variant.
Additionally, the regular Highlander’s advanced eight-speed automatic is replaced by an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) with stepped ratios to mimic the feel of a traditional gearbox, plus a sequential shift mode for getting sporty or merely downshifting while engine-braking, and as sure as rain (or should I say snow this time of year) its aforementioned all-wheel drivetrain takes care of slippery situations.
At $50,950 plus freight and fees the 2019 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t come cheap in base XLE trim, while this upgraded full-load Limited model hits the road for a whopping $57,260, but then again a similarly optioned 2019 Chevrolet Traverse High Country comes in at an even loftier $60,100, and the only slightly nicer 2019 Buick Enclave Avenir will set you back a stratospheric $62,100, and they don’t even offer hybrid drivetrains, so maybe the Highlander Hybrid Limited isn’t so pricy after all.
I’ll go into much more detail in my upcoming 2019 Highlander Hybrid Limited review, so for now enjoy our comprehensive photo gallery above and be sure to come back soon for my full road test…
Thanks to General Motors, the mid-size pickup truck market is once again starting to heat up. Toyota was hardly contested in this market for far too long, but GM reintroduced its Chevrolet Colorado and…
Thanks to General Motors, the mid-size pickup truck market is once again starting to heat up. Toyota was hardly contested in this market for far too long, but GM reintroduced its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins in 2015 and has steadily been gaining back market share ever since.
In fact, after just a year of availability the two trucks combined for 12,652 sales, and by so doing snuck right past the Tacoma’s 12,618. That gap widened in 2017 with 14,320 GM mid-size truck deliveries and just 12,454 for Toyota, while as of September 30 this year the General managed to sell 12,702 Colorados and Canyons compared to Toyota’s tally of 10,703 Tacomas, so as long as the final quarter of 2018 follows suit it should be another banner year for these two domestic pickups.
Just in case you forgot (as most people did), Honda and Nissan sell trucks in this segment too. Still, despite an impressive second-generation Ridgeline the motorcycle company that initially started out selling a pickup truck was only able to lure in 3,169 new buyers over the same nine months of 2018, while Nissan, one of the originators of the compact pickup category, could only rally 3,071 of its faithful troops around its Frontier.
Nissan hasn’t redesigned its Frontier pickup in so long it should be facing child abandonment charges, but the segment’s previous shabby chic offering, Ford’s Ranger, will soon be with us again, albeit much larger, thoroughly modernized and no doubt capable of taking on the top three. What’s more, FCA, the parent company of the Dodge brand that gave up on the Dakota, finally showed the new Wrangler-based Gladiator in production trim at the LA auto show, so this warming small truck market might soon be boiling over.
Again, we can thank GM for sticking its neck out with the Colorado and Canyon, because if it weren’t for these two the others wouldn’t have had verified proof that mid-size trucks were still worth investing in, only that buyers were waiting for some decent product to arrive.
Decent is an understatement with respect to the Colorado and Canyon, mind you. Just look at this GMC Canyon in its 4WD Crew Cab SLE All Terrain setup. I think its design is fabulous, and I always enjoy spending time behind the wheel, especially when its class-exclusive turbo-diesel four-cylinder powerplant is powering all four wheels. Honestly, this is the type of engine Toyota should be putting into its Tacoma, not to mention Ford and Nissan whenever replacements to their pickups arrive.
I spend a lot of time in and around Metro Manila, Philippines, my second home (Antipolo City to be exact), and have witnessed all the diesel trucks on offer. The Ford Ranger mentioned earlier is easily one of the best looking pickups there or anywhere, also diesel powered, whereas the Asian-spec Navara is the truck Nissan should’ve imported to North America along with its fuel-efficient turbo-diesel powerplant. The Philippine-market Toyota pickup is dubbed Hilux and diesel-powered as well, while Chevy also sells a diesel-powered Colorado in the Philippines, although the rebadged Isuzu D-Max isn’t even close to North America’s Colorado.
Duramax Diesel power is the first reason I’d recommend our Canadian-spec Canyon or Colorado to truck buyers here, even over the Tacoma. Some Canadians might pretend that fuel economy isn’t as big an issue now as it was before the oil crash, but a quick study of our current economic situation will show that it’s even more important to find economical transportation now than it was then, especially in a smaller, less-expensive pickup class that’s likely being purchased for financial reasons first and foremost.
Only this past summer regular 97 octane rose to more than $1.60 per litre in my part of the country, and even our current $1.30 to $1.40 per litre range isn’t exactly cheap. In fact, our new low is considerably higher than just before the bottom fell out of big oil. What’s more, the majority of Canadians should be well aware how these low oil prices hit our collective Canadian gross domestic product (GDP) bottom line, not to mention the wallets of many Canadians’ personally, plenty which come from parts of the country where pickup trucks are a larger percentage of the market, such as Alberta, so it’s probably not a good time to be loose and easy with our fuel budgets.
As for where the Canyon and Colorado fit within the overall scheme of things, let’s face the fact that most truck buyers would rather own a full-size Sierra or Silverado than anything mid-size. Bigger trucks deliver more space, comfort, performance and functionality, albeit at a higher price. This need to target entry-level pickup buyers is exactly why the smaller Colorado and Canyon exist, but before I go on let’s make sure we’re both perfectly clear about why these two trucks are succeeding in a market segment where others have failed miserably: they’re sensational.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but as noted a moment ago I happen to think both trucks look great. I’m a bit more partial to the Canyon than the Colorado, unless the latter is upgraded to new ZR2 off-road race truck spec. Interestingly, styling matters at least as much amongst pickup truck owners as sports car zealots, buyers in this most utile of auto sectors wooed by rugged designs that appear like they could trek across seemingly impassable terrain as if they were domesticated equivalents of an M1A2 Abrams tank, or in the case of this smaller pickup something along the lines of the now-discontinued M551 Sheridan.
Adding an oil-burning variant only ups their go-anywhere character, the 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel under my 2018 Canyon 4WD Crew Cab SLE All Terrain tester’s sculpted hood capable of a stump-pulling 369 lb-ft of torque from just 2,000 rpm, not to mention a very efficient 12.1 L/100km in the city, 8.3 on the highway and 10.4 combined when configured for 4WD, or an even more impressive 10.8 city, 8.0 highway and 9.6 combined with RWD. By the way, it makes 181 horsepower at 3,400 rpm too, but that number isn’t quite as important in pickup truck circles, where useable towing twist is king for some and the ability to delve deeper into the wilderness on a single tank of fuel reigns supreme for others.
The Canyon’s tow rating ranges from 2,449 to 2,812 kg kilos (5,400 to 6,200 lbs), while diesel models are equipped with an exhaust brake and an integrated trailer brake controller. Additionally, SLE trim gets trailering assist guidelines added to the otherwise standard backup camera, plus a Tow/Haul mode that raises transmission upshift points for more power when needed, and also raises downshift points so you can use the engine for compression braking. What’s more, an optional Trailering Package adds an automatic locking rear differential, a 50.8-mm receiver hitch, four- and seven-pin connectors, a seven-wire harness with independent fused trailering circuits, a seven-way sealed connector to hook up parking lamps, backup lamps, right and left turn signals, an electric brake lead, a battery and a ground.
All of that aforementioned torque sounds like it should make for blistering performance off the line, and while the diesel-powered Canyon 4×4 initially jumps forward with enthusiasm it’s not capable of spine tingling acceleration after that. Still, it’s hardly embarrassing on a highway onramp, moves fast enough to get you into trouble in the city or on the highway if you’re not paying attention, and is more than capable of passing motorhomes and big highway trucks when required. The diesel’s standard six-speed automatic downshifts quickly and is plenty smooth as well, but it could use with another gear or two on its way up to higher speeds.
When off-road, shifting into 4WD high or low is as easy as possible, only taking the twist of a rotating knob next to the driver’s left knee. It’s a fully automated system, not forcing you to get out and lock the hubs, of course, but also not requiring a secondary lever to engage its low gear set, while crawling over rough terrain is this little truck’s forte.
As you might expect by looking at its beefy suspension, my tester’s ride was firm when rock crawling as well as when bouncing down inner-city lanes, but it was hardly punishing. A larger truck like the Sierra offers more compliance due to its heavier weight, but certainly this smaller 4×4 was pleasant enough. Likewise, handling and high-speed stability is good for the class, with the Canyon fully capable when the road starts to wind and an enjoyable highway cruiser, but once again the larger Sierra delivers more in this respect.
The Canyon’s leisurely pace makes it all the easier to enjoy its impressive cabin, and it really is quantum leap above anything GM offered in this class before, and even a step above most competitors. SLE trim offers a mix of premium-level soft-touch surfaces and harder plastics, the latter common in pickup trucks, while the softer detailing includes an upscale padded leatherette with red stitching covering the left and right sides of the dash top as well as much of the instrument panel, whereas the lower dash and door panels are made from the more durable hard stuff.
Ahead of the driver, a digital and analogue gauge cluster features a fairly large 4.2-inch full-colour TFT multi-information display at centre that’s filled with useful features and superb graphics, while over on the centre stack is GMC’s new IntelliLink infotainment interface, which has become one of the best in the mainstream volume sector. It’s upgraded to the Canyon’s larger 8.0-inch touchscreen in SLE trim, and is easy to operate thanks to nice big ovoid Apple iPhone-style candy drop buttons in various bright colours and the ability to use tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe finger gestures.
This test truck didn’t include optional navigation with detailed mapping, but GMC includes the very useful OnStar turn-by-turn route guidance system, while the SLE’s infotainment interface was also loaded up with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity (although these are even included on the base model’s now larger 7.0-inch infotainment display this year), a decent audio system featuring satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming (a Bose system is optional), text messaging, and of course plenty of car settings. Some buttons below the touchscreen allow quick access to radio, media and audio functions, plus the home screen, while a nicely sorted single-zone automatic climate control interface is set up in the old school button and knob style just below.
On that note, switchgear for GM’s excellent heatable seats can be found just under the HVAC system on a separate interface, these being especially good because they allow the ability to heat both lower and backrest cushions separately, or just the backrest alone, while just above these is a row of toggle switches for trailering, turning off the stability control, the bed light, hill descent control, and the hazard lights.
A traditional lever gets used for shifting gears, with a plus/minus rocker switch on the knob for rowing through the cogs manually with your thumb. This means no paddle shifters are included, which is the case for most pickup trucks, but the steering wheel is nevertheless a nice sporty design with leather around the rim and more red stitching, while the switchgear on each spoke is very nice with rubberized buttons. The column is tilt and telescopic as well, whereas the seats are powered with fore/aft, up/down, and two-way powered lumbar support adjustments. Only the backrest needs manual actuation, which didn’t make one difference to me over my weeklong test.
The upgraded upholstery features both smooth and textured leatherette around the edges with a comfortable cloth in the centre, plus “ALL TERRAIN” combined with a mountain graphic stamped on the backrests. Considering SLE is hardly top of the line, it’s all pretty impressive.
The rear bench seat gets the same styling high-level treatment, and the outboard positions are quite comfortable other than having somewhat upright backrests due to space limitations. When the driver’s seat was set for my five-foot-eight frame I had about five inches available ahead of my knees when seated behind, so limousine-like wouldn’t be the term I’d use to describe the Canyon Crew Cab’s roominess, but most should still find it spacious enough, especially for this class.
The rear seatback can also be flattened for a handy load surface, or alternatively you can pull up the lower bench for stowing taller cargo you might want to keep out of the bed behind to protect from weather or theft, while lifting the seat also allows access to things stored underneath. I only wish GM had split the seat 60/40 for more passenger/cargo flexibility, but it’s hardly a deal-killer.
A deal-maker, and perhaps a pickup truck game-changer that I absolutely must highlight, is the CornerStep-infused rear bumper, an intelligent design that adds handy toe cutouts to the corners of the back bumper to ease smaller statured and/or maturing folk up onto the cargo bed with more grace and less potential bodily harm, the latter especially relevant when wet weather transforms the otherwise tiny rounded nubs at each corner of every competitive truck’s rear bumper into a slippery accident waiting to happen. I love these, and really appreciated how easy this makes it for climbing onto the bed when the tailgate is lowered.
Now that I’m talking features I’m realizing that I’ve neglected to go into detail regarding my tester’s standard kit, so over and above the equipment I’ve already mentioned my diesel-powered Canyon 4WD Crew Cab SLE All Terrain was nicely outfitted with 17-inch alloys, a Z71 off-road suspension, skid plates, body-colour bumpers, side steps, remote start, four USB ports, OnStar 4G LTE and Wi-Fi, a sliding rear window, a tow package, and more for an as-tested price of $47,988 plus freight and fees. Of note, the base Canyon starts at just $23,310, but you can spend considerably more than my tester’s nicely equipped tally for a fully loaded version, especially if venturing into top-line Denali trim (to see all 2018 GMC Canyon trims, packages and options, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, visit CarCostCanada now).
There’s a lot more I could say, but maybe it’s best to leave something special for you to personally discover. The Canyon is an impressive truck, and totally worthy of all the attention it’s getting from its ever increasing fan base. I recommend the turbo-diesel, but the base Canyon comes with what on paper seems like a reasonably strong 200 horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder and six-speed automatic combo, while upper trims can be had with a formidable 308 horsepower 3.6-litre V6 mated to an advanced eight-speed automatic. I’ve tested the latter and really enjoyed the extra power and smooth shifting gearbox, but in the end you’ll need to figure out which powertrain, transmission, driveline setup, body style and trim level you need for yourself, because GMC offers myriad options. This ability to fully personalize your ride really sets the Canyon, and its Colorado sibling apart from any rival, its three distinct engine options at the heart and core of this philosophy. More really is better, and GMC offers the most. Enough said.