If you’re in the belief that Porsche’s Panamera flagship is simply a low-slung luxury sedan, think again. Designed to transport four adults in a comfortable cabin filled with some of the most impressive…
If you’re in the belief that Porsche’s Panamera flagship is simply a low-slung luxury sedan, think again.
Designed to transport four adults in a comfortable cabin filled with some of the most impressive interior quality and luxury amenities available, it would be easy to surmise that Porsche didn’t have its eye on performance when conceiving its most luxurious car, but after a single lap on the arduous 4.0-km long Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, such thoughts should forever be banished.
The new 2021 Panamera Turbo S was chosen, the quickest of its type yet with 620 horsepower and 604 lb-ft of torque on tap resulting in a shocking zero to 100km/h launch of just 3.1 seconds and wickedly fast terminal velocity of 315 km/h. The car, set to arrive at Canadian Porsche retailers this spring, managed the fastest time ever set by a production sedan of one minute and 31.51 seconds (1:31.51).
This record, set with professional racing driver Leh Keen at the wheel, beat the new Taycan Turbo S’ single lap time of just 1:33.88 minutes set the month prior in December, although the electrified Porsche continues to hold the track’s production EV title.
“The engineers found a perfect balance,” said Keen. “They really made it feel small and sporty. The stability gave me a ton of confidence to use every bit of the asphalt and curbs. And yet the car has a completely different and more refined and relaxed character on the highway – an amazing combination.”
Along with a luxurious interior filled with premium materials and state-of-the-art electronics, the 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S gets plenty of standard performance equipment that make it as quick on the road as it is on the track, including Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV+), rear axle steering, and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport roll-stabilization system (PDCC Sport).
It should be noted that the 2021 Panamera Turbo S example that set the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta production sedan record was upgraded with an optional set of newly-developed road-legal Michelin Pilot Sport cup 2 ND0 ultra-high-performance tires measuring 275/35 ZR 21 103Y XL at the front and 325/30 ZR 21 108Y XL in the rear. The tires’ “N” designation signifies their co-development between Porsche and a tire manufacturer, in this case Michelin. The special tire was in fact designed specifically for the Panamera, and tuned at the legendary Nürburgring race track in Germany.
Also notable, vehicle data acquisition and timing expert Racelogic recorded and verified the Panamera Turbo S’ Road Atlanta lap time utilizing their VBOX video HD2 system.
Also, be sure to check out our full gallery of great Porsche-supplied photos above, plus enjoy the two Panamera Turbo S track record videos that follow.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S: Road Atlanta Record Lap (2:12):
Panamera Turbo S Record Lap: Driver’s POV (1:50):
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Porsche
Want a great deal on one of the best cars currently available? Mercedes-Benz is offering up to $7,500 in additional incentives on the outgoing 2020 E-Class, and some quick research shows there are still…
Mercedes has given the 2021 E-Class a refresh, updating the entire front fascia with a fresh, sporty take on the brand’s classic open oval, replacing the 2020 model’s horizontal slats with vertical dividers, while adding redesigned LED headlamps to each side. Updates to the lower front intakes are more subtle, but evident, as are changes to the car’s side profile, my E 450 4Matic tester swapping blackened window surrounds for bright metal and vice versa for the door handle trim. Of course, the wheels are new, but not because the 2020 rims were any less attractive.
Unlike most refreshes, the 2021 E-Class sedan’s taillights were dramatically updated, swapping out the 2020 model’s large, somewhat droopy ovoid clusters for a sharp new set of horizontally positioned lenses, these now cutting into the trunk lid, while the rest of the car’s hind end looks much the same as its predecessor, excepting some bright metal trim visually tying its tailpipes together. The modifications really make a difference to the E sedan’s looks, taking it from attractive to downright stunning, and bringing it up to date with other recently redesigned Mercedes’ sedans in the lineup, particularly the entry-level A-Class.
Moving inside, the German luxury brand added a new steering-wheel design and its latest MBUX infotainment system, enhancing what was already a very good interface, while additional advanced driver-assistance technology has been added to the mix too.
Lastly, the E 450 model says goodbye to its twin-turbo V6 for an entirely new turbocharged inline-six, which is a surprising move back in engine configurations for a brand that once solely made its six-cylinder engines in linear form. Inline six-cylinder engines are inherently smoother than V6s, which should bode well for enhanced refinement levels, not that the V6 is anything to harshly criticize. I should also mention that the 2021 model year sees the E 350e plug-in hybrid enter the fray, providing strong performance, improved fuel economy and the ability to utilize high-occupancy lanes during rush hour (depending on the regulations in your market).
I realize now that calling the 2021 E-Class a refresh is probably an understatement, as it’s more of a full redesign, at least in E 450 guise. Still, it’s most the same under the skin and inside, and to be fair to this 2020 version, little was needed to smarten up its interior. It starts with the most technologically impressive gauge cluster and infotainment combinations in the industry, Mercedes’ aforementioned MBUX display. Nothing looks anywhere near as advanced, with the only negative I could find being my personal need to spend less time in front of smartphone, tablet and TV screens.
The two conjoined displays are graphically stimulating, bright and colourful, high in definition, and impressively configurable, the left-side primary instrument and multi-information combo controllable via steering wheel switchgear, and one on the right incorporating modulated by way of lower console controls. I’d personally appreciate being able to tap, swipe and pinch directly on the display, but I also like having a set of remote dials and buttons closer at hand. As it is, the system’s only touch capacitive capability is atop the rotating dial, which was actually very effective.
Infotainment features are wide and diverse, some highlights including a dual-screen backup/overhead parking camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, accurate navigation, satellite radio, myriad car setting functions including the adjustment of various coloured mood lighting, HVAC control including plenty of seat adjustments and multiple massage settings, and the list goes on.
Those seats are fabulous, as you might expect from the planet’s best-selling mid-size luxury car. Mercedes has always made superbly supportive and comfortable driver’s seats, even going back to my old ’72 280SE (how I loved that car). It comes complete with three-way heating, three-way cooling, a powered headrest, an extendable lower cushion, and powered side bolsters that can be set to automatically increase support to the opposite side in which you’re turning, plus all the usual fore and aft, up and down, and recline controls. It’s even possible to adjust the front passenger’s seat from the driver’s side switchgear, including its lower cushion extension and all other functions. That’s pretty amazing.
The driving position is excellent too, with ample reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, not always the case which can be a problem for some body types (like mine). The seats’ leatherwork is beautifully crafted, as are all the open-grain hardwood inlays across the dash, console and door panels, while other niceties include a tasteful assortment of satin-finish aluminum and inky piano black lacquered trim in key areas around the cabin.
Gorgeous dark brown leather covered the entire dash top and door uppers too, with wonderful beige cream stitching. It was really a feast for cappuccino starved eyes. That Mercedes chose to emulate Rolex’ first-generation Explorer for the E’s dash-mounted clock is perfectly fitting, the circular time-teller following a similarly round interior theme dominated by a row of aluminum-trimmed air vents across the dash, and drilled aluminum speaker grilles (complete with a centre “f” hole that fans of the Gibson ES 335, Guild Country Gentleman, and similar hollow-body guitars will adore) for the sensational Burmester audio system. Truly, everything about the E 450’s interior was impeccably made from the best materials, even including the overhead console and rubberized sunglasses holder, the switches for the LED reading lights, and the rocker switch for the large dual pane powered panoramic sunroof and shade.
Of course, all roof pillars are fabric wrapped, while each door panel is soft to the touch all the way down to their bottoms. The sides of the centre console are pliable too, so as not to chafe the knees. Unlike some lesser models, the E-Class goes all the way with luxury, not matching the S-Class, of course, but getting very close.
This is true for rear seat occupants too, yet while the S-Class is certainly more accommodating and more luxurious, the E won’t doesn’t leave anyone wanting for too much more. There should be ample legroom, headroom, and width for most body types, and three-way heatable outboard seats were included in my tester as well. So was excellent venting from the backside of the front console, this hovering above a pop-out panel revealing two USB-A ports and a 12-volt charger, while a folding centre armrest includes a set of complex extendable cupholders as well as a lidded storage compartment under its padded cushion.
That armrest is attached to a foldable backing that, once lowered, provides a large pass-through from the trunk, ideal for longer cargo such as skis. The seats can be lowered in the usual 60/40 configuration after that, although should really be referred to as a 40/20/40 split. That trunk is nicely finished, by the way, as anyone who’s spent time with a Mercedes should expect.
Back up front, I found myself searching online to figure out how to heat up the steering wheel rim. The switch can be found on the end of the tilt and telescopic power steering column stalk. Just give it a twist and it even warms all the way around. The three-way heated driver’s seat was easier to source, as it’s right on the door panel above the seat controls that incidentally include three-way memory functions.
I started my driving impressions with warmth because getting comfortable is what the E 450 is mostly about, at least initially. Following this theme, the E’s ride is cloud-like. I hesitate using the word cloud because it denotes the feeling of floating, which reminds me of a particularly nauseating ride to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport as a child, in the back of a Netherlands taxi cab.
Of course, like most European taxis at that time, it was a Mercedes-Benz, similar to the one I expressed my love for earlier in this review. If you know anything about that drive, you’ll have memory of the plentiful dikes that need to be passed over along the way. Unfortunately, my dear brother wasn’t paying attention to the road ahead and the numerous dikes we repeatedly floated over and became violently car sick. Truly, that Merc’s suspension was much more pillowy than the domestic cars we’d grown up with in Canada. Those were car bodies on truck chassis, so it was safe to say we had never experienced anything this smooth before. I think the same could be said for anyone that’s never driven a mid- to full-size Mercedes-Benz car, and may be one of the key reasons a luxury buyer might consider purchasing one of the brand’s cars over their SUVs, not that the SUVs are particularly harsh.
While comfortable beyond measure, the E 450 4Matic also provides shocking good grip when pushed hard around fast-paced corners, no matter the weather conditions. Much of my weeklong test including wet road surfaces, although we also had a day of snow thrown in for good measure. Fortunately, I also experienced this E-Class in the dry, which allows me to attest to the fact this E 450 can manage everything thrown at it with grace and composure. I’d venture to say it’s one of the most well-rounded luxury sedans I’ve ever driven, and I’ve been behind the wheel of most.
Much of that driving prowess comes from the aforementioned powertrain, which provides impressive forward thrust thanks to the six cylinders mentioned earlier. This 2020 model’s engine featured the outgoing V configuration, which is still a force to be reckoned with thanks to 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6. To be very clear, output hasn’t changed one iota despite the move to a 3.0-litre inline six for 2021, although due to the inclusion of EQ Boost, a 48-volt mild-hybrid assist system featuring a starter/generator that makes 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque on its own.
Therefore, the new power unit is significantly more efficient, with the 2020 model good for a claimed fuel economy rating of 12.5 L/100 city, 9.1 highway and 11.0 combined, and the 2021 car estimated at 10.4 city, 7.8 highway and 9.2 combined. That’s a massive gain, so the step up to the 2021 model is worthwhile for those trying to eke out the most from every drop of premium unleaded, not to mention lessen their environmental impact.
We can be certain the aluminized toggle switch on the lower console wasn’t set to Dynamic sport mode when achieving those numbers in either car, while the E 450 includes a Sport Plus mode as well. The latter turns it into a ferocious beast with a much more exhilarating exhaust growl and more of a necessity to use its paddle shifters for swapping gears, at which point it automatically blips the throttle upon downshifts. It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde personality change, transforming from an absolutely relaxed luxury liner to I really edgy, thoroughly engaging performer. The regular sport mode simply tightens the E’s responses, enhancing transmission shifts albeit upshifting and downshifting without holding a given gear as stubbornly, and while it blips the throttle too, it doesn’t noticeably stiffen the chassis. Default Comfort mode is comfortably, quiet, and Eco mode automatically shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, something done less often in Comfort mode. All said it’s one of the more intelligent transmissions on offer.
That line pretty well sums up the entire car. It’s one of the more intelligent cars in its class, and it’s probably one of the smarter purchases from a resale value perspective too. I just happen to like it a lot, and would choose an E-Class over any direct competitor. New 2021 model’s styling upgrades and more efficient powertrain makes it even more enticing, although the potential savings on the 2020 might make sense for you too. You’ll need to move fast to take advantage of the latter, however, and connect with CarCostCanada to sort out the savings.
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer…
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you fell asleep at night thinking about it and woke up with it still on your mind, repeatedly? That was me when a colleague I worked with at a small BMW retailer back in ’96 (that eventually became Canada’s top seller) was selling his pre-owned E34 M5. The car was gorgeous, wickedly fast and semi-exotic, or at least as exotic as a four-door sport sedan could get.
I ended up working for that BMW dealership almost every day during the slow months in my seasonal business, because I was already a customer. I’d previously owned a wonderful ’74 Bavaria 3.0S and a bulletproof ‘82 528e, and was driving a little 325e while working there, so appreciated taking home whatever they’d give me on the pre-owned lot; a little green E36 325is being a regular that summer. I liked it so much, in fact, that I ordered my then-wife a brand new ‘96 325i Cabriolet with the factory aluminum hardtop. After missing out on the E34 M5 that went for silly money (or so I thought at the time), I settled for a similarly sleek ’89 E34 525i that was at least a step up in performance from my old, boxy Eta engine-powered 3 and 5 (albeit nowhere near as reliable).
I know I’m not alone when it comes to unfulfilled dreams, particularly with respect to the cars we enthusiasts initially wanted and the ones we settled for, that list a lot longer and more painful than I want to delve into right now, but at least after becoming an automotive pundit I earned the opportunity to drive some of the best cars ever made, some of which wore BMW roundels. Certainly, the various weeks spent with numerous M5s or an even better four days in Bavaria’s fabulous Z8 don’t quite measure up to the Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Ford GT, Porsche Carrera GT, Bugatti, etcetera I’ve driven over the years (although the Z8 was one of the prettiest of them all), but truth be told I’d choose the M5 to drive every day.
BMW’s quintessential sport sedan has been a go-to conveyance for well-heeled commuters for three dozen years, with engine output having increased from 256 horsepower in the North American-spec E28 version to a stellar 617 in this year’s Competition model. The regular 2020 M5 makes do with “just” 600, which is good for a 3.4-second blast from standstill to 100 km/h, while the Competition knocks another 0.1 seconds off the clock.
Of course, if all that any of us wanted were straight-line performance we’d buy an old Fox-bodied Mustang, stuff a 5.2-litre crate engine into it and hit the strip (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The M5 has become legendary for how it bends its sizeable four-door body through curves, initially for being first this side of a Maserati Quattroporte and a few other exotics to do so, and second for being comparably affordable.
Times have changed and you can now get into a four-door Maserati for less than an M5, but I’ll delve into such minutia in a moment or two. For now, after noting the base M5’s 176 horsepower and 1.3-second to 100 km/h advantage, while admitting Maserati will soon ante up with a more potent Ghibli Trofeo that’s 20 hp shy of the entry-level M5 before even getting out of the gates, and without getting thrust into the deep comparison void that obviously includes AMG-Mercedes’ E63 S, Audi’s RS 6 (oddly only available as an Avant wagon), Cadillac’s CT6-V and Lexus’ GS F (although the American and Japanese entrants will soon be ranked alongside other discontinued super sedans such as Jaguar’s XF RS), I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the Bimmer is the most capable of its class members in the corners too.
It feels lighter and more agile when pushed hard, more E39-like than the F10’s somewhat cumbersome road manners, the carbon fibre roof and other nips and tucks slicing a critical 45 kilos (100 lbs) or so from its predecessor’s curb weight. All-wheel drive keeps all the aforementioned power at bay, and the eight-speed transmitting torque to the wheels shifts much quicker than any conventional automatic should.
A bright red “M2” button on the right-side steering wheel spoke triggers Sport+ mode, which eliminates a bevy of safety features in its default setting, resulting in lickety-split launches and even some power-induced oversteer when the car’s rear drive-biased underpinnings are coaxed beyond containment. Of course, such shenanigans should only be attempted on a track, particularly when having designs to attain the M5’s 305 km/h (190 mph) terminal velocity.
Out on the road, preferably a rural one that winds and undulates like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey, get ready to dust off slower moving traffic as if it’s floating in stasis. Passing power borders on the ridiculous, with braking force so strong you’ll hardly need to worry about fast-approaching curves. The rate this car can gobble up tarmac is hard to fathom until experiencing it first hand, and that it does so comfortably is even more amazing. Of course, it hardly rides on BMW’s most cosseting suspension setup, yet while firm it’s far from unpleasant.
The cabin is a cocoon silent too, other than the ideal amount of combined engine and exhaust note, a critical ingredient for petrolheads buying into this high-powered class. This quiet demeanor will be especially appreciated during everyday driving when you’re more likely to leave its sport modes off and turn the 1,400-watt, 16-speaker, 10-amplified-channel Bowers and Wilkins surround audio system up, and believe me the sound quality is almost as awe-inspiring as the driving experience.
More on that just-noted M2 button, it’s combined with an M1 button on the left-side spoke, both featuring pre-set sport settings with the option of personalizing them for your specific driving taste. I tend to like a combination of suspension compliance and engine/transmission eagerness, so to speak, the latter for obvious reasons and the former to overcome the poorly kept country backroads that allow me to test a car like this to its maximum (ok, for the record I was nowhere near the M5’s maximum, but out in the boonies I was able to experience much of its capability when safe to do so). I chose to set my M1 button up like that, and added firmer suspension setting to the M2 button, so when the road smoothed out, I could quickly switch over to maximize Gs. I increased shifting speed from D2 to D3 in M2 mode too, turned off the DSC, and more.
The M5’s gauge cluster is perfect for those who want a full digital experience while still maintaining some semblance of analogue design, this due to a set of aluminum rings wrapping the tachometer and speedometer screens. This doesn’t allow the complete takeover of a navigation map, for instance, which is a cool feature offered by other manufacturers, but most should find the large multi-info display at centre large enough for such purposes. No shortage of functions can fill the MID, all scrollable via steering wheel controls, while the system’s graphics and display quality is top notch.
As for the main infotainment touchscreen on top of the centre stack, it was good enough for my needs, although gets better for 2021, growing by more than two inches for a new total of 12.3 inches. And you heard me right, by the way, it is a touchscreen and therefore is as easy to use as a tablet or smartphone, but BMW continues to provide its rotating iDrive controller on the lower console, so spin the dial if you prefer or alternatively tap, swipe and pinch to your heart’s content.
I did my fair share of tapping and pinching elsewhere around the cabin too, my incessant quality checks annoying enough to drive a previous significant other nuts (hence, previous). Suffice to say the M5 offers up one of the nicest interiors in the super sedan segment, with some of the best quality materials available and workmanship that should make anyone proud. I mentioned the Bowers and Wilkins stereo already, so I might as well laud the system’s beautiful drilled aluminum speaker grilles first, as they’re lovely. The plenty of other metalwork throughout the interior, some accents made from brushed aluminum and others from bright, while glossy carbon fibre could be found in key locations, as could exquisitely stitched leathers.
The front seats are gorgeous and wholly comfortable, with more support than any other BMW product I’ve tested, and at least as much as its competitors. They boast complete adjustability including extendable lower cushions, while the driving position was superb thanks to a generous supply of steering column reach. Those in back should be comfortable enough, as long as they’re seated next to the windows, with the entire rear compartment finished to the same high quality as the front compartment. Lastly, the M5’s trunk is large and accommodating, plus best of all its usefulness can be expanded via 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.
If you like the 2020 M5’s styling you’re not alone, as the car has been a relative hit. This said the 2021 M5 will undergo some visual surgery, squaring off a slightly enlarged grille, modifying the headlights and tail lamps, plus tweaking some other design details as well. Most should be ok with the changes, but those happy with the 2020 might want to snap one up while they can. This said, BMW isn’t offering any greater deal with the 2020 model, at least not yet, with both 2020 and 2021 models available with up to $1,500 in additional incentives, according to CarCostCanada. Check out the 2020 BMW M5 Canada Prices page and 2021 BMW M5 Canada Prices page for more info, plus find out how you can access all the available incentives on the M5 and most other cars available on the Canadian market, including rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Also, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can access all of this critical decision-making info on the fly.
Back in early 2017, Volvo asked us to “rediscover [our] passion in life” in a then new V90 Cross Country, yet while the Swedish automaker’s overall sales grew impressively thanks to plenty of freshly redesigned models and some entirely new entries as well, Canadian buyers flocked to its full lineup of SUVs instead of this tall mid-size luxury crossover wagon.
The result is the V90 Cross Country’s cancellation in our market as of 2020, this 2019 model year being its last after just three years. Along with the V90 Cross Country’s demise is the end of the regular V90 wagon too, while the beautiful and highly competent mid-size S90 luxury sedan remains in the lineup for at least another year and hopefully longer.
The choice to forgo a crossover wagon for a big flagship luxury sedan flies in the face of convention, with some brands, particularly Volvo’s previous parent Ford (and it’s Lincoln luxury division), eliminating cars almost entirely, but the continuation of the S90 is probably more about maintaining a premium image than adding to the bottom line, because with only 835 combined S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country sales in its peak calendar year of 2018, and merely 295 after a 65-percent plunge in 2019, none of these cars would’ve made much of a difference to Volvo Canada’s profitability.
For a bit of background, the V90 Cross Country replaced two generations of XC70 from 2000 through 2016 (it was dubbed V70 XC for the first three years), and by doing so once again brought Volvo’s renowned style, respected quality, sensible pragmatism and turbocharged, supercharged four-cylinder performance to the crossover wagon segment, while upping its luxury quotient to an entirely new level of opulence.
Anyone who’s spent time in a modern-day Volvo knows exactly what I mean, especially when equipped in one of its top R-Design or Inscription trims. The V90 Cross Country doesn’t use the usual trim nomenclatures for the Canadian market, but my tester was nicely outfitted with its Premium package and therefore, together with its generous list of standard features, is quite possibly (or should I say, was quite possibly) the most luxurious crossover wagon available today.
Then again, Audi may have something to say about that. The German brand now offers Canadian urban adventurers their all-new 2020 A6 Allroad in the same rather uncompetitive class, and while the four-ringed contender from Ingolstadt is impressive, Gothenburg’s outgoing alternative looks and feels richer inside despite costing $12,700 less.
The 2019 V90 Cross Country starts at a very reasonable $62,500 compared to the A6 Allroad’s lofty $75,200 price tag, and while Audi’s brand image is certainly more upscale than Volvo’s, and its turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 makes an additional 19 horsepower and 74 more lb-ft of torque than Volvo’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that puts out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the Swede is slightly more pragmatic from a fuel economy perspective, with a claimed Transport Canada rating of 11.6 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 10.0 combined compared to 11.8 city, 9.1 highway and 10.6 combined.
The 250 horsepower V90 Cross Country T5 AWD was discontinued at the end of model year 2018, by the way, this previously the base model at $59,500, while the $84,900 Ocean Race T6 AWD also said goodbye to the market for 2019.Now for 2019 there’s just one T6 AWD trim level, but the noted $3,900 Premium package does a good job of making it Inscription-like, thanks to features such as heated windshield washer nozzles, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, LED interior lighting, aluminum treadplates, a heated steering wheel rim, front and rear parking sensors with graphical warnings, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking, a 360-degree Surround View camera system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, four-zone automatic climate control, a cooled glove box, heatable rear outboard seats, power-folding rear seatbacks and outer head restraints, a really innovative semi-automatic cargo cover, an integrated soft safety net to separate cargo from passengers, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and more.
The aforementioned $62,500 base price for the 2019 V90 Cross Country T6 AWD doesn’t include $900 for metallic paint, which is included with the Audi incidentally, but the A6 Allroad only provides black and beige leather options inside, and it’s not plush Nappa leather like Volvo’s, which can be had in four no-cost optional hues including Charcoal (black), Amber (dark beige), Maroon Brown (dark reddish brown) and Blond (light grey).
It should be noted that despite appearing richly appointed my tester was far from fully loaded, as it was missing the $3,600 Luxury package with its gorgeous tailored instrument panel, sensational upgraded front seats with power-adjustable side bolsters, power-extendable lower cushions, multi-technique massage function, and cooling ventilation, plus manually retractable side window curtains in back. My test model didn’t have the $2,350 optional rear air suspension and Four-C Active Chassis upgrade either, and only had 19-inch alloys instead of $1,000 enhanced 20-inch rims, or for that matter body-colour bumpers, wheel arches and sills, $425 Metal Mesh decor inlays (although the hardwood was lovely), $250 black headliner, $1,500 graphical head-up display, $3,750 Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system (with fabulous aluminum speaker grilles), and $600 dual two-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard positions, with all of the above potentially increasing the 2019 V90 Cross Country’s price by $18,375 to $80,875.
While that might sound like a lot for a mid-size luxury crossover wagon, consider for a moment that the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad Technik starts at $83,100 without a massage, and while it includes that brand’s fabulous “Virtual Cockpit” digital gauge package (the V90 gets a digital instrument cluster too, just not quite as configurable as the A6 Allroad’s), getting said massage, along with upgraded Valcona leather will set you back another $4,050, while adding on all of the V90’s advanced driver assistive systems will cost another $2,400. You can also add the $2,500 Dynamic package with Dynamic Steering and Dynamic All-Wheel Steering, $2,500 for Night Vision Assistant, $500 for quieter dual-pane glass, $350 for Audi Phonebox with wireless charging, another $350 for rear side airbags (some impressive stuff), and $1,000 for full body paint (already priced in to the top-tier Volvo), bringing the German model’s total to $102,650, less an expected $1,000 in additional incentives if you choose to sign up for a CarCostCanada account in order to learn everything you can before speaking to an Audi dealer (see CarCostCanada’s 2020 Audi A6 allroad Canada Prices page).
That’s $1,000 less than a Volvo dealer is prepared to slice off of the V90 Cross Country, or so says CarCostCanada on their 2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country Canada Prices page, but considerable savings aside the Volvo should really impress anyone considering either of these two fine vehicles. They’re both unquestionably handsome from the outside, and come equipped standard with all expected LED lighting tech and brushed metal accents to dazzle owners and onlookers alike. The minimalist Audi cabin is sublime, as is Volvo’s ritzier interior, their materials and build quality never in question, the only differences being a desire to appeal to varying tastes.
Even before sliding into the V90 Cross Country’s enveloping driver’s seat, its high-quality gleaming metal- and leather-wrapped key fob sets the tone. This said its proximity-sensing access means it will most likely remain in your purse or pocket and not be touched at all—such a shame. Once inside, Volvo covers most surfaces with premium soft-touch synthetic or optional contrasting French-stitched leather, plus gorgeous dark oak inlays across the entire instrument panel and all doors. The fancier version gets the previously noted metal inlays instead, but truly there’s enough satin-finish aluminum trim elsewhere that more metal is hardly necessary.
Key areas below the waist are soft to the touch, not so with many premium brands such as Lexus (although they sell nothing in this class), while all pillars are nicely wrapped in the same high-quality woven material as the roof liner. The ritzy details spoken of earlier include much of the switchgear that’s downright jewellery-like. Seriously, the exquisite diamond-patterned edging around the main audio knob, plus the twisting ignition controller and scrolling drive mode selector, not to mention the beautifully formed vent knobs, are gorgeous bits of metalwork, while the digital displays are some of the best in the industry.
Before I continue, I must say that most everything I’m talking about is standard in Canada. Volvo even includes an impressive vertical tablet-style touchscreen on the centre stack, which in my opinion is one of the best in the business. Not only is it brilliantly clear and high-definition, with nice deep and rich colours, plus as easy use of a regular smartphone or tablet, with familiar tap, swipe and pinch functions, but it’s filled with loads of capability, making it one of the most versatile infotainment systems around. I also like that it mostly doesn’t change from one Volvo model to the next, so when you’re stepping up from an XC40 to this V90 or an XC90, you’ll enjoy the same impressive infotainment experience.
The fully configurable digital gauge cluster is standard too, and provides a nice clear display with a slight matte finish so there’s not much glare. While configurable, I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s as versatile as Audi’s aforementioned Virtual Cockpit, being that you can’t maximize infotainment system features to turn the entire cluster into a map, for instance. Audi’s cluster reduces the primary gauges into tiny dials at each corner, whereas Volvo’s dials remain mostly full-size all the time. Still, the V90’s gauge cluster offers excellent usability in other ways, the gauges shrinking slightly when using some features in the centre-mounted multi-info display, and that area quite large and appealing with plenty of attractive graphics and most features from the infotainment system, including a detailed, colourful navigation map.
As impressive as its interior is, one of the V90 Cross Country’s best attributes is the superb drivetrain noted earlier. Its 315 horsepower and 279 pound-feet of torque provide spirited V6-like performance off the line and quick response for passing manoeuvres. It’s mated to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic with manual mode, but unfortunately no paddles to keep the fingers busy in the more comfort-oriented V90 Cross Country. Rather, those wanting to row through the gears must do so via the shift lever, which is no problem yet not as easy as leaving both hands on the wheel for maximum control. Then again, I almost never bothered to shift the autobox anyway, as it went about its duty with effortlessly quick gear changes needing no prompting.
The Cross Country doesn’t provide the same level of handling sharpness as the regular V90 T6 AWD R-Design tested last year, but it certainly comes within a hair’s width of matching it. It’s 58 millimetres (2.3 inches) taller, causing its centre of gravity to raise upwards somewhat, so naturally it can’t provide the same lateral grip as the more hunkered down sport wagon, but you likely won’t notice much difference unless pushing it extremely hard, and that’s not really what the Cross Country is all about. It’s better at getting you out from within a snow-filled ski resort parking lot, or allowing for greater ease and confidence inspiring control while trekking through a muddy cottage country back road.
The V90 Cross Country is equipped with standard all-wheel drive, but no off-road mode, yet it manages slippery conditions well. I’d even be willing to venture into some light off-roading situations, such as overcoming small stumps and rocks on a logging road, for example, or wading through a shallow river bed, because that’s exactly what Volvo has promised is possible with this all-weather, all-season, multi-activity vehicle.
With standard roof rails on top, plus available cross-members, bike racks, overhead storage containers and more, the V90 Cross Country becomes an ideal companion for outdoor activities such as cycling, kayaking, camping, and more. Volvo provides plenty of other accessories too, such a $1,345 trailer hitch package with electronic monitoring and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA), allowing owners to take full advantage of this crossover’s capabilities.
While trekking through the wilderness, or merely overcoming the unkempt lanes in most of Canada’s inner cities, you’ll enjoy a wonderful ride, the V90 Cross Country providing even more comfort than the already impressive V90 wagon. This is a car I could drive all day long and never tire of. Together with its fabulous front seats, which are superbly comfortable and provide excellent support, there’s no real reason to spend more for the fancier massaging buckets unless money is no object.
Even more importantly for me, the driver’s position is ultra-adjustable and therefore should be perfect for the majority of body types. I’m a bit shorter than average at five-feet-eight, but my legs are longer than my torso, which can cause a problem if the steering column doesn’t provide enough reach. No such issues with the V90 Cross Country, however, that provides an ideal setup for both comfort and control.
There as an incredible amount of room in back, too, with almost 10 inches in front of my knees when the driver’s seat was set up for my long-legged frame, plus five inches remained from my shoulder to the door panel, another four or so next to my hips, and about three and a half above my head. Stretching out my legs was easy, with my shoes placed underneath the driver’s seat, while comfort was increased yet more via my tester’s four-zone auto climate control that provided a useful panel for controlling each rear outboard passenger’s temperature. The heated rear seats would no doubt be appreciated for winter ski trips with the family, as would the massive standard panoramic sunroof overhead, this completely eliminating any feelings of claustrophobia that can happen for some when seated in back, but then again it seems bizarre to imagine someone feeling closed in while seated anywhere in the spacious V90 Cross Country. Aiding the V90’s open, airy experience are HVAC vents on the backside of that centre console, and more at the midpoint of each B-pillar, while LED reading lamps hover overhead. A complex centre armrest flips down between outboard passengers, complete with pop-out dual cupholders, a shallow tray, plus a lidded and lined stowage container.
The V90 Cross Country’s powered liftgate lets you into the spacious cargo area, while the aforementioned retractable cargo cover automatically lifts up and out of the way. The cargo compartment, which measures 560 litres (19.8 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks and about 1,530 litres (54 cu ft) when the rear row is lowered, is luxuriously finished with plush carpets all the way up the sidewalls and rear seatbacks, plus of course the floor, while below an accessorized rubber all-weather cargo mat (part of a $355 Protection package that includes floor trays for four seating positions, a centre tunnel cover, and the just-noted cargo tray), my tester’s floor included a flip-up cargo divider featuring integrated grocery bag hooks. The floor can be lifted further, exposing a shallow carpeted compartment for storing very thin items, such as the carpeted floor mats while the all-season ones are in place.
Aiding versatility, the V90’s 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks include a small, narrow centre pass-through that’s ideal for a couple of pairs of skis, or alternatively each portion of the seatback can be dropped down flat via powered release buttons attached to the cargo sidewall. These automatically flip the headrests forward too, which incidentally can be lowered from the front to aid rear visibility as well.
If you’re currently driving a four-door sedan or wagon and not quite sure if a tall, SUV-like crossover such as Volvo’s XC90 is the right way to go, this V90 Cross Country is a good alternative. All said, I’m not going to recommend it over Audi’s new A6 Allroad mentioned throughout this review, but I will go so far as say that it measures up in all ways other than high-speed performance, and possibly prestige. Then again, Volvo has been reviving its respectability as of late, and has long enjoyed its own diehard following that would consider nothing less. Comfort is arguably better in the Volvo too, and as noted earlier this V90 Cross Country is a bit stingier on fuel. In the end it will come down to personal taste, and the ability of your local Volvo dealer to find a new one still available. If your interest is piqued, I recommend calling now before it’s too late.
Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay
You can count the number of luxury sport wagons available to Canadians on one hand. Raised crossovers and low-volume plug-in electrics aside, BMW offers one true wagon, Mercedes-Benz antes up with two,…
You can count the number of luxury sport wagons available to Canadians on one hand. Raised crossovers and low-volume plug-in electrics aside, BMW offers one true wagon, Mercedes-Benz antes up with two, and Volvo gives us the choice of another duo, one of which I recently spent some quality time with.
I purposely slid the word “quality” into my previous sentence to highlight the incredible lengths the Swedish brand has gone to up its game when it comes to fit, finish, premium materials, attention to detail, technology leadership, powertrain advancements, and just generally providing an awe inspiring sense of occasion that at the very least measures up to its German contemporaries, and often surpasses them.
My tester this time around was the 2018 V90 in T6 R-Design trim, which in Volvo-speak means that I had the sportiest of its three trim levels, showing second on the brand’s rung of aspirational feature sets, yet for the most part on the same level as top-tier V90 Inscription trim.
To clarify, the V90 is offered in $60,500 base (but by no means basic) Momentum trim, $65,100 R-Design guise, or lastly as the $66,700 Inscription, and make sure you see all prices, including dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, at CarCostCanada, where I referenced these. As you can see there’s little price differentiation from R-Design to Inscriptions trims, so both can be considered top of the line. It really comes down to priorities. Personally, I’m more attracted to this sportier R-Design model, but I must admit to really liking the design of this practical five-door sport wagon no matter the trim.
A quick review of features shows you’ll be getting an impressively outfitted car no matter which version you choose, with the base Momentum including standard 18-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights with active cornering and high-pressure cleaners, fog lamps, proximity access, pushbutton start, an electromechanical parking brake, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster, Road Sign Information (RSI), adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving capability, dual-zone automatic climate control, a large tablet-style touchscreen filled with one of the best infotainment interfaces in the industry, a clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, 224-watt 10-speaker audio, satellite radio, Volvo On-Call featuring remote start and vehicle tracking, active noise control, leather upholstery, heatable power-adjustable front seats including four-way lumbar and driver’s memory, power-folding rear seat headrests that flip down to make seeing rearward easier when no passengers are in back, power release folding rear seatbacks, a hands-free powered liftgate, and more. Whew! That’s a long list, and Momentum is just the base model.
Volvo never shortchanges its loyal clientele on standard safety features either, so along with Volvo’s usual tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, ABS, usual collection of airbags including one for the driver’s knees, etcetera, the V90 comes equipped with autonomous front collision mitigation with pedestrian detection as well as a lane keeping aid, and the systems weren’t overly sensitive so they gave off no false alarms, yet came into action each time they were needed.
Autonomous in mind, aforementioned Pilot Assist won’t completely take over the steering wheel, but as a precursor to full autonomous driving it works together with the adaptive cruise control to provide short-duration self-driving in the city and on the highway, so long as road markings are clearly visible. It works quite well too, but for the time being such systems are in their development stage and therefore are more novelties than anything particularly useful. I did find it helpful during bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, however, where it when about its business quite effectively, allowing me to relax a bit more than I would normally.
R-Design trim enhances styling with unique diamond-cut 19-inch alloys framing an upgraded sport suspension, a special blackened grille and trim, matte silver side mirror caps, and silk metal side window trim, while inside it gets an even nicer perforated leather sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, metal foot pedals, a full 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that’s beautifully detailed and filled with functions, four-zone auto climate control that includes a panel with controls in back, a subwoofer for the stereo, richer Nubuck leather upholstery, ultra-comfortable contoured sport seats with added side bolstering and a driver’s cushion extension that nicely cups under the knees for added support, unique Metal Mesh décor inlays, a black headliner, rear side sunshades, and plenty of R-Design branding.
I won’t go into too much detail regarding Inscription trim, but as noted before its feature set is much the same as with the R-Design other than the latter model’s sportier theme getting replaced by a unique chromed waterfall grille and ritzier chrome elements on the outside, whereas the interior is pure class due to beautiful Linear Walnut trim and stunning perforated Fine Nappa leather. Also, take note the Inscription includes ventilated front seats, front passenger seat memory, and more.
No matter the trim specified, everything comes together within a cabin that’s not only beautifully finished as noted earlier, but also supremely comfortable and ergonomically ideal. Finding the perfect driving position is easy, and that’s a big bonus for me as my shorter torso and longer legs don’t always fit within Volvo’s competitors. The V90 offers ample telescopic steering wheel reach and plenty of rake, while the seat adjustments provide more than enough flexibility for most any body type to find a good position.
The outboard rear seats are comfortable too, and especially supportive at the lower back while wonderfully sculpted with thick side bolsters similar to those up front, plus the flip-down armrest is wide and filled with pop-out cupholders as well as a handy lidded storage compartment. The large panoramic sunroof overhead offers an open and airy environment, while Volvo also provides real air via an excellent rear ventilation system that includes outlets on the backside of the front centre console plus additional vents on the B-pillars. Lastly, the three-way heatable outboard cushions noted earlier add rear passenger comfort on cold winter mornings.
Those rear seat heaters will be appreciated when traveling home from a day on the slopes too, and thanks to ultra-useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks they can be put to use while everyone’s skis are placed down the middle. Volvo also finishes the V90’s cargo area off beautifully, with a stylish metal cargo door protection plate that sits above another similar metal guard atop the bumper (this one a $155 option from the accessories catalogue), two of the nicest chromed tie-down hooks available from any luxury manufacturer, high quality yet durable carpeting most everywhere, and lastly a $215 reversible cargo mat from the accessories catalogue. What’s more, V90’s cargo cover is a technological marvel all on its own, automatically moving up and out of the way when the powered liftgate is opened, while below the strut-mounted load floor is a shallow but useful carpeted tray that sits above the compact spare tire and tools.
If you’re getting the idea that Volvo goes above and beyond to provide a new level of luxury to its fortunate followers, I’m glad. That’s what I’m trying to convey, and it gets even better when factoring in the driving experience. It starts with the most advanced 2.0-litre engine available today, the Swedish brand’s direct-injected four-cylinder benefiting from turbocharging as well as supercharging in order to make a stellar 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s real V6 power from a fuel-efficient four, the Transport Canada numbers coming in at 10.6 L/100km city, 7.6 highway and 9.3 combined, which is excellent considering the performance available.
Aiding the powertrain is an efficient eight-speed automatic with auto start-stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, reducing fuel consumption and emissions, but to just comment on this highly responsive transmission’s wallet and environmentally friendly attributes wouldn’t be doing it full justice, as, together with the aforementioned paddle shifters, it provides engaging hands-on performance that really ups the entire driving experience.
Improving handling and stability in both dry and slippery conditions is standard all-wheel drive, but my favourite V90 attribute is its incredible ride quality. Together with the previously noted seats, the V90’s cushioning ride is best in class, and that’s even after factoring in my tester’s $1,000 optional 20-inch eight-spoke silver diamond-cut alloys on 255/35 Pirelli P Zero performance rubber.
My test car didn’t include the $2,350 available Four-C Active Chassis and rear air suspension however, which would have made it even smoother, while upping performance by automatically maintaining a constant ride height. The Four-C system utilizes the standard Drive Mode settings, which include Comfort mode, Eco mode, and Dynamic sport mode, but specifically enhances the suspension calibration of each, while the standard Drive Mode system enhances powertrain and steering characteristics, plus climate control in Eco mode.
While we’re on the subject of options, my tester also included deep, rich $900 Onyx Black metallic paint on the outside and $750 worth of sensational carbon fibre inlays inside, plus a $2,000 Vision Package featuring auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, and one of the best 360-degree surround parking cameras in the biz; a $1,500 Convenience Package with a compass integrated into the rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, and Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking; a $3,000 Leather package featuring Charcoal leather R-Design seats and a tailored leather dash top and door uppers; a $1,250 Climate package with heated wiper blades, a heatable steering wheel, and those heatable rear outboard seats noted earlier; an outrageously good $3,250 Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system with a 12-channel amplifier, 1400 watts of output and 19 separate speakers including a tweeter on top of the centre speaker that minimizes acoustic reflection from the windshield; and lastly a $1,150 Graphical Heads-Up Display that projects speed, speed limit info, navigation directions and more onto the windshield ahead of the driver, with everything listed pushing my V90 R-Design tester’s list price up to $80,270 before freight and fees.
There were a few other options available, like rear entertainment, dual two-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard seats, and the aforementioned suspension upgrade, but for the most part this is a fully loaded mid-size Volvo sport wagon.
Getting back to the competition, the V90 truly only really competes with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon being that both are mid-size E-segment vehicles, whereas the others are based on compact D-segment models. So if you happen to appreciate the practicality of a larger five-door body style yet want the low-slung performance of a luxury sport sedan, the V90 is an excellent choice.
Acura’s dramatic new “Diamond Pentagon” grille is making sweeping changes to the way its entire lineup looks, and now we see it manifested in the Japanese luxury brand’s RLX flagship sedan. I…
Acura’s dramatic new “Diamond Pentagon” grille is making sweeping changes to the way its entire lineup looks, and now we see it manifested in the Japanese luxury brand’s RLX flagship sedan.
I certainly like the look. Acura first applied it to their mid-size 2017 MDX crossover SUV and more recently the 2018 TLX sport-luxury sedan, both having seen year-over-year sales growth since their updates, while the refreshed 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid has experienced a significant 33.3-percent uptick in its Canadian deliveries since it arrived in January.
Of course, there’s much more to the redesign than a new grille. For starters, Acura’s Precision Crafted Performance design language affects the entire front fascia, hood, side skirts, trunk lid, rear bumper, diffuser-like lower valance, new dual exhaust finishers, and machine-finished alloy wheels, not to mention its modernized set of five-element Jewel-Eye LED headlights displaying new LED character strips around their outside edges, and totally reshaped LED taillights. From front to back the new RLX is a much sportier, much more emotive design, which should really appeal to the car’s loyal fan base and hopefully attract more would-be buyers to the value-packed model’s camp.
Anyone who’s driven Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid knows it’s an especially impressive sport-luxury sedan, especially in top-line Elite trim. It has simply suffered from forgetful styling, which has arguably been fixed with this effective mid-cycle makeover. Fortunately its performance-oriented hybrid drivetrain and wonderfully balanced suspension needed no modification, the former carrying forward with 377 net horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque.
Similar to Acura’s fabulous NSX Sport Hybrid supercar and the brand’s most family-oriented MDX Sport Hybrid, the RLX Sport Hybrid uses a three-motor powertrain with electric torque vectoring. A tried and tested naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 powers the front wheels in concert with an electric assist motor, this most fuel-efficient combination used as a default in dry weather or under light loads, but if increased throttle input, hard cornering, or driving on slippery surfaces causes the need for rear-wheel propulsion an electrified version of Acura’s torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) provides traction from all four tires via two rear wheel-mounted electric motors.
Acura calls this system Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (Sport Hybrid SH-AWD), resulting in a long enough name to make any Teutonic carmaker proud, and while it’s a particularly advanced hybrid powertrain, its sophistication only scrapes the surface of all the technology aboard the RLX.
Before delving too deeply into the latter, take note that the front-wheel drive-only version of the RLX, available in the U.S., is not sold in Canada, which means its 310 horsepower V6, new 10-speed automatic transmission, Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS), and lower price point remains exclusive to our friends to the south. Of course, if there were a reasonable enough market for it here, we’d see it. Let’s just be glad Acura Canada chose to provide us with the much more formidable RLX Sport Hybrid instead of the opposite scenario, as I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed my weeklong test anywhere near as much.
Yes, where the previous RLX Sport Hybrid was surprisingly fun to drive for its conservative appearance, the new model lives up to its sporty outward character. It moves of the line with zero hesitation, shooting from standstill to 100km/h in just 5.6 seconds, and shifts through its seven-speed dual-clutch Sequential SportShift gearbox with slap shot responsiveness, Acura providing steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, Grade Logic Control and a Sport mode to make the process as engaging as possible, yet smooth and composed.
A BMW M5 it’s not, nor a Mercedes-AMG E63, but the RLX Sport Hybrid is a stimulating drive that provides a proper upgrade for those trading in their TLX A-Spec. The Sport Hybrid’s unique SH-AWD system defies the big sedan’s obvious girth, its actual curb weight measuring in at 1,993 kilos (4,394 lbs) in top-line Elite trim, which is a mere 18 kilograms (40 lbs) more than the base model. Still, it never feels overly heavy thanks to a nice flat stance during sharp transitional moves, positive engagement from its big, sticky 245/40R19 all-seasons, and strong braking despite repeated stomps, the RLX confidence-inspiring when driving quickly.
Ease off the throttle and it’ll pay dividends at the pump too, the Sport Hybrid combining idle start/stop and cylinder deactivation with its electrified powertrain for a claimed 8.4 L/100km in the city, 8.2 on the highway and 8.4 combined, which is superb when compared to similarly capable competitors such as the Audi A6 3.0 TFSI Quattro that gets an 11.5 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 10.0 combined rating despite its lower engine output of 340-hp and 325 lb-ft of torque (albeit quicker 5.2-second sprint to 100km/h), the BMW 540i xDrive that achieves 11.6 city, 8.1 highway and 10.0 combined with even less go-power at 335-hp and 332 lb-ft (yet an even quicker 4.8-second sprint to 100km/h), the Mercedes-Benz E 400 4Matic that sucks back 11.8 city, 8.7 highway and 10.4 combined with even less output at 329-hp and 354 lb-ft (yet another 5.2-second charge to 100km/h), and the list goes on. I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to give up a few tenths off the line for such significant fuel savings.
The RLX Sport Hybrid provides big initial savings as well. With a starting price of just $65,490 it hits the road for $1,360 less than the just noted Audi, $4,310 more affordably than the Mercedes, and $5,060 easier on the wallet than the BMW, while its list of standard features should at the very least make the Germans feel awkward.
On top of the standard full LED headlights noted earlier, the RLX Sport Hybrid includes standard heatable power-folding side mirrors with driver recognition, reverse gear tilt-down, and integrated LED turn signals, LED fog lamps, ambient interior lighting, remote start, passive keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a heatable leather-wrapped powered tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, colour head-up display, dual-zone auto climate control, AcuraLink infotainment with a multi-angle backup camera, navigation, voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email reading and response capability, Bluetooth with streaming audio, a 14-speaker surround-sound ELS audio system with hard disc storage and satellite radio, 12-way powered front seats with driver’s side memory, heatable front and rear seats, Milano leather upholstery, capless fuel filling, and the list goes on.
The updated 2018 RLX carries forward with the AcuraWatch suite of advanced driver-assistance systems too, including forward collision warning with autonomous collision mitigation braking, blindspot monitoring and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation, plus rear cross-traffic alert, which once again earns it an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating, while new for 2018 is Traffic Jam Assist that uses the Low Speed Follow function of the adaptive cruise control system to semi-autonomously maintain the flow of slow-moving congested traffic, a first for Acura.
AcuraWatch combines millimeter wave radar together with monocular camera sensing technology in order to detect lane markings and surrounding vehicles, which not only keeps the car within its lane, but can also intervene in order to prevent a collision or mitigate the severity of impact.
The move up to Elite trim adds $4,500 to the bottom line yet includes plenty of features to make up for it including extra exterior chrome, auto-dimming side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree surround-view parking monitor, ventilated front seats, ambient rear passenger’s footwell lighting, rear side sunshades, a powered rear sunshade, and a sensational Krell ultra-premium audio system that might be worth the price of entry alone.
All of this comes in a cabin that’s even more upscale than last year’s RLX, due to higher grade materials in key areas, soft touch surfaces throughout, beautiful aluminum and wood trim, well damped, nicely fitted switchgear that includes one of the more innovative pushbutton gear selectors in the industry, plus redesigned seats that are oh-so comfortable and supportive while trimmed out with sporty contrast stitching. Mine were done in Ebony to complement the Lunar Silver metallic paint, but no-cost Seacoast beige, Greystone light grey, and Saddle Brown are available as well, depending on your exterior colour choice.
If the RLX has a weakness it’s the digital interfaces displayed throughout, the highly legible analogue gauge cluster incorporating a fairly simple colour TFT multi-information display at centre instead of a fully configurable gauge package, while the centre stack houses Acura’s now outdated two-tiered infotainment system. It gets bonus points for providing multiple functions simultaneously, a process that normally requires a split screen and therefore a reduction in space for individual functions, but the setup looks and feels a bit old school when compared to those used by most mid-size sedan peers, especially the aforementioned E-Class that can be had with a massive 24.6-inch tablet-style primary gauge/infotainment system (comprised of two seamlessly fused 12.3-inch displays) that makes anything else look passé. Acura isn’t alone with this problem, but none of the mid-size E-segment’s top sellers suffer from first-generation iPad syndrome (hey, I could’ve compared it to the Palm Pilot, Samsung’s GRiDPad or Apple’s Newton). Its graphics are stale, colours and depth of contrast lacklustre, and functionality remedial when compared to some of the better systems now on offer, but its surround camera is very good and navigation extremely accurate.
I like the RLX Sport Hybrid too much to leave this review on such a sour note, so suffice to say if you don’t find yourself glued to a smartphone or tablet every hour of the day you’ll probably be more than happy with the big Acura’s electronics, while the rest of the car has long been a joy to drive or be driven in. Now that it’s outward appeal matches its inner qualities, performance being key, I think it’s one of the more intelligent sport-luxury sedan purchases available today.