It was only a matter of time before Jeep gave the extended wheelbase “L” treatment first offered for the then-new 2021 Grand Cherokee L to its more luxury-lined Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models, so as expected a 305-mm (12-in) longer and more accommodating version of the 4×4 brand’s full-size family hauler showed up at February’s New York International Auto Show (NYIAS).
Overall, the Wagoneer L/Grand Wagoneer L now measures a sizeable 5,758 mm (226.7 in) from bumper to bumper, which makes it even lengthier than the Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL twins, albeit not by much. In fact, the ultra-long Jeep is just 25 mm (1-in) longer than the 5,733 mm (225.70 in) Chevy, and an even greater 38 mm (1.5 in) more than the 5,720 mm (225.20 in) GMC, while at least as importantly the new Wagoneer L/Grand Wagoneer L’s wheelbase grows a significant 178 mm (7 in) over the regular-length variant, now measuring 3,302 mm (130 in) from axle to axle.
Jeep’s largest ute provides more space behind the third row than Chevy’s Suburban
While 104 mm (4.1 in) down on the two GM SUV’s wheelbases, which span 3,406 mm (134.10 in) apiece, the Wagoneer L and Grand Wagoneer L offer 1,252 litres (44.2 cu ft) of cargo space behind the third row for a surprising gain of 77 litres (2.7 cu ft) over the Suburban/Yukon XL when measured behind the third row. Unfortunately, the advantage wanes when comparing cargo volume behind the second and first rows, the Wagoneer L and Grand Wagoneer L’s 2,514-litre (88.8 cu-ft) capacity being 142 litres (5.0 cu ft) shy of the big GM haulers with respect to the former, whereas its 3,707 litres (130.9 cu ft) of maximum cargo space is 390 litres (13.8 cu ft) less accommodating.
What will matter more to Jeep fans is the size difference when comparing Jeep to Jeep, or rather Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer to Wagoneer L and Grand Wagoneer L, with the longer version gaining 447 litres (15.8 cu ft) of additional cargo volume behind the third row than the standard-wheelbase Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer, which is about 50 percent more, while 510 litres (18.0 cu ft) can be had behind the second row, and lastly 1,039 litres (36.7 cu ft) when both rear rows are folded flat (take note that a large hump interferes with loading floor space in models that incorporate a fixed centre console in the second row). Of note, “Trail Rails” can be added to strap cargo down in back.
Extra curb weight offset by new twin-turbo inline-six with up to 510 hp
The extra length adds about 90 kilograms (200 lbs) to the Wagoneer L/Grand Wagoneer L’s overall mass, which isn’t all that much considering the extra volume, plus it shouldn’t be all that noticeable on the road thanks to a new available 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, dubbed internally as “Hurricane”.
This new engine will be standard fare in extended L models, with a total of 420 horsepower in the Wagoneer L and a whopping 510 hp in the Grand Wagoneer L, while torque figures are 468 and 500 lb-ft respectively. The two models share towing capacities of 10,000 lbs (4,536 kg) with the shorter wheelbase variants, much due to their robust body-on-frame Ram 1500 donor chassis, while Jeep claims a 15-percent improvement in fuel economy when comparing the less potent version of the inline-six to Chryco’s current 5.7-litre Hemi V8, the latter putting out a substantive 392 horsepower with its eTorque drivetrain, while it’s rated at 13.8 L/100km combined city/highway in the 2022 Wagoneer.
Of note, the regular-wheelbase Wagoneer will keep the 5.7-litre Hemi as its base engine for 2023, while the shorter Grand Wagoneer will also continue to come standard with the optional 6.4-litre V8, that engine incidentally good for 471 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque.
New inline-six shares 8-speed auto and AWD with lesser variants
According to Jeep, 96 percent of the new twin-turbo six-cylinder engine’s components are interchangeable between 420 and 510 hp versions, which of course reduces costs that can be passed down to consumers. Increased power therefore comes from boost and compression differences, while more power is reportedly available for future upgrades.
What’s more, the new engine can be paired with a plug-in hybrid system, so we can probably expect a more formidable, more fuel-efficient and cleaner electrified version in the near future, while this engine can also be fitted to any current rear-wheel drive model, making it ideal for other models in the Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler or Ram lineup.
All of the above noted engines come mated to Chrysler group’s well-proven eight-speed automatic transmission, while each model and trim benefits from four-wheel drive in Canada.
We can expect a limited supply of new Wagoneer L and Grand Wagoneer L models to arrive in Canada later this year, although serious buyers may want to consider ordering as early as possible, considering expected continuations of supply chain interruptions.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Jeep
First things first, the 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance isn’t exciting news because of any styling updates. Lexus made most of those with the current turbo-four- and V6-powered 2021 IS models, resulting…
First things first, the 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance isn’t exciting news because of any styling updates. Lexus made most of those with the current turbo-four- and V6-powered 2021 IS models, resulting in an attractive refresh that sharpened the already angular sedan to a finer point, with newly formed edges, an even more dramatic spindle grille, and an LED taillight treatment seemingly inspired by Lexus’ UX subcompact crossover. What makes the IS 500 awesome is the 472 horsepower V8 stuffed below a new aggressively domed hood.
Design does play its part. The new hood bulges up two inches for a more pumped-up level of IS masculinity, plus Lexus slightly widened the front fenders, modified the both bumpers, and beneath the bodywork, moved the radiator forward to accommodate the engine. Most of the model’s metal brightwork has been eliminated too, excepting the stylized “L” badge at both ends, the thin highlights on each two-tone gloss-black and body-colour mirror cap, the dazzling split-10-spoke 19-inch Enkei lightweight alloy wheels, the massive quad of “throaty” circular “dual stacked” tailpipes, and all the model and trim designations, the IS 500’s deck lid badge notably changed.
This said, being that the IS 300 and IS 350 are the sportiest sedans Lexus offers, they’ve been mostly de-chromed already, with some 2021 trims blackened out even more so thanks to dark-painted wheels. The IS 500’s only notable differentiator is the addition of dark chrome side window trim, a tiny IS F Sport rear deck lid spoiler, and a new diffuser-style rear bumper required to house the enhanced exhaust system.
Likewise, changes are subtle inside as well, with black “F SPORT” designations on the door sill plates and steering wheel, the latter heatable and leather-wrapped, of course, while the throttle, brake and dead pedals have also been upgraded from the IS F Sport catalogue. Completely unique to the IS F 500, however, is the startup animation in the mostly-digital primary gauge cluster’s multi-information display. As for the rest of the interior, it’s much like the IS 350 F Sport.
In other words, the IS 500 F Sport Performance is a sleeper. We’re ok with that, especially when it’s got what it takes to go head-to-head with its more aggressively penned rivals. Before listing off its competition, however, a rundown on some specs is necessary. Lexus’ well-proven 5.0-litre V8 not only puts out 472 horsepower in this iteration, but it nearly matches that thrust with 395 lb-ft of twist. This nearly matches the same engine’s output in the mighty LC 500 sports coupe and convertible, the IS version adding a single horsepower and losing three lb-ft of torque, but either way it’s a significant upgrade over the next-best IS 350 that only puts out 311 horsepower and 280-lb-ft of torque, or even the old 2014 IS F’s 5.0-litre V8 that made 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft.
Back to the competitors alluded to a moment ago, top of the list is Alfa Romeo’s Giulia Quadrifoglio, good for a phenomenal 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, while BMW’s M3, the segment’s longest running entrant, would still be daunting to go up against in either 473-horsepower regular trim or 503-hp Competition form. Unlike the IS 500 that looks similar to its less potent brethren, it’s easy to spot a new M3 from a mile away thanks to its unorthodox bucktooth grille and more daring styling departure from regular 3 Series trims (for now), whereas Mercedes-AMG is more discreet, albeit unique enough when compared to regular C-Class models. It hits this market with three four-door variations, the 385-hp AMG C 43, 469-hp AMG C 63, and 503-hp AMG C 63 S.
Honourable mentions include Volvo’s new S60 Polestar Engineered, which is good for 415 hp from a turbocharged, supercharged and plug-in-hybridized four-cylinder; the Swedish brand certainly earning points for maximizing efficiency, while Infiniti’s 400-hp Q50 Red Sport 400 is wonderful, but not quite in the same league. We’d also be remiss for not mentioning Tesla’s top-line Model 3 that makes 480 instant electrified horsepower along with 471 lb-ft of torque. We should also expect Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury division to soon arrive with some super sedans and SUVs of its own, this compact luxury four-door segment currently filled with the impressive, albeit nowhere near as powerful G70. This in mind, and factoring in the IS 500’s choice of Lexus’ mid-performance “F Sport” naming protocol, could Lexus be saving the vaunted “F” badge for an even more capable super sedan? Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed.
Unlike some of the just-mentioned rivals that utilize all-wheel drive, the IS 500 sends all of its abundant power through the rear wheels via the same quick-shifting eight-speed Sport Direct automatic transmission already used by V6-powered rear-drive IS models, complete with Custom, Sport S and Sport S+ engine and transmission mode settings, the latter also adjusting EPS steering assist and shock damping force, resulting in a 4.6-second sprint from standstill to 100 km/h, accompanied by a “ferocious” sounding exhaust note to “perfectly amplify the new V8 engine,” or so says Lexus in their press release.
Keeping all that power in check is the very effective Dynamic Handling Package that’s also found under the US-spec IS 350 RWD F Sport (AWD is standard in Canada), which features an Adaptive Variable suspension with Yamaha rear performance dampers along with a Torsen limited-slip differential, but unlike the less capable IS, the 500’s brakes have been upsized with 14-inch two-piece aluminum rotors in front and 12.7-inch rotors at back, plus special cooling ducts to optimize their binding power. Making handling and braking even more manageable is minuscule weight gain over the IS 350 AWD F Sport, the new IS 500 only adding 5 kilograms for a total of 1,765 kg.
Also, check out our complete photo gallery above, and enjoy the video that follows…
Introducing the Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance (2:15):
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Lexus
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.
Honestly, other than being rare compared to Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Hyundai Elantras and Mazda3s, and therefore something different to take notice of, the new Jetta never really caused me to do…
Honestly, other than being rare compared to Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Hyundai Elantras and Mazda3s, and therefore something different to take notice of, the new Jetta never really caused me to do a double take. It’s attractive in an inoffensive way, the new grille a bit more daring than the previous model’s horizontal slats, but compared to the initial artist’s renderings that came out ahead of the real deal in 2017, and photos that followed, it comes across a bit watered down in the metal. The new Jetta GLI, however, is a different story. In fact, I find this car quite attractive, and I’m willing to guess it might even pull eyeballs toward less expensive trims.
As with all GLI models thus far, the Jetta’s chrome exterior detailing has been blacked out and splashes of red added across the grille and uniquely around the outer edges of the wheels that frame big red brake calipers, plus of course the discreet GLI badges front and back, while now it now gets a set of thin, blade-like garnishes on each front fender that also feature a “35” designation as part of this 35th anniversary edition. Those otherwise grey-painted twinned-five-spoke 18-inch wheels were shod in 225/45 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires, not the even sportier 19s found on a Golf R, but they were still sticky enough when pushed hard.
Before delving into performance, other notable GLI trim pieces include a strip of glossy black edging along the top portion of the grille, plus more shiny black detailing around the lower fascia’s corner vent bezels, overtop the mirror caps, on the front portion of the roof as well as the rear third section, connecting the larger sunroof panel in the middle so it all looked like one clean sheet of dark glass, and lastly for the tastefully discreet rear deck lid spoiler. It’s a really attractive car from front to back, and more importantly for me, the type of compact sport model that a mature driver doesn’t feel out of place driving.
Inside, nicely bolstered, inherently comfortable perforated leather seats with red stitching and nicely patterned inserts simultaneously look sporty and luxurious, and therefore exactly what Volkswagen fans should expect, while the steering wheel is performance perfection. It features a slightly flat bottom and ideally shaped thumb spats, plus red baseball-style stitching around the inside of the leather-wrapped rim. Volkswagen continues the car’s red performance theme with more red thread on the leather shifter boot, the centre armrest, the “GLI” portion of the “GLI 35” seat tags, plus the same logo on the embroidered floor mats and stainless steel treadplates.
Of course, there’s plenty of satin-silver aluminum around the cabin too, the aforementioned steering wheel featuring more than its share, foot pedals aside, plus plenty on the centre stack and lower console as well. Some faux carbon-fibre trim and inky piano black surfacing adorns the dash and upper door panels, the former completely soft to the touch thanks to a premium-level rubberized composite along the entire top and ahead of the front passenger, with the latter finished similarly to the front door uppers, as are the door inserts and armrests.
All of this sounds great, but I’m going to guess most eyes will be pulled more quickly towards the fully digital gauge cluster, which boasts an Audi-like Virtual Cockpit design dubbed Digital Cockpit in VW-speak. Like in the pricier German brand’s cars, the GLI’s Digital Cockpit features a “VIEW” button on the steering wheel that turns the gauge package into a multi-function display, even capable of placing the centre-mounted infotainment system’s navigation map directly in front of the driver where it’s most needed. It can do the same with most functions, making it one of the most impressive electronic features available in the mainstream volume-branded sector.
The just-noted centre display is a large eight-inch touchscreen featuring premium-like high-definition resolution, plus brilliant graphics with rich colours and contrasts, and like the gauge cluster it comes loaded with functions like tablet-style tap, pinch and swipe features, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Mirror Link for integrating your smartphone, audio, navigation, app, driving mode and fuel-saving eco interfaces, plus a performance driving component with a lap timer and more.
I was surprised, however, that active guidelines weren’t included as part of the rear parking monitor, especially in this top-tier trim, and my tester even included the $995 ($1,005 for 2020) optional Advanced Driver Assistive Systems (ADAS) package featuring a multi-function camera with a distance sensor. This bundle also includes Light Assist automatic high beam control, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, Front Assist autonomous emergency braking, Side Assist blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and the Lane Assist lane keeping system.
Just below is a three-dial dual-zone automatic climate control interface that looks good, is easy to use and functions well, plus along with three-way heatable front seats that can be controlled from this panel as well, are three-way ventilated cushions for making summer months more bearable. Just one powered and infotainment-connected USB-A port hangs above a rubber-based wireless device charger, which is big enough for the largest of smartphones, all of which tucks in behind the gearlever and its U-shaped collection of switches, including an electromechanical parking brake, buttons for turning off the traction control and auto stop/start system, plus a driving mode selector that lets you choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Custom settings.
Just above, a sunglass holder sits in the overhead console, the latter also housing switchgear to open the large powered moonroof that includes an attractive opaque fabric sunscreen with an aluminum front section that looks especially upscale.
This said the GLI, which at $32,445 for the manual-shift model or $33,845 for this DSG-equipped version, doesn’t exactly come cheap, so much is expected as far as fit, finish, materials quality and general refinement goes, but if you were to spend some time in any Golf GTI, for instance, and then decide you needed a trunk instead of a hatch to mitigate security risks, per se, you just might be disappointed. To be clear, the entry-level Golf GTI starts at $30,845, which is $850 less than the $31,695 base Jetta GLI, but the Mexican-built hatch pulls the fabric-wrapped A pillars already standard in less expensive Golfs up to the sportier variant, unlike the any Jetta, which are built alongside the Golf at VW’s Puebla, Mexico assembly plant as well, while all the plastic below the waist, and some of the chest-height surfaces are pretty basic hard composites.
Yes, I know the Jetta is a compact model, but now that competitors from Japan and Korea are delivering much higher materials quality, particularly top-line versions of the new Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and even Kia’s Forte that I drove just before this GLI, and factoring in that VW used to offer the most premium-like cabins in the mainstream volume-branded sector, this Jetta GLI was a bit of letdown. The new Forte comes in a sporty GT trim now, by the way, which competes directly with this GLI, yet unlike its rival from VW, the Kia’s inside rear door panels are finished with the same high-quality soft-touch detailing as those up front, while the German brand didn’t even bother including a padded insert at all, and instead formed its door panel solely from hard plastic, making its rear compartment one of the least appealing to look at or touch in this class or any.
Heatable outboard seats were a nice feature, but the interface surrounding the buttons used to turn them on was as low-rent as you’re likely to see in this segment. The seats themselves were nice, thanks to the same red-stitched perforated leather as those up front, and nicely carved out bucket-style outer positions that should hold rear passengers in place during spirited driving. A fairly large flip-down rear armrest gets a pair of cupholders integrated within (or is that a trio?), but unlike previous Jettas there’s no centre pass-through for stowing skis or other long cargo. Instead, when needing to expand on the dedicated cargo area’s already generous 510 litres, the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks will force one of the rear passengers into the less comfortable centre position. This is mostly par for the course in this class, however, it’s just that VW stood out before, and still does when opting for a Golf.
Volkswagen more than makes up for such shortcomings with the GLI’s on-road experience, however, this sport sedan being one of, if not the most engaging entry within its mainstream volume compact four-door segment. The 228 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out plenty of torque at 258 lb-ft (up 18 hp and 51 lb-ft of torque over its predecessor), resulting in some difficulty keeping the front wheels from spinning during spirited takeoff (if it was only available, VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive would help in this respect), while the new seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox feels even quicker through the paddle-actuated gears than the old six-speed DSG, albeit with the added benefit of a taller final gear for improved fuel economy (9.3 L/100km city, 7.2 highway and 8.4 combined for the as-tested auto or 9.6, 7.3 and 8.5 respectively for the manual) and (theoretically) a higher top speed.
Ripping off zero to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds it’s one quick Jetta, while Sport mode really adds to the experience. It’s nothing like the Golf R or equivalent super sport compacts such as Subie’s WRX STI or (RIP) Mitsu’s EVO, but it respectably puts otherwise sporty alternatives like Mazda’s 3 GT to shame in a straight line, and even makes the once-mighty Civic Si seem as if it’s dawdling off the line. Wheel slip during takeoff aside, the Jetta GLI proved unflappable through high-speed corners, even when broken tarmac threatened to upset the rear end, but thanks to a fully independent suspension with a multilink setup in the rear, a move up from the regular Jetta’s comparatively remedial torsion-beam rear suspension. Instead, the inside rear suspension absorbed the jarring pothole and ensuing thump with ease, allowing the tire’s sizeable contact patch to maintain full traction and hook up as I exited the corner. Try that in a regular Jetta and things might get very out of shape, not to mention the Mazda3 I noter earlier (although I must say the Japanese compact manages such situations surprisingly well and combines AWD with its own G-Vectoring Plus to make up for some of its torsion-beam shortcomings).
This said, back more pedestrian speeds (or rather while stopped during parking manoeuvres), I experienced something that’s never happened to me before. When I came to a stop to park the auto start/stop system automatically cut off the engine, which is not unusual in itself, but when I quickly decided to reverse so as not to be park too close to the car in front of me the engine wouldn’t restart when in reverse. I had to shift it back into “P” and then dab the throttle in order to reignite the engine, at which point I could shift back into reverse to back up. Very strange. It worked perfectly through the rest of the week, mind you, as did the entire car.
The aforementioned $32,445 (manual) and $33,845 (DSG) base prices meant the 2019 GLI 35 is nicely equipped, with features not yet mentioned including fog lights, LED headlamps, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a formidable eight-speaker BeatsAudio system with a sub, a powered driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar and three-position memory, plus more. This feature set and all previously noted equipment remains intact for 2020, by the way, so therefore those that find a new 2019 are basically buying the same car for less.
This in mind, take note that VW Canada is offering up to $3,000 in additional incentives on 2019 models that were still available at the time of writing, while the new 2020 GLI, which as just-noted is unchanged other than for the loss of this 35th Edition (for obvious reasons), can be had with up to $1,000 in additional incentives, although average CarCostCanada (where the following information was found) member savings were $2,500 for the 2020. Check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 and 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Canada Prices pages to learn about available manufacturer rebates, leasing and financing specials, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you even more, plus make sure download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes store.
Although the latest Jetta doesn’t exactly light my fire in lesser trims, this new Jetta GLI is a step ahead in many respects, particularly when it comes to styling, straight-line performance and interior electronics. I’d like to see VW improve some of the materials used inside for a more refined cabin, but this probably won’t bother you too much while driving anyway, unless you’re trying to impress someone riding in back. Then again, at least your father-in-law will appreciate the comfort of the GLI’s independent rear suspension, excellent seats and decent legroom while he’s complaining about all the cheap plastic.
Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay
Dodge is the Jolt Cola of the auto sector, or for those not old enough to remember that once revered albeit politically incorrect Coke and Tab alternative that went by the motto, “All the sugar, twice…
Dodge is the Jolt Cola of the auto sector, or for those not old enough to remember that once revered albeit politically incorrect Coke and Tab alternative that went by the motto, “All the sugar, twice the caffeine!”, consider the domestic brand the automotive equivalent of an adrenaline-stoking energy drink (which the resuscitated Jolt Energy now is) amongst healthy, organic, fruity, detoxifying beverages, and then also mull over the thought (this one for the execs that eventually occupy the FCA/PSA boardroom in Amsterdam, London, Turin, Paris, Auburn Hills or wherever else they decide to meet) that if its parent automaker ever strays from this bad boy brand’s anti-establishmentarian mission it’ll be game over.
Why the concern? Dodge’s current parent, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), appears to be merging with France’s PSA Group that includes Peugeot, Citroën, DS Automobiles (a relatively new luxury brand that pulls heritage from the highly advanced and iconic 1955–1975 Citroën DS) and even General Motors’ recently sold Opel and Vauxhall brands, the twosome currently rebadged versions of North American/Chinese Buick models and vice versa. If this happens it would become one of the largest auto groups in the world, including all the brands FCA currently controls, such as Fiat, Abarth (Fiat’s performance-oriented sub-brand), Fiat Professional (the vans sold under the Ram banner here), Lancia (at least what’s left of it, this once great Italian marque sadly down to one “fashion” city car now), Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari (from a distance), Ram (a.k.a. Dodge trucks for those who missed that spin-off), Chrysler (which is now down to just two models, one of which will soon be discontinued), and lastly the always profitable Jeep line here at home and abroad (that’s 16 separate brands, incidentally). Let’s just hope Dodge doesn’t get pulled into a global homogenization program that waters down its entries to the point of irrelevance (taking advantage of economies of scale being a key driver behind automakers merging).
Nothing quite like the big seven-passenger Durango SRT exists outside of Dodge; even Jeep’s outrageously quick 707 horsepower Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk is a smaller two-row mid-size model. The Durango SRT is motivated by the same comparatively tame 475 horsepower version of FCA’s 6.4-litre (392 cubic inch) Hemi V8 that powers the regular Grand Cherokee SRT, but I promise you it’s no lightweight performer. Its 470 lb-ft of torque launches the 2,499-kilo (5,510-lb) brute from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds, its SRT Torqueflite eight-speed automatic performing quick shifts whether prompted by steering wheel-mounted paddles, the shift lever, or left to its own devices. It’ll continue on with a 12.9-second quarter mile, and tops out at an incredible 290 km/h (180 mph), which is the same top track speed as the Jeep Trackhawk, and otherworldly compared to most SUVs.
All this from a family hauler that can seat seven actual adults in complete comfort while stowing their gear in a 487-litre (17.2 cubic-foot) dedicated luggage compartment behind the third row, and towing a 3,946-kg (8,700-lb) trailer behind (which is 1,500 lbs more capable than the 5.7-litre V8-powered Durango and 2,500 lbs more than with the V6). The only knock against the Durango SRT is fuel-efficiency, which is thirsty at 18.3 L/100km in the city, 12.2 on the highway, and 15.6 combined, plus a bit less off-road capability due to slightly less ground clearance, but this said who’d want to risk ruining its low-hanging bodywork or black-painted 20-inch twinned five-spoke alloys on rocks or stumps anyway, while the three-season Pirelli Scorpion 295/45 ZRs they’re wrapped in are better suited for gripping pavement than anything too slippery.
The SRT’s frowning black mesh grille, multi-vented hood, more aggressive lower fascia, side skirts, and unique rear bumper with fat chromed tailpipes poking through each side makes a strong visual statement that’s hard to ignore, with nothing changing since arriving on the scene in 2017 for the 2018 model year. It carried forward into 2019 unchanged, and will do likewise for 2020, with only some of the Durango’s lesser trims getting minor updates.
The current third-generation Durango came along in 2010 for the 2011 model year, by the way, and with the update brought back some of the curves that were missing from the angled second-gen model. More premium-level interior materials quality was reintroduced as well, with all trims that I’ve tested having been impressively finished. This is especially true of the SRT, which gets a suede-like Alcantara roofliner and A-pillars, plus contrast-stitched leatherette covering the entire dash top and much of the instrument panel, all the way down each side of the centre stack in fact, while the front and rear door uppers are made from a padded leather-like material, and armrests finished in a contrast-stitched leatherette. As you might expect, everything from the waistline down is made from a harder plastic, but it feels very durable and capable of managing punishment.
The steering wheel is a mix of perforated and solid wrapped leather with nicely contrasted baseball stitching around its inner ring, while the spokes feature high-quality switchgear and those shift paddles noted earlier, plus Chrysler group’s trademark volume control and mode switches on its backside as well. All of the cabin’s other switchgear is well done for a mainstream volume-branded vehicle too, with the larger volume, tuning and fan speed knobs on the centre stack being chrome-trimmed and wrapped in grippy rubber.
The infotainment system just above incorporates a large 8.4-inch high-resolution touchscreen that works very well for all functions. I like the simplicity and straightforwardness of Chrysler group touchscreens, and I clarify those in Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles because they’re often very different than what you’ll find in other FCA brands, like Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. Screen quality aside, as the premium Italian brands use the latest high-definition displays, I like the Chrysler interfaces best, as they tend to be easier to use and more fully featured.
Along with individual displays for the audio system, auto climate controls including digital switchgear for the heatable/cooled seats and heated steering wheel, navigation with especially good mapping and easy, accurate route guidance, phone hookup and features, plus various apps, the SRT adds another display dubbed Performance Pages featuring power torque history, real-time power and torque, timers for laps etcetera, plus G-force engine and dyno gauges, as well as separate oil temp, oil pressure, coolant temp and battery voltage gauges, much of which is duplicated over on the gauge cluster-mounted multi-information display, giving this SRT a level of digital depth few others in the industry can match.
Under the centre stack is a rubberized bin that’s big enough for any smartphone. The expected 12-volt charger and AUX plug is in close proximity, plus two even more relevant charge-capable USBs, but unfortunately no wireless charging is available. There’s another 12-volt charger as well as a Blu-ray DVD player under the centre armrest, while Dodge includes a great sounding 506-watt Alpine audio system with nine amplified speakers, or an even better $1,995 optional Harman/Kardon system with 825 watts, 19 speakers and a sub.
The throaty sound of the SRT’s V8 makes any talk about audio equipment seem unimportant, mind you, whether it’s chugging away at idle or shaking the world around it at full roar, and the way it responds to right-foot input is dramatic for such a large utility. I wouldn’t use the term catapult do describe its takeoff, but it launches without hesitation before eclipsing any remotely legal speeds within seconds. Truly, if you need more there’s probably something wrong with the way your brain processes adrenaline, while the eight-speed auto’s ability to send its formidable power and torque to all four wheels is commendable. This beefed up gearbox provides quick and purposeful shifts, yet it’s impressively smooth even when allowing revs to rise. Its manual mode with paddles provides good hands-on engagement, which was helpful when pushing hard through corners, something the Durango SRT does effectively.
The Durango’s fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension carries over mostly unchanged from the base SXT to this SRT, but Dodge dubs it “SRT-tuned” and adds a Bilstein adaptive damping suspension (ADS) in place of the regular model’s gas-charged, twin-tube coil-over shocks, plus it replaces the solid stabilizer bars with a set of hollow ones, the end result being a wonderfully flat stance through tight curves and good tracking at any speed. Additionally, the electric power steering is performance-tuned and braking power is increased via a set of big Brembos, making stopping power almost as dramatic as acceleration. It’s compliant suspension, general comfort, great visibility and easy manoeuvrability makes it an easy SUV to drive around town too, and thanks to not being quite as wide as a true full-size SUV, like Chevy’s Tahoe or Ford’s Expedition, it’s no problem to park in tight spaces.
To be clear, the Durango is a considerable 120 mm (4.7 in) narrower than the Tahoe and 104 mm (4.1 in) thinner than the Expedition, but rest assured that it measures up where it matters most from nose to tail. Its 3,045-mm (120.0-in) wheelbase is actually 99 mm (3.9 in) longer than the Tahoe’s and just 67 mm (2.6 in) shorter than the Expedition’s, which means adults fit comfortable in all seating positions.
Less width translates into less side-to-side room inside, of course, but it’s still plenty wide within, and should be sizeable enough for larger folks. The driver’s seat is superb, and like the others (excepting the third row) is finished with an embossed “SRT” logo on its backrest. My tester’s seats were covered in a rich looking dark “Demonic Red” with white contrast stitching to match the decorative thread elsewhere, while Dodge included perforated leather inserts to allow breathability for the ventilated seats noted earlier. The leather quality is extremely soft and premium-like, while the seat sides even feel as if they’re finished in the same quality of leather, albeit black. The instrument panel and doors are trimmed out with genuine-feeling patterned aluminum inlays for a sporty yet upscale appearance, plus ample chrome highlights brighten the cabin elsewhere. This said you can upgrade this SUV with an SRT Interior Appearance Group that replaces the aluminum inlays with genuine carbon-fibre, plus upgrades the instrument panel with a leather wrap, possibly a good way to spend $3,250.
Like those up front, the SRT’s standard second-row captain’s chairs are ultra comfortable, while Dodge has fixed a nice centre console in the middle featuring two cupholders and a storage bin. Rear passengers can access a panel on the backside of the front console featuring dual charging USB ports, a 115-volt household-style three-prong socket, and switchgear for the two-way seat warmers, while a three-dial interface for controlling the tri-zone automatic climate system’s rearmost compartment can be found overhead, along with a separate panel housing an attractive set of dome and reading lights.
All of this Durango SRT goodness comes for just $73,895 plus freight and fees, incidentally, and right now CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $6,500 on all 2019 Durango trims, with up to $5,000 in incentives alone. You’ll need to go to the 2019 Durango page on CarCostCanada to learn more, at which point you can access pricing for trims, packages and individual options, plus money saving rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. It’s an excellent resource, giving new car shoppers all the info they’ll need to secure the best deal possible.
My tester was equipped with a $950 Technology Group that includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, advanced brake assist, forward collision warning with active braking, plus lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, while a $2,150 rear Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system features a monitor on the backside of each front headrest, these folding upward from otherwise protected positions when not in use. A set of RCA plugs and an HDMI input can be found on the inner, upper side of each front seat, allowing external devices such as gaming consoles to be plugged in easily, all of which can turn any Durango SRT into the ultimate road trip companion.
That’s the beauty of it. This Durango SRT is one of the strongest performing SUVs available anywhere, yet as noted earlier it seats seven adults comfortably, stows all their gear, hauls trailers and much more. It’s the perfect four-season family hauler for speed fanatics, although you’ll want to swap out its three-season rubber for some good winter performance tires come late autumn. Other than that, load up the credit card with plenty of gas money, and you’ll literally be off to the races.