Ahead of the 2021 Arteon four-door coupe virtual world première set for June 24th, Volkswagen has released one image containing two artist’s renderings of the forthcoming model, one of which clearly shows an elongated wagon-like body style similar in concept to Porsche’s Panamera Sport Turismo (see a full road test review of all Panamera models here).
While exciting news for five-door sport wagon fans in Europe, take note the new Arteon Shooting Brake, as it’s called, won’t be available in North American markets. Instead, Canada and the U.S. will only get the refreshed first-generation Arteon in its four-door fastback body style, which means the German automaker will have less opportunity to pull this model up from its sales doldrums.
Yes, as attractive as today’s Arteon is, the sleek sport sedan has been relegated to niche status in Canada. Sales during calendar year 2019 totalled just 456 units (although deliveries started partway through the year in March), which left it dead last in the volume-branded mainstream mid-size sedan segment. The Passat, its more conventional and much less expensive four-door sedan stable mate, finished one step ahead with 672 examples sold, and take note this happened well before 2020’s tumultuous health, economic and social woes shook up the market.
This last point in mind, over the first three months of 2020 (all that’s been reported so far, and mostly before we were hit by hard times) the Arteon’s numbers were even worse with just 81 Canadian buyers (which if extrapolated over four quarters would equal 324 sales), although the new 2020 Passat found 523 new owners during the first three months of the year (theoretically equaling 2,092 unit sales over four quarters), a clear sign that Canadians like the new 2020 model’s ground up redesign.
At first glance, the Passat’s positive initial 2020 sales results could bode well for the upcoming Arteon mid-cycle makeover, health, social and especially economic issues aside, but the current 2020 Arteon is already a stunner, and while the artist’s rendering appears longer, lower and wider with much larger wheels, typical of such cartoonish drawings, if one were to squeeze it back into reality the update should actually look much like the current car other than a slightly modified grille and lower front fascia, plus similarly mild modifications most likely applied to the rear.
The Arteon’s interior is currently the best Volkswagen has on offer, and while we shouldn’t expect wholesale changes, VW is promising to integrate its latest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for faster application processing, improved connectivity, greater overall functionality, and better entertainment.
Volkswagen will also introduce more intelligent assist systems, such as “Travel Assist” semi-autonomous or “highly assisted driving.” Like other hands-on-the-wheel self-correcting driver assist systems currently offered by other manufacturers, Travel Assist has been designed specifically for long-distance highway use, with the Arteon capable of “steering, acceleration and braking up to speeds of 130 mph [210 km/h],” said Volkswagen in a press release, albeit “under the control of the driver.”
All of this could push the cost of the already pricey Arteon higher, however, the current version of this low-slung sport sedan hitting the road just a hair’s breadth under $50k ($49,960 plus fees to be exact), which is without doubt a key reason its sales are slow.
Kia’s Stinger, the only other four-door coupe in the mainstream volume-branded mid-size sedan segment, found 1,569 Canadian buyers last year, however, while walking away with 2019 Canadian Car of the Year honours, but this similarly sleek alternative is a considerable $5,000 less expensive and comes equipped with stronger base and optional performance as well as more features.
Right now it’s possible to lower a new 2019 Arteon’s base price to match the Stinger’s window sticker, mind you, with up to $5,000 in additional incentives available from Volkswagen, while the German automaker is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent for the 2020 Arteon. Not to be outdone, Kia is offering the same $5,000 in additional incentives on any 2019 Stingers still in stock or up to $4,000 in additional incentives for the 2020 Stinger, so take you pick. Learn more about these deals as well as available manufacturer rebates and otherwise difficult to source dealer invoice pricing at CarCostCanada. Also, make sure to download the new free CarCostCanada app from Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes store.
More detailed information about the 2021 Arteon, and the Euro-market Arteon Shooting Brake, will follow the upcoming world première later this month.
Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Volkswagen
Lovers of big full-size four-door cars aught to be giving Toyota a collective slap on the back, not to mention anteing up for its completely redesigned 2019 Avalon luxury sedan. That said they should…
Lovers of big full-size four-door cars aught to be giving Toyota a collective slap on the back, not to mention anteing up for its completely redesigned 2019 Avalon luxury sedan.
That said they should also be lovers of off-the-charts mechanical aeration and otherwise eccentric styling cues front to back, because the new Avalon lays to rest any preconceived notions of conservatism initiated by the yawn-inducing 1995–1999 first-generation model, or for that matter the oddly proportioned yet still boring 2000–2004 version, the much improved yet nevertheless forgettable 2005–2012 third-gen car, and (IMHO) the quite elegant and therefore best-yet 2005–2012 fourth-generation model.
While I opined against the oversized grille that visually weighed down the outgoing model, this new 2019 Avalon breaks the mould that previously cast the world’s largest engine vents, now staking claim on the ultimate gaping maw award, if there ever were such an accolade. My goodness what were they thinking? This design must be targeting a different market than North America, or possibly Toyota knows something about its aging Avalon demographic that we don’t, but boy-oh-boy this is one mind-bogglingly bizarre front fascia. At least it’s not boring, our tester’s base XSE trim line (a new designation for this model) making matters more unusual by substituting the top-line Limited model’s chrome for loads of glossy black detailing most everywhere that wasn’t tastefully painted in an earthy metallic dubbed Brownstone.
The new Avalon’s previously elegant rear quarters have been radicalized too, from a design I could have easily called beautiful to one that’s been hit with the Prius stick. Ok, it’s not quite as whacky as the world’s best-selling hybrid, but it’s revolutionary to the eyes thanks to a multi-angled taillight cluster featuring a body-wide light bar at centre, this branded with “AVALON” block lettering in the middle. A tastefully small “XSE” badge lets passersby know you didn’t spend as much as Avalon Limited owners, or alternatively that you’re an Av buyer that likes your ride on the sportier side.
Ok, you’ve got to know that last comment was made with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Despite the outgoing model being a decent handler, better even than some direct competitors, one of which is professed to be a “four-door sports car” yet when the road gets bumpy has trouble maintaining contact with pavement due to an overly rigid chassis, Avalon customers wouldn’t normally be associated with those seeking performance first and foremost.
Fortunately, a byproduct inherent in the new 2019 Avalon is a much-improved chassis architecture shared with the equally improved Camry, albeit lengthened to the same proportions as the recently redesigned Lexus ES 350/300h, which is also a much better performer than its forebears. It’s a bit large and soft to be considered a sport sedan, but the Av can now credibly zig and zag alongside its comparative rival from Nissan, not to mention other full-size front-drivers like the Kia Cadenza, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, and Ford Taurus.
This said it’s no challenger to now premium mid-size models like the Genesis G80, a model that previously wore the Genesis nameplate under the Hyundai brand, while it’s also no match for a fully equipped Chrysler 300 or Dodge Charger, which are also the sales leaders in this class.
This brings up what may be an interesting question: With sales of large sedans falling off the proverbial cliff, and various models within this segment being accordingly axed to make way for crossover SUV replacements, or so we’re told, why has Toyota, with some of the lowest sales in this class, chosen to completely redesign the Avalon? The answer may have little to do with the Av itself, and more to do with the aforementioned Lexus ES 350 it shares production space with.
The ES is one of Lexus’ more popular cars with U.S. sales of 48,482 units last year and 1,808 sold over the same 12 months in Canada, which when added to 33,580 Avalons purchased south of the 49th and 626 bought here (the latter number representing year-over-year growth of 41.0 percent), combines for 84,496 units. While a reasonable argument can be made for keeping the ES within Lexus’ lineup, especially when considering it’s also sold elsewhere, but the Avalon hardly seems like a worthwhile venture.
To put it in perspective, Ford just cancelled its full-size Taurus that found 40,341 U.S. and 2,812 Canadian buyers last year, a car that shares underpinnings with the Lincoln Continental that will also be discontinued despite 8,758 U.S. and 438 Canadian sales (which is nowhere near least popular in either market), while General Motors just announced the cancelation of its fraternally twinned Chevy Impala and Buick LaCrosse, the former growing its numbers by a shocking 26.8 percent to 3,903 units in Canada, thus beating the aforementioned Chrysler 300 to second place behind the Dodge Charger (LaCrosse sales were down 27.9 percent). The Impala was already in second in the U.S. with 56,557 deliveries in calendar year 2018, making it a much bigger seller than the Avalon, yet it’ll soon go the way of the dodo while Toyota’s large car entry soldiers on. Even the afterthought Buick sells stronger than the Avalon in Canada, managing 664 units last year, although its 15,527 U.S. total will mean that few will miss it south of the border.
Other large mid-size models will soon be sent to the chopping block too, including Chevy’s Malibu (with 6,822 unit sales in 2018), Ford’s Fusion (with 6,350 units) and Lincoln’s MKZ (833 units) (somehow Buick’s Regal, that sold just 799 examples last year, was saved), whereas near full-size mainstream models that (like the Avalon) find fewer buyers, such as the Maxima that saw a sales decline of 38.6-percent for 1,357 units last year, or the Kia Cadenza that lost 33.1 percent for a near nonexistent 83 deliveries throughout all of 2018, are continuing on. It seems nonsensical to those on the outside of such decision-making boardrooms, but each automaker has its reasoning and, to make a short story long, the renewed Avalon will continue to exist in a market segment that’s saying goodbye to the Impala, LaCrosse and Taurus.
As it is the redesigned Avalon offers a lot to traditional mid-size sedan buyers that want to step up into a larger, more luxuriously appointed car. Upwardly mobile Camry buyers seem like the obvious target market, the larger Toyota measuring 100 millimetres (4.0 inches) more from nose to tail, with a 50-mm (2.0-in) longer wheelbase, while it’s also 10 mm (0.4 in) wider than the more affordable sedan, albeit fractionally lower by the same 10 mm (0.4 in) measure.
This said the new 2019 Avalon is larger than the already sizeable outgoing version, its overall length having grown by 20 millimetres (0.8 inches) to 4,980 mm (196.0 in) and wheelbase by 50 mm (2.0 in) to 2,870 mm (113.0 in), while it’s now 15 mm (0.6 inches) wider at 1,850 mm (72.8 in), but following a trend is now 20 mm (0.8 inches) lower overall at just 1,440 mm (56.5 in), resulting in a leaner more athletic look.
The new Av backs up its sportier styling with more oomph under the hood, its massaged 3.5-litre V6 now outputting 10 more horsepower and 17 additional lb-ft of torque for 278 of the former and 265 of the latter, while in XSE trim this newfound performance is complemented by an “Engine Sound Generator” enhanced exhaust note that gets artificially amped up when Sport mode is switched on. What’s more, the entirely new eight-speed automatic transmission (not a CVT like one of the Avalon’s supposedly sportier competitors) that replaces the old six-speed unit even comes standard with (wait for it) paddle shifters. Yes, Toyota truly is trying to upset the mainstream volume-brand luxury car applecart, but it gets better still.
Underpinning the new Avalon is an extended version of the stiffer, more agile chassis that improved the most recent Camry, and likewise makes the new Lexus ES 350/300h more enjoyable to live with, the XSE’s front struts and rear multi-link setup even sport tuned and matched up to one-inch larger 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/40 all-seasons, my tester’s produced by Continental.
The Avalon smartly picks up where the Camry leaves off, the latter retailing for $41,090 plus freight and fees in top-tier XLE V6 trim and the base Avalon XSE starting at $42,790 (see all 2019 Avalon trims, packages and option pricing, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands at CarCostCanada), but don’t expect to get all of the fully loaded Camry’s features in base Avalon form. I won’t detail out my disappointments in this abbreviated garage preview, but will instead go over a few highlights starting with a standard gauge cluster featuring a 7.0-inch digital multi-information display wedged between two analogue dials, which intelligently doubles up route guidance instructions in this easier to view location when the navigation system is in play, amongst numerous other functions.
Atop the redesigned centre stack is a large 9.0-inch touchscreen featuring Toyota’s Entune infotainment interface as standard equipment that, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, lets you connect to functions, music and info such as traffic conditions, fuel stations, weather forecasts, stocks and more via a variety of apps such as Scout GPS Link, Yelp, Slacker, NPR One and more through your smartphone.
iPhone users will appreciate that Apple CarPlay also comes standard (but there’s no Android Auto), as does a wireless smartphone charger, SMS/text- and email-to-speech functions, advanced voice recognition, a 14-speaker 1,200-watt JBL surround sound audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, four USB charging ports, and more, while Entune Safety Connect provides automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance (SOS) button, and enhanced roadside assistance.
Some other noteworthy standard features include LED headlamps, LED taillights, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, six-way powered front passenger’s seat, heatable front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, and dual-zone automatic climate control, while standard advanced driver assistance and safety systems include automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and more.
As noted, I won’t mention any negatives in this garage preview, and of course I won’t be going into any detail about the new Avalon XSE’s driving characteristics, interior refinements, creature comforts, etcetera, so make sure to come back to find out why I had reason to grumble when climbing into my test model each and every morning during my cold January test week…
The Maxima is an anomaly. Certainly there are other near full-size front-wheel drive mainstream branded sedans on the market vying for our attention, but the Maxima gets closest to looking and feeling…
The Maxima is an anomaly. Certainly there are other near full-size front-wheel drive mainstream branded sedans on the market vying for our attention, but the Maxima gets closest to looking and feeling like it comes from a premium marque, and it’s one of the sportiest in this category as well.
The near full-size mainstream family/business sedan category in question has been shrinking over the years too. It wasn’t so long ago that the Maxima was fighting it out against credible competition from Kia and its Cadenza, Hyundai and its Azera and Genesis (the latter now the much pricier G80 within the Genesis luxury brand), plus Pontiac and its G8, while Ford’s Taurus is already slated for cancellation without replacement, and rumour has it the Chrysler 300 will be gone for good in 2020. What does that mean for the Dodge Charger? And will the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Impala follow?
Plenty of unanswered questions regarding the fate of such storied nameplates remain, but like this Maxima the recently redesigned Toyota Avalon continues on undaunted as archrival number one, while Kia recently showed up with the sporty Stinger to lure Maxima SR buyers away from the Nissan fold.
The Avalon arrived in the mid-‘90s as a replacement for the Cressida that was preceded by the Crown, while the Maxima has been named the same since it was introduced way back in 1981, the year I graduated from high school. That original car looks a lot older than I feel, but the new one has legs that could run rings around my spindly toothpicks despite my daily exercise routine.
My tester this time around was in full-load Platinum trim, which means that an updated review of the sportiest Maxima SR will have to wait for some time in the future. I prefer the more luxurious version anyway, as it delivers plenty of performance with a more pampering suspension setup. Unless they’ve modified the SR’s suspension tuning I must admit to finding it a bit too firm, but the Platinum is just right and the performance all-round just great.
Let’s be reasonable. No serious performance-driving enthusiast would consider a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for engaging gears, even with the SR’s standard paddle shifters. No, CVTs are most enjoyable when revs are kept low and smooth, linear acceleration is the objective. When used like this the Maxima is a dream, while it still has the chops to handle curves with a high level of athleticism.
Of course the suspension is fully independent with the usual MacPherson struts up front and multi-link design in the rear, while the Platinum uses the same machine-finished 18-inch alloys within 245/45 V-rated all-season tires as the base model, which are better for ride quality than the SR’s 245/40 19s.
The standard 3.5-litre V6 has made the same 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque for years, and no one is complaining, as it’s more than adequate. In fact, it pulls strong and matches the aforementioned CVT well, driving the front wheels as per the norm in this class.
The Maxima shines even more in exterior and interior design and execution. Its outward styling is dramatic to say the least, even looking fresh and alluring after three and a half years of availability. This model arrived in April of 2015 as a 2016 model, and therefore changes haven’t been excessive.
A new base S model was introduced last year and wasn’t accepted in our “I want it all” market, so it was unceremoniously dropped after a single year. This said Nissan took the opposite approach for 2018 by elevating the base price by $2,600, although they more than matched that increased MSRP with some important new standard content including automatic high beams and predictive forward collision warning with autonomous forward emergency braking, allowing for an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating with its optional LED headlights (it actually had a Top Safety Pick + rating last year when all of the just noted advanced driver assistive kit was added, but the IIHS keeps moving the bar), while the infotainment system now includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
It wasn’t as if the previous model year was lacking in standard equipment either, with 2018 base SV trim carrying forward with standard auto on/off halogen projector headlamps, LED DRLs, fog lamps, LED turn signals integrated into the side mirror caps, signature LED taillights, dual chromed tailpipes, remote start linked to Intelligent Climate Control, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start, heatable powered side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, overhead sunglasses storage, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, front and rear parking sensors, a heatable leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic multifunction sport steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a 7.0-inch primary gauge display, cruise control, micro-filtered dual-zone automatic climate control, a large 8.0-inch infotainment display, navigation with detailed mapping, voice recognition, hands-free text messaging assistant, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with an aux plug, two USB ports, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, and RDS, plus heatable front seats, leather upholstery, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with powered lumbar and manual extendable thigh support, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, and lastly all the active and passive safety features, all for $36,990 plus freight and dealer fees.
The next grade of trim is dubbed SL, and for $39,690 includes everything in base trim plus a dual-panel powered panoramic moonroof, adjustable ambient LED interior lighting, adaptive cruise control, active noise cancellation, active sound enhancement, 11-speaker Bose audio, blindspot warning with rear cross traffic alert, and more.
I’m going to leave the $41,890 SR model and its sport-oriented features for another review as only LED low beam headlamps and ventilated front seats transfer over to the top-line Platinum trimmed model I tested, the rest of its equipment being totally exclusive including the 19-inch alloys and sport suspension noted earlier, plus items like aluminum sport pedals, unique diamond-patterned Liquid Chrome inlays, a special Ascot leather and suede-like Alcantara flat-bottomed sport steering wheel, plus the same material used for the upholstery.
Top-line Platinum trim boasts the two features just noted, everything from the base SV and mid-grade SL models, plus mahogany wood-tone faceted inlays, a premium Ascot leather-wrapped flat-bottomed sport steering wheel (sans Alcantara), perforated diamond-quilted Ascot leather seats, a front passenger’s powered seat lifter, an auto-dimming driver’s side mirror, reverse tilting for both side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, memory for the driver’s seat, the side mirrors and the powered steering column, an Around View parking monitor with Moving Object Detection (MOD), NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM, Intelligent Driver Alertness that monitors a number of parameters in order to figure out if you’re getting tired and may need a break, a powered sunshade for the rear window, and more for $44,150 (find all 2018 Nissan Maxima pricing, plus detailed rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands at CarCostCanada).
It all comes in an absolutely gorgeous cabin with more padded, quilted and perforated contrast-stitched leather than you’ll likely see this side of a Bentley, not to mention enough knurled metal detailing to make you think you’re at the wheel of something classic and British. Of course, from its stunning semi-digital instrumentation, superbly functional and graphically brilliant infotainment touchscreen, excellent audio reproduction, and top-notch driving dynamics you’ll know you’re aboard something wholly modern, not to mention ideally reliable, while the Maxima is wonderfully comfortable from front to commodious back too. What’s more, the 405-litre (14.3 cubic-foot) trunk is more than adequately sized, with 60/40-split rear seatbacks for expanding its usefulness.
Excepting colours, with metallics costing $135 and pearl tones, like my tester’s stunning Deep Blue Pearl, adding $300, plus the choice of Camel or Cashmere Beige leather instead of the usual Charcoal black with SR and Platinum models respectively, all trims come fully featured with no options or packages available, but take note that Nissan provides a bevy of dealer-installed accessories from exterior aerodynamics components to interior trim upgrades, not to mention the usual protective and cargo carrying items.
Of importance, Nissan was offering a cash purchase discount of $5,500 at the time of writing, or alternatively lease discounts of $1,500 with 2.9-percent interest and a $264 per semi-monthly payment, making this a great time to purchase a new Maxima.
Then again the 2019 Maxima will be the first to feature all-wheel drive, following in the tracks of the all-new 2019 Altima that makes it standard in Canada, while the larger model’s fresh new face, said to be even more dramatic than the car it replaces, should make its first appearance at the Los Angeles auto show at the close of next month. You choose, the current version at a discount or the next-generation at, well, less of a discount.
Either way you should be well served, as the Maxima delivers one of the most dynamic designs, most attractive high-quality interiors, and sportiest demeanors in its class.