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Bill Nye The Science Guy explains Porsche Taycan technology in a new video series

Bill Nye The Science Guy explains Porsche Taycan technology
Porsche commissioned Bill Nye The Science Guy to explain complicated Porsche Taycan technology in simple, everyday terms.

The new Porsche Taycan is one of the more technologically advanced EVs currently available, but this doesn’t mean the only people capable of understanding how it works are electrical engineers.

In order to simplify the science, Porsche hired Bill Nye The Science Guy, a popular TV personality, to explain all the key technology, which resulted in a five-part short-format video series. Each episode, which span just under a single minute to one-and-a-half minutes long, focus in on technologies that differentiate the Taycan from its competitors, such as its 800-volt battery, uniquely innovative aerodynamic design, regenerative braking system, two-speed transmission, and repeatable performance.

Bill Nye The Science Guy explains Porsche Taycan technology
Bill Nye uses graphics and humour to bring electrical engineering to the masses.

The YouTube series, dubbed “Bill Nye Explains The All-Electric Taycan,” was filmed at the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles, California. The entertaining host uses simple terms and silly antics to clarify otherwise complicated subject matter, resulting in a series that’s ideal for all ages.

The Taycan, which arrived on the electric scene only last year, is already available in two unique body unique styles and four individual trims, including 4, 4S, Turbo and Turbo S. The sleek Taycan four-door coupe can be had in three of the just-noted trims, including 4S, Turbo and Turbo S, whereas the more recently introduced Taycan Cross Turismo also has a base trim. Additionally, the Cross Turismo can be upgraded with an Off-road Design package that increases ride height while adding more aggressive styling enhancements.

Bill Nye The Science Guy explains Porsche Taycan technology
Check out all five short-format videos below.

Top-level Taycan Turbo S trim can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in only 2.8 seconds, thanks to its 750-hp twin-electric-motor power unit, while standard AWD means that all four performance tires grip the road below, especially helpful in inclement weather or when off-road.

Porsche is now offering the 2021 Taycan with factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, so be sure check out our 2021 Porsche Taycan Canada Prices page to learn more. We also provide our CarCostCanada members with dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when purchasing your next new vehicle, so learn how our system works, and remember to download our free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can have all of this valuable information at your fingertips when you need it most.

Here are the five “Bill Nye Explains The All-Electric Taycan” videos:

Bill Nye Explains the All-Electric Taycan: Two-Speed Transmission (1:11):

Bill Nye Explains the All-Electric Taycan: 800 Volts (1:17):

Bill Nye Explains the All-Electric Taycan: Regenerative Braking (0:52):

Bill Nye Explains the All-Electric Taycan: Aerodynamics (1:14):

Bill Nye Explains the All-Electric Taycan: Repeat Performance (1:34):

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

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Porsche releases digital and physical second-generation Macan EV prototypes

2023 Porsche Macan EV Prototype
The first all-electric Macan prototypes leave Porsche’s development centre in Weissach, sporting camouflage in order to disguise their second-generation styling.

Porsche’s new Taycan is doing a great job of scooping up premium EV buyers, enough so that Tesla may want to consider redesigning its Model S sometime soon. Of course, the iconic California-turned-Texan electric carmaker isn’t likely worried, thanks to a market cap that rivals the largest tech giants, not to mention key models in all of the most important luxury segments, but at least Porsche is succeeding where many others are struggling to gain ground.

Tesla’s Model Y fills the compact luxury SUV hole in its expanding lineup, exactly where Porsche plans to directly compete with an electrified version of its already popular Macan crossover. In order to make sure the Macan EV finds as many buyers possible, Porsche is getting busy testing it on road and track, and recently released some photos and info to let us know how the process is going.

Porsche plans a 2023 launch for its upcoming all-electric Macan, which should be enough time to get the kinks out. To that end, the Stuttgart-based luxury brand had been digitally and physically testing it on its Weissach Development Centre proving grounds until recently, but now has it touring public roads in heavily camouflaged attire, so as to hide its second-generation Macan sheet metal.

“Testing in a real-life environment is now getting underway – one of the most important milestones in the development process,” commented Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board, Research and Development, at Porsche AG.

2023 Porsche Macan EV Prototype
Michael Steiner, Member of Porsche’s Executive Board, Research and Development, shows off a couple of camouflaged Macan EV prototypes.

Porsche plans to cover three million kilometres worldwide, in every possible type of condition, ahead of delivering fully electric Macans to market, and that lofty number doesn’t even include the “countless” virtual kilometres accumulated on the Weissach test track, not to mention many more miles achieved via digital prototypes.

According to Porsche, developing the new Macan EV digitally reduces capital expenditures and time, while it also minimizes the new model’s environmental impact. Rather than putting actual prototypes through their paces, a digital computational model replicates the kinds of true-to-life properties, systems and power units of the EV to a very high degree of accuracy. As part of the electrified Macan’s development, Porsche has utilized 20 digital prototypes in order to simulate all types of situations, resulting in critically important aerodynamic, energy management, operation, and acoustic data.

“We regularly collate the data from the various departments and use it to build up a complete, virtual vehicle that is as detailed as possible,” said Andreas Huber, manager for digital prototypes at Porsche, plus one of the first aerodynamics engineers to ever work with digital prototypes. “This allows previously undiscovered design conflicts to be swiftly identified and resolved.”

Reducing aerodynamic drag helps the Macan EV achieve its ultimate range targets, with even minimal flow enhancements making a significant difference.

2023 Porsche Macan EV Prototype
This “seat box” was used to recreate the all-electric Macan’s driving environment.

“We started with a flow-around model when the project first started about four years ago,” added Thomas Wiegand, Director of aerodynamics development.

A team of Porsche engineers utilizes simulations so as to fine-tune each and every surface of the new crossover EV, with specific attention paid to cooling air ducts. Such calculations help the engineers arrange components that in-turn optimize efficiencies, while they also provide the required data for predicting variances in real-world temperature levels. Porsche actually claims the new testing procedures allow for extremely precise simulations of both aerodynamics and thermodynamics.

“The digital world is indispensable to the development of the all-electric Macan,” said Wiegand.

Returning to air ducts and cooling, the new EV’s motive electric system boasts a totally different cooling and temperature control concept than the conventionally-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) powered Macan. To be clear, the various ICE’s used in today’s Macan need a 90- to 120-degree (Celsius) temperature operating range, whereas the new electric-powered model’s drive system and high-voltage battery maintain a temperature window between 20 and 70 degrees.

Also unique to the electric Macan, where an ICE increases its temperature when starting and stopping during heavy traffic, the battery-powered version needs more cooling during high-power charging, particularly in warmer weather. Porsche is overcoming this challenge by calculating and digitally optimizing the “position, flow and temperature” via the digital prototypes mentioned earlier.

2023 Porsche Macan EV Prototype
Porsche made some of the early physical prototypes of the Macan EV by hand.

Digital prototype use can start quite early in any vehicle’s developmental stage. In fact, Porsche created a completely new driver interface for its upcoming second-gen Macan long before designing some of the other components. A revised driver display was included, of course, which, when ready for testing, Porsche brought to life in a “seat box” that was capable of simulating the actual driving environment.

“Simulation allows us to assess displays, operating procedures and the changing influences during a journey from the driver’s point of view,” said Fabian Klausmann of Porsche’s Driver Experience development department. “Here, the ‘test drivers’ are not just the specialists themselves but also non-experts. This allows all interaction between driver and vehicle to be studied down to the last detail, enabling selective optimization even before the first physical cockpit has been built.”

The initial physical Macan EV prototypes were developed from information learned through the digital prototype program, and once these running prototypes were on the track, they fed additional data back to the digital prototypes to continue testing with. This process allowed Porsche’s engineers to continually update both the digital and physical prototypes, refining each aspect of the Macan EV throughout the development process.

“Endurance testing on closed-off testing facilities and public roads in real-life conditions is still indispensable to ensure that the vehicle structure, operational stability and reliability of hardware, software and all functions meet our high-quality standards,” continued Steiner.

2023 Porsche Macan EV Prototype
After the digital development of the new Macan EV, Porsche started running laps around its Weissach development centre test track.

The Macan EV continues to undergo a demanding testing process, including climate extreme endurance tests, plus the need to overcome all types of topographical conditions. Of course, this would include real-world charging and conditioning of the new EV’s high-voltage battery, with everyday reliability and segment-leading performance being high on the agenda.

“Like the Taycan, the all-electric Macan, with its 800-volt architecture, will offer typical Porsche E-Performance,” added Steiner, pointing to development goals such as the SUV’s long-distance range, high-performance fast charging, and goal of best-in-segment performance. “The all-electric Macan will be the sportiest model in its segment.”

The new Macan EV will also need to be highly efficient, of course, which is why it’s the first Porsche to make use of the brand’s new Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture. This said, most Macan owners will continue choosing one of the automaker’s conventional ICE’s instead of the electrical alternative, at least in its early years, particularly in markets where consumers aren’t penalized for not going green, thus gasoline-powered models will need to remain part of the overall Macan package for the unforeseen future.

“In Europe, demand for electric vehicles continues to rise, but the pace of change varies considerably across the world,” noted Steiner. “That’s why we’re going to launch another attractive conventionally-powered successor to the current Macan in the course of 2021.”

2023 Porsche Macan EV Prototype
Porsche utilized digital Macan EV prototypes to create and refine the physical prototypes, before using data derived from the latter to improve digital prototype development.

This said, the new second-generation Macan will launch later this year, with varied availability of ICE’s. The new Macan EV will follow in about three years and millions of kilometers of digital and physical prototype tests.

Until then, today’s 2021 Macan is available from $57,800, and can be had with factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. Be sure to check out each and every available trim in our 2021 Porsche Macan Canada Prices page, and configure those you’re most interested in with all options and colours, and then find out how you can save when purchasing your new Macan (or any other new vehicle) by becoming a CarCostCanada member. Currently, Macan buyers are saving an average of $2,750 thanks to dealer invoice pricing, which is information you can now have on hand after downloading the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

CarCostCanada

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring Road Test

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
We think Honda’s Insight is a great looking compact sedan, especially in top-line Touring trim.

After first spending a week with Honda’s then-new Insight in its top-line Touring trim a couple of years ago, I really felt the Japanese automaker had a winner on its hands.

The compact sedan’s conservative good looks should have appealed to an even greater number of consumers than the edgier Civic it shares underpinnings and hard points with. Even better (to my eyes at least), its classy front fascia pulled some grille details over from the larger Accord mid-size sedan, while its tidier taillights stopped short of wrapping overtop most of the trunk lid.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
This rich red metallic colour doesn’t provide enough contrast to show how nicely sculpted the Insight’s rear taillights are.

Don’t get me wrong, as the outgoing Civic was a styling tour de force when it arrived in 2015 as a 2016 model, but the more subdued Insight gave… ahem… insight to the Civic’s future design direction, particularly at the hind end where those just-noted taillights look like positive precursors to those on the much more conventional 2022 Civic sedan.

Still, as it was and still is, Honda failed to properly launch this 2019–present Insight within Canada, where it suffers incredibly slow sales, not even surpassing 500 units last year. In fact, the dismal number was 496, while the first quarter of 2021 has seen just 91 examples roll out of Honda showrooms. When compared to the Civic’s class-leading 50,805 sales-total in 2020, and 7,158 units delivered during Q1 of this year, which puts the Insight just under 1 percent of Civic deliveries during 2020, and nearly 1.3 percent for Q1 of 2021, Honda’s dedicated compact hybrid can only be seen as a complete dud. But why?

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The Insight borrows from the Civic and Accord for a particularly attractive frontal design.

After all, the two models’ sales ratio in the U.S. is much better, although still not anywhere near as evenly weighted as I initially expected, with the Insight finding 15,932 buyers south of the 49th in 2020, and 3,859 as of the end of March this year, compared to 261,225 Civics sold last year and 55,903 for Q1 of 2021. That represents 6.1 percent of Civic sales in 2020 and 6.9 percent for the first three months of 2021, which probably isn’t even good enough to justify any sort of business case for keeping the model alive.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
A rear-facing camera provides a clear view of the Insight’s blind spot when changing lanes.

It comes down to pricing. With a base price of $28,490 (plus freight and fees), the Insight finds itself $3,400 more expensive than the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which starts at only $25,090. If the Insight were 10-percent more car it might make sense, but, as I already pointed out, consumers have spoken load and clear with their wallets, plus I’ve personally driven both, and that’s not the case.

My Insight tester’s top-line Touring trim was even pricier at $32,190, and once again it wasn’t any more appealing than the top-tier Corolla Hybrid with its Premium package, which costs just $27,090. This means Canadian Insight Touring buyers will need to take a $5,100 hit just to see a stylized “H” badging in all the usual places, a questionable bonus they obviously don’t desire all that much.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
These taillights are the epitome of good taste.

So why would Honda sabotage its chances of winning over important Canadian hybrid buyers just ahead of the entire market turning to electric vehicles (whether we want to or not)? Obviously, Honda’s Canadian division would love to import the Insight (or for that matter the CR-V Hybrid, which is currently not available here) for less money, but their American affiliate that produces it, can’t seem to make it cheap enough.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Step right in to an interior that’s finished closer to premium levels than the Civic.

Honda does bring us the Accord Hybrid, however, but the Marysville, Ohio-built mid-size sedan doesn’t do as well as Toyota’s Camry Hybrid for similar reasons. Its base price is $35,805, whereas the Camry Hybrid is advertised at $30,790, and similarly to the Insight’s fancier Touring trim line, the top-level Accord Hybrid Touring starts at a lofty $42,505, which compares poorly to a fully loaded Camry Hybrid XLE that’s priced at only $39,690.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
A soft-touch dash top joins even softer padded leatherette over many other surfaces.

It doesn’t take a economics major to figure out that Honda Canada needs to deal with this problem if it wants to grow hybrid sales, but so far no Alliston assembly plant upgrades have been announced. If Honda Canada were able to produce the CR-V Hybrid north of the 49th, it might be able to compete with Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid (although not the plug-in RAV4 Prime) or Hyundai’s new Tucson Hybrid, but coming up with a business case to put such a plan into action might not make any sense in our market, which is just 10 percent of America’s population.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The Insight’s cockpit is very well laid out, plus roomy and comfortable.

Even if such a plan made sense, the very fact Honda’s Insight is a dedicated hybrid with a number of totally unique body panels and trim, puts the smaller of these two Japanese automakers at another disadvantage. Where Toyota can theoretically produce its Corolla Hybrid at multiple plants without modifying major body stamping equipment, Honda would need to upgrade more than just the drivetrain portions of any alternative assembly plants to allow for more Insight production.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The stitched and padded leatherette bolster ahead of the front passenger is especially upscale.

Currently, the Insight is built at Honda Manufacturing of Indiana in Greensburg, which also produces the Civic and previously pushed out the popular Civic Hybrid. If, alternatively, Honda chose to create a hybridized version of the new Civic, its many global assembly plants that are already pushing out versions of its venerable compact sedan could adapt more easily to hybrid production. Applying this (admittedly theoretical) logic to Canada’s Alliston assembly plant, might mean a Civic Hybrid could be built for Canadian consumption, thus resolving Honda’s inability to move many Insights in the great white north. As it is, Honda is fast losing its electrification edge in our market.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The fully digital gauge cluster is a nice touch.

All said, is the Insight any good? Absolutely. If you’ve made it this far into this review, you’ll already know this Insight is nothing less than a gussied up Civic sedan, which everyone should appreciate is a very good compact car. It’s so good in fact, it consistently outsells every other car made, and we should all remember that the audience is always right (at least by “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” standards).

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
All the steering wheel switchgear is very impressive.

Behind its large, blackened grille opening is Honda’s well-proven 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor assistant, the latter powered by a 60-cell lithium-ion battery. All totalled up, the combination makes 151 net horsepower and an even stronger 197 lb-ft of torque. While off-the-line performance and passing power is certainly important, in the Insight’s compact class, hybrids are more about fuel economy, and the Insight delivers with a claimed rating of 4.6 L/100km city, 5.3 highway, and 4.9 combined, which will be good enough to wow most Civic owners that can only manage to eke out 7.9 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.1 combined when driving the model’s most efficient variant. Still, Toyota’s previously noted Corolla Hybrid is not only less expensive at the time of purchase, but keeps giving at the pump with an estimated rating of 4.4 L/100km in the city, 4.5 on the highway and 4.5 combined. Ouch!

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
We should commend Honda for sticking to its performance principles, despite these paddle shifters not being as useful in a hybrid as they’d be in a high-powered Civic.

Still, a small number of Canadian consumers, who are faithful to Honda and therefore willing to pay more initially and continually, choose the Insight over the Corolla Hybrid, or for that matter the all-new Hyundai Elantra Hybrid, which incidentally improves on both Japanese models’ fuel economy thanks to a claimed rating of 4.5 L/100km in the city, 4.2 on the highway and 4.4 combined, plus adds insult to injury with a starting price of just $24,699 and arguably more attractive (or at least fresher) styling. So, for those willing to pay more for less of what hybrids are supposed to be about, the Insight delivers extremely smooth operation from its continuously variable transmission (CVT), an equally calming ride and a well-organized, reasonably high-quality interior.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Honda does infotainment very well, and the Insight’s 8.0-inch touchscreen is no exception.

Before delving into the latter, the just-noted CVT isn’t designed for performance enthusiasts, so Civic Si buyers need not apply, but rather becomes annoyingly buzzy when pushing hard on the throttle for extended periods. Of course, such driving negates the car’s purpose, so I can’t see many Insight buyers doing so very often. I merely did for testing purposes, and have long experienced similar results from other CVT-equipped models in the class, such as the Corolla Hybrid. Nevertheless, despite its economy-first mission, Honda decided to include a Sport setting along with its expected Comfort, Econ and EV powertrain modes, which really says a lot about the much-loved brand itself.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Touring trim features upscale features like navigation.

Another positive advantage benefiting Insight buyers over those living with a Corolla Hybrid, is an EV mode that allows traveling at posted city speeds, something not possible in any non-plug-in Toyota hybrid that engages its ICE over 20 km/h. While enjoyable to run around town in near silent bliss, this feature doesn’t necessarily aid fuel-efficiency, as pointed out earlier, so it won’t like matter to most buyers.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The hybrid systems power flow meter is fun to watch.

As for that smooth suspension, it really is good. My city’s streets are mostly agreeable, although like in any urban area there are roadways that desperately need upkeep and only limited funds and workers to maintain them. Despite its compact size, the Insight’s relatively long wheelbase and nicely tuned fully independent suspension made bumpy patches of tarmac easier to endure, while simultaneously providing capable road-holding when choosing to rev out its noisy powertrain. Fortunately, the much of the Insight’s motive mass hides below the rear seat, which aids its centre of gravity, providing decent handling characteristics. Again, Civic Si enthusiasts need not apply, but hybrid buyers would be pleasantly surprised if they chose to test one out.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The dual-zone auto HVAC interface is nicely done.

For such situations, the aforementioned Sport mode is ideal, enhanced by the ability to use steering wheel-mounted paddles to shift its CVT through a number of artificially stepped “gears”. Those who prefer shifting with a traditional gear lever are out of luck, because Honda infused the Insight’s lower console with its pushbutton gear selector. I’m just fine with that thanks to those paddle-shifters, and honestly, I only used the latter for one short stint throughout my weeklong test, due to the harshness of the drivetrain when doing so. Again, while its cool that Honda added DIY paddles, they’re not all that useful in a car like this, making me wonder if the investment might have been better spent on something else, or possibly eliminated altogether in order to lower the price?

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Plenty of power sources keep external devices charged.

As for the pushbutton (and pull-tab for reverse) gear selector, it looks appropriately modern and frees up arm space above the console, which otherwise is fitted with a big rubberized tray for holding your oversized smartphone. Honda includes two USB charge points plus a 12-volt power supply just above, all of which come together at the base of a centre stack that’s also laid out well, with a stylish dual-zone auto HVAC interface, a slim strip of switchgear for turning on the three-way heated front seats, recirculating air, and defog/defrost functions.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Honda’s nicely organized gear selector is a bonus.

The centre stack is topped off with a large enough 8.0-inch touchscreen, which will be all-too familiar to current Civic owners. It features colourful, user friendly digital controls that are organized in an attractive tile design, with some of its functions being Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a navigation system (in my Touring tester) that proved very accurate, a fun-to-watch engine/battery power flow indicator, audio functions for a great sounding stereo, and the list goes on.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Sport mode in a hybrid? Yes, Honda stays true to its sporting core, even when focused on fuel-efficiency.

Of course, the display uses smartphone- or tablet-like finger gestures, so you can tap, swipe or pinch to your heart’s content, while Honda also framed this touchscreen with some useful switches for accessing key info quickly. The left-side row features a button for the home screen, plus one for returning back to the previous function, and another for transitioning between day and night modes. There are also two for browsing radio stations or MP3 tracks, while a rotating volume knob joins a volume controller on the left-hand steering wheel spoke. All of the infotainment system’s quick-access buttons receive backlit names just underneath, but makes sense until using them at night, when pressing the lighted name does nothing at all. Instead, you need to press the little, narrow button on top of the name, which is invisible in the dark. Yah, not the smartest application of an otherwise intelligent concept.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The Insight Touring model’s driver’s seat is superb.

The Insight’s primary instrument experience is all positive, on the other hand. Honda was early to adopt a fully digital driver’s display, the arching cluster incorporating a multi-information display (MID) featuring useful hybrid info, such as a battery charge indicator, on the left, and a speedometer and gas gauge combo to the right. Well-made, smartly organized steering wheel switchgear controls the MID, which is par for the course with Honda products. Above everything is an overhead console integrating two incandescent reading lights, plus an emergency assist button, a HomeLink remote garage door opener, and the usual powered moonroof rocker switch. And yes, I would have rather seen an oversized glass sunroof in place of the Insight’s smallish opening, but some electrified cars don’t offer sunroofs at all, so I’d best not complain.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Regular-sized moonroofs seem so average these days.

Back to positives, the Insight’s cabin approaches Acura ILX levels of fit, finish, and materials quality, with a dash top surfaced in nice pliable composites, plus a padded and French-stitched leather-like bolster ahead of the front passenger that flows across the instrument panel and down the sides of the centre stack. Certainly, I would’ve appreciated if Honda had finished the driver’s compartment as nicely as the front passenger’s, but at least both sides of the lower console gets the same soft-touch pampering treatment, which perfectly matches the sliding armrest in the middle.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The rear seating area is comfortable and spacious.

The front door uppers get the same premium covering as the dash top, by the way, while the door inserts just below receive a similar stitched leatherette to that on the instrument panel bolster. Most everything looks and feels like it was produced by an entry-level luxury brand, like Acura, but I should say that Honda isn’t alone in raising the level of refinement in its compact models.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The folding centre armrest is comfortable, but the cupholders are too small.

Honda has produced some of the better seats in the industry for a long time, however, and this Insight Touring’s driver’s perch is no exception. It provided excellent inherent support and no shortage of adjustability, resulting in a very comfortable office chair, while the tilt and telescopic steering column just ahead proved extendable enough to reach my shorter arms and torso when the lower cushion was pushed back far enough to make room for my longish legs. This ideal driver setup is not always possible from other compact models, and would be something I’d be willing to spend hundreds if not thousands for, so kudos to Honda for getting this right.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
Rear seat heaters are always welcome.

Along with excellent positioning, my tester’s steering wheel rim felt nice and meaty, with comfortable indents for thumbs and an overall performance-oriented feel. It’s as if Honda pulled it out the aforementioned Civic Si, rather than something designed to blissfully cruise past gas stations. All-round, the cockpit area is comfortable, spacious and lends a sense of control, which is exactly what most in this class are looking for.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
The Insight’s trunk offers plenty of room for life’s gear.

Rear passengers should be nearly as comfortable, and despite not covering the tops of each window sill with soft-touch synthetic like those up front, the rest of the door panels were near duplicates, and a reasonably large armrest topped off by unreasonably small cupholders made things comfier for those stuck in back. Likewise, two-way rear seat warmers added wintertime heat to the outboard cushions, but there were no air vents next to the rocker switches on the backside of the front console or anywhere else in back, nor for that matter reading lights overhead.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
A centre pass-through would be nice, but to be fair, most of the Insight’s hybrid competitors don’t offer much more than this.

The trunk’s 416-litre (14.7 cu-ft) volume should be large enough for most peoples’ needs, while extra gear can be placed below the cargo floor if small enough. This is where Honda stows the Insight’s tire repair pump, which is necessary for fixing a flat, being that no spare is offered. Expanding on the trunk’s usefulness are 60/40-split rear seatbacks, and no centre pass-through for loading longer items such as skis down the middle.

2021 Honda Insight Hybrid Touring
While not the most efficient in its class, the Insight’s powertrain should provide good reliability.

If an Insight seems like the car for you, keep in mind that Honda is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives. You can learn more about this discount on our 2021 Honda Insight Canada Prices page, which also provides comparative trim pricing, plus the ability to build the car with all available options. While you’re there, be sure to check out how the CarCostCanada system works, so you can utilize dealer invoice pricing to save even more when negotiating your best deal, plus download the free CarCostCanada app so you can have all of this valuable information on-hand when you need it most, whether at a Honda dealership pushing for a more agreeable Insight price, or walking across the street to a Toyota or Hyundai dealer in order to check out their electrified Corolla and Elantra offerings.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

Porsche best in JD Power CSI after earning most “trouble-free” premium brand honours

2021 Porsche 718 Boxster 25 Years
Porsche once again earned top spot in J.D. Power’s Customer Service Index (CSI).

It shouldn’t be a shock that Porsche once again earned highest honours amongst luxury brands in J.D. Power 2021 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study. This is the second time in three years the Stuttgart-based automaker took top spot amongst its premium competitors, and this only a month since winning “most trouble-free new car overall” status for its 911 sports car, in the same third-party analytics firm’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), the large owners survey resulting in Porsche’s Macan (top photo) achieving the highest podium for its “Premium Compact SUV” category.

2021 Porsche 911 Carrera S
The 911 was the luxury sector’s highest ranking vehicle in J.D. Power’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS).

“Our dealers worked hard for our customers throughout the initial lockdowns of the past year and subsequent social distancing and health measures to make sure they could rely on Porsche,” stated Kjell Gruner, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (PCNA). “We are continually striving to not just meet, but exceed the high expectations of our customers – and it’s vital that the quality of service must live up to that vision.”

2021 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe
The regular Cayenne was joined by this Cayenne Coupe in recent years, shown here with its fuel-efficient E-Hybrid drivetrain.

J.D. Power’s CSI Study measures “customer satisfaction with service for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of 1- to 3-year-old vehicles,” states a press release, with its latest data collection period being from July through December of 2020. Over 62,500 new vehicle owners responded to a survey, which allowed for a comprehensive list to pull results from.

Porsche received 17 more points over the 2000 CSI study, by the way, with the latest 2021 results combining for an 899-point total out of 1,000 possible points. The brand’s retail dealerships ranked in either 1st or 2nd place in each of the survey’s five classifications, which included Service Facility, Service Advisor, Service Initiation, Service Quality, and Vehicle Pick-Up.

2021 Porsche Panamera
If you’re looking for a very fast luxury sport sedan, the Panamera should be on your list.

Porsche’s current lineup consists of six models, or seven if one chooses to divide the 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster body styles individually, with the other five including the legendary 911, the just-noted entry-level Macan compact luxury crossover, the mid-size Cayenne luxury SUV, the Panamera four-door coupe/sport sedan, and finally the new Taycan EV four-door coupe/sport sedan electric.

2022 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
The Taycan EV, shown here in its elongated Cross Turismo body style, is a strong competitor to Tesla’s Model S.

Following any of the linked models to our Canada Prices pages shows that Porsche is currently offering each model with leasing and financing rates from zero percent, so check out each links to remind yourself what they look like, figure out trim and pricing details, plus configure the one you’re interested in with colours and options. Also, be sure to see how your CarCostCanada membership helps you access dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when you’re negotiating your next deal, plus remember to download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you’ll have all of this important info when you need it most.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

CarCostCanada

GMC teases EV buyers with fully-electric 2024 Hummer SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
GMC will now oversee the all-electric Hummer brand, and this will be its SUV.

GM revealed the new Hummer EV pickup truck a mere six months ago, not to mention that it would be sold as a GMC, a forerunner to what everyone knew was coming next, a big, burly sport utility model. So, without further ado, say hello to the 2024 Hummer SUV.

America’s military SUV brand was last sold new to retail customers in 2010, after receiving a lot of negative criticism from environmentalists for being a gas guzzler. To be fair, the mid-size H2 and compact H3 weren’t any worse than many similarly sized SUVs and pickup trucks of the era, the two models actually based on Chevy/GMC’s Tahoe/Yukon and Colorado/Canyon respectively, which weren’t targeted by protesters, but either way the all-new Hummer EV shouldn’t suffer from any such negative feedback.

2024 GMC Hummer EV Pickup
The Hummer EV Pickup will be first to market in late 2022 as a 2023 model.

Hummer is still a well-respected name amongst many 4×4 enthusiasts, so pairing it up with an off-road capable zero-emissions electric powertrain seems to make sense for today’s market, while making sure its plug-in battery/motor combination is capable of blistering quick acceleration seems to suit the brand’s premium cachet as well.

GMC is touting a insanely fast 3.5-second sprint from standstill to 100 km/h, which has it tied with the otherworldly Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, that uses a seriously tuned Hemi V8 to make 707 horsepower, an impressive feat considering how large the new Hummer is.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
The muscled up Hummer EV SUV looks like the H2’s progeny, but it’ll be a much more fuel-friendly vehicle.

How will this mix of stellar performance, off-road prowess and squeaky-clean emissions fare in the marketplace? If Tesla is anything to go by, and to be clear they’re an anomaly due to their cult-like following, green speed is a salable commodity amongst premium EV buyers, while newcomers like Rivian are getting a lot of traction in the truck and SUV market, so it certainly appears there’s space for a rebranded Hummer.

Tesla’s Cybertruck should appear in production trim soon, as will the just-noted Rivian (as an SUV too), plus plenty of others from newbie brands like Alpha, Bollinger, Canoo, Fisker, Hercules, Lordstown, and Nikola, while some of the mainstream contenders are coming to market with EV versions of their pickup trucks, including Ford with its F-150 EV, Chevrolet with its Chevrolet Silverado Electric Pickup, and Nissan with the Titan Electric Truck.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
GM’s new electric powertrain will make the new EV SUV the fastest Hummer ever.

Just in case you forgot, Hummer previously dabbled in pickup trucks, with their H2- and H3-based H2T and H3T, but just like the new SUV, the brand’s new pickup will hit the market with an all-electric drivetrain. According to GMC, both production models will receive the same potent powertrains as shown in prototype form, with the truck’s top-tier “3X” power unit producing a mind-numbing 1,000 hp, which makes it good for zero to 100 km/h sprints of about 3 seconds. This is Corvette territory, incidentally, from a mammoth pickup that likely carries twice its mass before loading it up. Its lickety-split takeoff is partially due to 11,500 lb-ft of torque, this twist sourced from three individual motors.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
The sophisticated looking new Hummer EV SUV seems right at home in this urban environment.

That’s where the “3X” designation comes from, this carried over to the SUV as well, albeit with “only” 830 hp. Fortunately it boasts an identical 11,500 lb-ft of torque, while the mid-range “2X” powertrain features two electric motors for up to 625 hp and 740 lb-ft of torque, this version of the SUV good for 5-second zero to 100 km/h sprint times, which will likely be ample for the majority of customers. Finally, a base Hummer SUV, simply named EV2, will incorporate 400 volts of charging capability instead of the 2X and 3X version’s 800-volt/300kW systems.

“GMC’s HUMMER EV SUV offers an exceptional balance of on-road performance and off-road capability, enhanced by a unique structure that allows for our signature open-air experience,” stated Hummer EV chief engineer Al Oppenheiser in a press release. “New features debuting on the SUV reinforce its role as a tactical tool in almost any situation.”

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
The Hummer EV SUV’s top can be removed for an open-air experience.

Upon arriving in the fall of 2022 as a 2023 model, the truck will come in special “Edition 1” trim featuring its most formidable 3X performance setup, as will the SUV when it hits the market in early 2023. Those wanting a base SUV will need to wait until the spring of 2024, with other trims arriving in between.

As for the all-important question of range, GMC is claiming up to 482 kilometers for the SUV and about 560 km for the truck, the differentiator being four extra Ultium battery modules (24 compared to 20) stored within the latter model’s 3,444-mm long wheelbase (the SUV’s wheelbase measures 226 mm shorter at 3,218 mm). The downgraded base SUV, filled with just 16 modules, will be capable of about 400 km of range. Every new Hummer will incorporate GM’s new double-stacked battery pack, by the way, which is included as part of an interdependent body/battery structure that is said to enhance the vehicles’ rigidity.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
The Hummer’s EV power unit isn’t positioned up front like its predecessor, allowing for extra cargo in the “frunk”.

“The HUMMER EV’s body protects the battery, while the battery supports the structure,” continued Oppenheiser. “That means the battery pack itself is a structural element, which enables a truly open-air experience and a rare combination of extreme off-road capability and smooth on-road performance in a body-frame integral platform.”

Despite the lengthy time to market, GM Canada has announced an entry price of $88,898 plus freight and fees for the 16-module base EV2, which is quite reasonable, but take note this will be the only Hummer SUV south of the six-figure mark. The 2X will be priced at $104,898, while 3X will start at $119,398. Lastly, an Edition 1 will cost early adopters $125,898, which isn’t bad considering the prices some competitors are charging for their street-only crossover SUVs.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
Hummer appears to be targeting premium buyers with this nicely finished interior.

This in mind, why not go all the way for an Edition 1 with its Extreme Off-Road package. It’ll only set you back $131,898, but adds a set of skid plates underneath that GMC dubs “armour”, as well as rock sliders, a front eLocker differential and a virtual locking one for the rear, HD ball-spline half-shafts, and 22-inch alloy wheels encircled by 35-inch-OD Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires. Last but hardly least, the upgrade includes front- and rear-facing UltraVision underbody cameras (including a wash system) to visually assist when overcoming trail clutter.

While impressive, we’re just scratching the surface of the new Hummer’s off-road technology. The new SUV also includes Crab Walk technology as standard equipment, which points all four wheels in the same direction for diagonal mobility thanks to a standard four-wheel steering system, while an air suspension with Extract Mode can increase the utility’s ground clearance up to 406 mm (16.0 inches) while driving, ideal for when traversing obstacles.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
The fully digital gauge cluster is expected in this class.

Those willing to scratch up their new Hummer EV’s paint will be happy to know it’s going to be one very capable SUV, due to an e4WD system that can power individual wheels, while its 330 mm (13 inches) of suspension travel, plus its ability to climb 60-percent grades when moving forward or reversing, as well as its capability of scaling 457 mm (18-inch) vertical obstacles, not to mention its willingness to ford more than 600 mm (2 ft) of water, should make it nearly unstoppable.

Those wanting yet more features can opt for a “multisensory, interactive experience” dubbed Watts To Freedom, which will fill the cabin with special sounds from the Bose audio system, as well as kinesthetic sensations via its haptic driver seat, plus visual stimulation from custom displays that portray the SUV’s performance mode as “armed and ready.” GMC’s My Mode lets you make the required personalization adjustments for this unique system, not to mention the ability to modulate its steering and suspension systems, throttle response, as well as the customization of engine sounds.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
The Hummer’s infotainment touchscreen is large, albeit still dwarfed by anything from Tesla.

If you’d rather hear and feel air rushing over your head, an Infinity Roof, which includes removeable Sky Panels, comes standard.

Most should find the Hummer SUV’s five seats ample for their needs, while it should be practical enough for cargo as well. GMC says the powered side-swinging tailgate, which hangs a spare tire on its outer panel, is actually “wider than the vehicle itself” when open, with “an unimpeded 48-inch opening,” while owners will be able to stuff it full with 2,316 litres (81.8 cubic feet) of gear when the back seats are laid flat. What’s more, additional stowage space is hidden under the load floor, while another storage compartment can be found behind the cargo area’s side panel.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
The gear selector looks conventional, but the drivetrain is anything but.

Width in mind, the new Hummer features a generously proportioned 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster ahead of the driver, which combines with an even larger 13.4-inch infotainment touchscreen to the right. Within the latter, an “In-vehicle Energy App” will monitor energy usage, plus can preschedule charging intervals, condition the battery temperature, and the list goes on.

Additional tech includes a Digital Key that allows owners to use their smartphone for wireless access and ignition, while an HD Surround Vision parking camera lets the driver see up to 14 vantage points. The aforementioned UltraVision underbody camera system provides up to 176 camera views, by the way, while a host of Off-Road Widgets deliver performance info to aid when off-roading, with driving scenarios like “ride height and eLocker engagement, compass headings, pitch/roll status,” etcetera.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV
The new EV SUV promises all the 4×4-capability Hummer is famous for.

Ever new Hummer EV model will be available with an updated version of GM’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driver assistance technology too, which provides hands-free driving on compatible highways. The enhanced system even features new automatic lane changing, ideal for those who might be initially intimidated by large vehicles, or just wanting a more relaxed drive home.

Finally, ultimate tech geeks (plus the do-it-yourself crowd and campers alike) can add an available Power Station generator, which provides 19.2 kW of AC charging/generator functionality for accessories (120V/25A/3kW), plus the ability to recharge other EVs (240V/25A/6kW).

GM will drop more detailed information closer to the Hummer SUV’s launch, when we’re hoping to see the SUV’s special Moonshot Green Matte exterior paint as an option within its configuration tool. Stay tuned…

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: General Motors

CarCostCanada

Porsche shows that its new Taycan EV can be as practical as it’s fast

2021 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
The new Cross Turismo body style adds significantly more cargo space to the Taycan line.

As anyone who’s spent days at a time driving around in a mid-engine supercar will tell you, there’s more to a car than just being able to go fast. Hence the new age of four-door coupes, Porsche’s fully electric Taycan EV being the latest of such wonders to hit the road. Now, just as it did with its more conventionally-powered Panamera four-door coupe’s transition into the Sport Turismo, Porsche is introducing an extended sport wagon version of the Taycan to expand its practicality without detracting from its performance-oriented nature.

The new Taycan Cross Turismo is Porsche’s answer to Audi’s E-tron (or the new E-Tron Sportback), Jaguar’s I-Pace, and Tesla’s Model X, for the time being at least. No doubt, the Stuttgart-based firm will eventually reveal a purely electric SUV, but for now EV fans with more pragmatic leanings will need to settle for an elongated four-door coupe, not that opting for a Taycan Cross Turismo could ever be considered hardship.

2021 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
It might look like a regular Taycan from up front…

By the numbers, the new Cross Turismo provides 793 litres (28.0 cu ft) of added cargo space for a new maximum of 1,200 litres (42.4 cu ft), which is a great leap forward from the regular Taycan’s 407-litre (14.4 cu-ft) trunk. This doesn’t include the Taycan’s 81-litre (2.8 cu-ft) “frunk” (front trunk) either, which is standard in both cars. If you still require more luggage capacity, Porsche has a bespoke roof-top cargo carrier on offer that’s capable of clinging in place up to 200 km/h.

2021 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
…. but the Cross Tusismo can haul a lot more than the regular four-door coupe.

Yes, the Cross Turismo is no different than the regular Taycan coupe when it comes to performance, with top track speeds varying from 220 to 250 km/h depending on trim. Both body styles feature identical 800-volt battery-electric plug-in power units, complete with a lithium-ion Performance Battery Plus good for 93.4 kWh of power, which makes the car capable of approximately 320 km of range before a recharge, depending on exterior temperatures conditions, road conditions, driving style, etcetera.

Especially helpful, up to 100 km of range is available after a mere five minutes of being hooked up to a DC fast charger, which should be enough for most people to top up and get on their way. Of course, if plugged into a regular 240-volt charging station it will take significantly more time to reach that level of range.

2021 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Just five minutes on a DC fast charger can provide up to 100 km/h of range.

Charging times will also be reflective of the chosen Taycan model, as will the Cross Turismo’s zero to 100 km/h performance. The slowpoke of the litter is the base Taycan 4 Cross Turismo, which nevertheless zips past the 100 km/h mark in a rapid 5.1 seconds due to its 375-hp dual-motor electric power unit. An upgrade to the 4S Cross Turismo will chop an entire second off that standstill to 100 km/h sprint time, thanks to 482 hp flowing through to all four of its wheels.

Porsche oddly uses its “Turbo” nameplate for top-level Taycan trims, but even if those around chuckle at the thought of a turbocharged EV, you’ll be last to laugh as you blast past. To that end, the Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo puts out a formidable 616 hp, resulting in just 3.3 seconds from naught to 100 km/h, whereas the even quicker Turbo S Cross Turismo provides 750 hp for an otherworldly 2.9-second run to 100 km/h, when launch control is employed.

2021 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Porsche has plenty of lifestyle-enhancing accessories available to make life with a Taycan Cross Turismo better.

Porsche provides all Taycan Cross Turismo models with the same chassis and adaptive suspension system, which is shared with the regular Taycan coupe, while all-wheel drive is standard to improve four-season capability. Better yet, Porsche includes a standard “Gravel Mode” too, this setting adjusting the model’s throttle response and chassis control to optimize adhesion to less than ideal road surfaces.

If you want even more off-road prowess, an optional Off-Road Design package raises the Cross Turismo’s ride height by 30 mm (1.2 in), plus provides more protection to paint surfaces that might otherwise get chipped without mud flaps. Additional rugged-looking upgrades give this EV more of a crossover look. s

2021 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
Standard all-wheel drive makes the Taycan Cross Turismo reasonable capable off-road.

Appearances in mind, the Cross Turismo is already tougher looking than a regular Taycan, thanks to SUV-style matte black body cladding circling the wheel cutouts, yet more along the rocker panels, and of course more rugged black stuff end-to-end, while the front and back bumper caps are further enhanced with stylish silver undertrays.

Deliveries of the new Taycan Cross Turismo will start this summer, so make sure to give your local Porsche retailer a call if you’d like to get your hands on one. Pricing begins at $119,900 for the entry-level Taycan Cross Turismo 4, and grows to $126,800 for the Taycan Cross Turismo 4S, $178,000 for the Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo, and lastly $218,000 for the top-tier Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo S.

2021 Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
If you’re looking for a more practical EV, Porsche’s Taycan Cross Turismo might be the answer.

Notably, the Cross Turismo’s base power unit is not available in the regular Taycan coupe, which is why this crossover-wagon variant is a bit more affordable. Specifically, the 2021 Taycan 4S can be had for $120,500, but it incorporates the Cross Turismo’s stronger 4S power unit. Therefore, a direct price comparison should be made against the $126,800 Taycan Cross Turismo 4S, which requires $6,300 more than the four-door coupe variant. Even better, Cross Turismo Turbo and Turbo S trims only cost $3,000 more than their regular Taycan equivalents.

Our 2021 Porsche Taycan Canada Prices page makes these differences clear, plus it also lets you configure the current coupe model’s standard and optional features. Take note that Porsche is now offering the Taycan coupe with factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent, and remember that all CarCostCanada members have access to manufacturer rebate info (when available), and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating your deal. Find out how your CarCostCanada membership can save you money on any new vehicle sold in Canada, and while you’re at it, make sure to download our free smartphone app so you can have everything you need to save big on your next new car, truck or SUV when you need it most.

The All-New Taycan Cross Turismo (1:29):

Taycan Cross Turismo: Digital World Premiere (17:40):

Taycan Cross Turismo – Inner Space (2:30):

The Camouflaged Taycan Cross Turismo Hits the Road (1:57):

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

CarCostCanada

New Mercedes EQA brings electric power to entry-level luxury SUV segment

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA
Mercedes is preparing its new EQA electric for sale, and we think it’ll eventually arrive here in Canada where small SUVs do very well.

Mercedes is expanding its electric vehicle lineup rapidly, due to the goal of providing a “Carbon Neutral” model lineup by 2039, with the latest plug-in offering possibly its most important being that it’s the gateway into three-pointed star EVs.

When (or if) the EQA is sold into the Canadian market (we shouldn’t expect it before calendar year 2022), it will most likely be Mercedes’ most affordable EV. Designed to slot below the EQC, which was originally scheduled to launch later this year but will likely arrive next year, the EQA will initially combine for a three-way EV lineup topped off by the full-size EQS luxury sedan and SUV variant (although the EQE sedan and SUV are expected to join below the EQS models, these targeting Tesla’s Model X and Audi’s E-Tron and E-Tron Sportback).

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA
The long, wide strip of LED taillights does a good job of separating the EQA from its GLA-Class platform donor.

Mercedes is obviously targeting the Tesla Model S, Porsche Taycan, and Audi E-Tron GT Quattro with the latter (or maybe more so with the upcoming EQE sedan), as well as the Tesla Model Y and Jaguar i-Pace with the EQC, whereas only the Volvo XC40 Recharge competes directly with the EQA (and to some extent the BMW i3), allowing a fairly open market in the electrically-powered subcompact luxury SUV market segment. This could change in the next year or so, however.

According to Mercedes-Benz Canada President and CEO, Brian Fulton who was addressing journalists attending the Montreal International Auto Show in January of 2019, the EQS, EQC and this EQA model will initiate a 10-model EQ lineup of new EVs, with one of the others including an EQB (based on the GLB subcompact SUV).

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA
The EQA is 100-percent electric, so you’ll need to plug it in to get power.

While the EQC’s dual electric motors produce 300 kilowatts (402 horsepower) and 564 lb-ft of torque, the smaller EQA’s initial 250 trim line will offer a single electric motor with 140 kW (188 hp), focusing more on efficiency than performance. A more capable performer is expected to make approximately 200 kW (268 hp) through a second electric motor driving an opposing set of wheels, this resulting in all-wheel drive. A thin battery gets spread out below the floor in order to maximize interior space, enhance weight distribution, and lower the model’s centre of gravity to optimize handling.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA
Anyone familiar with current Mercedes interiors will feel right at home in the highly advanced EQA.

Of utmost importance, the EQA’s range is said to be about 500 kilometres on a single charge (depending on the model chosen), based on Europe’s somewhat optimistic NEDC and WLTP standards (we should expect this number to be downsized when the EQA hits North American markets).

Making the most of stored electricity, the EQA will utilize an intelligent navigation system that plots out the most efficient routes possible after calculating real-time traffic information, as well as terrain, weather conditions, driving style, and charging requirements.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA
The EQA uses a modified version of the same MBUX gauge cluster/infotainment display found in the GLA.

Further aiding efficiency, Mercedes has incorporated a standard heat pump to channel the warmth generated from the EQA’s electric powertrain into the passenger compartment. Eco Assist aids battery usage too, while plenty of advanced driver assistive systems and electronic safety technologies have been designed to protect everyone onboard.

While most might think Mercedes used one of its wind tunnels to perfect the EQA’s impressive 0.28 drag coefficient, the reality is that such aerodynamics were achieved digitally, a first for the German carmaker. Therefore, the EQA’s smooth exterior shell with nearly flush headlights and grille, plus its arcing coupe-like roofline, wind-cheating alloys, and almost completely enclosed underbelly were the result of computer simulations.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA
EQA seating looks just as roomy and comfortable as in the gasoline-powered GLA-Class.

Just the same, there’s no denying the EQA’s GLA-Class roots. The new electric shares architectural hard points with Mercedes’ smallest gasoline-powered SUV, just like the brand’s other EQ models utilize the underpinnings of their similarly named counterparts.

Mercedes has added blue accents to the headlight clusters for a bit more personality, while an LED light strip visually connects those lenses with daytime running lamps that span across the grille. The theme gets used similarly for the SUV’s hind quarters too, which show organically-shaped LED taillights visually connecting through a narrow reflector that spans the back hatch.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA
The slim battery rides low under the EQA’s floor, aiding handling.

Inside, the EQA should look familiar to anyone who’s experienced a modern-day Mercedes model. The instrument panel is highlighted by the automaker’s dual-screen MBUX display, featuring a digital primary instrument cluster to the left and an infotainment touchscreen on the right, the latter controllable via a touchpad and buttons on the lower centre console as well. Together with such systems’ normal functions, the two EQA displays will feature a bevy of EV-specific graphic interfaces.

Just like with its gasoline-powered models, Mercedes also integrates ambient lighting to highlight key interior design elements in the EQA. Materials quality should be up to par as well, while an optional rose gold trim package should match similarly coloured smartphones.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA
Initially, a less potent EQA 250 model will debut.

Although Mercedes’ EQA is not yet available for purchase, those wanting an efficient subcompact luxury SUV should consider the brand’s GLA-Class, which is currently being offered with up to $1,000 in additional incentives, or if you can still manage to find a new 2020 model (2020 was a rough year for car sales after all) you may be able to save up to $5,000 in additional incentives.

To find out more, visit our 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Canada Prices and 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA Canada Prices pages, plus remember that a CarCostCanada membership can provide yet more savings from factory rebates (when available), manufacturer leasing and financing deals (when available), and always available dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating your deal. Check out how easy the CarCostCanada system is to use and how affordable it is, plus be sure to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Mercedes-Benz

CarCostCanada

Toyota Venza comes back from six-year hiatus with hybrid electric power

2021 Toyota Venza
Toyota will bring back its Venza nameplate for 2021, but it will be a taller more SUV-like crossover than the previous version.

Sometimes automakers make choices that don’t seem to make much sense at the time, but for reasons we outsiders will never know, vehicles get cancelled that really should have lived on.

The 2009–2015 Venza was one such vehicle, a five-occupant mid-size crossover SUV that, while a bit more wagon-like than utility, due to Toyota already offering its rugged, truck-based, off-road capable five-passenger 4Runner, nevertheless filled an important void in the brand’s North American lineups.

Thanks to fairly good initial sales, Toyota would’ve arguably found more traction if it had chosen to bring back a redesign after four to five or years or so, rather than cancel it after six. At least the Japanese brand has a recognizable nameplate to fall back on now that it’s ready to reenter one of the more profitable auto segments. The new Toyota Venza will therefore launch in Canada as a 2021 model, starting this summer. 

While standard with all-wheel drive, more unexpectedly is the announcement of a standard hybrid drivetrain. This follows Toyota’s commitment to electrify its entire lineup by 2025, and therefore the new Venza will be joined by a wholly redesigned 2021 Sienna that will only be available with a hybrid electric drivetrain as well.

2009 Toyota Venza
The original 2009-2016 Venza was ahead of its time.

Additional Toyota vehicles sold with the automaker’s full hybrid drive system include the now legendary Prius, also with available with new AWD-e four-season capability, plus the new Corolla Hybrid, the Camry Hybrid, the RAV4 Hybrid, and the Highlander Hybrid, while the Prius Prime offers plug-in, 100 percent electric (EV) motive power for short distances at city as well as highway speeds, plus last but not least is the Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell-powered EV.

Since the first-generation Venza was discontinued, Toyota hasn’t offered a two-row, five-passenger crossover SUV in the mid-size class. As noted the iconic 4Runner remains a 4×4-capable off-roader competing more directly with Jeep’s Wrangler and soon Ford’s new Bronco, so it won’t attract the same kind of soft-roader clientele. Ford in mind, its Edge will be one of the Venza’s direct competitors, while the even more popular three-row Explorer will continue to duke it out against Toyota’s recently redesigned Highlander. Of note, the Edge was the best-selling mid-size SUV in calendar year 2019 thanks to 19,965 sales, compared to the Highlander that only found 13,811 new Canadian owners. What’s more, Ford sold 29,632 Edge and Explorer models collectively last year, and that impressive sales lead doesn’t even factor in that 2019 was a terrible year for the Explorer due to Ford’s slow rollout of the all-new 2020 version. Ford claimed that production issues were at fault, but either way year-over-year Explorer sales were down 47 percent plunge in Canada during 2019, so we can expect the disparity in Ford’s mid-size SUV sales lead to grow even more in 2020 (overall sale will be down, however, due to COVID-19).

2021 Toyota Harrier
The 2021 Toyota Harrier looks very similar to the new Venza.

As of December 31, 2019, five two-row mid-size SUVs sold better than the Highlander in the Canadian mid-size SUV segment. The Edge was followed by Hyundai’s Santa Fe (which is now available solely as a five-passenger model due to the new three-row Palisade) that found 18,929 new customers last year, whereas Jeep’s Grand Cherokee attracted 18,659 new owners in 2019. Kia’s Sorento (now also sold with just two rows thanks to Kia’s new Telluride) also beat Highlander sales with 16,054 deliveries down the road during the same 12 months, while Chevy’s all-new Blazer sold 15,210 units last year. Nissan only sold 12,000 Muranos in 2019, but when this model finally gets a redesign it will probably find more takers than the three-row Highlander too, so it’s clear that the new 2021 Venza critically important for Toyota.

Toyota is taking a significant risk by only offering a single hybrid drivetrain, particularly because this choice will undoubtedly make the Venza more expensive to build and sell than rivals’ gasoline-powered counterparts, but it nevertheless should be well received by those wanting to save fuel and reduce pollutants. A recent spike in fuel prices may make some Canadians more open to spending more on a hybrid powertrain, but even with pump prices higher now than in recent months they remain relatively low when compared to the last couple of years.

There should be no fears about Toyota hybrid reliability, mind you, as the brand initiated the entire market segment with its first-generation Prius in 1997 (in 2000 as a 2001 model here in Canada) and garnered an enviable reputation for near bulletproof dependability for all of its various hybrid-electric drivetrains.

1999 Toyota Harrier
The original 1999 Toyota Harrier looks almost identical to the Lexus RX 300 of the same era.

No Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy figures have been announced yet, but Toyota estimates the new 2021 Venza to manage a combined city and highway rating of 5.9 L/100km, which will make it the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class. Of note, the brand employs active grille shutters in order to minimize drag, aiding fuel economy at highway speeds.

The original Venza shared its platform architecture with the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Toyota Harrier, amongst other Toyota/Lexus products such as the Camry and Highlander. The Harrier was even more closely aligned with our Lexus RX (particularly the first-generation Harrier that was barely disguised when it debuted as the 1999 Lexus RX 300). Over the five-plus-year period that Toyota didn’t offer the Venza in Canada, covering 2016 until today, a third-gen Harrier came and went in the JDM, but now that we have photos of both the fourth-gen Harrier and the new 2021 Venza it’s easy to see the similarities between these two vehicles.

Toyota will use its well-proven 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder hybrid powertrain for the new 2021 Venza and upcoming 2021 Sienna, this drivetrain also powering the Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid (as well as the Avalon Hybrid in the U.S. market). The powertrain’s combined system output is 219 horsepower, making it identical to the 2020 RAV4 Hybrid, although more powerful than the Camry Hybrid that only puts out 208 hp, and not as potent as the new 2020 Highlander Hybrid that makes a total of 240 hp.

2015 Toyota Harrier
A version of this 2015 Toyota Harrier could’ve been our Venza if Toyota had decided to keep the model in the North American markets.

The new Toyota Hybrid System II drivetrain incorporates a lighter lithium-ion battery that improves efficiency as well as performance. Like the RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid, the Venza receives two electric motors that provide maximum torque almost immediately at takeoff. The rear motor provides motive power to the rear wheels, which Toyota calls Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive. The rear-mounted motor only engages when the back wheels experience slippage, at which point the drive system can appropriate up to 80 percent of system torque to the wheels behind. This said the system defaults to front-wheel drive so as to minimize fuel usage, and only uses its rear wheels when necessary.

Speaking of fuel savings, the Venza includes an Eco mode that “changes the throttle and environmental logic” to enhance overall efficiencies, states Toyota in a press release, while Normal and Sport modes (the former “ideal for everyday driving” and the latter sharpening “throttle response”) also come standard, whereas an EV mode allows limited use of full electric motive power at “low speeds for short distances,” just like Toyota provides with its other non-plug-in hybrid models.

2021 Toyota Venza
The new 2021 Venza offers slick, premium styling.

Toyota claims the new 2021 Venza’s regenerative braking system, which captures otherwise lost electricity caused by kinetic brake friction and then reroutes it to the model’s electrical system, provides better control than in previous hybrid generations, and in fact can be used for “downshifting” via the sequential gear lever’s manual shift mode. Each downshift increases the regenerative system’s braking force in steps, which “fosters greater control when driving in hilly areas,” says Toyota, while the hybrid system also benefits ride comfort by “finely controlling the drive torque to suppress pitch under acceleration and deceleration.” Toyota calls this differential torque pre-load, and it’s particularly useful when taking off from a corner or managing curves on both normal and slippery road surfaces. This feature also aids steering performance at higher speeds, plus it improves straight-line stability and controllability on rougher road surfaces. Additionally, Toyota incorporates new Active Cornering Assist (ACA) electronic brake vectoring into the Venza so as to minimize understeer and thus improve handling yet further.

The new 2021 Venza is built on the Toyota New Global Architecture K (TNGA-K) platform that also underpins the 2018–present Camry, 2019–present Avalon, 2019–present RAV4, 2020 Highlander, and the redesigned 2021 Sienna, not to mention the 2019–present Lexus ES and upcoming Lexus NX and RX replacements. In a press release Toyota states that the TNGA-K architecture helps the Venza deliver an “intuitive driving experience” with “greater driving refinement,” including “comfortable urban and highway performance” and “predictable handling, plus low noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).” The new Venza features extensive high-strength steel for a more rigid body structure that helps improve its front strut and rear multi-link suspension’s ride quality and handling, plus its overall safety.

2021 Toyota Venza
Toyota will offer a fully digital gauge cluster in top trims.

The new base Venza LE rides on an 18-inch set of multi-spoke two-tone alloy wheels, whereas XLE and Limited trims arrive standard with a set of 19-inch multi-spoke super chrome finished alloys.

Inside the cabin, the near top-line Venza XLE and the fully-loaded Limited model get advanced touch-sensitive capacitive controls on their centre stack instead of the LE’s physical buttons, although you’ll probably notice the big 12.3-inch centre infotainment touchscreen first. This said even the base model’s 8.0-inch centre display is big for an entry-level model.

The Venza’s larger upgraded infotainment system receives a 1,200-watt, 12-channel, nine-speaker (with sub) JBL audio system that Toyota claims to be “sonically gorgeous,” plus embedded navigation with Destination Assist comes standard too. The new nav system features switchable driver or front passenger operation, while both systems include smartphone integration from Apple CarPlay, which comes complete with its Siri voice control system, as well as Android Auto with its Google Assistant, while Bluetooth wireless connectivity is also included.

2021 Toyota Venza
A large 12.9-inch infotainment touchscreen will make the Venza ultra advanced.

Advanced technologies in mind, the Venza will make a fully digital instrument cluster available in upper trims, not to mention a 10-inch colour head-up display that will project key information, like vehicle speed, the hybrid system’s details, and TSS 2.0 safety and driver assist functions, onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, while an electronic rearview mirror with an auto-dimming function plus a HomeLink garage door opener will provide a clearer rear view, which will be especially helpful when rear passengers and/or luggage is interrupting rearward vision. The electronic rearview mirror only needs the flick of a switch to go from conventional to digital operation.

When moving up to Limited trim, parking lot safety is further improved via a 360-degree bird’s-eye view from a surround camera system that Toyota calls its Panoramic View Monitor. The standard camera gets “projected path” active guidelines as well as an available “rear camera cleaning system [that] sprays washer fluid to clear away water droplets, mud, snow, and snow-melting road treatments from the lens,” says Toyota.

Wireless phone charging is another area Toyota leads most rivals, so it’s no surprise the Venza makes this handy feature available, while additional options include ventilated front seats, proximity Smart Key for all four doors plus the tailgate (the latter also providing hands-free powered operation), plus more.

2021 Toyota Venza
Upper trims receive touch-capacitive controls on the centre stack.

More in mind, new “Star Gaze” is a fixed electrochromic panoramic glass roof that can instantly switch between transparent and frosted modes by flicking a switch on the overhead console. Toyota claims the frosted mode “brightens the interior while reducing direct sunlight, giving the cabin an even more open, airy, and inviting feeling.”

What’s more, each Venza trim comes standard with Toyota’s TSS 2.0 suite of advanced safety and driver assistance features such as pre-collision system and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot monitoring, lane departure assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane tracing assist, automatic high beams, and full-speed adaptive cruise control.

As for interior roominess, we can expect the Venza’s passenger compartment to be similar in size to the first and second row of the new Highlander that as noted earlier shares underpinnings, which should make it more accommodating than the current RAV4. It’s possible to carry up to 1,027 litres (36.2 cubic feet) of cargo behind the rear seats, which is oddly 32 litres (1.1 cu ft) less than what you’ll find in a compact RAV4, that model good for 1,059 litres (37.4 cu ft) of dedicated cargo space, while the Highlander provides 1,010 litres (35.6 cu ft) more space when its third row laid flat.

Pricing for the 2021 Venza will be announced closer its summer arrival date.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Toyota

CarCostCanada

Toyota sells 15-million hybrid vehicles

2020 Toyota Prius Prime
Toyota has expanded the Prius lineup to include the uniquely styled plug-in Prime.

Plenty of carmakers build hybrid vehicles, but none has been as successful at partial electrification as Toyota. Of course, it had a head start, creating the entire sector in 1997 with the launch of its original Prius. Now, 23 years later, Toyota has filled the world with more than 15 million hybrid vehicles, while accounting for 80 percent of all hybrid sales globally.

An updated version of that first-generation Prius arrived in Canada for 2000, and now that model is well into its fourth generation and an automotive icon. No other hybrid electric car has sold anywhere near as well as the Prius, plus Toyota has a number of other hybrids to its credit as well.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
The new Corolla Hybrid makes a lot of sense and should sell well.

While the full-size Prius v (for volume) was discontinued in 2017 and subcompact Prius c was cancelled last year, the plug-in Prius Prime is pointing Toyota in a more fully electrified direction. That model, which gets unique styling and the ability to drive at regular city and even highway speeds under full electric power, will be joined by a plug-in RAV4 Prime for 2021, which should be even more popular.

Speaking of popular, Toyota added a Corolla Hybrid to the gasoline-electric fleet for 2020, this model now going head-to-head against Honda’s Insight, which is little more than a restyled Civic hybrid, whereas the Camry Hybrid remains popular with those who require a bigger sedan.

2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Camry Hybrid remains popular.

Toyota doesn’t offer its full-size Avalon Hybrid in Canada, but the aforementioned RAV4 Prime currently comes as a RAV4 Hybrid too, and its popularity will make sure no one in Canada is lamenting the loss of Toyota’s big flagship four-door sedan. Another SUV worth considering is the near-full-size Highlander Hybrid that’s oddly the only mid-size SUV available in the mainstream sector with a hybrid powertrain. Last but hardly least, Toyota offers fleet buyers one of the only hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles available, the one-of-a-kind Mirai taking the hybrid concept into a totally new direction.

2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Hard to believe that a competitor has never offered anything to rival Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid.

Notably, a considerable number of the 15 million hybrids sold under Toyota’s umbrella wore the Lexus badge, the Japanese automaker’s luxury division adding seven additional gasoline-electric models to the namesake brand’s eight. Starting from the least expensive is the entry-level UX 250h subcompact crossover, which is followed by the NX 300h compact crossover, the ES 300h mid-size luxury sedan, the RX 450h mid-size crossover SUV, the longer three-row RX 450h L, the LC 500h personal sport-luxury coupe, and lastly the Lexus LS 500h full-size sedan flagship (gone are the HS 250h, CT 200h and GS 450h).

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The RAV4 Hybrid will soon be available with a plug-in Prime drivetrain.

If you think that 15 hybrid models from two brands is an impressive accomplishment, considering for a moment that Toyota and Lexus sell 44 unique hybrid vehicles outside of Canada, while hybrids combined for 52 percent of Toyota’s overall sales volume in Europe last year.

So what does the future hold? Toyota plans to increase hybrid integration into more models moving forward, while continuing to develop its hydrogen fuel cell and full electric programs too. Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi announced in June 2019 that half of the carmaker’s global sales would be electrified by 2025. Expect a combination of hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and fully electric (BEV) vehicles, and with that latter category in mind, Terashi pointed out that an entirely new line of full electrics would be designed for international consumption.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Toyota

CarCostCanada

Stunning new Prophecy Concept EV offers window into Hyundai’s future

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
We certainly like what we see. Hyundai’s new Optimistic Futurism design language looks to the past as well.

As new vehicles are turning into little more than rolling computers for transporting people and their gear, they’re in fact becoming less complicated than their predecessors, at least from a driving and styling perspective.

Hyundai’s new Prophecy Concept EV is a good example of minimalism meets modern-day tech thanks to the automaker’s new Optimistic Futurism design language that’s been created with the purpose of connecting consumers more completely with their vehicles, or so says the head of Hyundai’s global design center, SangYup Lee, as part of the electric’s car’s press release.

“We have brought to life yet another icon that establishes a new standard for the EV segment as well as pushing Hyundai’s design vision to even broader horizons,” commented Lee. “A part of that expansion is what we call Optimistic Futurism, a design concept embodied by ‘Prophecy’. With Optimistic Futurism, our aim is to forge an emotional connection between humans and automobiles.”

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
Would Hyundai be able to sell its Prophecy if built today?

Developing emotional ties between buyers and products is a top priority of every effective brand, and this in mind Hyundai should do well with whatever comes of its new Prophecy, or at least the design language behind it. With the Prophecy, the Korean automaker’s namesake brand has created a styling exercise that’s both retrospectively minimalist and brilliantly detailed, resulting in a look that pulls cues from some iconic rivals, yet sets off on its own course too.

Yes, the complex curves that make up its outward design could have just as easily been concocted by Porsche for a future Panamera or even the new Taycan EV, not that it appears like either, but this said few automakers dare attempt to style a car with as many rounded edges as Porsche, let alone a grille-less front end like Tesla’s Model 3.

This said its seemingly vented rear end styling, which pulls attention from the large transparent acrylic rear wing resting above, reminds of the post-war Tucker 48, also particularly aerodynamic for its time, while mixed in with its pixelated 3D elements are LEDs for a set of protruding tail lamps. A similar pattern can be seen in the headlamp clusters up front, which use the same transparent acrylic as the rear spoiler and in the camera monitoring system, but the two headlights look a great deal more conventional than the eye-catching taillight design.

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
These taillights are wild!

All of the features above improve aerodynamics, of course, which is why forerunning EVs have chosen their own unique variations of the Prophecy’s familiar design theme, but Hyundai’s propeller-inspired alloy wheels, which direct air down each side of the car’s body, are unique.

Hyundai hasn’t released any exterior or interior dimensions, but an open set of clamshell doors makes its mid-size four-door coupe layout clear, while the only available technical specifications depict a 100-percent electric power unit with a battery housed under the passenger compartment floor. Therefore, we expect it will ride on a completely new architecture that could provide multiple body styles on top.

The Prophecy’s interior features tartan-patterned upholstery that pays yet more homage to Porsche, particularly its 1975-1980 911, 924 and 928 models with blue-green being a popular colour combination at the time, yet nothing the Stuttgart-headquartered performance marque has ever done managed to achieve the eyeball-popping wow factor of Hyundai’s new creation, and not only because the South Koreans use the aforementioned Scottish kilt pattern for the seats’ side bolsters as well as their central insets.

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
The Prophecy’s interior is ultra-future think.

The Prophecy’s sizeable wraparound digital display, which frames the windshield’s base, isn’t all that impressive these days either, but the pop-out primary instrument cluster is, yet even that won’t upstage the car’s driving controls. Obviously missing is a steering wheel, which has been replaced by a pair of pivoting joysticks, this ode to gaming apropos in a car that’s designed to be driven autonomously.

Of course, we won’t ever see the Prophecy on the road, its existence designed only to show new car buyers that Hyundai has an exciting future styling direction. If produced as is, we think Hyundai would have a hit in their hands. 

 

Hyundai | “Prophecy” Concept EV Unveiling (16:04):

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo and video credits: Hyundai