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.
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.
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’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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Chevy has updated its Bolt EV plug-in electric car for 2022, and along with subtly reworked styling, a revised interior and more tech, the bowtie brand will add a second crossover-style variant dubbed EUV, to make the model appeal to more would-be buyers.
The Bolt EV is positioned within the subcompact hatchback segment, with a focus on practical four- to five-passenger capability and flexible cargo hauling utility, plus highly efficient, zero-emissions, battery-powered mobility. Despite all of this clean, green and easy-to-live-with pragmatism, today’s Bolt is actually a great deal more fun to drive than most would imagine before stepping inside, thanks to more than ample torque from its potent electric motor.
In an interesting move, the outgoing Bolt will lose its roof rails as the new EUV takes over the SUV-style family role, or at least the version shown in GM’s press photos shows a clean roof without any rooftop load carrying capability. The original Bolt not only included a set of roof rails, but also featured a slightly taller ride height and black body cladding around its lower extremities, all in crossover-like fashion. The new 2022 Bolt will carry forward with the latter conventions, while the EUV’s roof rails are more prominent and (at least in the trim level shown in photos) black, adding to its SUV-like presence.
What’s more, the new Bolt EUV adds length, width and height over the regular model, now measuring 161 mm (6.3 in) more from nose to tail, 5 mm (0.2 in) extra from side-to-side, with 10 mm (0.4 in) of additional track, plus 5 mm (0.2 in) add from the base of its tires to the top of its just-noted roof rack. Most importantly, its extended length results in 75 mm (3 in) of extra wheelbase, allowing the EUV to increase rear legroom by 78 mm (3.1 in), but strangely the larger model’s cargo volume decreases slightly, from 470 litres (15.6 cu ft) behind the rear seats and 1,614 litres (57.0 cu ft) when folded down, to a respective 462 and 1,611 litres (16.3 and 56.9 cu ft).
Odd yet again, despite the EUV increased height, its headroom drops by 0.2 mm (0.1 in) front to rear, plus it forgoes another 24 mm (0.9 in) in front when the optional glass sunroof is chosen. Second-row shoulder room is reduced slightly as well, but hip room grows by a similarly hair-like measurement yet shrinks a bit more in back, thus the upgrade to a larger EUV seems to only benefit rear passenger legroom, which was an issue that has reportedly caused complaints from first-generation Bolt owners. On the positive, the EUV’s curb weight only increases by 41 kg (90 lbs).
The extra poundage probably won’t be felt by EUV buyers, however, being that both Bolts will continue to zip along faster than anything else in their subcompact categories. This in mind, plus factoring in the regular Bolt’s exemplary 417 km (259 miles) range, caused no reason for Chevrolet to improve the power unit, although the same battery/motor setup in the EUV reduces range by about 15 km (9 miles) to 402 km (250 miles).
The powertrain in question is GM’s permanent magnetic electric drive motor and 65-kWh, 288-cell lithium-ion battery, which combine for a stealthy yet healthy 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. Both Bolt models are front-wheel drive, similar to a number of other small crossover SUVs, so don’t take them onto a beach for photos like GM did for the press images.
Chevy makes DC fast charging capability standard, which allows for approximately 160 or 150 km (100 or 95 miles) of EV or EUV range respectively after 30 minutes of charging, while a special dual-level charge cord makes it possible for owners to hook up to a 240-volt charging station or 120-volt household-style three-prong outlet.
Those familiar with today’s Bolt will notice that Chevy left the biggest changes to their interiors, where both EV and EUV models feature more horizontally themed layouts for a wider visual effect. The new design is more conventionally laid out as well, replacing the pod-type centre stack with one that flows downward in a more traditional style, ending in a conventional lower console. The same standard 10.2-inch touchscreen remains, large for the subcompact category, while the infotainment graphics have been given a refresh. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity are still standard, with a navigation system optional, but most will probably be happiest to see a new standard wireless charging pad. Chevy saw no need to change the Bolt’s fully digital primary gauge cluster, however, which looks exactly the same as that in today’s model.
Together with the current Bolt’s less than ideal rear legroom, owners also complained about seat comfort and interior materials quality, which they deemed substandard for the many asked. While loading the Bolt up with an impressive list of kit, including that big infotainment display just noted, the car’s near $45k price point justifies higher quality surface treatments. Thus, the new 2022 Bolt models will get their just desserts, with softer surfaces in key areas, even including what appear to be padded leatherette on the dash. Chevy seems to have improved some cabin switchgear too, but we shouldn’t expect anything nearing Cadillac quality.
Knobs, levers and switches in mind, the new lower centre console includes an updated gear selector that replaces the current model’s conventional shifter for a slim row of Acura/Honda-style push and pull buttons. The green-lit button nearest to the driver engages one-pedal driving, which is a more effective design than slotting the shift lever into the “L” position, a system employed for the current Bolt and other EV and plug-in models within GM’s various lineups. The paddles on the backside of the new flat-bottom steering wheel will be more familiar to Bolt (and Volt) owners. These can be used for braking assistance, plus for recharging the battery through regenerative kinetic energy.
Tech in mind, the top-line EUV Premier will be first amongst Chevrolet vehicles to offer GM’s Super Cruise hands-free semi-self-driving technology, which is functional on median divided highways. The EUV Premier also features adaptive cruise control and an HD parking camera with a bird’s eye overhead view.
With respect to new Bolt family styling, the majority of onlookers should find the smaller EV better looking than its already reasonably attractive (for a subcompact hatchback) predecessor, unless a more traditional grille-filled front fascia is preferred. The new model says goodbye to the black mesh grille insert, instead replacing it with a grey-painted and patterned panel cut in an ovoid outline, with a slender slot below being the real air intake. This patterned effect does a better job creating family branding than Tesla’s Model 3, for instance, which looks like a non-branded car in an insurance commercial.
Following a theme from the first-gen Bolt and Volt predecessor, Chevy connects the new LED headlamps and side mirror housings with a thick black strip of fender trim, while the outgoing car’s traditional fog lights have been axed for more extended black trim, similar to Cadillac’s front fascia styling.
The EUV features a unique frontal design, which separates the headlight clusters and air intake-style fog lamp bezels, while providing a deeper air vent at the base of a similar solid grey grille insert. Black fender garnishes also flow into the mirror caps, while appearing to follow the black-painted window trim around the glass to a floating roof look, not unlike designs in use across the Chevrolet lineup.
The rear designs of both Bolt models are unique in their execution, but they have a similar design theme that features clean, horizontal, LED taillights at the corners, plus loads of gloss-black composite trim in between. Large matte black bumpers underscore the look, although in a change of pace the EUV appears somewhat dressier due to aluminum-like skid plates, both in the rear and up front.
The 2022 Bolt EV will be priced from $38,198 (plus freight and fees), which is a shocking $6,800 lower than today’s 2021 Bolt EV (those roof rails must have been expensive add-ons), while the new Bolt EUV will be available from $40,198. This means that fully loaded versions should keep them below $45,000, which is as high as possible before being disqualified for government rebate programs. Today’s base Bolt LT can be had for $44,998, incidentally, so it qualifies for the most generous of rebates, whereas the better equipped 2021 Bolt Premier’s $50,298 MSRP doesn’t.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
As usual I’ve scanned the many Toyota Canada retail websites and found plenty new 2019 Prius Prime examples to purchase, no matter which province I searched. What this means is a good discount when talking to your local dealer, combined with Toyota’s zero-percent factory leasing and financing rates for 2019 models, compared to a best-possible 2.99-percent for the 2020 version.
While these pages weren’t created with the latest COVID-19 outbreak in mind, and really nothing was including the dealerships we use to test cars and purchase them, some who are reading this review may have their lease expiring soon, while others merely require a newer, more reliable vehicle (on warranty). At the time of writing, most dealerships were running with full or partial staff, although the focus seems to be more about servicing current clientele than selling cars. After all, it’s highly unlikely we can simply go test drive a new vehicle, let alone sit in one right now, but buyers wanting to take advantage of just-noted deals can purchase online, after which a local dealer would prep the vehicle before handing over the keys (no doubt while wearing gloves).
Back to the car in question, we’re very far into the 2020 calendar year, not to mention the 2020 model year, but this said let’s go over all the upgrades made to the 2020 Prius Prime so that you can decide whether to save a bit on a 2019 model or pay a little extra for the 2020 version. First, a little background info is in order. Toyota redesigned the regular Prius into its current fourth-generation iteration for the 2016 model year, and then added this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Prime for the 2017 model year. The standard hybrid Prius received many upgrades for 2019, cleaning up styling for more of a mainstream look (that didn’t impact the version being reviewed now, by the way), but the latest 2020 Prius Prime was given a number of major updates that I’ll go over now.
Interestingly (in other words, what were they thinking?), pre-refreshed Prius Prime models came with glossy white interior trim on the steering wheel spokes and shift lever panel, which dramatically contrasted the glossy piano black composite found on most other surfaces. Additionally, Toyota’s Prius Prime design team separated the rear outboard seats with a big fixed centre console, reduced a potential five seats to just four for the 2019 model year. Now, for 2020, the trim is all black shiny plastic and the rear seat separator has been removed, making the Prime much more family friendly. What’s more, the 2020 improves also include standard Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, a sunvisor extender, plus new more easily accessible seat heater buttons, while two new standard USB-A charging ports have been added in back.
Moving into the 2020 model year the Prime’s trim lineup doesn’t change one iota, which means Upgrade trim sits above the base model once again, while the former can be enhanced with a Technology package. The base price for both 2019 and 2020 model years is $32,990 (plus freight and fees) as per the aforementioned CarCostCanada pricing pages, but on the positive Toyota now gives you cargo cover at no charge (it was previously part of the Technology package). This reduces the Technology package price from $3,125 to $3,000, a $125 savings, and also note that this isn’t the only price drop for 2020. The Upgrade trim’s price tag is $455 lower in fact, from $35,445 to $34,990, but Toyota doesn’t explain why. Either way, paying less is a good thing.
As for the Prius Prime’s Upgrade package, it includes a 4.6-inch bigger 11.6-inch infotainment touchscreen that integrates a navigation system (and it also replaces the Scout GPS Link service along with its 3-year subscription), a wireless phone charger, Softex breathable leatherette upholstery, an 8-way powered driver seat (which replaces the 6-way manual seat from the base car), illuminated entry (with step lights), a smart charging lid, and proximity keyless entry for the front passenger’s door and rear liftgate handle (it’s standard on the driver’s door), but interestingly Upgrade trim removes the Safety Connect system along with its Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Emergency Assistance button (SOS), and Enhanced Roadside Assistance program (three-year subscription).
My tester’s Technology package includes fog lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a helpful head-up display unit, an always appreciated auto-dimming centre mirror, a Homelink remote garage door opener, impressive 10-speaker JBL audio, useful front parking sensors, semi-self-parking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
You might think an appropriate joke would be to specify the need for blind spot monitoring (not to mention paying close attention to your mirrors) in a car that only makes 121 net horsepower plus an unspecified amount of torque from its hybrid power unit, plus comes with an electronic continuously variable automatic (CVT) that’s not exactly performance-oriented (to be kind), all of which could cause the majority of upcoming cars to blast past as if it was only standing still, but as with most hybrids the Prime is not as lethargic as its engine specs suggest. The truth is that electric torque comes on immediately, and although AWD is not available with the plug-in Prius Prime, its front wheels hooked up nicely at launch resulting in acceleration that was much more than needed, whether sprinting away from a stoplight, merging onto a highway, or passing big, slower moving trucks and buses.
The Prius Prime is also handy through curves, but then again, just like it’s non-plug-in Prius compatriot, it was designed more for comfort than all-out speed, with excellent ride quality despite its fuel-efficient low rolling resistance all-season tires. Additionally, its ultra-tight turning radius made it easy to manoeuvre in small spaces. Of course, this is how the majority of Prius buyers want their cars to behave, because getting the best possible fuel economy is prime goal. Fortunately the 2019 Prius Prime is ultra-efficient, with a claimed rating of 4.3 L/100km city, 4.4 highway and 4.3 combined, compared to 4.4 in the city, 4.6 on the highway and 4.4 combined for the regular Prius, and 4.5 city, 4.9 highway and 4.7 for the AWD variant. This said the Prime is a plug-in hybrid that’s theoretically capable of driving on electric power alone, so if you have the patience and trim to recharge it every 40 km or so (its claimed EV-only range), you could actually pay nothing at all for fuel.
I might even consider buying a plug-in just to get the best parking spots at the mall and other popular stores, being that most retailers put their charging stations closest to their front doors. Even better, when appropriate stickers are attached to the Prime’s rear bumper it’s possible to use the much more convenient (and faster) high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane when driving alone during rush hour traffic.
The Prime’s comfort-oriented driving experience combines with an interior that’s actually quite luxurious too. Resting below and in between cloth-wrapped A-pillars, the Prime receives luxuriously padded dash and instrument panel surfacing, including sound-absorbing soft-painted plastic under the windshield and comfortably soft front door uppers, plus padded door inserts front and back, as well as nicely finished door and centre armrests. Toyota also includes stylish metal-look accents and shiny black composite trim on the instrument panel, the latter melding perfectly into the super-sized 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen infotainment display, which as previously mentioned replaces the base Prime’s 7.0-inch touchscreen when moving up to Upgrade trim.
Ahead of delving into the infotainment system’s details, all Prius Primes receive a wide, narrow digital gauge package at dash central, although it is slanted toward the driver with the majority of functions closer to the driver than the front passenger. I found it easy enough to look at without the need to remove my eyes from the road, and appreciated its stylish graphics with bright colours, deep and rich contrasts, plus high resolution. When you upgrade to the previously noted Technology package, you’ll benefit from a head-up display as well, which can positioned for a driver’s height, thus placing important information exactly where it’s needed on the windscreen.
The aforementioned vertical centre touchscreen truly makes a big impression when climbing inside, coming close to Tesla’s ultra-sized tablets. I found it easy enough to use, and appreciated its near full-screen navigation map. The bottom half of the screen transforms into a pop-up interface for making commands, that automatically hides away when not in use.
Always impressive is Toyota’s proprietary Softex leatherette upholstery, which actually breathes like genuine hides (appreciated during hot summer months). Also nice, the driver’s seat was ultra comfortable with excellent lower back support that gets improved upon by two-way power lumbar support, while its side bolsters held my backside in place during hard cornering as well. The Prime’s tilt and telescopic steering column gave me ample reach too, allowing me to get totally comfortable while feeling in control of the car. To be clear, this isn’t always possible with Toyota models.
I should mention that the steering wheel rim is not wrapped in leather, but rather more of Toyota’s breathable Softex. It’s impressively soft, while also featuring a heated rim that was so nice during my winter test week. High quality switchgear could be found on its 9 and 3 o’clock spokes, while all other Prius Prime buttons, knobs and controls were well made too. I particularly liked the touch-sensitive quick access buttons surrounding the infotainment display, while the cool blue digital-patterned shift knob, which has always been part of the Prius experience, still looks awesome. All said the new Prius Prime is very high in quality.
Take note that Toyota doesn’t finish the rear door uppers in a plush padded material, but at least everything else in rear passenger compartment is detailed out as nicely as the driver’s and front passenger’s area. Even that previously note rear centre console is a premium-like addition, including stylish piano black lacquered trim around the cupholders and a nicely padded centre armrest atop a storage bin. While many will celebrate its removal for 2020, those who don’t have children or grandkids might appreciate its luxury car appeal. Likewise, I found its individual rear bucket seats really comfortable, making the most of all the Prime’s rear real estate. Yes, there’s a lot of room to stretch out one’s legs, plus adequate headroom for taller rear passengers, while Toyota also adds vent to the sides of each rear seat, aiding cooling in back.
Most should find the Prius Prime’s cargo hold adequately sized, as it’s quite wide, but take note that it’s quite shallow because of the large battery below the load floor. It includes a small stowage area under the rearmost portion of that floor, filled with a portable charging cord, but the 60/40-split rear seats are actually lower than the cargo floor when dropped down, making for an unusually configured cargo compartment. Of course, we expect to make some compromises when choosing a plug-in hybrid, but Hyundai’s Ioniq PHEV doesn’t suffer from this issue, with a cargo floor that rests slightly lower than its folded seatbacks.
If you think I was just complaining, let me get a bit ornery about the Prius’ backup beeping signal. To be clear, a beeping signal would be a good idea if audible from outside the car, being that it has the ability to reverse in EV mode and can therefore be very quiet when doing so, but the Prius’ beeping sound is only audible from inside, making it totally useless. In fact, it’s actually a hindrance because the sound interferes with the parking sensor system’s beeping noise, which goes off simultaneously. I hope Toyota eventually rights this wrong, because it’s the silliest automotive feature I’ve ever experienced.
This said the Prius’ ridiculous reverse beeper doesn’t seem to slow down its sales, this model having long been the globe’s best-selling hybrid-electric car. It truly is an excellent vehicle that totally deserves to don the well-respected blue and silver badge, whether choosing this PHEV Prime model or its standard trim.