If you were looking for some edgy styling updates to go along with the new 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance model’s 472-horsepower V8 engine upgrade, this probably isn’t going to be your next ride. Unless Lexus decides to push out an even more aggressive IS F trim before an all-new model arrives in a couple of years, this IS 500 F Sport is the brand’s new four-door muscle car now that the mid-size GS F (and the entire GS line) has departed.
As it is, Lexus refreshed the entire IS line for 2021, and therefore sees no need to bulk up the elegant compact luxury model’s bodywork with extra scoops, whale-tail wings, or any other types of go-fast add-ons to attract more buyers, although they did slightly widen the fenders. Thus, this only marginally muscled up saloon might be the best new sleeper on the strip.
The sharply angled four-door wears a broadened version of Lexus’ now fully acceptable spindle grille, fully blackened out of course, its corners complete with a revised set of multi-lens LED headlamps that don’t dazzle with as much bright metalwork within either. The lower front fascia is deep and divided too, with nice black vertical brake vents to each side (or at least they look like brake vents), while the hood overtop gets a fabulous dome at centre to make way for the 5.0-litre V8 stuffed below.
All IS trims received the same body sculpting down the sides, extended fenders aside, with even the two-tone mirror housings identical to those found on lesser models. Likewise, for the rear end’s UX-inspired LED taillights, which feature a narrow reflector strip visually tying them together. A subtle spoiler hovers over top, and again it’s no different than what you’d find on a regular IS, while the diffuser-infused lower bumper cap is only a departure because of the extra two vertically stacked exhaust tips poking through.
As it is, the IS 300 and IS 350 are already the sportiest Lexus sedans available, so they were mostly de-chromed before this IS 500 arrived. In fact, some 2021 trims are even darker due to grey-painted alloys, the V8-powered model’s 10-spoke, 19-inch Enkei lightweight wheels finished in glittering metal, just like the chromed “L” badges at each end and aforementioned exhaust pipes. The IS 500’s most obvious differentiators are darkened side window trim bits instead of Lexus’ usual polished nickel.
All of the interior changes are from the usual F Sport order sheet too, including black “F SPORT” insignias on the door sill plates and steering wheel, the latter which is heatable and leather-clad, of course, while the metal gas pedal, brake pedal and dead pedal have been upgraded to F Sport specifications too. The startup animation in the mostly-digital gauge cluster’s multi-information display is special to the IS 500, mind you, and serves as a quick reminder of the menacing power available at from a little right foot application.
Along with its 472 horsepower, Lexus’ big V8 puts 395 lb-ft of torque down to the rear wheels, which is almost as much output as found in the gorgeous LC 500 sports coupe and convertible, this IS version actually increasing horsepower by a single digit while dropping a mere three lb-ft of twist. Either way it represents a serious improvement over the next-best IS 350 that only sends 311 horsepower and 280-lb-ft of torque to the ground below. Even the mighty 2014 IS F, as impressive as that super sedan was for its time, wouldn’t be able to compete at 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft of torque. Of note, the only major change other than widening the front fenders was the need to move the radiator forward to accommodate the larger engine.
If you’re shopping in this category, a handful of challengers are worth mentioning, including the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio that puts out a mind-blowing 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque; the BMW M3 that pretty well created this super-fast sedan segment and still offers up competitive performance thanks to a 473-horsepower turbo-six in base form or 503-hp Competition trim; the Mercedes-AMG tuned C-Class that comes in 385-hp AMG C 43 form, 469-hp AMG C 63 guise, and lastly with 503-hp AMG C 63 S tuning.
Unfortunately, Audi doesn’t offer an RS version of its directly competitive compact luxury sedan, but four-ringed buyers can option up from the 349-hp S4 to similarly sized RS 5 Sportback that makes 444 hp (the A5 Sportback is Audi’s version of BMW’s 4 Series Grand Coupe (none are available for 2021), albeit the Bavarians don’t provide an M version of what is arguably their prettiest four-door). Additionally, Cadillac is set to enter this category with its new 2022 CT4-V Blackwing, which gets a standard manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive, and 472-horsepower worth of twin-turbo V6.
A few honourable mentions include the Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered model that puts out 415 hp from a turbocharged, supercharged and plug-in-hybridized four-cylinder (and can also be had in V60 wagon form); and the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 that puts out 400 hp, as its name implies. This story would be incomplete without noting the top-tier Tesla Model 3, which is good for 480 electrified horsepower, plus 471 lb-ft of instantaneous torque.
As noted earlier, the IS 500 pushes all of power down to the rear wheels through the same swift-shifting eight-speed Sport Direct automatic transmission as used in the model’s V6-powered rear-drive IS models. It also features Custom, Sport S and Sport S+ engine and transmission mode settings, with the latter adjusting EPS steering assist and shock damping force as well. The end result of a good driver utilizing the most sport-oriented settings is 4.6 seconds from zero to 100 km/h, no doubt accompanied by “ferocious” sounds from the four tailpipes that “perfectly amplify the new V8 engine,” or so said Lexus in a press release.
Bridling all that power is Lexus’ standard Dynamic Handling Package, which also underpins the US-specification IS 350 RWD F Sport (AWD is standard north of the 49th). The upgrade boasts an Adaptive Variable suspension setup featuring Yamaha rear performance shocks plus a Torsen limited-slip differential, while the IS 500’s standard braking system is improved with two-piece 14-inch aluminum rotors up front and 12.7-inch discs in the rear, while special cooling ducts help to enhance performance at the limit. Despite the upgraded equipment and larger engine, the new IS 500 only adds five kilos to the IS 350 AWD F Sport’s curb weight, mostly because of its rear-drive layout, the V8-powered model hitting the scale at 1,765 kilograms.
I want a new Blazer. Yah, you heard me right. There’s just one problem. The Blazer I want is a 4×4-capable compact/mid-sizer capable of going toe-to-toe with Ford’s new Bronco and Jeep’s legendary Wrangler, not an all-wheel drive soft-roader designed primarily for hauling kids. Fortunately for Chevy, most buyers want the latter, resulting in the new Blazer crossover being very popular.
Granted, General Motors’ best-selling bowtie brand would’ve had a hit on its hands if they’d called it something else, like Malibu X. Ok, that last comment, while mostly true, was a jab right into the solar plexus of the just-noted blue-oval brand that once did something near identical with its mid-size Taurus nameplate, which just happened to share underpinnings with their renamed Freestyle crossover SUV. In all seriousness, though, I would’ve rather seen Chevy bring out a new Colorado-based SUV wearing the Blazer badge than anything riding on the back of GM’s mid-size platform (although the Blazer’s C1XX architecture is actually a somewhat modified crossover variant of the Malibu’s E2XX platform). Now, if GM has a change of heart, wanting to take advantage of rough and rugged 4×4 popularity, they won’t be able to use the classic Blazer nameplate. At least Jimmy is still available for GMC.
The General has made a lot of mistakes in the past and this latest misnomer may one day be perceived as a significant missed opportunity that simultaneously sullied a once-great name, but for now the majority of thirty- to forty-something parents buying this new five-seat Chevrolet will be happy it looks like a bulked-up Camaro (and wasn’t actually named Camaro… ahem, another knock on Ford that dubbed its two-row crossover SUV the Mustang Mach-E) and leave it at that.
The RS I spent a week with is the most Camaro-like trim of the lot, particularly in red. Like it or lose it, this SUV is an attention-getter. This said, no one should expect its rectangular dual exhaust to bark like a ZL1, let alone an LT1 with the upgraded V6. What’s more, the Blazer’s spin on Chevy’s 3.6-litre V6 doesn’t put out the Camaro’s 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque either, but in this fairly staid consumer-driven category its 308 horsepower and 270 ft-lb of torque is impressive. It manages a zero-to-100 km/h sprint of 6.5 seconds too, and while this is half-a-second off Ford’s Edge ST, at least the Chevy looks quicker.
The Blazer boasts an extra forward gear as well, counting in at nine compared to eight for Ford’s mid-size alternative, while both use all-wheel drive systems that are best kept on pavement, or light-duty gravel at worst.
Not all Blazers receive this upmarket V6, by the way, with lesser trims incorporating GM’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that also comes in the base Camaro. Can you see a pattern here? Like the V6, the base Blazer’s output is detuned from the sporty muscle car’s, making 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque instead of a respective 275 and 295, but that’s better than the U.S.-spec base model’s naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre engine that only manages 193 literal ponies and 188 lb-ft (ok, they’re not literal ponies, but they’re much smaller horses). As for the Edge, it’s base 2.0-litre turbo-four makes 250 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque in both markets, which is what we’d call competitive.
The Blazer’s nine-speed autobox mentioned a moment ago doesn’t include steering column-mounted paddle shifters, even in this sporty RS trim line, but Chevy does include a thumb-controlled rocker switch directly on the shift knob, which isn’t any more engaging than pushing a gear lever to and fro. At least the transmission is a soothingly smooth shifter, if not particularly quick about the job at hand. Yes, once again this Blazer RS is no Camaro crossover, in spirit at least, but it’s highly unlikely the majority of its buyers would drive it like it was stolen, so it’s probably a moot point.
More importantly, this SUV is easy on fuel. Chevy claims estimated mileage of 13.1 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.4 combined for this V6-powered version, achievable because its part-time all-wheel drive system pushes all of its power to the front wheels when extra traction isn’t required. When needed, simply rotate a console-mounted knob from x2” to “x4” and Bob’s your uncle. The same dial can be used to select sport mode as well, or for that matter a towing mode.
With the former mode chosen, the Blazer RS really moves off the line, almost completely fulfilling the promise made by its fast-when-standing-still styling. If only the nine-speed automatic’s response to shifts was quicker, the smooth and comforting transmission needing more than two seconds to set up the next shift. I suppose it’s more fun to row through the gears than the majority of CVTs, but only just. It kicks down well enough for passing procedures, and there’s plenty of power and torque afoot, so the engine makes up for the gearbox once engaged. Even better, the Blazer RS handles.
Yup, this SUV can snake through corners with ease, with some thanks to the sizeable 265/45R21 Continental CrossContact all-season tires attached to the ground below. I made a point of seeking out some favourite curving riverside two-laners and a relatively local mountainside switchback to be sure of its capabilities, and was rewarded with confidence-inspiring poise under pressure. Even when pushing harder than I probably should have, the Blazer never deviated from my chosen lane and hardly seemed to lean much at all. Even more important in this class, suspension compliancy was just right, always smooth and comfortable and never harsh.
Comfort’s where it’s at in this mid-size SUV segment, and to that end Chevy has done a good job finishing off the Blazer RS interior. Style-wise it’s no walnut-laden, camel-coloured leather luxury ute, but instead once again does its best impersonation of a tall, five-seat Camaro. Of course, I only mean that when it comes to interior design, as this Chevy RS is a lot more utile than any 2+2 muscle car, thanks to generous front and rear seat room for all sizes in all seating positions. It’s cargo area is accommodating too, complete with 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to expand on its usefulness when needed.
As far as luxury accoutrements go, Chevy made sure to infuse the cabin with padded surfaces aplenty. Most composites and leathers were in a dark anthracite bordering on black, with red being the highlight colour, as if you couldn’t have guessed without looking inside. I say most composites because the design team chose to ring each dash-mounted air vent with a red bezel, the bright splash of colour at least not clashing with the red and blue heating and cooling arrows positioned nearby. There’s a tiny drop of red plastic on the gear shift lever too, providing a backdrop to the “RS” logo, and no shortage of red thread throughout the rest of the cabin, not to mention some red dye visible through the leather seats’ perforations. It all looks appropriately sporty, with fit, finish and materials quality that matches most others in the segment.
I will give a special nod to Chevy’s mostly digital primary gauge cluster and centre-mounted infotainment display, however, which are a touch above most rivals. The former, which includes an 8.0-inch multi-information display at centre, features stylish, tasteful graphics and plenty of bright colours, plus clear, high-resolution screen quality, and a solid collection of useful functions. Over to the right, the infotainment display is a touchscreen for easy use, especially when using smartphone/tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures, and once again its graphically attractive and filled with functions, such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, accurate navigation, a good backup camera, etcetera.
The RS comes equipped with some other notable features too, such as a big panoramic glass sunroof up above, a heated steering wheel rim and heatable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a hands-free powered liftgate, a sportier front grille, and 99.9-percent of its exterior chrome trim replaced by glossy black (the “RS” logo gets trimmed in metal brightwork for tradition’s sake).
After everything is said and done, Chevy’s Blazer RS will either make you race over to the brand’s website to deliberate over colours before checking out local dealer sites in order to see what’s in stock, or leave you questioning how the heartbeat of America could’ve missed such a great opportunity to bring back a real off-road capable SUV. Sure you can still step up to a full-size Tahoe or Suburban, both worthy 4x4s in their own rights, but something smaller to compete with the Broncos, Wranglers and even the Toyota 4Runners of the world would’ve been nice… and smart.
Just in case you’re having a déjà vu moment, rest assured that you previously read an article on this site about Porsche E-Hybrid battery improvements, but at that time we were covering Panamera variants and now it’s all about the electrified Cayenne.
Like last year, both the regular Cayenne crossover SUV and the sportier looking Cayenne Coupe will receive Porsche’s E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid power units, but new for 2021 are battery cells that are better optimized and improve on energy density, thus allowing a 27-percent increase in output and nearly 30 percent greater EV range.
The new battery, up from 14.1 kWh to 17.9, expands the Cayenne E-Hybrid’s range from about 22 or 23 km between charges to almost 30 km, which will force fewer trips to the gas station when using their plug-in Porsches for daily commutes. Likewise, the heftier Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid gets an EV range bump up from approximately 19 or 20 km to 24 or 25 km.
Added to this, Porsche has reworked how these Cayenne plug-ins utilize their internal combustion engines (ICE) when charging the battery. The battery now tops off at 80 percent instead of 100, which in fact saves fuel while reducing emissions. Say what? While this might initially seem counterintuitive, it all comes down to the E-Hybrid’s various kinetic energy harvesting systems, like regenerative braking, that aren’t put to use if the battery reaches a 100-percent fill. Cap off the charge at 80 percent and these systems are always in use, and therefore do their part in increasing efficiency.
Additionally, the larger 17.9 kWh battery can charge quicker in Sport and Sport Plus performance modes and default or Eco modes, making sure the drive system always has ample boost when a driver wants to maximize acceleration or pass a slower vehicle.
Net horsepower and combined torque remain the same as last year’s Cayenne plug-in hybrid models despite the bigger battery, with the 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid retaining its 455 net horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque rating, and both Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid body styles pushing out a sensational 670 net horsepower along with 663 lb-ft of twist.
Standard Cayenne E-Hybrid models can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.0 seconds when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package, before maxing out at a terminal velocity of 253 km/h, while the Sport Chrono Package equipped Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe requires an additional 0.1-second to achieve the same top speed. Alternatively, both regular and coupe Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid body styles catapult from standstill to 100 km/h in an identical 3.8 seconds, with the duo also topping out at 295 km/h.
The 2021 Cayenne E-Hybrid starts at $93,800 plus freight and fees, while the Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe is available from $100,400. After that, the Turbo S E-Hybrid can be had from $185,600, and lastly the Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe starts at $191,200. You can order the new electrified Cayenne models now, with first deliveries expected by spring.
My gawd this thing is nuts! The power, the insane sound of the supercharged V8’s sport exhaust system, and the near overwhelming sensation of 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque pressing head and backside into the opulent red and black diamond-pattern leather-upholstered driver’s seat at launch while fingers grasp at the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel rim, there’s really nothing that completely mirrors it in the compact luxury SUV segment.
With a flagship sport utility like the F-Pace SVR you’d think this SUV would be tops in its hotly contested class, and while it’s certainly the best selling model within Jaguar’s range it appears luxury buyers are more interested in being comforted than having their senses wowed by ultimate performance. Truly, F-Pace and most Jaguar models deserve more attention than they get.
For starters, the F-Pace is inarguably attractive no matter which trim we’re talking about, with this SVR amongst the best looking in its category. There’s no crossover SUV I find more attractive, unless the outrageous Lamborghini Urus enters the discussion, or for that matter Audi’s Q8 that shares much of its running gear, but the ultimate Italian, at least, hovers up in a totally different pricing stratosphere with a base price of $240,569 CAD, compared to a mere $89,900 for this 2019 F-Pace SVR.
The cheapest Q8 will save you $7k and change, but the sporty looking German’s $82,350 entry model merely puts out 335 horsepower, and while a superbly comfortable and wholly attractive, well-made urban and freeway cruiser it’s doesn’t even enter the same performance league as the SVR. The equivalent Q8 is the upcoming near 600-hp RS, but that upcoming model will eventually cost you something around $110,000 (its pricing hadn’t been announced before I wrote these words, and it’s bigger mid-size proportions means it doesn’t directly compete).
Targeted rivals in mind, Audi does offer up the 349-hp SQ5 in the F-Pace’s compact luxury SUV segment, and while a fully capable autobahn stormer, its 5.4-second sprint from zero to 100 km/h can’t line up against the SVR’s 4.3 seconds, and I can attest that its 3.0-litre turbo V6 doesn’t come close to sounding as Mephistophelian as the SVR’s supercharged 5.0-litre V8.
A truer F-Pace SVR competitor is the new Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 4Matic+ that makes 503 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque from a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 resulting in a blast from standstill to 100km/h in only 3.8 seconds. The Merc tops out at 280 km/h (174 mph) compared to the Jag’s slightly quicker 283 km/h (176 mph) terminal velocity, so they nearly share their two key bragging rights evenly. All you need do if you desire the Mercedes is to add about five percent or $4k onto your purchase, the AMG available just over $93k, unless you end up purchasing the 2020 F-Pace SVR that is, which is now $92k even.
Top-selling German compact luxury SUVs in mind, the BMW X3 M deserves mention too, thanks to 503 horsepower (in the Competition model), 442 lb-ft of torque, and a 4.1-second sprint from standstill to 100 km/h, all from an inline TwinPower turbo six-cylinder. The top-tier Competition model will set you back $93,500 plus fees, while the 473 horsepower base X3 M costs just $83,200.
I haven’t driven the BMW X3 M or the GLC 63 4Matic+, but I’ve driven a lot of six-cylinder BMW Ms and AMG V8s, and while brilliant in their own rights, neither sounds as malevolent as Jaguar’s V8. Sure, the zero to 100km/h numbers are better and their prices aren’t much higher, but performance fans will know how important the auditory experience is to the thrill of high-speed driving. As for measuring the few milliseconds of sprint time differences, that’s downright impossible from the seat of the pants.
Using the Mercedes for comparison, both of these compact luxury SUVs provide nearly identical wheelbases of 2,874 millimetres for the SVR and 2,873 mm for the AMG, while their tracks are nearly the same too, the Jag measuring 1,641 mm up front and 1,654 mm in the rear and the Merc spanning 1,660 mm at both axles, but despite the F-Pace being 52 mm lengthier at 4,731 mm, 79 mm wider (mirrors included) at 2,175 mm, and 42 mm taller at 1,667 mm, plus having 100 litres of extra cargo capacity behind the back seats at 650 litres, it tips the scales 67 kilos lighter at just 1,995 kg. That’s thanks to its mostly aluminum body and chassis over Mercedes’ mix of steels and alloys.
I can’t move past this point without mentioning two more compact SUVs capable of contending in this ultra-fast compact luxury SUV category, these being the Porsche Macan Turbo and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, the German making 400 or 440 horsepower depending on whether you’re looking at the outgoing 2019 model or the new second-generation 2020 variety, or for that matter choosing the older Macan with its Performance Package upgrade (which also puts out 440-hp). The more potent engine options make this German SUV’s acceleration similar to the F-Pace SVR, yet it’s pricing delves into six figures, while the zippy Italian produces 505 horsepower and sprints to 100 km/h in just 4.0 seconds, while its price starts at $95k. These two SUVs are impressive as well, but once again their turbocharged V6 engines, while brilliant, can’t measure up to the sonorous delights of Jaguar’s big, hairy V8.
Truly, you’ve got to hear it at full song to appreciate what I’m talking about. It’s giggle-inducing joy on one hand and devilish horror on the other, particularly after pressing the exhaust button that provides a freer flow resulting in more snap, crackle and pop from its backside when lifting off the gas pedal.
You’d think with this level of dark, malevolent behaviour its interior would be a hard stone dungeon of dank sombreness, and while some trim pulls thoughts of red hot hellfire, the SVR’s cabin gets raised the level of super SUVs from more exotic names. It’s also capable of loading in the kiddies and lots of family gear, thanks to that aforementioned cargo hauling capacity.
You can also experience some light off-roading, as long as you’re willing to change out my testers optional 22-inch black-painted rims and 265/40 front and 295/35 rear Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-season tires to something more useful off pavement. I’d recommend something around 18 inches in diameter with a higher sidewall and much more tread grip, but then again you’re probably not buying this SUV for scaling the Rubicon trail. No, it’s much more capable of turning winding side roads into straight stretches roadway, or at least its near flat stance at breathtaking speeds makes them feel as if they were straight.
The F-Pace SVR’s wide track and lighter than average weight (for its length, big powerplant and over-the-top luxury upgrades), plus the just-mentioned Pirelli rubber (you can get even better performance from a set of Jaguar-specified P Zeros, available from tire retailers) and its stiffer aluminum-intensive front strut and rear multi-link suspension featuring sportier tuning to its adaptive setup, plus sharper electric power-steering tuning, all come together for about as much sports car feel as most any SUV can provide (Urus aside).
The SVR shines on the types of narrow, undulating, ribbons of asphalt that the mind conjures up when looking at an F-Type SVR, but I have to say I really appreciated the added ride height this SUV provided over any low-slung sports car when coursing through heavily treed backroads. To be clear, the F-Type remains the Jaguar to beat through winding roads, not to mention road courses, but when visibility around curves or over sharp declines becomes difficult, the extra few inches of added sight line makes for a bit more confidence at high speeds, as does the wheel travel and more compliant suspension of the bigger, heavier SUV. Both SVRs work best when their previously noted Dynamic driving modes are selected, over their more comforting and economical options at least, this more assertive adaptive suspension setup stopping its tall body from pitching and rolling.
Of course, I didn’t drive it like I stole it during my entire weeklong test, and not just because of the otherworldly fuel cost. Transport Canada estimates a 14.5 L/100km city, with 11.0 highway and 12.7 combined, which not too bad considering its outrageous power. Alfa Romeo’s most formidable Stelvio is rated at 14.1, 10.4 and 12.4 respectively, while the new 2020 Macan Turbo manages 14.2 in the city, 10.1 on the highway and 12.0 combined. How about the Merc-AMG GLC 63? It’s pretty bad at 15.0 L/100km in the city, 10.9 on the highway and 13.2 combined, but BMW’s X3 M is the least fuel conscious amongst all rivals with an embarrassing rating of 16.6 city, 12.1 highway and 14.2 combined, if buyers in this class actually care.
Together with the SVR’s Dynamic sport mode mentioned before, which I kept engaged most of my test week, there’s also a Comfort mode for rougher road surfaces or more relaxing moods, plus an Eco mode, which I likely should have chosen more often for overcoming the fuel economy noted above. The latter two drive modes let the engine turn off when it would otherwise be idling, saving fuel and reducing emissions. The big Eco screen that estimated how much fuel I saved while using its most economical driving mode was a bit humourous in this beast of an SUV, but fortunately the centre display offers up a Performance panel too, which I found much more useful.
Unlike most in this class, the F-Pace only uses a touchscreen for accessing infotainment, which will put off those who prefer to make commands via a lower console-mounted controller. I like touchscreens so it’s not an issue, and even better Jaguar’s interface has wholly improved in recent years. The display itself is fairly big at just over 10 inches, while the digital interface is divided into three big tiles for navigation/route guidance/maps, media, and phone, or whatever functions you choose as it can be organized for personal preferences. Swipe the display to the left and a second panel with nine smaller tiles shows up, providing access to most any function you could want. It’s a simple, straightforward system and thus user-friendly, with its just-mentioned swipe gesture control accompanied by the usual smartphone/tablet-type tap and pinch capabilities, the latter helpful when using the nav system’s map. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration apps are included too, as are myriad additional features (although you’ll need to pay more for satellite radio), Jaguar’s system being fully up to the class standards.
Better yet, the SVR’s 12.3-inch Interactive Driver Display (a.k.a. digital instrument cluster) is wonderful. It’s fully configurable, with the ability to appear like a classic two-dial primary gauge package, a single driving dial with a numeric speed readout surrounded by a graphical tach at centre with a panel filled with alternative info to each side, while you can also transform the entire cluster into a giant map. Go ahead an configure almost any way you want, while an available head-up display can provide even more key info right on the windshield.
There’s decent device connectivity within a minuscule centre bin, including dual USB-A ports, a Micro SD card slot, plus a 12-volt charger. Why Jaguar didn’t include a wireless charging as part of the rubberized pad ahead of the shifter that fit my Samsung S9 perfectly is anyone’s guess, but such is life. Oddly it’s not even available as an option for 2019 or 2020, so ask your dealer if there’s an aftermarket solution.
From the quality of electronics to the quality of the F-Pace SVR’s interior materials, not to mention interior quality and style of the five compact luxury SUVs discussed in this review, it’ll come down to personally taste, with all presenting fairly dramatic interior designs packed with better than average materials quality and worthwhile digital screen time. Having spent time with each of these vehicles in lesser trims for weeks apiece, I’d probably give the overall quality nod to Porsche quickly followed by BMW and Mercedes, with Jaguar SUVs seeming to have conceded the ultimate interior mantle to its Land Rover sister brand. The F-Pace is related to the Range Rover Velar, which provides a far more appealing cabin), whereas my Stelvio tester was the only vehicle in 20 years of reviewing cars that’s ever left its ultra-cheap hood release lever in my hand after trying to take a look at the engine (which I unfortunately never saw or photographed due to this bizarre malfunction).
The SVR does up the quality of its cabin materials plus its overall sense of occasion when compared to lesser F-Pace trims, especially when the optional black Suedecloth roofliner and pillars get added. Contrast stitched premium leather can be found just about everywhere else, the bottom portion my test model’s dash and centre console, plus its armrests and seat bolsters finished in a rich Pimento red colour, while Ebony Lozenge hides covered most other surfaces, including the quilted leather seat inserts. It’s an eye-catching design, but I personally would want something less red. I loved the carbon-fibre detailing elsewhere, mind you (this being an upgrade over the standard textured Weave aluminum inlays), while plenty of piano black lacquer glitz things up further. Ditto for brushed aluminum trim, the SVR replete with genuine aluminum accents, my favourite bits being seat backrest cutouts front and back.
While some in the super-SUV class only provide space for four, the F-Pace SVR includes a middle seat in back, but I personally wouldn’t want to sit on top of it, as it’s little more than a padded bump between two wonderfully sculpted outboard seats. For those who need somewhere to strap in a smaller child, it could be a dealmaker, but bigger kids and adults alike will be snapping up the window seats first, which provide excellent support all-round. Rear passengers can also benefit from as-tested available quad-zone automatic climate control, featuring its own control panel on the backside of the front console. Included are switches for the rear outboard seats’ three-way heated and ventilated cushions.
Another dealmaker is the rear passenger/cargo configuration, featuring a 40/20/40-split down the seatbacks. This means you wont be forced to stick one child (or friend) on the centre hump when heading to the ski hill, which might end up in some heated arguments when factoring in those just-noted seat warmers. Jaguar also offers cargo wall levers for folding down those seats automatically, but you’ll need to pay a bit extra for them.
I know I’m sounding all practical in a review that should really be more about power and performance, but if you only wanted to go as fast as possible you’d probably be reading one of my F-Type SVR reviews. The F-Pace SVR is a best of all worlds alternative, with one of the best sounding engines currently being made. If you’re wishing our compact SUV looked and felt more like a supercar, Jaguar’s F-Pace SVR might be just the ticket.
Some brands are so small they don’t really get the press they deserve, and Mini fits into that mould both figuratively and literally.
Ok, I just had a little fun with a small play on words. The just-used term “literally” was straight-forward, in that Mini’s lineup of cars and its single crossover are made up of subcompacts and compacts (they’re small), while the word figuratively should actually be used as a substitute for metaphorically, but instead I improperly chose it for its root word “figure” in order suggest that Mini’s sales figures reside on the smaller side of the scale as well (they only delivered 4,466 3-Door Hatch, 5-Door Hatch, Convertible and Clubman models last year). Clever? Not really. Grasping at straws for a witty opener? Guilty as charged.
In reality, however, I almost completely forget Mini exists as a brand until checking my schedule on a given Sunday evening, at which point I’m reminded that one of their cars will be in my weeklong possession starting the following day. That’s when I get giddy with excitement and start planning my week to make sure I have time to drive somewhere unpopulated on the side of a body of water (ocean, lake or river), a mountain, or anywhere else with ribbons of winding black asphalt.
Truly, their cars are so much fun they’re addictive, especially when the model loaned out is tuned to “S” specification or better, and has its hardtop replaced by a slick power-operated retractable cloth top. Such is the car before you, the 2019 Mini Cooper S Convertible, which is upgraded further with this year’s special $2,900 Starlight Blue Edition Package, meaning that it receives a special coat of stunning Starlight Blue Metallic paint, as well as unique 17-inch machine-finished Rail Spoke alloys featuring black painted pockets on 205/45 all-season runflat rubber, piano Black Line exterior trim replacing most of the chrome, including the front grille surround plus headlamp, taillight and outside mirror surrounds, etcetera.
The “more” that I just noted includes rain-sensing automatic on/off LED headlights with active cornering, LED fog lamps, piano black lacquered interior detailing, a two-zone auto HVAC system, an accurate Connected Navigation Plus GPS routing system housed within Mini’s already superb infotainment system, a wonderful sounding Harman Kardon audio system, Sirius/XM satellite radio, stylish Carbon Black leatherette upholstery, and heated front seat cushions, while my test model’s only standalone option was a $1,400 six-speed automatic transmission, with all of the above upping the Mini Cooper S Convertible base price of $33,990 to $38,290, plus a destination charge and additional fees.
To be clear, you can purchase the new 2019 Mini Cooper Convertible (sans S) for as little as $29,640 before any discount, or you can spend the slightly pricier amount noted above for my tester’s sportier and more feature-filled “S” trim. Alternatively, you could choose a base 3-Door Hatch (hardtop) for as little as $23,090, while other models in the Mini lineup include the Cooper 5-Door available from $24,390, a six-door Clubman that starts at $28,690, and the Countryman crossover that can be had for as little as $31,090, plus destination charges of course.
Incidentally, all 2019 Mini prices, including trims, options and standalone features, were sourced right here on CarCostCanada, where you can also get otherwise difficult to find manufacturer rebate info, plus dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Before I share what makes this Cooper S Convertible and all Minis so enjoyable to live with, I need to focus on the quality of the Mini product overall. Mini’s acceptance as a premium brand is questionable, which makes sense when you can buy one for a mere $23k, but nevertheless quality of materials, fit and finish and features found in each Mini model is much better than average when comparing most subcompact and compact rivals, especially when discussing mainstream brands.
Just the same, the majority of high-volume compact models have been on a refinement trend as of late, with the most-recent Mazda3 getting closest to premium status without raising its pricing into the stratosphere, but like its compact sedan and hatchback competitors (such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, et al) the 3 is quite a bit larger than all Mini models this side of the Clubman and Countryman, and therefore when comparing a regular Cooper to any top-selling mainstream subcompact rival (like a Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris), the Mini’s finishing and performance is on a much higher scale.
The Cooper S Convertible before you, for example, is very well made, from its outer fit to its inner detailing. The paint finish is excellent and other exterior embellishments impressive, from my tester’s eye-catching LED headlamps and Union Jack-emblazoned taillights, to its nicely crafted leather-clad steering wheel and stitched leather-wrapped shift knob, as well as its primary instrument pods hovering overtop the steering column, the ever-changing circle of colour lights rounding the high-definition 8.8-inch infotainment display, the row of brightly chromed toggles and red ignition switch in the middle of the centre stack, and the similarly retrospective line of toggles overhead, it’s a car that completely separates itself from everything else on the market. Those who love retro-cool designs and brilliantly artistic attention to detail will adore today’s Minis.
As grand as everything about this car sounds so far, the Mini Cooper S Convertible is at its best when in its element, on the road—prefe¬rably a winding road. S trimmed Coopers begin with a sonorously high-revving 16-valve twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, which is a sizeable 55 hp and 45 lb-ft more than the base Cooper’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged powerplant. This allows the S to slice 1.6 seconds off of the base model’s 0 to 100km/h acceleration time, dropping it from 8.8 to 7.2 seconds with the manual, or from 8.7 to 7.1 with my tester’s six-speed automatic transmission.
If more speed is still required you can ante up for the John Cooper Works Convertible, which reduces its zero to 100km/h time down to 6.5 seconds by way of a more formidable 228 horsepower version of the 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine, featuring a much more robust 236 lb-ft of torque. It starts much higher up the affordability ladder at $41,490, yet thanks to sport suspension improvements that include larger wheels and tires, plus more standard styling, luxury and convenience upgrades, most Mini fans will find it well worth the price of entry.
Then again, even the mighty John Cooper Works won’t cause Honda Civic Type R drivers to quiver from fear in their form-fitting Recaro racing seats, but lower the roof and drop the clutch of a JCW or this Cooper S Convertible and you’ll quickly be enjoying your drive much more than you might expect, while never worrying about draining the bank account at the pump.
Mini claims a very reasonable fuel economy rating of 10.2 L/100km city, 7.4 highway and 9.0 combined with the manual, or 9.4, 7.2 and 8.4 respectively with the automatic when upgraded to S trim, while the base Cooper Convertible manages a mere 8.4 L/100km in the city, 6.3 on the highway and 7.5 combined with its manual, or 8.8, 6.8 and 7.9 respectively with its autobox.
Together with the performance upgrade, going from base to Cooper S adds some performance-focused items like default “MID”, “GREEN” and “SPORT” driver-selectable modes, the latter perfect for boosting takeoff and enhancing responsiveness all-round, while Mini also provides this trim with sportier front seats featuring heated cushions. And just in case going topless isn’t your thing, hardtop Cooper S trims receive a big panoramic sunroof as standard equipment.
That just-noted Sport mode does a great job of increasing the Cooper S Convertible’s get-up-and-go while enhancing the quick-shifting nature of its transmission, while take note that its front-wheel drive system is never overpowered from torque steer, even when pounding on the throttle from an angled standing start. Those who read me often will know that I’d rather have any Mini with the brand’s wonderfully notchy manual gearbox, but nevertheless this automatic delivered strong performance while its manual mode, despite only being swappable via the gear lever, is plenty responsive.
Yes, that means it has no steering wheel mounted paddles, which is strange for this sportier S model. The current JCW autobox doesn’t come with paddle-shifters either, but reportedly Mini will rectify this shortcoming in 2020 with respect to the Clubman and Countryman JCW models, which are said to be fitted with a new eight-speed auto and much quicker 301-hp 2.0-litre engine making 331 lb-ft of torque, so it’s possible that in time we’ll see paddles on lesser trims as well. As it is, I left the autobox to its own devices more often than not, being that it shifts smoothly and was therefore ideal for congested city streets. Still, when the road opened up and consecutive curves arrived I found that manual mode significantly increased the fun factor, while helping to increase control.
Just like with all Minis, the Cooper S Convertible comes standard with a brilliantly sorted fully independent front strut and multi-link rear suspension setup that can humble most front-drive rivals, other than those enjoying the aforementioned Civic Type R. Still, it slices and dices up serpentine tarmac like it’s some sort of front-drive BMW, jest intended.
Those in the know (yes, we car nerds) will already be aware that second-generation Minis share UKL platform underpinnings with some modern-day BMWs. To be clear, however, the UKL platform is divided into UKL1 and UKL2 architectures, the former only used for Minis thus far (including the 3- and 5-door F56 Hatch plus this F57 Convertible), and the latter for larger Minis (the F54 Clubman and F60 Countryman) as well as the global-market BMW 1 Series Sedan (F52), 1 Series 5-door hatch (F40), 2 Series Active Tourer (F45), 2 Series Gran Tourer (F46), X1 crossover SUV (F48), X2 crossover coupe (F39) and Brilliance-BMW Zinoro 60H (a Chinese-market X1/F48 crossover with unique sheetmetal).
We don’t have the 1 Series or 2 Series Active Tourer here in Canada, and so far I haven’t been able to get behind the wheel of these two while parked in my second Manila, Philippines home, so I can’t say anything useful about their driving dynamics compared to counterparts from Mini, but I truly don’t believe they could be much better than a Cooper 3- or 5-Door Hatch or Clubman. I can attest to the Countryman S and the new Countryman S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid being more planted at high speeds than the latest BMW X1 xDrive28i, however, the latter seeming to have been designed as more of a comfort-oriented, practical alternative.
The Cooper S Convertible, on the other hand, is hardly as big and accommodating inside or out, its rear passenger area and luggage compartment actually the tightest in the entire Mini line. The back seats are probably best used for smaller adults and/or children, whereas the trunk measures 160 litres when the divider is moved lower and top is down, or 215 litres with the top up and moveable divider raised. It’s only accessible through a smallish opening too, but on the positive loading is assisted thanks to a really useful wagon-style folding tailgate that provides a temporary shelf for placing cargo before shifting it inside, while you can expand on cargo capability via 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks when hauling longer cargo such as skis or snowboards is required. All in all, the Cooper Convertible’s passenger/cargo capability is fairly flexible when put up against most rival ragtops, especially similarly priced roadsters like the Mazda MX-5 or Fiat 124 Spider.
Of note, Mini’s cloth top is a very well insulated “3-in-1” design that’s truly quiet, not to mention capable of retracting or closing in just 18 seconds via an almost completely automated process (you just need to keep holding the overhead toggle switch). When opening, it first stops halfway to form a big sunroof, which is perfect for those times when totally dropping the top isn’t ideal. Pressing and holding it again causes the roof to completely retract, while repeating the same two-step process in reverse powers the top upwards. The convertible can be opened or closed while driving up to 30 km/h, so don’t worry about how much time you have while waiting at a stoplight. Additionally you can open or close the roof from your key fob while outside, handy if you left the interior exposed in your driveway when it unexpectedly starts to rain.
The Cooper S Convertible isn’t without competition, the soon to be discontinued Volkswagen Beetle Convertible and cute little Fiat 500 Cabrio (which is available in sporty Abarth trim) being the closest four-seat rivals, but most would agree that the car on this page offers more luxury and performance than either European challenger.
In short, Mini’s drop-top is a comparatively roomy four-place convertible with decent stowage, premium-like interior refinements, excellent onboard electronics, agreeable fuel-efficiency, and a fun-to-drive personality that’s hard to beat, all for a competitive price when adding up all its positive attributes. Those who simply want to own a really well made car that’s an absolute blast to drive each and every day will likely love the Mini Cooper S Convertible.