Porsche just announced the return of its special Cayenne Platinum Edition, available to order now and for delivery this summer. The Platinum Edition was last offered in the previous-generation Cayenne from 2016 to 2018, and like that version the new iteration combines a classy character details with the model’s usual sporty demeanour.
While the old version only came in one body style, the new Platinum Edition is now available as both a standard Cayenne and the sportier Cayenne Coupe, plus its an option with all three different V6-powered models, including 335-hp entry-level, 455-hp E-Hybrid, and 405-hp S trims.
Platinum Edition adds a luxe satin-silver motif as well as extra features
Setting the Platinum Edition apart from regular models, are satin-finish Platinum painted front fascia air intake slats, headlight bezels, 21-inch RS Spyder Design wheels, “PORSCHE” lettering on the centre strip of the rear LED taillights, and model designation just below. The Platinum Edition also features gloss-black side window trim and a similar treatment on the sport exhaust tips.
A full palette of exterior colours is available for the Platinum Edition, including solid white and black, plus metallics like Black, Carrara White, Mahogany, Moonlight Blue, and Chalk, the latter grey hue falling into the pricier “special colour” category.
An aluminum door sill featuring “Platinum Edition” script greets driver and passengers upon entering Platinum Edition models, while additional bright metalwork includes exclusive textured aluminum inlays and yet more satin-silver accents, while Chalk-coloured seat belts provide a final touch.
Additional Platinum Edition standard features include LED headlamps with Porsche’s active cornering-capable Dynamic Light System (PDLS), as well as a set of eight-way-powered front leather sport seats, plus embossed Porsche crests on both the front and rear headrests. What’s more, Platinum Edition models get an analogue clock atop the dash, a surround-sound audio system by renowned stereo-maker Bose, ambient backlighting, rear privacy glass, and possibly best of all, a large panoramic sunroof overhead.
Platinum Edition priced to make it a popular upgrade
The 2022 Platinum Edition starts at $92,800 for the entry-level Cayenne model, although getting the upgrade package with the same engine in the Cayenne Coupe is only $97,500, which means the latter option is just $8,800 more than the $13,600 being asked for this special trim with the regular Cayenne. Almost the exact same spread repeats for E-Hybrid Platinum Edition variants, which start at $109,100 for the regular Cayenne and $109,100 for the Cayenne Coupe, representing an identical $13,600 spread, while the upgraded version of the electrified Coupe starts at $110,500 for an $8,900 difference from its base variant. At the top of the Platinum Edition range, the upgrades to the Cayenne S start at $109,300, representing a $12,500 increase from the regular S, whereas adding the package to the Cayenne S Coupe pushes the price up to $112,000, for a $7,700 price bump.
With an expectation of 40 percent of North American new car buyers moving to full-electric mobility by 2030, BMW is setting out on a path to electrify 25 global models, half of which will be fully electric. Not all will be heading across the Atlantic, or the Pacific with respect to the Chinese-made iX3 crossover SUV that won’t yet be sold in North American markets, but we can expect to receive our fair share.
For starters, Canadians will be the recipients of BMW’s new 2022 i4 sport sedan and iX crossover SUV later this year. The former joins the German automaker’s D-segment 4 Series family, while the latter is positioned alongside the popular X5 mid-size crossover SUV, so therefore they target the popular Tesla Model 3 and Model X respectively. The two electric models share underpinnings too, thanks to BMW’s versatile Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform that also supports everything from their tiny 2 Series subcompact models to their executive-class 7, X7 and 8 Series models.
The i4 shares its body style with the 4 Series Gran Coupe four-door liftback. It starts at $54,990 (sans incentives, freight, and fees), and will be available in two trims, including the eDrive40 and M50 xDrive. The less eDrive40 version features a single rear-wheel drive (RWD) electric motor capable of 335 hp, while the $72,990 M50 gets both front and rear motors for an all-wheel drivetrain (AWD) capable of 516 hp. Both i4 trims utilize BMW’s 83.9-kWh battery.
BMW promises range of 340 km on a single full charge with the i4 eDrive40, not to mention a 5.7-second sprint time from standstill to 100 km/h, whereas the M50 xDrive can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in only 3.9 seconds and has the battery life to drive up to 510 km after a full charge. This means the i4 comes close to matching the aforementioned Tesla Model 3’s best-possible 576 km range.
Notably, the near identically sized, yet more conservatively styled BMW 3 Series line continues to offer its 330e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) trim for 2022, which is a less expensive hybrid alternative Tesla doesn’t provide.
Similarly, BMW offers the X3 xDrive30e PHEV to Canadian buyers, but as noted at the onset of this article, the more advanced iX3 EV won’t testing the resolve of Tesla’s Model Y in Canada, at least not yet. This said, BMW follows up its compact X3 hybrid with a plug-in hybrid version of its larger mid-size X5, dubbed xDrive45e PHEV.
The mid-size iX, on the other hand, is a full-electric that provides two-row, mid-size roominess for up to five passengers and plenty of cargo. BMW Canada will make three iX trims available, named xDrive40, xDrive50 and M60, with all incorporating standard front and rear motors for AWD.
To clarify, the xDrive50 is the only iX trim available for 2022, which means both xDrive40 and M60 models will be arriving later this year as 2023 models. The iX xDrive40, which will start at just $79,990 (plus freight and fees), puts out 322 hp, can hit 100 km/h from standstill in just 6.1 seconds, and has 340 km of range, should be very popular, although Canadians tend to buy more fully equipped models, so the 2022 xDrive50, which starts at $89,990, should be a hit due to 516 hp, a sprint time of 4.6 seconds to 100 km/h, and 521 km of range on a single charge. Finally, the top-tier M60 can be had from $121,750, features 610-hp for a 100-km/h dash of just 3.8 seconds, plus the ability to drive for up to 450 km on a single charge.
Additionally, unlike most electronic devices (including many EVs), BMW’s new battery electric vehicles won’t suffer from much battery degradation. This means its models’ various claimed range estimates should stand up over time. BMW claims, in fact, that its i4 and iX batteries will last the life of each vehicle, or specifically up to 1,500 full charge cycles, which is the equivalent of 500,000 km.
We have full pricing and trim information for the 2022 i4 plus 2022 and 2023 iX here on CarCostCanada, as well as the ability to configure each model’s options. Additionally, CarCostCanada members regularly receive information about manufacturer rebates, factory financing, and lease rate deals. Both the i4 and iX are currently being offered with in-house financing/lease rates from 4.49 percent, while members also receive dealer invoice pricing that can be critical when negotiating your best deal. Learn how the CarCostCanada system works, and make sure to download our free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store too.
Money in mind, all BMW i4 trims are eligible for provincial zero-emission incentives in BC, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, while the base i4 eDrive40 also qualifies for the national iZEV rebate program.
Expect to see the new i4 and iX on Canadian roads soon, as it will start arriving at BMW Canada dealers in March.
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As the years start to stack up and there’s more of them behind you than ahead, to hear you’re aging gracefully is quite the compliment. Such could be said of Buick’s current Enclave, a three-row crossover SUV that’s now been with us in its current second-generation form for four years. Certainly, that’s not long by human standards, but it’s a full product cycle in automotive years, albeit not compared to the first-generation Enclave that, despite a mid-cycle refresh in 2013, lasted for an entire decade.
The SUV being reviewed here was as up-to-date as possible when being tested, but as it happens, 2021 is the Enclave’s last model year before getting a fairly comprehensive makeover. Its underpinnings will remain the same, but its styling will look a lot fresher, and not unlike the much sleeker and more modern looking second-gen Chinese-market version that’s been available since last year.
Sure, you can wait for a 2022, which actually gets reduced by $300 at the base level, but there’s opportunity to take advantage of end-of-lifecycle savings if you choose a 2021 over the new 2022 model, so as long as you don’t need to have the latest and greatest styling, the outgoing Enclave is still one very attractive family hauler. It’s also a very affordable one, at least when comparing it to longstanding luxury brands that it more or less competes against. To be clear, three-row SUV buyers won’t likely be shopping the Enclave against BMW’s X7 or Mercedes’ GLS, simply because their price points are nowhere near each other.
A base Enclave Essence starts at $48,398, or $51,398 with as-tested all-wheel drive. That’s similar pricing to fully loaded alternatives from Honda, Hyundai, Kia or Toyota, which arguably offer more features (and sometimes more luxury) for the money, but none of these rise up to $70k, which is possible when adding all the options to the Enclave Avenir. That’s around where a base Audi Q7 starts, and plenty of other premium-branded three-row SUVs, although an equivalent entry-level GLS will set you back an astonishing $101,900, just a bit less than what you’ll need to pay for the least expensive X7, which starts at $102,900.
This in mind, Buick, and its Enclave fall into the entry-level luxury sector, along with competitors like the $48,995 Infiniti QX60, $56,405 Acura MDX, and possibly the $59,700 three-row Lexus RX 350 L (which is only meant for small kids in the third row), although if we’re moving all the way up to the $60k starting point, we should probably include GM’s own Cadillac XT6 that rides on the same stretched C1XX platform (more or less) as the Enclave (and the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia), yet starts at $57,998. Everything else in this class retails over the $60,000 threshold, and while that’s about where the aforementioned Enclave Avenir can be had ($62,298), this Enclave Essence is the model Buick gave me to test, and therefore targets a different entry-level luxury client.
I don’t know if that last exercise was done more for my own clarification of where Buick fits into the scheme of luxury things, or as a way for you to come to grips with the same, but in any case, it’s good to understand that Buick fills an important niche in the middle of the automotive class hierarchy, and its relatively strong sales more or less prove that reality.
Despite only offering five models (the 2020 Regal Sportback of which has already been sent off to that great four-door sedan graveyard in the sky—it’s a five-door really, as its trunk is actually a hatch), Buick managed to rank sixth amongst premium brands in Canada thanks to 15,957 units being sold last year, which puts it only 755 sales behind Acura, plus more than twice as much as Lincoln (7,155) and almost three times as many deliveries as Infiniti after a particularly gutting year. What’s more, as of Q2 2021’s close, Buick’s 8,277 delivery total had already blasted past Acura’s rather sluggish 7,465 tally, although Cadillac’s XT6 appears to be on a roll with 8,402 examples out the door, so therefore Buick maintains its sixth position.
The Enclave wasn’t quite as strong in its mid-size three-row luxury SUV category last year as the Buick brand, but amongst dedicated premium three-row family haulers it ranked seventh out of 11 competitors with 1,773 deliveries (I’m not including Bentley’s Bentayga on this list for obvious reasons). This said, so far this year it’s doing a bit better with 1,270 units down the road already, placing it ahead of Mercedes’ GLS (1,148), Lincoln’s Aviator (926), and Infiniti’s QX60 (687) that’s getting an even more dramatic redesign for 2022.
Cadillac’s XT6 (973) lagged a bit behind the Enclave over the first six months of this year, as did BMW’s X7 (522), Lexus’ GX (161), and Land Rover’s Discovery (103), which seems to be getting killed by the new Defender (1,057). Tally all this up and it’s easy to understand why the Buick brand and this Enclave model are so important to General Motors (a total of 3,264 combined Enclave and XT6 sales puts GM close to Acura’s MDX), but after factoring in their even greater strength in the U.S. and yet stronger presence in China, this information might also help build confidence that Buick isn’t about to leave our market anytime soon—unfortunately I can’t confirm that for Infiniti.
The upcoming 2022 Enclave refresh should further improve the model’s sales when it arrives later this year, as long as Buick doesn’t dump any leftover 2021s on the market before the new one gets here. The fact Buick is only offering customers up to $1,000 in additional incentives is a good sign they have inventories in check, but stay tuned to CarCostCanada for any further discount info. Also, take note that CarCostCanada members who purchased a new 2021 Enclave saved an average of $2,625 thanks to knowing the SUV’s dealer invoice price before negotiating their best deal, which means it’s a good idea to find out how their very affordable membership works, and how easy it is to use from anywhere via their free app that can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
As for the 2021 Enclave Essence being reviewed here, my tester was not only upgraded with AWD, but also received a stylish $1,495 Sport Touring upgrade package that includes a sporty black mesh grille, glossed-black Pitch Dark Night lower accent trim, and 20-inch alloys instead of the standard 18s. This gets added to a base model that also features automatic on/off LED headlamps and heated power-folding exterior mirrors, on the outside, plus proximity access to get you inside.
Once seated, pushbutton ignition gets the engine going, while additional standard features include an auto-dimming centre mirror, a 4.2-inch colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch touchscreen at dash-central, integrating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 10-speaker Bose audio system, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a universal garage door opener, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a Safety Alert driver’s seat that uses vibrations to warn, perforated leather seat upholstery, three-way heatable and ventilated powered front seats with four-way lumbar support, two-position driver memory, three-zone auto HVAC with a set of rear controls, heatable second-row captain’s chairs resulting in seven-passenger capability (a bench for the second row resulting in a total of eight occupants is available), a power-folding 60/40-split third row, a hands-free powered liftgate, a 120-volt power outlet, remote start, etcetera.
All Enclaves include the Buick Driver Confidence Plus package of advanced driver assistance and safety technologies as standard too, which includes a Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Automatic Emergency Braking and Front Pedestrian Braking, as well as Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, front and rear Park Assist, and IntelliBeam auto high beam assist headlights.
Believe me, I never once felt like I was slumming it in this Buick, even in its base trim. Actually, standard features like cloth-wrapped A, B and C pillars gave it a true premium feel, as did better-than-average soft composite materials on top of the dash and atop the front and rear side window sills. It’s also impressive across the front of the instrument panel, and the lower section of that IP ahead of the front passenger, which extends below the infotainment touchscreen and along the right side of the lower console. Buick made a point of stitching nicely padded leatherette on the sides of that centre stack and lower console, the left side of which is padded further to protect the driver’s inner knee from chafing, while this pampering surface treatment extends down to the armrest as well. These areas were done out in a particularly attractive caramel brown in my tester, perfectly matching the seats and door inserts that were also stitched, the former also featuring perforated leather inserts.
Additionally, the seat surface leather is suppler than some others at the Enclave Essence’s price point too, plus those aforementioned heated front cushions warm up to near therapeutic levels. Warmth in mind, the climate control interface, while appearing a bit rudimentary, did its job well, and while it could be a bit more upscale to look at my eyes were more easily pulled toward the centre display overtop, which has to be one of the simplest to use in the segment.
I generally like General Motors’ infotainment systems, and while I appreciate Chevrolet’s more colourful Apple-inspired interface even more than this classier design from Buick, they both work identically and utilize a full colour palette for graphically stimulating controls. I found this latest version responded to inputs quickly, which was particularly notable when jiggling the navigation map around with my fingertips. I should also note that GM’s navigation/GPS system has never once led me astray either, so a big hand to the automaker’s tech department that does infotainment very well. Important also, the rearview camera was clear and its moving guidelines useful, while the standard Bose audio system was very good.
As for the Enclave’s primary gauge cluster, it’s not very enticing. The chrome trimmed analogue dials are ok, these placed bookending another set of chrome-edged gas and engine temp meters above, but the tiny square multi-information display kind of looks like an aftermarket add-on. This comes at a time that competitors are arriving with fully digital clusters that show virtual gauges one minute and giant maps the next. Some brands are even including rear-facing camera monitors in their clusters, so Buick needs to up the ante in this respect. Fortunately, even this base Enclave’s steering wheel is excellent, with high-quality leather and an impressively sporty feel, while the spokes’ switchgear well-made and works as it should.
Looking up to the overhead console could be summed up as a trip back to yesteryear too, although it’s functional and happily includes a sunglasses holder, as well as LED reading lights and switches for the universal remote, OnStar, SOS, plus more. You won’t find a power sunroof button, as this base trim doesn’t include a sunroof, and I have to say it’s weird not seeing a sunroof in a roof this large.
Nevertheless, I found it easy to find an ideal driving position thanks to a manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel with loads of rearward reach, while the seats were comfortable, although without much lateral support, therefore if you’re looking to use this Enclave to snake through fast-paced corners, you’ll probably want to find something other than the steering wheel to hold on to. This is only worth mentioning because the Enclave handles well, partially due to the 20-inch wheel and 255/55 tire upgrade noted earlier, so it might be a good idea for performance fans to look upstream to a fancier trim line in order to find more aggressive seat bolstering.
Similarly, the Enclave Essence model’s second-row captain’s chair backrests are almost totally flat, although rear passengers can fold down their individual centre armrests to hang on. The second-row seats are mostly comfortable, however, with good legroom when slid all the way rearward. Those in the second row will also appreciate the previously mentioned rear climate control panel on the backside of the front console, which includes seat warming switchgear. This is where you can also find a set of USB chargers, but oddly no air vents. Don’t worry, though, as these are intelligently integrated within the roof, as are another set of vents for third-row passengers, and likewise for the LED reading lamps.
It’s easy to flip the second-row seats up and out of the way for getting into the very back, only necessitating a mild pull on a handle atop the backrest, while another lever below flips them down for storage. Before getting into cargo capacity, rear occupants enjoy separate USB charging ports, not to mention fairly large rear quarter windows for good outward visibility. I found the third-row seats comfortable too, not to mention reasonably roomy. Buick left good space for legs and feet, especially when the second-row seats are pulled slightly forward.
As for cargo, they fold down relatively flat, as does the second row, providing more storage capacity than most of their peers. In fact, I was able to load up a double-wide Ikea Pax wardrobe inside, including its rather bulky glass sliding door system, with room left over. By the numbers, the Enclave can manage up to 2,764 litres of what-have-you behind the front seats, 1,642 litres aft of the second row, and 668 litres in back of the third row.
Even when loaded up with gear the Enclave was no slouch off the line, its 3.6-litre V6 making a healthy 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque for plenty of straight-line performance. It’s conjoined to a nine-speed autobox that not only aids fuel economy with a fairly good rating of 13.0 L/100km city, 9.1 highway and 11.2 combined with FWD, or a respective 13.6, 9.6 and 11.8 in as-tested AWD, partially thanks to standard idle start/stop technology, but it also provides wonderfully smooth shift up and down the range.
Then again, engaging manual mode and its steering wheel-mounted paddles transform this calm, sedate traveler into a much sportier canyon carver, or at least it was much more enjoyable than I initially expected. BMW doesn’t even go so far as to hold the X5 or X7 engine’s redlines before upshifting, so a big hand for Buick’s engineers that give the Enclave such strong performance. The V6 also makes a nice growl at full throttle, although I wouldn’t take that to mean it’ll outshine those BMWs as far as engine auditory tracks go.
I think ride quality will matter more to most Buick buyers than all-out performance, however, and to that end the Enclave’s driver and many passengers will be nicely isolated from exterior elements no matter the speeds being traveled or environment outside. Although I found there was more wind buffeting on the highway than expected. It wasn’t the side windows (I checked), but it may be something specific to my test model’s door seals. Buick prides itself in providing near tomblike silent interiors, so it could also be possible that more of Buick’s “Quiet Tuning” technologies get added to upper trims. Either way, make sure you look for this on your test drive.
Even if the Enclave Essence is a bit noisier at highway speeds than it should be, it’s hard to argue against its sub-$50k price point. That it competes so well against others that cost thousands more should be taken into consideration, but then again it also gets out-muscled for features and refinement by some newcomers in the volume-branded mainstream category. This is a very competitive market segment, and the upcoming 2022 Enclave should address some of my minor complaints.
On that note, I don’t think any of my grumblings should put you off testing a 2021 Enclave, and at least comparing it to its rivals, especially when factoring in Buick’s enviably high ranking in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, where it sits fifth overall and just third amongst luxury brands.
Most auto industry pundits lauded the second-generation Ridgeline’s driveability, refinement and creature comforts when it arrived on the scene in 2017, but not many praised its outward styling. It wasn’t offensive, unless you’re negatively triggered by soft, conservative, blandness, but it wasn’t about to sway Toyota Tacoma owners away from their trusted steeds, or for that matter buyers of Chevy’s Colorado, GMC’s Canyon, Ford’s Ranger or even Nissan’s Frontier (which will soon be updated). Now for 2021, fortunately, Honda has seen the light and made this otherwise impressive mid-size pickup truck a serious looker.
Replacing the outgoing Ridgeline’s aerodynamically effective albeit aesthetically displeasing grille and hood, is a bolder, brasher, more upright grille ahead of a broader, flatter hood featuring a domed centre section for added visual muscle. This is joined by a tougher, more rugged looking lower front fascia and a fresh set of front fenders, all resulting in a much more attractive Ridgeline.
Updates to the 2021 Ridgeline’s side and rear styling are less noticeable, with the former painting the cab’s rearmost extension in black instead of body-colour, and the rear bumper forgoing any metal brightwork trim.
The refreshed 2021 Ridgeline is now available at Honda retailers across Canada from $44,355 plus freight and fees. That base Ridgeline Sport trim features standard all-wheel drive, while a fancier Ridgeline EX-L can be had for $47,355, a Ridgeline Touring for $51,555, and a Ridgeline Black Edition for $53,055.
Pricing in mind, our 2021 Honda Ridgeline Canada Prices page is showing factory leasing and financing rates from 2.49 percent, while CarCostCanada members are averaging savings of $2,050. Those wanting most of the Ridgeline’s goodness without the new styling upgrades can also opt for a 2020 version, which benefited from up to $2,000 in additional incentives at the time of writing. Make sure to download the free CarCostCanada mobile app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store to have access to all the most critical information you’ll need when negotiating your next new vehicle purchase, including otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Learn more about how CarCostCanada works here.
Before opting for a 2020 model to save money, keep in mind that Honda made yet more updates to the new 2021 Ridgeline, including new standard LED low beam headlamps with reflector beam halogen high beams, plus arguably more attractive 18-inch alloy wheels encircled by more capable looking rubber. These should provide better high-speed stability thanks to 20 mm of extra track width, improving the truck’s visual stance as well.
Despite the second-gen Ridgeline’s cabin being impressive already, Honda updated the instrument panel’s centre stack with a new infotainment touchscreen that adds back a rotating volume knob for quickly adjusting the sound. All 2021 Ridgeline trims receive contrast stitching for the seats as well, while Sport trim gets updated cloth seat inserts, and Sport, EX-L and Touring models feature new dash, steering wheel and centre console accents. The rest of the interior remains unchanged, including its accommodating rear passenger area that boasts a completely flat floor and foldaway 60/40-split rear lower seat cushions.
The 2021 Ridgeline’s 3.5-litre V6 is carryover too. It continues to output 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, while connecting through to a standard nine-speed automatic transmission. This allows for an impressive claimed fuel economy rating of 12.8 L/100km city, 9.9 highway and 11.5 combined.
As noted earlier in this story, Honda’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring AWD comes standard. The sophisticated design can send up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels when required, while continuously apportioning up to 100 percent of that twist between left and right rear tires when slippage occurs. A standard Intelligent Traction Dynamics System aids power delivery further by attributing engine torque to the wheel with the most grip, whether dealing with wet, snowy, muddy, or sandy conditions.
Optimizing traction benefits safety, of course, as does the new Ridgeline’s standard Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistive features such as Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
The Ridgeline does well in U.S. collision safety ratings too, with strong National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ratings. The truck gets “GOOD” marks for all IIHS collision tests, plus a “SUPERIOR” IIHS rating for frontal crash prevention, while its 5-star Overall Vehicle Score in the European NCAP system is impressive as well.
When Honda initially launched the Ridgeline, it made a big deal out of its 5,000 lb (2,267 kg) rating, but most auto journalists in attendance were more surprised at how nimble it handled while towing a fully loaded trailer. Likewise, the unibody truck hauls a heavy load, capable of up to 1,571 lbs (713 kg) on its bed, which still houses a lockable trunk below the load floor. What’s more, the trunk and bed can be accessed via a regular folding tailgate or hinges on the side of the same panel that allow the door to swing sideways.
Now, with its bolder, more appealing styling and other improvements, the 2021 Ridgeline might give some of its rivals a serious run for their money.
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.
Style. Some have it, and others just don’t. A small handful, on the other hand, are not only in style, but in fact set the trends. Audi has long been one such brand, often lauded for its leadership in design and execution, while the new Q8 has become one of the automaker’s key style-setters.
While hardly an initiator in the SUV coupe category, the Q8’s edgy lines and sleek, low-slung profile has certainly made up for lost time. As you may already know, it shares hard points with a number of other Volkswagen group crossover utilities, namely Porsche’s Cayenne Coupe and Lamborghini’s Urus, while its MLB platform underpinnings can be found in Audi’s own Q7, plus the regular Cayenne, Volkswagen’s Touareg (in other markets) and at the other end of the spectrum, Bentley’s Bentayga.
This means that along with its dashing good looks it’s an SUV that can run with the best in the industry, and believe me the Q8 can hold its own on a curving backroad. The Q8 plays alongside BMW’s X6 and Mercedes’ GLE Coupe, the former being the first-ever SUV coupe, while most others in this sector are much higher priced alternatives such as Maserati’s Levante (which is more of a regular crossover SUV despite being very sleek), Aston Martin’s DBX, and soon Ferrari’s Purosangue.
The Q8 is not only more affordable than the exotics just mentioned, but my tester’s Technik 55 TFSI Quattro trim line is considerably more approachable than the mid-range SQ8 or top-line RS Q8. Our 2021 Audi Q8 Canada Prices page shows suggested pricing of $91,200 plus freight and fees, which adds $8,650 to the price of a base Q8 Progressiv model, while Audi is currently offering up to $4,000 in additional incentives on both 2021 and 2020 models, and average CarCostCanada member savings are $3,875.
The Q8 arrived for 2019, by the way, and other than an assortment of tech features that have been added to the base Progressiv trim since its initial year, 2019, 2020 and 2021 versions are mostly the same. The Q8 Technik shown on this page is pretty well fully loaded, so it’s pretty well the same vehicle as a 2021.
Obviously the Q8’s base price makes its placement within Audi’s SUV hierarchy clear, the sporty mid-sizer positioned above the Q7, the two Q5 models, and of course the Q3, at least as far as non-electrics go. Audi has a lineup of EVs now, including the E-Tron and new E-Tron Sportback (Audi-speak for an SUV Coupe), while the second Q5 I just mentioned is another Sportback, making a total of three SUV coupes in the Ingolstadt brand’s lineup.
SUV coupes are arguably better looking, unless you’re more of a traditionalist, but there is a trade-off. It comes in the way of rear headroom and cargo capacity, the second row more than adequately sized for most adults, but the Q8’s dedicated luggage space down significantly from the Q7 and even some of the regularly proportioned five-passenger SUVs it might be up against. Even the GLE Coupe offers more room behind its rear seats, but the Q8 edges out the X6.
Now that we’re talking about practical issues, the base Q8 powertrain delivers decent fuel economy. Driven with a tempered right foot you’ll be able to eke out 13.8 L/100km in the city, 11.7 on the highway and 12.7 combined, but that’s probably not how you’re going to want to drive it.
Sorry for the yawn-fest, but I needed to get the mundanities out of the way before talking performance. Fortunately for enthusiasts like us, Audi chose not to go all pragmatic with its Q8 powertrains, leaving the Q7’s 248 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder off the menu and instead opting for its 335 horsepower V6 in base models. That’s a healthy dose of energy for any SUV, but even more for a lighter weight five-passenger ute like the Q8. It pushes out 369 lb-ft of torque as well, all from a 3.0-litre V6-powered with a single turbo, so off-the-line acceleration is strong and highway passing manoeuvres are effortless.
Not as effortless as passing would be in a 500 horsepower SQ8, mind you, or for that matter the near Urus levels of straight-line power offered up by the 591 horsepower RS Q8. These two put 568 and 590 lb-ft of torque down to the tarmac respectively, so launching from standstill would be exhilarating to say the least. Is 3.8 seconds to 100 km/h good enough for you? That’s as quick as Bentley’s W12-powered Bentayga, and only 0.2 seconds off the Urus’ 3.6-second sprint. The mid-range SQ8 is fast too, but 4.3 seconds from zero to 100 km/h is not quite as awe-inspiring, while the 55 TFSI Quattro’s 6.0-second run is definitely quick enough to leave most traffic behind when the light goes green.
Speaking of fast, the Q8’s ZF-sourced eight-speed auto is both silky smooth and wonderfully quick-shifting when pushing hard, while Quattro continues Audi’s advanced tradition in all-wheel drive, delivering superb traction in all conditions. Adding to the experience, Audi provides Comfort, Auto, Dynamic (sport), Individual and Off Road “drive select” modes, the sportiest enhancing the Q8’s direct electromechanical steering design and nicely-tuned five-link front and rear suspension setup, resulting in a luxury SUV that’s comfortable when needed, and plenty of fun through the curves.
Comfort is the Q8 55 TFSI Quattro’s primary purpose, however, and one look inside makes this immediately known. Its interior design typifies Audi’s contemporary minimalism, while the quality of materials is second to none. My test model’s cabin was mostly done out in a subdued charcoal grey, other than the large sections of piano black lacquered trim running across the instrument panel and lower console. These perfectly bled into the numerous electronic displays, while Audi added some stylish brown details to visually warm up what could come across as a cold grey motif. Yes, even the open-pore hardwood inlays were stained grey, although ample brushed aluminum trim and the big panoramic sunroof overhead helped to lighten the mood.
The aforementioned displays brightened the gauge cluster and centre stack too, with attractive graphics and brilliantly clear high-definition resolution. The former, dubbed “Audi Virtual Cockpit,” is 100-percent digital and wonderfully customizable, plus can be modded so that the centre-mounted multi-information display takes over the entire screen via a “VIEW” button located on the steering wheel spoke. My favourite choice of multi-info functions for this full-size view is the navigation map, which looks fabulous and frees the centre display for other duties, like scrolling through satellite radio stations, while multi-zone heating and ventilation controls can be found on a separate touchscreen just below.
The previously noted “drive select” modes can be found on a thin strip of touch-sensitive interface just under the HVAC display. Also included is a button for cancelling traction and stability control, turning on the hazard lights, and selecting defog/defrost settings. This switchgear, plus all others in the Q8’s well laid out interior, is impressively made.
Of course, we’ve all come to expect this level of detail from Audi, as is the case for cabin comfort. Of upmost importance to me is any vehicle’s driving position, due to a torso that’s not as long as my legs, therefore once my seat has been powered rearward enough to accommodate the latter, I often require more reach from the telescopic steering column than some models provide in order to achieve maximum control while comfortably holding the rim of the wheel. If that reach isn’t there, I’ve got to crank my seatback to a less than ideal vertical position, which is never a good first impression. In the Q8’s case, nothing I just said was even necessary, other than to point out that its driving position is near perfect.
Of course, the amply adjustable driver’s seat had much to do with that. It includes an extendable lower cushion that nicely cups under the knees, a favourite feature, while together with the usual fore/aft, up/down, recline and four-way lumbar support functions was a wonderful massage feature that gently eased back pain via wave, pulse, stretch, relaxation, shoulder, and activation modes, not to mention three intensity levels. Industry norm three-temperature heatable cushions were combined with three-way cooling, making a very good thing just that much better.
With my seat pushed back far enough to fit my long-legged albeit still short five-foot-eight frame, I still had more than enough space in all directions, while I could nearly stretch out fully when sitting behind the driver’s seat in the second row. With only two seated in back, the Q8’s wide, comfortable centre armrest can be folded down. It features the usual twin cupholders, plus controls for the power-operated side-window sunshades, which can be operated by someone seated on either side of the rear bench. A climate control interface allows adjustment of another two zones in back, for a total of four. This is where you’ll find buttons for the rear outboard seat heaters.
I’ve already mentioned the Q8’s cargo volume, so rather than going down this memory hole one more time I’ll just reiterate that most should find it adequate. It’s very well finished, as you might expect, with full carpeting and a stylish aluminum protective plate on the hatch sill, plus bright metal tie-down hooks at each corner, not to mention a useful webbed storage area to the side. I especially appreciation folding rear seatbacks split in the optimal 40/20/40 configuration, which allows for longer items like skis to be stored down the middle while rear occupants benefit from the more comfortable heatable window seats.
I’ve already mentioned pricing and likely discounts, but you’ll need to go to CarCostCanada to find out how to access the deals. Their very affordable membership gives you money-saving info on available manufacturer rebates, factory financing and leasing deals, plus dealer invoice pricing that’s like having insider information before negotiating your best deal. Find out how a CarCostCanada membership will save you money on your next new vehicle, and download their free app too, so you can access critical info when you need it most.
All said, the Q8 would be a good way to apply all knowledge you’ll gain from a CarCostCanada membership. While practical and fuel efficient, it’s drop-dead gorgeous from the outside in, includes some of the best quality materials available, comes equipped with an impressive assortment of standard and optional features, is wonderfully comfortable in every seating position, and delivers strong performance no matter the road conditions.
Exactly why Ford chose to offer this fabulous mid-size truck in nearly every other market than Canada and the U.S. for eight years before bringing it here is difficult to surmise, but rather than beat them up for handing their previous lead in this market segment off to competitors like Toyota’s Tacoma and General Motors’ Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, let’s celebrate that Dearborn’s decision makers finally came to their senses.
They’re not alone after all, the powers that be in Auburn Hills still waffling on whether or not to bring back the once class-leading Dakota (it was supposed to be here by now, but crickets). Maybe the final decision is stuck in Fiat’s Turin sede centrale or possibly les bonnes gens du Groupe PSA— Citroën, DS, Peugeot et Vauxhall-Opel—in Rueil-Malmaison), the leadership of semi-domestic automaker having been in regular flux, but either way the Ram Dakota seems to be a no-brainer, while on the other hand Nissan’s 16 year-old Frontier is an automotive zombie that should’ve mercifully been put down or replaced a decade ago.
Despite Nissan trudging along in the mid-size pickup segment during all the years Ford escaped (the Frontier still sells better than Honda’s Ridgeline, which is a sad testament to its Japanese rival), the two automakers actually share similar short-term small truck histories. Two years after Ford killed its then 14-year old third-generation compact Ranger in its domestic market in 2012, and introduced the current third-gen T6 to international buyers in 2011, Nissan offered up a redesigned Navarro to international customers. That attractive model was good enough to serve as the base for Mercedes-Benz’s now-defunct X-Class pickup as well as Renault’s Alaskan (not to mention Dongfeng’s oddly named Rich 6), but for some reason Nissan’s North American operations couldn’t figure out a way to bring it here, and alas they’ve been marginalized out of contention.
Nissan and its Frontier don’t have anywhere near the name brand recognition, marketing clout, or dealership real estate to relaunch a new small truck, whereas Ford had unwittingly built up an army of ready and willing loyalists that quickly pushed the 2019 Ranger into high volume Canadian sales of 6,603 units, slotting into third place after the Tacoma that managed 12,536 deliveries throughout calendar year 2019, and the Colorado with 8,531 (when GM’s Chevy and GMC sales are combined it was number one with 14,067 units down the road last year. That’s pretty decent for its first year (and a partial-year at that), boding well for even greater future success.
It also says a lot for the truck’s initial design. After all, it’s no spring chicken, having arrived on international markets nine years ago and only undergoing a refresh for last year’s introduction. Compare this to the full-size F-150, which probably gets more updates than any other model in Ford’s lineup, plus trim levels and special editions infinitum, and the Ranger’s initial showing on 2019’s sales charts is pretty impressive (although it has a long way to go before nudging the F-Series off its top pedestal that saw 145,210 examples delivered in 2019). Even both GM trucks couldn’t touch that (they totaled 94,683 units), just barely passing Ram’s 89,593-unit pickup total.
The new Ranger fits into the mid-size pickup truck segment ideally, being that it’s quite a bit larger than the old compact version and significantly smaller than the F-150. By the numbers, the 2020 F-150 SuperCab 4×4 with its 6.5-foot box is 536 mm (21.1 in) longer with 462 mm (18.2 in) more wheelbase, plus 167 mm (6.6 in) wider, and about 155 mm (6.1 in) taller than a similarly optioned 2020 Ranger SuperCab 4×4, whereas the F-150 SuperCrew is a whole lot bigger.
Specifically, the Ranger is 5,354 mm (210.8 in) long with a 3,221-mm (126.8-in) wheelbase, 1,862 mm (73.3 in) wide (without mirrors), and 1,806 or 1,816 mm (71.1 or 71.5 in) tall for the SuperCab or SuperCrew, which makes it slightly shorter than the aforementioned Tacoma (and much shorter than the long-wheelbase Toyota), while its also narrower and a smidge taller.
My tester was in XLT SuperCrew 4×4 trim and attractive Lightning Blue paint, which when combined with an available Sport Appearance package and FX4 Off-Road package, looked great, if not as ruggedly handsome as the Ranger Wildtrak if first saw in Asia, and the newer international-spec Ranger Raptor I’ve only seen in celluloid form (and hopefully here at some point in the near future).
The domestic-market Sport Appearance package includes a darker grille surround and Magnetic-Painted (dark-grey) 17-inch alloys, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. Power-folding side mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are included too, with the latter two also part of the 302A package, while a Bed Utility package adds a drop-in bedliner and 12-volt in-bed power adaptor, and the FX4 package provided my tester’s stylish red and grey/black decals to the rear corners of the box.
There’s quite a bit more to the FX4 package than two decals, like uniquely tuned off-road monotube shocks, tough 265/56 Hankook Dynapro AT-M tires, an electronically locking rear differential, Trail Control that allows you to set a given speed between 1 and 30 km/h to crawl over rugged terrain via throttle and brake management, and a Terrain Management System that, via Grass, Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, or Sand settings, utilizes the Ranger’s many off-road technologies to lay waste to all types of trails, from light-duty to extreme. What’s more, the FX4 package features a steel front bash plate under the front bumper, and skid plates covering the electric power steering system, transfer case, and fuel tank. Finally, the FX4 package provides pitch, roll and steering angle monitoring from the driver’s seat.
Unlike some 4x4s, setting the Ranger’s high/low gearing ratios requires no tugging on secondary shift levers, but rather only needs the subtle twist of a rotating dial on the lower console next to the shift lever. When set to its most capable off-road setting, you shouldn’t have any problem overcoming all types of rocks, roots and what-have-you, thanks to 226 mm (8.9 inches) of ground clearance, plus approach and departure angles equalling 28.7 and 25.4 degrees. For reference, the Tacoma offers more ground clearance at 239 mm (9.4 in), while its approach/departure angles range from 29 or 32 degrees up front to 23 degrees in back.
The Ranger’s generous suspension travel provides a comfortable ride for a truck, and I must admit it felt quite good through high-speed corners too, within reason. Even better, the new Ranger’s powertrain is really fun to dig your right foot into, and the 10-speed gearbox (with more forward speeds than any competitor) was plenty smooth and quick shifting, even providing a rocker switch on the side of the shift knob for flicking through the gears manually.
If things are sounding sporty, that wasn’t by accident. Ford increases performance further via a Sport setting that allows the engine’s revs to rise higher between shifts, while the transmission even holds onto a given gear when the engine arrives at redline, welcomingly unusual.
Helping add to that sporty feeling through corners, plus improving at-the-limit safety, Ford utilizes Curve Control for detecting when a driver enters a curve too quickly, and then makes automatic adjustments to the Ranger’s speed by lowering engine torque, adding braking power, and increasing the stability control function.
Along with that easy-going ride I spoke of a moment ago, my Ranger XLT 4×4 tester provided good comfort and sizeable cabin space from front to rear. The SuperCrew cab is the Ranger’s largest, and features regular front-hinged doors in back, plus additional rear legroom than the smaller base SuperCab model. Both configurations are available in XL and XLT trims, while the top-line Lariat is only offered as a SuperCrew.
The base SuperCab body style includes a longer six-foot bed, while my SuperCrew tester had a shorter five-foot bed. The Ranger is good for 707 kilos (1,560 lbs) of payload too, which is considerably better than the Tacoma’s 425- to 520-kg (937- to 1,146-lb) payload maximum. This same scenario plays out for towing capacity as well, with the Ranger capable of 7,500 lbs (3,402 kg) of trailer compared to the Toyota’s 502-kg (1,107-lb) rating. Trailer sway control is standard with the Ranger, too.
Without a trailer in tow, and being mindful of your right foot it’s possible to achieve a class-leading fuel economy rating of 11.8 L/100km in the city, 9.8 on the highway and 10.9 combined, this partially thanks to standard auto start-stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling.
The base Ranger XL SuperCab starts at $32,159, by the way, plus freight and fees of course, which makes it $1,090 pricier than the same model last year, while the XLT SuperCab now starts at $36,529. The as-tested XLT SuperCrew sees an increase of $890 since last year for a new price of $38,329, while the top-line Lariat SuperCrew only goes up by $230 for a new price of $42,619.
As for features, the 2020 Ranger Lariat adds more chrome detailing to the exterior, plus LED headlamps, front parking sensors (to the rear sensors already on the XLT), proximity-sensing entry, pushbutton start/stop, illuminated vanity mirrors, a universal remote, three-way heatable front seats with eight-way powered adjustment, leather upholstery, and more.
Yet unmentioned features on the XLT include 17-inch alloys (instead of the 16-inch steel wheels found on the base XL model), fog lamps, carpeting and carpeted floor mats (the base truck gets rubber flooring), a six-speaker stereo, automatic high beams, lane keep assist, plus more, while you can add a Technology package featuring a navigation system and adaptive cruise control.
Finally, the base XL includes auto on/off headlamps, a four-speaker audio system, a USB charging port, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, a capless fuel filler, and a pre-collision system that includes automatic emergency braking along with blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
Although my Ranger XLT test model was only a mid-range offering, it was nicely finished inside and well-constructed. The seat and armrest upholstery was a nice woven black cloth with creamy-grey contrast stitching for a sporty effect, while interior trim included the usual assortment of brushed and bright metallic surfaces, but no padded soft-touch synthetics.
The front seats are comfortable, with the driver’s featuring two-way power lumbar support that fit the small of my back nicely, while I found my XLT’s driving position good due to plenty of reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column. The steering wheel gets a comfortably soft leather-wrapped rim, and all interior controls were within easy reach. s
The Ranger’s instrument cluster is mostly analogue with nicely backlit needles and indices, the former sporting an attractive aqua-blue colour for dramatic effect, while a full-colour, high-resolution 4.2-inch multi-information display is more advanced than the majority of Ford’s competitors.
The just-noted gauge cluster needles match up with the sky-blue background of Ford’s 8.0-inch Sync 3 centre touchscreen nicely, this upgraded system coming standard in XLT and Lariat trims. While this system has been on the market for many years, it’s still a good-looking layout that works well. It even includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus loads of audio features including satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, while my tester featured an accurate navigation system, as well as XM travel link, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, and a backup camera with active guidelines.
Looking rearward, my Ranger SuperCrew tester’s rear bench seat was plenty spacious and adequately comfortable, particularly in the outboard positions, but it didn’t include the types of features I expected to see, not even rear air vents. XLT and Lariat buyers can expect two USB-A charge ports on the backside of the front centre console, as well as a convenient 110-volt household-style power outlet.
The Ranger is devoid of those handy integrated bumper steps found on GM trucks, that are really useful for climbing up on the bed, but fortunately my test model featured a kick-down step from Ford’s accessories catalogue that worked very well.
All in all, I really like Ford’s new Ranger. It looks good and comes across as a rugged, well-made mid-size truck. Its cabin is roomy and comfortable, includes very good electronics, and it’s really fun to drive. Ford should start offering some higher priced trim levels to compete with the Tacoma’s Limited, for instance, not to mention bring us the aforementioned Ranger Raptor that could go head-to-head with the Tacoma TRD Pro and Colorado ZR2. Even now, however, the Ranger’s three trim levels offer a lot of variety with competitive pricing, and should do even better on the sales charts as would-be buyers learn about their availability.
Want to drive an icon? Or maybe you’re just satisfied with a car-based crossover that’s little more than a tall station wagon with muscled-up, matte-black fender flares? I thought not. You wouldn’t be here if you merely wanted a grocery-getter, unless those groceries happen to necessitate a fly rod or hunting rifle to acquire.
Toyota’s 4Runner is idea for such excursions, and makes a good family shuttle too. I’d call it a good compromise between city slicker and rugged outdoorsman, but it’s so amazingly capable off-road it feels like you’re not compromising anything at all, despite having such a well put together interior, complete with high-end electronics and room to spare.
To be clear, I’m not trying to say the 4Runner is the most technically advanced 4×4 around, because it’s actually somewhat of a throwback when it comes to mechanicals. Under the hood is Toyota’s tried and true 4.0-litre V6 that’s made 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque since 2010, when this particular 4Runner generation arrived on the scene. That engine was merely an update of a less potent version of the same mill, which was eight years old at the time. The five-speed automatic it’s still joined up with hails from 2004, so mechanically the 4Runner is more about wholly proven reliability than leading edge sophistication, resulting in one of the more dependable 4x4s currently available, as well as best in the “Mid-size Crossover/SUV” class resale value according to The Canadian Black Book’s 2019 evaluation. Still, while the 4Runner might seem like a blast to the past when it comes to mechanicals, this ends as soon as we start talking about off-road technologies.
I’m not talking about the classic second shift lever that sits next to the auto shifter on the lower centre console, this less advanced than most other 4x4s on the market that simply need the twist of a dash- or console-mounted dial to engage their four-wheel drive systems’ low ratio gears. The 4Runner’s completely mechanical setup first takes a tug rearward to shift it from H2 (rear-wheel drive) to H4 (four-wheel drive, high), which gives the SUV more traction in inclement weather or while driving on gravel roads, but doesn’t affect the speed at which you can travel. You’ll need to push the same lever to the right and then forward in a reverse J-pattern when wanting to venture into the wild yonder, this engaging its 4L (four-wheel drive, low) ratio, thus reducing its top speed to a fast crawl yet making it near invincible to almost any kind of terrain thrown at it.
My test trail of choice featured some deeply rutted paths of dried mud, lots of soft, slippery sand, and plenty of loose rock and gravel, depending on the portion of my short trek. For overcoming such obstacles, Toyota provides its Active Trac (A-TRAC) brake lock differential that slows a given wheel when spinning and then redirects engine torque to a wheel with traction, while simultaneously locking the electronic rear differential. The controls for this function can be found in the overhead console, which also features a dial for engaging Crawl Control that maintains a steady speed without the need to have your right foot on the gas pedal. This means you’re free to “stand” up in order to see over crests or around trees that would otherwise be in your way. Crawl Control offers five throttle speeds, while also applying brake pressure to maintain its chosen speed while going downhill.
Moving up the 4×4 sophistication ladder is the 4Runner’s Multi-Terrain Select system, which can be dialed into one of four off-road driving modes that range from “LIGHT” to “HEAVY” including “Mud, Sand, Dirt”, “Loose Rock”, “Mogul”, and “Rock”. Only the lightest mud, sand and dirt setting can be used in H4, with the three others requiring a shift to L4.
Fancy electronics aside, the 4Runner is able to overcome such obstacles due to 244 millimeters (9.6 inches) of ground clearance and 33/26-degree approach/departure angles, while I also found its standard Hill Start Assist Control system is as helpful when taking off from steep inclines when off-pavement as it is on the road. In the event you get hung up on something underneath, take some confidence in the knowledge that heavy-duty skid plates will protect the engine, front suspension and transfer case from damage.
While I personally experienced no problem when it came to ground clearance, my Venture Edition tester came with a set of standard Predator side steps that could get in the way of protruding rocks, stumps or even crests. They hang particularly low, and while helpful when climbing inside (albeit watch your shins), might play interference.
For $55,390 plus freight and fees, the Venture Edition also includes blacked out side mirrors, door handles (that also include proximity-sensing access buttons), a rooftop spoiler, a windshield wiper de-icer, mudguards, and special exterior badges. Inside, all-weather floor mats join an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink garage door remote controls, a powered glass sunroof, a front and a rear seating area USB port, a household-style 120-volt power outlet in the cargo area, active front headrests, eight airbags, and Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of advanced driver assistance systems, including an automatic Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Options not already mentioned include a sliding rear cargo deck with an under-floor storage compartment.
The Venture Edition also features an awesome looking Yakima MegaWarrior Rooftop Basket, which allows for extra cargo carrying capacity on top of the SUV. While really useful for camping trips and the like, it’s tall and can make parking in urban garages a bit tight to say the least. In fact, you may not be able to park in some closed cover parking lots due to height restrictions, the basket increasing the already tall 4Runner Venture Edition’s ride height by 193 mm (7.6 in) from 1,816 mm (71.5 in) to 2,009 mm (79.09 in). The basket itself measures 1,321 millimetres (52 inches) long, 1,219 mm (48 in) wide, and 165 mm (6.5 in) high, so it really is a useful cargo hold when heading out on a long haul.
Heading out on the highway in mind, my Venture Edition tester’s 17-inch TRD alloys and 265/70 Bridgestone Dueller H/T mud-and-snow tires did as good a job of managing off-road terrain as they held to the pavement, making them a good compromise for both scenarios. In such situations you’ll no doubt appreciate another standard Venture Edition feature, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that reduces body lean by up to 50 percent at high speed. This is important in a body-on-frame SUV that’s primarily designed for off-road, and thus comes with lots of wheel travel and a relatively soft suspension that’s easy on the backside through rough terrain. It’s a heavy beast too, weighing in at 2,155 kg (4,750 lbs), so KDSS really makes a difference on the highway, especially when the road gets twisty and you want to keep up with (and even exceed) the flow of traffic. It’s actually pretty capable through curves thanks to an independent double-wishbone front suspension and a four-link rear setup, plus stabilizer bars at both ends, but don’t expect it to stand on its head like Thatcher Demko did on the Canuck’s recent Vegas Golden Knights’ playoff run, or you’ll likely be hung upside down like the rest of the Vancouver team were when physicality overcame reality.
Physicality in mind, the 4Runner’s powered driver seat was very comfortable during my weeklong test, even when off-road. I was able to adjust the seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel to a near ideal position for my somewhat oddly proportioned long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, allowing comfortable yet fully controlled operation, which hasn’t always been the case in every Toyota product, and some other brands’ I should add.
It’s also comforting its other four seats, the Venture Edition standard for five occupants while other 4Runner trims offer three rows and up to seven passengers. I’ve tested the latter before, and let’s just say they’re best left to kids or very small adults, although this five-seat model provides plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and head room in every position.
Even without the noted basket on top, the 4Runner provides 1,336 litres (47.2 cu ft) of cargo space behind its second row of seats, which I found more than ample for carrying all my gear. I tested it during the summer so didn’t find reason to use the 20-percent centre pass-through portion of its ultra-handy 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, but this would be a dealmaker for me and my family due to our penchant for skiing. When all three sections of the rear seat are lowered the 4Runner offers up to 2,540 litres (89.7 cu ft) of max storage, which again is very good, while the weight of said payload can be up to 737 kg (1,625 lbs). Also important in this class, all 4Runners can manage trailers up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) and come standard with a receiver hitch and wiring harness with four- and seven-pin connectors.
You won’t be able to achieve the 4Runner’s claimed 14.8 L/100km city fuel economy rating when fully loaded with gear and trailer, mind you, or for that matter its 12.5 L/100km highway rating or 13.8 combined estimate. My tester was empty other than yours truly and sometimes one additional passenger, so I had no problem matching its potential efficiency when going light on the throttle and traveling over mostly flat, paved terrain in 2H (two-wheel drive, high). If it seems thirsty to you, consider that it only uses regular fuel and will give you back much of its fuel costs in its aforementioned resale/residual value when it comes time to sell, as well as dependability when out of warranty.
One of the reasons the 4Runner holds its value is lack of change, although Toyota wholly improved this 2020 model’s infotainment system for a much better user experience and lots of advanced features. The 8.0-inch touchscreen incorporates Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and more, while I found its Dynamic Navigation with detailed mapping very accurate. The stock audio system decent as well, standard satellite radio providing the depth of music variety I enjoy (I’m a bit eclectic when it comes to tunes), while the backup camera only offers stationary “projected path” graphic indicators to show the way, but the rear parking sensors made up for this big time. Additional infotainment functions include Bluetooth phone connectivity, a helpful weather page, traffic condition info and apps, meaning that it really lacks nothing you’ll need.
The primary instruments are somewhat more dated in appearances and functionality, but they still do the job. The Optitron analogue dials offer backlit brightness for easily legibility no matter the outside lighting conditions, and the multi-information display in the middle includes the usual assortment of useful features.
My 4Runner Venture Edition interior’s fit, finish and general materials quality was actually better than I expected, leaving me pleasantly surprised. All of its switchgear felt good, even the large dash-mounted knobs, which previously felt too light and generally substandard, are now more solid and robust. Tolerances are tight for the other buttons and switches too, and therefore should satisfy any past 4Runner owner.
The overall look of the dash and door panels is rectangular, matching the SUV’s boxy exterior style. That will probably be seen as a good thing by most traditionalists, its utilitarian appeal appreciated by yours truly, at least. I was surprised to see faux carbon fibre-style trim on the lower console, and found the dark glossy metallic grey surfacing chosen for the centre stack, dash trim and door panel accents better than shiny piano black plastic when it comes to reducing dust and scratches. Padded and red stitched leatherette gets added to the front two-thirds of those door panels, by the way, the same material as used for the side and centre armrests, while Toyota adds the red thread to the SofTex-upholstered seat side bolsters too, not to mention some flashy red “TRD” embroidery on the front headrests. Again, I think most 4Runner fans should find this Venture Edition plenty luxurious, unless they’re stepping out of a fully loaded Limited model.
Being that we’re so close to the 2021 model arriving, take note it will arrive with standard LED headlamps, LED fog lights, and special Lunar Rock exterior paint, while new black TRD alloys will soon get wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler A/T tires for better off-road traction. Additionally, Toyota has retuned the 2021 model’s dampers to improve isolation when on the trail. Word has it a completely new 4Runner is on the way for 2022, so keep this in mind when purchasing this 2020 or one of the upgraded 2021 models.
Following Porsche’s usual product launch plan, a new Cayenne GTS has surfaced for the 2021 model year, and while this might normally be a small story about blackened trim, Alcantara interior detailing and a lowered suspension, quite a bit has changed since a Cayenne GTS was last offered three years ago.
As many reading this will already be aware, the Cayenne received a ground-up redesign for 2019, and while such would always occur before a new GTS release, this time around there are two third-generation Cayenne body styles instead of just one, including the regular Cayenne and the new Cayenne Coupe, both of which will be available in new GTS trim.
Also new, the two 2021 Cayenne GTS models will be powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 instead of the outgoing twin-turbocharged 3.6-litre V6, the change upping horsepower by 13 and torque by 14 lb-ft resulting in a new total of 453 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque.
Needless to say the new 2021 Cayenne GTS is faster than its three-year-old predecessor, with both body styles sprinting from standstill to 100 km/h in a scant 4.5 seconds when equipped with their Sport Chrono Packages, which is 0.6 seconds quicker than previous examples. The base Cayenne GTS achieves a zero to 100 km/h sprint in 4.8 seconds, by the way, while both are capable of a 270-km/h terminal velocity, this being an 8-km/h improvement of their predecessor.
The 4.0-litre direct-injection V8 utilizes a new intelligently designed thermal management system as well as adaptive cylinder control to achieve its performance targets, while Porsche’s eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission was once again chosen for shifting duties. Additionally, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive continues to be standard equipment.
A beefy standard exhaust system shows two large circular tailpipes poking through each side of a sportier rear fascia, for a total of four, the new look appearing menacing to say the least, while in a press release Porsche claimed they produce “a rich, sporty sound with a unique character.” Those opting for the Cayenne GTS Coupe can alternatively choose a special high frequency-tuned sports exhaust system when also upgrading to the Lightweight Sports Package, the tailpipes on this version of the SUV denoted by even larger oval tips emanating from the centre of the rear bumper.
The renewed Cayenne GTS also gets some suspension upgrades such as a set of redesigned Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers that, when combined with the standard three-chamber Air Suspension, lower the utility’s ride height by 30 mm compared to the current Cayenne S, while Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) is standard equipment too.
The base Cayenne GTS and Cayenne GTS Coupe models ride on a special set of black-silk gloss 21-inch RS Spyder Design alloy wheels, although take note that many wheel and tire packages are available. Likewise, grey cast iron 390 by 38 mm front and 358 by 28 mm rear brake rotors come standard, as are a set of red-painted calipers, but the new GTS can be had with the tungsten carbide-coated Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) system, or better yet the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system. Two additional options include rear-axle steering, and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) active roll stabilization.
The two new GTS model wouldn’t be complete without a bevy of styling enhancements from the exterior to the interior, so Porsche has added the usual blackened trim bits outside via the standard Sport Design package, which darkens accents on the front air intakes, side window surrounds, exhaust tips, plus the Porsche badges and model designation in back. Likewise, the LED headlamps, which feature the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS), are tinted black too, as is the new LED taillight bar.
As is normally the case with GTS models, Porsche covers the interior door and centre console armrests in rich suede-like Alcantara, not to mention the seat centre panels, the roof liner, and more, while dark-brushed aluminum accents separate the GTS’ cabin from the brighter aluminum used on other Cayenne trims.
The standard eight-way powered front sport seats are improved with larger side bolstering too, as well as “GTS” embroidery on the head restraints, but this isn’t the only place you’ll find the renowned GTS emblem. Check out the primary gauge cluster’s tachometer dial, the door entry sills, and the front outer door panels too. Those wanting more can opt for a GTS interior package that features Carmine Red or Chalk colour accents, including decorative stitching.
The new 2021 Cayenne GTS and 2021 Cayenne GTS Coupe are now available to order from your local Porsche dealer ahead of arriving during Q4 of 2020, while respective pricing starts at $120,400 and $126,500, plus freight and fees.
With the release of these swoopy artist’s renderings Volkswagen has announced the virtual world première of its updated 2021 Arteon four-door coupe will occur on June 24th, and along with scant information about the new car is the revelation of a new body style.
The blue car on the left is indeed a sport wagon, although despite having four doors plus a rear liftgate, and therefore being similar in concept to the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, Volkswagen has dubbed it a Shooting Brake, which is normally a term given to a two-door wagon with a rear hatch like Ferrari’s 2011–2016 FF or the classic 1972–1973 Volvo P1800ES (although Mercedes-Benz called its four-door CLS sport wagon a Shooting Brake when it debuted for 2012, which was followed up with a 2015 CLA Shooting Brake).
Just like those elongated Mercs, however, the five-door VW won’t be coming to Canada or the U.S., leaving we North American with only getting the four-door fastback variant, but selling such a niche vehicle in our markets is already a risky business proposition as clearly shown in the car’s sales figures.
Despite the Arteon’s stylish sheet metal and nicely sorted interior, the slick VeeDub only found 456 buyers throughout all of calendar year 2019 (albeit deliveries only started in March), which put it in last place within the mainstream mid-size sedan class. VW’s Passat, the Arteon’s more upright, practical and affordable four-door counterpart managed to stay one position ahead with 672 deliveries last year, but bringing up the rear was nothing for Volkswagen’s Canadian division to be excited about.
Yes, it was the ninth year of the outgoing eighth-generation model, and therefore as long in the tooth as anything in this segment has ever been, but that not updating this important model was Volkswagen’s fault to begin with, so being last amongst conventional mid-size sedans was inevitable. Also notable, VW’s poor Passat and Arteon sales occurred well before we were facing all of the current health, social and economic problems.
It’s difficult to say whether a slowdown in Q1 2020 Arteon sales had much to do with the just-mentioned issues or was instead a self-imposed reduction of inventory ahead of the refreshed 2021 model, but either way VW only managed to sell 81 units in Canada for the first three months of this year, but the automaker’s Ajax, Ontario office would have been happy to see deliveries of the all-new Passat increase during the same quarter, the model’s 523 unit-sales nearly as strong as the entire year before.
While it might at first appear like the Passat’s stronger Q1 sales results could be a good sign for the new Arteon, at least when not factoring in the aforementioned health, social and especially economic problems, nobody’s complaining about the 2019-2020 Arteon’s styling. In fact, it already shares many of the design cues of the new Passat. Of course, the artist’s rendering looks longer, lower, wider and leaner than today’s car, which is normal for these types of cartoon-like creations, so before getting all excited it’s probably best to visually squish the eye-popping drawing back into more reasonable proportions, and while you’re at it reduce the size of the gargantuan wheels. Once this is done the 2021 model will probably appear a lot like today’s version, other than its updated front grille and reshaped front fascia, not to mention similarly minor changes provided at the back.
The current Arteon cabin is the nicest available in the 2020 Volkswagen fleet, or at least the one offered here, and although we shouldn’t expect any radical changes VW does promise its newest modular infotainment matrix 3 (MIB3) system for quicker app processing, enhanced connectivity, better functionality, and improved entertainment overall.
VW will also make its “highly assisted” Travel Assist system available, which is similar to the hands-on-the-steering-wheel, self-corrective, semi-autonomous driver assist technologies already on offer by other brands. Likewise, Travel Assist was designed for highway use, and to that effect so-equipped 2021 Arteon models will be able to apply steering, accelerating and braking inputs autonomously at speeds up to 210 km/h (130 mph), as long as the driver remains in control.
Of course, such advanced technologies could very likely add considerable sums to the price of this already expensive sport sedan, which at $49,960 isn’t exactly entry-level. This said, the Arteon’s key four-door coupe rival, the Kia Stinger, comes close to $45k in base trim and nearly $50k when loaded up, but Canadian buyers obviously believe it delivers better value as they purchased 1,569 examples last year. It’s approximate $5k discount and stronger base and optional engines, not to mention fuller load of features in all trims, would’ve likely been important differentiators, plus the South Korean model handles well, includes near-premium interior quality, and isn’t hard on the eyes.
In case the current Arteon has caught your eye, you can get your hands on a 2019 example for quite a bit less than the manufacturer suggested retail price right now. In fact, a quick glance at our 2019 Volkswagen Arteon Canada Prices page shows up to $5,000 in additional incentives available, while the 2020 Arteon is being offered with zero-percent factory leasing and financing rates. Then again, a quick check of our 2019 Kia Stinger Canada Prices page will inform of additional incentives up to $5,000, while four-door coupe buyers interested in the latest 2020 Stinger can get up to $4,000 in incentives. To learn more about these savings and gain access to manufacturer rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing, read this short article about how a CarCostCanada membership can save you thousands on your next purchase of any vehicle. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out our mobile app at Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iTunes store, which is ideal for accessing all the info above while shopping.
As for more on the 2021 Arteon, check this spot later this month and we’ll have all the most important details.