CarCostCanada

New Taycan electric now available with Exclusive Manufaktur enhancements

2020 Porsche Taycan Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur upgrades include new front and rear fascias with more aggressive styling.

Back in 1983, a Porsche skunkworks division transformed a 409-horsepower Type 935 racecar into a hand-built, slant-nose, massive winged, one-off road-ready super car crammed full of cream-colour leather upholstery and handcrafted hardwood trim. It was made-to-order exclusively for Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) owner Mansour Ojjeh, his company now known best for the popular TAG Heuer line of luxury wristwatches.

The specialized team of crafts people soon became known as the Porsche “Personalisation Programme.” It continued building special versions of its legendary 911 sports car for individual customers, one such client a wealthy sheikh that purchased six identical customized 959 supercars, while the division also built low run special editions before being renamed Porsche Exclusive in 1986 and Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur in 2017. Along the way the team produced a special Panamera Exclusive series, a modified Macan, a unique version the new Cayenne Coupe, plenty of special 911s, and others. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
Special paints can be had too, plus unique interior treatments.

Big changes are afoot at Porsche, however, thanks to the introduction of the all-electric Taycan four-door sports car, so it only makes sense to produce Exclusive Manufaktur upgrades for this all-new model. So far the division is offering 90 customization options and three different Sport Design packages.

The three packages “differ with respect to the inlays in the lower front apron, in the sill panels and in the side fins of the diffuser,” stated Porsche in a press release. A larger aero section than shown before can be seen below the headlights in the photos, while the Exclusive Manufaktur equipped Taycans also included more sculpting to their front fascias. Porsche also says that each car’s side fins can be painted in body-colour or left in woven carbon fibre, depending on which package is chosen.

2020 Porsche Taycan Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
These 21-inch wheels feature special carbon aeroblades.

Also available from Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur are LED matrix headlights “with a three-dimensional circuit board graphic in the headlight housing as well as daytime running light elements in Glacier Ice Blue or other colours,” added Porsche in the same press release, while the headlights also include Dynamic Light System Plus. Making the Taycan’s exterior design look even better, it can be had with a sensational set of 21-inch Exclusive Design wheels with eye-arresting aeroblades formed from forged and milled carbon, these taking 3.2 kg (6.6 lbs) of weight from each standard alloy wheel.

Along with all the exterior modifications, Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur provides upgrades for the Taycan’s cabin as well, one being a Carbon Interior Package that can be had in a wide variety of contrasting colours, seatbelts available in eight special colours including Blackberry, Bordeaux Red, Crayon, Graphite Blue, Lime Beige, Meranti Brown, Slate Grey, and Truffle Brown, plus matte carbon fibre accents on the front and rear doors plus the centre console.

2020 Porsche Taycan Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur
Putting the finishing touches on a Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur enhanced Taycan.

In order to keep up with demand, Porsche is expanding the Exclusive Manufaktur facility by one third over its once 2,000 square-metre (21,528 sq-ft) footprint, the larger floor plan adding four new lifting platform workstations, more storage space, and a direct line to the finished-vehicle loading platform.

If you’d like to have Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur enhance your new Taycan, or any other model offered by the German automaker, make sure to let your local Porsche dealer know.

To find out more about 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo pricing, plus source detailed information about any other new model in Porsche’s lineup or any other brand’s portfolio, check out our individual CarCostCanada model pages like this one on the new 2020 Taycan. We also provide info on manufacturer rebates, in-house financing and leasing deals, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when it comes time to negotiate.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Porsche

CarCostCanada

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4 Road Test

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The Countryman is in its second-generation, but still looks every bit a Mini.

There are certain market segments an automaker wants to do well in. Obviously, higher end models like large sedans, SUVs and sports cars present the opportunity for higher profits, and are therefore important to any brand’s bottom line, while larger compact and mid-size models are critical for volume, but if you’re not able to pull buyers into the fold early on, when they’re moving up from pre-owned to new, or from a mainstream volume brand to luxury, then it’s more difficult to sell those higher end models later on. Or at least that’s the theory.

One might say BMW group owns the subcompact luxury SUV category in Canada. After all, together with the segment’s most popular X1, which found 4,420 entry-level luxury buyers last year, this Mini Countryman that was good for 2,275 slightly less affluent up-and-comers, and the sportiest (and priciest) BMW X2 that earned 1,383 new customers of its own, its total of 8,078 units sales more than doubled what Audi or Mercedes-Benz could deliver in Canada last year.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
It looks small from a distance, but the Countryman is actually quite roomy inside.

While BMW would no doubt like to eventually pull Mini customers up into its namesake brand, and some now doubt do make the progression, it really exists on its own. What I mean is that Mini has a completely unique character that car enthusiasts aspire to, and not kept around merely as a gateway brand. If a Mini owner was fortunate enough to trade in their Countryman for a larger, pricier SUV, they might just as well choose a Range Rover Velar instead of an X3 or X5. Then again, it’s probably just as likely they’ll stick with their Mini, choosing instead to move up within the brand to a John Cooper Works trim level or maybe even this top-line Countryman S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid.

The Countryman was one of the first subcompact luxury SUVs on the market, arriving way back in 2010. Mini made major improvements for its 2017 redesign, so now this second-generation model has been with us for four years if we include the 2020 model. If you looked at a 2020 and this outgoing 2019 model you wouldn’t be able to notice many changes. Some wheel designs have been changed, a normal occurrence every now and then, with the big updates found under the skin, and then only impacting buyers wanting a manual transmission. Yes, it’s been axed for 2020, mostly because Mini’s U.S. division swapped it out for a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox in front-wheel drive models not available here, so it’s almost entirely the previously optional eight-speed automatic across the Countryman line in Canada, whether DIY enthusiasts like it or not.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
This Countryman S E ALL4 came as-tested with LED headlights, LED fog lamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Almost entirely? Yes, the very Countryman S E ALL4 hybrid on this page uses a six-speed Steptronic automatic driving the front wheels via a 136-horsepower 1.5-litre three-cylinder Twin Power Turbo engine. The ALL4 in the name designation denotes all-wheel drive, but unlike the other ALL4s in the Countryman lineup, this model’s rear wheels are solely powered by an 88-horsepower (65kW) synchronous e-motor via electricity stored in a 7.6 kWh Li-Ion battery.

Like with most all-wheel drive systems, power can be apportioned front or back, with the wheels in the rear employed fully in EV mode, or partially when the Countryman detects front slippage and needs more traction. That means it feels as if you’re driving a regular hybrid, with each axle using its motive power sources seamlessly as needed, all working together harmoniously via Mini’s drivetrain management system. The S E ALL4’s electric-only range is a mere 19 km after a complete charge, but who’s counting.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
Mini interiors combine fun retro character traits with high-quality premium materials and finishing.

Not even 20 km? Ok, that is pretty minuscule, and many of my colleagues are reporting real world results of 12 and 13 km. Thank goodness Mini made another change to the Countryman line for 2020, a larger batter for a 30-percent gain in EV range for 29 km in total. While this will hardly cause BMW i3 fans to shift allegiances, the added range allows the Countryman S E ALL4 to be used as a regular commuter without the need to recharge until you get to work, as long as your daily commute falls within most peoples’ average. If you really want to go green you can stop along the way for more energy, and it won’t take too much time for the new 10-kWh battery to recharge.

It’s probably not a good idea to use EV mode all the way to work if you need to take the highway, unless it’s bumper to bumper all the way. While the Countryman S E ALL4 can achieve speeds of up to 125 km/h with just its e-motor, you’ll drain the battery in minutes if you try. Instead, you can use its hybrid mode on the highway (up to 220 km/h if you’re feeling frisky) and switch back to EV mode when traveling slower, which maximizes a given charge. The regenerative brakes help to charge up the battery when coming to stops or going downhill, doing their part to maximize zero emissions driving.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The Countryman’s cockpit is ideally set up for both comfort and performance driving.

I made the point of recharging the battery whenever possible during my weeklong test. I’d grab a coffee at McDonalds and give it a quick charge outside, drop by the local mall and do likewise, and one time stayed a little longer at Ikea’s restaurant in order to fully top it up, plus of course I charged it overnight. Being that it takes quite a bit of effort to find somewhere in public to charge it that’s not being used, the novelty quickly wears off when the battery runs out of juice in a matter of 20 or 30 minutes. Still, its fuel economy is good even when not charging it up all the time, with an 8.4 L/100km rating in the city, 8.8 on the highway and 8.6 combined. Plugging it in more often can give you an equivalent rating of 3.6 L/100km combined city/highway, however, so it’s obviously worth going through the hassle.

At least as important for any Mini, the Countryman S E ALL4 is fun to drive. I can’t think of many hybrid SUVs that include a manual mode shifter, let alone a Sport mode (that actually does something), but all you need to do is slide the switch at the base of the gearbox to the left and this PHEV shoots away from a stoplight with plenty of energy, taking about seven seconds to reach 100 km/h thanks to a total of 221 net horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque (the electric motor puts out an immediate 122 lb-ft of twist by itself), and while it can’t quite achieve the 301-hp John Cooper Work’s Countryman’s ability to get off the line, the JCW managing just over 6 seconds to 100 km/h, this 1,791-kilo cute ute still feels quick enough.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The Countryman’s centre display is high-resolution, graphically stimulating and packed full of features.

The S E ALL4 is even more sporting around fast-paced curves, with the kind of high-speed handling expected from a Mini. It’s not as firmly sprung as a JCW, but then again it provides a more comfortable ride. Likewise, the Countryman S E ALL4 is a complete pleasure on the freeway, tracking well at high-speed and excellent at overcoming unexpected crosswinds, my test model’s meaty 225/50R18 all-season tires providing a sizeable contact patch with the tarmac below.

A fabulously comfortable driver’s seat made longer stints behind the wheel easy on the back, my test model’s boasting superb inherent support for the lower back and thighs, with the former benefiting from four-way lumbar support and the latter from a manually extendable lower cushion to cup under the knees (love that). It’s spacious too, both up front and in the rear, with the back seats roomy enough for big adults as long as the centre position stays unoccupied. A wide armrest folds down from middle, housing the expected twin cupholders, while two vents on the backside of the front console keep fresh air flowing. A 12-volt charger has me wondering when Mini plans to modernize with USB charging ports, while no rear seat heaters were included in this trim. At least there was a wonderfully large power panoramic glass sunroof up above, making the Countryman’s smallish dimensions feel bigger and more open.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The centre stack controls are very well done, particularly the row of toggles at the bottom.

I’ve read/heard a number of critics complain about the Countryman not offering enough cargo space, however, but this little Mini’s cargo compartment design has me sold. Of course it’s relatively small compared to a larger compact or mid-size luxury utility, which is par for the course when choosing a Mini, its dimensions measuring 487 litres behind the rear seatback and 1,342 litres when lowered, but it’s the folding centre section I appreciate most. This allows longer items like skis to be laid down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable window seats. The Countryman’s 40/20/40 rear seat split is the most convenient in the industry, while the seats’ folding mechanism feels very well made with everything clicking together solidly. The rear compartment is finished well too, with high quality carpets most everywhere. It all helps Mini make its argument for premium status.

Some buyers don’t consider Mini a premium brand, while those in the know place it alongside (or slightly below) BMW, at least when it comes to the Bavarian automaker’s entry-level models, like the X1. Of course, the X1 xDrive28i starts at a lofty $42,100 when compared to the $31,090 Countryman, but this fully loaded S E ALL4 plug-in hybrid, featuring upgrades like the previously noted sunroof, plus LED cornering headlights and fog lamps, a head-up display, navigation, real-time traffic info, superb Harman/Kardon audio, a wireless device charger, and more, will set you back more than $50k (the S E ALL4’s base price is $44,390), so Mini is in the same league. This pricing spread makes it clear that Mini sits well above most other mainstream volume branded subcompact SUVs, which range in price from $18,000 for the most basic to $35,000 for something fancier in full dress. 

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
This is one of the best driver’s seats in the subcompact luxury SUV class.

By the way, you can find out all about 2019 and 2020 Mini Countryman pricing right here on CarCostCanada, with details about trims, packages and individual options included, plus you can also access money saving manufacturer rebate info, the latest deals on financing, and best of all dealer invoice pricing that could help you save you thousands when it comes time to negotiate. CarCostCanada provides all this and more for every volume mainstream and luxury model available in Canada, so make sure to go there first before stepping into a dealership.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
The Countryman’s rear seating area is spacious and comfortable.

The base S E ALL4 is well equipped too, by the way, including 18-inch alloy wheels on run-flat tires, puddle lamps, a keyless toggle start/stop switch, a sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, well bolstered sport seats with leatherette upholstery, adaptive cruise control, park distance control, two-zone automatic climate control, a large high-definition centre touchscreen with excellent graphics, and more.

Additionally, all of the high-end features just mentioned are housed in an interior that’s finished to premium levels, or at least it’s premium for this compact luxury SUV category. This means it includes fabric-wrapped roof pillars and plenty of pliable composite surfaces, while the switchgear is nicely made too, not to mention brilliantly retrospective with respect to the chromed toggles on the centre stack and overhead console.

2019 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4
A flexible cargo configuration makes the Countryman especially useful.

All in all, the Countryman S E ALL4 might be a fuel-efficient hybrid, but it’s also a Mini, which means it lives up to the performance expectations the British brand’s loyal followers want, while also providing a high level of style, luxury, features, roominess, and more. That it’s possible to drive emissions-free over short distances is a bonus, as is access to your city’s high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, plug-in parking spots closer to the entrance of shopping malls, stores, etcetera, and better than average fuel economy whether using EV mode or just its hybrid setup. It’s a bit pricey, but the Countryman S E ALL4 delivers a lot for the money asked.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

Subaru plans a 100-percent electric lineup within 15 years

2020 Subaru Crosstrek
The Crosstrek will likely to be first to adopt Subaru’s upcoming hybrid drivetrain, as it already has a built-in ownership base ready to trade up.

With the current U.S. administration loosening new vehicle emissions restrictions, it might not seem prudent to announce an all-electric vehicle strategy, but the European Union, China and many other markets are tightening emissions regulations, with respect to vehicles at least. Europe will soon be warming its homes and powering businesses with new fossil fuel pipelines from Russia, while China seems to be building coal-fired electric power plants (to no doubt fuel such electric cars) faster than anyone can keep count.

This said it only makes sense that Subaru would want to continue selling into these markets once internal combustion engines (ICE) are no longer allowed, thus it’s planning to soon offer battery power to its lineup, with the eventual result being 100-percent electric.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek
A Forester hybrid would be ideal to go up against Toyota’s popular RAV4 Hybrid.

The electrification process will start off with a new hybrid-electric drivetrain with motive electric components sourced from Toyota, which holds 16.5-percent of Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) stock (Subaru’s parent company). The 2014-2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid was the first hybrid-electric project the two automakers undertook, but with few buyers it was cancelled after just three years.

A move to hybrids and then electric powertrains is a risky move for any automaker, with the risk even greater for small, niche brands like Subaru. The quirky brand has made a name for practical yet fun-to-drive cars and crossover SUVs powered by its unorthodox horizontally opposed “boxer” engine. While other brands like Volkswagen, with its Type 1 Beetle, Type 2 van, Type 3 and 4 sedan/coupe/wagon, and Type 14/Type 34 Karmann Ghia, or Porsche with its 911/912, 914 and 718 models, and even Ferrari with its 1973-1976 Berlinetta Boxer, 1976-1984 BB 512, 1984-1991 Testarossa, 1991-1994 512 TR and 1994-1996 F512 M), have offered this unique engine type as well, the Italian supercar maker and VW no longer do, while Porsche only provides it in its sports car range which makes up much fewer sales than its sedan and SUV lineup.

2020 Subaru Ascent
The Ascent could use a boost of electrified power.

Speaking of model lineups, the best-selling Subaru in Canada last year was the Crosstrek subcompact crossover SUV at 15,184 units, followed by the Forester compact SUV with 13,059 deliveries, the Outback mid-size five-passenger crossover with 10,972 new sales, the Impreza compact sedan and hatchback with 9,065 new buyers, the Ascent mid-size seven-passenger crossover SUV with 4,139 new sales, the WRX/STI performance sedan with 2,707 new customers, the Legacy mid-size sedan at 1,752 clients, and the BRZ compact sports coupe with 647 new sales last year. To find out more about these cars and crossover SUVs, including their trim, package and individual option pricing, plus available rebate information, financing/leasing promotions, and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, click directly on their names.

2020 Subaru Impreza
Would an Impreza Hybrid b a good competitor for Honda’s Insight or Toyota’s new Corolla Hybrid?

All of the unique models just mentioned makes it clear that retaining as much of its distinctive brand character as possible while moving into the brave new world of automotive electrification is important for Subaru, yet the horizontally opposed engine configuration will eventually have to go if it’s plans for full electrification materialize. Fortunately all-wheel drive (AWD being standard with most of its models) can stay for both its future hybrid and electric cars and SUVs.

The short-lived Crosstrek Hybrid came standard with AWD, while incorporating Toyota’s hybrid technologies and Subaru’s 2.0-litre boxer engine. This allowed it to perform and sound like other Subaru models, keeping its brand identity intact. Subaru doesn’t want badge-engineered cars in its lineup, such as the Toyota/Subaru co-developed Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S/Toyota 86, or for that matter the Yaris Sedan that was merely a Mazda2 with a Toyota front fascia and Toyota badging. Doing something similar with such a niche automaker would run the risk of diluting its hard-won brand image.

2020 Subaru Outback
An electrified Outback sounds perfect for its market base, especially if it can be plugged in.

“Although we’re using Toyota technology, we want to make hybrids that are distinctly Subaru,” commented the brand’s chief technology officer, Tetsuo Onuki, to Reuters news agency. “It’s not only about reducing CO2 emissions. We need to further improve vehicle safety and the performance of our all-wheel drive.”

While Onuki-san was clear to point out that all-wheel drive would continue as a key Subaru character trait while it adapted to hybrid and electric technologies, AWD is becoming more common with its main rivals. Nissan and Mazda recently introduced redesigned passenger cars with optional AWD (the Mazda3 now providing an AWD alternative to Subaru’s Impreza, while Nissan’s Altima now makes AWD standard in Canada and therefore becomes a key rival to Subaru’s mid-size Legacy), and even though Subaru’s trademarked “Symmetrical AWD” is believed to be more capable in inclement conditions than challengers’ AWD systems, it’s not known if its even power delivery can be achieved effectively with an electric powertrain. What’s more, AWD often comes standard with electric vehicles, so it’s quite likely the AWD traction advantage Subaru cars currently enjoy won’t be unique in 15 years, making the Japanese automaker no more unique than any other brand.

2020 Subaru WRX
How would a hybridized WRX perform? Or how about a purely electric WRX STI?

On the subject of electric vehicles, Subaru and Toyota are in the process of co-developing an electric powertrain that will result in an electric vehicle per brand sometime this decade, with additional models to follow. Subaru is saying that hybrid and fully electric models will make up 40 percent or more of its annual worldwide production by 2030, with the hybrids no longer available five or so years after that.

In today’s fast-paced world, particularly in the automotive sector, 2030 is a long way off, and of course a lot can happen with respect to battery development, advancements in other alternative fuels, progress with car/ride sharing, etcetera, as well as geopolitical concerns that are completely out of an automaker’s influence (much of which can be negative), so changes to Subaru’s plans will be more than likely.

2020 Subaru BRZ
Will there still be a BRZ around in 10 to 15 years? We hope so, or something even more exciting.

This said, the positive for Subaru is its ability to garner green accolades right now without having to take much initial action, which can make its customers feel as if their chosen brand is well on its way toward electrification, yet the ultimate target is so far off into the future that its long-term plans can be changed anytime along the way. Of course, some new hybrid models are likely within the next few years, plus at least one EV, so there is forward progress being made. 

It should be noted that Subaru isn’t alone in making such long-term electrification plans, with GM having pitched a U.S. national environmental program in 2018 designed to motivate all carmakers to make at least 25 percent of their lineups into zero-emissions vehicles; Ford introducing $11.5 billion worth of new spending toward a dozen new hybrid and EV models by 2022; Toyota, as part of its Environmental Challenge 2050 program, pledging to lower vehicle life-cycle emissions by 25 percent plus by 2030, while targeting 2050 for eliminating 100-percent of their carbon emissions; Mercedes-Benz vowing to make at least half of its passenger car lineup electric by 2030, plus achieve full carbon neutrality within the next two decades.

2020 Subaru Outback
Subaru may want to change up its Outback media photos if it’s planning an electrified version, as high-voltage and water don’t mix well.

Volvo may be vying to become the world’s greenest automaker, however, due to its commitment for half of its passenger cars to become electric by 2025, plus also make sure each cars’ life-cycle carbon footprint is reduced by 40 percent in five years time as well. It also wants the carbon output of its entire global operations (including suppliers) to be lowered by 25 percent by 2025, and finally has a plan to use a minimum of 25-percent recycled materials in its vehicle production by this very same year.

While Subaru’s plans aren’t quite as ambitious as Volvo’s, the Japanese automaker’s announcement marks a major step for such a niche automaker, and could be seen as a significant risk if electric vehicle take rates don’t improve enough to overcome investment costs.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Subaru

CarCostCanada

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
The XC90 is one of the very best luxury SUVs on the road, especially in top-tier Inscription trim.

Even though the Volvo XC90 is deep into its fourth model year, you’ll have trouble finding a more impressively detailed or more opulently appointed mid-size luxury crossover SUV. The big three-row Swede is impeccably finished, especially when upgraded to its most luxurious Inscription trim line, which is just the way it was most recently presented to me.

This was the fourth second-generation XC90 I’ve tested, and the second Inscription model, the other two in sportier R-Design trim. Of these, two were equipped with the 316 horsepower mid-range powertrain and the other two matched up with the considerably more motivating 400 horsepower plug-in hybrid configuration. This said, I hadn’t driven the less potent drivetrain since 2016, when this model was completely overhauled with an all-new LED headlight-infused, ultra-clean design language plus a level of bejeweled luxury Volvo had never ventured into. The result was an automaker pulled back from near death (before its August, 2010 takeover by Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China-based Zhejiang Geely Holding Group), to one of relative financial health.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
Stylish from all angles, it’s no wonder the XC90 sells so well.

Volvo’s Canadian sales more than doubled in the final quarter of 2015 when the 2016 XC90 arrived, from 10,964 vehicles during October, November and December 2014 to 22,507 cars and SUVs in Q4 of 2015, while the XC90’s deliveries jumped from 427 examples in calendar year 2014 to a total of 957 throughout 2015 and a phenomenal 2,951 in 2016. Amazingly, after a slight pullback in 2017 the growth continued with 3,059 XC90 sales in calendar year 2018, making the brand’s largest vehicle its most popular last year.

Interestingly, the new second-gen XC90 has found more Canadian luxury buyers each year than the XC60, and yes I’m talking about the totally new, wholly redesigned second-generation XC60 that went into production in March of 2017. The smaller five-passenger compact luxury SUV had consistently outsold Volvo’s much bigger three-row mid-size crossover before both models’ remakes, which is in-line with what most brands experience due to the affordability of the smaller SUVs.

The phenomenon is made even more unusual when factoring in that the new XC60 comes closer to matching the XC90’s high-level materials quality, overall refinement, superb digital interfaces, and varied choice of powertrains than any competitive brand, and that opting for the lesser model would actually leave about $13k in the pockets of would-be purchasers at the lowest end of both cars’ trim lines, and nearly $12k for top-tier Inscription T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid models.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
All XC90s feature standard LED headlamps.

Why would this occur? Volvo knows its customers better than I, and their marketing department hasn’t shared anything specific to this issue, but it seems as if its Canadian base prefers larger, more substantive, pricier vehicles, which should certainly have everyone at the company’s Richmond Hill, Ontario headquarters smiling, not to mention its growing retailer base.

While not the largest in its segment, the XC90 is clearly a mid-size three-row luxury crossover SUV. It measures 4,950 mm (194.9 inches) from nose to tail, with a 2,984-mm (117.5-inch) wheelbase, plus it’s 2,140 mm (84.3 inches) from side-to-side, including its exterior mirrors, while it’s 1,775 mm (69.9 inches) from the base of its tires to the top of its roof rails. It also provides a sizeable 237 mm (9.3 inches) of ground clearance, which certainly doesn’t hurt when trudging through deep snow.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
The XC90 Inscription’s interior is stunning, particularly its high-quality materials and fine attention to fit and finish.

The XC90’s generous dimensions make it more than just roomy inside. I first learned this when climbing inside the 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD R-Design noted earlier, and confirmed it fully during a road trip in the 2017 XC90 T8 Twin Engine eAWD Inscription. My partner and I left Vancouver, drove up, over and down the Coquihalla Highway, and then up, over and down the 97C connector to Kelowna, BC during a wonderfully warm autumn in 2016, and while only two of us enjoyed this weekend getaway we carried a reasonable amount of cargo (including late season Okanagan fruit, preserves and wine) in the XC90’s 1,183-litre (41.8 cubic-foot) cargo hold, the volume available after dropping the third row into the floor.

If I owned an XC90 (or any three-row SUV) this is how I’d leave the seats set up most of the time, as the kids are now grown and have no need the third row. Yes it would be a shame to waste those nicely shaped individual bucket seats, each of which can easily accommodate my five-foot-eight, medium-build frame quite comfortably, making me wish Volvo configured it as a less expensive two-row model with additional under-floor storage, but no such luck.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
A fully digital instrument cluster comes standard.

As it is, the XC90 gets a decently sized 447-litre (15.8 cubic-foot) dedicated cargo hold aft of the third row, which expands to 2,427 litres (85.6 cubic feet) when both rear rows are laid flat. Even better, its second row can be folded in thirds so rear passengers can enjoy the more comfortable, optionally heated window seats while skis or other types of long items are loaded in between. I wish Volvo had added a pass-through for the third row as well, but that’s probably asking too much. As it is, the XC90 is one of the more flexible luxury SUVs from a passenger/cargo perspective.

As it has throughout its four-year tenure, the 2019 XC90 can be had in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trims, the base model starting at $59,750 (plus freight and fees), the mid-range model beginning at $69,800, and top-line available from $71,450. Speaking of threes, this model also lets you choose from all of the brand’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder power units, starting with the T5 AWD that’s only available in Momentum trim and simply uses a turbocharger to produce 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Above this is the T6 AWD in my tester that adds a supercharger to the mix for a total of 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while at the top of the Volvo heap is the T8 eAWD “Twin Engine” hybrid system that combines a 60-kW electric motor and externally charge-able plug-in battery for a maximum of 400 net horsepower and 472 net lb-ft of torque.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
Volvo’s tablet-style Sensus infotainment touchscreen is award-winning.

As for pricing, moving up to the T6 in Momentum trim will add $4,250 to the bottom line, while the Momentum T8 adds another $10,950. Alternatively you’ll be charged $12,650 in either R-Design or Inscription trims when moving from T6 to T8 power units, although take note you can save up to $5,000 in additional 2019 XC90 incentives right now by visiting the 2019 Volvo XC90 Canada Prices page right here at CarCostCanada, where you’ll also be able to get all the pricing details about trims, packages and individual options, plus manufacturer rebate information and otherwise difficult to find dealer invoice prices.

Along with standard all-wheel drive (as noted by all the “AWD” designations in the trim names), each XC90 powertrain comes mated up to an efficient eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with auto start/stop that automatically shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, and restarts it when lifting your foot from the brake pedal. Obviously that autobox is set up differently in conventionally powered models to the hybrid, but the driveline is even more unique in when factoring in eAWD, which leaves the internal combustion engine to power the front wheels and aforementioned electric motor to rotate those in back.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
This Inscription model’s woodwork is second to none.

Unlike early hybrid systems, the XC90’s T8 powertrain can also be driven solely on electric power at regular speeds, although with about 30 kilometres of EV range available you’ll probably need to rely on its gasoline-fed engine for supplemental energy when the battery drains, unless your commutes and/or errand runs cover short distances with as little highway driving as possible. Nevertheless, if you manage to keep your enthusiasm bridled and not dig into all of its 400 horsepower, the XC90 T8’s claimed 10.1 L/100km city, 8.8 highway and 9.5 fuel economy rating makes it one of the thriftiest SUVs in its class. Alternatively, the conventionally powered T5 and T6 powertrains are good for 11.3 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway and 10.0 combined for the former and 12.1 city, 8.9 highway and 10.7 combined for the latter, which are very impressive as well.

Yes, my T6 tester was the least efficient XC90, but compared to Lexus’ conventionally powered three-row RX 350 L it’s an absolute fuel miser, the Japanese luxury utility good for 11.1 L/100km combined. Then again Lexus makes a hybrid version that’s stingier than the XC90 T8, eking by at just 8.1 combined, while Acura’s regular MDX is rated at 10.8 L/100km combined and its hybrid at 9.0 in a mix of city/highway driving.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
Automotive jewelry? Volvo supplies some dazzling details.

Amazingly these are the only electrified models in the mid-size, three-row luxury segment, but the XC90 T6’s efficiency still improves on Infiniti’s QX60 (10.9 combined), Audi’s Q7 (11.0 combined), Buick’s Enclave (11.9), Mercedes-Benz’s GLS (13.2), BMW’s X7 (10.8), Land Rover’s gasoline-powered Discovery (13.0), the 2020 Cadillac XT6 (11.5), and the 2020 Lincoln Aviator (11.6), with the only non-hybrid vehicle to beat it in this class being the just-noted Discovery when mated up to its turbo-diesel, a rare beast these days, yet capable of 10.4 L/100km combined city/highway.

I know for a fact the XC90 T6 is much quicker off the line than that Disco oil burner, however, not to mention most other entry-level models on this list (I used base models when comparing fuel economy numbers), while there’s absolutely no contest when comparing acceleration between hybrids. Truly, put your foot into the XC90 T6 AWD’s throttle and it’s hard to believe there’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder mill pushing and pulling this big SUV forward, the little turbocharged, supercharged and direct-injected mill needing just 6.5 seconds to zip from standstill to 100 km/h. That makes the T6 1.4 seconds quicker to 100 km/h than the base T5 that crosses the same time line in 7.9 seconds, plus it’s less than a second (0.9) slower than the T8 that blasts the hefty Volvo from zero to 100km/h in a mere 5.6 seconds.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
The XC90’s front seats are superb.

The T6 AWD doesn’t only look fast by the numbers, it feels even quicker when sprinting away from a stoplight or passing on the highway, while it also does a good job of hustling through corners. I’m not going to go so far as to say it can out-manoeuvre one of the aforementioned Germans on a tight, circuitous test track, but it’ll easily run rings around most of the others while delivering one of the smoothest, most compliant rides in its category, combined with one of the best driver’s seats in the business.

Before falling into the trap of listing out every single XC90 feature Volvo offers (click through to my 2018 XC90 R-Design review for this info, as I cover all trims and the 2019 model hasn’t notably changed), let’s just say Volvo’s mid-size SUV provides a good value proposition, especially when factoring in the superbly crafted interior I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Truly, the XC90 Inscription gets one of most luxuriously appointed cabins available south of a Bentley Bentayga, and to be honest, much of the Swedish utility’s switchgear is made from denser (and therefore higher quality) composites than the big British ute, whereas every one of the XC90’s digital displays is beyond compare (I should mention here that Bentley will update the Bentayga with much-needed new infotainment for 2020).

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
Even adults can fit into the very back.

In front of the XC90’s driver is a completely digital gauge package capable of adding navigation mapping/route guidance to its centre multi-information section, where it can also house most of the infotainment system’s other functions, as well as the usual trip, fuel economy, etcetera info. Volvo’s award-winning Sensus infotainment system sits on the centre stack, its vertical, tablet-style touchscreen one of my favourites to use and its feature set replete with everything found in rival systems. Its overhead camera provides incredible detail, climate control interface some of the coolest temperature setting sliders around, and other functions right at the top of this segment, while its audio panel connected through to a sensational sounding $3,250 optional Bowers & Wilkins stereo featuring 1,400 watts of power and 19 speakers.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test
The 30/30/30-split second row makes the XC90 highly flexible for passengers and cargo.

That upgraded stereo boasts a beautiful set of drilled aluminum speaker grilles on each door, plus a small circular tweeter atop the dash, but you’ll need to look back to the photo gallery for my 2018 XC90 tester to see what was missing, a stunning Orrefors crystal and polished metal shift knob. Remember I said that nothing below a Bentley comes close to this XC90? You really need to see and feel the gorgeous diamond-patterned metal edges of the rotating multi-function centre stack controller first-hand to appreciate how exquisitely crafted it is, or for that matter twist the similarly ornate lower console-mounted engine start/stop switch and cylinder-shaped scrolling drive mode selector, while the matte-finish hardwood found on the scrolling bin lids that surround the just-noted switchgear and shifter, plus the instrument panel and doors, is otherworldly. It’s difficult to argue against my Inscription trimmed tester’s contrast-stitched padded leather upholstery either, which can be found on nearly every other surface that’s not already covered in high-quality pliable composite materials. I’m not saying Volvo’s competitors don’t do a good job of detailing out their mid-size SUVs’ interiors, it’s just that the XC90 provides such a rare sense of occasion that few of its rivals can measure up.

Therefore, the next time a Volvo XC90 pulls up beside you, maybe nod with the same level of reverence shown to a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Bentley Bentayga or Range Rover Autobiography, because it’s providing a similar level of opulent luxury while going much further to mitigate fossil fuel consumption and reduce emissions. That it can be had for a five-figure sum shows that its owners are pretty savvy too, which might be worth even greater respect.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

Porsche rings in first decade of Panamera availability with new 10 Years Edition

2020 Porsche Panamera 10 Years Edition
Sensational looking gold on black 10 Years Edition can be had in other body colours too. (Photo: Porsche)

Take a look at your phone, or maybe your partner’s. Is it rimmed in gold? The colour of royalty, jewellery and all things decadent was a bit out of fashion for the past few decades, with most watches and trinkets finished in platinum, white gold, silver or (ahem) stainless steel, but more recently gold has made a comeback, now blinging up our electronic devices, accessories and even our cars.

Thoughts of glittering gold adorned Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz coupes and convertibles might be a painful a memory for some, so don’t worry, the new 2020 Porsche Panamera 10 Years Edition, which celebrates a full decade of the four-door coupe’s production, uses a softer hue dubbed White Gold Metallic that’s tastefully applied to the 21-inch Panamera Sport Design alloy wheels as well as a special “Panamera10” insignia painted onto the front doors, while simultaneously getting etched into the door treadplates and inlaid within the instrument panel inside.

2020 Porsche Panamera 10 Years Edition
Exclusive “White Gold Metallic” painted 21-inch alloys and “Panamera10″ logos enhance exterior styling. (Photo: Porsche)

A number of global markets will be offering the new Panamera 10 Years Edition package for the Sport Turismo body style, but Porsche Canada will only make the stylish new upgrade available with its regular four-door design, particularly with its base Panamera, all-wheel drive Panamera 4, and electrified Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. This said Porsche is only providing prices for the latter two trims, with the Panamera 4 10 Years Edition beginning at $122,000 plus freight and fees, which is a $17,400 increase when compared to the regular Panamera 4, and the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid 10 Years Edition that starts at $132,700, a $14,900 increase over the regular base 4 E-Hybrid.

2020 Porsche Panamera 10 Years Edition
The 10 Years Edition interior is all black other than for gold contrast stitching. (Photo: Porsche)

While the cars in Porsche’s launch photos are black, all the usual standard and optional Panamera 4 and 4 E-Hybrid colours are available with the 10 Years Edition, while the same can be said for the interior, although you may want to stay with the unique model’s black cabin with contrasting White Gold stitching, as you’ll be forced to pay more for alternative two-tone colourways.

2020 Porsche Panamera 10 Years Edition
Elegant “Panamera10″ script adorns the instrument panel. (Photo: Porsche)

You can learn more about 2020 Panamera 10 Years Edition packages, options and pricing right here on CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about any available rebates and otherwise difficult to find dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.

Standard Panamera 4 10 Years Edition features that haven’t been mentioned yet include LED matrix headlamps, ParkAssist with Surround View, Lane Change Assist with Lane Keep Assist (LKA), 14-way comfort seats featuring Porsche crests on their headrests, soft-close doors, plus Bose surround-sound audio, while standard performance features include Porsche’s adaptive three-chamber air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and Power Steering Plus. Those choosing the hybrid will also benefit from a more capable 7.2-kW on-board charger instead of the usual base 3.6-kW charge system.

2020 Porsche Panamera 10 Years Edition
The special edition gets the “Panamera10″ logo on the doorsills too. (Photo: Porsche)

The Panamera 4 10 Years Edition also comes standard with Porsche’s 3.0-litre turbo-V6 engine that makes 330 horsepower, whereas the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid 10 Years Edition joins a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 up with an electric motor for a combined total of 457 horsepower.

The first examples of the Panamera 10 Years Edition should start arriving at Canadian Porsche dealerships during the first quarter of 2020, so be sure to call to your local Porsche retailer to learn more.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

Porsche introduces affordable new Taycan 4S

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
New 4S trim brings the new 2020 Taycan down to a more palatable level of affordability. (Photo: Porsche)

Porsche revealed two final production Taycan EVs last month, but without doubt some potential buyers found the Turbo and Turbo S models’ respective $173,900 and $213,900 price tags a bit too rich for their budgets. Of course, the Stuttgart, Germany-based performance brand promised more affordable versions to follow, and therefore the $119,400 Taycan 4S is upon us. Priced much closer to the $108,990 base Tesla Model S, this is the EV “volume” model Porsche needs.

So what does the $55k (or $95k) buy you? Performance. Wheels aside there’s no obvious difference to exterior or interior design, or materials quality for that matter, but in place of the Taycan Turbo’s 671 horsepower, 627 lb-ft of torque, and launch control-assisted 3.2-second run to 100 km/h sprint from standstill to 100 km/h, or the Turbo S model’s even more outrageous 750 horsepower, 774 lb-ft of torque, and 2.8-second second run to 100 km/h, the new 4S uses makes due with “just” 522 horsepower, 472 lb-ft of torque and a 4.0-second dash to the 100-km/h mark.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
Great looking and brilliantly quick, the new Taycan 4S should be a popular EV. (Photo: Porsche)

A Performance Battery Plus package is available, boosting output to 562 horsepower and torque to 479 lb-ft for a nominal difference in naught to 100 km/h sprints (although Porsche rates it at 4.0 seconds as well), yet this upgraded Taycan 4S’ shoots from standstill to 160 km/h in a scant 8.5 seconds instead of dawdling along at just 8.7 seconds. Both 4S power units limit the Taycan’s terminal velocity to 250 km/h, which incidentally is 30 km/h less speedy than the Turbo or Turbo S.

Under the Taycan 4S floorboards are 79.2 kilowatt-hours of high-voltage lithium-ion battery capable of 407 km (253 miles) of estimated range, as per the European WLTP rating system, while the enhanced 93.4-kWh Performance Plus battery provides about 463 km (288 miles) of range. This compares well with next to the Taycan Turbo’s 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) claimed range and the Turbo S’ 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 mile) estimates.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
These unique LED headlights set the Taycan apart. (Photo: Porsche)

No matter the trim, the Taycan uses an industry-first 800-volt electrical architecture that makes for faster recharging due to a charge-rate of 225 kW with the Performance Battery or 270 kW for the upgraded Performance Battery Plus, making 22.5-minute 5-to-80-percent refills possible with all power unit specs. Regular 400-volt high-speed DC recharging happens at 50 kW, but an available booster can increase the charge-rate to 150 kW. You can also use the standard AC charge system at any J1772-compatible charging station, or plug it in at in at home, but charging times will be considerably longer.

Topping the Taycan up is made easier via Porsche’s new Charging Planner, which allows you to plot your route by mapping out ideal charging stations along the way. For instance, it will choose a quicker 270-kW station that can save you time when compared to a regular 50-kW DC charger, even if the quicker charger necessitates a detour from the shortest route. The Charging Planner also preconditions the battery to 20 degrees Celsius, which is best for the fastest possible charge-rate.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The singular body-wide tail lamp is standard fare on Porsches these days. (Photo: Porsche)

Like the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S, the new 4S incorporates an all-wheel drivetrain featuring front and back axle-mounted permanently excited synchronous motors plus a two-speed transmission in the rear. Additionally, Porsche’s centrally networked 4D Chassis Control system provides real-time analysis and synchronization for the Taycan’s standard electronic damper control Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) enhanced three-chamber adaptive air suspension, which should result in impressive road-holding capability.

What’s more, Taycan customers should enjoy improvements in reliability over Tesla Model S owners, thanks to Porsche designing a completely new hairpin winding technique for the electric motor stators’ copper solenoid coils, this allowing for a copper fill factor of 70 percent compared to 45 percent when wound using the conventional method, all of which results in stronger performance and less heat.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The Taycan is family friendly thanks to four doors. (Photo: Porsche)

Monitoring the Taycan’s mobility status is a wholly digital primary gauge cluster filled with colourful high-resolution graphics and integrated within a free-standing, curved binnacle that pulls styling cues from the brand’s legendary 911. Just to the right, the Taycan 4S’ standard 10.9-inch high-definition capacitive infotainment touchscreen sits atop the centre stack. Most will also want the optional front passenger display that was introduced last month with the Taycan Turbo and Turbo S, this innovative addition extending the graphical experience across the rest of the instrument panel.

Features in mind, the Taycan 4S receives standard Black or White exterior paint, a unique front fascia design, a glossy black painted rear diffuser and side skirts, LED headlamps with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS Plus), 19-inch five-spoke Taycan S Aero alloys, red-painted six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers (instead of the yellow-painted calipers found on the two Turbo models) biting down on 360-mm front and 358-mm rear discs, regenerative brakes (with a maximum regenerative force of 0.39 Gs and recuperation of up to 265 kWh), proximity keyless entry, ambient interior lighting, partial leather upholstery, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s side memory and more, but take note this base model won’t go into production until June, 2020. Before then, the $1,690 panoramic glass sunroof replaces the standard aluminum roof, while the optional Porsche Mobile Charger Plus isn’t available yet either, which leaves the standard Porsche Mobile Charger Connect system for early adapters.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S
The Taycan 4S comes well equipped. (Photo: Porsche)

Available Taycan 4S options include a bevy of $910 metallic exterior colours, including the Taycan’s Frozen Blue launch colour shown in the photos, plus bright Mamba Green and deep Gentian Blue, as well as one $3,590 special colour, Carmine Red. Additionally, Porsche is offering two sets of optional 20-inch alloys and three 21-inch wheels, all ranging from $2,710 to $10,010, while the car’s black partial leather cabin can be upgraded to $4,710 black or multiple $5,360 two-tone leather, $7,490 solid or $8,150 two-tone Club leather, or alternatively $4,710 solid or $5,360 two-tone leather-free Race-Tex, the latter Porsche-first incorporating recycled materials that reduce the Taycan’s impact on the environmental.

The new Porsche should be near silent at speed too, due to an amazing Cd of 0.22, plus this ultra-aerodynamic design also minimizes energy use.

Porschephiles wanting a taller SUV model instead of this road-hugging four-door coupe will be glad to know that a crossover coupe dubbed Cross Turismo is on the way next year. It’s designed to go up against the Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla Model X and whatever else comes down the pike by then, so we can all look forward to that.

You can order the new 2020 Taycan 4S right now, however, just like its Turbo siblings, while its arrival date is set for summer 2020.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Porsche

CarCostCanada

The new Porsche Taycan is finally here and its top-line 750-hp Turbo S is awesome

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The 2020 Taycan Turbo S redefines electrified performance. (Photo: Porsche)

Not many cars have been as enthusiastically anticipated as the new Porsche Taycan, and now production model has finally arrived at the 2019 IAA in Frankfurt, Germany. 

To say that it’s powerful seems as bizarrely understated as merely calling it quick. Take a deep breath and then consider that its most formidable variant makes an outrageous 750 horsepower and even more mind-blowing 774 lb-ft of torque, its collective force allowing for a 2.8-second blast from zero to 100 km/h. 

Such performance is nothing new to Tesla aficionados, the California brand’s Model S P100D good for a 0 to 100 km/h run of only 2.6 seconds, but how it achieves that feat with just 613 horsepower and 686 lb-ft of torque available is beyond me (although the fact that its heaviest curb weight of 2,250 kg/4,960 lbs is lower than the Taycan’s 2,295-kg/5,059-lb unladen weight probably has something to do with it). Then again, Porsche has a tendency to understate performance specifications; this brewing up to be an epic drag race that every credible cable and YouTube automotive show will be covering. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The Taycan sports a stunning new design that will influence future Porsche models for years to come. (Photo: Porsche)

This said, Porsche’s faithful care more going fast around corners than merely burning up the asphalt in a straight line. To prove the Taycan’s dominance through tight twisting curves, Porsche took a pre-series example to the legendary Nürburgring-Nordschleife racetrack and quickly set an EV lap-record of 7:42 minutes, which just so happened to obliterate the last Tesla Model S P85D’s 8:50 lap time by over a minute. A minute off the pace around any racetrack is downright embarrassing, making us willing to bet that Tesla will soon show up in Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate with its more recently introduced P100D, plus a complete crew and an experienced driver. 

In Tesla’s corner is price, because any 2020 Taycan Turbo is much more expensive than even a fully featured Model S P100D. The 2020 Taycan Turbo, which makes 671 maximum horsepower in launch mode, 627 lb-ft of torque, and can achieve a 3.2-second run from zero to 100 km/h, is now ready to order for $173,900 plus freight, whereas the new top-tier Taycan Turbo S is available from $213,900. Making matters more interesting, these two models aren’t even fully loaded, with Porsche’s many pricey options capable of driving its price up and over $250,000, which is a range normally associated with Aston Martin Rapides, Bentley Flying Spurs and Rolls-Royce Ghosts (ok, maybe a used R-R). 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
While straight-line acceleration is important in this class, the Taycan’s forte is high-speed control around corners. (Photo: Porsche)

None of the super sedans above are capable of completing the 100-yard dash as quickly or scaling a mountain pass with the level of fleet finesse as a Taycan, however, while none will get the job done without chugging down a tanker’s full of premium unleaded gasoline. Back to electrics, a new 2019 Model S can be had for a comparatively bargain basement $108,990, while its sportier Performance trim line will set you back a mere $134,990 before creeping up to $155k when all options are added. Still, that seems like chump change next to a Taycan Turbo or Turbo S. 

If you’re starting to feel like Porsche has forgotten simpler folk that can barely afford anything into six figures, we can take a little comfort in knowing that these super-fast Turbo variants (in name only, as there are no turbos at play) are merely being introduced first for their jaw-dropping wow factor. Later this year additional less powerful trims will be added to bring the price down from their current cirrus-pheric levels to mere stratospheric realms, but the upcoming Cross Turismo crossover coupe, which will directly take on Jaguar’s I-Pace toward the end of 2020, will no doubt have a full range of more and less accessible window stickers. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The new Taycan’s interior looks very inviting. (Photo: Porsche)

While performance matters, styling will probably play a bigger role in consumer choices when opting for either the Taycan or Model S. The new Porsche is completely new and inarguably good looking, whereas the Model S has been in production for seven years with very few changes. Fit, finish and interior refinement isn’t exactly a Model S strong point either, but expect only the industry’s best materials and workmanship within the new Porsche, while Stuttgart’s various on-board electronic systems are as good as digital displays get. 

To that end the Taycan includes a fully digital pod-like gauge cluster that appears to float on its own behind the steering wheel. The black background of its classic Porsche curved oval area gets filled with colourful high-definition graphics that should appeal to both experienced EV users as well as long-time Porsche owners, while the two touchscreens that span the centre and right-side of the dash, the second display in front of the passenger, and the third capacitive touchscreen atop the sloped centre console (a la Range Rover), are digital eye candy and ideal for optimal control of the car’s myriad functions. 

One of those screens no doubt includes animated power-flow graphics that show a permanent-magnet synchronous motor powering each axle, combining for the previously noted output numbers depending on the model chosen, although it should be noted that both make 616 horsepower when not in launch mode. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The fully digital gauge cluster takes its overall oval shape from classic Porsche models. (Photo: Porsche)

With that overboost setting switched back on, the slower of the two Taycan models can launch from standstill to 200 km/h in a scant 10.6 seconds, while this car’s standing quarter mile arrives in just 11.1 seconds. Do the same with the more formidable Turbo S and the 200-km/h mark arrives in just 9.8 seconds, while the quarter mile zips past in only 10.8. Both trims top out at 280 km/h (161 mph), an electronically limited top speed. 

To achieve such performance the new Porsche incorporates some ultra-sophisticated tech, such as a single-speed front transmission and a larger two-speed rear gearbox. The latter transmission incorporates one gear for acceleration and another taller one for higher speed cruising. It chooses between rear gear sets automatically by monitoring a driver’s style, but it can also be done manually by selecting one of five drive modes. Just like it sounds, Range mode optimizes efficiency and therefore employs the taller second gear as often as possible while temporarily shutting down the front motor, whereas Normal mode makes the second gear the priority, yet uses the first gear a bit more. Sport mode, on the other hand, prioritizes first gear up to about 90 to 100 km/h, although it shifts to the second gear whenever throttle pressure is eased, and then goes back to first when needed. The Taycan also includes Sport Plus and Individual driving modes. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Taycan infotainment is divided between three touchscreens, two across the top and one on the lower console. (Photo: Porsche)

Anyone who’s owned a Tesla knows about overheating, the Model S notorious for it, especially when trying to execute consecutive full-power standing starts. Rather than grandfather this problem onto new Taycan buyers, Porsche has designed cooler running electric motors that feature a special hairpin winding technique to the stators’ copper solenoid coils. The result is a copper fill factor of 70 percent compared to 45 percent when those coils are wound the traditional way, giving the Taycan better more reliable performance. 

In order to prove its point, Porsche endurance-tested the new Taycan in ultra-hot climates (of 42°C with a track temperature of nearly 54°C). A pre-production model circled Italy’s high-banked Nardò Ring oval racetrack at speeds ranging between 195 and 215 km/h for 24 hours straight, the marathon including six test drivers covering 3,425 km (2,128 m). Following up this punishing test program was another test that saw the new Porsche undergo 26 back-to-back launches from standstill to 200 km/h of less than 10 seconds each, with an average of 0.8 seconds variance between fastest and slowest acceleration times. Then we have the Nürburgring event noted earlier, with performance that should completely set the Taycan apart from the Model S. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
The four-place interior appears plenty practical. (Photo: Porsche)

Below the floorboards of both Taycan Turbo models is a 93.4-kilowatt-hour high-voltage lithium-ion battery sourced from LG, with enough stored energy to drive for 381 to 450 km (237 to 280 miles) based on the European WLTP rating system. The more quicker Turbo S also offers more range, its expected distance from fully topped up to near empty being 388 to 412 km (241 to 256 miles). 

Making all this happen is an industry-first 800-volt electrical architecture, this also providing for faster recharging when an appropriate 270-kW charge station can be found (or installed in your home). How fast can it be refilled? How does five to 80 percent in just 22.5 minutes sound? Sure that’s a long wait for those used to filling up at a gas station, but anyone familiar with an electric car will know this is incredibly quick. 

Porsche’s Charging Planner makes the process of charging even easier, or at least can maximize one’s efficiency when traveling. For instance, when it charts a given route it factors in the best places to recharge along the way, even if it driving a bit farther out of the way for a quicker 270-kW charge station (which will save a lot of time over a regular 50-kW DC charger) is needed. What’s more, the Charging Planner will precondition the battery to 20°C for faster recharging. 

2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Its 800-volt architecture means a 270-kW charger can fill its battery from 5 to 80 percent in just 22.5 minutes. (Photo: Porsche)

As noted earlier, the new 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo and Turbo S are now available to build and order from Porsche Canada’s retail website, or you can place an order through your neighbourhood Porsche dealer, but you’ll want to act quickly if being amongst the first in your city to own one matters. This is the first electric car ever capable of truly taking on Tesla’s quickest Model S, making it about as important as any EV built within the last seven years. 

And while waiting to take delivery of your new Taycan, or simply hoping for those lottery ticket numbers to match the bouncing balls on TV, enjoy the complete album of gallery photos above and generous supply of Porsche-sourced videos below: 

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann  

Photo credits: Porsche

World Premiere Porsche Taycan (40:33):

 

The new Porsche Taycan – Designed to enliven (1:28):

 

The fully electric Porsche Taycan accelerates 0-90-0 mph on the USS Hornet (0:59):

 

Onboard Lap – Porsche Taycan Sets a Record at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (8:09):

 

New Porsche Taycan sets a record at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (0:58):

 

Taycan Prototype Convinces at Endurance Run in Nardò (0:57):

 

The new electric Porsche Taycan proves its repeatability of power before upcoming World Premiere (1:05):

 

A thank you to electricity: The Porsche Taycan (0:45):

 

CarCostCanada

Sensational EXP 100 GT Concept provides hint at future Bentley coupe

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
After seeing the EXP 100 GT Concept, most Bentley enthusiasts should feel comforted knowing the illustrious brand is in good hands. (Photo: Bentley)

It hasn’t been all that long since Bentley launched its latest third-generation Continental GT, but they’re already showing us what’s possibly in store for the not too distant future. 

The new EXP 100 GT Concept “reimagines the Grand Tourer for the world of 2035,” states Bentley in a press release, the swoopy new design exercise boasting a large grille surrounded by big circular headlights, a long elegant hood, a two-door coupe body style with a sweptback roofline, much like the current Continental GT, but the prototype’s grille is illuminated almost as brightly as the dazzling headlamps, its eye-shaped taillights are reminiscent of today’s GT albeit much larger and detailed in OLEDs, and its hind end protrudes much farther rearward than anything we’ve seen from Bentley since the 1950s-era R-Type Continental. 

Today’s Continental GT uses a lot of aluminum highlighted with carbon-fibre in some trims, but the EXP 100 GT is mostly carbon-fibre and aluminum, while its uniquely sculpted body panels come coated in “paint made from recycled rice husks,” adds Bentley. It no doubt takes a lot of rice husks to cover 5.8 metres (19.0 feet) of car, not to mention 2.4 metres (7.9 feet) from side-to-side, but Bentley wasn’t about to make a small statement as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Swoopy enough for you? The EXP 100 GT has ultra-long rear overhangs. (Photo: Bentley)

Hence the “100” in the EXP 100 GT’s name, the automaker having come to life in North London during 1919. 

“Today, on our Centenary, we demonstrate our vision of the future of our Marque, with the Bentley EXP 100 GT – a modern and definitive Grand Tourer designed to demonstrate that the future of luxury mobility is as inspirational and aspirational as the last 100 years,” said Bentley Chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark. “Bentley has, and will continue to enhance and enrich every single journey and the lives of every single person who travels in, or has the honour to be a part of creating our extraordinary products.” 

As visually captivating as the EXP 100 GT is, there’s a lot more going on than just dramatic styling. Indeed, it represents much of the advanced ideas and ideals that Bentley hopes for its future. The car is all-electric, expected of future-think concept cars these days, although instead of the usual single battery and one or two electric motor combination the EXP 100 GT’s “Next Generation Traction Drive” system mounts a single electric motor in each of its four wheels, which provide electronic torque vectoring while combining for an astounding 1,100 pound-feet of torque (1,500 Nm). 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
The eye-like taillights are similar in shape to the current Continental GT’s, but they’re larger and made from OLEDs. (Photo: Bentley)

Bentley claims standstill to 100km/h in “less than 2.5 seconds,” which is shockingly quick when factoring in just how big this car is. Some of this can be attributed to a relatively light curb weight of only 1,900 kg (4,189 lbs), which is a lot less than today’s Continental GT that hits the scales at 2,244 kg (4,947 lbs), much thanks to previously noted lightweight materials usage, while Bentley projects a maximum range of 700 km (435 miles), which would presuppose it wasn’t cruising at its 300 km/h (186 mph) top speed. 

This impressive range and performance is due to “future battery technology” with “intelligent power and charge management,” says Bentley, which will provide “five times the conventional energy density,” thus recharging the battery from near empty to 80 percent in just 15 minutes. Incidentally, optimal charging gets taken care of automatically by the Bentley Personal Assistant, a bit of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) tech that acts like a personal valet for all EXP 100 GT occupants. 

“The Bentley EXP 100 GT represents the kind of cars we want to make in the future,” commented Stefan Sielaff, Director of Design. “Like those iconic Bentleys of the past, this car connects with its passengers’ emotions and helps them experience and safeguard the memories of the really extraordinary journeys they take.” 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
This advanced roof emits natural and synthesized light. (Photo: Bentley)

Another high-tech advancement promised in the EXP 100 GT is autonomous self-driving ability, transforming this driver’s car into a commuter’s dream. It’s cabin is just as pampering as any current Bentley offerings, with amply sized seats for two or four, plus all the leather, fabrics, glass, wood and metal expected from one of the most luxurious brands the world has to offer. 

This said, while Bridge of Weir once again provides the EXP 100 GT’s hides, they’re an alternative material made from 100-percent bio-based winemaking byproducts, whereas the embroidered door panels are recyclable too, and made by UK-based Hand and Lock employing “traditional techniques that date back to 1767 and are used on Royal and Military Dress uniforms.” What’s more, the car’s interfaces aren’t covered in glass, but rather Cumbrian crystal, while 5,000-year-old peat bog-, lake- and river-sourced Copper Infused Riverwood is used for the interior’s trim, along with real aluminum and copper, this last combo apparently paying homage to an alloy developed by W.O. Bentley for the BR1 Aero engine piston, which played a major aeronautical role during World War 1. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
This gorgeous interior is filled with unusual sustainable materials. (Photo: Bentley)

The mostly clear rooftop seen in photos is used for naturally harvested light, but the innovative roof also synthesizes light via “prisms that collect light and transfer it into the cabin using fibre optics.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll want to remove your shoes and socks just to wiggle your toes within the deep British Farmed Wool carpets, while embroidered cotton interior surfaces add to the recycled and recyclable atmosphere, making the EXP 100 GT a rolling test bed of sustainability. 

Additional tech includes seats that incorporate intelligent, adaptable three-way biometrics, with positions that depend on whether you’re doing the driving or being driven. Yet more biometric sensors monitor the automatic climate control system as well, plus the passengers’ positions, and the exterior environment’s conditions before providing ultimate comfort, while additional biometric sensors are embedded throughout the cabin in order to track eye and head movements, blood pressures, etcetera in order to deliver a level of in-car comfort that far exceeds anything Bentley, or anyone else, currently offers. The cabin is even capable of automatically aerating its atmosphere with a sandalwood and moss fragrance. 

2019 Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept
Synthetic leather made from winemaking byproducts? We’ll drink to that (although not while driving). (Photo: Bentley)

Whether we’ll be able to experience this particular Bentley coupe by 2035 or not can’t be known outside of Bentley’s inner circle, but we should remember that automaker’s have to plan their upcoming models decades into the future, so something quite similar may be in the books. 

The EXP 100 GT is certainly a vision of distinctive beauty that should be welcomed by car enthusiasts of any era, and is much truer to Bentley’s brand heritage than the kind of electrified, autonomous, monobox SUV/MPV-thingy they’re more likely to offer in 15 years’ time. Until we find out what’s actually coming down the line, make sure to check out our complete gallery above and nice collection of videos below. 

Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept Car Reveal Highlights | Bentley (0:49):

 

Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept car reveal Livestream | Bentley (28:49):

 

The Bentley EXP 100 GT: The Future of Grand Touring | Bentley (2:52):

 

24 Hours to go before Bentley reveals the Future of Grand Touring | Bentley (0:41):

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann 

Photo credits: Bentley

CarCostCanada

Nissan increases Leaf base price by $3,300 and adds improved Leaf Plus model

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The new 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus improves range by up to 50 percent, and straight-line performance by 13 percent. (Photo: Nissan)

What’s the best-selling electric car of all time? That’s actually a pretty cut and dry question, but nevertheless it gets debated more often than it should be. 

Some point to Tesla that’s made massive inroads into the EV market in recent years, but while the brand has racked up plenty of overall sales, no individual model has yet come out on top. Since the first Tesla Roadster went on sale in 2012 and calendar year 2018 came to a close on December 31, the U.S. all-electric brand had sold an approximate total of 532,000 units, which far and away makes it the most successful electric car producer, but despite reportedly receiving 325,000 reservations of the Model 3 after only a week of being unveiled in 2016, and that waiting list having grown to 455,000 units by August of 2017, the car’s actual deliveries hadn’t exceeded 238,000 by April 21, 2019, which while impressive for any startup automaker, is still far behind the real EV sales leader, Nissan and its much more plentiful Leaf. 

Before we receive a slew of “What about the Toyota Prius?” questions in our inbox, take note the Prius isn’t really a full electric vehicle, but rather a hybrid that still relies on a regular gasoline-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) to get where it’s going. 

Unlike a full EV, the Prius’ battery and electric motor supplements the ICE’s motive power, and can only be used for 100-percent electric mobility at low speeds (under 20 km/h) and short distances (such as in public parking garages). Toyota now produces a plug-in hybrid model named Prius Prime, which provides longer distances of all-electric use at higher speeds, but it hasn’t sold very strongly so far. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
Recently redesigned Leaf offers up much more appealing styling than its funky predecessor. (Photo: Nissan)

Alternatively, Nissan’s Leaf is a pure electric vehicle that totally relies on its battery and electric motor for motive power, so therefore needs to be regularly recharged from a home or public charging station, instead of refueled at a gas station like the Prius and other hybrids. Where the two iconic green cars enjoy similarities, however, is in their best-selling status, the Prius as the all-time leader amongst hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) and the Leaf as the undisputed electric vehicle (EV) champion. And yes, if you were wondering when we’d get to the Leaf’s total sales number, Nissan has sold and delivered more than 390,000 Leaf hatchbacks since it became available in 2010. 

Making sure it maintains its leadership, Nissan now offers the 2019 Leaf with two power units, both of which are more formidable than the single battery/motor combination provided with last year’s model. As part of the 2019 model upgrade introduced halfway through 2018, Nissan gave its Leaf a new 40kWh Li-ion battery and uprated 110-kW (147-horsepower) electric motor, which was a 16kWh improvement over the old version. This meant that it could (and still can) travel up to 243 kilometres on a single charge compared to only 172 km with the previous model, a 69-km increase that made all the difference in the world. Still, not willing to rest on its laurels, the new Leaf Plus connects a 62-kWh battery to a 160 kW (214 hp) electric motor for an estimated 363-km of range. 

“With the addition of LEAF PLUS, the Nissan LEAF is now available with two battery options and a choice of four trim levels – each featuring the many advanced technologies offered under the banner of Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” commented Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada Inc. in a press release.  

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
Leaf Plus get a unique front fascia. (Photo: Nissan)

To be clear, starting this April the 2019 Leaf is available in four trims instead of just three, but two of its previous trims are no longer available. The new base trim is the $40,698 Leaf SV, which is now followed by the $43,998 Leaf S Plus, the $46,598 Leaf SV Plus, and finally the $49,498 Leaf SL Plus, with a $1,950 destination charge added to all models. 

The new base price is therefore $3,900 more expensive than the outgoing version, but this is due to the cancellation of regular Leaf S trim, which was priced at $36,798 through the last half of 2018 and calendar year 2019 thus far. What’s more, the regular Leaf SL, which added luxury features such as two-tone black and grey perforated leather and microfibre-like Bio Suede PET cloth upholstery, an Intelligent Around View Monitor, Driver Attention Alert, seven-speaker Bose premium audio, turn signal repeaters integrated within the side mirror caps, and more for $42,698, will no longer be available for order in Canada either (they’re both still offered in the U.S.), but you may be able to locate one or the other at a Nissan retailer. 

Comparing apples to apples, the price difference between the regular Nissan Leaf and new Leaf Plus in SV trim, which are mostly similar, is $5,900, but take note that along with increased performance, 120 km (or about 50-percent) or so of added range, and an enhanced recharging system (keep reading), the Leaf Plus SV also includes a slightly reworked front fascia featuring special blue highlights, an “e+” logo plate on the lower portion of the charge port lid, and new rear badging (depending on trim level), while other standard enhancements include forward collision warning, Rear Door Alert (which warns if someone or something has been left in the rear seating area), and a 1.0-inch larger 8.0-inch centre touchscreen (a 7.0-inch touchscreen is standard and the old base 5.0-inch display has been discontinued). 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The top-line Leaf Plus SL provides premium levels of luxury features. (Photo: Nissan)

Also notable, the infotainment systems found in both regular Leaf SV and Leaf S Plus base models now come standard with a navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, satellite radio, etcetera, but only SV trims provide voice recognition, NissanConnect EV (that remotely connects the car to your smartphone), six audio speakers (instead of four), and more. 

Additionally, the $3,300 more affordable Leaf SV adds 17-inch alloy wheels instead of the 16-inch alloys that come standard on the Leaf S Plus, as well as fog lights, an electronic parking brake (in place of a foot-operated parking brake), an auto-dimming centre mirror, a Homelink universal garage door opener, an eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way lumbar, a tonneau cover, and a bevy of advanced driver assistance features such as autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection (which basically includes the SV Plus model’s forward collision warning), auto high beams, dynamic cruise control with full speed range and hold, ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous self-driving, Steering Assist, blindspot warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and more. 

The menu of items just mentioned is also standard with the new Leaf SV Plus, while a shorter list of luxury features spoken of earlier in this story, when covering the now outgoing Leaf SL, is also pulled up to the new Leaf SL Plus model, albeit with a big $6,800 difference in price thanks to its performance and driving distance enhancements. 

Now is probably an apropos opportunity to explain that plenty of electric vehicle owners consider range performance similarly to how conventional car buyers may be willing to ante up more for faster acceleration and better all-round handling. No matter which way you look at it, the two different Leaf models ensure “that there’s a Nissan LEAF to meet the driving needs of a wider range of customers,” as said in a press release. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The new Leaf Plus includes a standard 8-inch touchscreen. (Photo: Nissan)

Speaking of those who just want to take off a little quicker, despite weighing in at 1,737 kilograms (3,831 lbs) compared to 1,580 kg (3,483 lbs), the new Leaf Plus reduces sprint times by 13 percent over the regular Leaf, which will let its drivers “confidently pass slower-moving vehicles, exit corners faster and more seamlessly, and merge easily with fast-moving traffic,” says Nissan. Additionally, Nissan has given the new Leaf Plus and extra 10 percent more top speed, with more “comfortable cruising” capability being the target. 

This being an electric vehicle, faster charging times will be an even greater reason to opt for the new Leaf Plus. Along with all the other upgrades, its new standard 100kW-capacity quick charging system allow for an 80-percent recharge within just 45 minutes (as per the Nissan Canada retail website). If the only option is a 75-kW DC quick charger it will only take another 5 minutes for a total of 50 minutes in order to reach that 80-percent goal, or alternatively 60 minutes is what’s needed when using a 50-kW DC quick charger. Of note, the regular Leaf requires approximately 40 minutes to achieve the same 80-percent charge with the 50-kW DC quick charger, but be forewarned that you can’t connect it to the 75-kW or 100-kW DC fast charging stations. 

If you’ve already set up a regular 240-volt home charging station, the new Leaf Plus will require about 11.5 hours to fully charge, or approximately 3 and a half hours longer than the regular Leaf. Also, the Leaf Plus can be driven for about 35 km after about an hour on the same 240-volt charger, which is good to know if you just want to top it up while visiting the mall. 

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
The new Leaf Plus allows multiple ways to recharge. (Photo: Nissan)

While not filling up at a traditional pump it’s always important to remember that EVs use resources, and to that end both Leaf models are ultra-efficient, with energy equivalent ratings of 1.9 Le/100km city and 2.4 highway for the regular Leaf, or 2.1 Le/100km city and 2.5 highway for the new Leaf Plus. Litres of gasoline are never part of the equation, of course, but rather the Le/100km rating system can be a helpful tool in understanding how electric vehicles’ energy consumption compares to the fuel economy of gasoline-powered vehicles, not to mention how each EV’s energy use compares to the other. 

What’s more, it’s important to note that the new Leaf Plus’ battery doesn’t impinge on interior packaging at all, with both front and rear seating compartments identically sized for comfortable accommodations all-round, plus cargo volume still capable of being loading up with 668 litres (23.6 cubic feet) of gear when its rear seats are in use, and 849 litres (30.0 cubic feet) when the standard 60/40 split-folding seatbacks are lowered. 

So now that you know all that’s changing with the Leaf halfway through its 2019 model year, you may want to take advantage of the savings still available if you’d rather opt for the less powerful regular model, whether choosing non-Plus versions of the base Leaf S or top-line Leaf SL, because there are still some available at Canadian Nissan retailers (depending on your area). This said, if you’d rather pay more for quicker charging, added range, and improved straight-line performance, the all-new Leaf Plus is already starting to show up at those same dealers. 

To find out more about all the available 2019 Nissan Leaf and 2019 Leaf Plus trims, packages and options, including pricing for each, and/or to learn out about any of the rebates potentially available, not to mention dealer invoice pricing that might just save you thousands, be sure to visit this page right here on CarCostCanada. 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann  

Photo credits: Nissan

CarCostCanada

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Road Test

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The electrified Accord adds a classy dose of style to the mid-size hybrid sedan segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I said this before and I’ll say it again, the new Accord is the most attractive car in its midsize sedan class, and one of the best looking to ever be sold in this segment. Not only that, I find it better looking than a lot of premium-branded sedans, and wouldn’t doubt that some who might have never purchased in this class before will now consider doing so solely because it exists. 

This scenario may have played out on Canada’s sales charts last year, with the Accord being the only mid-size sedan to see growth from January 2018 through December’s end. OK, its archrival Toyota Camry barely escaped the red by growing a scant 0.1 percent over the same 12-month period, but Accord deliveries were up 2.4 percent during an era that’s seen the mid-size sedan decimated by crossover SUV popularity. This last point was evidenced by other Accord competitors seeing their market shares eroded significantly, the next best-selling Chevy Malibu’s sales down 16.3 percent, followed by the Fusion dropping 34.8 percent, the Nissan Altima lower by 21.4 percent, the Hyundai Sonata by 33.6 percent, Kia Optima by 27.5 percent, Volkswagen Passat by 29.5 percent, Mazda6 by 9.8 percent, and Subaru Legacy down by 28.1 percent. That’s an unbelievable level of mid-size sedan carnage, but the new Accord solely rose above it all. 

Of course, there’s a lot more to the 10th-generation Accord than just good looks. There’s an equally attractive interior filled with premium levels of luxury and leading edge electronics, plus dependable engineering borne from decades of production and non-stop refinements. The first hybrid drivetrain was introduced as an option to the seventh-generation Accord way back in 2005, skipped a generation and then came back as an option with the ninth-gen Accord in 2013, and now it’s here again. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Accord Hybrid looks just like the regular Accord, except for its wheels and chrome trim pieces where the tailpipes normally go. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As with previous iterations, the latest Accord Hybrid looks much the same as the conventionally powered model, which I appreciate because it’s not trying too hard to stand out and keeps the Accord’s attractive styling intact. Truly, the only noticeable difference is a removal of tailpipe finishers, the Hybrid featuring some discrete chrome trim in their place. Chrome in mind, both no-name Hybrid and Hybrid Touring trims feature the same chrome exterior details as the regular Accord’s EX-L and above trims, Sport model excluded. 

Touring upgrades that aren’t as noticeable include full LED headlamps that feature light emitting diodes for the high as well as the low beams, plus unique signature LED elements around the outside of the headlamp clusters, chrome-trimmed door handles, and the availability of no-cost as-tested Obsidian Blue Pearl exterior paint instead of standard Crystal Black Pearl or $300 White Orchid Pearl, the only two shades offered with the base model. 

Now that we’ve got the obvious visual changes from base Hybrid to Hybrid Touring trims out of the way, the top-line model also replaces Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blind spot display system with a Blind Spot Information (BSI) and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor system, while adding adaptive dampers to improve handling, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display (HUD), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, passenger side mirror reverse gear tilt-down, a HomeLink garage door remote, a powered moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, satellite and HD radio capability, HondaLink subscription services, wireless device charging, an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot, driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a heatable steering wheel rim, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and more for $40,090 plus freight and fees. 

Incidentally, I sourced 2019 Honda Accord Hybrid pricing right here at CarCostCanada, which not only breaks everything down into trims, packages and standalone options, but also provides information about available rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Key Accord Hybrid features include LED headlamps, LED fog lights and unique 17-inch alloy wheels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additionally, items pulled up to the Hybrid Touring from base $33,090 Hybrid trim include unique aerodynamically designed machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-on/off headlight control with automatic high beams, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, a remote engine starter, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge cluster, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, near field communication (NFC), 452-watt audio with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, two front and two rear USB charging ports, SMS text message and email reading functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, overhead sunglasses storage, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, heatable front seats, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, plus all the expected active and passive safety features including front knee airbags. 

Some safety features that might not be expected include the standard Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems, incorporating Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), and traffic sign recognition, this being enough to earn the regular Accord a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS when equipped with its upgraded headlights, while all Accord trims get a best-possible five stars from the NHTSA. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Accord Touring’s cabin comes close to premium levels of refinement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The long list of Accord Hybrid Touring features comes in a cabin that exudes quality and refinement, thanks to premium-level soft synthetic surfacing on most surfaces above the waste, authentic looking matte woodgrain inlays spanning the instrument panel and door panels, tastefully applied satin-silver accents throughout, supple leather upholstery on the seats, door inserts and armrests, padded and stitched leatherette trim along the sides of the lower console, the front portion protecting the inside knees of driver and front passenger from chafing, and some of the highest quality digital displays in the class. 

Immediately impressive is the brightly lit primary instrument package that looks like a giant LCD panel at first glance, but in fact houses a digital display within its left two-thirds while integrating an analogue speedometer to the right. The screen on the left is filled with hybrid-specific info by default, but you can scroll through numerous other functions via steering wheel controls, resulting in a very useful multi-info display. 

Likewise you can project key info onto the windshield via the HUD by using another steering wheel button, the system showing graphical information for route guidance, the adaptive cruise control system and more up high where you can see it without taking your eyes off the road. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Style, technology and luxury all rolled up into one attractively priced mid-size sedan. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Over on the top portion of the centre stack, Honda’s new infotainment interface has become a personal favourite amongst mainstream volume brands, thanks to high definition displays, wonderful depth of colour and contrast, plus fabulous graphics, the elegantly arranged tile system easy to figure out and plenty attractive to look at. Being a hybrid, a number of cool animated graphic sections are included, while the navigation system’s mapping was excellent and route guidance easy to input and precisely accurate, plus the backup camera was equally clear and dynamic guidelines helpful. Yes, I would’ve appreciated an overhead 360-degree bird’s-eye view, but the ability to see a variety of views thanks to its multi-angle design, no matter the trim, is a bonus that others in the class don’t offer. 

The final digital display is Honda’s dual-zone automatic climate control interface, which is attractively designed in a narrow, neatly organized, horizontal row that includes an LCD centre display, three knurled metal-edged rotating knobs, and a variety of high-quality buttons for the HVAC system and heated/ventilated front seats. 

I should mention that all of the Accord Hybrid Touring’s switchgear was excellent, and much of it beautifully finished with aforementioned satin-silver detailing, while the audio system knobs got the same grippy and stylish knurled metal treatment as those used for the HVAC interface. Much of the design shows an artistically flair too, particularly the recessed speaker grille behind the fixed tablet style display atop the dash, and the 3D effect used to raise the top buttons on the HVAC interface above those below. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
A mostly digital instrument cluster sets the Accord Hybrid apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the very base of the centre stack is a little cubby filled with a 12-volt power outlet, a charged/connected USB port and a wireless charging pad that’s large enough for big smartphones like the Samsung Note series. Interestingly Honda has done away with the classic old auxiliary plug, replacing it with near field communication (NFC) as noted earlier, and three more USBs, the second one found within the centre storage bin under the armrest, which includes another 12-volt charger as well. The bin has a nice removable tray as well, which feels very high in quality and is rubberized so that it doesn’t rattle around like so many others in this class. This is just one of many details that let you know the Accord’s quality is above average. 

The leather seats are nicely styled with perforations the three-way forced ventilation noted earlier. The driver’s was extremely comfortable, with good side support for this segment and excellent lower back support. On that note I was surprised that Honda not only includes a power-adjustable lumbar support with fore and aft control, but it’s a four-way system that also moves up and down to ideally position itself within the small of your back. That’s unusual in this class, even when compared to some premium models like the Lexus ES 350 and more directly comparative ES 300h hybrid that only include two-way powered lumbar. Likewise for the Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid, plus a few others in this segment that don’t measure up either. 

The seating position is good, probably on par with the aforementioned Camry, but I must say neither is excellent when it comes to adjustability. Their steering columns don’t offer enough reach, forcing me to power my seat too close to the pedals in order to achieve optimal comfort and control of the steering wheel. We’re all made differently, and I happen to have longer legs than torso. The compromise was a more upright seatback than I would have otherwise liked, but doing so allowed ample control and decent comfort, so this is how I drove all week. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Accord Hybrid’s centre stack design is nicely laid out and easy to use. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Controlling the gear selector is a lot easier, although if you’re not familiar with Honda’s new assemblage of buttons and pull levers it’ll take some getting used to. The Accord Hybrid comes standard with the complex selector, and while it might be a bit confusing at first try I recommend giving it a little time before getting flustered. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to use this system in a variety of Honda models, the new Odyssey and Pilot immediately coming to mind, while it’s similar to the system used in new Acura models, so now I don’t swear at it when trying to find reverse in the middle of a U-turn. Other than the pull lever-type electromechanical parking brake found at its rearmost section, it consists of three pushbuttons, for park, neutral and drive, and another pull lever for reverse. I almost never use neutral, simplifying the process further, so it’s a tug on the lever for reverse and a simple press of the large centre button for drive or park, that’s it. 

Next to the parking brake there’s another set of buttons for Sport, Econ and EV modes, plus a brake hold button. I left it in Econ mode most of the time and EV mode whenever it would allow, because this is what hybrids are all about, saving fuel and minimizing emissions and cost. This said the Accord Hybrid is one of the thriftiest vehicles I’ve driven all year, only costing me $24 after a week’s worth of very thorough use, and that’s when gas was priced at an outrageous $1.55 per litre. At today’s slightly more agreeable prices it would allow even more savings, its claimed 5.0 L/100km city, 5.0 highway and 5.0 combined fuel economy rating one of the best in the non-plug-in industry. 

So what’s all the mechanical and electrically charged wizardry behind its superb fuel economy? A unique two-motor hybrid powertrain joins an efficient 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine to provide the Accord Hybrid with a class leading total system output of 212 horsepower, while its electric drive motor puts 232 lb-ft of near instantaneous torque down to the front wheels. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The pushbutton gear selector might look complicated, but it doesn’t take too long to figure out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To clarify, one of the electric motors drives the front wheels, while a smaller secondary motor serves mainly as a generator, providing electric current to the drive motor in order to supplement or replace power from the battery during lighter loads, such as cruising. The second motor also starts the engine that in-turn adds torque to the wheels, but it’s never used as the motive driving force for those wheels. 

Additionally, the car’s Electric-Continuously Variable Transmission, or E-CVT, removes any need for a conventional automatic transmission, or even a traditional belt/chain-operated continuously variable transmission (CVT), both of which inherently rob performance and efficiencies from the powertrain. Instead, Honda’s E-CVT drives the front wheels directly through four fixed drive ratio gearsets, without the need to shift gears or vary a planetary ratio. This means there is no “rubber-band” effect when accelerating as experienced in regular CVTs, or in other words the engine is never forced to maintain steady high rpms until road speed gradually catches up, this process causing a much-criticized audible “droning” effect with other CVT-equipped cars. Honda claims its direct-drive technology benefits from 46 to 80 percent less friction than a conventional automatic transmission, depending on the drive mode. 

What’s more, you can choose between three standard propulsion modes as well, including electric-only (providing the 6.7-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged sufficiently), gasoline-only, or blended gas and electric (hybrid). 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Ultra-comfortable, the Accord Hybrid Touring’s driver’s seat is excellent, but ergonomics could be better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Despite my favouritism for Econ and EV modes, Sport mode worked very well, making itself immediately known after engaging at a stoplight by bringing the engine back to life from its auto start/stop mode, and then boosting acceleration significantly at takeoff. A set of standard steering wheel paddles improves the driving experience further, although flicking the right-side shifter to upshift while accelerating does nothing perceptible, this because the paddles are primarily for downshifting during deceleration. Therefore, tugging on the left paddle when braking, or pretty much any other time, causes a gear ratio drop that really comes in handy when wanting to engine brake or recharge down a steep hill, or when setting up for a corner. 

And I must say the Accord Hybrid handles brilliantly for a car in this class. Really, the only vehicle in this segment with more agility around curves is the latest Mazda6 and possibly the Ford Fusion Sport, and these by the narrowest of margins, with Accord Hybrid seeming to dance away from its closest competitors, including the Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE that I tested earlier this year, which is the sportiest version of that car. 

The Accord Hybrid handles long, sweeping high-speed corners well too, while its ability to cruise smoothly on the highway is as good as this class gets. It’s underpinned by the same fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension as the conventionally powered Accord, while my tester was once again outfitted with the upgraded adaptive dampers for a little more at-the-limit control and enhanced ride quality. This gives it a wonderfully compliant setup where ever you’re likely to drive, whether soldiering over bumpy back alleys, fast tracking across patchwork pavement, or negotiating wide bridge expansion joints, all of which were experienced during my test week. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
Rear seating is roomy and comfortable, but the door panels aren’t finished up to level of some competitors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My only complaint were front parking sensors that continually went off in regular traffic, highlighting an image of the car’s frontal area on the touchscreen when vehicles were merely pulling up beside me in the adjacent lane. I’ve encountered this problem with a few other cars over the past couple of years, and it’s always annoying. I pressed the parking sensor button off and on again, which remedied the problem until it happened again after a couple of days, at which point I rebooted the system the same way and never had to deal with it again. 

This foible and the aforementioned lack of telescopic steering reach aside, the Accord Hybrid was a dream to live with. The rear seating area, a key reason many buy into this class, is as spacious as the regular Accord and more so than many in this segment. With the driver’s seat set up for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, which as noted was set further back than average due to my longer legs, I was left with nearly a foot from my knees to the backrest ahead, plus so much room for my feet that I was able to completely stretch out my legs and move my shoes around underneath the front seat. Really, its rear legroom comes close to many full-size sedans. Likewise, there’s plenty of headroom at about three and a half inches, plus more than enough shoulder and hip space at about four to five inches for the former and five-plus for the latter. 

This said I was disappointed that Honda finished off the rear door uppers in hard plastic. They’re not alone in this respect, but others do a better job pampering rear occupants. The previously noted Mazda6, for instance, at least in its top-line Signature trim level that I tested last year, which incidentally uses genuine hardwood inlays throughout, finishes the rear door panels as nicely as those up front, making it closer to premium status than anything else in its class. In most other respects the Accord nudges up against premium levels of luxury too, including excellent rear ventilation from a centre panel on the backside of the front console that also houses two USB charge points, while the outboard seats are three-way heatable as noted earlier, and there’s a nice big armrest that flips down from the centre position at exactly the right height for adult elbow comfort, or at least it was perfect for me. Honda fits two big deep cupholders within that armrest, which should do a pretty good job of holding drinks in place. 

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
The Accord Hybrid’s trunk is identically sized to the regular Accord. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The trunk is sizeable too at 473 litres (16.7 cubic feet), which is exactly the same dimensions as the regular Accord, plus it’s also extendable via the usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. This said there are still some hybrids that don’t allow much expandable storage due to batteries fitted within the rear bulkhead, so I can’t really complain that Honda doesn’t include a centre pass-through like Volkswagen’s Passat, which would allow rear passengers to enjoy the heated window seats after a day on the slopes. On the positive, a handy styrofoam compartment resides below the trunk’s load floor, ideal for stowing a first aid kit or anything else you’d like to have close at hand. It comes loaded up with an air compressor that could potentially get you to a repair shop if needed, but I’d personally prefer a spare tire so I could make it farther if damage to the tire doesn’t allow it to hold air. 

So is this the best hybrid in the mid-size class? The new Accord Hybrid would certainly get my money. It looks fabulous, delivers big inside, and provides all the luxury-level features most will want, plus it drives brilliantly and delivers superb fuel economy, while Honda’s experience building electrified powertrains should make it plenty reliable.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.