CarCostCanada

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST Road Test

2021 Buick Enclave Essence RT
Although four years since its second-gen redesign, the Enclave still looks good, even in base Essence trim.

As the years start to stack up and there’s more of them behind you than ahead, to hear you’re aging gracefully is quite the compliment. Such could be said of Buick’s current Enclave, a three-row crossover SUV that’s now been with us in its current second-generation form for four years. Certainly, that’s not long by human standards, but it’s a full product cycle in automotive years, albeit not compared to the first-generation Enclave that, despite a mid-cycle refresh in 2013, lasted for an entire decade.

The SUV being reviewed here was as up-to-date as possible when being tested, but as it happens, 2021 is the Enclave’s last model year before getting a fairly comprehensive makeover. Its underpinnings will remain the same, but its styling will look a lot fresher, and not unlike the much sleeker and more modern looking second-gen Chinese-market version that’s been available since last year.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence RT
Long and accommodating, all Enclave trims provide impressive roominess in all seating positions, plus plenty of cargo space.

Sure, you can wait for a 2022, which actually gets reduced by $300 at the base level, but there’s opportunity to take advantage of end-of-lifecycle savings if you choose a 2021 over the new 2022 model, so as long as you don’t need to have the latest and greatest styling, the outgoing Enclave is still one very attractive family hauler. It’s also a very affordable one, at least when comparing it to longstanding luxury brands that it more or less competes against. To be clear, three-row SUV buyers won’t likely be shopping the Enclave against BMW’s X7 or Mercedes’ GLS, simply because their price points are nowhere near each other.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence RT
There’s nothing particularly unique about the Enclave’s rear design, but it’s certainly not offensive.

A base Enclave Essence starts at $48,398, or $51,398 with as-tested all-wheel drive. That’s similar pricing to fully loaded alternatives from Honda, Hyundai, Kia or Toyota, which arguably offer more features (and sometimes more luxury) for the money, but none of these rise up to $70k, which is possible when adding all the options to the Enclave Avenir. That’s around where a base Audi Q7 starts, and plenty of other premium-branded three-row SUVs, although an equivalent entry-level GLS will set you back an astonishing $101,900, just a bit less than what you’ll need to pay for the least expensive X7, which starts at $102,900.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence RT
A $1,495 Sport Touring upgrade package adds this sporty black mesh grille.

This in mind, Buick, and its Enclave fall into the entry-level luxury sector, along with competitors like the $48,995 Infiniti QX60, $56,405 Acura MDX, and possibly the $59,700 three-row Lexus RX 350 L (which is only meant for small kids in the third row), although if we’re moving all the way up to the $60k starting point, we should probably include GM’s own Cadillac XT6 that rides on the same stretched C1XX platform (more or less) as the Enclave (and the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia), yet starts at $57,998. Everything else in this class retails over the $60,000 threshold, and while that’s about where the aforementioned Enclave Avenir can be had ($62,298), this Enclave Essence is the model Buick gave me to test, and therefore targets a different entry-level luxury client.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence RT
LED headlamps come standard across the Enclave line.

I don’t know if that last exercise was done more for my own clarification of where Buick fits into the scheme of luxury things, or as a way for you to come to grips with the same, but in any case, it’s good to understand that Buick fills an important niche in the middle of the automotive class hierarchy, and its relatively strong sales more or less prove that reality.

Despite only offering five models (the 2020 Regal Sportback of which has already been sent off to that great four-door sedan graveyard in the sky—it’s a five-door really, as its trunk is actually a hatch), Buick managed to rank sixth amongst premium brands in Canada thanks to 15,957 units being sold last year, which puts it only 755 sales behind Acura, plus more than twice as much as Lincoln (7,155) and almost three times as many deliveries as Infiniti after a particularly gutting year. What’s more, as of Q2 2021’s close, Buick’s 8,277 delivery total had already blasted past Acura’s rather sluggish 7,465 tally, although Cadillac’s XT6 appears to be on a roll with 8,402 examples out the door, so therefore Buick maintains its sixth position.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
These sporty machine-finished 20-inch alloys with black-painted pockets come with the optional ST package.

The Enclave wasn’t quite as strong in its mid-size three-row luxury SUV category last year as the Buick brand, but amongst dedicated premium three-row family haulers it ranked seventh out of 11 competitors with 1,773 deliveries (I’m not including Bentley’s Bentayga on this list for obvious reasons). This said, so far this year it’s doing a bit better with 1,270 units down the road already, placing it ahead of Mercedes’ GLS (1,148), Lincoln’s Aviator (926), and Infiniti’s QX60 (687) that’s getting an even more dramatic redesign for 2022.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
Nice chrome faux “door hinge” garnishes add to the Enclave’s upscale appearance.

Cadillac’s XT6 (973) lagged a bit behind the Enclave over the first six months of this year, as did BMW’s X7 (522), Lexus’ GX (161), and Land Rover’s Discovery (103), which seems to be getting killed by the new Defender (1,057). Tally all this up and it’s easy to understand why the Buick brand and this Enclave model are so important to General Motors (a total of 3,264 combined Enclave and XT6 sales puts GM close to Acura’s MDX), but after factoring in their even greater strength in the U.S. and yet stronger presence in China, this information might also help build confidence that Buick isn’t about to leave our market anytime soon—unfortunately I can’t confirm that for Infiniti.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
Sharp looking taillights get spliced by sharp blade-like bright metal trim, while that tiny “ST” badge refers to this example’s Sport Touring package.

The upcoming 2022 Enclave refresh should further improve the model’s sales when it arrives later this year, as long as Buick doesn’t dump any leftover 2021s on the market before the new one gets here. The fact Buick is only offering customers up to $1,000 in additional incentives is a good sign they have inventories in check, but stay tuned to CarCostCanada for any further discount info. Also, take note that CarCostCanada members who purchased a new 2021 Enclave saved an average of $2,625 thanks to knowing the SUV’s dealer invoice price before negotiating their best deal, which means it’s a good idea to find out how their very affordable membership works, and how easy it is to use from anywhere via their free app that can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
Even the base Enclave’s interior should cause pause to anyone questioning whether this SUV deserves premium status.

As for the 2021 Enclave Essence being reviewed here, my tester was not only upgraded with AWD, but also received a stylish $1,495 Sport Touring upgrade package that includes a sporty black mesh grille, glossed-black Pitch Dark Night lower accent trim, and 20-inch alloys instead of the standard 18s. This gets added to a base model that also features automatic on/off LED headlamps and heated power-folding exterior mirrors, on the outside, plus proximity access to get you inside.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
The Enclave’s driver positioning should be good for all body types, while its cockpit layout is easy to use and filled with standard features.

Once seated, pushbutton ignition gets the engine going, while additional standard features include an auto-dimming centre mirror, a 4.2-inch colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch touchscreen at dash-central, integrating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 10-speaker Bose audio system, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a universal garage door opener, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a Safety Alert driver’s seat that uses vibrations to warn, perforated leather seat upholstery, three-way heatable and ventilated powered front seats with four-way lumbar support, two-position driver memory, three-zone auto HVAC with a set of rear controls, heatable second-row captain’s chairs resulting in seven-passenger capability (a bench for the second row resulting in a total of eight occupants is available), a power-folding 60/40-split third row, a hands-free powered liftgate, a 120-volt power outlet, remote start, etcetera.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
The primary gauge cluster works as it needs to and is pleasantly designed, but it lacks the tech offered by most rivals.

All Enclaves include the Buick Driver Confidence Plus package of advanced driver assistance and safety technologies as standard too, which includes a Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Automatic Emergency Braking and Front Pedestrian Braking, as well as Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, front and rear Park Assist, and IntelliBeam auto high beam assist headlights.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
The Enclave’s centre stack is intelligently laid out, and the infotainment system is top-notch.

Believe me, I never once felt like I was slumming it in this Buick, even in its base trim. Actually, standard features like cloth-wrapped A, B and C pillars gave it a true premium feel, as did better-than-average soft composite materials on top of the dash and atop the front and rear side window sills. It’s also impressive across the front of the instrument panel, and the lower section of that IP ahead of the front passenger, which extends below the infotainment touchscreen and along the right side of the lower console. Buick made a point of stitching nicely padded leatherette on the sides of that centre stack and lower console, the left side of which is padded further to protect the driver’s inner knee from chafing, while this pampering surface treatment extends down to the armrest as well. These areas were done out in a particularly attractive caramel brown in my tester, perfectly matching the seats and door inserts that were also stitched, the former also featuring perforated leather inserts.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
The infotainment system’s graphics are easy to understand, this “page” showing the tri-zone climate control system’s functions.

Additionally, the seat surface leather is suppler than some others at the Enclave Essence’s price point too, plus those aforementioned heated front cushions warm up to near therapeutic levels. Warmth in mind, the climate control interface, while appearing a bit rudimentary, did its job well, and while it could be a bit more upscale to look at my eyes were more easily pulled toward the centre display overtop, which has to be one of the simplest to use in the segment.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
The Enclave’s standard 9-speed automatic transmission is ultra-smooth, as expected, but also surprisingly sporty.

I generally like General Motors’ infotainment systems, and while I appreciate Chevrolet’s more colourful Apple-inspired interface even more than this classier design from Buick, they both work identically and utilize a full colour palette for graphically stimulating controls. I found this latest version responded to inputs quickly, which was particularly notable when jiggling the navigation map around with my fingertips. I should also note that GM’s navigation/GPS system has never once led me astray either, so a big hand to the automaker’s tech department that does infotainment very well. Important also, the rearview camera was clear and its moving guidelines useful, while the standard Bose audio system was very good.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
Comfort yes, but the base front seats’ lateral support aren’t up to the SUV’s handling capability.

As for the Enclave’s primary gauge cluster, it’s not very enticing. The chrome trimmed analogue dials are ok, these placed bookending another set of chrome-edged gas and engine temp meters above, but the tiny square multi-information display kind of looks like an aftermarket add-on. This comes at a time that competitors are arriving with fully digital clusters that show virtual gauges one minute and giant maps the next. Some brands are even including rear-facing camera monitors in their clusters, so Buick needs to up the ante in this respect. Fortunately, even this base Enclave’s steering wheel is excellent, with high-quality leather and an impressively sporty feel, while the spokes’ switchgear well-made and works as it should.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
The standard second-row captain’s chairs are a step up from the optional bench.

Looking up to the overhead console could be summed up as a trip back to yesteryear too, although it’s functional and happily includes a sunglasses holder, as well as LED reading lights and switches for the universal remote, OnStar, SOS, plus more. You won’t find a power sunroof button, as this base trim doesn’t include a sunroof, and I have to say it’s weird not seeing a sunroof in a roof this large.

Nevertheless, I found it easy to find an ideal driving position thanks to a manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel with loads of rearward reach, while the seats were comfortable, although without much lateral support, therefore if you’re looking to use this Enclave to snake through fast-paced corners, you’ll probably want to find something other than the steering wheel to hold on to. This is only worth mentioning because the Enclave handles well, partially due to the 20-inch wheel and 255/55 tire upgrade noted earlier, so it might be a good idea for performance fans to look upstream to a fancier trim line in order to find more aggressive seat bolstering.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
Getting into the third row is ultra-easy thanks to innovative second-row captain’s chairs that pop up and move right out of the way.

Similarly, the Enclave Essence model’s second-row captain’s chair backrests are almost totally flat, although rear passengers can fold down their individual centre armrests to hang on. The second-row seats are mostly comfortable, however, with good legroom when slid all the way rearward. Those in the second row will also appreciate the previously mentioned rear climate control panel on the backside of the front console, which includes seat warming switchgear. This is where you can also find a set of USB chargers, but oddly no air vents. Don’t worry, though, as these are intelligently integrated within the roof, as are another set of vents for third-row passengers, and likewise for the LED reading lamps.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
If you regularly use a third row, the Enclave should be high on your list as the rearmost seat is roomy.

It’s easy to flip the second-row seats up and out of the way for getting into the very back, only necessitating a mild pull on a handle atop the backrest, while another lever below flips them down for storage. Before getting into cargo capacity, rear occupants enjoy separate USB charging ports, not to mention fairly large rear quarter windows for good outward visibility. I found the third-row seats comfortable too, not to mention reasonably roomy. Buick left good space for legs and feet, especially when the second-row seats are pulled slightly forward.

As for cargo, they fold down relatively flat, as does the second row, providing more storage capacity than most of their peers. In fact, I was able to load up a double-wide Ikea Pax wardrobe inside, including its rather bulky glass sliding door system, with room left over. By the numbers, the Enclave can manage up to 2,764 litres of what-have-you behind the front seats, 1,642 litres aft of the second row, and 668 litres in back of the third row.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
This vantage point shows how much legroom is offered to rear passengers, not to mention the large rear quarter windows.

Even when loaded up with gear the Enclave was no slouch off the line, its 3.6-litre V6 making a healthy 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque for plenty of straight-line performance. It’s conjoined to a nine-speed autobox that not only aids fuel economy with a fairly good rating of 13.0 L/100km city, 9.1 highway and 11.2 combined with FWD, or a respective 13.6, 9.6 and 11.8 in as-tested AWD, partially thanks to standard idle start/stop technology, but it also provides wonderfully smooth shift up and down the range.

Then again, engaging manual mode and its steering wheel-mounted paddles transform this calm, sedate traveler into a much sportier canyon carver, or at least it was much more enjoyable than I initially expected. BMW doesn’t even go so far as to hold the X5 or X7 engine’s redlines before upshifting, so a big hand for Buick’s engineers that give the Enclave such strong performance. The V6 also makes a nice growl at full throttle, although I wouldn’t take that to mean it’ll outshine those BMWs as far as engine auditory tracks go.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
Compared to most three-row rivals, this is a lot of dedicated cargo space.

I think ride quality will matter more to most Buick buyers than all-out performance, however, and to that end the Enclave’s driver and many passengers will be nicely isolated from exterior elements no matter the speeds being traveled or environment outside. Although I found there was more wind buffeting on the highway than expected. It wasn’t the side windows (I checked), but it may be something specific to my test model’s door seals. Buick prides itself in providing near tomblike silent interiors, so it could also be possible that more of Buick’s “Quiet Tuning” technologies get added to upper trims. Either way, make sure you look for this on your test drive.

2021 Buick Enclave Essence ST
How’s that for total cargo volume? The Enclave provides one of the most accommodating interiors in its class.

Even if the Enclave Essence is a bit noisier at highway speeds than it should be, it’s hard to argue against its sub-$50k price point. That it competes so well against others that cost thousands more should be taken into consideration, but then again it also gets out-muscled for features and refinement by some newcomers in the volume-branded mainstream category. This is a very competitive market segment, and the upcoming 2022 Enclave should address some of my minor complaints.

On that note, I don’t think any of my grumblings should put you off testing a 2021 Enclave, and at least comparing it to its rivals, especially when factoring in Buick’s enviably high ranking in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, where it sits fifth overall and just third amongst luxury brands.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

Buick shows off fully refreshed Enclave for 2022

2022 Buick Enclave Avenir
The new 2022 Buick Enclave should find universal appeal from a styling perspective, especially in top-line Avenir trim.

Buick recently unveiled its refreshed 2022 Enclave, and one glance should be all that fans of the brand need in order to trade up to the new model. To be clear, the refresh is more about evolution than revolution, with the majority of styling updates pulled over from its predecessor.

The second-generation Enclave arrived on the scene in 2017 as a 2018 model, unless you’re reading this from China where a unique version appeared two years later for the 2020 model year. The two designs seem to have been melded into one for this 2022 Enclave, which is a very good thing for those who appreciate elegant conservatism over edgy modernity.

2022 Buick Enclave Avenir
That’s one big new grille, although it still comes across as classy, which is important for the brand’s more conservative clientele.

As most in this camp with agree, the outgoing 2021 Enclave was already a very good-looking mid-size crossover SUV, with its Chinese alternate arguably being even more attractive. Changes made to this mid-cycle update include a larger grille for even greater premium presence, new headlights and tail lamps for yet more visual fluidity at its backside, and sharpened bumpers front to rear in order to increase visual width. It all results in even more luxury appeal, which Buick will hope lures in would-be shoppers that might otherwise be coaxed away from imported three-row luxury utilities.

At the moment, the only premium choices under the $50,000 threshold, which is more or less today’s entry-point for three-row SUVs in the premium sector, include the $48,000 2021 Enclave, soon to be replaced, and the $48,995 Infiniti QX60, which gets a long-awaited redesign for 2022. Acura’s recently redesigned MDX is priced well over the $50k mark at $56,405, as is Cadillac’s $57,998 XT6 and Lexus’ $59,700 RX 350 L.

2022 Buick Enclave Avenir
The Enclave, shown here in top-tier Avenir trim, doesn’t brake any styling molds from the rear.

That’s similarly priced to an Enclave around halfway through its options list, incidentally, although a fully-loaded 2021 Enclave Avenir nears the $70k mark, a price-point that’s in the range of the $64,500 Genesis GV80, $65,500 Land Rover Defender, $64,750 Volvo XC90, $68,600 Land Rover Discovery, $67,950 Audi Q7, and the $69,900 Lincoln Aviator. If you’re now questioning why Mercedes’ and BMW’s three-row competitors fit into this mix, their respective GLS and X7 start at a comparatively stratospheric $101,900 and $102,900, so there’s no need to bring them into this conversation.

2022 Buick Enclave Avenir
Expect even higher quality finishings inside the 2022 Enclave, not to mention some updated design details.

Away from such lofty heights, the renewed 2022 Enclave’s standard Driver Confidence Plus suite of advanced driver’s assistance and safety technologies include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beam assistance.

Behind the 2022 Enclaves larger grille, the same 310 hp 3.6-litre V6 joins up with a nine-speed automatic transmission to drive all four wheels, with no powertrain option available. A fully independent suspension provides good road-holding and, most importantly in this class, a comfortable ride, although the top-line Enclave Avenir comes with a more sophisticated adaptive suspension.

2022 Buick Enclave Avenir
The Enclave has always been spacious in all of its three rows, especially when compared to three-row luxury rivals such as Lexus’ RX 350 L.

Buick is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on the 2022 model, although so far the General Motors brand isn’t advertising the updated Enclave on their retail website, so contact your local dealer to see if you can order one. As for the outgoing 2021 model, our 2021 Buick Enclave Canada Prices page is currently showing up to $1,000 in additional incentives for new buyers, while CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $2,916 at the time of writing.

To learn how you can save thousands when buying your next new car, truck or SUV, find out how a CarCostCanada membership works, and don’t forget to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store so you can benefit from all the savings you’re entitled to.

Story by Trevor Hofmann

Photos by Buick

CarCostCanada

New 2022 Genesis GV70 compact luxury crossover is now available for $49,000

2022 Genesis GV70
The 2022 GV70 opens the compact luxury SUV market up to Genesis, and simultaneously provides an exciting new alternative in this class.

To say Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury brand is on a roll would be quite the understatement, being that it began with just one full-size G90 flagship luxury sedan at the close of 2015, added its mid-size G80 sport-luxury sedan in early 2016, and followed up with the compact G70 sport sedan in 2017. Additionally, the more important mid-size GV80 luxury SUV arrived just last year, while what might become its top seller, the compact GV70 sport-luxury SUV, is just starting to arrive at dealers now.

It helped that Genesis’ earliest two models were already in production as the Hyundai-branded Equus and Genesis Sedan, one of two cars, including the Genesis Coupe, that carried the new brand’s name for eight years before its steering wheel hub and trunk lid removed Hyundai’s stylized “H” for Genesis wings (which were already displayed proudly above the front grille), and “GENESIS” lettering was replaced by G80 badging at back.

2022 Genesis GV70
Most should find the GV70 attractive from all angles.

Since then, all three early cars have been updated with fresh new styling, including a new pentagonal “Crest Grille” plus double-slatted LED “Quad Lamps” fore and aft, and heavily reworked interiors, resulting in a wholly cohesive design language to at least rival its key Japanese rivals, while the new G80 will soon be available with a two-motor pure electric drive system.

Granted, Genesis has a long way to go before it starts matching Lexus sales in Canada, with 1,737 units sold at the close of Q2 2021 compared to 12,405, but it’s closing in on Infiniti’s 3,189 total after the first six months of this year, and has already bypassed Jaguar’s 1,204 deliveries and Alfa Romeo’s 434. Lincoln is also in target with only 3,629 units sold as June ended, and this comes before any GV70 deliveries get added to the Genesis mix.

2022 Genesis GV70
Although some press photos show the GV70 off-pavement, the SUV has primarily been designed to stay on the road, with limited off-road use.

Interestingly, the sporty 2022 GV70 is not the least expensive compact luxury SUV on the market, a tactic often chosen by upstart luxury brands trying to attract new buyers by providing all the bells and whistles for a better price. Instead, the new model gets an all-inclusive price of $49,000, including freight and delivery fees (or $49,150 all-in as shown on GV70’s retail website landing page).

The new GV70, in fact, is ninth most expensive in a compact premium crossover segment that’s now 16 competitors strong. That places it near the mid-point, although it’s important to point out that most competitors don’t include destination/delivery fees or the $100 A/C tax in their advertised prices. Therefore, after factoring in the latter (and using an average of $2,500 for those brands that made it difficult to locate this information on their retail websites), the new GV70’s retail price is more competitive thanks to a ranking of seventh most affordable.

2022 Genesis GV70
The GV70 offers up very sleek, sporty lines.

By the numbers, alternatives priced lower than the new GV70 include the $44,298 Cadillac XT5 (plus $2,500 in fees for a total of $46,798), $44,505 Acura RDX (plus $2,475 in fees for a total of $46,980), $44,600 Lexus NX (couldn’t find their fees so adding $2,500 for $47,100), $45,495 Infiniti QX50 (plus $2,220 for $47,415), $45,200 Lincoln Corsair (plus $2,250 for $47,450), and lastly the $46,550 Audi Q5 (plus $2,395 for $48,945).

Genesis’ willingness to let eight brands advertise lower pricing in such a highly competitive market is a bold move, but it just might be calculated one, in that its mid-pack pricing could cause loftier perceptions of its brand identity, and therefore leave cheaper alternatives looking like they’re not good enough. After all, parent company Hyundai has long been seen as a value brand amongst its more established mainstream rivals, and while that’s changing because of impressive entries such as the Genesis and Equus models that came before, plus today’s Santa Fe, Palisade and the list goes on, it’s still important for Genesis to not allow such a more-for-less mindset and instead develop its own brand desirability.

2022 Genesis GV70
The unique oval layout of some interior controls, is unique to Genesis and the entire compact luxury SUV segment.

On this note, the new 2022 GV70 is more affordable than the $48,500 Volvo XC60 after adding its fees (plus $2,615 for $51,115 in total), as well as Land Rover’s $49,900 Discovery Sport (plus $2,726 in fees for $52,626), plus the $49,900 Mercedes-Benz GLC (not shown on retail site so adding $2,500 for $52,400). Likewise, the BMW X3 starts at $52,550 (plus $2,245 for $54,795), the Tesla Model Y at $55,000 including its $1,300 freight fee (although the least expensive Performance model currently offered on their retail site goes for $69,990), the Alfa Romeo Stelvio at $55,190 (plus fees ranging from $1,995 to $2,695 for a maximum base price of $57,885), the Porsche Macan at $57,800 (plus $1,600 for $59,400), the Jaguar F-Pace at $60,350 (plus $2,826 for $63,126), and finally Land Rover’s Range Rover Velar at $63,500 (plus $2,826 for $66,326).

2022 Genesis GV70
The GV70’s tasteful layout of controls, appears well designed and very upscale.

An approximate $20,000 price gap, from least expensive to priciest, is a sizeable chasm for compact luxury SUV shoppers to cross, but it should be mentioned that any one of the compact luxury utilities named above comes close to the revered Velar’s starting price when amped up with options, while even the cheapest on this list can go much higher. What’s more, some boast more equipment in their various base trims than others, not to mention stronger performance, greater interior room, etcetera. In other words, it’s not a direct apples-for-apples comparison.

For around $50k, the 2022 GV70 2.5T Select AWD arrives standard with Quad LED headlights, LED tail lamps, 18-inch alloys, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start/stop and remote engine start, fingerprint authentication, an 8.0-inch LCD digital gauge cluster, a big 14.5-inch HD multimedia display incorporating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, navigation, wireless device charging, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar, an eight-way power front passenger seat, heated front seats, rear occupant alert, a hands-free tailgate, plus more.

2022 Genesis GV70
Top-line trims receive a fully digital gauge cluster.

Additionally, the GV70’s standard Highway Driving Assist II driver assistance and safety technology suite adds High Beam Assist, Lane Follow Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist to all the usual active and passive safety features.

As is often the case in this category, AWD is standard, while the GV70 also includes Terrain Mode Select. The base powertrain is a 2.5-litre turbo-four good for 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, while a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 capable of 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque is available. An eight-speed automatic transmission also comes standard, as do steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

As for exterior colours, Uyuni White, Vik Black, Himalayan Gray, Savile Silver, Adriatic Blue, Cardiff Green, Barossa Burgundy, and Mauna Red are no-cost options, while base models can only be had with “artificial leather” upholstery in Obsidian Black (Genesis might want to reconsider the name it’s using for leatherette).

2022 Genesis GV70
Tired of European, American or Japanese luxury? How about stepping up to something South Korean this time?

For $55,500 (including freight and fees), the 2022 GV70 2.5T Advanced AWD ups the ante with 19-inch alloy wheels, power-folding exterior mirrors with puddle lamps, a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, genuine leather seat coverings (in Obsidian Black, Vanilla Beige, Havana Brown/Ocean Wave, Pine Grove/Ocean Wave, and Slate Gray/Velvet Burgundy, depending on the exterior colour), a power panoramic glass sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, plus a fully automatic rear climate control system.

For $59,000, Advanced Plus trim continues adding features such as a driver’s head-up display (HUD), a Surround View parking monitor, a Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM), an 18-speaker Lexicon sound system upgrade, manual rear side sunshades, and a household-style 110-volt AC power outlet for the rear cargo compartment.

2022 Genesis GV70
The GV70’s centre HD display is a massive 14.5 inches.

Further up the range, the $63,000 GV70 2.5T Prestige AWD includes a Sport Appearance package featuring metal foot pedals, upscale Nappa leather upholstery with suede-like micro-fibre inserts (in Obsidian Black, Sevilla Red or Ultramarine Blue, depending on exterior colours), a psuede headliner, a driver’s seat power extension for the lower cushion as well as power side bolsters that cinch up in sport mode, Smart Posture Care, Parking Collision Avoidance-Assist Rear (PCA-R), and Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA).

For $68,500, the GV70 3.5T Sport AWD trim line combines 2.5T Advanced AWD features with the larger, more powerful engine, as well as some of the just-noted Prestige items like the Sport Appearance package, HUD, power seat cushion extension, bolsters and Smart Posture Care, Lexicon audio system, and 115-volt power outlet, not to mention 21-inch alloys, special aluminum sports trim, enhanced monobloc brakes, an improved Electronic Control Suspension with Road Preview, plus Sport leather seating.

2022 Genesis GV70
Only time will tell how well the GV70 is received by compact luxury SUV buyers.

Finally, $75,500 GV70 3.5T Sport Plus AWD trim adds an electronic limited slip differential, a bigger 12.3inch 3D TFT LCD digital instrument cluster, carbon fibre interior trim, plusher Nappa leather upholstery with stitched quilting (in all the same colours as Prestige and Sport trims), a micro-fibre headliner, and laminated acoustic rear door glass, plus the previously-noted surround parking monitor, BVM, PCA-R, RSPA, and rear sunshades. Of note, this segment’s most affordable Cadillac XT5 reaches the same price point when fully optioned, as do most of the others.

Together with the premium finishings, arguably attractive design, no shortage of features and impressive performance numbers, Genesis provides owners with at-home/work valet pick-up and drop-off concierge service, complete with a complimentary courtesy vehicle, when complimentary scheduled maintenance or other repairs are required during the first five years of ownership, or the SUV’s first 100,000 kilometres of use.

2022 Genesis GV70
The GV70’s long, lean layout should make it good for rear legroom and cargo capacity.

On top of this, GV70 owners benefit from Genesis Connected Services featuring map updates and more for the extent of the SUV’s five-year comprehensive warranty (with an unlimited km extension for map updates and roadside service). The five-year or 100,000-km comprehensive warranty is an entire year longer, and an average of 20,000 km greater than most premium competitors’ comprehensive coverage, plus it’s an additional two years or 40,000 km better than the majority of competitive powertrain warranties.

Still, the compact luxury SUV market is deep with capable offerings, giving Genesis’ newcomer big challenges to overcome. How it’s received is anyone’s guess, but we’ll be certain to report on its success after it’s been around long enough to do so, and of course we’ll review it as soon as a test model becomes available.

For now, take note that Genesis is offering the 2022 GV70 with factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, as seen on our 2022 Genesis GV70 Canada Prices page. You can find out about deals like this by being a member of CarCostCanada, as well as gain access to dealer invoice pricing on any model currently sold new in Canada. Find out how the CarCostCanada system works now, and be sure to download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, in order to pay the least amount possible for your next new car.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Genesis

CarCostCanada

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS Road Test

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
Chevy’s Blazer RS certainly pulls eyeballs.

I want a new Blazer. Yah, you heard me right. There’s just one problem. The Blazer I want is a 4×4-capable compact/mid-sizer capable of going toe-to-toe with Ford’s new Bronco and Jeep’s legendary Wrangler, not an all-wheel drive soft-roader designed primarily for hauling kids. Fortunately for Chevy, most buyers want the latter, resulting in the new Blazer crossover being very popular.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
RS trim blackens out most of the Blazer’s chrome details.

Granted, General Motors’ best-selling bowtie brand would’ve had a hit on its hands if they’d called it something else, like Malibu X. Ok, that last comment, while mostly true, was a jab right into the solar plexus of the just-noted blue-oval brand that once did something near identical with its mid-size Taurus nameplate, which just happened to share underpinnings with their renamed Freestyle crossover SUV. In all seriousness, though, I would’ve rather seen Chevy bring out a new Colorado-based SUV wearing the Blazer badge than anything riding on the back of GM’s mid-size platform (although the Blazer’s C1XX architecture is actually a somewhat modified crossover variant of the Malibu’s E2XX platform). Now, if GM has a change of heart, wanting to take advantage of rough and rugged 4×4 popularity, they won’t be able to use the classic Blazer nameplate. At least Jimmy is still available for GMC.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
The details are very nice, particularly the standard LED headlamps.

The General has made a lot of mistakes in the past and this latest misnomer may one day be perceived as a significant missed opportunity that simultaneously sullied a once-great name, but for now the majority of thirty- to forty-something parents buying this new five-seat Chevrolet will be happy it looks like a bulked-up Camaro (and wasn’t actually named Camaro… ahem, another knock on Ford that dubbed its two-row crossover SUV the Mustang Mach-E) and leave it at that.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
Sporty dual exhaust system sounds good for the class.

The RS I spent a week with is the most Camaro-like trim of the lot, particularly in red. Like it or lose it, this SUV is an attention-getter. This said, no one should expect its rectangular dual exhaust to bark like a ZL1, let alone an LT1 with the upgraded V6. What’s more, the Blazer’s spin on Chevy’s 3.6-litre V6 doesn’t put out the Camaro’s 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque either, but in this fairly staid consumer-driven category its 308 horsepower and 270 ft-lb of torque is impressive. It manages a zero-to-100 km/h sprint of 6.5 seconds too, and while this is half-a-second off Ford’s Edge ST, at least the Chevy looks quicker.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
Chevy continues the red and black theme inside.

The Blazer boasts an extra forward gear as well, counting in at nine compared to eight for Ford’s mid-size alternative, while both use all-wheel drive systems that are best kept on pavement, or light-duty gravel at worst.

Not all Blazers receive this upmarket V6, by the way, with lesser trims incorporating GM’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that also comes in the base Camaro. Can you see a pattern here? Like the V6, the base Blazer’s output is detuned from the sporty muscle car’s, making 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque instead of a respective 275 and 295, but that’s better than the U.S.-spec base model’s naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre engine that only manages 193 literal ponies and 188 lb-ft (ok, they’re not literal ponies, but they’re much smaller horses). As for the Edge, it’s base 2.0-litre turbo-four makes 250 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque in both markets, which is what we’d call competitive.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
The Blazer interior is well organized and nicely finished.

The Blazer’s nine-speed autobox mentioned a moment ago doesn’t include steering column-mounted paddle shifters, even in this sporty RS trim line, but Chevy does include a thumb-controlled rocker switch directly on the shift knob, which isn’t any more engaging than pushing a gear lever to and fro. At least the transmission is a soothingly smooth shifter, if not particularly quick about the job at hand. Yes, once again this Blazer RS is no Camaro crossover, in spirit at least, but it’s highly unlikely the majority of its buyers would drive it like it was stolen, so it’s probably a moot point.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
The primary gauges aren’t fully digital, but it comes close.

More importantly, this SUV is easy on fuel. Chevy claims estimated mileage of 13.1 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.4 combined for this V6-powered version, achievable because its part-time all-wheel drive system pushes all of its power to the front wheels when extra traction isn’t required. When needed, simply rotate a console-mounted knob from x2” to “x4” and Bob’s your uncle. The same dial can be used to select sport mode as well, or for that matter a towing mode.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
Chevy does infotainment systems well.

With the former mode chosen, the Blazer RS really moves off the line, almost completely fulfilling the promise made by its fast-when-standing-still styling. If only the nine-speed automatic’s response to shifts was quicker, the smooth and comforting transmission needing more than two seconds to set up the next shift. I suppose it’s more fun to row through the gears than the majority of CVTs, but only just. It kicks down well enough for passing procedures, and there’s plenty of power and torque afoot, so the engine makes up for the gearbox once engaged. Even better, the Blazer RS handles.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
The Blazer’s 9-speed automatic is smooth, but not very sporty.

Yup, this SUV can snake through corners with ease, with some thanks to the sizeable 265/45R21 Continental CrossContact all-season tires attached to the ground below. I made a point of seeking out some favourite curving riverside two-laners and a relatively local mountainside switchback to be sure of its capabilities, and was rewarded with confidence-inspiring poise under pressure. Even when pushing harder than I probably should have, the Blazer never deviated from my chosen lane and hardly seemed to lean much at all. Even more important in this class, suspension compliancy was just right, always smooth and comfortable and never harsh.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
The red-highlighted black leather driver’s seat is very comfortable.

Comfort’s where it’s at in this mid-size SUV segment, and to that end Chevy has done a good job finishing off the Blazer RS interior. Style-wise it’s no walnut-laden, camel-coloured leather luxury ute, but instead once again does its best impersonation of a tall, five-seat Camaro. Of course, I only mean that when it comes to interior design, as this Chevy RS is a lot more utile than any 2+2 muscle car, thanks to generous front and rear seat room for all sizes in all seating positions. It’s cargo area is accommodating too, complete with 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to expand on its usefulness when needed.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
Let the light shine in! How we love big, beautiful panoramic sunroofs.

As far as luxury accoutrements go, Chevy made sure to infuse the cabin with padded surfaces aplenty. Most composites and leathers were in a dark anthracite bordering on black, with red being the highlight colour, as if you couldn’t have guessed without looking inside. I say most composites because the design team chose to ring each dash-mounted air vent with a red bezel, the bright splash of colour at least not clashing with the red and blue heating and cooling arrows positioned nearby. There’s a tiny drop of red plastic on the gear shift lever too, providing a backdrop to the “RS” logo, and no shortage of red thread throughout the rest of the cabin, not to mention some red dye visible through the leather seats’ perforations. It all looks appropriately sporty, with fit, finish and materials quality that matches most others in the segment.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
The second row is generously sized and very comfortable.

I will give a special nod to Chevy’s mostly digital primary gauge cluster and centre-mounted infotainment display, however, which are a touch above most rivals. The former, which includes an 8.0-inch multi-information display at centre, features stylish, tasteful graphics and plenty of bright colours, plus clear, high-resolution screen quality, and a solid collection of useful functions. Over to the right, the infotainment display is a touchscreen for easy use, especially when using smartphone/tablet-like tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures, and once again its graphically attractive and filled with functions, such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, accurate navigation, a good backup camera, etcetera.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
No shortage for all your gear in this mid-size Chevy crossover.

The RS comes equipped with some other notable features too, such as a big panoramic glass sunroof up above, a heated steering wheel rim and heatable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a hands-free powered liftgate, a sportier front grille, and 99.9-percent of its exterior chrome trim replaced by glossy black (the “RS” logo gets trimmed in metal brightwork for tradition’s sake).

After everything is said and done, Chevy’s Blazer RS will either make you race over to the brand’s website to deliberate over colours before checking out local dealer sites in order to see what’s in stock, or leave you questioning how the heartbeat of America could’ve missed such a great opportunity to bring back a real off-road capable SUV. Sure you can still step up to a full-size Tahoe or Suburban, both worthy 4x4s in their own rights, but something smaller to compete with the Broncos, Wranglers and even the Toyota 4Runners of the world would’ve been nice… and smart.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer RS
One of the sportier engines in the mid-size crossover SUV class.

As it is, the 2021 Blazer RS starts at $46,698 plus freight and fees, whereas a base Blazer LT can be had for $37,198. Take note that our 2021 Chevrolet Blazer Canada Prices page was showing up to $1,000 in additional incentives at the time of writing, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $3,625 after using our dealer invoice pricing info when negotiating their best deal. CarCostCanada members are also privy to information about manufacturer financing and leasing deals, plus they get the latest news on factory rebates. Make sure to learn more about how the CarCostCanada system works, and remember to download our free app so you can have everything you need at your fingertips before walking into a new car showroom.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

Nissan’s new Z car concept looks ready for production

2020 Nissan Z Proto
Nissan’s new Z Proto has the sports car world buzzing with anticipation. Will the production version share this concept’s styling? We think so.

Let’s face it. The current Z car is old. How old? In automotive years, ancient. In fact, it’s oldest design currently being offered in North America. The only older vehicles include a truck and a commercial van, the former being Nissan’s own Frontier and the latter GM’s Chevy/GMC Express/Savana cargo and shuttle vans. This said, there’s new hope on the horizon.

Nissan recently took the wraps off of a new concept car dubbed Z Proto, and while “Proto” obviously stands for prototype, it appears as close to production trim as any fantasy show car the Japanese brand has ever revealed.

2020 Nissan Z Proto
The the Z Proto’s frontal design pulls plenty of styling cues from the original 240Z, its rear appears influenced by the groundbreaking second-gen (Z32) 300ZX.

It’s sheet metal actually looks picture perfect for a seventh-generation Z, combining many of the original 240’s design cues with some from the much-loved fourth-generation Z32, while its slick looking interior is as dramatically modern as the current model is as awkward and backwards, yet comes infused with plenty of retro touches.

As is almost always the case, new Z will be larger than the outgoing model is this prototype is anything to go by, with the Z Proto measuring about five and a half inches longer from nose to tail. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will weigh more than the 370’s base 3,232 lb (1,466 kg) curb mass, or lose any of the current car’s driving capability, but more likely due to greater use of modern lightweight materials and the inclusion of a smaller 3.0-litre engine block, down 700 cubic centimeters, will actually weigh less.

2020 Nissan Z Proto
Just like the front end, the Z Proto’s side profile reminds of the much-loved 240Z and ’70s-era 260Z/280Z models that followed.

The new Z will once again share platform architectures with its pricier Infiniti Q60 cousin, which bodes well for its overall structural integrity and build quality. The new prototype now reaches 4,381 mm (172.5 in) from front to back, which is exactly 141 mm (5.6 in) longer than the current 370Z, but take note it’s actually a fraction of a fraction narrower (1 mm) at 1,849 mm (72.8 in), or identical to the Q60’s width, and 10 mm (0.4 in) lower at 1,310 mm (51.6 in).

The current Z uses a lot of aluminum already, so expect the upcoming version to also use the lightweight alloy for its hood, door skins, and rear liftback, while it will without doubt also utilize aluminum suspension components and an aluminum-alloy front subframe, engine cradle, plus forged aluminum control arms (upper and lower in the rear), steering knuckle, radius rod, and wheel carrier assembly, all found on the current car, which is beyond impressive for its $30,498 base price.

See the similarities? Of course they were intentional, the 240Z one of the most adored “affordable” classic collectibles ever.

As you may have guessed from the engine noted above, the new Z will feature Nissan/Infiniti’s award-winning twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre VR30DDTT V6, which not only improved on performance, but makes a big difference at the pump over today’s 3.7-litre mill. The current Q60 offers both 300 and 400 horsepower versions, the latter causing many in the industry to dub the next-gen sports car 400Z, but this said it would be a shame not to offer a more affordable variant named 300Z, especially considering the model’s much-loved and sought after 1989–2000 second-generation (Z32) 300ZX. This tact would allow the Z car to be sold in a similar fashion to Porsche’s 911, with various stages of tune from the 300 horsepower 300Z, to a 350 hp 350Z, possibly a 370 hp 370Z and top-line 400Z. Who knows? Maybe there’s a market for a lower-powered $30k Z car to compete head-on with the upcoming redesigned 2022 Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. That car will be available with a 2.5-litre H-4 making 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, so 240 hp turbo-four under the hood of a Z car would make a nice rival, wouldn’t it? Can’t imagine what they might call it. I think Nissan would have a lot of fun bringing out special editions of that engine with 20 hp bumps in performance. Of course, we’re only speculating, but hopefully Nissan has something like this in mind as it would be marketing genius (if we don’t say so ourselves).

2020 Nissan Z Proto
The Z Proto’s hood and grille are heavily influenced by the original 240Z, while even its LED headlamps appear to be trying to combine the circular design of earlier models with the flush lenses from the Z32 300ZX.

Of course, rear-biased all-wheel drive will be optional if not standard, and a six-speed manual will probably get the cut in the base car, with at least seven forward gears in the optional automatic version.

The Proto’s interior comes fitted with the manual, incidentally, while anyone familiar with any Z car cabin would immediately know that it’s a modernized version of Nissan’s most revered sports car. Along with trademark giveaways like the trio of dials across the centre dash top and the sloping side windows, not to mention the classic Nissan sport steering wheel with its big stylized “Z” on the hub, this prototype pulls from the current 370Z’s parts bin with respect to the ovoid door handles, their integrated air vents, and the side window defog vents on each corner of its dash. These similarities may end up only being found on this prototype, and used for the sake of expediency and cost cutting, but it is possible Nissan will carry some less critical features such as these forward into the new interior design.

2020 Nissan Z Proto
Who doesn’t like this classic nod to the past?

Today’s 370Z is actually quite refined inside, at least in upper trims, with plenty of leather-like, padded, soft-touch surfaces with stitching on the dash, centre console sides and doors, all of which appear to be carried forward into the new concept. It’s likely Nissan will likely upgrade some other areas that are now covered in hard composite, the new car probably featuring more pliable synthetics in key areas that might be touched more often.

2020 Nissan Z Proto
Does this cabin look familiar? Basically today’s Z with some fabulous electronic updates.

The so far unmentioned elephant in the room (or cabin) is the impressive array of high-definition electronic interfaces, the primary gauges shown being fully digital and very intriguing, plus the centre stack-mounted infotainment touchscreen display appearing amongst the best Nissan currently has on offer. We can expect all the latest tech such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a large rearview camera with potential an overhead, surround-view option, and this being a performance model, sport features such as a lap timer, g-meter, etcetera.

The centre stack also shows a simple triple-dial automatic HVAC interface that oddly doesn’t include dual-zone functionality, so it’s likely this was merely pulled over from the current car and will be updated in the future production Z.

2020 Nissan Z Proto
The Z Proto’s seats look good, and likely get sourced from Recaro like some of the current Z’s do.

Speaking of today’s 370Z, it can now be had with up to $1,000 in additional incentives, as shown on our 2020 Nissan 370Z Coupe Canada Prices page (or the 2020 Nissan 370Z Roadster Canada Prices page), which is a really good deal considering its aforementioned base price. And before you pick up that phone or drive down to your local Nissan dealership to negotiate, make sure to become a member of CarCostCanada first, so you can access benefits like manufacturer rebate information, updates about various brands’ in-house leasing and financing deals, plus of course dealer invoice pricing that could keep thousands in your pocket. Find out how our CarCostCanada system works, and make sure to download our free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you can have all of this critical info with you when you need it most, at the dealership.

Lastly, be sure to watch Nissan’s trio of Z Proto videos below, because if this concept is anything to go by, we’re in for a real treat when the production model arrives.

Unleash the #PowerOfZ (2:18):

Hear the Z Proto roar (0:33):

Get ready for the Nissan Z Proto (0:29):

Photo credits: Nissan

CarCostCanada

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo Road Test

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
The 370Z still looks awesome after all these years, especially in top-line Nismo trim.

Seen the new Z yet? The Z Proto (photo below) was introduced just a month ago, and while it might not yet be in full production trim, the car’s amazing attention to detail, particularly inside, makes it look very close to reality. So, where does that leave the current 370Z?

Let’s just call it a modern-day classic to be nice. Today’s Z is in fact the oldest generation of any car currently on the market, having been with us for over 11 years. The only non-commercial vehicle to beat that seasoned tenure is Nissan’s own Frontier pickup truck with 16 years to its credit, while GM’s full-size Chevy Express and GMC Savana commercial cargo/passenger vans are oldest of all, having dawned in 1995 and been refreshed in 2003. While old doesn’t necessarily mean bad, much has been learned in the decades that have passed, and therefore each could certainly be a lot better.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
An oldie but a goodie, the Z’s rear end design has always been aggressively good looking.

On the positive, this is the Z car’s 50th anniversary, and while I wish I had a special 50th Anniversary model to show you, complete with big, bold, diagonal side stripes, the Nismo is the best of the 2020 370Z crop, so I can hardly complain. To be clear, the anniversary car doesn’t provide the Nismo’s 18 additional horsepower and 6 extra pound-feet of torque, being limited to 332 and 270 respectively, instead of 350 and 276, but you can get it with the available paddle-shift actuated seven-speed automatic, the Nismo only available with a six-speed manual. Then again, it could be considered a moral crime to purchase the most potent version of this car with an autobox anyway.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Nismo upgrades look even better under close scrutiny.

Under the 370Z’s aluminum hood is a 3.7-litre V6 with a sensational looking red engine cover and an equally exciting reinforced three-point front strut tower brace hovering over top. Nissan should rightly celebrate this potent and dependable six-cylinder mill, and fortunately has provided an engine bay worthy of exposure at weekend parking lot car enthusiast meet-and-greets.

It doesn’t cost a lot to do it right, by the way, the base 370Z coming in at just $30,498, which is a hair over the much less powerful Toyota 86. Rather than get pulled into a comparison, which is oh-so easy with these two, I need to quickly point out that no amount of OEM options or packages can push the little Toyota sport coupe’s price up to my 370Z Nismo’s $48,998 MSRP.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
The wheels might be worth the Nismo upgrade alone.

For that money the 2020 Z gets some unique red and black trim accents around the its circumference, plus really attractive 19-inch Nismo Rays forged rims surrounded by a set of 245/40YR19 front and 285/35YR19 rear Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT600 performance rubber, not to mention a Nismo-tuned suspension featuring increased spring, dampening and stabilizer rates, front and rear performance shocks, a rear underbody V-brace, and the reinforced three-point front strut tower brace noted a moment ago. Oh, and that engine sends its wasted gas through a Nismo-tuned free-flow dual exhaust system with an H-pipe configuration.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Despite its years, the 370Z’s interior is remarkably refined.

As awesome as all that sounds, the 370Z Nismo’s black leather and perforated red Alcantara Recaro sport seats will probably get noticed first, especially because of the racing-style five-point harness slots on their backrests. There’s no shortage of red thread around the cabin either, and special Nismo logos elsewhere, such as the gauge cluster.

Plenty of comfort and convenience features get pulled up from lower trims, too, a few worth mentioning including automatic on/off HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lamps, proximity-sensing entry with push-button start and stop, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror that houses a tiny reverse monitor for the backup camera, a HomeLink garage door opener, micro-filtered single-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system with detailed mapping and SiriusXM NavTraffic capability, a great sounding Bose audio system with available satellite radio, a USB charging port, etcetera.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
The 370Z isn’t quite as much of a throwback as a Morgan, but it certainly offers up some classic touches.

If we put age aside, this 2020 370Z Nismo looks like an excellent value proposition. After all, when compared directly to key rivals from Toyota, the fully-loaded $34,450 86 GT only makes 205 horsepower on its best day, while the 382-horsepower turbocharged BMW 3.0-litre inline-six-powered Supra (I’d love to be living with that car out of warranty, not) will set you back a cool $67,690. Certainly, you can get a BMW-sourced 2.0-litre turbo four in the new Supra instead, but even that 255-hp mill is much pricier than the Z at $56,390.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Love the analogue gauges, but the orange dot-matrix displays are an acquired taste.

The top-line Supra can be launched from standstill to 100 km/h in the low to mid four-second range, which is a considerable improvement over the 370Z Nismo’s high four-second to low five-second sprint time. The 86 hits 100 km/h in the mid seven-second range, and tops out at just 226 km/h (140 mph), not that any sane person would ever try that on a Canadian road. Still, bragging rights are bragging rights, allowing owners of straight-six-powered Supras to boast about its 263 km/h (163 mph) terminal velocity, which is plenty of fun until the guy standing in front of his 370Z Nismo at the aforementioned meet-and-greet mentions his comparatively geriatric rival maxes out at 286 km/h (178 mph), a whopping 23 km/h (15 mph) faster.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Cool retro ancillary gauges are joined by a not so cool retro touchscreen display.

Of course, it’s not all about straight-line power. Anyone who’s spent time in a fast car knows that braking performance matters a lot more than acceleration, but don’t worry, Nissan has stopping power covered too. Up front, 14- by 1.3-inch vented rotors get the bite from four-piston opposed aluminum calipers, while the 13.8- by 0.8-inch rear discs are bound via two-piston calipers. Zs also receive high-rigidity brake hoses and R35 Special II brake fluid. The brakes are so strong, in fact, that I recommend doing so in a straight line when needing to scrub speed off quickly, because the Z’s 1,581 kilograms (3,486 lbs) of heft has been known to make its rear end a bit squirrely when getting hard on the binders mid-corner. I’ve experienced this myself, one time becoming especially uncomfortable just ahead Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew, and you don’t want to enter that one sideways.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
More of this for the next-gen Z please…

Fortunately, getting out of trouble fast is Z car hallmark, the current 370’s double-wishbone front suspension and four-link rear setup being wonderfully balanced most of the time. It gets stiffer roll calibrations and increased damping levels in Nismo trim, plus a 0.6-inch wider track, yet drives quite smoothly nonetheless. All Z’s utilize a carbon-fibre driveshaft to shave off pounds and improve throttle response, plus a viscous limited slip differential for putting power down to the ground via both rear tires.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Z’s infotainment touchscreen, it just looks old, is a bit slow and lacks some features.

If you think all of this sounds good, and it should, wait until you’ve downshifted with the Z’s SynchroRev Match equipped six-speed manual that automatically blips the throttle mid-shift to match the upcoming gear ratio. You’ll be sounding like you’re a pro at heel-toe shifting, when you might not even know what I’m talking about. More importantly, SynchroRev Match ideally makes sure that shifts transition smoothly, thus minimizing drivetrain jolt. The shifter feels great too, thanks to a nice and tight, notchy feel and engaging response, while the clutch take-up is smooth yet engaging, and the arrangement of all aluminum pedals is great for the aforementioned heel-toe technique.

As you might expect in a modern sports car, there’s much more aluminum to go around than just the foot pedals, with plenty of bright and brushed metalwork elsewhere in the cabin. Then again, calling the Z a modern sports car is giving it much more respect than it deserves, particularly with respect to the interior’s design and execution. Its red on black colour theme is nice enough, but even this top-tier Nismo variant almost makes the 86 seem fresh.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Gripe all I want about the infotainment system, these old-timer controls work well.

Don’t get me wrong, because the Alcantara seat and door inserts are pretty plush, as are the same faux-suede armrests and lower centre stack sides, not to mention the nicely padded stitched leatherette dash top and door uppers. More contrast red stitched leather-like material flows around the shifter, and not just the boot. In fact, Nissan dresses up the top surface of the lower console in what comes across like leather, giving it some of the Maxima’s premium flair.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Again, the 370Z uses classic Nissan controllers for the audio and HVAC systems.

Even the sportiest Maxima SR doesn’t come close to offering seats as completely enveloping as the 370Z Nismo’s, their aggressive side bolstering and shoulder harness holes nodding to the car’s track potential and their maker, Recaro, renowned for producing some of the best performance seats in the business. They’re manually eight-way adjustable to save weight (the passenger gets four adjustments), and while the side dials aren’t as easy to modulate as levers, they’re infinitely adjustable and remain steadfast once set. While this is good, not providing any telescoping reach from the steering column is a massive fail, especially for those of us with longer legs than torso. The result is a need to crank the seatback into an almost 90-degree angle to comfortably and safely grip the steering wheel, which while the ideal position for the track isn’t exactly the most enjoyable on the road.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
There’s a lot to like about the 370Z’s six-speed gearbox, and the nicely finished console that surrounds it.

Now that I’m griping (and you’d expect complaints about an interior that’s into its third decade), the 370Z’s electronic interfaces are downright archaic. I have zero quibbles about the analogue gauge cluster, because I happen to love analogue dials for cars and watches, being a bit of a throwback myself, the car’s trio of ancillary gauges atop the dash one of its most loved design details. I even appreciate the digital clock that harks back to my teenage era, my watch collection including a few these as well, but modern it’s not. The multi-information display left of the tachometer is more of a simple trip computer that’ll have old-school PC users conjuring up memories of pre-Windows MS-DOS video games like Digger and Diamond Caves, not to mention the unusual rows of orange dots above and below for the respective fuel gauge and engine temp. It’s so old that it’s almost cool… almost.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Fabulous Recaro sport seats are a 370Z Nismo highlight.

In comparison the Z’s main infotainment touchscreen is mind-blowingly advanced, but of course it’s rather dated compared to most anything else currently on the market. Navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and other function are included, but its graphics are yesteryear, processing speed lethargic, and display resolution quality only slightly more up-to-date than the car itself. It all works well enough, nonetheless, so if you can live with merely adequate electronics, or don’t mind swapping them out for an aftermarket alternative, they’ll do fine.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Cargo space? Don’t expect much practicality in this class.

Of course, this being a two-seat sports coupe, the 370Z isn’t big on cargo capacity either. You can stuff enough bags for a weekend getaway for sure, but the 195 litres (6.9 cu ft) on hand won’t allow for much more. Again, compromises are always required when opting for such a track-ready sports car, so consider this a simple reminder.

On the positive, Nissan is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives on the 2020 370Z, so make sure to check out our 2020 Nissan 370Z Coupe Canada Prices page for more. On that note, a CarCostCanada membership also provides information on available manufacturer rebates, manufacturer leasing and financing deal info, and last but hardly least, dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Learn how the CarCostCanada system works, and remember to download our free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store so you can have all of this critical information with you when haggling over your next vehicle purchase.

2020 Nissan 370Z Nismo
The 370Z Nismo is stunning under the hood.

In summary, you can get into a new 2020 370Z for less than $30,000, and while not as fancy or powerful as this Nismo variant, it comes reasonably close and you won’t lose as much when driving off the lot. Either way you’ll get a fantastic performance car with a reasonably refined interior, just not a very modern one. If you’re fine with that, it’s hard to beat the base 370Z’s starting price.

 

Review and photos: Trevor Hofmann

CarCostCanada

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition Road Test

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The new 2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition is one of the model’s most off-road-capable trims.

Want to drive an icon? Or maybe you’re just satisfied with a car-based crossover that’s little more than a tall station wagon with muscled-up, matte-black fender flares? I thought not. You wouldn’t be here if you merely wanted a grocery-getter, unless those groceries happen to necessitate a fly rod or hunting rifle to acquire.

Toyota’s 4Runner is idea for such excursions, and makes a good family shuttle too. I’d call it a good compromise between city slicker and rugged outdoorsman, but it’s so amazingly capable off-road it feels like you’re not compromising anything at all, despite having such a well put together interior, complete with high-end electronics and room to spare.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The Venture Edition gets all of Toyota’s 4×4 tech and fewer luxury items to keep its price more competitive.

To be clear, I’m not trying to say the 4Runner is the most technically advanced 4×4 around, because it’s actually somewhat of a throwback when it comes to mechanicals. Under the hood is Toyota’s tried and true 4.0-litre V6 that’s made 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque since 2010, when this particular 4Runner generation arrived on the scene. That engine was merely an update of a less potent version of the same mill, which was eight years old at the time. The five-speed automatic it’s still joined up with hails from 2004, so mechanically the 4Runner is more about wholly proven reliability than leading edge sophistication, resulting in one of the more dependable 4x4s currently available, as well as best in the “Mid-size Crossover/SUV” class resale value according to The Canadian Black Book’s 2019 evaluation. Still, while the 4Runner might seem like a blast to the past when it comes to mechanicals, this ends as soon as we start talking about off-road technologies.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Despite its trail credentials, all 4Runners provide a fairly smooth, comfortable ride.

I’m not talking about the classic second shift lever that sits next to the auto shifter on the lower centre console, this less advanced than most other 4x4s on the market that simply need the twist of a dash- or console-mounted dial to engage their four-wheel drive systems’ low ratio gears. The 4Runner’s completely mechanical setup first takes a tug rearward to shift it from H2 (rear-wheel drive) to H4 (four-wheel drive, high), which gives the SUV more traction in inclement weather or while driving on gravel roads, but doesn’t affect the speed at which you can travel. You’ll need to push the same lever to the right and then forward in a reverse J-pattern when wanting to venture into the wild yonder, this engaging its 4L (four-wheel drive, low) ratio, thus reducing its top speed to a fast crawl yet making it near invincible to almost any kind of terrain thrown at it.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The 2021 4Runner gets standard LED headlamps and beefier off-road rubber on some 4×4-focused models.

My test trail of choice featured some deeply rutted paths of dried mud, lots of soft, slippery sand, and plenty of loose rock and gravel, depending on the portion of my short trek. For overcoming such obstacles, Toyota provides its Active Trac (A-TRAC) brake lock differential that slows a given wheel when spinning and then redirects engine torque to a wheel with traction, while simultaneously locking the electronic rear differential. The controls for this function can be found in the overhead console, which also features a dial for engaging Crawl Control that maintains a steady speed without the need to have your right foot on the gas pedal. This means you’re free to “stand” up in order to see over crests or around trees that would otherwise be in your way. Crawl Control offers five throttle speeds, while also applying brake pressure to maintain its chosen speed while going downhill.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The Venture Edition gets these robust steel side steps as standard, which offer a lift up to the tall seating positions, but be sure to watch your shins.

Moving up the 4×4 sophistication ladder is the 4Runner’s Multi-Terrain Select system, which can be dialed into one of four off-road driving modes that range from “LIGHT” to “HEAVY” including “Mud, Sand, Dirt”, “Loose Rock”, “Mogul”, and “Rock”. Only the lightest mud, sand and dirt setting can be used in H4, with the three others requiring a shift to L4.

Fancy electronics aside, the 4Runner is able to overcome such obstacles due to 244 millimeters (9.6 inches) of ground clearance and 33/26-degree approach/departure angles, while I also found its standard Hill Start Assist Control system is as helpful when taking off from steep inclines when off-pavement as it is on the road. In the event you get hung up on something underneath, take some confidence in the knowledge that heavy-duty skid plates will protect the engine, front suspension and transfer case from damage.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
This handy cargo basket adds versatility until you need to park the 4Runner in some covered garages.

While I personally experienced no problem when it came to ground clearance, my Venture Edition tester came with a set of standard Predator side steps that could get in the way of protruding rocks, stumps or even crests. They hang particularly low, and while helpful when climbing inside (albeit watch your shins), might play interference.

For $55,390 plus freight and fees, the Venture Edition also includes blacked out side mirrors, door handles (that also include proximity-sensing access buttons), a rooftop spoiler, a windshield wiper de-icer, mudguards, and special exterior badges. Inside, all-weather floor mats join an auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink garage door remote controls, a powered glass sunroof, a front and a rear seating area USB port, a household-style 120-volt power outlet in the cargo area, active front headrests, eight airbags, and Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of advanced driver assistance systems, including an automatic Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Options not already mentioned include a sliding rear cargo deck with an under-floor storage compartment.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Fit and finish quality is evident in the 4Runner’s well organized cabin, while some surfaces are padded and stitched as well.

The Venture Edition also features an awesome looking Yakima MegaWarrior Rooftop Basket, which allows for extra cargo carrying capacity on top of the SUV. While really useful for camping trips and the like, it’s tall and can make parking in urban garages a bit tight to say the least. In fact, you may not be able to park in some closed cover parking lots due to height restrictions, the basket increasing the already tall 4Runner Venture Edition’s ride height by 193 mm (7.6 in) from 1,816 mm (71.5 in) to 2,009 mm (79.09 in). The basket itself measures 1,321 millimetres (52 inches) long, 1,219 mm (48 in) wide, and 165 mm (6.5 in) high, so it really is a useful cargo hold when heading out on a long haul.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Some nice pewter-coloured inlays, plus glossy metallic black and even carbon-like surfaces, dress up the dash, console and door panels.

Heading out on the highway in mind, my Venture Edition tester’s 17-inch TRD alloys and 265/70 Bridgestone Dueller H/T mud-and-snow tires did as good a job of managing off-road terrain as they held to the pavement, making them a good compromise for both scenarios. In such situations you’ll no doubt appreciate another standard Venture Edition feature, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that reduces body lean by up to 50 percent at high speed. This is important in a body-on-frame SUV that’s primarily designed for off-road, and thus comes with lots of wheel travel and a relatively soft suspension that’s easy on the backside through rough terrain. It’s a heavy beast too, weighing in at 2,155 kg (4,750 lbs), so KDSS really makes a difference on the highway, especially when the road gets twisty and you want to keep up with (and even exceed) the flow of traffic. It’s actually pretty capable through curves thanks to an independent double-wishbone front suspension and a four-link rear setup, plus stabilizer bars at both ends, but don’t expect it to stand on its head like Thatcher Demko did on the Canuck’s recent Vegas Golden Knights’ playoff run, or you’ll likely be hung upside down like the rest of the Vancouver team were when physicality overcame reality.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Not the most technologically advanced gauge cluster in the industry, but the 4Runner’s is certainly one of the easiest to see in all lighting conditions.

Physicality in mind, the 4Runner’s powered driver seat was very comfortable during my weeklong test, even when off-road. I was able to adjust the seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel to a near ideal position for my somewhat oddly proportioned long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, allowing comfortable yet fully controlled operation, which hasn’t always been the case in every Toyota product, and some other brands’ I should add.

It’s also comforting its other four seats, the Venture Edition standard for five occupants while other 4Runner trims offer three rows and up to seven passengers. I’ve tested the latter before, and let’s just say they’re best left to kids or very small adults, although this five-seat model provides plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and head room in every position.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The 4Runner’s centre stack is well designed with high-quality switchgear and an excellent new infotainment system.

Even without the noted basket on top, the 4Runner provides 1,336 litres (47.2 cu ft) of cargo space behind its second row of seats, which I found more than ample for carrying all my gear. I tested it during the summer so didn’t find reason to use the 20-percent centre pass-through portion of its ultra-handy 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, but this would be a dealmaker for me and my family due to our penchant for skiing. When all three sections of the rear seat are lowered the 4Runner offers up to 2,540 litres (89.7 cu ft) of max storage, which again is very good, while the weight of said payload can be up to 737 kg (1,625 lbs). Also important in this class, all 4Runners can manage trailers up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) and come standard with a receiver hitch and wiring harness with four- and seven-pin connectors.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Upgraded 2020 4Runner infotainment now includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and plenty of other useful features.

You won’t be able to achieve the 4Runner’s claimed 14.8 L/100km city fuel economy rating when fully loaded with gear and trailer, mind you, or for that matter its 12.5 L/100km highway rating or 13.8 combined estimate. My tester was empty other than yours truly and sometimes one additional passenger, so I had no problem matching its potential efficiency when going light on the throttle and traveling over mostly flat, paved terrain in 2H (two-wheel drive, high). If it seems thirsty to you, consider that it only uses regular fuel and will give you back much of its fuel costs in its aforementioned resale/residual value when it comes time to sell, as well as dependability when out of warranty.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The little knob behind the main shift lever is for selecting 4H and 4L.

One of the reasons the 4Runner holds its value is lack of change, although Toyota wholly improved this 2020 model’s infotainment system for a much better user experience and lots of advanced features. The 8.0-inch touchscreen incorporates Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and more, while I found its Dynamic Navigation with detailed mapping very accurate. The stock audio system decent as well, standard satellite radio providing the depth of music variety I enjoy (I’m a bit eclectic when it comes to tunes), while the backup camera only offers stationary “projected path” graphic indicators to show the way, but the rear parking sensors made up for this big time. Additional infotainment functions include Bluetooth phone connectivity, a helpful weather page, traffic condition info and apps, meaning that it really lacks nothing you’ll need.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Most of Toyota’s high-tech 4×4 functions can be controlled via this overhead console.

The primary instruments are somewhat more dated in appearances and functionality, but they still do the job. The Optitron analogue dials offer backlit brightness for easily legibility no matter the outside lighting conditions, and the multi-information display in the middle includes the usual assortment of useful features.

My 4Runner Venture Edition interior’s fit, finish and general materials quality was actually better than I expected, leaving me pleasantly surprised. All of its switchgear felt good, even the large dash-mounted knobs, which previously felt too light and generally substandard, are now more solid and robust. Tolerances are tight for the other buttons and switches too, and therefore should satisfy any past 4Runner owner.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
The front seats are comfortable and driver’s seating position very good.

The overall look of the dash and door panels is rectangular, matching the SUV’s boxy exterior style. That will probably be seen as a good thing by most traditionalists, its utilitarian appeal appreciated by yours truly, at least. I was surprised to see faux carbon fibre-style trim on the lower console, and found the dark glossy metallic grey surfacing chosen for the centre stack, dash trim and door panel accents better than shiny piano black plastic when it comes to reducing dust and scratches. Padded and red stitched leatherette gets added to the front two-thirds of those door panels, by the way, the same material as used for the side and centre armrests, while Toyota adds the red thread to the SofTex-upholstered seat side bolsters too, not to mention some flashy red “TRD” embroidery on the front headrests. Again, I think most 4Runner fans should find this Venture Edition plenty luxurious, unless they’re stepping out of a fully loaded Limited model.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Rear seat roominess in this two-row 4Runner is excellent.

Being that we’re so close to the 2021 model arriving, take note it will arrive with standard LED headlamps, LED fog lights, and special Lunar Rock exterior paint, while new black TRD alloys will soon get wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler A/T tires for better off-road traction. Additionally, Toyota has retuned the 2021 model’s dampers to improve isolation when on the trail. Word has it a completely new 4Runner is on the way for 2022, so keep this in mind when purchasing this 2020 or one of the upgraded 2021 models.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition
Cargo space? No problem. The centre pass-through makes the 4Runner ultra-convenient.

Also worthwhile to keep in mind is Toyota factory leasing and financing on this 2020 4Runner from 3.99 percent, or zero-percent factory leasing and financing on 2019 models if you can locate one. Check out 2019 and 2020 Toyota 4Runner Canada Prices pages to find out more, and remember that a CarCostCanada membership won’t only notify you of available financing and leasing rates, but also provides available rebate information as well as all-important dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating your next new vehicle purchase. Download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Store to make sure you have all this critical info available whenever you need it. After all, why should you pay more if you don’t have to?

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport Road Test

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The Genesis G80 still provides a lot of style despite its years.

A perfect storm? Two issues are causing mayhem in the automotive sector this year, the first being a Canadian economy that started slowing last year, and the second more obvious problem being the current health crisis that has put so many out of work, resulting in plenty of 2019 model year vehicles still available more than halfway into 2020. Such is the case for the 2019 G80, which fortunately for you didn’t change much when moving into the newer model year.

In fact, the G80 didn’t change a heck of a lot from its previous Hyundai Genesis Sedan days, back in model years 2015 and 2016, to the four-door mid-size luxury sedan that came for the 2017 model year and the one we have now, other than some very minor styling tweaks and the addition of the mid-range turbocharged V6 being tested here. The new powerplant gives the G80 a three-engine lineup, which is exactly one for each of its three trims. Base Technology trim gets a naturally aspirated 3.8-litre V6 good for 311 horsepower and 293 lb-ft of torque, this Sport model receives a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 capable of 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, and the top-line G80 Ultimate goes quickest thanks to a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 that puts out 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. All utilize an eight-speed automatic and each comes standard with all-wheel drive, so finding traction off the line is no problem at all.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s rear styling is reminiscent of some Hyundai models, particularly the previous generation Sonata.

Specs aside, the G80 is an excellent example of modern engineering done well, as are all Genesis models. It can easily keep up with its German, domestic and Japanese rivals, while it’s also attractive, impressively refined with nicely finished materials inside, filled with tech, convenience and luxury features, and wholly deserving of being slotted alongside the Mercedes E-Class/CLS-Class, BMW 5/6 Series, Audi A6/A7, Lexus GS, and other luxury-branded mid-size E-segment sedans. The only negatives worth interjecting include a lack of heritage, which was also true of entries from Lexus, Acura and Infiniti in their early days, and the model’s age. As it is, the G80 is well into six model years, which is a slightly lengthier stint than average in this class or any, but being that there aren’t too many on the road it still appears fairly fresh, plus it doesn’t hurt that its design was great looking from onset.

Model year 2021 will see an all-new G80, which looks fabulous thanks to an even more eye-catching version of the G90’s brilliant-cut diamond-shaped grille and plenty of styling cues from the intriguing new GV80 mid-size luxury crossover, so therefore mid-size luxury sedan buyers wanting to take advantage of any deals available on 2019 or 2020 models should act quickly.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
A big, bold grille, sporty lower fascia, LED headlamps, 19-inch alloys… all the trappings of a mid-size luxury sport sedan.

The only changes from 2019 to 2020 was to the centre stack, the CD player being removed for some reason. It’s an odd update for a car that will only be around for one year, but it is what it is, and thus the newer model will be more appealing to those who consider CDs antiquated, and less so for those who still appreciate this format’s better sound quality (than mp3s).

This means the rest of the 2020 G80 is exactly the same as the outgoing 2019 model, which as noted is hardly a bad situation. Making either model better are factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent. You can find out all about it on our 2019 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page or our 2020 Genesis G80 Canada Prices page, and while you’re there check out our configuration tool that allows you to build either car out in detail. A CarCostCanada membership will provide you with leasing and financing deal information for other models as well, plus manufacturer incentives including rebates, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands. Learn how it works now, and also enjoy the convenience of our free CarCostCanada app, downloadable from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
LED taillights come standard.

Google and Apple in mind, Android Auto and CarPlay smartphone integration comes with every 2019 and 2020 G80, that aforementioned Technology model starting at $58,000 and including LED DRLs and taillights, 18-inch alloys, proximity keyless access with a hands-free power-opening/closing trunk, genuine open-pore hardwood interior trim, a heatable steering wheel, power-adjustable tilt/telescopic steering, a 7.0-inch colour multi-info display/digital gauge package, a head-up display, a large 9.2-inch centre touchscreen, navigation, 17-speaker audio, an auto-dimming centre mirror, LED interior lighting, a big panoramic moonroof, a 16-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a 12-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, Nappa leather upholstery, heated front and rear outboard seats, cooled front seats, and a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, lane change assist, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and driver attention alert.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80 Sport’s two-tone interior is really eye-catching.

Both $62,000 Sport and $65,000 Ultimate trims replace the base model’s bi-xenon headlamps with full LEDs, while also adding 19-inch alloys, a microsuede headliner, and a credit card-style remote key fob, while exclusive to the Sport is a unique set of 16-way powered front Sport seats that were especially comfortable and wonderfully supportive to the lower back as well as under the knees, the former benefiting from four-way powered lumbar support adjustment, and the latter getting a power-extendable bottom cushion.

My tester featured a duo-tone light grey and charcoal black interior colour combo that was really nice looking, the two shades divided by stunning carbon-fibre glossy trim across the instrument panel and on the upper door sections, while a tasteful supply of brushed aluminum highlights added bling to key surfaces throughout the interior. Genesis even drilled out the aluminum Lexicon speaker grilles with a cool geometric design, while all of the various buttons, knobs and switches give the G80 a sense of occasion. There’s no shortage of soft-touch composites and leathers either, the Nappa leather seat upholstery particularly plush, resulting in a very refined, upscale environment.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The carbon-fibre trim really suits this sportier trim line.

While it might be hard to find hard plastics in the new G80, it’s not exactly the most advanced when it comes to digital displays. It was certainly up to speed six or so years ago, but massive advancements in high-definition, fully digital gauge clusters and widescreen centre displays have made this otherwise beautiful cabin seem a bit dated compared to most rivals. The new 2021 G80 will take care of this problem, so tech fans may want to wait, but those who don’t care about the latest gadgets will likely be fine with the current model’s mostly analogue gauge package, which is highly visible in all lighting conditions, plenty colourful at centre, and fully functional, while the previously noted head-up display was wonderfully useful and plenty advanced.

The centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen is up to task too, providing an attractive graphical display for the superb Lexicon stereo noted before, not to mention the advanced parking camera with active guidelines, 360 degrees of overhead views, and various closeup angles. While the climate control system needs to be actuated via a separate interface below, when choosing a given setting, a simulated cabin graphic shows individual temperatures on the main screen, which is pretty cool.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
Maybe not the most electronically advanced car in its class, but the G80 is certainly comfortable.

Amid the various knobs and buttons on the just-noted HVAC interface, an attractive square analogue clock provides a level of elegance that Genesis won’t be carrying over to the 2021 G80, unfortunately, while the CD changer in the similarly styled audio panel just below has already been deleted as mentioned earlier. Genesis provides USB and aux connectors in a lidded compartment below these as part of the lower console, right next to a wireless device charger that ideally tilts towards both front occupants.

An overhead console hovers above with handy felt-lined sunglasses storage, plus LED reading and dome lamps, powered panoramic sunroof controls, the glass of which can be shaded by pushing forward on a secondary switch. That shade is wrapped in a super soft microsuede, just like the roof liner, both sun visors, and each of the G80’s roof pillars.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The G80’s gauge package isn’t quite as advanced as some rivals.

The mid-size Genesis’ driving position is inherently good, and made even better thanks to those previously noted sport seats, while those in back get an equally spacious compartment. After setting the driver’s seat up for my long-legged, short-torso, five-foot-eight body, I had approximately eight inches ahead of my knees, plenty of legroom, about four inches from the door panel to my shoulders and hips, plus three or so inches of headroom left over, which means the majority of folks should fit in back with room to spare.

As yet unmentioned rear seat goodies include LED reading lights overhead, separate HVAC vents with separate controls housed on the back of the front console, and a pair of particularly well-made magazine pockets on backsides of the front seats, which incidentally are very nicely finished with leather (or at least it looked like leather) from top to bottom. The rear door panels are just as nicely made as those in front, by the way, while the flip-down centre armrest gets dual cupholders, as is almost always the case, plus an unusual set of three-way seat heater controls. A metal clothes hook can be found on the backside of each B-pillar too, which I find very helpful when wanting to arrive at an event without creases in my jacket.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
Press a button on the climate control interface below the centre screen and individual temperature settings pop into view.

At 433 litres the G80’s trunk is quite sizeable too, but the back seats don’t fold down to accommodate longer cargo like most rivals. Still, you can stuff skis and the like into a centre pass-through, which almost makes up for the rear seats’ static status.

While the rear of the G80 is pretty well unchanged since inception, some trim details aside, the model received new headlights for 2018, plus a reworked lower front grille, slightly refreshed front and rear facias, new standard 18-inch alloys, new primary instruments, the gorgeous analogue clock and front speaker grilles mentioned before, and a new leather-wrapped, metal-clad shifter knob topping an even more impressive electronic eight-speed automatic transmission that replaced the older-tech mechanical eight-speed autobox.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
A new gearshift lever tops off an entirely new eight-speed electronic transmission.

A mere tap rearward puts it into Drive and equally light push forward engages Reverse, with the centre position reserved for neutral as one might expect. The unexpected was an electronic gearbox that’s as easy to slot into gear (or out of gear) as the old-school tranny was, which is not always the case for some (I’m talking to you, Chrysler 300). Like all electronic automatics you don’t need to select Park when shutting off the ignition, as pressing the dash-mounted Engine Start Stop button will do the same thing.

A drive mode selector can be found just aft of the shift lever, with Normal, Eco and Sport selections. Eco mode really retards throttle response, which went a long way to helping the hefty sedan achieve its as-tested Transport Canada fuel economy ratings of 13.8 L/100km city, 9.7 highway and 11.9 combined. The entry-level V6 achieves a 13.4, 9.6 and 11.7 rating respectively, whereas the V8 is thirstiest at a claimed 15.6 city, 10.4 highway and 13.2 combined.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
These 16-way sport seats are superb.

Sport mode makes a dramatic difference over the default Normal setting too, with even more satisfying results. The 3.3-litre twin-turbo’s 365 horsepower feels strong when pushed hard from takeoff, much due to each of the G80 Sport’s four 245/40R19 Continental all-season tires biting into pavement simultaneously via Genesis’ HTRAC all-wheel drive system, the car’s brilliantly quick sprints only improved upon by relentless highway passing performance.

The V6-powered G80 Sport benefits from a little less weight over the front wheels than the Ultimate with its Tau V8, which certainly benefits quickness through fast, tightly spaced curves. The G80 Sport manages these with ease, even with 2,120 kilograms pulling in the opposite directions, making the big sedan feel lighter and more agile than it should. Then again, the G80 provides one of the nicer rides in its class too, Genesis managing to be a best-of-both-worlds alternative to its European peers when it comes to quickly riding in comfort.

2019 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
The rear seating area is roomy, comfortable and nicely finished.

While most of the G80’s rivals offer more advanced features, especially in the tech department, Genesis’s mid-size offering will probably be more reliable over the long haul. Even better, it’s backed up by a five-year or 100,000-km warranty if something goes awry, covering almost every component that comes with the car. Scheduled maintenance is complimentary too, while your car will be picked up by their valet service at your home or office, saving you time and therefore money. If the G80 didn’t already have you sold at hello, some of these latter factors combine to make any new Genesis a very practical luxury choice, and worthy of your consideration.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2020 Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon Road Test

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
The Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon is a fully capable sport sedan with the functionality of an SUV.

Modern-day crossover sport utilities are great, but let’s face it, most everyone’s got one these days. There’s a reason, of course, as they combine loads of practicality with car-like attributes, with some even coming close to matching the performance of sport sedans.

Mercedes’ AMG sub-brand is good example of the latter thanks to the German brand providing Canadian luxury buyers with hyper-tuned versions of their GLA subcompact SUV, GLC compact SUV (including the GLC Coupe), GLE mid-size SUV (the GLE Coupe only coming in AMG trims), and rugged G full-size off-road capable SUV, but take note that performance buyers wanting the same kind of utility as an SUV with even better cornering capability, due to inherently lower centres of gravity, can opt for Mercedes’ lineup of performance wagons too.

Mercedes has a long history of producing ultra-quick wagons, the 1979 (W123-body) 500 TE AMG quickly coming to mind, so it’s great news to diehard performance enthusiasts that the tradition continues to this day. Check out the brand’s retail website and you’ll easily find AMG-tuned versions of its C- and E-Class Wagons, including the AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon on this page, plus the AMG E 53 4Matic+ Wagon and AMG E 63 S 4Matic+ Wagon.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Great looking AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon can be made even more menacing by adding glossy black exterior accents via the AMG Night package.

While very practical for those with active lifestyles, the last car on this list might be outside of most buyers’ budgets at $124,200, although if you’re late for Johnny or Jenny’s morning skate there’s no better way to make up for lost time than in a five-door that can shoot from standstill to 100km/h in an unfathomable 3.3 seconds. The fire-breathing demon under the hood is Mercedes’ 603 horsepower 4.0-litre biturbo V8, while the $87,800 AMG E 53 4Matic+ Wagon still does pretty well with a 4.5-second run to 100 km/h from its 429 horsepower 3.0-litre inline six.

The smaller AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon is most affordable at $60,900, but don’t let its relatively inexpensive price make you think it’s by any means lethargic off the line. In fact, its 385-horsepower 3.0-litre biturbo V6, which features rapid-multispark ignition and a high-pressure direct injection system, launches it from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds, much credit to 384 lb-ft of torque, and the noise emanating from its engine bay and available sport exhaust system means that its auditory delights are almost as delectable as the rush of speed to the head.

Interestingly, the only D-segment wagon on the Canadian market with similar engine specs to this AMG C 43 is Volvo’s 405 horsepower V60 Polestar, but as amazing as its engineering is, the Swedish automaker’s ultra-smooth 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged hybrid powertrain is not as stimulating as the AMG C 43 Wagon’s rambunctious V6, or for that matter its new AMG SpeedShift TCT nine-speed transmission, or its AMG tuned 4Matic all-wheel drive system.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
LED cornering headlights, 19-inch alloys and glossy black details means that this AMG C 43 Wagon has some extras added.

I’ve seen the C 43 in black and it looks a lot more menacing than my tester’s Polar White, but Mercedes made up for its angelic do-gooder appearance with plenty of standard matte and optional glossy black exterior accents. Highlights include a black mesh front grille and lower vent gratings within a deeper front fascia, plus gloss-black strakes over corner vents, the mirror housings, the partial glass roof and roof rails, the side window trim, the aggressive rear diffuser, the four exhaust pipes, and the 19-inch alloy wheels encircled by Continental ContiSportContact SSR 225/40 high performance summer tires.

My test model’s LED headlights were style statements of their own, with each featuring a trio of separate lighting elements that look as good as the well-lit road ahead, while nice splashes of chrome around the body remind everything that this is AMG C 43 is a Mercedes-Benz after all, and therefore designed to be just as luxurious as it is sporty.

To that end, proximity keyless entry allows access to the cabin, where your eyes will likely first fixate upon two of the most impressive sport seats in industry. They’re covered in black perforated leather with red stitching and brushed aluminum four-point harness holes on their upper backrests, as well as a small AMG badge at centre. Then again, it’s quite possible you’ll first be distracted by the incredible door panel design, which gets even more brushed and satin-finish aluminum trim, as well as optional drilled aluminum Burmester speaker grilles and black leather with red stitching elsewhere.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
This C 43 Wagon’s aggressive rear diffuser gets stuffed full of a free-flow AMG Performance Exhaust System.

The red-stitched, padded leather treatment continues over to the dash top and instrument panel, all the way down each side of the centre stack, while the latter features gorgeous optional carbon-fibre surfacing that extends down to the lower centre console that terminates at a big, bisected centre armrest/storage bin lid finished in yet more soft leather with red stitching.

Big in mind, two large glass sunroofs look like a single panoramic roof at first glance, yet provide more torsional rigidity than a full glass roof would. Considering the C 43 Wagon is capable of a 250-km/h (155-mph) terminal velocity, as well as harrowing at-the-limit handling, it’s critical to have a stiff body structure, and fortunately this minimizes the luxurious wagon’s wind and road noise.

Of course Mercedes wraps the roof pillars in the same high-quality fabric as the roofliner, which helps to reduce NVH levels somewhat, but most is due to the rigid body structure noted earlier, plus the various seals, insulation, engine and component mounts, plus more. Therefore it’s a near silent experience, other than the rumbling of the engine and/or the sensational Burmester audio system.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
The AMG C 43 Wagon’s interior is exquisite.

It’s possible to control the volume of its 13 speakers from a beautifully detailed knurled metal cylinder switch on the right steering wheel spoke, this being only one of the C 43’s impressive array of steering wheel buttons, toggles and touch-sensitive pads. Yes, each spoke gets its own classic Blackberry-like touchpad that lets you scroll through the available digital gauge cluster or the main display on the centre stack. The steering wheel rim is as attractive as the metallic surfaced spokes, its partial Nappa leather-wrapping around flattened sides and bottom for an F1-inspired look, while a slim red leather top marker aligns the centre, and suede-look Dinamica (much like Alcantara) makes for better grip at each side.

I’d have to say there’s more satin-finish and brushed aluminum trimmings in the AMG C 43 than any rival, but rather than looking garish Mercedes pulls it off with a tasteful level of retro steampunk coolness that elevates it into a class of one. The highlight for me are its five circular air vents on the instrument panel, the three in the middle hovering above an attractive row of knurled metal-topped satin aluminum toggle-like switches, and these are only upstaged by a great looking knurled metal cylinder switch for the drive mode select, which includes Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Slippery settings. There’s a rotating dial for the infotainment system too, this also finished in knurled aluminum, and positioned just underneath Mercedes’ trademark palm rest, which doubles as a touchpad with an upgrade.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
No rival does door panels as nicely as Mercedes-Benz.

Premium brands mostly use better quality digital displays than their mainstream volume competitors, which is how it should be given their loftier prices, and Mercedes is no different. In fact, the most recently updated three-pointed star cars and SUVs include the brand’s ultra-advanced double-display design that seamlessly mates a tablet-style 12.3-inch screen directly in front of the driver for all primary gauges with an identically sized infotainment display. This said the current fourth-generation (W205) C-Class (S205 for the wagon) introduced in September of 2014 for the 2015 model year, and therefore in its seventh production year, hasn’t been updated with latest dash design yet, but its more conventional hooded analogue gauge cluster (with a big multi-information display at centre) can be swapped out for a 12.3-inch set of digital instruments when upgrading to the C 43 Wagon’s Technology package.

Mercedes digital instrument cluster is as colourful as any on the market, and very customizable with a variety of background designs and plenty of multi-info functions. It allows for many feature combinations as well, and can be set up with a traditional dual-gauge look, or the entire display can be a navigation map, for instance.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
A feast for the eyes and the senses, the C 43’s cabin is beautifully detailed, very well made and extremely comfortable.

The AMG C 43 Wagon’s infotainment display is smaller at 7.0 inches, although it can be upgraded to 10.25 inches like my tester. As is common these days (although Mercedes was an initiator of the design), the centre display sits upright atop the dash, while its graphic design is as colourful and appealing as the just-noted gauge cluster. Its features are comprehensive, but take note you’ll need to use the aforementioned lower console-mounted controls for any tap, swipe and pinch finger gestures, as it’s not a touchscreen.

The Technology package I spoke of a moment ago will set you back $1,900, while together with the 12.3-inch digital instruments it also includes the active Multibeam LED headlamps mentioned earlier, plus adaptive high beam assist, while the gloss-black exterior accents mentioned before comes as part of a $1,000 AMG Night package.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
A fully digital gauge cluster is optional, and it’s a brilliantly colourful, fully featured design with good customization capability.

The AMG Nappa/Dinamica performance steering wheel that I lauded earlier can be had if you choose the $2,400 AMG Driver’s package, which also adds the free-flow AMG performance exhaust system with push-button computer-controlled vanes, the 19-inch AMG five-twin-spoke aero wheels (the base model sports 18s), increased top speed to 250 km/h (155 mph), and an AMG Track Pace app that allows performance data like speed, acceleration, lap and sector times to be stored in the infotainment system when out on the track.

If you’re really up on your AMG C 43 knowledge, and I have readers who are, you’ll immediately notice that my tester’s steering wheel is devoid of the extra switchgear the AMG Driver’s package includes for 2020, so no I must confess that the car you’re looking at is actually a 2019 model I drove last year, but didn’t get around to reviewing (bad journalist). New this year (2020) is an AMG Drive Unit that with F1-inspired switchgear attached below each steering wheel spoke, these designed for quickly making adjustments to performance settings. The pod of switches on the left can be assigned to features such as manual shift mode, the AMG Ride Control system’s damping modes, the three-stage ESP system, and the AMG Performance Exhaust, while the circular switch on the right selects and displays the current AMG Dynamic Select driving mode.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
The centre stack is well organized and impeccably finished, especially when upgraded to carbon-fibre surfacing.

By the way, the C 43 Wagon on this page is otherwise identical to the 2020 model, except for twin rear USB ports that are now standard in all 2020 C-Class models. Likewise, the $5,600 Premium package included with my test car is the same as the one found in the 2020 C 43 Wagon, both featuring proximity keyless entry, the touchpad infotainment controller, and the 590-watt Burmester surround sound system, as well as an overhead bird’s-eye parking camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a very accurate navigation system, voice control, satellite radio, real-time traffic information, a wireless phone charging pad, an universal garage door opener, semi-autonomous self-parking, rear side window sunshades, and a power liftgate with foot-activated opening.

The $2,700 Intelligent Drive package was also added, this collection of goodies including Pre-Safe Plus, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Distronic Distance Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Traffic Sign Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, and Route-based Speed Adaptation.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
The high-definition centre display provides myriad functions and superbly colourful graphics.

While the hot looking $250 designo red seatbelts certainly deserve attention, I’ll refrain from delving into standard features and options as this review is already epic. My C 43 Wagon was nicely loaded up and even base models are generously equipped, while their finishing is second to none in this class. Most important amongst AMG cars is the driving experience, however, and to that end I couldn’t help but also notice the impressive dual-screen backup and 360-degree surround camera with dynamic guidelines as I backed out of my driveway, but strangely to those not familiar with Mercedes-Benz, this sport wagon’s auto shifter remains on the column like classics from the good old days. While this might seem a bit old school, it’s actually efficiently out of the way. One flick of the stalk-like lever and it’s state-of-the-art electronic innards will make themselves known, while pressing the Park button is a dead giveaway that it’s hardly an automotive anachronism. Look to the steering wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifting, something I found myself doing more often than not thanks to the superbly engineered nine-speed automatic gearbox.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Performance seats don’t get any better than this.

Of course it’s smooth, Mercedes never forgetting the C 43 Wagon’s pragmatic purpose, but the transmission’s AMG programming puts an emphasis on performance. Its nine speeds result in a wider range of more closely spaced ratios that shift lickety-split quick, while previously noted AMG Dynamic Select’s Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes truly add to the magic. This said, Mercedes included three overdrive ratios for optimizing fuel economy, which together with ECO Start/Stop that automatically turns off the engine when it would otherwise be idling adds to its efficiency while also reducing emissions. The end result is good fuel economy considering the power on tap, the C 43 Wagon capable of an estimated 12.4 L/100km city, 8.9 highway and 10.8 combined in both 2019 and 2020 model years.

Of course, all-wheel drive saps energy while enhancing traction, but the C 43’s AMG 4Matic AWD system provides a good balance of efficiency and at-the-limit grip. To manage the latter it has a fixed 31:69 front/rear torque split, while a nicely weighted electromechanical power-assist rack-and-pinion steering system provides good feel, and a standard AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension includes three-stage damping for exceptionally good road-holding. Even with the traction/stability control turned off it delivered good mechanical grip, only stepping out at the rear when pushed ultra-hard and then doing so with wonderful predictability.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Rear seat roominess and comfort is great.

If you’ve never taken the opportunity to drive something as fast and capable as the C 43 you’ll be amazed at this compact wagon’s command of the road. This includes stopping power due to a racetrack-ready AMG Performance Braking system featuring perforated 360 mm rotors and grey-painted four-piston fixed calipers in front, and a solid set of 320 mm rotors in back. Astute readers may have noticed I said perforated instead of cross-drilled, and my words were chosen carefully because the C 43’s front discs are actually cast with holes from the onset in order to add strength and improve heat resistance. This process results in extremely good braking prowess, even when laying into them too hard and too often during high-speed performance driving. I’d say they’re the next best thing to carbon-ceramic brakes, although they feel nicer for day-in-day-out use.

As fun as the AMG C 43 is to drive, let’s not forget that it’s five-door layout makes it extremely practical. It’s spacious in front with a driver’s seat that was as comfortable as any in the D-segment, while the rear seats provide good support and plenty of space for stretching out the legs. A folding centre armrest includes pop-out cupholders along with a shallow storage bin, or if you need to load long cargo in back take note the centre portion of the C’s 40/20/40-split rear seatback can be lowered. Additionally, the rear seats flip forward automatically by way of two electric buttons, making the C 43 as convenient to live with as it’s brilliantly fun to drive. In the end, cargo capacity can be expanded from 460 to 1,480 litres, which means that it’s luggage volume sits between the GLA- and new GLB-Class subcompacts.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Second-row seatbacks that fold 40/20/40 mean that rear passengers can enjoy the window seats when long cargo is stored down the middle.

It truly is cool to be practical, at least if you’re driving an AMG C 43 Wagon. All of Mercedes-Benz’ AMG wagons deliver big on spacious, comfortable, luxurious performance, not to mention prestige, so the fact that Mercedes is now offering up to $5,000 in additional incentives on 2020 C-Class models is impressive.

To learn more go to our 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Canada Prices page where you can find out about all C-Class body styles, trims, packages and standalone options, and then build the car you’re interested in. What’s more, a CarCostCanada membership will fully prepare you before even speaking with your Mercedes retail representative, by informing you about any available manufacturer rebates, financing and/or leasing deals, and dealer invoice pricing (the price the dealer pays for the car before marking it up), which means you’ll be able to negotiate the best deal possible.

Right now most Mercedes-Benz dealers will bring the car you’re interested in to your home so you can so you can test it without having to go to the dealership, and don’t worry as the entire car will have been sterilized before you poke around inside and take it for a drive. Considering the incentives available for the AMG C 43 Wagon and just how impressive it is overall, you may want to take them up on that.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

CarCostCanada

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6 Road Test

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The 2019 Ford Flex is the last of a breed, yet all trims are still available.

If you’ve been reading my latest reviews here, you’ll know that I scour Canada’s retail auto network before putting fingers to the keyboard, as it wouldn’t make much sense to write about a new vehicle that’s no longer available. As it is, plenty of 2019 Ford Flex examples are still very much available despite being a discontinued model, so for those enamoured with its unusual good looks I recommend paying attention.

I’m guessing your local Ford dealer will be happy to give you a great deal on a Flex if he happens to have one still available, while CarCostCanada is claiming up to $5,500 in additional incentives for this final 2019 model.

The Flex has been in production for more than 10 years, and while it initially got off to a pretty good start in Canada with 6,047 units sold in calendar year 2009, 2010 quickly saw annual deliveries slide to 4,803 examples, followed by a plunge to 2,862 units in 2011, a climb up to 3,268 in 2012, and then another drop to 2,302 in 2013, 2,365 in 2014, a low of 1,789 in 2015, a boost to 2,587 in 2016, and 2,005 in 2017. Oddly, year-over-year sales grew by 13.4 percent to 2,273 units in 2018 to and by 9.6 percent to 2,492 deliveries in 2019, which means three-row crossover SUV buyers are still interested in this brilliantly unorthodox family mover, but it obviously wasn’t enough to make Dearborn commit to a redesign, and in hindsight this makes perfect sense because three-row blue-oval buyers have made their choice clear by gobbling up the big Explorer in to the point that it’s one of the best selling SUVs in its class.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The boxy three-row mid-size crossover SUV has a lot of room inside.

The Flex and the outgoing 2011–2019 Explorer share a unibody structure that’s based on Ford’s D4 platform, and that architecture is a modified version of the original Volvo S80/XC90-sourced D3 platform. Going back further, the first D3 to wear a blue oval badge was Ford’s rather nondescript Five Hundred sedan, which was quickly redesigned into the sixth-generation 2010–2019 Taurus and only cancelled recently, thus you can save you up to $5,500 in additional incentives on a Taurus as well (see our 2019 Ford Taurus Canada Prices page to find out more). If you want to trace the Flex back to its roots, check out the 2005–2007 Freestyle that was renamed Taurus X for 2008–2009.

Those older Ford crossovers never got the respect they deserved, because they were comfortable, well proportioned, good performers for their time, and impressively innovative during that era too. The Freestyle was the first domestic SUV to use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), at least as far as I can remember, and it was one of the biggest vehicles to do so up that point (Nissan edged Ford out with its Murano by a couple of years). Interestingly, Ford soon stopped using CVTs in its large vehicles, instead choosing a six-speed automatic for the Flex and the fifth-generation Explorer, which is a good thing as it has been a very dependable gearbox.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
All the black trim comes as part of a $900 Appearance package.

Mechanicals in mind, the Flex continues to use the same two versions of Ford’s popular 3.5-litre V6 that were offered in the original model. To be clear, the base Duratec engine, which produced 262 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque before 2013, after which output increased to 287 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. The base engine pushes the three-row seven-passenger crossover along at a reasonably good pace, but the turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 that became optional in 2010 turned it into a veritable flyer thanks to 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, while an additional 10 horsepower to 365 has kept it far ahead of the mainstream volume branded pack right up to this day.

That’s the version to acquire and once again the configuration I recently spent a week with, and it performed as brilliantly as it did when I first tested a similarly equipped Flex in 2016. I noticed a bit of front wheel twist when pushed hard off the line at full throttle, otherwise called torque steer, particularly when taking off from a corner, which is strange for an all-wheel drive vehicle, but it moved along quickly and was wonderfully stable on the highway, not to mention long sweeping corners and even when flung through sharp fast-paced curves thanks to its fully independent suspension setup and big, meaty 255/45R20 all-season rubber. I wouldn’t say it’s as tight as a premium SUV like Acura’s MDX, Audi’s Q7 or BMW’s X7, but we really can’t compare those three from a price perspective. Such was the original goal of the now defunct Lincoln MKT, but its styling never took off and therefore it was really only used for airport shuttle and limousine liveries.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The headlamps are only HIDs, but these taillights use LED technology.

Like the MKT and the many three-row Japanese and European crossover utilities available, the Flex is a very large vehicle, so no one should be expecting sports car-like performance. Combined with its turbo-six powerplant is the dependable SelectShift six-speed automatic mentioned earlier, and while not as advanced as the 7-, 8-, 9- and now even 10-speed automatics coming from the latest blue-oval, Lincoln and competitive products, it shifts quickly enough and is certainly smooth, plus it doesn’t hamper fuel economy as terribly as various brands’ marketing departments would have you believe. I love that Ford included paddle shifters with this big ute, something even some premium-branded three-row crossovers are devoid of yet standard with the more powerful engine (they replace the lesser engine’s “Shifter Button Activation” on the gear knob), yet the Flex is hardly short on features, especially in its top-tier Limited model.

The transmission is probably best left to its own devices if you want to get the most out of a tank of fuel no matter which engine you choose, and to that end the Ecoboost V6 is the least efficient at 15.7 L/100km in the city, 11.2 on the highway and 13.7 combined, but this said it’s not that much thirstier than the base engine and its all-wheel drivetrain that uses a claimed 14.7 city, 10.7 highway or 12.9 combined, which itself is only slightly less efficient than the base FWD model that gets a rating of 14.7, 10.2 and 12.7 respectively.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The Flex cabin is a bit dated, but it’s quality is good and technology mostly up-to-date.

The 2019 Flex comes in base SE, mid-range SEL and top-tier Limited trims, according to the 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page found right here on CarCostCanada. This is where you can see all the pricing and feature information available for the Flex and most other vehicles sold in Canada. The 2019 Flex is available from $32,649 plus freight and fees for the SE with FWD, $39,649 for the SEL with FWD, $41,649 for the SEL with AWD, and $46,449 for the Limited that comes standard with AWD. All trims come standard with the base engine, but the Limited can be upgraded with the more powerful turbocharged V6 for an extra $6,800 (it includes other upgrades too).

Before adding additional options the retail price of a 2019 Flex Limited Ecoboost AWD is $53,249, and along with its aforementioned performance enhancements it gets everything standard with the regular Limited model, such as 19-inch silver-painted alloy wheels wrapped with 235/55 all-season tires, HID headlamps, fog lights, LED tail lamps, a satin-aluminum grille, chrome door handles, bright stainless steel beltline mouldings, a satin aluminum liftgate appliqué, a powered liftgate, bright dual exhaust tips, power-folding heated side mirrors with memory and security approach lights, rain-sensing wipers, reverse parking sonar, and I’ve only talked about the exterior.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The driving environment is spacious, comfortable and nicely organized.

Ford provides remote start to warm it up in winter or cool it down in summer, all ahead of even getting inside, while access comes via a keyless proximity system or the automaker’s exclusive SecuriCode keypad. Likewise, pushbutton start/stop keeps the engine purring, Ford MyKey maintains a level of security when a valet or one of your children is behind the wheel, while additional interior features include illuminated entry with theatre dimming lighting, a perforated leather-clad steering wheel rim with real hardwood inlays, Yoho maple wood grain inlays, power-adjustable pedals with memory, perforated leather upholstery for the first- and second-row seat upholstery, a 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, a six-way power front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming centre mirror, an overhead sunglasses holder, ambient interior lighting with seven colours that include (default) Ice Blue, as well as soft blue, blue, green, purple, orange and red, plus Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, excellent sounding 12-speaker Sony audio, satellite radio, two USB charging ports in the front console bin, two-zone auto climate control, rear manual HVAC controls, four 12-volt power points, a 110-volt household-style three-prong power outlet, blind spot information with cross-traffic alert, and more.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The dual-screen colour TFT gauge cluster was way ahead of its time when introduced a decade ago.

For a ten year old design, the Flex looks fairly up to date as far as electronics go, thanks to its Cockpit Integrated Display that incorporates two high-resolution displays within the primary instrument cluster (it was far ahead of its time back in 2009), while the just-mentioned Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen is still impressive too, due to updates through the years. It incorporates a big, graphically attractive and well-equipped display with quick-reacting functionality plus good overall usability, its features including accurate available navigation as well as a very good standard backup camera with active guidelines, albeit no overhead camera even in its topmost trim. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is standard, however, plus the ability to download more apps, etcetera.

On top of the Limited trim’s standard features a $3,200 301A package can be added with features such as a heated steering wheel, truly comfortable 10-way power-adjustable front seats with three-way cooling, dynamic cruise control, Collision Warning with autonomous emergency braking, and Active Park Assist semi-autonomous parking capability, but note that all of the 301A features come standard already when choosing the more powerful engine, as does a special set of 20-inch polished alloy wheels, a powered steering column, a one-touch 50/50-split power-folding third row with tailgate seating, and an engine block heater.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
Ford’s Sync3 infotainment interface is very attractive and intelligently designed.

As you may already noticed, my tester’s wheels are gloss-black 20-inch alloys that come as part of a $900 Appearance package which also includes additional inky exterior treatments to the centre grille bar, side mirror housings, and rear liftgate appliqué, plus it adds Agate Black paint to the roof and pillars, while the cabin receives a special leather-clad steering wheel featuring Meteorite Black bezels, plus an unique graphic design on the instrument panel and door-trim appliqués, special leather seat upholstery with Light Earth Gray inserts and Dark Earth Gray bolsters, as well as floor mats with a unique logo.

My test model’s Vista panoramic multi-panel glass roof has always been an individual option, adding $1,750 to this 2019 model, but I found it a bit odd that voice-activated navigation (with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link) as a standalone add-on (navigation systems usually bundled as part of a high-level trim line), while the gloss-black roof rails can also be individually added for just $130, but the roof rails, which are also available in silver, come as part of a $600 Cargo Versatility package too, which combines the otherwise $500 Class III Trailer Tow package (capable of up to 4,500 lbs or 2,041 kg of trailer weight) with first- and second-row all-weather floor mats (otherwise a $150 option), resulting in more four-season practicality.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The two-zone auto HVAC interface uses state-of-the-art touch-sensitive controls.

Over and above items included in my test model, it’s also possible to add a refrigerated centre console for $650, second-row captain’s chairs with a centre console for just $150 (but I prefer the regular bench seat as the smaller portion of its 60/40-split configuration can be auto-folded from the rear), inflatable second-row seatbelts for $250 (which enhance rear passenger safety), and two-screen (on the backs of the front headrests) rear entertainment for $2,100.

Of course, many of the Limited trim’s features get pulled up from base SE and mid-range SEL trims, both being well equipped for their price ranges too, I should also mention that the Flex’s interior isn’t quite as refined as what you’d find in a new 2020 Explorer with the same options, per say. Then again I remember how impressed I was with the Flex’s refinement when it arrived 10 or so year ago, which really goes to show how far Ford has come in a decade, not to mention all of the other mainstream brands. The latest Edge, for example, which I tested in its top-tier trim recently, is likely better than the old Lincoln MKX, now replaced by the much-improved Nautilus, whereas the Flex’s cabin is more like the old Edge inside.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
This Flex boasts 10-way powered front seats with heated and cooled cushions for supreme comfort.

Therefore you’ll have to be ok with good quality albeit somewhat dated details, such as its large, clunky, hollow plastic power lock switches instead of Ford’s newer models’ more upscale electronic buttons, while there’s a lower grade of hard plastic surfaces throughout the interior too. This said its dash-top receives a fairly plush composite covering, as does each door upper from front to back, whereas the door inserts have always been given a nifty graphic appliqué, just above big padded armrests.

As you might imagine, the Flex is roomy inside. In fact, its predecessor was designed to replace the Freestar minivan back in 2007, so it had to have minivan-like seating and cargo functionality. This said the Flex’s maximum cargo volume of 2,355 litres (83.1 cubic feet) when both all rear seats are tumbled down doesn’t come close to the brand’s once-popular minivan that managed a total of 3,885 litres (137.2 cu ft) of luggage volume in its day, but it’s generously proportioned for a mid-size crossover. In fact, the Flex can manage 42 additional litres (1.5 cu ft) of total storage space than the outgoing 2019 Explorer, which was one of the biggest SUVs in its three-row segment. That said the new 2020 Explorer offers up to 2,486 litres (87.8 cu ft) of maximum cargo capacity, which improves on both of Ford’s past SUVs (Flex included).

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The second row is ultra-comfortable and limousine-like for legroom, while the third row is large enough for adults.

The rear liftgate powers upward to reveal 426 litres (15.0 cu ft) of dedicated luggage space aft of the rearmost seats, which is in fact 169 litres (6.0 cu ft) less than in the old Explorer, but if you lower the second row the Flex nearly matches the past Explorer’s cargo capacity with 1,224 litres (43.2 cu ft) compared to 1,240 litres (43.8 cu ft). A nifty feature noted before allows the final row to be powered in the opposite direction for tailgate parties, incidentally, but make sure to extend the headrests for optimal comfort.

Total Flex passenger volume is 4,412 litres (155.8 cu ft), which results in a lot of room in all seating positions, plus plenty of comfort. Truly, even third row legroom is pretty decent, while headroom is lofty everywhere inside thanks to a high roofline. Ford made sure there was enough space from side-to-side too, this due to a vehicle that’ quite wide. The aforementioned panoramic sunroof adds to the feeling of openness as well, and its three-pane construction is pretty intelligent as it allows for better structural rigidity than one large opening, which is particularly important for a vehicle with such a large, flat roof. Additional thoughtful features include large bottle holders within the rear door panels, these wholly helpful at drive-thrus.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
The innovative multi-pane panoramic Vista sunroof provides loads of light while maintaining the big Flex’s structural rigidity.

I’m guessing you can tell I like this unusual box on wheels, and must admit to appreciating Ford for its initial courage when bringing the Flex to market and its willingness to keep it around so long. I know it’s outdated, particularly inside, plus it’s missing a few features that I’d like to see, such as outboard rear seat warmers and USB charging ports in the second row, but it’s difficult to criticize its value proposition after factoring in the potential savings Ford has on the table. I’m sure that opting for this somewhat antiquated crossover might be questionable after seeing it parked beside Ford’s latest 2020 Explorer, but keep in mind that a similarly equipped version of the latter utility will cost you another $10,000 or so before any discounts, while the domestic manufacturer is only providing up to $2,000 in additional incentives for this newer SUV. That’s a price difference of more than $13,000, so therefore a fully loaded Flex might make a lot of sense for someone looking for a budget-minded luxury utility.

2019 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost V6
There’s no shortage of storage space in a Flex.

A month or so ago, before we all became aware of the COVID-19 outbreak, I would’ve probably recommended for those interested in buying a new Flex to rush over to their local dealer and scoop one up before they all disappeared forever, and while they certainly will be gone at some point this year I recommend you find one online like I did, and contact the respective dealership directly via phone or email. Still, doing your homework before making the call or sending the message is a good idea, so make sure to visit our 2019 Ford Flex Canada Prices page first, where you can learn about every trim and price, plus find out if any new manufacturer discounts, rebates and/or financing/leasing packages have been created, while don’t forget that a membership to CarCostCanada provides otherwise difficult to access dealer invoice pricing (which is the price the retailer actually pays the manufacturer for the vehicle). This will provide you the opportunity to score the best-possible deal during negotiation. After that, your Ford dealer will ready your new Flex for delivery.

So therefore if this unorthodox crossover utility is as appealing to you as to me, I recommend you take advantage of the tempting model-ending deal mentioned earlier. The Flex might be an aging SUV amongst the plethora of more advanced offerings, but don’t forget that this aging crossover still comes across as fresh thanks to its moderate popularity (you won’t see a lot of them driving around your city), while its long well-proven tenure means that it should be more dependable than some of its newer competitors.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay