Top 5 Luxury SUVs at the 2015 Vancouver International Auto Show

The 2015 Vancouver International Autoshow is bigger than ever before this year. Now in its 95th year, the show boasts 25 per cent more floor space and even more vehicles at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

If you’re in the market for a new luxury SUV, here are my Top 5 Luxury SUV Picks for you to visit before the show shuts down this Sunday at 6pm.

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport

The new Land Rover Discovery Sport makes its regional debut at this year’s Vancouver autoshow. It stands out from its posh compact-ute rivals for one simple and moderately compelling reason—it can actually go off-road, at least sometimes.

Photo by Andrew Ling

Based on the same platform as the wildly popular Range Rover Evoque, the Discovery Sport can’t match the ground clearance of its LR4, Range Rover, or Range Rover Sport siblings for pure wilderness-challenging ability.

However, the Disco Sport’s 8.3 inches of ground clearance is more than respectable for the occasional jaunt to the campgrounds or the country cottage. Land Rover also claims approach, departure, and breakover angles of 25, 31, and 31 degrees for the Sport, plus a wading depth of 23.6 inches.

In other words, that’s better offroadability than your typical BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK competitors.

Land Rover is also setting the Discovery Sport against its German rivals with the option of “5+2″ seating, with the ability to carry up to 7 passengers. No other compact luxury SUV offers such a feature. The “+2” is essentially a child-only fold-down third row that slides beneath the cargo floor when not in use.

2016 BMW X5 M / X6 M

The BMW X5 has the distinction of being not only one of the first true luxury SUVs, but also one of the first seriously fast SUVs.

Now BMW is launching the second iteration of the X5 M, which is based on the third-generation X5, alongside its less practical X6 M Sport Activity Coupe sibling.

With a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 rated at 567 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, the X5 M (and X6 M) is even quicker to trot than its predecessor with its official 0 to 100 km/hr sprint taking just over four seconds. That’s faster than many pure two seater sports cars!

Like the X6 M, the X5 M wears massive 285/35 tires up front and 325/30 rubber in the rear; 21-inch wheels are standard equipment.

As is usual in the latest BMW M models, the driver can fettle with the adjustable shocks, steering, transmission program, and throttle mapping through multiple modes using dedicated buttons for each.

Inside, the X5 M and X6 M both feature bespoke M-specific bits from the steering wheel and seats to the onscreen M Drive menu.

The exteriors of both vehicles also wear unique M front and rear styling cues, setting them apart from their more pedestrian non-M models.

2015 Lexus NX200t / NX300h

And now for something smaller (and more affordable).

With the new Lexus NX, Lexus is looking for a younger demographic than its RX mid-sized SUV.

The mid-sized RX is too big and pricey to attack the growing number of compact luxo utes and this is where the NX fits in.

Instead of the rounded and conservative silhouette associated with the RX, the NX breaks through with its brand-identifying Lexus “spindle” grille and aggressive body creases and folds.

There are two models available, the NX200t and the NX300h, available with front or four-wheel drive.

The 200t marks Lexus’s first turbocharged gas engine, in this case a 235-hp 2.0-liter four. It also will be available in mildly sportier F Sport guise.

The 300h is a hybrid with a gasoline 2.5-liter four cylinder engine and an electric motor combining to deliver 194 horsepower. You can even test drive the Lexus NX300h yourself in the Green Drive program running outside the Vancouver Convention Centre till this Sunday.

2015 Infiniti QX80 Limited

The Infiniti QX80 was substantially updated for the 2014 model year and remains as one of the few full-sized SUVs on the market with the ability to tow up to 8,500 lbs while still being able to transport 7 or 8 passengers in luxury.

Recently introduced is the QX80 in a new “Limited” trim level, offering subtle exterior upgrades and a sophisticated interior evocative of an executive boardroom.

Available in limited numbers only starting from May 2015 and exclusively as a 7-passenger model, the QX80 Limited’s exterior features dark finished, 22-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, dark chromed exterior trim, and unique stainless steel running board caps with rubber grips.

This vehicle certainly takes the word “premium” to another level.

Photo courtesy of Infiniti Canada

The luxurious interior includes semi-aniline Truffle Brown leather appointments with an exclusive quilted pattern, open pore matte finish ash wood trim, an Ultrasuede headliner and pillars, leather-appointed grab handles and speaker grilles, unique floor and trunk mats, and unique silver switchgear trim on the centre stack.

2016 Audi Q7

Among three-row vehicles, few can match the Q7 in terms of style. It is as chic as it is spacious.

The 2016 Audi Q7 debuts as an all-new vehicle with Audi’s next generation styling and impressive weight savings to the tune of 717 pounds. This should pay dividends when it comes to fuel economy and performance.

Even though the 2016 Q7 is virtually the same height as the old one, clever visual tricks like the matte-aluminum trim surface between the front and rear wheels, the gently tapering roofline, and the powerful fender flares make it look lower, wider, and longer. In fact, the new Q7 looks more wagon-like than ever.

The low-rider vibe isn’t merely visual though. Audi’s relocation of the engine lower in the chassis has yanked the Q7’s center of gravity down by a claimed 2 inches, helping to improve its driving dynamics.

Audi has been well known for its impressive use of the latest lighting technology and the 2016 Q7 continues on with that trend. The headlights’ LED daytime running lamps now form pairs of arrow-shaped elements, as do the LED tail lights out back.

As you would expect with most luxury SUVs, there is a load of the latest active safety technology to compliment the latest in driving dynamic enhancements.

Carried over from Audi’s sports cars are systems such as a brake-based torque-vectoring system and an electronically controlled center differential. The latter can vary the all-wheel-drive system’s torque split from the standard 40/60-percent front-to-rear to 70/30 or 15/85 as conditions dictate.

Optional rear-wheel steering promises to enhance stability at higher speeds by slightly turning the rear wheels in concert with the fronts. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn opposite to the fronts to greatly improve parking lot agility on such a large vehicle.

Car safety technology package comparison

2015 Mazda6 GT
The 2015 Mazda6 GT with the Tech Package adds many modern safety options including Smart City Brake Support. Photo by Benjamin Yong.

Like computers and cellphones, vehicles have been leaping forward in the area of tech within the last few years. A lot of the modern electronic innovation has to do with safety, whether it’s making an existing function like cruise control safer by automating part of the process, or trying to prevent accidents by giving the driver tools such as blind spot monitoring to increase awareness.

Every automaker offers some kind of safety feature suite, although they do vary somewhat from brand-to-brand and are sometimes only available on higher-level models, or as part of a larger package. Here is a comparison of what you can get from three popular manufacturers.


Toyota RAV4

After driving a vehicle with conveniences like parking aids, it’s hard to go back to doing it the old fashioned way. On the 2015 RAV4 crossover in the AWD Limited trim, customers can opt for the Technology Package (plus $2,135) that includes backup sensors that beep when you get too close to another object, helping avoid bumper dings or worse. It also comes with automatic high beams, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure alert.


2015 Infiniti Q50

The new Q50 sedan is one of the most technologically advanced cars in the market right now. For $4,300 more, Infiniti has a Deluxe Touring and Technology Package chock full of goodies like their Around View Monitor.

Using a series of strategically positioned wide-angle cameras, this system provides a 360-degree picture of the vehicle’s surroundings from a bird’s-eye view. Other additions include intelligent cruise control and front seat pre-crash seatbelts that utilize motors to ensure passengers are properly restrained.


2015 Mazda6 GT parking lot

We all know rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of accidents, and Mazda says 60 per cent of those occur at speeds of 30 km/h or less. That’s why a lot of their safety focus is around braking. The Mazda6 GT with the $2,800 Technology Package adds Smart City Brake Support. 

Mazda Smart City Brake Support

At low speeds, a laser sensor mounted on the windshield monitors the vehicle in front. If the computer detects a collision risk, the brakes are preloaded for maximum efficiency. If the driver doesn’t intervene, the brakes are automatically applied and engine output isreduced. 

Vehicle smart key: how does it work?

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If you’re thinking that this is an article about keys that can surf the Internet or make phone calls, you’re not quite right. But that doesn’t make these little devices that enable you to unlock your doors and start your vehicle without the use of a physical key any less innovative.

Also referred to as proximity keys or simply key fobs/remotes — each brand has a different name for their specific systems — smart keys have been around since the 1990s, although they were a feature found primarily on high-end luxury automobiles at the time.

How does it work?

BMW Comfort Access System

The smart key uses radio waves to “talk” to the matching vehicle containing embedded antennas that identify and confirm its presence. On some models, like newer BMWs (Comfort Access), when the key comes within 1.5 metres of the driver’s car, the door automatically locks or unlocks with a touch of the door handle. In the case of the above image, the tailgate lifts by waving a foot underneath the rear bumper.

Once inside, simply pressing the ignition button, usually located next to the steering column, starts the vehicle. Some smart keys, like those from BMW, can also store individual user settings so the seat, mirrors, steering wheel and even audio preferences are automatically adjusted by pressing a single button.

Honda engine start button


Rather than a smart key sending out the same frequency signal over and over, which would affect all the makes and models utilizing the same key, not to mention make it easier for tech-savvy thieves to steal cars, smart keys broadcast a different encrypted signal every time you unlock a door or remotely pop the trunk.

A computer chip located inside the car is responsible for receiving the signal and prompting a new frequency to be generated. Of course, nothing is foolproof, and manufacturers are constantly working at making their technology more secure.


opening car door

The most obvious plus of a smart key system is convenience. You don’t have to be holding the key in your hand to enjoy the features, and many people love the fact that they can keep it in their pocket or bag without having to reach in and dig around before getting into vehicle.


By the same token, there have been instances (writing from personal experience) where a driver hands a car over to another user and walks away, forgetting that the smart key is still on his or her person.

BMW emergency key

On models that don’t have an automatic proximity unlock function, if the battery in the fob dies, opening a locked door can be tricky. Luckily, almost all fobs should have a small metal key hidden inside that can be used to unlock the driver’s door via a keyhole often concealed underneath a removable plastic cap near the door handle.

To get a better visual of a smart key in action, here is a video illustrating the Intelligent Key system on the Infiniti Q50. 

Highlights from 2015 Canadian International Auto Show


Lexus RC F GT3 Concept
The face of the Lexus RC F GT3 concept vehicle, introduced at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. Photo by Benjamin Yong.

Yesterday marked the official start of the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS), the Great White North’s largest automotive event held every year in Toronto. As always, some crazy stuff was presented to audiences, as well as more mainstream examples that consumers might actually be able to get their hands on. If you aren’t able to make the trip out east, scroll down below for a taste of CIAS 2015.

Lexus RC F GT3 Concept

Lexus RC F GT3 Concept front

In case the recently released RC F coupe isn’t already impressive enough for you, Lexus introduced the RC F GT3 concept car to Canadian audiences for the first time. It’s based on the production version but boasts bigger wheels and tires, aerodynamic add-ons, a faster engine and has hopes of racing in the FIA GT3 European Championship.

Lexus RC F GT3 Concept rear

Toyota i-Road Concept

Toyota i-Road

CIAS visitors were treated to indoor demonstrations of the Toyota i-Road concept, a three-wheel, single-occupant electric vehicle. With a range of 50 kilometres, it’s only 870 millimetres wide meaning four of them can fit into a traditional parking space. The i-Road has already been tested on public streets in Japan as well as France.

2016 Honda Pilot

2016 Honda Pilot

A completely redesigned Honda Pilot, a three-row SUV, will be available this summer looking and feeling a lot different than the previous generation. The Pilot goes high-tech with available LED lighting, a Blu-Ray disc player with HDMI input and an Earth Dreams Technology Powertrain consisting of a fuel-efficient V6 engine and first-ever nine-speed automatic transmission.

Infiniti Q80 Inspiration

Infiniti Q80 Inspiration

Alfonso Albaisa, executive design director at Infiniti, used the description “progressive, audacious and ingenious,” as he unveiled the range-topping Q80 four-seater fastback. “The Q80 Inspiration represents Infiniti’s vision of category-breaking, supreme luxury driving,” said Albaisa. It features autonomous driving capability with a hybrid powertrain producing 550 horsepower.

2016 Jaguar XE

The British car company is getting set to launch yet another four-door sports sedan in 2015, slotted below the mid-level XF and XJ flagship. It will be the first Jaguar equipped with electric steering, and is designed to look and drive like a sports coupe with a low and wide profile, partially aluminium construction and a supercharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder powerplant.

Audi TTS Coupé

2016 Audi TTS Coupe

The Audi TT has been reborn for its third generation. The extra S stands for sport, or speed, or probably both: it’s got a 265 hp TFSI turbo engine, Quattro all-wheel drive and a fancy Audi Magnetic Ride Suspension that continously readjusts the dampening settings to match the driving conditions.