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Hybrids

2019 Lexus UX 250h: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Not inclined to be a cowboy trailing the fast-moving herd of small luxury crossover SUVs, Lexus introduces its 2019 UX with a choice of conventional or hybrid power trains.

This is not its first rodeo. Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, marketed the CT200h, a compact hybrid hatchback with the same powertrain as the popular Toyota Prius, from 2011 to 2017.

D55_5157Now it rides into the fray with the UX against subcompact crossovers like the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Lincoln MKC, Volvo XC40, Infiniti QX30 and BMW X1. The entry-level UX slots below the compact NX and gives Lexus a full array of crossovers and SUVs. Unlike SUVs, constructed like trucks with bodies on frames, crossovers are built with unit bodies like automobiles.

Lexus crossovers now include the UX, NX and the midsize RX. At the top of the lineup are the GX and LX, both truck-based SUVs.

Lexus identifies the UX as an urban crossover, which suggests that it is not intended as a long-distance traveler. But that could be said about many small vehicles that owners customarily drive across country. The UX can certainly do the same.

DSC_0497But its personality, as Lexus describes it, is that of a “creative urban explorer,” a runabout aimed to tantalize younger buyers more attuned to cityscapes than suburban/rural areas. Like others of its ilk, the UX has four doors, carries four passengers and a fifth uncomfortably center-rear, with 17 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat.

There are two versions: the front-wheel drive UX 200, powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that makes 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. The manufacturer estimates a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of 8.9 seconds with a top speed of 118 mph. Its EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 29/37/33 mpg on regular fuel. Starting price is $33,025, including the destination charge.

DSC_0197The other, the focus here, is the hybrid UX 250h, which comes with all-wheel drive. It is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine working with twin electric motor generators. The system delivers 181 hp on regular gasoline. All-wheel drive is automatically engaged by a small electric motor integrated into the rear differential.

An unusual apparent shortcoming: Lexus says the UX 250h’s all-wheel drive operates only up to 43 mph, after which it becomes a front-wheel drive vehicle.

According to Lexus, that’s because the UX all-wheel drive system is electronic instead of mechanical. It operates in all-wheel drive at lower speeds when needed and front-drive at higher speeds for optimal efficiency and fuel economy. But road conditions mitigated by all-wheel drive can get nasty at more than 43 mph.

DSC_0128The zero-to-60 acceleration time of 8.6 seconds is slightly better than the UX 200’s, with the top speed of 110 less than the UX 200. But the hybrid’s fuel economy rating is 41/38/39 and its starting price is $35,025, or $2,000 more than the UX 200’s.

The tested UX 250h came with options that included a navigation system, soft-touch interior trim called Washi, blind spot monitoring, a motorized sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, garage-door opener and an auto-dimming inside mirror. The options brought the as-tested price up to $38,900, and a spokesperson said a fully loaded UX250h could reach $41,000.

Both the UX 200 and the hybrid UX 250h are frisky around-town performers with acceleration that feels quicker than the numbers would indicate. They get the power to the pavement through continuously variable automatic transmissions, which sometimes can feel as if they are high-revving and slipping.

DSC_0170These do not. In the 200, the CVT uses a mechanical gear to get an initial boost off the line; in the 250h the boost comes from the electric motors. It can mimic the shift feel of a stepped 10-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. There is a noticeable loud growl under hard acceleration with the 200. The 250h hybrid is quieter and feels stronger, tighter and more planted overall.

Both UX models come standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, which includes pre-collision warning and braking with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, adaptive radar cruse control and lane departure mitigation. Blind-spot warning is optional.

There are three trim packages: Premium, Luxury and F-Sport. The last, available on both the 200 and 250h, comes with suspension modifications and special 18-inch alloy wheels to enhance handling. The tradeoff is a stiffer though not punishing ride.

DSC_1306Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Lexus UX 250h four-door crossover SUV.
  • Engine/motors: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline with two electric motor-generators; 181 system hp.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic (CVT).
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 86/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,605 pounds.
  • City/highway/combined fuel consumption: 41/38/39 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,025.
  • Price as tested: $37,875.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

D55_4132Photos (c) Lexus

2019 Honda Insight: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Sometimes the 2019 Honda Insight growls like a boastful lion, but mostly it goes about its business like a stealthy cheetah, all economy of movement and efficiency.

The new Insight is the heir to the original, a small two-seat hatchback coupe which Honda brags was the first hybrid in America in 1999 and delivered 70 highway mpg. It used a hybrid system in which the gasoline engine provided the primary power, boosted by a small electric motor in the drivetrain.

In 2009, the coupe was replaced by a four-door hatchback Insight, which used the same system, regarded by many as elegant for its simplicity. But it was eclipsed by the Toyota Prius, which used a more complicated setup in which the electric motor was primary.

The 2019 Honda Insight Goes On Sale

Undeterred, and determined to pursue electrified power trains for all of its models, Honda developed hybrids for the Civic and Accord, and also produced the Clarity, which is available as a pure electric, a fuel-cell powered electric and a plug-in hybrid.

Now the Japanese manufacturer introduces the newest in the lineup: the 2019 Insight, which is about the size of the company’s compact Civic and uses Honda’s state-of-the art two-motor system with a gasoline engine.

Most notable about this system, which uses one of the electric motors to charge the battery pack and the other to work in concert with the gasoline engine, is that it does not need a conventional automatic transmission.

2019 Honda Insight

Though Honda specifications describe the transmission as an e-CVT, for electronic continuously-variable automatic transmission, it works as a direct drive from the electric motor, which delivers full torque, or twisting force, the instant the throttle is activated. Unlike earlier Insight models, the 2019 model has no manual gearbox.

The 1.5-liter gasoline engine makes 107 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, while the electric motor delivers 129 hp and 197 lb-ft of torque. Together, the system produces 151.5 hp.

Combined with regenerative braking to help keep the battery topped up, the Insight Touring tested for this review came with a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 51/45/48 mpg.

The Insight is a spunky machine on the road, where the only minor annoyance is the lion-like growl under hard acceleration. It sounds like  something is slipping, though it is not, as on a poorly rendered CVT. But it cruises serenely on the highway with good straight-line tracking and little intrusion of road or wind noise.

2019 Honda Insight

Though not a fully realized sport sedan, the Insight has precise steering, a supple suspension system and capable handling on curving roads. In that respect, it is not unlike its gasoline-powered garage-mate, the Civic.

The interior space is comfortable for four people, with  supportive front seats for long-distance highway cruising. Outboard back seat occupants have generous head and knee room, though the center-rear position is compromised by a large floor hump and a high, hard cushion.

With 95 cubic feet for passengers and a trunk of 15 cubic feet, the Insight sneaks into the government’s midsize class, though it is marketed as a compact. Compacts range from a total of 100 to 109 cubic feet of interior volume; midsize from 110 to 119.

2019 Honda Insight

There are three driving modes: Normal, optimized for ease of driving and comfort; Econ, for balanced efficiency and fuel economy, and Sport, for sharper throttle response and a feel of strong acceleration. Zero to 60 mph acceleration time comes up in an estimated eight seconds in any mode if you mash the pedal, respectable enough in modern traffic.

Three trim levels start with the LX at $23,725, including the destination charge; EX at $24,955, and the tested top-line Touring, $28,985. All three come with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety equipment that includes collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise with low-speed follow, lane-keeping assist and road departure mitigation.

2019 Honda Insight

Also standard across the trims are LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights; automatic headlight high beams; audio system, and heated door mirrors. The EX and Touring add Honda’s Lane Watch, which covers the right-rear blind spot and displays it on the center screen; Apple Car Play and Android Auto; SXM satellite radio; HD radio, and remote engine starting.

The tested Touring’s features included a navigation system, motorized glass sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, premium audio system with 10 speakers, eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and automatic windshield wipers.

2019 Honda Insight

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Honda Insight Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine/motor: Gasoline 1.5-liter four-cylinder, 107 hp; electric 129 hp, 197 lb-ft torque. Total system: 151.5 hp.
  • Transmission: Electronic continuously-variable automatic (e-CVT) with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3078 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 51/45/48 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,985.
  • Price as tested: $28,985.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Honda Insight

Photos (c) Honda

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

For economical family transportation to some beach, it would be hard to choose better than the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited Hybrid minivan.

How about fuel economy of 34 mpg going and coming in all traffic conditions? Chasing back and forth to supermarkets and shopping in the beach area without using any gasoline at all? That’s because this is a plug-in hybrid that can travel up to 33 miles on electric power alone.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid with the Hybrid Special Appearance Package

So: Plug it into any 120-volt socket at the beach house and it will recharge the battery in about 12 hours, or overnight. If you have access to a 240-volt charger, the charging time is two hours.
If you locally travel less than 33 miles a day, you would hardly ever have to take Pacifica Hybrid to the service station to gas up. For that, the Pacifica’s engineers have included sensors that detect when gasoline in the tank is more than 90 days old, in which case the gasoline engine runs automatically to use up any possibly tainted fuel.

The EPA rates this Hybrid at 84 mpg equivalent on gasoline-electric operation, with an overall range of 566 miles. After the battery is depleted the gasoline engine starts seamlessly.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Then there’s the convenience that you can convey seven people with 32 cubic feet left over for luggage, beach umbrellas, coolers, chairs and the like. If only four of you go, there’s 99 cubic feet of stash space behind the second row and, if just two, a whopping 141 cubic feet behind the front seats. You can practically bring your own bed and rocking chair.

The Pacifica Hybrid is an offshoot of the critically acclaimed Pacifica from the manufacturer that invented the minivan back in the mid-1980s. It used to be called the Town and Country but Chrysler resurrected the Pacifica name for the 2017 all-new model, which came in standard and hybrid versions.

The tested 2018 Limited Hybrid is essentially the same but with upgrades, including a premium Harman Kardon audio system, revised center console, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and universal garage-door opener.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

There wasn’t much to add because the Limited already was loaded with about every safety, convenience and comfort feature available on a modern automobile. That included Chrysler’s KeySense fob, which allows parents to set limits on top speed, radio channels and volume, and emergency thresholds for their younger drivers.

Other equipment, some standard and others optional: front collision mitigation; parallel and perpendicular parking assist; tri-zone automatic climate control; one-touch power side doors and tailgate; panoramic sunroof; adaptive cruise control; lane departure assist; blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert; UConnect streaming connectivity and entertainment system; SXM satellite radio, and 360-degree surround-view camera.

One curious omission: Although the owner’s manual listed memory seats and radio in the index, none could be found in the text or the vehicle itself.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

About the only other feature not found in the Hybrid Pacifica is the gasoline model’s stow ’n’ go second-row seats, which fold into the floor to expand the cargo capacity. On the Hybrid, that space is taken up by the 350-lb battery.

To make up for the loss, the Hybrid comes with plush captain’s chairs that have more padding than the thin stow ’n’ go seats. But they must be physically wrestled out of the minivan if there’s a need to maximize the cargo area. Also, the Hybrid is not available as an eight-passenger minivan with a second-row bench seat.

The gasoline-electric system delivers a total of 260 hp, enough for a vehicle that weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. Because electric motors produce maximum torque instantly when the throttle is pressed, the Pacifica Hybrid has robust acceleration off the line.

The 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid features a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack (shown with cover on) that is stored under the second row floor.

Except for instrumentation needed to communicate what’s going on with the hybrid system, the new Pacifica Hybrid has all of the same features that made the 2017 original the new benchmark for minivans.

Among them: Hands-free power sliding side doors. Simply touch a button on the outside door handle and the door slides open. Touch it again and the door closes. No jerking of handles. The side doors are made of aluminum, also used in the hood and tailgate for reduced weight and better fuel economy.

Other minivan “firsts” included an electric parking brake, rotary shift knob (eliminates shift levers), 10-inch touch screens for second row passengers, and wireless connectivity for devices.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited four-door minivan.
  • Engine/motors: 3.6-liter gasoline V6 with dual transmission-mounted electric drive motors; total system 260 hp.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable gear-driven automatic.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 165/32 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,987 pounds.
  • EPA fuel consumption: 84 mpg equivalent gasoline-electric; 32 gasoline only.
  • Range on electric only: 33 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,590.
  • Price as tested: $48,580.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Photos (c) FCA

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though not well-known in the U.S., Japan’s Mitsubishi, with its 2018 Outlander PHEV, bows to no automaker in the realm of technological development.

For openers, the plug-in hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle uses a gasoline engine and two electric motors to drive all four wheels. With an app, you can control vehicle climate settings and other functions like battery charging remotely from your smart phone. Communication is direct; a WiFi hot spot is not needed.

2018 Outlander PHEV Named New England Motor Press Association's

There are two standard 120-volt plugs onboard that deliver 1,500 watts of power from the drive battery, enough to run household appliances like toasters, mixers, small refrigerators, electric grills and coffee makers while tailgating.

Mitsubishi — the name means “three diamonds” — has not been a major player in the U.S. It sells a couple of cars — the Lancer and Mirage — along with two smaller crossovers, the Outlander Sport and Eclipse Cross. It also previously sold an electric car, the iMIEV. Overall sales in 2017 totaled 103,578, the first time in more than a decade that it topped 100,000. That included 35,409 Outlanders, its best seller. The new plug-in should enhance that.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The tester was the top-of-the-line Outlander GT with S-AWC, which stands for Super All-Wheel Control — or full-time all-wheel drive. There’s also a four-wheel drive lock mode that mimics a center differential lock for off-road terrain.

The main engine is a 117-hp, 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder that delivers 137 lb-ft of torque. It drives the front wheels along with an 80-hp electric motor with 101 lb-ft of torque.

Driving the rear wheels is another 80-hp electric motor with 144 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a gasoline-fueled generator that boosts the electric motors and helps charge the onboard lithium-ion battery pack, which is mounted under the cabin and does not intrude on passenger space.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Because electric motors deliver their maximum torque as soon as they are switched on, there’s no need for a conventional automatic transmission. It’s described simply as single-speed automatics front and rear.

All of this works seamlessly. The only indication that this is a complicated plug-in hybrid is when you press the ignition button and a dashboard light reads “ready.” On the road, the Outlander automatically cycles among three hybrid modes. The driver also can physically switch into economy, battery-save and battery-charge modes.

The stated range primarily on electric power is 22 miles. But you’ll seldom get that unless you have a feather foot on the throttle. In conventional urban driving, the test vehicle usually delivered less than 20 miles. Overall range — gasoline and electric — is stated at 310 miles. The EPA rating is 74 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent in hybrid running, and 25 mpg in gasoline operation.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

It takes up to eight hours to the charge the battery pack from a standard 120-volt household outlet. If you have access to a 240-volt charger, it takes about four hours. The Outlander PHEV also is capable of handling a level 3 fast charger, which can deliver an 80% charge in 25 minutes.

The tested Outlander came with a full suite of safety equipment, including forward collision mitigation, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, multi-view rear camera with overhead view and automatic headlight high beams.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Press Launch

Other equipment included LED running lights and taillights, leather upholstery with heated front seats, motorized glass sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers with wiper de-icer, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, auto-dimming inside mirror, Bluetooth connectivity, a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The base price of the tester was $41,190. With a modest list of options, the suggested delivered price came to $42,185. However, it did not include a navigation system. Shortcomings included sun visors that did not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the side, and power front seats without lumbar adjustments.

On the road, in addition to the silent running on electricity, the Outlander PHEV exhibited a decent ride and handling for a midsize crossover. The front seats were supportive but a tad hard. Out back, the outboard seats were similar to the fronts. The seat bottoms flipped up to allow the seatbacks to fold flat to expand the cargo area’s 30 cubic feet of space to 78 cubic feet. However, the headrests must be removed to attain maximum space.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline, 117 hp, 137 lb-ft torque. Two electric motors: front 80 hp, 101 lb-ft torque; rear 80 hp, 144 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,178 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 lbs.
  • EPA miles per gallon equivalent: 74 MPGe; 25 mpg gasoline only.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,190.
  • Price as tested:$42,185.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Photos (c) Mitsubishi.

2018 Honda Clarity PHEV: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Honda enhances the dream of the future with its 2018 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, latest in a triad of new electrified vehicles.

The future is electric power, alone or in conjunction with — at least for a while — fossil-fueled vehicles. With the introduction of this new Clarity, Honda has completed its initial quest.

Earlier, it introduced the hydrogen-powered Clarity, which uses the most abundant element in the universe to feed electric motors, although as of now the hydrogen must be manufactured from fossil fuels. The company also fields a pure electric Clarity.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

You could argue that there’s a fourth electrified vehicle that could be in the mix: a standard hybrid that runs on electricity and gasoline or diesel fuel. But a plug-in, left to its own devices without being plugged in, operates the same way. Moreover, the company has a hybrid version of its popular Honda Accord.

Honda’s goal is to sell around 75,000 Clarity sedans over the next four years, with electrified vehicles constituting two-thirds of its global sales by 2030. The effort is becoming widespread in the industry as other manufacturers also concentrate on electrified cars, crossovers, sport utility vehicles and trucks.

Like its siblings, the new Clarity Hybrid exhibits classy styling, though without what a few critics regard as excessive gingerbread on some Civic models. The rear-wheel cutouts give it a streamlined look and incorporate air ducts to cool the rear brakes. LED lights adorn both the front and rear.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

The powertrain consists of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with 103 hp and 99 lb-ft of torque, mated to two electric motors. One delivers 181 hp and 212 lb-ft of torque for driving; the other generates electricity. The total system provides 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque.

Because electric motors deliver their maximum torque instantly when they are switched on, and the Clarity’s primary power is electric, there is no need for a conventional automatic transmission. It uses a fixed single-speed transmission.

Fully charged, the Clarity can be driven up to 47 miles on electricity alone. The range actually seems longer because the gasoline engine occasionally kicks on, saving battery power. The EPA rates city/highway/combined gasoline-only fuel economy at 44/40/42 mpg. Combined, the system is rated at the equivalent of 110 mpg.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Built into the Clarity is a 6.6 kilowatt, 32-amp charger, which enables a full charge in 2.5 hours using a 240-volt outlet. If you simply plug it into a standard 120-volt household outlet, full charging takes 12 hours.

One of the advantages of a plug-in hybrid is that you don’t necessarily have to plug it in. The batteries never fully discharge but reach a low point where they don’t power the electric motor and the Clarity runs on its gasoline engine. You can recover some electric power with careful regenerative deceleration and braking.

All three Clarity models provide a surge of acceleration off the line — an observed zero-to-60 mph time of about seven seconds. The electric and hydrogen models feel a bit quicker than the hybrid because its gasoline engine gets involved.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

A pushbutton gets things going. Console-mounted buttons select Drive, Park and Neutral, and you pull up on one for Reverse. The selection system is becoming standard in Honda and Acura vehicles.

Cruising strictly on electric power is serene, with the only sounds intruding into the cabin coming from tires on the pavement. When the gasoline engine kicks on to boost the power, it engages so quietly and seamlessly that you barely know it’s there.

There are two versions of the Clarity PHEV, which stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The standard model, priced at $34,290, comes with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety technologies that includes collision and road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and lane-keeping assist.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Other equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-inch touch screen with a rear-view camera and Honda’s Lane Watch system, which shows a panoramic view of the right-side blind spot when the right turn signal is switched on.

Also available is the $37,490 Clarity PHEV Touring model, which adds a navigation system, leather-trimmed upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power front seats with memory and a fuzzy ultra-suede dashboard trim.

Clarity competitors include the Toyota Prius Prime, Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion PHEV.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Honda Clarity Touring PHEV plug-in hybrid four-door sedan.
  • Engine and Motor: 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline, 103 hp, 99 lb-ft torque; electric motor, 181 hp, 212 lb-ft torque. Combined system hp, 212.
  • Transmission: Fixed single speed.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 102/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,059 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 44/40/42 mpg (gasoline only). System: 110 mpg equivalent.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,490.
  • Price as tested: $37,490.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Photos (c) Honda.

 

2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 Hybrid as an early move toward its goal of electrification, Sweden’s top car maker finessed four new vehicle unveilings at an introduction of 2018 models in Colorado.

The other three were all T6 gasoline-engine models: the XC60 crossover SUV, V90 station wagon and the new stretched S90 four-door sedan. They came in different trim levels, including R-Design and Inscription. But the star was the T8 Hybrid Inscription.

That was because of the publicity accolades, many of them unwarranted, that greeted Volvo’s announcement that it would sell a million “electrified” cars by 2025. For good and ill, many news outlets read the statement by Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson as meaning the company would substitute electric vehicles for those powered by gasoline and diesel engines.

Not so. Here’s what he said: “Volvo cars . . . plans to have sold one million electrified cars by 2025.” That means gasoline-electric hybrids and plug-in hybrids, as well as pure electrics.

XC60 T8 Inscription

At least a few of those will be the 2018 XC60 T8 E-AWD Hybrid. In fact, most of them, assuming Volvo’s goal is reached, will be hybrids. That squares with what almost every manufacturer in the world now is building. Japan’s Toyota has sold more than 10 million hybrids world-wide.

Volvo, the storied Swedish automaker, has had its downs and ups in the last decade. Financially troubled, it was sold to Geely Holdings, a Chinese company, which had the sense to provide the money to prop up the company but also allow Volvo to map its own road.

It now is on the up side with an array of new vehicles, all of which share fine performance, comfort, high quality materials and workmanship, and a luxury ambiance with prices to match.

XC60 T8 Inscription

One result of the new thrust is that the company abandoned all of its old five- and six-cylinder engines in favor of more economical four-cylinder turbocharged engines, some also supercharged. It even plans to introduce a three-cylinder engine.

This has been a trend throughout the industry as computers have enabled designers and engineers to squeeze more power, torque and fuel economy from smaller displacement engines. The current standard appears to be the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder.

XC60 T8 Inscription

All of the vehicles lined up for inspection in Colorado used Volvo’s supercharged and turbocharged four-banger. The supercharger, which runs off the engine, provides extra power at low engine speeds and the turbocharger, which is driven by exhaust gases, takes over at higher speeds.

That power plant makes 316 hp with 295 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the front wheels or all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

The Hybrid XC60 uses one of those dual-boosted engines to drive the front wheels and adds an electric motor to power the rear wheels. It works flawlessly and unobtrusively, sending power to the wheels with the best traction.

XC60 T8 Inscription

Together, the engine and motor deliver 400 hp with 472 lb-ft of torque, also with the eight-speed automatic. The combination means that the T8 Hybrid can accelerate to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and deliver fuel economy of 59 mpg equivalent.

Of Volvo’s two other stars at the Colorado event, the V90 wagon likely has the least chance of success in the United States. American motorists have all but delivered a death knell to station wagons of any kind. Yet Volvo, which was a pioneer in truck-based wagons, figures it has a fifth column of its wagon enthusiasts lurking somewhere, poised with checkbooks. They won’t be disappointed. The wagon has all of the performance and handling characteristics as the fine S90 sedan.

Also, sedans like the new stretched S90 are being gradually overwhelmed by crossover SUVs of every size and price class. So, with the S90’s extra 4.5 inches of foot room in the back seat, they likely will be sold in great numbers in China, where prosperous folks like to be chauffeured to their destinations. In the U.S., some likely will be outfitted as limousines.

One jarring note shared by all of the new Volvos: for some unfathomable reason, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the sides. It’s a simple and welcome enhancement that should be a no-brainer in this price class.

XC60 T8 Inscription

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Drive system:0-liter, four-cylinder engine, turbocharged and supercharged, 313 hp, with 87 hp electric motor; 400 total system hp, 472 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 100/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,599 pounds.
  • EPA fuel consumption: 59 MPGe gasoline-hybrid; 26 mpg on premium gasoline.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $53,495.
  • Price as tested: $71,590.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

XC60 T8 Inscription

Photos (c) Volvo.

2017 Toyota Prius Three: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Although it continues to be a pokey performer against most other passenger cars, the 2017 Toyota Prius hybrid sparkles on ride and handling, safety, comfort and—most important to its buyers—fuel economy.

It is the most successful hybrid in history with more than 1.7 million sold in the United States since 1999. In 2016, sales totaled 136,632, down from 184,794 in 2015 as low gasoline prices prompted buyers to gravitate toward pickup trucks and more fuel-hungry automobiles.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_02_54CECFE89DE5799B719C2EAF21ECC6C6629C98A8Manufacturers, however, know that the price pendulum is likely to swing back, so they continue to develop more fuel efficient vehicles—from installing small displacement gasoline engines with improved power to developing more hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric and even hydrogen-fueled cars.

Though it had a major overhaul a year ago, the 2017 model adds notable improvements that make it the best Prius ever. For one thing, it has a new independent rear suspension system that noticeably delivers a better ride and handling.

It also comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense package that includes forward collision warning with emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure mitigation, adaptive radar cruise control and automatic headlight high beams.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_01_AAF3DB5F2B355991BFED40260A08D0B3A9EFBED5Perhaps as important for anyone who has driven an earlier Prius with leisurely—some would say sluggish—acceleration, the tested 2017 Prius Three model comes with driver selectable motoring modes: Eco, Normal and Power.

Though the zero to 60 miles an hour acceleration time hovers around the 10-second mark — nothing to brag about — punching the Power button changes the Prius’s personality. When you press the accelerator pedal, it focuses all the power from the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motor-generators on getting a quick leap off the line.

The gear-driven continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) feels more connected as it sends the combined gasoline-electric 121 hp to the front wheels. Though you likely could get the same acceleration in the Eco or Normal modes if you floored the gas pedal, the Power mode feels faster without that effort.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_20_FEE01BFAD36558F540C52B796CBE1BF649CEFD85There are six trim levels: Prius Two; Two Eco; Three; Three Touring; and Four Touring. All arrive with the Toyota Safety Sense system as well as a rear-view camera, automatic climate control, keyless entry and starting, Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition with Siri hands-free and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player.

The tested Three, with a base price of $27,600, also came with a wireless phone-charging pad, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen, satellite and HD radio, and access to apps like Pandora and iHeart radio when paired with a smart phone.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_23_BE7056CC857683DB0C36C4741BE0034035103CEFWith options that included a motorized glass sunroof, color head-up display, navigation system and a cargo net, the tester had a sticker price of $30,186.

In a clever bit of engineering and styling, the Three combined alloy wheels with plastic wheel covers that looked as if they were part of the wheel itself.

Inside, the tested Prius featured white accents and an attractive as well as comfortable textured cloth upholstery. Cloth seating surfaces are always the choice here because they offer cool seating in the summer and warmth in the winter, obviating the need for such expensive add-ons as the heated and cooled seats needed for perforated leather upholstery.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_03_C1B3C5A53F5DE658B1632893021A0DC3BF624913With passenger space of 92 cubic feet and 25 cubic feet for cargo under the rear hatch — expandable to 66 cubic feet if the rear seatbacks are folded — the Prius Three is classified by the government as a midsize car. Up front, the seats are comfortable and supportive with enough manual adjustments, along with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, to accommodate almost any driver. There’s also ample space and comfort in the outboard back seats. The center-rear position is hampered by a small floor hump and a high, hard cushion — though it is usable for short trips.

Though the Prius is unlikely to be bested in popularity any time soon because of its enviable record of durability and reliability, other automakers have mounted serious challenges. One of the more formidable is the all-new Hyundai Ioniq. It is shorter by three inches than the Prius but boasts slightly more interior room — a large-car total of 123 cubic feet versus the Prius’s 117 cubic feet — the Ioniq delivers 139 combined horsepower and slightly better city/highway/combined fuel economy: 55/54/55 compared to the tested Prius’s 54/50/52. However, the Prius Eco model is rated at 58/53/56.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Toyota Prius Three hybrid four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine/Motors:8-liter four-cylinder gasoline, 95 hp, 105 lb-ft torque; two electric motor/generators; 121 hp combined. 0.7 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 92/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,120 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 54/50/52 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,600.
  • Price as tested: $30,186.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_10_AAE9E5026F0118D0FD09E2B9C088B827F27B8471Photos (c) Toyota.

2017 BMW 330e iPerformance: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With European cities damning pollution from diesel-engine vehicles, manufacturers there are switching to gasoline/electric hybrids like the 2017 BMW 330e iPerformance sedan.

Currently, about half the automobiles in Europe come with diesels, which are more economical than gasoline engines but send more polluting gunk into the atmosphere. Paris, Madrid and Athens are taking actions to ban all diesel vehicles by 2025.

One result: European manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW, Volkswagen and Audi are developing new hybrid vehicles. BMW’s new machine borrows technologies from the company’s i3 electric car and its hybrid super coupe, the i8.

P90208218-highResThe 330e is a plug-in hybrid, which enables limited travel on pure electric power. Standard hybrids like the popular Toyota Prius run the gasoline engine and electric motor together, which is the way the BMW 330e operates once you deplete the battery.

In almost every respect, this new four-door is a 3-Series BMW except that it has a port in the left-front fender to plug in the charger. On paper, it can travel up to 75 miles an hour on electricity alone. It also boasts of a range 14 electric miles with a fully charged battery — but you won’t get that if you put your foot in it.

Even driving carefully, you’re not likely to get the 14 miles unless you feather-foot the throttle and puddle along at sub-city speeds. Any time you punch the gas pedal, the gasoline engine kicks on. Because of that, it’s likely that some owners won’t even bother recharging the 330e. They’ll simply drive it like a standard hybrid.

P90208266-highResThe 330e is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine and an 87-horsepower electric motor-generator. A 5.7 kilowatt-hour battery nests beneath the trunk floor, cutting into the luggage space. The total system delivers 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the 330e to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds, according to BMW’s specifications, with a top speed of 140.

The power gets to the rear wheels through an unobtrusive but efficient eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode operated by paddles on the steering wheel. If you don’t care much about getting great gas mileage, the 330e comes on as a strong performer with precise handling, supple ride and a tactile steering feel.

Like other 3-Series BMWs, the 330e delivers exhilarating motoring. For the most enjoyment, simply forget that it’s a hybrid — plug-in or not — and drive the wheels off. It is responsive and so capable it inspires confidence.

P90208282-highResIf an owner decides to maximize fuel economy by plugging in, it takes about 2.5 hours to fully charge the 330e’s lithium ion battery from “empty” using a 240-volt charging system. If a standard household outlet is the only power source available, allow six to seven hours of charging time.

Charging consistently and driving carefully should deliver somewhere near the EPA’s 72 miles per gallon equivalent in city/highway driving. The combined mileage on gasoline power alone is rated at 31 miles per gallon, though it should do better because of the electric boost.

P90208267-highResThe plug-in hybrid system incorporates three driver-selectable modes: Auto eDrive maximizes electric driving up to 50 miles an hour; Max eDrive uses electric power exclusively up to 75 miles an hour; and the Save Battery mode uses the gasoline engine to maintain the battery pack’s charge at 50%.

An American Motors executive once famously said that U.S. motorists wanted fuel economy — and would pay anything to get it. Well, the BMW 330e fits that observation. It has a starting price of $45,095 and, with BMW’s long list of expensive options, the test car came with a bottom-line sticker price of $60,645.

P90208258-highResThat includes a navigation system that scans the surroundings and connects to the onboard computer to optimize the split between gasoline and electric power. It also covers full safety equipment, including adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, rear and top view camera, head-up display, traction and stability control, and parking assist.

The 330e doesn’t stint on luxury — as long as you’re willing to lavishly check the options list. Among many features, you can have a motorized sunroof, soft leather upholstery, sunshades for the backlight and rear side windows, heated front and back seats, and SXM satellite radio.

Skip any of them and still enjoy the drive.

P90208227-highResSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 BMW 330e iPerformance four-door sedan.
  • Plug-in Hybrid Power: 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder, turbocharged; 87-hp electric motor/generator. Total system: 248 hp, 310 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode; rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 98/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,915 pounds.
  • EPA fuel consumption: 72 miles per gallon equivalent on gasoline/electric power in combined city/highway driving; 31 mpg combined on gasoline engine only.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,095.
  • Price as tested: $60,645.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

P90208287-highResPhotos (c) BMW.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As alternative power trains proliferate, South Korea’s biggest carmaker goes all in on a trifecta: the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and dedicated electric models.

Depending on the consumer response and government fuel economy requirements, the payoff could be substantial. Whatever; the choices deliver a win for the motoring public.

The Ioniq is an all-new four-door hatchback from the South Korean manufacturer. Its name comes from ion, an electrically charged particle, and unique, or one of a kind.

2017 IONIQ HEV

By itself, the Ioniq doesn’t qualify as unique. But a manufacturer that develops three different motive forces for a single car certainly qualifies as special. Honda has done something similar with its new Clarity, which comes as a pure electric, plug-in hybrid and as a fuel cell electric that uses hydrogen fuel.

Because the three variants are being phased in separately, the emphasis at the Ioniq introduction was on the electric and hybrid models. The plug-in hybrid differs from a standard hybrid because, with a fully charged battery pack, it can be driven up to 27 miles on electric power alone. A standard hybrid runs on electricity and gasoline, with only short bursts of pure electric power.

For owners whose daily driving consists mainly of short trips, it would be possible to avoid many stops for gasoline, as long as the plug-in was plugged in regularly. Range anxiety, however, is not a problem; once the battery pack is discharged, the Ioniq plug-in runs on its gasoline engine.

2017 IONIQ HEV

The Ioniq electric has a range of 124 miles, which the EPA works out to 136 miles per gallon equivalent of a gasoline-engine car. It delivers instant power off the line, cruises silently except for some road noise, and has capable handling and good road feel.

Its disadvantage is that an owner who wants to take a trip must plan the route to take advantage of charging stations—or at least places to stay where the Ioniq electric can be recharged overnight.

The electric and plug-in models come with a dual port for charging from a standard 110-volt outlet or a fast-charging 240-volt charger. Full charging time with the fast charger is two hours, 30 minutes for the plug-in and four hours 25 minutes for the electric.

The hybrid is likely to be the big seller. It incorporates a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 32-kilowatt electric motor. Combined, they deliver 139 horsepower. Driven for this review was the Limited model.

2017 IONIQ HEV

Unlike some other hybrids that use continuously variable automatic transmissions, which have no shift points, the Ioniq comes equipped with a six-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission, which provides rapid shifts up or down and delivers city/highway/combined fuel economy of 55/54/55 miles per gallon.

There’s a driver-selectable sport mode, which enhances performance by shifting the transmission at higher engine revolutions. It also delivers a heftier feel to the steering. Of course, increased performance comes with reduced fuel economy.

Hyundai claims that the base Ioniq model, called the Blue, is the most fuel-efficient hybrid on the market. Its city/highway/combined rating is 57/59/58 miles to the gallon.

2017 IONIQ HEV

The hybrid also consolidates a standard 12-volt battery, used for lights and accessories, into the hybrid battery pack. If it dies, you simply touch the “12-volt battery reset” button and you’re on your way. No calling for a jump start.

Depending on the model, the Ioniq comes with advanced safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert. Also offered are Blue Link connectivity, Apple Car Play, Android Auto and wireless smart phone charging.

The Ioniq is being marketed as a compact, though generous cargo space of 27 cubic feet under the hatchback bump its interior volume into the large car class. Its total volume is 123 cubic feet; any car with more than 120 cubic feet is classified by the EPA as large.

But the Ioniq belies that classification and, at four inches shy of 15 feet, looks and feels more like a compact. There’s plenty of elbow and headroom up front, but the outboard back seats are tight on head and knee room. The center rear position, as on most cars these days, is an uncomfortable perch and a small hump intrudes on foot space.

Prices range from $23,035 to $31,335 for the hybrid and $30,855 to $36,835 for the electric, including the destination charge. The electric qualifies for federal and state tax incentives.

2017 IONIQ HEV

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Power:6-liter four-cylinder gasoline with 32kW electric motor; 139 combined hp.
  • Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automated manual.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 96/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,172 pounds
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 55/54/55 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,335.
  • Price as tested: $28,335.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2017 IONIQ HEV

Photos (c) Hyundai

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