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Plug-in hybrids

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.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e plug-in hybrid fulfills its green role as an electrified passenger car. But it hardly seems worth the bother given its limited range on electric power.

It can travel an estimated 20 miles on its 6.4 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery when fully charged. But in a week of driving in a variety of traffic, the tested C350e never managed more than single-digit electric miles. The best range shown on the instruments after a full charge was 19 but it only managed eight miles before the gasoline engine fired up. With a 240-volt charger, the 350e charges in less than two hours.

Overall, however, the C350e does get a 51 miles per gallon equivalent rating on combined gasoline and electric power (MPGe) and, on gasoline only, delivers a city/highway/combined rating of 35/40/30 miles to the gallon.

15A224-1200x800The C350e plug-in hybrid four-door sedan, with a $48,895 base price, comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine linked to a 60 kW-h electric motor. Total system horsepower is 275, with 443 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic with a manual shift mode,

A standard C300 sedan comes with a base price of $41,245, or $7,440 less. Its 241-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission get a city/highway/combined EPA rating of 24/33/27 mpg.

Of course, any Mercedes-Benz gets more expensive once you start tacking on optional equipment. The tested 350e came with $16,350 worth, sending the bottom-line price to $65,235.

15C274_425-1200x800Standard equipment included an air suspension system, regenerative braking, keyless pushbutton starting, leather upholstery, linden wood trim, a seven-inch color display screen, Bluetooth connectivity, a motorized glass sunroof, power folding side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive braking with brake assist, rear-view camera, automatic headlights, pedestrian warning, and LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights.

Individual options included blue metallic paint ($720), heated and ventilated front seats ($1,030), panoramic sunroof ($1,000), head-up display ($990), Burmester surround-sound audio ($850), interior LED ambient lighting ($310), air balance system ($350), hands-free trunk access ($250), active lighting with high-beam assist ($800), and parking assist with a surround-view camera ($1,090).

The test car also arrived with options packages: Nappa leather upholstery, the company’s “designo” interior trim and triple memory settings for the powered front passenger seat ($3,800); navigation and multimedia infotainment system with SXM satellite weather and traffic information ($2,200), and a driver assistance package that included adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane keeping and cross traffic assist, and pre-safe braking ($2,250). It’s a load but not unusual among German luxury cars.

15C274_428-1200x800The exterior styling could be described as Mercedes Modern Family, making the compact C350e look much like a smaller version of its S-Class flagship sedan.

On the road, all is as expected. This Mercedes is solid and quiet with that heavy and accurate steering feel characteristic of many of its siblings and cousins over the years. Comfort, with well-bolstered front seats, is first-class. The back seats, with less head and knee room, don’t quite measure up and the panoramic sunroof shade is made of a flimsy fabric that admits too much sunshine.

The 350e is surprisingly sprightly, more than you expect from a hybrid, which given the short electric-only range is likely the way most owners will treat it. Instead of plugging it in to get those few miles, most owners likely will skip the plug-in part.

15C274_423-1200x800There are four driving modes:

  • E-mode. All-electric driving until the battery runs down.
  • Gasoline operation alone with boosts of electric power.
  • E-save. Mainly gasoline with little or no help from the electric motor to preserve battery energy for later use.

*Charge. The gasoline engine is running but some of its energy transfers to the battery pack to extend electric range.

Whatever. Mercedes rates the 350e’s zero-to-60 mph acceleration time at 5.8 seconds, which is not in drag race territory but better than most vehicles an owner will encounter. However, hybrid owners do not have much of a reputation for stoplight sprinting.

15C274_405-1200x800Given current pump prices, it’s not likely that many luxury-car buyers would be swayed by the 350e’s decent fuel economy. But it also has good performance and road manners and is a marker on the way to widespread use of electrified vehicles.

Still, the preference here would be for a non-plug-in, standard hybrid to get this performance for fewer dollars.

15C274_616-1200x800Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e Plug-in Hybrid four-door sedan.
  • Engine/motor:0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline; 60 kW-h electric motor; combined 275 hp, 443 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 91/12 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,924 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined gasoline fuel consumption: 35/40/30; 51 MPGe combined on gasoline/electric.
  • Electric range: 20 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $48,895.
  • Price as tested: $65,235.

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

15C274_002-1200x800Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz.

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.

 

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 Mercedes-Benz S550e Plug-in Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hybrids, as the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S550e Plug-in Hybrid can attest, are not just for fuel economy anymore.

Nope, they’re everywhere, powering super cars like the Acura NSX; familiar hatchbacks and sedans like the Toyota Prius and Honda Accord; and any number of inexpensive to luxury crossover sport utility vehicles.

Increasingly, customers are being seduced by plug-in hybrids, which combine gasoline and electric power like regular hybrids but also can be plugged in to charge batteries for additional range on electricity alone.

Mercedes Benz;S-Class Plug_in_Hybrid

The new Mercedes-Benz S550e is such a creature. It combines a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine with an 85-kilowatt-hour electric motor to make 436 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. It needs that sort of force because the S550e weighs 5,115 lbs.

Even so, Mercedes says its big plug-in can nail 60 mph from rest in 5.2 seconds while delivering EPA combined city/highway fuel economy of 26 mpg on gasoline only and 58 in gasoline-electric hybrid operation.

While the plug-in feature enhances fuel economy, it adds the inconvenience of plugging in, which some S550 owners likely won’t bother doing. The battery pack and other hybrid parts also reduce the trunk to a bit more than nine cubic feet, which is subcompact size in a large car.

Mercedes Benz;S-Class Plug_in_Hybrid

Plug it in with the standard charging cord and a full charge can be accomplished overnight. But that involves removing the cord and adapter from its bag in the trunk, plugging one end into an outlet on the rear bumper and the other into standard 120-volt household outlet. Then you must unplug everything to get going the next day. You can recharge more quickly—in about 2.5 hours—if there’s a public fast-charging station nearby.

All that results in an electric-only range of about 20 miles, which a readout displays on the instrument panel. It is possible to rocket up to more than 70 miles an hour purely on electric power. But it won’t last very long because the effort sucks up the juice.

You can select a hybrid mode that fires up the gasoline engine to help keep the battery charged. Without that, even modest urban driving easily depletes the charge quickly in less than 20 miles.

So, the default is to simply drive the S550e in hybrid mode all the time, where it performs like a satisfying big Mercedes-Benz, which is to say in sumptuous luxury with plenty of competence for any circumstance, abetted by an air suspension system.

Whether motoring on electricity or a combination of electric and internal combustion power, the S550e has the manners of an unobtrusive butler. There are no nasty intrusions of wind, mechanical or road noise — unless the road is uncommonly pockmarked. It’s even difficult to tell when the gasoline engine fires up.

Mercedes Benz;S-Class Plug_in_Hybrid

There are two performance modes: Comfort and Sport. Comfort caresses the driver and passenger with a modestly floating ride that would complement the skills of a careful chauffeur. However, if the owner decides to drive, he or she and a front-seat passenger can avail themselves of seat bolsters that grip the torso in turns.

Switch to the Sport mode and everything tightens up: Steering feels more responsive, the ride gets tauter and the handling quicker and more precise. The powertrain responds more rapidly to throttle inputs. It’s not a sports sedan but a more satisfying experience for anyone who enjoys driving.

Mercedes Benz;S-Class Plug_in_Hybrid

Regardless of its green orientation, the S550e at heart is still the dignified flagship of the Mercedes-Benz fleet, which is to say that it comes equipped—especially if you order most or all the available options—with a full suite of state-of-the-art safety installations, as well as sinfully sumptuous comfort and convenience features.

Among the latter are heated seats, front and back, that deliver back massages on the go. Four-zone climate control keeps everybody comfortable Pillows can be detached and stashed in the trunk. The right-rear seat also has a power footrest.

With such a luxury orientation, there’s no attempt at installing seating for a fifth passenger. The tested S550e is strictly a four-passenger car with consoles dividing the front and rear seats.

Obviously, you’re not going to get any of this at a bargain rate. The tested S550e Plug-in Hybrid had a starting price, including the destination charge, of $97,525. With $38,960 worth of options, its bottom line sticker came to $136,485.

Mercedes Benz;S-Class Plug_in_Hybrid

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Mercedes-Benz S550e Plug-in Hybrid four-door sedan.
  • Engines:0-liter V6, turbocharged with 85 kW electric motor, 436 total hp, 479 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual mode.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 112/9 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,115 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway combined fuel consumption: 26 mpg gasoline; 58 mpg equivalent electric+gasoline hybrid.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $97,525.
  • Price as tested: $136,485.

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

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz.

 

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Minivans are the most useful vehicles on the planet, all about moving families and cargo in comfort. But the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid takes a tack toward convenience and frugality.

This new entry – the first of its kind in the minivan category – is a bit less useful than its standard gasoline engine counterpart, owing mainly to the requirements of building a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

That’s correct. The new Pacifica Hybrid is of the plug-in variety with a 16-kilowatt-hour battery that enables the nearly 5,000-pound minivan to travel up to 30 miles on pure electric power and recharge in as little as two hours.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica HybridThat’s with a 240-volt charger, which the owner would have buy separately, although the Pacifica has the built-in hardware to use it. Most standard 120-volt household outlets also work, but it takes 14 hours for a full charge from “empty.”

EPA fuel economy numbers will not be available until closer to the on-sale date, which is expected early in 2017. Chrysler estimates it will earn an 80-mpg equivalent in city driving.

To enhance the all-electric range, the Pacifica incorporates regenerative braking, which sends electric energy back into the battery pack.

Because it’s a plug-in hybrid, the new Pacifica eliminates range anxiety. On a trip, as soon as the battery is depleted, the system switches seamlessly to the gasoline engine. That results in an estimated 530-mile range. The operation is similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt, an extended range electric.

“It’s all about making your life simpler,” according to Matt McAlear, Chrysler’s senior product manager. He said that if family members kept their travel to less than 30 miles in a day, they never would have to stop at a service station to refuel. Simply plug it in overnight.

However, the engineers have thoughtfully 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 the possibly tainted fuel.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid cutawayThe 350-pound battery is stored under the second row of seats. It eliminates Chrysler’s famed stow ‘n’ go feature, which allows the second-row seats to be easily stashed under the floor.

To ease the loss, the Hybrid comes with plush captain’s chairs that have more padding than the thin stow ‘n’ go seats. But the downside is that 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 Pacifica’s hybrid system uses a V6 gasoline engine in concert with two electric motors integrated into the gear-driven continuously variable automatic transmission. Some other hybrids use one electric motor as a generator while the other sends power to the wheels. On the Pacifica, a one-way clutch allows the second motor to also send power to the wheels as needed.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The gasoline-electric system delivers a total of 260 horsepower. Chrysler officials were reticent on questions of how much torque the system delivers. Torque is a measure of twisting force that translates into a strong surge of power.

Because electric motors produce maximum torque instantly when the throttle is pressed, the Pacifica Hybrid has robust acceleration off the line. It feels a bit less after the gasoline engine kicks in.

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 original, introduced earlier this year, the new benchmark for minivans.

Among them: First minivan with hands-free power sliding side doors. Very convenient. 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.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Other minivan “firsts” include an electric parking brake, unique 20-inch alloy wheels, rotary shift knob (eliminates shift levers), 10-inch touch screens for second row passengers, and wireless connectivity for devices.

The new Pacifica Hybrid doesn’t come cheap. But Chrysler emphasizes that it qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit. There are two models: Premium at $43,090 and Platinum at $46,090, including the destination charge. An optional three-pane panoramic sunroof costs $1,795.

Potential buyers will have to weigh that and the loss of the stow ‘n’ go seats against the Hybrid’s considerable advantages.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum four-door minivan.
  • Engines:6-liter V6 with dual transmission-mounted electric drive motors; total system 260 hp. Torque rating not disclosed.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable gear-driven automatic.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 165/32 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,943 pounds.
  • Estimated EPA fuel consumption: combined 80 mpg equivalent.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,090.
  • Price as tested: $47,885.

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

Photos (c) FCA.

 

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