The Truth About Cars » hybrid system http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:08:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » hybrid system http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-c-max-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-c-max-hybrid-video/#comments Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:55:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467787

Up till now there hasn’t been a “real” Prius alternative on the market. Sure Honda has the Civic and Insight, but their real-world MPGs can’t hold a candle to the green-car poster child and Honda’s IMA hybrid system is far from smooth and refined. The Volt is more of a novelty with its lofty price tag and the last time we tested one we revealed a lowly 32MPG average when running gasoline only. This brings us to the blue oval. Despite Ford using essentially the same technology as Toyota for their hybrid systems, Ford resisted creating a dedicated hybrid model. Until now. Meet the 47MPG 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid. Of course we’ve all heard the news that the C-MAX doesn’t hit 47MPG, so click-through the jump to find out what we averaged and whether or not that should matter to you.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

What Ford didn’t do was create a futuristic wedge-shaped car on a dedicated platform crafted from light-weight ultra-eco-friendly materials in an attempt to create the most efficient car in America. Disappointed? Don’t be, because the benefits may just outweigh the drawbacks. Instead Ford took the existing (since 2011) Focus-based C-Max from Europe, stuffed Ford’s most powerful hybrid drivetrain under the Euro sheetmetal and slapped some wide (for a hybrid) tires on what might just be the first hybrid hot hatch.

Speaking of that sheetmetal, the C-MAX strikes an interesting pose on American roads looking like the product of crossbreeding a Focus and a Windstar. The resulting hatchback has a tall greenhouse, tall roof-line and some crossover styling cues no doubt to confuse entice the suburban set. Measuring in at 173 inches long, the C-MAX is 2 inches longer than the Focus hatchback on which it is based, but 3 inches shorter than a Prius and 8 inches shorter than a Prius V.

Of course none of this really explains the strange “C-MAX” name. Yes, that’s what it’s called in Europe, but why? Still, it’s no stranger than “Prius” and whatever you think of its name, the C-MAX is considerably more attractive than Toyota’s bulbous hybrid wagon.

Interior

The C-MAX doesn’t just look like a wannabe crossover on the outside, it does on the inside as well. There’s a reason for this. Instead of sharing heavily with the Focus hatch as you might assume, the C-MAX shares parts and interior styling with the 2013 Escape. The only major style change to the dash is a unique instrument cluster similar with twin 4.2-inch LCDs like the Fusion hybrid. Unlike the Prius, you won’t find any thin, hard, weight saving plastics in the cabin. There are no blue-tinted transparent button arrays, no shifter joystick and no center-mounted disco dash either. Instead you will find a premium cabin that would pass muster in any $30,000 vehicle and looks notably more premium than the Lexus CT 200h. The Prius on the other hand is full of plastics and fabrics more at home in a $16,000 econo-box.

The C-MAX seats can be had in your choice of charcoal or a “greyish” tan fabric or leather but regardless of your choice, the majority of the interior is black-on-black. The overly black theme is both very European (in a good way) and a bit cold (in a bad way) for my tastes. Front seat comfort is good thanks to a relatively upright seating position, wide seat cushions and a good range of motion when you get the power driver’s seat. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel made finding a comfortable driving position quick and easy. The upright seating is what allows the C-MAX to have Prius matching rear leg room, an improvement of three inches over the Focus hatchback’s more reclined thrones.

The rear seats are a bit close to the floor for adult passengers but are the right height for most children and young teens. Despite looking tall and narrow, the C-MAX is more than three inches wider than the Prius and this allows three to sit abreast in the rear in greater comfort. The rear seat backs fold completely flat with the 24.5 cubic foot cargo area. Because the C-MAX wasn’t designed as a hybrid from the start, the battery pack occupies all the spare tire space in the C-MAX as well as a few inches on the cargo area floor. The reduced cargo space is a few cubes larger than the Prius liftback but smaller than the Prius V. Despite the cargo hauling reduction vs the European gasoline-only model, the C-MAX easily swallowed four roller bags with room to spare.

Infotainment

Like the Android vs iPhone debate, “infotainment systems” spark fierce debate. No system other than iDrive has received as much bad press, fan-boy rave reviews and healthy imitation as the strangely named “MyFord Touch.” (Really, what was wrong with SYNC?) The system (optional on SE, standard on SEL trim) combines your climate, entertainment, telephone and navigation chores into one integrated system that looks snazzy and responds via voice commands to your every whim. When it landed in 2010 it became obvious the software was rushed to market complete with more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour. Still, the system is still unique in the market for allowing you to voice command just about everything from your destination to your temperature and what Madonna track you want to listen to from your iPod.

The C-MAX benefits from a major software update released in March of 2012 (for all Ford products) to make the system more responsive. While the system never had a melt-down during my testing (a first for MFT), the slowness the system is known for persists. Like most MFT equipped vehicles, the C-MAX teams a snazzy in-dash touchscreen with twin 4.2-inch LCDs on either side of the speedometer. Perhaps a first for a hybrid vehicle, you won’t find a single screen on the main MFT screen that displays hybrid system information. No animated screen with a battery/motor/engine scree, no wacky driving hints, no fuel economy charts. Aside from the efficiency leaves that replace the climate option on the right-side 4.2-inch LCD and the intuitive kW gauge on the left LCD, there is nothing to identify the C-MAX as a trendy gasoline/electric people mover, and I think I like the move. Despite the system’s obviously flaws, MFT is far slicker and user-friendly than the Prius or Volt’s infotainment options.

Is Ford’s transmission a Toyota transmission?

The short answer is no. Long before Ford produced a hybrid vehicle, Ford and Toyota put out plenty of prototypes and concept cars. Both companies recognized the similarities of their competing hybrid designs and geared up for lawsuits. (Both designed shared plenty of cues from a TRW system from the 1960s.) Ford and Toyota did something rare in our litigious society, they settled and cross-licensed each-others technologies but (and most importantly) NOT their specific designs. Ford continued developing the Escape Hybrid solo and Toyota went on their way with Hybrid Synergy Drive. Some confusion was caused by Ford choosing Aisin build their hybrid transaxle for the Escape and Fusion hybrids because they didn’t have the capacity or expertise internally. Fast forward to 2012. Ford decided that in order to reduce costs and drive hybrid sales (for some CAFE credits of course) they had to take the design and manufacturing of hybrid systems in-house.  This means that Ford’s hybrid system’s level of vertical integration is vastly similar to Toyota.

Drivetrain

Under the stubby hood of the C-MAX you’ll find Ford’s completely redesigned hybrid system with a downsized 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine good for 141HP and 129lb-ft of twist. This is down slightly from the old 155HP 2.5L engine in the old Fusion and Escape hybrids, but considerably higher than the Prius’s 98HP mill. In order to achieve the 188 system horsepower (11 more than the old Ford system and 54 more than the Prius) and a TTAC estimated 200-220lb-ft of twist, Ford put a hefty 118HP motor/generator into their in-house designed HF35 hybrid transaxle. If you want to know more about how the Ford and Toyota Hybrid systems work, click here.

Beneath the cargo area in the C-MAX sits a 1.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The lithium battery chemistry allows the hybrid system to charge and discharge the pack at rates higher than the old nickle based battery pack (used in the Escape and the Prius). This new battery allows the C-MAX to drive electric only up to 62MPH vs the 34MPH of the Prius. In addition, the C-MAX doesn’t need you to be as gentle on the throttle as the Prius or the older Ford hybrids.

Oh that fuel economy

Fuel economy is a tricky business because your driving style and topography are the biggest factors involved. I would caution readers to never compare my numbers with other publications because the driving conditions and styles are different. The 2012 Prius, when driven gently on my commute, (120 miles round trip with a 2,200ft mountain pass) averaged 46-47MPG which is fairly close to its 51/48/50 EPA rating (City/Highway/Combined). The C-MAX on the other hand averaged 41.5 during our 568 miles of testing and the lowest one-way figure on my daily commute was 39MPG. Sound good so far? There’s a problem, even on a level freeway at 65MPH the C-MAX struggled to get better than 45MPG in 60 degree weather. The Prius in the same situation averaged 50MPG. The Prius V suffered a similar shortfall in my week of testing coming in four MPG below its EPA combined 42MPG rating. We need to put these numbers in perspective. Driving 15,0000 miles a year with gas at $4 a gallon the C-MAX would cost $144 a year more to operate than a Prius and $148 less than a Prius V.

On the road

There are a few reasons the C-MAX fails to meet Ford’s fuel economy claims. The first is the portly 3,600lb curb weight, the second is the wide 225/50R17 tires which have a 23% larger contact patch than the Prius’ 195/65R15 rubber. On the flip side, the wide low-profile rubber pays real dividends when the road bends and the heavy curb weight helps the C-MAX to feel lass “crashy” than a Prius over broken pavement. Coupled with a Focus derived suspension, the tires help the C-MAX set a new benchmark for hybrid handling easily besting the CT 200h. While the electric power steering robs the hybrid hatch of 99% of its road feel, it still manages to be more engaging than a Prius. Admittedly not a hard thing to do.

Stomp on the C-MAX’s accelerator pedal and something surprising (for a hybrid) happens: acceleration. If the road surface is right you’ll even get some one-wheel-peel. Despite weighing a whopping 600lbs more than a Prius, the C-MAX sprints to 60MPH 2 seconds faster posting a solid 7 second run to highway speeds. I’d like to compare it to the Prius V and  Lexus CT 200h, but I gave up after 9.5 seconds. This makes the C-MAX as fast as the Focus ST and faster than a Volkswagen GTI.

In addition to being more powerful, the C-MAX’s hybrid system is capable of operating in EV mode at higher speeds and in a broader range of conditions than the Prius. While it doesn’t seem to help the C-MAX hit its advertised 47/47/47 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) it is a novelty that entertained drivers and passengers alike. Thanks to a more powerful motor, faster discharging battery, and aggressive software, it’s possible to accelerate up to40 MPH in EV mode without pissing off the cars behind you. Doing so brings the C-MAX’s other selling point to light: Ford’s sound deadening measures are extensive and make the C-MAX the quietest hybrid this side of the insane LS 600hL.

Ford has wisely priced the C-MAX aggressively starting at $25,200 and there’s already a Ford $1,000 cash back offer dropping the price to the same as the 2013 Prius’ MSRP and $2,450 cheaper than a Prius V. The up-level SEL model which comes standard with leather, heated seats, rain sensing wipers, backup sensors, ambient lighting, keyless entry/go for $28,200. Should you desire some plug-in love, the Energi model will set you back $32,950. The deal gets even better when you consider the C-MAX has more standard equipment and features and options unavailable in the Prius at any price.

The week after Ford lent me the C-MAX hybrid Consumer Reports’ “bombshell” about the C-MAX’s fuel economy numbers dropped. But does it matter? Is a 41MPG C-MAX a failure? No, and here’s why. The only measurable way the Prius is better than the C-MAX is real world fuel economy where the Prius will save you a few Grants a year. In every other way the C-MAX is superior to the Prius and even the Lexus CT 200h. Does this compensate for the “lackluster” fuel economy? It does in my book. If you’re willing to spend $144 a year in higher fuel costs for a more entertaining ride, this Ford’s for you. The C-Max isn’t just a shot across Toyota’s bow, it’s the first honest-to-goodness competitor on the market. Better yet, it’s not a me-too Prius, it’s a unique and compelling alternative.

Ford provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.9 Seconds

0-60: 7.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.55 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 41.5MPG over 625 Miles

 

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, hybrid logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Transmission Diagram, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Transmission Diagram, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-honda-civic-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-honda-civic-hybrid/#comments Sat, 19 May 2012 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442547

More than just a mere model, the Honda Civic is an institution. With 9 million examples sold on American shores, and nearly 20 million worldwide, calling it “Honda’s most important car” doesn’t express the importance of getting the 2012 redesign right. Michael got his hands on the EX model last May, but today we’re looking at the green poster child of the Honda line-up.  Visit TTAC next week as we get gaseous with the Civic CNG.

Click here to view the embedded video.

If the Civic were a brand, it’s volume would rank above the likes of BMW, Mazda, Mercedes and Chrysler. As you would expect from a volume player, Honda played it safe with the sheetmetal. While overall proportions are exactly the same as the 2011 Civic, the 2012 sports a 1.2-inch shorter wheelbase. The hybrid’s new nose sports a grille with horizontal bars, chrome bling and blue trim to show that the planet is being saved. The overall look is evolutionary and elegant, a logical move for the Civic as the hybrid model can cost more than $27,000 after destination charges. Aside from the subtle blue band up front, a hybrid logo and LED brake lamps out back, there are no visual clues to the Civic’s powertrain.

Exterior

If you thought the Civic was small , then you haven’t been inside one recently. Interior volume is up by four cubic feet and rear leg room has grown by nearly two inches. Four average sized Americans will have no problem spending time in the Civic, but 5 is still a tight squeeze. Honda’s redesigned battery means trunk room has grown slightly from 10.4 cubic feet to 10.7, but still a notable reduction from the non-hybrid’s 12.5 cubic foot trunk. The battery is still located  behind the rear seat meaning the seat backs can’t fold for longer cargo.

The Civic’s interior continues to feature Honda’s “two-tier dash” which places a digital-style speedometer, MPG and fuel gauge high on the dash. Next to the them is a high-resolution 5-inch LCD “Multi-Information Display” (i-MID) which displays hybrid system, audio, trip and fuel-economy information. The lower tier has the tachometer and warning lights and is behind the steering wheel. The cockpit continues to be driver-oriented with the HVAC and radio controls angled towards the driver.

Interior

As the Hybrid shares its interior with the Civic Coupe (starting at $15,755), plastics are hard and the texturing does little to disguise it. In truth, most of the competition isn’t any better, but that’s not to say we can totally excuse some items. Our tester’s passenger-side airbag color was a distinctly different shade than the surrounding dash, a problem we also noted on the Civic Natural Gas tester. Front seat comfort is excellent for long trips, but as Honda continues to put fairly exaggerated fixed lumbar support in the Civic ‘s front seats, (something I personally prefer) you might want to spend some time sitting in the seats before you buy. Rear seat cushions continue to be positioned low in the Civic making longer journeys tiresome for your long-legged friends, but your kids will be happier with seats that start lower to the floor.

Infotainment

Since the Civic Hybrid is essentially the flagship Civic, all models come standard with Honda’s 6-speaker, 160-watt sound system independent of the head unit. Base models come with an MP3 CD player that and basic a USB/iPod interface. The optional navigation system adds a large screen for navigating your “iDevices” as well as XM Satelite Radio with XM Nav Traffic. The system’s interface is logical and well laid out, but the graphics are not as nice as Toyota’s or Ford’s systems. Although you cannot voice command specific tracks from your iPod like you can in Acura or Ford products, practically every other command in the system is “voice commandable.” The $1,300 premium to step up to the nav system is a tough pill to swallow when after market systems deliver a more pleasing interface for less.

Drivetrain/Tech

With little fanfare Honda has significantly updated the “Integrated Motor Assist,” or IMA hybrid system. At the heart of the fifth-generation system is a larger 1.5L engine.Although larger than last year’s 1.3L unit, the displacement increase doesn’t improve power, which falls by 3HP. The biggest change is a revised torque curve for more efficient driving. As before, the electric motor is sandwiched between the engine and a traditional CVT. The new motor is not only more powerful, bringing 23HP and 78lb-ft to the party, but it’s also smaller and lighter than before. With Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive you can’t add “engine+motor” to get total system figures, but with IMA you can. Because the torque and HP curves of the motor and engine differ, the maximum output is where the two lines intersect: 110HP at 5,500RPM and 127lb-ft of torque from 1,000-3,500RPM. (Thank the electric motor for that flat torque curve). Also new to this system is a dual-scroll A/C compressor, first seen in the defunct Accord Hybrid. The new compressor is a huge improvement for the Civic because the A/C can now run with the engine off, improving city MPGs.

Powering the electric motor is an all-new lithium-ion battery and new control circuitry that is 35% more efficient than before. Although the battery’s capacity has gone down (from 5.5Ah to 4.7Ah), lithium batteries can charge and discharge  more quickly, allowing the 2012 Civic Hybrid to recapture more energy from regenerative braking as well as roll around in EV-only mode. Yep, this Civic can now cruise around solely with electric power – for short periods of time. Since Honda doesn’t use a clutch to disconnect the engine from the motor (ala Infiniti’s M35h or Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid), the engine is always turning. Even during 100% electric mode. If you are driving around town, on a flat road, under moderate throttle and speeds under 40MPH, the Civic Hybrid will close the engine’s valves, cut off the gasoline and the 23HP provides all the power to spin the wheels, and the engine. Since the tachometer is still reading motion, the only way you know you’re in EV mode is by looking at the i-MID screen.

Drive

Since the motor delivers all of its 78lb-ft at low RPMs, off the line shove is better than the numbers might suggest. Not all is perfect with the latest IMA system however as transitions between regenerative and regular braking are considerably less polished than in Toyota’s hybrid products, especially when the battery reaches capacity. On the bright side, the CVT and the broad torque curve also turn the Civic Hybrid into a fairly effective hill climber. The Civic Si is incredibly satisfying on a windy mountain road and I would like to say the same could be said of the Hybrid, but I would be lying. When the going gets twisty, the low rolling resistance tires howl and give up early and extend braking distances significantly. Still, road holding isn’t what hybrids are about. Fuel economy is the name of this game.

As I am sure you’ve all heard, the previous generations of Civic Hybrid have had some bad press over fuel economy. Honda obviously took their recent legal woes to heart and not only improved the EPA numbers on the Civic Hybrid, but seemingly the real world mileage as well. EPA economy is up from 40/43 to 44/44 and in our week with the car we averaged a respectable 42.8MPG over 889 miles. Before you comment on the difference between EPA and observed economy however, this was not a typical commute week for me. Instead of my blend of mountain/city/highway driving, the Civic spent the majority of the week going up and down a 2,200ft mountain pass with little highway time. Still, this included the 2012 Hybrid scored better than the 2011 I tested previously, which averaged 36MPG.

How much does Honda’s compact fuel sipper cost?Pricing is easy, and there are only four ways to buy your Civic Hybrid. $24,200 buys the base model with cloth seats, $25,700 adds navigation, $25,400 gets you the base Hybrid with leather and our tester was the $26,900 model with navigation and leather. That’s about $3,500 more than a comparably equipped Civic EX, not to mention pricier than the Insight. For those paying attention, that’s just about the same as a Prius when you adjust for the extra features in a Prius “Four.” If your goal is simply to burn less gasoline, then the Prius is the green car for you. If however you’re looking for something more traditional that is “green enough,” the Civic Hybrid fits the bill perfectly. Of course, there’s still the question of the Insight. Although leather isn’t available, the most expensive Insight (EX with navigation) is $510 less than the Civic. Although the Civic Hybrid is slightly faster and handles slightly better than the Insight, it’s easy to see why the Civic Hybrid has remained, and is destined to remain a slow seller in America.

 

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.95 Seconds

0-60: 10.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.6 @ 79.5 MPH

Average fuel economy: 42.8MPG over 889 Miles

 

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, trunk, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, trunk, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, 3/4 view, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, hybrid logo, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear 3/4 , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, side , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, 3/4 , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, 3/4 , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, 3/4 , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, engine bay, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Engine, Integrated Motor Assist, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, engine, 1.5L, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, hybrid display, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, tachometer, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, speedometer, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, i-MID, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, HVAC controls, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, aux jacks, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, speakers, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-buick-lacrosse-eassist/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-buick-lacrosse-eassist/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:17:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=430222  


GM’s track record has been less than stellar. First we had the Saturn Vue Green Line, a very “mild” hybrid that paled next to competitors like the Ford Escape. Next came the extraordinarily expensive 2-mode hybrid system used in GM’s pickup trucks and full-sized SUVs, which cost far too much and delivered far too little. Finally, we have the Volt – ’nuff said. No wonder GM’s latest hybrid endeavor has come to market with little fanfare, no “hybrid” logos on the vehicle and no hybrid branding from GM. Can we honestly call the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist a hybrid?

While the LaCrosse’s styling is dominated by slab sides and FWD proportions, the overall look is handsome, even elegant. Compared to the ES350, the Buick looks a touch more sedate while looking less like its kissing cousin the Chevy Malibu. The fairly high belt-line and increasingly popular four-door-coupe roof-line give the 16.5 foot long Buick an almost modern flair (without being so modern as to drive away traditional Buick shoppers.) Despite the modern styling, Buick has stuck to their dubious “ventiports” which make even less sense now than before with our 4-cylinder LaCrosse sporting six portholes. Maybe port 5 represents the motor and 6 is the battery?

While the new LaCrosse’s interior is not class leading in any way, it is uniquely styled. Personally I’m not a fan of the steeply sloped doors but the 40-inches of rear leg room may compensate for that. The dashboard in our tester sported Buick’s new “stitched” dash which is an injection molded plastic dash that has “cuts”  molded in and is then stitched with thread to give the look of a stitched dash without the cost. Overall, the effect works, but the acres of fake wood are less convincing. I understand the need to differentiate between Cadillac and Buick, but the lack of real tree in the LaCrosse is a problem when Buick’s self-proclaimed Lexus competition having plenty of burl-forest standard.


While many hybrid vehicles ditch the folding rear seats due to the battery pack’s location, the LaCrosse continues to offer a pass-through – although it is about 50% smaller than the V6 model’s hole-in-the-trunk. Also on the list of complaints is a trunk that has shrunk to 10.7 cubic feet and is still hampered by trunk hinges that restrict the cargo area. The lost space is given to the hybrid battery pack and associated cooling ducts. Instead of a spare tire in the trunk you’ll find an empty cavity with a tire inflation kit. Why not toss the battery into the unused spare tire space?

The first generation Belt-Alternator-Starter or BAS system GM used in the Saturn Vue and Chevy Malibu “hybrids” was unloved by the press, ignored by shoppers and euthanized after a short time on the market. Instead of trying to resurrect the fantastically expensive “two-mode”  system, GM went back to basics and fixed what was wrong with the BAS hybrid in the first place. GM threw out the ancient 4-speed automatic and replaced it with a new 6-speed unit. The two extra gears allowed Buick to change the final drive ratio for better “hybrid” performance while still having a fairly broad range of lower gears for passing and take-off. Next, they ditched the low-capacity 36V NiMH battery replacing it with a modern 115V lithium-ion pack. The transformation was finished off by a liquid-cooled motor/generator packing three times the punch of the previous generation (15HP and 79lb-ft of torque). In addition to being more powerful, the motor and electronics are designed for nearly continuous use allowing the hybrid system to operate over a broader range of speeds and conditions. The result is a 0.2 second improvement in the LaCrosse’s 0-60 time and a 25% improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing un-eAssisted LaCrosse. Despite the improvements, GM decided to take a cautious approach and is not calling the new system a hybrid, nor are they including the motor’s assistance in the 182 horsepower or 172 lb-ft torque numbers. The ES350, on the other hand, is inexplicably unavailable as a hybrid.

The addition of a battery and motor alone didn’t achieve the 25 MPG city and 36 MPG highway numbers – the Lacrosse eAssist relies on  active grille shutters, altered gear ratios, low rolling resistance tires, a new trunk spoiler, and aero improvements under the car to help get these numbers. The combination of eAssist and the other improvements are what increase the all-important combined economy score from 23 mpg to a 29 mpg. The highway figure of 36 mpg is possible due to the new final drive ratio, which allows the 2.4L engine to spin at a leisurely 2,000 RPM at 70MPH. Without eAssist, this would be a problem upon encountering a slight rise in the terrain as GM’s 6-speed auto is notoriously reluctant to down shift. Fortunately, the 79lb-ft of torque provided by the BAS motor enables the LaCrosse to deal with freeway overpasses and gentle rolling hills without downshifting or slowing. In comparison, the Acura TL delivers 20/29 MPG, the ES350 is less efficient at 19/28 and the Lincoln MKS rounds out the bottom of this pack at 17/25. The Buick is by far the least powerful in this group and some might rightly compare it to Lincoln’s premium hybrid, the MKZ, which returns 41/36 MPG, but the MKZ is a smaller vehicle.


Our LaCrosse averaged 29.9MPG during our 674 mile week with the car. While the start/stop system helped keep the LaCrosse from sipping fuel at stoplights, the system has to idle the engine to run the air conditioning so your mileage in hotter climates is likely to vary considerably. If you value MPGs over cool air, there’s an “ECO” button which tells the car to sacrifice cabin cooling in the name of efficiency. The transmission is fairly smooth, but to aid energy-regeneration, the 6-speed unit is programmed to be as eager to downshift when slowing as it is to upshift when accelerating. No matter what the engine and transmission are doing, the cabin remains eerily quiet due to some extensive work on the sound insulation. This car isn’t just quiet for a near-luxury car, it’s quiet for any car, period. Serenity does have a downside, as my better half was quite put off by the engine start/stops and downshifts when stopping, which were made somewhat more prominent by the silence. Personally, they didn’t bother me at all so be sure to get in a good road test before you live with the car.


On the tech front, our LaCrosse was equipped with the standard 8-inch touchscreen radio and optional navigation system. I found the user interface considerably easier to use than the system in the Cadillac CTS, and was amused by graphics and colors reminiscent of Star Trek The Next Generation. Buyers not willing to spend $1,345 on the optional nav system, can still get turn-by-turn directions via OnStar, although only the first 6 months of the service are free. iPhone and iPod integration are easy to use, and the user interface is very responsive. Unfortunately the maze of physical buttons are not as intuitive as the on-screen menus. Even after a week, I was unable to stab a button in the dark without taking my eyes off the road. Buick offers blind-spot monitoring on the LaCrosse in a $1,440 “confidence package” which also includes steering xenon headlamps and GM’s vacuum-fluorescent heads up display. You can see some images of the HUD in the gallery below. The monochrome display shows basic navigation instructions, speed and a digital tach but falls well short of the polish BMW’s HUD possesses. Absent at any price is adaptive cruise control or collision warning, features available in a majority of the competition including the ES350.

Out on the road the LaCrosse handles just like you’d expect from 3,835lbs of Buick; it squats, dives and serves up plenty of body roll in the corners, but then again so do the Lexus, Hyundai Azera and Lincoln MKS. If you want sporty and can handle the looks, roll into an Acura dealership for a TL. Buick has set pricing for the LaCrosse eAssist at $29,045 for the base model. Should you step up to the “LaCrosse with Convenience Group” at $29,600, you can choose between the 303 HP V6 or the eAssist drivetrain for the same price. AWD LaCrosse models are available only with the 3.6L engine. While Buick is quick to call the engines choice a “no-cost option”, the eAssist base model is $2,830 more than last year’s base four-cylinder model. At essentially 30-large, the base eAssist LaCrosse compares favorably with the $36,725 base price of the ES350.

As our week with the LaCrosse ended I was more confused about eAssist than I was when it started. This confusion has nothing to do with the actual system itself which worked flawlessly and had a decent impact on fuel economy, it had everything to do with GM’s naming conventions. Somehow I’m not be surprised that the first hybrid viable hybrid from GM, mild or otherwise, would receive little fanfare. While the LaCrosse will never set your heart alight with excitement, it combines an excellent ride, cabin noise levels that Rolls Royce engineers are probably trying to replicate and decent fuel economy with a $35,195 as tested MSRP. While I’d probably still buy the more expensive ES350 ($41,240 similarly equipped), the Buick is a solid product with decent mileage at a compelling price.

Buick provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30 MPH: 2.8 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 7.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.22 Seconds at 85.7 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 29.9 MPG over 674 miles

2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, ventiports, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, battery cooling, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, spare tire well, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, ventiports, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, fuel economy, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, tach, auto stop, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, tach, auto stop, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, infotainment screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, HUD heads-up display, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, infotainment controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, infotainment screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, ambient lighting, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, ambient lighting, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, ambient lighting, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, passenger's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, passenger's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, dash controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, headlamp and HUD controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, radio and HVAC controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, window switches, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat HVAC, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Interior, rear seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist system, Picture courtesy of General Motors buick-lacrosse-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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