The Truth About Cars » Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 06 Jul 2015 12:00:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Honda Civic Hybrid, CNG and Accord Plug-In Hybrid Models Get the Axe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/honda-civic-hybrid-cng-and-accord-plug-in-hybrid-models-get-the-axe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/honda-civic-hybrid-cng-and-accord-plug-in-hybrid-models-get-the-axe/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 16:58:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1092913 UPDATE: Clarification on CR-Z at bottom. Honda is doing a bit of late spring cleaning as it looks to get its hybrid house in order. The automaker announced production of the Civic CNG has ended and multiple hybrid models will soon get the axe. Honda isn’t abandoning hybrid technology, however, as John Mendel, Executive Vice President, […]

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2015 Honda Civic Hybrid

UPDATE: Clarification on CR-Z at bottom.

Honda is doing a bit of late spring cleaning as it looks to get its hybrid house in order. The automaker announced production of the Civic CNG has ended and multiple hybrid models will soon get the axe.

Honda isn’t abandoning hybrid technology, however, as John Mendel, Executive Vice President, Automobile Division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., hinted there are replacements in the pipeline in a release sent out today.

According to his statement – titled “Advancing Environment a Natural Fit in Honda Vehicle Lineup” – the Honda Civic CNG and Civic Hybrid will end with the ninth-generation compact. The tenth-generation Civic will instead offer two engines – one normally aspirated and one turbocharged, in addition to the Type R – and Honda will abandon its single motor hybrid system in favor of two- and three-motor variants.

Another model to get the axe is the Accord Plug-In Hybrid. Mendel states it won’t be offered going forward, but a new Accord Hybrid will debut early next year. Also being introduced next year is Honda’s next-generation fuel cell vehicle along with an “all-new battery electric model and the all-new plug-in hybrid model.”

The latest hybrid cull at Honda comes a little over a year after the company killed of the Honda Insight due to slow sales.

The end of the single motor hybrid IMA system also spells the end for the Honda CR-Z, at least in its current form, though when that will take place is uncertain.

Robyn Eagles, spokesperson for Honda North America, stated the CR-Z will continue into MY2016 and Honda is still committed to green technologies, but the CR-Z’s technological makeup beyond 2016 is uncertain.

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2016 Volvo XC90 First Drive (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-volvo-xc90-first-drive-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-volvo-xc90-first-drive-video/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 15:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069282 Volvo seems to be on the long road to recovery. Although sales have continued to slip in the USA, the numbers were up worldwide last year. In an interesting twist, 2014 was also the first year more Volvos were sold in China than North America. That could be cause-and-effect since Volvo had been more focused on […]

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2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

Volvo seems to be on the long road to recovery. Although sales have continued to slip in the USA, the numbers were up worldwide last year. In an interesting twist, 2014 was also the first year more Volvos were sold in China than North America. That could be cause-and-effect since Volvo had been more focused on their European-only new compact sedan and wagon. 2016 finally showers some Swedish love on America with a complete redesign of the XC90, the SUV originally designed for us. Because China is now a bigger market than we are, this XC90 isn’t just for us, but for China and the growing number of big crossovers clogging up Europe as well.

Exterior
The Volvo DNA is undeniable, but an Audi influence is also readily apparent. While I admit I like Audi’s design language, I am a little saddened the very distinct Volvo styling cues from the original S80, S60 and XC90 continue to get softened over time.

Up front is a bolder, flatter grille (thanks to pedestrian impact regulations), distinctive optional LED headlamps and a shorter front overhang than ever before. The shorter overhang is possible because this is the first Volvo in ages designed to accept only 4-cylinder or smaller engines under the hood. Out back, the distinctive Swedish hips are nearly gone, replaced by a more sloping profile that is more aggressive but less extraordinary. The Audi influence is most apparent out back where U.S.-bound models get red turn signals instead of the amber blinkers found on the European model. While Audi supposedly makes the amber-to-red change because the amber lamps from the EU don’t cover enough surface area, Volvo’s switch is purely aesthetic.

Interior
Until the new Q7 lands and we can look inside, the new XC90 has the best interior in the segment with no exceptions. After stepping into a Range Rover Sport after the event, I can safely say the Volvo compares well with the next category up. Momentum trims make do with injection moulded door and dash components, while Inscription models slather everything within reach in acres of cowhide, more wood trim than a modern Jaguar and a simple style that is distinctly Scandinavian. (Which is surprising since the lead interior designer is American.)

The new SUV gets Volvo’s first complete seat redesign in ages. The Swedish thrones have long had a reputation for impressive ergonomics, but a refresh was overdue. The new design allows for 4-way lumbar, adjusting side bolsters, extending thigh cushions and ventilation in addition to heating. I was unable to sample the less capable base seat, but 8 hours in the top-end model confirms Volvo has improved the adjustability without sacrificing their legendary comfort and support.

Hop in the back and you’ll notice the XC90’s length may have grown over time, but interior height is actually down in some measures. This makes the third row very unusual. The seats are some of the most comfortable mother-in-law-row seats I’ve had the pleasure to sit in, but the headroom limits their usefulness to those under 5’8. The cargo area is surprisingly generous behind the third row with enough room to stuff roller bags in the long way, but I suspect most folks will keep the way-back seats folded. If that describes your typical third row usage, you may want to lobby Volvo for the seating accoutrements in the picture below.

Volvo XC90 Excellence - interior

As we’ve all heard, chauffeurs are cheap in China and being driven is preferred to driving. To satisfy this growing segment of Chinese society, Volvo will build the XC90 Excellence, which can be had as either a 3 or 4 seat model. No, Volvo didn’t bring one to sample to the event, but I mention it because the concept sounded way out in left field when I first saw the blog posts about it a few weeks ago. After having experienced the new interior, however, I have to say it makes sense. All but the steering wheel airbag cover is Range Rover competitive and I wouldn’t mind seeing a 5-seat variant with a little extra “plush” in the back. Just call it something other than the “XC90 Excellence.” Please.

Infotainment
Volvo placed a 9.3-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash, which acts more like a tablet computer than a traditional infotainment system. The display actually works a little more smoothly than Tesla’s ginormous 17-inch model, although it’s much less snazzy. The overall concept allows four different data “zones” to coexist on-screen at the same time, customizable by the user. To interact with them, you touch the option and it expands while shrinking the others. This allows you to see the nav system’s map and your next turn directions while also seeing your media information, fuel economy, vehicle status and other pertinent bits. Touch responses were lightning fast, just like the latest tablet computers. The system offers iDrive-like levels of adjustment and vehicle customization.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

Over on the driver’s side is an all-new and all-gigantic 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster. The gauge design is elegant and well-laid out using nearly 1/3 of the display for either your media functions or a navigation map, even when a destination is not set. I’d say the new Volvo display ranks on par with the new Mercedes S-Class and ahead of the Jaguars and Land Rovers with disco dashes in terms of design. Speaking of JLR products, I have one gripe: like the English disco dashes, Volvo has little ability to customize the LCD aside from colors and some minor gauge changes. Although GM has only four different layouts to chose from in Cadillac CUE, that’s three more than Volvo and the looks are all different.

Safety
For 2016, Volvo reprises most of its safety systems, updates several of them and adds some new ones for good measure. The usual suspects – like a plethora of airbags and anti-whiplash seats – are standard. Volvo’s City Safety autonomous braking system gets an under the covers overhaul. Previously, the system came in two different versions: the base version relied solely on a laser scanner and camera to detect traffic and the second version was bundled with the adaptive cruise control using a radar sensor to expand coverage to pedestrians and cyclists. This generation of City Safety doesn’t increase the speeds above 31 mph, but the radar sensor and expanded sensing is now standard, as is a software tweak to improve accident avoidance in intersections. The new radar sensor replaces the laser scanner and is located in the same housing behind the rear-view mirror. The new location is less susceptible to ice build-up or snow packing in cold weather and may reduce repair costs in minor accidents.

Safety seems to be a game of diminishing returns, so the new systems focus on higher hanging fruit. The run-off-road protection uses the City Safety camera to determine if you are leaving the road surface. If you do, new seatbelt tensioners will pull you into place and a deforming seat frame makes sure when you launch into the air and land, spinal forces are reduced by 1/3. There’s also a rear-end collision warning that lets you know a drunk is about to plow into your hind end. The system will tension the seat belts, flash the hazard lights to attract the attention of the other driver, and will use the brakes to keep the car under control during and after the collision.

Volvo 2.0L T6 Drive E Engine

Drivetrain
As advertised, Volvo has kicked their 5- and 6-cylinder engines to the curb with the new XC90. While there are a selection of engines available in the EU, the only one making it to the USA is the turbocharged and supercharged 2.0L direct-injection four-cylinder. In the SPA platform, there’s a little more room for the plumbing. So, power is up slightly from the XC60 Drive-E to 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, nearly the equal of the BMW N55 in most tunes. The only transmission is an 8-speed Aisin automatic. All T6 models get a standard Haldex AWD system that will send up to 50 percent of available power to the rear whenever it wants. And, depending on the situation, the system will send up to 80 percent of power to the rear axle if a front wheel slips. If you need more power, Volvo doesn’t give you a bigger engine; they add a hybrid system in addition to the turbo and the supercharger. Say what? You heard that right, the XC90 T8 is a plug-in turbocharged and supercharged 400 horsepower hybrid.

Volvo’s hybrid system is thematically similar to Acura’s RLX hybrid. Things start with the same 316 hp engine and 8-speed auto as the T6, but they jam a 46 hp, 103 lb-ft electric starter/motor/generator between the engine and torque converter. The engineers ditched the Haldex AWD so they could stuff a water-cooled 9.3 kWh lithium ion battery in the tunnel between the front seats. The mechanical AWD is replaced by a 87 hp, 177 lb-ft electric motor connected to the rear axle sending power through a fixed 10:1 reduction gear. With a maximum discharge rate of 87 hp from the battery, the power and torque curves combine to give the driver 400 ponies and 475 lb-ft of torque. (Official US numbers are not final.) If you live in the snow belt, you should know while the T6 can send 158 hp to the rear on a whim, 87 is the most you’ll ever get in the T8. If that sounds like the Lexus and Acura eAWD systems, you’re right, so expect similar snow and ice performance.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

Drive
I was honestly a little surprised Volvo designed an entirely new suspension system for the SPA platform in addition to everything else. Instead of MacPherson struts, Volvo fits double wishbones up front producing a positive impact on handling. Out back, the XC90 sports a funky single composite leaf-spring in the independent multi-link suspension. The rear suspension design (except the leaf spring part) is quite similar to what Jaguar is using in the new XE. Logical, since both were started while Volvo and Jaguar were owned by Ford. The new design makes it easier to integrate the optional four-corner air suspension fitted to all XC90s at the testing event. The new suspension design, the lightened front end and the widest tires Volvo has ever put on a production car (275 width) improve handling just as you’d expect.

This puts the XC90 closer to the X5 than the MDX or QX60 in terms of grip. Configured comparably, the X5 will out handle the XC90 thanks to a RWD dynamic and better weight balance. But, the XC90 is less expensive. So, configured to a similar price, the Volvo will likely win. Speaking of price, the XC90 and the MDX price out almost identically. Although the XC90 starts higher at $48,900, it comes with standard AWD and the Acura doesn’t. Similarly configured an MDX Advance and a XC90 Momentum (with appropriate options) end up just $100 apart, a decent discount vs the other Euro options.

The all-new XC90 features a completely new chassis, front and rear, including a double wishbone front suspension.

The all-new XC90 features a completely new chassis, front and rear, including a double wishbone front suspension.

The engineers are claiming a 6.1 second 0-60 time – the same time advertised by BMW for the X5 in both RWD and AWD forms. Unfortunately, I was unable to 0-60 test the Volvo. Going back in our logs, I discovered that the 2015 X5 xDrive35i is the only BMW in recent memory to take longer to get to 60 than BMW’s claimed. The X5 hit 60 after 6.5 seconds, meaning the Volvo may be a hair faster. Check back for full specs when we get our hands on one for a full review. Add the hybrid hardware and Volvo says 0-60 drops to 5.7 seconds – notably faster than the QX60 hybrid (7.1) but a far cry from the 4.4L turbo X5 (4.7).

Numbers aside, the small engine in the XC90 certainly has a different feel than the 3.0L engine in the BMW. Low end torque from idle lags then comes on strong. Passing torque is excellent at most speeds, and at high RPMs the engine feels a hair more out of breath than the larger displacement options.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

The XC90 isn’t a game changer for Volvo in America. It can’t be. A brand is more than one car. However, if the XC90 is a window into Volvo’s future, then I have high hopes. If the Swedes can make over their entire lineup fast enough, they may also salvage their American sales numbers. This kind of interior quality in a 3-series sized vehicle would give even the all-new and all-tasty C-Class a run for its money. Just two things stand in their way: a distinct lack of marketing to let Audi shoppers know there is a better crossover for sale and the worrying thought it may be another 12 years until this XC90 gets redesigned. If you’re shopping for a luxury 3-row and don’t give the XC90 a look, you’re missing out on one tasty meatball.

Volvo provided the vehicle at a lunch event.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

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While You Were Sleeping: Audi RS3 Sedan, Toyota HiLux Reveal and Cameras Are Everywhere http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-audi-rs3-sedan-toyota-hilux-reveal-cameras-everywhere/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-audi-rs3-sedan-toyota-hilux-reveal-cameras-everywhere/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 10:55:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066090 Looking south of the A4 in Audi’s current range of motors, the hottest vehicle in its North American lineup is the current S3. Those of us west of the Atlantic don’t get to enjoy the turbocharged five-pot RS3 Sportback. Thankfully, Theophilus Chin is on the scene to digitally imagine our Ingolstadt desires with this compromise – the RS3 […]

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Audi RS3 Render / Theophilus Chin

Looking south of the A4 in Audi’s current range of motors, the hottest vehicle in its North American lineup is the current S3. Those of us west of the Atlantic don’t get to enjoy the turbocharged five-pot RS3 Sportback. Thankfully, Theophilus Chin is on the scene to digitally imagine our Ingolstadt desires with this compromise – the RS3 sedan.

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No Fixed Abode: Fruit Flies Of The Marketplace http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-fruit-flies-marketplace/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-fruit-flies-marketplace/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 11:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054169 I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; […]

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ONELESSPRIUS_1_400

I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; I’m not a customer for a Prius or a hybrid of any type and I am unlikely to become one until the last car that can beat a Prius around a racetrack enters the loving jaws of the Crusher.

Existing hybrid owners, on the other hand, are near and dear to Toyota’s heart. Unfortunately, that affection is being returned in smaller and smaller doses.

It’s the kind of headline that generates clicks the way a Prius going down a hill generates battery power: Gas price fallout: People trading in hybrids for SUVs. And the facts, in this case, justify the hype:

So far this year, only 45% of people that traded in an environmentally-friendly hybrid car purchased another, according statisticians at Edmunds.com. In 2012, that figure was over 60% and this is the first time it has ever fallen below 50%…

Back in 2012, gas prices peaked at $4.67 a gallon. At that price, it would take five years for owners of a hybrid-powered Toyota (TM) Camry to make up for the $3,770 price differential with the brand’s gasoline-powered model. But with today’s gas prices at $2.27 a gallon, it would take about 11 years.

Admit it, your first reaction to the above was, “How stupid can people be? Do they think cheap gasoline will last forever?” That was certainly my reaction. Although many of the B&B picture me as being just to the right of Attila the Hun, I’m a bit of a closet progressive at times and the image my Brooklyn-born brain conjured up when I read the above was an endless line of fat Walmartians trading in their Hy-Higlanders for Yukon XLs while smugly telling their neighbors, “I reckon gas is gonna be cheap forevah.” It’s the kind of image that is thoroughly satisfying for anybody who enjoys thinking of themselves as smarter than the average American. After all, I would never be that stupid, and neither would you, right?

But what if those stupid hicks who can’t wait to get rid of their hybrids are actually pretty good at doing real-world math? After all, using the Camry analogy provided by CNN, even when fuel is close to five bucks a gallon, you’re still looking at five years to the breakeven point. That’s longer than a lot of people keep their vehicles, so if you’re going to keep your Camry for three years and you don’t think fuel will swing past five or six dollars a gallon there’s probably no point.

The problem with that Camry analogy, however, is the standard Camry four-cylinder gets outstanding gas mileage. Very few cars sold in this country are as good as a four-cylinder Camry at conserving fuel on the move. Are buyers really just trading in Camry Hybrids for Camrys, or are they moving to larger SUVs? That’s not something we can know without access to additional data, and it’s not a conclusion that’s directly supported by the CNN article.

What if that is the case, however? Let’s do a few moments’ worth of math, based on the idea of a 15,000-mile year.

Prius (50mpg) v $2.50 = $750/year
Tahoe (16mpg) v $2.50 = $2,343/year
Prius v $4.00 = $1,200/year
Tahoe v $4.00 = $3,750/year
Prius v $6.00 = $1,800/year
Tahoe v $6.00 = $5,625/year

I don’t think anybody expects gasoline to rise past six dollars a gallon in the next decade, assuming the world doesn’t erupt in flames.

With cheap gas, the Prius saves you $132 a month. With four-dollar gas, it’s $212.50. At six bucks, it’s $318.75. This is what I consider “real money” at all three amounts, but let’s put it in context by looking at how much extra car you could get if you put that same amount of money into paying a five year loan on a more expensive car.

At $2.50, you could afford to pay about seven grand more for your car if it has a Prius-Tahoe fuel advantage. At $4.00, it becomes eleven grand. At six bucks? Nearly seventeen thousand dollars. That, too, is real money. Since even the cheapest Tahoe costs twenty-two grand more than a base Prius, however, we can assume that our Prius-to-Tahoe people are ready to spend extra money to drive a Tahoe and that this additional fuel cost is just more money to burn. The math gets much more complicated when you start comparing fundamentally similar vehicles that are available in hybrid or conventional form. That’s the math that killed the Tahoe Hybrid and it’s the math that would kill it again were GM bold enough to bring it back.

After running about fifty more permutations of the above calculations, I’ve come to believe that people who trade in hybrid versions of Highlanders and Altimas for conventional versions are probably making a solid mathematical bet. And I’ve also come to believe that if you trade in a Prius for a Tahoe you’re going to take it in the shorts no matter what fuel costs are, said shorts-taking still being less than the additional amount you’re paying to drive a much more expensive vehicle in the first place. So our putative hybrid-traders are neither stupid nor bad at math, no matter how you slice it.

No, I think the lesson of the numbers is something else entirely. While looking at my fuel-economy spreadsheet, I kept thinking back to my Audi S5. Driven with some spirit, it had an 18-mpg appetite for fuel. Its supercharged replacement might fool the EPA but it doesn’t do much better in the real world. Nor do all the turbo near-luxury and luxury cars the Germans want you to buy. Pretty much anything that will arouse envy in your neighbors nowadays is also unlikely to do significantly better than 20mpg in the real world of mixed-use commuting and daily operation.

That means five thousand dollars a year or more to keep the tank full as fuel costs rise. Which they will. There is no way around it. If you think gasoline will be two dollars a gallon in the year 2035, you are either a drooling moron or the super-genius who will invent cold fusion and make petrol irrelevant for all but the most committed and particular of motorists.

Five grand a year is twenty-five grand in five years. So when I ask myself, “How much will people pay for the electric version of today’s luxury cars?” I now have a solid answer. And I have a second answer to a different question. The question is: “When will electric cars outsell gasoline-powered cars in the American marketplace?” The answer?

“Not as long from now as you think.”

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Honda Civic Hatch “Near Identical” To NY Coupe Concept, Will Get Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/honda-civic-hatch-near-identical-ny-coupe-concept-will-get-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/honda-civic-hatch-near-identical-ny-coupe-concept-will-get-hybrid/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 10:59:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1058010 If a report from Britain’s AutoExpress is to be believed, the front clip of the next-generation Honda Civic hatchback – due to arrive in North America for the first time since 2000 (in non-Si form) – will look “near identical” to the Civic Coupe concept revealed in New York. Head of Honda UK, Philip Crossman, […]

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Civic Concept

If a report from Britain’s AutoExpress is to be believed, the front clip of the next-generation Honda Civic hatchback – due to arrive in North America for the first time since 2000 (in non-Si form) – will look “near identical” to the Civic Coupe concept revealed in New York.

Head of Honda UK, Philip Crossman, told the UK outlet the next Civic hatchback will only differ from the coupe at the rear third of the car and all sheetmetal fore of that will be the same. In addition to a coupe, sedan, and hatchback, AutoExpress also posits a new Tourer model will likely be available, though we can’t see this version of the Civic coming to our shores.

The Civic will ride on a common architecture for both European and North American models. Under hood will be a brand new drivetrain with a hybrid version available later.

“We’ll come back with a class-leading hybrid powertrain in the next five years,” said Crossman, “and it’s likely to make as much impact as the VTEC valve system.”

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While You Were Sleeping: The Unbuilt Beauties of British Leyland http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 10:05:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056778 We go down memory lane this morning and look at some of the great cars British Leyland didn’t build. Get your Windows 10 preview for Raspberry Pi 2 while it’s hot (Engadget) Ever wanted to make your own infotainment system? This would be a good place to start. Team Hero EBR Withdraws from World Superbike (Asphalt […]

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a genuine british lawn ornament

We go down memory lane this morning and look at some of the great cars British Leyland didn’t build.

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New York 2015: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-toyota-rav4-hybrid-debuts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-toyota-rav4-hybrid-debuts/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:36:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029849 Toyota is set to debut a hybrid RAV4. I’m not sure what’s taken them so long. With the Lexus NX using a 2.5-liter 4-Cylinder paired with an electric motor, moving that drivetrain to its platform-mate, the RAV4, was an obvious choice. In the NX, it produces 200 hp while returning 33/30 mpg city/highway. Perhaps we’ll see […]

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2016-Toyota-RAV4-Hybrid-rear

Toyota is set to debut a hybrid RAV4. I’m not sure what’s taken them so long.

With the Lexus NX using a 2.5-liter 4-Cylinder paired with an electric motor, moving that drivetrain to its platform-mate, the RAV4, was an obvious choice. In the NX, it produces 200 hp while returning 33/30 mpg city/highway. Perhaps we’ll see slightly better numbers in the RAV4?

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Review: 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender aka i3 REx (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:24:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018290 Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender
Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last drove the Jaguar XKR-S have I received as many questions while parked at the gas pump, or visited a gas pump so frequently, but I digress. In a nutshell, the i3 is technically a hybrid or an EV depending on the version you get.

 

BEVx

The “hybrid” i3 isn’t the kind of hybrid you’re used to, this is an all-new classification of car defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as a “Battery Electric Vehicle with Range eXtender” or BEVx. BEVx is the key to understanding why the i3 operates the way that it does and why the Euro version operates differently.

California has decided (for better or worse) that some 22% of cars sold in the state must be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) by 2025. While that sounds straightforward, nothing cooked up by the government and lobbyists can ever be easy. Rather than an actual percentage of cars sold, CARB created a credit system where an alphabet soup of classifications (PZEV, AT-PZEV, TZEV, etc) get partial credits and true ZEVs can get multiple credits. Into this complicated world came the unicorn that is the BEVx. Despite having a gasoline burning engine, BEVxs get the same credits as a vehicle with the same range and no dinosaur-burner. The distinction is important and critical. If the BEVx requirements are met, the i3 gets the same 2.5 credits as the i3 EV, if not it would get a fractional credit just like a regular Prius. The requirements are: the fossil fuel range must be less or equal to the EV range, EV range but be at least 80 miles, the battery must deplete to a low level before the generator kicks in and may not be charged above that level. In addition the fossil fuel generator or APU must meet CA’s SULEV emissions standards and have a long battery warranty. There’s one important catch: the carpool stickers. While BMW gets to have the i3 REx treated like an EV for credits, i3 REx owners are treated like hybrid owners for the carpool sticker program. The EV model gets the coveted (and unlimited) white carpool lane stickers, while the REx gets the same quantity-limited green stickers as the Chevy Volt. If CA follows course, the green sticker program will eventually sunset like the yellow-sticker hybrid program did in 2011.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004

Construction

The i3 is about more than just ZEV credits, it’s about putting new materials and processes into production for real drivers to experience with some funky modern style tossed in for good measure. In some ways the i3 is a return to body-on-frame construction, you see this is not a 100% carbon fiber car as some have incorrectly said.

The i3 is composed of two distinct parts. On the bottom is the drive module which is an aluminum chassis that holds the drivetrain, suspension, battery and crash structures. Connected to the drive module is the “life module” which is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic or CFRP. While obviously a little heavier than a car made entirely out of CFRP, the aluminum crash structure is more easily repaired in the event of a minor collision. The result is an EV that tips the scales about a cupcake shy of a Mazda MX-5 with an automatic transmission (2,634 pounds). Adding the range extender adds just 330 more. That’s about 370lbs lighter than the already impressive 3,000 pound (approximate) curb weight of VW’s new eGolf.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal

Exterior

Up front the i3 gets a familiar BMW roundel and a blue interpretation of the signature kidney grill. What’s different about the i3 is that the kidney isn’t used for cooling, even in the range extending version. The biggest departures from BMW norms however are the headlamps which lack the “angel eye” rings BMW has been known for and the high beams that are placed lower in the facia. (No, those are not fog lamps.) Regardless of the trim or paint color you choose, the hood, lower valance, side trim and rear hatch will always be black.

The side view generated the most head turns due to the undulating greenhouse and “pinched” look to the rear windows. I didn’t find the look unattractive, but it does reduce rearward visibility in what is ostensibly a practical city car. Out back the hatch is composed of two sheets of glass, one for the rear windscreen and the other forms the “body” of the hatch and actually covers the tail lamp modules creating a very sleek look. Turn the steering wheel and passers-by will immediately forget about the pinched greenhouse and focus on the tires. Yes, they are as skinny as they look, but the proportion is the real key to the “bicycle wheel” look as one passenger called it. Our tester was shod with 155/70R19 tires up front and 175/70R19 in back. For reference a Toyota Sienna uses a T155 tire as a spare. Thinking critically, there have been plenty of cars with tires this narrow, but I can’t think of a single one where the width combined with a nearly flat wheel that was 19 or 20 inches across.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open

Interior

Freed from the usual front-engine, rear-drive layout of every other BMW, the Germans decided to reinvent the cabin. Because the drive module under the cabin houses the majority of the crash structure, the CFRP body was built without a structural pillar between the front and rear seats. The suicide door design means that getting in and out of the rear seat is surprisingly easy, as long as you haven’t parked too close to another vehicle. Without the transmission tunnel the HVAC system was pushed as far forward as possible allowing the driver and front passenger’s footwell to become merged. (There are just two floor-mats, one up front and one in back.)

The doors aren’t the only unusual thing about the i3’s interior, the design is decidedly Euro-funky. From the steering column mounted shifter to the “floating” iDrive display and glove box on the “top” of the dash rather than the front, the i3 designers went out of their way to think out of the box. The concept-car like theme doesn’t stop at shapes, the materials are a little unusual as well. The upholstery in our model was a wool/recycled-plastic blend fabric and the dashboard and door panels are made from a bioplastic reinforced with kneaf fibers (a kind of jute.) Front seat comfort proved excellent despite lacking adjustable lumbar support. The rear of the i3 was surprisingly accommodating, able to handle six-foot tall folks without issue. Because the dash is so shallow, a rear facing child seat can be positioned behind that six-foot person without issue. As with other small EVs on the market, the i3 is a strict four-seater. My only disappointment inside was the small LCD instrument cluster (shown below) which is notably smaller than the i3’s own infotainment/navigation LCD.

Under the hood of the i3 you’ll find a small storage area (also called a “frunk”) that houses the tire inflater and the 120V EVSE cable. The i3’s frunk is not watertight like you’ll find in the Tesla Model S, so don’t put your tax paperwork inside on your way to the IRS audit in the rain. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats comes in at 11.8 cubes, about the same as your average subcompact hatch. Getting the i3 sans range extender won’t increase your cargo capacity as the area where the range extender fits remains off limits from your luggage.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster

Drivetrain

Being a rear wheel drive electric car, the i3’s motor is located under the cargo floor in the back. With 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque on tap, the i3 is one of the more powerful EVs on the market. The light curb weight and gearing in the single-speed transmission allow a 6.5 second sprint to 60 in the EV and 7.0 in the REx. Powering all the fun is a 22kWh (18.8 kWh usable) battery pack in the “drive module” coupled to a 7.4kW charger capable of charging the car completely in just over 2.5 hours on AC. Should you need more electrons faster, you can opt for the new SAE DC-Fast-Charge connector capable of getting you from zero to 80% in under 30 minutes. 18.8kWh sounds much smaller than the  37kWh Tesla battery in the Mercedes B-class, but the i3 is much more efficient putting their range figures just 5 miles apart at 80-100 miles for the EV and 70-90 for the REx.

Next to the motor is the optional range extender. It’s a 34 peak horsepower 0.65L 2-cylinder engine derived from one of BMW’s motorcycle powerplants. Permanently to a generator, it can supply power to the motor, or charge the battery until it hits about 6%. The 1.9 US gallon gas tank is capable of powering the small engine for an additional 70-80 miles depending on your driving style. There is no mechanical connection at all between the engine and the wheels. Think of the battery as a ballast tank, you can pull 170 HP out whenever you want, but the supply refilling the ballast flows at a maximum of 34. This means that it is entirely possible to drain the battery and have just 34 HP left to motivate your car.

Battery Flow

Sounds like the Volt you say? Yes and no. The Volt is more of a plug-in hybrid with some software tweaks and the i3 is a range extending EV. I know that sounds like splitting hairs but some of this comes down to the way GM decided to market the Volt when it launched. The Volt’s transaxle and 2-motor/generator system is actually much closer to the Ford/Toyota hybrid design than anything else on the market. Because of that design it can operate as an EV, as a serial hybrid or as a parallel hybrid. Interestingly enough however, maximum performance happens in gas-burning mode, just like the plug-in Prius and plug-in Ford Energi products. With the i3 however, performance is always the same (unless the battery is totally dead.) Also in the Volt you can opt to “reserve” your EV capacity for later, and that isn’t allowed in US bound i3 models (you can in Europe) in order to get that coveted BEVx classification.

Technically speaking, it is possible for any hybrid (i3 included) to enter a “limp mode” where the battery is depleted and all you have left is the gasoline engine. The difference is what you have left when this happens. The i3 has far less oomph in this situation than even the 80 HP Volt, 98 HP Prius or 141 HP in the Fusion/C-Max Energi.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter

Drive

The i3’s steering is precise and quick with just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock and the turning circle is 10% smaller than a MINI Cooper at 32-feet. Due to the combination of a fast steering ratio, narrow tires, electric steering assist and the incredibly light curb weight, the i3 can feel twitchy on the road, responding immediately to the slightest steering input. That feeling combined with low rolling resistance tires (that squeal long before they give up grip) make the i3 feel less capable than it actually is. Once you get used to the feeling however, it turns out to be the best handling non-Tesla EV currently made. Is that a low bar? Perhaps, but the i3 leaps over it.

BMW’s “one pedal concept” is the fly in the ointment. Here’s the theory: if you drive like a responsible citizen, you just use the accelerator pedal. Press on the pedal and the car goes.  Lift and the car brakes. Lift completely and the i3 engages maximum regenerative braking (brake lights on) and takes you to a complete stop. As long as the road is fairly level, the i3 will remain stopped until you press the go-pedal once more. On paper it sounds novel, in practice it annoyed me and made my leg ache. The reason is that in order to coast you either shift to neutral or hover your foot in the right position. If the i3 could adjust the “foot-off” regen, I’d be happy. Driving the i3 back to back with VW’s new eGolf didn’t make the one-pedal any better because the VW allows you to adjust the regen from zero to maximum in four steps easily and intuitively.

BMW i3 One Pedal Operation Concept Brake Neutral Go

The i3 EV’s wider rear tires mean that despite being RWD and almost perfectly balanced you get predictable understeer as the road starts to curve. You can induce some oversteer if you’re aggressive on the throttle, but BMW’s stability control nanny cannot be disabled and the intervention is early and aggressive. Toss in the range extender’s 300+ pounds and understeer is a more frequent companion. You can still get the REx a little tail happy if you try however. The i3 will never be a lurid tail happy track car like an M235i, but the fact that any oversteer is possible in an EV is a rare feat since nearly everything else on the market is front heavy and front wheel drive. Put simply the BMW i3 is the best driving and best handling EV this side of the Model S.

Now let’s talk range extender again. After hearing the complaints about the i3’s “limp” mode when you’re left with just 34 ponies, I tried to make it happen to see what the fuss was about. I hopped in the car with the battery at 6% and started off to work. Climbing from 700ft to 2,200ft worked out just fine at 45-50 MPH on a winding mountain road, going down from 2,200 to sea level at 60 MPH was uneventful as well. I hopped on CA-85 and set the cruise control to 65 since the rumor mill told me the top speed would max out at 65ish with the battery dead. 15 miles later my battery was still very much alive so I kicked it up a notch to 75 and switched over to Interstate 280 where rolling hills would tax the battery further. 20 miles later the range extender was humming like a dirt bike in my blind spot but I wasn’t slowing down. I decided drastic measures were needed. I kicked the i3 up another notch to [intentionally left blank] MPH and watched as the battery gauge ran to zero. Finally. Except it wasn’t that exciting. It didn’t feel like I hit the brakes, it simply felt like someone had backed off the throttle. It took me around 1.5 miles to drop from [intentionally left blank] MPH to 55 MPH which was more than enough time for me to put my tail between my legs and move four lanes to the right.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001

Hitting the “34 HP barrier” as I started to call it proved a little easier at closer-to-legal speeds when hill climbing, and the effects were a little more drastic. On a winding road where driving a car hard involves heavy braking before corners and full throttle exits, the i3 ran out of steam after 4 miles. The i3 then spent the next 8 miles with the go-pedal on the floor at speeds ranging from 37 to 50 MPH.

When running on the range extender, I averaged 60-65 miles before I refilled the tiny tank which came out to somewhere around 38 MPG. The number surprised some, but personally it sounds about right because the energy losses in a serial hybrid can be high (up to 20% if you believe Toyota and Honda). What did surprise me is just how livable the i3 REx was. Despite BMW constantly saying that the REx wasn’t designed to be driven like a hybrid, over 300 miles of never charging I never had a problem driving the car just like I’d drive a Prius, only stopping more often for fuel. Way more often. The i3 REx can drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles stopping every 60 miles for gas, I’m not sure I’d do that, but it is nice to know I could.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard

Starting at $42,400 in EV form and $46,250 for the REx model, the i3 has the same kind of sticker shock as all EVs. However if you qualify for the maximum incentives the i3 REx comes down to a more reasonable $36,250 which is a little less than a 2015 328i. That slots the i3 between the rabble and the Tesla and more or less the same as the Mercedes B-Class, the only real i3 competition. In this narrow category the i3 is an easy win. It is slightly more fun to drive than the B-Class, a hair faster, considerably more efficient, has the ability to DC fast charge and the range extender will allow gasoline operation if required. The i3 is funky and complicated and BMW’s 320i is probably a better car no matter how you slice it, but none of that changes the fact the i3 is probably one of the most important cars of our time. Not because the i3 is a volume produced carbon fiber car, but because we are likely to see may more “BEVx” category “range extending” vehicles in our future (for more unicorn credits) and this is now the benchmark.

 BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and 1.9 gallons of gasoline for this review.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 86 MPH

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender 19 inch wheel 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender BMW logo 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Cargo Area.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Cargo Area 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Dashboard.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Doors Open 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior . 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior1 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-002 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-003 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-005 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-006 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-007 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-0011 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Front Trunk Frunk.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Front Trunk Frunk 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Glove Compartment 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Hatch and Tail Lamp 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender iDrive Screen.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender iDrive Screen 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior-001 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Quarter 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Seats Folded 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Seats 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Refueling 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Steering Column 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Steering Wheel.CR2

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Piston Slap: Avoiding Brutal CVT Step Gears? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:04:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019698   TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes: Hi Sajeev, I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to […]

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A path too Brutalist? (photo courtesy: flickrhivemind.net/Tags/architectute,concrete)

TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to make them drive in a manner familiar to traditional automatic transmissions, but this seems unnecessary and possibly inefficient to me. Are there any cars/companies that don’t fake it and just let the engine/trans cook up the best ratio at any given time? I’d like to test drive something like that to see how it feels.

A second and 2 part question. I work a 40 day on, 40 off shift and while working, my car (2011 Fit) sits. Is this bad and is there anything I should do for preparation or upon first start up? This also got me wondering about cars on dealer lots, do they periodically start sitting inventory?

-Raincoaster

Sajeev answers:

A 40-day stagnation period has been discussed, here’s the first example. Your only concern is having an older battery: newer cars in many geographic locations are rough on 3-5 year old batteries, so be ready for a dead battery that won’t come back from a jump start. Hopefully there’s an open parts store or a Wal-Mart nearby when that happens.

I also like the traditional, non-stepped CVT as witnessed by my 2014 Mirage road test.  The Mirage lacks flappy paddles and fake gears, but has a manual “low” for steep hills or maybe autocrossing in a serious sleeper. Add that with the fuel economy benefits, these CVTs are worth considering over auto-erratic slushboxes.

As I mentioned in the review, compared to the slow upshifts and the borderline-unsafe delays on WOT downshifts of modern 6-8 speed automatics (considering decades of performance oriented designs, both from the factory and the aftermarket) a stepless CVT is okay.  But public adoption sans fake gears is unlikely, Nissan’s D-step redesign is proof of that. Hopefully you, me, and threads like this mean that CVT step gears become a fad like motorized seatbelts.

Speaking of steps, I’m side-steppin’ your query.  Aside from the Mitsubishi, I don’t know which new CVTs run without steps. I assume Toyota hybrids stay stepless, as people are okay with a Hybrid being different.  This is why Piston Slap only succeeds with the Best and Brightest in play. So off to you!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Chart Of The Day: ExxonMobil Predicts Long Reign For The Internal Combustion Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chart-day-exxonmobil-predicts-long-reign-internal-combustion-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chart-day-exxonmobil-predicts-long-reign-internal-combustion-engine/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:38:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962202 The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil. While many will dismiss this as the wishful thinking of an industrial dinosaur, it’s worth remembering that 25 years isn’t that long of a timeframe in the automotive world. As we speak, automakers are already […]

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The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil. While many will dismiss this as the wishful thinking of an industrial dinosaur, it’s worth remembering that 25 years isn’t that long of a timeframe in the automotive world.

As we speak, automakers are already planning for what products will be on the market within the next decade. As it stands now, they must meet increasingly stringent emissions targets in the United States and the European union by 2025, in the form of both CAFE and the next round of Euro regulations that call for a fleet average of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer (for comparison, a Toyota Prius emits about 100 grams per km).

One way of meeting this target is through the use of hybrid technology – a sector that ExxonMobil sees as making rapid, substantial gains over the years. At this point, every single OEM has some kind of hybrid technology that can be adapted to their volume models in a way that is efficient in terms of both packaging and cost. This is sure to be the case for plug-in hybrid technology as well.

The zero-emissions front is substantially more fraught. The battle between battery electric vehicles (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has barely begun, but supporters of the two camps are already locked into a Betamax vs. VHS style conflict. As it stands, there is minimal infrastructure for both systems, and a combination of low oil prices and consumer skepticism is likely to stall its growth for the foreseeable future. And while BEVs technically have a head start on hydrogen, their market share is, in real terms, negligible.

In 2013, BEVs had a market share of just 0.28 percent, or about 260,000 units. Even the relatively scarce plug-in hybrid segment managed to best pure electrics, with 0.31 percent of the new car market. Only in Norway, where BEVs receive heavy subsidies in the form of tax breaks, have electric cars made any real headway, and even then, they have barely cracked 6 percent.

While tales of daring and disruption and averting cataclysmic climate change make for great headlines, the reality is that technological progress, especially in the automotive sector, moves at a much more gradual pace – otherwise, we’d likely have seen a major breakthrough in EV battery technology by now, one that would allow for significant range and negligible refueling times. Utopian visions of a fleet of silent, zero-emissions vehicles are just that. Instead, we are likely to see a proliferation of hybrid technology throughout new model lineups – and much of this will likely be driven by regulatory inputs, as a means of helping vehicles meet government mandated fuel economy targets, even if consumers don’t necessarily care.

Advances in the internal combustion engine are also on the horizon. Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engines, which allow for diesel-like combustion while running on gasoline, are expected to debut on Mazda cars by 2020. Mazda claims that they will provide a 30 percent fuel economy boost, while significantly lowering emissions. Between HCCI, increasingly cleaner diesel engines and incremental improvements to traditional engines, the ICE powertrains are likely to be ubiquitous due to their familiarity and what is sure to be a cost advantage. Barring any major, prolonged spike in energy prices or a wholesale shift in attitudes towards climate change and the environment, dollars and cents (not to mention sheer convenience) will remain the primary motivating factor in new car purchases. And that means that the internal combustion engine is well placed to continue its dominance through the next quarter century.

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Nair: Ford Hard At Work On F-150 Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nair-ford-hard-work-f-150-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nair-ford-hard-work-f-150-hybrid/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 12:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=955650 Losing 700 pounds may not be enough in the fuel economy for the 2015 Ford F-150, as plans are being made to add hybridization to the mix. Detroit Free Press reports global product development boss Raj Nair stated the automaker was “working very hard” on the hybrid system for the F-150, but that it was […]

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2015 Ford F-150

Losing 700 pounds may not be enough in the fuel economy for the 2015 Ford F-150, as plans are being made to add hybridization to the mix.

Detroit Free Press reports global product development boss Raj Nair stated the automaker was “working very hard” on the hybrid system for the F-150, but that it was too soon to go into detail on when it would hit showrooms or how the system functioned.

Regarding diesel, Nair said that fuel prices — already falling below $2/gallon in a few spots in the United States — are making such a thing tough to bring about, that even a hybrid system would pay for itself long before a diesel F-150 could. That said, if the demand is there, Nair believes Ford could tap into its diesel portfolio to make that model happen.

Speaking of fuel prices, truck marketing chief Doug Scott said he didn’t think sales of EcoBoost models would be dampened by cheap fuel, citing customers’ choice to buy an EcoBoost F-150 for the performance as well as fuel economy.

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Quote Of The Day: Gas Price Amnesia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/quote-day-gas-price-amnesia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/quote-day-gas-price-amnesia/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 18:40:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936674 “I think it’s fairly interesting from a cultural memory standpoint, that American car buyers, for the most part, don’t seem to have memory of gas prices two, three or six months ago,” –  TrueCar President John Krafcik speaking to NPR about slumping hybrid sales. According to NPR, hybrid sales are off by about 5 percent […]

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“I think it’s fairly interesting from a cultural memory standpoint, that American car buyers, for the most part, don’t seem to have memory of gas prices two, three or six months ago,”

–  TrueCar President John Krafcik speaking to NPR about slumping hybrid sales.

According to NPR, hybrid sales are off by about 5 percent this year, despite a new car market that’s on track for a record year. Sales of trucks and SUVs, on the other hand, are up by double digits.

For many consumers, the extra cost of a hybrid just isn’t worth it. Not when the internal combustion engine has gotten so efficient, and the fuel efficiency of the overall new vehicle fleet is bound to be a big improvement, especially given that the average vehicle on the road is 11 years old.

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Ford’s Also Readying A Prius Fighter, But Don’t They Already Have One? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fords-also-readying-prius-fighter-dont-already-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fords-also-readying-prius-fighter-dont-already-one/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:31:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=897482 Our Ford sources have confirmed a Reuters report that claims Ford is readying a new lineup of dedicated hybrids to take on the Toyota Prius. The new range, set to debut in late 2018, will ride on the next-generation C-platform that underpins the current Ford Escape and Focus. Dubbed “C240″, volume has been pegged at 120,000 […]

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Our Ford sources have confirmed a Reuters report that claims Ford is readying a new lineup of dedicated hybrids to take on the Toyota Prius.

The new range, set to debut in late 2018, will ride on the next-generation C-platform that underpins the current Ford Escape and Focus. Dubbed “C240″, volume has been pegged at 120,000 units annually, with production taking place at the Wayne, Michigan assembly plant.

In addition to a range of bodystyles, both regular hybrid and plug-in versions are set to be offered. Although much talk has been made of the distinct nature of these new vehicles, Ford already offers the C-Max as a hybrid-only vehicle – though the C-Max was originally set to be offered as a gasoline-powered minivan in varying lengths, with 5 or 7 seats.

The C-Max was originally offered with the 1.6L Ecoboost and 2.5L I4 engines, but in between its 2011 debut and its 2012 on sale date, Ford pivoted to a hybrid-only strategy. TTAC sources claim that Ford’s $5.9 billon loan from the government’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program was used to convert the C-Max (and its assembly facilities) into a hybrid-only offering that would ostensibly offer Ford numerous regulatory benefits (in the form of an increased CAFE rating and regulatory credits) as well as a unique marketing edge.

Although look is more akin to the larger Prius V, the C-Max is Ford’s de facto Prius competitor, by nature of its hybrid-only powertrain and odd (for North America) shape and footprint. But sales have been modest, with 35,000 units sold in 2013, and questions regarding its fuel economy figures, coupled with disgruntled owners, have hurt its image. Perhaps Ford is looking to launch a clean sheet Prius competitor backed by a clean-sheet design and marketing effort.

 

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Is Hyundai Readying A Prius Fighter? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/hyundai-readying-prius-fighter/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/hyundai-readying-prius-fighter/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 20:47:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=895490   While the next big product on Hyundai’s horizon is the long-rumored compact CUV that could take on the Nissan Juke, it seems that Hyundai has not one but two potentially significant products in the works. AutoGuide.com has spy shots of two Elantra GT mules with slightly askew bodywork. According to their photographers, the mules […]

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While the next big product on Hyundai’s horizon is the long-rumored compact CUV that could take on the Nissan Juke, it seems that Hyundai has not one but two potentially significant products in the works.

AutoGuide.com has spy shots of two Elantra GT mules with slightly askew bodywork. According to their photographers, the mules appear to be testing out powertrains for two new models that will compete with the Toyota Prius and Prius V respectively. Rather than be part of the Elantra lineup, the new cars will apparently be distinct models.

Furthering this notion are photos of the kind of orange high-voltage cables commonly seen in hybrid cars. No timetable has been discussed, and this is the first that we’ve seen of a dedicated hybrid lineup.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Lexus CT200h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-lexus-ct200h/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-lexus-ct200h/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 12:51:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=884489 To ignore the fact that auto reviewers head into a review with preconceived notions is to forget that we’re humans, not robots. A car review isn’t a specifications chart, it’s language, however artfully (or not artfully, in this case) penned. I don’t decide in advance to dislike a car. Indeed, as often as not, the […]

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2014 Lexus CT200To ignore the fact that auto reviewers head into a review with preconceived notions is to forget that we’re humans, not robots. A car review isn’t a specifications chart, it’s language, however artfully (or not artfully, in this case) penned.

I don’t decide in advance to dislike a car. Indeed, as often as not, the cars I feel certain I will like instead leave me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. But if the information which I possess aforetime causes me to start the week with the assumption that I might not favour a car, I don’t robotically cast that notion aside. I am not capable of doing so, just as I am not capable of saying, “I will be completely open-minded about this meal of battered catfish served on a bed of refried beans with a side of grits and an extra-large helping of black pudding.”

The restyled 2014 Lexus CT200h didn’t completely change my mind. I assumed it would be terribly slow, and it was. I assumed it wouldn’t be completely worthy of a premium badge, and it wasn’t. I figured its cargo area would be too small, and I was correct.

Yet in a large number of ways, the CT200h was decidedly better than expected, so much so that I could, if I squinted, see the car’s appeal, something I wouldn’t have said the day the car arrived. So maybe I’m more open-minded than I thought, even if I won’t eat catfish or black pudding.

The CT’s front seats are among the best I’ve sat in, good enough for me to see the overall appeal of the small Lexus, even without an up-down function for the power lumbar support.

The CT’s infotainment unit is easy to use, with quick access buttons for audio, home, and back surrounding a centre console-mounted circular control knob. There’s no slow-to-respond touch screen here, and long before week’s end I stopped looking away from the road to operate vital functions.
2014 Lexus CT200Outside, the CT provides onlookers with lots to see. It’s not conventionally pretty, nor is this specific car (a $39,745 Premium Package CT200h in Canadian parlance, similar to a $37,704 CT200h in the U.S.) as aggressive as the F Sport models. You may not think it’s a cohesive effort, as the new spindle grille is not as effectively integrated as it is on the IS. But from the tailgate’s bizarre shelf to the conspicuous hybrid badging to the wrap-around rear glass and the shapely hood, there’s something to look at. The CT is not boring, which from a company that formerly used car styling as anesthesia, is a good thing.

For the moment, the CT200h is also unique among premium brands in that it’s an entry-level hatchback. No, there’s not a lot of space behind the rear seats – we’ll get to that later – but it’s a flexible layout, and space for four or five occupants is better than decent.

Perhaps the greatest surprise to me was the CT200h’s handling. Yes, the car rides rather stiffly, so we expect a compensating degree of handling prowess. The electric assist steering, which doesn’t feel as artificial as so many modern systems, and the comfort with which the CT adopts and maintains a position when hustling down my favourite local roads, combine to make for a car that’s at ease with fast driving. (Once you eventually get up to speed.) The Lexus lacks the enthusiasm of Mercedes-Benz’s CLA whether the CT’s prominently-mounted knob is turned to Eco, left in Normal, or moved to Sport, which definitely upgrades the car’s personality and takes away some of the most drastic slow sensations.
2014 Lexus CT200Then again, isn’t there always (often? sometimes? every now and then?) something a little bit charming about a slow car being driven quickly? And me oh my, is it ever slow. Instrumented tests say 60 mph arrives in under ten seconds, but I’m not sure what kinds of seconds those are. The CVT just eats up so many of the 134 Prius-donated horsepower. Because you must work the CT hard when trying to keep a gently-driven Pontiac G3 in sight, half the slowness-related problem originates with the accompanying racket of a hybrid powerplant whose revs periodically head in a different direction than you expected. Perhaps with a conventional V6 the CT would be quiet like a Lexus is supposed to be. With this mode of propulsion, with some disappointing tire hum and a speck too much wind noise, it’s not.

The lack of refinement, the lack of adequate motivation, and the overarching feeling that traffic is going that way and I’m not joining them, is enough to leave me feeling like the CT shouldn’t be called a Lexus. It’s a bit like the family reunion of mostly successful siblings, most of whom run half marathons and attend PTA meetings and eat goat cheese and grow high bush blueberries along their white picket fences, where that one younger brother who’s kind of chubby showed up wearing a WWE t-shirt, actually sprayed his hamburger with Cheez Whiz, and started singing, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” after the grandchildren sang, “The Wheels On The Bus,” at the evening campfire. Maybe it’s not exactly like that. But it’s a little like that. There’s an awful lot of obviously shared DNA: the hybrid addiction and the spindle grille and the love of cheese and the affinity for music. But there are notable differences.
TTAC_2014_Lexus-CT200h-interior-2Our press car had fewer than 4500 miles on the odometer, but the driver’s seat side bolster that gets chafed with every entry was quickly wearing away. The brakes have that prototypical hybrid regen grab, but then lack further bite. Why do I have to move a shift lever up and over and down and back but then use a separate pushbutton to put the car in Park? I’m pretty sure I just used a foot-operated parking brake. And with 14.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, the CT is way down from the Mazda 3 hatchback’s 20.2 cubic feet and even farther away from the new Volkswagen Golf’s 22.8 cubic feet. These are huge gaps in load-lugging ability, gaps we weren’t very willing to disregard when the CT was maxed out by one large load of groceries.

And then, like the guy who drives ten miles to save a penny per gallon on fuel, I temporarily lost all perspective when I filled up the CT200h before the car went back to Toyota Canada. It had burned less fuel (46 mpg) than even its EPA ratings (40 highway, 43 city) forecasted. This was pre-confirmed by the car’s own onboard computer, which I had assumed couldn’t possibly be accurate given the EPA ratings and the manner in which I drove the car.

I couldn’t overlook the CT200h’s lack of urge, its handful of non-premium missteps, or its ineffective cargo hold. I’d be happier in a fully-equipped Mazda 3 or a diesel-powered Golf, and I suspect most Lexus CT buyers would prefer to drive an Audi A3.
2014 Lexus CT200hMaybe I’m missing the point; maybe I don’t grasp the importance of the CT’s uniqueness. The buyer who wants a mid-$30s upmarket car but can’t stand spending money on fuel – who presumably figures her Lexus will feel like a Lexus, and who used to own a Prius – likely doesn’t find those other cars all that appealing. Personally, I can see the CT’s appeal, I just can’t link it to my own tastes. Or the tastes of the vast majority of the auto-buying public: this car has not proven very popular.

Even though it does boast an unexpectedly tiny fuel bill, a Lexus badge, a long standard equipment list, a sense of style, and surprisingly decent handling.

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Cadillac ELR Sales Double After Price Drop http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cadillac-elr-sales-double-price-drop/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cadillac-elr-sales-double-price-drop/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 14:04:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=881106 How do you help move the Cadillac ELR? Simple: drop the price down to one that the market will bear. GM’s generous incentives – which have lead to ELR’s being listed as low as $52,000 – appear to have helped spur sales of Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid. In June, GM sold just 97 units of the […]

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How do you help move the Cadillac ELR? Simple: drop the price down to one that the market will bear.

GM’s generous incentiveswhich have lead to ELR’s being listed as low as $52,000 – appear to have helped spur sales of Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid.

In June, GM sold just 97 units of the ELR.  In July, sales nearly doubled, with 188 units sold. With 1,600 units in inventory right now, Automotive News estimates that as of July 1, there is a 396 day supply, down from 883 days.

With a Tesla-rivaling $76,000 MSRP, the ELR’s prospects seemed bleak from the outset. The ELR may be positioned as Cadillac’s green flagship, but the brand simply isn’t strong enough to sell a car that competes with the Tesla Model S, while offering less prestige and a similar sticker price. At the $50,000 mark? Now they might be getting somewhere.

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Volvo’s Newest SUV Is Cleaner Than A Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volvos-newest-suv-is-cleaner-than-a-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volvos-newest-suv-is-cleaner-than-a-prius/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 15:08:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861689   Volvo’s newest SUV, the 2015 XC90, will have a wide range of powertrain options, including a a twin-charged 4-cylinder engine making 400 horsepower, with fewer CO2 emissions than a Toyota Prius. The range topping T8 (as it will be known – presumably to symbolize V8 power) will make 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of […]

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Volvo’s newest SUV, the 2015 XC90, will have a wide range of powertrain options, including a a twin-charged 4-cylinder engine making 400 horsepower, with fewer CO2 emissions than a Toyota Prius.

The range topping T8 (as it will be known – presumably to symbolize V8 power) will make 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque from a 4-cylinder engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged. The T8 will also utilize a plug-in hybrid system to give it 24 miles of electric range and CO2 emissions of 60 grams per kilometer – about 33 percent better than a Toyota Prius.

Also on tap are two non-hybrid four-cylinder engines, a T6 four-cylinder making 320 hp and a T5 unit making 254 hp. Two diesels will be offered as well, but likely for world markets.

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Not Even Incentives Can Save The Cadillac ELR – Sales Down, Inventories Up http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/not-even-incentives-can-save-the-cadillac-elr-sales-down-inventories-up/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/not-even-incentives-can-save-the-cadillac-elr-sales-down-inventories-up/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 16:07:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836337 Even as GM rolled out incentives to help move the Cadillac ELR, sales were down this past month, while supplies of the car continued to expand.   In May, Cadillac moved just 52 of their hybrids, down from 61 in April. Inventories are up from 1,077 as of April 3, to 1,515 as of this […]

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Even as GM rolled out incentives to help move the Cadillac ELR, sales were down this past month, while supplies of the car continued to expand.

 

In May, Cadillac moved just 52 of their hybrids, down from 61 in April. Inventories are up from 1,077 as of April 3, to 1,515 as of this writing. Not even GM’s generous incentives can help this thing.

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Junkyard Find: 2001 Honda Insight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-2001-honda-insight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-2001-honda-insight/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832057 Since we started out this week with a relatively late-model Junkyard Find, I’m going to jump into the 21st century and share the first Honda Insight I’ve ever found in a high-inventory-turnover, self-service wrecking yard. I’ve seen a few thoroughly stripped early Priuses and didn’t think they were worth photographing, but the tiny two-seater first-gen […]

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09 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince we started out this week with a relatively late-model Junkyard Find, I’m going to jump into the 21st century and share the first Honda Insight I’ve ever found in a high-inventory-turnover, self-service wrecking yard. I’ve seen a few thoroughly stripped early Priuses and didn’t think they were worth photographing, but the tiny two-seater first-gen Insight made the Prius look like a fuel-swilling pig and that makes it a much more interesting car to me. 61 highway miles per gallon, all sorts of advanced aluminum components, and a coefficient of drag of just 0.25… and yet this one couldn’t stay clear of The Crusher.

The Insight has started to catch on with the top-speed guys at Speed Week at Bonneville, but the fastest one of all wrecked in spectacular fashion at El Mirage last November (the driver survived, thanks to a serious roll cage). We’ll be sure to see more such LSR Insights in the future, which might push up the value of the handful of Insights that get scrapped.
03 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has been picked over pretty well. The battery packs in these cars have become old enough to need replacing in many cases, and that’s not a cheap repair.
01 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis Denver yard gets a lot of its merchandise from local police auctions, and it’s possible that this car was a DUI or unpaid-parking-tickets impound.
05 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou can pick up a running first-gen Insight in decent condition for $4000-$7000 these days, and we can expect that price to drop as fewer Americans become willing to drive a cramped, goofy-looking two-seater in the name of extreme fuel economy.

Here’s a JDM promotional film for the ’99 Insight.

Teach those polluting hippies with their ill-adjusted valves and 25-mpg VW Transporters a thing or two about saving the planet! Walk the walk, longhair!

01 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Cadillac ELR Inventories Balloon To 725 Day Supply As Dealers, Consumers Offered Big Incentives http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/cadillac-elr-inventories-balloon-to-725-day-supply-as-dealers-offered-5000-incentives-for-test-drives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/cadillac-elr-inventories-balloon-to-725-day-supply-as-dealers-offered-5000-incentives-for-test-drives/#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 12:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819986 The Cadillac ELR is shaping up to be one of the biggest automotive flops in recent memory – as of May 1, inventories had expanded to a 725 day supply, with Cadillac moving just 61 units in April. At the start of April, dealers had 1,077  ELRs on their lots. As of May 14th, that […]

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The Cadillac ELR is shaping up to be one of the biggest automotive flops in recent memory – as of May 1, inventories had expanded to a 725 day supply, with Cadillac moving just 61 units in April.

At the start of April, dealers had 1,077  ELRs on their lots. As of May 14th, that number had increased to 1,517, with inventories far outpacing sales of the car.

Now, Automotive News is reporting that dealers are being offered a $5,000 incentive to offer test drivers of the car if they have seven or less unused ELRs in their fleet, and $10,000 for two ELR demos if they have more than seven units. The test drive demos must log 750 or more miles, with the program expiring on June 2nd.

GM is also offering a $3,000 customer incentive if an ELR is purchased or leased (on top of government incentives that already exists), and dealers can qualify for a $2,000 incentive in July or a $1,000 incentive in August for selling ELRs.

While a Cadillac spokesman insists that the inventory backup is a result of production scheduling, the rising inventories, lagging sales and heavy incentives paint a clear picture: the ELR is an overpriced dog that is finding few buyers compared to the much cheaper Chevrolet Volt and the much more prestigious Tesla Model S, to say nothing of the various plug-in and pure EV offerings from other car makers.

Even worse is Cadillac’s inventory picture as a brand: according to the Automotive News Data Center every vehicle except the SRX recording over 100 day’s worth of inventory. Even the much lauded ATS and CTS had 153 and 138 day’s supply, far above industry norms.

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Reader Submission: Porsche 918 Dealer Training Event http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/reader-submission-porsche-918-dealer-training-event/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/reader-submission-porsche-918-dealer-training-event/#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:20:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=811530 TTAC reader Casey Parkin sent us these shots of a Porsche 918 at a dealer training event. It will be a long time before TTAC gets their hands on one of these, at least someone was kind enough to give us a better look at the car.

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TTAC reader Casey Parkin sent us these shots of a Porsche 918 at a dealer training event. It will be a long time before TTAC gets their hands on one of these, at least someone was kind enough to give us a better look at the car.

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Piston Slap: The Straw that broke the Hybrid’s Back? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-the-straw-that-broke-the-hybrids-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-the-straw-that-broke-the-hybrids-back/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=805330 Marc writes: Hi, I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere. I have 2006 Lexus RX400H with 106,000 miles. The vehicle is bulletproof never having a repair, it even has it’s original brakes. I traded in a 2000 RX 300 for it. The 300 also never had a repair. My question pertains to the hybrid batteries. Multiple […]

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Marc writes:

Hi, I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere.

I have 2006 Lexus RX400H with 106,000 miles. The vehicle is bulletproof never having a repair, it even has it’s original brakes. I traded in a 2000 RX 300 for it. The 300 also never had a repair.

My question pertains to the hybrid batteries. Multiple Toyota and Lexus dealers have stated to me, that they have seen few hybrids if any needing replacement batteries yet some Prius’ have been on the road for over 10 years but there doesn’t seem to be much said about the expected life of the battery packs. My battery warranty just expired. Is it time to trade it in to avoid the eventual high battery replacement cost or am I worrying about a problem that could be many years down the road.

Sajeev asks:

Hi there. Where do you live and how many electronic items on the cat do you regularly run? (A/C, stereo, heated seat, etc.)

Marc replies:

I live in Southern California. The AC is almost always on, music always on, NAV always on.

Sajeev concludes:

The series has indeed covered hybrid battery fail, Toyotas in particular.  Your location’s warm climate shall be easy on hybrid batteries, not taxing them with a ton of power robbing heater load. Or, to a lesser extent, the A/C load of hotter parts of the country.  But your battery will fail, and there are companies willing to help.

If you want the help.

Considering the lack of needed repairs (original brakes? Impressive!) on this RX, selling it while the going is good is quite logical. If you want a new vehicle! If not, find a hybrid battery vendor, get a brake job, fluid changes, etc. that will eventually be needed.

All this work could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, yet none of it scares me like a TDI+DSG Volkswagen product that’s out of warranty.  This stuff just needs to happen.  I’d wager it’s worth it, if you like the RX and wouldn’t want to pay for a new vehicle. Which is always gonna be your call, son.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: The Fuel Harbinger of Fusion Steering Fail? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-the-fuel-harbringer-of-fusion-steering-fail/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-the-fuel-harbringer-of-fusion-steering-fail/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:35:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=805074 TTAC commentator Bobby Flashpants writes: Howdy Sajeev, I have an unique issue with my 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. I’ve posted about it at fordfusionforum.com, and no one so far has heard of anyone with the same issue. Here’s the link for the post, and the text is reproduced (and edited to remove site-specific context) below: […]

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TTAC commentator Bobby Flashpants writes:

Howdy Sajeev,

I have an unique issue with my 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. I’ve posted about it at fordfusionforum.com, and no one so far has heard of anyone with the same issue. Here’s the link for the post, and the text is reproduced (and edited to remove site-specific context) below:

I’ve got a 2010 Fusion Hybrid that’s about 40 miles from hitting 100K. I purchased it used 2 years ago with 69K miles on it. (note – this is as of 2/5/14) Over the last 6 months, I’ve had the issues with the “Service Power Steering NOW” and “Service Advancetrac” warning lights, and the associated deactivation of the electric power steering system. I’ve seen this issue reported before, and I know I’m not the only one who has encountered it.

I’ve had this failure occur 3 times now, and have had the system reset each time – once at a Ford dealer, once at an independent repair shop, and once at a tire center (who claimed that they couldn’t figure out how to do it, but the system was functioning normally again when I started it up to leave). Both the dealer and the Indy shop recommended replacing the steering rack as the only permanent solution, each estimating ~$1500 for the job (which lines up with what others have reported when confronted with this issue).

Here’s the thing, though – after seeing this occur so many times, I’ve noticed that the failures only occur when the fuel level is below 1/4 tank. As long as I fill up when I’m between 1/2 and 1/4 quarter tank, the steering and stability control continues to function normally. I’ve not seen anyone else report this type of correlation?

In the interest of full disclosure, the Carfax showed that my Fusion had been in a fender bender under the original owner, and we had an incident of hitting a curb and a mailbox that required a new wheel hub/bearing, rim, tire, and windshield.

I’m in a pretty small town in GA, with only one Ford dealer. The Indy shop I normally use is usually pretty good (if not particularly cheap compared to dealer rates), so before I make the trek to Atlanta or Columbus for 4th opinions, I wonder if you or any of the B&B have any insight on a cheaper solution for a system that doesn’t appear to really be broken.

Thanks! I’m a long-time TTAC lurker after following Murilee over from Jalopnik, and have soaked up the power of your Panther Love for a couple years now. My best to you and the crew!

Sajeev answers:

Well I’m glad you’ve listened to me, so you know you must sell this formerly wrecked Fusion and for a 2011 fleet-special Crown Vic. Is there any other alternative?

If you must live in the real world, a place I normally dislike, I suggest that opinion from a Ford dealer in a bigger town. Odds are your front suspension’s damage created the steering rack’s problem.  If the damage required a new front hub, wheel and (something as shockingly far away as the) windshield, odds are the steering rack is waaaay out of spec.

Is it possible that a fuel vapor canister’s processor or low fuel warning relay is controlled by the same module that talks to the power steering system? Calling that a stretch is a rather large understatement, even considering the body damage. The steering’s physical damage is more logical.

Let’s hope people with training on modern Fords can leverage their skills, training materials and connections to Dearborn to solve this one. My money’s on a new steering rack fixing the problem. No way did it emerge unscathed when the wheel busted and the windshield cracked.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2014 Lexus GS 450h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-lexus-gs-450h-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-lexus-gs-450h-with-video/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750313 Last time TTAC looked at the Lexus GS Hybrid, Jack and I descended upon Vegas, drank too much, shared too much and one of us got purse-slapped (it wasn’t Jack). In other news, Jack found the GS a willing partner on the track, I kept drawing comparisons to the Volvo S80 T6 and Hyundai Genesis, […]

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2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004

Last time TTAC looked at the Lexus GS Hybrid, Jack and I descended upon Vegas, drank too much, shared too much and one of us got purse-slapped (it wasn’t Jack). In other news, Jack found the GS a willing partner on the track, I kept drawing comparisons to the Volvo S80 T6 and Hyundai Genesis, and both of us agreed the GS 450h would be the car we’d buy. Despite telling you all that we would have a full review in “a few months,” it has in fact been “a few years.” Since that pair of articles hit, the luxury hybrid landscape has changed dramatically.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-001

The GS used to be the only hybrid game in town, but times have changed and nearly everyone has joined the party. BMW has their turbocharged ActiveHybrid 5, Mercedes just launched the E400 Hybrid, Infiniti has re-badged their M Hybrid the Q70 Hybrid, Acura is finally selling the all-wheel-drive RLX Hybrid and Audi has announced the A6 hybrid will come to America “soon” . This means that the S80 T6 and Genesis are no longer on my list, because we have head-to-head competition now.

Exterior

Lexus used to be known for restrained styling but the current generation GS marked a change for the Japanese luxury brand. In addition to taking on more aggressive front end styling, the GS was the first Lexus to wear the new “spindle” grille. The schnozz that seemed so controversial three years ago seems downright demure today, especially since this form has been adapted to the enormous (and some say questionable) LX 470. Perhaps because the GS was the first to wear the corporate grille, the styling seems slightly awkward from the front 3/4 shot (seen at the top) but looks better in person. Unlike the IS, which gets some sheetmetal swooshes on the side, the GS’s profile and rump are luxury car restrained. Overall I think the Infiniti Q70 hybrid, despite being a little long in the tooth, still wins the beauty contest. The Lexus and BMW are a bit too sedate for my tastes, and the RLX and A6 suffer from decidedly front-wheel-drive proportions when compared to the rest and the Mercedes lands smack in the middle.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior

Interior

The GS’ interior is dominated by a large and tall dashboard with a strong horizontal theme highlighting a large 12.3-inch LCD. The interior arrangement is certainly dramatic, but causes the cabin to have a slightly oppressive feel in the black shades our tester was cast in. While other car makers are moving to stitched leather dashed, Lexus seems content to blend stitched pleather and injection molded parts together. The combination of textures and  “un-lacquered” bamboo (exclusive to the hybrid) make the interior look Scandinavian. The light wood is more attractive in person than pictures might indicate, and while I question the “renewable resource” marketing on a large luxury sedan, like the hybrid drivetrain, I’m sure it will make shoppers feel special.

Base hybrid models get very comfortable 10-way power front seats, but most of the GS 450h sedans I saw on the lot were equipped with 18-way seats. The high-end throne sports the same types of articulation as BMW’s excellent “sport seats” with an articulating back, inflating bolsters, adjustable thigh support, four-way lumbar and  “butterfly” headrests. Needless to say, if you have trouble finding a comfortable seating position, you’re not human. This puts the GS hybrid at a distinct advantage in front comfort over the Mercedes, Audi and Infiniti models. Out back the GS’s rear seats are spacious, comfortable and optionally heated. While the Lexus and Infiniti fail to offer a folding rear seat, the Mercedes E400 hybrid has a generous cargo pass-through behind its optional 60/40 rear thrones.

Infotainment

Wide-screen infotainment systems are all the rage, so Lexus dropped a 12.3-inch LCD in the dash. The system ditches the intuitive touchscreen interface Lexus used for the better part of a decade for the Lexus joystick (it’s officially called Lexus Remote Touch) but importantly doesn’t alter the software to adapt to the input method. I hate it. It occupies a great deal of room on the center console, and it takes far more hand-eye-brain coördination than a touchscreen. Every time I am in a Lexus I find myself glancing at the screen and fiddling with the little control pad far more than when I’m in a competitor’s luxury sedan. This increased distraction hasn’t gone unnoticed by my better half who constantly nags me about keeping my eyes on the road. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion.

To soften the blow Lexus throws in the same media device voice command interface as the other Lexus and premium Toyota products receive. The system is snappy, managed to figure out every command I threw at and has a more natural sounding voice than MyLincoln Touch. Helping counter the nagging LRT caused (see how that’s not my fault now), the available Mark Levinson sound system can drown out even the most shrill mother-in-laws.

Perhaps reinforcing that Lexus focuses on the “meat” of the luxury segment and not the one-percent, you won’t find the same level of gee-wizardry in the GS as some of the Euro competitors, even in this top-end hybrid model. You won’t find night vision, a full-leather dashboard, expensive ceramic knobs, massaging front seats, or LCD instrument clusters. Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of bamboo that would Lumber Liquidators make blush.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine-001

Drivetrain

While the GS 350 recently got an update in the form of a new Aisin 8-speed automatic, the GS 450h continues with just a minor software update. This means under the hood you will find the same direct-injection 3.5L Atkinson-cycle V6 engine and RWD hybrid transmission that launched in 2011. Combined with a 1.9 kWh NiMH battery pack in the trunk the system is good for 338 combined horsepower, 286 of which come from the gasoline engine. This is essentially the same engine found in the Highlander and RX hybrids, but the transmission is more similar to what Lexus uses in the LS 600hL. The unit combines the two motor/generator units with a 2-speed planetary gearset to improve efficiency at high speeds (as in on the Autobahn) but without the AWD system standard in the LS 600hL. The 2014 software update improves “sportiness” in sport mode and now imitates an 8-speed automatic instead of a 6-speed. While 338 horsepower compares well with the 6-cylinder competition, the GS 450h has the unenviable task of trying to be both the most efficient GS and the performance version as well. For reasons nobody knows, the more efficient GS 300h which uses a 2.5L four-cylinder engine is not sold in America.

By design, the Lexus hybrid system is very different from the competition. The two motor/generator units and the electrical circuitry combine with a single planetary gearsest to “act” as a continuously variable transmission. This setup allows the drivetrain to act as a serial hybrid (kind of), parallel hybrid, electric generator, or a pure EV at low speeds. In contrast Mercedes, BMW and Infiniti combine a traditional transmission with a single electric motor that replaces the torque converter. Transitions between electric and gasoline drive modes in these systems aren’t as smooth as the Lexus system because of the clutch packs involved in reconnecting the engine. Meanwhile Acura combines a dual-clutch robotic manual transmission with a twin-motor pack in the rear for the only AWD hybrid luxury sedan in this category.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-002

Pricing

GS 450h pricing starts at  $60,430 which is a considerable jump from the $47,700 GS 350, but in true luxury car fashion, you may be disappointed with what $60,000 buys you. Unlike BMW and Mercedes which offer plenty of ala carte options, the GS hybrid comes in three feature levels.  Base models don’t get navigation or snazzy LED headlamps. If you want those toys plus the 18-way front seats, semi-aniline leather, steering headlamps, heated steering wheel, 3-zone climate control, black and white heads up display, blind spot monitoring and a trunk mat, be prepared to lay down $72,062. A fully loaded $76,726 example gets the buyer heated rear seats, headlamp washers, a “high intensity heater” (an electric heater that will heat the cabin faster in cold weather), a windshield de-icer, water-repellent glass, radar cruise control with pre-collision warning, lane keeping assistant, remote engine starter, glass breakage sensor and a rear spoiler.

76 large may sound like an expensive buy, but the ActiveHybrid 5 takes the cake with a starting price of $61,400 and a fully loaded price of $87,185. Acura has been cagey about RLX hybrid pricing but their presentation at the launch indicated they plan on following Lexus’s pricing structure quite closely. Meanwhile, the Mercedes E400 hybrid delivered an unexpected value proposition with a low $56,700 starting price and when fully equipped with features not available on the GS it manages to still be slightly cheaper at $76,095. The Infiniti hybrid hasn’t changed its value proposition despite the name change and the Q70’s $55,550-$67,605 is the lowest in the group. Audi hasn’t announced A6 hybrid pricing but I expect it to slot in around the E400.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-003

Drive

To put things in the right perspective, I have to go back to the GS hybrid’s conflicted mission. Since Lexus decided to kill off the V8 GS sedan in this generation, Lexus doesn’t have a direct answer to the BMW 550i, Mercedes E550, Audi S6, or even the Infiniti Q70 5.6 (formerly known as the M56). This means the GS 450h has a secondary mission as the top-end GS trim while the other hybrids (except for the RLX) are middle-tier options and this puts the GS in an odd bind. Lexus tells us that the reason the GS lacks a V8 is that only 5% of the Germans are shipped with one. While that may be true in Europe, it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case in California.

The split mission is most obvious when it comes to the performance numbers. Despite having more power than the GS 350, the GS 450h is slower to 60 than its gasoline-only stable mate and considerably slower than the BMW, Infiniti, and even the Acura with the only the Mercedes being slower to highway speed. Still, 0-60 in 6-seconds is hardly slow and the GS performs the task with the silence and serenity you expect from a luxury sedan. Although Lexus describes the transmission as an eCVT, this isn’t a belt/pulley CVT like you find in economy cars. As a result, it feels more civilized and less “rubber-bandy.” I found the CVT manners throughly appropriate for a luxury car and the smooth acceleration befits a brand built on smooth drivetrains. Unlike a “real CVT,” engaging the eight imitation speeds is quick and easy with fast shifts from one “gear” to another. Unfortunately this does little for the GS hybrid’s sport credentials and in no way helps it compete with the V8s from the German competition.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-009

Although the GS gives up plenty in the thrust-department, it really shines in the bends. The GS’s chassis is well sorted and nearly perfectly balanced. All GS hybrid models get a standard adaptive suspension system with several levels of damping, but unlike the air suspension in the Lexus LS, the GS’s adaptive suspension is based on electronically controlled struts much like the BMW system. This eliminates the “disconnected” and “floaty” feeling you get with air suspensions found on full-size luxo-barges. When pushed in the corners the GS quite simply feels better than the BMW. Yep. I said it. Today’s 5-series has a more luxurious mission in mind, so the little it gives up to the GS shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Mercedes and Infiniti feel very accurate, although heavy, and the Audi and RLX are a mixed bag. Unless Audi works some unexpected magic, the A6 hybrid will remain decidedly nose-heavy. The Acura RLX, although it has a similar weight distribution problem as the Audi, has a slick torque vectoring AWD system in the back. Not only can the RLX torque vector in power-on situations like a electronically controlled conventional rear axle, but it can torque vector in “neutral” and “power off” situations as well. Although the RLX feels by far the most “artificial” in the group on winding mountain roads, it is one of the better handling sedans and at the moment the only AWD hybrid in this category.

Of course the primary reason for buying a hybrid is to save on gas. Right? Maybe. With a 29 MPG City, 34 MPG Highway and 31 MPG combined rating there’s no doubt that the GS 450h is a fuel sipping 338 horsepower luxury sedan. However at more than $10,000 more expensive than a similarly equipped GS 350 it would take you more than 20 years to “save money.” We did average an excellent 31.5 MPG over 800 miles with the GS hybrid, a notable improvement over the Infiniti hybrid and the short time I spent in the RLX hybrid. Although we haven’t extensively tested the BMW and Mercedes hybrids yet, brief spins in both indicate they will slot in under the GS. There’s one more problem for the GS: Mercedes’ new E250 diesel. No, it’s not a speed daemon, but at 34 mpg combined it not only makes up for the higher cost of diesel with the higher fuel economy, it starts around $9,000 less than a GS 450h as well.

The GS 450h is without a doubt the best Lexus GS sedan available. It gives up little in terms of performance while delivering excellent fuel economy, a quiet and comfortable cabin and most of the gadgets and gizmos a luxury shopper could buy. Trouble is, unless the Lexus dealer is the only game in town, nearly every other alternative in this segment has a list of reasons to buy it over the GS. The RLX has a trendy AWD system despite the discount brand association, the Q70’s brand image isn’t quite as premium but it’s thousands less, the Mercedes takes the sweet spot in the middle known as “value” (how’s that for a surprise?) and the BMW offers the best performance and the biggest list of options if you can afford it. As the top end trim for the GS line the 450h also has troubles coming in just about as expensive as the competition’s V8 offerings but offering no better performance than the GS 350. The biggest problem for the GS however is the price. If the GS 450h was $5,000-$7,000 less expensive,  this would be an easy win. As it is, the GS manages to be the car I liked the most in this segment, but the one I’d be least likely to buy.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.88 Seconds

0-60: 6.01 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.49 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPH over 800 miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 68 dB

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2015 Mini Clubman to Get RWD Electric Boost http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2015-mini-clubman-to-get-rwd-electric-boost/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2015-mini-clubman-to-get-rwd-electric-boost/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 16:37:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754281 You could make a case for Mini’s Clubman being an ideal small-business/delivery vehicle. It’s large enough to carry bulky office items, small enough to park, stylish enough to be seen in, and gets decent fuel economy. One of the biggest criticisms of the Clubman, though, has nothing to do with its practicality- it’s that the […]

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mini

You could make a case for Mini’s Clubman being an ideal small-business/delivery vehicle. It’s large enough to carry bulky office items, small enough to park, stylish enough to be seen in, and gets decent fuel economy. One of the biggest criticisms of the Clubman, though, has nothing to do with its practicality- it’s that the bigger Mini doesn’t quite live up to the brand’s hard-earned performance heritage. That’s going to change, however, with the launch of the 2015 Mini Hybrid Clubman.

Using a system similar to the one used by Volvo in its XC60 and V60 hybrids, the electric power train in the 2015 Mini hybrid models is expected to send power directly to the rear wheels. The “modular” approach here would make tooling up easier, and allow the unit to be used in other BMW/Mini properties like the recently-released, front-wheel drive BMW X2.

Up front, the 2015 Mini hybrids will make use of the company’s existing 135 HP, 1.5-liter three cylinder turbo engine. According to LeftLane News, the new car “may, effectively, act as a rear-wheel-drive platform if driving in electric-only mode. Under hard acceleration the system would switch to all-wheel-drive mode.” If that’s true, the arrangement should make for a fun little runabout- especially with the expected 190 total HP!

What do you guys think? Is 190 HP and all-wheel drive enough to make the Clubman a Mini a worth successor to the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally winning Mini Cooper, or is all this just an excuse to ramp up economies of scale for BMW’s i Brand? Let us know!

 

Originally published on Gas 2.

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