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. Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:19:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Trunk-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Trunk 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-012 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-011 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-007 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-008 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-009 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-010 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-006 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-005 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-004 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-011 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-010 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-009 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-008 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-002 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine-001

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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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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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Honda Insight Gets The Axe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-insight-gets-the-axe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-insight-gets-the-axe/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:13:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=755089 Sales of the slow-selling Honda Insight will end, with Bloomberg reporting that production will end this month. Despite being released before the Toyota Prius, the Insight has lagged far behind it in sales.   While the Prius is the best-selling hybrid of all time, the second generation Insight has been heavily criticized for delivering an […]

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2010_Honda_Insight_LX_--_10-03-2009

Sales of the slow-selling Honda Insight will end, with Bloomberg reporting that production will end this month. Despite being released before the Toyota Prius, the Insight has lagged far behind it in sales.

 

While the Prius is the best-selling hybrid of all time, the second generation Insight has been heavily criticized for delivering an inferior driving experience and using a less sophisticated hybrid system. Sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid have far outstripped the Insight, with inventories ballooning to 237 days worth of supply, according to data from Automotive News. The equally slow-selling CR-Z could conceivably meet a similar fate in the not too distant future. Here’s hoping that the Fit Hybrid takes up the slack.

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“I” Before “E”, Except After “D” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-before-e-except-after-d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-before-e-except-after-d/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 02:46:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750841 Joining the Volkswagen GTI and GTD is the new Golf GTE, a performance plug-in hybrid that puts down as much power as a GTI. According to AutoExpress, a prototype they drove last year hit 62 mph in 7.6 seconds while emitting 60 percent less CO2 than a Toyota Prius. Power comes from a 1.4L TSI 4-cylinder […]

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golfgte

Joining the Volkswagen GTI and GTD is the new Golf GTE, a performance plug-in hybrid that puts down as much power as a GTI. According to AutoExpress, a prototype they drove last year hit 62 mph in 7.6 seconds while emitting 60 percent less CO2 than a Toyota Prius. Power comes from a 1.4L TSI 4-cylinder engine making 148 horsepower, mated to a 108 horsepower electric motor.

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Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707986 Now and then you run into a car that just “fits”. It’s like finding a perfect shoe, or a comfy smoking jacket. Until now I have been keeping my secret love on the down-low for several reasons. First off, I’ve always thought having a “favorite car” tends to color one’s judgment when comparing cars, so […]

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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001

Now and then you run into a car that just “fits”. It’s like finding a perfect shoe, or a comfy smoking jacket. Until now I have been keeping my secret love on the down-low for several reasons. First off, I’ve always thought having a “favorite car” tends to color one’s judgment when comparing cars, so I try to avoid such statements. Secondly, my dalliance with my automotive flame was fleeting. As most of us know, one-night-stands rarely hold up to the scrutiny of a long-term relationship. And lastly, coming out as a hybrid-lover has been difficult. When folks ask me “what was the best car you drove in 2013?” and my answer is “the 2014 Accord Hybrid,” they stare at me like I have three eyeballs.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The Accord is the mid-size sedan least likely to offend. While some call the tall greenhouse and upright proportions boring, I found them to be elegant and restrained. Indeed the Accord’s side profile reminds me a great deal of former Lexus products, a similarity that was shared by passengers during the week. Several passers by even confused the Accord with a Lexus ES. This is good news for Honda but bad news for Lexus.

Up front the Accord Hybrid wears blue-tinted versions of the regular Accord’s grille and headlamps instead of the Plug-In Accord’s enormous maw. Our Limited trim model was equipped with LED headlamps but lesser trims have to get by with halogen bulbs. Out back the restrained styling continues with hidden exhaust tips, clean lines and plenty of LEDs in the tail lamps. While there are plenty of mid-size sedans out there, the hybrid market is limited to the Accord, Camry, Fusion, Optima and Sonata. In that lineup, I find the Fusion the best looking with the Accord in a solid second place and the refreshed Optima taking third.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002

Interior

Like the gas-only Accord, the hybrid sports a double-bump style dashboard. The first “bump” houses the same tweaked instrument cluster as the Accord plug-in with a large analog speedometer, no tachometer, LED gauges for battery/fuel and a power meter. Inside the speedo is a circular full-color LCD used for the trip computer, secondary nav instructions (if so equipped) and other vehicle information. Housed in the second “bump” is a standard 8-inch infotainment display.

Front seat comfort has long been a Honda strong suit and the Accord is no different with thickly padded and ergonomically designed thrones. The seats are lightly (and widely) bolstered so larger drivers and passengers shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable seating position. Because the EX trim of the gas Accord serves as the “feature donor car” for the Hybrid, all models get adjustable lumbar support, 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, standard Bluetooth, a backup camera, keyless entry/go and active noise cancellation.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Instrument Cluster-001

Thanks to the tall green house and complete lack of “four-door-coupé” styling cues, the Accord’s rear seats are the best in the segment. On paper there’s nothing extraordinary about the rear cabin dimension. The truth is in the sitting. The Accord’s rear seats are more comfortable than a Camry and roomier than an Optima or Sonata. The seat back angle is also the most upright of the bunch allowing easier entry and exit when compared to the reclined Fusion. That reclined rear seat is how the Fusion manages to match the Accord when it comes to inches of head room, but the Accord’s rear compartment is far more accommodating.

As with most hybrids, there’s a trunk penalty to be paid. Thanks to energy dense Lithium-ion cells, the Accord only drops 3 cubic feet to 12.7 cubic feet, and I had no problem jamming six 24-inch roller bags in the trunk. The Li-ion cells mean the gas-only Accord’s smallish trunk translates in to a roomy storage area compared to the other hybrids. Sadly everyone else has managed to preserve some sort of cargo pass-through to the trunk while Honda decided to kill it. Honda wouldn’t say what the reason was, but judging by the battery position there was still room for a cargo slot capable of handling a surf board. Call that an opportunity lost.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment-002

Infotainment

Base models use physical buttons to control the standard 8-inch LCD in the dash, while up-level Accords get the two-screen layout you see above. Bluetooth, SMS voice messaging, Pandora smartphone integration and USB/iDevice control are all standard on base models as is a 6-speaker, 160-watt sound system. The 8-inch LCD handles all infotainment interactions in this base system from playlist browsing to phone dialing. Honda integrates their active noise cancellation technology into the head unit, so keep that in mind if you plan to swap into an after-market unit.

I suspect that most shoppers will opt for the mid-level “EX-L” which adds a subwoofer, 360 watt amp, and a 6-inch touchscreen for audio system controls. For reasons I don’t understand, the touchscreen is surrounded by “sparkly” plastic that looks like someone tossed in some glitter in the last moments of the plastics process. In an otherwise expertly executed cabin this “easter egg” seems out-of-place. This dual-screen setup struck me as half-baked when I first sampled it, and although I think it could still use a few minutes in the oven, I have warmed up to it. Voice commands are easy to use, the system’s layout is intuitive and responsiveness to commands is excellent. However, I still don’t understand why you use the touchscreen for changing tracks and sources, but you have to use the knob and upper screen for changing playlists. I also think it’s a pity that navigation isn’t sold as a stand alone option as you have to pony up $34,905 for the Touring trim to get it.

Front Wheel Drive Biased

Drivetrain

In many ways the Accord Hybrid shares more design themes with the Fisker Karma than a Toyota Prius. Up till now, mainstream hybrids used one of two systems, either an electro/mechanical power split device designed around a planetary gearset like the Ford, Toyota and GM Voltec hybrids, or they sandwich an electric motor between the engine and transmission (Honda, Kia/Hyundai, Mercedes, VW and everyone else). Honda went back to the drawing board and designed a true serial hybrid – as long as you stay under 44 mph. Things start out on the drawing above with a 2.0L, 141 horsepower engine mated directly to a motor/generator that is capable of generating approximately 141 horsepower (Honda won’t release details on certain drivetrain internals so that’s an educated guess). Honda says this is the most thermodynamically efficient four-cylinder engine in production, a title I have no reason to doubt. Next we have a 166 horsepower, 226 lb-ft motor connected to the front wheels via a fixed gear ratio. Under 44 miles per hour, this is all you need to know about the system. The 166 horsepower motor powers the car alone, drawing power from either a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, or the engine via the generator and the power control circuitry. Over 44 miles per hour, the system chooses one of two modes depending on which is most efficient at the time. The system can engage a clutch pack to directly connect the motor and generator units together allowing engine power to flow directly to the wheels via that fixed gear ratio, or it can keep operating in serial mode.

When the Accord Hybrid engages the clutch to allow the engine to power the wheels directly (mechanically), power is flowing via a single fixed ratio gear set. The fixed gear ratio is somewhere around a typical 6th gear in terms of gear ratio. This improves efficiency at highway speeds because there is always some loss in power conversion from the generator to the motor. The single ratio is the reason the system must use in serial hybrid mode below 44 mph. There is another side effect at play here as well: below 44 MPH, the system’s maximum power output is 166 horsepower and rises to 196 when the clutch is engaged.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005

Pricing

Starting at $29,155, the Accord Hybrid is nearly $4,000 more than the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. However, the Accord delivers a high level of standard equipment dropping the real margin to around $1,900. Instead of stand alone options, Honda offers just three trim levels. The next step is the $31,905 EX-L model which adds leather seats, a leather steering wheel, upgraded audio system with two LCD screens, memory driver’s seat, power passenger seat, moonroof, a camera based collision warning system and lane departure warning. While the base model fares poorly in direct cross-shops, the EX-L is a decent value, coming in essentially the same price as a comparably equipped Sonata, Fusion or Optima.

Work your way up to the top-of-the-line $34,905 Touring and you get full LED headlamps, navigation, XM Radio, an adaptive cruise control system and a snazzier backup cam. Although that’s more than a top trim Camry ($32,015), Sonata ($32,395) or Optima ($31,950), the Honda packs more features and when you adjust for the features missing in the competition the difference drops to a few hundred dollars. Meanwhile the Fusion wins the award for the most expensive in this segment at $37,200 with only a few features not found on the Accord.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-004

Drive

The Accord Hybrid’s impressive 50/45/47 MPG EPA rating (City/Highway/Combined) is even more impressive when you look at some of Honda’s design choices. First off all hybrid trims get tires one size wider (225/50R17 vs 215/55R17) than the gas-only Accord to compensate for the 230 lb weight increase. Secondly Honda chose to trickle-down Acura’s two-mode damper technology into the Accord. These two choices define how the car feels out on the road with the Accord barely nudging the Fusion out of first place when it comes to overall on-road performance. The Fusion Hybrid Titanium provides better overall grip, but the Accord has better poise and the two-mode dampers operate as advertised yielding to highway imperfections but maintaining a crisp feel on winding back roads. The take away from this is that the hybrid version of the Accord provides the best balance of grip and poise in the Accord lineup while all other manufacturers make you pay a handling penalty (albeit slight in the Ford) for the improved mileage numbers. Meanwhile the Sonata, Optima and Camry designers swapped in 205 width tires for reduced rolling resistance resulting in those hybrid models handling more like value-priced base entries.

After driving Ford’s latest hybrids, I was skeptical of Honda’s fuel economy claims. The last 47MPG Ford we tested ran between 39.5 and 41 MPG over 560 gingerly-driven miles. Keeping in mind that my commute is hilly and highway heavy I had expected the Accord’s numbers to suffer in relation as the Accord’s highway figure is 2 MPG lower than the Ford. I was wrong. I actually averaged better economy during my week with the Accord than I did at the launch event set in the Texas flat-lands (47.8 vs 45.9.) I attribute some of the difference to final tweaking of the software by Honda and some of the difference to California’s milder climate. The numbers struck me as so good I spent three days driving, filling, driving, filling only to discover the fuel economy was spot on. It is at this point I am surprised that Honda chose not to offer some sort of “eco” trim with skinny low rolling resistance tires, grille shutters and a weight loss regime for more even impressive numbers.

Honda’s new hybrid system switches between modes more smoothly than the Sonata and Optima and on-par with the Toyota and Ford systems. The smooth transitions are a good thing since the Accord spends far more time switching between EV and gasoline operating modes on level highways between 55 and 65 MPH. The system will charge the battery up, turn off the engine and run EV until the battery drops to a point that it needs to be recharged. This is different from the others that generally run engine only once you’re on the highway. Honda swiped the Accord’s brake design from their hydrogen Clarity sedan and it is easily the best I have ever driven. Stops are linear without the “grabby” feel you get in Toyota hybrid models if you transition rapidly from mild to moderate braking. Downhill driving in the Accord is also a vast improvement. Most hybrids transition to engine or 100% friction braking when the battery is full but Honda has a trick up their sleeve. Because of the Accord’s design Honda is able to continue using the traction motor to provide braking assistance. Once the battery is full, the software shuttles this energy over to the generator unit and consumes it by spinning the engine. This results in the most consistent braking feel of any hybrid so far.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-010

The Accord Hybrid drives like an EV below 44 MPH, much like a charged Chevy Volt and in sharp contrast to the Ford and Toyota hybrids. This is of course because the Accord’s electric motor is the only thing that can motivate the car below this speed. Because of the nature of this drivetrain, there there is definite non-linear relationship between the engine and the wheels. Press the throttle down and the engine catches up in a while, climb a hill and the engine will vary between a wail and a dull roar. While I’m sure that will bother some folks, I don’t mind the noises cars with CVTs make and this Accord is no different. Likely due to come software tweaks since I first drove it, 0-60 times dropped a few tenths to 7.0 seconds flat putting the Accord near the top of the pack in acceleration.

The Touring model Honda lent me featured all of Honda’s latest safety gadgets from the Lane Watch system that displays your right-side blind spot on the car’s 8-inch LCD. I honestly found Lane Watch to be a little gimmicky, even after having experienced it several times before. In a car with limited visibility it might be more useful, but the Accord’s large greenhouse and low beltline give it the best visibility in the segment. Touring trim also gets you a full speed-range radar adaptive cruise control with pre-collision warning. Honda’s radar cruise control isn’t the worst on the market but neither is it the best. The system brakes sharply, reacts slowly to traffic speeding up ahead of you and when you set a speed the car dips 5-6 MPH before accelerating back up to the speed you were driving when you hit the button.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-008

With all the numbers tallied the Accord Hybrid is an easy winner. It is more expensive than the competition but that delta shrinks when you account for feature content. The delta becomes immaterial however when you look at our average fuel economy numbers of 47.8 MPG in the Accord and 30 to mid-30s in all of the competition (including that 47 MPG Fusion.) Honda’s hybrid has the best road manners in the pack, the most composed ride, a comfy back seat and a quiet cabin. On my tally list, the Accord’s driving dynamics, fuel economy, performance and comfort more than outweigh my complaints about the cruise control and dual-screen infotainment system.

Being on the down-low, my former last word on the Accord was “The Accord may not be the best looking hybrid on sale, (for me that’s still the Ford Fusion) but the Accord’s simple lines and unexpectedly high fuel economy make the Honda a solid option. Being the gadget hound I am, I think I would still buy the Fusion, but only in the more expensive Titanium trim. If you’re not looking that high up the food chain, the Accord Hybrid is quite simply the best fuel sipping mid-size anything. Prius included.” But now I’ve decided it’s time to come clean. I’d take the Hybrid Accord period. No exceptions, no hair splitting.

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 47.8 MPG over 835 miles.

 

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Drivetrain 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Drivetrain-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-004 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-008 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-009 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-010 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-011 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-012 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-013 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Instrument Cluster 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Instrument Cluster-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-004 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-008

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Piston Slap: Overhyped Hybrid Analysis Paralysis? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/725066/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/725066/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:02:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725066 Mishie writes: Hi – I love your blog. Its been an invaluable resource in my efforts to purchase a car. I have a pretty long daily commute and I’m a bit of a greenie so I’m really interested in purchasing a hybrid. I’ve looked at a number of models including the new Honda Accord hybrid […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Mishie writes:

Hi –

I love your blog. Its been an invaluable resource in my efforts to purchase a car. I have a pretty long daily commute and I’m a bit of a greenie so I’m really interested in purchasing a hybrid. I’ve looked at a number of models including the new Honda Accord hybrid but I’ve hesitated in buying the model I really wanted – the Prius – because of reports of acceleration and braking issues. Do those issues still persist?

I’m also pretty partial to the Lexus RX450 but since its a Toyota, I’m guessing its plagued with the same issues. I’ve looked at the Ford Fusion (not entirely sold on its reliability), the Honda Accord (too new and no room for a spare tire), and the Hyundai Sonata (read about their braking issues also). Is there a reliable hybrid out there? I have very little aptitude for mechanics so feel free to respond as if I’m ten. LOL!

Thanks,
Mishie

Sajeev answers:

Don’t worry, there are no stupid questions…provided they aren’t addressed to Sanjeev. But I digress…

That said, drop everything and go buy a Prius now!  Are you letting recalls and the media frenzy around unintended acceleration stopping you?  If on the remote chance this happens, put the vehicle in neutral and regain your sanity.  Because unintended acceleration can happen to anyone.  Try to kill the panic as fast as possible, and get the car under control with a flick of the shift lever. Okay?

And what of the Prius braking problems?  Done.  Over.  They certainly replaced a bad part/design and “bled” the brake lines to make sure everything works correctly. For decades now, braking systems incorporate safeguards (like multichannel brake fluid distribution) to keep this from being a life threatening problem. And they don’t call it an emergency brake for no reason!

Stop worrying about problems commonplace in the car biz, or continue to worry and take the bus. Put another way: there are NO BAD CARS. Even the Smart Car isn’t necessarily bad. And while Land Rovers are unreliable wallet killers and Corollas are perfect to the point of boredom, the differences between a “good” car and a “bad” car are nearasdamnit to statistically insignificant.

 

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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First Drive Review: 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrd (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/first-drive-review-2014-acura-rlx-sport-hybrd-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/first-drive-review-2014-acura-rlx-sport-hybrd-with-video/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=675970 It wasn’t that long ago I had an Acura RLX for a week. If you recall that review, I came away liking the car but found little joy in the price tag. Despite wearing a fantastic stitched leather interior, there was just no way I could justify the $10,000 premium over the AWD turbocharged competition […]

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2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior

It wasn’t that long ago I had an Acura RLX for a week. If you recall that review, I came away liking the car but found little joy in the price tag. Despite wearing a fantastic stitched leather interior, there was just no way I could justify the $10,000 premium over the AWD turbocharged competition from Lincoln, Volvo and others. Can a new dual clutch transmission and three electric motors turn the RLX from being a good car with the wrong price tag to a value proposition?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Because of the RLX’s FWD drivetrain, I was forced to view the RLX with an eye towards the Volvo S80, Lincoln MKS and the Lexus ES. With the Sport Hybrid model, Acura has done two things to take the RLX out of that pool and dive into another: AWD and a hybrid system. On paper a 377 horsepower hybrid system should put the RLX head to head with the Lexus GS 350, Infiniti M35h, and BMW AciveHybrid 5.

On the outside, the RLX cuts an elegant and restrained pose. Although the cars Acura allowed us to drive at a regional event were pre-produciton, fit and finish was excellent. Lincoln has certainly made strides in recent years, but there is a difference in build quality between the MKS and the RLX that didn’t go unnoticed. Acura attempts to further distinguish the RLX from the other near-luxury brands by going aluminum intensive with the hood, quarter panels and all four doors courtesy of Alcoa. I find the RLX unquestionably attractive but the overall form fails to beat the Cadillac CTS or BMW 5-Series in my book. I place the RLX’s exterior form a tie with the Infiniti M and a hair behind the Lexus GS, especially if the GS is wearing that funky F-Sport nose.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Interior

Interior

While German interiors continue to be somewhat spartan and cold, the RLX feels open and inviting. Stitched dash and door panels elevate the cabin well above what you will find in a Lexus ES Hybrid or Lincoln MKS. The same is true for the rear of the cabin. Constructed out of the same high quality materials as the front, this is a definite departure from the hard plastics found in the ES and MKS. Most of my day was spent in an RLX with a grey and ivory motif that played to my personal tastes. On the down side, Acura continues to woo luxury shoppers with obviously fake looking faux-wood. This decision is doubly perplexing, as the new MDX is available in Canada with real wood trim, but not in America. Why don’t they offer it in America on either car?

Front seat comfort is among the best in the luxury set, beating the Mercedes E350, Lexus GS 450h and Infiniti M35h that I drove that day, but falling short of the million-way BMW M-Sport seats. Because the RLX rides on a transverse engine platform, there is an inherent space efficiency and the direct beneficiary is the rear cabin where you’ll find 2-3 inches more rear leg room than any of the other hybrids. I had hoped the Sport Hybrid design would allow a low “hump” since there isn’t a driveshaft going rearward, but unfortunately Acura decided to use this space for hybrid drivetrain components. It’s probably just as well, since the middle seat is considerably higher than the outboard rear seats making it impossible for a six-foot passenger to ride in the middle. Thanks to lithium-ion batteries(rather than the nickel-based packs Toyota and Lexus use), the RLX maintains a decently sized trunk capable of swallowing four golf bags.

For reasons unknown, Acura decided to use the Sport Hybrid to re-invent the shifter control. I know that everyone else is doing this, but Acura’s 4-button arrangement strikes me as one of the most unusual. Instead of a flat button bank ala-Lincoln, Acura uses a bank that is designed to have some meaning. Park is a button, Drive is a differently shaped button, Neutral is yet another shape of button and Reverse is a button on its side that you push toward the rear of the vehicle. While that sounds logical, it was far from elegant when we had to make several four-point turns in San Francisco. Anyone else prefer a regular old console shifter?

2014 RLX Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Acura

Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing

Like the regular RLX, the Sport Hybrid combines a 7-inch haptic feedback touchscreen with an 8-inch display only screen set higher in the dash. The engineers say the concept is as follows: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My opinion of the system has improved since I first encountered it on the MDX but I still think the casserole needs more time in the oven. You can change tracks and albums using the touchscreen but changing playlists or genres requires you to use the rotary/joystick lower in the dash to control the 8-inch screen. In my mind this sort of kills the dual-screen sales proposition. On the positive side the system is very responsive and the graphics are all high-resolution and attractive. iDrive is still my favorite in the mid-size luxury segment, but AcuraLink ties with MMI in second.

Base Sport Hybrid models get a speaker bump from the gas-only RLX’s 10-speaker sound system to the mid-range Acura ELS system. As you would assume, the Sport Hybrid model is well equipped versus the gasoline model and all models come with navigation, tri-zone GPS-linked climate control and keyless go. Keeping things simple there is only one option, the “Advance package” (no, Advance is not a typo), which adds Krell speakers, ventilated front seats, sunshades and seat warmers for the rear passengers, front parking sensors, power folding mirrors, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, a pre-collision warning system and electric front seat belt tensioners.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Acura

Drivetrain

Now for what makes the RLX a Sport Hybrid. First up, we a direct-injection 3.5L V6 producing 310 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of twist that now sports start/stop technology. This engine is mated to a brand-new 7-speed transaxle developed specifically for the RLX. The new transaxle is a hybrid of sorts (and I’m not talking about the motors yet) blending a 2-speed planetary gearset with a 6-speed dual-clutch robotic manual transmission. The two technologies allow the entire unit to be as compact as possible. First gear is obtained by setting the dual clutch gearbox to 5th gear and the planetary gearset to low while “second” through “seventh” use DCT gears 1-6 in order with the planetary set to high. I found this solution particularly interesting because it would, in theory, allow Acura to obtain more than 7 ratios from the same unit with some software programming. 12-speed anyone? After the transmission is the first (and largest) motor/generator, rated for 47 horsepower/109 lb-ft. Thanks to the dual-clutch transmission, the engine can be decoupled from the drivetrain, making this different from Honda’s IMA system where the engine is always spinning.

Linked by a high-voltage electrical system is a rear mounted two-motor drive unit. The single inboard housing incorporates twin 36 horsepower /54 lb-ft motors and a clutch pack. The clutch pack is used to connect the motors together when the system needs to deliver equal power to each rear wheel. Combined with the lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk (the same one used in the Accord Hybrid), you get 377 total horsepower and 377 lb-ft of combined torque. Until you reach approximately 75 MPH at which point you have around 310 horsepower because the rear motors gradually disengage and completely disconnect over 80 MPH. The whole shebang is good for 28/32/30 MPG (City/Highway/Combined).

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-006

Drive

Why bother with two motors in the rear? Torque vectoring. The dual rear motor arrangement separates Acrua’s system from the e-AWD systems in the Lexus RX 400h and Highlander Hybrid, or the mechanical systems in the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid or Lexus LS 600hL. Although it produces about the same amount of power as Toyota’s rear hybrid motor and likely weighs more, splitting things in two allows it to vector torque all the time, power on or off. Say what? Yep, you read that correctly, this is the first production system that torque vectors when your foot isn’t on the gas. Think of it like a canoe. If you’re moving forward and you plant an oar in the water, the canoe will rotate around that axis. Instead of oars, the RLX uses motors.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now – this isn’t a replacement in my mind for Acura’s mechanical SH-AWD system. The mechanical AWD system uses an overdrive module to make the rear wheels almost a full percent faster than the front wheels causing the vehicle to behave like a RWD biased vehicle. In that setup, the front wheels are being “pushed” by the rears and the result is steering feel that is very much like a RWD sedan when under power. When the power was off in the old RL, the car would plow into the bushes like a front-heavy Audi. The RLX Sport Hybrid is completely different.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-007

Under full acceleration, the rear motors in the RLX contribute 72 ponies while the engine serves up 310 to the front wheels. The numerical imbalance between that total and the 377 “system horsepower” is consumed in the power curve of the motors and engine and the use of the front motor to draw a little power off to send to the rear. This means that while the old RL could effectively shuttle the majority of the power to the rear wheels, the RLX hybrid is at best an 80/20 split (front/rear). As a result, flooring the RLX from a stop elicits one-wheel peel, a vague hint of wheel hop and a smidge of torque steer. Once the road starts to bend, the hybrid system starts to shine. By not only accelerating the outside rear wheel in a corner but essentially braking the inside one (and using the energy to power the outside wheel), the RLX cuts a near perfect line in the corners. Point the RLX somewhere, and the car responds crisply and instantly. And without much feel.

The downside to the rear wheels contributing so much to the RLX’s direction changes is that the steering is next to lifeless. The analogy that kept coming to mind was a video game. The RLX changes direction more readily and easily than a front heavy sedan should, yet there is little feedback about the process. When the power is off, things stay the same, with the RLX dutifully following the line you have charted in a way the FWD RLX or the old RL never could.

Acura was confident enough in the RLX to provide a GS 450h for us to play with and the difference was enlightening. The GS is less engaging from a drivetrain perspective thanks to the “eCVT” planetary hybrid system, something the RLX’s dual-clutch box excels at, but the well-balanced GS platform is by far the driver’s car on the road. The Lexus feels less artificial, more nimble, and more connected to the driver. The RLX is not far behind in terms of raw numbers, and is faster off the line, but the RLX feels less connected and more artificial in the process. It is also important to note that the RLX is the only AWD hybrid in this class since the Infiniti Q50 hybrid is Acura TL sized and the Lexus LS 600hL is considerably larger and more expensive. That feature alone makes the RLX attractive to anyone living in areas where winter traction is a consideration.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-002

The 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid is an amazing bundle of technology. Combining a dual clutch transmission, a torque vectoring AWD system and three hybrid motors, the RLX is the gadget lover’s dream car. As a technology geek, the system is an intriguing solution to two problems plaguing near luxury brands like Acura, Volvo and Lincoln: How do we make our FWD platforms compete with RWD competitors, and how do we put a green foot forward. In doing so the RLX Hybrid may have also solved the value proposition I complained about with the FWD model. According to Acura”s thinly veiled charts, we can expect the RLX to be priced the same as the Lexus GS 450h which is $5,000 more than the M35h and about $1,000 less than BMW’s ActiveHybrid 5.

Factoring in the AWD system’s $2,000-$2,500 value and standard features on the RLX and the value proposition gets better. At the high end, the “Advance” package is likely to represent a $10,000 discount vs a similarly configured Lexus or BMW. The RLX Sport Hybrid has caused me to look at the RLX in a different light. Instead of thinking the FWD RLX should be $10,000 cheaper, I now think it is irrelevant. The Sport Hybrid has what it takes to compete with the Lexus and Infiniti hybrids head on and the value proposition to tempt potential BMW shoppers, but that turns the front-drive base model into a potential image liability. I’ll reserve my final judgment until we can get our hands on one for more than a few hours, but until then, it appears Acura has crafted a compelling hybrid system that should be on any snow-belt shopper’s list and may provide enough value to sway RWD luxury hybrid shoppers. Stay tuned for more pricing information in the Spring.

 

Acura provided the vehicle at a regional launch event and one night’s stay at a hotel.

 

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Trunk 2014 RLX Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Acura 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Acura 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-002 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-004 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Interior 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-007

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New Mustang May Eventually Offer Diesel, Hybrid and Even Electric Powertrains http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/new-mustang-may-eventually-offer-diesel-hybrid-and-even-electric-powertrains/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/new-mustang-may-eventually-offer-diesel-hybrid-and-even-electric-powertrains/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=675474 Traditionalists put off by Ford’s decision to offer the next generation Mustang with a four cylinder engine may have their heads spin by other powertrain choices Ford is considering for the new car as it tries to make it a global brand. According to global powertrain chief Bob Fascetti, speaking to GoAuto at the Sydney, […]

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Traditionalists put off by Ford’s decision to offer the next generation Mustang with a four cylinder engine may have their heads spin by other powertrain choices Ford is considering for the new car as it tries to make it a global brand. According to global powertrain chief Bob Fascetti, speaking to GoAuto at the Sydney, Australia part of the simultaneous worldwide reveal of the latest Mustang, Ford is weighing producing diesel, hybrid and electric versions. It won’t happen anytime soon, but the door has been left open.

“We’re not looking at diesel at the moment, but given where we need to go with fuel consumption we are looking at all our options,” he revealed. “And diesel is one of those options, along with hybrids and electric.”

Fascetti wouldn’t get into specifics about engines, but he did say that while the 2015 Mustang will launch with a paddle shifted six speed automatic transmission, the car may later get one of the nine or ten speed gearboxes being developed in conjunction with General Motors.

Asked if the automaker had any reservations about offering what is perceived as a muscle car with a four cylinder engine, Fascetti said Ford’s EcoBoost system makes all the difference needed. “Not turbocharged like this,” Fascetti said, expecting Mustang buyers will embrace it the way that F-150 pickup buyers have pushed the 3.5 liter V6 EcoBoost engine to 40% of production. “The success of the F-150 EcoBoost even surprised us. When we put the 3.5-litre EcoBoost in that truck we had the same conversation, and it has ended up with a 40 per cent mix. And because it is fun to drive and the torque is there straight away, we anticipate that the Mustang customer will really like it. It’s fun to drive.”

Not only didn’t they have any reservations about offering a four in the new Mustang, there was also no thought given to discontinuing V8 power. “There was never a debate about not using the 5.0-litre,” Fascetti said. “So clearly we always wanted to keep the 5.0-litre in the Mustang because it’s always been tremendous for us, and it is really part of the brand. We can meet emissions with the 5.0 – that’s not an issue. As long as we can meet the demands of what every new Mustang requires, the V8 will be around for a while. We never thought we’d be getting the numbers we’re getting out of this engine now, even three years ago, so we think the 5.0 still has some life in it yet.”

Fascetti did confirm that the Mustang’s 2.3 liter EcoBoost will also find its way into transversely mounted applications. “There will be a front-drive version of the 2.3, east-west applications,” Mr Fascetti said. “The one beauty with [the Mustang] from my point of view is that it is rear-wheel drive, and this provides so many degrees of freedom as to what we can offer, because the engines are so much narrower relative to the rest of the car when they go north-south.”

“But (RWD) really opens up these other options for global markets, so we are really pleased to be able to offer the 2.3-litre EcoBoost, for example, where fuel is much more expensive than it is in the US. And we think that option for a car like this is important… it is a better answer for some global markets (than the V6 available in the United States). We are turning the Mustang into a global product now so all of our options are open now… we have great diesels in Europe, we have an EcoBoost line-up in North America… so we can do almost anything. For us it’s a case of designing the right drivetrain for the car.”

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Toyota Teams With BMW to Deliver Ultimate Hybrid Supercar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/toyota-teams-with-bmw-to-deliver-ultimate-hybrid-supercar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/toyota-teams-with-bmw-to-deliver-ultimate-hybrid-supercar/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=644570 When Toyota teamed with General Motors, they gave us the Vibe/Matrix twins. With Subaru, a trio of rear-driven sports cars with boxer power up front. So, what will Toyota deliver in its partnership with BMW? How about the ultimate hybrid supercar based off the bones of the Lexus LFA, for starters. In an effort to […]

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2014 BMW i8

When Toyota teamed with General Motors, they gave us the Vibe/Matrix twins. With Subaru, a trio of rear-driven sports cars with boxer power up front. So, what will Toyota deliver in its partnership with BMW? How about the ultimate hybrid supercar based off the bones of the Lexus LFA, for starters.

In an effort to join the ranks of Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren and even Mercedes-AMG in the eco-friendly supercar sweepstakes, Toyota will jointly develop a halo car with BMW that aims to take the ideas behind the LFA, swap its V10 for a hybrid powertrain, and package the deal for around $300,000.

For Toyota, that means teaching the Germans how to weave carbon fiber and offering its expertise in chassis craftsmanship, as well as its research in high-performance hybrid technology. On the other side, BMW offers mass production capabilities to make as many plastic and carbon fiber baskets as desired, as well as an array of engines that offer the same amount of power as the LFA’s V10, but with less cylinders, a smaller size, fewer emissions, and better mileage, such as the M5’s 4.4-liter 552-horsepower turbo V8.

No matter what happens, Toyota is wasting little time getting started (it took a decade to bring the LFA from the light table to the showroom); the word on the street is that a BMW i8 is residing in the automaker’s testing grounds near Mt. Fuji, undergoing stress tests in regards to its carbon fiber frame and emissions trials on the plug-in hybrid’s engine.

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A Day Late And A Dollar SH(AWD)ort http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/a-day-late-and-a-dollar-shawdort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/a-day-late-and-a-dollar-shawdort/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 21:43:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=640257 Late breaking news from Los Angeles – this month’s LA Auto Show will herald the debut of the RLX Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive, nearly a year after the front-drive V6 RLX debuted. As Alex Dykes discovered, the standard car’s buying proposition is about as strong as the Lincoln MKZ’s, which is to say, nearly non-existent. […]

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Late breaking news from Los Angeles – this month’s LA Auto Show will herald the debut of the RLX Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive, nearly a year after the front-drive V6 RLX debuted.

As Alex Dykes discovered, the standard car’s buying proposition is about as strong as the Lincoln MKZ’s, which is to say, nearly non-existent. In such a hyper-competitive market, the RLX hasn’t made much of an impression, and will likely suffer the same fate as its predecessor – lingering in obscurity, despite being a pretty good car.

It’s a shame too, since the RLX SH-AWD is a very interesting proposition. With two-electric motors in the rear wheels servicing as an AWD-system-cum-hybrid-powertrain, the RLX is able to crank out 377 horsepower and achieve 30 mpg combined, according to Acura’s figures. If what they’re saying is true, then this car really does deliver on the “V8 power, 4-cylinder fuel economy” promise that so many others have failed to live up to.

Knowing Acura, it won’t be bad to drive either, but it fails to make any kind of visual statement despite its performance and eco-friendly credentials. In that sense, it’s the antithesis of the Tesla Model S, and for a car this advanced and this expensive, that’s the surest recipe for failure.

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QOTD: They Want How Much For A Cadillac ELR? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/qotd-they-want-how-much-for-a-cadillac-elr/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/qotd-they-want-how-much-for-a-cadillac-elr/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:55:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=621833 Pricing for the Cadillac ELR has been announced, and the swoopy Caddy coupe with the Voltec powertrain has been stickered at an astonishing $75,995, not including the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other incentives. One can make the argument that there will be a market for a premium plug-in that wealthy buyers can […]

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Pricing for the Cadillac ELR has been announced, and the swoopy Caddy coupe with the Voltec powertrain has been stickered at an astonishing $75,995, not including the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other incentives.

One can make the argument that there will be a market for a premium plug-in that wealthy buyers can write off as an expense in one form another, personally, I think GM is out of their mind.

While the ELR gets a more powerful powertrain, Cadillac’s CUE system, improved regen braking capabilities and Batmobile-esque looks, the nearly $76k sticker price puts it within a few thousand dollars of the Tesla Model S 85 kWh Performance model. Fans of the Voltec powertrain can argue that the plug-in system is superior with respect to range and not being stranded on the side of the road, but I’d argue that in the green car space, nothing can touch a Tesla as far as image, cachet and status are concerned. And many people shopping for such a car are cognizant of that. I’m not sure that the ELR, positioned as a “green flagship” for Cadillac can command that kind of money.

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Fisker’s Dept of Energy Loan to be Auctioned Off Today http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/fiskers-dept-of-energy-loan-to-be-auctioned-off-today/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/fiskers-dept-of-energy-loan-to-be-auctioned-off-today/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:39:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=617561 The United States Department of Energy will today auction off Fisker Automotive’s loan from the federal government, on which the moribund hybrid car startup defaulted. Last month the department said that it would hold the auction after “exhausting any realistic possibility” that it could recoup all of the $168 million still that Fisker still owes. […]

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The United States Department of Energy will today auction off Fisker Automotive’s loan from the federal government, on which the moribund hybrid car startup defaulted. Last month the department said that it would hold the auction after “exhausting any realistic possibility” that it could recoup all of the $168 million still that Fisker still owes.

 

Purchasing the debt could be the first step to revive Fisker, which hasn’t built any cars in over a year. The company hasn’t yet gone through bankruptcy, as investors are covering its day to day expenses, but it cannot pay millions of dollars in outstanding bills and it has laid off most of its employees. Company founder designer Henrik Fisker, resigned last March, citing differences of opinion on the company’s future.

Though the federal government is currently undergoing a partial shutdown, the auction will proceed as planned today.Bidders had until Monday of this week to tell the DoE that they planned to make an offer. To qualify to bid, potential buyers had to offer at least $30 million, with a mandatory 10% down payment when placing the bid. That would be the least part of restarting Fisker, which analysts say could cost a half billion dollars or more. Fisker Automotive and the law firm handling its restructuring, Kirkland & Ellis, could not be reached for comment.

The winner of the bid process could be named as soon as next week. The DoE originally extended Fisker a credit line of $528 million under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program in 2009, but the department froze it in mid 2011 after Fisker failed to meet production benchmarks specified in the loan. Of the $528 million allocated, Fisker drew down $192 million before the freeze.

So far this year, at least three possible buyers of Fisker have surfaced. German investment group Fritz Nols AG, according to sources, was one of the companies that submitted a bid to the DoE. Another team that includes Bob Lutz and Chinese auto supplier Wanxiang Group also submitted a bid. That group had previously tried to buy the entire company for $20 million. It’s not clear if that attempt is related to VL Automotive, an enterprise of Lutz’s that’s selling the Destino, a Fisker Karma whose hybrid drivetrain has been replaced by a supercharged LS9 V8 as used in the Corvette ZR1. It’s also been rumored that Henrik Fisker might try to purchase the remains of his namesake company.

Buying the DoE loan would be just the first step in a long process to revive the company. Fisker currently owes suppliers about $80 million, including about $10 million owed to Valmet Automotive, a Finnish company that assembled the Karma under contract. Analysts say that restarting Karma production would cost at least $50 million and reviving the development of the Atlantic, Fisker’s proposed $50,000 sedan, would cost about half a billion dollars.

Any purchaser would also have to settle Fisker’s outstanding debts related to the former General Motors assembly plant in Wilmington, Delaware where Fisker planned to build the Atlantic. The company owes about a million dollars in various local taxes and because it missed a deadline to pay, the company has forfeited a break on future county property taxes.

At the time this was posted, ~3:00 PM EST, there has been no news released about the auction results. The Department of Energy’s public affairs office is still operating during the partial government shutdown, TTAC has contacted that office, and we’ll update this post if they release any information by the close of business today.

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First Drive Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 10:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=612689 As of October, the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in America is the Honda Accord. Or so Honda says. After all, Ford has been trumpeting a matching 47 MPG combined from their Fusion. Who is right? And more importantly, can the Accord get Honda back into the hybrid game after having lost the initial hybrid battles […]

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As of October, the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in America is the Honda Accord. Or so Honda says. After all, Ford has been trumpeting a matching 47 MPG combined from their Fusion. Who is right? And more importantly, can the Accord get Honda back into the hybrid game after having lost the initial hybrid battles with their maligned Integrated Motor Assist system? Honda invited us to sample the 2014 Accord Hybrid as well as a smorgasbord of competitive products to find out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I have always been a fan of “elegant and restrained” styling which explains my love for the first generation Lexus LS. That describes the 2014 Accord to a tee. Like the regular Accord, the hybrid is devoid of sharp creases, dramatic swooshes, edgy grilles or anything controversial. This is a slightly different take than the Accord Plug-in which swaps the standard Accord bumper for a bumper with a slightly awkward gaping maw. In fact, the only thing to show that something green this way comes are some  blue grille inserts and  LED headlamps on the top-level Touring model.

This means the Accord and the Mercedes E-Class are about the only sedans left that sport a low beltline and large greenhouse. Opinions on this style decision range from boring to practical and I fall on the latter. I think the Ford Fusion is more attractive but the Hyundai Sonata’s dramatic style hasn’t aged as well as its Kia cousin’s more angular duds. The Camry failed to move my soul when it was new and it hasn’t changed much over the years. This places the Accord tying with the Optima for second place.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Despite sporting an all-new interior in 2013, you’d be hard pressed to identify what changed over the last generation Accord unless you owned one. Instead of radical design buyers will find incremental improvements and high quality plastics. The dash is still dominated by a double-bump style dashboard with the second binnacle housing a standard 8-inch infotainment display. With manufacturers moving toward slimmer dash designs the Accord’s remains tall and large. For hybrid duty Honda swiped the Plug-in’s tweaked instrument cluster with a large analogue speedometer, no tachometer, LED gauges for battery, fuel and a power meter. Everything else is displayed via a full-color circular LCD set inside the speedometer.

Front seat comfort is excellent in the accord with thickly padded ergonomically designed front seats. There isn’t much bolstering (as you would expect from a family hauler) so larger drivers and passengers shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable seating position. The product planners wisely fitted adjustable lumbar support and a 10-way power seats to all trims.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Speaking of trim levels, in most ways (with the exception of that driver’s seat), the Accord EX serves as the “feature content” base for the hybrid. This means you’ll find dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, standard Bluetooth, a backup camera, keyless entry/go and active noise cancellation.

Thanks to a wheelbase stretch in 2013, the Accord hybrid sports 1.3 inches more legroom than the last Accord and is finally class competitive with essentially the same amount of room as the Fusion and Camry and a few inches more than the Koreans. The Accord’s upright profile means getting in and out of those rear seats is easier than the low-roofline competition and it also allows the seating position to be more upright. Honda’s sales pitch about the low beltline is that it improves visibility for kids riding in the back, I’m inclined to believe them. As with most hybrids, there’s a trunk penalty to be paid but thanks to energy dense Lithium-ion cells the Accord only drops 3 cubic feet to 12.7 and I had no problem jamming six 24-inch roller bags in the trunk.  Honda nixed the folding rear seats, a feature that the competition has managed to preserve.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_Touring_043, Picture Courtesy of Honda

Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing

Base Accords use physical buttons to control the standard 8-inch infotainment system and sport 6 speakers with 160 watts behind them.  Honda wouldn’t comment on the expected model split of the Accord, but I suspect that most shoppers will opt for the mid-level EX-L which adds a subwoofer, 360 watt amp, and adds a touchscreen for audio system controls. The dual-screen design struck me as half-baked when I first sampled it in the regular 2013 Accord and although I have warmed up to it a bit, I think it could still use a few minutes in the oven if you opt for the navigation equipped Touring model.

Honda’s concept was to move all the audio functions to the touchscreen thereby freeing the upper screen for some other use like the trip computer or navigation screen. The trouble is the lower screen simply selects sources and provides track forward/backward buttons meaning you still have to use the upper screen to change playlists or search for tracks. That minor complaint aside, the system is very intuitive and responsive. Honda’s improved iDevice and USB integration is standard fare on all models and easily ties with the best in this segment.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_EX-L_ Picture Courtesy of Honda

Starting at $29,155, the base Accord Hybrid is the most expensive mid-sized hybrid sedan by a decent margin especially when you look at the $25,650 starting price on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. However, the Accord Hybrid delivers a high level of standard equipment including standard Pandora smartphone app integration and Honda’s Lane Watch system. Lane watch still strikes me as a little gimmicky since the Accord has such small blind spots and the best outward visibility in the segment already. Instead of stand alone options Honda offers just three trim levels. The next step is the $31,905 EX-L model which adds leather seats, a leather steering wheel, upgraded audio system with two LCD screens, memory driver’s seat, power passenger seat, moonroof, a camera based collision warning system and lane departure warning. While the base model is a little more expensive than cross-shops, the EX-L becomes a decent value compared to comparably equipped competitive hybrids.

Working your way up to the top-of-the-line $34,905 Touring model the Accord is no longer the most expensive in the class, that award goes to the $37,200 loaded fusion. At this price the Accord is less of a bargain compared to the competition, although you do get full LED headlamps and an adaptive cruise control system. In comparison the Camry spans from $26,140 to $32,015, the Sonata from $25,650 to $32,395, Optima from  $25,900 to $31,950 and the Fusion from $27,200 to $37,200. How about the Prius? Glad you asked. The Prius that is most comparable to the base Accord Hybrid is $26,970 and comparably equipped to the Accord Touring is $35,135.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Being the drivetrain geek that I am, what’s under the hood of the Accord hybrid is more exciting than the Corvette Stingray. Seriously. Why? Because this car doesn’t have a transmission in the traditional sense. Say what? Let’s start at the beginning. The last time Honda tried selling an Accord hybrid, they jammed a 16 HP motor between a V6 and a 5-speed automatic. The result was 25MPG combined. The 2014 hybrid system shares absolutely nothing with the old system. No parts. No design themes. Nothing.

Things start out with the same 2.0L four-cylinder engine used in the Accord plug-in. The small engine is 10% more efficient than Honda’s “normal” 2.0L engine thanks to a modified Atkinson cycle, an electric water pump, cooled exhaust gas return system, and electric valve timing with a variable cam profile. The engine produces 141 horsepower on its own at 6,200 RPM and, thanks to the fancy valvetrain, 122 lb-ft from 3,500-6,000 RPM.

The engine is connected directly to a motor/generator that is capable of generating approximately 141 horsepower. (Honda won’t release details on certain drivetrain internals so that’s an educated guess.) Next we have a 166 horsepower, 226 lb-ft motor that is connected to the front wheels via a fixed gear ratio. Under 44 miles per hour, this is all you need to know about the system. The 166 horsepower motor powers the car alone, drawing power from either a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, or the first motor/generator. Over 44 miles per hour, the system chooses one of two modes depending on what is most efficient at the time. The system can engage a clutch pack to directly connect the two motor/generator units together allowing engine power to flow directly to the wheels via that fixed gear ratio. (Check out the diagram below.)

Front Wheel Drive Biased

Pay careful attention to that. I said fixed gear ratio. When the Accord Hybrid engages the clutch to allow the engine to power the wheels directly (mechanically), power is flowing via a single fixed ratio gear set. The fixed gear improves efficiency at highway speeds, reduces weight vs a multi-speed unit and is the reason the system must use in serial hybrid mode below 44 mph. There is another side effect at play here as well: below 44 MPH, the system’s maximum power output is 166 horsepower. The 196 combined ponies don’t start prancing until that clutch engages.

So why does Honda call it an eCVT? Because that fits on a sales sheet bullet point and the full explanation doesn’t. Also, a serial hybrid can be thought of as a CVT because there is an infinite and non-linear relationship between the engine input and the motor output in the transaxle.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Let’s start off with the most important number first: fuel economy. With a 50/45/47 EPA score (City/Highway/Combined), the Accord essentially ties with the Fusion on paper and, although Honda deliberately avoided this comparison, is only 3MPG away from the Prius-shaped elephant in the room. In the real world however the Accord was more Prius than Fusion, averaging 45-46 mpg in our highway-heavy (and lead-footed) 120 mile route and easily scoring 60-65 mpg in city driving if you drive if like there’s an egg between your foot and the pedal of choice. Those numbers are shockingly close to the standard Prius in our tests (47-48 MPG average) and well ahead of the 40.5 MPG we averaged in the Fusion, 35.6 in the Hyundai/Kia cousins and 40.5 in the Camry. Why isn’t Honda dropping the Prius gauntlet? Your guess is as good as mine.

Due to the design of the hybrid system, I had expected there to be a noticeable engagement of the clutch pack, especially under hard acceleration when the system needs to couple the engine to the drive wheels to deliver all 196 combined ponies. Thankfully, system transitions are easily the smoothest in this segment besting Ford’s buttery smooth Fusion and night and day better than the Camry or Prius. Acceleration does take a slight toll because of the system design with 60 MPH arriving in 7.9 seconds, about a half second slower than the Fusion or Camry but half a second faster than the Optima or Sonata and several hours ahead of the Prius.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

At 69 measured decibels at 50 MPH, the Accord hybrid is one of the quietest mid-sized sedans I have tested scoring just below the Fusion’s hushed cabin. This is something of a revelation for the Accord which had traditionally scored among the loudest at speed. When driving in EV mode (possible at a wide variety of highway speeds) things dropped to 68 db at 50 MPH.

When the road starts winding, the Accord Hybrid handles surprisingly well. Why surprisingly? Well, the hybrid system bumps the curb weight by almost 300 lbs to 3,550 (vs the Accord EX) and swaps in low-rolling resistance tires for better fuel economy. However, unlike the Camry and Korean competition, the Accord uses wide 225 width tires. Considering the regular Accord models use 215s, this makes the Accord’s fuel economy numbers all the more impressive. The Fusion is 150 lbs heavier and rides on either 225 or 235 (Titanium only) width tires which also explains why the hybrid Fusion Titanium gets worse mileage than the base Hybrid SE model. I wouldn’t call the Accord Hybrid the equal of the gas-only Accord EX on the road, but the difference is smaller than you might think.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Helping the Accord out on the road are “amplitude reactive dampers” or “two mode shocks” as some people call them. These fancy struts have worked their way down from the Acura line and use two different valves inside the damper to improve low and high-speed damping performance. The difference is noticeable with the Hybrid having a more compliant ride, and thanks to thicker anti-roll bars the hybrid is more stable in corners. Still, for me, the Accord gives up a hair of performance feel to the Fusion hybrid out on the road. It’s just a hair less precise, not as fast to 60 and lacks the sharp turn-in and bite you get in the Fusion Titanium with its wider and lower profile tires. However, keep in mind that Fusion Titanium takes a 1-2MPG toll on average economy in our tests dropping the Fusion from 40.5 to 38-39 MPG.

The Accord may not be the best looking hybrid on sale, (for me that’s still the Ford Fusion) but the Accord’s simple lines and unexpectedly high fuel economy make the Honda a solid option. Being the gadget hound I am, I think I would still buy the Fusion, but only in the more expensive Titanium trim. If you’re not looking that high up the food chain, the Accord Hybrid is quite simply the best fuel sipping mid-size anything. Prius included.

 

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and gas at a launch event.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 45.9 MPG over 129 miles.

 

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Trunk

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