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, 17 Apr 2014 22:57:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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 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 mini

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

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

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

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

 

Originally published on Gas 2.

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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 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 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 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 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 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 2015-Ford-Mustang-Low-Angle-2

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 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 RLX_SH_SH_AWD-2

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 2014-Cadillac-ELR-_12_-450x300

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 atvm-550x472

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 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007

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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Editorial: Time For Fuel Economy Reform http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/editorial-time-for-fuel-economy-reform/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/editorial-time-for-fuel-economy-reform/#comments Fri, 16 Aug 2013 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499644 Low_Fuel_Graphic_on_the_FCD

The revised fuel economy ratings for the Ford C-Max aren’t the first time that an auto maker has been forced to backtrack on fuel economy claims – nor will it be the last unless meaningful reform is undertaken to ensure that fuel economy figures more accurately reflect the way motorists drive their cars in the real world.

The discrepancies between the EPA’s fuel economy figures and what consumers can expect stem from a number of issues. For starters, manufacturers are allowed to self-report their findings, with the EPA only auditing about 10 to 15 percent of the vehicles on sale in any given year. There are all kinds of tricks that auto makers can use as well. In the case of the C-Max, Ford used data from its Fusion Hybrid to determine the C-Max’s fuel economy, which lead to inflated ratings. While this may seem nonsensical to the outside observer, this is allowed under EPA guidelines, as the auto makers are only required to submit data for the volume model of any group of nameplates that use the same powertrain – even if they bear little to no relation to one another, as was the case here.

EPA test procedures also do not permit the use of ethanol. Across the country but particularly in emissions-conscious states, many pumps dispense gasoline with up to ten or even twenty percent alcohol, which significantly reduces mileage. The driving conditions used bear little resemblance to anything encountered in the real world. Tests are conducted on a dynamometer rather than on a real road, and 48.3 mph is considered “free-flowing traffic” on a freeway while city driving cycles use a barely-crawling speed of just 21.2 mph. Despite being utterly detached from reality, there is a good reason why the EPA fuel economy tests are designed this way. They aren’t meant to really test fuel consumption.

An article by Consumer Reports quotes one expert as stating that the tests

“…were originally designed to test emissions, not fuel economy.  They wanted to test a variety of speeds and accelerations.”

CR’s own fuel economy tests revealed significant discrepancies between the EPA numbers and their own road test cycles, with the biggest culprits being small turbocharged 4-cylinder engines. These tend to do well on EPA tests, since the low speeds don’t require much boost from the turbocharger. By contrast, real world driving does require the turbo to work harder when driven at speeds above 21.2mph, which is how a car like the Lincoln MKZ, with a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, can return 16 mpg in the real world despite being rated for 22 mpg by the EPA.

With gas prices edging higher and fuel consumption becoming a priority among car shoppers, fuel economy tests have become increasingly importance for shoppers. Consumers compare “em-pee-gee” figures like they would have once looked at 0-60 mph times or crash test safety ratings, and rely on the EPA numbers to make purchasing decisions. Automotive marketing types know this, it’s not unreasonable to assume that powertrain calibration has sometimes been designed specifically with the fuel economy testing procedures in mind. Being able to hit a “magic number” like 40 mpg highway is a marketing coup. But being exposed as unable to hit that number in real life is a tenfold embarrassment, as Ford and Hyundai both know.

The current regimen of fuel economy tests have clearly outlived their usefulness.If the EPA test really is designed to measure emissions rather than fuel consumption, then that’s a strong indication of how relevant their guidelines really are. The next step is, what should be done to bring them back to relevance? Can the EPA test process be reformed? Should there be an end to manufacturer reported figures? Or is it worth ignoring EPA figures from now on in favor of someone like Consumer Reports or even a self-reporting site like Fuelly?

 

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In Japanese Bondage: The Honda Freed Hybrid and the Mazda MPV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/in-japanese-bondage-the-honda-freed-hybrid-and-the-mazda-mpv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/in-japanese-bondage-the-honda-freed-hybrid-and-the-mazda-mpv/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 16:21:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499383 2011_Honda_Freed_Spike_Hybrid_002_6105

Yesterday, I took a look at the Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear and the Toyota Hi-Ace, the “size queens” of the Japanese market. Today, I decided to look at the odd men out, so to speak, those mini-vans that hit the sweet spot in the market and offer seven seats in a small or mid-sized package. Sticking with that earlier theme, both of these are only available outside of the United States so, sorry, you can’t get them here. But it’s fun to see how other people live so let’s take a look.

As my young family has grown in size and number over the past few years, my in-laws have been absolutely wonderful. When we lived in Japan we saw one another frequently and even today, thought we are half a world away, my wife and her parents Skype at least once a week and we are blessed with their presence in our home usually two or three times per year. Last summer we decided to bless their home with our presence and the whole Kreutzer clan picked up and headed across the Pacific. In preparation for our arrival, my in-laws ran out and purchased a new seven seater and wisely, with an eye towards the fact that most of those seats would be empty most of the time, they went small and they went hybrid.

2008_Honda_Freed_02

The Honda Freed is a “compact seven seater” with sliding side doors that is similar in size and function to the Mazda 5 we get stateside. In person it bears a striking resemblance to the most recent incarnation of the Honda Fit, with a steeply sloping nose, a long curving windshield, and a rectangular back half that ends so abruptly it looks like it was cut with a knife. As a Star Trek nerd, the little Freed reminds me very much of one of the small shuttles used in The Next Generation from the outside and on the inside, if it is not overly spacious, it is at least futuristic.

2012-Honda-Freed-Hybrid-Interior-design

The Freed offers three rows of seating with each of the back two rows slightly elevated in a way that makes the vehicle’s cabin appear to have stadium seating. The third row is even with the rear wheels and my guess is that this arrangement was necessary to fit atop them, but the effect is generally nice and gives the rear passengers a chance to look over the front seats and catch a glimpse out the windshield. I understand that there are second row captain’s chairs available, if they can be called that, but my in-law’s car was outfitted with a three person bench seat. The back row is cramped and only offers space for two. Because the rear seat is so far aft, there is no additional cargo space and no place for a fold-flat seats. To allow space for cargo, the rear seat is split in two allowing each side can be folded and then swing up into a position where they block the rear quarter windows. Personally, I don’t like this arrangement.

I don’t spend a lot of time in Hondas these days so stop me if you already familiar with the two level dash the Freed mounts. It is an odd looking piece at first, but it fits in well with the car’s overall styling. The top of the dash incorporates the instrument bezel and a place for the car’s navigation system while beneath its rounded leading edge a second almost flat shelf comes out and provides space for the climate controls and the gear shift. It is, I think, a little odd but quite refreshing given that the alternative would have simply been a flat panel with a glove box.

hondaFreedhybrid dash

Although I had the opportunity to ride in the Freed on the expressway, where it seemed to do just fine, I did not get to take the wheel until we were safe at home in Kyoto and then my trips were mostly confined to the local area. Around town it was a competent little car that handled the city streets well and accelerated without any kind of drama whenever I hit the gas. All in all, not bad.

But not all of the hybrid systems were so seamless. In order to save gas, at lengthy stoplights the engine would shut itself off if I held my foot on the brake too long and, of course, when the engine turned off so did the air conditioning. That’s a problem on a hot summer day so I began to use the hand brake to hold my position in order to keep the engine running and the air conditioning pumping. Not horrible, but annoying. The other “eco” effect I noticed was how the car acted while coasting. It seemed to me that whenever I took my foot off the gas they car would begin to slow more rapidly than a normal, non-hybrid car might and it the overall effect was that the car seemed as though it was especially heavy for some reason. That said, the effect was predictable and never caused any issues while driving even if I never quite acclimated to it entirely.

I generally liked the Freed well enough but I think there are a lot of other cars on the market I would probably go to before I actually purchased one. With four adults and three children in the cabin, the little car was quite cramped and with all the seats in action there was virtually no space for any kind of luggage. Even without the grandparents, the car was still crowded with my wife and me up front, two kids in the middle and another in the third row. To facilitate a trip to the grocery store we would have to fold up one of the rearmost seats, and I really hate the way they fold up where they block a window and create a possible problem should they somehow, say in the event of a side impact, come loose and fall onto any body parts that might end up in that space in an accident.

55-honda-freed

I like the idea of a smaller mini-van, but I think we need to acknowledge that larger families need larger size vehicles. In my in-law’s case, the Freed makes a great deal of sense as it offers good economy in a small, easy to drive package while having the extra seats for those times my wife and kids decide to head home for the summer. For daily use, however, about the smallest I would be willing to buy for my own family is another van we can’t get here in the States, the new Mazda MPV.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to start this part of the article by stating right up front that I owned a 2002 JDM Mazda MPV with the 2.3 liter 4 cylinder for the entire three years we lived in Okinawa. Prior to purchasing it, my wife and I spent some time in the then brand new 2006 MPV and I was quite taken by it. It was that experience that sent me to my local Mazda dealer to seek out a used version and it was my inner cheapskate that caused me to end up purchasing a slightly used 2002 for a fraction of the price the redesign was fetching. Regardless of the fact that the design was already “day old bread,” I loved that van and sold it to family when I left just so I could see it when we go home.

2002 mpv

It’s funny how the mind works, because when I was in Japan my MPV seemed like a reasonably large, reasonably well powered vehicle. Back in the United States, however, I soon saw just how small the MPV actually is when compared to other vans and the especially so when compared to the even more giant SUVs that prowl this side of the Pacific. Even so, the earlier generation of MPVs did well in the United States, but I will note that to help satiate the American’s desire for more of everything the smaller 4 cylinder was not available here and only V6 MPVs were sold on our shores.

mazda_mpv_front

The 2006 MPV I drove, and yes I know that Mazda still sold MPVs in the USA in 2006 and so I want to stress here that the US got the old version while the Japanese stopped selling that design domestically in 2005, was a handsome, long nosed, low profile vehicle that appeared more like a tall station wagon than a typical mini-van. They came in two flavors, both 2.3 liter four cylinders, one turbo charged, the other not and had any number of features that were typical at the time but, as one commenter who lives in Hong Kong rather astutely pointed out when I mentioned the JDM MPV in some remarks a week or two ago, lack a lot of the more modern electronic and interconnectivity features found in many of the newest vans. Our Canadian enthusiasts, who waxed rhapsodic about the previous model’s four wheel drive capability, will be thrilled to know that the current redesign also features both front and four wheel drive versions.

As those of you who have them in your cars probably know, the Mazda 2.3 liter is a smooth running little engine that does pretty well on the road. The extra weight of the MPV and a load full of passengers does affect the engine, however, and there are times when I found myself working the engine harder than I would normally like. In general, it was serviceable on the highway but I would have enjoyed trying the turbo. Around town, as with virtually all Japanese minivans, the engine was more than sufficient.

Mazda_MPV_interior1.preview

Inside, the MPV was a good combination of “get the job done” practicality and pure class. I liked that the gear selector was not on the dash next to the wheel but was located below it on a small protruding console on the lower part of the dash. Above that, the climate controls were prominent and intuitive and, topping the center stack and tucked neatly between a pair of vents, was the navigation/audio screen. In front of the driver, in a blatant display of Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom philosophy, back lit analog gauges included a large, easy to read tachometer alongside a matching speedometer. There are several seating options available and they run from the totally practical cloth covered three row bench to the highest-end full leather recliners you can get. There is no doubt in my mind that the MPV’s primary mission is to move people in comfort and style and that utility, which is still present thanks to a fold-flat rear seat and the well in the floor that swallowing that seat necessitates, comes in a close second.

mpv seats

On the road, the current MPV is not as easy to drive as many of the larger, taller JDM vans currently on the market. Because it is has a longer nose, the driver sits well behind the front wheels and the overall driving dynamic is quite car-like. Also, thanks to a lower greenhouse, the windows too are slightly smaller than the enormous ones available on more typical high-end JDM people movers like the Elgrand and the Alphard and that makes it slightly more difficult to see out of. Handling and the ride is good and the driving experience is reminiscent of a large, full size luxury car. I like it.

The MPV is all about compromise and, unlike many compromises I have been forced to make during my life, the trade-offs made in its design do not end up giving away all the good in favor of all the bad. The design offers seven seats and sliding doors with the handling dynamics of a large car. It gives up overall height, which is bad because it limits the driver’s view but also good because it eliminates the sail area that sends most mini-vans skittering across the freeway on gusty days. It sits the driver further back in the cabin than most vans, which I think makes it more difficult to drive in tight situations but gives an added sense of comfort and control. I think the MPV would do wonderfully on the American market and I would purchase one in a heartbeat.

It’s a shame we don’t get either of these wonderful people movers stateside. They both strike a perfect balance by being big on the inside and small on the outside and, in doing so, are exactly what a mini-van is supposed to be. To wrap up, both of these mighty minis are decent vehicles that would probably draw people into showrooms in the United States, but only one, the Mazda MPV, would make my short list of mini-vans. If only they were sold here. If only…

mazda_mpv_back

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Ford, Toyota Joint RWD Hybrid Pickup Drivetrain Not Feasible http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/ford-toyota-joint-rwd-hybrid-pickup-drivetrain-not-feasible/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/ford-toyota-joint-rwd-hybrid-pickup-drivetrain-not-feasible/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 12:30:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496916 ford-toyota-hybrid-mou

The honeymoon is now officially over. 2011 Ford Motor Co. photo.

Two years ago, Ford and Toyota agreed to perform a feasibility study on the two companies working together to develop a hybrid drivetrain for rear wheel drive pickups and SUVs. Apparently, working together wasn’t going to be feasible because Ford and Toyota have both issued statements announcing the end of the tie-up. Ford said that the Dearborn automaker will be developing their own hybrid system for RWD and said that the completely new hybrid architecture will be available by 2020.

Raj Nair, Ford’s global head of product development said in prepared statement:

“We know what it takes to build world-class hybrids, and we now will build and leverage that expertise in-house. By continuing to develop a rear-wheel-drive hybrid system on our own, we can extend our advanced hybrid technologies to new vehicle segments and deliver even better fuel economy across our lineup.”

On its own part, Toyota emphasized its leadership position in hybrid technology without tipping its hand regarding RWD hybrids.

Toyota’s commitment to hybrid technology is unwavering. We have sold over two million Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles in the U.S., representing 70 percent of the U.S. auto industry’s total hybrid sales, and over 5 million hybrids worldwide. In addition, Toyota remains on track to offer 18 new or redesigned hybrid models globally by the end of 2015.

Ford and Toyota will continue to work together on developing standards for the next generation of telematics. Ford and Toyota had made an earlier licensing agreement concerning the hybrid systems in the Prius and Fusion Hybrid to avoid  possible litigation over their separately developed technologies.

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Review: 2013 Chevrolet Volt (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-chevrolet-volt-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-chevrolet-volt-video/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495593 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Chevrolet Volt may be the most maligned and least understood car on the market. After a week of strange questions and bipolar reactions to GM’s plug-in hybrid, I came to a conclusion. GM’s marketing of the Volt stinks. By calling the Volt an “Electric Vehicle (EV) with a range extender,” a huge segment of the population can’t get past “Electric” and immediately cross the Volt off their list. There is also [strangely] a segment of the population that says, “that’s great but I want a hybrid.”  Guess what? The Volt is a hybrid.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Aerodynamics dictate the shape of modern high-efficiency cars, and as a result, the Volt has a profile very similar to the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. Like the Japanese hybrids, the Volt is a liftback design which is more practical than your typical trunk lid for carrying large items from the home improvement store.

The Volt’s styling isn’t for everyone, but I find the overall style aggressive and attractive. There is a caveat. Since the shape is dictated by wind-tunnel testing (just like the Prius and Insight) the Volt reminds me of NASCAR cars. Why? Because they all have the same shape and teams paint / add decals to “brand” their car. The Volt/Prius/Insight reminds me of this tactic and parked next to one another in the dark you’d be hard pressed to differentiate them by silhouette.

For its first refresh since it launched as a 2011, GM decided to ditch the somewhat awkward black roof and black painted liftgate opting for a more harmonious body-matching hue. There are also subtle tweaks to the rear tail lamp modules this year.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Hybrids have long suffered cheaper looking and feeling interiors than their “normal” counterparts. That is true for the Prius, Insight and the Volt. The reason is two-fold. The first is obviously cost. Motors and batteries aren’t cheap and the Volt has 288 batteries jammed into a “T” shaped battery pack that runs the length of the car and across the back of the car behind the rear seats. With a nominal 16.5kWh capacity, this battery is about four times larger than the Prius Plug-In’s pack and nearly twice the size of Ford’s Energi. The second reason is weight. Hard plastics weigh less.

Hard plastics included, the Volt is a nicer place to spend your time than a Prius but Ford’s C-MAX takes top position in terms of interior parts feel. Style is subjective, but I would rank the Volt between the Prius’ funky interior design and the C-MAX’s mainstream interior. Part of this is because 2013 brings more sedate and mainstream choices to the Volt’s interior. Gone are the funky orange door panels with “circuit board” patterns replaced by a dark silver plastic panels on the black interior. New for 2013 is some brown love, a color combo that brings the Volt’s interior feel up a substantial notch without actually improving the quality of the plastics.

Front seat comfort slots between the Ford and Toyota alternatives up front, in the rear there is less headroom and legroom than in the Prius or C-MAX. There is also one less seat. The lack of a 5th seat seems to be a common reason given for choosing something else over the Volt, but the battery had to go somewhere so the Volt trades more cargo room with the seats in place vs the C-MAX Energi for that 5th seat. Pick your poison.

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

When it comes to infotainment and trendy gadgets, the Volt scores big. Sure the 7-inch LCD gauge cluster isn’t as snazzy as Land Rover’s 12-inch readout, but the Prius is stuck in a 1980s Chrysler LeBaron electrofluorescent-time-warp and one 7-inch readout trumps Ford’s twin-4.2″ display setup in my mind. That’s before I comment that the Volt’s gauges are where they belong, in front of the driver…

The Volt gets Chevy’s latest MyLink infotainment system with some slight tweaks for 2013. GM’s mid-market  entertainment operating system is one of my favorites. The graphics are slick, the display is easy to read and GM offers a touchscreen and a joystick/knob controller so you can use whatever comes naturally. Unlike MyFord Touch and Cadillac’s CUE, the Chevy is virtually crash-free and always responsive. 2013 brings improved voice commands for your USB/iDevice allowing you to command your tunes at the press of a button, and unlike Toyota’s similar system, MyLink doesn’t have a problem with large music libraries. If you opt for nav software, destination entry is quick and the map software uses high-resolution maps with satellite traffic info.

On the safety gadget front 2013 brings collision and blind spot warning systems from the Cadillac XTS. The system is camera based so you can’t get radar adaptive cruise control, a system that is offered on the Prius and the Fusion Energi but not on the C-Max Energi.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Before we dive into the Volt, it’s important to know how hybrid systems work. GM’s Belt-Alternator-Starter, Mercedes’ S400 Hybrid and Honda’s IMA hybrids are all systems where the engine is always connected and even if the car is capable of “EV” mode, the engine is spinning. Porsche, VW, Infiniti and others use a pancake motor and clutch setup to disconnect the engine from the motor and transmission allowing a “pure EV” mode. Honda’s new Accord has a 2-mode setup where the motor drives the wheels via a fixed ratio gearset, the engine drives a motor and above 45MPH a clutch engages, linking the engine and motor together at a ratio of roughly 1:1. Ford, Toyota and the Volt use a planetary gearset “power splitting” device. Yes, the Volt uses a hybrid system that although not identical, is thematically similar to Ford & Toyota’s hybrid system.

Say what? I thought GM said it was a serial hybrid? Yes, GM did at some point say that and I think that has caused more confusion than anything else about the Volt. The bankrupt Fisker Karma is only a serial hybrid. The engine drives a generator, the generator powers the battery and the motor to move the car forward. At no point can the engine provide any motive power to the wheels except via the electrical connection.

The Volt’s innovation is that it can operate like a Fisker Karma or like a Prius. It is therefore both a serial and a parallel hybrid. To do this, GM alters the power split device power flow VS the Ford/Toyota design. Then they add a clutch allowing the gasoline engine to be mechanically isolated from the wheels. And finally they add software with a whole new take on a hybrid system.

volt-tranmission, Courtesy of MotorTrend.com

The Volt has four distinct operating modes.

  1. Starting off from a stop, the Volt draws power from its 16.5kWh (10.8 usable) battery pack to power the 149HP main motor.
  2. At higher speeds, the car will connect the 72HP secondary motor/generator via the planetary gearset. This is not to increase power, but to reduce the main motor’s RPM therefore increasing efficiency. Maximum horsepower is still 149.

When the battery is low, or when “hold” or “mountain modes are engaged, the system switches to one of two hybrid modes.

  1. The system starts the 1.4L 84 HP gasoline engine and uses it to turn a 72HP motor/generator. The system feeds the power to the battery and primary motor. Maximum horsepower is still 149. When more than 72HP is being consumed, the balance is drawn from the battery.
  2. When more power is required, the system disengages the clutch pack and the system functions very much like a Ford/Toyota hybrid with the gasoline engine assisting in the propulsion both mechanically and electrically via the power split device. Maximum horsepower is still 149 BUT this mode alters the torque curve of the combined system and in this mode acceleration is slightly faster than in any other mode.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Why do I mention the four modes? Because you can easily encounter all four modes in a single trip. Which mode the Volt uses is determined by the car, it is not user-selectable. Starting off at home with a full battery, I was able to drive 32 miles in EV mode. That’s about 22 more than the Prius Plug-In and 18 more than the C-MAX Energi. How is that possible with a battery that is so much larger? Allow me to digress for a moment.

GM takes an interesting and very conservative approach to battery life. Rather than charging and discharging the battery nearly completely as Nissan and Tesla’s EVs do, the Volt will only use the “middle” 65% of the battery. This means that when the display says it is “full,” the battery is really only 85% charged. When it reads empty, the true state of charge is around 35%. Why? Because batteries degrade more rapidly when they are at high or low states of charge. By never operating the battery at these extremes and having an active thermal management system, I expect the Volt’s battery to have a longer life than other vehicles on the market with the same battery chemistry.

Back to those modes. We clocked 0-60 in 8.72 seconds when the Volt was operating as an EV (slightly faster than the C-MAX Energi and much faster than a Prius). In parallel hybrid mode, the broader torque curve dropped this to 8.4 seconds. Transitions between modes is practically seamless unless you are driving the Volt aggressively on mountain roadways. On steep inclines when you’re at a lower state of charge, the Volt will switch from serial-hybrid to parallel-hybrid modes to keep from draining the battery below the minimum threshold. Transitioning from one mode to the other causes a momentary delay in power application as the transmission disengages the clutch pack and synchronizes the speeds of the motors and engine. This transition is more pronounced than a typical gear shift in a traditional automatic.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to road holding, the porky 3,899lb C-MAX Energi is the winner thanks to its wide 225-width rubber and the chassis’ Euro origins. The Volt is a close second at 3,781lbs with the standard 215 low rolling resistance rubber. The Prius? A distant third despite being the lightest at 3,165lbs. Admittedly handling better than a Prius isn’t a terribly high bar to leap, but in the grand scheme of things the Volt handles as well as the average compact sedan. Overall wind and road noise slot (yet again) between the quieter C-MAX and the noisier Prius.

Fuel economy is the most important part of a hybrid, and this is the area where the Volt starts having problems. Starting with a full battery (at my rates, this cost $1.52) the first 32 miles were in EV mode followed by 26 miles in hybrid mode. My average economy was 90 MPG, a few better than the Prius plug-in’s 72 on the same trip and 60 for the Ford. Being unable to charge the Volt at my office due to construction, these numbers fell rapidly on my way home. On this single-charge round trip, the Prius averaged 62 MPG, the C-MAX averaged 50 and the Volt dropped to 46. What’s going on? Once under way the Volt’s four-mode hybrid system seems to be less efficient than the C-MAX. The exact reasons for this I’m not sure, but on a round-trip commute without charging, I averaged 32-33 MPG vs the 40.7 in the C-MAX Energi and 52 in the Prius Plug-In. The longer you drive your Volt without charging it, the more it will cost to run than the Ford or Toyota.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port

On the flip side if your commute is within 30-35 miles of a charging station you will almost never use the gasoline engine. (The Volt will run it now and then to make sure the gasoline doesn’t go bad in the plumbing.) Unlike the alternatives, the Volt will also stay pure electric even under full throttle acceleration giving you a driving experience that is very much like a LEAF/Tesla until you deplete the battery.

This brings us full circle to the EV vs hybrid question. What is the Volt? In my opinion it’s a plug-in hybrid. I also think this is the best marketing angle for GM because when you explain to people that there is no range anxiety in the Volt and you can use the HOV lane in California solo, they seem to “get it.” The fly in the ointment is the price, The Volt starts at $39,145 and ends just shy of 45-large. The “that’s too much to pay for an electric Cruze” is a hard rep to shake, and even GM throwing cash on the Volt’s hood isn’t helping. Factor in the $8,000 premium over the C-MAX Energi and Prius Plug-In and you start to see the rest of the problem. At the end of my week with Chevy’s car with a plug I came to the conclusion that the Volt is the most misunderstood car on the market right now. But with a high sticker price and only four seats I’m not entirely sure that understanding GM’s conflicted EV/Hybrid will help them sell.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.285 Seconds (EV Mode)

0-60: 8.72 Seconds (EV Mode), 8.4 Seconds (hybrid mode)

1/4 Mile: 16.66 Seconds @ 84 MPH (EV Mode)

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 48MPG over 565 miles, 32-33MPG hybrid mode

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port 2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain 2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-001 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-002 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-003 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-004 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-005 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-007 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-008 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-009 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-001 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-002 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-003 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-005 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-006 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes ]]>
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2015 Honda Fit, Now With Two Clutches http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/2015-honda-fit-now-with-two-clutches/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/2015-honda-fit-now-with-two-clutches/#comments Sat, 20 Jul 2013 14:35:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496126 2014-honda-jazz-2015-honda-fit-photo-gallery-medium_15

The most interesting part of Honda’s new Fit – a hybrid drivetrain mated to a dual clutch gearbox – won’t be coming to North America. At least not in this form.

Automotive News is reporting that the hybrid powertrain, a 1.5L engine which apparently puts out 135 horsepower and 125 lb-ft (according to Motor Trend) mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, will only be offered in a sedan and crossover bodystyle in North America. The hatch will likely stick with a naturally aspirated 1.5L mated to a CVT or a 6-speed manual gearbox.

The lack of a hybrid hatch comes as part of Honda’s attempt to adapt vehicles to local market tastes – for North America, this means sedan and crossover variants as well as the hatchback. Now that production of the Fit is taking place in Mexico, this is a viable option for Honda.

The new hybrid system is also said to best the Toyota Prius c in fuel economy. While only Japanese figures for the Fit Hybrid have been released, the Prius C returns 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway. Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system, which was cheaper to produce but offered lesser fuel economy gains compared to Toyota’s system, has been replaced with an all-new technology dubbed “Sport Hybrid Intelligent-Dual Clutch Drive”.

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Volvo Station Wagon Delights Derek’s Parents, Gives CAFE The Middle Finger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/volvo-station-wagon-gives-cafe-the-middle-finger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/volvo-station-wagon-gives-cafe-the-middle-finger/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 12:20:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494518 BOmYi3RCYAAaFBg

 

What you’re looking at here is

  1. A big “F U” to CAFE regulations
  2. Very likely the next vehicle my parents buy

When Volvo killed off the V70 wagon in 2010, it marked a turning point for the brand; how could Volvo continue on without its signature product, the station wagon? It seemed as absurd as the idea of a Caterham crossover.

Crossovers, even those like the XC70 which had a slightly higher ride height and some cladding, were much more advantageous to get around CAFE loopholes (and could be sold at a higher profit). In most cases, car makers are better off selling pseudo-crossovers to their customers for these reasons, as wagons tend to linger on showroom floors and then command a premium on the used market (for more on that see the 2005 Subaru Legacy GT).

Not so with Volvo. The much-rumored scuttlebutt was that many longtime Volvo customers were unhappy that the faux-crossover XC lineup was all that was available to replace their wagons. Enter the V60. It’s a compact station wagon with a couple of I6 powerplants (likely for North America) that are likely not terribly efficient. Volvo will pay dearly for this in terms of CAFE, but we should applaud their guile. We may get a diesel or a plug-in hybrid powertrain option, but I’m holding out for a Polestar-tuned T6 and AWD.

One can only imagine that dealers were screaming for this car, and now Volvo has sent out this tweet confirming its stateside launch. Although Volvo sales have been on the up-and-up, they’ve never really recovered from the best years when Volvo had some strong wagon offerings. My cynicism towards the commercial viability of this bodystyle may be well documented, but if any auto maker needs to offer one, it’s Volvo. Wagons are the heart and soul of the Volvo brand.

I suspect this product will have a wide open niche, now that Audi no longer offers an A4 Avant. There are enough buyers out there who will want to buy any premium wagon that is not a BMW 3-Series. My parents are a prime example, though they ended up buying a 2011 Volvo XC60 T6. They’ve had their eye on the European market V40 for some time, but the V60 T6 would be just the ticket to replace the XC.

 

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI vs 2013 Jetta Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/2013-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-vs-jetta-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/2013-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-vs-jetta-hybrid/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 18:14:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490234

“Have you driven the new Jetta Hybrid?” popped up in my Faceache message box. It came from Captain Leslie, an E-3 Sentry driver, consummate professional, a current Jetta TDI pilot (with a manual), and friend from a tour in the Middle East and Oklahoma City. Unable to resist her profile smile, I went in search of the elusive electrically motivated VW in a sea of 2.5L sorority mobiles. As she has saved my ass in the past, I shall attempt to repay the favor. Leslie, skip the Hybrid, get another TDI… but make sure its a Golf…wagon…in brown…with a manual.

Capt Leslie and her 185K mile, manual TDI

Sajeev pointed out my fondness for VAG products and warned me to be vigilant in my impartiality (cough, Panther Love for all) to render a verdict in true TTAC fashion. Having owned numerous Audis, a SEAT Toledo V5, Golfs, and a MKV Jetta TDI, I might have difficulty. But no, thank you VW for screwing up the Jetta enough to make this issue a nonstarter!

The latest Jetta does not live up to the previous generation. Before me was a stretched mk4 Jetta, only missing some of the details (Vellum Venom here). The MK VI Jetta looks attractive enough; readily identifiable as a Volkswagen, with neat creases, and all that Euro technocracity. But it’s a bit boring compared to the beauties made in Korea. The MK IV forged a bold path and the MK V at least caused controversy, however VW played it too safe with the MK VI. At least it’s not ugly.

 

The Jetta’s most interesting external aspect are the taillights: sporting a complex lighting pattern for a slightly upscale look. And…thats it.

The taillights are especially helpful when attending accident scenes.

Step inside: virtually identical, the Jetta TDI and Hybrid showcase the latest in Germanic interior design: perfectly aligned plastic, a cutting edge notion in 1979 when Audi switched to black plastic in the Audi 4000 over the faux wood in the Fox. It’s straight forward, easy to use and looks like it’ll last forever, but exhibits no flair or panache. I’m thinking VW hired a hipster and they rehashed the mk5 interior…but ironically.

The comfortable seats still impress. The leatherette is attractive and will prove durable. Space is good, with the biggest complaint coming from the Hybrid, where the battery pack robs crucial trunk room, and makes the rear seat pass through about 30% smaller than the regular TDI.

Now about that infamous plastic dash. I know why VW equipped the low and mid-range Jettas with an injection molded dashboard so hard that Viagra should file a patent lawsuit:  Americans do not touch the dash, or care about squidgy bits like the Europeans, or so I have been told. They care about price and value for money.

Nicely put together, but not exciting to look at.

This fact explains why most Americans buy Corollas. VW once stood in a “just above average” slot, slightly aspirational and cool but avoiding BMW douchiness. Catering to a cheaper price point made VW just another player in this saturated market.

“But look at the engineering precision and how well it’s put together!” say the engineers (or more likely the marketers). Yes, the engineers dotted their “i’s” with this design, but failed to realize they spelled penis instead of pencil.

I learned in Germany that you don’t buy a Golf for looks, as the Focus and anything French blow it away. You buy one for the dependability and the drive, true VW trademarks in the homeland. The Jetta, a be-trunked extension of the Golf philosophy, should follow this mantra of safe looking, yet wholly hooligan mannerisms. Flogging the TDI and Hybrid like I stole them, I found that not all is lost in Wolfsburg.

The TDI with a manual induces grins from the open road to city traffic. With the 2.0L, direct injected, common-rail diesel, VW engineered the finest motivator in the American line-up. Wind it up to the low redline and feel a surge of torque launching you through traffic. The numbers on paper suggest a middling 0-60 time but the thrust provided in real-time proves most addictive. I found myself punching the throttle just to induce grins.

Pitching the car into a corner netted more surprises. The front end moved around a corner like a GTI. Generous applications of the throttle failed to induce excessive understeer, or surprising amounts of torque steer. The Jetta TDI hunkered down and blew through the apex with a bit of turbo whistle. Wow.

I think the average looks and interior were a ruse so the police think you can’t possibly speed in an efficient bar of soap.

I also found lift-off oversteer very possible with more speed and ham-fisted steering inputs. Careening around University Ave intersection onto the Marsha Sharp Freeway, I could lift off the throttle, step out the back-end and nail the go pedal in true Nürburgring fashion while netting an honest 40mpg. The cheap trailing beam rear suspension was not a handling detriment save for the fiercest bumps, which allowed just a bit of skipping. The steering was alive and communicative, provided you ignore the slightly artificial electric feel at lower speeds.

So what of the Hybrid? The “green” Jetta handles exactly the same, yet the leather wrapped steering wheel was a tad nicer. The same wonderful corner entry and roll transition urge you on to illegal speeds. The main difference? Power delivery: the TDI surges while the Hybrid just….goes.

IMG_2724

Instead of a tachometer denoting engine revs, a dial ranging from 1-to-10 presents a percentage of available power currently being utilized. A tantalizing “boost” zone glares at you past the 10 mark. My goal was to live in “boost” as much as possible. Not the point of a hybrid, but I am still an enthusiast. I kick Priuses like the Taliban kick puppies!

The Hybrid proves an engaging drive, with a lackluster engine note and not quite sharp throttle responses. The TDI emerges as the clear driver’s victor, especially when real world fuel economy figures are factored in. The Hybrid says 48mpg highway to the TDI’s 42, but the TDI managed 40mpg in mixed driving, with the Hybrid only scored 38mpg. The Hybrid is not a green and happy GLI, it’s an expensive alternative to the TDI for the hippy crowd. Just behold those blue Hybrid badges tattoo’d at every corner!

IMG_2725

The TDI comes across as cheaper, more reliable, comes in a manual, and will hold its value (look at those used mkV TDI prices!). The Hybrid, well…it’ll be an interesting Murilee junkyard find in 20 years.

Now Captain Leslie knows the truth: I suggest she keeps her current manual shift Jetta TDI (with 185,000 trouble free miles!) and save the money for her upcoming wedding. Leslie, if you have some scratch left over, get a Jetta Sportwagen TDI, which is just a Golf TDI with a big trunk. The current Jetta TDI and Hybrid are good, but after being a command pilot over Afghanistan, you won’t have the wool pulled over your eyes: the new Jetta is not superior to yours.

At least the bartenders Courtney and Elise from The Roof in Lubbock seem to really like it!

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We, The People, Want Hybrid SUVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/we-the-people-want-hybrid-suvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/we-the-people-want-hybrid-suvs/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 16:02:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489779 tahoe

Today, dear readers, I come to you with some bad news: Chevrolet is cancelling the Tahoe Hybrid. This is a major event. So major, in fact, that – upon reading it – you probably took a deep breath, sat back in your chair, gazed at the computer screen, and thought to yourself: They still make the Tahoe Hybrid?

The answer is: Of course they still make the Tahoe Hybrid! It’s a great car, provided you ignore the sticker price and fuel economy ratings. Actually, if you ignore those, a lot of things become great cars, although the Acura ZDX is still not one of them.

Chevy says it’s cancelling the Tahoe Hybrid because sales weren’t strong enough to justify its presence in the redesigned 2015 Tahoe lineup. Presumably, this is also true of the Silverado Hybrid, which – really – also still exists. And by “still exists,” I mean there are probably about 80 remaining at Chevy dealers across the country, and they’re all 2011 models.

Truthfully, Chevy is probably making the right decision. Of the 69,000 Tahoes they sold last year, just 533 were Hybrids. That means 99.2 percent of Tahoe buyers found it difficult to ignore the sticker price and fuel economy ratings. The other 0.8 percent, of course, were General Motors employees.

But I’m not here to discuss the Tahoe Hybrid. (This would end badly, with me saying things like “I like the stickers” and you vowing to never again read anything I write.) Instead, I want to discuss the giant hole it’s leaving in the hybrid SUV world.

Not surprisingly, the Tahoe Hybrid’s demise also signals the cancellation of its twins, the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and the GMC Yukon Hybrid. That means the hybrid SUV segment now consists solely of the following vehicles, listed below with their base prices and fuel economy ratings:

1. Toyota Highlander Hybrid (28/28) – $41,000
2. Lexus RX 450h (32/28) – $47,000
3. Audi Q5 Hybrid (24/30) – $52,000
4. Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid (20/24) – $63,000
5. Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid (20/24) – $71,000

That’s right: there are only five hybrid SUVs currently on the market. And we really should disregard the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid, since it only sells to Volkswagen dealers who use it as a service loaner and eventually write it off in a mysterious crash that, by coincidence, involved three other Touareg Hybrids and absolutely no diesel Jettas.

touareg

But it’s not the small number of hybrid SUVs that concerns me. Instead, it’s the cost. Not one of these things starts under $40,000, which means that only a select few Americans get to hum down the street and freak out cyclists while driving a huge vehicle that was necessary “because we have dogs.”

That wasn’t always the case. Just a few short years ago, we could buy a Ford Escape Hybrid, which cost $32,000 and got 34 mpg city. But Ford pulled the plug on the Escape Hybrid in favor of its latest strategy, which involves making its engines as small as humanly possible to see if anyone notices.

At this point, I know what you’re thinking, assuming you haven’t already started scrolling down to comment that you really do need a big SUV because you really do have dogs. Your thoughts are: Who the hell cares about hybrid SUVs? I hate SUVs! I hate hybrids! And now, I hate DeMuro!

But, you see, while you might hate SUVs, Americans don’t. We buy them in massive numbers. In fact, I have an SUV, which I bought to take off-road, or, more accurately, to drive on sidewalks past people who won’t turn right on red.

Americans also don’t hate hybrids.  Instead – even though they only make up about 5 percent of the market – it seems we love them.  I know this because every single driver in Atlanta now owns a Prius, a fact they show off by driving the speed limit in the left lane.  Also, I recently saw a Prius with pro-gun bumper stickers, and when hybrid technology has reached the gun lovers, you know you’re on to something.

hybridd

Of course, you may prefer diesel – but most Americans don’t. And let’s be honest: announcing “I’ve got a hybrid” means a lot more than “I’ve got a diesel” when you’re grabbing lunch after yoga. Plus, if the lunch is at Whole Foods, you’ll get to park up front.

So why hasn’t some enterprising automaker started offering a hybrid SUV with a reasonable base price and a 33 mpg EPA rating? And I mean city miles per gallon, not the Mazda CX-5’s “yes I get 35 mpg, provided you buy the stick shift and never use the air conditioning, and oh yes you know you have to tape the grille, right?”

If Toyota can do it with the Highlander at $40,000, can’t Honda do it with the CR-V at $30,000? It would be the Prius of SUVs, driving the speed limit in left lanes across the country. Only this time, it would have dogs in the back.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Piston Slap: Me Thinks It’s Undiluted BS! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/piston-slap-me-thinks-its-undiluted-bs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/piston-slap-me-thinks-its-undiluted-bs/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 11:34:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489725

Fernando writes:

I own a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid. At exactly 7 years and 7 months, and 68k miles, the battery quit. Being well within Honda’s 8 year, 80k miles warranty, the dealership replaced it fully free of charge. The vehicle is working like a charm again. Other than this mishap, it has been completely trouble-free, and does its job as a good commuter car perfectly.

So……where is the rub, you ask?

Well, when I queried the service manager about the warranty for the new battery pack, he told me until the vehicle reaches 8 years, which is only 5 months away. Is this BS? Or is it reasonable?

Me thinks it’s undiluted BS.

Sajeev answers:

Usually, usually, replacement OEM parts have a modest warranty that’s significantly shorter than the original coverage for a new vehicle.  It is usually 1 year.  This aftermarket vendor provides the usual 1 year warranty of replacement battery packs, too.

But if the service manager said there is no warranty after 8 year/80k miles, he probably knows better than all of us. I Googled to find the warranty duration of the OEM, Genuine Honda replacement battery packs and found…nothing. Not on the Hybrid forums, not on Honda forums.  Then again, I won’t be depressed if someone hyperlinks their way to beating me at my game.

So what’s the final analysis? The warranty period is moot, OEM replacement parts are rarely warranted for longer than a year. And that battery pack will last longer than a year: making the warranty pointless. Probably.

So who cares?

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Now forget about fancy-pants Hybrid parts we rarely encounter.  Many aftermarket (not OEM) auto parts are available with a lifetime warranty. This is good and bad.  The quality of lifetime replacement parts has improved in the past decade, if you shop wisely. My first and secondhand experiences with “Platinum” branded alternators from O’Reillys rings true.   You can still buy the “junk” alternator with the lifetime warranty, but for a mere $20-ish more…why would you?

If you like to work on your car and know that some replacement parts are better with the lifetime warranty because you will need a replacement 10+ years from now, avoid the OEM manufacturer part and go lifetime. I’ve cashed in several times (alternators, suspension wear items, ignition parts) thanks to my lifetime warranty paperwork, arriving at the store with 10-12 year old receipts.  The staff gladly accepts them, sometimes even complimenting me for being such a tightwad!

Well, at least it felt like a compliment…hmm!

 

 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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Ford Wants To Out-Hybrid Toyota. It Will Be Tough Slogging http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/ford-wants-to-out-hybrid-toyota-it-will-be-tough-slogging/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/ford-wants-to-out-hybrid-toyota-it-will-be-tough-slogging/#comments Fri, 03 May 2013 13:52:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487243

 

Ford is “seeking to challenge Toyota Motor Corp.’s dominance in gasoline-electric vehicles,” says Bloomberg.

According to the report, Ford “has rolled out the new C-Max hybrids and electric versions of its redesigned Fusion sedan in the past year to take on Toyota, which has dominated with its Prius hybrids since the early 2000s.” Some say, Ford already subjugated Toyota.

Ford left Toyota in the dust, says Seekingalpha, which reports that in April, Ford delivered “35,034 Fusion hybrids compared to the 3,257 Camry and 19,889 Prius hybrids Toyota moved. “ That of course is complete baloney.

U.S. Hybrid sales for April 2013
Mfr Model April YTD Share
Ford Fusion Hybrid 3,625 13,891 8.47%
Ford C-Max Hybrid 3,197 11,708 7.47%
Lincoln MKZ 884 1,607 2.07%
Total Ford 7,706 27,206 18.01%
Lexus ES Hybrid 1,237 5,276 2.89%
Lexus CT200h 1,171 4,416 2.74%
Lexus RX 400 / 450 h 688 3,113 1.61%
Lexus GS 450h 34 162 0.08%
Lexus LS 600h 15 63 0.04%
Lexus HS 250h 0 2 0.00%
Toyota Prius Liftback 12,432 47,413 29.04%
Toyota Prius C 3,486 13,351 8.14%
Toyota Prius V 3,372 11,897 7.88%
Toyota Camry Hybrid 3,257 15,691 7.61%
Toyota Avalon Hybrid 1,423 5,440 3.32%
Toyota Highlander Hybrid 495 1,865 1.16%
Total Toyota   27,610 108,689 64.51%

Nobody keeps better track of hybrid sales than our sister publication Hybridcars, which runs a monthly report. According to Hybridcar’s tally, Ford is far away from taking on Toyota. However, sales of Ford’s Fusion hybrid are up, whereas Toyota’s hybrid sales are mostly down.

Toyota’s Americas chief Jim Lentz blamed falling U.S. gasoline prices and said last month that Toyota may not reach its U.S. sales target for Prius hybrids of about 250,000 this year.

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BYD Seen Ditching Gasoline-Powered Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/byd-seen-ditching-gasoline-powered-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/byd-seen-ditching-gasoline-powered-cars/#comments Fri, 19 Apr 2013 13:32:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485524

BYD, the company we visited in yesterday’s story might ditch  conventional gasoline-powered cars and focus on electrics, Reuters says in an exclusive story,

Two senior BYD executives told Reuters that along with dropping gasoline-fueled cars, the company also might offload its solar panel business and concentrate on new greener battery technologies.

BYD will unveil its Green Hybrid Technology at the Shanghai auto show on Saturday. Reuters sees BYD focus on hybrid cars, with a smattering  of  all-electric and ‘plug-in’ electric hybrid cars thrown in.

The story caused raised eyebrows and snickers among the auto executives that congregate in Shanghai for the auto show that will open its doors to the press tomorrow. Currently, EVs and hybrids sell only in homeopathic quantities in China. I am in Shanghai, and we’ll see what develops.

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Lexus To Launch Small SUV Below RX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/lexus-to-launch-small-suv-below-rx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/lexus-to-launch-small-suv-below-rx/#comments Fri, 05 Apr 2013 15:38:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483739

Lexus will launch a RAV4-based small crossover, intended to compete against the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Automotive News claims that the new crossover will be a hybrid and debut at the Geneva Auto Show, with a concept premiering at November’s Tokyo Auto Show.

The new crossover may not make it to North America. The compact premium SUV segment is very much a European-centric segment – for now. The success of the X1 may cause Lexus to change their minds about the new baby crossover

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