Posts from ‘Hybrids’
Note: See Consumer Guide Automotive’s detailed review of the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid.
I got into the Ford C-MAX Hybrid this weekend, and a number of things caught my attention—good and bad.
Most impressively, C-MAX is remarkably sprightly for a hybrid. It’s quick off the line, and power delivery is strong and smooth. Moreover, it has plenty of juice for merging and passing. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder/CVT powertrain is the same one that’s in the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which we’ve also lauded. Honestly, this powerplant feels nothing like the fussy, wussy hybrid engines of a few years back. It actually feels like a normally aspirated V6.
In more than 200 miles of driving, my Consumer Guide colleagues and I have averaged around 34 mpg in the C-MAX. That’s awesome for a car with such “go,” but it’s alarmingly low for a vehicle that is EPA rated at 47 mpg city/47 highway. We’re not the first to call out this discrepancy. In fact, it’s become a national story, and in April C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid owners in Pennsylvania sued Ford for false mileage claims.
Subaru is using the 2013 New York Auto Show to show off two vehicles that represent what officials call the “two sides of the brand.” One side is geared toward environment friendliness, the other toward high performance.
On the former front, observe the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid. The conventional XV Crosstrek launched for the 2013 model year. Essentially a Subaru Impreza Wagon with a raised suspension, the vehicle is similar in concept, but obviously smaller than, the company’s Outback station wagon.
The Hybrid looks almost identical to its all-gas-powered sibling. It shares the gas model’s lofty 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive. It has less than one cubic foot less passenger room and only about 1.5 cubic feet less cargo space. Both vehicles will use a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed “Boxer” 4-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Take these aspects out of the equation, and the Hybrid is actually quite different from the standard model. Engineers reworked the chassis to accommodate the hybrid system’s extra weight. As for that system, a 13.5-kilowatt nickel-metal hydride battery powers a 13-horsepower electric motor. This is smaller than other battery/electric systems. As such, this vehicle will run solely on electric power only in very specific circumstances.
Within about an hour of each other at the 2013 New York Auto Show, Nissan and its luxury Infiniti division launched a pair of gas/electric hybrid SUVs, the first such vehicles for each brand.
Nissan was up first and showed off the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid. Aside from discreet badges, you would be hard-pressed to tell that this vehicle was not a standard Pathfinder. Indeed, Nissan officials specifically mentioned that there was no sacrifice to passenger or cargo room when they designed this vehicle.
It was basically the same story over at Infiniti, which revealed the 2014 QX60 Hybrid. What’s a QX60? It’s essentially a renamed JX35. Infiniti is renaming all of its products for model-year 2014 and onward, bestowing the Q prefix on cars and the QX prefix on crossovers and SUVs. It’s supposed to promote unity and cohesion across the brand’s entire product line. It’s not entirely surprising that the company would go down this road, as its chairman was the former head of Audi.
In a previous post, we discussed the meaning behind MPGe ratings—which, essentially, are given to any vehicle that plugs into an outlet to recharge its battery. These vehicles are either all electric, such as the Nissan Leaf, or have both electric and gasoline powertrains, such as the Chevrolet Volt. In both cases, the cars can be driven a fair distance on just electric power.
One element brought up in the last post was that the “e” in MPGe stands for “equivalent,” and it’s based on the equivalent energy content of gasoline compared to electricity. The ratio that has been determined is that a gallon of gas contains the same amount of energy as 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. Keep that 33.7 number in mind.
The Nissan Leaf has a 24 kWh battery and can go about 73 miles on a full charge. According to the comparison above, that 24 kWh battery contains the energy of only about three-quarters of a gallon of gas. If we were looking at that in terms of a conventional EPA rating, it would equate to roughly 99 mpg. And that’s exactly the combined MPGe figure that’s on the Leaf’s window sticker.
Would they or wouldn’t they? That was the question regarding whether or not General Motors would give the green light to producing a car based on the seductive Cadillac Converj concept. As you can probably guess, that answer is a resounding “Yes.”
Enter the 2014 Cadillac ELR. The production-ready model you see here doesn’t actually look that much different than the Converj show car, which debuted at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. Even what’s under the sloping hood isn’t changed much.
Its underpinnings are basically those of a Chevrolet Volt. It has the same 1.4-liter 4-cylinder internal-combustion engine that serves as a generator for the 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Power gets to the ground via the Volt’s single-speed transmission. GM projects the ELR will offer 35 miles of all-electric driving range and more than 300 miles of total range when you factor in the gas engine. Owners can charge the battery from a standard household outlet or a 240-volt charging station. Using the latter, Cadillac claims a charging time of about 4.5 hours for a fully depleted battery. The included OnStar RemoteLink app for smartphones allows owners near-complete control over the charging process.
Toyota’s Lexus division continues its onslaught of updated products. Hot on the heels of significantly updated versions of its flagship LS and midsize ES and GS sedans, the company debuted the freshened 2014 IS premium-compact car at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
The 2014 Lexus IS sports a front-end design that mirrors the appearance of its larger siblings. Since this is a sportier car than the LS, ES, and even the GS, the look is a bit more angular and aggressive. Under the skin, Lexus claims that new welding and adhesives improve body rigidity and stability. Those wanting an even meaner look can order the IS F Sport, which includes a unique grille and front bumpers.
The car will return in base IS 250 and sporty IS 350 trim levels, each with the choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. A gas/electric hybrid called the IS 300h will be available, but not in the U.S. (at least not right now).
After much publicity regarding the brand’s change of nomenclature, Infiniti revealed the first model to carry the “Q” designation, the 2014 Q50 sedan, at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
As part of a new marketing effort to clarify the arrangement of the model lineup for new markets, the company will be rebadging all of its vehicles with new labels: Q for cars, QX for SUVs and crossovers.
The Q50 premium-midsize sedan will be available with two engine options: a V6 or hybrid powertrain. The V6 is a 3.7-liter unit that produces 328 horsepower. The Hybrid is composed of a 3.5-liter V6 paired with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack for a total of 354 horsepower. Both powerplants are paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission that comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Speaking of steering, the Q50 has a new available steering system that relies on electric motors to transmit the driver’s inputs to the front wheels. This is accomplished by interpreting the driver’s intentions and independently controlling each wheel to deliver the outcome the driver wants. A mechanical steering system is present, but works only as a backup. We assume it’s installed in case of an electrical power loss. Four different drive modes modify the effort required and steering gear ratio. Both powertrains are offered with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Following on the heels of the new-for-2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid comes its plug-in brother, the C-MAX Energi. Moving from a traditional hybrid to the plug-in variety allows for a certain amount of electric-only driving, but the transformation both giveth and taketh away.
The key component in the Energi is—as might be expected—a bigger battery: 7.6 kWh versus just 1.4 for the Hybrid. That power allows the Energi to travel about 20 miles on a full charge using just electric power before the battery is depleted and the gas engine starts up to help power the vehicle. However, the electric-only travel needs to be done with fairly leisurely acceleration (keeping up with commuter traffic is about the max). Anything more will force the gas engine to kick on to help, as the electric motor isn’t powerful enough on its own. Ford claims the Energi can travel at speeds up to 85 mph on electric power, but you have to be patient in getting there.
Once the battery charge is depleted and the gas engine starts, the Energi gets the same EPA fuel economy as its Hybrid sibling: 47 city/47 highway. Yet the biggest number on the car’s EPA window sticker reads “100 MPGe.” Why?
When we at Consumer Guide Automotive recently announced our 2013 Best Buy Awards, we bestowed Toyota’s entire line of 2013 Prius models as winners of the first-ever Editors’ Choice Best Buy Award. This honor recognizes them as the pinnacle in value, features, and driving experience among 2013 vehicle choices.
Below, the comments of CG editors shed light on why these Prius hybrids are a cut above the competition.
This “traditional” Prius (a compact car; hatchback) starts at $24,200 and is EPA estimated at 51 mpg city, 48 highway.
Says Damon Bell: “Obviously, the Toyota Prius is engineered for fuel-economy ‘uber alles,’ but darned if it isn’t sort of fun to drive, somehow.” Adds John Biel: “Nobody will mistake it for Cleopatra’s royal barge, even though it continues to cost a lot. But it remains an impressive accomplishment that’s continually being refined—and there’s no denying the clout its mileage figures carry.”
Toyota Prius c
The “c” stands for “city,” which means that this Prius (a subcompact car; hatchback) is smaller and more nimble than the traditional Prius and gets even better gas mileage. Starting at $19,875, it is EPA estimated at 53 mpg city, 46 highway.
In one of the most anticipated reveals of the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda pulled the wraps off the 2013 Civic.
We won’t blame you if you think this is a bit strange, considering that Honda redesigned the Civic for the 2012 model year. Though company officials won’t admit it, the changes to the 2013 model are largely in response to some unaccustomed criticism. Most of it centered around the car’s interior materials and noise/vibration/harshness (NVH).
The 2013 Honda Civic will return in coupe and sedan body styles. Coupes get slightly updated front and rear fascias. The Sedan’s changes are a bit more dramatic, with a redesigned front and rear end. The interior layout is largely the same as the 2012, but materials quality sees noticeable improvement. All models will now come with Honda’s i-MID dashboard screen, Bluetooth wireless cell-phone link, and the ability to stream Pandora Internet Radio from a supported smartphone.
Trim levels for the Coupe and Sedan include LX, EX, EX-L, and sporty Si. Exclusive to the Sedan are a gas/electric Hybrid, a version powered by compressed natural gas, and a high-fuel-efficiency conventional model called the HF. The entry-level Civic DX is gone.