News: Uber/Lyft Riders Giving Up Cars–Poll

News: Uber/Lyft Riders Giving Up Cars–Poll

Ride Services Appear To Be Driving People Out of Their Cars

This may not seem like news because it’s been conventional wisdom for so long, but up to now there has been little documentation of a decline of car ownership due to new ride sharing mobility apps.

car sharing future

If you can always get a ride, do you need to own your own car

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll published this month (May 2017) has defined the shift everyone has been talking about for years. Nine percent of those polled had given up their cars and shifted to exclusively using ride services. Another similar percentage said they planned to do the same in the coming year.

This may be less than 20 percent of a portion of potential new car buyers, but the impact has the potential to blow up the old model of automobile purchasing. And the fear of automakers is that this may only be the tip of the iceberg as different mobility services roll out (some, ironically, coming from the automakers themselves).

New Cars for Services May Not Replace Them

One possible upside of the mobility services is more frequent purchases of cars by the drivers for the services, who will be putting on more miles, and therefore needing to buy new cars more often. By the aggregating nature of the mobility services, it is clear that the app world will not create more sales than the traditional model.

Reuters quoted Lyft Director of Transportation Policy Emily Castor as saying the survey was “early evidence” that its vision of a world where personal car ownership was unnecessary was beginning to take hold.

Survey Details

Is Ridesharing Eco-Friendly

The number of personal cars may be shrinking

As the first survey of this type, there is no basis to tell if the number of car-droppers is growing, but future polls should be able to illuminate that trend.

The survey did find that 39 percent of Americans had used ride services and that 27 percent of that group used the services several times per week.  The poll was conducted online in English April 5-11, 2017. It had responses from 584 people who said they disposed of their personal vehicle within the past 12 months and 566 people who said they planned to get ride of their personal vehicles in the next 12 months.

The poll had a five percent margin of error. It should be interesting to revisit the subject next year–and the year after.

First Drive: 2017 Mazda CX-5

First Drive: 2017 Mazda CX-5

Mazda Keeps Upping the Ante in its Most Popular Car

2017 Mazda CX-5, kodo design

Kodo design makes its point

Mazda is a little auto company, but it’s got an oversize presence among those who value driving for pleasure and appreciate engineering that backs up that pleasure. We had a chance to do a brief drive of revamped 2017 Mazda CX-5 at the Western Automotive Journalists’ 2017 Media Days program (among the several cars we experienced there).

As Mazda’s best-selling model, the CX-5 crossover has the burden of leadership. For Mazda, that means taking its Kodo design themes to new places and incorporating 250 changes for the 2017 revamp. The exterior changes are not readily apparent unless you put a 2016 model next to the new 2017, but interior upgrades and some of the under-the-skin technology mark a real change.

Brief Drive Confirms–It’s All Good

We only had a brief drive in the new CX-5, but we threw it at a 1200-foot hill known as Laureles Grade, which also included plenty of turns up and down, so we had a chance to fully experience the slightly improved horsepower of the 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine and the new G-Vectoring Control system. The 2017 Mazda CX-5 delivers what we’ve come to expect from Mazdas—good road feel, responsive steering and enough power throughout the band to give you confidence to respond to the challenge of a classic Monterey Peninsula road.

2017 Mazda CX-5

Ready for the road

Along with all of these great performance characteristics, Mazda hasn’t forgotten about fuel economy. Even with all-wheel drive, the CX-5 can produce 30 mpg+ on the highway. In our short drive we bested the 26 mpg combined rating from the EPA. The official numbers on our model were 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway/26 combined. The front-wheel drive model bumps the city number by one mpg and the highway number by two.

Mazda’s move to push the CX-5 into a more upscale mode was evident. We drove the topline Grand Touring model, which featured all the bells and whistles that are becoming more common throughout the modern automotive world. The other two levels are the base Sport and the midlevel Touring, both of which are available as either front- or all-wheel drive. Prices start at $24,045 while our fully-optioned Grand Touring topped out at $34,380 including the $940 delivery, processing and handling fee.

Three Trim Levels Available

2017 Mazda CX-5,engine

The Skyactiv engine gives good torque

All three levels get the same engine and transmission—the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv-G that features 187 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque mated to the Skyactiv six-speed automatic transmission. The result is a nice, flat torque curve that gives you responsive power throughout the drive cycle.

Similarly, you’re don’t have to upgrade to get a better suspension package—standard throughout is an independent front MacPherson strut and independent rear multi-link suspension, augmented by stabilizer bars at both ends. Also standard are power-assisted ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes. Add to that an anti-lock brake system with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, dynamic stability control, a traction control system, hill launch assist and the new G-Vectoring Control, part of the Skyactiv vehicle dynamics system.

The Inside Story

In the interior, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring provides plenty of room for five and reasonable storage behind the rear seat for gear. Leather adorns much of the interior at this level and everything’s powered and heated. As an example of the trim options—the Sport’s four-speaker sound system adds two more speakers at the Touring level and tops out with a Bose-branded 10-speaker one in the Grand Touring model. Of course, as is the case in most cars, a full contingent of connected infotainment features are included. Mazda continues to please us by including buttons and knobs to control the key elements and also steering-wheel mounted controls on all trim levels.

2017 Mazda CX-5,interior

Mazda moves upscale but keeps the important stuff–like knobs

One feature that is optional at all levels (and was included on our tester) was the Active Driving Display, a head up display system. It was fine, except that it disappeared if you were wearing polarized sunglasses. Radar cruise control, a feature we really like, is also included on the Grand Touring (optional at the Touring level but not available on the Sport).

We’ve like the Mazda CX-5 in the past and think it matches up well with its compact crossover competition. This year Mazda has thrown down the gauntlet to those competitors to step up their style game and sharpen their driving skills. We suspect we’ll have even more kind things to say when we have the change to spend a little more time in the 2017 Mazda CX-5.

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Road Test: 2017 Kia Sportage

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

A Fresh Kind of Hybrid

You may think you know what a hybrid car looks like. But with the all-new 2017 Kia Niro, you’re wrong. Eschewing the hunkered down Prius look, the Niro is a remarkably handsome compact crossover, but still earns the kind of fuel economy numbers that are the reason why people buy hybrids.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

A complement to the outside

This new car fits right in with the other Kias, from tiger nose grille floating in a dark surround to the alert, swept-back headlamp pods to the vents on the front wheelwells. Along the sides, a gentle lower half slice adds strength and movement. The roofline stands clean and uncomplicated. The rear flows from convex to concave, with the horizontal taillamps pulled just out from the surface for definition.

The inside complements the outside with simplicity and cleanness. The grained plastic sports a little bit of padding to keep it from feeling cheap. In my Silky Silver top-level Touring model, the leather seats were heated and cooled and the armrests, seats and leather steering wheel all featured stylish stitching. It’s a dignified, classic look, welcome to the eye when compared to some of the more radical approaches today.

Under the Hood

Every 2017 Kia Niro, from the entry level FE to the LX to the EX to the Touring, gets the same combination of a 1.6-liter gas engine, 43-horsepower electric motor and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. These components are mounted together and provide 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque to motivate the 3,274-pound Niro.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

The Kia Niro advantage

As a hybrid, the Niro uses battery storage for the electricity it regenerates from braking. There’s no place to plug in, but the 1.56-kilowater-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery, tucked under the rear seat, doesn’t get in the way of people or stuff, and works hard enough to give the car its excellent fuel economy. Numbers wise, with carbon emissions of 207 grams per mile, the Niro has half the environmental impact of the average U.S. vehicle.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

Dual power under the hood

Fuel economy numbers for the Touring are impressive. My test car carried EPA ratings of 46 mpg city/40 highway/43 combined. You know what I got for a week’s worth of driving? 43.8 mpg! The FE model, lighter and more efficient, earns an even 50 mpg combined.

The EPA green scores are 8 for Smog and 9 for Greenhouse Gas. Granted, the fuel economy numbers are a little below a Prius, but it sure is pretty. And, with its crossover proportions, the Niro can carry 54.5 cubic feet of cargo and some pretty comfortable passengers, too.

Inside Goodies

My topline tester featured a crisp-sounding Harman Kardon premium audio system, made more accessible with your choice of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. High-tech electronic equipment includes blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, and a front and rear parking assist system.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

Some classy detailing

Kia brags that this is a “fun” car to drive and, compared to a regular hybrid, they’re not kidding. Although the new Prius features an all-new platform and has more responsiveness, the Niro doesn’t feel like driving a hybrid. The engine and motor provide adequate oomph and don’t make a racket doing it, the steering feels responsive, and the dual-clutch transmission shifts quickly. There’s a Sport mode that allows a little delayed shifting for when you get off the freeway and onto the quieter, curvier back roads.

This isn’t a luxury car, but it’s remarkably quiet. Kia spent time and energy insulating the cabin. With more than half of the frame in advanced high-strength steel, weight was kept down. Some visible and hidden aluminum components also reduce pounds.

Some Kia are now assembled in the U.S., but the Niro hails from Hwaseong, Korea. However, the design originates from Kia’s Irvine, California, studios, which may explain why the Niro looks so right on American roads.

The Bottom Line

You can pick up the FE for as little as $23,785, but my top-level Touring came to $30,545, with inland freight and handling added in.

Kia has created a sub brand called EcoDynamics to encompass its green offerings. It plans to release lots more members of the collection, which now includes the Optima Plug-in Hybrid

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

The indication of a new direction for Kia

and Soul EV all-electric model. They plan to offer a plug-in hybrid Niro, which could double the hybrid’s fuel economy number, if my experience with other plug-in hybrids is any guide.

The Kia Niro received a Guinness World Record last December for the lowest fuel consumption driving across the United States (hybrid car). Two guys from Carlsbad, California, and Williamsburg, Virginia, drove an unaltered Niro 3,715.4 miles and used only 48.5 gallons—just over four tanksful.  That works out to 76.6 mpg!

The 2017 Kia Niro is another step forward for Kia, which has come a very long way and is heading strongly into the future with more alternative technology offerings.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

The New, Improved Prime Plug-in

For years, Toyota has danced around electricty, perhaps fearful it would get schocked. But this year the company is back in the electric game (barely) with the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) based on the 2016 Prius Liftback. Plug-in hybrids are a strange lot that are beginning to be noticed. They attract buyers who want a longer distance of all-electric driving (and in some places perks like solo HOV lane access), but aren’t ready to jump to a full electric vehicle.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Styling cues from the fuel cell, but mostly just the familiar hybrid

Since its 1997 debut in Japan, Toyota’s Prius has become the gold standard of gasoline-electric hybrid cars. The origional four-door Prius subcompact sedan grew to become the compact-size Prius Liftback, then the automaker added the larger Prius V along with smaller Prius C and, for a short while, the Prius Plug-in.

With a fully charged battery the Prime can travel 25 miles of electric-only driving before seamlessly switching to the hybrid drivetrain. Combined, the Prime can travel 640 miles without charging the battery or filling the gas tank. In contrast, the Chevrolet Volt has double the electric-only driving range of 53 miles (but 420 miles of combined range). But that is not the only criteria for judging the two approaches to the same technology.

The Prius Prime has an EPA estimated miles-per-gallon-eqivalent (MPGe) of 133, the Volt comes in at 106 MPGe. MPGe is the government’s rating to try to help consumers understand how much energy an electric or hybrid car is using in combined city/highway driving. Also, the Prime achieves 54 mpg in combined driving when operating as a normal hybrid, whereas the Volt returns only 42 mpg combined.

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime comes in three flavors: Plus, Premium, and Advanced. The Plus carries an MSRP of $27,100; the Premium comes in at $28,800; and the top-tier Prime Advanced is $33,100. Prices are before an available federal tax credit of $4,500 and any potential state incentives.

New Hybrid Powertrain

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is the first Prius to use a dual-motor drivetrain. It adds a one-way clutch to motor-generator 1 (MG1) so that both electric motors now help drive the wheels. Previously, the MG1 just started the gasoline engine and took care of regenerative braking. Now, when operating as an EV, there are two electric motors powering the wheels, which increases electric driving range and improves performance.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime, engine

Something borrowed

Lift the hood and you’ll find that the Prime packs the same engine as the Prius liftback: a very efficient 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four making 95 horsepower. Combined with the electric motors, the hybrid system’s net output is 121 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 105 pounds-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm. That’s good for a 0 to 60 mph run of a little less than 11 seconds — just quick enough to merge onto a fast moving freeways with just a little sweat.

There are three different drive modes: HV mode combines the gasoline engine with electric power from the battery to drive the vehicle; EV mode uses the battery alone; and EV Auto Mode switches between the two for the most efficient drive, relying mostly on electric power but calling up the gas engine as needed.

HV mode slowly recharges the battery, but if you hold down the HV button for a few seconds, the car will use more of the gas engine’s power to charge the battery faster, up to 80 percent of its full capacity.

Within the three drive modes are three sub modes: Eco, Normal, and Power. The main difference between the three is acceleration. In Eco mode, there is a hesitation when you press the accelerator pedal, though it evens out as your speed increases. Normal mode feels… normal, while Power is the sharpest the three.

The 8.8 kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery pack located in the trunk area is double the size of the previous Prius plug-in model, and the pack now has a warming system. When plugged in, the battery will warm up so the vehicle can start in full EV mode even if it is freezing outside. A charge takes about two hours at 240 volts or less than five hours at 120 volts.

As with other plug-ins, the Prius Prime allows you to reserve your EV charge for later—for example, drive in hybrid mode for a highway speed journey and then switch to EV mode for in-city travel.

Prius Prime Has Different Styling

Although the Prime is essentially a regular Prius Liftback that plugs in, it boasts styling that is different and easily noticed. Up front, the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime borrows from the Toyota Mirai fuel cell car with bigger air intakes. It has a front grille that is blacked out in the center with LED foglight strips that are much longer than the ones found on the standard Prius.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime, seats

Room for four; families beware of this trim combo

Out back, the Prime’s taillights stretch across the top of the rear end and encircle the lower glass to form two C-shaped patterns. Additionally, the Prius Prime also has LED light clusters in the lower rear fascia that look like rear-mounted fog lights. Accommodating the larger lithium-ion battery meant turning the Prius Prime into a four-seater. To recoup some of the lost cargo space, the Prime is four inches longer than the base Prius. These design changes give the Prius Prime a bolder, sportier look compared to the regular Prius.

Inside the cabin is where you’ll find another key difference between the standard Prius and Prius Prime. Having only four seats was a major objection when Chevy’s Volt was introduced, but there’s been little said about the Prime missing a rear seat position.

The traditional top-of-dash mounted gauges are there so Prius fans won’t get confused by traditional gauge placement behind the steering wheel. But the kingpin of the cabin’s design and tech features is the large infotainment screen. The base model comes with a seven-inch touch screen, while all other Prius Prime trims feature an 11.6-inch screen in the center of the dash. An in-dash color display is a short cut you use to view much of the data that’s on either of the bigger displays, making it simpler and easier to read at a glance.

Four bucket-style seats are standard on the base Plus model as are: cloth upholstery, heated front seats, automatic temperature control, Toyota’s Entune audio system with integrated navigation shown on a seven-inch display screen, and a back-up camera. I found both front and rear seats were comfortable with plenty of leg, head and shoulder room for my five-foot, 11-inch frame.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime, dash, technology

A big distraction

As futuristic as the Prius Prime’s exterior styling is, apparently Toyota thinks it looks high-tech to have high-gloss plastic trim like an old Apple iPod along with white upholstery. My take is the white version will easily get dirty and stained, and not only that, the materials are not very rich-looking.

Note to families with young children: don’t buy a Prius Prime with a white interior.

Compared to the regular Prius, the Prime comes up short when it comes to cargo space. The rechargeable battery pack’s location not only removes several cubic feet of space, but also the spare tire, reducing cargo space to 19.8 cubic space. There’s still enough room for a grocery trip, and folding the rear seats opens up enough space to haul a small desk or bedside table.

Aside from a few accessories, there are no options for the Prius Prime. If you want more features, you buy more Prime.

A step up to the Premium trim gets an 11.6-inch HD display, synthetic leather seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat, Qi wireless smart phone charging and Predictive Efficient Drive, which collects data on daily driving behavior noting where the car slows down and stops the most often. The next time the car is driven to that point, it reminds the driver to ease off the acceleration and can even assist in deceleration to boost fuel economy.

The top-end Prime Advanced adds a heads-up display, LED fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, heated steering wheel, a tonneau cover for the cargo area, a JBL audio system with 10 speakers, radar cruise control, parking assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Neither Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are offered and, if your passengers are a crew of techies, they’ll have to take turns using the USB port because there’s only one, even in upper-level models.

Driving the 2017 Prius Prime

Driving the Prius Prime, or any other plug-in or regular hybrid, changes the way I drive, as I can’t help getting sucked into chasing mpg. Speeding from point to point is out, replaced by going with the flow and embracing the slow lane. Pulling away with a feather-touch on the pedal means cars always drive in front of me in traffic. But I just let it go (sometimes begrudgingly) and accept I’ll reach my destination… a couple minutes after I would have, but pleased with the knowledge I didn’t burn extra gallons of fuel in the process.

I kept a close eye on the Prime’s gauges and found I got exactly the 25 miles of electric only driving in EV mode. Even with the battery depleted, driving in town in hybrid mode it was still

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

On the road, not so much fun

easy to mosey about on electric-only power before the gas engine kicked in. Overall, my days with this new plug-in saw 273 miles on the trip odometer with an average of 61.2 mpg of mixed city and highway driving.

The Prius Prime drives pretty much like a regular Prius, which is to say it is not a “fun” car behind the steering wheel. Once I got moving, the car pretty much felt like driving a comparably sized gas-powered hatchback. Shuffling between power sources remained as seamless as always, but on occasion, stepping on the throttle would rev the engine and spin the CVT transmission without moving the car forward very much.

Tepid best describes the Prime’s acceleration, but in around-town driving the car was fairly responsive. Engine noise is well-surpressed, but at cruising speed wind noise was prominent and the hard tires designed for maxium fuel efficiency create excessive road noise.

The suspension struggled with the added weight of the larger battery pack, exhibited by exaggerated motions over rises and crests. And, I’m sorry Toyota, the double wishbone suspension may be “found on the best sports sedans,” but the Prius Prime is not agile.

My biggest complaint about our Prime Advanced car has nothing to do with how it performed its tasks, it was the huge 11.6 inch display screen in the center console. First—it was always on, making it a distraction. Second, the small virtual keys made it difficult to key in a destination. Third, I thought the voice control would take care of that issue, but no such luck.

I’m no Luddite, but for me the smaller screen with accompanying knobs that are easier to use would be my choice.

In The Marketplace

The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is not without competitors, starting with its most direct rival, the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt is a spunky plug-in hybrid with more off-the-line power and twice the electric range of the Prius Prime. While the base model is six grand less than the Volt, the top level Advance trim is about the same as the Volt’s $34,095 base price.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime,logo

Its biggest selling point

Ford’s two plug-in offerings, the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi, both have more driving feel than the Prius Prime, but their all-electric driving range falls behind with 19 miles. However, their base price gives the Fords a slight edge. Hyundai’s Sonata plug-in hybrid offers 27 miles of EV driving range and does so with a standard transmission that gives the car a more natural driving feel, but the base model is $7,000 more than the Prime. The Kia Optima plug-in hybrid mirrors the Sonata. And if you simply must have a Honda plug-in hybrid, one is on its way and will boast 40 EV driving miles.

If you’re a Toyota Prius devotee and want to move to a plug-in hybrid, you’ll likely buy a Prius Prime without comparison shopping.  If you’re open-minded, as you’ve just read, there are several choices.

What you will find is the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is unquestionably a great value from a tech perspective, offering more standard features than plug-in rivals with a lower price. The Prime, in all of its iterations, is a lot of eco-minded car for the money.

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Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime (John’s view)

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Comparison Test: 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid & Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Buy It Because It’s a Great Minivan; Love It Because It Plugs In

Chrysler invented the minivan back in the Eighties and it’s been a mainstay in the market until recently, when car-based crossovers added a third row of seating, bumped up their styling and fuel economy. The one-box design of the minivan has always been the height of functionality, but that was pretty much all it had to offer. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the serious challenge to the new status quo—a strong attempt by Chrysler to retake the high ground with a new approach to the category.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The first minivan that plugs in

At the Western Automotive Journalists 2017 Media Day program, we had our first opportunity to spend some time in the plug-in hybrid Pacifica. We came away quite impressed. Chrysler’s long history with the minivan shows. The result is a vehicle that we predict will become the new benchmark for the segment.

The heart of the Pacifica Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid powertrain designed to deliver unheard fuel economy for a big people hauler. The gasoline 3.6-liter V6 is pretty standard minivan fare, but in this case it routes power through an eFlite SI-EVT transmission (which includes two electric drive motors) and is paired with a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery. With that you get 33 miles of pure electric driving on a full charge. It defaults back to 32 mpg combined when just running in hybrid mode, light years ahead of its minivan competition. The MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent, which factors in the energy efficiency of the electricity coming from the battery) for the Pacifica is an even more impressive 84. With its combined electric and gas power the Pacifica should deliver more than 550 miles of range.

The hybrid powertrain is slick and clearly delivers some great fuel economy, but the smartest thing Chrysler has done is wrap it up in one of the best redesigns the minivan category has seen. Touches of luxury abound in the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum trim level (the entry-level Hybrid is the Premium, which means there are no bargain-basement versions. The Hybrid versions of the Pacifica start at $41,995 (plus a $1,095 destination charge), a $13,400 bump over the base non-Hybrid Pacifica. But if if you look through the option list, which includes an almost endless batch of technology and functional add-ons, it looks like the up-charge for the hybrid is closer to a couple thousand dollars. Our top-of-the-line test model topped out at $47,885 (including the destination charge), but it appeared to have every available option.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid,interior

Luxurious ride for a family hauler

One of the first things you’ll notice in the Pacifica Hybrid is counter-intuitive. In electric mode, you’ll hear more noise than you might expect. It’s not coming from the engine, but you’ll hear road noise that would normally be masked by the engine. It’s not loud enough to be annoying (Chrysler uses noise-cancelling technology to quiet the expansive interior of the minivan, but it’s unique to this model.

Steering is brisk in the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. It’s much more nimble than its girth might indicate. The four-wheel disc brakes with regenerative braking to feed energy into the battery work seamlessly; the regen is mild compared to some systems on the market.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

A stylish and functional redesign

The minivan’s safety technology, a Chrysler hallmark since it became the first company to add airbags throughout its lineup, includes some great modern equipment. Airbags cover all of the seven seating positions. The Pacifica features a 360-degree view camera, optional forward collision warning with active braking, optional parallel and perpendicular parking assistance, adaptive cruise control and rear cross path detection.

We look forward to being about to spend a week in the 2017 Pacifica Hybrid to check it out in a more extended drive, but this first spin definitely puts this family wagon squarely in the battle for the hearts and minds of those who have people and things to move and want to do it with maximum efficiency.

As a footnote we should acknowledge that this is not the first time Chrysler has added a plug to its minivan. Back in the 1990s it did a short run of all-electric versions of its minivan at the time labeled the TEVan. Less than 100 were produced and it disappeared pretty quickly, though Chrysler made another run with the next generation minivan (this one labeled the EPIC (for Electric Powered Interurban Commuter), but also abandoned it after a couple years. Both were offered for lease-only because of the early stage of the battery technology.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.