Road Test: 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD

Road Test: 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD

7 Seats, Best-in-Class Fuel Economy

A few years ago, Clean Fleet Report reviewed the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and reported it received the EPA’s best-in-class fuel economy rating for a seven-passenger SUV. Interestingly, even though the fuel economy numbers between the 2014 and 2018 Highlander Hybrid have not changed much, it retains the crown for being the most fuel-sipping of this large breed of family haulers.

Drivetrain

The all-wheel-drive (AWD) Toyota Highlander Hybrid is powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, consisting of a 3.5-liter, 24-valve double overhead cam (DOHC) gasoline-powered V6 engine combined with the front 123-kW and rear 50-kW electric motors. There is a total system 306 horsepower running through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Outstanding in its field of seven-passenger SUVs

The Dynamic Torque Control AWD system electronically adjusts from the normal front-wheel drive mode to all-wheel drive. This activates the rear wheels when there is heavy acceleration or tire slippage is detected, as in driving on ice and snow. Through multiple sensors, it actively measures speed, steering angle and other factors to govern the torque distribution to the rear wheels. When the steering wheel is turned and when accelerating, the Highlander Hybrid automatically shifts into AWD to prevent wheel slippage. I tried under rainy conditions to feel the transition from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive, but it was far too seamless.

To maximize fuel economy, Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric motor and gasoline engine, and gasoline-only engine power. The transitions are smooth and can be monitored by viewing the dash gauges. Fuel economy for the 2018 Highlander Hybrid is rated at 29-mpg city/27 highway/28 combined. Running on regular unleaded, I drove 255 mostly highway miles and averaged 27.1 mpg. With the 17.1 gallon tank my driving distance could have been 460 miles.

The nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery is charged through the regenerative charging system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge, where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The Highlander Hybrid is easy to drive, with a smooth ride that was unaffected by Southern California’s grooved concrete freeways. In our 2014 Highlander Hybrid review we noted at times on the highway it would begin to float when the road undulations and rhythm were just right. This was not the case with the 2018 version, so it appears Toyota’s engineers have been busy.

The steering was a bit on the light side. If it were stiffer, it would not compromise any of the ride attributes and would lead to more road feedback and feel. The Highlander Hybrid accelerates smoothly, with some good oomph thanks to the combination of the V6 and twin electric motors.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Most of the Highlander chrome comes up front

The Limited Platinum AWD trim level comes standard with 19-inch Chromtec wheels. These very attractive wheels had a machine-cafe alloy gunmetal grey finish and were mounted with 245/55R all-season tires. Traction was good, but hard or spirited cornering revealed understeer and body lean. Not having any low gears, the Highlander Hybrid is not considered a true off-road SUV. However, it does have eight inches of ground clearance with hill start assist just in case you get stuck off the pavement.

Stopping comes from Toyota’s Electronically Controlled Brake System (ECB) that incorporates regenerative control and power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD). The stops were straight and consistent, but the brakes at first were touchy and grabby, and I could feel the regenerative system strongly, so it took some experimentation to get used to the brakes.

When driving a hybrid, I like to select the option of EV mode, especially around town, forcing the car to run solely on electric power. The Highlander Hybrid has this option, but the driving range in pure electric mode is short. Plus, when in EV mode, only the slightest accelerator pedal pressure kicked-in the gasoline engine. Being able to hold the car in electric mode for a longer distance and at higher speeds would be a nice feature to add.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Highlander Hybrid features smooth surfaces with soft lines and edges. The curved nose includes wrap-around LED projector-beam headlights. The smoked-chrome accents around the headlights are a nice touch. The roofline, which is near-flat, has chrome rails and had a panoramic power moonroof. It ends with a spoiler over the rear hatch window, which flips up. There are very few chrome bits and pieces; what is there is found on the large front grille, accenting the side windows and on the rear lower fascia. Be sure to look for the blue on the front and rear Toyota logo badges, which signifies this Highlander is electrified.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report was driving the Limited Platinum trim level, which nicely lived up to its name. If you can imagine an interior feature or treatment that should be on a car, then it is there. The Highlander Hybrid has seven seats, (the non-hybrid models can seat eight). The power 12-way adjustable driver seat, with memory and lumbar, was heated and ventilated. The front heated and ventilated passenger seat is four-way adjustable. The second row are Captain’s Chairs (no second row bench seat is available in the hybrid) and the third row is a 60/40 folding and reclining bench seat. The second row passengers also get integrated side window shades, climate controls and folding armrests with cup holders.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Plenty of room–and tech–in front

The Highlander Hybrid infotainment comes through Toyota’s Entune system with its App Suite, which includes voice command navigation through an 8.0-inch high resolution touch-screen. Excellent sound comes from the premium JBL audio system with 12 speakers to deliver SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM with MP3 playback capability. The AM/FM is a cache radio, which is a nice feature, and the SiriusXM service is included for the first 90 days. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and hands-free phone capability.

The cockpit design is driver friendly, except for one big concern. When I was comfortably sitting in the driver seat I was unable, at 5’ 9”, to reach the channel knob on the far right side of the radio, without leaning forward and to the right. I had a 6’ 1” friend try it and had the same result. This obviously is a design issue that Toyota should remedy as anytime the driver does not have both hands on the steering wheel is a bad thing. To compound this, is not being able to change one radio

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Maybe too much room–reaching the center stack controls is an issue

station at a time using the steering wheel mounted controls. The way it is now, toggling the switch gets the next, up or down the dial, preset station. You can hold the switch down firmly, which takes you through the channels one at a time, but at a fast speed. So fast that it pretty much eliminates going from Sirius 18 (The Beatles) to 19 (Elvis) without having to reach for the channel knob and taking your hand off the steering wheel. Toyota is smart, they will figure this out.

Otherwise, the gauges, including the hybrid management system, are in easy sight and the controls are in easy reach, including those for the tri-zone automatic temperature system. The heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel contains audio telephone and voice controls. The roll-top center console has a lower area that is huge and can swallow-up pretty much anything you want to store away to be out of sight for security reasons.

Convenience and Safety

Convenience and safety features on our Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum included an adjustable power lift gate with a rear wiper, cargo-area cargo tie-down hooks, a very handy in-dash shelf that had an opening for charging cables to pass through, reading lights front and rear, power windows with front auto up and down, power door locks, five USB ports, two 12V power outlets, folding heated power side mirrors with puddle lamps, multiple cup holders and an auto-dimming Homelink equipped rearview mirror.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The middle seats in the Hybrid continue the luxury & tech theme

Another very unique and handy feature was activated by a dash-mounted button, left of the steering wheel—the Bird’s Eye View camera with Perimeter Scan. By pushing the button, the scan gives a top down 360º look at anything that may be in the Highlander’s surrounding area. You will come to rely on this nifty feature.

The Highlander Hybrid is well-equipped with active and passive safety features including eight air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, rear view camera, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD has a MSRP of $48,280. Clean Fleet Report’s total price, including the $224 carpet floor and cargo mats came to $48,504. Pricing excludes the $995 delivery and fee.

The 2018 Highlander Hybrid comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain Five years/60,000 miles
  • Comprehensive Three years/36,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Complimentary Maintenance Two years/25,000 miles
  • Hybrid-related Component Coverage Eight years/100,000 miles

Observations: 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD

The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the most fuel efficient of the seven-passenger SUVs. With a redesign that took place in 2017 and carries-over to 2018, the Highlander is more contemporary and in line with the fierce SUV competition. The interior is very comfortable, especially for long trips and outings. The carrying capacity makes for ease of luggage hauling on those long trips.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The Highlander Hybrid continues to lead its class in fuel economy

If your family has grown to the point where a vehicle of this size your needs, then by all means visit your Toyota dealership and have them walk you through all the features and options. Make sure to ask for a Toyota factory-trained specialist, who will explain the hybrid technology in detail.

Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!

In order to give you the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Road Test Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid (Steve’s view)

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Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (Steve’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (John’s view)

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

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

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius V

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

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Prius (Steve’s view)

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Prius (Steve’s view)

First Drive: 2016 Toyota Prius

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Highlander 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, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles 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.

Flash Drive: 2019 Infiniti QX50

Flash Drive: 2019 Infiniti QX50

New Engine Tech Hits the Highway

Infiniti brought world media members to Los Angeles in mid-January to learn about and drive the all-new 2019 QX50. When Infiniti says all-new, they mean it, as there is no carry-over from the outgoing model.

2019 Infiniti QX50

New outside, but it’s what’s inside that counts

While there are many design changes on the 2019 QX50, the most important technology advancement is the all-new VC-Turbo, the world’s first variable compression engine. Automakers make all sorts of claims about being first and the best, but when Infiniti explained in detail the 20 years of engineering that went into the VC-Turbo, and then let the media drive the QX50 hard through mountain terrain, we became believers.

The 2019 QX50 midsize crossover is only offered with the VC-Turbo power plant, with “only” not being pejorative in any way. The 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine has 269 horsepower and a very useable 280 pounds-feet of torque that spools-up for max performance between 1,600-4,800 rpm. But what exactly is a Variable Compression Turbo engine, and what makes it so revolutionary?

  • What it does: The VC-Turbo engine has multi-link components and continuously adjusts the compression between 8:1 (greater power and torque) and 14:1 (greater fuel efficiency), so engine optimization is on an instantaneous need basis.
  • If the computer senses the need, the compression ratio can also adjust to 10.5:1.
  • How it does it: The VC-Turbo engine has a small electric motor mounted to the lower part of the engine. Connected to this motor is a harmonic drive with a control arm. When rotating, the control arm moves the multi-link system, which changes and adjusts the piston positions–and the corresponding compression. All this is going on seamlessly, at all speeds and all demands on the engine.

On the Road

As hard as I tried while driving (creeping) through Beverly Hills or on the Ventura Highway at 75 mph, and then through the Santa Monica Mountains with speeds varying from slow to high-speed corners, I was unable to feel the variable compression taking place, nor was I able to trick the engine into trying to find the correct compression for my driving style. The smooth turbocharger, as

2019 Infiniti QX50

The revolutionary variable compression engine offers the best of both worlds

well as the direct and port injection, played a big part in how well the VC-Turbo performed. This is a wonderful engine.

VC-Turbo fuel economy, compared to the outgoing 2018 QX50 with the V6 engine, nets a 35-percent bump in the front-wheel drive model. EPA fuel economy ratings for the FWD are 24 city/31 highway/27 combined and 24/30/26 for the AWD model, making the QX50 a candidate for Clean Fleet Report’s 30 MPG AWD Club.

2019 Infiniti QX50

Infiniti’s style team kicks it up a notch

The premium-fuel engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in both configurations. The shift-by-wire CVT allows for manual shifting and is programmed to simulate a six-speed automatic with shift points. Infiniti lets the driver choose exactly how they want their VC-Turbo and CVT to perform with four Drive Mode options–Standard, Eco, Personal and Sport.

The Eco mode is best for open highways, where the engine and transmission can maximize fuel economy. Standard is for everyday around-town driving, but Sport is where the 2019 QX50 comes to life. Selecting Sport offers the most spirited driving, adjusting the engine to deliver higher power and torque. With the optional Direct Adaptive Steering set to Dynamic+ you get the most responsive steering available. I tried all the settings and, except for long highway runs, Sport and Dynamic+ are where I wanted to be. It was good fun pushing the 3,952-pound QX50 deep into corners, feeling confidence that the AWD system would grip and keep us planted to the road. Overall, the CVT worked as well as others on the market, which for some people is not saying much. For Infiniti, the CVT helps them achieve a smooth driving experience while maximizing fuel economy. I am sure there are some cost savings in the equation too. If you are an aggressive driver who is always pushing the limit, then the QX50 is not for you. However, if you are using the QX50 for what it was designed to do, then you will find the CVT to be to your liking.

New Design: In and Out

Styling on the 2019 Infiniti QX50 is sleeker and more contemporary than the previous model. The noticeable visual detail from the side is the kink in the D pillar. Infiniti has had this on several previous SUVs with different levels of design success. On the 2019 QX50 it looks right and is a positive design feature. Moving from a V6 to an I4 engine allowed for more front-end space, with the interior benefiting.

2019 Infiniti QX50

The cockpit is what you’d expect in a luxury crossover–plus suede

Carrying the Infiniti name and reputation means the QX50 is a premium crossover. The interior gets an update with the top trim levels including quilted seats and suede trim. It all works very nicely. All the operating systems, such as infotainment and power-everything are all there, and will be described in detail when Clean Fleet Report has the all-new QX50 for a week-long test drive. Suffice it to say that, if you want something on a new car, it is to be found on the QX50.

Technology Abounds

Along with the suite of advanced driver assistance technology, new on the 2019 QX50 is ProPilot Assist, which Infiniti repeatedly stressed is NOT autopilot. This system is hands-on and, when engaged, aids the driver keeping the QX50 centered between lane lines and can even bring the car to a complete stop in an emergency. Until the day comes where cars are completely autonomous, consider systems like ProPilot Assist to be very advanced cruise control that can reduce driver stress and fatigue while in stop-and-go traffic, or on long distance drives.

Observations: 2019 Infiniti QX50

Infiniti got the 2019 QX50 right, starting with contemporary exterior styling and premium interior materials. Size-wise, it is small enough to whip around in-town, but large enough inside to carry five full-size adults. The base QX50 in FWD starts at $36,550 and the AWD version starts at $45,150. Options, tax and destination fees will be extra.

2019 Infiniti QX50

It’s got style & tech to complete in this segment

Where Infiniti really did a great job is the all-new and first-to-market VC-Turbo engine. Twenty years of engineering innovation and development has resulted in an engine with diesel-like fuel economy, coming from a relatively small 2.0L engine that has a very useable torque band. It’s encouraging to see that gasoline-powered engines are still being improved upon.

For the family, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 will be perfect for everyday needs as well as long vacations. It’s priced competitively.

Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept  

Road Test: 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD

Road Test: 2015 Infiniti Q50

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, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles 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 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

The First Mainstream Electric Car that Can Go the Distance

Ever get the feeling Chevrolet is daring you not to buy an all-electric Bolt? With the average purchase price of a new car in 2017 being about $31,000, you can get into a Bolt with all tax credits and incentives (Federal and State) included, in the high-$20,000 range for the base model. Oh, and of course you will not spend a penny on gasoline or oil, nor will you have the regular maintenance associated with a gasoline-powered car. Sounds pretty good? So what’s not to like? Could it be an unfounded perception that an EV keeps you from going where you want to go? Or maybe it is not accepting the fact that a pure electric car will satisfy 90-percent of your driving needs and lifestyle. If you are like most people and drive solo or with one passenger, under 50 miles daily, the reasons to own a gasoline-powered car are decreasing daily. This is Range Anxiety debunked.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt goes further

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is fun-to-drive and quiet, but why shouldn’t it be? With no internal combustion engine (ICE) or transmission gears, the all-electric Bolt simply whooshes along with smooth efficiency at any speed.

238-Mile Range Technology

It is hard to believe that General Motors, known for big trucks and SUVs, would be the first full-line auto manufacturer to come out with an all-electric car that can travel 238 miles on a single charge. The EPA arrived at this number as the Bolt gets 110 MPGe on the highway and 128 MPGe in the city. MPGe is an EPA measurement of how far a car can travel, electrically, on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline.

Charging and Stopping

The 60-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged by the 7.2-kW onboard charger. A plug-in port offers three charging speeds. The batteries, going from discharged to a full charge, the approximate times would be:

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Charging three ways

  • 120V (Level 1)            20 hours
  • 240V (Level 2)           10 hours                 
  • 480V DC Fast Charging 90 miles of range in 30 minutes

Additional charging is through the regenerative braking system that converts braking or coasting into electricity that is stored in the battery. Driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour freeway traffic or coasting down hills will recharge the battery. The battery charge and mileage range are metered instantly by dash gauges.

The Driving Experience: On the Road

Powered by a 150-kW electric motor driving the front wheels, the 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque zips the Bolt around with great fun. Chevrolet claims a 6.8-second 0-60 time and 91 mph top speed. We matched the former but didn’t even attempt to get anywhere near the latter. At 3,560 pounds, the 2017 Bolt is quiet and smooth. The batteries located under the seats made for a sure-footed driving experience that truly shines in city maneuvers and around tight corners. Considering it comes with all-season, Michelin Energy Saver 17-inch tires that are designed for low rolling-resistance, Chevrolet designed the Bolt with a very good road feel. The electric power steering was not too light, and body roll, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, was predictable and minor. Highway 65+ mph cruising was solid and confident.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The batteries create road-hugging weight

There is a choice of driving modes that affects the regenerative braking. Selecting the Drive mode, the brake pedal is used as normal for slowing and stopping. But using the Low mode, you can control braking with your fingertips, which is a very cool and useful technology. Found on the left side behind the steering wheel is a paddle “shifter” that, when blipped, initiates regenerative braking. What is cool about this is, once you get the hang of it, driving around without using the brake pedal—even coming to a complete stop. This technique, called “one-pedal driving,” lends itself to getting the most electricity from regenerated braking, as fingertips are far more sensitive than a foot tromping on the brake pedal. It is an especially fun technique to master when driving on curvy roads as it gives the ability to slow with your fingers and accelerate with your foot.

A good handling car is nothing without good brakes. The Bolt comes standard with an anti-lock braking system, power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was aided by dynamic rear brake proportioning and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Chevrolet likes to say the Bolt is a small crossover. The EPA (which classifies all vehicles into categories) says the Bolt is a small wagon. Does the difference matter? To Chevrolet it does, as crossovers are hot sellers and wagons not so much. But if Chevrolet really wanted the Bolt to be a true crossover size, why didn’t they design it as such and eliminate any confusion?

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Non-stand-out styling

The Bolt has a very common hatchback design, a sloping roof-to-windshield-to-bumper profile, that has slim LED projector headlamps wrapping onto the fender, with LED daytime running lights in the lower fascia. The roof, with rack and side rails, never finds a flat surface as it gently arcs to an integrated spoiler over the rear hatch window. Large LED tail lamps wrap onto the fenders. From the side view, the window design is eye-catching and unique, with blacked-out B-pillars and just the lightest touch of a chrome accent strip. The Bolt is clean and looks smaller than it is, partly because of the visual perception from the wide-set wheel placement and the roof height.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Bolt interior gives a feeling of spaciousness, with four full-size adults fitting comfortably, or two adults upfront and three children in the rear. The big issue with the Bolt interior is the materials. There is an abundance of hard plastics and surfaces that should be soft, like the armrests and seats, which were, well, to be kind–hard. Recaro racing seats are firm: Bolt seats are hard. We even noticed the “leather appointed seats” were covered in a leather we had never seen before. For a $43,000 car (the top-of-the-line Bolt Premier model tested by Clean Fleet Report), the interior fit and finish was a disappointment. Also, the seven-shape shifting pattern of the console-mounted gear shifter made getting into reverse a stop-and-think-about-it process.

Now, onto what is good about the interior. The front seating position is higher than would be expected for what looks like a compact car. Sight lines are excellent. This is how Chevrolet came to the conclusion that the Bolt is a crossover, as all vehicles in this class raise the front seats to a road-commanding view height.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

An interior not quite up to its price range

All controls are within easy reach of the driver, including the 8.0-inch instrument cluster, viewed through the steering wheel, with a white background on the gauges making them easy to read. The 10.2-inch color touchscreen housed Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system (information and entertainment) that featured navigation and a Bose, six speaker AM/FM/HD radio and CD player, with USB slots. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (90-day trial included), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from Google. Other nice features are wireless device charging, assuming your device has this ability, rear charge-only USB ports, and a front storage area that can swallow a tablet or laptop.

The heated front seats are manually adjustable for height, sliding and lumbar. When combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, a comfortable driver position could be found. Especially noticeable was how far back the driver’s seat slides: no circus contorting for the six-foot plus crowd. The rear seats are heated in the outboard positions. Exterior road and wind noise were very low.

Storage space with the rear seat up, accessed through the rear hatch, is ample, but not as much as others in this class of EVs such as the Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen e-Golf and Toyota Prius Prime. If the driver and front-seat passenger are on a long weekender, the rear seat back splits 60/40 and lays flat, providing 56.6 cu. ft. of cargo capacity – large enough for a full-size bicycle. Additional storage comes in the guise of a false floor, that when removed, allows for the hauling taller objects.

Other features are a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, power windows with one-touch operation down/driver one-touch up, remote start, power adjustable and manual folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, and a multi-function car analytics and trip computer display.

Safety and Convenience

The Bolt Premier is well equipped with convenience features including power door locks, adaptive cruise control, automatic HVAC, heated outboard rear seats, wireless charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Maybe not sport, but utility

Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the one-year service plan expires it is well worth renewing.

The Bolt EV has 10 airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, forward collision alert, front automatic braking, lane assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist and rear parking distance control sensors.

Pricing, Warranties and Safety

There are two 2017 Chevrolet Bolt models.

  • LT                   $37,495
  • Premier         $41,780

Clean Fleet Report tested a Bolt Premier with option packages of DC Fast Charging, Driver Confidence II and Infotainment. That added $1,730. The MSRP of our test Bolt Premier was $42,635. All prices do not include the $875 destination charge.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt has not been rated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The 2017 Bolt comes with these warranties:

  • Complete Care – Two years/24,000 miles
  • Bumper-to-Bumper – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Electric Propulsion Components – Eight years/100,000 miles    

Observations: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier

New in 2017 and with few changes for the 2018 model year, Chevrolet says the Bolt EV is “every reason to drive electric.”  Clean Fleet Report agrees.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Leader of the pack

The Bolt has made it possible to go 238 miles on a single charge in a car costing about $30,000 after incentives are applied. Before December 2016, when the Bolt debuted, you would need to spend at least twice that amount for a vehicle with comparable range.

The Bolt is a comfortable and well-designed car, with good handling in a spirited all-electric driving experience. It is also practical in many ways, starting with the ability to handle a full week’s worth of 40-mile per day commuting without recharging. Notice we didn’t say using any gasoline? Well, that also drives home another practical point that zero dollars will ever be spent on gasoline or the usual maintenance that comes with an internal combustion engine.

Other mass market, five seat all-electric compacts that sell against the Chevrolet Bolt are the Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf, with only the Leaf joining the Bolt as a car that can be purchased in all 50 states. The Fiat 500e says it can seat five adults, but we have tried and it is more like four. The Tesla Model 3 can also seat five, but it will cost more than $50,000 when optioned equally to the Bolt Premier—and is still trying to deliver vehicles promised to those on the waiting list who have put down deposits.

With our only negatives on the Bolt being the interior, we are confident you can easily overlook these quirks to enjoy miles and miles of silent running, non-polluting electric driving.

All major auto manufacturers are announcing plans for electrifying their models, with an impressive number being released before the year 2025. In eight short years it will be nearly impossible to find a mainstream manufacturer that does not have a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV or hydrogen fuel cell. So, getting a Bolt EV now will set you up for that next generation of electrified cars that will cost around $35,000, but go 400+ miles on a charge. It is an exciting time to be a car buyer.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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New: Chevrolet Bolt: Your Price May Vary

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf Premium

News: First Tesla Model 3 Deliveries

Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

Road Test: 2017 Fiat 500e

Buyer’s Guide: Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt or other EV?

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, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles 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 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Playful Compact Crossover

The last time a Jeep was so popular in Italy was when the durable, go anywhere workhorse of World War II was helping liberate the country. Seventy years later, Jeep is making its mark again in Italy. The 2017 Renegade is built in the small town of Melfi, about 100 miles east of Naples, in the southern part of the country, near the Boot. So why the geography lesson?

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Does this make me look Italian?

The Renegade is built in the same plant, and shares much of the same pieces, as the Fiat 500X, a small crossover Clean Fleet Report found to be the best-looking and most versatile in the Fiat 500 family. So, we were curious how the Renegade would perform–it brought a smile to our face.

Introduced in 2015, Jeep enthusiasts were wary about this small Italian creature, wondering if it truly was a Jeep. As Clean Fleet Reported, at the time of its launch, Jeep engineers and designers were very involved with the Renegade’s development. So yes, it really is a Jeep.

Drivetrain

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4, equipped with a 1.4-liter turbocharged I4 engine producing 160 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque. If you want a bit more horsepower (180), but don’t mind a bit less torque (175), you can opt for the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated Tigershark I4 engine, with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Clean Fleet Report’s Renegade had a six-speed manual transmission that had a solid feel and went through the gears smoothly.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

From the nose, everything looks Jeep

Running on regular gasoline, the 1.4L Renegade has an EPA rating of 24 city/31 highway/26 combined fuel economy. Clean Fleet Report drove the Renegade 389 miles, with an even mix of highway, city and some mountain roads, and achieved a respectable combined average of 27.2 mpg. However, in two 100-mile freeway runs with the cruise control set to 65 mph, we achieved 32.2 mpg.

The 1.4L was smooth at both around-town driving and cruising at highway speeds. The 0-60 time of around 10 seconds was unspectacular, which is about the same as its competitors in this class of small crossovers. The benefit of having the six-speed manual was that when climbing a grade, downshifting to move the Renegade’s 3,210 lbs. was a relatively easy task. When revved pulling a grade, the engine was a bit buzzy, but this is not only to be expected but is normal.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report’s Renegade 4X4 was equipped with Kumho Crugen Premium 225/55R all-season tires. The Altitude trim level is noticeable for its “blacked-out” look. Our tester was the none-to-subtle Hypergreen Clear with 18-inch gloss black wheels. Maybe this Jeep should have been called “Attitude” because it certainly had a lot of sass just sitting still.

The Renegade line is designed to be equally capable for street and off-road driving, with the latter the special focus for the Trailhawk trim. The 1.4L turbo engine ran smooth and provide enough power when needed for getting on the freeway and zipping around in town. Handling was agile and great for getting errands done. The overall ride was refined to the point of not being reminded you are driving a small, all-wheel drive crossover.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Ready to get dialed in

The Renegade comes in FWD and 4WD. Clean Fleet Report’s 4WD Renegade used Jeep’s Active Drive system that sends power to the front wheels during normal street driving. If that surface gets wet or icy, then the computer automatically sends power to the rear wheels to assist in traction. Selec-Terrain and All-speed Traction Control also add to the Renegade’s stability. For more capability off-road, check-out the Renegade Trailhawk model.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive on a rutted, gravel road, which was not the most challenging test of how the Renegade can perform off-road. We did get a feel for the electric power rack and pinion steering, the McPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and the rear struts, coil springs and stabilizer bars, making for a very surefooted driving experience on steep hills and even muddy river banks. We were glad we did not need it, but were glad the Renegade was equipped with electronic roll mitigation.

Stopping was very good, confident, solid and straight through the single-piston front vented and solid rear rotor power-assist brakes. The Renegade comes with an anti-lock brake system, brake assist and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Renegade isn’t very long but is tall and wide, making for a roomy interior. It has lots of headroom and legroom in front, but the rear seat, while providing for three-across seating for adults, shorts them on legroom. For safety, the center rear seat passenger gets a three-point seat belt. Storage behind the second row handles a few bags, but expands nicely with the 60/40 rear seat laid flat. The Renegade had a nifty feature of a height adjustable rear cargo floor, which came in handy when hauling a taller object.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

A surprisingly comfortable interior

Access was easy through wide doors leading to a high driver and front passenger seat positions. Like the exterior, the Altitude means you get a blacked-out interior as well. Premium cloth front seats have Jeep branded mesh inserts and are six-way manually adjustable. If you opt for the Premium Leather Group, then the seats are power adjustable, including lumbar.

The Renegade Altitude’s dash is clean and straight-forward in design. Again, it is all blacked-out, save for the chrome accents around the radio and temperature wheels and the gearshift lever. Everything is laid-out in logical, easy-to-read locations. Our Renegade was equipped with the optional Altitude Package that includes a six-speaker sound system and a 6.5-inch color touchscreen for the Uconnect operating system with navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio (one-year subscription included)/AM/FM/CD/MP3/HD radio. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for audio, Bluetooth phone and cruise control that are easy to use on a system with a quick learning curve.

The Renegade Altitude had convenience features such as tilt and telescopic steering column, rear window/wiper, power windows with one-touch express up and down, power door locks, heated power exterior mirrors with turn signals, manual heat and A/C, front and rear floor mats, remote keyless entry, push button start, 12V power outlet, remote charge-only USB and AUX ports and multiple cup holders.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Renegade Altitude looks non-threateningly aggressive with the blacked-out trim and wheels. The round headlights offsetting the grill tells you it is a Jeep. The grill’s vertical bars harken back decades and the Renegade has absolutely no unnecessary cladding or chrome work. The hood and roof are near-flat, with an integrated spoiler shading the rear hatch. There are several little hidden design gems–Easter eggs–on the Renegade, including the “X” pattern in the rear taillights, that go all the way back to WWII and the gasoline jerrycans that were strapped to the side of an open-air Jeep. Take a few minutes to peruse the Renegade for more Easter eggs, hint: front windshield.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

It’s middle name is “utility”

A cool feature was the My Sky Open-Air sunroof that consisted of dual, manually removable panels, opening the Renegade to the sky. The panels when not in use are stored in a padded bag.

Safety and Convenience

The 2017 Jeep Renegade has been rated by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), earning Four Stars overall. Our Renegade was equipped with eight airbags, a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, tire pressure monitoring system, tire service kit (no spare tire), brake assist, hill start assist and cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude has a base price of $23,495. Clean Fleet Report’s test Renegade had the Customer Preferred and Navigation Group packages and the My Sky Open-air Sunroof options for a total MSRP of $27,037. All prices exclude the $1,095 destination charge.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Remembering from whence they came

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

In many little ways

All 2017 Renegade models come with these warranties:

  • Basic Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain Five years/60,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Fun and easy to drive. On and off-road capability. Seats five adults. 30+ mpg on the highway. Just quirky enough to get attention, but no derision. All for under $24,000 base price.

Jeep has four different Renegade models to choose from, each offering something a bit different. This nifty little (I had one woman say it was “cute”) on-and off-roader just might be what you need to liven-up your life.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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Road Test: 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

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, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles 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 Hyundai Tucson Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Tucson Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Three Million Miles and 1,140 Tons

Miles to where and tons of what?

Hyundai announced recently that its 2017 Tucson FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) reached some pretty lofty numbers. Since being introduced in 2014, 150+ Tucson FCEV have been delivered to customers and have driven in excess of three million miles. In the process, they have only emitted clean water from the tailpipe, which has replaced more than 1,140 tons of CO2 emissions compared to the same number of miles driven in a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.

2017 Tucson Fuel Cell

The only crossover that emits water

Sounds great, and it is, but with a few caveats. First off, you need to live in California to be part of Hyundai’s hydrogen program. You then need to prove you live near one of the state’s 33 hydrogen fueling stations. Then you have the opportunity to lease (not buy) a Hyundai Tucson FCEV. Why all the restrictions, because heck, isn’t hydrogen the most abundant element on Earth? Yes, it is, but with a few more caveats.

Converting hydrogen from its natural state into a fuel is an expensive process. Oil companies have not jumped onboard with any semblance of enthusiasm to produce hydrogen as a transportation fuel in mass quantity, nor investing in building retail hydrogen fuel stations, which cost about $1.2 million dollars each. From the oil company’s standpoint, why should they go to the expense when there are so few hydrogen-powered cars on the road (only 2,298 were sold/leased in 2017)? Hyundai, Honda and Toyota (the three auto manufacturers that currently build and market consumer hydrogen vehicles) respond that, how can we get more cars on the road with so few stations? And sales in 2017 did double from the previous year. A true conundrum for our times.

So while these companies are trying to figure which came first – the chicken or the egg, let’s take a look at the merits of the Hyundai Tucson FCEV, one of the three fuel cell vehicles on the market, and see if having more stations will get you into one.

Hydrogen Power: On the Road

The 2017 Hyundai Tucson FCEV Clean Fleet Report tested for a few days had a 95 kW AC synchronous motor producing 134 horsepower and 221 pounds-feet of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the fuel economy to be 50 mi/kg (miles per kilogram of hydrogen) for combined city and highway, with an estimated 265-mile driving range. About that driving range–don’t test it unless you know for a FACT you will be near a hydrogen fueling station when the tank is getting low. Because, if you run out of fuel, your next call will be for emergency roadside assistance and a ride home on a flatbed. Something else about when it is time to refuel: make sure to do it before the tank is empty as there is a detailed process to get the hydrogen system operating again, which can only be performed by a factory-trained technician.

2017 Tucson Fuel Cell

The cockpit of the Tucson FCEV is as comfortable as the gas version

Out on the road, the Tucson was stable and unaffected by Southern California’s grooved concrete freeways. The grooving is for rain dispersion so tire noise in any car is common, and the seams between the concrete sections can, if hit at the right sped, produce a rhythmic thumpity-thumpity-thump. The Tucson, with 17-inch alloy wheels, 215/60R tires and electronic stability control, delivered handling that was direct with little body roll, even though it’s an upright crossover design. There is nothing sporty about the Tucson but, then again, Hyundai does not market it as a sporty car. Excessive wind noise was not an issue, making the silent electric motor even that more enjoyable.

The Tucson’s battery is replenished through the regenerative braking charging system. This technology converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and electric motor. The regenerative brakes made solid stops with a system consisting of power assisted discs, anti-lock brakes (ABS), brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

Hydrogen Fueling

After your first visit to a hydrogen fuel station, you will be a pro. Start by going to The California Fuel Cell Partnership website to find stations that are on your driving route. Since there are so few, you will come to memorize their locations quickly. Stations are open 24/7 and unattended, but there is a toll-free number to call for assistance. A drawback is that the stations are not always operational, so it is imperative to check the website often.

2017 Tucson Fuel Cell

Fueling is simple, once you’ve done it more than once

Once at the station, the fueling process is explained through a video that plays on the pump and a sign with step-by-step instructions. Quick lesson: The nozzle notches into the car, followed by the twisting of a handle to lock it in place. It can be a bit tricky. Be patient, it will eventually fit. If there are two pressure options on your pump, you always want to select 70 Bar, which is 10,000 psi. The filling will start and stop for a few seconds at a time, but a complete fill is under five minutes. When removing the nozzle, you will notice it is cold. This is because the hydrogen gas is cooled to right around zero degrees Fahrenheit to increase the hydrogen’s density, which results in more gas filling the tank. That’s it! Take your receipt for your free fill-up (more on that free gas later) and off you go.

Free? Yes, free! Since Hyundai will only lease the Tucson FCEV, they include the hydrogen fuel in the lease.

Crossover Interior Benefits

The 2017 Tucson can seat five full-size adults, with the rear passengers getting good head and leg room, a 60/40 split rear seat and a center armrest with cup holders. The front and rear leather covered seats are heated. The driver’s front seat is power adjustable, with lumbar support. Comfort-wise, the seats are firm and, for the driver, finding a good driving position is helped by the power tilt and telescopic steering column.

Gauges are large and well-placed for viewing. The largest element of the dash is an seven-inch high-resolution touch-screen color display, housing the  navigation and rear view camera. The 360-watt, with subwoofer, infotainment system was AM/FM/SiriusXM/HD Radio equipped, along with CD and MP3 capability. There is also Bluetooth streaming, iPod and auxiliary audio jacks and an USB port, all controlled hands-free by the controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. The audio system has knobs for volume and channel selection, something Clean Fleet Report requires for a sound system to get an A+ grade from our discerning staff.

Pricing

The 2017 Tucson FCEV comes in one model, with no options other than exterior color. All Tucson FCEVs are leased, which is what you want to do with any battery electric or fuel cell car as the technology is changing so rapidly that ownership is not the way to go. The current lease offer is $2,999 at signing and $499 per month, for 36 months. Remember that all your fuel is included and, in California, fuel cell cars qualify for the coveted HOV lane sticker that allows a single driver to use the carpool lane.

2017 Tucson Fuel Cell

The hydrogen tank is packed away in the crossover’s rear

Safety, Convenience and Warranties

The 2017 Hyundai FCEV has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, it is well equipped for safety with front and side-impact airbags with rollover sensors and the carbon-fiber hydrogen fuel tank is virtually bulletproof. The gasoline version of the Tucson received a 5 Star (top) rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Convenience features include remote keyless entry, push button start/stop, power door locks and windows, dual automatic climate control with clean air ionizer, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror with Homelink and compass, heated and power outside mirrors and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The 2017 Tucson FCEV comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain 10 years/100,000-miles
  • New Vehicle Five years/60,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Anti-perforation Seven years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2017 Hyundai Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Hydrogen is listed first on the periodic table. Good being first, but there is a reason as hydrogen has a near unlimited abundance. Capturing it and separating it into hydrogen gas is an expensive proposition.

2017 Tucson Fuel Cell

The Tucson is about to be replaced by the Nexo

Hydrogen currently sells for around $10 per equivalent to a gallon of gasoline. To run a FCEV versus a plug-in electric will cost about four times as much, varying based on your cost of electricity. To sweeten the deal, Hyundai includes all the fuel over a three-year lease, so you do not need to be concerned with the price of hydrogen gas. Just fill ‘er up and go!

Is the Tucson FCEV right for your lifestyle and driving pattern? If you are looking for a car with the most useable interior space among all fuel cell vehicles, the Tucson is it. The crossover has an excellent reliability record and will cost nothing to operate, so it may be a good option. Of course, the real deciding factor is where you live. If you are reading this outside of California, you will have to wait awhile before hydrogen fuel cell technology comes to your state.

What’s Next from Hyundai

Late in 2018, as a 2019 model, Hyundai is releasing an all-new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the Hyundai Nexo is a striking, small SUV that continues Hyundai’s exclusivity of offering a fuel cell vehicle in the most popular vehicle category. Since the Honda Clarity and Toyota Mirai are sedans, Hyundai has placed themselves in a strong position to gain buyers, especially as the hydrogen fuel stations increase in number.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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