All-electric SUV Gets Social Media Launch
The newest e-Tron (joining the A3 e-Tron plug-in hybrid) is Audi’s first purely electric vehicle, which the company is showing it off in a unique way. Before it was shown at the Geneva Motor Show, nearly 250 of the prototype development vehicles were turned loose on the streets of Geneva wearing a stunning (electrifying?) design film. Audi invited people who saw the cars to post their photos on www.e-tron.audi, too, using the #etron hashtag, making it an audience participation event.
Hiding in plain (Off) Site
The spacious, five-passenger prototypes are part of a test fleet that will travel to four continents to accumulate more than 3 million miles in all kinds of climate conditions, in temperatures from a freezing -4 degrees to a roasting 122 degrees. They’re going to use every kind of charger, public and private, to make sure customers will have a smooth experience moving into pure EV motoring.
This is a good practical idea, but also creates some great marketing opportunities. The specially designed camouflage highlights rather than hides the new vehicle’s styling and helps create more buzz. Read more about how Audi’s designers came up with the special look for these prototypes.
Some Hints of Detail
The car’s official uncamouflaged introduction is slated for later in the year. Although official stats weren’t given, the e-Tron Quattro’s concept shown earlier claimed to have a range in excess of 300 miles with a 95-kW battery pack, using three electric motors with a total output of 320 kW. You’ll be able to top off the battery in less than half an hour using 150-kW fast-charging facilities.
The Audi e-tron badging was not camouflaged
The e-Tron Quattro should be available in Europe later this year, debuting on August 13th at the Audi Summit in Brussels, the site of the factory where it will be assembled. It will compete initially with the Tesla Model X and Jaguar i-Pace in the luxury EV crossover segment. Audi plans more EVs in the next several years, including two more by 2020, and will field a wide assortment of 20 EVs and plug-in hybrids by 2025.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Luxury EV SUVs
News: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace Electric SUV Revealed
News: Jaguar I-Pace: A Concept Becomes Real
News: Jaguar I-Pace Electric Concept Hits the Streets
First Drive: Tesla Model X P100D
Road Test: 2016 Audi A3 E-Tron
Geneva Motor Show First to See Entry-Level Lexus SUV
Lexus introduced its all-new UX subcompact crossover at the Geneva Auto Show yesterday. Slotted at the bottom of the brand’s expanded SUV lineup, below the compact NX, it offers a new entry point to the brand, which offered the first luxury hybrid vehicle 15 years ago.
The vehicle sits high, but it’s not intended for traveling off pavement, although all-wheel drive is available. The small SUV is aimed at people in their 30’s—youthful, but with families and things to haul.
Lexus fills out its crossover lineup
The 2019 Lexus UX will come in two versions when it arrives at the end of 2018. The UX 200 employs a new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 168 horsepower running through a new Direct-Shift continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Hybrid Version Coming
The model Clean Fleet Report is most interested in is the UX 250h hybrid, which uses the same engine as the UX 200, but combines it with Lexus’ fourth-generation hybrid drive system.
From the inside, the outside is just beyond
The Lexus design language, the now traditional spindle grill, is apparent in this vehicle. However, it uses a new block pattern, with shapes that change gradually as they move away from the center. So, it looks different depending on where you view the car from. In the rear, full width tapered taillights use 120 LEDs to create a unique nighttime signature for the baby Lexus crossover.
Inside, Chika Kako, the chief engineer of the UX, used ideas from Europe to create a clean, uncluttered look. The UX features new materials and textures with a traditional Japanese look, including a trim finish inspired by Japanese washo paper. There is also a leather option for the upholstery that mimics sashiko, a customary Japanese quilting technique used in martial arts uniforms.
An Inside/Outside Blend
There’s a Japanese housing concept that blends the inside with the outside, which Lexus evokes in the UX. The instrument panel appears to connect directly to the hood when viewed from the inside or the outside of the car.
Lexus jumps into the hot subcompact SUV segment
Based on the new Global Architecture–Compact (GA-C) platform, the UX boasts the lowest center of gravity of any vehicle in its class. It’s highly rigid, too, while the front MacPherson struts and rear double-wishbone suspension are tuned for smooth and not-so-smooth city streets.
The UX 250h’s new-generation hybrid system blends the engine and a motor to achieve a projected 176 horsepower. There’s a new compact and lightweight transaxle and power control unit. The nickel-metal-hydride battery and cooling system are tucked under the rear seat, so they don’t take up any valuable passenger or cargo space.
In the UX 250h, Predictive Efficient Drive combines three new technologies to maximize efficiency. Predictive Efficient Drive analyzes your driving habits and predicted road conditions to optimize hybrid battery charging and discharging. Predictive Deceleration Support monitors driver behavior and can tell when the car is likely to slow down or stop. Then, it increases regenerative braking for more efficient energy recovery and recharging of the battery. Predictive State of Charge control for the hybrid battery works on downhill roads and in congested traffic to predict the route when the navigation system is being used.
There’s a new high-efficiency 17-inch, five-spoke wheel available. It was designed using computer simulations and wind tunnel testing to increase airflow to cool the disc brakes without compromising the car’s aerodynamics.
Lexus will offer the F Sport option with either trim level. It brings in special suspension tuning. You also get unique exterior styling, including the F grill mesh, fog light bezels, a different rear bumper, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, sport seats hold you in place and the instrument panel features the F Sport moving outside ring design. The steering wheel and shifter wear dimpled leather covers, and aluminum pedals shine on the floor.
The subcompact crossover segment is growing, and the UX will make Lexus very competitive there. Pricing and fuel efficiency information for the UX 200 and UX 250h will be released closer to the end-of-the-year on-sale date.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Other Lexus Models
Road Test: 2018 Lexus GS 450h
News: Lexus Reduces Hybrid Pricing
Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h
Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h
News: 2018 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid
Road Test: 2017 Lexus NX 300h
News: 2018 Lexus LS 500 & 500h Debut
Lexus Also Announces the New RX 450hL Sticker
Lexus has decided to make its hybrid SUVs more affordable. Prices for the popular NX and RX hybrid versions are now much closer to the prices of the non-hybrid models.
The Lexus RX 450hL arrives in a couple months–at less of a premium
How much closer? The NX hybrid is now only $950 more than the gas-only model; it carried a $3,035 premium last year. The gap between the larger RX hybrid and non-hybrid has been slashed from $5,280 last year to only $1,025 for 2018.
How did they do it? Hybrid models used to come not only with the additional electric motor and battery pack, but also contained more standard equipment than the gas-only models. For example, the 2017 RX 450h featured navigation, a 12-speaker audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and leather-trimmed seats. Now, the distinguishing factor is just the hybrid platform itself.
This change benefits customers and the company. Lower prices make it easier for people to get into a hybrid, which should increase sales numbers. This, in turn, adds to the hybrid mix in the product, which helps Toyota meet more stringent CAFE fuel efficiency requirements. In addition, higher volumes should help Toyota reduce the cost of hybrid components and batteries.
New 2019 RX 450hL Hybrid is Coming this Spring
The new RX 450hL three-row hybrid, which arrives in April, will start at $51,615, including delivery, Lexus announced. The all-wheel-drive crossover puts out 308 combined horsepower from its 3.5-liter V6 combined with two electric motors. The price is only $3,000 more than the gasoline-only RX 350L, which is front-wheel drive.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy: More Lexus News & Reviews
Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h (John’s view)
Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h
Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h (Steve’s view)
News: 2018 Lexus RX 450hL Hybrid Introduced
Road Test: 2017 Lexus NX 300h
News: 2018 Lexus LS 500 & 500h
Our First Time Behind the Wheel of the Hot Little Tesla
The Model 3 brings the Tesla magic to a smaller, more affordable package. However, the car isn’t in press fleets, so it’s been hard to get any time with one. Luckily, a friend of mine shared hers with me on a sunny Saturday morning.
The friend connection gave us a chance to experience one of the hottest new cars
The car looks a lot like its big brother, the Model S. The designers managed to capture the same flowing shape in a foot-shorter package. The grill-less nose resembles a Porsche, while the taillamps are generic-looking, lacking the chrome garnish of the S. My white Tesla Model 3 Long Range wore satin finish chrome trim and the optional 19-inch wheels.
Not a hatchback, the Model 3 has a rear trunk, but it looks roomy. The “frunk” in the nose would easily accommodate some modestly proportioned soft luggage. What you won’t see at either end is a motor or other technical component—as it rarely needs service, it’s tucked away.
The Inside Story
Stepping inside before our test drive, I was impressed by the overall quality of the car. Tesla doesn’t use animal-based leathers, so the seats and steering wheel feel good, but there is no new-car aroma. The Model 3 seats are comfortable and supportive, and felt that way from the moment I sat down in the driver’s chair.
You can adjust the seats (manual standard, electric with the Premium package), and as with pretty much everything else, the central screen becomes a storage repository for those settings. The screen is so critical that even the glovebox opens only with a virtual button on the screen.
The steering wheel contains two little balls at the thumb positions. These have multiple uses, depending on which item you’re attempting to control. You can adjust the outside mirrors and steering wheel this way, for example, as well as the typical audio volume and station selection.
The Sky Above
Covering the entire rear half of the car is a stunning glass roof. The glass over the driver and front passenger is only part of the premium package. None of the glass opens, but it certainly lets the world in.
The front seats are supportive–and the back ones seemed low
The gleaming piano black center console pops open to reveal a rubber surface that will hold two cell phones. Press them onto the charger and they connect to the car. Below this panel is a deeper storage bin. My friend says the surfaces are magnets for fingerprints.
In the rear, the seat is surprising low, with a short cushion. Despite providing sufficient legroom, is not very supportive for long distance travel. That’s likely the price you pay for the car’s low, sleek profile. It’s a sedan, not a crossover or hatchback, much lower than, for example, the Chevrolet Bolt.
A Minimalist Dash
The dash is stunningly plain, with a wood veneer strip and slim vents behind the big center panel. The vents themselves are adjustable from the center screen, and you can use your fingers to configure where the air is going, which is kind of fun. You only see the slot, so the air is distributed more subtly.
Only one big distraction here
I found that the screen’s center-mounted position means you’re less likely to consult it underway—or pay attention to speed, for example. But at 15 inches, it is big enough to show you a lot at a glance, and the UX design is state of the art.
The steering column stalks have basic functions only, with the center panel serving up most controls. The left stalk controls windshield wipers and washers, but you can configure more on the screen. Windshield cleaning is completely automatic by default. The right stalk controls the automatic transmission settings. If Autopilot is engaged, pressing D (Drive) twice initiates it. However, this car did not have Autopilot enabled, as the owner didn’t add $5,000 to get it included, and there apparently are some software updates to come to make it fully operational.
More Central Control
Audio controls, like everything else, are accessible from the center panel. The current selection appears on the lower strip of the right side, under the navigation system map. Swipe up to enlarge the panel, and you can choose from a wide variety of digital channels, as well as FM and the contents of your phone. Many blends and specialized stations appeared, although I didn’t spend time experimenting with them. The sound was excellent, although I don’t know the brand or the size/quality of the speakers, which were tucked away unobtrusively.
One screen to rule them all
The doors open electrically with a small button at the top of the grip—it would be easy to miss it. The window drops slightly first, and then you can push the door open and step out. The door panels are quite plain compared to the Model S. This is an area where mass production necessitates simple, straightforward components.
Out on the Road
I placed the gear selector into D and pressed lightly on the accelerator and off we went. Driving someone’s personal car meant I was especially careful. We drove down the street and made a right onto a residential road. I tried pressing harder on the pedal, and the car moved out vigorously. While the Model 3 doesn’t feature a “ludicrous mode” like the S and X, it is good for 5.1 to 5.6-second zero-to-60 times. The steering is taut, and you can change direction with barely a touch. The suspension is firm, so the car feels planted. A big battery below the floor keeps the center of gravity low on electric cars like these.
We jumped on the freeway, where the car took off, as you’d expect. With its optional 310-mile range, the Model 3 should be a willing long-distance traveler, although the superchargers are not free for it, as they are for the Model S and X. The standard Model 3, out later this year, will feature a 220-mile range battery, which is still good for most local travel and competes closely with the Chevrolet Bolt.
The Model 3’s efficiency is beyond reproach. The EPA gives it ratings of 136 MPGe city/123 highway/130 combined. The Greenhouse Gas and Smog numbers are perfect 10s, as expected. You can’t really do better than that today.
Big and little Tesla side-by-side
My friend also has a Model S, so I could compare the cars side by side; I even drove the Model S briefly after my Model 3 test drive. Both cars have the quick acceleration you’d expect from an all-electric vehicle, although the S is more dramatic, about a second faster zero-to-60. The swirling shapes featured in the Model S’s interior are not part of the Model 3’s more straightforward, linear inside. The Model 3’s relegation of all displays and controls to one centrally mounted panel is completely different, too, as the Model S supplements its huge vertical center screen with a traditional instrument panel display.
Dimensionally, the Model 3 measures nearly a foot shorter nose to tail than the Model S, on a wheelbase that’s just 3.3 inches shorter. It’s four inches narrower, too. Tesla weights vary depending on battery size and features, but this 3 is more than half a ton lighter. The Model S has 30 cubic feet of storage versus the Model 3’s 15, and the S’s hatchback is more practical.
The real difference is in the feel. The Model S proudly wears the mantle of a luxury sedan while the Model 3, not as much. The screen-oriented user experience creates a “car of the future” ambiance, but the layout and presentation are not as impressive. The plainness is reminiscent of a new Volvo, with less bling.
The Price & Visible Flaws
However, that’s easily attributable to price. A new Model S 75D starts at $74,500, while the Model 3 starts at just $35,000. However, you can’t order the base car now, because all of the first batch of Model 3s have the long-range battery (310 miles vs. 220) and Premium Upgrade. You can also opt for special paint (anything but black costs extra) and the gorgeous 19-in wheels. In fact, I saw another friend’s configuration screen for his Model 3, and for now, it’s basically a choice of color and wheels.
Model 3 fit-and-finish looks like a work in progress
My Tesla Model 3 Long Range test vehicle came to $52,500. With enhanced autopilot, it would be an additional $5,000.
The Model 3, however impressive, is not without flaws. If you look closely, there are some slight fit and finish alignment issues inside and out that are not expected in a car with a price above $50,000. While these are not deal breakers, they show that as the company takes on the Herculean task of building a car in larger volumes, some items are simply not getting done as perfectly as they are on a brand-new Kia.
Style–and substance–and work to do
While I only spent an hour and a half with the car, part of that time behind the wheel, I was impressed at how smooth and strong it felt, its quietness, and how enjoyable it was to drive. The styling is quite nice on the outside, while the interior proved comfortable, if subdued. With a hatchback and the smaller battery for $35,000, the Model 3 would be an impressive direct challenger to the Chevrolet Bolt, new Nissan Leaf and other EVs to come.
One thing to think about, though. My friend told me that research had shown that for many Model S buyers, their Tesla purchase was a stretch—much higher than they had ever spent before on a car. I think some Model 3 waiting list dwellers will take the plunge and go for the car, warts and all, even if it’s a bit out of their comfort zone. There’s emotion in the Model 3.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy: More Model 3 News & the Chevy Bolt Competition
News: First Tesla Model 3 Deliveries
News: Tesla Model 3 Production Starts
Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt
Personal: One Year with the Chevrolet Bolt
Because we know you’re curious, Steve’s photo collection from test drive is below:
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.
Third Gen’s a Charm
The Equinox compact crossover has been a big hit for Chevrolet, but the latest model is hitting new high marks for fuel economy. With nearly two million sold since its debut in 2004 as a 2005 model, the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox represents a third generation after a long life for the second (2010-2017). It’s one of five Chevrolet crossovers/SUVs.
You’ve seen this look before, but not in a high-mpg compact crossover
If you like the look of the Chevrolet Malibu, Cruze, and Volt, you’ll appreciate the Equinox’s new design. It’s sharply drawn, but thankfully, not overdone. The latest chiseled brand face is there, as is a multi-faceted hood and a high, straight shoulder that mimics the look of big brother Suburban and Tahoe. Though all-new, the vehicle still evokes the general feeling and proportions of the old model, which is a good idea, considering its success.
Inside, you can see the influence of the siblings as well. There’s lots of movement along the dash and doors, with black control panels and silver accents, and chrome sparkles on the vents and handles. The center of the instrument panel provides useful information straight ahead. The speedometer, common today, goes up to an unattainable 160 mph.
Lots to like in the Equinox interior upgrades
The fat, leather-wrapped steering wheel is GM standard, but that’s a good thing. It flaunts lots of handy buttons for controlling audio and other features, so you can keep your eyes on the road.
There are two USB ports in the front of the center console for using and charging devices. You can plug in your phone and see it projected on the 7 or 8-inch center screen, thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Part of the goal of the new Equinox, besides to look fresh, is to increase efficiency, which is why about 400 pounds was taken out of this model. It still comes in at between 3,274 and 3,682 pounds, but that’s significant nonetheless.
The Equinox’ interior can take you long
Crossover vehicles like the Equinox are very popular today, because they combine the higher-riding, greater-hauling, cooler-looking SUV experience with a comfortable-riding car platform. The Equinox has a firmness to the ride that feels just right, and the leather buckets are comfortable for commuting. I didn’t have a chance to take this one on a long trip, but it looks well up to the job.
This compact hauler comes in four trims—S, LS, LT, and Premier. And there are three engine choices, too, all of which are turbocharged. The base engine is a 1.5-liter four with 170 horsepower (hp) and 203 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. My Cajun Red Tintcoat tester was a top-level Premier, but had this base engine. You can step up to a 2.0-liter four with 252 hp and 260 lb.-ft. It may not appeal to you, but if you’re interested in a diesel, a new 1.6-liter unit is optional, with a mere 137 hp, but a hearty 240 lb.-ft. of torque. Diesel is surrounded by controversy today, after the revelations of malfeasance at VW, but it offers higher fuel efficiency and range for certain applications.
Options are many, but you’ll want to check out what you can get in the center stack
The 1.5-liter four seems up to the job in this car. It was unmemorable, but didn’t leave me feeling let down, either. The existence of the 2.0-liter option means you can get added grunt if you know you’re going to be carrying several passengers and cargo, which could affect performance significantly. The 2.0-liter engine is mated to a new nine-speed transmission, while the 1.5 gets a traditional six-speed.
My 1.5-liter-equipped tester earned EPA numbers of 24 city/30 highway/26 combined. Those are not bad stats. Green numbers are a pair of 5’s for Smog and Greenhouse Gas.
You can choose front-wheel or all-wheel drive in this crossover. The all-wheel drive system automatically disconnects from the rear axle when not needed, for greater efficiency. Having this choice means that if you live in sunny California and are not planning on skiing, you can skip AWD and save a few bucks while improving your miles-per-gallon numbers by two.
Options, There Are More Than a Few
There’s a vast set of safety features, many standard and some optional—too many to list here. See http://www.chevrolet.com/suvs/equinox-compact-suv for details.
Let’s not forget what crossovers are all about–space
Pricing starts at $24.525 for the S model. My Premier tester had the base engine, but included the Sun, Sound & Navigation package ($3,320) and charged $395 for the Cajun Red paint. The package does include a power sunroof, 19-inch wheels, MyLink Navigation and a Bose Premium seven-speaker system, so the total came to $39,040. That’s one pricey compact crossover.
The all-new Equinox is truly North American, built in Canada with a U.S-sourced engine and transmission and 40 percent Mexican parts. It’s a very important entry in the growing compact crossover segment, battling the two perennial favorites, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, as well as the popular Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, and the rest. With this introduction, Chevrolet’s fleet is looking very fresh.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy—the Competition
Road Test: 2018 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
Road Test: 2017 Ford Escape
First Drive: 2017 Mazda CX-5
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.