Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

VW’s Versatile Hatchback Ups Its Electric Capabilities

Fun to drive and quiet–and I will buy dinner if you can find a tailpipe. Yeah, I know there are no tailpipes on an all-electric car, but sometimes stating the obvious is necessary to drive home a point.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

All Golf; all electric

The point is that the Volkswagen Golf line-up is well-known as fun-to-drive small hatchbacks that get excellent fuel economy. The Golf even comes in Hot Hatch GTi and R versions that take the driving experience up a few notches. So with all their worldwide success with the extremely popular Golf platform, why would VW offer an electric Golf? Drive a 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf and the reason becomes clear real, real fast.

e-Golf Technology

The e-Golf has become a favorite at Clean Fleet Report. Introduced in 2014 and unchanged through 2016, the 83-mile driving range was right in line with EV competitors at that time selling in the mid-$30,000 price range. In 2017, the e-Golf has upped the driving range to 125 miles with a very good 119 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent. 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 35.8-kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery is charged through the 7.2-kW onboard charger, which is standard on the 2017 e-Golf. Additional charging is through the regenerative braking system that converts braking or coasting into electricity. So 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.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Three charging level potential

The Li-ion battery is charged through a plug-in port offering three charging speeds. The batteries go from fully discharged to a full charge in:

  • 120V (Level 1)                    16 hours
  • 240V (Level 2)                   6 hours         
  • 480V DC Fast Charging  80% in 60 minutes or less

The Driving Experience

The 100-kW electric motor drives the front wheels, delivering 134 horsepower and 214 pounds-feet of torque that give the e-Golf a fun whoosh-factor. At 3,455 lbs., the 2017 e-Golf is quiet and smooth. The batteries are located under the seats, makes for a sure-footed driving experience that truly shines in city maneuvers and around tight corners. Considering it comes with all-season, non-performance 16-inch tires that are designed for low rolling-resistance, VW was careful not to dial-out too much of what the Golf is known for–a spirited driving car.

Road feel was excellent with rack-and-pinion electric power steering that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, and highway 65+ mph cruising was solid and confident.

Drivers have the choice of driving modes and regenerative braking force. The mode levels go from Normal to Eco and Eco-plus, progressively reducing performance as the electricity use is reduced. You learn pretty quickly that you can’t drive like a racer and expect the e-Golf to get far down the road. Smooth and steady is the prescription for maximizing the 125-mile driving range.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

You can “C” the e-Golf coming

While there is nothing too unusual about multiple, driver-selected drive modes, the new, very cool and useful technology is the ability to control braking by your fingertips. Found on the left side behind the steering wheel, a paddle shifter, when blipped once, twice and maybe a third time, progressively increases the regenerative braking. What is cool about this is that it is possible, once you get the hang of it, to drive around without using the brake pedal except to make a complete stop. This technique lends itself to getting the most electricity from regenerated braking, as fingertips are far more sensitive than a foot tromping on the brake pedal. There is also a driver-selectable B mode for the heaviest regeneration. I found putting the e-Golf into B mode when going down long declining roads, really had a positive impact–I could see the battery level and driving range increase on the dash gauge.

A good handling car, of course, is nothing without good brakes. The e-Golf comes standard with ABS (an anti-lock braking system), power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was also aided by the standard electronic stability control, brake-pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist.

Driving Experience: Interior

Golf’s interiors are known for their clean fit and finishes. Renowned for being German tight, the e-Golf has a good mix of soft and hard plastics, with the simple layout of all gauges uncomplicated by fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or other design gimmicks. Volkswagen says their “driver-centric design focus” begins with the center stack being angled towards the driver: a design feature usually found on more upscale cars. The white backlighting for the dash gauges also added a premium element.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The cockpit is driver-oriented–as is the whole car

The heated V-Tex leatherette front seats have better-than-average bolstering, with the driver’s side getting power adjustments for height, sliding and lumbar adjustment. There was a good choice of seat settings that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made a comfortable position easy to find. Especially noticeable was how far back the driver’s seat slides: no circus contorting for the six-foot-plus crowd. Visibility was excellent and exterior noise was deadened to near nothing. The center console has a height-adjustable armrest and storage area. Head, leg, elbow and shoulder room was accommodating, even for 6-foot-plus drivers and passengers.

Storage space, accessed through the rear hatch, is more like that of the largest midsize sedans. And, if it is only the driver and front seat passenger on a long weekender, the rear seat (with a ski pass-through) has a very handy system for lowering the 60/40 split seatback to an almost-flat position, providing 52.7 cu. ft. of cargo capacity–large enough for a full-size bicycle. Access through the rear doors was easy, with rear leg and head room accommodating for all but the tallest passengers.

Taking center stage on the dash of our SEL Premium trim level e-Golf was the eight-inch color touchscreen that handles the navigation and rear view camera. The centerpiece of the infotainment system is the eight-speaker sound system, delivering deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM/HD radio and CD player. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (a must for those fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music. Standard on all e-Golf trim levels is Volkswagen’s CarNet connected car technology that provides a seamless link between the car and an iPhone, Android smartphone or computer. Volkswagen says it “keeps you connected with your car even when you’re apart.” Now, isn’t that something we all dream of?

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The hatch can swallow a lot of luggage

Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. VW does a nice job of making it easy to operate the radio and dual-zone HVAC system, with the turn of a few knobs. The black dash has accents of chrome, aluminum and piano-black finishes, and a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and hand brake handle.

Other conveniences are rain-sensing windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles, power windows with one touch operation and pinch protection, keyless access, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding exterior mirrors, multi-function car analytics and trip computer display, multiple power ports, front and rear reading and ambient lights, and front and rear carpeted floor mats and rear air vents.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The Golf’s got some edges in its styling

If you are a fan of classic German design, the e-Golf will not disappoint. The front end leads off with a narrow grill, sleek Halogen headlights on the outer fender edges, all leading to the character line that extends to the horizontal tail lamps. A design element unique to the e-Golf are the “C”-shaped daytime running lights, which present an interesting look at night. The steeply sloped hood and raked windshield lead to a roof with a shark fin antenna and an integrated spoiler, ending with a large rear window with a wiper and LED taillights. This design is based on the MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture and has a “cab backward” look that gives it a lower visual center of gravity.  All this has created aerodynamic reduction with a drag coefficient of .027, placing the e-Golf with the likes of the Audi A6, BMW i8 and Nissan GT-R.

Safety and Convenience

All 2017 Volkswagen e-Golfs come with eight airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, Intelligent Crash Response System with forward collision warning, and the Automatic Post Collision Braking System. Clean Fleet Report’s SEL Premium had automatic LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, and rear parking distance control sensors, lane assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist.

Pricing, Warranties and Safety

There are three 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf models.

  • SE                           $30,495
  • Limited Edition   $33,795
  • SEL Premium      $36,995 (Clean Fleet Report’s MSRP)

All prices do not include the $850 destination charge.

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf has not been rated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, the gasoline-powered Golf received the highest ratings from IIHS as a Top Safety Pick, and a Five Star rating from NHTSA.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The e-Golf has some nice touches–like a blue door sill light

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes with these warranties:

  • New Vehicle: Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain: Five years/60,000 miles
  • High Voltage System: Five years/60,000 miles
  • High Voltage Battery: Eight years/100,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance: Three years/36,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation: 12 years/120,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

The e-Golf is a very comfortable and well-designed car. With great handling, a spirited all-electric driving experience and an intuitive interior, it lives up to its German heritage. The four-door 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf is the most solidly built of its direct competitors.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The most solid electric in this segment

Five seat all-electric compacts that sell against the e-Golf include the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Soul and Fiat 500e (though a little below compact size). Sales currently are limited to California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington D.C. If you live in one of these states then the e-Golf should be very high on your consideration list.

If you don’t live in any of these states and must have an all-electric car now, Clean Fleet Report gives high marks to the Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf, which are direct competitors to the e-Golf, but are available nationwide.

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

In order to give you, the reader, 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 Volkswagen e-Golf (Steve’s view)

First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI

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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, 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 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The Best Seven-Passenger Choice

Imagine a world where a sport utility vehicle did not exist and the words, “I am not a minivan mom!” never were uttered. Imagine a family yearning for a seven-seat vehicle that could also carry all their luggage, in comfort, in a vehicle that gets the best fuel economy in its class–with the majority of the around-town, family trips using no gasoline at all.

What kind of a world would this be? Except for the no SUVs, it’s one we can live in now with the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).

Hybrid Exclusivity

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the first and only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market. This does not mean it is best in class by default. This claim, and all the accolades that have been bestowed on the Pacifica, must be and have been earned. Let’s start with the fuel economy.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Reinventing the category they invented

The front-wheel drive Pacifica Hybrid has a powertrain consisting of a gasoline-powered 3.6-liter Atkinson cycle V6 and two electric motors, all mated to a nine-speed automatic. Using regular fuel, the total system combines for 260 horsepower. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates fuel economy at 19 mpg city/28 highway/32 combined, with an impressive 84 mpge, or miles per gallon equivalent. 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. No minivan can equal these numbers. Not even close.

Common on all hybrids is a regenerative braking system, which recharges the Pacifica’s 16-kWh Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. Regenerative braking converts braking or coasting energy into electricity. Driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour freeway traffic or coasting down hills will recharge your battery you’ll see an instant display of the battery state of charge and mileage range on dash gauges.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The advantage over every minivan on the road

The advantage of the Pacifica being a plug-in hybrid, is that when the battery is fully charged, the first 33 miles you drive produce zero tailpipe emissions. After this all-electric driving range is exhausted, the Pacifica is powered by the gas-hybrid system. A welcome addition would be for Chrysler to add a small generator that would replenish the Li-ion battery while you are driving in gasoline or hybrid mode. This way, you could choose when you want the ability to drive in all-electric mode.

Plug-in charging can be scheduled for off-peak hours to save on electricity costs. The 6.6-kW onboard charger will replenish an empty battery to the maximum 33 miles driving range in about two hours using a 240-volt, Level 2 charger. Expect about 14 hours with a 120-volt household outlet.

The upshot is that the Pacifica Hybrid has an estimated 570-mile total driving range. Not that you wouldn’t hear a constant cacophony from the rear seats of “Are we there yet?”, but you could drive San Diego to San Francisco with sixty miles to spare. Or maybe the family is going to a NASCAR race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and then hitting the road to Disney World in Orlando. Easy stuff, as those 525 miles are well within the Pacifica Hybrid’s driving range.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum, with an EPA curb weight of 4,987 lbs. At an additional 657 pounds more than the non-hybrid Pacifica, the batteries located under the floor are responsible for most of the increase. Coming in at about two-and-a-half tons, we were curious how it would ride and handle. As far as the ride goes, the Pacifica Hybrid is as smooth as would be expected, with wind gusts or passing big rigs not having any effect on stability. The electric rack and pinion steering was tuned to leave sufficient road feedback, but don’t go crazy taking corners like you would in a sports car. The Pacifica Hybrid cornered well and the easy-to-predict minor body roll was manageable. A low center of gravity, thanks again to the batteries being located under the floor, and the 235/60R/18 all-season Michelin tires providing excellent grip, made the overall driveability of the Pacifica Hybrid a pleasant experience.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The dash is clean and functional

Stopping was straight. The four-wheel power-assisted disc, anti-lock brakes, were easy to modulate. As part of the regenerative charging system, more aggressive regenerative braking can be achieved by setting the drive mode to the “L” position. Doing so results in feeling the braking more than if in the “D” drive mode.

Completing the stopping suite were brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control and Rainy Day Braking. Rainy Day Braking is a helpful technology that lightly applies the brake pads whenever the windshield wipers are turned on. This helps keep the rotors dry during wet weather for more efficient braking, aiding shorter and more controlled stops.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid retains the sharp, crisp design of the non-hybrid Pacifica, which was all-new in 2016. From the side and 3/4 views, the Pacifica Hybrid has a stance and silhouette that makes people say it doesn’t look like a minivan. The smooth exterior design, with a very low 0.30 drag coefficient (Cd), begins with LED headlights that extend wide on the fenders. Fog lamps are set low in the fascia, and chrome accents are kept to a pleasant and tasteful minimum.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

A power lifegate ends of the aerodynamic van

The windshield sweeps to a roof that peaks just behind the front seats. The roof, with rack rails, a shark fin antenna and a built-in spoiler over the rear hatch (which has its own wiper), leads to the LED tail lights. The low lift-over means loading items as large as a 4×8 sheet of playwood into the interior bed is an easy task.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report’s Pacifica Hybrid Platinum model came with the optional Customer Preferred Package, which included the Advanced Safety Tech Group and the Connect Theater Package. Our Pacifica Hybrid also had the optional Tri-pane panoramic sunroof. With the batteries placed under the floor, the very handy, and easy-to-operate Stow ’N Go function is not available on the hybrid. While the two middle bucket seats do not fold into the floor, they can be easily removed. They are somewhat heavy, but once removed you have a completely flat floor. This van will handle a whole bunch of your stuff!

The cockpit layout is simple and clean with soft touch materials on the dash and door panels. The easy to find and reach cruise, telephone and audio controls are housed on the leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel. I was especially pleased to see the radio had on/off knobs for volume and channel selection, and the climate control wheel was a different size than those of the radio. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is when reaching for these very different controls in the dark–regardless of your familiarity with the vehicle. The simplicity of the dash layout made for easy reading of the gauges and the full-color driver information display. The center cluster includes charging and battery information, displaying the power flow from battery to the engine, engine to the wheels and back into the battery during regenerative braking.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

A touch of luxury surrounds the front cabin inhabitants

Another nice touch, which opens-up cockpit space and reduces clutter, are the gear selector (a large wheel) and the electronic parking brake (piano switch), located side-by-side and next to the radio knobs. The well-thought-out dash is elegant in its design, as is the complete interior.

The UConnect Theater Package included an 8.4-inch touch screen for 3-D GPS navigation and the rearview camera display. A great sounding Alpine audio system, with a 506-watt amplifier and 13 amplified speakers, controls the AM/FM/HD with SiriusXM radio (one-year subscription included). There is a Blu-ray/DVD player with an USB video port. You also get Siri Eyes Free connectivity, Aux-in jacks, a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet and Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Rear seat passengers have a full entertainment system

For the second row (configured as two bucket seats) the passengers get individual, high-definition multimedia 10-inch HD seatback video screens. With three-channel, wireless headphones and Bluetooth touchpad remote controls for an uncluttered entertainment experience. Third-row passengers get a USB charge port and cup holders.

The list of convenience features on the Pacifica Hybrid Platinum is what would be expected. You get power everything, including the twin sliding side doors and rear lift gate, and exterior mirrors. The very comfortable heated and ventilated front Nappa leather seats are power for the driver, with the driver also getting power lumbar adjustments. The power panoramic sunroof opens the skies through-out the cabin.

Safety Features

Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid came with a good combination of safety features, including 12 air bags, remote keyless entry, push button and remote start, hill start assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, rear parking assist with auto stop, anti-theft engine immobilizer, tire pressure monitoring system and the fore-mentioned four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist. The optional Advanced Safety Tech Group package also included rain-sensing windshield wipers, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and the very helpful surround-view camera system. This system provides a bird’s-eye view on the 8.4-inch screen, as if looking down at your car’s positioning. This is extremely useful when parking.

The Pacifica Hybrid has not been rated National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2017 Pacifica Hybrid its highest rating of a Top Safety Pick.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2017 Pacifica Hybrid comes in two models, with these MSRP.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The gauges tell the hybrid story

Premium

$41,995 Base, plus options

Platinum

$44,995 Base, plus options

Clean Fleet Report’s test Pacifica Hybrid Platinum had option packages that brought the price to $46,790.

All prices exclude the $1,095 destination charge.

The 2017 Pacifica Hybrid comes with these warranties.

  • Battery 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Hybrid System 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Basic   Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain 10 years/60,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Chrysler invented the minivan. First introduced in 1984, Chrysler has had massive success with their Chrysler Town & County, Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models. Competitors over the years and the SUV craze, that began in the mid-1990s, winnowed Chrysler’s minivan offerings. The Voyager and the complete Plymouth division were discontinued; the Caravan was superceded by the larger Grand Caravan and still survives. Competitors from GM and Ford disappeared as things got rough for minivan sales.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Chrysler has reinvented the minivan segment from the inside out

To revive this once robust segment, Chrysler knew they again had to do something that was completely new. The release of the gasoline-powered Pacifica in 2016 was only the start; the 2017 Pacifica Hybrid is the new game-changer for Chrysler.

Knowing that most minivan owners are running in-town errands and hauling their kids and their kids’ friends everywhere and anywhere, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is engineered to go the first 33 miles on pure electricity. This range conceivably means that all those short trips would be made without burning any gasoline. As long as the Pacifica Hybrid is plugged-in each night, the range will max-out at 33 miles and off you go again for another fun day of sports practice and grocery store runs.

But the Pacifica Hybrid isn’t just for around town jaunts. Where it really shines is on the open road where the family can go for hundreds and hundreds of miles in extreme comfort. With available rear seat personal video screens (complete with included wireless remote and headphones) and storage space to carry whatever a family would want to carry, hearing the words–“Hey, honey, grab the kids and let’s head for the mountains”–is no more daunting than driving to the corner store for milk and eggs.

Chrysler has made getting into the class-leading Pacifica Hybrid a two-model choice. There is only (and I say “only” knowing I am spending your money), a $3,000 price difference between the Premium and Platinum models. Deciding to go for the Platinum trim line is worth the investment considering the additional features that are packed into this package. And to top it off, opt for the $1,795 panoramic sunroof and your 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum is fully loaded for around $46,000. With Federal and state tax credits, your final price could be in the mid-$30,000 range.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid leads the category

When compared to a fully optioned seven-seat SUV, this is an excellent value for the money–and this does not even take into account the money you will save on gasoline over the lifetime of ownership. Plus, in many states, owning a plug-in electric vehicle qualifies you for a coveted, single driver carpool sticker.

There is nothing frumpy or dowdy about the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. You will get positive comments on its looks, as well as people saying they wish they had bought one instead of the SUV they just signed onto for the next five or six years of payments.

Until it happens, and there are no rumblings out there that it is anytime soon, Chrysler has the only plug-in hybrid minivan. Not only are they first, but they have designed a wonderful vehicle. Go check it out for yourself.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

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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, 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.

All-Wheel Drive Cars with Best Mileage

All-Wheel Drive Cars with Best Mileage

all-wheel drive cars with the best mpg

Subaru used to own this category

An Eclectic Group of Overachievers

Our definitions first: In this article we’re talking about all-wheel drive cars or car-based sport utility vehicles (SUVs) also known as crossover utility vehicles (CUVs). Some might call them the modern station wagon. They’re designed for hauling people and stuff to destinations that either require the added traction of all-wheel drive or maybe just offer some adding confidence for drivers. They are not off-road machines, though most are more than capable of leaving pavement behind. Here’s the latest tally of fuel efficiency that is taking hold in this segment.

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What you’ll see here is a grab bag of models with a great range of price, technology and function. This used to be territory that Subaru–and Subaru alone–owned. All-wheel drive car and fuel economy in the same sentence almost always took you to Subaru. Not any more as the choices have expanded. You’ll have to sort out for yourself which one (or ones) work best for your life. What is clear is all of these models are solid members of Clean Fleet Report’s AWD 30 MPG Club. In fact, there are several additional members of this growing club who didn’t make the cut here. We looked at the best fuel economy (mpg or mpge in the case of plug-in cars); sometimes that came in the city, sometimes on the highway and sometimes in the EPA combined mpg number.

Finally, this list is going to keep changing as it is one of the fastest growing and most competitive segments in the auto industry. Fuel economy is going to keep improving and companies are going to keep finding new ways to get there.

The Top 10 All-Wheel Drive Cars

1. Tesla Model S – 105-107 MPGe

Tesla Model S,AWD,all-wheel drive,mpg

Tesla has all-wheel drive available throughout its lineup

Tesla leads the pack with its sedan, which in all-wheel drive trim has a “D” affixed to its nomenclature, as in dual-motor. The company now offers four AWD models, the 60D, 75D, 85D, 90D, P90D and P100D, all indicating ascending battery size levels and the “P” designating the high-performance models. The Model S has established itself as the icon of the pure electric vehicle movement, garnering praise from enthusiast publications like Motor Trend as well as more practically oriented ones like Consumer Reports. It has the power; it has the panache. All it asks is–do you have the cash? The 60D starts at $71,000 while the P100D (with optional Ludicrous Speed–Google it) starts at $134,500. According to the 100,000 or so owners, they’re worth every penny. The all-wheel drive versions make sure all that electric power reaches the ground efficiently. The fuel economy is in miles-per-gallon equivalent, the conversion of its electric mode into an energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. Not terribly useful for those of us driving in the real world. The number you care about is range on a full charge, which in the Model S goes from 218 miles for the 60D to 315 for the P100D.

2.  Tesla Model X – 90-95 MPGe

The latest addition to the Tesla stable is an all-wheel drive only quasi-SUV. Underneath it’s similar to the Model S, so results are similar. It comes in four models–75D, 90D, 100D and P100D, parallelling the Model S offerings.  Range is from 237 to 289 on a full charge for this heavier model. Pricing runs from $85,500 to $135,500 for the basic models (yes, there are options that can be added!). These are not vehicles for the faint of wallet, but they promise quiet speed and all-wheel-drive capability along with seven-passenger capacity. Oh, and falcon-wing doors. We were impressed in a short drive in one.

BMW 740e

The top-line BMW gets a plug

3. BMW 740e xDrive – 64 MPGe

BMW is following through on its promise to electrify its entire lineup. The top-of-the-line 7-Series gets a boost and delivers an impressive potential fuel economy with the sophisticated BMW plug-in hybrid system.

4.  BMW X5 xDrive 40e – 56 MPGe

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

As close to guilt-free as you can get in a midsize luxury SUV

We had a chance to test drive this car recently, but here’s the quick summary. You know guilt-free premium chocolate; this is it in SUV form. Plug it in overnight and run 14 miles on electricity only. After that an efficient 2.0-liter gas engine kicks in. The power is substantial and you may need it if you load this beast up with a full seven passengers. Even running on the gas engine this is one big, quiet machine that delivers everything you’ve come to expect from a BMW–exhilerating performance, precise handling, admirable craftsmanship and a full contingent of technology. It comes at a price, though, with the first plug-in BMW SUV starting at $62,100.

5.  Volvo XC90 T8 – 54 MPGe

We have driven this, Volvo’s first plug-in wagon (if you don’t count the engine block heaters on cold-weather models), and came away impressed with the whole package. Like the BMW, the electric only driving range is short (17 miles), but the efficiency boost is substantial. Also like the BMW, the whole package of the Volvo XC90 is impressive. It can haul seven passengers in luxurious comfort and moves quickly and quietly to any destination you point it towards. The Volvo XC90 T8 model starts at $68,100, which seems to be the new sweet sport for big plug-ins with all-wheel-drive.

BMW, AWD,all-wheel drive,fuel economy,clean diesel

An all-wheel-drive driving machine

6. Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – 43 MPGe

Mercedes is moving into the plug-in business as well, and its AWD contender is its mdsize SUV that delivers not only great fuel economy but performance from a bi-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 engine and hybrid system that puts out a combined 436 horsepower. Its the first of many more plug-in models Mercedes has promised. The GLE 550e starts at $66,300 with a good dose of the luxury items you’d expect in a Mercedes, including a variety of safety technology features.

7 (tie).  BMW 328d xDrive – 40 MPG Hwy

The BMW 328d xDrive Sportswagon we tested really hit a sweet spot trifecta–all-wheel-drive, wagon, diesel fuel economy. With the heavier wagon configuration, the EPA numbers top out at only 40 mpg. If you opt for the all-wheel drive 328d sedan, you should be able to easily beat the EPA’s 43 mpg mark since we could hit that in the wagon. Packing a four-cylinder diesel, the 328d in any form delivers solid on-road performance and the expected slick handling. The details inside and out mark this as a luxury performance car. Prices for the sedan start at $34,145; the wagon begins at $44,150, but it’s easy to load $15,000 of options on top of that.

Jaguar XE

A diesel bumps Jaguar into the mix

7 (tie). Jaguar XE and XF AWD – 40 MPG Hwy

A reinvigorated Jaguar has jumped back into the luxury car mix with a new diesel engine that allows its models to match its German competition in fuel economy. Our drive of the gas-powered Jaguar XE left us excited, but expectant that the diesel  could satisfy more of what we’re looking for at Clean Fleet Report–fuel economy that doesn’t compromise on performance. the XE model starts at $34,900 while the larger XF retails for $48,250.

9 (tie).  Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec 4Matic – 37 MPG Hwy

The Mercedes on this list is a bit of a sleeper. Like the BMW 328d, it’s a diesel, which accounts for its great fuel economy. In the U.S., the sedan is the only high-mileage all-wheel-drive sedan available from Mercedes. You can get an all-wheel-drive coupe, but only with a gasoline engine that maxes out at 29 mpg. Europe, of course, has many more options available. The Bluetec sedan starts at $55,150 and comes with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine that puts out power comparable to a V6. It’s mated to a seven-speed transmission. The only catch is this is a 2016 model and Mercedes 2017 models introduced so far have not included a diesel option.

9 (tie).  BMW 535d xDrive – 37 MPG Hwy

This one is a companion to the 328d mentioned above.  This is a testament to what diesel engines do well-they move things efficiently. Even an all-wheel-drive car as big as a 5-Series BMW sedan. We were impressed with the four-cylinder diesel in the 3-Series when we tested it, so you can imagine the power delivered by an inline turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel. Well, you don’t have to imagine it; the specs are 255 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. To have that kind of power in a good-handling sedan that also gives you this kind of highway fuel economy. Let’s just say it’s $66,795 that you’ll appreciate spending every time you get behind the wheel.

9 (tie).  Subaru Impreza – 37 MPG Hwy

2016 Subaru Impreza

Subaru’s still hanging in this group

Subaru used to own this category. All of its cars are all-wheel drive, and they get reasonable fuel economy. But, while Subaru made incremental improvements to its boxer engines, the companies listed above moved on to newer technologies and are delivering leaps in fuel economy. Subaru continues to hold a solid place on this list and should be commended for continuing to offer its great and popular cars. The Impreza is the entry-level Subaru, a compact with a reputation for performance in its WRX model and durability and functionality in its more pedestrian 2.0-liter models, which of course are the ones that deliver the best fuel economy. Subaru is to be commended for its continual improvement and focus since it sells a whole lot more of cars–and at reasonable prices–than any of the others on this list. Just to reinforce that, the Impreza starts at $18,295 for its 2.0-liter models, which come in sedan and hatchback configurations in three trim levels, but all are capable of hitting 37 mpg on the highway. We’ve haven’t tested an Impreza in some time, but hope to get back behind the wheel soon.

 

 

Almost in the Top 10: Subaru Legacy (35 MPG), Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD (34 MPG City), Nissan Rogue Hybrid (34 MPG Hwy), Lexus NX 300h Hybrid

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, fuel economy, awd

More high-mileage AWD cars are here–and more coming

Many more are bubbling just below this mark, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, diesels and very efficient gasoline models. The choices seem to just get better for U.S. car buyers, even if they need an all-wheel drive model. With fuel economy a given, it now becomes a matter of matching your pocket pocket and specific needs with the vehicles that are available. We’ve got more road tests of these vehicles coming up soon, and we expect more cars to be joining this crowd in the coming months.

Best AWD and 4WD Mileage

For millions that face snow and icy roads 10, 20, or even 40 percent of the year, a car or SUV must safely navigate dangerous conditions and still deliver good fuel economy. Winter storms and gasoline approaching $4 per gallon in remote locations make these dual demands more important.

A four-wheel drive provides better traction on ice by delivering power to all four wheels when the driver selects 4WD. All wheel drive vehicles (AWD) automatically deliver power to all wheels. Winter and mountain safety is further improved with snow tires or good all-weather radials. Added vehicle weight can help. Now you can have AWD and 4WD cars and SUVs that still deliver good fuel economy. Whether you are taking your kids to school in Chicago, getting to work in Washington D.C., or running a taxi fleet in New York, an AWD may help you through the storm.

Is AWD really safer? You will have better traction starting from a parked position in snow and ice with less wheel spinning. The traction may provide better handling while driving. AWD is some states can allow you to legally drive without putting on chains, while others must pullover and add them. There is no guarantee that AWD will help you stop any faster. Only you can decide if all wheel drive is worth the added purchase price and fuel cost compared to  crossovers and sedans that get better mileage, increasingly over 40 miles per gallon.

This list was developed by first searching the U.S. EPA and DOE’s valuable fueleconomy.gov, then reviewing details on the vehicle maker websites. EPA combined miles per gallon rating is based on 45 percent highway/55 percent city driving although the typical American driver actually drives the opposite (55 highway/45 city). so the high highway numbers of the cars cited are significant. Of course when electricity enters the equation, sensitivity to speed, terrain and temperature increases so, as is always true–your mileage will vary!

Own or Rent an AWD – John Addison

The average U.S. household has two cars. A growing trend is to put the most miles on the car with great fuel economy and have a larger second vehicle for trips with passengers and tough road conditions.

We expect more premium and mainstream AWD plug-in hybrids from Audi and BMW and others. Mitsubishi may be the first with an affordable AWD plug-in hybrid, if and when its Outlander model ever reaches these shores.

Instead of spending a small fortune to own a vehicle that gets you through the worst day of the year, consider what best meets your needs 350 days per year. When I lived in New Hampshire, I got along fine without AWD, driving my Saab with good all weather radial tires. Now living in California, my Prius did surprisingly well during the few days each year that I was on bad winter roads in the mountain, although I sometimes went through the hassle of putting on chains.  When we needed an SUV for the 2002 Winter Olympics, we rented a Ford Escape 4WD and were glad that we did. Consider renting an AWD if you rarely face icy roads.

When that 100-year storm hits, relax. Schools are closed and you can work at home that day. Lots of room and premium comfort.

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Road Test: 2016 BMW 328d xDrive SportsWagen

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Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 T8

Road Test: 2016 Lexus NX 300h

News: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Best Value Electric Cars To Buy Now

Top 10 Best Value Electric Cars To Buy Now

Choice & Deals Are Out There

With more electric cars entering the market, there is greater choice available for the consumer. As technology develops, and newer, better options become available, there is now real value to be had in owning an electric car.

This list considers the Top 10 Best Value battery electric cars that are on the market right now–based on the publicly announced lease prices, along with the range you get at the price. All the lease prices listed here are for 36-months, and based on the manufacturer’s price. They do not include down payments, and these costs may vary between different dealerships and locations. Deals can be had, as anyone who’s shopped EVs knows.

The range listed for each car is also based on the EPA guidelines, though these will vary in the real world depending on speed, weather and terrain (amongst other factors). While these figures are only guidelines, therefore, they offer a good indication of what you’re getting for your money.

We’ve added links to some of Clean Fleet Report’s test drives and news of the listed models.

  1. 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Lease price: $329/month, range: 238 miles

Chevrolet Bolt

Bolts top our list

Boasting the best range on this list, the Chevy Bolt is the first “affordable” car to compete with Tesla’s range. While it is more expensive than the other cars on this list, its enormous range makes the Bolt a potential game-changer for the electric car market. We like it a lot; one Clean Fleet Report writer even leased one.

  1. 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Lease price: $275/month, range: 124 miles

Available in various configurations, including traditional and plug-in hybrids, as well as electric, the Ioniq is extremely flexible. Despite its lease price and range, the Ioniq seems to have gone under the radar compared to others on this list, but is a steal at $275/month.

  1. 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Lease price: $279/month, range: 125 miles

Featuring a big range boost from the previous model, the 2017 e-Golf now has a 125-mile range compared to 83 before, and at $279/month is a bargain for a car with this range.

  1. 2017 Ford Focus Electric

Lease price: $204/month, range: 115 miles

With an increased range and lower price, the 2017 Focus Electric is a big upgrade on the previous model, and is a good value, sporty car.

Fiat 500e

Fiat 500e

  1. 2017 Fiat 500e

Lease price: $89/month, range: 84 miles

First in the style-stakes, the Fiat 500e is pretty much a design classic – combining retro charm with bright and quirky colours. While other cars on this list offer a superior range, none can compete with the 500e in the price-stakes.

  1. 2017 Nissan Leaf

Lease price: $199/month range: 107 miles

2017 Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf

The best selling electric car of all time, the Leaf is still the standard-bearer and is a roomy compact with a good range. With the Focus Electric outperforming it at a similar price, however, there is better value to be had in an increasingly busy market. Leaf deals may increase before the longer-range, restyled 2018 model hits dealers.

  1. 2017 Kia Soul EV

Lease price: $159/month, range: 93 miles

The Soul EV is a spacious car, with room for five passengers and plenty of cargo space. Boasting one of the lowest lease prices in the market and a decent range, this is a real bargain.

  1. 2017 BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW i3

Lease price $289/month, range: 81 miles

The popular i3 is a good looking and luxurious electric car, with a competitive price for a prestige brand. WIth the 2017 range extender, the i3’s performance is boosted even further to 125 miles, for $329/month, a good price for a quality vehicle.

  1. Honda Clarity EV

Lease price: $269/month, range: 89 miles

Performing well since its release in August, the Clarity EV is a big, spacious sedan. While there are better value cars on this list in terms of range and lease price, this is still a quality vehicle.

  1. Tesla Model 3

Lease price: not released, range: 215 miles

While Tesla are having some issues with production, the Model 3 represents the manufacturer’s first foray into the affordable market. With a range matched only by the Bolt, the Model 3 is a luxurious sedan at a great price (the base MSRP is $35,000). Expect this car to shoot up the list once Tesla releases leasing details.

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

More Range Plus the VW Experience

In the wake of the diesel emissions scandal, VW is emphasizing its electric car goals, but so far, its only all-electric car is the e-Golf. I enjoyed a week with a handsome White Silver example. The Volkswagen Golf is a car buff magazine perennial favorite, especially the GTI model, because it’s compact, but not too small, extremely practical, drives with enthusiasm and handles precisely. In addition, the interior feels like a driver’s car and not simply a motoring appliance.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The electric member of the Golf family

The beauty of the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf is that it doesn’t lose any of its Golf virtues in the transition to an EV. Its 700-pound battery lives along the bottom of the car, giving it a low center of gravity without intruding a bit into the passenger or cargo room. At 3,455 pounds, the e-Golf weighs only 432 pounds more than a four-door Golf automatic, thanks to some careful engineering and use of high-strength steel.

No Sound, New Sounds

With the sound and vibration of an engine removed, tire noise, wind and EV functions come to the fore, so the engineers worked to make the e-Golf extremely quiet inside. They also installed a tone that’s emitted at low speeds to warn pedestrians that the silent cruiser is coming.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

More horsepower & torque keep the e-Golf moving

The e-Golf can accommodate four folks inside comfortably, and haul 22.8 cubic feet of gear with the rear seat up. Flip it down to make that 52.7 cubic feet.

The original e-Golf’s 85-kW electric motor generates 115 horsepower, but the new one’s motor is boosted to 100 kW, and develops 134 horsepower. The new motor churns out a generous 214 pounds-feet of torque versus 199 for the old one. The trip from 0-to-60 takes 9.6 seconds, reasonable, if not thrilling; some other EVs do better.

The real benefit of the 2017 model, though, is range. With a larger, 35.8-kW battery (up from 24.2 kW), official range is now 125 miles versus 83. That can change your destination choices. I found the range was more like 145 miles, but this may have been from my careful EV driving habits. You can build those habits, too. The e-Golf provides the Think Blue Trainer electronic aid to teach you how to drive more efficiently and conserve battery life.

Good Choices in Driving

VW lets you select from three levels of electricity regeneration. The car’s default setting only regenerates when you brake the car, as in a hybrid vehicle. However, you can easily set it for a more

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

A view many will have of the e-Golf

aggressive level with a flick of the transmission lever. I tended to leave it in D3—the maximum—which allowed a bit more “one pedal driving.”

Choose from three driving modes: Normal, Eco, and Eco+. Normal uses the full power and features of the car, but Eco and Eco+ progressively limit horsepower, change the accelerator response curve, and reduce or turn off the air conditioning, for increased efficiency.

The 2017 e-Golf’s EPA estimated fuel economy is 126 MPGe city/111 MPGe highway/119 MPGe combined. This beats the 2016 EPA estimates of 126/105/116, respectively.

The Golf History

The Golf is not a flashy design, inside or out. Its origins go back to 1975, when it replaced the Beetle as the centerpiece of VW’s sales efforts. The boxy, front-wheel-drive, water-cooled hatchback was totally different from its ancestor, and created the Volkswagen we know today.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

A crease here, an LED there

The latest Golf still wears sharp edges outside and solid, straight shapes inside. Materials are more upscale than some compact competitors. Most of the door and dash surfaces are padded, the seats are substantial and supportive. The doors close with a nice “thunk.”

The e-Golf’s windshield has a fine net of wires in it for de-icing, but I don’t need that in sunny California, and it was occasionally annoying. But then there was the beautiful rimless rear-view mirror, and the audio controls that expose details as your hand approaches them. The sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel wears jaunty blue stitching. The eight-inch dash display is easy to use.

Pricing Just Released

The e-Golf used to come in the SE and SEL Premium editions, but there’s a new Limited Edition that sits between them. The just-announced pricing starts at $30,495 for the SE, $33,795 for the Limited and $36,995 for the SEL Premium.

Despite its virtues, the one thing the e-Golf can’t do is travel more than 200 miles on a charge, like the Chevrolet Bolt EV or any Tesla. But that should change. By the 2020s, VW will field a range of EV models under the I.D. brand, including a hatchback, a crossover, and an all-electric successor to the beloved microbus. VW is also helping to build charging networks, which will benefit anyone with an electric car in the future.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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Road Test: 2017 BMW i3

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Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq 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 Toyota Mirai

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Mirai

Laboratory On Wheels

If you live in California, you have the opportunity to participate in a real world experiment: Leasing a 2017 Toyota Mirai. How can leasing a car be considered an experiment? When the car is a hydrogen fuel cell electric car, that is how. Heck, the word Mirai in Japanese means “the future,” which this car certainly could be.

The idea of propelling a car with hydrogen puts Toyota on the leading edge of this technology, just like in 2000 when they launched the Prius Hybrid in the United States. It was a bold step then, taking a massive financial commitment, to think consumers would take to driving a car powered by anything other than an internal combustion engine (ICE). Fast forward to 2017, and if a car manufacturer doesn’t have an electrified car in their line-up, they will need to do so real, real soon. Note: Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and others also sell hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but for this story we are concentrating on the Toyota Mirai.

How Hydrogen Fits into the Electrification of Cars

Electrification of vehicles comes in three variations: a pure battery electric (EV, electric motor only), plug-in hybrid (PHEV, capable of recharging the battery and extended all-electric range, but retaining an engine) and hybrid (internal combustion engine and electric motor with limited all-electric range). These vehicles are common on the road (depending where you live), and built by several manufacturers.

2017 Toyota Mirai

Fuel cell electric cars fill up quicker

The concept on these is pretty straight forward, without getting into the minutia of the technology. Electricity is stored in batteries (a variation of lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride chemestries) by plugging into a common wall socket (120V), a Level 2 charger (240V) or a fast-charger (480V), or through an on-board generator or regenerative braking. The charged batteries can drive the vehicle’s electric motor and propel the car or, in the hybrid case, potentially aid the ICE to move it along.

The fastest plug-in charge times with the 480V charger are about twenty minutes, from a low battery to 80-percent fully charged, depending on the size of the battery. For lower voltage charging the time can be from eight to 20 hours. So, the challenge is finding a fast charger, which can be an adventure, leading to drivers wondering (fearing) running out of juice and no way to recharge. Note: Tesla has its proprietary charging stations, strategically located on a few major highways and cities in several states, but not all. So it is possible to drive a Model S, X or 3 just like you would a gasoline-powered car, though with more frequent stops for refueling. 

Hydrogen fuel cells do it a bit differently. Hydrogen is used to create electricity on board to propel the electric motors that propel the car. Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) are refueled in a very similar manner to an ICE vehicle. You find a hydrogen station, swipe your card, insert the nozzle, turn on the pump and in about five minutes–or the same time as refueling with gasoline–and you are good to go. Sounds simple, right?

The hydrogen producers and hydrogen fuel cell vehicle manufacturers are in a chicken and egg situation. The fuel companies are reluctant to build hydrogen fueling stations until there are enough FCEV on the road to make it financially worthwhile, and the car manufacturers are waiting for a comprehensive network of fueling stations to be built before investing in FCEV mass production. Not sure who will blink first, but Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz have all made a commitment to FCEV technology, so the hope is that the two sides will come together real soon on a solution.

2017 Toyota Mirai

The Mirai by the numbers

The Difference Between EV and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

The 2017 Toyota Mirai has a 1.7-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery that is charged with electricity created from the hydrogen stored in the two carbon-fiber tanks. The pressurized hydrogen gas combines with oxygen in the fuel cell to produce electricity. In this process heat and water are produced and the chemical reaction becomes electricity. The only byproduct of this process is water, which is clean enough to drink (though it’s not recommended), and can be seen dripping from the tailpipe of the car.

Laboratory On Wheels: Fueling

You will be eager to learn how to fuel the Mirai. Start by going to The California Fuel Cell Partnership website to find stations that are on your driving route. Unlike the thousands of gasoline stations in California, there are only fifty hydrogen stations statewide. Most are open 24/7 and usually unattended. Unfortunately, they also are not always operational. One of my trips was from

2017 Toyota Mirai

At the pump it’s the same but different than a gasoline car

South Orange County to Santa Monica, a mere seventy-two freeway miles but one that necessitated topping-off the hydrogen tank. On the day I was making this trip I found five stations on my route, but three of them were out of service. This apparently is not an uncommon occurrence with this nascent industry from online reports.

Once at the station, the fueling process is explained through a video that plays on the pump as well as on a sign with step-by-step instructions. Quick lesson: The nozzle notches into the filler pipe, followed by the twisting of a handle to lock the nozzle in place. It can be a bit tricky, but 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, to get a better fill. 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.

Laboratory On Wheels: On the Road

The 2017 Toyota Mirai Clean Fleet Report tested for two weeks had a 113-kW AC synchronous motor producing 151 horsepower and 247 pounds-feet of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the fuel economy to be 67 mpge for city, highway and combined (the “e” is for equivalent as in gasoline gallon equivalent) . Toyota estimates a 310-mile driving range. In 469 miles of driving throughout Southern California, our Mirai’s dash gauge never showed more than 238 miles of driving range. Toyota said the gauge is conservative in its read-out purposely to save owners from running out of fuel.

2017 Toyota Mirai

The Mirai on the road is no sports car, but it has a luxury feel

The front-wheel drive Mirai gets to 60 mph in a bit more than nine seconds, which is respectable to move 4,075 lbs., but certainly not fast. You can feel the heaviness–in a good way–with a ride so very smooth and comfortable you would swear you were in a much larger and expensive luxury car.

The electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, the front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear Torsion beam suspension delivers a smooth and stable ride. SoCal concrete freeways are grooved, so tire noise in any car is common. The seams between the concrete sections can, if hit at the right sped, produce a rhythmic thumpity-thumpity-thump. Not fun. However, the Mirai tire and wind noise was damped very well, making for an extremely quiet and pleasant ride. It seems obvious, but it needs to be said, that there is no engine noise because there is no engine. Ah, the beauty of an EV!

The 17-inch alloy wheels and 215/55R17 tires deliver handling that was direct with little body roll. Nothing sporty about the Mirai, but then again Toyota does not market it as a sporty car.

The Mirai’s battery is replenished while driving through the regenerative braking charging system. This technology converts kinetic energy into electric energy when applying the brakes or coasting and stores it in the battery. 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 had solid stops with a system consisting of power-assisted ventilated front discs with solid rear discs, anti-lock brakes (ABS), brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

Laboratory On Wheels: Interior

The 2017 Toyota Mirai can seat four full-size adults, with the rear passengers getting good head and leg room, and a center armrest with cup holders. The front and rear seats are heated and covered in Softex, a synthetic leather designed for wear and ease of cleaning. The front seats are power adjustable. 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.

2017 Toyota Mirai

The dash pulls your eyes to the right

Gauges are located in the center of the dash with none, as in zero, being directly in front of the driver. It took a bit of adjustment to look 10 degrees to the right at all times, but it is odd. The largest element of the dash is an 11-inch high-resolution touch-screen color display housing Toyota’s Entune, JBL Premium Audio system and navigation. The 11-speaker system included an AM/FM cache radio with MP3/WMA playback capability, SiriusXM (which includes 90-day trial subscription) and HD AM Radio with iTunes. Also an auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity and control, hands-free phone, advanced voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, and music streaming via Bluetooth. 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.

Gear selection is by a joystick on the lower center stack. Drive settings of Eco and Power modes, and the parking brake buttons, are an easy reach near the gear selector.

Laboratory On Wheels: Exterior

New for 2016 and carried-over for 2017, the Mirai is not wedge-shaped like the Prius. The front end is dominated by two large air scoops on each corner of the lower fascia, topped by attractive rectangular quad-LED projector headlamps. The sloped hood leads to a raked windshield and roof that peaks at the B pillar, and then gently slopes to where the rear glass meets the short trunk hood. The rear is highlighted by the large LED brake/taillight combo.

Pricing

2017 Toyota Mirai

Much of the trunk is dedicated to the fuel tank

The 2017 Toyota Mirai comes in one model with no options other than exterior color. The MSRP is $57,500 as a purchase, but most people will be leasing at $349 a month for 36 months. This price excludes the $835 delivery fee.

The Mirai qualifies for Federal tax credits and California state incentives that could reduce your final cost. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a Mirai purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is the Mirai qualifies for California’s coveted white car pool stickers, allowing the driver, with no passenger, to use the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State.

Safety and Warranties

The 2017 Mirai 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 eight airbags. Advanced driver pre-collision technology includes lane departure alert, blind spot monitor, dynamic radar cruise control, pedestrian detection and an engine immobilizer. Remote keyless entry,

2017 Toyota Mirai

Seating more like a Lexus

push button start/stop, power door locks, heated and power outside mirrors, a tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle stability and traction control, brake assist and smart stop technology add to round out the equipment lineup.

The 2017 Mirai comes with these warranties:

  • Fuel Cell System  –  Eight years/100,000 miles
  • Powertrain  –  Five years/60,000 miles
  • Basic  –  Three years/36,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell EV

Hydrogen is listed first on the Periodic Table of the Elements. It’s good being first, but there is a reason as hydrogen is the lightest of all elements. It has a near unlimited abundance, but is never found by itself, so to be extracted for use as a fuel is an expensive proposition. It currently sells for around $10 per kilogram, roughly the equivalent to a gallon of gasoline. Currently, to run an FCEV compared to a battery electric will cost about four times as much, based on your cost of electricity.

2017 Toyota Mirai

Mirai moves away from the Prius wedge

Toyota is fully aware of the cost of compressed hydrogen gas to power the Mirai and are cognizant that Mirai owners are to be valued for their progressive outlook on life and willingness to test new technology. Toyota rewards their customers with a pre-loaded, $15,000 fuel card. This is the equivalent of three years worth of hydrogen gas at 12,000 miles per year. Conveniently, this is the length of your lease. Therefore, you do not need to be concerned with the price of hydrogen gas.

Hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles are in the first phase of acceptance and development, so expect a slow roll-out. We are seeing this technology appear in city buses and potentially in over-the-road semi trucks in the not so far-off future. The development of hydrogen to power electric vehicles is being conducted by private industry and government programs on a worldwide basis, so expect announcements and breakthroughs.

Is the Mirai right for your lifestyle and driving pattern? This, of course, is a personal decision that will take time to determine. Right now where you live (and where the refueling stations are) is a prime determinant. If you live in the right place, your research and comparison shopping, with test drives of many electric and non-electric cars, will be the way to get you to that decision. If you see yourself as a trailblazer who wants to only leave  a trail of water behind your car as you cruise down the road, then the Mirai is your next car.

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

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

First Drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai

News: Toyota Mirai Hits the Market

First Drive: 2017 Honda Clarity FCEV

News: Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Model Introduced

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.