Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Great Versatility and Exceptional Fuel Economy

Gee, Toyota, you introduced that little thing you called RAV4 to the U.S. in 1995. It ushered in what we now call a crossover vehicle — the combining of some of the attributes of a sport-utility vehicle with the underpinnings of a passenger car. Of course, we didn’t know then it was a crossover vehicle, so we just called it a “cute ute.” The three-door version was especially cute.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Hybrid MPG and AWD=Sales

Then, four years later you brought us a not so cute, but very fuel efficient, little car called the Prius. It ushered in the gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain that, by the way, confused a lot of folks at first. Of course, people aren’t confused any more. There were more than 30 hybrid models sold in 90 world markets bearing either the Toyota or Lexus names and sales tallied more than eight million globally before you came to your senses and placed a gasoline-electric powertrain in the RAV4 in 2016.

What’s interesting is, none of those more than eight million hybrid vehicles sold had a RAV4 badge. After all, Ford sold an Escape Hybrid crossover along with its Mercury Mariner Hybrid sibling from 2005 to 2011 with some 200,000 finding driveways.

So Toyota, have you ever wondered how many RAV4 Hybrids you might have sold if you brought it out say 10, or even 5 years ago?

Green Car Buyers Love the RAV4 Hybrid

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve is over. Now in its third year, the RAV4 Hybrid is, gasp, threating to unseat the Prius as Toyota’s best selling hybrid. Through March of this year, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid trails the number of Prius’s sold by less than 700 units.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The crossover appeal–open up and fill

For 2018, Toyota ushered in a more affordable trim with the introduction of the RAV4 Hybrid LE. At $28,230, including destination charges, the new Hybrid LE is just $1,325 more than an equivalent gas-powered RAV4 LE. That snuffs the argument that hybrids are priced thousands more than standard vehicles and reduces the time it will take to recoop the higher initial costs through fuel savings..

The balance of the lineup includes the XLE ($30.129), SE ($33,284) and the top end Limited ($35,129). All models come standard with all-wheel drive (AWD).

As for fuel economy, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid receives an EPA rating of 34 mpg city/ 30 highway/32 combined for all models. That’s nearly 25 percent better than the all-wheel drive gas model’s 26 mpg combined rating. And of course, those EPA numbers earn the RAV4 Hybrid a membership in Clean Fleet Report’s All-Wheel Drive 30 mpg Club.

AAA is forecasting that the national gas price average will be as much as $2.70 per gallon this spring and summer. At that price, it will only take most drivers less than a year to make up the $1,325 difference between the RAV4 Hybrid and the gasoline-only RAV4.

Proven, Familiar Hybrid Drivetrain

The 2018 RAV4 Hybrid uses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, a system similar to those in the Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV, Lexus ES 300 sedan and the Lexus NX 300h small luxury crossover. That means a 150-horsepower, 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine is combined with a 141-horsepower small high-torque, permanent-magnet electric motor through the powersplit transaxle. This combination powers the front wheels.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

More model choices–one engine choice

The rear wheels are powered by a 67-horsepower electric motor that has no mechanical connection to the front wheels. This system is called AWD-i. It allows a great degree of flexibility in the front-to-rear power split. As in most such systems, the RAV4 Hybrid drives its front wheels most of the time.

This provides a pretty good jolt of performance with a combined 194 system horsepower and 206 pounds-feet of torque, which is good for a 0-to-60 mph run in 8.1 seconds—about a second quicker than gas-powered RAV4 models. The system varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both as needed, all seamlessly.

The hybrid all-wheel-drive system also allows greater regenerative braking. The system captures electrical energy through all four wheels rather than just the two driven ones as in most hybrids and recharges the nickel metal-hydride battery pack.

A 2016 Refresh

Accompanying the arrival of the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid was a refresh for the compact crossover, which carries over to 2018. The front is more angular with a redesigned grille, thinner LED headlamps and restyled bumper. New rocker panels sharpened the sides and tie in the front and rear bumpers for a more flowing profile. Available LED taillights add a nice touch to the backside. 

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

A dash you would expect in a Toyota

The RAV4 Hybrid is a visual departure from a crowded highway of look-alike small crossovers. The sheetmetal forming its wide body dips downward at the side windows, giving it a muscular, ready-for-action look. This is strenghtened by an agressively styled grille and front facia, a sloping hood and kicked-up rear quarter panels. Overall, the RAV4 Hybrid is very much an SUV-looking vehicle.

Inside changes for 2018 were minimal: revised cupholders allow for mugs with larger handles, lower center console LED lights, a new sunglass holder and a 12-volt outlet for rear passengers. A hybrid specific display within the 4.2-inch TFT gauge-cluster screen shows fuel consumption and the status of the hybrid powertrain.

The cabin is typical Toyota, with comfortable contoured front seats, well-located controls and gauges and a three-spoke sterring wheel. All-around visibility is quite good, thanks to the sloping hood, tall driving position and generously sized windows. A low step-in height makes it easy to get in and out. In real-world usage, the RAV4 Hybrid is a bit tighter in the back seat than several of its competitors, but luggage volume is decent at 36 cubic feet behind the back row and 71 cubic feet with it folded. That’s only about three cubic feet less than the non-hybrid model. And the lift over height in the rear cargo area is impressively low.

Standard in-cabin tech includes a 4.2-inch instrument panel display and an Entune Audio Plus infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touch screen. Audio is provided by a six-speaker audio system with CD/AM/FM/satellite radio, a USB port with iPod controls, an aux-in jack and Bluetooth. You will notice that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are missing. Also standard is the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assists that includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

Stepping up through the lineup you will find standard, depending on trim levels, a moonroof, a backup camera, HD radio with traffic and weather info, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition and a navigation system. There’s also blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic LED headlights, a height-adjustable power lift gate, an eight-way power driver seat and heated front seats. A $2,785 Advanced Technology Package option includes a surround-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and an 11-speaker 576-watt JBL Audio system and a slightly larger touch screen.

Not “Fun-To-Drive,” But Competent

Our Ruby Flare Pearl RAV4 Hybrid had a sticker price of $32,185. Add the Advanced Technology Package, a $90 tonneau cover, $95 for the special paint color and a $995 destination chargeand the price tag was $38,450.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

More pep than the gas-only version, but far from fun-to-drive

Around town it was easy to see why small crosovers have become a huge chunk of the U.S. vehicle market. The RAV4 Hybrid sprinted easily through urban traffic disregarding rough road surfaces and small pot holes with ease. Parking, whether parallel or angle, was as easy as it gets.

The little SUV accelerated quickly from a stop using battery power. Like any hybrid, accelerating to 35 mph using the gas engine, and then lifting slightly, brings electric power into play. I found it easy to run around on battery juice with the gas engine helping out when confronting a hill. The transition between battery power and gasoline power was almost always seamless.

The RAV4 Hybrid accelerated to highway speeds with reasonable enthusiasm. The engine felt peppy and would happily cruise at 80 mph. For a crossover that weighs nearly 4,000 pounds, the RAV4 handled decently around curves at highway speeds, but tight corners reveled ample body roll and a lack of grip from the green-minded tires. Otherwise, the RAV4 Hybrid is comfortable and capable, albeit not at all sporting.

The different drive modes, which include Sport, Eco, and EV, all functioned as advertised. Sport mode livened the Hybrid up and changed the shift logic, making it more eager to drop a few “gears” and make the most of the hybrid powertrain. Eco, which I used in town and cruising on the highway, slowed the throttle response from the normal mode and adjusted the air-conditioning settings, all in the name of improving efficiency. EV mode functions below 25 mph and was most useful in parking garages.

I give a big applause to the engineers who worked on the RAV4 Hybrid’s brakes. The transition between regenerative and mechanical braking was imperceptible. As I have noted many times in my reviews, the EPA rating system needs upgrading. We drove the RAV4 Hybrid fairly hard for 311 miles and ended up with a combined fuel economy of 35.2 mpg, two mpgs better than the EPA’s estimate.

Final Word

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is comfortable for car-pooling, commuting, collecting groceries and dropping kids off for soccer practice. It is also ideal for light off-road action in the backcountry, While there are plenty of competitors—Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape to name a few—none can match the RAV4 Hybrid’s fuel economy except for the Nissan Rogue Hybrid. And as mentioned, gasoline prices are heading upwards. In other words, that makes the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s value proposition a little more enticing.

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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: 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

Road test: 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

A Toe in the EV Water

The Countryman is the largest of the four Mini models and is also the brand’s only all-wheel drive offering. Now, it’s also Mini’s first electrified model sold to consumers. It received major changes for its second generation, which was introduced in stages last year.

While Mini’s EV excitement is focused on the upcoming all-electric small hatchback, the 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid offers a taste of electrification to urban folks. They’ll find what plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are known for—electric commuting during the week and unlimited travel on the weekends. That’s better than a regular hybrid, which has no plug, and combines a gasoline engine and electric motor to improve fuel mileage ratings.

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

PHEVs offer varying amounts of battery power. The Countryman’s 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery, which hides under the rear seat, provides an EPA-rated 12 miles of all-electric range. That’s low on the list, as most other PHEVs offer EV ranges from the teens and twenties to as much as 53 miles in the Chevrolet Volt. That makes a difference on how much pure electric driving you can do.

Almost All the Way to Work

My Melting Silver Metallic test car, for example, got me about two-thirds of the way to/from work before the petrol began to flow. I dutifully plugged in at each end, and fully charged the small battery overnight on 120-volt current at home or by lunchtime on the 240-volt Level 2 ChargePoint chargers at work.

The Countryman cleverly delivers all-wheel drive by placing a 134-horsepower 1.5-liter gas engine up front, driving the front axles, and an 87-horsepower electric motor in back, driving the rear ones. The total system horsepower is 221, and 284 pounds-feet of torque, enough to send the Countryman from 0-60 in a satisfying 6.8 seconds. The system switches back and

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

The big center display

forth based on road conditions to provide extra traction when needed.

Naturally, how you drive determines how long your battery power will last. You can also use three different settings to configure how it’s used. In AUTO eDRIVE, you get pure electric driving up to 55 mph, and the gas engine kicks in when needed (or when the battery is depleted). In MAX eDRIVE, you can drive in pure electric mode up to 78 mph (illegally), with the engine dropping in only if you exceed that. The SAVE BATTERY mode uses the engine only, keeping the battery charged above 90 percent for use later, for example, in town after a long freeway trip, where the EV mode is most effective.

Like most PHEVs, the 2018 Mini Countryman’s instrument panel provides some feedback on energy use and regeneration. A gauge on the left has a Power section, when the energy is flowing out of the battery, and a Charge section below it for when coasting or braking is generating power. The eBoost area of the dial shows when the motor is working with the engine for maximum performance.

The Numbers Are Good

The EPA gives the 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid ALL4 ratings of 65 MPGe for Electricity + Gasoline, and 27 mpg for when it’s using gas only. I averaged 35.5 mpg during my test week.

The Countryman is just slightly bigger than the new Clubman, making it the largest Mini ever (a Maxi?) The main differences between the two big Minis are the Countryman’s all-wheel-drive capability, and its 4.6-inch taller stance.

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

A wide-track Mini

The new Countryman is also larger than its predecessor. It’s 8.1 inches longer on a 2.9-inch longer wheelbase, which translates into substantially increased rear legroom. It’s 1.3 inches wider, which adds up to two inches of shoulder room. Despite these increases, the car is still relatively compact, although the efficient space utilization makes it technically a midsize car per the EPA.

Since the brand re-emerged in the US in 2002 with its all-new Cooper hardtop (hatchback), it has appealed to people looking for motoring joy with a side of quirkiness. The large central dash display now holds audio and other information rather than the speedometer, but it has colors that react to settings changes. It still features toggle switches for windows and even the ignition.

The Final Numbers

The Countryman is assembled in Born, Netherlands, and contains half German parts (thanks to its BMW parent company), including its engine. The six-speed automatic transmission is Japanese.

My test car, with several options, including the $500 paint color, came to an even $40,000, including destination charges. The base price is $36,800.

The 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid will surely win over its traditional audience—stylish urban folks who want a slightly taller and roomier crossover vehicle with the Mini charms—and a small nod towards environmentalism. The EPA assigns the car just a 3 for Smog, but a commendable 8 for Greenhouse Gas. If you have a 10-mile commute, you could be driving the Mini as an EV all week.

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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: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Premium

Road Test: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Premium

Adventurous Spirit Packed With Value

By Lynne Hall and Larry E. Hall

Subaru has long stood by the horizontally opposed engine to power its cars. While proven to be reliable, it had a reputation for just so-so fuel economy. That changed a few years back, and the all-new 2018 Crosstrek continues in Clean Fleet Report’s All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club – with 33-mpg highway/27 city/29 combined when equipped with a continuous variable transmission (CVT). (Choose the manual shifter and fuel economy drops to 29 highway/23 city/25 combined.)

Introduced as a 2014 model, the Crosstrek is the result of a successful formula Subaru has used before: Take a core vehicle, alter the bones, jack up the suspension, add some body cladding and, viola, a new model. In this case, the donor car is the Impreza hatchback, which was the first Subaru model built on the company’s Global Platform, also a member of the 30 MPG AWD Club.

Impreza DNA

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

The Crosstrek is ready to go anywhere

Impreza’s DNA is apparent in the Crosstrek’s profile, but from there the car takes off in a different direction. No other Subaru has the same grille or bumpers. The front A pillars are moved forward by 7.9 inches compared with the

Impreza. This not only improves cabin space, it adds athleticism to the look.

The 2018 Crosstrek rides on a 104.9-in. wheelbase, up 1.2-in. over the first-generation Crosstrek; it’s 0.6-inches longer than the previous model and 0.9-inches wider. Of course, like (almost) all Subarus, all-wheel drive is standard.

The most notable, visual difference between the two cars is ground clearance, which has been cranked up three inches to 8.7 inches. Throw in muscular fender flares, along with dramatic 17-inch alloy wheels, and the Crosstrek becomes an open invitation to travel farther once the highway ends.

Lynne says…

In our northwest corner of the country, motorists embraced Subarus back when quirky wasn’t hip. We, along with buyers in New England and Rocky Mountain states, knew for years that Subaru’s all-wheel-drive cars and wagons offered superior traction–not just on snowy roads, but on any slippery or uneven surface.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Versatile space comes standard

And that decision in 1994 to morph the Legacy wagon into the “world’s first sport utility wagon” and call it Outback? Brilliant, as consumers in all three markets flocked to dealers.

Since then, Subaru has perfected the recipe for creating a new model from an existing one—and I think the Crosstrek is its best yet.

As much as I liked the Outback, I thought the lower body cladding was a little over the top, almost garish. Conversely, Crosstrek stylists used restraint and added just the right amount of muscularity with the fender flares. Also, the wider track, added length and longer wheelbase result in balanced proportions.

Compared with the small crossover SUV sales leaders–and Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V—the Crosstrek has the look of a sport utility that wants to get out of town. It says, “Hey, throw a couple mountain bikes or camping gear in the back and let’s get a little dirty, maybe even muddy.”

It backs up that invitation with a ground clearance of 8.7 inches that’s more generous than the Jeep Grand Cherokee. While we couldn’t find time to do some semi-serious off roading, previous Subaru test drives have shown their ability to go just about anywhere short of rock crawling.

The Inside Story

Crosstreck’s well-laid-out interior follows Impeza. The cabin is minimal, but not spartan, with durable soft-touch materials covering upper surfaces for comfort, and plastic on lower panels for easy cleaning. Switchgear arranged on the center stack and surrounding the steering column has a sturdy feel.

Seats, front and rear, fall into the comfortable category. We found the space suitable for four adults (cramped with five), even if rear passengers were squeezed a bit for foot room. In case your passengers tend to be toddlers rather than adults, it’s easy to comfortably fit two front-facing car seats in the rear.

The 20.8 cubic feet behind the rear seat was more than adequate for a week’s worth of grocery shopping, and a standard waterproof cargo tray is a thoughtful feature. Rear seats are 60/40 split and fold completely flat, providing 55.3 cubic feet of space. That’s enough room for two mountain bikes. Or, with standard roof rails, heft the bikes onto the roof.

On the Road

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

The Crosstrek interior is upscale, but not in luxury territory

In town behavior was standard Subaru—easy-to-drive, easy-to-park and easy to get in and out of. The Crosstrek doesn’t miss a beat on the pavement, either. Agile and racy are not in its dictionary, but predictable, smooth and comfortable describe its on-road behavior.

Granted, 152 horsepower doesn’t sound like much these days–and it’s not–but it is adequate to the task of motivating the 3,302-pound Crosstrek for 0-to-60 mph in a little more than nine seconds. Whenever editor/husband Larry expressed a want for a turbocharger, I gently reminded him that this little Subie was about fuel economy, not speed.

Our Premium model’s engine was hooked up to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which for 2018 now incorporates seven stepped, predetermined ratios (controllable via paddle shifters) to mimic traditional gear shifting and mitigate the rubber-band sensation. Looking at my notes, I had checked hill hold as my favorite feature—take your foot off the brake when stopped on a hill, and the Crosstrek won’t roll backwards. I’m perplexed as to why more carmakers don’t have this feature.

Larry Says…

In 2005, Subaru made a move to present its automotive assets with style and content that would attract a broader audience. The company’s goal was to elevate its image to a “premium niche brand”—not a luxury brand, but one consumers were willing to pay a higher price (for perceived quality and features like standard all-wheel drive).

The second generation 2018 Crosstrek takes a simpler approach and isn’t quite as animated as the rest of the lineup. The upside to this is the Crosstrek offers a very good value proposition.

Consider: the base 2.0i Crosstrek starts at $22,795 plus a $915 destination charge. This least-expensive Crosstrek includes all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring, cruise control, 17-inch wheels and a rearview camera. Also standard is Subaru’s Starlink multimedia system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, AM/FM stereo, USB port with iPod control, Bluetooth audio streaming and an auxiliary jack.

Our Premium test drive model had sticker price of $23,595 including the $1,000 CVT. It added heated front seats, fog lights, a windshield wiper de-icer and heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system.

The top-line Crosstrek Limited starts at $28,450 and can top $30,000 with options. It includes leather interior, a CVT automatic transmission as standard, power driver’s seat, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system with AM/FM/HD Radio, CD player, dual USB inputs and voice-activated controls. A moonroof is optional on Premium and Limited trims, as is the EyeSight driver-assist and active-safety system with adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist package. Limited trims can also add a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, navigation, and reverse automatic braking.

Traction Options

While all-wheel drive is standard, the system differs depending on the choice of transmission. Without going into technical details, CVT models split torque 60/40 front-to-rear as the default, while the manual transmission system distributes torque 50/50. Both can direct torque to the wheels that slip to ensure traction.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

The only engine option

Regardless of the model, the Crosstrek is available with one engine, a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed (“boxer”) four-cylinder engine. The boxer nickname comes from the way the pistons look when the engine is running—like a boxer throwing punches. The punches this boxer throws are 152 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque. As for my wanting a turbocharger under the hood, that little more than nine second 0-to-60 edges on Prius territory, not what I prefer when merging into fast traffic.

Once up to speed, the 2018 Crosstrek felt solid and capable. Inside, wind noise was nearly nonexistent, and only on particularly rough concrete roads did we hear any commotion from below. Ride quality was very good, muting most small bumps, and reducing big ones to minor hiccups in the cabin.

Yes, Lynne, the Crosstrek is about fuel economy—and we did pretty good. Well, actually you did pretty good, since you were behind the wheel for most of the 215 miles during our week test drive. With about half of the miles driven on city streets, we managed to beat the EPA rating with 30.5 mpg combined.

Bottom Line

People buy Subarus for qualities other than glitz. The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek’s modest base price fetches the utility of a small wagon with a roomy cabin and cargo area that offers practicality and easy drivability. It will meet the needs of those who prioritize fuel economy over performance, contributing a small roll in saving the planet while exploring it.

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Flash Drive: 2018 Jeep Wrangler & 2019 Jeep Cherokee

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Road Test: 2018 Subaru Outback

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade

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: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

Road Test: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

A Great Crossover Wagon Gets Even Better

Volkswagen has been hard at work beefing up its CUV/SUV offerings over the last 12 months. In 2017 they replaced their German-built Touareg with their first US-built full-sized SUV, the Atlas, introduced an updated Tiguan with American-sized version and introduced an upscale version of the Golf SportWagen named the Alltrack.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

Don’t call it an off-road station wagon

The Alltrack, introduced in 2017 is a compact AWD station wagon that is designed to compete in the space occupied by the likes of Subaru, Volvo, Audi and Mitsubishi. Granted that US buyers are somewhat averse to the name “Station Wagon,” so VW has revamped the Golf wagon with increased ride height, aggressive body cladding, and VW’s 4Motion AWD system, along with other upscale content.

For 2018, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack continues to improve with added content, new styling, added safety features and lower pricing.

Here’s what’s new for 2018

The 2018 Alltrack is still available in three trims, S, SE, and SEL.

The base S receives new LED taillights, front daytime running lights (DRLs) and automatic headlights with a rain sensor. Inside, the S has a new MIB II infotainment system with VW CarNet, Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Off-road display, with a 6.5-inch color screen.

The 2018 Alltrack SE adds forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking (front assist), as a standard driver assistance feature along with pedestrian monitoring and blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

The upgraded, refined interior is full of tech

SE trims also upgrade to an 8.0-inch Composition Media touchscreen infotainment display.

The top-of-line 2018 Golf Alltrack SEL gains a new 8.0-inch Discover Media touchscreen infotainment and navigation display, as well as LED headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System. Safety systems that were previously optional are now standard equipment, including:

-Forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian monitoring (front assist),

-Adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane departure warning (lane assist),

-Front and rear park distance control with maneuver braking (ParkPilot),

-Parking steering assistant (park assist) and high beam control (light assist), and

-Standard blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert.

The Power Behind Alltrack

The Alltrack is still powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder power plant, which is a destroked version of the 2.0-liter EA888 engine found in the GTI. The Alltrack has 170 horsepower and 199 pounds-feet of torque on tap. This engine is a VW tuner’s favorite engine with a vast number of aftermarket parts to increase both

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

Steady power comes from a turbo four

horsepower and torque. The Alltrack offers two choices of transmission with a six-speed manual transmission or VW’s silky smooth six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with Tiptronic and paddle shifters.

Delivering power to the road is through VW’s 4Motion AWD system that uses electronic controls to provide power to whichever wheels have the most traction in a variety of terrains via a center differential. On regular road conditions, the differential disconnects the rear drive for maximum fuel economy. Utilizing the stability controls, individual wheels can be locked to prevent slipping while power is transferred seamlessly to the wheel on the opposite side. Up to 50 percent of the drive torque can be transferred to the rear wheels. Hill descent control, an “Off-Road Mode” and increased ground clearance provide exceptional performance on a variety of terrains. The Alltrack borrows VW’s XDS+ cross differential system from the GTI and Golf R. XDS+ is an electronic version of a mechanical limited slip differential for all four wheels for maximum traction.

The Alltrack unibody chassis is beefed up over the regular Golf wagon with two solid-mounted sub-frames, one for each set of drive wheels. The suspension is unique to the Alltrack with a .06-inch increased ride height and tuned shocks, springs and front and rear roll bars for ride comfort on regular roads, but increased travel and rebound control for off-road conditions.

The Key Numbers

For 2018 EPA ratings keep the Alltrack in the AWD 30-MPG Club with scores of 21 city/30 highway/24 combined for the six-speed and 22/30/25 for the automatic. We observed an average of 28.6 MPG during our test of the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. With the addition of a 14.5-gallon fuel tank, range is increased.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

If you squint, it becomes a crossover

Pricing for the 2018 Alltrack is slightly less than the 2017 version mainly due to the shifting of content. The only options for the S and SE trims are the choice of transmission. The SEL only offers the six-speed DSG.

Alltrack S – Six-speed manual $25,955 / Six-speed DSG $27,055

Alltrack SE – Six-speed manual $29,765 / Six-speed DSG $30,865

Alltrack SEL – Six-speed DSG $35,660

The destination charge for all trims is $850

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is a worthy competitor to the other CUV wagons on the market today. The build quality is solid, power is smooth, but a bit buzzy at higher RPMs, and the transmissions are flawless. If you are in the market for a small station wagon with some off-road moxie, then make sure the Alltrack is on your consideration list!

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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.

News: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace Electric SUV Revealed

News: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace Electric SUV Revealed

Geneva Motor Show Sees First Tesla Model X Competitor

Jaguar has joined the ranks of other automakers who reveal all-new vehicles just a few days before major auto shows. In this case, the British automaker revealed its much anticipated  I-Pace battery-electric crossover SUV this week, one week before the public opening of the Geneva Motor Show.

The reveal of the I-Pace took place at the Jaguar Land Rover manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria, with a special live streaming show as the first I-Pace rolled off the production line. As expected, the I-Pace is little changed since the concept was introduced at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show.

0-to-60 MPH In 4.5 Seconds

We’ll cut to the chase and get right to the heart of the I-Pace. Under the alluring sheet metal are two Jaguar-designed concentric electric motors—which feature driveshafts passing through the motors themselves for compactness—placed at each axle, producing all-wheel drive. The two motors produce a net 394 horsepower and 512 pounds-feet of torque. With all four wheels being electrically driven, it’ll romp to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Another all-electric SUV arrives

A 90-kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery sits between the two axles and is mounted low, contributing to a 50:50 weight distribution and a lower center of gravity. The battery will keep the I-Pace going for an estimated 240 miles (EPA and European measurements are still forthcoming). With a 100-kW DC fast charger, it can go from empty to 80 percent charge in just about 40 minutes. Using a 7-kW Level 2 home charger, it’ll take about 10 hours to add the same amount of charge.

Like other modern EVs and plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs), the I-Pace offers multiple brake-regeneration settings. In its strongest mode, one-pedal driving is feasible when the driver turns off the car’s creep mode. (Creep mode allows the EV to roll forward when the driver’s foot moves off the brake, like most gasoline cars will.)

Looks Pretty Close To the Concept

The 2019 I-Pace has a compact body and is fairly low to the ground for an SUV, but it still seats five while offering plenty of cargo space.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

The electric powertrain is designed to enhance the road experience

“The I-Pace’s electric powertrain offered us unprecedented design freedom,” said Ian Callum, Jaguar’s director of design. “Starting with a clean sheet enabled the dramatic cab-forward profile, unique proportions and exceptional interior pace. Yet, it is unmistakably a Jaguar. We wanted to design the world’s most desirable EV, and I’m confident that we met that challenge.”

Its sleek, coupe-like silhouette was influenced by the Jaguar C-X75 supercar concept. That includes C-X75 styling cues with a low, short hood with the automaker’s traditional grill and a built-in hood scoop for aerodynamic improvements. The vehicle has a coupe-inspired styling, sweeping front fenders, muscular rear haunches and flush door handles with a slippery 0.29 drag coefficient.

The rear is squared-off to a sharply angled rear hatch window that features a hydrophobic coating so there’s no need for a rear wiper. Tail lights feature a “chicane line” signature, a new Jaguar design element that replaces the more traditional E-Type round design.

Smart Interior

Classed as a midsize SUV by its physical footprint, the cab forward design and packaging of the EV powertrain mean the I-PACE offers interior space comparable to a full-size model. The SUV affords a rear legroom space of 35.0-inches and a useful 0.43- cubic foot central storage compartment in a space that would ordinarily be occupied by a transmission tunnel in a conventional vehicle. Also in the rear, tablet and laptop storage can be found beneath the seats; while the rear luggage compartment behind those seats offers a 25.3 cubic feet capacity, a generous 51.0 cubic feet is available with the second row seats folded flat.

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

The I-Pace interior is all Jaguar style and quality

In typical Jaguar fashion, the 2019 I-Pace’s cabin is pure luxury. A glass panoramic roof is standard, and the interior can be had in either leatherette or proper leather. As you might expect, you can toss in some pretty fancy trim pieces made from real aluminium or ash wood.

The I-Pace uses two touchscreens to control virtually all vehicle functions. Called the InControl Touch Pro Duo system, the infotainment screens, upper 10-inch and lower 5.5-inch units, are cleanly integrated into the vehicle’s distinctive floating center console. The top half takes care of infotainment duties while the lower half deals with climate control, seat and drivetrain settings. Another 12.3-inch interactive driver display behind the steering wheel can be configured to show vehicle operating data in a variety of formats.

A suite of smart range-optimizing technologies includes a battery pre-conditioning system that allows the vehicle to warm or cool its battery and cabin to an optimal temperature while plugged in to power. The I-Pace will also have its own Amazon Alexa skill. This will allow owners to check the car’s range, lock status and more without leaving the house or even picking up a smart device.

 The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace is on sale now in Europe and will be available in the U.S. in the second half of 2018 as a 2019 model year vehicle, in S, SE and HSE derivatives as well as a one-year-only First Edition model derived from a very well equipped HSE trim. U.S. pricing will be announced on March 6, in conjunction with the vehicle’s debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. However, Jaguar has already opened up preorders for U.S. buyers.

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News: 2019 Volvo V60 Wagon Will Have Two PHEVs, One For U.S.

News: 2019 Volvo V60 Wagon Will Have Two PHEVs, One For U.S.

Wagons Making Comeback, Volvo Plugs Them In

In the 1960s, station wagons were the choice of American families. Their sales were usurped in the mid-1970s by the minivan, which later gave way to the sport-utility vehicle. Today, crossover SUVs are at the top of the sales charts. However, Volvo never gave up on wagons.

2019 Volvo V60

The baby brother look (not a bad thing)

In Europe wagons are called “estate” vehicles. Squared off, boxy Volvo wagons may not have been pretty, but they were safe. While they are still regarded as one of the safest vehicles to own, the boxy styling has been discarded by the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker, which has been on a roll over the past few years with a string of visually stunning vehicles.

Volvo’s renaissance continues with the unveiling to the automotive media of the all-new V60 last week in Sweden. The new 2019 Volvo V60 wagon carries over the theme set by the larger V90 wagon that debuted two years ago.

“The family estate driver is an important customer for our business and has been for generations,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars. “The new V60 honors that tradition, but also takes it much further.”

That “much further” includes two plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) models, the latest driver assistance features and other safety technology.

Two PHEV Powertrains

There will be two V60 plug-in hybrid models offered, the T6 and T8. Both Twin Engine plug-ins essentially use the same powertrain: A 2.0-liter gasoline inline four-cylinder engine that is twin-charged—supercharged and turbocharged—powers the front wheels. An integrated starter generator (ISG) is sandwiched between the engines and an eight-speed automatic (the ISG charges the battery and cranks the engine during start-stop events). The engines are paired with a 65-kilowatt electric motor mounted to the rear axle to provide all-wheel drive.

2019 Volvo V60

A Swedish aesthetic inside–safety and serenity

In the T6 Twin Engine, the 2.0-liter makes 253 horsepower (hp) and 258 pounds-feet (lb.-st.)of torque. With the rear electric motor added, the overall system output is 340 hp and 435 lb.ft. Step up to the T8 and the four produces those ratings upped to 303 hp and 295 lb.-ft., with total output of 390 hp and 472 lb.-ft. Both models have the same electric-only range of up to 28 miles. Despite their different power outputs, both will make the 0-62 mph run in 4.8 seconds.

2019 Volvo V60

Lots of space in the back of a wagon

While that’s good news, the bad news is the T8 is not coming to the U.S., at least not for now. When it arrives, the V60 will launch with a buyers’ choice of a 250 horsepower 2.0-liter gasoline turbocharged T5 four-cylinder front-wheel drive or T6 plug-in hybrid. At least we can expect it to top the XC90 PHEV’s 62 MPGe (though fuel economy numbers have not been released and easily join Clean Fleet Report’s 30 MPG AWD Club.

New V60 Joins Volvo’s Latest Styling Direction

In profile, the new 2019 Volvo V60 looks much more sculpted and stylish than the wagon it replaces. Up front, the V60 borrows heavily from Volvo’s V90 wagon. The “Thor’s Hammer” LED lights proudly flank the grille and the T-shaped running lights look very similar to the ones on the larger wagon. But the V60 differentiates itself with larger, more pronounced lower intake openings. On the backside, Volvo’s traditional L-shaped tail lamps follow the shape of the rear D-pillar and then slice inward toward the center of the hatch.

The new model is based off Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture that underpins other models like the V90 and XC60 and XC90 crossovers. The most obvious difference between the V60 and big-brother V90 is in length. The V60 is almost 7 inches shorter than the V90, though the wheelbase length has only been reduced by 3.9 inches. Elsewhere, the V60 is only an inch or two smaller in both width and height.

2019 Volvo V60

Volvo keeps on its traditional road, but with contemporary equipment

Inside Like Other New Volvo Models Plus, Lots of Safety

The 2019 Volvo V60’s interior is visually identical to that of the XC60 crossover and 90-series cars, with a vertically oriented touchscreen in the center console, only a few buttons and knobs below it, a digital gauge cluster and the same lovely wood and aluminum inlays on the dash and doors. The Sensus infotainment system, which carries over unchanged, is fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and has a built-in 4G Wi-Fi hotspot.

Being a Volvo, the V60 comes with a number of safety and driver assistance systems, including lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring. Standard safety features include advanced driver support systems found in the 90-Series and XC60. The City Safety with Autobrake technology uses automatic braking and detection systems to assist the driver in avoiding potential collisions. Volvo says it is the only system on the market to recognize pedestrians, cyclists, and large animals.

The 2019 Volvo V60 also comes with the latest version of the company’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous system that can now operate unassisted on “well-marked roads” at a maximum speed of 80 mph. It also will be equipped with Run-off Road Mitigation and Oncoming Lane Mitigation.

Official pricing will be announced at a later date. Following its official reveal in Sweden last week, the V60 will greet the public at the Geneva Motor Show on March 8.

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