Welcome to 2018!
We wish all of you a very Happy New Year! We hope 2017 was as good for you as it was for us here at Clean Fleet Report. We published more articles than in any previous year, covered breaking news of new models and tested cars of all shapes and sizes. The team of John Faulkner, Larry Hall, Steve Schaefer and Nick Zatopa dug deep and brought you up close to all of the important stories this year.
It’s a great time to be focused on green cars as the number of EVs, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and high-mileage gas and diesel vehicles continues to climb. And autonomous technology and connected vehicles promise to become a part of our daily lives. This has been a great year for us, but we think 2018 promises to be even more exciting. Glad to have you along for the ride.
Look for some surprises in January!
Editor & Publisher
Clean Fleet Report
The Mode 3 is just one of the stories we’ll be covering in 2018
German Company Sets Aggressive Goal for Future Cars
We here at Clean Fleet Report absolutely love it when auto manufacturers set their bar high when it comes to new models. We are always rooting for what seems to be the impossible, so we applaude BMW for what should be an exciting time for them, and automotive enthusiasts, as they plan to launch 25 all-new electrified cars by the year 2025.
CFR sat down, at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, with Ralph Mahler, Department Manager of Product Planning & Strategy at BMW of North America. His time was valuable, so we kept the questions short and to the point, specifically asking what was coming next and the expected mix of electricity, diesel and hydrogen. We are intrigued with what we heard.
BMW is building its future
CFR: BMW has made the bold announcement of 25 new cars by the year 2025. Can you give more details on these cars?
BMW: By 2025, we will have 25 new electrified vehicles. Out of the 25, we will have 12 battery electric and 13 hybrid vehicles. Of these, there will be an all-electric Mini in 2018 and the X3 sport utility in 2020.
CFR: Will any of the new all-electric cars be specifically designed to take on Tesla, head-to-head?
BMW: We are not just taking on Tesla or focusing on just one car, but it is part of a whole strategy. We integrate the battery-electric drivetrain at an early stage into our platforms. This gives us the possibility to react quickly and the possibility to shift, during the next decade, because nobody knows when the complete shift will take place, to put our hybrid and battery-electric drivetrains into all platforms. This is the right thing for us to do.
BMW was the first to come up with purpose-built platforms for the i3 and i8. But we came pretty fast to a conclusion that for scaling, this was not the right way to do it. So, this is a completely different approach than you can see from some of our competitors in the electrification of cars. We are a step further ahead because we did our first round with the purpose-built platforms, but now we know that our new approach is the right way for the future. The nice thing about this as well, is that since we use the same platform, once we have a new battery technology generation, it is much easier to develop it once, and then roll it out over multiple platforms.
CFR: The iPerformance models are selling well. What is the thinking on how these models will transition from combustion engines to electric?
BMW: iPerformance is part of our strategy in this transition phase in the next decade. It is a clear road for these customers going from combustion engines into the next generation of battery electric vehicles. But, in between, most customers will be going into a plug-in hybrid first. Therefore, the iPerformance models are very important for us because we already know that once we have customers in a plug-in hybrid model that 80 to 90-percent of them say their next purchase will be a full battery electric vehicle.
CFR: Let’s briefly talk about the future of diesel in the United States for BMW.
Mini’s future is getting more electric
BMW: Diesel is currently important with the demand being in SUVs, but lower in sedans. We believe with plug-in hybrids we have a technology which helps us convince these customers that going into the new electrification era is their next step. We see diesel, especially for passenger cars, decreasing as these customers move into a plug-in hybrid.
CFR: What about hydrogen?
BMW: Hydrogen is very interesting to us. Through what we have done, and what our competitors have done, there is no clear picture as to where this will be in 2030. The key is (how quickly) a high-density battery for performance and range (is developed). Plus, the infrastructure for hydrogen is more costly and at the moment it is at a way lower level than a plug-in car.
CFR: To wrap-up, what is your vision of BMW’s future?
BMW: Like our Chairman of the Board of Management Harald Krueger stated: “The BMW Group has a clear vision of how our customers in the premium segment will stay on the move after 2030. Mobility will be autonomous, electric and fully connected. In all of this, the emotional experience of our customers plays a central role. Individual mobility will be tailor-made to fulfill all of their personal desires and needs.” BMW has a goal, this year, of selling 100,000 electrified vehicles worldwide. The future, by 2035, there will probably only be hybrid combustion engine vehicles; hydrogen fuel cells for big vehicles going long ranges; and for daily commutes you will see battery electric vehicles. Mobility will always be an important issue in the next 100 years, and we believe the future is definitely electrified.
Photo credit: Lex Adams
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LA Auto Show First Public Showing of Redesigned SUV
At this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show automakers introduced a mixture of environmentally friendly, advanced technology vehicles along with traditional high-performance models appealing to a different market segment. At Clean Fleet Report we think there’s some high performance worth noting in the first group. This is one of several stories that will highlight the most significant news out of the show.
The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL made its debut Wednesday at the Los Angeles auto show as one of the show’s most-anticipated reveals. And yes, the new off-roader, in either two- or four-door versions, looks pretty much like the outgoing Wrangler JK. If it didn’t, there would be a massive revolt of Wranglerphiles. The vehicle is designed to have better aerodynamics, improved performance, increased fuel economy, and features some nice tech updates along with new powertrains.
Carryover and New Powertrains
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler will first be available with the carryover Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine that ponies up 285 horsepower (hp) and 260 pounds-feet (lb.ft.) of torque with the option of a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. All of Wrangler’s engines will now come standard with stop-start technology.
Jeep redesigns the iconic Wrangler and promises engine upgrades
Taking baby steps towards electrification, Jeep will also offer the 2018 Wrangler with a mild hybrid powertrain with its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine. Called eTorque, the hybrid adds regenerative braking, stop-start and electric power assist. This system makes 270 hp and 295 lb.ft. of torque.
For the first time ever (in the U.S.), Jeep will also offer a diesel engine. The diesel version will have a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 EcoDiesel engine that exerts 260 hp and 443 lb.ft. and has an eight-speed automatic transmission. Given its extra torque, this will likely be the most appealing option for those serious about off-roading and towing. Those who opt for the diesel model, though, will also have to wait until 2019 and it will only be available in four-door models.
At the end of Jeep’s second-best selling model reveal, brand head Mike Manley announced that the Wrangler will get a plug-in hybrid model in 2020 in a move he says is “future proofing” the legendary off-roader. “A full plug-in electric Jeep Wrangler will be available in 2020, furthering our commitment to all those who value the responsible, sustainable enjoyment of the great outdoors and very importantly, future proofing this Wrangler for generations to come,” he said.
New Exterior Styling, Sort Of
The redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler may look strikingly similar to its immediate predecessor, but above the skid plates and beneath the removable top, longtime fans will notice the upgrades incorporated into the first Wrangler redesign since 2006.
The grille combines the best of past eras of design, while being able to stand on its own. It has returned to the classic keystone shape with new, larger headlights intruding on the outboard slats, reminiscent of the first post-war flat-fender Jeeps. Keen eyes might also notice the return of the kink in the grille, which was last seen on YJs and XJs, a once-stalwart Jeep styling cue that retakes its rightful home at the front of the JL.
There are little details–like the taillights–that translate the Jeep fun factor
Overall length for the two-door is 166.8 inches, a growth spurt of a little over two inches. The four-door grows 3.5 inches compared to the JK, for an overall length of 188.4; a little over an inch of that is used to improve rear-seat legroom. The Wrangler JL’s track width grows one inch to 62.9 inches, while ground clearance is up across the board. Likewise, approach, breakover and departure angles are increased compared to standard JKs.
A Classy Interior
Inside the cabin, the Wrangler’s once-a-decade overhaul really takes off, starting with long-overdue upgrades of its infotainment system and information cluster. A five-inch touchscreen will be available on the low-end Sport models, with either seven- or optional 8.4-inch touchscreen displays available on upper trims, including optional Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrument cluster will feature either a 3.5-inch or seven-inch information screen, depending on the trim level. The new Wrangler will get push-button start for the first time, while its seats will have adjustable bolster and lumbar supports, and available heated front seats and steering wheel.
The interior gets a much-needed upgrade
Window controls are still in the center stack, as are a set of four auxiliary switches ready for lights, compressor or other electric needs. The dashboard grab handle even has a flat spot to mount a radio mic or other device. A new powered Sky one-touch system allows a driver to retract the Wrangler’s canvas soft top with the touch of a button.
Also included are 75 active and passive safety features, including a backup camera and available blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path detection. Plus, Jeep didn’t ignore rear seat passengers, with an additional inch of legroom, a seat back angled more deeply and, for the first time, a center armrest with cup holders.
So far, fuel economy ratings have been revealed only for the four-door Wrangler Unlimited models with the carryover engine. It earned mpg ratings of 18 city/23 highway/20 combined with the eight-speed automatic, and 17 city/23 highway/19 combined with the six-speed manual transmission. Pricing will be announced closer to its arrival in dealer showrooms in January.
27 Brands and 52 Cars at MPG Track Day
Motor Press Guild (MPG) is the Southern California trade association for automotive journalists. MPG’s goal of bringing together writers with automotive industry representatives is best demonstrated by its annual Track Day at Willow Springs Raceway. For those of you that have never been to Willow Springs, it is guaranteed you are familiar with this track as it has appeared in hundreds of commercials. Recognizable by its twisting track with extreme elevation changes and barren landscape, Willow Springs offers a challenging test for journalists and racers alike.
Motor Press Guild hits the track at Willow Springs
In early November, journalists headed 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles to strap on a helmet and get behind the wheel of some pretty cool cars. After a safety talk, warnings and driving rules, off we went in a very orderly and polite manner to get in as many cars as we could in a seven-hour timeframe.
My first drive was the 2017 Subaru BRZ Series Yellow. This limited-edition version is designed for track use with improved performance and handling and includes a Track Mode setting. In other words, it’s ideal for a few laps on a racetrack. A quick summary is the car was an absolute blast to drive and continues the good reputation Subaru has for designing fun sports cars.
I then got into these 2017 cars that all begged to be driven fast around the track.
- Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
- BMW X3 M40i
- Dodge Durango SRT
- Fiat 124 Abarth
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
- VW Jetta GLI
On To the Off-Road
The auto manufacturers also brought a few SUVs and trucks for off-road driving. The off-road course is intense, with a near-sheer drop off the mountain surrounding Willow Springs Raceway. There were several to choose from, and I opted for the Land Rover Discovery turbocharged V6 diesel. You want rock climbing in luxury? Look no further!
The off-road course offers some challenges
The permanent 4WD utilizes Land Rover’s All-Terrain Progress Control technology. When engaged, the air suspension lifts for an additional 2.95-inches of ground clearance, and the speed can be set for as slow as 1.2 mph for a safe and confident feeling using the Hill Descent Control. I say safe and confident because the rutted, scree we were descending, in a near straight down pitch, required this fantastic technology to get to the bottom of the hill without scratching the roof.
Next up was a visit to Willow Springs second and smaller track, the Streets Of Willow, where three cars were staged with factory, professional drivers that would provide white-knuckle hot laps.
Did someone say fast cars? And faster drivers
I had the opportunity to ride (maybe hang on is a better description!) with Patrick Long in the Porsche Panamera Executive AWD, Joel Miller in the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring and Adam Seaman thrashing a BMW M3. If you ever get the opportunity to have a professional driver, especially one from a factory race team, take you around a track in a high-performance car, don’t make the mistake of saying “no.” It is a blast!
The AWD Porsche Panamera Executive and the RWD BMW M3 were far more powerful cars than the RWD Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. So, while the rear end was sliding on the Porsche and BMW, the Mazda was controlled and smooth through the corners, and tracked like a MX-5 Miata is known to track.
It was fascinating to watch how each driver/car approached the corners differently, before all hitting the apex in the same place. As an automotive journalist, experiences with people that really really know how to handle a car are invaluable for my reviews.
The Real Test–Country Roads
To slow things down a bit as the day was coming to a close, I drove a few cars on the country roads surrounding Willow Springs Raceway.
- Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti
- Mini Countryman SE PHEV
- Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition
- Volvo V90
- VW Atlas
After all the excitement of driving on the tracks and off-road, it may seem a let-down to drive on regular roads, but this though could not be further from the truth. Even on a short drive, journalists can get a quick feel for a car they will later request for a longer-term loan.
We were glad to get a preview of the plug-in Mini
Clean Fleet Report tests cars from seven to ten days before we write a ‘Road Test’ review. This is the best way we know to give you, our readers, the best evaluation of a car so you can add it to your shopping consideration list. Therefore, full reviews on many of the listed cars will be posted on Clean Fleet Report in the coming months.
The auto manufacturers work hard to develop good relationships and communication with journalists. They know that without honest and objective reviews, getting out the word, to you the consumer, would be difficult at best. Clean Fleet Report thanks all the participating auto manufacturers that were part of the Motor Press Guild’s Willow Springs Track Day.
GM Doubles Down on Diesel for MPG and Torque
At a time when many auto manufacturers are leaning away from diesel, General Motors seems to be all in. General Motors is rightfully proud of the Duramax turbocharged diesel truck engines, with the 6.6L found in its full-size heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups and the 2.8L in the mid-size trucks—Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Clean Fleet Report tested the 2016 Colorado Diesel and was impressed with the engine’s smooth and torquey power and the 30+ mpg fuel economy.
In inside view of the newest diesel in GM’s lineup
But what about drivers that don’t want or need a truck, but still want the fuel economy of a diesel? Chevrolet has you covered with the Cruze Diesel that gets in excess of 50 miles per gallon on the highway. With Volkswagen no longer offering a diesel power plant, the Cruze Diesel should satisfy drivers with long commutes who want efficiency in a sedan or hatchback.
This is all good for truck and compact car diesel enthusiasts, but what about the fastest growing and largest sales segment of the auto industry—crossovers and sport utility vehicles? Chevrolet hasn’t left you wanting as the 2018 Equinox comes in a gasoline and diesel variant, with the diesel engine accomplishing a notable feat.
Ecotec 1.6L Turbodiesel
The Ecotec 1.6L turbodiesel, currently available in the Equinox compact SUV, has just been EPA rated at a best-in-class 39 mpg highway, with a 28 mpg in the city. Combine this with the 14.8 gallon fuel tank, and the 577 miles of driving range is also best-in-class. Horsepower is rated at 137 with 240 pounds-feet of torque.
This “best-in-class” designation includes topping the hybrid versions of the compact SUVs: Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan Rogue. It is no small accomplishment to reach these fuel economy numbers in a 4,000+ pound SUV available in two- and four-wheel drive. Clean Fleet Report will have a full review of the Equinox with the 1.6L turbo-diesel soon.
General Motors Has a Diesel Plan
General Motor’s engine and transmission engineers are now part of the Propulsion Systems team. The new terminology recognizes that engines can be powered by the conventional gasoline and diesel fuels, but also battery electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, natural gas and hydrogen fuel cells. GM designers and engineers must now be aware of a diverse universe of power plants to satisfy the needs of customers worldwide.
GM now has a full lineup of diesels for a variety of applications–covering compact sedans through heavy-duty pickups–and now crossovers
Worldwide, General Motors has 34 diesel models—12 of those being sold in the United States—including five diesel engines ranging from a 1.0L three-cylinder to the 6.6L V8.
The most recent new diesel engine on the scene is the Ecotec 1.6L, found in the 2018 Equinox. Designed in Torino, Italy; built in Hungary; and with engineering teams from the United States and Germany working on the five-year project, this is a prime example of GM’s ability to work on a global scale. Tom Read, GM Global Propulsion Systems Communications, said that “General Motors gives customers a choice in vehicles and propulsion systems, along with efficiency, premium torque and high fuel economy.”
The estimated 2020 compact SUV market will be somewhere around three million vehicles, with 16-percent of these buyers considering diesel. These 480,000 potential consumers for diesel-powered compact SUVs, the category the Equinox lives in, means GM is anticipating strong sales for the Equinox diesel.
Observations: General Motors is All In with Diesel
General Motors has stated its goals of offering multiple vehicle and engine options for customers. Its diesel program offers outstanding fuel economy, great torque and a good variety of models to meet driver’s lifestyles. With diesel power currently in full and mid-size trucks, a compact sedan and hatchback and now a small SUV, consumers should be able to find something that meets their needs.
Clean Fleet Report is a fan of diesel and hopes that GM broadens the model availability with this economical power option.
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Diesel’s Very Alive & Found a Good Home
Some things are made for each other. We believe that goes for modern diesel engines and SUVs, particularly those capable of real off-road adventures. The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Td6, which we drove at the recent Western Automotive Journalists’ Media Day program, fully embodies the concept.
The big boys like the Discovery are designed for diesel
Driving off-road road (and, we’d add, on-road) requires torque. It is the most elemental part of driving—that grunt power to launch from a dead stop or accelerate in critical situations. Not coincidentally, that’s why we love electric vehicles, since electric motors provide maximum torque at low speeds. But as the weight of the vehicle increases, electrics tend to strain as they have to add weight to carry the batteries that provide the power. Moving to the traditional internal combustion engine, the diesel version is one that provides a great balance of tremendous torque and a more acceptable power-to-weight ratio.
The other aspect where diesel thrives is moving large vehicles. It’s no accident that diesel power is behind locomotives, giant ocean-going vessels and some of the largest land equipment found in mines in the arctic. A compression ignition engine does the work, while delivering fuel efficiency superior to spark-ignited engines fueled by gasoline.
The Brits Take It to the Limit
While much of the automotive world has been treating diesel as a pariah in light of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, the Brits at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) have taken an opposite tack. The company has a long history with diesel and a stable of luxury vehicles not oriented toward fuel efficiency, so diesel power is a logical approach to meeting the increasingly stringent standards for engines around the world while still delivering the performance expected in this class of convenience.
With its executives railing against the “demonization” of diesel, JLR has moved forward by introducing diesel powertrains in both its Jaguar sedans and SUVs as well as in the venerable Land Rover SUVs.
The badge that covers all the bases–on-road & off
We drove the 2017 Land Rover Discovery Td6, which we think is the perfect fit for the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 engine. It cranks out 254 horsepower, significantly less than the base 3.0-liter supercharged gas engine, but delivers 443 pounds-feet of torque, which is what a 4900-pound SUV really craves.
The power is needed to haul around the seven-passenger off-road machine, capable as are all Land Rovers of going far beyond the mall-cruising they are typically relegated to in this country. With its 26-mpg highway rating and 22.5-gallon tank, the diesel Land Rover is capable to taking you more than 585 miles on the highway or into the outback. As with most diesels, I suspect with some judicious driving and a light load 30 mpg highway is within reach in the Discovery.
A Full Luxury SUV
While Land Rover has its roots in hard-core off-road machines and retains that basic capability, in recent years it has moved dramatically into the hard-core luxury market. The 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Td6 I drove was probably the epitome of the brand. While a basic Discovery with the 340-horsepower supercharged gas engine starts at $49,990, the diesel variant starts at $58,950 and the Luxury model I drove began at $65,950 with a full-contingent of premium features. But, of course, you could add to that and easily push the cost up into the stratosphere.
Soft touch and secret spaces
Everything is easy, as it should be, in a luxury SUV. Surfaces seems soft-touch, where a gentle press of a finger brings electronics to life or alerts the features of your desires. I didn’t get a chance (this time—I have in the past) to take the Land Rover off-road to really get a feel for its capability, but on-road it offered smooth power with a wonderfully high-riding, commanding point of view from the 12-way power driver’s seat. The upgrade 825-watt, 14-speaker Meridian sound system was what you might expect. Other luxury and technology features were in abundance.
As is befitting a luxury vehicle, the slight diesel clatter at start quickly dissipated as the SUV got up to speed and smooth and quiet torque was available throughout the powerband. The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Td6 continues a strong tradition as an unmatched four-wheel-drive off-road machine that simultaneously delivers a full measure of luxury. It was a pleasure to spend a short time with this aspirational machine.
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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 email@example.com.