News: Toyota Tests Fuel Cell Heavy-Duty Truck

News: Toyota Tests Fuel Cell Heavy-Duty Truck

Move Shows Company Dipping a Toe in New Market

Toyota is synonymous with hybrids in the U.S., but the company has made it clear it has other ambitions in the green car arena. It’s brought the Mirai fuel cell sedan to market and is leading all players in hydrogen-powered car sales. But Toyota didn’t get to be one of the largest automotive companies in the world by thinking small. So, a fuel cell-powered Class 8 truck should only be slightly surprising.

Toyota fuel cell truck

The Toyota Class 8 fuel cell truck has been on the road

Toyota first showed the fuel cell truck early in 2017 at a trade show. At the time it appeared to be a publicity stunt showing the capability of Mirai fuel cell stacks. In the truck, two Mirai stacks produce 670 horsepower and a critical 1,325 pounds-feet of torque. That torque is what makes what Toyota calls the Portal Project to haul an 80,000-pound load, the ticket of entry for regular work in the ports.

Fuel Cell Goes Into Service

Toyota revealed this week that the heavy-duty truck is now going into service later this month (October 2017) in and around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The company also noted that they have put in 4,000 miles of development for the prototype truck. What is clear from that number is the company is serious about moving this truck (or some version of it) towards production.

“Toyota has led the way in expanding the understanding and adoption of fuel cell technology,” said Toyota Motors North America Executive Vice President Bob Carter. “From the introduction of the Mirai passenger vehicle to the creation of the heavy-duty fuel cell system in Project Portal, Toyota continues to demonstrate the versatility and scalability of the zero-emission fuel cell powertrain.”

Toyota fuel cell truck

Under the hood, the fuel cell truck is clearly a prototype

In its work configuration the Portal Project is supposed to be capable of 200 miles of range (in part thanks to a 12 kWh battery backing up the fuel cell). Toyota aims to test how this works in the real world, in what it terms a “demanding cycle.” It hopes to be able to extend that range with longer routes later in the test.

The Toyota truck is clearly a prototype (just look under the hood), but the intent of Toyota may be clearer than many realize. Toyota’s truck subsidiary, Hino Motors, announced late last month that it was investing in a new plant in West Virginia to begin to produce Class 7 and 8 trucks, a new segment for Hino in the U.S. Hino has been the leader in hybrid truck technology; could they be ready to transition to fuel cells?

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

News: GM Show Autonomous Fuel Cell Platform

News: 2016 Toyota Mirai Hits the Market

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Mirai

Road Test: 2017 Kia K900 Luxury V8

Road Test: 2017 Kia K900 Luxury V8

Revisiting Kia’s Luxury Sedan

Two years ago Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive Kia’s new luxury sedan, the 2015 K900. As we now revisit the K900, with its V8 engine, we know it is about as far removed from what is usually reviewed on Clean Fleet Report—cars that are powered by alternative fuels or get 40+ mpg on the freeway.

We reviewed the K900 then because we know your automotive needs are varied. Your broad interest in cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers provides us with valuable feedback, and we appreciate your interest in reading about these vehicles. So, the question is—Is a large luxury car in your future? Could Kia drive into your garage in spite of lacking a luxury heritage. The 2017 Kia K900 asks those questions–and poses some challenging new ones of its own.

Drivetrain

Clean Fleet Report tested the rear-wheel drive 2017 Kia K900 Luxury that was powered by a 5.0-liter V8 DOHC engine, producing 420 horsepower (hp) and 376 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque, through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It is a rarity when Clean Fleet Report gets into a car with a beastly 5.0L V8, as most cars we test are either four or six cylinders, or don’t have an internal combustion engine at all!

2017 Kia K900

Kia looks to drive into the luxury arena

But we were are glad we did get into the K900 as it was smooth, strong, quiet and powerful—just like we remember it. Something else we faced were fuel economy numbers of 15 city/23 highway/18 combined mpg. We were quickly reminded that the trade-off of a big V8, with its smoothness and power, will be lower fuel economy.

In a few unscientific acceleration runs, the K900 traveled 0–60 in about 5.7 or 5.8 seconds. During lane passes at highway speeds, the eight-speed automatic up-and-down shifted seamlessly and precisely. In 234 miles of mostly Southern California highway driving we averaged 20.1 mpg. In a 150-mile all-highway driving trip, using the advanced smart cruise control, we averaged 25.7 mpg. A very respectable number for a car weighing 4,700 pounds and being almost 17-feet long.

The base model comes with the 3.8-liter, V6 that produces 311 hp and has a fuel economy rating of 17/25/20. Both engines use regular grade gasoline. Our experience with other cars with EPA ratings in the mid-to-high-twenties gives us confidence the V6 could reach near 30 mpg.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2017 Kia K900 felt heavy and big on the road, delivering a smooth, quiet and near bump-free ride. You won’t find any creaking or rattles on the solid K900. While not marketed as a performance or sporty car, Kia does know how to engineer and design cars that handle quite well, so cornering was relatively flat thanks to the 19-inch tires and front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beams. Mono-tube shocks helped even-out the ride and provide for flatter cornering. Stopping was straight and true with no fading from the four-wheel disc, ABS system.

The electro-hydraulic power-assisted steering was a bit light and lacked feel, but gave an acceptable balance between a premium highway ride and confident cornering. We did notice on long,

2017 Kia K900

Touchable interiors and extra tech await you inside

straight stretches of highway, frequent small corrections were necessary as the K900 would tend to wander a bit and the ride would become slightly floaty. We were glad the K900 had lane departure warning! Floaty is a relative term and the K900 is nothing like the large sedans from the 1970s and 1980s. The big Cadillacs and Lincolns back then would, on the open highway at 70+ mph, float through the full travel of the shocks. It was quite a thing to experience!

Driving Experience: Exterior

The 2017 Kia K900 is a large four-door sedan with smooth lines and without any unnecessary ridges, bumps or sharp angles. Chrome is kept at an absolute minimum. The roofline has a classic luxury car sweep, leading to a spoiler-less high trunk lid. While the design is pleasant enough, it is conservative and is playing in a crowded field of more recognizable luxury sedans, both by styling and name recognition. One concern Kia has is that from the front view the K900 is hard to differentiate when parked next to Kia’s other sedans, which sell for $25,000+ less. Hyundai, Kia’s sister brand, has demonstrated a luxury car can have style all its own, in the all-new Genesis G90. Chances are the K900 will be redesigned in the near future.

Driving Experience: Interior

Just opening the solid door of the K900 is enough to tip-off there is something good going on inside. The interior seems to be covered everywhere in soft, supple Nappa leather, which in the case of our K900 came with the VIP Plus Package so the seats were also quilted. Real wood and aluminum trim pieces and accents were in just the right places. Even the headliner is made of a suede-like material, adding one more luxury touch.

2017 Kia K900, rear seat

Because control is the key to luxury

2017 Kia K900

The real luxury is in back

The five-passenger seating dares you to not find a comfortable seating position. The driver seat is 16-way power adjustable and the front passenger seat gets eight ways to play around until that “just right” feeling sets in. The VIP Package adds power front headrests, power lumbar adjustment for front and rear seats, driver seat power leg extension and rear seat recline. The front seats are heated and ventilated, as are the outboard rear seats. Staying in the rear, I can only say you need to sit back there to experience the near-limo legroom. With the rear power sunshade and the manual rear side window shades deployed, your passengers will revel in anonymity, feeling like true VIPs during their trip. When folded down, the center rear seat armrest (which also is a ski pass-through) includes climate controls and a 12V outlet. The complete package adds-up to a luxury interior experience.

The driver has three display areas; the head-up display (part of the VIP Plus Package), which appears on the windshield just above the steering wheel; the 12.3-inch LCD information cluster located behind the heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel; and the center dash-mounted 9.2-inch full-color display with navigation and Kia’s UVO eServices. The 17-speaker Lexicon Logic7 Audio System, with 900 watts of power, sounded like a concert hall. It came with SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3, USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone. The voice recognition system, used for placing calls and other commands, was as good as any I have tested. Add in the Homelink auto-dimming rearview mirror and compass for more convenience and safety.

Other nice interior features of the K900 Luxury are the panoramic sunroof, rear and front camera displays, three-zone climate control, power tilt and telescoping steering column, push button start/stop, smart key, power closing trunk and power soft-closing door latches.

Safety and Convenience

Standard and optional safety and convenience features for the 2017 Kia K900 Luxury include eight air bags, remote keyless entry, a tire pressure monitoring system, electronic stability control, traction control System, four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes (ABS), vehicle stability management, adaptive LED headlights, LED fog and rear tail lights, illuminated entry, front and rear parking sensors with Kia’s Park Guide System, blind spot detection, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert. The power folding outside mirrors (with puddle lamps) were a nice touch as were the hydrophobic front door windows and rain sensing windshield wipers will be in a rain storm.

2017 Kia K900

The front end says Kia–maybe too much Kia

The K900 Luxury has radar technology with Advanced Smart Cruise Control and an autonomous emergency braking system. When used together, they help maintain a safe speed with the car in front and can bring the K900 to an unassisted complete stop. This is one of the features that will be a part of self-driving cars. It’s technology I found to be especially valuable in stop-and-go, rush hour traffic. Because, once set, it is not necessary to apply the brakes or touch the accelerator mile after mile after mile in zero-to-10-mile-per-hour speeds. The last step will be autonomous steering, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For parking lot safety, the K900 Luxury has Kia’s Surround View Monitor System which are four small, wide-angle cameras that are strategically placed to provide a down and outward view, surrounding the car. When parking, these views appear on the full-color LCD screen and are extremely helpful to reveal objects that could easily be run into.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2017 Kia K900 comes in three models with these base prices.

Premium V6           $49,900

Luxury V6             $54,900

Luxury V8             $61,900

Clean Fleet Report’s K900 Luxury V8 was equipped with the VIP Plus Package adding $6,000 for a total price of $67,900. All prices listed do not include the $950 freight and handling charge.

The 2017 Kia K900 comes with these warranties.

Powertrain             10 years/100,000 miles

Basic                     Five years/60,000 miles

Roadside               Five years/60,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Kia K900 Luxury

Kia’s first foray into the luxury class has delivered a competent full-size car that is wonderfully equipped, powerful, pleasant to look at and fantastic to ride in. The next step for them will be to emulate their sister brand Hyundai and completely redesign the K900 in the coming years so it takes the next step to competing with the like of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Cadillac and BMW.

2017 Kia K900, badge

Kia wants this to say luxury, but it still has a ways to go

Clean Fleet Report is interested in how relevant the K900, or other full-size luxury cars and SUVs, is to your lifestyle. Have you achieved career success and need, or have earned, a large car that can seat five full adults in luxury? Or will you continue to look for luxury touches in smaller cars that get considerably better fuel economy? We want to hear from you.

Coming to Clean Fleet Report means you are looking for fuel economy first and foremost. If your needs are for a more substantial car that gets your guests and you around in luxury, then you should be looking at and appreciating the 2017 Kia K900.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Tech: New 48-Volt Mild Hybrids Coming

News: 2018 Lexus LS 500/500h World Debut

News: 2019 Audi A8 Rolls into Frankfurt

Road Test: 2017 Chrysler 300 S Hemi V-8

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 Audi A8 Rolls into Frankfurt With 48-Volt Hybrid System

News: 2019 Audi A8 Rolls into Frankfurt With 48-Volt Hybrid System

At this week’s Frankfurt auto show, automakers will be vying to show that Tesla won’t overtake them by introducing a passel of battery-electric vehicles themselves. Here’s a look from Clean Fleet Report of one of those new electrified cars that you could be driving by the end of this decade.


Autonomous Technology, Electrification Push A8 to the Top

Audi has thrown down the gauntlet for high-end luxury cars, and put BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla on notice: The 2019 Audi A8 has leapfrogged in every area with the recently refreshed BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class flagship sedans as well as the challenger, the Tesla Model S. Starting with the all-new 2019 Audi A8, every single model will soon feature a 48-volt hybrid system.

2019 Audi A8

Inside the tech-heavy 2019 Audi A8

The hardware starts with a belt-driven alternator-starter as the core of the 48-volt hybrid unit. The system allows the A8 to coast with the engine turned off, saving fuel. Audi says the system restarts “smoothly,” unlike some stop-start systems currently employed. The mild hybrid system can also recover some energy during braking, while the motor adds 16 horsepower (12 kilowatts) on top of the engine’s output, with the final power figure a combination of both propulsion sources. As for fuel economy, Audi estimates the mild hybrid system will reduce fuel consumption by 0.2 gallons for every 62 miles driven in real world driving conditions.

When the new 2019 A8 arrives in the U.S. next spring, it will be powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 gasoline engine delivering 354 horsepower and a healthy 369 pounds-feet torque. An eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission will deliver that power to all four wheels, as all 2019 A8s will come with permanent Quattro all-wheel drive. Optional will be four-wheel steering.

Fancy Tech

On the technological front, the new A8 will be the first production car to come to the U.S. fully ready for Level 3 (on the 0-5 scale for autonomy laid out by the Society of Automotive Engineers). Called “Traffic Jam Pilot,” the system can take control of the vehicle on highways with a physical barrier separating oncoming traffic, at speeds up to 37 mph. It’ll take care of steering, accelerating and braking, and will give the driver plenty of warning when it’s his or her turn to take the steering wheel once again. It will also be capable of parking itself, whether in a parking space or a garage. Audi will roll out activation of the A8’s autonomous driving features when U.S. federal or state laws allow.

To smooth the ride, an electromechanical suspension, with juice supplied by the 48-volt system, uses cameras that monitor the road ahead and can command the suspension to soften up over bumps. Electric motors actuate the air suspension to soften or firm up at a millisecond’s notice. It can also raise the car up if there’s a side collision to help mitigate any chance of injury by deflecting the blow to the strongest parts of the chassis.

2019 Audi A8

Traffic Jam Pilot takes autonomy up a level

Styling

As you would expect, the 2019 Audi A8 is fully redesigned, with nearly 90 percent of the front end covered by a new, massive hexagonal grille—it’s the automobile equivalent of a Kenworth 18-wheeler in the rearview mirror. Narrow headlights lifted from the Prologue concept cars have laser beams (not U.S. approved) within the LED Matrix lights. Out back, the taillights are joined together with a long strip of both chrome and more taillight.

No surprise to anyone, the 2019 Audi A8’s cabin is leather-wrapped and wood-trimmed. The interior adopts a reductive design with a strictly horizontal orientation. It dispenses with the familiar rotary pushbutton and touchpad of the predecessor model in favor of an instrument panel which is largely free of buttons and switches. At its center is a 10.1-inch touchscreen display which, when off, blends almost invisibly into the high-gloss black surround thanks to its black-panel look. The A8 also includes a footrest for backseat passengers with massage function. That’s coupled with heated and cooled seats as well.

When the 2019 Audi A8 hits European streets this fall, the base price will be $103,000 and change.

U.S. pricing will be announced at a later date.      

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

News: Audi Shows Coupe-Crossover Q8 Crossover

News: BMW Adds i-Performance Electrics

News: Mercedes AMG Moves to Hybrids

First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X 

Road Test: 2017 Mazda3 Five-Door

Road Test: 2017 Mazda3 Five-Door

Handy, Handsome, and a Hoot to Drive

Mazda has decades of history in the U.S., but is probably best known for its iconic Miata (or MX-5, as it’s officially branded today). With sporty handling and more than a million sold, it embodies the spirit of the brand. Mazda’s bestseller here, the Mazda3 (five million sold since 2004), has some of the Miata’s look and feel. Those qualities separate it from the mundane grocery-getters in the compact segment.

2017 Mazda3 Five-Door

Built-in “Zoom-Zoom”

With a recent redesign, the 2017 Mazda3 Five-Door receives only minimal tweaks to refine its styling, improve interior quietness and simplify model nomenclature. You have the Sport and Touring, which use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 155 horsepower (hp) and 150 pounds-feet (lb.ft.) of torque. Step up to the Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring and you’ll get the more potent 2.5-liter engine with 185 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. 

This latter engine moves the 3,046-pound Mazda3 along, especially with the manual six-speed transmission, available in some models, including my top-level Grand Touring test car. Although rowing through gears is as odd as making calls from your rotary-dial home telephone (in beige, almond, white, or black), there’s more here than nostalgia. Engagement with the car is significantly greater when you’re responsible for shifting.

Positioning is Everything

To make it more fun, Mazda positions the tachometer right in the center of the instrument panel, with a small digital speedometer tucked inside it. That’s part of how the Miata qualities percolate into the larger Mazda3 people-hauler.

2017 Mazda3 Five-Door

A driver-oriented cockpit loaded with tech

The EPA awards the 2017 Mazda3 Five-Door with 2.5-liter engine and six-speed manual ratings of 25 city/33 highway/28 combined. I averaged 27.5 mpg during my test week. Green scores are twin 6’s for Smog and Greenhouse Gas.

One new feature for 2017 is standard G-Vectoring Control technology. It uses engine timing to control chassis dynamics for smoother, more accurate steering inputs. You may not know it’s there, but it helps you drive the car better while keeping you safer.

Mazda makes a good point when they say that with the many performance and comfort/convenience features the Mazda3 provides, why bother looking at other, often much pricier, models? In the Grand Touring, that’s a good argument. My Eternal Blue Mica tester featured a sharp-looking black and white interior that kept the accommodations serious, but also a bit festive. The sporty seats are comfortable too—eliciting approval from my wife, who rides in every car and only speaks up about something if she really likes it or strongly disapproves. These seats got two thumbs up from her.

First, Figure Out Where Everything Is

The driving experience is easy once you learn where everything is located. A little flip-up panel on the dashtop enables a head-up view of speed–and local speed limit–at a glance. The driver controls climate, entertainment and other apps from the center console dial—a nod to Audi and BMW. Buttons surrounding the dial guide you to the locations you need and then you can turn and push to select what you want.

2017 Mazda3 five-Door

Seating in the Grand Touring model is very upscale

The Mazda3 comes as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. My tester, in five-door form, proved how handy compact hatchbacks and wagons can be. I hauled musical gear with ease and, frankly, the two models look a lot more alike than they used to in earlier days. The Kodo design scheme blends sharp edges into softer forms, creating the look of motion while imparting a feel of solidity.

Like most vehicle lines, the Mazda3 offers you choices, not only in color, body shape and trim level, but with option packages. My Grand Touring included two—the Premium Equipment Package ($1,600) and i-Activesense Safety Package ($1,100). The first brightens up the night with Bi-LED headlamps with auto-leveling as well as pivoting adaptive front-lighting. More illumination comes from LED daytime running lights. The steering wheel gets heat and paddle shifters (in the automatic). Lastly, a navigation system and auto-dimming feature round out the package.

i-Activesense is a bundle of safety tech, including high beam control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, radar cruise control, smart brake support and the interesting traffic sign recognition. All these, by the way, are steps towards the self-driving car—but you can’t do that with the Mazda3 yet.

Summary

2017 Mazda3 Five-Door

The hatch–ready to assist

The least expensive Mazda3 is the four-door sedan, but in five-doors, it starts with the Sport with manual six-speed, at $19,970, and tops out at $25,820 for the Grand Touring with automatic. My tester, with the two packages, came to $27,730.

Cars in the $28,000 range, especially equipped like my tester, are on the lower end of the car market these days. With its performance features and handsome styling inside and out, you may want to ignore those fancy BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes. Get a 2017 Mazda3 Five-Door, and pocket the difference. This award-winning compact is a buff magazine favorite. With its Miata genetics, it’s good for plenty of “zoom-zoom.”

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–and let us know if you do or don’t at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Related Stories You Might Ejoy:

Road Test: 2017 Mazda3 (Larry’s View)

Road Test: 2017 Mazda3 (John’s View)

Road Test: 2017 Mazda CX-3

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Corolla

Road Test: 2016 Honda Civic

Road Test: 2016 Ford Focus Electric

First Drive: 2016 Nissan Sentra

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI

First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

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 300 S Hemi V-8

Road Test: 2017 Chrysler 300 S Hemi V-8

The Past Meets Present Fuel Efficiency

Chrysler’s 2017 300 Series sedans are certainly too new to be called classics, but they bristle with touches from the past: classic proportions—long hood, short rear deck and a dramatic profile; a grille reminiscent of the mid-1950s; spacious, luxurious appointed cabin; rear wheel drive; and, of course, the legendary Chrysler Hemi V-8 engine.

When the 300 Series was first introduced in the ’50s, Chrysler’s “Letter Series” cars were large, premium automobiles. The Chrysler name was associated with luxury and their offerings played in the same league as Cadillac and Lincoln. But unlike the originals, today’s 300 four-door sedans compete for business by clashing with rivals that are in a different league than the past—the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon and Nissan’s Maxima. One of Chrysler’s distinctions is that it’s the only one in this group offering two things prized in old and new big cars–a V-8 engine and all-wheel drive, though you can’t get the two together.

The tradition of offering 300 Series cars with different levels of luxury and powerplants continues today. Four core models make up the 2017 Chrysler 300 line, ranging from a well-equipped mainstream full-size sedan in the 300 Limited to the luxurious 300C Platinum. The 300S offers a sportier alternative for the younger crowd, while the 300C balances on a near-luxury beam.

A Higher MPG Option

Just two engines are offered in the 2017 Chrysler 300. The base engine is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that earns 19/30/23 mpg city/highway/combined on the EPA cycle, or 18/27/21 mpg with all-wheel drive. Other than the Avalon Hybrid, this is the top fuel economy for a full-size car.

A step up to a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, available on 300S, 300C, and 300C Platinum gets an EPA-estimated mileage quote of 16/25/19 mpg. As noted–a one of a kind, so best-of-breed by default.

Since neither of the two engines comes close to the fuel economy numbers of the cars that we normally review, readers might question why we would write about a V-8 powered car with middling mpg numbers.  The simple answer is, we cover green technologies, improvements to fuel efficiency and alternative powertrains for all classes of vehicles–not just those with the very highest fuel efficiency.

According to Experian Automotive, which specializes in collecting and analyzing automotive data, Americans own an average of 2.28 vehicles per household, and more than 35 percent of households own three or more cars. And it is likely that one of those three cars doesn’t have stellar fuel economy.

What The Heck Is A Hemi Engine?

Hemi is a trademark name by Chrysler (now FiatChrysler Automobiles) that refers to the engine’s hemispherical combustion chamber’s design. The name reflects the concept of a domed cylinder head and the top of the piston enclosing a space that approximates a half of a sphere (hemi+sphere+ical), although in practice it is generally less than half.

2017 Chrysler 300S

2017 Chrysler 300S–the engine

Chrysler developed their first experimental hemi engine for the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft in 1945. The automaker applied their military experience with the hemispherical combustion chamber to their first overhead-valve V-8 engine, released under the name FirePower, not “Hemi,” and produced a second-generation version before ending production in the early ’70s.

The 2005 Chrysler 300C model marked the return of the legendary Hemi engine to the company’s lineup. Compared to the original, the new Hemi doesn’t have a pure hemispherical combustion chamber. Much of the bowl area of the combustion chamber was filled in to encourage the fuel-air mixture to stir itself prior to ignition. The chamber is shallower than past Hemis so the top of the piston is nearly flat.

Even though it isn’t a genuine Hemi, this current 5.7-liter V-8 engine packs the powerful punch of 363 horsepower and 396 pounds-feet of torque. So how can this high-performance V-8 in a car that weighs more than 4,000 pounds deliver 16 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway? Engine technology called cylinder deactivation seamlessly turns off fuel consumption in four cylinders when V-8 power is not needed, such as highway cruising. Add in an eight-speed automatic transmission, and you have a recipe for big engine fuel efficiency.

The transimission is operated via a rotary knob. Select S, and the throttle tightens up, the downshifts get more aggressive, gears are held longer, and the transmission will hang out in lower gears than normal. Choose the paddle shifters while in S, the transmission will go full manual and won’t revert back to auto.

Designed In Detroit

Swagger, presence, boldness—whatever you want to call it, the 2017 Chrysler 300 has it. It’s a look that stands out from its peers, even though its basic shape launched more than a decade ago. It remains a handsome car in the more traditional Detroit mold with plenty of chrome trim.

This second generation Chrysler 300 received a front and rear refresh in 2015. The grille was enlarged with a different mesh-type pattern, and headlights were redesigned, with C-shaped LED daytime running lights for instant notoriety. To complement the new grille, the lower air dam was redesigned with chrome accents and fresh LED fog lamps. On the backside, the rear fascia was visually widened with polished exhaust tips enlarged and pushed to the corners; while new LED tail lamps with an illuminated halo added a flash of elegance.

The profile remains the square-shouldered, brawny, yet sleek look it has been since 2012’s redesign, but now has a slightly less-flashy, more buttoned-down look.

2017 Chrysler 300S

2017 Chrysler 300S

In the 1950s the Letter Series always signified Chrysler’s premium automobile and does so today. The 2017 300 is sure to impress with its interior design and furnishings. Trim and accent pieces are high quality, and the car is put together solidly. One attractive feature is the inclusion of standard Nappa leather seats, which is an especially premium material that’s usually an upgrade even in luxury models.

Faithful to its raison d’etre, few competitors can match the Chrysler 300 when it comes to passenger accommodations. The 300 can comfortably seat five people. The back seat offers more than 40 inches of leg space, so even taller passengers can stretch out. Full-size adults can fit in the rear comfortably, which you can’t do in most modern five-passenger cars. Front seats are equally roomy, and the driver’s seat is a great place to work with features like a power-adjustable steering wheel and heated/ventilated seats. The 300’s trunk gives you 16.3 cubic feet of space, enough for a whole family’s luggage or a foursome’s golf bags.

For 2017 the Chrysler 300 received a thorough round of upgrades, focusing on the electronics suite. Among the updates are a new fourth-generation Uconnect infotainment system with smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, an upgraded 8.4-inch touchscreen that now recognizes multi-touch and swipe gestures. The Uconnect touchscreen interface is one of my favorites, pairing large buttons and crisp graphics with a logical menu structure.

Standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, two USB ports, the Uconnect infotainment system and a rearview camera. Optional features include a sunroof, a choice of premium audio systems, navigation and adaptive headlights.

On the safety side, available are forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control.

When The Hemi Meets The Road

Looking back to 2005 when the Chrysler 300 was revived, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed about the car—how it drives. It still feels like a big imposing car. The big, long dashboard rolled out ahead into the long, wide hood giving a sense of length to the car, and the wide, short windshield seemed to stretch the car from one side of the lane to the other. From behind the steering wheel, it imparts a feeling of privilege generally reserved for much more expensive cars.

2017 Chrysler 300S

An expensive area of privilege

The 300S was a soothing respite to the bustle of noisy city traffic—nicely soundproofed, luxuriously appointed and a pleasure to drive. This isn’t a cut and dart kind of car to gain a couple spots in traffic, and you sure as heck can’t pull a U-turn on narrow city streets. Parallel parking? Only if you are proficient.

The big Chrysler moved fast off the line, and since it’s rear drive, there’s no torque steer to contend with. The Hemi has a lot of good torque and lots of power right off idle. You can waste a set of tires without even trying.

On the highway, the 300 drove like a big American car should; stable and confident. There was just enough engine, road, and wind noise to keep me connected with the road. Comfortable ride quality is one of the 300’s strong selling points. Regardless of the road surface—raised slabs, tilted slabs, pot holes, dips, exaggerated expansion joints—the 300 was always calm and collected. I particularly like the suspension tuning, which is a nice balance between the taught European offerings and the somewhat softer Japanese setups.

Handling in the 300S was more about comfort and ride quality than performance—this is, after all, a large sedan. When the road turned twisty, I could feel the 300’s size, although the standard electric power steering made light work of taking the turns. The 300 was not a ballerina, but it wasn’t a lumbering bear.

After a week in the 2107 Chrysler 300S, the 294 miles comprised considerably more highway miles than city miles. That could explain the 23.8 combined mpg—not exactly a gas guzzler after all.

In The Marketplace

The base 2017 Chrysler 300 Limited trim with the V-6 engine starts at $33,435 including destination charges, the priciest 300 trim, the 300C Platinum with the Hemi V-8, clocks in at $46,865. Our Bright White 300S with optional sunroof, cooled performance front seats, appearance package and bigger brakes stickered at $42,995.

2017 Chrysler 300S

The fit is right and snake can result

With a starting price nearly $5,000 lower than the cheapest Chrysler 300, the Chevrolet Impala is worth a look. While it earns better fuel economy, it eschews many of the 300’s luxury features and no V-8 engine is offered.

Toyota’s Avalon comes the closest to the 300’s luxury appointments, but it’s front-wheel drive only and offers only four- and six-cylinder engines. Over at Nissan, the Maximum is more fun to drive with slightly better fuel mileage than the 300, however, the interior lacks the premium look and feel of the Chrysler and there is no V-8 engine available.

That big car feel can be charming, especially with the Hemi V-8 under the hood. In this era of crossovers and hybrids, the 2017 Chrysler 300S redefines old school cool. The 300 is best for those who crave V-8 muscle and need plenty of room and comfort to haul a family. If that description fits you, you need to test drive the 2017 Chrysler 300 with Hemi power.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2016 Chevrolet Impala

Road Test: 2016 Nissan Maxima

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Avalon

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

 

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT

Stylishly Functional

Disclosure: I am a fan of hatchbacks.

Sure, hot hatches like a Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus RS or Nissan Juke Nismo RS get all attention for their outstanding performance and thrilling handling. This does not mean a hatchback has to be a road screamer to be interesting. Which is the case for the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback—a versatile, good-looking five-door that is knocking on the door of 40 mpg on the highway. Oh, and if that was not enough to get your attention, the Cruze Hatchback is scheduled in 2018 to come as a turbodiesel model where 50+ mpg should be a possibility.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The front-wheel drive 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatch is powered by a smooth, turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, producing 153 horsepower and 177 pounds-feet of torque. While a six-speed manual transmission is available, Clean Fleet Report’s Cruze Hatch LT, with the optional RS Package, was equipped with a six-speed Hydra-matic automatic. The EPA rates the Cruze Hatch automatic at 29 city/38 highway/32 combined. The sedan version hits 40 mpg highway in the EPA tests. In 286 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report averaged 33.2 mpg. However, in a 125 mile highway run, with the cruise control set at 70 mph, we achieved 39.6 mpg. Helping with the fuel economy is the start/stop system, where the engine shuts off when coming to a stop and then restarts when you release the brake pedal. Chevrolet’s system is quiet and barely noticeable when the engine kicks in, offering a near smooth process of saving fuel when idling.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

The business end of the newest Cruze

It is important to note that the fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific. They represent the reviewer’s driving experience, but should be similar to most drivers living in our reviewer’s cities. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains, spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

The Cruze Hatch with the automatic will not be confused with one of the hot hatches mentioned earlier. The acceleration is so-so. At times there was some hesitation at low speeds. Not sure if this is a turbo or transmission gremlin, but it was not severe enough to cast a pall on buying this car. The Cruze Hatch shows its stuff on the open road, where it cruises along at-or-above posted freeway speeds (in California that will be either 65 or 70 mph). Once out of traffic the Cruze Hatch had no issues keeping up with, or being the leader, on the racetracks that are Southern California freeways. Again, the anticipated turbodiesel should make open road runs even more fun and economical.

The Cruze Hatch feels more like a size-up (a midsize car) from its compact class classification. This is most noticeable with the confident and solid feel when driving, especially on long stints of open highway. Starting with stability and traction control, MacPherson struts and electric power steering, coil springs and sway bars, there is nearly no body roll even on the tightest corners or high-speed freeway onramps. Clean Fleet Report’s LT model had 16-inch alloy wheels and 215/60R16 all-season tires. Seventeen and 18-inch wheels and tires are available as options or on other trim levels.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Cruze Hatch is identical to the Cruze sedan from the rear doors forward. Up front you will find a clean design, starting with the sharp-featured nose where the grille meshes cleanly with the fascia. Sweptback dual-projection LED headlamps sit above deeply set fog lights. The slope from the front “bowtie” Chevrolet emblem rises to a high point at the B pillar, and then drops to the integrated spoiler above the rear solar-absorbing liftgate glass and wiper. A tasteful shark fin antenna on the rear roof and a single, subtle RS logo on the front grille finish off the look of this stylish car. It drew more than a few comments.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

The styling starts here

Driving Experience: Interior

Chevrolet spent a considerable amount of time and thought redesigning the Cruze interior, especially the dash, making it a driver-focused cockpit. The gauges are not overly digital, soft touch materials abound and the restrained use of chrome accents give the dash, door panels and center console a feeling of quality. The overall impression is one of a finished look and feel.

Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback included the $1,150 Convenience Package that had heated driver and passenger cloth seats, with the driver getting eight-way power adjustments. The flat-folding 60/40 split rear seat also had a fold down armrest with cup holders, when two were riding out back. The rear USB charger was a convenient touch.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

4G LTE, wireless charging and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are all here

The six-speaker Chevrolet MyLink infotainment (information and entertainment) and audio system controls the seven-inch color touchscreen for the AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX radio. Features include an USB input, SiriusXM (three-month free subscription), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for Bluetooth that offers hands-free telephone and voice control. General Motor’s handy and helpful OnStar system is included for five years with the basic plan and three months for the automatic accident response and navigation service.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly GM representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader. After the five-year basic and three-month plans expire, it is well worth renewing for the peace of mind you (or maybe your child or spouse) will always have when driving your Cruze Hatch. For faster Internet speeds, the Cruze comes has a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot, with a limited period subscription. If your kids are sitting in the back gaming, then continuing the subscription is a must-do.

Our Cruze Hatch came equipped with cruise control, power windows with one-touch up and down, rearview camera, keyless start and entry, passive entry system, power and heated side mirrors, remote start, carpeted floor mats, climate control and tilt and telescopic steering column.

Safety

Our test 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback had the optional Driver Confidence Package that included rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change alert with side blind zone alert. Chevy wants you to be alerted in case another car is getting too close! For $495, this is an excellent package to add when buying a Cruze. Additional safety features are 10 airbags, four-wheel power disc ABS braking system and a tire pressure monitoring system.

In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2017 Cruze received four stars (the highest rating) for overall crash protection, while the Insurance

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

Still includes a spare

Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Cruze its top rating of Good.

Pricing and Warranties

Base MSRP for the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback is $21,240 for the six-speed manual and $21,290 with the automatic transmission. Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Cruze Hatch, with $2,850 in optional equipment, had a MSRP of $24,770. All prices exclude the $875 destination charge.

The 2017 Cruze comes with these warranties:

Powertrain                      Five years/60,000 miles

Bumper-to-Bumper      Three years/36,000 miles

Roadside Assistance     Three years/36,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

The new for 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback joins its sibling, the Cruze sedan, which was all-new in 2016. As Chevrolet’s best-selling car around the world (with more than 3.5 million units sold since going on sale in 2008), the Cruze is vitally important to Chevrolet and General Motors.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

Chevy adds a new twist to its best-selling car

As noted earlier, I like hatchbacks, and the Chevrolet Cruze Hatch does not disappoint for fans like me. Its versatility for cargo and passengers, exterior and interior design, fit and finish and fuel economy—all packed into a car with a base price hovering around $21,000—creates a car worth your attention. When the turbodiesel hits showrooms, tentatively in the end of 2017, the possibility of 50+ mpg on the highway will set the Cruze apart.

If a sports utility or crossover vehicle might be too much for your lifestyle or needs, the Cruze Hatch just might do you nicely.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy

Road Test: 2017 Golf TSI

Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke Nismo

Road Test: 2014 Chevrolet Cruze diesel sedan

First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt 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.