Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Hyundai’s Value Midsize Sedan

With consumers attracted to SUVs and crossovers in growing numbers, the family sedan is slowly being surpassed as America’s favorite car of choice. Hyundai is having none of it. It offers the midsize Sonata sedan in seven trim levels (that’s gas only, not counting the more expensive, but also more efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid models). The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco is the smart value choice; it makes a compelling case for why the sedan’s obituary is premature. Clean Fleet Report took a look at the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco, with an eye out for if the word “eco” meant dollar savings or fuel savings. Turns out it is a bit of both.

Drivetrain and Performance

The Sonata Eco is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, producing 178 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque. For the “eco,” as in “economical” tag to be realized, Hyundai chose to drive the front wheels with a seven-speed EcoShift DCT (dual-clutch) automatic transmission. The engine was smooth and the transmission seamless, both in-town and in freeway driving. There are three driver-selectable drive modes of Eco, Comfort and Sport. These are fairly self-explanatory with Eco producing the best fuel economy, Sport altering the transmission shifts, throttle programming and steering response, and Comfort falling somewhere in between the two.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

An argument to keep the family sedan

EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 city/37 highway/31 combined miles per gallon. In 357 miles of freeway and city driving, we averaged 33.3 mpg, but on a 200-mile open freeway run, using cruise control set to 65 mph, we averaged an impressive 34.6 mpg. This shows that Hyundai had it about right slapping the “eco” badge on this Sonata.

It is important to note that fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report is non-scientific and represents the reviewer’s driving experience. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

In a few unscientific acceleration runs, the Sonata Eco traveled zero–to 60 in about 8.67 seconds. The time did not vary much leaving the car in automatic or opting for Shiftronic, where you can manually select gears by pushing forward to upshift and backward to downshift. During lane passes at highway speeds and climbing hills, the seven-speed automatic shifted up-and-down seamlessly and precisely.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Smooth lines; smooth ride

Weighing in at 3,247 lbs., the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco performed well in all driving situations, which isn’t always the case when a car is shod with 16-inch tires. The suspension was stiff enough to produce good handling while not sacrificing ride comfort. Handling was aided by stability and traction control systems, resulting in little body roll until pushed past its limits when cornering. Stopping was consistent from the four-wheel disc, ABS system with brake assist.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Redesigned for 2018, Hyundai says the Sonata is “all about making an impact…and to deliver an exciting expressive car.” Coming from Hyundai’s California Design Studio, the Sonata, aiming for an “American aesthetic,” features a clean design that will hold-up well over the years. Beginning with what Hyundai calls their front cascading grille, the projector headlights wrap far back onto the fenders. Except for the shark fin antenna set just above the rear solar control glass window, the line from the front fascia to the rear built-in deck spoiler is unobstructed. There are tasteful chrome accents around the tail lights and the logo badge, and on the single chrome exhaust tip.

Driving Experience: Interior

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

A dash that works

Also redesigned for 2018, the Sonata’s interior is an easy place to spend your time. Easy, as in the high mounted touchscreen is easy to read and the wide-spread radio and climate knobs are easy to reach and control. The Eco model has cloth seats with manual adjustments and comes nicely equipped with tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power windows, A/C and a 60/40 split folding rear seat back.

The steering wheel has controls for the cruise control, audio, Bluetooth streaming and hands-free telephone. The 7.0-inch full-color display is home for the AM/FM with MP3, iPod and USB ports, plus Aux-in jacks.

Rear seat head, shoulder and leg room was ample for six-foot passengers, with two being the optimum number of adults for a road trip of any length.

Pricing, Safety and Warranties

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata comes in seven models with three gasoline-only engines. It also comes as a hybrid or a hybrid plug-in. Base prices range from $19,300 to $33,100. Clean Fleet Report’s Sonata Eco, with the optional carpeted floor mats at $125, had a MSRP of $22,775. All prices do not include the $885 freight and handling charge.

Hyundai has equipped the Sonata Eco with active and passive safety features, including nine air bags, driver’s blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and a rear-view camera. Other features are an energy absorbing steering column, automatic headlights, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and a theft-deterrent alarm.

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco has an overall 5-Star rating by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), and a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), both of which are their highest rankings for safety.

The Eco comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain                    10 years/100,000 miles
  • New vehicle                  Five years/60,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance    Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Anti-Perforation            Seven years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Eco-nomical Hyundai

Hyundai has a lot riding on the success of the Sonata. With so many trim levels and engine options, the company is making a statement in the midsize sedan market. Even with the shift to SUVs, it remains one of the biggest segments. The Sonata should be taken seriously; Clean Fleet Report takes the Sonata seriously, and you should too.

Starting with the price point, the Sonata line-up has a compelling story to tell. When you consider the design, interior roominess, standard equipment and fuel economy, the most you will pay for a 2018 Sonata is somewhere around $33,000, and this is only if you opt for the plug-in hybrid. But for the top of the line gasoline-powered Sonata 2.0T Limited, the price is about $29,700. With the average sales price of a car hovering right around $35,000, driving home in a fully optioned midsize sedan for less than the average is saying something.

How a sedan fits your lifestyle will be the key question. If your driving pattern is around town or freeway commuting, and then the occasional vacation, then the Sonata would work just fine. For a family of four, your needs would easily be met.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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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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Road Test: 2017 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.

Personal: Mazda MX-5/Miata–My Indulgence

Personal: Mazda MX-5/Miata–My Indulgence

A Long-term Relationship

Ed. Note: Clean Fleet Report, like Steve, focuses on green machines, but we don’t assume that any technology (like battery or fuel cell electrics, is the solution. We like to assume consumers make rational choices and those choices lead to them buying a variety of different vehicles, including two-passenger sports cars like the Miata/MX-5. We view the Miata as one of the more fuel efficient vehicles in this class. 

It’s great for your health to eat lean chicken and sautéed vegetables every day. But sometimes you want a big, juicy hamburger. The MX-5 Miata is an automotive treat that I’ve loved for 26 years.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been focusing my automotive attention on cars that are easier on the environment—hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and particularly, all-electric vehicles. I even ordered my own Chevrolet Bolt EV, which has been my personal car for more than 14 months. I believe that electric transportation is the future, and I’m eager to be part of it and promote its adoption.

Sometimes, a car has a special place in your heart, and even if it’s powered by petroleum, you have to get some time behind the wheel. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is mine. I’ve driven fourteen of them since I started testing cars as a journalist back in 1992. They are shown in chronological order in this post.

My first Miata test car came, like the others, through the automotive press fleet. This was a revelation, because although the car had been out since 1990, I hadn’t had any contact with one. The moment I sat in it and then took it out on the road, I remembered the wonderful British sports cars of my childhood. I was riding in my father’s Austin-Healey again, on a warm summer evening with the sun still out, going to get some ice cream. Sigh.

When that first Miata arrived in my driveway, I had already started my habit of photographing myself with each of my test cars. My first test convertible, this is also the first car photo that showed me in the driver’s seat—the best spot to be in.

1992There’s nothing quite like driving an open car, and in the Miata, all you do is drop the top and go. Ever since day one, you can unlatch the top and just flip it behind you. Although later models have introduced power tops and a couple styles of folding hard tops, you’ve always had the open-air option.

It’s amazing how many things there are to smell as you drive—most of them interesting or pleasant. Yes, there are diesel buses, livestock and trash fires, but I also remember food from restaurants, freshly baked bread and newly-mown grass. You also get to sample every possible kind of music blaring out of fellow drivers’ windows—or they may be driving topless, too.

1997Mazda’s little million-selling sports car provides direct connection to the road, with steering, close-ratio manual shifting and responsive braking. I’ve tested models with the manual six-speed and the automatic and vastly prefer the former. With its short little lever and feeling of being connected to actual gears, you can’t beat it. In my most recent week-long test car, I was stuck in a two-hour-and-10-minute traffic jam on the way home from work, and even in those conditions I’d rather sample the silky manual six than an automatic.

1998It takes some dexterity to get yourself into the low driver’s bucket set, and some strength and care to extricate yourself. I can still maneuver OK, but at nearly 65, I take it easy. My wife has no love for these roadsters, but that’s my fault. When I had test Miata number one, I insisted she climb into and out of it late in her pregnancy with our son. She’s never forgotten it, and she was equally unimpressed with the 2018 model.

2001Miatas have their fans—lots of them. There are race series for them, and I have spoken with many owners over the years. In fact, while testing this new model, I ran across a colleague with a green-and-white ’91 that was still rolling along. Another colleague, who owns a nicely-preserved ’94 in the limited-edition Laguna Blue, asked for a ride, and I was only too glad to oblige. He was impressed by the new car’s acceleration from the little 155-horsepower 2.0-liter engine (with 148 lb.-ft. of torque). With the manual six, the soft-top Miata weighs in at just 2,332 pounds, so that’s enough to generate excitement, if not speed records.

2002Riding low takes a little getting used to. Once you’re inside, there feels like enough room, but when you look out either side window, it’s likely directly at someone’s wheel. When you look out the windshield, you’ll see rakishly canted fenders, in the latest Kodo Design theme. The hood cut lines are cleverly hidden beyond the curve, so you don’t notice them from the cabin. The hood gently rises at its center over the engine compartment.

The original Miata featured a simple, plain interior, with the right proportions but no attempt at luxury touches. Its black plastic was well crafted, but not fancy. There were silver rings around the gauges, though, a tip of the hat to the cars of yore. There was a tachometer in the middle of the instrument panel, where it resides to this day. Cloth seats were standard.

2010The car has grown more and more elegantly designed over the years, with sculpted door panels and the neatly trimmed interior fittings. Beautiful metallic accents on the steering wheel, transmission surround, air vents, and door handles lend an upscale air. The Kodo Design theme blends a flow of soft curves and edges across the doors and dash. The center console not only gives your arm a resting place, but sits above the driveshaft that conveys the engine’s power to the rear wheels—just like in those old-fashioned MGs, Triumphs, and Austin-Healeys.

2011My 2018 test car, a mid-level Club model, had some significant extras. The Machine Gray paint, a serious shade, added $300 to the tab. I personally would prefer red or blue. The car has come in a variety of colors over the years. One especially nice setup one combined British Racing green paint with a tan leather interior.

My tester flaunted a dark red cloth top—a no-cost option. The big upgrade was the Brembo BBS Recaro package at $4,470. It transformed the car inside and out, with gripping Brembo disc brakes, black BBS custom wheels, and gorgeous and supportive Recaro racing seats in a soft alcantara suede. These buckets are heated and feature speakers in the headrest, which aids hearing while on the road with the roof lowered. I took a phone call using Bluetooth and was a little surprised to hear my caller’s voice behind me, but it was certainly easy to understand him.

2016The little roadster is economical, with EPA numbers of 26 mpg city/33 highway/29 combined. I averaged 31.4 mpg in a week that had much too much commuting and too little back road running. The EPA Green numbers are a disappointing 3 for Smog but a solid 6 for Greenhouse Gas.

You’d think a little car with a cloth top would be a drag in the rain, but I felt cozy and safe, and the raindrops on the insulated top created a great atmosphere. Unlike its European forebears, the MX-5, assembled in Hiroshima, Japan since its birth, doesn’t leak. 

2018 softIn an era of basic cars starting close to $20,000 and mid-level Toyota Camrys approaching $30,000, the Miata’s price doesn’t seem out of line. My Club-level test car started at $29,155, but with extras and delivery, hit $35,240. A 2018 MX-5 Sport with no extras will set you back just $26,185. The original car debuted at $15,000, but had a lot fewer features–and that was 28 years ago! Interestingly, demand was so high at first that early adopters were paying $5,000 or more above sticker to get the cars.

2018 RFConsumer Reports has given the Miata high praise over the years and ranked the 2017 model at 79–a fine score. Owners have reported better than average reliability. With the amount of affection the little car generates, they care for their babies. You’ll see plenty of all four generations on the road. The car magazines love it.

At the Western Automotive Journalists Media Days (photo above), I had the chance to drive my 14th MX-5 Miata. It was an 2018 RF, with the folding hardtop. In my brief drive, I never dropped that top, but I enjoyed the same feeling of intimate control as I looped down from the starting point–Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca–and took the car up the Laureles Grade. Hard or soft top, top up or down, it’s a joy to row through the manual six-speed’s ratios. And this car flaunted the new Soul Red Crystal paint, which shows up on the inner door panels, too. Lovely.

So, while I happily focus my testing on cars with batteries and plugs and motor along in my smooth, silent, clean Chevrolet Bolt the rest of the time, the MX-5 Miata holds a special place in my heart. It has remained great—and even improved over the years, becoming (by far) the most popular sports car ever.

Related Mazda Stories:

Road Test: 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF

Road Test: 2016 Mazda  MX-5 Miata 

 

 

Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h

Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h

A Green Brand Ambassador

The LC 500 coupe is Lexus’ halo car, based on the jaw-dropping LF-LC concept car that was unveiled at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. It represents Lexus to the world, for style, power, and efficiency, too.

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Standing out, even in the shade

And you can get it in a rip-snorting powerful version, with a V8 engine that pushes out 471 horsepower and 398 pounds-feet of torque. Or, choose the green and clean model, which is a hybrid with a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a pair of electric motors.

Either way, this car lacks little and flaunts much. Start with the breathtaking styling, which exemplifies the look that has driven much of Lexus’ design language for the past few years. In this case, though, the LC is free of the hyper edgy look seen in cars like the RX crossover. Instead, it features dramatic curves with exuberant lighting at the corners, and more subtle edges and forms.

Of course, it wears the trademark spindle grill up front, but with a unique mesh texture that changes from top to bottom.  The flared rear fenders and pulled in waist create drama, as do the gleaming 20-inch alloy wheels.

The Eco Flash

My Ultra White tester was the 2018 Lexus LC 500h hybrid, with Lexus’ Multi Stage Hybrid System, adapted specially for this car. It combines the engine with two electric motor/generators, for a total of 354 system horsepower. That system is good for a 4.7-second zero-to-sixty time per the manufacturer for the 4,435-pound cruiser.

The V8 model is a touch quicker, but why not go for the cleaner car? This one brags about its EPA ratings of 26 mpg city/35 highway/30 combined. I averaged 30.3 mpg in my test week—right on the money. The EPA Green scores are a set of lucky 7’s – great for a car with an engine and a motor and no plug.

More Than Surface Beauty

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Not everything’s standard, but what isn’t is wonderful

The 2018 Lexus LC 500h is not only stunning on the outside, but is top drawer in every way inside. You sit low in superbly comfortable leather-wrapped bucket seats, with a unique design that wraps around your shoulders. Rear passengers had best be children or pets, because there is little legroom there. Every surface is delightfully decked out in soft, perfectly coordinated “Toasted Caramel” leather and Alcantara (suede). I found no hard plastic trim anywhere, and the pieces that might have been chrome were satin-finish metallic, looking like the billet on a million-dollar one-off custom show car at the Grand National Roadster Show.

The doors wear flowing creases, like they were carved with a rake. The compact instrument panel directly behind the matching leather wheel offers two views, controlled by a button on the steering wheel. One places the tachometer in the center and surrounds it with basic fuel and temperature gauges on the right and hybrid performance bar graphs on the left (power/charge information). Push the button and the center tach slides to the right and displays various panels of information, including range, average mpg and mph, the essential three-part energy monitor (engine/battery/motor), gear position information, tire pressure, and even a G-force indicator and sway warning. This information is also available in the center of the dial with the first setting, so the choice is up to you. I switched it back and forth for fun, but liked the second setting better.

More Than Surface Performance

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Plenty of power under the hood–but efficiency, too

You can select from several preset performance configurations, including Normal, Eco, Comfort and two increasingly rockin’ Sport settings. The Sport options change the look of the tachometer, and tighten up the handling, steering, and accelerator feel, among other things. The Comfort setting softens them. Normal suited me just fine, but I did sample the others.

The energy monitor helps you know when the car is using the battery for power or the gas tank, and when it’s generating energy in the battery. I was pleased to see how often the battery ran the show, because in commute traffic it makes for a smooth, quiet, green ride. Touch the right pedal and you’re off, though, without a second thought.

A Few Upgrades

You’d think that a car in this price range would contain absolutely everything imaginable, but that’s not so. Although the car comes standard with the nice 12-speaker Lexus Premium Audio System, my tester was upgraded to the sensational Mark Levinson 13-speaker, 915-watt Surround Sound system. This $1,790 package also brings in Semi-aniline leather front seats and a matching Alcantara headliner.

A head-up display is nice in a sporty car, and this one has it—if you add $900 to the sticker. It shows digital

2018 Lexus LC 500h

No extra charge for the righteous rims

speed, a bar-graph tachometer and, on the left, either the compass direction or a miniature speed limit sign. My car also came with the Convenience Package ($1,000), which adds Intuitive Park Assist and a blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert.

What my car did not have, when the weather was giving us 37-degree mornings, was a heated steering wheel. I discovered that it’s part of a cold weather package that my California car didn’t have, so even though I could warm my nether regions, my hands couldn’t catch a break.

Lexus provides a touch pad on the center console to control the choices on the display screen. You get used to using it over time, but I regretted having to click the Climate button, slide over a few sections, and then flick it just to activate the seat heaters.

From a base price of $96,510, my 2018 Lexus LC 500h tester added up to a budget-busting $101,385, making it one of the most expensive cars I’ve driven in 26 years of testing.

Who’s the 2018 Lexus LC 500h Buyer?

He or she will need to have a substantial bank account, and not plan on carrying more than one friend and not much more than an overnight bag or two in the trunk. They will probably have another car for that, anyway.

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Compact car fuel economy in a luxury sport coupe

The owner will enjoy exclusivity. It’s likely that you won’t see another LC 500 (hybrid or not) on the road at any time—I didn’t. (Lexus sold less than 2,500 LCs last year.) The low-volume LC’s job is to elevate the brand’s prestige and bring customers to Lexus’ website or into the showroom, where they can lease or buy a more down-to-earth sedan or crossover. Lexus offers multiple hybrids at a fraction of the LC’s cost.

But I did enjoy getting thumbs up at traffic lights, and my colleague, Harsh, was thrilled when he saw his dream car in the parking lot, learned it was my test car and got a ride in it.

The 2018 Lexus LC 500h is an extremely attractive and desirable car, and earns mileage numbers more like its modest cousin, the Toyota Corolla. I enjoyed my time with it, but was relieved to return it before I accidently placed a scratch on one of those stunning wheels.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: More from the Lexus “h”

Road Test: 2018 Lexus LC 500h (John’s view)

News: Lexus UX Subcompact Crossover Debuts

Road Test: 2018 Lexus GS 450h

News: Lexus Reduces Hybrid Prices

Road Test: 2017 Lexus ES 300h

News: 2018 Lexus RX 450hL Crossover

Road Test: 2017 Lexus NX 300h

News: 2018 Lexus LS 500 & 500h Debut

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!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Other Volkswagen News

Road Test: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Flash Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (Michael’s view)

News: Volkswagen EV Onslaught to Begin in 2020

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (John’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen (Michael’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (Steve’s view)

News: Volkswagen Introduces I.D. Crozz

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack (Larry’s view)

News: Volkswagen Microbus to Return as Electric

Comparison Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen SportWagen & Alltrack (John’s view)

First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (Steve’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI

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 Genesis G90 5.0 RWD Ultimate

Road Test: 2018 Genesis G90 5.0 RWD Ultimate

A Top Shelf Luxury Sedan at a Bargain Price

The 2018 G90 sedan has a sophisticated look, world-class luxury comfort, a powerful and silky smooth drivetrain and state-of-the-art safety and convenience features.  The G90 is as new as the Genesis brand that Hyundai recently launched and is designed to compete with other established luxury players like the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-series and Lexus LS. As we noted when we tested the Turbo V6 model, while much of the car is on par with its competition, the fuel economy lags behind.

2018 Genesis G90

The new face of luxury

Hyundai has been in the luxury market for almost 10 years with the Genesis and Equus models, but hasn’t had any traction. The cars are a minor player with the marque focusing mainly on mainstream and economy vehicles.  With the establishment of the separate Genesis brand, Hyundai concentrates on the luxury market with a very competitive offering, the G90.   Genesis has some stiff competition, but with the G90 they have a very decent offering.

The Genesis G90 cuts through the clutter with a very simplified offering.  Options are few—pick rear or all-wheel-drive, the standard 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6, or the upscale Ultimate version with a 420-hp 5.0-liter V8.  The interior has two color options, black or tan, and the choice of five exterior colors complete the options.

The G90 MSRPs range in from $68,350 for the 3.3T RWD to $74350 for the 5.0 Ultimate AWD.

Clean Fleet Report tested the 5.0 Ultimate RWD with a sticker price of $72,825.  Our fully equipped car had just about every feature one could think of, including 12-way adjustable reclining rear seats.  Upfront, the G90 includes a 22-way power adjustable driver’s seat and a 16-way power passenger seat.  The standard features list is as long as the G90’s 204.9-inch body. 

Drivetrain

The 2018 Genesis G90’s options are limited primarily to the drivetrain, as just about every creature comfort is standard.  Two power plants are available.  The standard engine is a 365-horsepower (hp) 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6.  When we sampled this engine, it was impressive.  The V6 produces a diesel-like 376 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.). of torque from 1300 rpm to its 6000 rpm redline. 

2018 Genesis G90

Two engines–a stout V6 and an even more powerful V8–offer silky smooth driving

Our test G90 this time was the Ultimate version with a 420-hp 5.0-liter V8 producing 383 lb.-ft. of torque.  This V8 had a refined snarl when provoked and had no problem at all moving the two-and-a-half-ton G90 smartly down the road.  We observed zero-to-60 times in the 5.2-second range.

Both engines require premium fuel and have EPA estimates of 17/24/20 mpg for the V6 and 16/24/19 mpg for the V8.  Like our experience with the V6, our observed average mileage for the V8 was 22-24 mpg, beating the EPA estimates. Range is an impressive 400+ miles thanks to the 21.9-gallon fuel tank. Unlike the luxury competition (Lexus, Mercedes, BMW), there is not a hybrid or plug-in hybrid option for either engine.

The two power plants share a Hyundai sourced new for the G90 eight-speed transmission that has extensive weight reduction compared to previous versions, higher efficiency and more compact dimensions. The G90 includes proprietary “Smart Shift and Drive Control” automatic transmission technology that analyzes driving style and adjusts shift character, engine torque response and suspension damping in real-time driving conditions. Our test car’s transmission was smooth and quick and even had steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual control.

The AWD option utilizes the Hyundai H-Trac adaptive AWD system.  This system includes an electronic transfer case with active torque control and offers dual-mode Sport or Normal calibrations.  The H-Trac system is primarily rear–drive biased for sportier handling and acceleration, but it can direct up to 100 percent of available torque to the rear wheels for optimum driveline efficiency or up to 40 percent of available torque to the front axle for driving in snow or ice.

Suspension, Brakes Wheels and Steering

A hallmark of any full-size luxury sedan is a buttery smooth ride with stable, confident dynamics regardless of the road conditions and speed—the G90 does not disappoint in this area.  The G90 utilizes a multi-link suspension with generous suspension travel.  Genesis fitted its Genesis Adaptive Control Suspension (GACS) to the G90. It uses electronic dampening control that continuously adjusts the Sachs/ZF sourced dampeners to control and soak up body motions regardless of the road surface.  Our G90 was always smooth, refined and in control. 

2018 Genesis G90

Big, slick wheels cover efficient brakes

The 14.8-inch rotors with four-piston calipers in front and 13.4-inch rotors with dual pistons in the rear provide the G90s stopping power. The front brakes have dedicated cooling vents in the front bumper for heat dissipation.  The brakes are power-assisted, and we observed firm, quiet, smooth braking during our test with no fade whatsoever.

The G90 sits on staggered 245/45/R19 front and 275/40/R19 rear Continental all-season tires, mounted on beautiful turbine blade9design alloy wheels.

Steering in the 2018 Genesis G90 is a modern rack-and-pinion system with a rack-mounted variable gear ratio electric motor assist.  The road feel of this system was quick with good feedback and a small turning circle.

All of these components work in perfect harmony together with a ride that is just as good or better than any of its European or Asian rivals.  It is fair to say that the car glides down the road with no harshness in any situation.

Interior

2018 Genesis G90

All the luxury cues greet you upon entry

An interior that exudes luxury, quality and excellent ergonomics greets you when you open the door of the G90.   No gimmicks here, except maybe for a symphonic opening flourish from it’s impressive Lexicon sound system, just pure sophisticated luxury.  The interior materials are purposeful and attractive, with plenty of upscale features and finishes.  Nappa leather, wood, microfiber headliner and aluminum accents fill the cabin.  The dashboard’s center stack includes a 12.3-inch high-definition navigation monitor. A 7.0-inch electroluminescent gauge cluster gives the driver total control of the vehicle.

The 2018 Genesis G90’s interior is packed with so many features, that we could write volumes about them, but here is a synopsis:

Power tilt and telescopic heated steering wheel with paddle shifters, HUD drivers display, Sirius XM with travel-link, Lexicon 12-channel 900-watt stereo, with Quantum Logic surround sound, AM/FM/HD radio and 17 speakers, CD-DVD player, wireless smartphone charging, Bluetooth with audio streaming, proximity key with push-button start, Seven color LED ambient lighting, electronic parking brake with vehicle hold, 22-way power drivers seat, 16-way power passenger seat, 18-way rear power seats with recline, integrated memory for seats, mirrors, steering column, and HUD,  heated and ventilated front and rear seats, multi-zone temperature controls for each seat,  power privacy screens for rear passengers, 12 cup holders, Genesis smartphone services including remote start, and about a hundred other things that are detailed in the two-inch thick owner’s manual. 

2018 Genesis G90

A back seat designed for those who are driven

The only shortcoming we saw was lack of smartphone integration with Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

To sum it up, driving or riding in the G90 is a wonderful experience.

Exterior

The exterior of the 2018 Genesis G90 is simple, yet unique, and immediately gives the impression that it is a high-end vehicle.  From the full LED headlights with dynamic bending and tail lights to the 19-inch wheels, the car has a presence that turns heads, especially from owners of S-class Benzes and 7-Series BMWs.  From the rear, the vehicle vaguely looks like a Bentley, but has a more contemporary look to it.  The G90’s body achieves an ultra-low 0.27 CD with active and passive aerodynamic underbody panels that also reduce turbulence and wind noise.

The doors are triple-sealed, with power door closure and feature the Genesis logo on the door entry lights at night.  Genesis badging is very discreet with the small winged Genesis logo placed only on the front and rear, which adds to the mystique of the car.

The very rigid steel body is more than half advanced high strength steel, put together with more than 650 feet of structural adhesives, which gives the car a solid planted feel on the road.  Genesis claims that the body is lighter and stiffer than the S-Class, but at two-and-a-half tons, it is no lightweight.  There are no exotic materials used in the body, which keeps costs down. Aluminum is used only for suspension pieces.

2018 Genesis G90

A touch of Bentley–for less

Safety

The G90 has a segment-leading suite of safety and convenience features.  The G90 earned a good rating in five of the IIHS’s crash evaluations, a superior rating for front crash prevention and has received their highest honor of a Top Safety Pick.  Standard on the G90 are automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection alert, driver attention alert, blind spot detection, lane keeping assistant with haptic steering wheel alarm, adaptive cruise control with automatic start and stop, 360-degree cameras, front and rear parking sensors and rear traffic alert.  Also standard are nine airbags and a pre-active seat belt system that tightens belts when a potential crash is detected.

Finally

The 2018 Genesis G90 is a low-volume, full-sized luxury vehicle competing against some very well-established players.  It tries very hard and shows that being late to the segment is not a disadvantage, as it compares very well to its rivals. The G90’s cabin is a large, comfortable place to enjoy the road and has all of the items that define a luxury car.  The car is understated in its character and does everything very well.  For the luxury segment, it is the value leader, and for those in the market for a luxury vehicle, but not interested in paying for a name, the Genesis G90 should be at the top of their shopping list.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: The V6 Version & Some Competition

Road Test: 2017 Genesis G90 Turbo V6

Road Test: 2017 Kia K900

News: New 48-Volt Mild Hybrids Coming

News: 2019 Audi A8 Rolls Into Frankfurt

News: 2018 Lexus LS 500 & 50h Debut

Road Test: 2017 Chrysler 300S

Road Test: 2016 Lexus LS 600h L

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.