Personal: Batting 1,000

Personal: Batting 1,000

Clean Fleet Report Hits Milestone

Something special happened this week and we just want to let you know. Clean Fleet Report published its 1,000th story. That’s quite a landmark for a start-up, but we’re just getting going. We published more than 200 stories last year as we moved into more in-depth coverage of fuel economy and advanced technology news. The 1,000th story—and the two that bracket it—are a good way of telling the Clean Fleet Report story.

2017 Toyota Mirai

2017 Toyota Mirai–a fuel cell pioneer

Story 1,000 – Toyota Mirai Hits 3,000 Sales

This news story is a good shorthand for the biggest change of this past year’s expanded coverage. In order to bring you more information on the fast-changing world of zero and near-zero emission vehicles. In 2006, when this publication started, fuel cells were essentially science experiments. They worked, but any vision of them as a day-to-day vehicle seemed like some science fiction fantasy. Fast forward to today and, in California, you have a choice of three FCEVs you can lease (or even buy in the case of the Mirai). More models are on the horizon and the fueling infrastructure continues to grow. Several of our staff have had the chance to drive and live with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (John in the Tucson and Mirai, Steve in the Mirai, me in the Clarity). We have a feeling we’ll be reporting on fuel cells more and more as we head to the end of the decade.

Story 999—Road Test of the 238-mile Range Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV–breaking through the 200-mile range barrier

The breakthrough Bolt is celebrating it’s first full year on the market, which we celebrated with our first full road test. Of course, we haven’t been ignoring Bolt news during the year as it racked up more than 23,000 sales. Beyond the test drives and news stories, Clean Fleet Report has been bringing a more personal story about this amazing car through staff Steve Schaefer, who put his own money on the line to lease a Bolt a little more than a year ago. His journey with the car illuminates more details of where the EV market is going.

Story 1,001—Road Test of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Hybrids keep expanding their reach–and capabilitie

The first story of our second millennium of stories is a good window into how far industry has come. SUVs are hot and even though gas prices are low, companies remain focused on turning out more and more efficient models. The Highlander Hybrid is one of eight in the Toyota lineup (one of which, the hot-selling Prius Prime, is a plug-in hybrid). More important, it’s one of more than a dozen SUVs available as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, full electric or fuel cell vehicles. This changing world is the one we’re here to document, offering you insight into the choices that are out there in vehicles and technologies.

In those three stories you can see a bit of the breadth of news we’ll be covering this year. We’ll add in event coverage and exclusive interviews from our experienced staff. Enjoy the ride!

We always welcome your thoughts and insights as well at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com. 

Road Test: 2017 Rogue Sport AWD

Road Test: 2017 Rogue Sport AWD

A Rear Seat Less Than the Rogue

The cravings of American car buyers for sport utilities, small and large, led Nissan to introduce an all-new model for 2017, the Rogue Sport subcompact crossover SUV. The automaker is betting that this new entry crossover will cling to the coattails of its best-selling vehicle, the larger Rogue SUV, and follow in its tire tracks. That’s a tough bet as the junior crossover lands amid a host of subcompact crossovers including the Honda HR-V, the Toyota C-HR, the Mazda CX-3 and the Chevrolet Trax.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

The best-selling Rogue gets a baby brother

While the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is new to the U.S. market, the vehicle it is based on has been on sale in global markets as the Qashqai since 2014. The new small SUV is essentially a shrunken version of the existing Rogue, with a foot less length and a couple hundred pounds less curb weight. It earns its Sport name not for its driving characteristics—it really isn’t sporty—but instead for its positioning in the Nissan lineup below the larger Rogue and above the smaller Juke and its upcoming replacement—the Kicks.

The largest entry so far into the subcompact crossover market, Nissan offers the Rogue Sport in three trims: S ($22,395 base MSRP), SV ($23,995) and SL ($27,045). All-wheel drive (AWD) is a $1,350 option.

You can have any engine you want in the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport as long as it’s Nissan’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 141 horsepower. It’s routed to either the front wheels or all four wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Like others of its ilk, the all-wheel-drive system on this SUV is set up for foul weather and dirt roads, not true off-roading.

EPA fuel economy ratings for our all-wheel-drive SL model are 24-mpg city/30 highway/27 combined. That earns it a membership in the Clean Fleet Report 30-MPG All-Wheel Drive Club.

Acorn Didn’t Drop Far from The Tree

Sport has a strong resemblance to big brother Rogue, from the aggressive Nissan V-Motion grill to the swoopy hatchback-like rear along with sleek LED boomerang-shaped taillights and rear spoiler. From the side, the Rogue Sport looks tidy and tightly styled, thanks to touches like the up-kick in the rear side glass, fog lights and available 19-inch wheels.

Inside, the interior is lifted almost wholesale from the updated 2017 Rogue. Gauges are simple and clear, and the dash has nice, intuitive round knobs for audio and climate control that frame the usual center stack with a touchscreen. Front and rear seats are equally comfy, well-cushioned and seem perfectly shaped for adult-size backsides.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

Inside, this nut’s similar to its sibling

With a large glovebox, a spacious center console armrest bin, and wide door pockets, the Rogue Sport offers plenty of places to stash smaller items throughout the cabin. In the cargo area there are two bins on either side and an impressively large storage bin under the cargo floor. Space for cargo is 19.9 cubic feet behind the folding seatbacks and 53.3 when they are folded.

Targeted at young, tech-savvy buyers, it’s surprising to find the Rouge Sport doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Plus, rear-seat passengers won’t be thrilled by the lack of USB or charging ports for their mobile devices. The choice is, juice up before heading out or, for $80, Nissan dealers can install two USB charging ports on the back of the center console.

2018 Nissan Rogue Sport

Under the hood is a four for town

Since I’m carping, there is a row of hard-to-reach buttons, like traction control and steering-wheel heat, that are located so far to the lower left of the dash that even seasoned owners will need to take their eyes off the road to find them.

Basic infotainment gear is standard in the Rogue Sport. A 5.0-inch color display in the S and SV models provides a clear readout for the audio system. The base 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport S comes standard with Bluetooth phone integration with Siri eyes-free, a rearview camera and Nissan’s clever Easy Fill Tire Alert, which honks the horn once the tire pressure has reached the correct level. You also get air conditioning, manually adjustable front cloth seats, remote keyless entry and cruise control.

The mid-level Rogue Sport SV adds larger 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, push-button start, a six-way-power driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control. The top-level SL gets 19-inch wheels, fog lights, remote start, Nissan’s Around-View Monitor bird’s-eye-view camera system, navigation, leather on the shift lever and heated steering wheel and seats. Basic safety systems are standard, but you’ll have to step up to mid-level SV trim to add forward emergency braking, and top SL if you want lane departure warning.

A Great Urban Driver

Forward visibility is great, thanks to a high seating position and relatively thin A-pillars. Glass areas are large and square, providing widescreen views from most angles. To help with the blind spots that do exist, Nissan has fitted the Rogue Sport with extra-large side-view mirrors.

2018 Nissan Rogue Sport

Something only slightly new

The bucket seat in our top-of-the-line SL model was perfectly acceptable for a three-hour drive, but the Rogue Sport shows best in urban areas, where its size is perfect for scooting around crowded cities and fitting tight parking spots. Around town, the junior crossover doesn’t lack for power and is peppy enough to squirt in and out of traffic without being a hazard.

The chassis holds up its end of the bargain, with balanced European breeding shining through. The suspension rebounds quickly, and minor bumps are absorbed with very little disturbance sent through to the cabin. Harsher impacts are felt, but they are surprisingly gentle. The light steering does at least make the Rogue Sport particularly easy to maneuver at low speeds, such as in a parking lot or driveway.

In town I was left thinking this thing is perky and light on its feet. But when I hit an on-ramp to the freeway, I was wishing for an extra 50 horsepower or so. A sluggish 0 to 60 time of 10 seconds tells the story. The slowness, to be fair, is similar to that of several other small SUVs, including the competing Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR.

Once up to speed, steering was a touch slow and on the disconnected side, but the Rogue Sport did what it was told without much fuss. Aside from the creamy ride quality, handling was competent but hardly sporty. And the vehicle was quiet inside under most circumstances on all but coarser pavement surfaces. When I pushed hard into corners, the CVT held a gear until I reached a straightaway. That action was manual via the shift lever—there are no shift paddles—but the sluggish result was essentially the same.

That said, the Rouge Sport did live up to its fuel economy rating. We returned the keys to Nissan after driving 337 miles that showed a combined fuel economy of 28.1 mpg.

The Subcompact SUV For You?

Acceleration isn’t great, and driving dynamics are focused more on comfort than excitement, but the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport makes up for these shortcomings with excellent cargo-hauling capability, a smooth ride and above-average fuel economy. As a family car, the Rogue Sport also excels with plenty of rear-seat space for a child seat and a host of available active safety features—although most of these are limited to the expensive SL model.

Whether you’re a new parent shopping for a kid-friendly crossover or an empty nester looking to downsize from a larger SUV without giving up too much utility, the Rogue Sport deserves consideration.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid (John’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid (Steve’s view)

Road Test: 2016 Nissan Rogue

Road Test: 2017 Honda HR-V (John’s view)

Road Test: 2016 Honda HR-V (Larry’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Mazda CX-3 (Michael’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Mazda CX-3 (Larry’s view)

Road Test: 2015 Chevrolet Trax

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 Ford Fusion Sport

Road Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Sport

An American Sport Sedan

No, Clean Fleet Report is not discarding our focus on fuel efficient cars, pickup trucks and SUVs. But, as an editor and writer for the publication, I have not discarded my lust for more horsepower or driving performance, which started as a teenager and still lingers. That brings me to the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

Fusion adds “sport” without losing “family”

For 2017, Ford dropped a new model in its Fusion sedan lineup that didn’t have a four-cylinder engine, the Fusion Sport. It raised the performance bar for mainstream four-doors to almost European luxury-sport levels. It satisfies customers who might have a family, but still like to do a bit of spirited driving now and again. In other words: the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport is a family sedan first and a driver’s car second.

The 2017 Ford Fusion Sport comes in only one trim level (there are no changes for the 2018 model year). Base pricing, at $34,350, is about 10-grand over a base Fusion; but it’s hardly worth comparing the two as they are really two different cars.

Government fuel economy ratings come in at 17-mpg city/26 highway/20 combined. Not exactly a fuel sipper, but not bad for a car that adds some serous fun to the driving experience. If an EPA city fuel-economy rating of 17-mpg bothers you, go read about the Fusion Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. It will relieve any anxieties about our covering vehicles that achieve high fuel economy numbers.

A 325-Horsepower V-6 EcoBoost Engine

Ford dropped in the 2.7-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 borrowed from the F-150 and the Edge Sport between the Fusion’s front fenders. That makes it the only car in its class to claim 325 horsepower and a thudding 380 pounds-feet of torque while simultaneously going completely unnoticed. Unlike the heyday of the 1960s and 70s, it’s the first modern midsize family sedan to break the 300 horsepower barrier.

One of the horsepower rewards is, this family car will shoot past 60-mph in just a tick more than five seconds. Take it to the drag strip and you’ll see the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 101 mph—muscle car territory.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

The shifter goes round

However, the above numbers, including horsepower and torque, don’t apply everywhere. That’s because the engine will only make that much power when it’s drinking 93 octane premium gasoline. Some areas of the country, like California, 91 octane is the norm and 93 octane is not readily available.

The six-speed automatic transmission is a heavy-duty unit controlled by paddles attached to the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Behind that, there’s a standard computer-controlled all-wheel drive system, which operates in front-drive mode until it detects any wheel slip, or you harshly apply your foot to the accelerator pedal.

Basic suspension hardware is thoroughly addressed with stiffer springs, bigger anti-roll bars, and wider 235/40 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires on 19-inch dark-finished alloys. Summer-only tires are also available. But, the biggest deviation from the standard Ford Fusion playbook outside of the engine compartment is the solenoid valve-controlled continuous damping system. The system keeps a dozen watchful electronic eyes on the road and adjusts shock absorber response every two milliseconds in a bid to firm up the ride without sacrificing comfort in the process. It also incorporates something Ford engineers have labeled “pothole detection.” It attempts to lock a strut in its stiffest setting and allow the wheel to “glide” over a pothole in the road with more grace than the expected up-and-down motion.

Still a Pacesetter for Artsy Design

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

The style still makes you want to follow

This generation of the Fusion has been on the market since the 2012. The Fusion is essentially a Ford Mondeo sold in European markets. The design was created by Ford’s European design group and follows the company’s “kinetic” styling themes.

Five years into it, the Fusion’s bold aerodynamic styling still looks fresh. It’s characterized by a wide lower front air dam and a hexagonal Aston-Martin-like grille that is wider and slightly more angular for 2017. The Fusion Sport is differentiated by its more aggressive front bumper with deeper air intakes and glossy black mesh grille insert. The grille is flanked by narrow headlamps that sweep gracefully into muscular front fenders. Thin roof pillars and a slopping roofline suggest a sense of lightness, while LED taillights and four polished exhaust tips dress up the backside.

The Inside Story

The cabin treads a similar kinetic styling design path. The center console has been redesigned around a new rotary shift dial, adding a media hub, a cell phone storage pocket, a larger console bin, and a longer center armrest. The overall look is sleek and somewhat premium. Framing the center stack of controls in a simple metallic ring that leaves a striking graphic imprint on the cabin.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

Inside, Ford kicks up the premium look-and-feel

Our car had voice-activated navigation and an 8.0-inch center touchscreen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability. It uses Ford’s latest Sync 3 system, which is far more user-friendly than before and compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Sport Upgrade package included digital displays in the instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, and more.

Touch points are soft and every inch of the interior uses high-quality materials that project a high-end look and feel. Standard upgraded sport seats with suede inserts and carbon fiber-like trim were firn yet comfortable and infinitely adjustable. Rear seating can accommodate three adult passengers with good legroom. The rear sloping roof cuts into headroom, but shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

The Fusion Sport is jam-packed with safety and convenience features, including stability control, a plethora of airbags including ones for knees and side curtains. The test drive car came with Ford’s full array of driving assists, including pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist and automatic high-beam headlamps. Also included was automated guidance into parallel or perpendicular parking spots.

Driving the Fusion Sport

I found the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport’s ride comfortable even after a few hours behind the wheel, thanks in part to the soft, supportive seat cushion. I particularly appreciated the adjustable steering column and extensively adjustable driver’s seat, which allowed me to find the right driving position and maximize visibility.

If you are like me, and taut, responsive driving is to your liking, you won’t feel shortchanged by the decision to buy the Sport version of the Fusion. That’s because the basic mechanicals under the sheetmetal come from one of Europe’s best-handling family sedans.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

Polished efficiency on the road

There was a polished efficiency to city driving; the suspension ironed out the worst of urban lumps and dispatched neglected potholes with ease. The Fusions Sport is quick, but it’s also obvious that Ford made ride comfort a top priority. The cabin is pleasantly quiet at highway speeds, and so is the engine, which only sounds rowdy at wide-open throttle.

Pushing the S button in the center of the new dial-operated shifter sharpened the Sport’s reflexes. It tightened the adaptive-damping system, increased steering effort and quickened throttle response. The all-wheel-drive system doled out the power well, and the steering felt well engineered and corners could be approached with confidence. The transmission gave more control through the standard paddle shifters. It upshifted automatically at 6,000 rpm no matter what I did with the paddles, but it held gears through corners and rev-matched downshifts under braking.

During our week with the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport we clocked 537 miles, 149 of which were tallied on a round trip from Olympia, Washington, to Seattle. An additional 137 miles were clocked on a leisurely Saturday drive up and back on the Hood Canal. The balance of the miles was split 60 percent in-town driving and 40 percent two-lane highways. When we gave the keys back to Ford, the combined fuel economy came in sligthly higher than the EPA’s estimate at 21.2 mpg.

Bottom Line

With the Fusion, Ford brought to its American buyers the same world-class road manners that overseas owners of the Mondeo have long enjoyed. With the Fusion Sport American EcoBoost

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

Modern American muscle under the hood makes a difference

engine, Europeans may be envious.

All things considered, the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport is an excellent family hauler and commuter sedan with handsome styling, a quiet cabin, nimble chassis and smooth ride. Then, when the urge can’t be denied, the Fusion Sport becomes a sport sedan that you’d prefer to park your butt in and find some backcountry roads.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy

Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Comparison Test: Ford Fusion Hybrid & Energi

Road Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

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 Ram 1500 Pickup Gets 48V Hybrid

News: 2019 Ram 1500 Pickup Gets 48V Hybrid

A First in the Pickup Truck Segment

Trucks, trucks, trucks best describes the North American International Auto Show that opened last week in Detroit. First, Ford rolled out a 3.0-liter diesel-powered F-150 followed by the return of its mid-size Ranger; then Chevrolet introduced a completely redesigned Silverado featuring a new diesel engine. Completing the all-American new pickup reveals, FiatChrysler debuted its 2019 Ram 1500 pickup sporting a fresh new look that covers a new frame, enhanced drivetrains, bold new cabin tech and a 48-volt “mild hybrid” system.

2019 Ram 1500 Hybrid

The Ram becomes the first pickup with a hybrid powertrain

Three new, longer frame lengths are offered: a 144.5-inch wheelbase on Crew Cab short beds and a 153.5-inch wheelbase on Crew Cab long beds–both four inches longer than their predecessors. The Quad Cab long bed has a wheelbase of 140.5 inches. Along the way, Ram engineers found a way to trim 225 pounds off the new pickup, while at the same time offering a maximum payload of 2,300 pounds with a max tow rating of 12,750 pounds.

Mild Hybrid System Establishes A Benchmark

The 2019 Ram will be the only pickup truck to use a 48-volt hybrid system, standard on updated versions of its revised 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and optional on the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engines.

2019 Ram 1500 Hybrid

The Ram’s bigger battery is behind the rear seat

Called eTorque, the mild-hybrid system should give a decent fuel economy boost, but Ram hasn’t released fuel-economy details. Also scheduled for the new Jeep Wrangler, the eTorque system replaces the traditional alternator on the engine with a belt-driven motor generator unit that performs several functions.

With the engine running, eTorque’s motor generator unit feeds 48-volt current to a 300-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) graphite battery mounted behind the rear seats inside the Ram 1500’s cabin. In addition to spinning the engine for restarts, the eTorque unit also recaptures energy during deceleration and braking to feed electric charge to the battery pack.

The V6 is rated at 305 horsepower and 269 pounds-feet of torque, but the hybrid power boost can add 90 pounds-feet of torque. The Hemi V8’s power numbers of 395 horsepower and 410 pounds-feet of torque receive a boost of 130 pounds-feet.

In addition to the hybrid system, Ram also pioneers an industry-first thermal rear axle on two-wheel drive models. This system circulates engine coolant through the rear differential cover to bring differential oil up to operating temperature more quickly in cold weather, and keep the differential from overheating in hot-weather towing and hauling.

Looks Like a Ram Pickup, But Different

The most obvious exterior change is the retirement of the crosshair grille, an identifying signature dating back to 1994 when the trucks were sold under the Dodge name. Now, for the 2019 model,

2019 Ram 1500

Ram looks to pull away from the pickup pack

there will be six different grille designs depending on model: Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited. There are also two different headlight designs, depending on the trim and options. The top-tier LED units are wide and slim, while the standard lighting looks similar to current trucks.

Sheetmetal changes include a new power-bulge hood, hood badging and taller bedsides on a truck that is slightly wider and about four inches taller than the outgoing model in both quad and crew cab configurations. Like the headlights, the taillights are an evolution of the current shape. Both halogen and LED units are available. The full-width steel rear bumper can be had in either chrome or body color.

Additionally, the new Ram will have an optional power tailgate, meaning you can open or close it with the push of a button.

Inside: From Work Truck to Luxury

Across all trim levels, including the bare bones Tradesman work truck, the 2019 Ram 1500 features push-button start, an electronic parking brake and a redesigned rotary shift knob. The shifter area also groups new feature buttons, including engine stop-start, hill-decent control, axle lock and transfer case controls, when equipped.

2019 Ram 1500

And the interior gets some more goodies

The wow factor of the new cabin is the available new 12-inch touchscreen with split-screen capabilities. The massive display is oriented portrait-style, like a Tesla, and can run two applications at the same time. FiatChrysler’s fourth-generation Uconnect system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, while navigation with 3D map graphics, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system are available as options. As with FCA’s other touchscreen infotainment systems, the display is surrounded by an array of redundant physical buttons for controlling key infotainment and climate functions.

Ram is claiming class-leading interior storage space that is double the competition with a center console that’s configurable in 12 ways. Convenience and comfort come courtesy of up to five USB ports, two 115-volt power outlets, optional wireless charging pad and available heated and cooled rear seats with seat backs that recline up to eight degrees.

Other noteworthy details include a tilting and telescoping steering wheel and luxury items such as hand-stitched leather and real wood trim in higher-end models. For those who want to splurge, a new 33.3-inch by 43.4-inch panoramic sunroof also is available, giving passengers a spectacular 10 square feet of sky view and additional natural light.

On the safety front, the new Ram can be equipped with a 360-degree camera, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward collision warning, lane keep assist and blind-spot monitoring.

The 2019 Ram 1500 pickups will be in dealerships by the end of March. Pricing was not announced, but expect prices to be close to current models which start at around $28,000.

Other NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show) Stories:

News: Ford To Reintroduce Mach 1 for New EV

News: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Introduced

News: Chevrolet Silverado Diesel Signals Resurgence

News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Introduced

News: Smart Releases 10th Anniversary Edition

News: All-new 2019 Honda Insight Coming

News: 2018 Ford F-150 Gets a Diesel

News: GAC Shows EV Crossover Concept

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

News: New Jeep Wrangler Gets Hybrid System

News: Audi A8 48-Volt Hybrid System Rolls In

News: Ford Takes Cover Off 2018 F-150

Road Test: 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Road Test: 2016 Nissan Titan XD

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Playful Compact Crossover

The last time a Jeep was so popular in Italy was when the durable, go anywhere workhorse of World War II was helping liberate the country. Seventy years later, Jeep is making its mark again in Italy. The 2017 Renegade is built in the small town of Melfi, about 100 miles east of Naples, in the southern part of the country, near the Boot. So why the geography lesson?

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Does this make me look Italian?

The Renegade is built in the same plant, and shares much of the same pieces, as the Fiat 500X, a small crossover Clean Fleet Report found to be the best-looking and most versatile in the Fiat 500 family. So, we were curious how the Renegade would perform–it brought a smile to our face.

Introduced in 2015, Jeep enthusiasts were wary about this small Italian creature, wondering if it truly was a Jeep. As Clean Fleet Reported, at the time of its launch, Jeep engineers and designers were very involved with the Renegade’s development. So yes, it really is a Jeep.

Drivetrain

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4, equipped with a 1.4-liter turbocharged I4 engine producing 160 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque. If you want a bit more horsepower (180), but don’t mind a bit less torque (175), you can opt for the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated Tigershark I4 engine, with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Clean Fleet Report’s Renegade had a six-speed manual transmission that had a solid feel and went through the gears smoothly.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

From the nose, everything looks Jeep

Running on regular gasoline, the 1.4L Renegade has an EPA rating of 24 city/31 highway/26 combined fuel economy. Clean Fleet Report drove the Renegade 389 miles, with an even mix of highway, city and some mountain roads, and achieved a respectable combined average of 27.2 mpg. However, in two 100-mile freeway runs with the cruise control set to 65 mph, we achieved 32.2 mpg.

The 1.4L was smooth at both around-town driving and cruising at highway speeds. The 0-60 time of around 10 seconds was unspectacular, which is about the same as its competitors in this class of small crossovers. The benefit of having the six-speed manual was that when climbing a grade, downshifting to move the Renegade’s 3,210 lbs. was a relatively easy task. When revved pulling a grade, the engine was a bit buzzy, but this is not only to be expected but is normal.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report’s Renegade 4X4 was equipped with Kumho Crugen Premium 225/55R all-season tires. The Altitude trim level is noticeable for its “blacked-out” look. Our tester was the none-to-subtle Hypergreen Clear with 18-inch gloss black wheels. Maybe this Jeep should have been called “Attitude” because it certainly had a lot of sass just sitting still.

The Renegade line is designed to be equally capable for street and off-road driving, with the latter the special focus for the Trailhawk trim. The 1.4L turbo engine ran smooth and provide enough power when needed for getting on the freeway and zipping around in town. Handling was agile and great for getting errands done. The overall ride was refined to the point of not being reminded you are driving a small, all-wheel drive crossover.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Ready to get dialed in

The Renegade comes in FWD and 4WD. Clean Fleet Report’s 4WD Renegade used Jeep’s Active Drive system that sends power to the front wheels during normal street driving. If that surface gets wet or icy, then the computer automatically sends power to the rear wheels to assist in traction. Selec-Terrain and All-speed Traction Control also add to the Renegade’s stability. For more capability off-road, check-out the Renegade Trailhawk model.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive on a rutted, gravel road, which was not the most challenging test of how the Renegade can perform off-road. We did get a feel for the electric power rack and pinion steering, the McPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and the rear struts, coil springs and stabilizer bars, making for a very surefooted driving experience on steep hills and even muddy river banks. We were glad we did not need it, but were glad the Renegade was equipped with electronic roll mitigation.

Stopping was very good, confident, solid and straight through the single-piston front vented and solid rear rotor power-assist brakes. The Renegade comes with an anti-lock brake system, brake assist and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Renegade isn’t very long but is tall and wide, making for a roomy interior. It has lots of headroom and legroom in front, but the rear seat, while providing for three-across seating for adults, shorts them on legroom. For safety, the center rear seat passenger gets a three-point seat belt. Storage behind the second row handles a few bags, but expands nicely with the 60/40 rear seat laid flat. The Renegade had a nifty feature of a height adjustable rear cargo floor, which came in handy when hauling a taller object.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

A surprisingly comfortable interior

Access was easy through wide doors leading to a high driver and front passenger seat positions. Like the exterior, the Altitude means you get a blacked-out interior as well. Premium cloth front seats have Jeep branded mesh inserts and are six-way manually adjustable. If you opt for the Premium Leather Group, then the seats are power adjustable, including lumbar.

The Renegade Altitude’s dash is clean and straight-forward in design. Again, it is all blacked-out, save for the chrome accents around the radio and temperature wheels and the gearshift lever. Everything is laid-out in logical, easy-to-read locations. Our Renegade was equipped with the optional Altitude Package that includes a six-speaker sound system and a 6.5-inch color touchscreen for the Uconnect operating system with navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio (one-year subscription included)/AM/FM/CD/MP3/HD radio. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for audio, Bluetooth phone and cruise control that are easy to use on a system with a quick learning curve.

The Renegade Altitude had convenience features such as tilt and telescopic steering column, rear window/wiper, power windows with one-touch express up and down, power door locks, heated power exterior mirrors with turn signals, manual heat and A/C, front and rear floor mats, remote keyless entry, push button start, 12V power outlet, remote charge-only USB and AUX ports and multiple cup holders.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Renegade Altitude looks non-threateningly aggressive with the blacked-out trim and wheels. The round headlights offsetting the grill tells you it is a Jeep. The grill’s vertical bars harken back decades and the Renegade has absolutely no unnecessary cladding or chrome work. The hood and roof are near-flat, with an integrated spoiler shading the rear hatch. There are several little hidden design gems–Easter eggs–on the Renegade, including the “X” pattern in the rear taillights, that go all the way back to WWII and the gasoline jerrycans that were strapped to the side of an open-air Jeep. Take a few minutes to peruse the Renegade for more Easter eggs, hint: front windshield.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

It’s middle name is “utility”

A cool feature was the My Sky Open-Air sunroof that consisted of dual, manually removable panels, opening the Renegade to the sky. The panels when not in use are stored in a padded bag.

Safety and Convenience

The 2017 Jeep Renegade has been rated by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), earning Four Stars overall. Our Renegade was equipped with eight airbags, a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, tire pressure monitoring system, tire service kit (no spare tire), brake assist, hill start assist and cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude has a base price of $23,495. Clean Fleet Report’s test Renegade had the Customer Preferred and Navigation Group packages and the My Sky Open-air Sunroof options for a total MSRP of $27,037. All prices exclude the $1,095 destination charge.

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

Remembering from whence they came

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

In many little ways

All 2017 Renegade models come with these warranties:

  • Basic Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain Five years/60,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4X4

Fun and easy to drive. On and off-road capability. Seats five adults. 30+ mpg on the highway. Just quirky enough to get attention, but no derision. All for under $24,000 base price.

Jeep has four different Renegade models to choose from, each offering something a bit different. This nifty little (I had one woman say it was “cute”) on-and off-roader just might be what you need to liven-up your life.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, 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.

News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Introduced in Detroit

News: Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept Introduced in Detroit

A Swoopy Look at the Future Debuts; Surprise: It’s Not An Electric Car

For weeks, Infiniti has been teasing the Q Inspiration Concept ahead of its world introduction at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The glimpses hinted at the Japanese luxury carmaker’s future design direction and how its next fleet of cars could look. Not seeing any tailpipes on the rear end led us to believe it was powered by a battery-electric powertrain.

But when the car was revealed today, the Infiniti Q Inspiration proved to be more than just a swoopy, athletic piece of motor show eye candy; beneath the skin the concept featured Infiniti’s new variable compression ration gasoline engine technology (VC-Turbo).

A Different Kind of Gasoline Engine

VC-Turbo made its production debut in the 2019 QX50 crossover SUV at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show last November. In the Q Inspiration, VC-Turbo allows Infiniti designers to make the most of the packaging, taking advantage of the compact powertrain to increase the size of the cabin while maintaining the footprint of a midsize car.

Infiniti Q Inspiration

The Infiniti concept drives into the brand’s future

The VC-Turbo uses some complex mechanical magic to vary compression on the fly, between 8:1 for high-performance situations, to 14:1 for maximum efficiency. Mounted to the exhaust manifold and integrated in the cylinder heads of the four-cylinder engine is a single-scroll turbocharger. Infiniti says the system provides the torque and response of a hybrid or turbodiesel powertrain without sacrificing efficiency. In the Infiniti Q Inspiration, the power is directed to four wheels via a front-biased all-wheel-drive drivetrain. The system can direct torque to the rear wheels individually as needed.

Deatails about power output or fuel economy were not released.

Short Hood, Stretched Cabin And Swooping, Coupe-Like Roof Line

The Infiniti Q Inspiration will certainly stand out in a crowd. It features an over-sized, double-arch grille with narrow slits and a lighted Infiniti logo near the hood line. Additional scoops bring more wind into the engine and feed the blade-like air curtains used to reduce turbulence around the front wheels. The slit LED headlamps are framed by distinctive LED strip lights. bulging fenders give the sedan a muscular stance, with a strong crease that runs nearly wheel well-to-wheel well. A close look reveals hidden door handles and a lack of mirrors, with the concept opting for side view cameras.

The car has no pillar at its rear door, and the roofline has an aggressive, coupe-like curve that stretches, fastback style, into the rear decklid. Narrow taillamps that pick up the LED strip look wrap across the back of the concept and flare into the rear fenders.

Infiniti Q Inspiration

Using concept cars trucks like “suicide doors,” ingress to the interior is easy

“The premium sedan segment has become rather conservative,” Christian Meunier, Infiniti global vice president, said. “The Infiniti Q Inspiration previews something that could appeal to a younger audience who seek modern design and new technologies.”

Minimalist Interior

Interior design is a minimalist approach to not distract drivers from driving. It provides everyone with a relaxed and airy environment, trimmed with leather and matte wood. Even though the concept has a midsize footprint, interior space is on par with some larger luxury sedans. Getting in and out is made easier with pillarless suicide back doors and low sills.

The instrument panel has a horizontal orientation and is divided into two tiers. The upper level features video displays that extend door-to-door. Another touchscreen, just above that center console, controls the infotainment and climate control systems.

Infiniti Q Inspiration

The engine’s already here and the design is coming soon

The Infiniti Q Inspiration can seat four passengers with each given their own floating touchscreen infotainment system. This allows passengers to watch a film, read the news or relax individually without distracting other occupants. Each screen offers “guided meditation to help occupants leave any stress behind when they start a journey,” says Nissan “The car can also monitor passenger biometrics.”

Finally, a raft of ProPilot near-future semi-autonomous drive technology have been adopted from parent company Nissan. The car uses camera and radar input to support the driver in responding to other vehicles on the road ahead. In this application, ProPilot can automate end-to-end driving, operating and navigating autonomously on multi-lane highways and intersections alike.

A True Concept Car

The Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept isn’t planned for production. It does, however, offer a glimpse into the technologies we’ll see in Infinitis of the near future.  As for styling, the concept is intended to show a design vision for upcoming sedans such as the Q70 sedan, which is due for a redesign in 2019 or 2020.

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