Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Great Versatility and Exceptional Fuel Economy

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

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Hybrid MPG and AWD=Sales

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

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

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

Green Car Buyers Love the RAV4 Hybrid

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

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The crossover appeal–open up and fill

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

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

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

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

Proven, Familiar Hybrid Drivetrain

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

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

More model choices–one engine choice

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

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

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

A 2016 Refresh

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

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

A dash you would expect in a Toyota

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

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

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

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

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

Not “Fun-To-Drive,” But Competent

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

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Word

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

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Disclosure:

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

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

News: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Enters New York—New Looks, More Power

News: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Enters New York—New Looks, More Power

Compact SUV Styling No Longer Boring

Toyota used the New York Auto show for the world introduction of its best-selling vehicle, the 2019 RAV4 crossover SUV. Hard to believe, the RAV4 became the company’s single best-selling model in the U.S. last year, surging past its long-time champion, the Camry midsize sedan. The automaker delivered more than 400,000 of the now-six-year-old RAV4, and more than 50,000 of those included our favorite, the hybrid model.

Company Listened To Its President

2019 Toyota RAV4

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 announces its arrival in style

One look at the all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid confirms the company took it to heart when president Akio Toyoda gave a mandate against making boring cars. The redesigned compact crossover gets a more domineering stance, standing lower and wider with a longer wheelbase. The scrappy SUV has more-sculpted edges, shorter front and rear overhangs, with a nose that has similarities to the hefty front end of the Toyota Tacoma pickup. It also gets chunky plastic cladding and fender flares. The wheel arches are trapezoidal and angular creases abound.

For 2019, the hybrid edition also gets a new trim, the XSE Hybrid. Following a new trend in styling, the XSE comes with a two-tone paint job featuring black on the top. Setting the stage for XSE Hybrid’s sporty appeal are piano-black accents across the front end, mirror caps, fender arches, and lower rockers. Unique to RAV4 Hybrids, projector-beam LED headlamps flank each side of the grille for a brighter, sharper and ideally angled light source.

The RAV4 Hybrid XSE isn’t just about cosmetic upgrades, it has a sport-tuned suspension.

New Hybrid Powertrain

2019 Toyota RAV4

More aggressive styling, more tech and more details to come

Defying the image of hybrids as mild performers, Toyota says: “The quickest RAV4 is the hybrid.” Replacing the previous hybrid powertrain is the two-motor Toyota Hybrid System II that uses a brand-new electric motor drive, which Toyota claims uses the battery power more effectively. It’s paired with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s adapted to run on the ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle. A continuously-variable transmission (CVT) directs power to the wheels.

As before, all 2019 RAV4 Hybrids are all-wheel drive, using what Toyota calls All-Wheel Drive with Intelligence (AWD-i). The system eliminates the driveshaft to the rear wheels and substitutes an electric motor mounted transversely between the rear wheels to provide on-demand traction in back. For 2019, the system increases available rear-wheel torque by 30 percent more than the previous-gen AWD-i. An electronically-controlled, automated system determines how much torque to feed to the rear wheels on the RAV4 Hybrid according to driving conditions.

Modern Interior

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid catches up with competitors inside with a modern-looking interior. The touchscreen can be either seven or eight inches and features Toyota’s EnTune 3.0, which includes Wi-Fi Connect, Amazon Alexa hands-free access, and, at last, Apple CarPlay compatibility. Two USB ports are standard and up to five can be had in total, depending on package options. Qi wireless charging is also available.

2019 Toyota RAV4

A new interior ups the ante for the already popular RAV4

The center console’s volume has been increased for more storage and technology capability, adding side-by-side cupholders (versus tandem in the previous generation) and more space on the open tray for small item storage. Both legroom and shoulder room are improved in the rear seating and 60/40 split-fold rear seats remain standard in the RAV4.

An all-new JBL audio system is available for the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, adding 11 audio speakers on eight channels with 800 watts of power. Other options available are heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a hands-free tailgate.

Standard is Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 package. It includes a pre-collision system that can detect pedestrians, dynamic cruise control, automatic high beams and a system aimed at keeping the car on the road even if it can’t detect lane markings. It also can read some road signs and alert the driver.

Toyota provided no pricing information, fuel economy estimates or specific power output for the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid. We expect that info closer to the on-sale date in early 2019, following the gas-powered RAV4’s availability sometime this winter.

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News: Nissan IMx Electric CUV One of Eight New EVs

News: Nissan IMx Electric CUV One of Eight New EVs

Nissan Targets 1 Million Electrified Vehicle Annual Sales By 2022

With more than 300,000 global sales, the Nissan Leaf is the bestselling electric car in history. The 2018 Nissan Leaf has launched with an EPA-rated 151-mile driving range. A second version for 2019 is coming with more than 200 miles of range. The big question now is, where will Nissan go from here?

One of the missing pieces of the electric car portfolio is the crossover. Most current EVs are sedans with Tesla’s Model X and Jaguar’s I-Pace the only electric crossovers available, although others are coming from luxury automakers Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Given the popularity of crossover SUVs, an electric crossover utility based on the IMx concept shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017 will be added in 2020, according to an interview published last week in the British magazine Autocar. It will stay true to the striking concept.

Stylish and More Than an EV

“Of course, we have the new Leaf, but I think the [production version of the] IMx concept will become a breakthrough model,” Mamoru Aoki, Nissan’s European design chief told Autocar.

Nissan IMx concept

Nissan previews future EV design in the IMx

Aoki told Autocar that the exterior of the IMx is a clear indication of Nissan’s next-generation design language and the intention is to be closer to the company’s Japanese roots. He said the IMx “does not have a masculine look or a heavy appearance” of the type that is now common for mainstream combustion-engine CUVs. “It has a light feel and sheer surfaces,” he said. “The exterior is very Japanese in its details–expressive, but with purity and an expensive feeling.”

Aoki added: “The interior is notably bigger than with a conventional vehicle and there’s much more usable space, thanks to the totally flat floor allowed by the [underfloor] battery pack. The dashboard is also pushed right back [towards the windscreen] because the HVAC [heating, ventilation and air-con] unit is under the bonnet.”

The overall cabin concept reflects Japanese architecture and interior design, he said, because traditional Japanese houses are tiny, and some rooms have to be multi-purpose in their use.

Aoki was also keen to point out the unusual interior trim in the IMx, which is an alternating laminate of wood and translucent plastic that can be illuminated from behind—a hint, perhaps, that the finish is heading for production.

The IMx Concept offers a sleek crossover utility shape and a pair of motors, one per axle, to provide all-wheel drive. Combined power of the two drive motors is quoted at 430 horsepower and a substantial 516 pounds-feet of torque. Its quoted battery range on the Japanese test cycle was more than 370 miles, although we’d expect that to be closer to 250 miles in U.S. EPA testing.

But there’s more! The IMx is the “future of mobility,” according to Nissan. It features a future version of ProPilot, Nissan’s autonomous car technology. When engaged, it will retract the steering wheel, recline the seats and take over control of the car. The featureless (no knobs or switches) dash is designed to respond to gestures, eye movement and spoken commands. Whether this advanced ProPilot will appear in the 2020 production car is at the moment questionable.

One Million Electrified Vehicles Annually by Fiscal Year 2022

Nissan pledged to maintain its leadership in electric vehicles as the automaker outlined plans to launch eight new EVs and hit annual sales of 1 million electrified vehicles by March 31, 2023. The eight new EVs will come on top of Nissan’s current offerings, the Leaf and eNV200 van. One will be the all-electric crossover based on the iMx concept, while four of the new EVs will be directed to China.

The automaker’s sales goal of one million EVs, includes pure electrics and plug-in hybrids. The tally will get a boost from the introduction of Nissan’s new e-Power setup, a range-extender hybrid system it is already selling in Japan and will bring to other markets. Sales of vehicles equipped with e-Power will account for more than half the total.

The components of Nissan’s goals were presented last Friday at the company’s global headquarters, offering details of the M.O.V.E to 2022 midterm plan unveiled by CEO Hiroto Saikawa last fall for six years running through the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023.

Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti, won’t be left in the dark, either. All Infiniti models will be electrified starting in 2021. Chief Planning Officer Philippe Klein said, “This electrification trend will be deeper and quicker for Infiniti. Our objective is to position Infiniti as the No. 1 challenger brand in the premium segment.”

“We have more EV customers than any other automaker,” Klein said. “You can count on us to defend our EV leadership.”

 

 

 

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”

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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: Lexus UX Subcompact Crossover Debuts

News: Lexus UX Subcompact Crossover Debuts

Geneva Motor Show First to See Entry-Level Lexus SUV

Lexus introduced its all-new UX subcompact crossover at the Geneva Auto Show yesterday. Slotted at the bottom of the brand’s expanded SUV lineup, below the compact NX, it offers a new entry point to the brand, which offered the first luxury hybrid vehicle 15 years ago.

The vehicle sits high, but it’s not intended for traveling off pavement, although all-wheel drive is available. The small SUV is aimed at people in their 30’s—youthful, but with families and things to haul.

Lexus UX

Lexus fills out its crossover lineup

The 2019 Lexus UX will come in two versions when it arrives at the end of 2018. The UX 200 employs a new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 168 horsepower running through a new Direct-Shift continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

Hybrid Version Coming

The model Clean Fleet Report is most interested in is the UX 250h hybrid, which uses the same engine as the UX 200, but combines it with Lexus’ fourth-generation hybrid drive system.  

Lexus UX

From the inside, the outside is just beyond

The Lexus design language, the now traditional spindle grill, is apparent in this vehicle. However, it uses a new block pattern, with shapes that change gradually as they move away from the center. So, it looks different depending on where you view the car from. In the rear, full width tapered taillights use 120 LEDs to create a unique nighttime signature for the baby Lexus crossover.

Inside, Chika Kako, the chief engineer of the UX, used ideas from Europe to create a clean, uncluttered look. The UX features new materials and textures with a traditional Japanese look, including a trim finish inspired by Japanese washo paper. There is also a leather option for the upholstery that mimics sashiko, a customary Japanese quilting technique used in martial arts uniforms.

An Inside/Outside Blend

There’s a Japanese housing concept that blends the inside with the outside, which Lexus evokes in the UX. The instrument panel appears to connect directly to the hood when viewed from the inside or the outside of the car.

Lexus UX

Lexus jumps into the hot subcompact SUV segment

Based on the new Global Architecture–Compact (GA-C) platform, the UX boasts the lowest center of gravity of any vehicle in its class. It’s highly rigid, too, while the front MacPherson struts and rear double-wishbone suspension are tuned for smooth and not-so-smooth city streets.

The UX 250h’s new-generation hybrid system blends the engine and a motor to achieve a projected 176 horsepower. There’s a new compact and lightweight transaxle and power control unit. The nickel-metal-hydride battery and cooling system are tucked under the rear seat, so they don’t take up any valuable passenger or cargo space.

In the UX 250h, Predictive Efficient Drive combines three new technologies to maximize efficiency. Predictive Efficient Drive analyzes your driving habits and predicted road conditions to optimize hybrid battery charging and discharging. Predictive Deceleration Support monitors driver behavior and can tell when the car is likely to slow down or stop. Then, it increases regenerative braking for more efficient energy recovery and recharging of the battery. Predictive State of Charge control for the hybrid battery works on downhill roads and in congested traffic to predict the route when the navigation system is being used.

There’s a new high-efficiency 17-inch, five-spoke wheel available. It was designed using computer simulations and wind tunnel testing to increase airflow to cool the disc brakes without compromising the car’s aerodynamics.

Lexus will offer the F Sport option with either trim level. It brings in special suspension tuning. You also get unique exterior styling, including the F grill mesh, fog light bezels, a different rear bumper, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, sport seats hold you in place and the instrument panel features the F Sport moving outside ring design. The steering wheel and shifter wear dimpled leather covers, and aluminum pedals shine on the floor.

The subcompact crossover segment is growing, and the UX will make Lexus very competitive there. Pricing and fuel efficiency information for the UX 200 and UX 250h will be released closer to the end-of-the-year on-sale date.  

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Road Test: 2018 Lexus GS 450h

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Road Test: 2018 Lexus GS 450h

Road Test: 2018 Lexus GS 450h

Performance and Efficiency in a Premium Sedan

The 2018 GS 450h is the most fuel-efficient model in the Lexus GS line-up, delivering mid-30 mpg on the highway. It also does it in style with premium comfort. So, are you ready to drop the staid sedan and step into something more adventuresome? Will your neighbors know what came over you? Your answers should be “Yes” and “Who cares!”

Powertrain

The 2018 GS 450h has a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motor-generators, the components of the Lexus Hybrid Drive system. The 3.5L puts out 286 horsepower (hp) and 257 pounds-feet of torque, then along with the electric motors produces a combined system output of 338 hp. Acceleration was smooth and pulled hard through the complete torque band.

The rear wheels are driven through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), with paddle shifters. Fuel economy for the GS 450h is EPA rated at 29 city/34 highway/31 combined miles per gallon. Running on 91 octane, I drove 265 miles (mostly on the highway) and averaged 30.7 mpg.

2018 Lexus GS 450h

Combining luxury, performance and fuel economy

The Lexus Hybrid Drive system automatically switches between the electric-only drive mode, combined electric/gasoline engine, and gasoline-only power. The transitions are seamless and smooth, and can be monitored by viewing the dash gauges. When driving a hybrid, I like the option to select EV-only, especially around town, forcing the car to run solely on electric power. The GS 450h has this option but the driving range in pure electric mode is short. Plus, when in EV mode, only the slightest accelerator pedal pressure kicked in the gasoline engine. Being able to hold the car in electric mode for a longer distance and at higher speeds would be a nice feature to add.

The hybrid system’s nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery is charged through the regenerative charging system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. This process can also be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.

The Drive Mode Select on the GS 450h allows the driver to choose between Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport S and Sport S+ as well as EV. There is even a Snow mode. With all these settings, I spent most of my time on the highway in Eco which adapted throttle response for the best fuel economy. But for fun—and a 5.6 second zero-60 time—opt for Sport+. For even more fun, there is a GS 450h F Sport model that offers a tuned suspension and more aggressive styling. The aforementioned neighbors will really wonder what you are up to if you bring this one home.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The GS 450h is very comfortable to drive. The front and rear suspensions get gas-filled shocks, coil springs and stabilizer bars, with the driver being able to control the Adaptive Variable Suspension for shock absorber damping. This technology is fun to experiment with when driving on twisty roads, whether on tight or sweeper corners.

Our Lexus GS 450h came with 18-inch, five-spoke machine-finish chrome alloy wheels and 235/45R all-season Michelin tires. Handling is nicely balanced and spirited, building confidence the more you drive it hard into corners.

Stopping comes from an electronically controlled brake system that incorporates regenerative braking and power-assisted, four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. The stops were straight and consistent. The brakes were a bit grabby when the GS 450h was cold, but worked as expected once driven for just a few miles. When coming to a stop the combination of the regenerative braking and the hybrid motor made a noticeable, but not unpleasant, whine.

2018 Lexus GS 450h

The GS 450h leads with style and brings it home with fuel mpg

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Lexus GS 450h is a five-passenger midsize sedan with a sleek design that Lexus says is “at the intersection of style and performance.” The Lexus signature spindle grille has attractive satin chrome border strips and is framed by L-shaped Bi-LED headlamps. The roofline’s slope is designed for ease of entry by front and rear passengers. The trunk lid has a very subtle spoiler and the LED tail lights also have the distinctive L-shape that is especially attractive and noticeable at night. Be sure to look for the blue on the Lexus logo badges which signifies this GS 450h is electrified.

Driving Experience: Interior

The 2018 Lexus GS 450h has one trim level and is loaded with features that would be optional equipment on lesser cars. Clean Fleet Report’s test car did have options of a power trunklid, intuitive park assist, trunk mat, cargo net, illuminated door sills and an upgraded sound system.

2018 Lexus GS 450h

An interior to sink into

The Mark Levinson Premium surround sound infotainment (entertainment and information) system had 17 speakers, an amplifier and 835 watts. The 12.3-inch color touchscreen display takes a bit of driver attention to operate via the Remote Touch Controller, but overall it worked well for the navigation, Siri Eyes Free, SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM radio with iPod/MP3 playback capability. The FM/AMHD is a cache radio that offers the ability to pause and playback 10 minutes of programming. The SiriusXM service is included for 90 days. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB port, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and hands-free phone capability. The auto-dimming rearview mirror was HomeLink equipped. There’s voice activation for the telephone and navigation worked well.

Lexus has done an excellent job of designing an interior with high craftsmanship and attention to detail. Beginning with the leather-trimmed, power 10-way adjustable, heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats, the multi-function wood and leather heated steering wheel (with a power tilt and telescoping column and controls for the audio, telephone and voice commands), made it easy for the driver to find a comfortable and in-control driving position.

The cockpit design is driver friendly, featuring large gauges for easy reading and controls for easy access. The interior also has a dual-zone automatic climate system, power tilt and sliding moonroof, power windows, door locks and mirrors, logged carpet mats, electronic parking brake, Smart Access with push button stop/start, 12V power outlets, folding heated power side mirrors, cruise control and multiple cup holders.

The rear cabin seat backs do not fold down, but there is a drop-down armrest with cup holders. The rear window power sunshade is a nice feature as are the reading lamps, air vents and the 12V/120W charge port.

Safety

The GS 450h is well equipped with active and passive safety features including 10 air bags, tire pressure monitoring system, rain-sensing wipers, hill start control, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, rear view camera, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, and the previously mentioned four wheel disc brakes with ABS.

2018 Lexus GS 450h

Help is displayed to make sure you maximize the fuel economy benefits

The 2018 Lexus GS 450h has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Good rating, while the US Government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not rated the GS 450h.

Pricing

The 2018 Lexus GS 450h has a base MSRP of $63,635. Clean Fleet Report’s test car had a price of $66,510. All prices exclude the $975 delivery, processing and handling fee.

The 2018 Lexus GS 450h comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain Six years/70,000 miles 
  • Hybrid-related Component Coverage Eight years/100,000 miles
  • Basic           Four years/50,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation Six years/Unlimited miles       

Observations: 2018 Lexus GS 450h

The Lexus GS 450h 2017 redesign continues for 2018. The styling is sharp with an elegant, comfortable and spacious interior. The hybrid power provides impressive fuel economy that is the best of all the Lexus GS models.

2018 Lexus GS 450h

A touch of the past, updated for now

If you are not interested in owning a SUV, then the Lexus GS 450h should be taken very seriously. It can seat a family of five, or be the sporty sedan for two that sips gasoline on long road trips. When visiting your Lexus dealership, make sure to call first and set an appointment with a factory-trained hybrid specialist. You will want them to walk you through all the features, technology and options, especially taking the time to explain the hybrid system in detail. There is much to learn and enjoy on the 2018 Lexus 450h.

Whatever you end up buying, 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.