Subaru’s latest AWD model ups its MPG
The Wheels You Need with the Fuel Economy You Crave
So the scientists announced this last week (ed note: we originally wrote this three years ago–and updated it since–but the climate change news has not gotten any brighter in the intervening years) that the world has hit another milestone. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a concentration not seen for millions of years. While many in the environmental community might see this as the point at which personal transportation should be curtailed–starting with SUVs or Crossovers–it is clear the automotive market is not going to make such a quick shift.
Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are more popular than ever in 2017, even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward. The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.
Winging it…on electricity
All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere. The first electric SUV has appeared (after one short-lived version, the RAV4 EV was on the market for a brief time), but the Tesla Model X is out of most buyers’ price range. Plug-in hybrids are just hitting the market this year and more are promised, but again most are luxury first and SUV second. A few hybrid and clean diesel models are out there, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs. Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re use the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.
While cars, especially smaller ones, appear to be able to top the 40 mpg mark without much difficulty and are pushing even higher with plug-in models, AWD and 4WD models, with extra hardware and usually a larger size, have historically found 30 mpg on the highway a tough mark. No more. We’ve got an EV and several plug-ins that boast sophisticated technology that offers welcome progress on the MPG front. The downside is all this new hardware comes at a serious premium. But not far down the list are gasoline-powered models delivering mid-30s fuel economy.
The numbers are based on the federal fuel economy tests, so of course your mileage will vary. We’ve updated this list and pruned out some of the two-wheel-drive interlopers. We expect this list to keep growing, offering mpg-conscious car buyers even more options.
The Top 10 SUVs/Crossovers
1. 95 MPGe – Tesla Model X EV – So how does almost 100 mpg sound for an SUV? Is that worth $70 or $80,000? Tesla’s foray into the SUV space is an all-wheel-drive, all-electric crossover with seating for seven adults and their luggage. It is based off of Tesla’s Model S sedan (which it now outsells) and features two electric motors (of varying sizes depending on the model) and a variety battery pack sizes and performance levels. Oh, and it also has gull-wing (falcon in Tesla parlance) doors. And loads of tech features, including fairly sophisticated self-driving capability. The car will deliver about 250 miles of range in the high-end model; 220 in the “entry-level” model. When we did a brief test drive, we were impressed. The Toyota RAV4 EV was the first SUV with a plug, but in two iterations it only had a brief run and totaled about 3,000 vehicles. Tesla passed that mark in its first year on the market and continues crank them out of its Fremont plant.
Tesla Model X
2. 56 MPGe BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV – BMW took its most popular SUV and added a plug. It seems simple, but the process entailed added technology. Thankfully, BMW has not subtracted any of the positive attributes of its all-wheel-drive SUV. Forget to plug in and you’re back to mid-20s fuel economy. It has 14 miles of all-electric range augmented by more than 300 horsepower of gasoline-fueled power, which is helpful if you’ve carrying a full three rows of passengers. We have a review of this model.
3. 53 MPGe – Volvo XC90 AWD PHEV – The first plug-in Volvo has arrived. We saw it some time ago and are pleased that it has been delivered intact with great fuel economy along with all of the usual Volvo safety equipment and great wagon space. Without plugging in the fuel economy drops to the mid-20s. It’s all-electric range is about 14 miles. A week in the wagon reinforced out initial impression.
4. 50 MPGe – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – The latest addition to the plug-in SUV crowd comes from Mercedes-Benz. This five-passenger SUV can shut down its 400+ horsepower V-6 biturbo engine and move on electric power to maximize fuel economy. Its default mode is a hybrid drive that will shift from gas to electric power.
5. 47 MPGe – Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid PHEV – To offset some performance models with less-than-stellar fuel economy, Porsche is leading the way by offering plug-in versions that promise enhanced MPG. The company’s SUV adds an electric motor than can give 16 miles of EV range. On gas alone the car is in the low 20s MPG.
2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
6. Tie 34 MPG – Nissan Rogue Hybrid/Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – In case there was any question about the competitive nature of the automotive market, these two models should settle the debate. Locked into a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the hot compact class of crossover, both companies have added hybrid systems to their hot-selling small SUVs. Its working as both effortlessly deliver stellar fuel economy a the no-fuss hybrid system that makes most of the decisions for the driver. The market loves them, too, (in hybrid and non-hybrid mode) as in early 2017 both models are among the top-selling models in the U.S. We tested both here, here and here.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Lexus NX 300h – A new entry takes a top spot as Toyota fields a hybrid version of the RAV4 with a Lexus badge. The fuel economy numbers are for city driving. As is typical of hybrids, it gives you more MPG around town than out on the highway (31 highway and 33 combined). These numbers are for the two-wheel-drive version; moving all four wheels knocks off one or two MPG. We tested it when it first came out and found it a competent machine.
Lexus NX 300h
8. Tie 33 MPG – Honda CR-V – Honda’s best-selling crossover tops 30 MPG with all-wheel-drive on board. We’ve driven this compact utility several times and find it a real winner in its class, coming in only a shade below hybridized versions of its competition. Since it isn’t a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, it also has an edge in affortability.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Jaguar F-Pace – It’s highly unusual for a Jaguar to show up on the best-MPG list, but the F-Pace is something a little different. Jaguar added an efficient clean diesel engine to bump its fuel economy into the range of usually more efficient but smaller crossovers. We’ve experienced the engine in a sedan and believe it should deliver some solid performance for this new entry.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Subaru XV Crosstrek – Subaru continues to test the market with vehicles that depart from its typical cars. The Crosstrek has a 2-liter version of the traditional (for Subaru) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower when paired with the CVT automatic. It bumps up the MPG of the popular Crosstrek.
Just missing the Top 10 mpg mark are a half-dozen models
Not that long ago 30 mpg for an all-wheel-drive vehicles was unheard of. As you can see above, it is quickly becoming the ticket of entry in this class of vehicles. The variety of models is astounding and the range of features runs the gamut from affordable small crossovers to SUVs capable of carrying more than a family of four and taking the group well off the highway.
We used the federal fuel economy numbers from the EPA at to rank these models. Lurking just below the Top 10 (which of course is actually 11 models) are a variety of vary capable cars, all of which come in 4WD with a variety of engine options. Ones to check out are the Mazda CX-3, Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, Honda HR-V, Nissan Murano Hybrid, Buick Encore, Subaru Forester, Mercedes-Benz GLA250, Infiniti QX30, Subaru Outback, Audi Q5 Hybrid, Chevrolet Trax, BMW X1 xDrive, Jeep Renegade and Toyota Highlander Hybrid for some other 30+ MPG cars. The variety has never been greater.
And coming soon:
The onslaught of new models focused on fuel efficiency will continue as automakers strive to reach fuel economy and greenhouse gas targets set by governments around the world. Models announced, but not yet introduced include plug-in versions of several more BMW and Mercedes SUVs. We’ve also been waiting for the U.S. introduction of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is already on the market in Japan and Europe. It’s expected to have 20-25 miles of all-electric range and could turn in mpge (mileage factoring in the electric range) well above 50.
Other similar stories you might enjoy:
First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X
Road Test: 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e
Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 PHEV
Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Road Test: 2015 Lexus NX 300h
Road Test: 2016 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2013 Subaru Crosstrek
Small on the Outside – Roomy on the Inside
General Motors goal of expanding its SUV lineup was detailed in the trade magazine Automotive News in its July 20 issue, where it talked about the company’s plans to add yet another model into the mix that already includes the Trax, Equinox, Traverse, Tahoe and Suburban. While that’s a glimpse into the near future, the most recent addition to the lineup is the all-new subcompact 2015 Chevrolet Trax.
The Trax competes in the hot new small SUV/crossover segment, going up against the Nissan Juke, Jeep Renegade and Honda HR-V, all of which Clean Fleet Report has recently reviewed. Fuel
Yes, it is red hot
economy is the ticket of entry for this small ute segment, so you can expect to see us checking out even more entrants in the coming months.
The 2015 Chevrolet Trax comes in front drive and all-wheel drive, both of which are powered by a turbocharged 1.4L DOHC 16-valve I-4 engine, with sequential multi-port fuel injection running unleaded regular. Mated to a smooth operating six-speed automatic transmission, it puts out 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. Clean Fleet Report’s two-wheel front drive Trax was EPA rated at 26 City / 34 Highway / 29 Combined. In 275 miles of 75-percent highway / 25-percent city driving, we averaged 31.8 mpg. If the 14 gallon fuel tank was run dry that would have taken us 445 miles down the road.
Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California our 75-percent/25-percent highway/city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Our Trax LT weighed in at a relatively trim 3,136 lbs. The suspension, which could have been a bit more firm for our liking, was composed of front McPherson struts with coil-over springs and a stabilizer bar that was mated to a torsion beam, with coil springs and twin-tube shock absorbers in the rear. I found the ride to be smooth on the highway and around town, but the electric assisted power steering was a little vague, but did not hamper responsiveness when negotiating curves at low or highway speeds. Body roll was acceptable for a small crossover and wind noise was nearly non-existent.
Cruising into a strong new segment
The 1.4L turbo engine ran smooth and was not buzzy, even when pushed hard, and was quick enough to get up-to-speed for freeway merging. When at freeway speeds, the automatic is in sixth gear getting maximum fuel economy, which is a good thing. However, when it came time to pass, there is a lack of torque in sixth gear and a couple seconds of lag before the turbo kicks in and the transmission drops down a gear or two. The more I drove the Trax on the freeway I was able to anticipate and time the lag so this no longer was an issue.
The Trax felt solid to the road with 16-inch wheels (18-inch come on the LTZ trim level) and 205/70R All-season tires, which provided for good maneuverability. Stopping was straight from power-assisted ventilated front disc and rear drum brakes, electronic brake force distribution, cornering brake control, brake assist, with a four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and stability and traction control.
Driving Experience: Interior
Trax has three trim levels–LS, LT and LTZ–Clean Fleet Report drove the LT version that came with what Chevrolet says is “the technology city dwellers depend on for their connected lifestyles.” The Trax certainly did have all the connected car technology we have come to expect, such as the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system with a seven-inch color touch screen that handled the rear view camera, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), the Bose seven-speaker AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3 sound system, USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, advanced voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone. To take the connectivity technology a step further, the Trax LT had Siri Eyes Free (for iPhone users) and the BringGo navigation app that works with all smartphones. You also get OnStar and 4G LTE for Wi-Fi, (three-month, three-gigabyte data trial) that turns your car into a hotspot.
A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly GM representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer
Little outside; Costco-size room inside
and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM has been the industry leader and after the introductory service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.
Other nice interior features are 15 storage compartments, cup holders, A/C, power windows and door locks, power and heated outside mirrors, carpeted floor mats, removable cargo security cover, exterior temperature display, remote keyless entry and vehicle start systems, day/night rearview mirror, 110V and 12-volt accessory outlets.
The Trax dash layout is simple and straight-forward, featuring the analog tachometer and digital speedometer as part of the 3.5-inch Driver Information Center. All controls are within easy reach of the driver, but if you have read many of our reviews you will see Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. Chevrolet got it half right with the climate control knobs, large enough to use with gloves, which are centrally placed just below the seven-inch color touch screen. But on that screen are the main controls to operate the infotainment system, which leaves the leather-wrapped steering wheel-mounted controls as back-up if the screen should decide to not cooperate to your touch command. It worked well during our time with the Trax but knobs for volume and channel selection really isn’t too much to ask for.
Clean and functional
Our Trax LT had a combination of hard and soft plastic on the dash and door panel surfaces, with comfortable seating for four with good rear head and leg room. The rear 60/40 seats both fold flat in a system that starts with flipping the seat bottom towards the driver seat and then dropping the seat back to the flat position. Storage is ample with the rear seat up but expansive when the rear seat is folded flat. Access to the storage area is through a manual liftgate and a convenient low lift-over load height leading to a flat floor.
Chevrolet describes the Trax as having a “contemporary interior environment” that offers “premium features.” Our Trax interior color was black with tasteful brushed aluminum accents on the center console and steering wheel and surrounding the air vents and instrument cluster. The seats on the LT model were a sturdy, durable cloth fabric with leatherette trim and red top stitching that should hold up well to constant use. The seats themselves provided good support; the driver seat was six-way power adjustable, which helped in finding a comfortable seating position along with the tilt and telescopic steering column. We felt only having a center armrest for the driver was an unnecessary omission from what was an otherwise complete interior.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Trax is all-new for the 2015 model year but has been sold in 60+ countries before coming to the United States. I would classify the Trax exterior design as being safe, with the Chevrolet Bowtie center-placed in the split front grill. The Trax is a tall vehicle and a bit boxy that gives it good outward visibility, with one minor note. The top edge of the outside mirrors have a downward angle to them that cuts-off just enough mirror surface to create a blind spot. No matter how much you try to adjust the mirrors they cannot be positioned so the top edge is parallel to the ground. It’s a case of form over function.
Safety and Convenience
Keeping an eye out for the competion
The 2015 Trax has a 5 Star Government Safety Rating and comes with safety and convenience features including 10 air bags, Halogen headlights, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), content and vehicle theft alarm and the previously mentioned 4-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with brake assist.
Pricing and Warranties
Pricing for the 2015 Chevrolet Trax LS begins at $20,120 with the AWD version starting at $22,495. Clean Fleet Report’s Trax LT 2WD had an MSRP of $22,940. All prices do not include the $875 Destination Charge.
The 2015 Trax comes with these warranties:
- Bumper-to-Bumper Three-year/36,000-mile
- Powertrain with Courtesy Transportation Five-year/100,000-mile
- Roadside Assistance Two-year/25,000-mile
- Factory Scheduled Service Two-year/24,000-mile
- Rust-through Perforation Six-year/100,000-mile
Observations: 2015 Chevrolet Trax LT 2WD
The 2015 Chevrolet is selling in a very competitive small SUV category that includes the likes of the Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Kia Soul, Honda CR-V, Jeep Renegade
A step above entry-level
and its General Motors sibling, the Buick Encore. To standout from this crowded field the Trax holds its own by offering a roomy interior with excellent storage space. The Trax is responsive to drive, has good technology offerings and mid-30s highway fuel economy—all at a good price and value.
Since there are so many very good vehicles in this segment, your consideration list will be and should be quite long. Drive as many as possible, getting to know each one’s strengths and attributes. The beauty of a small SUV is their nimble handling, good fuel economy and not-so-large size that makes around town trips a breeze.
If Chevy’s little SUV doesn’t fit your needs, the brand also offers (in addition to its stair-step SUV collection) either their City Express or Express vans, or even a pickup trucks like the Colorado and Silverado. Oh, and let’s not forget their full line-up of cars like the Spark, Sonic, Cruze, Volt, Malibu or Impala. The point is that Chevrolet does not want you to leave their family, and with the 2015 Trax debut, Chevrolet provides a compelling option when looking to purchase a small SUV.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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