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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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

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: Ford Does the Electric Slide

News: Ford Does the Electric Slide

Ford Moves to Electrify Its Lineup; Stays with Trucks

Ford gathered the media this week to say what virtually every other automaker has already explicitly stated—cars and trucks are getting electrified. The subtext was: Ford is not going to be left behind, but the company is also not going to step away from its cash cow pickups and SUVs.

Clean Fleet Rerport was there. Ford led with its trucks and followed with its SUVs, then brought hybrids and electric vehicles into the discussion as the clean up.

Ford F-150

The F-150 is the king of the hill at Ford

The Ford F-150 is the king at Ford. It’s been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 37 years; the best-selling pickup for years beyond that. In its presentation, Ford boasted that the company brought in $41 billion on that model alone. If the F-150 were a stand alone company, it would have more revenue than Nike or Coca-Cola. Ford has dropped EcoBoost engines into the F-150 and intensified the use of aluminum throughout the truck, dropping weight and increasing fuel efficiency.

Up next for the pickup is a 3.0-liter diesel engine that comes later this year, followed by a hybrid powertrain in 2020. The goal as always is to increase efficiency while maintaining capability for customers.

In addition, Ford will reintroduce the compact Ranger next year.

After Trucks Come SUVs

Number two at Ford are SUVs. Ford’s Explorer broke the category open in the 1990s and they haven’t let up since. The compact Escape and the current Explorer carry the bulk of Ford’s SUV sales right now, but the just-introduced subcompact EcoSport will be part of an eight-vehicle lineup by 2020. Five of those SUVs will have hybrid powertrains.

Ford Future SUV

Ford sees a big future for SUVs

Probably acknowledging the juggernaut that is cross-town rival Jeep, the new SUVs will not only have the environmental credentials from their hybrid powertrains, but will also stress off-road capability and performance (borrowing from the F-150 Raptor phenom).

As it showed with its move to aluminum in the F-150, Ford is not afraid to throw its volume products into radical change. That’s the rationale it presented to media this week. While not the full-shift of a Volvo committing to electrify all of its product line in a few years, Ford did say it would hybridize its high-volume models—the F-150, Mustang, Explorer, Escape and Bronco.

Ford promises that its next-generation hybrids will not be as space-intrusive as the current ones (check out storage in the Fusion and C-Max) and, at least as important for the customer, less expensive. The reduced packaging and cost are behind Ford’s expanded embrace of the technology.

Battery Electrics Too

With its only battery electric (BEV) offering the compact Focus, Ford has not made any inroads into either the market or public consciousness. At the last Detroit Auto Show, Ford teased its next BEV. The implication in the grainy video was it combined the performance of a Mustang with spaciousness of a crossover, but all under electric power.

Ford Hybrids

Ford’s pledge is to take hybridization mainstream–Mustang/F-150/Explorer

The 2020 model will be the first of six BEVs Ford will put on the market during 2020-22.

Ford also renewed its commitment to the commercial vehicle segment (where it commands a 38 percent market share), though without any nod to increased efficiency (other than the new diesel engine in the Transit Connect).

In addition, Ford said it was bundling its driver-assist technologies in a package branded as Ford Co-Pilot360.  It’s also moving to implement over-the-air- updates to software, something that Tesla has done for years.

Maybe one of most significant announcements Ford made is that its goal is to accelerate the new product cycle for the company. It’s current showroom product averages 5.7 years in age. By 2020 it says that age will drop to 3.3 years. The reliance on trucks and SUVs, which tend to have longer product cycles, may have lulled Ford into this type of product cycle. The good news, if as they cite, 50 percent of vehicles by 2020 could be SUVs, the customer expectation is they will respond like most passenger cars, which get a two-year refresh and full redo every four years.

The bottom line is Ford has stepped up to the bar and said it intends to complete with advanced technology and electrification, hedging only that they will continue to offer what they see as the vehicles most want—trucks and SUVs.

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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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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

Flash Drive/Event: 2018 Jeep Wrangler and 2019 Jeep Cherokee

Flash Drive/Event: 2018 Jeep Wrangler and 2019 Jeep Cherokee

Legendary 4X4 Tradition Continues in New Skins

Jeep invited the media to the Santa Monica Mountains in early March to drive the all-new 2018 Wrangler and the new 2019 Cherokee. Our off-road driving reinforced the long tradition of Jeep being sure-footed off the pavement—and impressively so. But stay on the roadways, and the driving attributes, especially of the Cherokee, continue to impress.

Clean Fleet Report takes a look at our brief time in both vehicles and will follow-up in the coming months with in-depth Road Test reviews.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

2018 Jeep Wranglers are all-new, but keep the Jeep look

The All-new 2018 Wrangler

The last time the Wrangler was redesigned was in 2006, which is more than a few lifetimes for a design re-do. Wrangler fans are loyal and were excited that the all-new 2018 Wrangler retained much of the same look, but with refined features that only enhance the off- and on-road driving capability.

The 2018 Wrangler comes in two- and four-door models in up to four trim levels with these base MSRP.

Sport                      $26,995 (2DR); $30,495 (4DR)

Sport S                   $30,195 (2DR); $33,695 (4DR)

Rubicon                 $36,995 (2DR); $40,495 (4DR)

Sahara                    $37,345 (4DR)

Each trim level adds increased features as standard equipment, with the Rubicon being the version that is the most off-road capable. First introduced in 1986, the Wrangler continues as a body-on-frame design that has a removable windshield, roof, side windows and door panels. Stripped-down, the Wrangler is ready for serious off-road adventuring.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

The Wrangler remains a capable off-road machine

The 2018 Wrangler has two power plants. The 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 has Jeep’s eTorque mild-hybrid technology, which includes automatic stop/start, electric power assist and regenerative braking.  The 2.0-liter engine has an output of 270 horsepower (hp) and 295 pound-feet of torque (lb.-ft.) and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, with 285 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, is mated to a standard six-speed manual, with the eight-speed automatic transmission being optional.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive Wranglers with both transmissions (with the V6) off-road, and felt the manual offered a bit more old-school driving fun. However, the automatic was smooth and gave us complete confidence, whether climbing or descending a steep and rutted grade. Out on the pavement, the automatic shifted smoothly and would be a good option for those who spend the majority of their time commuting.

A 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 with 260 hp and a whopping 442 lb.-ft. of torque is scheduled for the 2019 model year. It should get the 2019 Wrangler into the AWD 30 MPG Club.

The New 2019 Jeep Cherokee

The Jeep Cherokee has a more premium look for 2019 with a new front fascia, hood and LED headlamps. There are five wheel designs, hands-free power lift gate and a dual-pane sunroof. The interior has been massaged with satin chrome and piano black trim.

The 2019 Cherokee comes in six trim levels with these base MSRP.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

More conventional looks, but a Jeep underneath

Latitude                   $24,690

Latitude Plus          $26,495

Limited                    $30,375

Trailhawk                $33,320

Overland                  $36,275

Trailhawk Elite       $36,315

Clean Fleet Report recently reviewed the 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland here.

There are three engine options for the 2019 Cherokee. The all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine (shared with the Wrangler and other models) has 270 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. The 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 delivers 271 hp and 239 lb.-ft. of torque. The most fuel-efficient engine is the 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 with 180 hp and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. All are mated to a nine-speed automatic with the 4X4 models getting the Jeep Active Drive system with Drive Lock.

Clean Fleet Report drove the V6 Cherokee Trailhawk off-road and were impressed with the grip level for a vehicle most owners will keep on the highway.

Observations: 2018 Wrangler and 2019 Cherokee

2019 Jeep Cherokee, 2018 Jeep Wrangler

Jeep holds onto its customers by being consistent

Jeep arguably has the most loyal and devoted fans and owners. Ever heard of the Jeep Jamboree? No other manufacturer has a program where their vehicles are put through such a rugged test by the actual owners. Of course, the Jamboree was created by Jeep owners 65 years ago and only garnered Jeep’s full endorsement well into its now life. Jamboree and the Jeep’s manufacturer are now inseparable.

Clean Fleet Report will drive several Jeep models in the coming months, so make sure to check back for news and reviews. Until then, know that if you are looking for off-road fun combined with a well-mannered street SUV, both the 2018 Wrangler and 2019 Cherokee will meet your needs.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Other Jeep Adventures

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

News: New Jeep Wrangler to Get Hybrid, Diesel, Plug-in Options

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade


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.

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