Better Fuel Economy Front-and-Center at 2013 NY Auto Show

Better Fuel Economy Front-and-Center at 2013 NY Auto Show

Audi A3 EV

Audi’s A3 e-tron Plug-in Hybrid

You need look no further than the 2013 New York International Auto Show media preview this last week to see that automakers are aggressively laying out multiple paths to get to the fuel economy goals of the U.S., Europe and Japan. Electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, diesels and advanced gasoline engines (as well as other technologies) point to a diverse future and potentially even some confusion for car buyers looking to choose high-mileage replacements for their current vehicles.

The good news is high-mileage vehicles are coming in a variety of configurations, offering buyers choices that vary from the expected subcompact sedans to larger sedans, crossovers and fully off-road capable SUVs. Maybe the best way to attack the variety of news is to look at highlights alphabetically by manufacturer.


Audi showed off its A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid and told us that it would be coming to America at some point in the new future. It will likely feature a 1.4-liter TSI 4-cylinder engine mated to a 75 kW electric motor when it arrives, producing 204 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, a prodigious performance package for the small subcompact. Until the plug-in arrives, Audi offers the redesigned 2015 A3 that will arrive in early 2014 with either a 1.8-liter TFSI gas, 2.0-liter gas, 2.0-liter TDI diesel or, in S3 trim, a high-output 2.0-liter TSFI gas engine. In European trim the gas engines can hit 40 mpg and the diesel deliver above 60 mpg on the highway. Even if the U.S. numbers are less than the usually generous European ones, it looks like the 2015 models will offer a good boost beyond the current 42 (for the TDI) and 28 mpg (for the 2.0-liter TFSI) highway numbers.


BMW rolled out its latest diesel version of its top-volume 3-Series, the 328d. It features a four-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s smaller than the last generation 335d’s six, but still powerful enough to fit in the BMW performance pantheon. BMW officials said they expect 45 mpg on the highway from the engine, which takes it almost into Prius territory.

Also on the stand in New York was the company’s Active Tourer concept car, which showcases the powertrain what will be in the company’s first plug-in car, the i8, which is set to debut next year. It features a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack so it will produce an estimated 190 horsepower while delivering up to 95 mpg.


The luxury division of Nissan introduced its third hybrid, the 2014 QX60 Hybrid, the sister SUV to the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid also shown in New York. It features a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT (continuously variable transmission) along with a 15 kW electric motor in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive models. Combined horsepower for the two-motor system is 250, delivering an expected 26 mpg combined for either model and a range of more than 500 miles.

The QX60 Hybrid, which replaces the old JX35 model in Infiniti’s new numbering system, will cost about $3,000 more than the non-hybrid version. Its fuel economy is 24% better, according to Infiniti. The company claims its fuel economy will be the best for a seven-passenger luxury crossover/SUV. It also added that placing the lithium-ion batteries under the third-row seats means no sacrifice of interior space to accommodate the hybrid technology.

Jeep-Cherokee-better mpg

Jeep’s new, more fuel efficient Cherokee


Chrysler re-introduced the mid-size Jeep Cherokee name for the Liberty replacement, which it claims will get 31 mpg on the highway from its standard 2.4-liter MultiAir2 TigerShark 4-cylinder engine, which is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The new powertrain improves fuel economy by 45% compared to the older model. The SUV also has an optional V-6 engine that provides 271 horsepower and additional towing capability while delivering an estimated 29 highway mpg.


Mercedes showed off an all-electric B-Class and announced it would be on sale in the U.S. by the end of this year. The five-door wagon-like subcompact model, which Mercedes also used as a base for its fuel cell electric cars, will have a 177-horsepower electric motor that will accelerate it from zero-to-60 mph in 10 seconds. In European testing it claims a range of 200 kilometers (124 miles).

Mercedes also introduced the latest generation (gen 3 for those keeping track) of the all-electric Smart Fortwo ED. The two-passenger minicar uses lithium-ion batteries and a 75-horsepower motor and a range of 145 kilometers (90 miles).


Mitsubishi debuted its new Mirage minicar at the show. The car will feature a 1.2-liter three-cylinder gas engine designed to deliver a combined fuel economy of 40 mpg (37 city/44 highway). It will have a CVT and is expected to be priced in the low $10,000s. Mitsubishi also showed off its upcoming plug-in hybrid Outlander SUV.


Like Infiniti (above), Nissan introduced a crossover/SUV hybrid that will take on the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and maybe the VW Touareg Hybrid. The specs for the Pathfinder are identical to the QX60–it will have a 2.5-liter gasoline engine and 15 kW electric motor turning out a solid 250 horsepower while delivering a combined 26 mpg (25 city; 27 highway). Nissan said it would be priced about $3,000 more than the comparable non-hybrid V-6 Pathfinder. One of the most significant parts of the package is that the lithium-ion batteries for the energy storage reside under the rear seat of the seven-passenger vehicle. and don’t intrude on people or luggage space.



Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Subaru moves into the hybrid age with the announcement in New York that they will bring  hybrid model to the U.S. in XV Crosstrek Hybrid. It will feature a combined 31 mpg from its 2.0-liter boxer engine, 13.4-horsepower electric motor, CVT transmission and nickel metal hydride battery pack, about a 3 mpg improvement from the standard Crosstrek. It will go on sale in the fall of this year. Subaru claims it will be the most fuel-efficient compact crossover on the market.


Toyota introduced the next generation (2014) Highlander Hybrid crossover in New York. The company didn’t release fuel economy numbers, but its 3.5-liter V-6 and CVT powers a larger, eight-passenger vehicle now, so it is unlikely to boost fuel economy much beyond the current edition’s 28 mpg (a figure delivered across the board in city and highway driving). The new Highlander will hit showrooms in early 2014.


VW introduced its seventh generation Golf that will arrive here next year as a 2015 model; it also collected a World Car of the Year award. The restyling is mild, but the focus on fuel economy is not. Even though this version of the Golf is bigger than its predecessor, it weighs less. Like its Audi cousins, the new Golf will be powered by three new engine choices, two gas and one diesel, the latter of which will boost its highway fuel economy into the mid-40s while maintaining or improving its power.


The New York Auto Show saw a substantial number of high-mileage introductions as well as re-introductions of key high-mileage vehicles. Of course, there were also plenty of high-horsepower, adrenaline-soaked models as well. But the course is clear; automakers are moving steadily to incorporate better fuel economy across their product lines, expanding beyond entry-level models to mainstream sedans, people-haulers and even full-size pickups and work vehicles. It’s a trend that is only going to accelerate as we move further into this decade. The end result will be some great choices for consumers, who will no longer have to sacrifice functionality for fuel economy.


Other similar Clean Fleet Report stories on the subject:

Microhybrids are big mileage boosters

Top 10 best-selling high-mpg cars for February 2013

All-wheel-drive cars and SUVs with best mileage

Nissan LEAF Electric Car Wins 2011 World Car of the Year

Nissan LEAF Electric Car Wins 2011 World Car of the Year

LEAF World Car of YearLatest accolade for zero-emission vehicle comes at New York International Auto Show

At the New York International Auto Show on April 21, the 100-percent electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF was named 2011 World Car of the Year, edging out the BMW 5-Series and the Audi A8 for the top spot. The award is the latest in a string of accolades for the world’s first affordable mass-market, all-electric vehicle for the global market, which was also named European Car of the Year.

“It is a great joy that the world’s first, mass-marketed electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, has won the prestigious award of 2011 World Car of the Year,” said Nissan Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn. “This accolade recognizes Nissan LEAF, a pioneer in zero-emission mobility, as comparable in its driving performance, quietness and superb handling to gas-powered cars. And it validates Nissan’s clear vision and the values of sustainable mobility that we want to offer to customers around the world.”

The World Car Awards jurors observed that, “The Leaf is the gateway to a brave new electric world from Nissan. This 5-seater, 5-door hatchback is the world’s first, purpose-built, mass-produced electric car. It has a range of over 100 miles on a full charge claims Nissan, takes around 8 hours to recharge using 220-240V power supply and produces zero tailpipe emissions. Its low center of gravity produced sharp turn-in with almost no body roll and no understeer. The good news? It feels just like a normal car, only quieter.”

The World Car of the Year competition was launched in 2004, with winners chosen by a panel of automotive journalists from Asia, Europe and North America.

Nissan LEAF to Expand Manufacturing and Sales in 2012

Nissan LEAF is available in Japan, the United States and select European markets and will be released in other global markets in 2012. The vehicle is currently built at Nissan’s Oppama, Japan plant. It also will be manufactured at the company’s Smyrna, Tenn., plant in the United States in late 2012 and at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the United Kingdom by early 2013.

Aiming to be the world leader in zero-emission vehicles, Nissan, with its Alliance partner, Renault, has formed partnerships with more than 90 governments, cities and other organizations around the world not only to develop and produce EV and lithium-ion batteries but also to promote sustainable mobility. Nissan is also taking a comprehensive approach to encourage to the world to more sustainable mobility such as improvement of charging service, infrastructure deployment, the promotion of the use of recycled materials and overall energy management system including second-life use of lithium-ion batteries.

New Lincoln Beats Lexus in Luxury Hybrid Car Battle

By John Addison (3/31/10)

Lincoln First Luxury to Better 40 mpg

The new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid will be the first luxury hybrid to beat 40 miles per gallon in city driving, topping the current luxury hybrid leader from Lexus. Last week I wrote about my test drive of the Lexus HS 250h which achieves 35 mpg city. I have been impressed with the smooth, quite drive of the Ford Fusion Hybrid with the same drive system to that of the new Lincoln, which is expected to get 39 mpg combined EPA rating compared to the Lexus 250h 35 mpg combined city and highway.

Hybrid cars are again popular now that oil prices have soared from a recent low of $32 per barrel to over $80 per barrel. In miles per gallon, the Ford Fusion Hybrid is #4 on the 2010 Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Hybrids. In 2011, we also expect the new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid to join the Fusion Hybrid on the list. The new 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is shown for the first time at the 2010 New York Auto Show. This first-ever hybrid for the Lincoln brand is expected to offer more passenger room and luxury features than the Lexus 250h Hybrid.

Part of Bigger Battle Between Ford and Toyota

Ford will use the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid to try and take more market share from Toyota, this time in the luxury space. Ford outsold Toyota in February in the United States. Ford’s monthly sales of 140,319 vehicles were up 43 percent over February 2009, while Toyota sales dropped 9 percent to 100,027 vehicles. Part of Ford’s success is that its hybrids are taking on Toyota’s. Ford’s growing success comes at a time when Toyota, including Lexus, is recalling millions of vehicles, and suspending sales of key models, due to accelerator pedal problems. More customers now feel safer in a Ford, Mercury, or Lincoln than in a Toyota or Lexus.

Taking business from Lexus, however, will not be a slam-dunk. The Lexus hybrid has a starting MSRP price of around $34,200, the same MSRP as a non-hybrid Lincoln MKZ. The Fusion hybrid has about an $8,000 premium over the non-hybrid. Ford has yet to announce MKZ Hybrid pricing; it will go on sale this fall. The Lexus hybrid comes standard with a moonroof; with a Lincoln MKZ you pay extra. Buyers are likely to test drive both and compare prices when a number of premium features are included.

The new premium midsize sedan hybrid joins Ford Motor Company’s growing lineup of hybrids, including the Ford Fusion Hybrid – 2010 North American Car of the Year – plus the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Milan and Mariner Hybrids.

Introduction of the new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid also complements Ford’s aggressive global electrification plan. Ford is introducing five new electrified vehicles by 2013. They include the Transit Connect Electric, already being ordered by fleets such as AT&T, the Focus Electric in 2011, a next-generation hybrid electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2012, followed by another next-generation hybrid electric vehicle in 2013.

The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid uses Ford’s second-generation hybrid technology – the 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 hybrid engine, named one of Ward’s 2010 “10 Best Engines” and electric battery-driven motors to deliver optimal performance and fuel economy. The combined gasoline engine and electric motor provide 191 net horsepower.

The pure electric mode on the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid extends to 47 mph – compared with the Lexus HS 250h electric-only mode which reaches just 25 mph. In my test drive of the Fusion Hybrid, also speced to 47 mph in electric mode, I was unable to stay in battery-electric mode at close to 47 mph, possibly because I was enjoying the ride along the Monterey coastline. During my Lexus 250h Hybrid test drive, I was unable to keep the Lexus in electric-only mode, because I had touched the Power button to accelerate on a race track.

If you are looking for a luxury car with performance, creature comforts, and a luxurious ride, check out both the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the Lexus HS250h. You will be impressed with both. Let the competition begin.

2010 Top 10 Hybrid Car Report