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.

Road Test: 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD 4X4 Premium

Road Test: 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD 4X4 Premium

Grandson’s Great Day Is Grandpa’s Embarrassment

The usual modus operandi at Clean Fleet Report is to evaluate hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric and fuel-efficient vehicles. But when Toyota offered a 4Runner for a week, I said yes because I had what seemed was a good idea at the time. In retrospect it was a good idea, things just didn’t work out in the manner I had envisioned.

2017 Toyota 4Runner

A 4Runner in its natural habitat

The plan was to take my youngest grandson, Gherit, for a day of off-roading at a large Weyerhaeuser-owned forest southwest of Olympia. I have been driving the logging roads of this massive timberland for more than 30 years. My first experience was in 1995 when I laid out a test drive route for the second annual Northwest Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) Of The Year for the Northwest Automotive Press Association that became known as “Mudfest.”

Most of the logging roads are gravel and can be driven slowly in an everyday passenger car. However, if you look hard enough, there are some narrow, rutted and rugged trails. Granted, our Toyota 4Runner TRD (Toyota Racing Development) 4X4 Premium, with its sparkling Barcelona Red Metallic paint job, was over qualified for the terrain, but the ambiance was ideal for Gherit’s first off-highway foray.

How Much Over-Qualified for the Gravel Logging Roads?

Starting from the ground up were 17-inch NittoTerra Grapler tires, a 9.6-inch ground clearance, 33-degree approach angle, 26-degree departure angle, Bilstein shocks to absorb off-road rambles, plus extra skid-plating. All 4Runner models feature a coil-spring independent front suspension with a stabilizer bar, and a solid axle out back suspended by a four-link setup with coil springs and a stabilizer bar. Our 4Runner added Toyota’s optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which increases suspension travel at low speeds to improve stability on rocky terrain.  A multi-terrain Crawl Control and hill assist are standard.

2017 Toyota 4Runner

Over the mudhole and through the woods

The four-wheel drive setup is a manually selectable two-speed transfer case with a low-range setting. A locking rear differential is standard.

In other words, this TRD 4Runner thumbs its nose at rough terrain.

My Oh My, Things Change Over the Years

I’ve driven the logging roads and trails in the Weyerhaeuser forest 30 or 40 times, but not in the last three years. When the asphalt turned into gravel, it was about three miles to the road I wanted. But dang!, about 15 yards short of the junction was a blockade gate, and no way around. O.K., things change over the years, but we had passed three or four other roads, so we’ll just go back.

Blockade gates greeted us on the first two roads after driving about a mile. The third road appeared to be the right choice. This logging road circles the perimeter of the forest with lots of off-shoot trails. Things were great for six miles, then another gate. Well, it’s turn around again (not the easiest thing to do in the 4Runner) and head for another off-road area I know about 15 miles away.

As we slowly made our way back, looking for a trail or road, Gherit suddenly said, “Hey, there’s a trail.” I back up and, sure enough, there’s a small opening among the trees that I had missed. I poked the 4Runner’s nose through the brush and could see a narrow, rugged, twisty trail that went steeply downhill into a mud hole, and then flattened out before heading upwards towards a hard right. This was just what the 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD 4X4 was made for.

Gherit, We’re Going to Have Fun!

I slipped the transfer case into 4-Low and eased down the hill and through the mud hole, thinking, “Why is there water and mud, it hasn’t rained in weeks.” Then I recalled that the forest was full of springs.

As we toddled up the hill and made the hard right turn and slowly worked our way forward, it became obvious that this wasn’t an ordinary logging trail. It was extremely narrow, hilly, rutted, and filled with very tight turns. About a mile in, we stopped in a clearing for lunch and pulled the outside mirrors in. The forest was alive with birds flitting through the tree branches and singing whenever they stopped for a rest. Gherit wore a constant smile. Mission accomplished.

2017 Toyota 4Runner

The 4Runner is designed to take on real trails

We were making small talk when I remembered one of the cardinal rules of off-roading: Always have a companion vehicle just in case something goes wrong. But I had not intended to be on a trail like this and Gherit was so enjoying himself that I decided to continue.

Another mile or so brought us around a narrow corner that looked straight at an enormous muddy water hole. The left side was slightly sloped and there was solid ground down the middle separating the ruts, but no way to go around. I could have backed up a few yards and manage to turn around, but Gherit wanted to continue forward. This is when I disregarded another cardinal rule: Get out of the vehicle and check what’s in front, in this case, how deep water-filled ruts where.

I decided I could straddle the ruts, put the left tires on the slope, and inch forward. That worked for about 10 feet, then the 4Runner slid to the right and we became high centered. No amount of placing wood under the right tires would budge the off roader. Embarrassment describes how I felt. 

Well, I’d just have to make some phone calls and find a towing company to come winch us out. Big problem, no cell service.

After locking things up, we began our walk to find a cell signal. It was nearly five miles before we came across one of the scattered homes. There were people in the yard who graciously drove us to a junction were I could begin making calls. By now it was late afternoon and the tow company I located that agreed to the task couldn’t make it until the next morning. That left us waiting for two hours on the side of a road for my wife to pick us up. And Gherit? He thought the whole day was one of the best he’s ever had.

About The 4Runner

The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is a traditional body-on-frame midsize sport-utility vehicle with a solid rear axle. Five-passenger seating is standard, with an optional third row offered in rear- or four-wheel-drive configurations. The original 4Runner dates way back to 1984 as a compact SUV that was little more than a Toyota pickup truck with a fiberglass shell over the bed.

As then, today’s edition is purpose-built for off-roading and is best for drivers who spend much of their time off the beaten path. It’s outfitted for dirt-trails and rock crawling like nothing this side of a Jeep Wrangler. The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is one of the few remaining body-on-frame midsize SUVs in the U.S. with low-range four-wheel-drive available and, the only one offered with third-row seating. in the U.S.

Yes, the 4Runner is basically a truck, but that doesn’t mean the ride is unbearable or uncivilized. While it delivers a noticeably firm ride, the spring and suspension settings are not so primitive as to render it incapable of delivering acceptable levels of cornering and comfort. Due to its weight and high ride height, our 4Runner couldn’t round curves like a midsize crossover SUV, but its narrow body was a bit easier to maneuver than a full-size SUV, at least in urban surroundings.

An annoying weak spot did show up during our week with the 4Runner. The brake pedal at first felt a bit soft, and after applying more pressure, caused the brakes to grab too quickly.

The only engine available is a 4.0-liter V-6 with variable valve timing. This is a proven power plant that pumps out 270 horsepower and 278 pounds-feet of torque. It never felt quick in this big, heavy beast, but the power always delivered when merging into freeway traffic or needing to pass a slower vehicle.

In today’s automotive world, the five-speed automatic transmission may seem outdated, but it worked well and seemed well synced to the V-6. However, fuel economy stinks, and that’s where a six-speed auto (or an eight-speed like some of its competition) could help. I got just 18.3 mpg after driving 375 miles with a mix of city, highway and off-roading. The EPA rates this at 17-mpg city/20 highway/18 combined.

Exterior and Interior

Last redesigned for the 2014 model year, the 4Runner’s looks are eye-catching with a controversial front-end styling update. No matter your thoughts, there’s no denying that the SUVs looks best with a splash or two of mud and muck. It’s their natural element.

The 2017 Toyota 4Runner stays true to sport-utility tradition, which dictates a truck front end and a wagon body. Boxy and slab-sided, the 4Runner favors function over form. It sits high off the ground and rides on tires with big, rock-absorbing side walls, adding to its brawny look. The aggressively slanted headlights and available blacked-out grille mean that the front end, at least, can look mean and modern. The roll-down rear window is a classic 4Runner trait not found in many other vehicles.

2017 Toyota 4Runner

Ready to swallow what you’ve got

Inside, the 4Runner’s blocky dashboard seems like a throwback to pickups from the 1990s. The majority of the cabin’s surfaces are hard, meant to take a beating. Not necessarily cheap or brittle, mind you, but chosen with durability and easy cleaning rather than comfort or tactile pleasure in mind. Everything is well-fitted and assembled.

As you might expect, the driving position is commanding, and the driver grips a thick, oversized steering wheel. Large windows and a high seating position contribute to good outward visibility with few blind spots. Controls are sensibly-arrayed, large, easy-to-reach and easily operated even when wearing gloves. Off-road-focused controls are located in an overhead console, keeping the center stack of controls straightforward and accessible. A secondary display sits atop the center stack, and redundant steering wheel controls access audio and Bluetooth functions.

Power-adjustable front seats are well supported and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel makes it easy to find the right driving position. Several large, deep cubbies in the front row mean that the 4Runner is as versatile a hauler as it is a mud slinger or rock crawler. Five 12-volt outlets throughout the cabin and a household AC outlet in the cargo area mean that no smartphone need run empty, no matter how long the trip or crowded the car.

Showing its age is the tiny, recessed 6.1-inch touchscreen display that completely washes out under a variety of lighting conditions. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t available, but at least Toyota makes the system Siri-compatible, and provides accurate real-time traffic and Doppler weather radar overlay for the navigation map. The company’s App Suite is aboard, supplying popular apps such as Pandora and Yelp at no extra cost.

Rear seats are a comfortable space for two, three in a pinch. If little ones are included in the ride, installing a car seat is not easy because the LATCH system is buried and difficult to find.

Cargo space is generous, measuring 47.2 cubic feet behind the rear seat. Fold it down to enjoy an impressive 88.8 cubic feet of volume. Our 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Premium had the optional sliding rear cargo deck ($350) that can be pulled out when loading big items and makes retrieving the items at the cargo area’s rear much easier.

The Off Roader for You?

The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is offered in a number of trim levels, starting with the SR5, the SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, Limited and TRD Pro models, which offer unique interior and exterior badging. There are only minor changes for the 2018 model year.

2017 Toyota 4Runner

The dash is old school, but it works

Pricing starts at $34,610 for a SR5 rear-wheel drive, though I don’t know why someone would buy a 4Runner without four-wheel drive. The least expensive 4X4 model is a SR5 priced at $36,485. The top-of-the-line Limited model starts at $44,960. Our TRD Premium 4X4 stickered at $43,430, including destination charges and options such as sun roof ($850), the KDSS suspension system ($1,750) and paint protection film ($395).

Don’t confuse the 4Runner SUV with a crossover SUV because they are two different animals. A crossover is great for suburban shuttling. The 4Runner rides like a truck, it guzzles gasoline like a truck and it handles like a truck. But then, these qualities are a part of its undeniable charm. Authenticity is alluring, and the 4Runner isn’t trying to be anything but a traditional sport-utility vehicle built to go just about anywhere at just about any time.

If rugged outdoor four-wheeling is your cup of tea, the closest competitor that seats five is a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Like the 4Runner, the Jeep is ready for a day of exploring narrow, rutted trails or climbing over rocks right out of a dealer showroom. But whatever your choice is, remember the cardinal rules of off-roading and you want be embarrassed like I was.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Other Real Off-Roaders

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Road Test: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Disclosure:

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

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

Road Test: 2018 Genesis G90 5.0 RWD Ultimate

Road Test: 2018 Genesis G90 5.0 RWD Ultimate

A Top Shelf Luxury Sedan at a Bargain Price

The 2018 G90 sedan has a sophisticated look, world-class luxury comfort, a powerful and silky smooth drivetrain and state-of-the-art safety and convenience features.  The G90 is as new as the Genesis brand that Hyundai recently launched and is designed to compete with other established luxury players like the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-series and Lexus LS. As we noted when we tested the Turbo V6 model, while much of the car is on par with its competition, the fuel economy lags behind.

2018 Genesis G90

The new face of luxury

Hyundai has been in the luxury market for almost 10 years with the Genesis and Equus models, but hasn’t had any traction. The cars are a minor player with the marque focusing mainly on mainstream and economy vehicles.  With the establishment of the separate Genesis brand, Hyundai concentrates on the luxury market with a very competitive offering, the G90.   Genesis has some stiff competition, but with the G90 they have a very decent offering.

The Genesis G90 cuts through the clutter with a very simplified offering.  Options are few—pick rear or all-wheel-drive, the standard 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6, or the upscale Ultimate version with a 420-hp 5.0-liter V8.  The interior has two color options, black or tan, and the choice of five exterior colors complete the options.

The G90 MSRPs range in from $68,350 for the 3.3T RWD to $74350 for the 5.0 Ultimate AWD.

Clean Fleet Report tested the 5.0 Ultimate RWD with a sticker price of $72,825.  Our fully equipped car had just about every feature one could think of, including 12-way adjustable reclining rear seats.  Upfront, the G90 includes a 22-way power adjustable driver’s seat and a 16-way power passenger seat.  The standard features list is as long as the G90’s 204.9-inch body. 

Drivetrain

The 2018 Genesis G90’s options are limited primarily to the drivetrain, as just about every creature comfort is standard.  Two power plants are available.  The standard engine is a 365-horsepower (hp) 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6.  When we sampled this engine, it was impressive.  The V6 produces a diesel-like 376 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.). of torque from 1300 rpm to its 6000 rpm redline. 

2018 Genesis G90

Two engines–a stout V6 and an even more powerful V8–offer silky smooth driving

Our test G90 this time was the Ultimate version with a 420-hp 5.0-liter V8 producing 383 lb.-ft. of torque.  This V8 had a refined snarl when provoked and had no problem at all moving the two-and-a-half-ton G90 smartly down the road.  We observed zero-to-60 times in the 5.2-second range.

Both engines require premium fuel and have EPA estimates of 17/24/20 mpg for the V6 and 16/24/19 mpg for the V8.  Like our experience with the V6, our observed average mileage for the V8 was 22-24 mpg, beating the EPA estimates. Range is an impressive 400+ miles thanks to the 21.9-gallon fuel tank. Unlike the luxury competition (Lexus, Mercedes, BMW), there is not a hybrid or plug-in hybrid option for either engine.

The two power plants share a Hyundai sourced new for the G90 eight-speed transmission that has extensive weight reduction compared to previous versions, higher efficiency and more compact dimensions. The G90 includes proprietary “Smart Shift and Drive Control” automatic transmission technology that analyzes driving style and adjusts shift character, engine torque response and suspension damping in real-time driving conditions. Our test car’s transmission was smooth and quick and even had steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual control.

The AWD option utilizes the Hyundai H-Trac adaptive AWD system.  This system includes an electronic transfer case with active torque control and offers dual-mode Sport or Normal calibrations.  The H-Trac system is primarily rear–drive biased for sportier handling and acceleration, but it can direct up to 100 percent of available torque to the rear wheels for optimum driveline efficiency or up to 40 percent of available torque to the front axle for driving in snow or ice.

Suspension, Brakes Wheels and Steering

A hallmark of any full-size luxury sedan is a buttery smooth ride with stable, confident dynamics regardless of the road conditions and speed—the G90 does not disappoint in this area.  The G90 utilizes a multi-link suspension with generous suspension travel.  Genesis fitted its Genesis Adaptive Control Suspension (GACS) to the G90. It uses electronic dampening control that continuously adjusts the Sachs/ZF sourced dampeners to control and soak up body motions regardless of the road surface.  Our G90 was always smooth, refined and in control. 

2018 Genesis G90

Big, slick wheels cover efficient brakes

The 14.8-inch rotors with four-piston calipers in front and 13.4-inch rotors with dual pistons in the rear provide the G90s stopping power. The front brakes have dedicated cooling vents in the front bumper for heat dissipation.  The brakes are power-assisted, and we observed firm, quiet, smooth braking during our test with no fade whatsoever.

The G90 sits on staggered 245/45/R19 front and 275/40/R19 rear Continental all-season tires, mounted on beautiful turbine blade9design alloy wheels.

Steering in the 2018 Genesis G90 is a modern rack-and-pinion system with a rack-mounted variable gear ratio electric motor assist.  The road feel of this system was quick with good feedback and a small turning circle.

All of these components work in perfect harmony together with a ride that is just as good or better than any of its European or Asian rivals.  It is fair to say that the car glides down the road with no harshness in any situation.

Interior

2018 Genesis G90

All the luxury cues greet you upon entry

An interior that exudes luxury, quality and excellent ergonomics greets you when you open the door of the G90.   No gimmicks here, except maybe for a symphonic opening flourish from it’s impressive Lexicon sound system, just pure sophisticated luxury.  The interior materials are purposeful and attractive, with plenty of upscale features and finishes.  Nappa leather, wood, microfiber headliner and aluminum accents fill the cabin.  The dashboard’s center stack includes a 12.3-inch high-definition navigation monitor. A 7.0-inch electroluminescent gauge cluster gives the driver total control of the vehicle.

The 2018 Genesis G90’s interior is packed with so many features, that we could write volumes about them, but here is a synopsis:

Power tilt and telescopic heated steering wheel with paddle shifters, HUD drivers display, Sirius XM with travel-link, Lexicon 12-channel 900-watt stereo, with Quantum Logic surround sound, AM/FM/HD radio and 17 speakers, CD-DVD player, wireless smartphone charging, Bluetooth with audio streaming, proximity key with push-button start, Seven color LED ambient lighting, electronic parking brake with vehicle hold, 22-way power drivers seat, 16-way power passenger seat, 18-way rear power seats with recline, integrated memory for seats, mirrors, steering column, and HUD,  heated and ventilated front and rear seats, multi-zone temperature controls for each seat,  power privacy screens for rear passengers, 12 cup holders, Genesis smartphone services including remote start, and about a hundred other things that are detailed in the two-inch thick owner’s manual. 

2018 Genesis G90

A back seat designed for those who are driven

The only shortcoming we saw was lack of smartphone integration with Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

To sum it up, driving or riding in the G90 is a wonderful experience.

Exterior

The exterior of the 2018 Genesis G90 is simple, yet unique, and immediately gives the impression that it is a high-end vehicle.  From the full LED headlights with dynamic bending and tail lights to the 19-inch wheels, the car has a presence that turns heads, especially from owners of S-class Benzes and 7-Series BMWs.  From the rear, the vehicle vaguely looks like a Bentley, but has a more contemporary look to it.  The G90’s body achieves an ultra-low 0.27 CD with active and passive aerodynamic underbody panels that also reduce turbulence and wind noise.

The doors are triple-sealed, with power door closure and feature the Genesis logo on the door entry lights at night.  Genesis badging is very discreet with the small winged Genesis logo placed only on the front and rear, which adds to the mystique of the car.

The very rigid steel body is more than half advanced high strength steel, put together with more than 650 feet of structural adhesives, which gives the car a solid planted feel on the road.  Genesis claims that the body is lighter and stiffer than the S-Class, but at two-and-a-half tons, it is no lightweight.  There are no exotic materials used in the body, which keeps costs down. Aluminum is used only for suspension pieces.

2018 Genesis G90

A touch of Bentley–for less

Safety

The G90 has a segment-leading suite of safety and convenience features.  The G90 earned a good rating in five of the IIHS’s crash evaluations, a superior rating for front crash prevention and has received their highest honor of a Top Safety Pick.  Standard on the G90 are automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection alert, driver attention alert, blind spot detection, lane keeping assistant with haptic steering wheel alarm, adaptive cruise control with automatic start and stop, 360-degree cameras, front and rear parking sensors and rear traffic alert.  Also standard are nine airbags and a pre-active seat belt system that tightens belts when a potential crash is detected.

Finally

The 2018 Genesis G90 is a low-volume, full-sized luxury vehicle competing against some very well-established players.  It tries very hard and shows that being late to the segment is not a disadvantage, as it compares very well to its rivals. The G90’s cabin is a large, comfortable place to enjoy the road and has all of the items that define a luxury car.  The car is understated in its character and does everything very well.  For the luxury segment, it is the value leader, and for those in the market for a luxury vehicle, but not interested in paying for a name, the Genesis G90 should be at the top of their shopping list.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: The V6 Version & Some Competition

Road Test: 2017 Genesis G90 Turbo V6

Road Test: 2017 Kia K900

News: New 48-Volt Mild Hybrids Coming

News: 2019 Audi A8 Rolls Into Frankfurt

News: 2018 Lexus LS 500 & 50h Debut

Road Test: 2017 Chrysler 300S

Road Test: 2016 Lexus LS 600h L

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.

Flash Drive: Tesla Model 3 Long Range

Flash Drive: Tesla Model 3 Long Range

Our First Time Behind the Wheel of the Hot Little Tesla

The Model 3 brings the Tesla magic to a smaller, more affordable package. However, the car isn’t in press fleets, so it’s been hard to get any time with one. Luckily, a friend of mine shared hers with me on a sunny Saturday morning.

Tesla Model 3

The friend connection gave us a chance to experience one of the hottest new cars

The car looks a lot like its big brother, the Model S. The designers managed to capture the same flowing shape in a foot-shorter package. The grill-less nose resembles a Porsche, while the taillamps are generic-looking, lacking the chrome garnish of the S. My white Tesla Model 3 Long Range wore satin finish chrome trim and the optional 19-inch wheels.

Not a hatchback, the Model 3 has a rear trunk, but it looks roomy. The “frunk” in the nose would easily accommodate some modestly proportioned soft luggage. What you won’t see at either end is a motor or other technical component—as it rarely needs service, it’s tucked away.

The Inside Story

Stepping inside before our test drive, I was impressed by the overall quality of the car. Tesla doesn’t use animal-based leathers, so the seats and steering wheel feel good, but there is no new-car aroma. The Model 3 seats are comfortable and supportive, and felt that way from the moment I sat down in the driver’s chair.

You can adjust the seats (manual standard, electric with the Premium package), and as with pretty much everything else, the central screen becomes a storage repository for those settings. The screen is so critical that even the glovebox opens only with a virtual button on the screen.

The steering wheel contains two little balls at the thumb positions. These have multiple uses, depending on which item you’re attempting to control. You can adjust the outside mirrors and steering wheel this way, for example, as well as the typical audio volume and station selection.

The Sky Above

Covering the entire rear half of the car is a stunning glass roof. The glass over the driver and front passenger is only part of the premium package. None of the glass opens, but it certainly lets the world in.

Tesla Model 3

The front seats are supportive–and the back ones seemed low

The gleaming piano black center console pops open to reveal a rubber surface that will hold two cell phones. Press them onto the charger and they connect to the car. Below this panel is a deeper storage bin. My friend says the surfaces are magnets for fingerprints.

In the rear, the seat is surprising low, with a short cushion. Despite providing sufficient legroom, is not very supportive for long distance travel. That’s likely the price you pay for the car’s low, sleek profile. It’s a sedan, not a crossover or hatchback, much lower than, for example, the Chevrolet Bolt.

A Minimalist Dash

The dash is stunningly plain, with a wood veneer strip and slim vents behind the big center panel. The vents themselves are adjustable from the center screen, and you can use your fingers to configure where the air is going, which is kind of fun. You only see the slot, so the air is distributed more subtly.

Tesla Model 3

Only one big distraction here

I found that the screen’s center-mounted position means you’re less likely to consult it underway—or pay attention to speed, for example. But at 15 inches, it is big enough to show you a lot at a glance, and the UX design is state of the art.

The steering column stalks have basic functions only, with the center panel serving up most controls. The left stalk controls windshield wipers and washers, but you can configure more on the screen. Windshield cleaning is completely automatic by default. The right stalk controls the automatic transmission settings. If Autopilot is engaged, pressing D (Drive) twice initiates it. However, this car did not have Autopilot enabled, as the owner didn’t add $5,000 to get it included, and there apparently are some software updates to come to make it fully operational.

More Central Control

Audio controls, like everything else, are accessible from the center panel. The current selection appears on the lower strip of the right side, under the navigation system map. Swipe up to enlarge the panel, and you can choose from a wide variety of digital channels, as well as FM and the contents of your phone. Many blends and specialized stations appeared, although I didn’t spend time experimenting with them. The sound was excellent, although I don’t know the brand or the size/quality of the speakers, which were tucked away unobtrusively.

Tesla Model 3

One screen to rule them all

The doors open electrically with a small button at the top of the grip—it would be easy to miss it. The window drops slightly first, and then you can push the door open and step out. The door panels are quite plain compared to the Model S. This is an area where mass production necessitates simple, straightforward components.

Out on the Road

I placed the gear selector into D and pressed lightly on the accelerator and off we went. Driving someone’s personal car meant I was especially careful. We drove down the street and made a right onto a residential road. I tried pressing harder on the pedal, and the car moved out vigorously. While the Model 3 doesn’t feature a “ludicrous mode” like the S and X, it is good for 5.1 to 5.6-second zero-to-60 times. The steering is taut, and you can change direction with barely a touch. The suspension is firm, so the car feels planted. A big battery below the floor keeps the center of gravity low on electric cars like these.

We jumped on the freeway, where the car took off, as you’d expect. With its optional 310-mile range, the Model 3 should be a willing long-distance traveler, although the superchargers are not free for it, as they are for the Model S and X. The standard Model 3, out later this year, will feature a 220-mile range battery, which is still good for most local travel and competes closely with the Chevrolet Bolt.

Big Brother

The Model 3’s efficiency is beyond reproach. The EPA gives it ratings of 136 MPGe city/123 highway/130 combined. The Greenhouse Gas and Smog numbers are perfect 10s, as expected. You can’t really do better than that today.

Tesla Model 3

Big and little Tesla side-by-side

My friend also has a Model S, so I could compare the cars side by side; I even drove the Model S briefly after my Model 3 test drive. Both cars have the quick acceleration you’d expect from an all-electric vehicle, although the S is more dramatic, about a second faster zero-to-60. The swirling shapes featured in the Model S’s interior are not part of the Model 3’s more straightforward, linear inside. The Model 3’s relegation of all displays and controls to one centrally mounted panel is completely different, too, as the Model S supplements its huge vertical center screen with a traditional instrument panel display.

Dimensionally, the Model 3 measures nearly a foot shorter nose to tail than the Model S, on a wheelbase that’s just 3.3 inches shorter. It’s four inches narrower, too. Tesla weights vary depending on battery size and features, but this 3 is more than half a ton lighter. The Model S has 30 cubic feet of storage versus the Model 3’s 15, and the S’s hatchback is more practical.

The real difference is in the feel. The Model S proudly wears the mantle of a luxury sedan while the Model 3, not as much. The screen-oriented user experience creates a “car of the future” ambiance, but the layout and presentation are not as impressive. The plainness is reminiscent of a new Volvo, with less bling.

The Price & Visible Flaws

However, that’s easily attributable to price. A new Model S 75D starts at $74,500, while the Model 3 starts at just $35,000. However, you can’t order the base car now, because all of the first batch of Model 3s have the long-range battery (310 miles vs. 220) and Premium Upgrade. You can also opt for special paint (anything but black costs extra) and the gorgeous 19-in wheels. In fact, I saw another friend’s configuration screen for his Model 3, and for now, it’s basically a choice of color and wheels.

Tesla Model 3

Model 3 fit-and-finish looks like a work in progress

My Tesla Model 3 Long Range test vehicle came to $52,500. With enhanced autopilot, it would be an additional $5,000.

The Model 3, however impressive, is not without flaws. If you look closely, there are some slight fit and finish alignment issues inside and out that are not expected in a car with a price above $50,000. While these are not deal breakers, they show that as the company takes on the Herculean task of building a car in larger volumes, some items are simply not getting done as perfectly as they are on a brand-new Kia.

Tesla Model 3

Style–and substance–and work to do

While I only spent an hour and a half with the car, part of that time behind the wheel, I was impressed at how smooth and strong it felt, its quietness, and how enjoyable it was to drive. The styling is quite nice on the outside, while the interior proved comfortable, if subdued. With a hatchback and the smaller battery for $35,000, the Model 3 would be an impressive direct challenger to the Chevrolet Bolt, new Nissan Leaf and other EVs to come.

One thing to think about, though. My friend told me that research had shown that for many Model S buyers, their Tesla purchase was a stretch—much higher than they had ever spent before on a car. I think some Model 3 waiting list dwellers will take the plunge and go for the car, warts and all, even if it’s a bit out of their comfort zone. There’s emotion in the Model 3.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: More Model 3 News & the Chevy Bolt Competition

News: First Tesla Model 3 Deliveries

News: Tesla Model 3 Production Starts

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Personal: One Year with the Chevrolet Bolt

Because we know you’re curious, Steve’s photo collection from test drive is below:

Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4

Legendary Jeep Off-Road Capability + Comfortable On-Road Ride

The Jeep Cherokee Overland is not to be confused with the Grand Cherokee. The difference is in the word Grand, which indicates it is a midsize SUV compared to the compact 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4 that Clean Fleet Report tested recently. The Jeep Overland is a family-friendly SUV with the legendary Jeep off-road capability.

2017 Jeep Cherokee

Unmistakable Jeep with modern updates

Drivetrain

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2017 Jeep Overland 4X4 equipped with a 3.2L, V6 that produces 271 horsepower (hp) and 239 pounds-feet (lb-ft) of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The EPA fuel economy rating was 18 city/26 highway/21 combined. Clean Fleet Report drove the Overland 354 miles, with the majority of the time on the highway, and achieved a combined average of 25.1 mpg. However, in two, 100-mile freeway runs with the cruise control set to 65 mph, we achieved 31.2 mpg, allowing the Cherokee to join our AWD 30 MPG Club. Also available is the 2.4L, Tigershark I4 engine, producing 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, that is EPA rated at 21 city/30 highway/25 combined.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4, with the 3.2L, was smooth cruising at highway speeds. Coming away from a stoplight, we felt a bit of stumbling after the engine start/stop kicked back in. Acceleration was more than adequate and the V6 was quiet at all times, even when accelerating hard while climbing a grade.

The Overland 4X4 utilizes Jeep’s Active Drive II system that sends power only to the front wheels during normal street driving. If that surface gets wet or icy, then the computer automatically sends power to the rear wheels to assist in traction. When venturing off pavement, the Selec-Terrain traction control system has driver-selectable settings of Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock. Add-in all-speed traction control, hill descent control, hill start assist and off-road suspension to aid in the Overland’s driving stability. The Continental ProContact TX 225/60R all-season tires were equally capable for street and off-road driving.

Clean Fleet Report’s Overland 4X4 had the Heavy Duty Protection Group option which included skid plates for front suspension, fuel tank, transmission and underbody protection. Not that we drove the Overland 4X4 so hard to need the skid plates, but it was nice knowing they were there.

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

Driving Experience: Interior

The Overland has a good size interior where two adults and a child fit comfortably in the rear seat. Front seat legroom was generous, and legroom was more than adequate for the rear seat passengers. Storage with the 60/40 rear seat laid flat is large enough for a bicycle without removing the wheels. Otherwise, with the rear seat in the up position, the cargo area is adequate for compact SUVs. Access was easy through wide doors leading to a high driver and front passenger seating positions.

2017 Jeep Cherokee

Touches of luxury invade the Jeep

The Overland is a premium compact SUV, and the interior shows it. Nappa leather is everywhere, including all the seats, with the front ones being ventilated and power adjustable, including lumbar. The Overland’s dash is clean and straight-forward in design with tasteful matte-finish aluminum trim. The dark, Zebrano high-gloss wood trim on the heated steering wheel is very attractive and the Berber floor mats were a nice change from what is found on other SUVs.

Everything for the driver is laid-out in logical, easy-to-read locations. The 8.4-inch color touch screen is the command center for the Uconnect operating system, which includes navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio (one-year subscription included.) The nine amplified speakers and a subwoofer push out quality sounds for the Alpine audio system that includes AM/FM/CD/MP3 HD radio. Voice command, with Bluetooth, for handsfree phone and streaming audio are operated by the steering wheel controls.

The 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland had convenience features such as remote start, cruise control, memory for the driver seat and exterior rearview mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering column, rear window/wiper, power windows with one-touch express up and down, power door locks, heated power exterior mirrors with turn signals, automatic, dual zone climate control, remote keyless entry, push button start, 12V power outlet, rear seat fold down armrest, remote charge-only USB and AUX ports and multiple cup holders.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2017 Jeep Cherokee

Details in the Overland edition drive home the upscale nature of the model

Clean Fleet Report’s Overland was painted in a striking Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl that popped against the sharp looking 18-inch polished aluminum wheels. The streamline look starts upfront with the signature grille that still rubs a few Jeep purists the wrong way. Clean Fleet Report is not in that camp and likes the modern design with the sleek bi-xenon high intensity headlamps that blend smoothly into the fenders. There is no unnecessary cladding or chrome work.

The roof comes with rack rails, a shark fin antenna and spoiler over the power liftgate, which incorporates the LED taillights and rear window wiper. The rear has dual chrome exhaust tips. It all works very well as a contemporary SUV that will hold its design for years to come.

Safety and Convenience

The 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland has been rated by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), earning 4 Stars overall. Our Overland was equipped with 10 airbags, a ParkView rear backup camera, blind spot and cross path detection, ParkSense rear park assist, tire pressure monitoring system and a full-size spare.

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4 had a base price of $37,695. With optional packages of Technology, Heavy Duty Protection and the dual-pane panoramic sunroof, added $4,900 for a total MSRP of $42,595. All prices exclude the $1,095 destination charge.

All 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland models come with these warranties:

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

Observations: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4

2017 Jeep Cherokee

Lots to like here, starting with the Jeep name and heritage

Nimble around town and easy-to-drive on the open road sums up this SUV. Need to venture off road? Sure, go ahead. For all but serious rock crawling, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4 will do just fine. Seats five adults in an absolute pinch, four is more comfortable. A contemporary design and leather everywhere. If only the fuel economy was a few miles per gallons more and the Cherokee Overland 4X4 would have pretty much everything going for it.

Jeep has several Cherokee models to choose from–Limited, Altitude, High Altitude, Sport and Overland. Each has something a bit different to offer, so visiting your local Jeep dealer and driving all the Cherokee models just might be where you will be spending a weekend day.

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

Related Stories You Might Enjoy—More Jeeps & Competitive Compact SUVs

Road Test: 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude

News: Jeep Wrangler Gets Hybrid, Diesel, Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Road Test: 2018 Subaru Outback

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport AWD

Road Test: 2018 Honda CR-V

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.