Top 10 Stories of 2014

Top 10 Stories of 2014

Electric Cars, Fuel Cells; Diverse Paths to Fuel Efficiency Highlighted

Here at Clean Fleet Report we had a great year, seeing and reporting to you on a record number of cars, trucks, SUVs and even some two-wheel fuel-efficient vehicles. We had plenty of stories on electric cars, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, clean diesels and very efficient gas-powered vehicles. Beyond that, we reported on significant news and trends you need to know about to plan your next car purchase—or just keep up on the conversation about what’s happening on the leading edge of the automotive world.

So, here, in reverse order, are our Top 10 stories for the year from among the record 69 we published in 2014.

10. Two Wheels Go Electric. We had a sneak peak at the Tesla of electric motorcycles, the aptly named Energica Ego. It has a price up in the “if you have to ask” territory, reflecting its Formula

Carrying on a family tradition

Two wheels go electric, too!

1 engineering roots and extensive use of carbon fiber and top-brand components. We also noted that Harley-Davidson showed off an electric Harley concept that could indicate they’re looking at the same territory. 

9. Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Ford spent a good portion of the year talking about one of the most revolutionary moves in the truck sector—a weight reduction campaign for its best-selling F-150 pickup that involved a move to an aluminum body and the use of lighter weight high-strength steel. With a lighter pickup, Ford was able to drop in a smaller EcoBoost engine and still maintain expected towing and hauling capacities. The truck has just gone on sale at the end of 2014, but the move boosted fuel economy by almost 30 percent, a move needed to counteract competitors like the Ram, which took the diesel route to the top fuel economy in the sector. Not to be left out, GM introduced a pair of new midsize pickups that also will be adding diesel power in 2015.

8. Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Mark. It was hard to pick just one of new breed of compact SUVs/crossovers. We may need to up the ante for the 30 MPG Club because these guys are making it look easy. This year’s batch was led by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, but you could throw in a Subaru or two and not be disappointed. The combination of fuel economy, interior utility, high-tech features and all-wheel-drive capability should help this class to continue to be popular in 2015.

7. Tesla on the Battlefield. We didn’t dive too deeply into the almost daily drama emanating from Palo Alto (just up the road from our headquarters) because we like to focus on the hardware2013-Tesla-Model-S[1] and the significant news that affects that hardware. But we couldn’t avoid a couple articles on Elon Musk’s battle to establish a different sales model of direct sales. He had some success, some losses (sort of like the company’s balance sheet). We’ll continue to follow the company’s progress on this front and any developments on product, which will likely be led by the introduction of the Model X late in 2015.

6. Clean Diesel’s Leader—VW Jetta. Let’s be honest, we love great fuel economy, but really don’t want to give up the fun of driving. Diesel engines are one of the best methods of having the best of both worlds. Hundreds of miles of driving on a tank and the power to effortlessly take on anything the road has to offer. We sampled several diesels this year, but have settled on the Volkswagen Jetta as the standard-bearer of this segment. We like the compact size, the power, the upscale appointments and most of all, an easy 40+ mpg out on the road.

5. The Prius Quartet. You can’t know the Prius. It has led the way for a decade and a half and blazed fuel-economy trails that most other cars have not been able to match. So Toyota decided to make it a family and there are now four variants, all four of which Clean Fleet Report road-tested this year. It’s a challenge figured out which might work the best, but ranging from the diminutive c to the wagon-like V with the traditional Liftback and Plug-In sandwiched in-between, Toyota figures to have the market well-covered.

4. Fuel Cell Electric Cars Arrive! Of course we’ve heard this one before. But this time they mean it! Consider this the second coming of the fuel cell car. We’ve had prototypes running around

toyota,fuelcell,future,FCHV

An aggressive year for fuel cells

for a decade or more, but now you can buy an FCEV. That is, if you live near the just-beginning refueling infrastructure. Hyundai hit the market first, but Toyota is close behind and Honda not long after them. Mercedes already has dozens on the road and VW and Audi showcased potential challengers. We’ll be keeping an eye of these cars, but from what we’ve driven so far, there is no question about the seriousness of the automakers in bringing FCEVs to market. Hyundai’s fuel cell “engine” was even named by WardsAuto as one of the 10 Best of the year.

3. Kia Soul EV. Cue the hamsters! Electric cars are now cool. The Korean automaker is dipping its toes in the all-electric market (they’ve got a hybrid on the market and a plug-in hybrid coming) with its popular little mini-wagon. We had a fun first drive with the Soul EV and expect to spend some more time in it in 2015.

2. BMW i3. We should have seen this one coming as the Bavarian merchants of speed first dropped a cobbled Mini-E on us, followed up by a pedestrian-

2015, Kia, Soul EV,electric car

Here come the hamsters!

looking but competent performer in the Active-E. Finally, the real deal arrives and it is every bit the BMW we would expect. Except maybe in its looks, which are more squat than BMW’s SUVs.

When it comes to performance and technology, the i3 is ground-breaking and delivers the driving experience you would expect from a BMW, but without the gasoline (unless you get the REX version that carries a small engine and extends the range 50 miles).

1. Top 10 Electric Cars. This is the big story. We have to choose to pick the Top 10 electric cars available today. It’s still a mix of pure electrics and plug-in hybrids, but the list is growing quickly and the variety of vehicles is looking better than ever. Everything from two-seat mini-sedans to six-figure luxury sports cars are now crowding this list, which we keep updated on a regular basis. The progress being made by automakers is encouraging and the response of the public has been likewise. It’s getting easier to find an electric car that works for your lifestyle and pocketbook. The new players like the VW e-Golf, Kia Soul EV and BMW i3 are making a statement that this is a segment destined to hold a growing portion of the market. Clean Fleet Report will continue to be there in 2015 to make sure you have all the latest news on this group and all of the others out there.

Happy New Year!

Here on links to our Top 10 Stories of 2014

  1. Top 10 Electric Cars.
  2. BMW i3.
  3. Kia Soul EV.
  4. Fuel Cells Cars Arrive!
  5. The Prius Quartet: The c and V; Liftback and Plug-In.
  6. Clean Diesel’s Standard-Bearer—the VW Jetta (2014/2015).
  7. Tesla’s Battles at the Dealershiptwo engagements.
  8. Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Barrier: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5.
  9. Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Pickups Pick Up MPG. First Drive: Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon.
  10. Two Wheels Go Electric.
LA Auto Show 2014 Review: Plug-in Hybrid Best Bets for 2015

LA Auto Show 2014 Review: Plug-in Hybrid Best Bets for 2015

The 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show was full of plug-in hybrids (PHEV). I investigated details both for this article and because I’m interested in buying a new PHEV, which surprises friends because I have been driving an all-electric Nissan Leaf for close to 4 years.

Range has rarely been an issue with our all-electric, and we have never run out of charge. The Leaf has been great because my wife and I share two cars. Now, living in a the city with good transit, carsharing, Uber, walking and other options, we only need one car.

Yes, a Tesla has enough range and charging stations to meet our needs, but it is way out of our price range. To meet all our needs, and keep the price after tax credits below $40,000, the new car will most likely be a plug-in hybrid. There are several exciting PHEV that fit our needs and probably yours. So here’s a run-down of what I found at the recent LA Auto Show 2014.

Chevrolet Volt Leads

More than 70,000 Chevrolet Volts have been sold. The 20 owners who I’ve interviewed have all been happy with their Volts. Drivers meet most of their needs with low-cost home charging; only filling with gasoline for long trips. The Volt

Chevy,chevrolet,volt,plug-in hybrid

Chevy Volt leads plug-in hybrid sales

has a 38-mile electric-charge range and 380-mile total range. It normally operates as a series plug-in, with only the electric motor turning the wheels.

An improved 2016 Volt is expected to be announced in January at the Detroit Auto Show. Speculation abounds about more than one model, giving customers a choice in price, range, and fuel-efficiency. I speculate that it will have a more compact battery pack of LG Chem lithium-polymer cells. With a smaller pack, the new Volt will seat five with more cargo space. I also predict that the new 2016 Volt will boost its electric range to 50 miles. Online ordering is likely on the day of announcement. I expect the Volt to remain the best selling PHEV in next year.

If you buy the current model at the dealer, you can probably negotiate a discount. The 2016 model may involve a long wait.

BMW i3 is Green Car of the Year

The BMW i3 with Range Extender delivers 80 miles of electric range in real world before its gasoline engine engages. Although priced at over $42,000, it is selling well. Unlike other PHEV offerings, it is a true electric car with a small engine and gas tank to extend range another 50 miles as a series PHEV. The i3 is great for city driving, but compromised in long-distance highway driving. Unlike the other choices in this article, the i3 can be ordered with DC Fast Charge.

2014,BMW,i3,plug-in hybrid

New entry into the plug-in market

BMW also offers a hot i8 PHEV for well over $100,000. In future years, BMW does plan to offer an optional PHEV drive system for a growing number of its models, including the popular 3-Series.

BMW, like Daimler (Mercedes), also sees a big future in car sharing, including the ability to drive a car to a destination without returning it to the starting point. BMW owns DriveNow with 350,000 members in 20 cities (mostly in Europe at present). the BMW i3 is being added to Drive Now in several cities.

Ford and Toyota Offer Less Electric Range

Ford will continue to succeed with its two plug-in cars, the C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi. Both cars are beautiful and fun to drive. Personally, I prefer the C-Max because of the hatchback’s flexibility to lower back seats for added cargo space. In real-world driving of these cars I got 14 miles of electric range, compared to 40 with the Volt. However, Ford offers over 620 miles of total range, a plus for long distance drivers.

Ford, like most auto makers (except GM and BMW), uses a parallel drive system that blends power from both the electric motor and gasoline engine.

The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid continues to be popular even though only delivering a 12-mile electric range in my test drive. In hybrid mode it delivers 50 miles per gallon, more than 20 percent better than Ford

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, EV, HOV lane

The Prius models plug along

and 30 percent better than Chevrolet. The Prius and Ford seat five, the Chevy only four.

In many states, solo drivers of these PHEV can use the HOV lane, giving buyers another reason to buy a plug-in car, even with limited electric range.

Volvo Announces New 7-Seat SUV PHEV with AWD

For the first time, there will be a roomy seven-passenger plug-in hybrid SUV – the new Volvo XC90 PHEV. With a garage charge, the first 20 miles can be electric, although real-world EV range is likely be closer to Ford and Toyota. You can order now, but pricing is still to be announced. It’s due to hit the market in the spring.

The Volvo XC 90 PHEV is AWD, providing added safety in snow and ice. It has an electric motor on each axle to manage the AWD. Volvo offers many of advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-drift warning and assistance, and automatic braking. It offers a larger display for drivers than other plug-ins.

Dealers will sell you PHEVs from Chevy, Ford and Toyota for around $30,000, before generous federal and state tax credits. Most automakers also offer lease programs. My guess is that the Volvo SUV PHEV will be at least $50,000, yet definitely appeal to SUV drivers with its three rows of seats and large cargo area.

In addition to the best-selling plug-in hybrids I have discussed, there are several others on the market and more in the works: Honda has its Accord available now (as are high-end models from Cadillac and Porsche), while Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Audi. Hyundai and Kia all are expected to lauch PHEV or at least add details in 2015.

According to a new report from Navigant Research, plug-in EVs (which include plug-in hybrids and battery EVs), are expected to make up 2.4 percent of total worldwide light-duty vehicle sales by 2023. Adoption of plug-in vehicles has occurred at a similar pace to the adoption of hybrids that started 15 years ago.

Electric Cars to Match Your Needs

The best car is the one that best matches your needs and budget. If you live in a household with two or more vehicles, you have great flexibility. One vehicle could be pure electric and the other a larger SUV offering more seating, cargo, and long-distance capability. One could be pure electric and the other a plug-in hybrid. You could have a plug-in car for daily driving of under 60 miles and a fuel-sipping hybrid or diesel for long-distance fuel economy.

For many, the plug-in hybrid is the best choice for meeting all needs, especially if it is to be your only car. The Volt continues to be the best seller because its optimal mix of electric range, flexible cargo, and good styling. For those wanting maximum electric range, the BMW i3 is their first choice. For those who want some electric range and good long-distance fuel economy, Ford and Toyota offer good choices. For those who have needed seven seats and AWD for icy roads, Volvo offers a PHEV SUV.

Test drive several models. Bring your cargo needs, such as two bicycles or suitcases or work items and see if they fit. Try a plug-in for a day through car rental or car sharing. Enjoy the electric drive.

Related stories you might enjoy:

Road Test: 2014 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2014 BMW i3 & i3REX

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In

 

 

 

 

Top 10 High-MPG Cars (Jan.-Oct. 2014)

Top 10 High-MPG Cars (Jan.-Oct. 2014)

Electric Vehicles & Plug-in Hybrids Outpace Market; Hybrids and Diesels Lag

The 2015 models are here, but we like to look at the calendar year to get a sense of sales trends. We’re heading into the winter slow-selling season so here’s a last check-in on sales of new high-efficiency cars and SUVs. We take a look at four main categories—pure electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and clean diesels and offer you the Top 10 high-MPG cars.

It’s been a good year for the auto industry overall as sales have remained solid all year and ended October more than five percent ahead of last year. The cars we care about have been more of a mixed bag so far this year, faced with dropping gas and diesel prices and a generally improving economy. The end result is the two biggest sales categories, hybrids and diesels, are not keeping pace with overall new car sales. Hybrids are down 8.4 percent compared to last year’s first 10 months while diesels are up 4.2 percent, but that puts them just a bit more than one percent below the overall market. Meanwhile, the good news is pure electrics and the plug-in hybrids both are running well ahead of the market with increases of 27.7 and 22.5 percent respectively.

The hot sales of the highest mileage cars is good news in this tough market for this kind of cars. The electric Nissan Leaf is well on its way to a record year and almost of all of the now 12 (!) EVs that are for sale are having solid sales. With plug-ins, there are now eight vehicles on the market, split between high-end cars like the BMW i8, Cadillac ELR and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid and more mainstream models like the Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion and C-Max Energi, Toyota Prius Plug-in and Honda Accord Plug-in.

Our composite Top 10 from these categories is a familiar mix if you’ve read earlier versions of this list, but there is a newcomer who may be joining soon—the BMW i3. This compact comes in pure electric and range-extended models (though its small engine is designed purely as a backup, not like the larger ones founds in plug-ins from Chevy, Ford and Toyota. It’s a unique car and we’ll have a full test up soon. We’ve driven it in short stints around town and on the freeway and we’re impressed so expect a pretty upbeat review.

So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 High-MPG cars with their year-to-date sales (January-October 2014) and their fuel economy ratings. We’re using data from Hybridcars.com and Baum & Associates as well as the mpg numbers from fueleconomy.gov. We’ve also included links to Clean Fleet Report tests and articles on the featured vehicles.

  1. Toyota Prius

YTD Sales  Change from previous year    MPG

105,939 -15.6%                                  51 MPG City

  1. Toyota Camry Hybrid

34,847                   -10%                                      43 MPG City

  1. Toyota Prius c

34,756                   -3.9%                                     53 MPG City

  1. Volkswagen Jetta TDI

32,360                   -15.2%                                  42 MPG Hwy

  1. Ford Fusion Hybrid

30,710                   -3.2%                                     44 MPG City

  1. Toyota Prius V

25,985                   -15.2%                                  44 MPG City

  1. Volkswagen Passat TDI

25,558                   -15.7%                                  43 MPG Hwy

  1. Nissan Leaf

24,411                   +35%                                     126 MPGe City

  1. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

19,374                   +9%                                       40 MPG Hwy

  1. Ford C-Max Hybrid

16,563                   -34.8                                      42 MPG City

Bubbling just below the Top 10 are some other significant vehicles–the top-selling plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt (No. 11 with 15,979 sold), Lexus CT200h (14,743), Toyota Avalon Hybrid (14,682), Tesla Model S (13,200-an estimate since the company doesn’t release monthly sales figures) and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid (12,321) and. Other encouraging signs are that the new BMW i3 electric car appears to be showing strong sales (with more than 4,000 sold in the brief time it’s been on the market) and the robustness of vehicle offerings in these four categories. Of course, a challenge along with low gas prices is the increased efficiency of non-hybridized gas cars. We’ll be doing a roundup soon of all of the offerings now crowding the 40 mpg club.

Related stories you might enjoy:

Welcome to the new MPG Clubs

Best electric cars and plug-in hybrids for 2014

Top 10 electric car makers

 

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

7 Seats, Best-In-Class Fuel Economy

Do you need to haul up to seven people and their gear, maybe even to the slopes where traction is a concern? How about all that, plus getting the best fuel economy for any midsize Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). If this describes your life—and you know who you are—then continue reading as the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD just may fit your needs.

Drivetrain

The All-Wheel Drive (AWD) Toyota Highlander Hybrid is powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system of a 3.5L, 24-valve, double overhead cam (DOHC) gasoline-powered, V6 engine and a front 123-kW and rear 50-kW electric motor, producing a total of 280 hp running through a Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission (CVT). The AWD system electronically adjusts from the normal front wheel drive mode to all-wheel drive, where the rear wheels are

2014,toyota,Highlander,Hybrid,AWD,new

A new style for 2014

activated, when there is heavy acceleration or tire slippage is detected, as in driving on ice and snow.

Fuel economy for the Highlander Hybrid is rated at 27 city/28 highway with a combined of 28 mpg, just shy of our AWD 30 MPG Club. Running on regular unleaded, I drove 335 mostly highway miles and averaged 26 mpg. Which means I had about another 100 miles in the 17.1-gallon tank before empty.

To maximize fuel economy, Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric and gasoline engine, and gasoline-only engine 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, especially around town, forcing the car to run solely on electric power. The Highlander Hybrid did not have this option and I never quite mastered feathering the accelerator pedal to keep the gasoline engine from kicking in. Being able to hold the car in electric mode is a big fuel saving advantage and would be a nice feature to add. (It does show up on Toyota’s Plug-In Prius Hybrid, which features a larger battery—ed.)

The Highlander Hybrid has three drive settings; D, EV and ECO, with the latter two indicated by a lighted EV and ECO on the instrument cluster. D is the default setting with ECO used for optimal fuel economy when cruising on the highway. EV is where you will be (if it does not kick into D) for around town driving under 25 mph. You can also use the S setting on the floor-mounted gear shifter for up-to 6 levels of engine braking, which can increase the amount of regenerated electricity being returned to the battery.

The nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery is charged by the engine and 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 is also viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid can tow 3,500 lbs and weighs in at 4,861 lbs. That heft is handled by rack and pinion electronic power assist steering with a front MacPherson strut with coil springs, and a double wishbone rear suspension. On the highway the Highlander Hybrid was easy to drive but at times it would begin to float when the road undulations and rhythm were just right. A brief lift of the accelerator remedied this sensation and all was good. The steering feel was light and could be stiffer, which would not compromise any of the ride attributes.

2014,Toyota,Highlander,Hybrid,styling

Bigger, bolder this year

The Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD comes with 19-inch alloy wheels and is not designed to be a sports SUV, like the VW, Audi or Porsche. Hard or spirited cornering revealed significant understeer and body lean, which really isn’t unexpected from a vehicle that is meant for family transportation.

Stopping comes from Toyota’s Electronically Controlled Brake System (ECB) that incorporates regenerative control and power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD). The stops were straight and consistent, but for the first time in any Toyota hybrid I have reviewed (That would include the Prius C & V, Prius, Prius Plug-in, Camry and Avalon), the brakes were touchy and grabby and I could feel the regenerative system strongly. It took some experimentation to get used to the over-sensitive brakes. When coming to a stop the combination of the regenerative braking and the hybrid motor made a noticeable, but not unpleasant, whine.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Highlander Hybrid was redesigned for 2014 resulting in a less boxy look with softer lines and edges, which is consistent with Toyota’s current design theme. It is three inches longer than the previous model and the roofline has been lowered for a more aerodynamic look and feel. As is pretty common and the current trend in SUV design from all brands, the Highlander Hybrid has a large, aggressive grill that is the predominant feature on the front end. The wrap-around headlight design has a nice look, housing the projector-beam LED headlights. Toyota has thankfully stayed away from an overabundance of chrome bits and pieces.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report was driving the entry level of the two Hybrid models, the Limited, which was nicely equipped with a power tilt and sliding moonroof, adjustable power liftgate with a very handy flip-up rear window, power windows, door locks and mirrors, 12V power outlets, folding heated power side mirrors, cruise control and multiple cup holders.

The Highlander Hybrid has seating for seven. (The non-hybrid models can seat eight.) The power 8-way adjustable, with memory and lumbar, driver seat was heated and ventilated. The front heated and ventilated passenger seat is 4-way

2014,toyota,highlander,hybrid,awd,dash

Nice interior, but a bit of a reach

adjustable. The second row is Captain’s Chairs (no second row bench seat is available in the hybrid) and the third row is a 60/40 folding and reclining bench seat. The second row passengers also had integrated side window shades, climate controls and folding armrests with cup holders.

The rear seat passengers on our Highlander Hybrid were entertained by the optional BluRay DVD Entertainment System with a 9-inch display, RCA jacks, remote control and wireless headphones. Probably the only issue will be the single screen being shared by rear seat passengers. To address this there were 120V, AC power and USB outlets in the rear seating area for portable players.

2014,Toyota,Highlander,Hybrid,7-passenger

Space for 7 + more

The Highlander Hybrid Infotainment (entertainment and information) comes through Toyota’s Entune system with its App Suite, which includes voice command navigation through an 8-inch high-resolution touch-screen. Excellent sound comes from the Premium JBL audio system with 12 speakers to deliver SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM with MP3 playback capability. The AM/FM is a cache radio, which is a nice feature and SiriusXM service is included for 90 days. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and hands-free phone capability. The auto-dimming rearview mirror was Homelink equipped and the voice activation for the telephone and navigation worked well.

The cockpit design is driver friendly except for one big concern. When I was comfortably sitting in the driver seat I was unable, at 5’ 9”, to reach the channel knob on the far right side of the radio. I had to lean forward and to the right. I had a 6’ 1” friend try it with the same result. This obviously is a design issue that Toyota should remedy. Otherwise, the gauges, including the hybrid management system, are in easy sight and with controls in easy reach including those for the tri-zone automatic temperature system. The leather-wrapped steering wheel contains audio telephone and voice controls. The roll-top center console has a lower area that is huge and can swallow-up pretty much anything you want to store away to be out of sight for security reasons.

Safety

The Highlander Hybrid is well equipped with active and passive safety features including 10 air bags, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), hill start control, collapsible steering column, 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.

Pricing

The 2014 Toyoya Highlander Hybrid comes in two models, but can be ordered with option packages that will affect your final price. The base MSRP for the two hybrid models that only come in AWD, excluding the $860 Delivery and Handling Fee:

 

LTD $47,300
LTD Platinum $49,790

The Highlander Hybrid Limited Clean Fleet Report was driving had the optional rear-seat Entertainment Package ($1,810), Driver Technology Package ($1,400) and carpeted floor mats with cargo liner ($230), bringing the total MSRP, with the $860 Inland Freight and Handling Fee, to $51,600.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with these warranties:

• 5 year/60,000 mile       Powertrain

• 3 year/36,000 mile       Comprehensive

• 5 year/Unlimited miles  Corrosion Perforation

• 5 year/60,000 mile       Roadside Assistance

• 8 year/100,000 mile     Hybrid-related Component Coverage

Observations: 2014 Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

The Highlander Hybrid was completely redesigned for 2014. Toyota did a good job in softening the edges and making the Highlander more contemporary and in line with the fierce competition in the midsize SUV market. The interior is

2014,toyota,highlander, nybrid, awd,mpg

A big boy cruiser with a secret weapon-MPG!

very comfortable, especially for long trips and outings. The carrying capacity makes hauling luggage easy on those long trips.

The hybrid power provides the best non-diesel fuel economy in the class and is greatly appreciated for a vehicle of this size and weight that can carry seven passengers in comfort.

If your family has grown to the point where a vehicle of this size and cost fits your needs, then by all means visit your Toyota dealership and have them walk you through all the features, technology and options and explain the hybrid technology in detail.

Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid | FindTheBest

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Ford’s Everything Car — Super Mileage, Style & Functionality

Clean Fleet Report had two chances to test the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi — the plug-in hybrid version of Ford’s best-selling car — and came away from both with a clear view of why this model is so popular. It hits on all of the key metrics that make a car great, starting with its looks. The Energi version of the Fusion is the supermodel doppelganger who has just done an IPO with a cleantech startup. When the restyled second-generation Fusion first came out in 2013, it was a head-turner. It took a pedestrian midsize car and turned it into something that could easily be mistaken for a more exotic car costing two or three times as much. Two model years later the Fusion still looks fresh.

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,plug-in hybrid,mpg

Looking like something else

Beyond looks, the 2014 Ford Fusion represents another strong approach by the company to fuel economy, showcasing its EcoBoost turbocharged smaller engines throughout the lineup, optional start-stop technology as well as offering a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid version. That lets them give a choice of fuel economy ranging from a minimal of 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/25 mpg combined in the all-wheel-drive based model (which can max out at 25/37/29 with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost in the front-wheel drive version) up to 108 MPGe city (miles per gallon equivalent, which accounts for the miles running on electricity) in the Energi version that Clean Fleet Report tested. In between is the Fusion Hybrid that delivers 44 mpg city/41 mpg hwy/42 mpg combined. Using EPA numbers you should be able to get 550 miles on a tank of fuel, but, of course, if you plug in more and take short trips, that range can extend exponentially.

Finally, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi and its siblings represent the epitome of the monstrous midsize car market. Along with the style and fuel economy the car will comfortably seat five adults. It has all the bells and whistles available and many of them are standard features, including leather heated front seats, Sirius/XM radio and SYNC with MyFord Touch. The only engine available is the 2-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine mated to a 118 horsepower electric motor and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT). The power system’s final component is its 7.6 kWh lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery (with 35 kW of peak power), which will supply power to drive up to 21 miles under electric power alone.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2014 Fusion Energi drives like it looks — smooth and stylish. The front independent MacPherson strut and rear independent multilink suspensions, both of which have stabilizer bars, deliver a stable on-highway ride and solid

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,mpg,styling,plug-in hybrid

Strutting its stuff

cornering, aided by the added weight of the batteries in the bottom of the trunk. Braking is as you’d expect from a best-selling contemporary sedan, straight and true from the four-wheel discs with ABS and integrated regenerative braking, which convert the kinetic energy of braking into electricity and store it in the Li-Ion battery. A “Brake Coach” feature in the instrument cluster teaches you how to maximize your regen effectiveness by giving you instant feedback on how much energy you were able to store.

Driving Experience: Interior

The range of electronic gadgetry available on the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi is extensive. Standard features include a rear-view camera and optional are active park assist (which will park your car for you), a reverse-sensing system, adaptive

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,storage

Storage-your luggage shares with electrons

cruise control, blind spot/cross-traffic alert and a lane-keeping system.

Inside all of the usual power equipment is standard, including a 10-way driver’s seat with power lumbar support and a six-way passenger seat. The standard audio system includes an AM/FM stereo with CD player, MP3 capability and six

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,interior

Trimmed in luxury

speakers. The optional Sony-branded audio system doubles the number of speakers and adds HD Radio technology.

Ten airbags round out the interior, which also includes a trunk pass-through and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats. Luggage space is compromised with the battery taking up a good portion of the trunk. We found when traveling with three adults that we ended up having to use the back seat in order to carry all of the luggage.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Fusion has been accused of borrowing its exterior style extensively from a former Ford stablemate, Aston Martin. We don’t see anything wrong with that since we find it a truly exquisite design. The aerodynamics are there and we feel it’s got more street presence than its two main plug-in competitors — the Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid.

Standard wheels are 17-inch painted aluminum with 18-inch ones optional. The whole package looks fairly svelte for weighing in at just under 4,000 pounds.

Charging is through a port in the front fender. A lighted ring around the charge port glows to indicate the state of charge, a handy an aesthetically pleasing touch.

Pricing & Warranties

Though we tested a 2014 model, here are the latest prices on the just-release and virtually identical 2015 models of the Fusion. The prices do not include the $825 delivery charge.

Fusion S                               $21,970

Fusion SE                             $23,935

Fusion Titanium                 $30,600

Fusion Hybrid S                 $26,270

Fusion Hybrid SE               $27,280

Fusion Hybrid Titanium  $32,600

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,styling,mpg

Looking ready to move

Fusion Energi SE               $34,700

Fusion Energi Titanium  $36,500

The Energi models come with a higher level of standard equipment to accompany their higher initial price tags so true apple-to-apple price comparisons need to be made with the SE and Titanium models, and even then it’s not strictly comparable. The indicated “step” between the basic Fusion and the Hybrid is about $2,500-$3,500 and the “step” between the Hybrid and Energi models is roughly $4,000 to $5,000. Ford has been lowering prices on its hybrid models during the current generation and claims the payback through reduced fuel costs is roughly three-and-a-half years.

The Energi has a few extra warranties to cover its unique electronic components. Those warranties vary between California and some of the other 49 states that follow California’s emissions regulations.

Bumper-to-bumper         3-years/36,000-miles

Powertrain                         5-years/60,000-miles

Safety Equipment             5-years/60,000-miles

Corrosion                            5-years/Unlimited miles

Electronic Components   8-years/100,000-miles

California Warranty         15-years/150,000-miles

2014 Ford Fusion Energi Overview

Ford has come a long way since introducing its first hybrid, the Escape SUV, 10 years ago. The hybrid systems have become more sophisticated, more powerful and more integrated into the overall vehicle. Ford now assembles its own batteries from cells purchased from Sanyo, which has helped both in cost reduction and vehicle integration.

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,plug-in hybrid

A clever light

The choice for a car buyers looking for a plug-in hybrid boils down to three basic contenders with some options around the edges. In addition to the Fusion Energi, Toyota has a plug-in version of its Prius hybrid and Honda offers a plug-in version of its best-selling Accord. Slightly smaller is the Chevy Volt and slightly larger is the Ford C-Max Energi, which shares the Fusion propulsion system but is built more like a wagon. Rounding out the plug-in hybrid universe are three high-end luxury cars — the Cadillac ELR, Porsche Panamera SE-Hybrid and BMW i8. The group will be growing in the coming years (next to join will probably be the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid), but it has the distinction of presenting electrically-enhanced models of three of the best-selling cars on the market.

Compared to its head-to-head competition from Toyota and Honda the Fusion has more power, more electric-only range and comparable EPA mileage ratings. We think it’s got styling that puts it beyond those two and pricing that’s comparable when you look at equipment. The Fusion has the biggest gas tank and thus the longest range, offers the most variety of colors and equipment. The Accord is slightly longer overall, but the interior volume is almost the same; it’s is priced higher than the Fusion. The Prius is smaller and also the least expensive of the three and has the most cargo room because of its hatchback configuration.

It’s hard to go wrong with any of these, but we lean toward the Fusion because of its capability of being an all-electric driver (for 20-mile trips) combined with the versatility to take on longer stretches. We like its styling, handling and high-tech features. We like that it seems to get better every year. When given the option of beauty and brains, we’ll take that option every time.

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2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE | FindTheBest