Comparison Road Test: 2014 Mitsubishi AWD Choice: Compact Crossover or Compact Sedan

Comparison Road Test: 2014 Mitsubishi AWD Choice: Compact Crossover or Compact Sedan

Tale of Two Outliers With Outstanding MPG. The Mitsubishi AWD 30 MPG Club Members.

OK, what’s your favorite compact-vehicle flavor, crossover sport utility or four-door sedan? Mitsubishi offers both with all-wheel drive. While the EPA’s combined fuel economy estimate is 26 mpg for the Outlander Sport crossover with all-wheel drive, and 25 mpg for the Lancer SE AWC sedan, we’d like to take issue with those numbers.

mitsubishi,outlander sport,awd,cvt,mpg, fuel economy

Aggressive but manageable

We tallied a little more than 700 miles between the two vehicles, and the Outback Sport averaged 31.5 mpg while the Lancer registered 30.3 mpg. In our book, that makes them both eligible for inclusion in our Clean Fleet Report All-Wheel Drive 30 mpg Club.

There is one thing, however, that we won’t take issue with the EPA about: “Actual results (fuel economy) will vary.” Indeed, our results did vary.

Outback Sport: Great Value For The Money

Think of the Outlander Sport as an economical way to get the image of an SUV, the utility of a wagon, the all-wheel drive capability of a crossover, and the maneuverability of a small car.

mitsubishi,outlander sport,awd,mpg, fuel economy

Capable, but stay on smooth roads

As its name might suggest, the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport plays Mini Me to the “big” Mitsubishi Outlander compact sport utility, which is close in size to the Toyota RAV4. The Outlander Sport is more than a foot shorter than the Outlander in overall length and is essentially a wagon-on-stilts version of the Mitsubishi Lancer compact car.

But Mitsubishi would rather you think of it as a crossover sport utility and not a car – hence the name-association with the Outlander.

Under The Hood

Satisfied with perfectly acceptable power in low-demand driving conditions? Willing to put the gas pedal to the carpet when merging onto freeways or overtaking slower traffic? The Sport’s four-cylinder is for you.

The 2.0-liter inline four runs on regular unleaded gasoline and is rated at 148 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque. While it is certainly willing, the engine’s credentials make it unreasonable to count on hefty doses of performance.

All-wheel drive models are equipped with a continuously variable transmission, a trend found on more and more vehicles. As in other applications, it offers “simulated” manual gearshifts.

Mitsubishi’s All-Wheel-Control system integrates an electronically controlled front differential. For normal driving and the best fuel economy, just leave it in 2WD. When road conditions become a little dicey, flip a rocker switch to 4WD, and the all-wheel drive mode offers improved traction in all driving conditions.

Breaking the norm for compact crossovers, there’s also a 4WD Lock mode designed for surfaces from deep snow to sand or mud. If it weren’t for the low 5.5-inch ground clearance, the 4WD setting would make the Sport a capable off roader.

Thoughtful Design, Outside And In

mitsubishi,outlander sport,awd,mpg, fuel economy,cargo

Tight but expandable space

Model-year 2013 saw a number of exterior and interior changes to the Outlander Sport that carry over to 2014. There are a few additions for this year including a new steering wheel with audio controls and a variety of upgraded touch screens and sound systems.

As for styling, the front end’s face now has a look that resembles the Lancer Evolution performance models. A pronounced crease along the side enhances the rising window line and gives the impression the Sport is moving, even at a standstill.

The interior doesn’t offer as much visual interest, but it’s pleasing to the eyes, with switchgear that feels solid and is intuitively laid out. Fit and finish appear to be quite good and material quality is acceptable.

As a compact crossover, the Sport doesn’t squander a square inch of passenger room or cargo space. It has surprising amounts of both in a body that has presence on the road without occupying

mitsubishi,outlander sport,awd,mpg,fuel economy,interior

Dated but functional

too much of it. Seating up front is comfortable, and rear passengers have a good amount of leg- and headroom and their seat backs recline, but there are no individual sliding seats. Still, the 60/40 split bench will seat two adults comfortably, and three with some liberal elbow tucking. When seatbacks are folded flat, cargo space increases from 21.7 cubic feet to 49.5.

Mitsubishi is not known for scrimping on standard features, and the entry level ES includes keyless entry, heated mirrors, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver seat, power locks and windows, cruise control and air conditioning. Also standard are Mitsubishi’s Fuse voice-activated interface, a four-speaker audio system with CD player, auxiliary audio input jack and USB/iPod interface.

SE models add heated front seats, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and a touch-screen audio display.

Behind The Steering Wheel

On the road, our Outlander Sport SE test driver felt solid and was free of squeaks and rattles. Being based on a car, it is predictably carlike to drive. Steering is a bit inert on center, but is otherwise precise. Body lean is modest in tight turns, so the Sport can be tossed around much like a small wagon.

Ride quality is well suited for American roads, absorbing most typical road imperfections without unsettling the body. Wind noise and tire thrum are low, and, though the engine makes its presence known above 4000 rpm, it’s never irritating.

We found acceleration more than adequate in most driving conditions. However, a few times, such as merging onto freeways, we would have preferred a little more power, like maybe the 168 horsepower from the 2.4-liter four in our Lancer test driver. Then again, a larger engine would deny the Outback Sport’s inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 mpg Club.

As for our 31.5 mpg, Draconian driving methods weren’t required – just common sense driving: No jack rabbit starts, an easy foot on the accelerator, lifting early when approaching stops and adhering to the 60 mph to 70 mph speed limits on freeways.

Our week with the Sport totaled 296 miles. About half were freeway miles, the balance split between city driving and two-lane highways.

Bottom Line

Mitsubishi says the Outlander Sport is the company’s top selling model, and it’s easy to see why, starting with price. The well-equipped AWD ES starts at $22,895, including destination charges. Our AWD SE was priced at $24,820 and added a Premium and Navigation package that brought the total to $28,370.

Beyond that, the Sport is easy to drive, can tote five passengers and a modest amount of cargo and, as we found, gets dang good gas mileage. Add, Mitsubishi’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and you have great value for the money.

Mitsubishi Lancer SE: Don’t Overlook It

Mitsubishi,lancer,awd,cvt,fuel economy,mpg

One of three AWD compacts you can afford

A lot of folks like the confidence of an all-wheel drive setup, which offers additional traction and stability in less than ideal driving conditions. While there’s a very long list of compact crossover sport utilities to choose from, it’s slim pickings if you want a small car with AWD. The selection is even less if you want one priced under $25,000 – three to be exact: Two Subarus, the Impeza and Legacy, and Mitsubishi’s Lancer SE AWD.

A Little Long In The Tooth, But ….

Unlike competitors in the crowded compact segment, Mitsubishi’s Lancer lineup has long been in need of a major update. Still, the car’s design continues to stands apart from the crowd, beginning up front. The SE has a toned-down Lancer trademark contentious shark-like grille, pointed headlamps and sculpted hood. The stance is low and lean, and in profile offers a well-proportioned

mitsubishi,lancer,awd,fuel economy,mpg,interior

Set the way-back machine

appearance. The backside is tidy with a small spoiler that adds a sporty touch.

Inside is where the Lancer lets you know that 2008 was the last time it was an all-new car. Reflective of that time, hard plastic and low-grade-looking materials dominate the cabin. That said, for 2014 Mitsubishi upgraded the seating fabric in the Lancer, and the SE receives a backup camera, a new touchscreen audio display and an upgraded audio system that includes HD radio and SiriusXM satellite radio.

The dash has a clean, uncluttered design with a hooded instrument cluster featuring white on black gauges. Controls lay easily to hand and large climate control knobs have a quality feel.

Passengers will find more than adequate leg- and headroom in both the front and rear seats. On a seven-hour round trip we found the front bucket seats to be firm and supportive with the bonus of heated bottoms and seat backs. The steering wheel tilts but doesn’t telescope, which could be a deal breaker for those over six feet.

Trunk space is on the small side at 12.3 cubic feet and, if you opt for the Rockford-Fosgate audio system, the trunk-mounted subwoofer cuts it to 11.8 cubic feet. However, 60/40 split folding rear seats offer more generous space.

On The Road

With nearly a half a liter more displacement than the Outlander Sport’s engine, the Lancer SE’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. It delivers brisk takeoffs, is peppy, cruises without strain at 70 mph and becomes vocal only at higher rpm.

We were impressed with the continuously variable transmission (CVT), the only transmission offered. Unlike others of its type, engine rpm never raced ahead of vehicle speed, and it acted like, well, a standard automatic.

mitsubishi,lancer,awd,mpg,fuel economy

Competent on the road

Power steering is hydraulic rather than the electric system on the Sport. It is quick and accurate, and sends enough feedback through the wheel to keep the driver connected to the road. The SE employs the same All Wheel Control system as the Outlander Sport. Cornering grip is noticeably increased when flipping the switch to all-wheel drive, making the Lancer SE fun to throw around corners.

Ride and handling are a well-balanced combination for a compact size car. The all-independent suspension is quite good at compensating for road irregularities and only major potholes can shake its composure.

A weekend visit with our oldest son accounted for 312 freeway miles of our total 441 miles during our week with the Lancer. The balance was divided between in town and two-lane country roads. Again, sensible driving netted really good fuel economy – 30.3 mpg.

Bottom Line

Priced starting at $21,490, the Lancer SE AWD doesn’t offer the latest in tech, safety and comfort features, but it does come with a credible list of standard features like heated outside mirrors and front seats. Also included

mitsubishi,lancer,awd,mpg,fuel economy

Standing out in its class

are keyless entry, power windows and locks as well as cruise control and steering wheel controls for audio and Bluetooth connectivity.

Available are a navigation system and Mitsubishi’s Fuse infotainment system. Fuse is an easy-to-use touchscreen-based software that features voice command in addition to knobs and buttons that functions very well.

Sporty design, sharp handling, bountiful cabin space and a comprehensive warranty overshadow an outdated interior. If you want the security that all-wheel drive offers, the Lancer SE AWC is a sensible alternative for those who don’t want what everyone else is driving.

Photos by the manufacturer

Posted April 30, 2014

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Comparison Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius & Prius Plug-in

Comparison Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius & Prius Plug-in

The Hybrid Sales Leader Continues Its Market Dominance By Plugging In Its Icon.

Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, Hybrid,EV

Toyota – expanding the leading brand with a plug

In the world of automotive sales, earning the ranking of top-selling model in any category is a considerable achievement. In an internal combustion engine world, when the Toyota Prius became the best-selling vehicle line in the State of California in 2012 and then backed it up with a repeat in 2013, it was huge for a hybrid to take the prize. The Prius had a strong national presence in 2013 where it was No. 16 in sales for all cars and trucks and No. 10 among cars. To round-out the sales story, Toyota has sold 1.5 million Prius models in the last ten years, easily making it the best selling hybrid car in the United States.

The Prius four-door hatchback first went on sale in the United States in 2000 and the smaller Prius c and larger Prius V came along in 2011. They were joined by the plug-in version in 2012.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive, in back-to-back weeks, the 2014 Prius Hatchback and the 2014 Prius Plug-in Hatchback. Here is a look at the two, where the similarities are many and the differences few.


The front-wheel-drive 2014 Prius is powered by a parallel hybrid drivetrain, which Toyota calls their Hybrid Synergy Drive. In the parallel hybrid system the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself or they can power the car together.


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

Plug-in Prius gets you to new places

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprises a 1.8L DOHC, four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor producing a combined 178 horsepower (hp). It adds a 26 hp/60 kW nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) battery and through the electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) delivers 51 city/48 highway for a combined 50 mpg.

The Prius Plug-in is powered by the same gasoline engine and electric motor but adds a 80 hp/60 kW lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack that can power the car solely on electricity for about 11 miles. The Prius Plug-in fuel economy is a bit different with 51 city/49 highway but the same 50 mpg combined, but the Plug-in also delivers a 95 mpge when run in EV mode. As with all plug-in hybrids, the driving style and charging regimen will determine actually mileage in the real world.

The Prius Plug-in Li-ion battery is charged by plugging in or through the regenerative charging system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. There is a standard drive mode “D” or the “B” mode, which recharges the battery at a faster rate when coasting downhill.

In addition to the regenerative charging, the primary method to replenish the batteries is by plugging in. Here’s how much time it will take:

120V           3 hours: discharged to a full charge

240V           1.5 hours: discharged to a full charge

The Prius Plug-in does not come with a 480V Quick Charge option.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The four-door Prius Hatchback 2014 weighs in at 3,042 lbs, with the weight well distributed due to the under-seat battery placement, resulting in a low center of gravity. The electrically power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, the front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear Torsion beam suspension delivers a smooth, although not necessarily quiet, highway ride. The Prius with the 15-inch alloy wheels (17-inch ones are an upgrade) corners so-so with little body roll, but with no sense of feeling sporty. Acceleration 0 – 60 is listed by Toyota at 10 seconds, but that may be the minimum time it takes. No head snapping going on with the Prius,

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

The Prius models plug along

but off-the-line drag racing is not why a million and a half of these have been sold. So, expecting a performance level that Toyota never promised is unfair. But let’s get real on what is fair, fuel economy!

The Prius Plug-in (which weighs in at 3,165 lbs.) offers up-to 11 miles on pure electricity if you go no faster than 30 mph. Other than that, there is little difference in the two models. Once up to freeway speeds, both Prius models shine, delivering 50+ mpg. And if you are into hypermiling, the practice of energy-efficient driving aimed at improving fuel economy beyond the EPA ratings, you may want to see how far you can squeeze that gallon of gasoline or kilowatt of electricity. You don’t need to own a hybrid or EV to practice hypermiling, but it seems this is a hot topic among Prius owners trying to out-distance each other.

Toyota has mastered combining the regeneration system with the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Both Prius models stop straight and true with no brake fade.

Driving Experience: Interior

The 2014 Prius has a spacious interior with a twin cockpit design with a “floating” center stack separating the bucket seats. I say “floating” because where most cars have solid sides to their center stack, on the Prius this area is an open tray. Once I got accustomed to fishing around for my stashed items, it was quite handy. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel has all the usual control buttons (audio, phone, cruise control, climate, Bluetooth,


Just quirky enough

etc.) including the ability to switch between fuel and battery (hybrid) gauges. Another unique design feature is that the gauges are off to the right a few degrees. Toyota makes-up for this by having a heads-up display (standard on the Four Model–Prius Liftbacks come in Two, Three, Four and Five trim levels) that appears on the windshield directly in-front of the driver. All-in-all it’s a workable system after a short learning curve.

The Prius comfortably seats four full-size adults (five in a pinch), but the front bucket seats could use more thigh bolstering. There is plenty of storage space with or without the 60/40 rear seats folded flat. The car has good sightlines once you get over the spoiler cutting horizontally midway through the rear window. One oddity is that a beeper goes off inside the cabin when shifting into reverse. Odd because as the driver you know you put the car in reverse, the Rearview Camera pops-up on the screen and the beeping is not heard outside of the car where it would be the most useful.

The 2014 Prius is well equipped for safety with remote keyless entry, power door locks, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), projector beam halogen headlights, seven airbags, adaptive cruise control, vehicle stability and traction control and the optional intelligent parking assist and lane departure warning.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Prius is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road. Its wedge-shape has not changed much since redesigned in 2004 and, either you like it or you don’t. The shape is driven completely to reduce wind resistance and drag to increase fuel economy (both Prius models have an excellent .25 coefficient of drag). Rumor has it a new Prius design is a couple of years away, but it would hard to believe that Toyota would venture very far from the general overall shape of the current car.


The 2014 Prius base price is $25,010, including the $810 destination charge. The nicely optioned Prius Four I was driving is priced at $33,290 including the $810 destination charge. The Prius Plug-in, which starts at


Ready to swallow

$29,990 including the destination charge, qualifies for Federal and State tax credits that could reduce your final cost. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a Prius Plug-in purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is that in California the Prius Plug-in qualifies for the coveted car pool stickers allowing the driver, with no passenger, to use the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State, but those stickers may only be available for a few months as the demand for them has been strong.

The 2014 Prius comes with these warranties:

  • 3-year/36,000 Comprehensive
  • 5-year/60,000 Powertrain
  • 5-year/Unlimited-mileage Corrosion
  • 8-year/100,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage
  • 15-year/150,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage (applicable states are: CA, MA, NY, NJ, VT, CT, ME, NM and RI) with the exception of the hybrid battery. The hybrid battery is warraned for 10 years/150,000 miles

Observations: 2014 Toyota Prius Hatchback and Prius Plug-in Hatchback

Whether tooling around in-town or venturing out on the open road, if you value paying as little as possible for each mile driven, then the Toyota Prius should be on your shopping list. Not many cars get the outstanding fuel economy of the Prius family.
You will pay more for a hybrid versus a gasoline-powered car and you will need to calculate if the additional cost makes sense for your driving patterns. But, if you are putting a lot of miles on your car or like the ability to cruise around town in pure electric mode like the plug-in version offers, then the additional initial expense may be worth it to you.
You will also pay additional for the Prius Plug-in, with a base price of $29,900 versus the base Prius Hybrid at $24,200. Both prices do not include the $810 Destination Charge. So as you can see, a $5,700 premium for


Still leading the hybrid way

the plug-in will be a consideration at purchase time for what amounts to the ability to drive approximately eleven miles on pure electric charge and if you live in California, apply for the stickers that allow a single driver to use the car pool lanes. Hence, the conundrum.

Clean Fleet Report cannot recommend one model over the other as your lifestyle and daily driving needs are the determining factors. But, the Prius reliability and its being the market-leading hybrid should give you confidence that this car will be in your garage for many, many years.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

 Words and Photos by John Faulkner

Posted on March 23, 2014

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Toyota Is “All In” on Fuel Cell Electric Cars

GM & Toyota Go Opposite Directions in Pricing Their Plug-ins


Road Test: 2014 Subaru Forester

Road Test: 2014 Subaru Forester

A Fresh Look & Better MPG For A Familiar Face.

Subaru,Forester,SUV,AWD,$WD,fuel economy,mpg

Similar but better MPG

The 2014 Subaru Forester is the first all-new model for this brand since 2009. It is slightly larger than the outgoing edition, looks only a little different but has an unexpected surprise – it’s more fuel efficient.

Like other recently introduced Subarus, the 2014 Forester is helping to erase the automaker’s so-so fuel economy reputation, and earns inclusion in our Clean Fleet Report All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club. The mainstream 2.5i model arrives with an EPA estimated 32 mpg highway/24 mpg city and a combined rating of 27 mpg when equipped with a continuous variable transmission (CVT). Choose the manual shifter and fuel economy drops to 29/22 highway/city and 24 combined.

For those willing to forgo some fuel economy in exchange for power, the turbocharged 2.0XT model with a CVT is rated at 28/23 highway/city and 25 combined. That’s also an increase compared to the outgoing model.

New, But Familiar Look

In profile, the new Forester is slightly more sleek for aerodynamics with more fluid body lines and slightly rounded edges, but it won’t be mistaken for any other small crossover SUV. The updated styling is most noticed in the fresh, but still familiar, nose and tail.


Subaru,forester,SUV,AWD,4WD,MPG,fuel economy,CVT

Moving forward without gears

The new sheetmetal reveals little of the Forester’s growth. Sitting on an inch-longer wheelbase, it’s an inch-and-a-half longer overall. It’s also wider and a noteworthy two-and-a-half inches taller.

Interior design carries on in a no nonsense fashion with substance before style. The dashboard presents little design frivolity, though the addition of a center dash-mounted info screen brings things up-to-date. The cabin is comfortable and functional, but materials don’t express the upscale look and feel that Subaru aspires to.

Growing in size always seems to be a good crossover strategy, and the 2014 Forester receives a substantial boost in cabin room. Compact size on the outside, Forester has midsize-

2014,Subaru,Forester,cargo space,rear cargo,

The most spacious in its class

class passenger space that has more interior room than better-selling crossovers like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4. And, no compact crossover has more cargo volume – 34.4 cubic feet with rear seat backs upright, 74.7 when folded.

Forester ushered in several new features with this fourth-generation edition. Available is a power liftgate that opens extra tall for loading. When equipped with power-assist, it has a nifty memory opening height function.

Forester also gets Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance system that integrates adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning. EyeSight uses a stereo camera mounted on the inside of the windshield in front of the rearview mirror. It works exceptionally well except when weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, obscures the camera’s view.

Familiar Drivetrain

Subaru and Porsche are the only automakers that have faithfully stood by the horizontally opposed boxer engine configuration. Carried over for 2014, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer powers the Forester 2.5i models. It churns out 170 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 174 pounds-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm.

The 2.5i is one of the few crossovers that still offers a manual transmission, a new six-speed gearbox. Also new is Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT that replaces the outdated four-speed conventional automatic transmission. It

Subaru,Forester,SUV,AWD,4WD,boxer engine

Boxer with punch

features paddle shifters that simulate manual shifting of six gear ratios, and a low shift mode for engine braking when driving down a grade.

Forester XTs are now powered by a two-liter turbocharged boxer four rather than a 2.5 liter. Utilizing direct injection, the new powerplant not only provides better fuel economy, but improved horsepower and torque. The 250 horsepower eager beaver also employs a CVT with paddle shifters, but one that simulates eight gears.

While Subaru’s four-cylinder boxer engines are proven workhorses, if towing more than 1,500 pounds – par for most four bangers – is on your list, you’ll have to consider V-6 powered crossovers. Of course, you’ll also have to give up fuel economy.

Since it’s a Subaru, bulletproof all-wheel drive is standard for all Foresters. But there’s a new twist with CVT-equipped models called X-Mode. With the push of a button, this low-speed traction system integrates the operation of the engine, transmission, AWD system and brakes to gain traction on uneven terrain and slippery slopes. At low speeds, the system can apportion torque from left to right, enhancing the AWD’s front to rear distribution.

Behind The Steering Wheel, Almost Familiar

Like the previous model, from the driver’s view, the command position is quite good with excellent sightlines. The seat is squarely behind the steering wheel and there’s a clear view of the instrument cluster. Large knobs for the climate system on the center stack are easy to reach and intuitive to use, and the shift lever falls easily to hand.



Familar & functional

Driving on city streets or Interstates, the 2014 Forester pretty much mimics the 2013 model. The unibody design with all-independent suspension delivers a pleasant ride; engine output is more than adequate to handle the everyday chores of merging and passing; brakes perform competently when those “Oh-my-god” situations suddenly appear.

The big difference is steering. Subaru isn’t alone when it comes to lifeless electric power steering, but the Forester’s new system feels like it was anesthetized. On the plus side, when pushed during cornering, there is little body roll.

I’ve never been a fan of CVTs, but this one is about as good as they get. The engine rarely revved up past actual driving speed, which gives an effect that feels like a clutch slipping. Simulated gear shifting produced smooth up and down shifts with only an occasional hiccup.


Small crossovers are known as “soft roaders” – not designed for off pavement driving other than gravel roads. Subarus are different. We’ve driven every Subaru model on back country trails that one would think were reserved for Jeeps only, and the new Forester is a dandy off roader.

It starts with a Jeep-like ground clearance of 8.7-inches. That’s aided by, not quite Jeep-like, but decent approach, departure and breakover angles.

We spent a couple hours during a sunny Northwest day on a favorite and little-used logging trail. It’s narrow, deeply rutted in places with some steep hills and a couple of switchbacks thrown in. A surprise rockslide made us hesitate, but careful placement of tires brought us up and over some sizeable rocks.

During our week with the Forester 2.5i, we tallied 177.7 miles, 62 of which were on the Interstate. City driving totaled 73 miles and the balance was on two-lane county roads and our off-road excursion. The Forester’s computer measured fuel economy was 31.4 mpg – 4.4 mpg above the EPA combined rating of 27 mpg.

What You Get For The Money

Base price for the Forester 2.5i with manual transmission is $22,820, including $825 destination charges. Choose the CVT and the price jumps a grand to $23,820. Standard features for both include a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, full power accessories, cruise control, four-speaker audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and an iPod/USB audio interface.



Still has the get-up to go anywhere

To get a rearview camera, now standard on many competitor models, you have to step up to the Premium trim, priced starting at $25,820. It also adds a power driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof and a six-speaker audio system. The Limited trim, at $28,820, adds an All-Weather Package (heated side mirrors and heated front seats), automatic climate control, leather upholstery and power rear liftgate.

Our 2.5i Touring test vehicle included all of the above features plus a navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker audio system, a one-touch control to fold the rear seatback and the auto-close and memory functions for the power liftgate. Optional was the $2,400 EyeSight system that brought the total sticker price to $33,220.

Turbocharged 2.0XT models are priced starting from $28,820 to $33,820.

Forester’s prices are competitive, but technology missing from the feature availability list offered by others in the class are blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. Subaru says these will be offered on 2015 models.

By keeping its traditional look, Forester may not be the most stylish compact crossover, but it’s difficult to beat its tried and true AWD system with the new X-Mode, pleasant road manners, spacious passenger cabin and class-leading cargo room. And then there’s that fuel economy thing.


Ford Escape

Honda CR-V

Toyota RAV4

Photos by the manufacturer

Published March 9, 2014

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Road Test: 2013 Ford Escape

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Test Drive: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek


Test Drive: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Test Drive: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Subaru-XV Crosstrek-big MPG-AWD-SUV

XV Crosstrek – small SUV, big MPG

By Lynne Hall and Larry E. Hall

Subaru has long stood by the horizontally opposed engine to power its cars. While proven to be reliable, it has a reputation for just so-so fuel economy.

That’s changed of late – as evidenced by the all-new 2013 XV Crosstrek’s inclusion in the All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club – with 33 mpg highway, 25 mpg city and a combined rating of 28 mpg when equipped with a continuous variable transmission (CVT). Choose the manual shifter and fuel economy drops to 30 highway/23 city/26 combined.

Not familiar with the Crosstrek? It’s the result of a successful formula Subaru has used before: Take a core vehicle, alter the bones, jack up the suspension, add some body cladding and, viola, a new model. In this case, the donor car is the Impreza hatchback, also a member of the 30 MPG Club.

Impreza’s DNA is apparent in the Crosstrek’s profile, but from there the car takes off in a different direction. No other Subaru has the same grille or bumpers and the front A pillars are moved forward by 7.9 inches compared with the Impreza. This not only improves cabin space, it adds athleticism to the look.

While length and track width (distance between the wheels) have been increased, the wheelbase has been shortened.

The most notable, visual difference between the two cars is ground clearance, which has been cranked up three inches to 8.7 inches. Throw in muscular fender flares, along with dramatic 17-inch alloy wheels, and the Crosstek becomes an open invitation to travel farther once the highway ends.

Lynne says …

In our northwest corner of the country, motorists embraced Subarus back when quirky wasn’t hip. We, along with buyers in New England and Rocky Mountain states, knew for years that Subaru’s all-wheel-drive cars and wagons offered superior traction – not just on snowy roads, but on any slippery or uneven surface.

And that decision in 1994 to morph the Legacy wagon into the “world’s first sport utility wagon” and call it Outback? Brilliant, as consumers in all three markets flocked to dealers.

Since then, Subaru has perfected the recipe for creating a new model from an existing one, and I think the XV Crosstrek is their best yet.

As much as I liked the Outback, I thought the lower body cladding was a little over the top, almost garish. Conversely, Crosstrek stylists used restraint and added just the right amount of muscularity with the fender flares. Also, the wider track, added length and shorter wheelbase result in balanced proportions.

Compared with the small crossover SUV sales leaders – Ford Escape, Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4 – the Crosstrek has the look of a sport utility that wants to get out of town. It says, “Hey, throw a couple mountain bikes or camping gear in the back and lets get a little dirty, maybe even muddy.”

And it backs up that invitation with ground clearance that’s more generous than the Jeep Grand Cherokee. While we couldn’t find time to do some semi-serious off roading, previous Subaru test drives have shown their ability to go just about anywhere short of rock crawling.

Crossteck’s well-laid-out interior follows Impeza. The cabin is minimal, but not Spartan, with durable soft-touch materials covering upper surfaces for comfort, and plastic on lower panels for easy cleaning. Switchgear arranged on the center stack and surrounding the steering column has a sturdy feel.

Seats, front and rear, fall into the comfortable category, and we found the space suitable for four adults, even if rear passengers were squeezed a bit for foot room. In case your passengers tend to be toddlers rather than adults, it’s easy to comfortably fit two front-facing car seats in the rear.

The 22 cubic feet behind the rear seat is more than adequate for a week’s worth of grocery shopping, and a standard waterproof cargo tray is a thoughtful feature. Rear seats are 60/40 split and fold almost flat, providing enough room for two mountain bikes.

In town behavior was standard Subaru – easy-to-drive, easy-to-park and easy to get in and out of. And the Crosstrek doesn’t miss a beat on the pavement, either. Agile and racy are not in its dictionary, but predictable, smooth and comfortable describe its on-road behavior.

Granted, 148 horsepower doesn’t sound like much these days – and it’s not – but it is adequate to the task of motivating the 3,087-pound Crosstek for 0 to 60 mph in a little more than nine seconds. Whenever editor/husband Larry expressed a want for a turbocharger, I gently reminded him that this little Subie was about fuel economy, not speed.

Our base Premium model’s engine was hooked up to a five-speed manual transmission, which offered clean gates and a comfortable, easily engaged clutch action. Looking at my notes, I had checked hill hold as my favorite feature – take your foot off the brake when stopped on a hill and the Crosstrek won’t roll backwards. I’m perplexed as to why more carmakers don’t have this feature.

Larry Says …

In 2005, Subaru made a move to present their automotive assets with style and content that would attract a broader audience. The company’s goal was to elevate their image to a “premium niche brand” – not a luxury brand,

Subaru-XV Crosstrek-mpg-SUV-functional

Crosstrek can take you trekking

but one consumers were willing to pay a higher price (for perceived quality and features like standard all-wheel drive).

The XV Crosstrek is sort of a step back. Not that quality has taken a back seat, but this little crossover SUV takes a simpler approach and isn’t quite as animated as the rest of the lineup. The upside to this is the Crosstrek offers a very good value proposition.

Consider: The entry 2014 Premium model starts at $23,820 including destination charges. It has an arm’s length of standard features including 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, full power accessories, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats and mirrors, cruise control and air-conditioning. The six speaker audio system features a CD player, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB port and auxiliary jack.

Starting at $25,230, the step-up Limited version adds leather upholstery, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, a 4.3-inch LCD display and rearview camera.

A sunroof and a touchscreen navigation system are optional for both models.

Optional on the Premium and standard on the Limited is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that Subaru calls Lineartronic, and it’s a dandy. Instead of engine revs that race ahead of engine speed, the Lineartronic keeps engine and road speed in harmony. For Premium buyers, it’s well worth the $1,000 price considering the fuel economy gains versus the manual shifter.

While all-wheel drive is standard, the system differs depending on the choice of transmission. Without going into technical details, CVT models split torque 60/40 front to rear as the default, while the manual transmission system distributes torque 50/50. Both can direct torque to the wheels that slip to ensure traction.

Regardless of which model, the Crosstrek is available with one engine, a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed (“boxer”) four-cylinder engine. The boxer nickname comes from the way the pistons look when the engine is running – like a boxer throwing punches. And the punches this boxer throws are 148 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque.

As for my wanting a turbocharger under the hood, that little more than nine seconds from 0 to 60 edges on Prius territory, not what I prefer when merging into fast traffic.

And yes, Lynne, the Crosstrek is about fuel economy and we did pretty good. Well, actually you did pretty good, since you were behind the wheel for most of the 192 miles during our week test drive. With about half of the miles driven on city streets we still managed to average the EPA estimated 26 mpg combined.

People buy Subarus for qualities other than glitz. The XV Crosstrek’s modest base price fetches the utility of a small wagon with a roomy cabin and cargo area that offers practicality and easy drivability. And it will meet the needs of those who prioritize fuel economy over performance, contributing a small roll in saving the planet while exploring it.

For more on this subject, check out:

2013 Ford Escape Road Test

Top 10 2014/2013 AWD/SUVs With the Best MPG

First Drive Toyota RAV4 EV

2013 Honda CR-V Road Test


Resistance is Futile – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

Resistance is Futile – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.

Resistance is Futile

The Toyota Prius is more aerodynamic than a Chevrolet Corvette. Both have less wind resistance than a square-shaped car or SUV. Being aerodynamic and using low rolling resistance tires are reasons that the Toyota Prius achieves good fuel economy. Manufacturers have been improving engines and transmissions for over 100 years. Engines today have improved timing, fuel mix, less resistance, and variable valve timing. Automakers such as Honda, GM, and Chrysler, continue to improve fuel economy with new engines that can shut off valves when not needed; for example, a variable cylinder management system can deactivate half of an engine’s cylinders during cruising and deceleration. Also used is the continuously variable transmission, which keeps the engine, running at a fuel-efficient speed. In 2007, Nissan sold over 1,000,000 vehicles with continuously variable transmissions. When you buy your next vehicle, look for cars with better miles-per-gallon due to use of advanced powertrains.


Does your family or household own more than one vehicle? If so, use most often the vehicle that consumes the least gas. It is a no-brainer. My wife and I share the high-mileage hybrid. As our main car, it puts on the most miles. The other sedan, which still gets good fuel economy, is used only on days when we both have destinations in opposite directions. There are more than one hundred car models that offer over 40 miles per gallon. An increased number of these models are being made available in the United States. People are often surprised by the excellent safety of some lighter vehicles with excellent fuel economy.

When you buy a new car select one that gets high miles per gallon or one that runs on electricity. If you are watching your budget, this is likely to be a light gasoline vehicle with good mileage. If you have more to spend, you can achieve greater fuel economy with hybrids and with diesels.

A growing number of vehicles are aerodynamic, lighter, safer, use advanced powertrains, and better tires. When you are ready to buy a new car, focus on the mileage for your type of driving. The solutions to our oil dependency are not in the distant future. They are here today. With lighter materials, better drive systems, and better safety features, you have a number of excellent vehicle choices.