Images of Polestar 1/Showroom Released Ahead of Geneva Motor Show
Its new owners are taking the Volvo car brand to places it has never been before. The best evidence will be shown to the European public for the first time this week at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. The Polestar 1 will be the flagship of this new sub-brand focused on electric performance.
First car for the Volvo electric performance sub-brand will be the Polestar 1
Order books for the Polestar 1, a plug-in hybrid GT, will open shortly, while production is slated to start mid-2019. According to Volvo, interest has been strong in the 600 horsepower (hp) coupe that will offer 93 miles of all-electric range. Two electric motors producing 218 hp drive the rear wheels while a 2.0-liter gas engine powers the front. That range can be expected to drop if you put the 738 pounds-feet of torque to work.
The Polestar 1 is also one of the first vehicles being sold on a subscription model. Buyers will pay an all-inclusive monthly fee covering vehicle use, insurance and including a pick-up and delivery service for maintenance, a number of car rental days and access to a range of concierge and on-demand services.
A Minimalist Cube
Prior to the show Polestar also showed drawings of its new minimalist cube retail stores and its headquarters, which is being built on Volvo grounds in Sweden. Polestar started as the performance brand for gas-powered Volvo tuner cars, essentially the Swedish version of AMG. It now is a separate brand with its own engineering and R&D departments, but still will benefit from the scale of larger parent Volvo.
The Polestar 1’s interior follows recent Volvo styling trends
The brand’s retail stores, called Polestar Space, will open in mid-2019 in the U.S., China, Germany, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. Other country locations will be added later. Polestar 2 and Polestar 3 models, both full electrics, are planned to follow next year as well. Polestar 2 is described as a midsize battery electric vehicle designed to compete with the Tesla Model 3; Polestar 3 will be an all-electric SUV.
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Wagons Making Comeback, Volvo Plugs Them In
In the 1960s, station wagons were the choice of American families. Their sales were usurped in the mid-1970s by the minivan, which later gave way to the sport-utility vehicle. Today, crossover SUVs are at the top of the sales charts. However, Volvo never gave up on wagons.
The baby brother look (not a bad thing)
In Europe wagons are called “estate” vehicles. Squared off, boxy Volvo wagons may not have been pretty, but they were safe. While they are still regarded as one of the safest vehicles to own, the boxy styling has been discarded by the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker, which has been on a roll over the past few years with a string of visually stunning vehicles.
Volvo’s renaissance continues with the unveiling to the automotive media of the all-new V60 last week in Sweden. The new 2019 Volvo V60 wagon carries over the theme set by the larger V90 wagon that debuted two years ago.
“The family estate driver is an important customer for our business and has been for generations,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars. “The new V60 honors that tradition, but also takes it much further.”
That “much further” includes two plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) models, the latest driver assistance features and other safety technology.
Two PHEV Powertrains
There will be two V60 plug-in hybrid models offered, the T6 and T8. Both Twin Engine plug-ins essentially use the same powertrain: A 2.0-liter gasoline inline four-cylinder engine that is twin-charged—supercharged and turbocharged—powers the front wheels. An integrated starter generator (ISG) is sandwiched between the engines and an eight-speed automatic (the ISG charges the battery and cranks the engine during start-stop events). The engines are paired with a 65-kilowatt electric motor mounted to the rear axle to provide all-wheel drive.
A Swedish aesthetic inside–safety and serenity
In the T6 Twin Engine, the 2.0-liter makes 253 horsepower (hp) and 258 pounds-feet (lb.-st.)of torque. With the rear electric motor added, the overall system output is 340 hp and 435 lb.ft. Step up to the T8 and the four produces those ratings upped to 303 hp and 295 lb.-ft., with total output of 390 hp and 472 lb.-ft. Both models have the same electric-only range of up to 28 miles. Despite their different power outputs, both will make the 0-62 mph run in 4.8 seconds.
Lots of space in the back of a wagon
While that’s good news, the bad news is the T8 is not coming to the U.S., at least not for now. When it arrives, the V60 will launch with a buyers’ choice of a 250 horsepower 2.0-liter gasoline turbocharged T5 four-cylinder front-wheel drive or T6 plug-in hybrid. At least we can expect it to top the XC90 PHEV’s 62 MPGe (though fuel economy numbers have not been released and easily join Clean Fleet Report’s 30 MPG AWD Club.
New V60 Joins Volvo’s Latest Styling Direction
In profile, the new 2019 Volvo V60 looks much more sculpted and stylish than the wagon it replaces. Up front, the V60 borrows heavily from Volvo’s V90 wagon. The “Thor’s Hammer” LED lights proudly flank the grille and the T-shaped running lights look very similar to the ones on the larger wagon. But the V60 differentiates itself with larger, more pronounced lower intake openings. On the backside, Volvo’s traditional L-shaped tail lamps follow the shape of the rear D-pillar and then slice inward toward the center of the hatch.
The new model is based off Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture that underpins other models like the V90 and XC60 and XC90 crossovers. The most obvious difference between the V60 and big-brother V90 is in length. The V60 is almost 7 inches shorter than the V90, though the wheelbase length has only been reduced by 3.9 inches. Elsewhere, the V60 is only an inch or two smaller in both width and height.
Volvo keeps on its traditional road, but with contemporary equipment
Inside Like Other New Volvo Models Plus, Lots of Safety
The 2019 Volvo V60’s interior is visually identical to that of the XC60 crossover and 90-series cars, with a vertically oriented touchscreen in the center console, only a few buttons and knobs below it, a digital gauge cluster and the same lovely wood and aluminum inlays on the dash and doors. The Sensus infotainment system, which carries over unchanged, is fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and has a built-in 4G Wi-Fi hotspot.
Being a Volvo, the V60 comes with a number of safety and driver assistance systems, including lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring. Standard safety features include advanced driver support systems found in the 90-Series and XC60. The City Safety with Autobrake technology uses automatic braking and detection systems to assist the driver in avoiding potential collisions. Volvo says it is the only system on the market to recognize pedestrians, cyclists, and large animals.
The 2019 Volvo V60 also comes with the latest version of the company’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous system that can now operate unassisted on “well-marked roads” at a maximum speed of 80 mph. It also will be equipped with Run-off Road Mitigation and Oncoming Lane Mitigation.
Official pricing will be announced at a later date. Following its official reveal in Sweden last week, the V60 will greet the public at the Geneva Motor Show on March 8.
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27 Brands and 52 Cars at MPG Track Day
Motor Press Guild (MPG) is the Southern California trade association for automotive journalists. MPG’s goal of bringing together writers with automotive industry representatives is best demonstrated by its annual Track Day at Willow Springs Raceway. For those of you that have never been to Willow Springs, it is guaranteed you are familiar with this track as it has appeared in hundreds of commercials. Recognizable by its twisting track with extreme elevation changes and barren landscape, Willow Springs offers a challenging test for journalists and racers alike.
Motor Press Guild hits the track at Willow Springs
In early November, journalists headed 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles to strap on a helmet and get behind the wheel of some pretty cool cars. After a safety talk, warnings and driving rules, off we went in a very orderly and polite manner to get in as many cars as we could in a seven-hour timeframe.
My first drive was the 2017 Subaru BRZ Series Yellow. This limited-edition version is designed for track use with improved performance and handling and includes a Track Mode setting. In other words, it’s ideal for a few laps on a racetrack. A quick summary is the car was an absolute blast to drive and continues the good reputation Subaru has for designing fun sports cars.
I then got into these 2017 cars that all begged to be driven fast around the track.
- Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
- BMW X3 M40i
- Dodge Durango SRT
- Fiat 124 Abarth
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
- VW Jetta GLI
On To the Off-Road
The auto manufacturers also brought a few SUVs and trucks for off-road driving. The off-road course is intense, with a near-sheer drop off the mountain surrounding Willow Springs Raceway. There were several to choose from, and I opted for the Land Rover Discovery turbocharged V6 diesel. You want rock climbing in luxury? Look no further!
The off-road course offers some challenges
The permanent 4WD utilizes Land Rover’s All-Terrain Progress Control technology. When engaged, the air suspension lifts for an additional 2.95-inches of ground clearance, and the speed can be set for as slow as 1.2 mph for a safe and confident feeling using the Hill Descent Control. I say safe and confident because the rutted, scree we were descending, in a near straight down pitch, required this fantastic technology to get to the bottom of the hill without scratching the roof.
Next up was a visit to Willow Springs second and smaller track, the Streets Of Willow, where three cars were staged with factory, professional drivers that would provide white-knuckle hot laps.
Did someone say fast cars? And faster drivers
I had the opportunity to ride (maybe hang on is a better description!) with Patrick Long in the Porsche Panamera Executive AWD, Joel Miller in the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring and Adam Seaman thrashing a BMW M3. If you ever get the opportunity to have a professional driver, especially one from a factory race team, take you around a track in a high-performance car, don’t make the mistake of saying “no.” It is a blast!
The AWD Porsche Panamera Executive and the RWD BMW M3 were far more powerful cars than the RWD Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. So, while the rear end was sliding on the Porsche and BMW, the Mazda was controlled and smooth through the corners, and tracked like a MX-5 Miata is known to track.
It was fascinating to watch how each driver/car approached the corners differently, before all hitting the apex in the same place. As an automotive journalist, experiences with people that really really know how to handle a car are invaluable for my reviews.
The Real Test–Country Roads
To slow things down a bit as the day was coming to a close, I drove a few cars on the country roads surrounding Willow Springs Raceway.
- Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti
- Mini Countryman SE PHEV
- Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition
- Volvo V90
- VW Atlas
After all the excitement of driving on the tracks and off-road, it may seem a let-down to drive on regular roads, but this though could not be further from the truth. Even on a short drive, journalists can get a quick feel for a car they will later request for a longer-term loan.
We were glad to get a preview of the plug-in Mini
Clean Fleet Report tests cars from seven to ten days before we write a ‘Road Test’ review. This is the best way we know to give you, our readers, the best evaluation of a car so you can add it to your shopping consideration list. Therefore, full reviews on many of the listed cars will be posted on Clean Fleet Report in the coming months.
The auto manufacturers work hard to develop good relationships and communication with journalists. They know that without honest and objective reviews, getting out the word, to you the consumer, would be difficult at best. Clean Fleet Report thanks all the participating auto manufacturers that were part of the Motor Press Guild’s Willow Springs Track Day.
But Don’t Expect to Drive a Volvo EV Soon
Volvo Cars this week put a date on it. All of its vehicles beginning in 2019 will have some portion of electrification (such as a mild hybrid system), a move it said was “about the customer…we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.” Hakan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars specified that its whole range of cars would include full electrics, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid cars.
Volvo base electrification will be a mild hybrid system starting in 2019
The chief distinction of Volvo’s announcement was two-fold. They committed to introduce electrification in all vehicles and, they put a date on it. The announcement almost overshadowed the product announcements that accompanied it—Volvo plans to introduce five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021 (three Volvos and two from its performance Polestar sub-brand.
Internal combustion engines aren’t going away anytime soon, Samuelsson noted, since Volvo will also add a range of gasoline and diesel plug-in hybrids and mild hybrid 48-volt models. And the U.S. may not see all of these new models, even though it is one of Volvo’s most important markets (more on that later).
Join the Crowd
While Volvo used the announcement to dramatize its shift and also set some sales goals (one million electrified cars on the road by 2025), it is far from the only company shifting to more electric cars. Tesla, of course, builds only electric cars and they are direct competitors to Volvo models, but it is a small manufacturer. Toyota some time ago committed to producing hybrid versions of all of its models, though it has yet to fulfill that promise. GM and Ford lead the American market in plug-in models while European and Asian manufacturers are adding models at an accelerated rate.
Volvo already has its “twin engine” plug-in hybrid system available
In fact, Volvo in the U.S. has been a late-comer to the plug-in market and currently has only one model—it’s impressive XC90 SUV that is available as a plug-in hybrid. Volvo has already announced it was adding a second model, the XC60 PHEV, next year. It’s had similar models in Europe, including a diesel-electric hybrid, for several years.
The Chinese Connection
Coming in 2019 will be the first of five battery electric Volvos
Volvo Cars is a subsidiary of independent Chinese maker Geely and appears destined to become that company’s premium brand in China. With the Chinese government push for electrification, the Volvo decision makes even more sense. Having a fully electrified (or new energy as China classifies the technology) could give Geely a competitive advantage in its home country. Volvo’s current sales are roughly equal in the U.S. and China, but because of Chinese regulations it is likely many of the plug-in models may appear first and some may be exclusive to that market.
Going even partially electric is not without challenges. During the first six months of the year in the prime U.S. market Volvo sold only 807 plug-in cars out of its total sales of 34,105. The numbers are comparable to other automakers, but Volvo remains a niche vehicle in this country, where less than one percent of cars sold nationwide are pure electrics.
The Other News
Volvo’s announcement didn’t happen in a vacuum, of course. Within a week Tesla said it was moving up the start of production of its affordable EV, the Model 3, Nissan announced the next generation Leaf would debut in early September and General Motors said its all-electric, 200+-mile range Bolt would be available nationwide in August. Volvo will either ride the crest of a growing (though slow-growing) movement toward electrified vehicles or it may be brushed aside by some of these larger or more popular car makers ongoing juggernaut .Only time will tell.
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Subaru’s latest AWD model ups its MPG
The Wheels You Need with the Fuel Economy You Crave
So the scientists announced this last week (ed note: we originally wrote this three years ago–and updated it since–but the climate change news has not gotten any brighter in the intervening years) that the world has hit another milestone. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a concentration not seen for millions of years. While many in the environmental community might see this as the point at which personal transportation should be curtailed–starting with SUVs or Crossovers–it is clear the automotive market is not going to make such a quick shift.
Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are more popular than ever in 2017, even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward. The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.
Winging it…on electricity
All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere. The first electric SUV has appeared (after one short-lived version, the RAV4 EV was on the market for a brief time), but the Tesla Model X is out of most buyers’ price range. Plug-in hybrids are just hitting the market this year and more are promised, but again most are luxury first and SUV second. A few hybrid and clean diesel models are out there, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs. Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re use the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.
While cars, especially smaller ones, appear to be able to top the 40 mpg mark without much difficulty and are pushing even higher with plug-in models, AWD and 4WD models, with extra hardware and usually a larger size, have historically found 30 mpg on the highway a tough mark. No more. We’ve got an EV and several plug-ins that boast sophisticated technology that offers welcome progress on the MPG front. The downside is all this new hardware comes at a serious premium. But not far down the list are gasoline-powered models delivering mid-30s fuel economy.
The numbers are based on the federal fuel economy tests, so of course your mileage will vary. We’ve updated this list and pruned out some of the two-wheel-drive interlopers. We expect this list to keep growing, offering mpg-conscious car buyers even more options.
The Top 10 SUVs/Crossovers
1. 95 MPGe – Tesla Model X EV – So how does almost 100 mpg sound for an SUV? Is that worth $70 or $80,000? Tesla’s foray into the SUV space is an all-wheel-drive, all-electric crossover with seating for seven adults and their luggage. It is based off of Tesla’s Model S sedan (which it now outsells) and features two electric motors (of varying sizes depending on the model) and a variety battery pack sizes and performance levels. Oh, and it also has gull-wing (falcon in Tesla parlance) doors. And loads of tech features, including fairly sophisticated self-driving capability. The car will deliver about 250 miles of range in the high-end model; 220 in the “entry-level” model. When we did a brief test drive, we were impressed. The Toyota RAV4 EV was the first SUV with a plug, but in two iterations it only had a brief run and totaled about 3,000 vehicles. Tesla passed that mark in its first year on the market and continues crank them out of its Fremont plant.
Tesla Model X
2. 56 MPGe BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV – BMW took its most popular SUV and added a plug. It seems simple, but the process entailed added technology. Thankfully, BMW has not subtracted any of the positive attributes of its all-wheel-drive SUV. Forget to plug in and you’re back to mid-20s fuel economy. It has 14 miles of all-electric range augmented by more than 300 horsepower of gasoline-fueled power, which is helpful if you’ve carrying a full three rows of passengers. We have a review of this model.
3. 53 MPGe – Volvo XC90 AWD PHEV – The first plug-in Volvo has arrived. We saw it some time ago and are pleased that it has been delivered intact with great fuel economy along with all of the usual Volvo safety equipment and great wagon space. Without plugging in the fuel economy drops to the mid-20s. It’s all-electric range is about 14 miles. A week in the wagon reinforced out initial impression.
4. 50 MPGe – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – The latest addition to the plug-in SUV crowd comes from Mercedes-Benz. This five-passenger SUV can shut down its 400+ horsepower V-6 biturbo engine and move on electric power to maximize fuel economy. Its default mode is a hybrid drive that will shift from gas to electric power.
5. 47 MPGe – Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid PHEV – To offset some performance models with less-than-stellar fuel economy, Porsche is leading the way by offering plug-in versions that promise enhanced MPG. The company’s SUV adds an electric motor than can give 16 miles of EV range. On gas alone the car is in the low 20s MPG.
2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
6. Tie 34 MPG – Nissan Rogue Hybrid/Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – In case there was any question about the competitive nature of the automotive market, these two models should settle the debate. Locked into a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the hot compact class of crossover, both companies have added hybrid systems to their hot-selling small SUVs. Its working as both effortlessly deliver stellar fuel economy a the no-fuss hybrid system that makes most of the decisions for the driver. The market loves them, too, (in hybrid and non-hybrid mode) as in early 2017 both models are among the top-selling models in the U.S. We tested both here, here and here.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Lexus NX 300h – A new entry takes a top spot as Toyota fields a hybrid version of the RAV4 with a Lexus badge. The fuel economy numbers are for city driving. As is typical of hybrids, it gives you more MPG around town than out on the highway (31 highway and 33 combined). These numbers are for the two-wheel-drive version; moving all four wheels knocks off one or two MPG. We tested it when it first came out and found it a competent machine.
Lexus NX 300h
8. Tie 33 MPG – Honda CR-V – Honda’s best-selling crossover tops 30 MPG with all-wheel-drive on board. We’ve driven this compact utility several times and find it a real winner in its class, coming in only a shade below hybridized versions of its competition. Since it isn’t a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, it also has an edge in affortability.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Jaguar F-Pace – It’s highly unusual for a Jaguar to show up on the best-MPG list, but the F-Pace is something a little different. Jaguar added an efficient clean diesel engine to bump its fuel economy into the range of usually more efficient but smaller crossovers. We’ve experienced the engine in a sedan and believe it should deliver some solid performance for this new entry.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Subaru XV Crosstrek – Subaru continues to test the market with vehicles that depart from its typical cars. The Crosstrek has a 2-liter version of the traditional (for Subaru) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower when paired with the CVT automatic. It bumps up the MPG of the popular Crosstrek.
Just missing the Top 10 mpg mark are a half-dozen models
Not that long ago 30 mpg for an all-wheel-drive vehicles was unheard of. As you can see above, it is quickly becoming the ticket of entry in this class of vehicles. The variety of models is astounding and the range of features runs the gamut from affordable small crossovers to SUVs capable of carrying more than a family of four and taking the group well off the highway.
We used the federal fuel economy numbers from the EPA at to rank these models. Lurking just below the Top 10 (which of course is actually 11 models) are a variety of vary capable cars, all of which come in 4WD with a variety of engine options. Ones to check out are the Mazda CX-3, Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, Honda HR-V, Nissan Murano Hybrid, Buick Encore, Subaru Forester, Mercedes-Benz GLA250, Infiniti QX30, Subaru Outback, Audi Q5 Hybrid, Chevrolet Trax, BMW X1 xDrive, Jeep Renegade and Toyota Highlander Hybrid for some other 30+ MPG cars. The variety has never been greater.
And coming soon:
The onslaught of new models focused on fuel efficiency will continue as automakers strive to reach fuel economy and greenhouse gas targets set by governments around the world. Models announced, but not yet introduced include plug-in versions of several more BMW and Mercedes SUVs. We’ve also been waiting for the U.S. introduction of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is already on the market in Japan and Europe. It’s expected to have 20-25 miles of all-electric range and could turn in mpge (mileage factoring in the electric range) well above 50.
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