Nov 302021
 
Volvo Cars XC90 Recharge
Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 AWD.

By Andy Stonehouse

After an exciting time in the sizeable Volvo V90 Wagon last fall, I had expected the real, actual SUV version of Volvo’s full-size automobile category to seem impossibly huge, ponderous, and disconnected—kind of like a Swedish Chevy Tahoe. This was not the case with the XC90, except it also was. It’s smaller sibling, the XC60, was more fun to drive.

Volvo’s Flagship SUV, the XC90

XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid

XC90 Plug-In Hybrid Inscription T8 – Seat Configuration

The XC90 is indeed a long and impressively styled and sculpted vehicle, with marvelous details and a very striking set of optional 21-inch glossy wheels to tie it all together. From the outside, it’s a little more obvious that it contains three comfortable rows of six or seven seats where the passengers at the very back get leg room, cargo bins and full amenities.

The newer XC90 T8 Recharge, the 400-horsepower plug-in electric hybrid version of the SUV, belies its moderately grand scale when planted in the driver’s seat. The ride height is more equivalent to a small SUV from other brands, while the cabin does feel broader and more open thanks to the extra head space.

As for that ultra-fancy Recharge hybrid system—my Inscription-level T8 started at $69,750 but was rounded up to a slightly gasp-inducing $81,690 with a gigantic list of options including a $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system—well, you get what you pay for, for the most part, though impressive mileage you do not and will not get.

Volvo has emphasized pure power here and the 400 horsepower and 472 lb.–ft. of torque are more Porsche-like, at least on paper, especially with just a 2.0-liter as the main gasoline power source—turbocharged and supercharged to make 313 horses on its own, before the electric boost kicks in.

What I did notice more than anything, besides a pretty mediocre 24.2 overall MPG (it’s rated at 27 combined highway and city MPG by the EPA), was a lot of odd noises, gurgles, inconsistent power delivery and an operating experience that clearly was going to take some getting used to. Even the Orefors crystal gear shifter knob required multiple taps forward or backward to officially get into gear; the learning curve there was a little steep.

Cruising along in the XC90 was no problem, though the gas/electric power handoffs were a little jagged. Properly charged, in warm weather, with the wind blowing the right direction, you are said to have a full … 18 miles of all-electric range?

That’s disappointing, to say the least, especially since it’s such a classy and dignified vehicle, with razor-sharp suspension. It’s stunningly outfitted in leather seating, a fantastic stereo and hand-stitched console, and dash and door inserts that are even more beautiful than in the V90.

The vertically-oriented Sensus navigation/touchscreen system used to seem enormous before Ram started putting full flatscreen TVs aboard their trucks. Volvo’s is easy to use, with a purist simplicity embodied by one knob.

The XC90’s Spritely Sibling, the XC60

Volvo XC60 Recharge

If you’d like a hybrid experience that actually delivers, the one-size smaller XC60 Recharge, base priced at $61,000 and tested at $71,340, channels that very same powertrain into a more sprightly, responsive and semi-decent mileage kind of situation.

Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 IP display.

Besides the slightly hovercraft-styled reality of the vehicle’s four-corner air suspension system, which set itself down on top of curbs when I parked a couple of times, the 60 seems like a more practical use of the electrified platform. That air system is also helpful if you do want to go lightly off-roading, as it will give you significant lift when you want it.

It’s still 400 horsepower, it’s still got just about 19 miles of full-electric range, but I found it easier to push the mileage into the 30-MPG range, depending on how hard you drive it.

All that electric boost shows up more tangibly here and adds extra oomph to what I believe is one of the most pleasant crossovers of its size category— like the 90, it’s super stylish, comfortable and still utilitarian, with a little less of the pure mass.

It’s also more devoid of the shudder, the ambiguity and the disconnected feeling as the hybrid shifts and blends between electric kick and regular gas-engine wallop.

Design is fantastic, from its ultra-anatomical, perforated leather seats and the cream-colored cabin. The dash is low and flat and the A-pillars thin, though the boxy, oversized side mirrors can get in the way of some visibility, and rear headrests can be automatically dropped to provide clearer rear vision.

Rear seating will still accommodate most passengers, though the cabin is a bit more plain back there, with B-pillar mounted air conditioning and heating vents. You’ll also find reasonable storage space (63.3 cubic feet, total), though the under-deck space is largely used up by batteries and the air bottles for the optional lift system.    

Sí: One of the classiest, most attractive and least gawd-awful-gigantic full-size SUVs around, loaded with technology, and simply wonderful to just sit aboard. The kind of car you wish you would get when you grow up.

No: Volvo’s ambitious and aggressive move to an all-electric fleet might start with hybrids, but an almost $82,000 hybrid that gets 24 MPG isn’t impressing anyone.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Golden, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested.

Hybrid Review: 2021 Honda Accord

 Honda, Reviews  Comments Off on Hybrid Review: 2021 Honda Accord
Jun 062021
 

By Andy Stonehouse

I managed, somewhat accidentally, to provide perhaps the most harsh real-world test for one of Honda’s two new hybrids, the 2021 Accord: a bone-chilling -11 degree F snap we experienced out in Colorado in February, part of the system that walloped Texas and much of the South and Southeast. One would not think that an amply-sized, electrically-enhanced, Ohio-made family hybrid sedan such as the Accord would respond well to that kind of thing, but it did, with aplomb.

After a night in actually sub-zero temperatures, it started right up and continued doing what it had been doing before the cold, getting 48 miles per gallon (MPG) both in city and highway driving. Overall, the hybrid variant of the new Accord boasts a 600-mile range between fill-ups.

That’s a pretty impressive figure for a $37,435 vehicle (as-tested price in the top-of-the-line Touring trim level) I felt had more physically in common with an old Ford Crown Victoria than Accords I remember from the past.  Redesigned in 2018, the tenth-generation Accord is indeed a large and comfortable cruiser, and despite producing just 212 horsepower from its electrical setup, it climbed hills and even offered some sporty-lite careening capabilities.

For the most part, the hybrid aspect remains absolutely invisible, with absolutely no complicated power handoffs when the car switches between generator and engine power. Its system uses a clutch to enable a direct transmission link when the gasoline motor kicks in.

Handling feels tangibly solid with slightly heavy steering. The suspension is also exceptionally stiff and the vehicle rolls very flat and smooth.

You can play with the amount of regenerative braking using control buttons, especially while headed downhill; oddly, the Accord is only configured to offer a single mile’s range in all-electric mode, as that is apparently not a priority for Honda customers right now.

That’s maybe a slightly odd move, given every other manufacturer’s ambitious attempts to offer longer-range, plug-in hybrid options, but Honda is still pushing hydrogen power as its Moon Shot technology. At 48 MPG, the Accord already sort of seems like it’s running on electricity, so why mess around with expensive and complicated batteries, for now?

There’s also a bit of juxtaposition in design as the Accord offers increasingly sporty lines and an overall look that borders on flashy. The gleaming samurai sword on the grille, swept headlamps and open-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, plus chrome-edged lower body bulges for better aerodynamics. Inside, however, you won’t find the glitz and glow of an Acura, but you’ll still be impressed by the somewhat sedate, soft-touch interior and broad seating. There are acres of legroom in the back.

I also managed to finally sit down and pre-configure the large Display Audio infotainment screen for easier use while driving; during other drives I was unable to even find the digital XM Radio controls, and spent a lot of dangerous time poking the screen. Set up all of that before you drive and it’s really seamless and easy to use.

Hybrid data geeks (with families to cart around) will appreciate what seemed to be about 25 different system metrics and readouts in the left bezel of the instrument display.

Pricing for the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid starts at $27,565.

Sí: Wow, the mileage. Mileage other hybrids only dream about, 48 MPG, almost consistently, in a very large and comfortable vehicle, not a weird little econo-box.

No: While it’s really flashy outside, the new Accord remains pretty boring indoors. There is not an ounce of drama in the dash and cabin design. But, as one of America’s best-selling cars of all time, maybe that’s the plan.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Golden, Colorado.

Hybrid Launch: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

 Launches  Comments Off on Hybrid Launch: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
Apr 082018
 

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

By Lyndon Conrad Bell

Completing the trifecta that is Honda’s Clarity lineup, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid joins the Clarity Fuel Cell and Clarity Electric Vehicle (EV). Latino Traffic Report recently attended the launch in Calistoga, CA.

If it looks suspiciously like Honda is angling to get a foothold in the electrification business, this is indeed the case. The company predicts electrified passenger cars will comprise two-thirds of global sales by 2030. Like its Clarity siblings, the Plug-in Hybrid version of the five-passenger sedan delivers premium appointments, an exceptionally quiet and smooth demeanor, and outstanding fuel economy.

For an automobile with a footprint similar to Honda’s flagship Accord sedan, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 42 miles per gallon and 47 miles on electricity alone. Even better, you can see this kind of range driving perfectly normally. The powertrain produces a total system output of 212 horsepower and 232 lb.–ft. of torque.

You also have the flexibility of choosing to cruise around town on electrons, while only burning dino juice out on the highway. This, in fact is the most efficient use of the powertrain. Gasoline engines deliver their best fuel economy at cruising speed on the highway and fall down when forced to deal with stop-and-go city driving. Electric motors have no such qualms. You can also set the powertrain to recharge the battery when you’re on the highway, so you have full charge with which to negotiate city streets when you arrive in town.

 

With seating for five adults, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid (as does the entire Clarity family) falls firmly into the mid-sized sedan category. Yes, the rear middle passenger will be in hip contact with seatmates, but there’s more than adequate leg and headroom. Ingress and egress are easy too. What’s more, trunk space solidly approaches generous.

As impressive as all the above is, Clarity’s quiet will absolutely blow you away. Even when the gasoline engine is powered up, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it’s running.

With all of that said, let’s address the 400-pound gorilla that is Clarity’s styling. Yes, it’s solidly inline with the contemporary Honda family, but regardless of the angle from which you view the sedan, this is one frumpy-looking car. Yes, we understand those rear fender skirts improve the aerodynamics, and yes, we know all of those slots and vents in the body are functional too. But this is an exterior design very few people (if any) will characterize as lovely.

Meanwhile, the interior is one of the nicest we’ve ever seen in a Honda. In fact, they could’ve badged Clarity an Acura and we would’ve been just as impressed. High quality finishes abound. Handsome shapes please the eye and the ergonomics are outstanding. Well, except for the audio system. Honda still insists on going knob-less in that regard and we’re solidly in the, “Oh, no not again,” camp. Would it kill them to give us rotating dial for the volume and tuning controls?

However, this is the only real issue we could find inside the beautifully turned out sedan. What’s more, you can feel good about it, because 80 percent of the materials are either recycled or originate from sustainable sources. When Honda says its down for doing its best to ensure blue skies for our children, moves like these leave us believing they’re serious about it.

Pricing for the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid starts at $33,400

 

Minivan Review: Chrysler Pacifica

 Chrysler, Reviews  Comments Off on Minivan Review: Chrysler Pacifica
Nov 232017
 

From features to specs, the first in class sets a new benchmark in the auto industry and that’s usually a good thing for consumers. Introduced in 2016, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid goes where no minivan has gone before. On a recent test drive of the Pacifica Platinum for Latino Traffic Report, it did indeed go much farther while using less gas.

The Pacifica stirred controversy when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) opted to resurrect its name for the Chrysler minivan, replacing the Town and Country. Once introduced, however, it quickly made amends, named the 2017 North American Sport Utility Vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. A trailblazer in the minivan segment, FCA US added 37 minivan firsts to its portfolio for a total of 115 innovations in the segment.

With plug-ins, however, there’s a trade-off—the longer the electric range, the longer it takes to recharge, especially using a 120-volt outlet in the garage. On paper the Pacifica’s all-electric range of 30–33 miles on electric energy seemed limited, but the minivan recharged overnight and on the test drive, the range didn’t dissipate as soon as I pressed the gas, as others have. It held true and on some occasions recharged to extend the range so that the Pacifica rarely needed to switch to gasoline power.

The plug-in should earn an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 32 miles per gallon (mpg) and 84 mpge using electric power. I averaged 37.2 mpg and during the test-drive.

Its powertrain consists of a dual-motor eFlite electrically variable transmission (EVT) with two electric motors matched to a modified version of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gasoline engine. Rather than take up cargo space, the 16-kWh battery pack is stored under the second-row floor. Setting itself apart from other hybrids, the Pacifica uses a one-way clutch that allows the motor, typically used only as a generator, to deliver torque to the wheels, depending on driving conditions.

Standard safety features add value on family vehicles. On the Pacifica plug-in hybrid they include three of my favorites­—a blind-spot monitor, rear park assist with stop, and a rear backup camera. The Platinum that I drove added forward collision warning-plus, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree Surround View camera, among other features.

Standard created comforts begin with a beautifully appointed interior inspired by Juneau, Alaska with ivory leather seats, blue accent stitching and black piping, heated front seats, remote start, three-zone climate control, a seven-inch full color customizable driver information display, and the Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen.

The test model was the Platinum top-of-the-line trim (trims change for 2018 to Touring Plus, Touring L, and Limited) and included a rear entertainment system, ventilated front seats, the available tri-pane panoramic sunroof ($1,795), and a handsfree power tailgate and power sliding doors, On the down side, the captains chairs did not fold flat into the floor like the innovative Stow N’Go third-row seat, limiting cargo carrying ability.

Pricing for the 2017 Pacifica plug-in hybrid starts at $43,090 but it also qualifies for a full $7,500 federal tax credit. The as-tested pricing came to $47,885.

Sí: The Pacifica plug-In hybrid is a great step forward in the minivan segment plus the battery holds the electric charge better than others.

No: Seating is heavy and clunky to maneuver, and even if the second row seats are removed, that solution is super outdated.

 

SUV Launch: 2018 Volvo XC60

 Launches  Comments Off on SUV Launch: 2018 Volvo XC60
Oct 152017
 

Determined to end deaths or serious injury in a Volvo vehicle by the year 2020, the Swedish automaker encroaches on that goal with every new model or redesign. The 2018 version of the XC60 mid-size utility vehicle (SUV), for example, gets three new collision avoidance safety features. I recently drove the XC60 at the launch in Barcelona, Spain for Latino Traffic Report. For those who haven’t been to Barcelona, imagine San Francisco—the two are strikingly similar. That backdrop would complement any car, but the 2018 XC60 stood out for its own assets, i.e. beautiful design combined with cutting edge safety and powertrain technology.

The midsize SUV has been a popular addition to the Volvo lineup. According to Volvo, over one million XC60s have been sold globally since it was introduced in 2008 and the vehicle represents 30 percent of Volvo Cars’ global sales.

Car buyers already benefit from Volvo safety innovations, like the three-point seat belt or the Blind Spot Indication System (BLIS). New safety updates on the XC60’s Intellisafe City Safety system include Oncoming Lane Mitigation that uses steering assistance to prevent drivers from changing lanes into other vehicles. Steering assistance has also been applied to BLIS for the new XC60. It may feel like a “ghost in the machine” but when tested in Spain, the nudge it provides is just enough to get the driver’s attention but not so strong as to be alarming. They join standard City Safety features like pedestrian, cyclist, vehicle, and large animal detection. BLIS, however, remains optional, but we were informed at the launch that it will be a standard feature on future models. For added security, Volvo On Call with remote engine start is standard on all models for four years.

The XC60 also includes Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous feature from Volvo. It helps with steering, braking, and acceleration on roads at speeds up to 80 miles per hour, like adaptive cruise control but without needing a car in front of it to follow. According to Volvo, it’s intended to reduce stress in “stop-and-go commuter traffic.”

Safety isn’t all that Volvo improves upon. The striking but utilitarian Scandinavian design on every model gets better and better. On the 2018 XC60, designers used driftwood to inspire wood interior accents on the Inscription trim level. According to Thomas Ingenlath,
senior vice president, design Volvo Cars: “Driftwood is a material formed by the sea and colored by exposure to salt and the extreme temperatures of our unique geography. Driftwood’s naturally silvered surface is an entirely new treatment that is alive with subtle colors and texture.”

For the test drive, we drove the T6 Inscription with the Luxury Seat Package that included heated and ventilated massaging front seats, heated rear seats, a power cushion extension on the front seats, a colorful 12.3-inch driver display for the digital instrument cluster, keyless entry, door handle illumination, and a hands free power liftgate.

To improve the ride, the XC60 sits on a new double wishbone front suspension for reduced torque and understeer and rear-wheel suspension with an integral link design. The available air suspension on the T6 and T8 features automatic leveling for improved ride stability as well as speed dependent steering, active dampers, and a Drive Mode selector with Comfort, Dynamic, ECO, Individual, and Off Road settings. All-wheel drive is standard on all XC60s.

Standard creature comforts include leather seats, a nine-inch Sensus screen that also provides a clear vantage when utilizing the standard backup camera, a panoramic sunroof, multi-zone climate control, and 4G LTE connectivity with in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. It offers seating for five and 63.3 cubic feet of cargo with rear seats folded, a loss of about four inches from the previous XC60.

Two remarkable four-cylinder engines power the new XC60, a turbo 2.0-liter with 250 horsepower and 258 ft.–lb. of torque on the T5 base model, a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter with 315 horsepower and 295 ft.–lb. of torque on the T6. Super peppy and responsive, the engine belies its size, particularly on the T6 driven at the launch. The T5, however, should be the most fuel efficient, besides the Hybrid (see below) with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Pricing for the 2018 XC60 starts at $42,495. The as-tested pricing was about $53,795.

The 2018 XC60 launch took place in Barcelona, but the actual test drive headed into the surrounding countryside. While the route held certain challenges, like distracting Catalonian vistas and road signs en español, I knew the XC60 had my back.

—Valerie Menard

The new Volvo XC60 T8

Volvo Completes XC60 Lineup with the T8 Hybrid Launch

Volvo sees the future of cars as being electric and self-driving, and the 2018 XC60 T8 electric/hybrid is an early favorite in what will be a very competitive field. Recently launched in Denver, CO, the T8 hybrid is powered by a four-cylinder twin engine that delivers 400 hp and 472 ft.–lb. of torque matched to an electric motor and lithium ion battery. It has an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 59 mpge.

To enhance ride and handling, the Hybrid model offers six  drive modes—Hybrid, Power, Pure, Individual, Off-Road, and AWD.

I had the opportunity to spend some time in the T8 trim, which really is worth considering if electric power is important to you. Be advised, the T8 is great for highway driving, beautiful for a ride, impressive on the inside and out, but not racing. It handled beautifully at the launch, as it went through curves and challenges all along the Rocky Mountains. The power, however, is a bit crimped and stalled, but that’s how these electric/hybrid types are. You don’t get from electricity what you get from gas, and that can be a bit disappointing to your ears and your heart.

Clearly, the Swedes are taking aim at impressive luxury crossovers like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. The market for these vehicles is very competitive and promises to get even more so, but that’s great for buyers who today have more choices than ever before. All this and all the luxury and precision for which Volvo is known is on full display here.

On sale now, pricing starts at $53,895.

—Sammy Gomez

Car Review: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Long-term Part 2

 Honda, Reviews  Comments Off on Car Review: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Long-term Part 2
Jul 302017
 

Despite predictions to the contrary, gasoline-electric hybrids have carved a niche in the automotive industry. According to hybridcars.com, the first to market in the United States in this segment was Honda with the 1999 Insight. Since then, the Insight has come and gone, twice, but Honda continues to bring hybrids to the lineup. I spent three months in the 2017 Accord Hybrid Touring for Latino Traffic Report and the most important thing to know is that this hybrid saves gas, in fact it’s the best in the segment.

Long-term test drives beg for a car to be driven, so I did, more than 5,000 miles over Texas highways, to small towns, like Burnet and Bryan, and big cities, like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. It’s a comfy ride over the long haul and nimble enough to scoot through traffic.

While its fuel economy is stellar, the hybrid’s styling also deserves a mention. Redesigned for 2016, the Accord took on a more sculpted, angular appearance, Marking the Accord’s fortieth anniversary, Honda introduced its sibling, the hybrid that benefits from the Accord’s new look while adding enhancements under the hood.

At the heart of its fuel saving ability is its two-motor hybrid system combined with an ultra-efficient 2.0-liter i-VTEC Atkinson Cycle engine and matched to an electric continuously variable transmission. It achieves a peak-combined output of 212 horsepower, the highest of any midsize hybrid sedan.

Initially, the test model proved to be more fuel efficient in cities than on highways, which is as is should be according to its EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 49 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 47 mpg on the highway. Over time, however, fuel economy on the highway also improved, especially with cruise control engaged. I averaged about 48.5 mpg in three months—city and highway combined. When it comes to cost, I spent more than $300 on gasoline.

I engaged the Econ button that can be used at all times, as well as an EV button that operates the hybrid on electric power for small distances, to maximize efficiency. For more power, I pushed the Sport mode button that gave the hybrid better acceleration.

Displays in the instrument cluster and center stack, including a seven-inch touchscreen, helped me maintain gas saving driving habits, like coasting and accelerating smoothly from a stop. While I found them to be helpful, they also raised a little anxiety when the fuel economy slipped.

All Accord Hybrids come with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety features with advanced technology like forward collision warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control that allows the driver to set a distance behind a vehicle that cruise control maintains, automatically.

I never grew accustomed to Honda’s LaneWatch camera, also standard, that can be engaged with the turn signal to view the blind spot on the right. The picture wasn’t that clear, especially at night, and focusing made it distracting. A blind spot monitor, available on other Honda models, would be preferable.

Creature comforts included Ivory leather seats, with heated seats in the front and back, navigation, dual-zone climate control (Honda seems to have addressed the air conditioning system’s habit of fading at stops in previous hybrids), a moonroof, and a multi-view back-up camera. I got used to the lack of knobs for volume control and put the CD player and the MP3 USB port to good use on several road trips.

Pricing for the Accord starts at $30,480. Pricing for the as-tested 2017 Accord Hybrid was $36,790.

Sí: The Accord Hybrid Touring achieved what’s expected of a hybrid, it saved gas, but it also came in a handsome package with nice creature comforts.

No: Honda LaneWatch just doesn’t have the intuitiveness of a blind spot warning system and the lack of clarity on the screen is distracting.

FCA Recalls Certain 2017 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

 Recalls  Comments Off on FCA Recalls Certain 2017 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Jun 252017
 

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling certain 2017 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicles (PHEV) for two issues.

• The affected vehicles have diodes in the Power Inverter Module (“PIM”) that may fail due to an overvoltage condition. If the diodes fail, the vehicle will not move under its own power.

• The tire placard on the affected vehicles incorrectly lists the seating capacity as six occupants rather then seven occupants, with a combined weight of 950lbs rather than 1,100lbs. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.”

A vehicle that suddenly cannot be driven, increases the risk of a crash and the incorrect tire label may cause customer confusion, potentially resulting in vehicle overloading, increasing the risk of a crash.

Chrysler has not yet finalized its remedy plans for the PIM recall. The recall is expected to begin on July 24, 2017. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall is T34.

Regarding the tire placard, Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace tire placard label, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin July 28, 2017. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall is T37.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Vehicle Launch: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, Electric, and Plug-in Hybrid

 Launches  Comments Off on Vehicle Launch: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, Electric, and Plug-in Hybrid
Jun 092017
 

Like it or not (Mr. President), the clean energy train has left the station, which means alternative fuel vehicles will continue to arrive at a dealership near you. This year Hyundai bolstered that prediction with the introduction of its all-new hybrid, the 2017 Ioniq. Latino Traffic Report recently attended the regional launch in Durham, North Carolina to drive not one, not two, but all three versions.

Rather than wait years to complete the lineup, Hyundai will build three powertrains on one dedicated platform, the Ioniq Hybrid, Electric (with a range of 124 miles), and a Plug-in Hybrid (available in 2018). All three were at the launch where they performed nicely, and like the name, a cross between “ion and unique,” the Ioniqs displayed distinctive good looks.

Ioniq Electric

I appreciated its sporty accents, like LED daytime running lights, and while the arched roofline may resemble that of other hybrids, it’s a functional necessity to maximize aerodynamics and achieve an industry-leading 0.24 coefficient of drag.

According to WardsAuto, in the United States, “Total EV sales grew to 79,915 units from 72,374 in 2015. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales, counted in a separate category, totaled 71,329 units, up 63 percent from 43,815 in 2015, and hybrid sales totaled 373,359 units in 2016, up from 341,792 in 2015.” Hyundai believes that millennials will energize the market further, increasing sales, according to Brandon Ramirez, senior group manager, product planning at Hyundai Motor America.

A recent addition to the segment, the Ioniq gets the benefit of bringing up the rear, improving on what the first hybrids started, like offering the best combined fuel economy in its class, 58 miles per gallon (mpg) with the Ioniq Blue trim (non-Blue trims should achieve 55 mpg combined). At the launch, I averaged 51 mpg with the Ioniq Hybrid Limited trim. A new 1.6-liter direct-injected Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine powers the Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrids, delivering an estimated 104 horsepower and an estimated 109 lbs.–ft. of torque. On the Hybrid, it’s matched to a quick-shifting six-speed double-clutch transmission, an electric motor that delivers an estimated 43 horsepower with an estimated maximum torque of 125 lbs.–ft., and a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery (with a lifetime warranty). With an 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, the Plug-in Hybrid provides an all-electric range (before the gas-powered engine kicks in) of more than 27 miles while the Ioniq Electric offers an estimated driving range of 124 miles with a 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery . Mated to a single-speed reduction-gear transmission, the electric motor has a maximum output of 118 horsepower and 218 lbs.–ft. of torque. The Ioniq Electric has an EPA-estimated 136 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) rating, better than any electric vehicle sold in the U.S.

Range anxiety plus the length of time needed to charge can discourage potential buyers. The Ioniq may offer some solutions. Charging the Ioniq Electric to 80 percent should take approximately 23 minutes using an SAE Combo Level-3 DC, 100 kW fast charger. An integrated In-Cable Control Box also allows drivers to charge their Ioniq using a standard household electric socket.

Enhancing the car’s fuel efficiency and dynamic driving characteristics, the driver can select either SPORT or ECO modes. On the launch, the SPORT mode did add oomph but it was the Plug-in Hybrid and Electric models that offered noticeably smoother rides.

The Ioniq reflects a deeper commitment to green from Hyundai with its use of recycled or ecologically-sensitive materials, like interior door covers made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone.

Innovations continue on the inside with a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster that displays all gauge functions and Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system, which is standard on the Electric model for three years. Placing the battery underneath the rear seats also adds extra passenger space on the Ioniq hybrid, an estimated 122.7 cubic feet and best-in-class cargo of 26.5 cubic feet, plus it gives the Ioniq a lower center of gravity for better road hugging. Handy features, like a rearview camera are standard, but safety technology, like a blindspot warning system, remain optional, even on the more expensive Electric model.

Looking to the future, Hyundai and the all-new Ioniq will continue to attract consumers to the green car segment. Pricing for the Hybrid and Electric (pricing for the Plug-in was not available) models should start at $23,035 and $30,335 respectively, and the Electric will be eligible for government tax credits of $7,500, according to the IRS.  

Ioniq Hybrid

 

Long-term Car Review: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid, Part 1

 Honda, Reviews  Comments Off on Long-term Car Review: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid, Part 1
Jan 302017
 

As gas prices begin to creep up, consumers needn’t worry. No matter who heads the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the current administration, California, the number-one car market in the country according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, will require carmakers to reduce emissions, which means hybrids will continue to offer fuel-saving options for years to come. While they still make up just a fraction of new car sales, hybrids have grown in availability and configurations, from compacts to luxury sport utility vehicles. Latino Traffic Report will spend the next three months with one in particular, the all-new 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring.

It arrived in December and on a first impression, the Accord Hybrid is a looker. Honda redesigned the Accord for 2016 and the all-new hybrid, introduced last year, shares its sheet metal, plus it also benefits from its reputation. The top-selling car for the last three years in the United States, the Accord was just named “10 Best” for the thirty-first time by Car and Driver, an unprecedented honor for any vehicle. But as the name implies, the model I’m driving is a hybrid and its fuel-saving powertrain is its centerpiece.

The Accord Hybrid’s two-motor hybrid system combined with an ultra-efficient 2.0-liter i-VTEC Atkinson Cycle engine is matched to an electric continuously variable transmission. It achieves a peak-combined output of 212 horsepower, the highest of any midsize hybrid sedan.

Like many hybrids, it performs better in city traffic than on the highway—it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 49 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 47 mpg on the highway. I’m averaging about 47 mpg so far—I actually gained mileage on the highway once heading north on IH35.

To maximize fuel efficiency, there’s an Econ button that can be used at all times, as well as an EV button that when engaged, operates the hybrid on electric power only for small distances. When I need more power, I push the Sport mode button to give the hybrid a noticeable amount of giddy-up.

While the fuel economy will undoubtedly be its best feature, the Accord Hybrid also sits at the top of the Accord lineup, and the Touring trim is the top-of-the-line. As such, it comes very well-equipped, starting with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety features with advanced technology like adaptive cruise control that allows the driver to set and maintain certain a distance behind a vehicle,  forward collision warning, and lane keep assist.

Multiview back-up camera

Honda’s innovative LaneWatch camera can be engaged with the turn signal for views of the blind spot when changing lanes to the right. The picture isn’t that clear, however, and focusing can make it distracting. Though currently not available, a blind spot monitor would be preferable.

Creature comforts on this model include leather seats, with heated seats in the front and back, a touch sensitive seven-inch display screen with an additional display screen on top of that, navigation, a moonroof, and a multiview back-up camera. I’m getting used to the lack of knobs for volume control and tuning and while this model should come with SiriusXM satellite radio, it isn’t activated. It does, however, include a CD player—a happy surprise. I’ve put it and the MP3 USB port to use on road trips to San Antonio, Bryan, Houston, and Dallas.

Pricing for the Accord starts at $30,480. Pricing for the as-tested 2017 Accord Hybrid is $36,790.

Stay tuned for a final review later in the year.

Hybrid Review: 2016 Lexus ES 300h

 Lexus, Reviews  Comments Off on Hybrid Review: 2016 Lexus ES 300h
Dec 082016
 

What Toyota began with its first hybrid, the Prius, it has taken to a whole new level with Lexus. Considered up-level models for most segments, hybrids would seem to provide a natural incentive for luxury brands to dive into the green pool. Lexus led the way in 2005 when it introduced the RX 400h. I recently drove the 2016 ES 300h, one of a family of six Lexus hybrid models, for Latino Traffic Report. As expected, it saves gas but with added style and grace.

Refreshed for 2016, the ES 300h sports a design makeover that includes a new, bolder spindle grille, built from a one-piece version and framed by a satin chrome trim. Also fully redesigned, the front fascia puts the fog lights at the corners to accentuate the wide stance.

The signature hybrid system combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine with an electric motor to generate 200 total system horsepower. It runs on an electric motor or gas engine alone, or a combination of both, depending on the driving situation. Like most hybrids, it gives the driver a real-time view of its functionality with the Hybrid System Indicator. The display can also encourage fuel-efficient driving habits.

The electronic continuously variable transmission further enhances the hybrid’s performance with a drive mode option that allows the driver to choose among four modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and EV. The hybrid does lack oomph, however, even in Sport mode.

No review of a hybrid can ignore fuel economy. The ES 300h has EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 40 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. I achieved an average fuel economy of 36.9 mpg.

The test model came well-equipped with safety features, but at a price. Most of the them were optional, starting with the Lexus Safety System+ Package ($1,015) that included the Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam, and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

The Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert is a stand alone option and well worth the extra $500. Still, at this price point, it would be nice if more of these features were included as standard equipment. Apparently, Lexus thought so too and for 2017, the Lexus Safety System+ will be standard.

Happily Lexus Enform Safety Connect, is standard on all 2016 Lexus vehicles, with access to Lexus Enform response centers 24/7/365.

Standard creature features included a ten-way adjustable power front seat, automatic dual-zone climate control, NuLuxe perforated upholstery, a power tilt-and-slide moonroof, Smart Access door unlock with push button start, a premium audio system with a CD player, Bluetooth, and Siri Eyes-free Mode. Added options included a heated wood and leather steering wheel ($450), Intuitive Parking Assist ($500), and the nifty one touch power trunk ($400), similar to a power liftgate.

The optional navigation system ($2,650) also added an eight-inch display audio screen as well as the Lexus Enform App Suite that uses voice-enabled apps to search the Internet.

Pricing for the 2017 Lexus ES 300h starts at $42,795. The as-tested price came to 49,410.

 

Sí: The ES 300h brings Lexus premium appeal to the hybrid driving experience.

No: While offering some safety features as stand alone options makes them a little more accessible, some of them should be standard on a premium vehicle.