Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

Wednesday October 16th, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Best Hybrid For Enthusiasts
Gripes: Poor Brake Feel

“There are Hybrids and there are Turbo Hybrids” intones the commercial for VW’s latest offering in the Hybrid field, concluding that this Jetta is “The first Hybrid that you’ll actually want to drive.” For once, the advertising is right. Given this Jetta’s proclivity for balanced handling, gratifying surge, and seamless transitions between gas and electric modes, the Jetta Hybrid is way more fun to drive than a Prius or a Volt. This Jetta’s turbocharged, 140hp, 1.4 liter, inline 4 will stuff you smartly into your sport seat when the auxiliary electric motor kicks in to generate a combined output of 170hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque.

Despite the fact that VW has slapped a set of ultra hard (Treadwear rating: 500) ContiSportContact 205/50R17 tires on distinctive looking sluice-gate alloys, the Jetta Hybrid grips the pavement surprisingly well. Just one quick blast through a set of S-curves will convince you that the Jetta is geared more to driving fun than any other Hybrid currently available. Adding to the enjoyment is a real, 7-speed DSG transmission, with manual override available at the flip of the stick. With most other Hybrids, you must contend with the disconcerting whine and bumpy shifts of a continuously variable transmission. On the minus side, the Jetta’s regenerative brakes feel grabby and imprecise, a first-generation Hybrid trait that other brands have long since eliminated.

Thankfully, VW has spared you the self-congratulatory encomiums so prevalent in other Hybrid instrumentation. You’ll see no falling leaves to document wastefulness here, no confusing charts requiring you to take your eyes off the road. If you need to regale yourself with such corroboration, look elsewhere because this VW barely bothers with such self-aggrandizement. Instead of shrines to virtue, you’ll find a simple 10,000 rpm tachometer, which also doubles as an engine status indicator with colored zones for “charge” (green), “eco” (blue) and “boost” (white). Indeed, the cockpit of the Jetta is pretty much what you’ve come to expect from this company: top quality materials, expertly assembled into an environment that stresses keeping your eyes on the road rather than on the dash.

To be sure, there’s a standard touchscreen navigation system, but because that screen does not subsume all other control functions, you needn’t bother with it when you just want to adjust temperature or fan speed. For those needs, VW provides good, old fashioned ribbed knobs that look great, and work better than any touchscreen embedded pictograph. In keeping with the businesslike demeanor of the driving environment, the steering wheel is fat rimmed, with recesses cut at 9 and 3 o’clock for thumb grips. Understated matte aluminum appliqués to the door panels and dash look just right in this Bauhaus minimalist cabin.

Of course the bottom line to the Jetta Hybrid equation is neither Euro centric design, nor turbo zing, nor gearbox splendor, but its EPA/DOT Fuel Economy rating of 42 MPG City and 48 MPG Highway. The Combined figure of 45MPG is so good that the government estimates your annual fuel expense at just $1,250. Compared to the average new vehicle, the Feds claim you’ll save $5,350 in fuel costs over 5 years. Our bit to run the Jetta Hybrid dry ran out of time because we simply couldn’t drive enough miles in 1 week to do a real mileage check. Suffice it to say that after driving it almost daily, we still had half a tank left with an estimated mileage range of 250 miles still showing.

The Jetta Hybrid is a remarkably stout product. Braking issues aside, it generates the same kind of driving enthusiasm you’ve come to expect from other VW products. There’s a basic honest and consistency at work here that will not disappoint longtime enthusiasts of this brand.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

  • Engine: 1.4 liter in-line 4, turbocharged + electric motor
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 42 MPG City/ 48 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,010
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Tuesday April 16th, 2013 at 8:44 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Mileage Champ, Pugnaciously Cute
Gripes: Goofy Dash, Rock Hard Tires, Whiny CVT

If Ford’s C-Max Hybrid represents the future of cars, I’ll start reviewing toasters. This expensive derivative of the $16,995 Focus costs $31,085, weighs a whopping 3,639 pounds, but makes just 141hp in petrol mode or 188hp in combined petrol/electric mode. Saddled with a noisy CVT (Constant Velocity) transmission, the C-Max whines its way laboriously to thrust. The faster you accelerate, the more noise you generate from the drivetrain. It makes you want to plop the C-Max into the slow lane on the freeway and stay there. Although it posts a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 47 MPG, it will take you a couple of decades before you recoup the $14,000 price difference to a petrol powered baseline Focus.

Ford has reinvented the concept of the dashboard in this car. Instead of providing such essential information as water and oil temperatures, greenie marketing types have installed a plethora of video games designed to challenge your environmental commitment. There’s a “Tutorial” slate from which you can chose such hot topics as “Braking Coach,” which assesses your proficiency at maximizing energy reclaimed through regenerative braking. If you tire of that game, which appears in the left quadrant of the instrument binnacle, you can always scan the video depiction of a tree that occupies the right quadrant. The number of “Efficiency Leaves” dropped by this shrub indicate your level of energy conservation. The fewer leaves and vines you drop, the more efficient your driving. Drop enough leaves and you’ll need to revisit the Braking Coach for a repeat seminar in pedal application. To win all these video games, just park the C-Max and drive something else. Is there anything greener than an undriven car?

 

With all those video distractions available, driving C-Max is the mobile equivalent of texting on your iPhone while trying to avoid bumping into people on the street. Sure, if you focus clearly enough, you can pay attention to your driving, but it’s too easy to get caught up in the conservation strategies. Ford conscientiously renders most of the Apps inoperable while driving, but there are still enough dash delights to keep your mind occupied by everything but the road ahead.

Block off the video console, and the C-Max provides a satisfying driving experience. The electronically assisted power steering, for example, is precise enough to enable you to clip apexes with impunity. The leather wrapped steering wheel affords a solid grip thanks to two flared paddles at the 10 and 2 positions that give you better leverage when the road throws curve balls at you. The Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires (225/50R17) are surprisingly clingy given their rock-hard 480 treadwear rating. The downside of this rubber choice is the Michelins need to be inflated to 38 PSI. At that pressure, the C-Max bounces its passengers around like toys in a Piñata.

With both rear seats erect, the C-Max provides 25 cubic feet of storage space, Dropping the rear seats increases that number to 45 cubic feet. The $2,215 Equipment Group 302A transforms the interior of the C-Max into a hospitable, luxurious environment by adding a Power Liftgate, Rear View Camera, Premium Audio and Navigation. The diminutive sedan accepts 4 adults graciously, 5 in a pinch, with large enough doors to ease loading and disembarkation.

The C-Max Hybrid looks positively practical when compared to its Plug-In brother, the “C-Max Energi” model, which costs an extra $7,750 and travels just 20 miles before its EV supply dies and its petrol engine kicks in. If you are a confirmed greenie, the C-Max Hybrid makes much more sense the Energi. But if you just like to drive, this pricey Hybrid doesn’t make much sense at all.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, 141hp + 118hp AC Motor
  • Horsepower: 188hp (Combined)
  • Torque: 129 lb.-ft. + 117 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 47 MPG City + Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,085
  • Star Rating: 6 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Lexus GS450h Review

Friday July 27th, 2012 at 8:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Torque Monster, Stylish Cabin, Quality Finish
Against: Poor XM Satellite Reception, Feeble A/C

It’s not often that you’d pay extra money for a hybrid, just to gain a performance advantage over the conventional gas version of the same car. The usual reasons for going the hybrid route are better mileage and less pollution, and the GS improves on the gas-fueled model in both those areas, with a combined EPA mileage rating of 31 MPG, and a “Super Ultra Low Vehicle” rating of Tier 2 Bin 4 from the Feds who grade it “8” on a scale of “10” in terms of “Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Rating.” But here’s a nasty little secret about the GS450h that the Feds don’t rate or rave about: it’s much faster in terms of straight line acceleration than any other GS. The reason is that the hybrid supplements the GS’ basic 3.5 liter V6 (306hp, 277 lb.-ft. of torque) with an electric motor good for 147 kW of output, and more importantly, an added 202 lb.-ft. of torque.

Where the standard GS is a mild-mannered sedan, the hybrid version gives you such a sharp whack up the backside that the 450h is in a different performance league all together. If you accessorize it with the optional $5,205 “Luxury Package, you’ll receive a host of benefits including adaptive front lighting (i.e., swiveling LED headlights), and glove leather soft, semi-aniline interior trim. From a driving standpoint, the Luxury package contributes 18 inch alloy wheels shod with Dunlop 235/45R18 SP Sport 5100 tires, a distinct handling upgrade from the standard issue 17 inch alloys with 225/50R17 rubber.

The interior of the new GS is palatial. The heated and air conditioned front seats, thanks to the Luxury Package upgrade, are 18 way adjustable, with a range from bolt upright to full slouch, and memory settings to retain preferred positions. The heated steering wheel is a particularly impressive work of art, with perforated leather grips at the 9 and 12 o’clock positions, interspersed with segments of matte finished light ash wood that matches similar inserts on the door panels, transmission tunnel and dashboard. The rear window can be covered with an electric sliding sunscreen and both rear doors feature manual privacy shades.

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2012 Infiniti M Hybrid Review

Thursday May 10th, 2012 at 4:55 PM
Posted by: aquadog

 

This car pretty floored us. Infiniti M Hybrid did not get us all excited in the email exchanges but as soon as the car was delivered to us, it was a week of bliss.  They styling is simply incredible as it has leapfrogged all other Infinitis and all other hybrids before it.

Driving it was a delight as this hybrid seems to have all the torque of a V10 engine.  But then it really has the economy of a small car so you can have fun burning up the tires or hypermiling a getting over 30 mpgs.

The one remarkable advancement of this car is the hybrid engine integration.  It is truly an engineering wonder to see this engine shut off at 50 mph, cruise on electric power and then come back on as power is needed. The driver sees the tachometer needle go up and down but that is pretty much the only sign that the gas engine is shutting on and off.

2012 Infiniti M Hybrid Specs:

  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6 with Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid® utilizing a lithium-ion battery and 50 kW electric motor
  • Horsepower: 360 hp @ 6,500 rpm (Hybrid System Net Power)
  • Torque: Peak engine 258 lb-ft and peak electric motor 199 lb-ft
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 mpg city/32 mpg hwy
  • MSRP: Starting at $53,700

YouTube Preview ImageInfiniti M35h Hybrid. This video is brought to you by Fully Charged

YouTube Preview Image2012 Infiniti M35h: First Test. This video is brought to you by Motor Trend

Premium Package:

  • Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System with 8-inch WVGA color touch-screen display, Lane Guidance and 3-D building graphics
  • Infiniti Voice Recognition for audio, navigation, and vehicle information systems
  • NavTraffic with detailed traffic information provided by SiriusXM
  • NavWeather with current weather updates and 3-day forecasts provided by SiriusXM[
  • Zagat Survey® Restaurant Guide
  • Bose® 2-channel, 10-speaker Premium Audio system, AM/FM/CD/DVD with MP3 playback capability, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume
  • Climate-controlled front seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • $3,450

Deluxe Touring Package:

  • Bose® Studio Surround® sound system with 5.1-channel decoding, 16 speakers
  • Forest Air® system with Advanced Auto Recirculation, Breeze Mode, Plasmacluster®Air Purifier, and Grape Polyphenol Filter
  • Power rear sunshade
  • Semi-aniline leather-appointed seating
  • Unique quilted seat pattern and additional seat bolstering
  • White Ash silver-powdered wood trim
  • Suede-like headliner
  • Premium soft-touch material for armrests, door inserts, center console and knee pads
  • Premium stitched meter hood
  • $3,900

Technology Package:

  • Intelligent Cruise Control (Full-Speed Range)
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP)
  • Distance Control Assist (DCA)
  • Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
  • Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Blind Spot Intervention (BSI®) Systems
  • Front Seat Pre-Crash Seat Belts
  • Active Trace Control (Adjusts vehicle braking and engine torque to help enhance cornering feel)
  • Eco Pedal
  • Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) with auto-leveling headlights
  • Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
  • $3,050

18-inch Wheel Package:

  • 18 x 8.0-inch, tri-split 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels with 245/50R18 V-rated all-season tires
  • $650

YouTube Preview ImageRoad Test: 2012 Infiniti M35h. This video is brought to you by MotorWeek

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2012 Toyota Prius c Review

Tuesday March 20th, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Ultra Efficient, Handsome, Comfy Front Seats
Against: Nervous Electric Steering, Tiny Base Model Tires

The Prius is the Japanese version of the Swiss Army Knife. You can buy a lot of different versions to fit your needs. There’s original Prius, which Toyota now terms the “liftback” model in order to distinguish it from the recently introduced “V” version, a stretched model with roomier interior. Now a third version is coming on line called “c” for city transport. The Prius c is a smaller and significantly lighter offspring of the world’s most successful hybrid vehicle. It weighs nearly 600 pounds less than any other Prius, and costs significantly less as well. The c model will be offered in 4 levels of trim, with the base model retailing for just $18,950. If you bump all the way up to level 4, you’ll still lay out only $23,230.

Of course, nothing comes free when you cut size and substance, and the Prius c is no exception. It is the only current Prius with drum rear brakes instead of discs at all 4 corners. The tires fitted to the level 1 Prius c are small enough to work on any number of motorcycles. These R400 Bridgestone Turanzas measure just 175/65R15, and do not offer much in the way of adhesion. But of course, such low rolling resistance tires are an integral part of the Prius mileage equation because their hard tread blocks reduce contact patch resistance and promote extraordinary mileage. The base Prius c fulfills those expectations by returning 53 MPG in city driving, 46 MPG in highway mode, and 50 MPG combined fuel economy. These are the highest figures yet recorded for a passenger car without plug-in capability. Many of you will stop reading right here and get yourself on the March, 2012 delivery list for the Prius c based on mileage figures alone.

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2011 Nissan LEAF Review – vs. the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius

Wednesday December 14th, 2011 at 4:1212 PM
Posted by: the911guy

2011 Nissan LEAF vs. Toyota Prius
By Dan Tsuchiya

Pros:

  • 100 miles on a full charge
  • Eco Mode for dummies
  • Drives like a car, not an enclosed golf cart
  • It actually looks good and not a social statement
  • Batteries are mounted very low so out of the way physically and lowers the center of gravity
  • Total energy cost for a year is about $500
  • It turns a new leaf in the saga american motoring :)

Cons:

  • 100 miles on a full charge (run it down, you’re stuck)
  • 14-16 hour charge using 110V household current
  • Front seats are very basic
  • $35k base will keep it away from the masses.

Video from Roadfly.com (click ’360p’ to watch in HD)
YouTube Preview Image

Remember the first time you rode/drove an EV? It could have been a battery powered toy car, a golf cart, or even a gas powered car converted to electric, but they all had one thing in common; acceleration like an on/off switch….no modulation. More than 10 years ago Toyota brought the hybrid Prius to the United States and it was one of the first cars with fantastic modulation and packaged in a base car that was previously gas powered. I currently have a second generation Prius in the stable and our staff was lucky enough to test the Chevrolet Volt a couple of months back.

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Table of Contents – Editorial Car Reviews, Feature Articles

Tuesday October 11th, 2011 at 2:1010 PM
Posted by: Derek

CarReview_Contents_header

Below is a comprehensive list of all the Expert Car Reviews and feature articles published on CarReview.com [updated 10/11/2011]:

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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in First Impressions Review

Friday September 23rd, 2011 at 11:99 PM
Posted by: AKramer

2012 Prius Plug-In

By Alexander Kramer

Despite being mercilessly picked on by car enthusiasts and members of the automotive press, the Toyota Prius has been an unqualified success. The best-selling Prius has become synonymous with hybrid cars and perhaps even Toyota itself.

Having been on the market for over 10 years now, Toyota has decided to double-down on this success by introducing a new family of Prius based cars, including the larger Prius V, the smaller Prius C, and a Plug-in version of the existing 3rd generation Prius. We were recently invited to drive these new models (except for the Prius C, which is still in concept form) at a Media Preview for the GreenDriveExpo, held in Richmond, CA.

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GM EN-V Explores Personal Urban Transportation

Tuesday September 13th, 2011 at 6:99 PM
Posted by: ponycargirl

GM EN-V Jiao
By Megan Green

In the late 1800′s, as cities grew larger and more crowded, the automobile become more and more of a necessity to offset the unhealthy and malodorous pollution from horses. Each horse could produce upwards of 35 pounds of waste per day, not to mention the macabre detail that dead horses littered the cities in the thousands per year. In 1903, William Phelps Eno wrote the first traffic code in the world for the city of New York and very soon the world was introduced to the Stop sign. Several years after that, Henry Ford put the modern assembly lines into practice, thus making the automobile cheaper and accessible to a wider range of consumers. This all led to the prevalence of automobile use and ownership facilitating the migration of people from cities to newly created suburbs post-World War II.

Now, in year 2011, we are at a similar crossroads. The trend has reversed; people are moving back to cities to decreasing space and resources. The streets are once again congested and, as a result, generating unhealthy emissions. Not only that, but the cost of filling up the gas tank just keeps skyrocketing. In the United States, CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, enacted in 1975 as part of the Energy Policy Conservation Act, were updated in 2007 by the Bush Administration with the mandate to improve fuel economy (and therefore reduce tailpipe emissions) to 35mpg by model year 2020. President Obama announced another agreement July 29, 2011 to increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025.

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Alaska Road Trip With the Chevrolet Volt and Olympus E-P3 Camera

Monday July 11th, 2011 at 12:77 PM
Posted by: ponycargirl

Chevy Volt Olympus E-P3 Alaska Trip
By Megan Green

This past April, I was given the opportunity to go on a June road trip in a 2011 Chevy Volt and photograph it with the newly launched Olympus E-P3 camera.

When I told friends that I was going to Alaska to drive a Chevrolet Volt around, their first reactions were, “Ice Road Truckers!” Then came a barrage of questions; “Good luck with that, can you even drive that far in it? What’s the range, like 50 miles? How are you going to charge it in the middle of the wilderness? Are small towns even equipped to recharge electric vehicles? How long does it take to charge it?”

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