Review: 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

Tuesday October 14th, 2014 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

By David Colman

Hypes: Solid Power Team, Efficient Use of Space
Gripes: Vague Steering Feel, Ergonomic Cabin Issues

Get more, pay more. Toyota has dimensionally revised the 2014 version of its Highlander, widening it 4.5 inches, and adding 3 inches to its length. Although wheelbase remains as before, at 110 inches, interior space increases to the point that the third row bench seat will now accommodate three people rather than two. The foursome that occupy the first two rows of Captain’s Chairs enjoy indulgent splendor. Front row perforated leather seats are heated and ventilated, with the driver’s chair offering 8 way power adjustment, and the shotgun seat good for 4.

Both second and third row seats recline and fold for cargo use. Though the threesome hitching a ride in the back of this 4,852 pound bus will find their surroundings somewhat less palatial, the wide aisle between the second row Captain’s Chairs offers exceptionally easy access to those third row seats. If you choose the most expensive version of the Highlander – the all -wheel-drive Hybrid Limited that we tested – you will discover that its base price, like its size, has also swelled, from $46,370 in 2013 to $49,790 for the 2014 version.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

Of course, cherry picking the top model also yields dividends not found on lesser Highlanders. For example, Limited status provides a Platinum Package of goodies at no extra charge. This bevy of niceties adds heated, perforated leather second row Captain’s Chairs, plus technology upgrades like dynamic radar cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, and lane departure alert. But the most worthy addition of all is the cabin capping Panoramic Moon roof, with its power tilt and slide front section and fixed rear panel. This feature reinforces your sense of spatial freedom. All seating positions benefit from its extra light and expanded view.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

The Hybrid power train works in consort with a Constantly Variable Transmission to provide terrific thrust whenever you need it. The electric motor will power you through slow city driving, with the 3.5 liter V6 gas engine kicking in as needed. When you pin the accelerator to the floor, the two modes of propulsion combine for seamless acceleration. With 270hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque, the Hybrid Highlander will crack the 7 second barrier in the 0-60mph run, and pull a trailer weighing 3,500 pounds. The cherry on top is the exceptional mileage this package records. By posting an overall consumption of 28 MPG, this Hybrid owns Consumer Report’s top SUV mileage figure.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

New for 2014 is a trapezoidal grill, re-contoured headlights, plus redesigned front and rear fascias. However, only Highlander devotees will recognize these mild alterations because this Toyota’s appearance is so understated and mainstream. If you seek a stylistic attention getter, than you’re looking at the wrong vehicle. Which is not to say that the Highlander is lacking in either grace or proportions. Its architecture is, in fact, classic Toyota: utilitarian, aerodynamically clean, and handsomely uncluttered. The Highlander’s elevated hind quarters impart a dynamic forward thrust to the overall rake of its dipping beltline. Massive five spoke “Chrometec” alloy wheels, shod with 245/55R19 Bridgestone Dueler HL tires, reinforce the Hybrid’s imperious Clydesdale stance.

Inside, you enjoy all the benefits of increased space. The wide dashboard contains an innovative parcel shelf that sensibly stores all those loose odds and ends that normally float around the cockpit. The door panel armrests utilize memory foam which is pleasingly compliant to the touch. A centrally located 8 inch color touch screen controls tuning functions for the standard JBL entertainment system. The screen, which also covers interior climate control duties, can be difficult to read in daylight driving. Although the center console features a handy roll top cover, its storage well is so deep that a built in source of illumination inside would be helpful. Also, the dual center mounted cup holders seem to be configured for Big Gulp containers at the expense of smaller cups which are free to slosh about disconcertingly. These minor transgressions are all the more surprising in view of the brilliant design of that center oddments shelf.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

If you are in the $50,000 SUV market, the newly upsized Hybrid Highlander should be on yours required reading list. It makes up for its lack of flash with a list of virtues long enough to outbid such competitors as the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Pathfinder.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD

  • Engine: 3.5 liter DOHC V6 with VVT-I, plus Electric Motor
  • Horsepower: 270hp
  • Torque: 280lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/ 28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $50,875
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

Wednesday May 28th, 2014 at 9:55 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

By David Colman

Hypes: THE Japanese Army knife
Gripes: Needs more suds in the HP department

Attention Nike lovers. There’s now a car to take over when your athletic shoes just won’t do it. Subaru claims the Crosstrek is “equipped for play and built for doing.” There’s more truth to that evaluation than you’ve come to expect from automotive advertising. With a static ride height of 8.7 inches, all wheel drive, and nubby Yokohama Geolander tires (225/55R17), the Crosstrek is a legitimate off road tool, eminently well suited to outback forays, winter endeavors, and expeditions to the supermarket. Crosstrek certainly looks feral enough, with a hunched feline silhouette that’s about to pounce on the next strip of unexplored terrain. Inside, the Abercrombie & Fitch outfitting furthers the Indiana Jones illusion, with rough hewn cloth seats, ribbed rubber matting in the storage area, standard roof rail system, heated front seats, and rear hatch wiper/washer. If you select the Hybrid Crosstrek, which is a new offering from Subaru this year, you also get model-specific five spoke 17 inch diameter alloys that mimic the Fuchs wheels Porsche used as their trademark for over 30 years. Their simple design complements the heavily sculpted contours of the Crosstrek. To emphasize the green allure of the new Hybrid, our test Crosstrek sported an eye watering finish called Plasma Green Pearl that wore well as our week with the car wore on.

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

Operation of the Hybrid drive train is for the most part so seamless that you hardly know it’s present. Subaru has combined their FB20 4 cylinder engine with a 3 phase synchronous electric motor to provide 150hp and 165 lb.-ft. of torque. The opposed H- configuration gas engine features twin overhead cams, 10.8:1 compression ratio, and an under square bore/stroke ratio of 84mm x 90mm. The permanent magnet electric unit is good for 10kW output and 48 lb.-ft. of torque. Working together, the gas and electric powered Hybrid posts EPA numbers of 31 MPG overall. You can expect 39 MPG on the freeway, which will yield a tad over 500 miles on the Crosstrek’s 13.7 gallon fuel tank. In city usage (29 MPG), this Subaru automatically turns itself off when you’re stopped in traffic for more than 30 seconds, and usually re-fires without hesitation, though a jolt and shudder sometimes mars the procedure.

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

The internal layout of the Hybrid’s cabin is so functional that you wonder why so many manufacturers can’t emulate Subaru’s prowess in this regard. For example, take the rear seats here. Instead of making you search out hidden latches and mechanisms to fold them flat, the Crosstrek requires but one simple gesture to transform your interior from passenger to cargo trim. Pull up on the stem of an outboard mounted, visually obvious latch as you thrust the seatback forward, and presto, a flat floor cargo space manifests itself. No manual needs to be thumbed through, no obscure fold and tumble sequence needs to be followed. Removing the privacy screen which shields the rear space from prying eyes is equally simple when you’ve got big loads to carry. Just depress one end of the light weight stick, and the spring inside holding it in place instantly collapses, allowing you to store the part elsewhere. I recently struggled to collapse a similar unit in a Dodge Durango with such an overpowering spring that it refused to budge. The beauty of Subaru engineering is that it makes it simple tasks effortless.

With that ample ride height, you might think the Crosstrek would be somewhat tipsy in normal motoring tests, but you’d be wrong. This crossover handles the curves with aplomb, and you’re almost never aware of your exalted height. The Yokohama Geolanders are surprisingly complicit in upholding their end of the cornering bargain, and on the whole, the Crosstrek handles with the precision of a Nike Cross Trainer. The combined 150hp output of the drive train, however, leaves a bit more to be desired than the handling does. In passing or merging situations, you pretty much have to wring the Hybrid by the neck to extract enough surge to be comfortable. The CVT transmission, which Subaru pioneered a quarter century ago, is definitely your friend during such maneuvers, because paddles on the steering wheel allow you instant access to more rpm and more passing power. Still, this 3,165 pound Crosstrek’s gentle acceleration would benefit from a slightly larger displacement gas motor.

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

With a buy-in of just $26,820, it’s hard to beat the Hybrid Crosstrek for value, mileage, practicality and comfort. For “Just Do It” folks, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is like finding a pair of Air Jordans at Ross Dress For Less.

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

  • Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC Opposed 4
  • Electric Motor: Permanent Magnet 3-Phase Synchronous
  • Horsepower: 150hp
  • Torque: 165 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 29 MPG City/39 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,820
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL

Thursday January 16th, 2014 at 4:11 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Creamy Electric Supplemented Torque Band
Gripes: Could Use More Rubber on Wider Rims

Generally speaking, you can’t put much stock in automotive advertising. But VW is right on the money when they say, “Most people don’t associate hybrids with being fun to drive.” In looking back over the many hybrids I’ve driven, from the first clumsy attempts by Toyota (Camry) to the latest from Ford (C-Max), the defining characteristic of the breed has been energy saving at the expense of performance. Again, to quote VW, hybrids are “Fuel efficient maybe, but definitely not something you’d actually want to drive.” With that frank admission out of the way, the marketers at VW go on to claim that their new 2014 Jetta Hybrid puts an end to that problem for good: “Now, instead of having a hybrid just to get you from here to there, our hybrids may be the first you’ll want to take everywhere.”

After having spent a week with the new Jetta Hybrid, I can recommend it without hesitation as a driver’s car first, and an energy saver second. Clearly, VW has their priorities right. As soon as you toe into the gas pedal on this Jetta, you’ll get the “driver’s car” bit because this little sedan lunges ahead with great brio as its combined sources of energy production meld together for instant zip. This Jetta is the world’s first turbocharged hybrid in the economy car class. Thanks to the instant surge of torque provided by the electric motor, the Jetta’s 170hp is more than enough to slingshot you past slower cars on 2 lane roads, or merge with 65mph freeway traffic instantaneously. Yet the fact that you’re feeding just a 1.4 liter turbo gas motor means you’ll enjoy exceptional fuel saving dividends. The EPA rates this hybrid at 42MPG city and 48 MPG highway. That puts it squarely in the highest rank of “10/10″ in the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Rating spectrum.

So you can rest assured that you’re doing your bit to combat global warming while still owning a sedan that’s so much fun to drive you’ll have a hard time believing the buy-in is just $29,845. VW has substantially upgraded the Jetta line for 2014 with electronic power steering, 4 wheel disc brakes, and multi-link independent rear suspension. For such a hot sports sedan, the Jetta is remarkably unprepossessing to behold. It makes do with just 16 inch diameter alloy rims, tall 60 series all weather tires from Michelin (205/60R16), and no obvious air expediters. In other words, no cop worth donuts will give this VW a second look. It’s the stealth express.

Yet fly it does, with that new rear suspension clinging like a leech to even the worst road surface. The sizeable sidewalls of those Michelins absorb bumps like an additional springing device, so the Jetta manages to glide over potholes without ever deviating course or jiggling the passengers. Inside, VW treats you to its eternal verities of sound design, with large knobs for manipulating heat, air conditioning, fan and radio. You never need resort to a touch screen to carry out commands because VW, in their infinite wisdom, depend on pleasingly plump knobs for basic operational needs. However, the SEL does include an RNS 315 Touch Screen Navigation System as part of its standard equipment. The cockpit is business like, handsomely done, and so finely crafted that its Mexican build easily rivals anything VW constructs in Germany.

This is truly a serviceable family sedan, with enough legroom in back to keep a brace of 6 foot adults happy over long runs. Once nice feature for rear seat occupants is the space VW leaves open under the front seats, which gives back benchers a place to park their toes. Rear windows that drop nearly flush into rear doors, center armrest with drink caddies and storage bin, and wide opening rear doors make Jetta the perfect bargain choice for the real estate sales brigade.

Because VW has managed to build a product worthy of their advertising hype, the Jetta Hybrid SEL is the first dual energy source vehicle worth serious consideration by the sporting driver. You can honk this sleeper around town like a GTI while kissing off every other trip the gas station. What more could you want for 30 grand?

2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL

  • Engine: 1.4 liter Hybrid TSI and Electric Motor
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: n/a
  • Fuel Consumption: n/a MPG City/48 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $30,980
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

Monday November 25th, 2013 at 11:1111 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Drag race Champ, Build Solidity, Creature Comforts
Gripes: Inconsistent Brake Response

Most of the vehicles available for review show so few miles on the odometer that it’s difficult to envision problems that might develop down the road. This Touareg, however, arrived so late in the 2013 model year that it was already showing more than 10,000 miles of accrued travel. The benefit of driving such a relatively high mileage test vehicle is that it allows you to judge how well it wears its mileage. In the case of this VW, you could never tell it had travelled more than ten thousand miles if you didn’t sneak a peek at the odometer. The ingot like chassis had not developed so much as a single squeak. The massive doors still shut with the authoritative click you expect from a Zippo lighter cap. Lovely 5-spoke alloy wheels showed nary a curb scar thanks to the protective shielding afforded by the bulging sidewalls of the Michelin GreenX radials (265/50R19).

Unlike so many car chassis based crossover SUVs, the Touareg feels more like a truck than a car. For starters, you step up into the spacious cabin, which, by virtue of its height, affords you a commanding view of the road and traffic patterns. This visual superiority trumps any information conveyed by the lane departure warning systems that are all the rage today. Our test Touareg was not equipped with any of these annoying contrivances, nor did it need them thanks to the excellent 360 degree vision available from the driver’s seat. Touareg’s truck-like attributes also manifest themselves in the 7,700 pound tow capacity of this chassis. Although you can’t quite fold the 40/20/40 split rear seats flat, you can still gain 64 cubic feet of storage by tilting them forward. With rear seats erect, the Touareg still provides 34 cubic feet of space in its sizeable aft compartment. The key fob allows you to open the aft hatch, and a button near the liftgate lets you automatically shuts the lid.

VW only offers the Hybrid power train in its top model Touareg. At a base price of $62,575, you’re not wanting for anything in the comfort or luxury department. Beautifully upholstered front leather seats feature 12 way adjustability and 3 stage heating. The steering wheel is heated, as are the outboard rear seats. Deep door pockets, a vast glove box, and sizeable center console and dash face compartments all help keep clutter under control. Each front seat commands no less than 3 memory positions for favored seat position. Standard fitment on the Hybrid is an RNS 850 touch screen navigation and radio control panel. This graphic interface also provides rear vision when reverse gear is engaged. An enormous power sunroof remains eerily quiet even when open at freeway speeds. Bi-Xenon headlights swivel to illuminate turns at night. Standard Climatronic heat and air conditioning reacts swiftly to input changes and effectively distributes air on demand to individual tastes on separate sides of the cabin.

If you get the idea that this Touareg is just about enjoying an elevated level of indolence, you’re missing the point. What this VW really has in spades is power, lots of power. For starters, this is the world’s first supercharged Hybrid. A 333hp supercharged V6 combines with the added 47hp kick of an electric motor to produce 380hp and a whopping 428 pound feet of torque. When you slam the right pedal home, the Hybrid hurls its 5,000 pound curb weight forward like a Tim Lincecum fastball. Aided by an 8-speed automatic transmission, the Hybrid Touareg is never lacking for grunt. The only fly in the ointment is getting the ferociously fast rig stopped. Unfortunately, the regenerative brakes on our test vehicle felt spooky and inconsistent. This seems to be the hallmark of hybrids which transfer brake heat into energy.

The Touareg Hybrid is a remarkably sporting proposition. Thanks to its Goliath twin engine power train, it will run circles around lightweight sports cars, while looking after your every need with palatial solicitude. It’s really quite a bizarre combination of attributes, well worth the lofty asking price.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

  • Engine: 3.0 Liter Supercharged V6 + electric motor
  • Horsepower: 333hp + 47hp = 380hp
  • Torque: 428 lbs.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 20 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $63,450
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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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 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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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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2011 Kia Optima Hybrid Review – Arriving fashionably late to the hybrid party

Tuesday September 27th, 2011 at 7:99 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2011 Kia Optima Hybrid
By David Colman

Likes:

  • High Level of equipment
  • Refined interior
  • Stunning looks

Dislikes:

  • Balky drivetrain
  • Annoying “Easy Access” seat slide on entry

The 2011 Kia Optima sedan is a spectacularly successful styling effort. Its proportions, stance and attention to detail make it look twice as expensive as its $32,000 price tag. It is more handsome and better proportioned than any of the current gape-mouthed Audis or flame surfaced BMWs. But where those storied German makes succeed is performance. In that regard, the Kia falls short of the lofty mark promised by its stellar styling.

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