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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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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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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2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Review – Who said hybrids have to look ugly?

Tuesday July 5th, 2011 at 8:77 AM
Posted by: AKramer

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
By Alex Kramer

Pros:

  • Seamless gas-electric hybrid system
  • Smooth shifting 6 speed automatic transmission
  • Eye-catching exterior design
  • Spacious interior with lots of features

Cons:

  • Less than sporty handling
  • Automatic transmission robs a few MPGs
  • Drab interior gray color

It seems like almost every major car company has at least one hybrid model on the road these days, and why not, with gas prices still clinging to almost $4 a gallon. Although a bit late to the party, Hyundai finally has its own hybrid sedan with the new Sonata Hybrid.

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2011 Kia Optima Hybrid First Impressions Review

Thursday June 23rd, 2011 at 8:66 AM
Posted by: AKramer

2011 Kia Optima Hybrid
By Alex Kramer

Pros:

  • Eye-catching exterior design
  • Roomy, well-apportioned interior
  • Smooth, quiet hybrid drivetrain
  • Solid handling and ride quality

Cons:

  • A bit slow for a car with over 200 hp
  • Brake pedal feels squishy
  • Untested fuel efficiency

The folks at Kia Motors are very optimistic. Having launched seven brand new models in under 2 years and with record sales growth over the past year, Kia is transforming itself into a major player in the car market.

Part of this success is surely due to an emphasis on value, which has resonated with buyers in these tough economic times. At the same time, a shift away from forgettable econoboxes and towards quality design and engineering has made for an almost unbeatable combination of high quality at a low price.

To keep the momentum rolling, Kia is now offering a hybrid gas-electric vehicle in the form of its Optima mid-size sedan. With gas prices looking to stay close to $4 a gallon, this could be the perfect time to make a case for fuel efficient motoring and take a bite out of the growing hybrid sedan segment.

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