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Toyota has ‘fully rebooted’ the second-generation Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) for an evolving automotive arena. While the first-generation Mirai was a four-passenger, front-wheel-drive sedan with a decidedly futuristic design, the new Mirai is Toyota’s flagship sedan, a premium, rear-wheel-drive, five-passenger sports-luxury car in the vein of the Lexus LS, on whose GA-L platform the Mirai is now based. It’s offered in XLE and Limited trim levels, with corresponding differences in equipment and interior materials.

The new Mirai is larger in every dimension except height, more powerful, and has a longer cruising range. Its four-wheel independent multi-link suspension, replacing the previous car’s strut-type front and rear beam axle, improves the car’s handling and performance, as does the change to rear-wheel-drive and the configuration of its new fuel cell system. In combination, those latter two revisions give the Mirai a near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.

The fuel cell stack in the new-generation Mirai, like the one in its predecessor, takes in hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity without combustion to power its rear-drive motor. Water vapor is the only emissions produced during the process. The stack is about 20 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter, and now fits under the sedan’s hood. A new power control unit and other changes to the stack result in a 12-percent power increase, boosting the Mirai’s rear-drive motor output to 182 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque (versus the outgoing model’s 151 horsepower and 247 lb-ft).

Electricity is stored in a lithium-ion battery that’s smaller, lighter, and has greater capacity than the Mirai’s previous nickel-metal-hydride battery. The battery rides between the rear seat and the trunk. Three 10,000-psi carbon-fiber-reinforced tanks hold about 11 pounds of hydrogen, giving the Mirai 402 miles of range in XLE models, and 357 in the Limited. Toyota is continuing the practice of offering up to $15,000 of complimentary hydrogen with each Mirai.

Inside the Mirai are seats trimmed in SofTex synthetic leather. The dashboard is dominated by two digital displays, an 8-inch LCD gauge cluster in front of the driver and a 12.3-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash to operate the climate control, infotainment, and navigation systems. To bring down cabin temperatures and reduce the load on the Mirai’s air-conditioning system, Toyota engineers installed extra insulation in the roof and added UV protection in the side windows.

Both Mirai models come standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5+, a suite of active safety systems with several enhanced functions. Among them is the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, which not only registers a vehicle ahead but a bicyclist or pedestrian in front of that vehicle.

Initially the Mirai is available in California only, but Toyota says it is fully optimized for cold-weather operation, hinting that broader availability may be in the works. The Mirai XLE is priced at $49,500 with the uplevel Limited coming in at $66,000 before substantial federal and California state incentives, and potential Toyota incentives as well.

With the debut of a new high-efficiency Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel, the 2021 RAM 1500 full-size pickup can now be ordered in 11 different models and five engine options, two bed lengths, two cab configurations, and two- and four-wheel-drive powertrains. Whew! The five engines span a wide range of output and efficiency metrics, from the 6.2-liter, 702-horsepower supercharged Hemi V-8 in the newly introduced ‘Apex Predator’ TRX model to V-6 and V-8 mild-hybrid gas engines and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel.

The Italian-made EcoDiesel V-6, now in its third generation, features aluminum cylinder heads and dual overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder. Induction is via high-pressure, direct-injection nozzles, while a water-cooled, variable-geometry turbine provides boost. The engine is rated at 260 horsepower and 480 lb-ft torque, has earned 22 city/32 highway mpg, and has a towing capacity of up to 12,560 pounds. The new Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel variant ups the ante to an unsurpassed 33 highway mpg, in a model that starts at $42,240 

The mild-hybrid eTorque versions of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 replace the standard engine alternator with a belt-driven motor-generator. Working with a 48-volt, 430 kWh lithium-ion nickel-manganese-cobalt battery pack, the motor-generator enables the engines’ stop/start function and brake-energy regeneration, and it provides short bursts of torque under certain driving conditions. The air-cooled battery pack is mounted to the back wall of the RAM's cab.

The eTorque Pentastar V-6 produces 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft torque and is EPA rated at 20 city/25 highway mpg. The eTorque Hemi V-8 puts out 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft torque and has earned 17 city/23 highway mpg ratings. By comparison, the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 without eTorque assist has the same output ratings but lower fuel economy: 15 city/22 highway mpg. All these engines route their power through eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmissions.

New and improved driver aids available on the 2021 RAM 1500 include a full-color head-up display that can show up to five content areas at once; a digital rearview mirror that displays real-time video from a rear-facing camera (but can revert back to a traditional reflective mirror); and trailer-reverse steering control, which allows the driver to turn a dashboard-mounted dial in the intended direction of the trailer (handing the actual steering control to the system). Adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and pedestrian detection are also among the safety and security features available for the RAM.

The RAM 1500 remains the only light-duty full-size pickup in the segment with a coil-spring rear suspension system, which the maker says improves ride and handling while not compromising towing or hauling capacity. Buyers will find entry-level RAM 1500s starting at $32,595 and rising upward, with the high-performance TRX topping out the lineup at $70,095.

Clearly, Chrysler’s original minivans had a great run, and for good reason. All were based on the same platform featuring a low floor and an overall design that allowed the ability to park in a typical garage. Plus, they drove like cars and not trucks due to their passenger car-like construction. Offering different flavors of the minivan under the Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler brands – with varying levels of sophistication – was a smart move as well. But alas, change is inevitable even within notable success stories.

The company’s sixth-generation minivan broke new ground again in 2017 as the Chrysler Pacifica replaced the Town & Country. Featuring an exciting new design on an all-new platform, among its many innovations was the inclusion of the Pacifica Hybrid variant, the first and only plug-in hybrid minivan in the U.S. market to this day.

Four years later, the Pacifica Hybrid now features a redesign with deeper sculpting and sport-utility influences. It’s available in Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle iterations, all powered by a 3.6-liter Atkinson V-6 engine mated with electric motors and a nine-speed electrically variable transmission.

This transmission incorporates two electric motors that drive the front wheels via a clutch, rather than using just one motor for propulsion and the other for regenerative braking. The one-way clutch is located on the input side of the transmission and the output shaft of the motor. This one-way clutch enables power from both ‘A’ and ‘B’ motors to act in parallel, delivering the full torque of both motors to the wheels. The system provides a combined 260 horsepower. All Pacifica Hybrid models feature front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available on the Touring L model.

Energizing the electric drive system is a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack comprised of six 16-cell modules. The pack is located under the second row of seats. The benefit of this battery placement is that it doesn’t infringe on interior space, so cargo-carrying capacity is not sacrificed. The battery pack provides 32 miles of battery electric range and can be recharged in two hours using a 240-volt charger. Total hybrid driving range is 520 miles.

A suite of driver assistance systems is available either as standard or optional equipment, depending on trim level. Among these are a 360° Surround View Camera, Rear View Camera, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, and Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist. 

Pacifica Hybrid’s Uconnect 4 system comes with a standard 7-inch or optional 8.4-inch touchscreen, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and available 4G Wi-Fi. Uconnect 4 with the 8.4-inch touchscreen displays vehicle performance, power flow, driving history, and adjusts charging schedules for less expensive off-peak hours.

The conventionally-powered Pacifica minivan offers a base price of $35,045, while the Pacifica Hybrid starts at $39,995 for the Touring L model and travels upward to $50,845 for the Pinnacle edition.

The efficient plug-in hybrid variant of BMW’s third-generation X3 premium compact crossover, the X3 xDrive30e shares drivetrain components, technology, and driving characteristics with the automaker’s 330e plug-in sports sedan. Manufactured in Spartanburg  North Carolina on BMW’s refreshed cluster architecture (CLAR) platform, the X3 x30e PHEV blends the efficiency of a hybrid powertrain, super low emissions, and instantaneous low to midrange torque for a spirited drive experience.

Motivation comes from BMW’s 2.0-liter direct injected, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with a 107 horsepower electric motor. The result is 288 total combined horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque that provides a zero to 60 mpg sprint in 5.9 seconds. Fuel efficiency is EPA rated at 60 MPGe while driving on battery power, with a combined city/highway rating of 24 mpg on gasoline. It features an overall driving range of 340 miles on 13.2 gallons of gas plus 18 miles on battery power.

A frame-cradled, air-cooled 12.0 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies energy to the motor. Charging is via an on-board 3.7 kWh charger. Charge time is 3.5 to 6 hours depending on source. Gear shifting is delegated to the time-tested ZF 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission featuring sport and manual shift modes, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and launch control. All-weather traction is enabled by BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive.

The 5-passenger compact SUV features a driver-centric cockpit layout with premium materials like Sensatec upholstery, dark oak wood trim inlays, and quality hard and soft touch surfaces. Front seats feature 10-way power adjustment, with the rear offering 40/20/40 split and fold-down functionality with adjustable seat backs for passenger comfort. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch center information display provide information and controls, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Standard equipment includes ‘smart key’ recognition and personal settings memory, a futuristic yet comprehensive electric drive monitor, remaining electric-only range minder, and navigation-controlled chassis efficiency monitoring. The latest in driver assist and active safety technology is offered. Rounding out this very comprehensive package are voice-activated commands, integrated navigation, optional 360-degree surround camera, premium audio, and automatic three-zone climate control. A two-way power glass moonroof is optional.

All this comes at a base price of $49,600, about $6,600 more than the conventionally-powered X3 xDrive 30i.

It’s no secret why the RAV4 is such a global hit. Beyond its obvious style, this is a model that carries a lot of gear, gets excellent fuel economy, and exhibits the traditional high standards for fit and finish found with Toyota products. What’s not to like? Toyota's latest variation, the RAV4 Prime, brings a plug-in hybrid variant to the model that adds to its appeal with 42 miles of all-electric driving range and 600 miles of total range.

RAV4 Prime is powered by the automaker’s 177 horsepower, four-cylinder DOHC engine and a pair of electric motors, one at the front and another at the rear, for on-demand four-wheel drive. Total combined power is a stunning 302 horsepower, which Toyota points out makes it the second-fastest car in its lineup behind the marque’s Supra sports car.

Available in two models, SE and XSE, RAV4 Prime combines lessons learned with Toyota’s other hybrid success stories like the groundbreaking Prius. While many competitors have focused on moving toward all electric power, Toyota has opted to focus on refining hybrid technology to motivate its electrified models. The RAV4 Prime presents an excellent example: Simply, it’s a popular and appealing plug-in crossover SUV offering on- and off-road capability with exceptional drivability, handling, and performance.

There’s a wealth of technology at work beneath the skin in the RAV4 Prime that makes it not only powerful, but exceptionally functional and efficient. Its 18.1 kWh battery is positioned beneath the floor, so it doesn’t impact interior and cargo space. Beyond its truly usable all-electric driving range, the RAV4 also delivers a 94 MPGe rating while operating on battery power. Recharging the battery is handled via a 240-volt home or public charger in about 4 ½ hours, or in about 12 hours when plugging into a conventional 120-volt AC outlet. When faster 6.6 kW charging is available, the RAV4 Prime can charge up in about 2 ½ hours.

Inside, driver and passengers enjoy heated and cooled leather seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, JBL audio, and a handy conductive phone charging pad. The RAV4 Prime also comes will all the advanced safety and driver assist systems desired these days including Toyota's Safety Sense 2.0, which includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. Also available is front and rear parking assist with automated braking, and rear cross traffic braking.

On the outside, the Prime edition features special badging and 19-inch alloy wheels, the only indications that call out this new and advanced version of the RAV4. Cost of entry for the RAV4 Prime is $38,100.