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.
The Q5 is offered in three models, two of which combine electrification with Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Q5 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid positions an electric motor between the engine and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission to produce a total of 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque, and earn an EPA rating of 50 MPGe. Those output numbers rival the 3.0-liter, 349-horsepower TFSI V-6 in the range-topping SQ5. The Q5 45 is powered by a new, mild-hybrid variant of the TFSI engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque.
Audi is marketing the Q5 TFSI e as part of a ‘Plug-in Trifecta’ for 2021, with its A7 and A8 sedans also available with TFSI PHEV powertrains. These additions move Audi closer to its goal to electrify 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025.
The Q5 TFSI e can be operated in all-electric, hybrid, and battery-hold modes. A 14.1 kWh battery pack, located under the rear cargo area, enables the Q5 to travel up to 19 miles on electric power alone, according to EPA estimates. Audi says the battery can fully charge in 2.4 hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger. The maker also engineered the battery to act as a source of heat for the Q5’s cabin via a heat pump integrated into the pack.
A standard feature aboard the PHEV Audis is Predictive Efficiency Assist, which is designed to increase the energy regenerated under braking when the vehicle is rolling downhill or approaching a slower-moving vehicle. When the Q5 is equipped with optional satellite navigation, additional input is factored into the energy regeneration, including road curves, speed limits, a the road’s vertical profile. The system prompts the driver, via feedback from the accelerator pedal and a signal in the head-up display, to let up on the accelerator to take advantage of as much kinetic energy as possible.
External cues that set off the TFSI e from other Q5 models are subtle. The plug-in hybrid is equipped with S Line exterior trim, including a honeycomb version of the automaker’s Singleframe’ grille and more aggressive front and rear diffusers. It rolls on standard 19.5-inch double-spoke-star wheels or optional 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels. An optional Sport Plus package combines the 20-inch wheels with adaptive air suspension.
The Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid comes at a base price of $52,900, just over $9,000 more than the conventionally-powered Q5.
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.
Somewhat smaller than Lincoln’s first plug-in SUV, the Aviator Grand Touring, the Corsair is a luxury-oriented, two-row crossover that injects comfort and class into a compact premium crossover segment dominated by European offerings. It's offered in both conventional gas- and plug-in hybrid-powered variants.
When one looks to Corsair, its distinguishing characteristics and luxury appointments mean there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a Lincoln. Its attractive design features creased and organic dynamic bodylines, a Lincoln-esque diamond patterned grille, and oversized alloy wheels. Inside is a premium leather-upholstered, wood-accented, and tech-rich cabin. The compact Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring lives large enough for four to five well-sized adults and a complement of weekend luggage.
At the heart of 2021 Corsair Grand Touring beats a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder, Atkinson cycle gas engine and a twin electric motor planetary drive system. A constant variable transmission transfers torque to the front wheels. A third motor producing 110 lb-ft torque is dedicated to driving the rear wheels, bringing the confident traction of all-wheel drive. Combined, this powertrain delivers an estimated 266 horsepower.
EPA fuel efficiency is rated at 33 combined mpg and 78 MPGe when running on battery power. It will drive 28 miles on its lithium-ion batteries with a total range of 430 miles. Conventionally-powered Corsairs net an estimated 22 city and 29 highway mpg, and 25 mpg combined .
A driver-centric cockpit offers infinitely adjustable and heated leather seating surrounded by wood and burnished metal accents. A comprehensive dash and infotainment display, back-up dashcam, pushbutton drive commands, head-up display, parking assist, and smartphone keyless access are standard or available. Top-of-the-line Co-Pilot 360 driver assist, electronic safety, and personal connectivity features are offered. Corsair Grand Touring’s 14.4 kWh battery module is located beneath the model’s body pan, resulting in a lower center of gravity and unobstructed rear deck cargo space.
The Corsair Grand Touring has an MSRP of $50,390, about fourteen grand more than the conventionally-powered base model. It's expected to make its way to Lincoln showrooms sometime this spring.
Now in its second generation, BMW’s 330e plug-in hybrid sport sedan comes to market with measurable improvements in electric-only driving range, fuel efficiency, and a neat trick or two. Long the benchmark of premium compact sport sedans, BMW’s 3 series first presented an ‘e’ variant in 2016, a bit early to capture the growing electrification movement in North America. Fast forward to today, and you’ll note every major and minor car and light truck manufacturer is turning to electrification. And this brings us to a more powerful and fuel efficient 2021 BMW 330e PHEV, a logical step toward total BMW fleet electrification.
Looking to the exterior of BMW’s latest and greatest 3 series variant, one is hard pressed to discern it from its 330i I.C. stable mate. Case in point: A modern plug-in needn’t look Bladerunner-esque to be ‘green,’ nor lack sport performance characteristics and panache. The beauty and marketing genius of the 2021 BMW 330e is the car’s appeal to the sport driver in all of us, without jeopardizing our collective environmental inclinations. Simply, it looks like a BMW.
Torque 4-cylinder goes electric
Seamless electric motor integration juices up an already torque-rich twin-scroll turbocharged, direct injected, variable-timed 2.0-liter DOHC gasoline engine. This results in a combined 288 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque, an increase of 24 horsepower and 12 lb-ft torque over the first generation offering. New for 2021 is BMW’s Xtra boost function that delivers an additional 40 horsepower for up to 10 seconds, with or without remaining battery reserve.
Torque transfer is delegated to the time-tested ZF 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission, featuring integrated steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, sport and manual shift modes, and ‘launch control.’ BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive is an available option for greater traction and all-weather driving. Performance tuned suspension, selectable variable dynamic drive modes, auto start-stop, regenerative braking, and personalized electric assist steering rounds out the performance package for an exceptional driver-centric commute. There are real performance benefits that come with electrification A non-hybrid base model 330i claims a lesser 255 horsepower and 294 lb-ft torque in the low- to mid rpm range, with no benefits of electrification, fuel efficiency, or electric-only drive capabilities.
The base 2021 330e PHEV retains its rear axle drive, sports performance heritage. Sport drivers will appreciate this compact BMW’s power-to-weight ratio and new-found lower center of gravity, thanks to the under-passenger seat positioning of the 330e’s increased charge capacity, air cooled 12 KWh lithium-ion battery pack. Drivers will enjoy an estimated 20 mile electric-only driving range, combined with an estimated combined fuel efficiency of 71 MPGe that represents a range increase of 8 miles over the earlier 330e. Combined driving range is estimated at 290 to 320 miles on a full charge and 10.6 gallons of premium gasoline.
The 330e cabin environment is pure BMW and shared with the conventional 330i, conservative yet elegant in detail. Appointments include Sensi-Tech fabrics, burnished wood details, and an anthracite grey contrasting headliner. Standard equipment includes the latest in driver assist and active safety technology, a rather intuitive electric drive monitor, range minder, and navigation-controlled chassis efficiency monitoring. Also standard is premium audio, 14-way power adjusted front seats, automatic three-zone climate control, a two-way power glass moonroof, rain sensing windshield wipers, and more.
The BMW 330e is available at an MSRP of $44,550 with the all-wheel drive xDrive version coming in at $46,550. An interesting side note is that when factoring in anticipated Federal and State tax rebate incentives, the 2021 BMW 330e comes to market at less cost than the conventionally-powered 330i, while affording single drivers to HOV lane access and greater fuel efficiency.
We’ve spent plenty of time now behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT as part of our long-term test of this highly functional vehicle. We can tell you this: It’s obvious to the Green Car Journal staff why the Outlander PHEV was named the magazine’s 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ and now the 2020 Family Green Car of the Year™.
First of all, it’s a joy to drive. The Outlander PHEV is spacious, well-appointed with an upscale leather interior, and reasonably priced for a plug-in hybrid crossover in today’s market, at $36,295 for the SEL S-AWC and $41,695 for the GT S-AWC. It’s rated at 74 MPGe on electricity and 25 combined mpg on gas, so it’s quite thrifty when driven as intended – as an electric vehicle for around-town driving and as an intelligent hybrid when the need calls for longer distance travels.
This is what we do on a daily basis. We plug in at night with a 240-volt wall charger, top off the batteries while parked, and start the day off with a full charge. Most of our driving, which is likely a reflection of what most folks will experience, is daily use for commuting and running errands within this vehicle’s EPA rated 22 miles of battery-powered driving range. That means if we’re diligent about charging every night – happily, at our utility’s discounted electric vehicle rate – we won’t be visiting a gas station anytime soon.
Of course, if circumstances dictate a daily commute that’s longer than the Outlander PHEV’s rated range and there is on-site charging available at the workplace, it’s possible to effectively double all-electric range by plugging in at work for the drive home. Four hours at 240-volt Level 2 charging at work or at a public charger brings the Outlander PHEV’s pack back to a full charge from a depleted state. If a rapid charger is available, then the battery can be energized to 80 percent capacity in just 25 minutes.
The importance of plug-in hybrid power is that regardless of battery state-of-charge, there’s never anxiety about range. While this Mitsubishi crossover’s battery range is suitable for zero-emission motoring around-town, the Outlander PHEV itself is geared for any transportation needs required. It offers a 310 mile overall driving range that we’ve found very workable and convenient for longer drives and road trips when we do travel beyond those 22 electric miles.
Beyond its electric capability, we’ve found many reasons to appreciate our time in the Outlander PHEV. It’s right-sized for a family of five and it’s comfortable, with loads of room up front and plenty of room afforded by the rear seats. The rear seats three, but with only two in the back there’s a handy pull-down center console and armrest to deploy with cupholders and storage. A 120-volt AC outlet is located at the back of the center console for plugging in a laptop or other device that requires household power. USB power is also available front and rear.
We also appreciate the driving experience. Acceleration is brisk and handling confident, with excellent steering input. The Outlander PHEV offers a smooth ride and is well isolated from road noise. Its series-parallel hybrid drivetrain intelligently balances power from its 2.0-liter engine and twin electric motors under most driving circumstances, providing optimum performance and efficiency. Transitions between electric and combustion power are seamless and virtually unnoticeable, even if you’re looking for them. An EV Drive mode is also driver selectable via a console-mounted switch to allow traveling exclusively in electric mode, with the engine kicking in only when additional acceleration is needed. Steering wheel paddles can be used to control the vehicle’s level of regenerative braking force.
As is the case with most drivers today, we’ve come to appreciate the many sophisticated on-board systems working behind the scene to ensure our safety, and the safety of others. We fortunately haven’t had the need for forward collision mitigation, but we know the system is there in the background. The Outlander PHEV’s many driver assist systems – from adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams to rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning – inspire that extra level of driving confidence. Particularly helpful every day is the center display’s birds-eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings as we’re backing up.
It's not lost on us that we enjoy a measure of exclusivity while driving this long-term tester. While the Outlander PHEV has been sold worldwide for years – achieving the distinction as the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid – it has only been here in the U.S. since the 2018 model year. Plus, the Mitsubishi brand’s presence in the U.S. market is significantly smaller than competitors like Honda and Toyota, so you won’t see as many Outlanders on the road as you will CR-Vs or RAV4s. But that’s a good thing if you’re looking to drive something that stands apart from the crowd…which our stylish, PHEV-badged Outlander PHEV GT certainly does.
Lincoln’s new Aviator comes in two versions, the conventionally-powered Aviator and the Aviator Grand Touring plug-in-hybrid. Both luxury SUVs feature a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, which in the Aviator is rated at 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft torque. The Grand Touring adds a 101 horsepower electric motor and a 13.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Adding the electric motor to the V-6 increases output to a combined 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft torque.
That kind of power means the Aviator Grand Touring has V-8 big block-like performance, with acceleration coming on strong courtesy of an electric motor that deliver loads of torque from zero rpm. Hybrid power also means better fuel economy than a conventionally powered model, with the Grand Touring variant offering an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 23 mpg, compared to 20 mpg for the all-wheel-drive version of the conventional Aviator. The Aviator Grand Touring comes only with AWD while the conventional model has the option of rear-wheel drive.
The Aviator Grand Touring uses Ford's innovative new modular hybrid transmission that’s also used in the Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid and Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid It was created by essentially inserting an electric motor and disconnect clutch between the engine and torque converter on Ford's 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. The MHT shares about 90 percent of its components with Ford’s conventional 10-speed automatic.
Drivers are afforded 21 miles of all-electric driving in the plug-in hybrid for typical around-town needs. The Aviator Touring’s 13.6 kWh battery pack features under-floor packaging that does not infringe on interior space, so this 7 passenger SUV’s cargo-carrying capacity is not compromised when the third row seating is folded flat. Charging a depleted battery takes three-to-four hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charger.
All Aviators have five Lincoln Drive Modes that change the suspension settings, steering, shift points, and ride height with the optional Air Glide Suspension. The Aviator Grand Touring has two additional modes – Pure EV for all-electric driving and Preserve EV to save stored electrical energy for later use. The Aviator can tow 6,700 pounds while the Aviator Grand Touring can tow 5,600 pounds.
Lincoln's all-new Aviator offers a point of entry at $51,100 for the base rear-drive model, with the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid variant coming in at $68,900.
We’ve been driving Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV for 6,000 miles now as part of an ongoing experience with this long-term test vehicle. Over the months, our plug-in hybrid crossover has served as a daily commuter as well as our go-to ride for quick weekend getaways and the occasional longer trip. This time, we decided to see what it’s like to be behind the wheel on a genuine road trip for a solid week, from our offices on California’s Central Coast to the southern reaches of Washington State.
First, let’s say this: The capabilities of the Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid – Green Car Journal’s 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ – lend a sense of confidence. We knew that we could charge the Outlander’s batteries when desired and convenient to gain about 22 miles of all-electric range during our travels, a nice plus. But we were also aware that taking the time for charging wasn’t necessary. This crossover’s EPA-rated hybrid range of 310 miles would be plenty to get us where we wanted to go, without hesitation or delays. That’s an important thing when packing a few thousand miles of combined day and late-night driving into a seven day period.
Our trip began by heading northbound from San Luis Obispo, California on US-101, where we crested the Cuesta Grade and continued toward the busy San Francisco Bay corridor three hours ahead. We were hoping an early departure would allow avoiding the unpredictable traffic there. Success! It turns out that late morning near the Bay Area provides a decent travel window with reasonably free-flowing traffic. Then it was onward toward Oregon on US-101, transitioning to I-680 and I-505 and ultimately the long stretch of I-5 that would take us to Washington State.
Since this was a road trip, adventure is built into the journey. That means if something interesting presents itself along the way, we may just stop to check it out. Sure enough, this happened less than an hour north of Sacramento, where a series of highway billboards enticed travelers to stop at Granzella’s Restaurant in Williams, a sleepy, postage-stamp-size of a city that’s home to about 5,000 people. It was lunchtime, so why not?
We found plenty of cars in Granzella's parking lot but also no wait inside. Food choices here are plentiful, with options for ordering from a fully-stocked deli or sitting down for a home-style meal in their restaurant. Being traveler-oriented, Granzella’s encourages you to wander around inside, checking out their sports bar, wine room, coffee bar, and olive room, plus of course the array of gifts aimed toward travelers. There’s also a separate Granzella’s Gourmet & Gifts store across the street and Granzella’s Inn across the way if an overnight stop is needed. We were on a tight time schedule, so it was back on I-5 for another 550 miles of road time before our anticipated arrival in Vancouver.
Daily experience in a long-term test car lends a thorough sense of what it's like to live with a vehicle, offering an opportunity to fully experience its capabilities. Beyond that, longer drives like this allow uninterrupted hours behind the wheel to reflect on a vehicle's features, large and small, that either enhance the driving experience or fall short of expectations.
We can say it is hard to find fault with the Outlander PHEV. This crossover provides a spacious and well-appointed cabin offering very comfortable and supportive seating for long drives, plus plenty of room to store all the stuff needed for long trips. Our considerable time on the road was made all the more pleasant since the Outlander PHEV’s ride is smooth and handling confident, with plenty of power for any driving situation we encountered.
Along the way we made good use of this model’s Apple CarPlay capability. Of course, driver assist systems like adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, blind spot warning with lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and rear-view camera enhanced the driving experience and sense of safety. Its heated steering wheel is a real plus. While always handy, we really came to appreciate this crossover’s retractable cargo cover that kept things out of sight and more secure while parked at restaurants and hotels during our week on the road. We also made use of its convenient power lift gate multiple times every day.
The Outlander PHEV’s total driving range of 310 miles is well-suited to longer trips like this. Range is something we rarely think about on a daily basis since our everyday driving is typically less than 20 miles, so often enough we’re driving on battery power and there’s no need for gas at all. When we do drive farther to nearby cities, the Outlander PHEV seamlessly transitions from electric to hybrid power once the battery is depleted. There is no range anxiety because we can travel as far as needed on gasoline. Back in the garage, we charge again overnight and we’re once again driving on battery power.
It’s worth noting that the Outlander PHEV has a smaller gas tank than the conventionally-powered Outlander, 11.3 versus 16.6 gallons, resulting in less overall driving range than the conventional gas model. This is due to design changes for accommodating this PHEV’s 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and other PHEV drivetrain components. Packaging the vehicle’s electric componentry in this way means the battery and other necessary equipment do not infringe on passenger or cargo space, something that’s bothered us for years in some other electrified models. So, all things considered, we’re good with trading some hybrid range for additional roominess, especially since refueling at a gas station is quick and easy.
Speaking of ‘refueling,’ there was the potential for quickly charging at an array of public fast charge locations during our drive. A growing number of Level 3 charging opportunities are located along major routes in California and other states, and the Outlander PHEV is capable of CHAdeMO DC fast charging to 80 percent battery capacity in 20 minutes. We didn’t feel the need on this trip, though we have done this at other times.
That said, charging at the Level 2 charger at our hotel in Vancouver, the Heathman Lodge, was a real plus. Once we arrived in Washington, we plugged in several times to get an overnight charge and enjoyed our no-cost electric drives around town. During these drives the Outlander PHEV motors along on zero-emission battery power at an EPA estimated 74 MPGe.
Driving through Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, there’s no denying you’ll find some pretty incredible scenery ranging from mountain ranges, imposing dormant volcanoes, and awe-inspiring redwood forests to scenic coastlines, rivers, and lakes. You will also find an obsession with the mythical Bigfoot. Suffice it to say there will be plenty of places to stop with ‘Bigfoot’ included in their theme, and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs. As a side note, we did an ‘On the Trail of Bigfoot’ road trip adventure and article several decades back, so this definitely brought a smile to our face.
Along our drive we had the opportunity to visit cities large and small, drive through a redwood tree, take in scenic coastal areas in Oregon like Newport and Lincoln City, and in general enjoy the benefits of a real road trip. Of course, there were stops at roadside fruit stands, interesting eateries, and places with character that simply called to us for a closer look. Photo ops were abundant.
During our trip we came to truly understand why Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is the world's best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle. Taking advantage of technology development and learnings from this automaker’s earlier i-MiEV electric vehicle program, the Outlander PHEV combines advanced parallel and series hybrid drive, along with Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control system technology developed through Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution. Plus, for those with the need, the Outlander PHEV can tow 1500 pounds.
This is one high-tech crossover, offered at a surprisingly affordable entry price point of $36,095, considering the cost of competitive crossover SUVs with similar capabilities at tens of thousands of dollars more. It features efficient hybrid power that integrates a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and generator along with a pair of high-performance electric motors, one up front and one at the rear.
The Outlander PHEV operates in three modes automatically chosen by the vehicle's control system to optimize efficiency and performance. In Series Hybrid mode the electric motors drive the vehicle with the engine augmenting battery power and generating electricity to power the motors. Electrical energy is also delivered to the battery pack. The 2.0-liter engine assists with mechanical power at times when quick acceleration or hill climbing are needed.
Parallel Hybrid mode finds the gasoline engine driving the front wheels with the two electric motors adding additional power as required. The engine also charges the battery pack in Parallel Hybrid mode under certain driving conditions.
Then there’s all-electric driving solely on batteries, selectable with an ‘EV’ control on the center console. We have found EV mode ideal for around-town travel or regional drives near our offices, and in fact we’ve noted no discernable difference when driving in all-electric or hybrid modes.
While regenerative braking in all modes is done automatically with the vehicle feeding electricity back to the battery pack during coast-down, there’s the added advantage of controlling how aggressively regen works. This capability is controlled through six levels of regenerative braking selectable by convenient steering wheel paddles, with one mode allowing coasting for blocks.
The Outlander PHEV proved to be an exceptional vehicle for our Pacific Northwest adventures, offering everything we could want in a long-distance cruiser. With our road trip adventure now a pleasant memory, we’re looking forward to our continuing daily drives and explorations in our long-term Outlander PHEV test vehicle over the coming months.
Sport-utility vehicles have been popular for some time, although you wouldn’t know it by reading all the hype these days about their new-found domination of the market. Yes, SUVs are trendy, they’re spacious, and their functionality can’t be overstated. But we’ve known that for years, ever since the Jeep Cherokee of the 1980s enjoyed widespread success and pretty much defined the modern SUV.
But this is a new day and SUVs have transformed. While some full-size SUVs continue to be body-on-frame models with legendary hauling, towing, and off-roading capabilities, most are not. They defer instead to the lighter and smoother-riding unibody construction common to passenger car models.
Today’s SUVs, or crossover SUVs like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Hyundai Kona Electric shown here, have become car-like in most respects. Some, like the four-wheel drive Outlander PHEV, continue to offer the off-road capabilities we’ve come to expect from SUVs over the years. Others often provide more sedate off-road capabilities if they embrace off-roading at all. The tradeoff is a comfortable ride and a highly desired car-like experience, even as they continue to offer SUV styling, functionality, and carrying capacity.
Is it a wonder that crossover SUVs are being offered as plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles by a growing number of automakers? Nope. In fact, it’s entirely predictable. Vehicle manufacturers recognize the growing desire for these high-functionality vehicles combined with greater efficiency and electrification. Enter the world of plugin SUVs and crossovers that are here now in growing numbers, with a virtual wave of new plug-in SUV models coming. Here's a look at what's in the pipeline:
AUDI will be bringing a plug-in hybrid version of its Q5 crossover to the U.S. sometime in 2020, It will not carry ‘e-tron’ badging since this is reserved for Audi’s fully electric models. The Q5 PHEV will use a turbocharged direct injection engine that works together with an electric motor integrated in the transmission. A 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery beneath the floor is estimated to provide about 25 miles of all-electric driving on the European WLTP cycle, with a lower projected range here under EPA’s tougher test cycle.
BMW will now build electrified versions of its mainstream models, not unique electrics like the i3 and i8. Thus, the iX3 will be based on BMW’s conventional X3 SUV with an electric drive system under the hood and batteries beneath the floor. The iX3 will use the company’s fifth generation electric car architecture with motors that don’t require rare-earth metals, making them cheaper and likely easier to produce. More densely constructed battery packs with increased capacity will also be used to save cost and weight. The new motor develops 270 horsepower and is powered by a 70-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, delivering a range of 249 miles on the European driving cycle that will be less when tested on the EPA cycle here. Since conventional X3s are already built in the U.S. it’s likely the iX3 will be sold here as well.
The plug-in BMW X3 xDrive30e compact SUV will arrive in the U.S. sometime in 2020 as a 2021 model. This AWD crossover combines a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 107 horsepower electric motor, offering a total output of 293 horsepower. Also coming is the X5 xDrive45e iPerformance plug-in hybrid. It uses a 112 horsepower electric motor integrated into the car’s eight-speed automatic transmission and a 3.0-liter, 286 horsepower turbocharged inline-six engine. Its 24 kWh lithium-ion battery is expected to provide about 40 miles of electric-only range. BMW’s iNext is still in concept form so details about this electric crossover are scarce. It will also use the BMW fifth-generation battery design and a 120 kWh battery pack for more than 400 miles of range.
FISKER is planning an electric SUV for introduction in late 2021, although details are slim at this point. The effort is headed by Henrik Fisker, who designed and sold a luxury plugin sedan through the former Fisker Automotive earlier this decade. Fisker Inc. says it will offer an advanced SUV with a range of 300 miles on lithium-ion batteries. That it will offer a futuristic, elegant, and muscular look as claimed by the company is no surprise, considering Henrik Fisker previously designed such iconic cars as the Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8. The Fisker SUV is projected to have a base price under $40,000.
FORD will offer standard hybrid and plug-in-hybrid versions of the new 2020 Escape SUV. Both will use a 2.5- liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. The hybrid will use an underfloor 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack while the plug-in will integrate a 14.4 kWh pack, with the latter providing an electric range of 30 miles. The Escape hybrid goes on sale this year with the plug-in hybrid arriving in 2020. While Ford will be producing a 2020 Explorer PHEV, it’s for Europe only and at this point there are no plans for it to join the hybrid in the U.S. An electric crossover with styling inspired by the original Mustang is expected to appear in late 2020.
The automaker’s Lincoln luxury brand will be offering a 2020 Aviator PHEV here that’s built on the same platform as the Explorer. It will share that model’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 and 99 horsepower electric motor to provide a combined 450 horsepower and 620 lb-ft torque. The 2020 Lincoln Corsair, replacement for the MKC, is also offering a plug-in hybrid version at launch. Given Lincoln’s plans for electrification, there’s a decent chance that full-electric variants will be added a few model years down the road. The Corsair shares many parts with the new Escape PHEV, but its styling is unique with distinctively Lincoln DNA. Lincoln is also planning an electric crossover based on Ford’s Mustang-inspired EV.
GM’s star in the electric crossover field is it Chevy Bolt, a winner of Green Car Journal’s 2017 Green Car of the Year®. Since its introduction, the Bolt has provided an impressive 238 miles of battery range at an affordable price, with better battery chemistry now increasing the 2020 model’s range to 259 miles.
Moving forward, GM is looking to its luxury brand Cadillac to take a higher profile in the company’s upcoming electric vehicle efforts in the U.S. While the General has only provided a glimpse of its developing electric vehicle program, we know it will include a 5-passenger electric Cadillac SUV with a range greater than 300 miles. Slated to appear in Cadillac dealerships around 2022, it will be the first built on GM’s new BEV3 platform that’s adaptable to front-, rear-, and all-wheel-drive, plus vehicles of various dimensions. GM has conceptionally shown 11 possible vehicles, from seven-passenger SUVs to small crossover utilities, that could be built on the BEV3 platform.
JEEP will offer plug-in-hybrid versions of the Renegade and Compass as 2020 models. Both will use a 1.3-liter turbocharged engine and an electric motor to produce a combined 240 horsepower, offering an electric-only range of about 31 miles. The electric motor powers the rear wheels, so a driveshaft is not needed for 4WD. In addition, Jeep is likely to offer a PHEV version of the Wrangler at some point, though it’s not known if this will make it to American roads.
MERCEDES-BENZ will be introducing its new EQC, the first in a growing family of all-electric vehicles to be produced under the EQ brand. The crossover features two electric motors, one at each axle, providing the EQC an impressive 402 horsepower and 564 lb-ft torque that’s delivered to the road through 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Along with standard 240-volt Level 2 charging, the model’s 80 kWh lithium-ion battery is capable of DC Fast Charging from 10 to 80 percent state-of-charge in 40 minutes. Rated at an estimated 220 mile range, it will be sold next year as a 2020 model with an estimated price of around $70,000.
RIVIAN, a new brand on the scene, says it will begin production of its seven seat R1S electric SUV in 2020. Rivian’s ‘skateboard’ architecture locates its battery pack in the floor at the middle of the vehicle. The all-electric SUV is powered by four motors, two per axle, with each providing torque to a wheel. Three battery pack and electric motor configurations will be offered. The 180 kWh battery variant is mated to motors with a total output of 700 horsepower, delivering a claimed range of over 400 miles. A 135 kWh variant with 754 horsepower will provide a range of about 300 miles, with the base 403 horsepower, 105 kWh model delivering 250 miles. The R1S SUV is expected to start at $72,500.
TESLA already offers the Model X electric SUV and plans to supplement this with a more compact Model Y variant. It will be built on the same platform as the existing Model 3 sedan and available as a seven-seater. Standard and Long Range versions of the rear-wheel drive SUV are planned, plus a base Dual Motor model and a Performance model with all-wheel-drive. A 230-300 mile range is promised. While we’ve found Tesla to offer only higher-priced, higher content new models at launch, the company says its Standard version will cost $39,000, the Long Range $47,000, the Dual Motor AWD $51,000, and the Performance variant $60,000. Tesla says the Model Y may appear as a late 2020 or 2021 model, but since the company has a history of launching models later than promised we’ll just have to wait and see.
VW will offer a production version of its ID Crozz concept as the first of several new battery-electric vehicles to sold in the U.S. The ID Crozz is powered by a 200 horsepower electric motor located between the rear wheels with another 100 horsepower motor between the front wheels, providing all-wheel-drive. An 83 kWh lithium-ion battery pack beneath the floor is expected to provide up to 300 miles of driving range. Fast-charging with a commercial 150 kW charger will take just 30 minutes to regain 80 percent battery capacity. The model is expected to go on sale in 2020.
Of course, other automakers are fielding plug-in SUV concepts and there will surely be additional production models announced in the near future. This field is fluid and automakers are responding to plug-in SUV demand in real time, so stay tuned.
Ford has completely redesigned America’s all-time best selling SUV, the Ford Explorer. Redesigned from the ground up, the fourth-generation 2020 Explorer returns to the truck-like roots of its first two generations with a longitudinal-engine, rear-drive architecture. Moving away from the outgoing third-generation Explorer’s more car-like, front drive-based transverse-engine powertrain delivers improved on- and off-road capability and greater towing capacity. The Explorer lineup now includes base, XLT, Limited, and Platinum models. All include the Explorer ST and Explorer Hybrid choices.
Two EcoBoost engines are available. A 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder standard on base, XLT, and Limited models is rated at 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque. The 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 that powers the Explorer Platinum produces 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft torque. Both are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Explorers equipped with the 2.3-liter engine and Class III Trailer Tow Package can tow up to 5,300 pounds. With the 3.0-liter engine this increases to 5,600 pounds. That represents a 77- and 12-percent increase in towing capacity from previous Explorers, respectively.
The all-new Explorer ST, the newest SUV from Ford Performance, is the most powerful Explorer ever with a specially-tuned 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine projected to make 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft torque. It will reach a targeted top track speed of 143 mph.
Explorer Hybrid features a 3.3-liter, naturally aspirated DOHC V-6, 10 speed modular hybrid transmission, and a liquid cooled lithium-ion battery built into the chassis below the second-row seats, thus preserving cargo and passenger space. Total combined power output is 318 horsepower. Both rear- and four-wheel drive versions are available. An EPA-estimated range of over 500 miles is expected between fill-ups in the rear-wheel-drive model.
The new Explorer’s wheelbase grew six inches even though the new model is only fractionally longer in overall length, resulting in more passenger space in each of its standard three rows of seats. Explorers equipped with the available E-Z entry second-row bench seat can accommodate four foot-wide sheets of plywood or drywall flat on the floor for the first time. Second-row captain's chairs are optional as are PowerFold third-row seats. A power liftgate is offered.
Improved off-road capability is provided with intelligent four-wheel drive, available with both engines. An all-new Terrain Management System features an easy-to-use dial in the center console for selecting normal, trail, slippery, sport, tow/haul, and a new eco modes in rear-drive-drive only models. Explorers equipped with four-wheel drive add a deep snow and sand mode for improved off-road performance
The 2020 Explorer comes with an 8-inch digital touch screen offering SYNC 3 and FordPass Connect with 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices. FordPass Connect provides remote access via a smartphone to lock, unlock, locate, and start the vehicle, as well as monitor key vehicle diagnostics. A wireless charge pad is available for recharging compatible mobile devices. Up to four USB ports are provided, including new type-C variants that allow charging next-generation mobile devices. Also available are up to three 12-volt DC outlets and one 110-volt AC outlet.
Explorers come standard with Ford Co-Pilot360, a suite of driver-assist technologies that includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support. Also included are a Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping, and a Rearview camera with built-in lens cleaner and Auto headlamps with auto high-beams. Optional Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies include Evasive Steering Assist that provides steering support to help avoid a collision, plus Post-Impact Braking that provides braking after a collision to lessen injury and damage caused by a secondary crash.
Ford’s all-new Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Speed Sign Recognition is also available. In addition to automatically slowing when traffic ahead slows and helping keep the vehicle centered in its lane, the system uses cameras to read speed signs. It adjusts cruise control settings as necessary when combined with the available navigation system.
The all-new Explorer introduces the automaker’s Active Park Assist 2.0. Standard on Explorer Platinum, this feature allows parking in a parallel or perpendicular spot with the touch of a button without requiring a driver to work the steering wheel, gear shifter, gas pedal, or brake. Available reverse brake assist, also standard on Platinum, uses radar and ultrasonic sensors to detect an object in an Explorer’s path, applying brakes automatically to avoid a collision when backing up at low speeds, such as when exiting a driveway.
An available 10.1-inch, portrait-mounted touch screen allows navigation maps to fill the entire screen for easy viewing or split the space with audio information. The screen uses capacitive glass like that found in smartphones and tablets, providing quicker and more responsive interaction with the updated SYNC 3 system. The more intuitive layout of Explorer’s standard SYCN 3 provides compatibility with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Waze navigation. The touch screen shares information with an available 12.3-inch, all-digital instrument cluster that displays important vehicle information such as speedometer and fuel level.
Subaru’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle, the 2019 Crosstrek Hybrid, uses the Subaru Global Platform designed for hybrid and electric powertrains. It features new Subaru StarDrive Technology that integrates two electric motors, a 2.0-liter direct-injection SUBARU BOXER engine, Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, and a new Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. With the series-parallel StarDrive Technology, one motor functions as an engine starter and as a generator powered by the engine to charge the lithium-ion hybrid battery. The second motor powers the vehicle in hybrid and electric driving modes. It also charges the hybrid battery during regenerative braking.
The plug-in SUV can reach speeds up to 65 mph in full electric mode and achieve 90 MPGe. It drives up to 17 miles exclusively on lithium-ion battery power and features a total range of 480 miles when using both gas and electric power.
The Crosstrek Hybrid features a Linerartronic CVT plus X-MODE and Hill Descent Control for enhanced performance in low-friction and off-road conditions. SI-DRIVE powertrain performance management allows tailoring throttle characteristics by choosing between Intelligent and Sport modes. Active Torque Vectoring applies light brake pressure to the inside front wheel while cornering for improved handling.
Crosstrek is well-equipped with the latest advanced driver assist technologies. Subaru EyeSight includes Pre-Collision Braking and Throttle Management, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. Reverse Automatic Braking can apply the vehicle’s brakes if an obstacle is detected while reversing. Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Cross Traffic Alert is standard. Pedestrian Alert provides an audible warning to pedestrians within the proximity of the vehicle while traveling below 20 mph.
The model’s STARLINK Multimedia Plus offers an 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen, Rear Vision Camera, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming connectivity, AM/FM stereo, and smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Aha, and Pandora as standard equipment. Multimedia Plus includes a single-disc CD player and voice activated controls for phone and Near Field Communication. Multimedia with Navigation adds navigation powered by TomTom, voice activated navigation, and over-the-air updates.
Remote Battery Charging Timer manages the Crosstrek Hybrid’s charging schedule and monitors its status. A STARLINK Safety and Security Plus package includes Remote Climate Control and Remote Battery Charging Timer, SOS emergency assistance, and automatic collision notification.
Like the previous generation Cayenne, Porsche has included an electrified version to bring greater efficiency and performance to its 2019 crossover SUV. It features a completely re-engineered hybrid powertrain compared to its predecessor, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid, using the third new hybrid powertrain from Porsche since just 2017. The 2019 Cayenne E-Hybrid is distinguished from its gasoline counterpart with Acid Green brake calipers and matching outlines around all of the model’s badges, aligning it with other current Porsche plug-in hybrid models.
Porsche’s third-generation Cayenne features new styling cues that lend a more athletic appearance and a lighter weight body courtesy of extensive use of aluminum. It also rides on a lighter weight chassis and incorporates other innovative lightweighting strategies, such a lithium-ion polymer starter battery that brings an additional 22-pound weight reduction on its own.
Power is provided by a 3.0-liter turbo engine offering 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft torque. The plug-in hybrid powertrain is augmented by a 134 horsepower electric motor boasting 295 lb-ft torque, with the combination delivering 455 total system horsepower and 516 lb-ft torque. The result is exceptional performance featuring 0-60 mph acceleration of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 157 mph. Power is delivered to the road via an eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission.
Four drive modes allow tailoring the driving experience. E-Power mode allows driving on battery power alone an estimated 20+ miles. An all-new Hybrid Auto mode uses gas and/or electric power to achieve optimum efficiency. E Hold conserves the battery’s current state-of-charge for use at a desired time later in the drive, such as in urban areas. E-Charge mode directs the gas engine to generate more power than needed for driving to charge the battery.
The E-Hybrid is equipped with a liquid-cooled, 14.1 kWh lithium battery with about 30 percent more energy than the previous Cayenne S E-Hybrid. The additional battery power is the result of greater energy density so the size of the battery has not increased. It can be charged from a fully-depleted state with the E-Hybrid’s optional 7.2 kW on-board charger and a 220-volt power source in just over two hours, and with the standard 3.6 kW on-board charger in just under 8 hours.
Porsche’s new InnoDrive is featured in the Cayenne E-Hybrid. The system combines onboard map data and existing traffic sensing systems to look ahead 1.8 miles, allowing it to determine the best balance of gas and electric power for upcoming corners and changes in grade.
Jaguar Land Rover plans to offer an optional electrified powertrain for every one of its models by 2020. The Range Rover P400e, along with the Range Rover Sport P400e, represent the brand's first plug-in electric hybrids. Most significant about the Range Rover P400e is that it’s the first hybrid 4WD vehicle from any automaker that can drive off-road solely on battery power in almost complete silence, and without any emissions. To accomplish this the P400e uses a 144 horsepower electric motor and dual clutches inside the automatic transmission, and an eight-speed ZF transmission with steering wheel paddles for manual control.
The gasoline engine in the P400e is Land Rover’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. Combined engine and electric output is 398 horsepower. Supplying power to the electric motor is a 13.1 kWh lithium-ion battery located beneath the rear floor, necessitating the floor to be raised about 1 1/2 inches. The P400e can run on electric power for about 31 miles at speeds up to 85 mph. Range is reduced substantially in electric off-road mode.
The Range Rover received a mild makeover for 2019 with a longer hood, slimmer LED headlights, wider lower intakes, and black grille accents. Side accents and graphics were also revised, taillights are new, and a restyled rear bumper now integrates boxy exhaust exits. Only a small P400e badge on the tailgate indicates that electrification is at work beneath the skin. Its charge port is hidden behind a flap at the left of the grille. Illuminated strips on either side of the charge port allow a quick check of the battery's charge status.
Air suspension can raise ground clearance up to three inches and the PHEVs can ford 35.4 inches of water like other Range Rovers. With Low Traction Launch software, it can handle slippery surfaces like wet grass, loose gravel, and snow. On ideal surfaces, Land Rover is claiming a 0-60-mph time of 6.4 seconds with a top speed of 137 mph, impressive for vehicles weighing over 2 1/2 tons.
Range Rover’s Touch Pro Duo infotainment system has two 10.0-inch HD displays stacked on top of one another in the center console. The top one is primarily for navigation functions, while the lower screen controls infotainment, car settings, climate control, and other features. An Interactive Driver Display indicates driving efficiency. In Control gives information about charging locations on the route traveled. In parallel hybrid mode, both engine and motor work together for optimum fuel economy and minimum impact on the environment.
When a destination is entered into the navigation system, the P400e's electronic neural network factors in traffic conditions, gradients on the route, and whether driving is in rural or urban environments to deliver the most efficient combination of power modes. Save mode ensures the battery will have enough charge to allow the P400e to operate in pure EV mode in urban areas.
Volvo's flagship model for 2018 is the plug-in hybrid S90 T8 eAWD that’s available in Momentum and Inscription trim levels. The T8 comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, power window shades, and rear seat massage. Air suspension and Bowers and Wilkins audio systems are optional.
Built in China, the S90 T8 is available in North America only in long wheelbase form that is stretched 4.7 inches compared to the S90 built in Sweden and sold in Europe. Nearly all of the additional length is tasked for increasing rear seat legroom. Altogether, the S90 T8 is not only an exceptional sedan for everyday use, it’s also well-suited for luxury-oriented executive transport.
Like other Volvo plug-in hybrids, the S90 T8 uses the automaker’s Twin Engine through-the-road hybrid powertrain that provides satisfying power, efficiency, and all-wheel-drive. Front wheels are driven by a 2.0 liter, supercharged and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. A 46-horsepower, crankshaft-mounted starter-generator charges the battery, starts the combustion engine, and additionally augments internal combustion power as needed. A rear-mounted, 87-horsepower electric motor drives the rear wheels. This setup delivers a combined 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft torque.
Energy for the electric motors is provided by a 9.2 kilowatt-hour battery with 6.7 kilowatt-hour usable capacity. This provides about 28 miles of electric-only driving before the gasoline engine kicks in. The S90 T8 has a 410-mile range on gasoline and electric power, achieving a combined 71 MPGe driving on electricity and 29 mpg combined on gasoline.
A 9.3-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen infotainment system offers tablet-like swipe-and-pinch gestures and is large enough so it can be divided into four independent sections to provide quick and easy access to various controls. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto can interface into one of the four sections. Sensus Connect provides 4G/LTE connectivity and can support a wi-fi hotspot, plus it also offers its own suite of apps including Pandora, Spotify, Glympse, Local Search, Yelp, Weather, and Wiki Locations. The primary Sensus screen can interact with the S90’s 8-inch or 12.3-inch driver information displays and the optional head-up display showing navigation, infotainment, and other information.
The S90 T8 has the latest in safety technologies with much of this standard equipment. Pilot Assist combines a semi-autonomous drive system with Adaptive Cruise Control to allow following traffic flow within a lane. Pilot Assist provides gentle steering to help keep the car within lane markings and at a set speed and distance to the vehicle in front at speeds up to 80 mph.
A Blind Spot Information System alerts when a vehicle enters a blind spot. Cross Traffic Alert warns of crossing traffic when backing out of a parking space. City Safety helps avoid collisions when driving in slow-moving, stop-and-go traffic. Other technologies include Run Off Road Mitigation ,Active Bending Lights, Automatic Braking After Collision, Rear Collision Warning, Road Sign Information, Hill Start Assist, and LED Front Fog Lights with Cornering Function.
The price of entry is for the S90 T8 Momentum is $63,650, about 15 grand more than the conventionally-powered T5 S90 variant. Stepping up to the Inscription T8 variant brings a suggested retail of $68,150.
BMW’s 530e, the fourth plug-in hybrid in this automaker’s growing iPerformance lineup in the U.S., combines a TwinPower Turbo engine with an electric motor to achieve desired performance and efficiency. The 180 horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and 111 horsepower electric motor feature a total output of 248 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque. This model marks the first time a BMW iPerformance model is available with either sDrive rear-wheel-drive or xDrive all-wheel-drive.
The electric motor and combustion engine deliver power to the wheels via an 8-speed Steptronic transmission that’s optionally controlled by paddle shifters. With the electric motor in front of the transmission, all gear ratios are also available in the all-electric mode. This eliminates the need for a torque converter and helps offset the weight penalty of adding electric drive. T
Energy is supplied to the motor via a lithium-ion battery pack with a total capacity of 9.2 kilowatt-hours. This provides an all-electric range of 16 miles with a total gasoline-electric range of 370 miles. The battery pack features refrigerant cooling and is located beneath the comfortable and well-appointed cabin’s rear seat.
Drivers can select Auto eDrive, Max eDrive, and Battery Control modes to tailor the driving experience. In the default Auto eDrive mode, the engine and electric motor work optimally under all driving situations and allow all-electric driving at up to 56 mph. In Max eDrive, the 530e can run on electricity alone up to 87 mph. Battery Control mode lets the driver set charge level manually and makes it possible to conserve or even increase battery capacity while on the highway, so urban driving in the miles ahead can be entirely on electric power.
The 530e iPerformance is well-equipped with driver assistance systems, featuring Blind Spot Detection, Traffic Jam Assistant, Lane Departure Warning, and Active Lane Keeping Assistant with Side Collision Avoidance. Along with maintaining any selected speed, Dynamic Cruise Control supports energy-saving coasting by decoupling the engine from the powertrain when the driver lifts off the accelerator at higher speeds. Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go uses radar to adjust a pre-selected speed to traffic conditions. It can brake to a standstill in stop-and-go traffic and automatically sense vehicles ahead so speed can be adjusted earlier and smoother.
Further enhancing driving safety is the 530e’s Evasion Aid capability that provides evasive steering action if a quick lane change is required at speeds up to 100 mph. Dynamic Stability Control handles the faster steering and counter-steering needed during evasive maneuvers to reduce vehicle instability. Evasion Aid also uses information from the car’s sensor systems to check how much unobstructed space is available around the vehicle.
It’s notable that the 530e is offered at the same $52,650 base price as the gasoline-powered 530i, which bucks traditional pricing practices in which buyers typically pay a substantial premium for a more efficient plug-in hybrid variant. It’s a laudable move on BMW’s part that may well entice more new car buyers to step up to the ‘greener’ model.
The plug-in hybrid Mercedes-Benz S550e is world-class in every way. It’s also environmentally friendly with its efficient powertrain, which integrates a twin-turbocharged V-6 engine and an electric motor with a seven-speed 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission. The combination provides premium sedan buyers a luxury driving and ownership experience with the benefit of 14 miles of zero-emission electric driving. Overall driving range provided by the S550e’s 141 horsepower electric motor and 329 horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 is a total of 450 miles.
An array of advanced technologies optimize engine performance while reducing emissions, fuel consumption, and noise. These include rapid-multispark ignition that can fire up to four times-per-millisecond, high-pressure direct injection that can fine-tune fuel spray in 0.1 millisecond, a lightweight die-cast alloy block, widely variable valve timing, reduced friction, and on-demand ancillary components that de-activate when unneeded. An E-Boost feature enables the electric motor to raise total torque up to 479 lb-ft for quick 0 to 60 mph acceleration in just 5.2 seconds. The S550e has remarkable efficiency of up to 63 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) on the highway while driving on battery power. A drag coefficient of 0.27 CD contributes toward energy savings.
Four drive modes can be selected: The intelligent Hybrid mode optimizes use of the gasoline and electric motors together based on conditions and terrain, and even uses navigation data about the route. All-electric E-Mode offers emission-free driving around town. E-Save conserves battery power on longer highway trips and allows all-electric driving as desired in urban areas. Charge mode maximizes battery replenishment.
Economy and Sport programs vary the car's performance character while favoring electric or gasoline power. A third Economy+ program activates accelerator pedal tactile feedback that aids more efficient driving. Whenever it’s possible to save fuel by coasting, a double pulse in the pedal encourages lifting off the accelerator. When using all-electric E-Mode, pushing the pedal beyond a distinct pressure point engages the gas engine for an instant boost of power.
Advanced driver assist systems are prevalent in the S550e. These include Distronic Plus with steering assist, BAS Plus with cross-traffic assist, pre-safe brake with pedestrian recognition, blind spot assist, active lane keeping, and speed limit assist. The S550e also features enhanced radar-based regenerative braking. The extremely well-appointed cabin features dual 12.3 inch high resolution screens for driver instrumentation and a center display.
With its sleek styling, refined and accommodating interior, and plethora of advanced on-board electronics, BMW’s $96,600 S550e gives luxury sedan buyers yet another reason to opt for an environmentally-positive plug-in hybrid.
Toyota’s 2017 Prius Prime aims to fill the needs of drivers who love the efficiency of the ubiquitous Prius but want the added benefit of a plug. As is the case with most hybrids, all-electric drive in the conventional Prius hybrid is limited to very short stretches with light pressure on the accelerator, otherwise it’s running on gasoline-electric hybrid power. The Prius Prime changes this with truly usable battery electric range before resorting back to hybrid propulsion.
Prime is a significant advance for Toyota as the company seeks to establish the highest conceivable standard for a plug-in hybrid, all packaged in edgy sci-fi styling. Think Blade Runner and you’re not far off, but in a clean Zen environment. Three distinct models of the Prius Prime are offered to fit varying tastes, including the Prime Plus at $27,100, the Prime Premium at $28,800, and the Prime Advanced at $33,100.
All Prime models share their silhouette with the Prius Hatchback but with unique front and rear end treatments. Prime is also 6.5 inches longer and just a bit lower and wider than the standard Prius model. To achieve increased front and rear head room, engineers lowered placement of the gasoline engine, electric motor, and seats. An additional benefit Toyota designers targeted was slippery aerodynamics, which they achieved with a coefficient of drag of just 0.25 – lower than most sports cars. Less wind resistance is an important element in achieving Prime’s exceptional fuel efficiency of 54 combined mpg as a hybrid and 133 MPGe when running on battery power. With an estimated driving range of 640 miles, Prime will outrun most anything for distance. EPA estimates an all-electric range of up to 25 miles.
We spent time behind the wheel of a fully-equipped Prime Advanced model on twisty mountain roads and highways to get a feel for Toyota’s new plug-in hybrid. Our test drive included stretches of high speed curves with little traffic, where we found the Prime Advanced doing quite well with good mid-range power while passing on two-lane roads. We’ve driven a friend’s first-generation 2016 Prius Plug-in Hybrid regularly over the past year and found it very efficient, but mundane and cumbersome on our own mountain road. A few fast turns into our drive instilled much more confidence in Toyota’s latest plug-in hybrid as we continued increasing our speed in turns.
The Prime’s major improvement in handling stems from a much more grounded feeling in turns, a nod to the Prime’s use of independent McPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension, with stabilizer bars front and rear. This is what some of the better-handling sports car utilize for their superior driving characteristics. Another significant change to enhance handling was moving the car’s 287 pound lithium-ion battery to the rear, with the weight transfer making a big difference in balanced handling. The only thing that holds you back from driving faster is the squeal of tires that are primarily designed for fuel economy.
Prime uses all-season P195/65/R15 tires mounted on 6.5J X 15 inch 5-spoke aluminum wheels. There are no optional wheel or tire choices and no spare. For tire repairs there is a repair kit and three years of 24-hour roadside assistance at no charge. Prime’s basic warranty is 36 month/36,000 miles with an additional 60 months covering the powertrain, with no mileage limitations. Hybrid-related components including the HV battery and modules are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles.
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive powers all Prius Prime models using a dual motor drive. This dual motor capability did not come with the addition of a second drive motor, but rather repurposing the drivetrain’s motor-generator (MG1) for additional use. In this configuration, a one-way clutch engages both MG1 and the car’s primary electric drive motor (MG2) for motive force, the first time MG1 has been used in this way. During deceleration, regenerative braking recaptures electrical energy through MG1 and stores this energy in the battery for later use. Energy is supplied to the motors via an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The gasoline engine used in this hybrid powertrain is a 1.8 liter, 95 horsepower Atkinson-cycle four- cylinder. Combined, the engine and motors deliver 121 net system horsepower.
For some, the best new feature will be changes in charging requirements. While the Prime’s 8.8kWh battery delivers over double the energy of the previous Prius Plug-In’s battery pack, no special wall charger is needed. Just plug it into a standard 120-volt household outlet and in less than 5 1/2 hours you’ll have a full charge. Toyota recommends a dedicated 15A GF1 outlet for this. Faster charging in under two hours is achieved using a public charger or a 240-volt home charger, if desired. Prius Prime apps can manage charging, locate charge stations, set climate control, and handle numerous other functions that take advantage of the Prius Prime’s connected capabilities.
Different operating modes can be selected. EV Auto Mode will automatically rely on electric capability in urban driving and during short trips. Under certain driving conditions such as negotiating steep hills, Prime’s gas engine will kick in to provide additional power. Selecting Hybrid Mode uses the gas engine for primary drive force with supplemental power from the electric motor. Power is transmitted via a planetary-type continuously variable transmission.
The most distinctive styling elements of Prime are its quad LED headlights that give this car its futurist look. These automatically adjust brightness to its environment and oncoming cars. Without a doubt, a Prime will always be readily identifiable at night given its full-width LED rear light panel that follows the shape of the double-wave rear window and spoiler. In fact, the first time you see a Prime on the road at night an immediate impression might be that of a new Lamborghini…the taillights have that kind of styling impact.
Contributing to the Prius Prime’s overall light weight of 3,375 pounds is a rear hatch made from carbon fiber. This superior strength material is usually only found on exotic or race cars due to its expense. In this application it is used for lightweighting purposes and to make opening and closing the hatch effortless. Rear visibility is enhanced by a full-width glass panel and standard backup camera.
All Prime models feature a four-seat layout with a center console front and rear, with 60/40 folding rear seats. The front console has a handy wireless charging pad for Q-i compatible devices. Auxiliary 12-volt power outlets are provided up front and in the rear, with a USB 2.0 port for iPod connectivity and control standard. The shiny white plastic used for the console has a Star Wars trooper look to it and may be too bright for some tastes. A 4.2-inch gauge panel mounted above the dash is considerably easier to read in daylight than that of the previous model. A heads-up display is available.
The most obvious interior feature is Prime’s optional 11.6-inch tablet-like HD multimedia screen that’s mounted vertically in Premium and Advanced models. A standard Entune multimedia system provides audio, navigation, and an App Suite. Suffice to say if it’s on the market, Prime has bundled it...unless you want to play CDs. Apparently there is no place for CDs in the future. Audiophiles will be particularly pleased with the Prime Advanced model since it includes JBL audio with 10 speakers and delivers an exceptional concert hall experience.
For those who find parking a challenge there’s the Advanced model’s included Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA). Once selected, the system’s sonar sizes up an available parking space and reverses the car into the space. Perpendicular spaces are also negotiated, plus it will also steer you out of a parallel spot.
The Prime's Safety Sense P list of standard safety features is as impressive as it is extensive. Prime bundles a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Alert and Steering Assist, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with full stop technology, and Auto High Beams. The Advanced model adds Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Also, there are eight airbags for additional driver and passenger safety.
Toyota is out to raise the standard by which plug-in hybrids are measured. They have done so with the Prius Prime by adding leading edge technology systems coupled to a powertrain that is a marvel of efficiency. Factoring in a price reduction in the thousands from the earlier generation Prius plug-in and an expanded 25 mile battery-only driving range, this Toyota model certainly holds appeal for Toyota Prius fans and new converts to a plug-in hybrid society.