Green Car Journal editors had the opportunity to live with Mitsubishi’s third-generation Outlander PHEV over the course of two full years, the longest test conducted by the magazine. The experience was satisfying with this vehicle meeting every possible need. Our preference at all times was to drive on zero emission electric power whenever practical and this plug-in SUV allowed us to do that, since our daily drives were almost always within its 22 mile battery electric range. If we were consistent with plugging in overnight, which was the case unless another test car required a charge, then our drives around town were inevitably on electric power.
On those occasions when we drove beyond the Outlander PHEV’s electric range, we did so without thinking about it because the experience is seamless. There are no decisions to be made, other than start, shift into ‘drive,’ and head on out. During these drives, the switchover to combustion or hybrid power happened behind the scenes without any real indication it was taking place.
With that in mind, we headed out on an adventure from our base in California to the Oregon Coast. We’ve enjoyed the coastline in California for years, from Southern California’s Coronado Beach in San Diego and Newport Beach in Orange County to the environs of lesser known but delightful areas like the Central Coast’s Avila Beach, or the funky throwback beach town of Cayucas. Still, there’s just something about the rugged Oregon coast that calls to us. It offers dramatic and unspoiled coastal vistas that are compelling in a different way than the perennially sun-drenched, surfs-up beaches found in much of California. So, we packed up our Outlander PHEV tester and headed northbound on US 101.
Our northernmost area of interest was Tillamook, Oregon, the beginning of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge that protects some 1,800 rocks, reefs, and small islands over a thousand acres of coastline, running from Tillamook Head to the California border. Also calling us to the area was our appreciation of Tillamook cheeses and ice creams, so of course a visit at Tillamook Creamery was on our road trip agenda.
From our headquarters in San Luis Obispo, California, the trip to Tillamook is a direct drive of some 14 hours and nearly 900 miles. But being a road trip, that was just part of our unfolding story. There were many stops along the way and loads of opportunities for new experiences during our meandering, week-long journey. Our first overnight was in Ashland, Oregon, just north of the California border and about a nine hour drive from our starting point. A quaint city of 21,000 located at the southern edge of the Rogue Valley, Ashland has a college town feel with its Southern Oregon University and is home to the annual Shakespeare Festival.
Northward we headed, driving for some six hours before arriving at the century-old Tillamook Cheese Factory. At the time of our visit, Tillamook offered visitors self-guided tours, food and ice cream take-out service, and shopping for souvenirs and cheeses at its market gift shop. At the end of our visit, we left with collectible Tillamook-branded bowls and heaping portions of ice cream…offering the perfect break before continuing our Tillamook Road Trip.
After that it was a leisurely drive south along the scenic Oregon coast as we headed back toward California, with no particular plan in mind other than drive, stop to see interesting things, and stay at random hotels along the way. Our drive took us past Lincoln City, a self-proclaimed kite capital of the world, and then on to Yaquina Bay and Newport, Oregon, a city known for its Dungeness crab and home port to one of Oregon’s largest fishing fleets. Also located here is the Oregon Coast Aquarium where Keiko, killer whale star of the 1993 movie Free Willy, was rehabilitated before being relocated to Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, and eventually released to freedom.
After an overnight in the coastal town of Florence near the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, our drive took us through Coos Bay and then a quick stop in the town of Bandon, population 3,066. Bandon is the heart of Oregon’s cranberry production and home of the annual Cranberry Festival. A bit of sightseeing in Old Town found us appreciating Nora the Salman, a large sculpture made of plastic debris reclaimed from the sea by the group Washed Ashore. Apparently, Nora gets around, as she journeyed cross-country several years ago to the United Nations’ Ocean Conference in New York in support of the Clean Seas Campaign.
While in Bandon, we paid a visit to the small Face Rock Creamery, located at the original site of the Bandon Cheese Factory that thrived when cheesemaking was an important part of the local economy, and before Bandon became a brand of Tillamook Creamery. Here, you can watch craft cheesemaking in process and grab a meal for the road from the Face Rock deli if you’re so inclined. We were.
The drive south continued along Oregon’s Highway 101 Coastal Route that passes nearby Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, which offers some pretty spectacular vistas. Next up was Port Orford for a photo op with a T-Rex. Really. Here we found Prehistoric Gardens, a must-see roadside attraction since its beginnings in 1955, situated in a rainforest replete with 23 life-size dinosaurs. Afterward it was a short drive to scenic Gold Beach where the Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean, our last stop before reaching California. As with any road trip, there’s always the chance of unexpected surprises. Another of ours was about three hours later as we stopped to appreciate a herd of Roosevelt elk in the California Redwood National Forest off Highway 101, on our way to Arcata and an overnight there.
Our final road trip stayover was a long-time favorite, California’s Monterey Peninsula. There is so much to see here it really requires more than a day, so we accommodated that with several nights at the Monterey Plaza Hotel while we explored Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Pacific Grove. Among the top experiences here are strolling along Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf, enjoying the many seafood restaurants in the area, and of course a drive along the area’s spectacular 17 Mile Drive that winds its way along amazing ocean vistas on its way to Pebble Beach. At the end of our time here it was just a 2 1/2 hour drive back to our Central Coast home.
Our Tillamook Road Trip was everything we had hoped it to be, with fascinating stops along the way in the comfort of our Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV test car. We enjoyed this SUV’s accommodating ride, dependable performance, and confidence delivered by its sophisticated series-parallel hybrid system that allowed driving non-stop over great distances whenever needed, and charging up for times of all-electric driving when convenient. There was plenty of room inside for stowing all the gear and trappings of a road trip, and we enjoyed the array of features offered by the Outlander, from its heated steering wheel and seats on chilly mornings, to its handy navigation and many driver assist systems that make driving easier, like adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, multi-view camera system, and automatic high beams.
While driving conditions during our trip were favorable and we ventured off road only briefly, it was confidence inspiring to know that Mitsubishi’s advanced S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) system was there at the ready. The Outlander was fully equipped to provide whatever was needed on the road, a vehicle for all seasons and all reasons, as well. That makes us eager to try out the new-generation Outlander PHEV on another road trip when it hits our shores later in 2022.
Like all of us over the long course of lockdowns and varying degrees of COVID 19-related restrictions, my wife Sheree and I were yearning for the day we could travel somewhere…anywhere…that seemed safe, made sense, and transported us at least briefly beyond the everyday concerns of the pandemic that had literally stopped us all in our tracks.
Visiting Hawaii when we did, as the pandemic was loosening its hold on life, was like vacationing during a sort of pandemic ‘shoulder season’ – the traditionally less crowded, less hectic months before and after the masses head to the most desired vacation destinations. While the Governor of Hawaii is now welcoming visitors back as the recent COVID 19 surge has passed in the islands, and things are much more ‘normal’ (read that ‘crowded’) with Hawaii once again a top destination, it was eerily quiet during our before-the-surge visit.
Traveling to Hawaii was no small logistics challenge, though that has eased now with changing visitor requirements . As we viewed our options before deciding on Hawaii, other favorite destinations like Italy seemed better left for another day once things are more sorted out. Australia was off the table since its borders were, and still are, closed to international visitors, though that country has just announced it is again allowing entry to international students and foreign workers. We've done road trips through the Pacific Northwest but were looking for something different. So what about Hawaii? That’s been a work in progress and travel there initially required a 14 day quarantine since March 2020, then a shortened 10 days of mandatory quarantine starting in December 2020 for travel to all of the Hawaiian Islands.
This policy relaxed late last year with the option for a quarantine exemption through the State of Hawaii’s Safe Travels portal, at https://travel.hawaii.gov. A video on the site presents an overview of the program and lists the steps to be completed, including the need for a negative COVID 19 test for non-vaccinated visitors traveling to Oahu. A recent change now grants a quarantine exemption for fully-vaccinated visitors who register with the Safe Travels portal, upload vaccination cards, and then have their vaccination cards confirmed during airport check-in. Other islands have had additional requirements, and the state’s rules continue to evolve, so it’s best to reference the latest requirements and restrictions at the State of Hawaii’s online COVID 19 portal, at https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/getting-to-hawaii.
REQUIREMENTS FOR HAWAII TRAVEL: Hawaii’s quarantine exemption process is clear but not entirely free from angst, though vaccinated travelers will find it easier than the non-vaccinated. For those who have not been vaccinated, timing is essential since a negative NAAT or PCR COVID 19 test is required from a Hawaii-approved lab. These labs are listed on the Safe Travels portal. After registering for an account through the portal and providing your travel information, including flight and hotel reservation numbers, your negative COVID 19 test can be uploaded and instantly verified.
This test must be done no more than 72 hours prior to your flight to Hawaii. Naturally, there’s a realistic concern that everything go well and the testing lab e-mails a negative test result to you in time. For those with connecting flights, the timeline is based on the final non-stop flight segment you take to Hawaii, not your originating airport.
Though we are now fully vaccinated, our trip took place before Hawaii’s ‘vaccine passport’ option was in place. We knew that a number of testing options were available, including relatively new availability for testing on-site at some larger international airports, but decided to take our test at a local urgent care since they work with a Hawaii-approved lab partner. We timed it so the test was taken within the required 72 hour window, doing so on a walk-in basis, though other testing providers may offer appointments. We arrived, filled out the paperwork, and were called in for the Hawaii-approved nasal swab test. Then the anticipation began. We were pleasantly surprised when we received e-mails about 18 hours later with our negative results, quicker than promised. Then we uploaded the test PDFs to our accounts on the Safe Travels portal.
Once you’re within 24 hours of your flight, you need to log-in to the portal and answer a short health questionnaire. A QR code is issued immediately after the questionnaire is submitted, whether you're requesting exemption with a test or vaccination. This QR code allows screeners access to your Safe Travels quarantine exemption status during airport check-in. While you can access this QR code by logging in any time, Safe Travels recommends that you also make a printout of the QR code and carry it with you. Those seeking a quarantine exemption must bring their vaccine card with them. Since this trip involved an exemption with a COVID 19 test, we brought the PDF of our test results with us just to be safe.
FLIGHT CHECK-IN: We flew Alaska Airlines direct from San Jose, California, to Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. At check-in in San Jose, we provided our tickets and then logged into the Safe Travels portal on our phones to show our QR codes. During check-in, status on our Safe Travels accounts was changed from Not Screened and Not Exempt to Screened and Exempt. This same process follows now for those who apply for a quarantine exemption with their uploaded vaccine card, with the physical vaccine card confirmed by the airline. With confirmation complete, Alaska Airlines issued Safe Travels wristbands that allowed breezing through the airport upon arrival in Oahu. Those without wristbands must endure long lines as their exempt status is manually confirmed once they arrive in Hawaii.
After check-in, we logged into our Safe Travels accounts on our phones to confirm the change to Exempt was made. A new QR code reflecting this change was shown. You will need to log-in and show this updated QR Code when checking in to your hotel to confirm exemption from quarantine.
(THEN) UNCROWDED WAIKIKI: This is a lot of work to go through for any trip. However, the yearning to experience this tropical paradise after a seemingly endless time of pandemic restrictions was compelling enough to make it worthwhile. Plus, we knew that once travel began in earnest later, the relatively uncrowded and reasonably priced Hawaii we wished to visit would likely experience rising costs and a crush of visitors. Following our 5 1/2 hour flight from San Jose to Honolulu, the promised benefit of wearing a Safe Travels wristband was immediately evident. Those without one went right at the entry sign for a long line and manual processing, while we went left and, with a quick flash of our wristbands at a check point, continued toward baggage claim. It was that simple.
We had arranged to be met with a ride and lei greeting because, after all, that’s really how you should arrive on the islands and it’s not that costly. It’s also a good plan because rental cars have been very expensive everywhere, including Hawaii, due to tight availability. We even found Uber prices to be higher than normal due to increased demand. The best bargain for travel needs, surprisingly, was an old-school cab since their costs are regulated. If you do want to rent, then you might consider going electric with a Tesla Model S, 3, X, or Y rented from WDT Luxury Tesla Rental Hawaii, though these can't be rented at the airport. The 14 Teslas in this company's growing fleet are currently renting from $125 to $350 per day, with the top-of-the-line Model S Plaid going for $849 daily. Speaking of Teslas, while strolling the main part of Waikiki be sure to head over to the Tesla showroom on Kalakaua Avenue to appreciate some electric car eye candy there.
Over the years, our go-to hotel has always been the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a 22 acre resort located on a wide stretch of Waikiki Beach that’s much less crowded than the stretch of beach adjacent to Waikiki’s main hotels and shopping area. We’ve found the walk from HHV to the main bustle of Waikiki to be easy and enjoyable, with half the walk along the beach. This time, however, we started our vacation with two nights at the Moana Surfrider, a stately and historic hotel located in the heart of Waikiki Beach. We’ve been wanting to experience this hotel for some time and finally took the opportunity. We weren’t disappointed. The Moana Surfrider, like many hotels in Hawaii, closed down for months to weather the dearth of tourists and the unknowns of the early months of the pandemic. And like others, they have strived to reopen in ways that allow accommodating guests in true Hawaiian style.
We found check-in an easy process, with the only additional step involving confirmation of our quarantine exempt status through the Safe Travels QR code on our phones. The lobby, the rooms, the restaurants and bar, and overall experience were just as we had hoped. The Surfrider’s manager was even on hand in the lobby to welcome guests to Hawaii and the hotel, an unexpected touch.
At night, we were able to enjoy live music and drinks at the hotel’s iconic Beach Bar with its exceptional surf-and-sand view, and Vintage 1901, the hotel’s stately piano bar. There’s the Beachhouse fine dining restaurant if you’re so inclined, or you can order dinner from a more limited menu at Vintage 1901, as we did. We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel’s Verandah at the Beachhouse and pineapple smoothies at the Surfrider Café. While we didn’t get to enjoy Sunday afternoon tea at the Verandah because it was fully booked, we have done this high tea before and highly recommend it.
One of our favorite things in years past has been to stop by the Moana Surfrider just to spend some time on the rocking chairs that line its front porch, and just people-watch. This Moana Surfrider’s location in the heart of Waikiki Beach makes everything easily accessible. While restaurants and shops are capacity controlled due to COVID 19 restrictions, there were plenty of them ready and waiting to serve visitors.
We knew ahead of time that reduced capacity meant quite a few restaurants would be fully booked on many nights, so we made reservations in advance through the Open Table app, including the popular Hard Rock Honolulu. Some, like the always-in-demand Duke’s Waikiki beach bar and restaurant, had no reservations open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner during our stay. However, Duke’s sets aside half of its tables for walk-ins, so we gave it a try and lunch for the two of us involved just a 15 minute wait.
Waikiki Beach is often a very crowded place. While there were tourists strolling along its main street, Kalakaua Avenue, and a reasonable amount of traffic, we found it less crowded than on previous visits when sidewalks were packed. Some popular eateries that are often impossible for walk-ins, like the Cheesecake Factory, had unusually short lines and presented no obstacles to enjoying a fun meal. By the time you’re reading this, though, the greater numbers of travelers now heading to Hawaii likely mean a much busier environment with the usual wait times.
After several days at the Moana Surfrider, we moved on to our usual Hawaiian digs, the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We’ve always enjoyed this resort because it offers so much on-site – an array of casual and fine-dining restaurants, a pizzeria, New York deli, and Starbucks, along with gift shops and two ABC Stores for picking up everything from sandwiches, drinks, and snacks to sundries, rafts, and beach supplies. Complimentary morning activities are offered like hula lessons, lei making, yoga, and tai chi.
This was the intended ‘down time’ of our trip, so four days were spent on lounge chairs under an umbrella on the resort’s uncrowded stretch of Waikiki Beach. Drinks and food are nearby at the Hau Tree Bar and Tropics Bar & Grill. Daily walks took us to the bustle of activities along Kalakaua Avenue and the main part of Waikiki Beach, a pleasant 25 minute stroll. A fascinating trip to the Honolulu Museum of Art was also on order to view its collection of Asian, Hawaiian, European, and American art.
Hilton Hawaiian Village closed down for eight months during the pandemic and reopened in November 2020. During our stay, we found that while it did offer many of the features and amenities we’ve come to appreciate in the past, the pandemic’s impact meant it was still getting up to speed. The nightly live entertainment we’ve always enjoyed on stage at the expansive outdoor Tapa bar, and in the more intimate setting of Tropics Bar & Grill, was absent. The popular Tapa Bar itself we closed. In fact, except for the Waikiki Starlight Luau held on the resort’s Great Lawn adjacent to the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, there was no live entertainment at all on the property during our visit. The last we checked, the resort was planning to start live entertainment again shortly.
Like many hotels on the islands, daily rhythms at Hilton Hawaiian Village have been affected by capacity limits, so restaurant reservations are a good idea, either booked on-site or through Open Table. Hilton Hawaiian Village is billed as the largest ocean resort in the Pacific, so it’s understandable why it’s taking time to fully emerge from the challenges of the pandemic. This is a very popular Waikiki destination and we expect it to be bustling as usual the next time we return.
IMPORTANT REMINDERS: Hawaii's new vaccine passport system now provides a much simpler way to get a quarantine exemption. We didn't have that option at the time of our visit so a COVID 19 test with specific timing requirements was required. This same testing requirement is still in place for unvaccinated visitors today. We expect that the vast majority of those heading to Hawaii have not had issues with a test exemption. That said, we also know of a few who did not receive test results in time and had to cancel their vacation plans. There is no accommodation for taking a test once you’ve landed in Hawaii. You’re either exempt before flying there through a negative test or confirmed vaccination card, or you’re subject to the mandatory quarantine. So you focus. Understand the requirements explained through Safe Travels. And you plan your test timing carefully, since in this case timing is everything.
This article could have been titled, ‘Four Tickets to Paradise,’ but our friends John and Cathy who were to join us never made it. They had to cancel their trip just hours before their scheduled flight, though they did all the right things through Safe Travels Hawaii and timed their COVID 19 tests appropriately . One of their PCR test results came back quickly, but the other was delayed and eventually came back inconclusive. It was expected that a quick follow-up NAAT COVID 19 test would come in time, but the negative test result wasn’t received until just before their scheduled flight, after all was cancelled. That was a disappointing sign of the times, so it was just the two of us this time.
As a final thought, Hawaii is absolutely worth the effort even amid all the extra steps you have to take right now to get there. Being on the islands, especially after all the months of lockdowns and restrictions, is spectacular even amid its reawakening and we enjoyed our experiences there immensely. You will enjoy the Aloha, too!
A year of pandemic has stopped international – or really any – travel in its tracks. But the world will soon open up and maybe it’s time to plan something big. Here’s our take: Make it a trip to Rome, and amid the diversity of activities you’ll experience there, take in all things automotive, because it is different. Witness the endless sea of tiny city cars parked nose-to-tail – and sometimes backed at right angles to the curb – into impossibly small spots. See the many scooters and motorcycles passing by and the countless ones parked on sidewalks. Note the electric cars and motorcycles charging at street-side public chargers. In tourist-centric piazzas, appreciate the array of human-powered pedicabs with their lightweight, car-like bodies, perhaps the purest form of zero-emission vehicle.
My wife/photographer and I are into cars, travel, food, art, and wine. Italy is a natural since these interests are served up in abundance. In a pre-COVID trip there, we were set to view historic art in Florence, Milan, and Rome, and of course we would be documenting a variety of car-related activities. While we had a full and diverse itinerary planned, we were also looking for something distinctive in the way of a car experience to complement our Italian adventures. We’ve been to the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati factories in Italy and also attended the Italian Grand Prix, all exciting subjects for words and images. But what’s next?
As if fate was calling, we overheard someone talking about his recent Rome tour in a vintage Fiat 500, and how this was the best part of his Italian vacation. Out came his iPhone, and he shared photos of his group traveling in a caravan tour around Rome, in a colorful collage of vintage Fiat 500s in pink, red, yellow, blue, and white, all piloted by tourists experiencing what appeared to be enormous fun while seeing the sights and in general having a blast. That was what we were looking for, so we booked a night tour with Rome 500 Experience to cap off our upcoming Italian immersion.
When the time came for our tour, we made our way to a commercial structure just a short distance from the Colosseum where Rome 500 Experience stores its colorful array of lovingly restored Fiat 500s. Here, we met up with Alvise Di Giulio, proprietor of this unique tour. His love of this iconic car is evident, the culmination of a decades-long Fiat Cinquecento (500) passion that found him personally owning many of these once-ubiquitous city cars produced between 1957 to 1975, before he decided to make a business of it.
Nearly four million copies of this diminutive city car were produced during its lifetime, powered by a 500 cc engine for most of its run and a 600 cc engine at the end. The Fiat 500’s small physical footprint and high fuel efficiency certainly qualifies it as vintage ‘green’ car in our book. Still, when presented with an array of colors to choose from, it was no 'green' car for us...we selected a red 500 as our ride.
We set off on our night drive knowing little of what to expect, but with a feeling this was going to be memorable. As owner of Rome 500 Experience and one of the tour’s driver-guides, Alvise is as well-versed on Rome’s history and rhythms as anyone we’ve encountered. His understanding of all there is to know about the Eternal City is impressive, as is his ability to get you around in ways that avoid the congestion inherent in any major urban area. We drove unencumbered streets in our little red Fiat 500 and, at times, were passengers while Alvise tooled around with an air of confidence and purpose that comes from having done this many, many times before, with great joy.
Though we’ve been to Rome before, we visited places we hadn’t seen previously. Of course, important touchstones like the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and St. Peter’s Square were on the tour’s drive-by and park-and-stop itinerary. But so were many historic places that were never on our list, like the ruins at Palatine Hill where Rome was founded, Piazza Navona, the Arch of Constantine, and of course many lesser-known courtyards and fountains of historic importance. Plus, there was the Castel Sant'Angelo, built in 123 BC as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum and later repurposed as a fortress. Many know it today as a scene of dramatic importance in Dan Brown’s film, Angels and Demons.
There were other interesting stops along the way, including a brief time at the Aventine Keyhole, located in an obscure green door at the Villa del Priorato di Malta on Aventine Hill. Peering through this keyhole, as tourists must, provided a view from our stance in Italy, through the grounds of the villa that’s the sovereign territory of Malta, and into Vatican City, the world’s smallest country. Here, we found the keyhole perfectly framing the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance. Yes, very cool!
Another off-the-beaten stop was at the Bocca della Verita (“Mouth of Truth”), a marble mask with an obscure face and open mouth located in a portico at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, also at Aventine Hill. Visitors who stick their hand in that mouth had better be confident, since legend has it that it bites off the hands of liars. Truth be told…we didn't suffer that fate. It gained notoriety in modern times as Gregory Peck took the challenge in the company of Audrey Hepburn in the 1953 film, Roman Holiday.
Finally, there was a stop at an unusual site in Rome, the Pyramid of Cestius, built from 18-12 BC as a tomb for magistrate Gaius Cestius. The pyramid was later incorporated into Rome’s Aurelian Walls that surround the city, built in 271-275 AD. Across the way from this pyramid and part of the wall is the dramatically illuminated San Paolo Gate flanked by imposing twin turrets.
Touring a world-class city at night is always an amazing experience. We've done this before in Paris, Washington DC, and New York, so we knew that doing this in Rome would be unforgettable. Monuments are illuminated and more dramatic, while places of interest are uncrowded. Doing a tour in a vintage Fiat 500, though, adds an extra dimension of fun. The car is iconic-cool and an important part of Italy’s automotive history, so it gets plenty of attention and thumbs-up from people you pass by on your drive.
One of the nice touches is that Alvise shares his passion for the city, its history, and his vintage cars in a most enthusiastic way. You just don’t get that from more traditional and structured tours. This is special, and Alvise – as well as all his driver-guides – ensures you see the excitement of Rome through his eyes, and his perspective.
We experienced a lot during our time in Italy, and as it turned out this was clearly one of the highlights. It was also the perfect ending for our adventures before boarding our Alitalia flight back to Los Angeles the next morning and our drive back to our headquarters on California’s Central Coast, reminiscent of Italy with its moderate Mediterranean climate.
We have fond memories of this tour and motoring around Rome’s ancient streets in a vintage car of historic importance. We liked it so much, in fact, we plan to return and partake in one of the Rome 500 Experience day tours, perhaps one that includes wine touring or a strategic stop for a sumptuous Italian meal.
La dolce vita!
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.
There are countless reasons to visit California’s picturesque Monterey Peninsula, home of historic Monterey with its Cannery Row of Steinbeck lore, Fisherman’s Wharf, and charming Carmel-by-the-Sea. We’ve taken road trips to this storied destination many times over the years on holidays, to take in races at Laguna Seca Raceway (now Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), and attend automotive events of one stripe or another.
The drive from Los Angeles to Monterey is one of contrasts. Heading north on California’s Highway 101 from Southern California, you’re treated to diverse scenery ranging from crowded cityscapes to rolling hills and wide-open spaces. It’s when you reach Ventura that things begin to markedly change. This is where, for a time, your vista to the west gives way to brilliant blue Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands, signaling a welcome transition that finds you leaving city life behind for the more relaxed lifestyle of the Central Coast.
The next 275 miles are quite scenic with such jewels as Santa Barbara, the Riviera of the Pacific; San Luis Obispo, a wonderful mission town with its circa-1772 Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa; and the bucolic Paso Robles, a short drive after cresting the Cuesta Grade.
Our latest road trip to the area began in San Luis Obispo behind the wheel of a 2019 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, one of this automaker’s high-profile answers to driving ‘green.’ Our drive this time was via US 101 to Salinas and then SR 68 to Monterey, an easy 2 1/2-hour trip. Along the way you pass through a landscape of rolling hills, farmlands, and wide-open spaces dotted with fruit and vegetable stands, small towns, and a few modest cities that are worth a quick visit if you have the time.
A spectacular alternative is negotiating winding Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo to Monterey, the most awe-inspiring section of California’s historic El Camino Real (Spanish for “The King’s Highway”). El Camino Real is the heart of the historic Mission Trail that connects the state’s 21 Spanish missions established between 1769 to 1833, running from San Diego to Santa Cruz . From Cambria to Monterey, this section of El Camino Real hugs the coastline and goes through Big Sur, providing truly breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean along the way. Be prepared for at least a 4 hour or longer drive on this more leisurely route, hence the reason we take US 101 more often than not. Still, we drive Highway 1 every few years as a reminder of just what an unhurried and sensory fulfilling road trip can be for the soul.
As the miles roll by, it isn’t lost on us how the Sonata Hybrid is a stylish and accommodating vehicle for our road trip. The hybrid variant of Hyundai’s popular Sonata sedan is quite fuel efficient at a rated 46 mpg on the highway and 40 mpg in city driving, which goes a long way toward mitigating carbon emissions. It’s also ideal for road trips with a driving range up to 668 miles on a tank of fuel.
While the Sonata Hybrid has the overall bold and distinctive look of its conventionally powered counterpart, there are some distinguishing features. These include a slightly different front and rear fascia and aerodynamic wheels that help achieve a low drag coefficient of 0.24. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter GDI Atkinson cycle, 4-cylinder engine with a Blue Drive parallel hybrid system. Engine output is 154 horsepower with 140 lb-ft torque to provide spirited and confident driving.
Like all Sonatas, the hybrid offers standard Bluetooth with audio streaming and a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Standard safety tech includes blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert. New standard features on the Limited trim include automatic emergency braking, smart cruise control with start/stop, and lane keeping assist. Importantly the Sonata comes with a hefty 5-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, or 10 years and 100,000 miles of coverage for the powertrain.
As we arrive in Monterey, we’re reminded of the very special nature of this place. Views here are among the awe-inspiring in the world. If you ever have reason to question that, just take a leisurely journey along the area’s famed 17 Mile Drive from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach as the route hugs the Pacific coastline.
Stop along the way at such scenic vistas as Spanish Bay, Bird Rock, Stillwater Cove, and Point Joe, where converging currents create a mesmerizing and constantly restless sea. Take time to appreciate The Lone Cypress, which has majestically withstood the elements for over 250 years. Take in the stately Lodge at Pebble Beach and appreciate the Pebble Beach Golf Links, considered one of the finest golf courses in the world, then get a bite at one of the resort’s excellent restaurants.
Beyond its grandeur, there are other compelling reasons to head to the Monterey Peninsula. One of the highlights is the annual spectacle of Monterey Car Week each August, a celebration of classic and modern vehicles with a 10-day series of events capped by The Quail – A Motorsports Gathering at Quail Lodge & Golf Club, and the renowned Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance that’s taken place at this famed golf resort for the past 60 years.
We recently attended both along with other elements of Monterey Car Week, including Exotics on Cannery Row and classic car auctions with some of the most amazing and historic automotive iron on the planet. In recent years, these events have seen a major showing by automakers at exhibits and pavilions as they display their current vehicles, along with concepts, pre-production, and electrified models. Examples of advanced and electrified vehicles on hand included the electric Polestar 1, Porsche Mission E, Karma Revero, Mercedes-AMG Project One, and Byton K-Byte.
Beyond the visceral thrill imparted by all manner of automotive history on display, one of our most memorable moments was during an afternoon at the Mecum Auction. Here, we witnessed a vintage Porsche 550 Spyder (think James Dean) bid up to $925,000…without selling because it failed to meet the seller’s reserve price.
More often than not, our sojourns to the area have included stays at the seaside Monterey Plaza and Clement Monterey hotels, or the Portola Hotel at Monterey Bay adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf. The Carmel Valley Ranch Resort, where you can appreciate an inevitable greeting by deer and perhaps even wild turkeys, is also a favorite. All are located within easy reach of such memorable Monterey attractions as Fisherman’s Wharf, the historic Carmel Mission, the Maritime Museum of Monterey, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the historic Carmel Mission that was founded in 1771 by the Franciscan friars.
Heading home with the sights and sounds of Monterey behind us, we can only say that this is one road trip that everyone should take at some time in their life, if it’s in the cards. Doing so in the month of August when Monterey Car Week is happening, of course, makes it all the better.
Photography by Sheree Gardner Cogan
Getting around Hawaii is a study in diversity. Hang around the islands and you’ll see folks moving about on trolleys and buses, in cabs, rental cars, scooters, and of course on foot. We prefer staying planted at the Hilton Hawaiian Village with its array of interesting sites, nightlife, and of course its desirable stretch of Waikiki Beach. Walks to downtown Waikiki are a must to experience the vibrant activities there.
After arrival at Honolulu International Airport and a requisite lei greeting, there are plenty of choices available for getting to Waikiki and elsewhere on the island. Popular options include cabs and town cars or shared rides aboard courtesy vehicles from some hotels, on-demand SpeediShuttle, and the island-wide TheBus service.
What about rental cars? Not really on our radar unless a day trip to the North Shore is on the agenda. Typical of others, we’ve rented cars when visiting in the past, but the car was parked more than it was used. Still, what about those interesting places in the guidebook that call to you…those farther than a pleasant walk but not really distant enough to warrant the cost and hassle of a conventional rental car?
That line of thought spelled opportunity for Justin MacNaughton and Warren Doi, founders of GreenCar Hawaii, a by-the-hour ‘green’ car share service on Kauai and Oahu. Choices vary by location but include the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, hybrids, and efficient gasoline models. Our plans on this trip included visiting Honolulu’s Chinatown and hiking the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, with a trailhead some 15 miles from our Hilton Hawaiian Village base.
Since GreenCar Hawaii had a rental outlet at the nearby Doubletree Alana Hotel, we walked over to the Doubletree to pick up a Nissan LEAF there. We figured...if we're going to travel with a light eco footprint, why not go zero emission with a popular electric car?
The process of renting a vehicle from GreenCar Hawaii is simple and can be done online, by phone, or through a kiosk at the hotel. If the reservation was made ahead of time, a credit card is swiped at the kiosk as a reservation identifier, details for the car-share rental are shown, and a reservation check-in is printed out. Present this to the hotel’s valet parking and the car is brought up by an attendant, no different than if you were a guest at the hotel with a car in valet parking.
We knew the drill with electric cars and made sure our travels wouldn’t take us farther than the LEAF’s available range. All told, our plotted routes would consume about 60 miles so we were good to go. Those wishing to go farther than the range of the rental LEAFs can opt to charge up at numerous 240 volt Level II chargers on the island or at a handful of available fast chargers.
Picking up our LEAF from the valet, we headed out on city streets and then H1 East and HI-72 East toward the Makapu’u Point State Wayside, where visitors park their cars before heading out on the hike. The half-hour, 15 mile drive was pleasant and uneventful, the LEAF performing as expected with plenty of power and a comfortable ride.
The guidebook described the hike as ‘easy and breezy’ along a two mile paved trail. While short and do-able, it’s also a bit steep at times and warm as well as breezy. The bonus: It's good exercise and the views are unbeatable. Reaching the summit provides a great view of the Makapu’u lighthouse and two small islands nearby – Manana and Kaohikaipu. We've hiked Diamond head before and recommend this as a nice follow-up after that trek up the famous dormant volcano. Following our hike was a drive to Honolulu’s Chinatown and a quick visit to Hilo Hattie’s for souvenirs to bring back home.
Returning the LEAF to the Doubletree Alana Hotel was simple, with a swipe of a credit card at the kiosk identifying our rental details, processing the $15 per hour charge for our four hour rental, and printing out a receipt. Keys were handed over to valet parking and we were off on a walk to Cheeseburger Waikiki for loco moco and then back to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Easy breezy, as they say.