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Toyota presents a reimagined, bullet train-inspired minivan in its all-new 2021 Sienna. The fourth-generation Sienna family hauler boasts greatly improved drive dynamics, interior comfort, and a Toyota estimated 33 combined mpg, an impressive efficiency number thanks to its standard gas/electric hybrid powertrain. An all-wheel drive option is available in all trim offerings. 

Taking design cues from the Toyota Avalon, Sienna’s dynamic bodyline lends an aerodynamic elegance generally reserved for premium sedans. Longer, wider, and visually lower to the pavement, in any trim level Sienna gives the competition a run for the consumer dollar. This is especially true since a standard hybrid drivetrain means Toyota effectively broadens Sienna’s market appeal.

Built on Toyota’s TNGA-K world car platform, the 2021 Sienna blends the latest technology with much-improved ride comfort in five available trim levels. Toyota Safety Sense is standard, offering a comprehensive active safety suite that includes Automatic High Beams, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Trace Assist, Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection/Low Light Detection, and Road Sign Assist. Additional active safety and driver assist technologies are available throughout the trim walk.

Innovations for the new Sienna include kick-open and closing sliding side doors and rear gate, a four-zone climate control system, optional heated captain’s chairs with ottomans and a super-long adjustment range in the second row, plus an onboard vacuum and refrigerator. The Sienna LE and some XLE models come equipped with eight seat configurations overall. Some XLE models, as well as the XSE, Limited, and Platinum, afford comfortable seating for up to seven and feature  the Super Long Slide second-row captain’s chairs, with the Limited and Platinum FWD models further equipped with ottomans.

Sienna offers a segment-first power tilt and telescoping steering column with a heated steering wheel, along with a digital rearview mirror, 10-inch color heads-up display, and a 12-speaker JBL Premium Audio system. Minivan buyers wishing for more of an all-weather SUV utility experience will appreciate that the 2021 Sienna is available as an all-wheel-drive variant with a stated towing capacity of 3500 lbs.

For the adventurous, 2021 Sienna comes to market with a full line of dealer-available accessories designed and manufactured by Yakima, including a rooftop carrier, cross bars, bike rack, and more. Also offered is an available tow hitch and factory optional, 1500-watt inverter with 120-volt AC outlets to power camping equipment.

The fourth-generation 2021 Toyota Sienna is a milestone for Toyota. It blends minivan utility with SUV all-weather capabilities and premium sedan ride and drive comfort. Plus, its standard hybrid power provides for a fuel-efficient minivan ownership experience, further representing Toyota’s commitment toward fleet-wide electrification to reduce carbon emissions and environmental impact.

Hyundai has unveiled a major refresh of its best-selling Elantra compact sedan this year, bucking the industry’s trend of dropping cars in favor of crossovers and SUVs. It’s not that sport-utilities aren’t important to this automaker. In fact, Hyundai has half-a-dozen crossover SUVs in it stable. It’s just that with 3.4 million Elantras sold in the U.S. since the model’s introduction and its continuing popularity, there’s every reason for Hyundai to go all in with this compact sedan.

An extended hood and low roofline present a lower, wider, and more aggressive stance compared to the previous 6th generation Elantra. Design cues include a hard chiseled wind deflecting hood, a wide cascading grill, integrated turn signals, projector beam LED auto dim headlighting, and full width tail lights. Looking to Elantra’s grillwork, one is reminded of Hyundai Genesis design, quite intentionally. Gloss black and chrome body accents add nice touches. Elantra offers 15, 16 and 17 inch alloy wheel options to accentuate its appealing look.

Inside, Elantra buyers discover a driver-centric design delivering a much improved cockpit experience, with everything in easy reach and eyeshot. Among its features are an available side-by-side 10.2 inch digital instrument cluster, IMID display, and a 10.2 inch center dash navigation monitor. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability is standard. Smart steering wheel controls are intuitive. For audiophiles, Elantra is optioned with a Bose premium audio upgrade.

Hyundai’s comprehensive SmartSense active safety and driver assist technologies are standard equipment across the trim walk. An enhanced natural-language voice recognition system – a Hyundai first – features Speech-to-Meaning and Deep Meaning Understanding technologies. Buyers will discover yet another first for the segment, Hyundai Digital Key. With this feature the Elantra can be unlocked and started from a compatible smartphone or key-card, no key required. The electronic key application is shareable to other smartphone users.

The gasoline model is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft torque. Elantra Hybrid’s motivation comes straight from its Ionic cousin. It pairs a direct-injected 1.6-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine with a 43 horsepower motor and lithium ion battery, delivering a combined 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft torque. Power is transferred to the front wheels via Hyundai’s 6-speed Shiftronic transmission with select drive modes. It features electric assist power steering, 4-wheel disk brakes, Macpherson struts up front, and multi-link rear suspension

Hyundai Elantra and Elantra Hybrid prices will be announced closer to when the models go on sale later in 2020. EPA fuel efficiency ratings have yet to be disclosed.

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.

First making its appearance in 1966, the Corolla has proved to be a serious mainstay for the Toyota brand. To date it has sold over 46 million copies worldwide, along the way becoming the best-selling nameplate in the world. Its sales have far surpassing that of the original Volkswagen Beetle, the ubiquitous everyman’s car that was seemingly everywhere for years on end, but in actuality sold less than half the number achieved by the Corolla. Unlike the Beetle that remained true to its unmistakably simple form over its lifetime, Corollas have seen many major redesigns over the years and this year’s 2020 Corolla sedan features the model’s most compelling redesign in decades.

As with previous models, the 2020 Corolla’s strengths are its affordability, reliability, and notably high fuel economy. Now, it can add style to that list of strengths…along with the title 2020 Green Car of the Year®.

The latest Corollas use Toyota's New Global Architecture (TNGA). This brings a stiffer platform with an independent multilink rear suspension that replaces the previous torsion beam setup. The standard base engine on lower-end L, LE, and XLE trims is the long-used and dependable 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 139 horsepower. Stepping up to SE and XSE trims bring a 169 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant to bear. Both are quite fuel efficient, with the 1.8-liter delivering 30 city/38 highway mpg and the 2.0-liter 31 city/40 highway mpg.

Power is delivered to the road through a 6-speed manual on the SE and an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission on lower end models. Upper trims get a continuously variable transmission with intelligence. Shift Mode starts out with an actual first gear and then shifts to a CVT operation. Paddle shifters allow selection of 10 simulated gear ratios.

For optimum fuel economy there’s the new Corolla Hybrid LE model that features a 121 horsepower, 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four cylinder and a pair of electric motors. This highly efficient hybrid system achieves an impressive, Prius-like EPA estimated 52 combined mpg. Energy is provided by a 1.3 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack positioned under the rear seats, so trunk capacity is not compromised. Importantly, the Corolla Hybrid LE is priced at just $23,100, about $3,500 more than the base gasoline-powered model. Its high fuel efficiency, affordability to the masses, and huge worldwide sales means this model has an outsized impact on decreasing gasoline use and carbon emissions reductions.

In addition, this affordably-priced car offers a a full complement of driver assist systems that rivals those found in much more expensive vehicles. All versions have Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 as standard equipment. This package  includes Toyota’s Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Road Edge Detection and Sway Warning, Automatic High Beams, Lane Tracing Assist, and Road Sign Assist. Full-Speed Range Dynamic Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist are also part of the package.

Our time behind the wheel of a Corolla Hybrid LE proved this vehicle to be a great daily driver. It’s roomier than you would expect, quite comfortable, and delivers a satisfying driving experience while achieving its pretty amazing fuel efficiency. Acceleration is decent though not particularly quick, but then, buyers of the Corolla nameplate in its many forms are not shopping for high performance. They are shopping for value, durability, connectivity, safety, and efficiency, and with the 2020 Corolla they get all this in abundance.

Plus, of course, they now get an all-new Corolla with surprisingly attractive styling. While that might not have been the tipping point for buyers looking for top value and efficiency over the years, it’s sure an important addition that will draw even more interest in this enduring nameplate. And let’s not forget that with today’s greater interest in environmental performance – including significantly lower carbon emissions – the Corolla Hybrid becomes even more compelling as a champion for the cause, all the while sporting more mainstream appeal than many hybrids that came before it.

The Hyundai Sonata is all-new for 2020 and emerges slightly larger than the previous generation. A product of  Hyundai’s new ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ design language, this advanced four-door sedan exhibits the sleek look of a coupe and a more sophisticated overall persona, showing Hyundai’s commitment to offering more compelling passenger cars in an era where many automakers are abandoning cars in favor of crossovers and SUVs. This all-new sedan’s availability in the U.S. will include two gasoline-powered models and a hybrid, though a plug-in hybrid is said to be in the works. It’s offered in S, SE, SEL, SEL Plus and Limited trims.

The Sonata’s two engines include a new naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder making 191 horsepower, plus the carryover turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder producing 180 horsepower. The new 2.5 liter four has features like split cooling circuits, an exhaust manifold integrated with the cylinder head, and both port and direct fuel injection, resulting in somewhat higher fuel economy than the turbo four-cylinder engine. Both drive the front wheels through a new eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddles.

The Hyundai Sonata hybrid is powered by a new 150 horsepower, 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine and a 51 horsepower electric motor. This gives a combined output of 192 horsepower. It uses a new six-speed automatic transmission with Active Shift Control that aligns engine and transmission speeds, improving  both acceleration and fuel efficiency. The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid will be the first Hyundai to feature a solar panel roof.

An 8-inch touchscreen is standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen available. A 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster is standard on the Limited and SEL Plus and optional on the SEL. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is standard and Bluetooth pairing allows phone use while streaming music. A head-up display is optional.

Sonata is outfitted with three radar sensors, five cameras, and 13 ultrasonic sensors to enable the latest advanced driver assist systems. All models come with forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, driver-attention monitor, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and lane-follow assist.

Also available is blind spot warning, which displays an image of the left rear side of the car when the left turn signal is activated, and the right side when the right indicator is activated. These images appear in place of the speedometer or tachometer display, respectively. Also available is reverse automatic braking and a 360-degree camera system. Remote Smart Parking Assist is used to guide the car into, or out of, a tight parking space and is remotely controlled by a driver outside the car via the key fob.

The price of entry for the 2020 Sonata is $23,400 with the top-of-the-line Limited commanding $33,300. Hyundai has not yet announced cost for the Sonata Hybrid that will be coming soon.

The third-generation Nissan Versa is 2.3 inches lower, 1.8 inches wider, and 1.6 inches longer than the Versa it replaces and styling is definitely more handsome. It is available in S, SV and SR levels. With prices starting at $14,730 and fully loaded SRs coming in under $20,000, the Nissan Versa represents great value.

All Nissan Versas continue to be powered by the same 1.6-liter, four-cylinder DOHC engine with Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) as used in the outgoing model. However, it is a bit more powerful this year with 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft torque. A five-speed manual continues to be the standard transmission for the S grade, while the SV and SR trims only come with an Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). The CVT is optional on the base S trim. Manual gearbox-equipped 2020 Versas get 27 city/40 highway mpg while CVT versions net 32 city/40 highway mpg.

The S, SV, and SR each offer a slightly difference appearance beyond their 15-, 16- and 17-inch wheels, respectively, with the upper two alloys. Headlights on the S and SV are halogen, while the SR has LEDS. Interiors also get better as you go up in trim levels. SV and SR trims feature a 7-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These trims also get a 7-inch instrument cluster. S trims get a 7-inch display, but without the Nissan Connect infotainment system or Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. All trims have three USB ports, pushbutton start, and Bluetooth for calls and audio streaming. 

Even at these budget prices, the Versa has many driver-assist aides. All trims get standard Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Automatic Braking, and Lane Departure Warning. SV and SR trims add Blind Spot Warning, Intelligent Driver Alertness, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Cruise control is standard on all trims. However, Intelligent Cruise Control that maintains a set distance to the vehicle ahead is only optional on the top SR trim. All trims get auto on/off headlights and high-beam assist.

Nissan strives to ensure a driver never leaves a child in a Versa SV or SR with the model’s standard Rear Seat Alert system, which reminds drivers to check the back seat when exiting by sounding the Versa’s horn.

The ever-popular Mazda 3 is available as both a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback to fit differing tastes. Completely redesigned last year and built on an all-new platform, the sedan and hatchback have distinctly different rear side profiles and rear styling.

The Hatchback is available in Standard, Preferred, and Premium packages, with the sedan adding a Select package at the lower end. Both variants feature a prominent grille accented by slim LED headlights and daytime running lights. Adaptive headlights are offered on the top Premium package. All models are available with either two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive.

Power is delivered by an efficient 2.5-liter, 186 horsepower SKYACTIV-G2 engine featuring dual overhead valves, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation. This four-cylinder engine connects to a SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission with sport mode. A 6-speed manual is available only on the hatchback with the Premium package. All-wheel-drive models use Mazda's i-ACTIV AWD all-wheel drive system. The model also offers the automaker’s latest-generation G-Vectoring Control Plus system that slightly reduces engine torque to sharpen steering feel.

Mazda's long-awaited SKYACTIV-X spark-controlled compression ignition (SPCCI) engine is now available in Mazda3 models Europe and expected to be offered here later in the model year. This innovative engine combines the best features of spark-ignition (gasoline) and combustion-ignition (diesel) engines without either of their disadvantages, while offering greater horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency.

All 2020 Mazda trim levels now come standard with i-ACTIVSENSE driver-assist features that were previously standard only on higher trim levels. These include Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Driver Attention Alert, Blind-spot Monitoring, and Automatic Emergency Braking.

The Mazda3’s driver-focused cockpit includes a 7.0-inch instrument cluster screen and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A head-up display is optional. The Mazda3 offers an entry price of $21,500 for the sedan and $23,700 for the hatchback variant.

The Toyota Highlander family-size, three row SUV is a new, fourth generation model based on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA-K). It's available in both gasoline and hybrid versions. The highly-efficient hybrid edition is available in front- or all-wheel-drive and in LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum trim levels.

Highlander Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder DOHC engine and a pair of electric motors to deliver a total system output of 240 horsepower. The rear-mounted electric motor distributes torque to the rear wheels when slip is detected, while the all-wheel version uses this same motor to drive the rear axle. Normal, Sport, and Eco drive modes can be selected.

A sequential shifting switch controls regenerative braking to allow ‘downshifting’ in steps to maximize regen efficiency. Information from the navigation system anticipate traffic conditions ahead, enabling the Highlander Hybrid to coast longer distances when the driver’s foot is off the throttle.

New computer integration and a smaller, lighter power stack installed directly above the transaxle reduces energy transmission losses. The battery pack is installed under the rear seats without compromising cargo or passenger space. Highlander Hybrid's Predictive Efficient Drive system analyzes a driver’s habits, routes, and road conditions, then uses this data to charge and discharge the battery most efficiently.

Toyota expects the Highlander Hybrid to deliver a combined EPA fuel efficiency rating in the mid-30s, a significant efficiency bump up from the 29 combined mpg rating for the previous generation’s AWD version.

The Highlander Hybrid's standard Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety systems includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beams, and pre-collision with pedestrian detection. Two new features are lane-tracing assist and road sign assist.  Lane-tracing assist recognizes lane strips to keep the SUV centered in its lane, while road sign assist recognizes road signs and notifies the driver to pay attention via visual or audible alerts. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automated parking with brake assistance are available depending on the trim level.

All trim levels get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa, along with Waze, Wi-Fi, and Sirius XM. Infotainment is controlled on a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen, while the Platinum trim has a 12.3-inch screen. Starting price for the Highlander Hybrid is just over $38,000.

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.

Hyundai’s new 2020 Venue 5-door SUV is aimed at city dwellers. With an overall length of about 13 feet, it is the smallest vehicle in the Hyundai lineup. It can seat four, or five in a pinch. In addition to a 60/40 split, flat-folding rear seat, the Venue offers a convenient dual-level cargo floor. The Venue will be available in SE and SEL trim levels.

Power comes from a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 130 horsepower. A six-speed manual is available on the SE while the SEL comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is not available. EPA estimated fuel economy numbers are not out yet, but it’s expected the Venue will deliver somewhere in the range of 33 combined mpg.

For a very affordable vehicle, the Hyundai comes with a host of driver assist systems either as standard or optional equipment.  These include Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Collision Cross-Traffic Warning, Active Lane Control, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Auto Headlight Control. In addition, Standard Driver Attention Warning detects driver fatigue or carelessness.

A standard 8-inch touchscreen located in the center of the dashboard provides infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Bluetooth connectivity is also provided along with a USB port. Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system also features integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

 Most remote features, including remote car start, are also available via an optional Hyundai’s Blue Link mobile app and MyHyundai.com. Navigation with real-time traffic is optional.

Arriving at dealer showrooms in the fourth quarter of 2019, we expect it to offer a very attractive price-of-entry between $17,000 to $18,000.         

Internal combustion engines power the vast majority of the cars and trucks on the road today. That’s not by any means a bad thing. While electrification of our cars dominates most of today’s headlines and resources, the internal combustion engine is still what moves most of us from one place to another.

These tried-and-true powerplants have evolved to meet modern requirements in ways that lend flexibility to current and future needs. A primary advantage to internal combustion is that engines can be powered by multiple fuel sources including gasoline, diesel, and an array of alternative fuels. That flexibility provides options moving forward.

Hybrid cars and trucks, in all their configurations, are a gateway to pure electric vehicle acceptance. Gasoline-electric hybrids rely on an efficient internal combustion engine to function. The hybrid envelope has expanded in recent times to include plugin models that can travel varying distances on pure electric power as well.

Automatic start-stop function is an important technology that makes internal combustion vehicles more city-friendly by shutting an engine off when stopped at a traffic light for more than a few seconds, eliminating unnecessary idling emissions. The engine remains off as long as a driver’s foot is on the brake pedal and the vehicle is not in motion. When the light changes, lifting off the brake immediately restarts the engine and you drive away.

Fuel economy improvements, lower carbon emissions, and overall emissions reductions are also being accomplished by other strategies. Among the most prominent is engine downsizing, which allows the use of smaller displacement engines boosted with power-adding technologies like turbocharging. The old adage, ‘there’s no replacement for displacement,’ is being successfully circumvented by smart engine downsizing.

Some elegant solutions are presenting themselves. One example is Nissan’s VC-Turbo, the world’s first variable compression production engine. Modifying engine compression ratio through sophisticated computer control allows adjusting compression in real time, optimizing efficiency and performance depending on driving conditions.

Another example is the introduction of Chevrolet’s next-generation Dynamic Fuel Management in Silverado 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines. This advanced technology optimizes power and fuel efficiency through cylinder deactivation, determining 80 times-per-second how many cylinders are actually needed for real-time driving needs, with the engine running on as little as a single cylinder to save fuel and decrease carbon emissions.

Gasoline engines have traditionally required a spark plug to ignite the fuel-air mixture in an engine’s combustion chamber to drive a piston. More thermally efficient diesel engines create ignition as a piston compresses the fuel-air mixture at high pressure, without a plug. So, what if you could combine the best of both worlds and make a gasoline engine work more like an efficient diesel? 

It now appears the technology is ready for prime time and production. Mazda’s new SKYACTIV-X is set to become the world’s first production engine to use compression ignition in a commercially available gasoline engine. The automaker’s proprietary Spark Controlled Compression Ignition design provides considerable torque during acceleration, along with sharp engine response, improved fuel efficiency, and lower emissions. 

The worldwide push toward electric vehicles has yielded some surprising consequences. One is an all-out effort to make combustion vehicles better and more competitive with the advancement and sharing of technologies across all platforms.

Is the internal combustion engine dead? Hardly. It just keeps getting better, more efficient, and technologically advanced as the years roll by.

Growing significantly from its original compact form, Ford’s 2019 Ranger pickup is nearly the same size as a mid-1990s F-150. That means it’s a direct competitor to popular mid-size pickups like the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier. It does well in the efficiency department with EPA ratings of 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

Ranger is available as a SuperCab or SuperCrew built on a common 126.8-inch wheelbase. The SuperCab comes with a 6-foot bed while the SuperCrew gets a 5-foot bed. Unlike the aluminum-bodied F-150, the Ranger is steel with steel bumpers mounted directly to the frame for durability and crashworthiness.

2019 Ford RangerPower is delivered by a 2.3-liter, turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear- and part-time four-wheel-drive are available. Electronic “Shift-on-the-Fly” 4WD allows a driver to switch from 2WD to 4WD HIGH at speeds up to 55 mph, and to 4WD LOW at lower speeds.

Electronic-Shift-on-the-Fly comes with a two-speed transfer case, Dana electronic locking rear differential, and Ford’s Terrain Management System. The latter provides a choice between Normal, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, and Sand modes. A new low-speed Trail Control off-road cruise control standard on 4WD models can be selected to take over the throttle and brakes, letting a driver steer through rugged terrain.

Power goes through Dana Trac-Lok differentials on both two- and four-wheel drive models. An electronic locking rear differential is optional. A new fully boxed frame is unique to North American Rangers. The Ranger is equipped with electronic power-assisted steering. It has an independent dual A-arm with coil spring front suspension and a solid Dana rear axle with two-stage leaf springs in back.

The Ranger comes in XL, XLT and Lariat trim levels. An FX-4 Off-Road Package available on all of these adds a front steel skid plate, other steel underbody skid plates, off-road shocks and tires, and Magnetic Grey trim accents.

Electronic features include FordPass Connect Wi-Fi with 4G LTE connectivity for up to 10 devices, a Sync 3 infotainment system, LCD gauge cluster screens, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, optional navigation, and USB outlets. The Ranger offers nearly as many driver assists as the rest of the Ford lineup, including standard forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. A blind spot warning system is available that includes trailer coverage.

Ranger is available at a base MSRP of $24,300 for the SuperCab and $26,520 for the SuperCrew variants, with four-wheel drive an additional $4,160.

Chevrolet introduced its efficiency-enhancing Active Fuel Management (AFM) cylinder deactivation system in 2005 and has now followed up with even more sophisticated Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM). While AFM alternates between eight- and four-cylinder operation, DFM features 17 cylinder patterns that constantly determine how many cylinders are required to meet real-time driving needs.

Dynamic Fuel Management  uses a sophisticated controller that continuously monitors every movement of the accelerator pedal, running a complex sequence of calculations to determine how many cylinders are required to meet the required torque. It makes this determinations 80 times-per-second to optimize efficiency and power delivery at all speeds. with only the cylinders needed to provide this torque in play…down to a single cylinder.

An electromechanical system controls all 16 of the engine’s hydraulic valve lifters, using solenoids to deliver oil pressure to control ports in the lifters that activate or deactivate the lifters’ latching mechanisms. When a cylinder is deactivated, the two-piece lifters effectively collapse on themselves to prevent opening the valves. When the cylinder is reactivated, solenoids send an oil pressure signal to the control ports on the lifters and the latching mechanism restores normal function, allowing the valves to open and close.

The first application of GM’s Dynamic Fuel Management emerged in the 2019 model year, available on the all-new Chevrolet Silverado’s optional 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines. This efficiency-enhancing system will certainly find its way to additional models across the GM line. Chevrolet says DFM improves fuel economy by about 5 percent.

Toyota is no stranger to high efficiency vehicles, having successfully blazed new trails for nearly two decades with its mega-mpg in all its various forms. Rather than resting on its laurels, the automaker has continued to move the efficiency numbers of its models upward as well to appeal to a broader market.

The fifth generation Avalon Hybrid is one such example. Readily identified by its massive grille and large air intakes, the 2019 Avalon Hybrid rides on the latest Toyota New Global Architecture platform shared with the smaller Toyota Camry. Its wheelbase is nearly two inches longer and overall length three inches greater than the previous Avalon model. Avalon Hybrids come in base  XLE, sporty XSE, and loaded Limited trims. The XSE has features like steering wheel paddle shifters, sunroof, black honeycomb mesh inserts in the grille. and sport-tuned suspension. The latter includes tweaks to the springs, anti-roll bars, and shocks to enhance performance.

Power is delivered by the automaker’s Toyota Hybrid System II (THS II) that integrates an updated 2.5-liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine, a pair of electric motors, and a 1.6 kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. One motor assists the engine when maximum power is needed while both feed electrical energy back to the battery during coasting. The Dynamic Force engine is more fuel efficient, runs cleaner, and is more powerful than previous versions. The battery pack now resides beneath the rear seat rather than in the trunk like the previous version, lowering the car’s center of gravity while providing additional trunk room.

The Avalon Hybrid’s continuously variable transmission has six simulated gears that can be shifted by the gearshift, or via steering wheel paddles in the XSE. EPA rates the Avila Hybrid at 43 city and 43 highway mpg, quite impressive for the largest sedan in the Toyota lineup. The combination of the gasoline engine and twin motors produces 215 horsepower, 15 more than the previous version. The Avalon Hybrid has Sport, Normal, and Eco modes, the latter adding power from the hybrid system for improved acceleration.

Smart and connected technologies are a matter of course for the 2019 Avalon. The model comes standard with Toyota’s Entune 3.0 infotainment system using Apple CarPlay displayed on a standard 9.0-inch center screen. It can integrate devices with Alexa-enabled voice connectivity and offers a Wi-Fi hotspot. The instrument panel features a 7.0-inch driver’s display showing vehicle information, navigation instructions, safety information, and alerts.

The  Avalon’s standard Toyota Safety Sense P includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Automatic High Beams. Additional standard safety systems include a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Back Guide Monitor. Also available are a Panoramic View Monitor with Alert and Intelligent Clearance Sonar, which now includes a Rear Cross Traffic Braking system.

All 2019 Avalons have Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, anti-lock braking, backup camera, and smart stop technology. A surround-view camera system, front and rear parking sensors, and automatic reverse braking are optional.

The price of entry for the Avalon Hybrid is $36,550, just $1,000 above the price of the standard, conventionally-powered Avalon model.

沃尔沃全新XC40外观Volvo’s smallest crossover features an aggressive design that’s a bit of a departure for the automaker, even as it retains the fundamental styling cues that say ‘Volvo.’ The first model built on the automaker’s Compact Modular Architecture, the new XC40 is offered as either a T4 front-wheel drive or T5 all-wheel drive and in three trim levels. The XC40 looks deceptively small but has plenty of cargo and passenger capacity for longer trips. A plug-in hybrid and possibly an all-electric model are likely in the future.

Inside, the stylish cabin aims for an uncluttered look while still providing all the amenities SUV buyers desire. Functionality is a top priority, which the XC40 provides in intelligent ways with features like spacious door bins that accommodate a laptop or tablet, easily accessible under-seat drawers for stashing wallets or other necessities, and even a trash bin for cleaning up clutter. The front storage compartment holds a wireless charge pad for smartphones. Other welcome features include a standard 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen and an available panoramic sunroof that provides loads of available light.

New Volvo XC40 - interiorAll XC40s are powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder Drive-E engine. In the T4 this engine is rated at 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque. Engine output increases to 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque in the all-wheel drive T5. Both connect to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Manual gear shifts are possible with the Volvo’s shift lever or, alternatively, via steering wheel shift paddles on the R-Design model.

Standard on all XC40s are Automated Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Forward-Collision Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist with Lane-Departure Warning, Automatic High-Beam Headlamps, Driver-Attention Monitor, and Traffic-Sign Detection.  A self-parking feature, front and rear parking sensors, and Blind-Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert can be added as part of the Vision package.

New Volvo XC40 - 360 cameraVolvo offers Pilot Assist as a part of a Premium package. This is essentially adaptive cruise control with a semi-autonomous driving mode. It keeps the XC40 within its own lane and maintains a set speed and distance behind the vehicle ahead. Unlike some other near-self-driving systems, Pilot Assist requires the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times…perhaps not a surprise considering Volvo’s longstanding focus on safety.

The 2019 XC40 serves up 23 city and 33 highway mpg, at a starting cost of $33,700. Another option is Care by Volvo, an innovative subscription service that includes use of a new XC40 Momentum ($600 per month) or R-Design ($700 per month) for a maximum of 15,000 miles per year. Insurance, maintenance, and road-hazard protection are included, plus the opportunity for the lessee to upgrade to a new XC40 each year for the same all-inclusive monthly payment. A subscription lasts for 24 months.

沃尔沃全新XC40外观

In today's all-cars-look- alike world, the Cadillac’s 2019 XT4 takes exception. This upscale compact crossover features distinct features like sharp angles, a wide mesh-textured grill with a floating wreath and crest, prominent standard LED daytime running lights, plus unique headlights and large vertical taillights that will not be mistaken for another brand. The XT4 comes in Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Sport trims. The Sport trim gets a black mesh grille, body-color door handles, and black window trim, features that are chrome on other trims.

The XT4 is the first Cadillac to be powered by the brand’s new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which uses what Cadillac calls a ‘tripower’ system featuring variable valve lift and cylinder deactivation. The smooth and refined engine produces 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque, so this four-cylinder is quite capable of handling the two-ton XT4. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard. It achieves an EPA estimated 30 highway mpg.

An available twin-clutch, all-wheel-drive system like that used on the XT5 is able to decouple the rear axle to improve fuel economy. This part-time all-wheel-drive system requires a double tap on a button to activate. Electro-hydraulically assisted brakes also help fuel efficiency by reducing parasitic losses from one crankshaft-driven belt. EPA numbers are 24 city and 30 highway with front-wheel-drive and 22 city, 29 highway mpg with all-wheel drive.

Optional Sport trim gets an Active Sport Suspension with adaptive dampers that react quickly to road conditions without being too stiff. The other models retain struts up front and a multilink setup at the rear.  Eighteen inch wheels are standard, with 20 inch wheels optional on Premium Luxury and Sport trims, each with their own design.

The 2019 XT4 was developed on an exclusive compact SUV architectStandard equipment includes blind-spot monitors, a rearview camera, and traction control systems. Optional are forward-collision warning with low- and high-speed automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, active lane control, and reverse automatic braking. A surround-view camera system, automatic parking assist, and a camera-based rearview mirror are also available. Cadillac’s highly advanced SuperCruise driver-assistance features are not offered on the XT4.

The XT4’s dash is dominated by an 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Cadillac’s CUE interface for its infotainment system adds a new dial-type controller. A near-field communication system simplifies the process of phone pairing, while wireless inductive charging pads boast faster charge times. The XT4 has 22.5 cubic feet of cargo room with both rows of seats in place. The back seat folds down for 48.9 cubic feet of storage.

2019 Cadillac XT4 SportThe cost of entry for the  base Luxury XT4 is $34,795, with the Luxury AWD trim level beginning at $37,295 and the Sport at $39.295.

MY19 Nissan Altima

Nissan's all-new, sixth-generation Altima has been extensively redesigned with greater refinement and efficiency, along with a more aerodynamic body boasting an impressive 0.26 drag coefficient. Distinctive styling cues include a more aggressive front facia with a V-motion grille and streamlined boomerang lights.

Inside there is a standard 7-inch driver display and a NASA-inspired zero gravity seat that enhances comfort and fights fatigue. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. Every 2019 Altima also comes equipped with a standard 8-inch multi-touch color display, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, streaming audio via Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging assistant, and Siri eyes free voice recognition. Some remote features are also accessible through NissanConnect Services’ Amazon Alexa Skill and Google Assistant Action.

MY19 Nissan Altima

Power is provided by a naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 188 horsepower. There’s also an all-new, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 248 horsepower on tap. The world’s first production variable compression engine, this 2.0-liter powerplant enables compression ratio to adjust from 8:1 to 14:1  by continuously raising or lowering piston reach for performance or greater efficiency. Both engines connect to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Paddle shifters are available with the SR grade.

Every 2.5-liter Altima is now available with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive with a 50:50 torque split in most situations, a first for a Nissan sedan and something that remains a relative rarity in this segment. Front-wheel drive 2.5-liter models are rated at 28 city/39 highway mpg.

2019 Nissan Altima

Unique in the class, Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist helps drivers stay centered in the lane, navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed, and maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead.  To activate the system, a driver simply pushes the blue ProPILOT Assist ON button, then sets the Intelligent Cruise Control when the desired speed is reached, similar to a conventional advanced cruise control system. It uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors, and an electronic control module.

Along with ProPILOT Assist, also new for 2019 is Rear Automatic Braking that helps a driver by detecting and warning of objects while backing up, and if necessary applying brakes to help avoid a collision. Other safety and convenience features include standard Automatic Emergency Braking, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, and Intelligent Driver Alertness 3 on all grades.

Intelligent Around View Monitor is standard on the Altima Platinum. Safety Shield 360 includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Automatic Braking, Lane Departure Warning, radar-based Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and High Beam Assist (HBA). A new Traffic Sign Recognition system provides the most recent speed limit information.

The 2019 Nissan Altima offers a base cost of $23,900, a point of entry approachable for a great many buyers seeking a fun-do-drive, stylish vehicle offering laudable fuel efficiency and some of the most advanced technology available in its class.

The Mercedes-Benz Metris is this automaker’s offering for commercial vehicle buyers who like the Sprinter van, but desire something a bit smaller. They get it in the Metris mid-size van, a model first introduced to the U.S. in the 2016 model year that’s somewhat larger than compact competitors on the market. Because it’s smaller than the Sprinter, it’s more maneuverable in an urban setting with a reasonable 38.7 foot turning diameter. Notably, the Metris van offers a height that allows it to be parked in a standard garage. For commercial interests like hotels and transport companies needing a people mover, Metris also comes in a passenger version with seating for up to eight.

Mercedes-Benz is associated with luxury sedans, premium SUVs, and upscale sports cars in the U.S, but the Metris – like the Sprinter – charts its own course. This van is devoid of the luxury appointments expected in the automaker’s consumer products, instead keeping things simple with fewer frills and a much greater focus on the features most desired by tradesmen, businesses, and fleets.

The Metris WORKER Cargo VanTo this end, Metris is fitted with sliding doors on both sides and wide-opening rear doors. Power sliding side doors are an option. It has a cargo capacity of 2500 pounds and can tow 5,000 pounds. A standard pallet fits between the wheel wells. The roof can support over 330 pounds. Plus, configuring a Metris for specific commercial uses is made easier with the Mercedes-Benz MasterUpfitter program that offers many options for interior and exterior customization. Fleet operators will appreciate the 15,000-mile service interval.

Metris is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine that’s EPA rated at 20-21 mpg in the city and 23-24 mpg on the highway. It connects to a seven-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters, an unusual feature on a commercial van. New for 2019 is standard stop/start operation to enhance efficiency and an optional rear liftgate.

The Metris WORKER Cargo VanCrosswind Assist, Attention Assist, Hill Assist Start, and a load-adaptive Electronic Stability Program are standard on both van and wagon. Entry-level versions also include an Audio 10 radio head unit with Bluetooth capability and five speakers. Optional convenience and safety features include Active Parking Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Collision Prevention Assist, and Blind Spot Assist, plus parking sensors and a rear view camera.

Businesses requiring a delivery or work van that can fit a diversity of needs will see this Mercedes-Benz product an affordable option, a surprise to some since it has a Mercedes-Benz emblem on the front grille. And it became even more accessible with the more basic and lower cost Worker version added to the mix, which reduced the model’s initial launch price by $3,000 to bring the cost of entry to $25,995.

The Metris WORKER Cargo Van