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Kia’s compact SUV entered its fourth generation in 2021 with a complete exterior makeover, increased legroom and cargo space, and a raft of driver-assistance systems that have been made standard equipment. Four engine choices are offered in the all-new Sorrento, including a new turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder hybrid. A plug-in hybrid version of the turbocharged four is being introduced in Europe but there’s no confirmation if this will be coming here to the U.S.

The 2021 Sorento is built on Kia’s third-generation N3 platform, which is lighter but also stronger than the outgoing version. This increases the SUV’s wheelbase by nearly 1.4 inches, improves noise/vibration/harshness characteristics, and driving dynamics. It’s also versatile enough to accommodate the Sorento’s electrified drivetrain. 

Conventional Sorento powertrains utilize Kia’s 2.5-liter GDI four-cylinder engines. In naturally aspirated form the 2.5 GDI produces 191 horsepower, while a new turbocharged 2.5 GDI makes 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft torque. The hybrid pairs a 1.6-liter version of the GDI turbo with a 60 horsepower electric motor fed by a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion-polymer battery. The engine/motor combination produces a total of 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque, which is routed through a six-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. EPA fuel economy estimates rate the Sorento turbo hybrid’s efficiency at 39 city and 35 highway mpg, and 37 mpg combined.

Kia offers the 2021 Sorento in five trim levels, though the hybrid is available in the mid-range S and EX trims only. Many of the Sorento’s standard features are shared between the two, but the EX has a higher level of content, with equipment that includes LED fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, and wireless phone charger. Both the S and EX models are fitted with standard 17-inch alloy wheels and P235 tires.

There are a total of 16 standard and optional ‘Drive Wise’ advanced driver-assistance systems available for the Sorento. Standard ADAS systems on the hybrid model include blind-spot and rear-traffic collision avoidance, parking distance warning (rear-facing only on S, front and rear on EX), intelligent speed limit assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, driver attention warning, and lane-keep and lane-departure-warning systems.

The cost of entry for the new Sorrento is $29,390. Pricing starts at $33,590 for the Sorrento Hybrid S, with the uplevel Hybrid EX variant commanding three grand more at $36,590.

Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan
Ford’s Police Responder Hybrid provides a high-profile way for police departments across the country to dramatically increase the efficiency of their fleets while reducing their carbon footprint. Based on Ford’s efficient Fusion Hybrid, this first-ever pursuit rated hybrid police car has been rigorously tested by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the Michigan State Police, the two agencies that rate pursuit vehicles for police departments across the country. It is distinguished as Green Car Journal's 2018 Commercial Green Car of the Year.

The front-wheel drive police vehicle is powered by a 141 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine combined with an 88-horsepower electric motor. The Atkinson-cycle offers higher fuel efficiency at the expense of some conventional power loss at low speeds, although the electric motor makes up for lost low speed output. The Police Responder Hybrid is expected to earn an estimated combined 38 mpg.

Ford Police Responder Hybrid SedanA total of 188-horsepower is available when top performance is required. After five seconds of hard driving, the car automatically shifts into pursuit mode for maximum acceleration. It can jump 8-inch curbs and railroad crossings at speed, ford 18 inches of water at 15 mph and 10 inches at 40 mph, and handle Hollywood-style J-turns. The Police Responder Hybrid is intended mostly for urban use.

The electric motor runs on power from an advanced lithium-ion battery that enables electric-only driving at up to 60 mph. The motor also serves as a generator during braking and coast-down to feed energy back to the batteries. The Police Responder Hybrid features an electric-only stealth mode capability, although this is limited to a just a few miles by its 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery. Hybrid operation brings another significant advantage for law enforcement duty. When parked, the battery pack allows the engine to shut off for brief periods while keeping all the car’s electronics running, which saves fuel and decreases emissions.

Ford Police Responder Hybrid SedanFord’s Police Responder Hybrid has upgraded suspension, wheels, tires, and brakes to be pursuit rated and has also met vehicle dynamics and safety standards such as 75 mph rear-end crash testing. It features better engine cooling, an upgraded electrical system, center console pre-drilled holes to accommodate police equipment, and skid plates underneath to protect mechanical components. The interior has been modified for police use with front seat cushions shaped to accommodate equipment belts and gun holsters.

There are other modifications including anti-stab plates in the front seatbacks, a movable rotary gear shift dial that can be relocated within the car depending on department needs, a certified speedometer, additional power distribution in the trunk, and heavy-duty front door tethers. The back seat area has been designed without seatback or door pockets where a suspect could hide contraband or weapons. Upholstery is easy-to-clean vinyl.

Special Service Plug-In Hybrid SedanIn addition, Ford is now offering its new police Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan for non-pursuit use, an application that could be ideal for detectives, police chiefs, and other government personnel. The model uses a 7.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that delivers up to 21 miles on a charge, plus the ability to drive up to 85 mph exclusively on batteries. Its overall range on battery and internal combustion power is over 500 miles. Given the typical use of a detective or police chief vehicle, the Special Service Plug-In Hybrid Sedan is the first Ford police vehicle with the potential for working a full shift without using any gasoline.

Next up is Ford’s Police Interceptor Utility hybrid that’s due to go on sale next summer. At a projected 24 mpg, the electrified model is expected to deliver at least 40 percent better fuel economy than its existing 3.7-liter V-6 Police Interceptor Utility counterpart, with the hybrid offering quicker acceleration and a higher top speed. Fuel economy gains and reduced idling time are expected to save police departments an estimated $3,200 per vehicle over the course of a year, plus significantly decrease carbon and tailpipe emissions.

All-New Ford Police Interceptor Utility

The new Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine petrol plug-in hybrid driven iVolvo's XC90 T8 SUV – Green Car Journal’s 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ – emerged a completely redesigned model in the 2016 model year, the first time the enduring XC90 has had a complete makeover since 2002. It rose to the top to claim the award at the 2016 Washington Auto Show over finalists that included the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Lexus RX 450h, Mercedes-Benz C350e, and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.

Even though immediately recognized as a Volvo, virtually nothing carried over from the previous generation save for some mechanicals. The T8 ‘twin engine’ XC90, the more efficient sibling to Volvo’s conventionally powered XC90 T6, is a plug-in hybrid that uses Volvo's efficient 316 horsepower, 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E four-cylinder engine. This engine powers the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The all-new Volvo XC90 - ChargingA 46 horsepower starter-generator motor located between the engine and transmission provides start-stop capability to enhance efficiency. This motor also enables regenerative braking and can provide additional power to the transmission when maximum performance is required. An 82 horsepower electric motor drives the rear wheels. The battery and both electric motors are liquid-cooled. Battery coolant can also be refrigerated under very hot conditions. Volvo’s new XC90 design locates the lithium-ion battery in the tunnel between the front passenger seats, not beneath the trunk as is the case with many PHEVs. Thus, cargo capacity in this seven passenger plug-in SUV is no less than the conventionally powered T6 that has no batteries.

The T8 has several drive modes. Hybrid is the default and uses power from the gas engine and electric motor as needed for optimum efficiency. Pure mode offers all-electric driving, with the AWD mode driving all four wheels on demand. Save mode conserves battery power for later use. In Power Mode, maximum electric torque is provided from start for great acceleration at low speeds with the Drive-E engine taking over at higher speed.

The all-new Volvo XC90Drivers have the ability to motor exclusively on battery power up to 13 miles according to official EPA estimates with a total gas-electric range of 350 miles.  EPA also rates the T8 at 53 MPGe (mile-per-gallon equivalent) on battery power with a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 25 mpg during hybrid operation.

The 2016 XC90 is longer, wider, and taller than the previous XC90.  It uses Volvo' s Scalable Product Architecture platform that is destined for most future Volvo models. The XC90 T8 comes in base Momentum, more luxurious Inscription, and sportier R-Design trim levels. All include a two-panel panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and third-row seating as standard equipment. The illuminated shift lever is genuine Orrefors crystal, probably the first time any automaker has used real crystal glass in a production car.

Apple CarPlay in Volvo XC90A Sensus Connect infotainment system brings tablet-like features and convenience to the dashboard of this Volvo model. This system is said to have more processing power than any iPad with incredibly quick response. The touchscreen uses infrared lasers rather than capacitive touch sensors so the smart, intuitive interface can be used while wearing gloves, or even with a pencil or other object.

Volvo’s entire suite of standard safety systems are included plus advanced driver assist items like Lane Departure Warning, Road Sign Information display, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Pilot Assist adaptive cruise control, and Park Assist Pilot automatic parallel and perpendicular parking. World firsts include Auto Braking at Intersections if another vehicle comes into its path from oncoming or side traffic, and should the car swerve off the road its Run Off Road Design pre-tensions seat belts and crushable supports in the front seats absorb crash forces. Safety is, after all, one of this marque’s longstanding core values and the XC90 addresses this in a big way.

The new Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine petrol plug-in hybrid driven i

2016 Chevrolet VoltThe Los Angeles Auto Show is the setting for Green Car Journal’s highly-anticipated Green Car of the Year® award each year, as it has been since its first appearance in car-centric Southern California 11 years ago. This year, following a video intro by celebrity juror Jay Leno and with all five award finalist vehicles flanking the stage, Green Car Journal revealed this year’s winner – the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt.

Chevrolet’s Volt was a milestone vehi­cle when it debuted in the 2011 model year and then drove away with 2011 Green Car of the Year® honors. In its new generation, it’s clear that Chevrolet listened to its customers – and in par­ticular Volt owners – and implemented improvements across the board to make the 2016 Volt faster, more stylish, and more capable than ever.

2016 Chevrolet VoltAmong its important functionality achievements is the expansion from four- to five-passen­ger seating and a zero-emission battery driving range of up to 53 miles. It’s also packed with advanced electronics including Apple CarPlay, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity through OnStar, and desired driver assist systems. The Volt offers an entry point of $33,170 with federal and state incentives available.

Called by GM an extended range electric vehicle – technically a series hybrid configuration – the Volt’s gasoline engine powers a generator that both charges the battery and provides electric energy to the motors once the car’s batteries are depleted. Total driving range is 420 miles, 40 miles farther than the previous generation. The new Volt is rated at a combined city/highway 102 MPGe while driving on battery power and a combined 42 mpg in the extended range mode while the engine-generator is operating.

2016-chevrolet-volt-cutawayThe Volt uses two electric motors but they are now closer in size and share the load more evenly than the Volt’s previous large-and-small motor combination. A new 1.5-liter, four-cylinder DOHC direct-injection engine is used to generate electricity. The lighter aluminum-block engine produces 101 horsepower versus the 84 horsepower of its iron-block predecessor. Even though the new engine has a higher 12.5:1 compression ratio, it runs on less expensive regular fuel rather than the premium fuel required in the original Volt.

The number of lithium-ion cells in the Volt’s T-shaped battery pack has decreased from 288 to 192. However, improved chemistry means battery capacity increases from 17.1 to 18.4 kilowatt-hours even as pack weight drops by 31 pounds. In all, the 2016 Volt is about 200 pounds lighter than the earlier generation.

2016-chevrolet-volt-battery-displayAs noted by this year’s finalists, there is no single path to achieving important environmental achievement. Along with the Volt, three other nominees feature electrification but in somewhat differ­ent forms. The Audi A3 e-tron champi­ons plug-in hybrid power, as does the Hyundai Sonata with its plug-in hybrid, hybrid, and conventionally-powered vari­ants. The Toyota Prius continues its effi­ciency leadership as an all-new genera­tion hybrid hatchback. Honda’s new gen­eration Civic illustrates that impressive efficiency can be achieved with advanced internal combustion power.

Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year® is selected by a jury comprised of environmental and efficiency lead­ers including Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, board member of Global Green USA; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Dr. Alan Lloyd, chairman emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation. Rounding out the jury is comedian and car aficionado Jay Leno plus Green Car Journal editors.

2016-gcoy-trophy-presentationThe all-new Volt has clearly earned its distinction as 2016 Green Car of the Year®. Chevrolet has taken an efficient and award-winning sedan and made it better in virtually every way…a shining example of the environmental leadership the Green Car of the Year® award seeks to honor.

We’ve been intrigued by Honda’s Civic natural gas program since this vehicle began serial production at the automaker’s Ohio assembly plant in 1998.

It is a pretty amazing car, built alongside its conventionally powered cousins on the same line, but with the unique components that enable it to operate on clean compressed natural gas (CNG) – a high-compression engine with hardened valves and other natural gas- specific hardware, special lines and fittings, a pressure vessel instead of a gas tank, and so on. It may be equipped with different components, but in the end the natural gas variant drives like the gasoline Civics that leave the plant.

This is a good thing since ‘transparency’ is important. While most drivers may want environmentally-conscious vehicles, they tend to also want ones that are familiar in most ways. The 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas  – Green Car Journal’s 2012 Green Car of the Year –has been showing us how well Honda has accomplished this job since it began operating as part of our long-term test fleet in 2012.

The natural gas variant’s 1.8-liter engine delivers 110 horsepower – 30 less horsepower than the gasoline version – although the difference isn’t really noticeable during the daily drive. The thousands of miles we’ve now spent behind the wheel bear this out.

The CNG version Civic is not only mainstream-stylish and comfortable, it’s also fuel efficient. We averaged better than 36 highway mpg on a recent tank with another tank in city driving averaging 26 mpg. This was done in ECON mode, with Honda’s ECO Assist system engaged to modify engine operation and other power-using systems to increase driving efficiency. Our combined mpg readings have been averaging 30.8 mpg combined fuel economy, right where it should be considering EPA’s 31 mpg combined estimate.

We've found that engaging the ECON function helps mpg but does diminish throttle response, so entering interstates may be best done with ECON off. With ECON on or off, though, the Civic Natural Gas provides the kind of solid driving experience we can appreciate.

Honda mounts the Civic’s 3600 psi tank between the rear wheels, a position that also places it partially in the rear of the trunk behind a finished panel, resulting in a substantially smaller trunk volume than conventional Civics. The tank holds the equivalent of about eight gallons of gasoline, depending on ambient temperatures during refueling since temperature can influence fill volume. Our range at fill-ups typically shows about 220 to 240 miles on the car’s distance-to-empty gauge.

The Civic Natural Gas test car we’re driving offers an array of welcome features including Honda’s navigation system, which bumps the price up $1,500 from this model’s base MSRP of $26,155 to $27,655.

By mid-2013, Mazda will be offering a diesel engine sedan in the U.S. market, the first diesel car from an Asian manufacturer here in recent times. The Mazda 2.2-liter SkyACTIVE-D diesel engine will be available in the all-new 2014 Mazda6 along with a 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine, the latter coming first. Both engines can be mated with either the SkyACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic or SkyACTIV-MT six-speed manual transmission.

Compared to the 2.2-liter MZR diesel engine already powering Mazda models in other markets, U.S. bound Madza6 variants get the more advanced – and 10 percent lighter – 2.2-liter SkyACTIV-D diesel that develops greater torque.

Other improvements include a 20 percent reduction in internal friction and improved fuel economy. The SkyACTIV-D features a new two-stage turbocharger and a 14:1 compression ratio, much lower compression than typical diesels.

Mazda says this low compression ratio results in cleaner burning with lower nitrogen oxides, producing virtually no soot. This means no additional NOx aftertreatment is needed, as is the case with many other modern diesel engines.

The 2014 Mazda6 is first production vehicle to feature Mazda’s unique i-ELOOP (‘Intelligent Energy Loop’) braking regeneration system. Unlike virtually every other regenerative braking system that uses batteries to store electrical energy created during braking or coast-down, i-ELOOP uses a capacitor for energy storage. The recouped electrical energy is used to power all Mazda6 electrical systems.

Among its advantages is that i-ELOOP avoids the need for a dedicated electric motor and battery, making the system more efficient, compact, and lighter than traditional regenerative braking systems. Also, capacitors can charge and discharge rapidly and are resistant to deterioration even in prolonged use.