Here’s the thing about plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs): You get the benefits of a battery electric vehicle for driving a certain number of zero-emission miles, with the versatility of a gas-electric hybrid without range limitations. There’s no secret to it, and it’s that simple. But PHEV ownership does take some thought, and some effort.
The thought part is straightforward. If you’re in the market for a PHEV and your intent is to drive electric as much as possible, then part of the decision making is choosing a new plug-in hybrid model offering a battery electric range that fits your driving patterns. Some plug-in hybrids offer battery electric range as low as 14 to 19 miles, with a great many featuring electric range in the low to high 20s. Some raise that number up to 42 or 48 miles of battery electric driving, like the Toyota Prius Prime and Honda Clarity PHEV, before requiring a charge or the addition of combustion power. Many families find the electric range of Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid to be entirely workable at 32 miles, with its total 520 miles of driving range reassuring for any driving need.
The effort in owning a PHEV is that you need to install a 240-volt home wall charger and commit to using it to gain maximum benefit. Really, that’s no different than an all-electric vehicle, with the exception that an electric vehicle must be charged to function, while a PHEV will continue operating with the aid of combustion power once batteries are depleted. Both can be charged with a 120-volt convenience charger plugged into a standard household outlet, but that’s rarely a good option since the charging time at 120 volts is so long, while charging at 240 volts is comparatively short. The goal in achieving maximum benefit, of course, is to keep a PHEV charged in any event so you’re operating on battery power whenever possible.
What range do you really need? If your daily driving or commute is about 20 miles – as is the case for so many – then choose a PHEV with a battery electric range offering that capability, or more. Drivers with longer average daily drives should choose a PHEV with greater all-electric range. If you charge every night and wake up with a fully-charged battery ready for your day’s regular activities, you’ll likely find trips to the gas station unnecessary until longer drives are needed. In those cases, there’s nothing to think about because the transition from battery to combustion power happens seamlessly behind the scenes, with no driver action required. Yes, you’ll want to keep gas in the tank for those eventualities, but if your daily use fits within your rated electric range then fill-ups will be infrequent.
From my perspective, the ability to drive electric most of the time with the ability to motor on for hundreds of additional miles without thought is a win-win. I’ve been doing this for years with a variety of PHEV test cars, and more than a year-and-a-half now over 30,000 miles in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. As much as possible, my driving is electric with zero localized emissions, as long as I’m consistent about plugging in at night and my charger isn’t required for another test car. I’m driven to do that not only because driving with zero emissions is the right thing to do, but also because electricity offers a cheaper cost-per-mile driving experience. If you’re on a utility’s electric vehicle rate plan and charge at off-peak hours, there’s even more money to be saved. And let’s not forget the blissful and effortless convenience of charging at home, right?
Any claim that PHEVs won’t deliver their desired environmental benefit is based on assumptions that drivers won’t plug in. That isn’t likely, given that PHEV drivers have paid, sometimes significantly, for the privilege of having a plug-in capability. The notion may have its roots in an unrelated alternative fuel story years ago, when we witnessed the phenomena of motorists driving flexible-fuel E85 ethanol/gasoline vehicles without ever fueling up with E85 alternative fuel. That occurred because of a loophole that allowed automakers to gain significant fuel economy credits by offering flexible-fuel vehicles without any consideration whether drivers would ever fuel up with E85 ethanol. Those vehicles were sold at no premium by the millions, with most drivers unaware their vehicle had an alternative fuel capability or whether E85 fueling stations were nearby.
But this is different. While you have the option to use public charging stations, and that’s a nice benefit enjoyed by many EV and PHEV owners, if you do this right there will be a plug in your garage that requires no effort at all to keep your PHEV charged up. Consider, too, that if a buyer spends the extra money for the plug-in hybrid variant of a popular model, there’s clearly an incentive to plug in most of the time to make the most of one’s PHEV investment.
PHEVs will be with us a long while because they are a sensible solution for many who wish to drive electric, and when used as intended they represent a logical pathway for the all-electric future many envision. There’s no doubt that the increasing number of plug-in hybrids coming now, and in the years ahead, will aim at greater electric driving range than the models that came before them. More choices and greater range will provide an even more compelling reason to step up to a plug-in hybrid for the daily drive.
Clearly, Chrysler’s original minivans had a great run, and for good reason. All were based on the same platform featuring a low floor and an overall design that allowed the ability to park in a typical garage. Plus, they drove like cars and not trucks due to their passenger car-like construction. Offering different flavors of the minivan under the Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler brands – with varying levels of sophistication – was a smart move as well. But alas, change is inevitable even within notable success stories.
The company’s sixth-generation minivan broke new ground again in 2017 as the Chrysler Pacifica replaced the Town & Country. Featuring an exciting new design on an all-new platform, among its many innovations was the inclusion of the Pacifica Hybrid variant, the first and only plug-in hybrid minivan in the U.S. market to this day.
Four years later, the Pacifica Hybrid now features a redesign with deeper sculpting and sport-utility influences. It’s available in Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle iterations, all powered by a 3.6-liter Atkinson V-6 engine mated with electric motors and a nine-speed electrically variable transmission.
This transmission incorporates two electric motors that drive the front wheels via a clutch, rather than using just one motor for propulsion and the other for regenerative braking. The one-way clutch is located on the input side of the transmission and the output shaft of the motor. This one-way clutch enables power from both ‘A’ and ‘B’ motors to act in parallel, delivering the full torque of both motors to the wheels. The system provides a combined 260 horsepower. All Pacifica Hybrid models feature front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available on the Touring L model.
Energizing the electric drive system is a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack comprised of six 16-cell modules. The pack is located under the second row of seats. The benefit of this battery placement is that it doesn’t infringe on interior space, so cargo-carrying capacity is not sacrificed. The battery pack provides 32 miles of battery electric range and can be recharged in two hours using a 240-volt charger. Total hybrid driving range is 520 miles.
A suite of driver assistance systems is available either as standard or optional equipment, depending on trim level. Among these are a 360° Surround View Camera, Rear View Camera, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, and Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist.
Pacifica Hybrid’s Uconnect 4 system comes with a standard 7-inch or optional 8.4-inch touchscreen, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and available 4G Wi-Fi. Uconnect 4 with the 8.4-inch touchscreen displays vehicle performance, power flow, driving history, and adjusts charging schedules for less expensive off-peak hours.
The conventionally-powered Pacifica minivan offers a base price of $35,045, while the Pacifica Hybrid starts at $39,995 for the Touring L model and travels upward to $50,845 for the Pinnacle edition.
The efficient plug-in hybrid variant of BMW’s third-generation X3 premium compact crossover, the X3 xDrive30e shares drivetrain components, technology, and driving characteristics with the automaker’s 330e plug-in sports sedan. Manufactured in Spartanburg North Carolina on BMW’s refreshed cluster architecture (CLAR) platform, the X3 x30e PHEV blends the efficiency of a hybrid powertrain, super low emissions, and instantaneous low to midrange torque for a spirited drive experience.
Motivation comes from BMW’s 2.0-liter direct injected, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with a 107 horsepower electric motor. The result is 288 total combined horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque that provides a zero to 60 mpg sprint in 5.9 seconds. Fuel efficiency is EPA rated at 60 MPGe while driving on battery power, with a combined city/highway rating of 24 mpg on gasoline. It features an overall driving range of 340 miles on 13.2 gallons of gas plus 18 miles on battery power.
A frame-cradled, air-cooled 12.0 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies energy to the motor. Charging is via an on-board 3.7 kWh charger. Charge time is 3.5 to 6 hours depending on source. Gear shifting is delegated to the time-tested ZF 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission featuring sport and manual shift modes, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and launch control. All-weather traction is enabled by BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive.
The 5-passenger compact SUV features a driver-centric cockpit layout with premium materials like Sensatec upholstery, dark oak wood trim inlays, and quality hard and soft touch surfaces. Front seats feature 10-way power adjustment, with the rear offering 40/20/40 split and fold-down functionality with adjustable seat backs for passenger comfort. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch center information display provide information and controls, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Standard equipment includes ‘smart key’ recognition and personal settings memory, a futuristic yet comprehensive electric drive monitor, remaining electric-only range minder, and navigation-controlled chassis efficiency monitoring. The latest in driver assist and active safety technology is offered. Rounding out this very comprehensive package are voice-activated commands, integrated navigation, optional 360-degree surround camera, premium audio, and automatic three-zone climate control. A two-way power glass moonroof is optional.
All this comes at a base price of $49,600, about $6,600 more than the conventionally-powered X3 xDrive 30i.
The Q5 is offered in three models, two of which combine electrification with Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Q5 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid positions an electric motor between the engine and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission to produce a total of 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque, and earn an EPA rating of 50 MPGe. Those output numbers rival the 3.0-liter, 349-horsepower TFSI V-6 in the range-topping SQ5. The Q5 45 is powered by a new, mild-hybrid variant of the TFSI engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque.
Audi is marketing the Q5 TFSI e as part of a ‘Plug-in Trifecta’ for 2021, with its A7 and A8 sedans also available with TFSI PHEV powertrains. These additions move Audi closer to its goal to electrify 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025.
The Q5 TFSI e can be operated in all-electric, hybrid, and battery-hold modes. A 14.1 kWh battery pack, located under the rear cargo area, enables the Q5 to travel up to 19 miles on electric power alone, according to EPA estimates. Audi says the battery can fully charge in 2.4 hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger. The maker also engineered the battery to act as a source of heat for the Q5’s cabin via a heat pump integrated into the pack.
A standard feature aboard the PHEV Audis is Predictive Efficiency Assist, which is designed to increase the energy regenerated under braking when the vehicle is rolling downhill or approaching a slower-moving vehicle. When the Q5 is equipped with optional satellite navigation, additional input is factored into the energy regeneration, including road curves, speed limits, a the road’s vertical profile. The system prompts the driver, via feedback from the accelerator pedal and a signal in the head-up display, to let up on the accelerator to take advantage of as much kinetic energy as possible.
External cues that set off the TFSI e from other Q5 models are subtle. The plug-in hybrid is equipped with S Line exterior trim, including a honeycomb version of the automaker’s Singleframe’ grille and more aggressive front and rear diffusers. It rolls on standard 19.5-inch double-spoke-star wheels or optional 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels. An optional Sport Plus package combines the 20-inch wheels with adaptive air suspension.
The Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid comes at a base price of $52,900, just over $9,000 more than the conventionally-powered Q5.
It’s no secret why the RAV4 is such a global hit. Beyond its obvious style, this is a model that carries a lot of gear, gets excellent fuel economy, and exhibits the traditional high standards for fit and finish found with Toyota products. What’s not to like? Toyota's latest variation, the RAV4 Prime, brings a plug-in hybrid variant to the model that adds to its appeal with 42 miles of all-electric driving range and 600 miles of total range.
RAV4 Prime is powered by the automaker’s 177 horsepower, four-cylinder DOHC engine and a pair of electric motors, one at the front and another at the rear, for on-demand four-wheel drive. Total combined power is a stunning 302 horsepower, which Toyota points out makes it the second-fastest car in its lineup behind the marque’s Supra sports car.
Available in two models, SE and XSE, RAV4 Prime combines lessons learned with Toyota’s other hybrid success stories like the groundbreaking Prius. While many competitors have focused on moving toward all electric power, Toyota has opted to focus on refining hybrid technology to motivate its electrified models. The RAV4 Prime presents an excellent example: Simply, it’s a popular and appealing plug-in crossover SUV offering on- and off-road capability with exceptional drivability, handling, and performance.
There’s a wealth of technology at work beneath the skin in the RAV4 Prime that makes it not only powerful, but exceptionally functional and efficient. Its 18.1 kWh battery is positioned beneath the floor, so it doesn’t impact interior and cargo space. Beyond its truly usable all-electric driving range, the RAV4 also delivers a 94 MPGe rating while operating on battery power. Recharging the battery is handled via a 240-volt home or public charger in about 4 ½ hours, or in about 12 hours when plugging into a conventional 120-volt AC outlet. When faster 6.6 kW charging is available, the RAV4 Prime can charge up in about 2 ½ hours.
Inside, driver and passengers enjoy heated and cooled leather seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, JBL audio, and a handy conductive phone charging pad. The RAV4 Prime also comes will all the advanced safety and driver assist systems desired these days including Toyota's Safety Sense 2.0, which includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. Also available is front and rear parking assist with automated braking, and rear cross traffic braking.
On the outside, the Prime edition features special badging and 19-inch alloy wheels, the only indications that call out this new and advanced version of the RAV4. Cost of entry for the RAV4 Prime is $38,100.
Somewhat smaller than Lincoln’s first plug-in SUV, the Aviator Grand Touring, the Corsair is a luxury-oriented, two-row crossover that injects comfort and class into a compact premium crossover segment dominated by European offerings. It's offered in both conventional gas- and plug-in hybrid-powered variants.
When one looks to Corsair, its distinguishing characteristics and luxury appointments mean there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a Lincoln. Its attractive design features creased and organic dynamic bodylines, a Lincoln-esque diamond patterned grille, and oversized alloy wheels. Inside is a premium leather-upholstered, wood-accented, and tech-rich cabin. The compact Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring lives large enough for four to five well-sized adults and a complement of weekend luggage.
At the heart of 2021 Corsair Grand Touring beats a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder, Atkinson cycle gas engine and a twin electric motor planetary drive system. A constant variable transmission transfers torque to the front wheels. A third motor producing 110 lb-ft torque is dedicated to driving the rear wheels, bringing the confident traction of all-wheel drive. Combined, this powertrain delivers an estimated 266 horsepower.
EPA fuel efficiency is rated at 33 combined mpg and 78 MPGe when running on battery power. It will drive 28 miles on its lithium-ion batteries with a total range of 430 miles. Conventionally-powered Corsairs net an estimated 22 city and 29 highway mpg, and 25 mpg combined .
A driver-centric cockpit offers infinitely adjustable and heated leather seating surrounded by wood and burnished metal accents. A comprehensive dash and infotainment display, back-up dashcam, pushbutton drive commands, head-up display, parking assist, and smartphone keyless access are standard or available. Top-of-the-line Co-Pilot 360 driver assist, electronic safety, and personal connectivity features are offered. Corsair Grand Touring’s 14.4 kWh battery module is located beneath the model’s body pan, resulting in a lower center of gravity and unobstructed rear deck cargo space.
The Corsair Grand Touring has an MSRP of $50,390, about fourteen grand more than the conventionally-powered base model. It's expected to make its way to Lincoln showrooms sometime this spring.
It’s no surprise that the move toward electrics is also being driven by growing consumer interest in vehicles that address the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Those who don’t see this this transition aren’t paying attention. However, taking this as a sign that the imminent end of the internal combustion vehicle is upon us assumes too much. The numbers and trends do not bear this out.
While our focus here is on all ‘greener’ vehicles offering lower emissions, higher efficiency, and greater environmental performance, we give significant focus to electrification on GreenCarJournal.com because, to a large degree, this represents our driving future. There are many electrified vehicles now on the market that have met with notable success, particularly gasoline-electric hybrids. In fact, hybrids have become so mainstream after 20 years that most people don’t look at them differently. They simply embrace these vehicles as a normal part of their daily lives, enjoying a familiar driving experience as their hybrids deliver higher fuel efficiency and fewer carbon emissions.
Less transparent are electric vehicles of all types because they have a plug, something that’s not familiar to most drivers. This includes plug-in hybrids that really are seamless since they offer both electric and internal combustion drive. The challenge is especially pronounced for all-electric vehicles that drive exclusively on batteries.
A recent survey of consumers and industry experts by JD Power underscores this. Even as the overall survey indicated most respondents had neutral confidence in battery electric vehicles, many said their prospect for buying an electric vehicle was low. They also had concerns about the reliability of battery electric vehicles compared to conventionally powered models. Clearly, there’s work to be done in educating people about electric vehicles, and it will take time.
Overall, automakers do a good job of providing media with the latest information on their electrification efforts, new electric models, and electrified vehicles under development. That’s why you’ll read so much about electric vehicles in mainstream media and learn about them on the news.
What’s less evident is that consumers truly learn what they need to know about plug-in vehicles at new car showrooms. Car dealerships are critical even in an era where online car buying is starting to gain traction. Showrooms are still where the vast majority of new car buyers shop for their next car, and the influence salespeople have on a consumer’s purchase decision is huge.
The JD Power study illustrates consumers’ lack of understanding about the reliability of electric vehicles…even though reliability is a given since electrics have far fewer moving parts to wear and break than conventional vehicles. Dealer showrooms can help resolve this lack of understanding with readily-available materials about electric car ownership, a sales force willing to present ‘green’ options to conventional vehicles, plus adequate stock of electrified vehicles – hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric – to test drive.
Sales trends tell us that conventional internal combustion vehicles will represent the majority of new car sales for quite some time. More efficient electrified vehicles will continue to make inroads, but not at the pace many would like, even at a time when greater numbers of electric models are coming to market. In the absence of forward-thinking dealerships willing to invest in change, an enthusiastic sales force eager to share the benefits of electrics, and auto manufacturers willing to incentivize dealers to sell electric, this promises to be a long road. It’s time to change this dynamic.
We’ve spent plenty of time now behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT as part of our long-term test of this highly functional vehicle. We can tell you this: It’s obvious to the Green Car Journal staff why the Outlander PHEV was named the magazine’s 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ and now the 2020 Family Green Car of the Year™.
First of all, it’s a joy to drive. The Outlander PHEV is spacious, well-appointed with an upscale leather interior, and reasonably priced for a plug-in hybrid crossover in today’s market, at $36,295 for the SEL S-AWC and $41,695 for the GT S-AWC. It’s rated at 74 MPGe on electricity and 25 combined mpg on gas, so it’s quite thrifty when driven as intended – as an electric vehicle for around-town driving and as an intelligent hybrid when the need calls for longer distance travels.
This is what we do on a daily basis. We plug in at night with a 240-volt wall charger, top off the batteries while parked, and start the day off with a full charge. Most of our driving, which is likely a reflection of what most folks will experience, is daily use for commuting and running errands within this vehicle’s EPA rated 22 miles of battery-powered driving range. That means if we’re diligent about charging every night – happily, at our utility’s discounted electric vehicle rate – we won’t be visiting a gas station anytime soon.
Of course, if circumstances dictate a daily commute that’s longer than the Outlander PHEV’s rated range and there is on-site charging available at the workplace, it’s possible to effectively double all-electric range by plugging in at work for the drive home. Four hours at 240-volt Level 2 charging at work or at a public charger brings the Outlander PHEV’s pack back to a full charge from a depleted state. If a rapid charger is available, then the battery can be energized to 80 percent capacity in just 25 minutes.
The importance of plug-in hybrid power is that regardless of battery state-of-charge, there’s never anxiety about range. While this Mitsubishi crossover’s battery range is suitable for zero-emission motoring around-town, the Outlander PHEV itself is geared for any transportation needs required. It offers a 310 mile overall driving range that we’ve found very workable and convenient for longer drives and road trips when we do travel beyond those 22 electric miles.
Beyond its electric capability, we’ve found many reasons to appreciate our time in the Outlander PHEV. It’s right-sized for a family of five and it’s comfortable, with loads of room up front and plenty of room afforded by the rear seats. The rear seats three, but with only two in the back there’s a handy pull-down center console and armrest to deploy with cupholders and storage. A 120-volt AC outlet is located at the back of the center console for plugging in a laptop or other device that requires household power. USB power is also available front and rear.
We also appreciate the driving experience. Acceleration is brisk and handling confident, with excellent steering input. The Outlander PHEV offers a smooth ride and is well isolated from road noise. Its series-parallel hybrid drivetrain intelligently balances power from its 2.0-liter engine and twin electric motors under most driving circumstances, providing optimum performance and efficiency. Transitions between electric and combustion power are seamless and virtually unnoticeable, even if you’re looking for them. An EV Drive mode is also driver selectable via a console-mounted switch to allow traveling exclusively in electric mode, with the engine kicking in only when additional acceleration is needed. Steering wheel paddles can be used to control the vehicle’s level of regenerative braking force.
As is the case with most drivers today, we’ve come to appreciate the many sophisticated on-board systems working behind the scene to ensure our safety, and the safety of others. We fortunately haven’t had the need for forward collision mitigation, but we know the system is there in the background. The Outlander PHEV’s many driver assist systems – from adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams to rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning – inspire that extra level of driving confidence. Particularly helpful every day is the center display’s birds-eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings as we’re backing up.
It's not lost on us that we enjoy a measure of exclusivity while driving this long-term tester. While the Outlander PHEV has been sold worldwide for years – achieving the distinction as the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid – it has only been here in the U.S. since the 2018 model year. Plus, the Mitsubishi brand’s presence in the U.S. market is significantly smaller than competitors like Honda and Toyota, so you won’t see as many Outlanders on the road as you will CR-Vs or RAV4s. But that’s a good thing if you’re looking to drive something that stands apart from the crowd…which our stylish, PHEV-badged Outlander PHEV GT certainly does.
Lincoln’s new Aviator comes in two versions, the conventionally-powered Aviator and the Aviator Grand Touring plug-in-hybrid. Both luxury SUVs feature a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, which in the Aviator is rated at 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft torque. The Grand Touring adds a 101 horsepower electric motor and a 13.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Adding the electric motor to the V-6 increases output to a combined 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft torque.
That kind of power means the Aviator Grand Touring has V-8 big block-like performance, with acceleration coming on strong courtesy of an electric motor that deliver loads of torque from zero rpm. Hybrid power also means better fuel economy than a conventionally powered model, with the Grand Touring variant offering an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 23 mpg, compared to 20 mpg for the all-wheel-drive version of the conventional Aviator. The Aviator Grand Touring comes only with AWD while the conventional model has the option of rear-wheel drive.
The Aviator Grand Touring uses Ford's innovative new modular hybrid transmission that’s also used in the Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid and Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid It was created by essentially inserting an electric motor and disconnect clutch between the engine and torque converter on Ford's 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. The MHT shares about 90 percent of its components with Ford’s conventional 10-speed automatic.
Drivers are afforded 21 miles of all-electric driving in the plug-in hybrid for typical around-town needs. The Aviator Touring’s 13.6 kWh battery pack features under-floor packaging that does not infringe on interior space, so this 7 passenger SUV’s cargo-carrying capacity is not compromised when the third row seating is folded flat. Charging a depleted battery takes three-to-four hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charger.
All Aviators have five Lincoln Drive Modes that change the suspension settings, steering, shift points, and ride height with the optional Air Glide Suspension. The Aviator Grand Touring has two additional modes – Pure EV for all-electric driving and Preserve EV to save stored electrical energy for later use. The Aviator can tow 6,700 pounds while the Aviator Grand Touring can tow 5,600 pounds.
Lincoln's all-new Aviator offers a point of entry at $51,100 for the base rear-drive model, with the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid variant coming in at $68,900.
The BMW 7-Series gets a facelift for 2020, and without a doubt its most notable styling change is a more massive twin kidney grille. Importantly, BMW’s 745e xDrive sedan gets a new and improved plug-in-hybrid powertrain to bolster its environmental credentials. This flagship BMW sedan is now powered by a six-cylinder, 3.0 liter TwinPower Turbo engine that replaces the previous version’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine used in its 740e predecessor. Engine output is now 286 horsepower and the electric motor is rated at 113 horsepower.
Lithium-ion battery output has also improved with battery pack capacity increased from 9.2 to 12 kWh. This provides a bit more all-electric range –16 versus the earlier version’s 14 miles. Total driving range with electric and hybrid drive is 290 miles. The high-voltage battery is positioned underneath the rear seats so luggage compartment volume is about the same as in the non-hybrid 7-series sedans. Importantly, this plug-in hybrid also delivers much better performance when running on the gasoline engine alone or when driving in hybrid mode with both the engine and electric motor supplying power.
The 745e’s electric motor is integrated in the model’s 8-speed Steptronic transmission. As xDrive implies, the 745e features BMW's xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive. The BMW 745e xDrive is equipped with a hybrid-specific version of the eight-speed Sport Steptronic transmission that incorporates both the electric motor and an improved separating clutch that acts as the link to the engine. The extremely compact design is only about 0.6 inches longer than the Steptronic transmissions in the non-hybrid models.
Drivers are provided an array of selectable driving modes. In default Hybrid mode, the 745e runs on electric power with the combustion engine kicking in only after the car reaches 87 mph. This mode provides an optimized balance between the combustion engine and electric motor. Hybrid Eco Pro mode is biased towards reduced fuel consumption with enhanced coasting. Electric mode provides all-electric driving.
By selecting the Battery Control mode, charge state of the high-voltage battery is maintained at a level determined by the driver, enabling battery power to be used later for emissions-free driving in town, for example. Sport mode combines both engine and electric motor output to provide a total 389 horsepower for maximum performance. Adaptive mode is geared towards relevant driving styles and situations.
BMW is a pioneer in using carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) in production vehicles. The 7-series’ A, B, and C pillars, as well as the roof, are made of CFRP to reduce weight and the car’s center of gravity. The price of entry for the 745e is $95,550.
Ford’s popular Escape has been completely redesigned for 2020 with a lower and more car-like look, offering compact crossover buyers plenty of options with gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions. The gasoline and standard hybrid are available with front- and four-wheel-drive, while the plug-in hybrid is available exclusively with front-wheel drive. Gasoline versions come in S, SE, SEL and Titanium trim, while the hybrids offer SE and Titanium trim choices.
Although the new Escape's dramatic restyling may make it appear smaller than the previous generation, it is actually a bit longer and wider with a slightly lower roofline. Interior space has increased with additional rear legroom and up to 37.5 cubic feet of useable space behind the rear seats. A Panoramic sunroof is available on specific models.
Escape is available with either a 1.5 liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine producing 180 horsepower, or a 2.0 liter EcoBoost four-cylinder delivering 250 horsepower. Both come with start-stop engine technology to enhance efficiency. The 1.5-liter engine is standard on S, SE, and SEL models with the 2.0-liter standard on the Titanium and optional on the SEL.
The 1.5-liter engine has cylinder deactivation that shuts down one of the cylinders under low-load conditions, allowing it to operate as a two-cylinder engine for improved fuel economy. Both engines connect to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-liter engine adds SelectShift with paddle controls. The three-cylinder EcoBoost powerplant is available with standard front- or optional all-wheel drive, while the four-cylinder comes only with all-wheel drive. Tow rating for the three-cylinder Escape is 2000 pounds with the four-cylinder capable of towing 3500 pounds.
Both hybrids use an Atkinson cycle, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. The hybrid offers a combined 198 horsepower, while the plug-in offers a slightly higher 209 horsepower rating. A PowerSplit electronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) transfers power to the road. The hybrid uses a 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, while the plug-in hybrid has more powerful 14.4 kWh pack that provides an estimated all-electric range of 30 miles. Both battery packs fit under the floor.
The Escape PHEV has a Level 1/Level 2 AC charging port. Using a household outlet and the 110-volt Level 1 charger requires about 10 to 11 hours for a full charge. Charge time is a much quicker 3.5 hours using a home or public 240-volt Level 2 charger.
Ford's CoPilot360 driver assistance features are standard on all models. These include Cross Traffic Alert, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Auto High-Beam Headlamps, Lane-Keeping Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, and Rear View Camera. Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and lane centering plus Park Assist are optional on Titanium models. A voice activated navigation system is available.
The Escape’s 8-inch touchscreen, standard on all but the base S trim, comes with Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system that’s compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition, 4G LTE Wi-Fi is standard on all versions. A 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is optional on all but the base S model. An optional head-up display projects images on a six-inch screen rather than on the windshield.
The gas models and the hybrid will go on sale in fall 2019 with the plug-in-hybrid Escape will arrive in spring 2020. Prices and fuel economy data have yet to be announced.
Sport-utility vehicles have been popular for some time, although you wouldn’t know it by reading all the hype these days about their new-found domination of the market. Yes, SUVs are trendy, they’re spacious, and their functionality can’t be overstated. But we’ve known that for years, ever since the Jeep Cherokee of the 1980s enjoyed widespread success and pretty much defined the modern SUV.
But this is a new day and SUVs have transformed. While some full-size SUVs continue to be body-on-frame models with legendary hauling, towing, and off-roading capabilities, most are not. They defer instead to the lighter and smoother-riding unibody construction common to passenger car models.
Today’s SUVs, or crossover SUVs like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Hyundai Kona Electric shown here, have become car-like in most respects. Some, like the four-wheel drive Outlander PHEV, continue to offer the off-road capabilities we’ve come to expect from SUVs over the years. Others often provide more sedate off-road capabilities if they embrace off-roading at all. The tradeoff is a comfortable ride and a highly desired car-like experience, even as they continue to offer SUV styling, functionality, and carrying capacity.
Is it a wonder that crossover SUVs are being offered as plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles by a growing number of automakers? Nope. In fact, it’s entirely predictable. Vehicle manufacturers recognize the growing desire for these high-functionality vehicles combined with greater efficiency and electrification. Enter the world of plugin SUVs and crossovers that are here now in growing numbers, with a virtual wave of new plug-in SUV models coming. Here's a look at what's in the pipeline:
AUDI will be bringing a plug-in hybrid version of its Q5 crossover to the U.S. sometime in 2020, It will not carry ‘e-tron’ badging since this is reserved for Audi’s fully electric models. The Q5 PHEV will use a turbocharged direct injection engine that works together with an electric motor integrated in the transmission. A 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery beneath the floor is estimated to provide about 25 miles of all-electric driving on the European WLTP cycle, with a lower projected range here under EPA’s tougher test cycle.
BMW will now build electrified versions of its mainstream models, not unique electrics like the i3 and i8. Thus, the iX3 will be based on BMW’s conventional X3 SUV with an electric drive system under the hood and batteries beneath the floor. The iX3 will use the company’s fifth generation electric car architecture with motors that don’t require rare-earth metals, making them cheaper and likely easier to produce. More densely constructed battery packs with increased capacity will also be used to save cost and weight. The new motor develops 270 horsepower and is powered by a 70-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, delivering a range of 249 miles on the European driving cycle that will be less when tested on the EPA cycle here. Since conventional X3s are already built in the U.S. it’s likely the iX3 will be sold here as well.
The plug-in BMW X3 xDrive30e compact SUV will arrive in the U.S. sometime in 2020 as a 2021 model. This AWD crossover combines a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 107 horsepower electric motor, offering a total output of 293 horsepower. Also coming is the X5 xDrive45e iPerformance plug-in hybrid. It uses a 112 horsepower electric motor integrated into the car’s eight-speed automatic transmission and a 3.0-liter, 286 horsepower turbocharged inline-six engine. Its 24 kWh lithium-ion battery is expected to provide about 40 miles of electric-only range. BMW’s iNext is still in concept form so details about this electric crossover are scarce. It will also use the BMW fifth-generation battery design and a 120 kWh battery pack for more than 400 miles of range.
FISKER is planning an electric SUV for introduction in late 2021, although details are slim at this point. The effort is headed by Henrik Fisker, who designed and sold a luxury plugin sedan through the former Fisker Automotive earlier this decade. Fisker Inc. says it will offer an advanced SUV with a range of 300 miles on lithium-ion batteries. That it will offer a futuristic, elegant, and muscular look as claimed by the company is no surprise, considering Henrik Fisker previously designed such iconic cars as the Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8. The Fisker SUV is projected to have a base price under $40,000.
FORD will offer standard hybrid and plug-in-hybrid versions of the new 2020 Escape SUV. Both will use a 2.5- liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. The hybrid will use an underfloor 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack while the plug-in will integrate a 14.4 kWh pack, with the latter providing an electric range of 30 miles. The Escape hybrid goes on sale this year with the plug-in hybrid arriving in 2020. While Ford will be producing a 2020 Explorer PHEV, it’s for Europe only and at this point there are no plans for it to join the hybrid in the U.S. An electric crossover with styling inspired by the original Mustang is expected to appear in late 2020.
The automaker’s Lincoln luxury brand will be offering a 2020 Aviator PHEV here that’s built on the same platform as the Explorer. It will share that model’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 and 99 horsepower electric motor to provide a combined 450 horsepower and 620 lb-ft torque. The 2020 Lincoln Corsair, replacement for the MKC, is also offering a plug-in hybrid version at launch. Given Lincoln’s plans for electrification, there’s a decent chance that full-electric variants will be added a few model years down the road. The Corsair shares many parts with the new Escape PHEV, but its styling is unique with distinctively Lincoln DNA. Lincoln is also planning an electric crossover based on Ford’s Mustang-inspired EV.
GM’s star in the electric crossover field is it Chevy Bolt, a winner of Green Car Journal’s 2017 Green Car of the Year®. Since its introduction, the Bolt has provided an impressive 238 miles of battery range at an affordable price, with better battery chemistry now increasing the 2020 model’s range to 259 miles.
Moving forward, GM is looking to its luxury brand Cadillac to take a higher profile in the company’s upcoming electric vehicle efforts in the U.S. While the General has only provided a glimpse of its developing electric vehicle program, we know it will include a 5-passenger electric Cadillac SUV with a range greater than 300 miles. Slated to appear in Cadillac dealerships around 2022, it will be the first built on GM’s new BEV3 platform that’s adaptable to front-, rear-, and all-wheel-drive, plus vehicles of various dimensions. GM has conceptionally shown 11 possible vehicles, from seven-passenger SUVs to small crossover utilities, that could be built on the BEV3 platform.
JEEP will offer plug-in-hybrid versions of the Renegade and Compass as 2020 models. Both will use a 1.3-liter turbocharged engine and an electric motor to produce a combined 240 horsepower, offering an electric-only range of about 31 miles. The electric motor powers the rear wheels, so a driveshaft is not needed for 4WD. In addition, Jeep is likely to offer a PHEV version of the Wrangler at some point, though it’s not known if this will make it to American roads.
MERCEDES-BENZ will be introducing its new EQC, the first in a growing family of all-electric vehicles to be produced under the EQ brand. The crossover features two electric motors, one at each axle, providing the EQC an impressive 402 horsepower and 564 lb-ft torque that’s delivered to the road through 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Along with standard 240-volt Level 2 charging, the model’s 80 kWh lithium-ion battery is capable of DC Fast Charging from 10 to 80 percent state-of-charge in 40 minutes. Rated at an estimated 220 mile range, it will be sold next year as a 2020 model with an estimated price of around $70,000.
RIVIAN, a new brand on the scene, says it will begin production of its seven seat R1S electric SUV in 2020. Rivian’s ‘skateboard’ architecture locates its battery pack in the floor at the middle of the vehicle. The all-electric SUV is powered by four motors, two per axle, with each providing torque to a wheel. Three battery pack and electric motor configurations will be offered. The 180 kWh battery variant is mated to motors with a total output of 700 horsepower, delivering a claimed range of over 400 miles. A 135 kWh variant with 754 horsepower will provide a range of about 300 miles, with the base 403 horsepower, 105 kWh model delivering 250 miles. The R1S SUV is expected to start at $72,500.
TESLA already offers the Model X electric SUV and plans to supplement this with a more compact Model Y variant. It will be built on the same platform as the existing Model 3 sedan and available as a seven-seater. Standard and Long Range versions of the rear-wheel drive SUV are planned, plus a base Dual Motor model and a Performance model with all-wheel-drive. A 230-300 mile range is promised. While we’ve found Tesla to offer only higher-priced, higher content new models at launch, the company says its Standard version will cost $39,000, the Long Range $47,000, the Dual Motor AWD $51,000, and the Performance variant $60,000. Tesla says the Model Y may appear as a late 2020 or 2021 model, but since the company has a history of launching models later than promised we’ll just have to wait and see.
VW will offer a production version of its ID Crozz concept as the first of several new battery-electric vehicles to sold in the U.S. The ID Crozz is powered by a 200 horsepower electric motor located between the rear wheels with another 100 horsepower motor between the front wheels, providing all-wheel-drive. An 83 kWh lithium-ion battery pack beneath the floor is expected to provide up to 300 miles of driving range. Fast-charging with a commercial 150 kW charger will take just 30 minutes to regain 80 percent battery capacity. The model is expected to go on sale in 2020.
Of course, other automakers are fielding plug-in SUV concepts and there will surely be additional production models announced in the near future. This field is fluid and automakers are responding to plug-in SUV demand in real time, so stay tuned.
The SF90 Stradale represents many firsts for Ferrari. It’s the legendary automaker’s first plug-in hybrid electric model, the marque’s first all-wheel-drive supercar, and the most powerful Ferrari production car ever sold. The SF90 boasts the highest output ever for a Ferrari V-8 and, in fact, this is the first time a V-8 has powered a top-of-the-range Ferrari model. Not a replacement for LaFerrari, the SF90 Stradale's name celebrates the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Scuderia Ferrari racing team that harkens back to 1929.
The two-seat SF90 Stradale supercar combines the output of a rear-mounted, 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine and three electric motors. A motor/generator between the engine and the transmission drives the rear wheels. Two motors at the front axle, which are not mechanically connected to the internal combustion driveline, drive each front wheel. This results in a sophisticated AWD system that Ferrari says is needed to handle the SF90 Stradale's tremendous horsepower.
The SF90 V-8 makes 769 horsepower at 7,500 rpm, while the three electric motors add 217 horsepower to bring a combined 986 horsepower and 590 lb-ft torque to this supercar. Since the electric motors provide instant torque from 0 rpm, Ferrari claims a 0-62 mph (0-100 km/hr) time of 2.5 seconds, with the car hitting 124 mph (200 km/hr) in 6.7 seconds. Top speed is 211 mph (340 km/hr).
Interestingly, the 8-speed automatic transmission has no reverse gear since the front motors handle backing up. The hybrid system also helps further improve Ferrari's renowned braking. The SF90 Stradale's brake-by-wire system allows braking torque to be split between the hydraulic system and the electric motors’ regenerative braking, boosting both performance and brake feel.
There are four drivetrain modes – eDrive, Hybrid, Performance, and Qualify. In eDrive, the Stradale is powered solely by the two front motors, making it a front-wheel-drive EV. A 7.9 kWh lithium-ion battery provides an all-electric range of about 16 miles with a top speed of 84 mph, depending on road conditions and how quickly the car accelerates. Hybrid is the default mode when the car starts up. Here, all three electric motors and the gasoline engine work together to achieve optimum fuel efficiency and performance. In Performance mode, the V-8 is always providing power for great performance.
In Qualify mode, the V-8 and all three electric motors provide their peak output with no regard for fuel economy.
The new SF90 Stradale is relatively light even with its batteries and three motors. Curb weight is 3,527 pounds, a nod to lightweighting and other measures. For example, hollow castings replace conventional ribbed castings. Two new aluminum alloys are used including a high-strength 7000 series alloy for some of the body panels. Carbon fiber is used for the bulkhead separating the engine from the interior. The SF90 Stradale’s chassis features 20 percent increased bending stiffness and 40 percent higher torsional rigidity than previous platforms, without any increase in weight.
Adding to this Ferrari’s exceptional driving experience, the steering wheel allows controlling virtually every aspect of the SF90 Stradale without ever taking hands off the wheel.
Subaru’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle, the 2019 Crosstrek Hybrid, uses the Subaru Global Platform designed for hybrid and electric powertrains. It features new Subaru StarDrive Technology that integrates two electric motors, a 2.0-liter direct-injection SUBARU BOXER engine, Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, and a new Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. With the series-parallel StarDrive Technology, one motor functions as an engine starter and as a generator powered by the engine to charge the lithium-ion hybrid battery. The second motor powers the vehicle in hybrid and electric driving modes. It also charges the hybrid battery during regenerative braking.
The plug-in SUV can reach speeds up to 65 mph in full electric mode and achieve 90 MPGe. It drives up to 17 miles exclusively on lithium-ion battery power and features a total range of 480 miles when using both gas and electric power.
The Crosstrek Hybrid features a Linerartronic CVT plus X-MODE and Hill Descent Control for enhanced performance in low-friction and off-road conditions. SI-DRIVE powertrain performance management allows tailoring throttle characteristics by choosing between Intelligent and Sport modes. Active Torque Vectoring applies light brake pressure to the inside front wheel while cornering for improved handling.
Crosstrek is well-equipped with the latest advanced driver assist technologies. Subaru EyeSight includes Pre-Collision Braking and Throttle Management, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. Reverse Automatic Braking can apply the vehicle’s brakes if an obstacle is detected while reversing. Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Cross Traffic Alert is standard. Pedestrian Alert provides an audible warning to pedestrians within the proximity of the vehicle while traveling below 20 mph.
The model’s STARLINK Multimedia Plus offers an 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen, Rear Vision Camera, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming connectivity, AM/FM stereo, and smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Aha, and Pandora as standard equipment. Multimedia Plus includes a single-disc CD player and voice activated controls for phone and Near Field Communication. Multimedia with Navigation adds navigation powered by TomTom, voice activated navigation, and over-the-air updates.
Remote Battery Charging Timer manages the Crosstrek Hybrid’s charging schedule and monitors its status. A STARLINK Safety and Security Plus package includes Remote Climate Control and Remote Battery Charging Timer, SOS emergency assistance, and automatic collision notification.
Like the previous generation Cayenne, Porsche has included an electrified version to bring greater efficiency and performance to its 2019 crossover SUV. It features a completely re-engineered hybrid powertrain compared to its predecessor, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid, using the third new hybrid powertrain from Porsche since just 2017. The 2019 Cayenne E-Hybrid is distinguished from its gasoline counterpart with Acid Green brake calipers and matching outlines around all of the model’s badges, aligning it with other current Porsche plug-in hybrid models.
Porsche’s third-generation Cayenne features new styling cues that lend a more athletic appearance and a lighter weight body courtesy of extensive use of aluminum. It also rides on a lighter weight chassis and incorporates other innovative lightweighting strategies, such a lithium-ion polymer starter battery that brings an additional 22-pound weight reduction on its own.
Power is provided by a 3.0-liter turbo engine offering 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft torque. The plug-in hybrid powertrain is augmented by a 134 horsepower electric motor boasting 295 lb-ft torque, with the combination delivering 455 total system horsepower and 516 lb-ft torque. The result is exceptional performance featuring 0-60 mph acceleration of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 157 mph. Power is delivered to the road via an eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission.
Four drive modes allow tailoring the driving experience. E-Power mode allows driving on battery power alone an estimated 20+ miles. An all-new Hybrid Auto mode uses gas and/or electric power to achieve optimum efficiency. E Hold conserves the battery’s current state-of-charge for use at a desired time later in the drive, such as in urban areas. E-Charge mode directs the gas engine to generate more power than needed for driving to charge the battery.
The E-Hybrid is equipped with a liquid-cooled, 14.1 kWh lithium battery with about 30 percent more energy than the previous Cayenne S E-Hybrid. The additional battery power is the result of greater energy density so the size of the battery has not increased. It can be charged from a fully-depleted state with the E-Hybrid’s optional 7.2 kW on-board charger and a 220-volt power source in just over two hours, and with the standard 3.6 kW on-board charger in just under 8 hours.
Porsche’s new InnoDrive is featured in the Cayenne E-Hybrid. The system combines onboard map data and existing traffic sensing systems to look ahead 1.8 miles, allowing it to determine the best balance of gas and electric power for upcoming corners and changes in grade.
Volvo's flagship model for 2018 is the plug-in hybrid S90 T8 eAWD that’s available in Momentum and Inscription trim levels. The T8 comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, power window shades, and rear seat massage. Air suspension and Bowers and Wilkins audio systems are optional.
Built in China, the S90 T8 is available in North America only in long wheelbase form that is stretched 4.7 inches compared to the S90 built in Sweden and sold in Europe. Nearly all of the additional length is tasked for increasing rear seat legroom. Altogether, the S90 T8 is not only an exceptional sedan for everyday use, it’s also well-suited for luxury-oriented executive transport.
Like other Volvo plug-in hybrids, the S90 T8 uses the automaker’s Twin Engine through-the-road hybrid powertrain that provides satisfying power, efficiency, and all-wheel-drive. Front wheels are driven by a 2.0 liter, supercharged and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. A 46-horsepower, crankshaft-mounted starter-generator charges the battery, starts the combustion engine, and additionally augments internal combustion power as needed. A rear-mounted, 87-horsepower electric motor drives the rear wheels. This setup delivers a combined 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft torque.
Energy for the electric motors is provided by a 9.2 kilowatt-hour battery with 6.7 kilowatt-hour usable capacity. This provides about 28 miles of electric-only driving before the gasoline engine kicks in. The S90 T8 has a 410-mile range on gasoline and electric power, achieving a combined 71 MPGe driving on electricity and 29 mpg combined on gasoline.
A 9.3-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen infotainment system offers tablet-like swipe-and-pinch gestures and is large enough so it can be divided into four independent sections to provide quick and easy access to various controls. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto can interface into one of the four sections. Sensus Connect provides 4G/LTE connectivity and can support a wi-fi hotspot, plus it also offers its own suite of apps including Pandora, Spotify, Glympse, Local Search, Yelp, Weather, and Wiki Locations. The primary Sensus screen can interact with the S90’s 8-inch or 12.3-inch driver information displays and the optional head-up display showing navigation, infotainment, and other information.
The S90 T8 has the latest in safety technologies with much of this standard equipment. Pilot Assist combines a semi-autonomous drive system with Adaptive Cruise Control to allow following traffic flow within a lane. Pilot Assist provides gentle steering to help keep the car within lane markings and at a set speed and distance to the vehicle in front at speeds up to 80 mph.
A Blind Spot Information System alerts when a vehicle enters a blind spot. Cross Traffic Alert warns of crossing traffic when backing out of a parking space. City Safety helps avoid collisions when driving in slow-moving, stop-and-go traffic. Other technologies include Run Off Road Mitigation ,Active Bending Lights, Automatic Braking After Collision, Rear Collision Warning, Road Sign Information, Hill Start Assist, and LED Front Fog Lights with Cornering Function.
The price of entry is for the S90 T8 Momentum is $63,650, about 15 grand more than the conventionally-powered T5 S90 variant. Stepping up to the Inscription T8 variant brings a suggested retail of $68,150.
Sharing drive components and integrated technology with Volvo’s XC90 T8, the latest rendition of the Swedish maker’s best-selling vehicle comes to market more powerful and smarter than ever. Volvo’s upscale 2018 XC60 T8 PHEV (plug-in-hybrid) presents a premium and rugged, yet refined, SUV where high performance meets advanced technology and comfort. It is the most powerful two-row SUV in Volvo history. The editors at Green Car Journal take a closer look.
How it works: Volvo’s XC60 T8 successfully follows in the footsteps of its larger XC90 T8 crossover sibling. Both upscale plug-in hybrids use a 313 horsepower, supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic transaxle and two permanent-magnet AC motors.
In this through-the-road AWD hybrid system, a 46-horsepower electric motor drives the front wheels while an 87 horsepower AC motor powers the rear wheels. This results in total system output of 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft torque. There is no mechanical connection between the two axles.
A lithium-ion battery pack is positioned in the center tunnel where a driveshaft would normally be located. This 10.4 kWh pack enables the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 to travel about 18 miles on electricity alone. Total driving range on gas and electric power is 370 miles. The battery can be recharged in as little as three hours from a 240-volt source and six hours from a standard 120-volt outlet.
Regenerative braking, stop/start capability, and a Pure EV electric-only mode contribute to a 59 MPGe rating, quite good for a vehicle with a nearly 4,600-pound curb weight. The twin electric motors and 472 lb-ft torque bring impressive acceleration for a SUV that can carry five people, propelling the vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription versions of the XC60 T8 are available, offering similar standard and optional equipment to non-hybrid T6 models. Optional driver assistance packages are available including a Vision package that includes blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, automatic mirror dimming, power-retractable outside mirrors, and a parking-assist function.
The XC60’s Convenience package includes adaptive cruise control with Volvo's semi-autonomous Pilot Assist, a Level 2 partial-automation system that assists with driving tasks like remaining in a lane and matching traffic speed on the highway, while still relying on a driver as the primary monitor of the driving environment. Optional Steer Assist, which is linked with Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, helps the driver steer around an obstacle if a collision is likely.
A 9.3-inch Sensus Connect screen in the dashboard center stack offers tablet-like swipe-and-pinch gestures. It’s large enough that it can be divided into four independent sections to provide quick and easy access to any controls needed. Sensus Connect provides 4G/LTE connectivity and offers its own suite of apps including Pandora, Spotify, Glympse, Local Search, Yelp, Weather, and Wiki Locations. The main Sensus screen interacts with 8-inch or 12.3-inch driver information displays and the optional head-up display showing navigation, infotainment, and basic information.\
Volvo’s XC60 T8 is offered at a base price of $52,900, about 10 grand more than its conventionally-powered sibling. It’s an exceptional compact crossover providing the luxury appointments and advanced technology we’ve come to expect from Volvo. It’s also a compelling option for new car buyers looking for an upscale crossover experience with the efficiency of plug-in hybrid power.
The 2018 MINI Countryman is the biggest MINI ever, featuring 30 percent more cargo space than the previous Countryman, more front and rear legroom, and greater headroom and rear seat shoulder room for five occupants. Adding to the model’s appeal is the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, a new plug-in hybrid variant that starts at $36,800.
The all-wheel drive Countryman ALL4 eDrive adds an 87-horsepower, 122 lb-ft torque electric motor to the MINI TwinPower engine for greater performance and efficiency. The turbocharged, direct injection 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine is rated at 134 horsepower. Altogether, combined system output adds up to an available 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft torque.
With its ‘through-the-road’ all-wheel drive architecture, the Countryman SE ALL4 uses its gasoline engine to power the front wheels via a modified 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The synchronous electric motor housed beneath the luggage compartment floor delivers power to the rear axle via a two-stage, single-speed transmission.
This powertrain setup is linked to the vehicle’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system that analyzes both the road situation and the driver’s wishes. When it detects excessive slip, both the gasoline engine and electric motor are engaged. The ALL4 all-wheel-drive system features a power take-off integrated into the front axle differential, a propeller shaft leading to the rear axle, and a hang-on clutch that ensures precisely measured transmission of drive torque to the rear wheels.
A 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery is located beneath the slightly raised rear seat, as is a 9.5-gallon fuel tank. The PHEV has an EPA estimated all-electric range of 12 miles on batteries, with a total range of 270 miles on gasoline-electric power. Charging at 240-volts takes 3 hours and 15 minutes.
An intelligent energy management system ensures that engine and motor use is optimized for both driving fun and efficiency. The driver can also use the MINI’s eDrive toggle switch to choose between three operating modes. In AUTO eDRIVE, the PHEV operates in electric-only mode at speeds up to 55 mph. At higher speeds and under intensive loads, the engine automatically starts. In MAX eDRIVE power is delivered by the electric motor alone at up to 78 mph, with the engine started at higher speeds or upon kickdown. SAVE BATTERY mode can be selected to conserve battery capacity or raise its charge state to at least 90 percent while driving.
A Technology Package includes a new 8.8-inch touchscreen navigation system, a new-generation user interface and operating system, and Qi wireless device charging capability. The MINI’s standard rear-view camera and rear Park Distance Control can be extended to include front parking sensors and a Parking Assistant feature for easy parallel parking.
Those interested in driver assist systems are not forgotten. A MINI Driving Assistant option includes collision warning with a city braking function, pedestrian warning with initial brake function, and road sign detection. Camera-based adaptive cruise control enables cruise control function that senses the vehicle ahead and adjusts speed accordingly, making longer distance drives that much more pleasurable.