The Washington Auto Show is known for its impressive assemblage of new vehicle models and concepts plus specialty displays of advanced, specialty, and historic vehicles. Its proximity to the nation’s capital earns it the reputation as the auto show circuit’s ‘Policy Show,’ underscored with presentations by the Department of Energy, visits by members of Congress, and at times even the President. The show is also known for its focus on environmentally positive vehicles as host to Green Car Journal’s prestigious Green Car Awards™ program.
This year, Green Car Journal focused attention on three of the hottest categories of ‘green’ vehicles by announcing winners of its 2016 Connected Green Car of the Year™, Green SUV of the Year™, and Luxury Green Car of the Year™ awards. Making its debut at the Washington show, Connected Green Car of the Year™ recognizes vehicles that intelligently blend sophisticated connected technologies with advanced powertrains, materials, and design – all coming together to deliver driving enjoyment, efficiency, and enhanced safety with lower environmental impact.
New cars are becoming smarter and more autonomous, with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, automated parking, and other driver assist systems signaling that the age of the connected car has arrived. A growing array of ‘green’ models with connected technologies are on the market with many more coming soon. Best exemplifying the integration of environmental performance and connected technologies were this year’s finalists Audi A3 e-tron, BMW 330e, Toyota Prius, and Volvo XC90 T8, and the car that emerged as the 2016 Connected Green Car of the Year, Chevrolet’s all-new Malibu Hybrid.
An impressive EPA estimated 48 city/45 highway mpg combined with advanced on-board electronics and connectivity are hallmarks of the new Malibu Hybrid. The mid-size sedan comes standard with Chevrolet MyLink radio and an 8-inch diagonal color touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, rear vision camera, OnStar, and 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. That’s a lot of tech for a model that starts at an approachable $28,645. Available systems include low speed front automatic braking, parking assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist. A unique Teen Driver feature actively encourages safe driving and allows parents to view stored information on how their teenagers drove the vehicle.
The popularity of crossovers and SUVs continues to surge, underscoring why it’s important they continue to evolve with improved environmental performance in mind – whether offering a smaller footprint for easier maneuverability and efficiency, or using advanced powertrains that eke the most from a gallon of fuel or incorporate hybrid power. These are the vehicles that 2016 Green SUV of the Year™ seeks to honor. Finalists this year included the BMW X1 xDrive 28i, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-3, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, and award winner Honda HR-V.
Based on the Honda Fit platform but substantially larger in all dimensions, the new HR-V compact crossover features coupe-like styling with SUV functionality that includes an interior volume rivaling that of some midsize SUVs with its second row seats folded. Powering the HR-V is the same 1.8-liter engine as the Honda Civic, delivering 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft torque while achieving up to 35 highway mpg. The HR-V offers many desired features combined with an approachable $19,215 price. Standard or available electronics include brake assist, electronic stability control, rear view camera, Bluetooth, tire pressure monitoring, and Honda LaneWatch. A 5 inch color LCD screen or 7-inch touchscreen display are offered.
Higher-end vehicles with ‘green’ attributes are gaining an increasing amount of attention from automakers. Buyers now have the ability to find more environmentally positive aspirational vehicles that feature the aesthetics of a sleek sedan, the excitement of a sports car, or the functionality of an SUV, combined with high efficiency or even plug-in hybrid power. Finalists for 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ illustrated this trend, including the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Lexus RX 450h, Mercedes-Benz C350e, Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, and award winner Volvo XC90 T8.
Volvo’s all-new XC90 T8, the industry’s first seven passenger plug-in hybrid SUV, uses a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E engine with a rear axle electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries. This enables an overall 350 mile driving range and an all-electric range of about 17 miles. A 46 horsepower starter-generator motor located between the engine and transmission provides start-stop capability and additional power as needed. The XC90 T8 includes all of Volvo’s conventional safety systems plus items like lane departure warning, road sign information display, pedestrian and cyclist detection, pilot assist adaptive cruise control, and park assist with automatic parking. The $68,100 XC90 T8 is EPA rated at a combined 25 mpg and 54 MPGe on battery power.