First Drive: 2017 Prius Prime

The new Prius Prime from Toyota is a plug-in hybrid that pushes the envelope of what we’ve come to expect from hybrid vehicles. That’s not surprising as the Prius brand has led the way in this category for years, and now it’s also coupled with a bolder design to attract even more potential consumers. I drove the Prius Prime on some great roads in SoCal and came away very impressed.

Exterior

As you can see, Toyota has gone with a much more aggressive design for the Prime. It will be interesting to see how loyal Prius buyers react to the new design but in my view it’s a significant improvement. The designers went with a more chiseled profile and edgy character lines along with very distinctive headlights and taillights. The quad LED headlights look like diamonds and highlight the front facia along with a bold acrylic grille, and the rear end with also catch your attention with prominent taillights.

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Hybrid cars are probably cheaper than you think

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Hybrid cars are more expensive than conventional cars, sometimes by $5000 or more. The obvious question is: is worth it? Do you recoup that additional vehicle cost from gas mileage savings at the pump? The answer is: almost certainly if you own the car for a while, but there are many other ways that buying a hybrid can save you money, some you may not know about.

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Car Review: 2014 Lexus ES 300h Sedan

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As Lexus continues to advance the styling of their products, they continue to lead with impressive hybrid offerings. The first luxury brand to introduce a hybrid vehicle nearly 10 years ago, Lexus continues its hybrid leadership by offering the 2014 Lexus ES 300h sedan powered by the innovative Hybrid Synergy Drive. We spent a fun-filled week driving the luxuriously appointed 2014 Lexus ES 300h sedan and can appreciate why folks just flat-out love this car!

EXTERIOR

The ES 300h cuts a striking figure, highlighted by the Lexus spindle grille dramatic L-themed LED daytime running lights and coupe-like profile. The car’s shape cheats the wind with a low 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd), which helps reduce fuel consumption and minimize wind noise. The ES 300h conveys its hybrid status in subtle ways, with specific split-five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, lip spoiler, hidden exhaust pipe and blue hybrid badges. The cerulean blue metallic paint stood out on the road and is one of the cleanest colors when it comes to maintaining that clean look. The striking looks are enhanced by the new generation ES 300h gains LED fog lamps with HID headlamps.

INTERIOR

There is no mistaking a Lexus when you enter the cabin space, as top of the line materials and ergonomically placed controls are right at your disposal. The original ES sedan upended the entry luxury category nearly 25 years ago by making a V6 standard in a category populated by four-cylinder models, and by offering more interior room and more standard luxury amenities. Lexus continues to set the trend in the entry-luxury category by virtue of a unique two-model strategy. The front-wheel drive ES models emphasize roominess and comfort, and the sport-minded IS models, which are built on a different platform, offer a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. In contrast, other brands try to mold one model series to fit both roles.

The ES 300h is built on the sixth-generation ES platform, which grew slightly in external size over the previous-generation model and added a significant 4.1 inches in rear seat legroom to offer 40 inches. That compares favorably with legroom in some larger sedans All told, the Lexus ES continues to belie the term “entry luxury” by offering sumptuous accommodations. The ES 300h comes standard with 10-way adjustable power front seats, automatic climate control, NuLuxe interior available in parchment, light gray or black and with elegant piano black trim for instrument panel, doors and upper console. Other interior trim options include espresso bird’s eye maple or bamboo. Also available, 12-way heated/ventilated power front seats allow the seat cushions to extend by 1.4 inches for added leg support.

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Land Rover set to launch electric vehicles

If you’ve been impressed with the latest hybrid technologies from supercar manufacturers like McLaren, Porsche, and Ferrari, and the on-going electric efforts of Tesla, then you might be wondering why electric cars aren’t yet the norm. After all, they offer emission free driving, considerable savings in fuel, and a unique driving experience with maximum torque available from 0 rpm.

Well, the reason they’re not the norm yet is simple – charging points are not common enough, and even with a Government incentive, electric cars cost a lot of money. Even hybrids usually top the range.

All of that will change eventually, though, or rather, it has to, as our planet is running out of resources for us to use. Thankfully, almost all automotive manufacturers are investing in next-generation technologies, and Jaguar Land Rover is one of them.

Jaguar Land Rover will produce zero emission electric vehicles within the next decade, with power trains that will trickle down through the Land Rover and Range Rover brands. Currently, Jaguar Land Rover’s fleet emissions aren’t spectacular, as the engines that power their cars are above 2.0-litres and have a fair bit of weight to pull. The way Jaguar Land Rover sees it, hybrid vehicles will much more common across the next decade.

“This is an area that is especially important for manufacturers that do premium cars as in this class you can afford more sophisticated solutions that cost more money, but are not affordable in the mass market,” Dr Ziebart, group engineering director of Jaguar Land Rover, said last year at the Geneva Motor Show.

“And I personally think that the hybrid drive will become the dominant drive train in the upper vehicle classes,” he explained. “I cannot say too much but we are observing the market (electric vehicles) carefully. There is a market that is much more relevant to us as the second or third vehicle in the family, and it makes sense to have an alternative drive train or electric car to compliment the first car in the family.”

Farnell Land Rover is extremely excited about the future of motoring, and the technologies that the Jaguar Land Rover engineering department are working on.

The first electric Land Rover Defender placed at the Eden project in October 2013 is one such example of why Farnell are excited. This electric Defender effortlessly towed a 12-tonne road train and performed all of its tests fantastically. And, in recent tests, the Range Rover Hybrid scored extremely well, with reviewers praising the car for its refinement, pace, and off-road abilities. The hybrid Range Rover offers an 18% improvement in fuel consumption over regular models, which might not sound like much, but in a big car like a Range Rover, the savings soon add up.

The long-term future isn’t about hybrids though, it’s about electric vehicles. Jaguar Land Rover is working hard on developing this technology, but it is not a practical method of motoring just yet, except for motorists who travel very little.

  

First Drive: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Fans of the wildly popular Honda Accord now have another option with the all-new Accord Hybrid. Car buyers looking for hybrids and/or high gas mileage cars now have another excellent option as well. I traveled to central Ohio for the opportunity to drive this new vehicle and also for a tour of the Marysville, Ohio plant where the Accord Hybrid is built.

Exterior

The styling for the Accord has remained elegant through this ninth generation without becoming boring. The vehicle has been a force in the midsized market for so long that the bar is set very high, and the current Accord upholds that standard. The Accord Hybrid has a number of design accents that set it apart from the gas version, including a blue-accented upper grille on the front end along with blue-accented headlights, blue-accented LED taillights and a trunk lid spoiler that helps reduce aerodynamic drag. Along with various hybrid badges it’s enough to give the Accord Hybrid a distinctive look. It also comes with 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels with a sharp design that’s unique to the Hybrid.

Interior

The Accord Hybrid interior is very similar to other Accord models with a level of comfort and upscale accents that will please most buyers in this segment. It’s roomy and comfortable and all of the instruments are laid out nicely for easy usage. The Hybrid’s interior is distinguished by a black steering wheel and the unique hybrid instrumentation and has features like dual-zone climate control.

Performance

When you drive the Accord Hybrid, it drives differently than the regular gas model, so there will be an adjustment period as drivers get used to it. It’s not really better or worse – it just feels different. For example, gas cars typically coast when you let up on the gas, while here with the Hybrid you’ll feel some drag as it’s designed to charge the battery in these instances. Also, drivers can monitor mileage and battery usage vs gas usage in real time, so driving efficiently becomes a game if you’re inclined to play. I suspect most buyers will embrace these differences.

Still, the acceleration is fine and the overall driving experience is excellent. I drove the Accord Hybrid on a wide variety of roads and found the vehicle to be very responsive. In one of the city setting we were challenged to try to get the highest gas mileage along a prepared route. Once you get the hang of how the Hybrid works you can achieve some very impressive mileage numbers in slow traffic areas.

The Accord Hybrid achieves impressive fuel economy ratings with 50 MPG city, 45 MPG highway and 47 MPG combined by using a two-motor hybrid system called Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) that continuously cycles between three different modes (EV drive, hybrid drive and engine drive) to maximize fuel efficiency. The gas engine powers a generator in most driving conditions which then provides energy to charge the hybrid battery and/or for the electric motor to power the wheels. The i-MMD can also operate on gasoline engine power only, usually during medium- to high-speed cruising.

Overview

Pricing for the Accord Hybrid ranges from $29,155 for the base Hybrid, $31,905 for the Hybrid EX-L and $34,905 for the Hybrid Touring. An Accord plug-in hybrid is also available which has a smaller battery. If you’re thinking about buying an Accord or if you’re in the market for a hybrid, I strongly recommend driving the new Accord Hybrid and having a sales representative spend some time with you explaining all the features.

  

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