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Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV
Goss' Garage: Grease, Lube and Oil
Over the Edge: Alta Electric Dirtbikes
Motor News: Passenger Protection
Long Term Update: 2018 VW Beetle Convertible | 2018 Toyota Camry | VW Golf Sportwagen
Track Test: 2018 Lamborghini Huracan Performante
Part of the appeal of sport-utilities is the perception they’re safer because of their size and height. But it seems that level of protection varies depending on where you’re seated.
Recently the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted crash tests on midsize SUVs. But this time, they focused on front passenger-side protection. In their small overlap test, a-quarter of the front end on the right side hits a barrier at 40-miles per hour. Six of the eight midsize SUV’s tested earned a good or acceptable rating for passenger-side protection.
The 2019 Kia Sorento, 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, and 2018 GMC Acadia, took the top three spots with good ratings. The popular Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee were at the bottom with poor ratings.
IIHS has been rating vehicles for small-overlap “driver-side” protection since 2012, and added the passenger side test last year. Earning a good or acceptable rating for the passenger side is part of its Top Safety Pick + (plus) requirement.
Electric cars don’t dominate the passing lanes yet, but there are clearly more of them.
The International Energy Agency counted over 3-million EVs on the road globally in 2017. That’s up 54-percent over 2016. The largest market for EVs is China, but Norway has the highest concentration. The IEA projects there will be at least 125-million electric cars by 2030.
Chinese backed startup SF Motors wants to help fuel the trend. They plan on building electric vehicles at a new plant in Indiana by 2020.
Hi-tech is coming to a low tech part of your car… the license plate.
Sacramento, California is testing digital license plates on the city’s fleet. Reviver Auto makes them and says the new plates can track the vehicles, issue alerts if they’re stolen, and display messages. But new technology isn’t cheap. They cost $699… plus a $7.75 monthly fee. If California’s pilot program is successful, they would be sold through car dealerships.
Reviver Auto says other states are also looking into the technology. That does it for this week’s Motor News.
Engine: 1.6 liter
Torque: 195 lb-ft.
EPA: 46 mpg Combined, or 105-Combined MPGe
Energy Impact: 3.4 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 1.5 tons/yr
We’ve grown quite attached to the Kia Niro hybrid during the 11 months it’s been in our long term test fleet. We’re averaging almost 43 miles per gallon in this roomy 5-door urban ute. So, we were glad to see when it’s bigger batteried plug-in brother finally arrived. So time now to see if more EV range jolts our opinion of the Kia Niro.
The Kia Niro Hybrid arrived for 2017, on the brand’s first dedicated hybrid platform. So, the logical next step was of course, this 2018 Niro Hybrid PHEV version.
Adding a bigger 8.9-kWh battery pack to Kia’s Urban Crossover Hybrid provides a 26-mile EV-only range; pretty typical for recent plug-in hybrids. So, if you have a short commute, you may only have to burn gas on weekend adventures.
And like most of the PHEV breed, it feels quick and smooth off the line. Like our long term Niro, it does fumble a bit as it searches for the appropriate power source, as well as the proper gear from the 6–speed dual-clutch automatic. At least it’s not a CVT.
The gas engine is the standard Niro Hybrid’s 1.6-liter I4. Rated at only 104-horsepower and 109 lb-ft. of torque on its own, boost from the electric motor is very welcome. That electric motor is larger for the plug-in, yet the combined output remains the same, 139-horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque.
Ever since the Toyota Prius rose to the top of the hybrid heap, multiple brands have attempted to chip away at their dominance. Granted, lower fuel prices have held them back; but since the Niro Hybrid became available last year, sales have been quite good.
At about 3,400-lbs., some 200 more for the extra hardware; the Niro PHEV does lose some of the base hybrid’s nimbleness. Still, steering is quite nice; with turn-ins that are quick, without the over-boosted feel of many small crossovers. That heaviness also gives it a very sold feel.
Again like our Niro Hybrid long termer, brake pedal feel is very natural for a regen system; but you do have to put your foot into it sometimes.
There’s a high quality look and inviting nature to the interior, as well as plenty of soft materials and above average seat comfort; putting it perhaps a small step up from the Toyota Prius.
Room inside is characteristic of the small crossovers that the Niro competes with; not plentiful, but adequate. Yet the wagon-like shape of the Niro, makes getting in and out, as well loading the cargo area, very easy.
You’ll be able to pack 19.4 cubic-ft. worth of stuff back there, and if you need more space, folding the rear seats will get you 54.5 cubic-ft. Both numbers unchanged from the regular Niro, as underfloor space for the larger battery was planned for in the original design.
Of course getting fuel economy in the mid-40s is certainly not common in the crossover segment. And Government Fuel Economy Ratings here are 46-Combined, or 105-Combined MPGe. Our average for this PHEV is right on at 46.0 miles-per-gallon of Regular, and better than the 42.9 miles-per-gallon we’re currently averaging in our long-term, non-plug in Niro.
There’s a great Energy Impact Score, with use of just 3.4-barrels of oil annually, with CO2 emissions of 1.5-tons.
While already having the advantage of being a better looking vehicle than the Prius, we love the subtle blue clues that have been added to separate this plug-in from the original Niro Hybrid. They seem to be just about everywhere, yet they’re not in your face screaming that it is a PHEV.
In addition, the grille is slightly modified, and of course there’s now a charge port in the front fender on the driver’s side. Charge time on 240-volts is about 2½ hours; closer to 9 with the standard outlet 120.
The Plug-in sticks with mid-level Niro trims, so no base FE or Touring Plug-ins are available. Thus, pricing starts with the LX at $28,840; about $4200 more than the non-plug in, and tops out with EX Premium at $35,440. For some, tax incentives may more than cover the upgrade.
As with most plug-ins, the more time you are able take advantage of EV power, the more they make sense. If you have a fairly short commute or can plug in often, then the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV is worth the extra money. But, if you mainly drive longer distances or don’t have the opportunity to frequently charge the battery, then you’re better off sticking with the traditional Niro Hybrid, which itself is quite a fine vehicle. Plus, there’s a full EV Niro with over 200-miles of range coming very soon.
Bottom line, Kia continues to expand their portfolio to include more fuel efficient options. And that’s certainly a win for us, and Kia.
Road Test: 2019 Volvo XC40
Goss' Garage: Patch it Up
Over the Edge: Porsche Winter Driving School
Quick Spin: 2019 Acura RDX
Quick Spin: 2019 Subaru Ascent
Track Test: 2018 Ford Mustang GT
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 258 lb.-ft.
0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.8 seconds @ 95 mph
EPA: 23 mpg city / 31 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.6 tons/yr
It’s hard to think of a more exciting time at Volvo than right now. After trading parent Ford for Tata, it’s been one hit after another. In short order they have transformed their entire suvSUV and sedan lineup. Including, what is, globally, perhaps the most important segment of them all, with an all-new XC40 compact crossover.
If you’re Volvo, how do you follow up the fantastic XC90 full-size and XC60 mid-size crossovers? Well, automotive logic would dictate things would continue to trickle down; and indeed they have, with an all-new, compact sized, 2019 Volvo XC40.
It may be Volvo’s smallest crossover yet, but it feels big for the class. And, it is the first modern Volvo not built on the SPA platform, but a new Compact Modular Architecture.
Looking taller and stubbier than its bigger kin, the XC40’s exterior is both bold and cartoonish. We also see traces of Land Rover and Jeep in its luxo-rugged design. There’s plenty to draw the eyes here; from the scooped out grille, deep body cuts, an available contrasting roof, and even a little Swedish flag sticking out from under the clamshell hood. Just don’t tell anyone it’s actually made in Belgium.
Our tester is a T5, which in current Volvo-speak means the 2.0-liter I4 underneath the hood is turbo-charged. Sums of 248–horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque put it well above class average.
An 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive are standard with the T5. Volvo is of course, no stranger to the front-wheel-drive based all-wheel-drive game; having fielded examples for some 20-years, since the 850 Estate, becoming V70XC here in the states.
A naturally-aspirated, 2.0-liter, front-wheel-drive only, XC 40 T4 will arrive here later this year, with a plug-in hybrid and pure EV following that.
The suspension design, and our T5’s ride itself, favors that of its bigger kin; yet needless to say, its diminutive size makes it a breeze to whip around city streets, as well as in and out of traffic. Which you can do quite easily, with incredibly powerful response from the engine.
So, the XC40 squirts off the line quite efficiently as well, capable of hitting 60 in just 6.3-seconds. Power arrives early and stays, shifts click through quickly and smoothly, for a ¼-mile ending in 14.8-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour.
The XC40 felt nimble and eager through our cone course. Steering is very light, yet we always had a good sense of where our wheels were pointing.
There’s laser-like attention to interior details, with a wealth of sensible storage options throughout the cabin. On the flip side, the shortage of physical controls, and over reliance on a big touch screen, didn’t impress us.
When it comes to materials and theme, it’s totally Swedish; with pleasant-looking aluminum on the dash, nicely carpeted door panels, and fit-and-finish commensurate with rival luxury brand.
Size has not impacted the Volvo comfort we’ve come to expect, with a fairly high seating position; again, giving you the impression it’s a larger vehicle.
Rear seat legroom is quite good as well, with adequate headroom for most adults.
In back, there’s 20.7 cubic-ft. of cargo space, maxing out at 47.2 with the rear seats folded; not as roomy as some, but the space is flexible and very nicely finished.
When it comes to safety systems, if Volvo has it, it’s here; and not just available, but standard.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined. We saw a good 27.8 miles-per-gallon with the required Premium. The Energy Impact Score is an average one, at 12.7-barrels of yearly petroleum use, along with CO2 emissions of 5.6-tons.
If all of that wasn’t enough, you can buy one for a more than reasonable $34,195. The T5 with all-wheel-drive, starts at just $36,195. And with this vehicle, Volvo is also launching a new subscription service, that will allow you to get a vehicle including insurance and maintenance for one monthly payment, with no money down. And, much like the millennials they are going after probably already do with their smartphones, you can upgrade your vehicle after as little as one year.
But, what really matters, is that the 2019 Volvo XC40 delivers on all points, with a refined interior and ride quality found nowhere else in the compact segment. Now that Volvo has revamped their entire SUV lineup in just 3-years, it’s hard not seeing the XC40 following in the footsteps of XC90, and 60; which is to say, being another big success.
Road Test: 2018 GMC Terrain Diesel
Goss' Garage: Modern Stereos
Two Wheelin': Indian Scout Bobber
Motor News: Turbo Silverado | Dropped Diesels
Long Term Update: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek | 2018 Honda Odyssey
Track Test: 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R
- Hitch Guidance helps drivers align the trailer hitch with a digital center line on the back up camera.
- Hitch View gives a top down view to make it easier to hitch a trailer without a second person.
- Chevrolet’s first Cargo Management System, which uses rails and a cargo fence to secure small items in the back.
Podcasts: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Hyundai Kona and Dodge Challenger GT AWD
In Podcast 184, Mitsubishi has 2 new crossovers to talk about: the Eclipse Cross and Outlander PHEV. Then the MotorWeek crew talks about Hyundai's new Kona crossover and Dodge's surprising all-wheel drive Challenger GT. Next, they discuss the merits of satellite radio and answer a viewer question about low-profile tires.
With sales rising, it’s clear that Americans love their pickup trucks. And these big haulers are “ground zero” in the tug of war between more power and more miles per gallon.
Chevrolet has announced a new first-time engine for the redesigned 2019 Silverado 1500. It’s a 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-4-- paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet rates its 4-cylinder turbo at 310-hp and 348 lb-feet of torque. That’s more than their 4.3-Liter V-6. This is also the first time Chevrolet is using their Active Fuel Management technology on a 4-cylinder, running on only two cylinders when the load is light. Silverado’s goal is to be the most fuel efficient, full-size pickup you can buy-- surpassing even the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 V6 diesels. The gas-4, and GM’s own 6-cylinder diesel, are among the five engine choices for the redesigned Silverado. Still, Chevrolet says over half of the models will be equipped with an updated gas V-8.
Meanwhile, Volvo’s vision for a fuel-efficient future involves “ditching diesels” altogether. President and Chief Executive of Volvo Cars Håkan Samuelsson says, “our future is electric and we will no longer develop a new generation of diesel engines”. Beginning with the 2019 model year, all Volvos will be mild gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or full battery electric. The first vehicle to be a part of this new strategy is the 2019 Volvo S60 sedan. Production begins in the fall at the company’s plant near Charleston, South Carolina, but will be sold all over the world. So while every automaker has a plan to “go-green”--- in the end there are many different shades of the color spectrum and that’s our wrap-up for this week’s Motor News.
Engine: 1.6 liter turbo diesel
Torque: 240 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 9.9 seconds
1/4 mile: 17.5 seconds @ 77 mph
EPA: 28 mpg city / 38 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 11.9 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.3 tons/yr
You don’t have to watch too much TV and video, to get the word that GMC builds “professional grade” trucks and SUVs. What does that mean exactly? Especially in a world of car-based crossover utilities? Well, when most people think of professional…or commercial trucking, diesel engines come to mind. So, let’s find out if the new terrain diesel compact utility is really for the pros.
By calling its lineup “professional grade”, GMC is going for rugged yet refined; the proverbial “brute in a suit”. Well, the original front-wheel-drive based, 2-row GMC Terrain wasn’t much of a brute, and its suit wasn’t exactly Savile Row either. But, that’s changing with the all-new 20-18 Terrain.
We can quickly say it’s a greatly improved vehicle. It also has even more differentiation from the mechanically similar Chevrolet Equinox, both outside and in. We bet your Equinox owning neighbor won’t realize they share the same platform.
Powering the Terrain’s upscale transformation is a trio of available turbo engines; no more naturally aspirated 2.4-liter I4 or 3.6-liter V6. Base now, is a 170-horsepower 1.5-liter I4 turbo. Need more? Add ½ a liter of displacement, and get 252-horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbo. Both with a new 9-speed automatic.
But our test model has the most intriguing new engine option, a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder turbo-diesel with 137-horsepower and 240 lb-ft. of torque. It’s clearly aimed at improving fuel economy only, as ironically enough, it’s the 2.0-liter gas that has the best towing capacity at a respectable 3,500-lbs.
The diesels transmission is a 6-speed automatic. With that, Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel-drive diesel are 28-City, 38-Highway, and 32-Combined. We clattered our way to a quite good 34.0 miles-per-gallon. For a slightly better than average Energy Impact Score of 11.9-barrels of oil consumed annually, with 5.3-tons of CO2 emissions.
All powertrains have to endure an eShifter that is now a “why on earth?” row of buttons and switches along the center stack bottom. GMC says a traditional looking shifter takes up too much console space. We say, ugh!
Highlighting the otherwise very stylish interior is either a 7 or 8-inch well integrated touchscreen. GMC’s fine infotainment unit has gotten quite intuitive; though some found the symbols a little too cartoonish for this “professional grade” rig.
Seat comfort is also good, some switchgear is familiar, but otherwise, much more premium in feel than Equinox.Very nice materials should also help lure luxury pretenders, including genuine aluminum trim; along with features like active noise cancelling, Traction Select system, keyless entry, and other items not typically standard in the segment.
It’s also one of the few vehicles that still has a fold flat front passenger seat as well, for hauling longer items. Traditional cargo space starts with 29.6 cubic-ft. behind the rear seats, maxing out at 63.3 with them folded.
Ride quality is quite smooth for a compact crossover, but the cabin is nowhere near as quiet as you’d find in the slightly larger Buick Envision. Clatter from the little diesel itself, is fairly subdued, even outside. Yet it does run a little rough, not quite as refined as most European diesels. But, the Terrain certainly looks the premium part.
It’s the most handsome rig in GMC’s lineup as far as we’re concerned. Yes, the front end is big and bold, but there’s a slickness to it, that keeps it from being too “in your face”. Admittedly, they are arriving late to the floating roof party, but their take on the theme is very well done.
Roof rails come standard on our SLT; optional on lesser trims. Blocky tail lamps highlight a smooth rear; while wheel options include 17, 18, or 19 inch alloys.
Not too many diesels are designed with ¼-mile times in mind, so it’s no surprise that this Terrain diesel takes a leisurely 9.9-second stroll to 60. The low-end torque you expect at launch, is there in spades. But we’re just dealing with 1.6-liters here, so it quickly runs out of steam; puttering its way down the track, with lazy but smooth shifts from the transmission.
¼-mile time was 17.5-seconds at 77 miles-per-hour. The Terrain is a braking pro, for sure. Stops from 60 averaged a short 105-feet, with little to no fade and great stability.
Base Terrains start at $26,385; but getting the diesel requires at least SLE trim, and then another $3,700, putting you at $32,990.
While we still don’t consider the 2018 GMC Terrain, even with a frugal diesel, as “professional grade” as its Yukon and Sierra stablemates, designers have done an excellent job. It’s a vastly better package. Plus, Terrain’s personality is now totally unique from the mass-market Equinox. So, you don’t have to be any kind of a “pro” to figure that out, or to enjoy this fine, very useful, premium compact crossover.
Speaking of the S60, we also caught the simultaneous live reveal during our tour of the plant.
One of Volvo’s best selling sedans, the S60 is completely restyled, offering new engine options and plenty of added tech. The third generation S60 will be available in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription level trims. The Momentum trim offers a generous suite of standard equipment, including City Safety with Steering Support, which works to reduce accidents at intersections and with pedestrians, cyclists and large animals. The four-door sedan features a panoramic moonroof, LED headlamps — with Volvo’s signature Thor’s Hammer design — 18-inch wheels, aluminum inlays and Volvo’s award-winning Sensus Connect touchscreen interface.
The S60 will be available with three propulsion choices:
- The T5 powertrain features a turbocharged Drive-E engine providing 250 horsepower.
- The T6 uses a turbocharged and supercharged Drive-E engine producing 316 horsepower.
- The T8 Twin-Engine Plug-in Hybrid combines a Drive-E engine providing 313 horsepower with a rear electric motor adding 87 horsepower for a combined power output of 400 horsepower.