Tag: Greencar

2018 Lexus LC 500h : Green Grand Tourer?

2018 Lexus LC 500h : Green Grand Tourer?

Do you like being watched and looked at? Being in the 2018 Lexus LC 500h is kinda like being inside the cage at the zoo. People look and point at you along the way. It was a similar feeling to what we experienced driving around our HQ in West Palm Beach, FL.

But, honestly, we didn’t mind.

Because damn it, we were behind the wheels of one of the sexiest shapes to come out of the Lexus design shop in quite some  time. Available in a buyer’s choice of the Lexus LC 500, with a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine, or, as in the case of our tester, as the LC 500h , which is a gas electric hybrid powered by a 3.5-Liter V6 gasoline engine add to electric motor generators that combined to produce 354 total horsepower. The hybrid has a top speed of 155 mph, clicks off naught to 60 mph in 4.7-seconds, and manages 26 miles per gallon city/ 35 miles per gallon highway with a combined total of 30 miles per gallon overall.

And before you go thinking of a Toyota Prius with its hybrid drive system, fuhgeddaboutit.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

The Lexus LC 500h incorporates Lexus’s hybrid synergy drive which uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with the paddle shifters, coupled to a more traditional four-speed slush box which does it’s best to keep the 3.5-liter V6 running in the middle of its powerband’s sweet spot. We are not quite sure how they’re able to do it, but the gearbox is able to simulate the operation of actually being a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Perhaps the engine is a tiny bit thin when it comes to sheer grunt from the tailpipes, but maybe that’s why Lexus engineer chose to pipe some of that noise back into the cabin through an intake manifold baffle on the top of the engine.

The Lexus LC 500h rides on a multilink suspension that provides control by steering handled through an electrically assisted rack and pinion kit in front. An optional rear-steering system is part of the LC’s Performance package for a more-agile steering system. Lexus officials told us the car was more rigid than the LF-A supercar.

As for cross shopping, buyers will likely conside fellow green cars, the Acura NSX, BMW i8, and Porsche Panamera Hybrid.

Looks matter.

The spindle grille, while looking awkward on other Lexus models appears more comfortable here. Think of it as growing into one’s skin. As people reach a certain age they become more agreeable with their outer appearance. That’s the case here as the LC 500h  nose actually looks to belong.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

From the side, it’s a hunkered-down look reminiscent of drawings done in school while we were supposed to be paying attention to math and science lessons. Long nose, short tail, and shoulders that could rival any cut-and-buffed athlete, it is a well-executed look at what a grand touring near-supercar should be. As an added bonus, the hood, fender and door panels are aluminum, while much of the rest of the car is composed of composite material.

Lexus LC 500h
Lexus LC 500h

Inside the LC 500h, are a few hits, and a couple of misses, too. Two well-crafted seats are there with a wide variety of adjustments. We loved the wide view of the high-definition TFT screens but wish they found another input device from which to control it. The Lexus touch pad is not amongst our favorites. And those rear seats? Don’t even think about sitting back there unless you have a chiropractor on speed dial. They are better suited to a duffle or camera bag, or even a bambino in a safety seat. But overall? As much as we like the rest of the interior with its tan finish, we can’t help but think that it is not as pretty as that found in the Dodge Viper before it made its exit from the automotive scene. That car’s Italian heritage shone through with a tan interior from a company that supplies Ferrari. The result? Sublime.

Behind the wheel.

Our drivetime in the LC500h was a tale of both the green and high-performance worlds. A tale of two cities, if you will. Driving around town found us making the most of the Multi Stage Hybrid system with two electric motors assisting the Aktinson-cycle six-cylinder engine.

Acceleration was potent with a slight electric whine that actually contributed to the overall effect, and that wasn’t a bad thing. The car uses a two-stage continuously variable transmission (CVT) that combines with an Aisin brand four-speed gearbox that actually allows the LC500h to stretch its legs more with greater (sports car) feel.

Handling on our test loop found a GT car that felt at home going right and left, and accelerating cleanly out of a turn, to boot. Despite its electric gimcrackery under the hood, we loved the sound and feel of the engine power unit as it pushed the envelope of hybrid performance. As gorgeous as it is, it is not a svelte young thing. We never were quite able to achieve the 30-mpg average that the EPA tells us to expect but we could easily live with the 27.5 mpg that we actually saw.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

About the Lexus touchpad: We find it touchy, finicky and in some cases downright dangerous, what with everything else going on around and within, and dealing with other traffic. Some items were so buried in the menus that we actually needed to pull over to adjust them.

Still, this is a Grand Tourer that will accommodate a wide variety of driving styles. Available in extremely limited numbers, there is almost a guarantee that you will be the only one in your neighborhood, heck, in your region, who owns one. 

2018 Lexus LC500h

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

Base MSRP:  $96,510. As tested: $102,039.

Includes: Convenience Package, $1000; Heads Up display, $900; Premium Paint, $595; Touring Package, $1,790; Cargo Net, $249; Destination Fee: $995. 

Key Specs                                            LC 500h

Cylinders:                                            6 + two electric motors

Displacement:                                     3.5-liter

Power:                                                 354 hp (combined)

Torque:                                                256.7 @4,900 rpm

Fuel System:                                       Direct Injection

Fuel:                                                    Premium

Acceleration:                                       0-60mph in 4.7 seconds

Drive Type                                           RWD

Gearbox:                                             Multi-stage Hybrid

Tire Size:                                             245/45RF20, Rr: 275/40RF20

Unladen Weight:                                4,521-pounds

Length:                                                187.4-inches

Width:                                                 75.6-inches

Height:                                                53.0-inches

Wheelbase:                                         113.0-inches

Cargo Volume:                                   5.4-cubic feet

Cd:                                                       0.33

City:                                                     26

Highway:                                             35

Combined:                                           30

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”111″ gal_title=”2018 Lexus LC 500h”]

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Smart fortwo electric cabrio first drive

Smart fortwo electric cabrio first drive

Too much fun? That’s what we were asking after driving the 2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet in San Diego . We had been here before with the first generation gas-powered smart that had us of the opinion that it wasn’t very smart at all. Powered by an engine that made it feel like a motorcycle with a body, its rather crude gearbox had us lurching back and forth throughout the town.

What a difference a generation makes.

 A Smart decision. Mercedes-Benz, US importer of the smart fortwo, has made a very smart decision, which they can take to the “smart marketing bank” if they are smart about it. Clever, huh? They realized (or listened to all of us auto scribes) when we told them the gasoline-powered smart fortwo wasn’t a very good car, or a motorcycle, for that matter.

2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio
2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio

As a result, they finally agreed, and have, with the 2018 model year, to go totally electric. That puts them in the same category as Tesla. For 2018 they will offer the smart fortwo coupe and cabriolet. We were invited by smart’s parent company, Mercedes-Benz USA, to travel to San Diego for a chance to try this new one out. Not exactly as they say on television, batteries are included.

Hello Kitty Car. Appearing as though it would be found in Hello Kitty’s garage, the smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet even looks like the famous feline from the front. It’s a two seater with a smallish trunk, 96-cell lithium batteries under the seats, and a roof that pops off making it into a cabriolet.

Power for the fortwo comes from a three-phase synchronous motor and storage for 17.6 kWh of battery capacity. The electric motor and batteries combine to produce slots 80 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. That energy is delivered to the rear wheel drive system through a single-staged transmission. Mercedes says it’s good for a 0-60 mph jaunt in 11.7-seconds. Top speed is 81 mph, which is more than sufficient for the around-town excursions the cabrio is likely to be used on. The perfect vehicle for putzing around in the city, it has a turning radius of 22.8 feet, which is typically good enough to make a u-turn in the middle of a street.

Even though battery cells are rather weighted due to their density, the smart fortwo electric drive cabrio tips the scales at 2,383 pounds. Smart says the fortwo is good for roughly 57 miles on a full charge around town. It carries a fuel economy rating of 112 city / 91 highway /102 combined Miles Per Gallon equivalent (MPGe). It runs so quietly that at anything under 18 mph, a sound generator lets others know that a vehicle is in their proximity.

The smart fortwo cabrio is included with a 120 V home charging cord that takes 16.5 hours to reach a 100-percent charge. Charging on a 240 V supercharger completes the task in as little as three hours.

The smart fortwo electric cabrio stands alone in its class because the others in the class, including the Fiat 500e, Nissan’s Leaf and Volkswagen’s eGolf are not offered in droptop versions.

2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio
2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio

By Design. The 2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet is quite innovative and capable of being three cars in one. A coupe with the roof and rear fully closed, a convertible with roof and rear panels open, and a cabriolet with the roof and rear open, and the side roof bars removed. Mind you, you must plan according to the weather because if you have removed the roof bars, you won’t be able to reinstall the roof until the bars have been reinstalled first. Watch out for rainy days.

Seating was comfortable for two in the fortwo, belying its small size, which could actually accommodate two burly men inside.

Inside, the smart fortwo cabrio is equipped with a wide variety of options. A smart Media-System with 7-inch color touchscreen offers navigation, with charging station locations, a graphic representation of how far you can drive with the current battery charge, and live traffic information.

Other options include a climate package, lighting package and smart Media-System with JBL audio and removable sub-woofer.

Drivetime. Behind the wheel of the smart fortwo electric drive cabrio, was a car that was totally transformed from our last time in it. Peppy acceleration was the order of the day and did manage to shock a few owners of regular internal combustion engine powered cars. Especially, the woman behind the wheel of her Cadillac CTS, which we trounced off the line during a stop light drag race in suburban San Diego. She wasn’t having any of it, and quickly passed us but it was certainly fun to see the shock on her face.

2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio
2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio

Having the batteries stored under the seats help to lower the center of gravity, and enabled us to cut into corners nicely. But care must be taken when rolling over a railroad crossing grade, or one of these so-called sleeping policeman that are used to calm traffic speeds. Approaching too aggressively causes the rear torsion bar suspension to bottom out which in turn causes quite a jarring inside the smart’s interior.

Regenerative braking came into play throughout our driver around Extreme southern California. We could have sworn by the end of our time behind the wheel that we had exceeded the expected 57 miles available to us from a full battery charge. Instead of living on borrowed battery time, we observed was enough battery power remaining to run an additional 27 miles.

That’s pretty smart, too.

Story by Mark Elias. Photos courtesy of smart/Capital Sunset.

2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet

Base MSRP: $28,100     As tested: $32,630

Includes: Prime Package: $1,000; Climate Package, $200; smart Media-System with JBL Sound, $1,780; Destination fee, $750.

Key Specs

Motor:                                         three-phase synchronous motor

Batteries:                                    96-cell Lithium-ion pack

Power:                                         80-hp

Torque:                                        118 lb-ft

Acceleration:                              0-60 mph in 11.7 seconds

Top Speed:                                  81 mph

Drive Type                                  single-staged

Unladen Weight:                       2,383-pounds

Length:                                        106.1-inches

Width:                                           65.5-inches

Height:                                         61.1-inches

Wheelbase:                                  73.7-inches

Charging 120V                            16.5-hours

Charging 240V                              3-hours

City:                                                112

Highway:                                        94

Combined:                                     102

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”89″ gal_title=”2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabrio”]

2018 Nissan Leaf EV First Drive.

2018 Nissan Leaf EV First Drive.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

The 2018 Nissan Leaf is the latest edition of the brand’s all-electric mobility solution. Improved in almost every way, it has turned the corner, away from the awkward looks of its predecessor, to a style resembling other vehicles in the Nissan lineup. Along the way, it receives a lot more content for a lot less money.

And lest you think Nissan is a relative newcomer to the electrification game, think again: The brand introduced its first electric vehicle more than 70-years ago with the 1947 Tama EV, which was built by Tokyo Electro Automobile Company, which was later to become part of the Nissan corporate umbrella.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf features a look that brings it more in line with the internal combustion engine side of the family, even going so far as to incorporate the floating roof of its big-brother Nissan Murano. The V-Motion grille is also along for the ride and a new revised charging port appears directly above the company logo, which requires less effort and bending to plug in the charging cords. We photographed it in the Napa Valley and at Trefethen Family Vineyards.

Three-Legged Stool.

Along with the new 2018 Nissan Leaf, the company introduced its new Intelligent Mobility initiative. Built like a three-legged stool, it is comprised of Intelligent Driving, Intelligent Power and Intelligent Integration. It’s the next step towards autonomous driving, at least as far as Nissan is concerned. To that end, they have introduced a lot of innovation that along the way makes way for a surprising amount of driving fun. That’s a big deal for us to say as we have found totally electric vehicles generally less than engaging.

Intelligent Driving.

The triumvirate starts with Intelligent Driving. Nissan’s ProPilot Assist offers a hands-on driver assistance function that tracks highway lines to assist in keeping the Leaf within its lanes. Combined with adaptive cruise control, the system uses cameras and works best on a limited access highway. It helps to make lane keeping a less fatiguing task, thanks to torque generating sensors that check the positions of the vehicle within the lines or when making lane changes. Hands ARE required, otherwise an alert will subtly remind you to replace them on the tiller. Failure to do so results in a visual, dashboard-based alert, followed by an annoying fast beep that will have your hands back on the wheel in no time.

Also a part of the Intelligent Driving suite, the Leaf’s e-Pedal simplifies driving controls to a single pedal although the brake pedal remains. With the e-Pedal, control is placed in the accelerator only, which delivers power while being pressed by the foot, and conversely offering braking when the accelerator is released, bringing the vehicle to a slowdown and complete stop depending on speed and following distance. Similar to the operations seen in the Chevrolet Bolt EV, it makes the operations in the Leaf more satisfying and engaging. A multi-function pedal, engaged by flicking a switch on the center console, it is capable of accelerating, decelerating, stopping and holding the Leaf on grades up to 30-percent. Along the way, it can also use regenerative and friction braking to send power back to the battery, which in turn helps extend the range of the vehicle. When it feels the e-Pedal feels won’t do the job, the standard brake pedal is still there for the driver to apply full braking pressure.

Intelligent Power.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

Power for the 2018 Nissan Leaf comes from a new electric motor making 110 kW, a 37-percent kick in the pants, going from 107- to 147 horsepower. Torque has improved from 187 to 236 lb-ft of torque, a gain of 26-percent. Both help to present instantaneous torque and more than enough power to safely merge onto high-speed motorways.

The Leaf’s battery pack is larger, climbing from 30kW to 40kW. That’s a 33-percent increase in power from a series of battery cells that fit the same footprint. The range has increased, give or take a few miles depending on driving style and power regeneration, but with an expected range of 150-miles, it sits within a white space that Nissan says is not currently being served. The battery cells sit under the front and back seats, just as they did on the previous version. Charging is improved, with a portable Level 1 and Level 2 charging cable included. It supports 240 and 120 volt charging and no longer requires a 240 charger hard-wired into the garage. Using a DC Quick Charger, an 80-percent charge, good for approximately 105 miles, can be had in 40 minutes. A Level 2 charger can do the same task in 7.5-hours while the Level 1 120V charger can do the job in about 35 hours.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

Inside, the Leaf features three grades of interior ranging from fabric to leather-faced seating. A seven-inch display helps to control nearly every aspect of the car, including the navigation and Bose premium audio system. The Leaf provides a comfortable ride with a couple of caveats: The steering wheel does not telescope which might make for a difficult driving position for some bodies, and the center console only sports a single USB port. With most Leaf buyers, and their friends, likely to be tech-geeks, there is a good chance of charge-port wars breaking out.

From the standpoint of competitors, the 2018 Leaf goes up against the Ford Focus Electric, Hyundai’s Ionic Electric, Volkswagen’s E-Golf, the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Intelligent Integration.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

The 2018 Nissan Leaf takes a full buy-in on the concept of connected car. Nissan Connect with Navigation is front and center, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Integration is included. From a safety standpoint, Standard Automatic Emergency Braking, and Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection are now part of the suite.

NissanConnect EVs and Services incorporates features from the smartphone app that includes Find My Car, Cool My Car, a customizable dashboard and remote door lock and unlock. Amazon’s Alexa is part of the effort and includes such functions as saying “Alexa, cool my car or set the radio to Sirius Outlaw Country.”

A Value Proposition.

The 2018 Nissan Leaf plays the added-value game, being loaded with a lot more content for a lot less money. Available in three levels ranging from base model S at $29,990, it features $4,500 more content for $690 less dollars (2.2-percent decrease). The mid-ranged Leaf SV includes an extra $5,000 in content and a price reduction of $1,710 (5-percent decrease) starting at $32,490. Finally, the top-shelf Leaf SL that we sampled on the roads around California’s Napa Valley, arrive with an additional $6,783 in value and a 1.6-percent price reduction to $35,200.

Behind the Wheel.

Our previous ride in the 2014 Nissan Leaf, had us in a mood that can be summed up as anxious. Anxious because of the limited range of +/- 87 miles per charge; it had us driving with one eye on the road and the other on the power meter. We needed a shower when finished.

What a difference a few years makes. We found the 2018 Leaf more elegantly refined over its predecessor, offering an inviting interior that didn’t dwell so much on the electrification of the car as much as the enjoyment of the ride.

Acceleration rivaled a high-performance hot-rod, without the Brrrrrrrrrrrp from the tailpipes, because truthfully there are none. Instead, think of it as a slot car without the slot. There’s no gas cap either. Just some subtle blue badging to let you know that this is an e-vehicle.

In standard mode the Leaf is very car-like with a ride that is less artificial than the previous version. But our real joy happened while driving in the e-Pedal mode, which applied the brakes as soon as the accelerator is released. Truly engaging and exciting, it turned out to be our favorite available driving style.

The new Leaf is the perfect car for those needing more than an around town cruiser, but not as much as a higher mileage Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt EV. It bridges the gap between both realms, but if you need even more, sit tight until 2019, when Nissan announced they will bring a Leaf with battery range that reaches over 200 miles.

2017 Nissan Leaf

Story and photos © by Mark Elias

Leaf S $29,990

Leaf SV $32,490

Leaf SL $36,200

 

Configuration: Five Passenger, four door midsize hatchback.

Power:           147-horsepower electric motor

Torque:         236 lb-ft

Charging:     220V-7.5 hours

110V-35 hours

Range:          150 miles

Battery:        40kWh Lithium-Ion battery. 192 cells.

Drive:           Front Wheel Drive

Transmission: Single Speed Reducer

Drive Mode: Normal

Eco-Mode

B-Mode

Wheelbase:   106.3-inches

Length:          176.4-inches

Width:            70.5-inches

Height:          61.4-inches

Ground Clearance: 5.9-inches

Curb Weight: 4,453 pounds

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”87″ gal_title=”2018 Nissan Leaf”]

 

 

 

2017 BMW i8 AWD, Unplugged

2017 BMW i8 AWD, Unplugged

BMW i8 AWD
BMW i8 AWD

Looking totally like a Baller, we’re cruising through Palm Beach in what is essentially a Darth Vader helmet on wheels. This is the BMW i8.

2017 BMW i8 AWD
2017 BMW i8 AWD

The BMW i8 is a parallel hybrid-electric near supercar that offers all the functionality of a Prius, a lot more horsepower and a 1000-percent improvement in the looks department. As the country song goes, “She’s got her daddy’s money, her mama’s good looks…” And 357 combined horsepower and 420lb-ft of torque between the 1.5-liter three-cylinder petrol engine and what BMW calls the eDrive electrical machine motor. Coupled with the Aisin Six speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive powertrain, it makes for a mighty powerful vehicle in a sleek sexy package. Its nearest competitor is likely the Lexus LC500h.

On its own, the i8 electrical drivetrain manages to supply enough battery power to go about 14 miles. Using the occasional charging cord, it will take approximately 12 hours to recharge the lithium-ion batteries to their fully charged capacity. Top speed from the electrical motor will go to 75 mph, while the gas engine can cruise all day (as long as there is fuel in the tank) at an electrically-governed 155 mph. What’s up with BMW and their 155 mph top speed fetish?

Getting in requires practice and should be completed while no one is looking until you have become confident in your abilities. Also, men should avoid wearing kilts, and ladies should avoid miniskirts or dresses when getting in or out of the vehicle, lest you are into al-fresco entry and exit experiences. It starts with the large-ish side sills that are a huge structural component of the i8’s carbon-fiber tub and construction. Style counts, and is better achieved for the driver by placing his or her right leg into the footwell first, followed by a slight swing of the buttocks over the side sill with a quick lift of the other leg to follow. It is easier to do than describe.

2017 BMW i8 AWD
2017 BMW i8 AWD

Sure it’s listed as a four-seater but as for the back seats, they are uninhabitable for the most part. Stick a dog, a six-pack or overnight bag back there instead.

Behind the wheel, all the usual accoutrements found in contemporary BMW models are right here. iDrive, in their latest form is in place and offers complete functionality versus earlier generations. Sitting lower than most vehicles in the lineup, the i8 feels closer to a go-kart than any of the others, although we have used that description so many times throughout the years. Still, the road handling manners are sublime. We love the lack of sound this gull-winged beauty possesses, but when we feel a bit randy, all it takes is a stomp on the skinny pedal to unleash a (half) band of demons from the gas engine. Work with us here: it’s only three cylinders.

Cornering is an exercise in thinking where you want the car to go. A second or two later, it is there. Power from the combined package works together to offer acceleration, that although not in the category of Tesla’s “insane setting,” still lets you achieve a certain speed, all while looking better doing it.

For $150,000 and a 76-mpg electrical equivalent mileage rating, what more could you possibly ask for?

2017 BMW i8

Type: Two-passenger hybrid-electric sportscar

Power: Three-cylinder 1.5-liter twin-power turbocharged engine, 228 hp, 236 lb-ft torque

1 electric motor, 129 hp, 184 lb-ft torque

Combined: 357 hp, 420 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: AWD

Batteries: Lithium-ion

Length: 184.9-inches

Width: 76.5-inches

Height: 50.8-inches

Wheelbase: 110.2-inches

Ground Clearance: 4.6-inches

Cargo: 4.7 cubic feet

Curb weight: 3,455 pounds

Top speed 155 mph

Fuel Economy: 76 MPGe

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”83″ gal_title=”2017 BMW i8″]