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    2014 Review Wrap-Up: Going Green


    • Is it easy being green? We check out the Honda Accord Hybrid, Toyota Prius Plug-In, and Lexus CT 200h F-Sport find out.


    Next in the wrap-up in 2014 vehicle reviews, I take look at green vehicles. In this case they all happen to be the hybrid variety.

    2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

    The second time is the charm? That’s the hope for Honda with the 2014 Accord Hybrid. The previous incarnation of the hybridized Accord was a sporty model that really didn’t see any improvement in fuel economy. This in turn caused it to be a flop.Honda went back to drawing board and have introduced an Accord Hybrid that promises best-in-class fuel economy. Can it right the wrong of the previous model?

    2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring 14

    The Accord Hybrid looks for the most part like your standard Accord sedan with a two bar grille, large greenhouse, and a short rear end. The differences are mostly cosmetic as certain chrome pieces and the headlights have a blue tint. Theres also a set of hybrid badges on the front fenders, and a set of seventeen-inch wheels. Inside is the same story as the exterior, with the only real changes for the Accord Hybrid are a new instrument cluster to display information about the hybrid system and a EV button to put the vehicle into a fully electric mode. Getting inside, you find a nice selection of quality materials and loads of space for front and rear passengers.

    My Touring tester came with Honda’s dual-screen infotainment system which features an eight-inch screen sitting on top of the dash and a smaller touchscreen to change stations/tracks or whatever audio input. There’s also a set of buttons and a knob sitting right above the transmission tunnel to take you to different parts of the system. As I wrote in my first drive of the Accord Hybrid in 2013, the system is a bit of a mess. The touchscreen is slow to respond when you’re trying to change stations or switch from the radio to the USB input. Also, reaching for the controls towards the bottom is quite a reach. Honda really needs to go back to the drawing board with their infotainment system.

    The Accord Hybrid features Honda’s newest hybrid system called Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) system. This system is comprised of,

    • 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder Atkinson-Cycle engine producing 141 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque
    • Two 124 kW electric motors - One acting as a propulsion motor, one acting as a generator
    • 1.3 kWh Lithium-Ion battery
    • Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT)
    • Power Control Unit

    2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring 7

    Impressive to say in the least. It’s even better when the system is engaged. The Accord Hybrid never felt lacking in power as the electric motor and 2.0L engine worked together to provide enough thrust for whatever situation I found myself in. More impressive was the seemless transition from electric only to hybrid power. There was no sign of the change over unless I was watching the gauge cluster. Fuel economy is rated at 50 City/45 Highway/47 Combined. I got close to those numbers with an average of 42 MPG for the week. I think I could have matched or even surpassed those numbers if given another week with the Accord Hybrid.

    On the ride and handling front, the Accord Hybrid is very similar to the standard Accord. The suspension is able to cope with bumps and imperfections with no problem at all. On the curves, the Accord Hybrid is a joy as it keeps you grounded and provides little body roll. Steering has good heft and feel. Wind noise is kept to a decent level, but road noise is very apparent. I would put some of the blame on the low-rolling resistance tires.

    The Accord Hybrid puts Honda in a good position within the midsize hybrid sedan class with an impressive powertrain layout placed in the well-regarded package that is the Accord. Its going to take something big to knock off the Accord Hybrid as the best in class.

    Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Accord Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Honda

    Model: Accord Hybrid

    Trim: Touring

    Engine: Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD)

    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT

    Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 141 @ 6200, Electric Motor - 166 @ 3857-8000

    Torque @ RPM: Gas Engine - 122 @ 3500-6000, Electric Motor - 226 @ 0-3857

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 50/45/47

    Curb Weight: 3,602 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Marysville, Ohio

    Base Price: $34,905

    As Tested Price: $35,695 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    N/A

    Next: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advance


    There are some cars that your’s truly finds impressive and would gladly buy, but knows that he wouldn’t recommend it because of some issue. That’s the case with the 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In, a model that somehow I liked after spending a week in it, but has a key problem that makes it hard to recommend.

    2014 Toyota Prius Plug In Advance 9

    The Prius Plug-In looks for the most part like the standard Prius. The only differences between the two is Plug-In Hybrid badging on the front fenders, new wheels, and a additional fuel filler door on the passenger side where the charging port lives (more on that in a moment). As for the interior, my tester came fully loaded with such items as leatherette, infotainment system with a JBL audio system, and heads-up display. Nice items for the most part, but I should warn that the leatherette feels very synthetic and nasty. I would go with the cloth. On the plus side, the Prius Plug-In does feature a lot of room for your passengers and cargo.

    Under the hood, you’ll find the almost the same Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain as in the the standard Prius. A 1.8L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder paired up to a 60 kW electric motor delivering a total output of 134 horsepower. The difference is in the batteries. While the standard Prius has a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery, the Plug-In gets a Lithium-Ion battery. The new battery allows the Prius Plug-In to travel up to 11 Miles on electric power alone. During my week, I found myself using the EV mode a lot as it provided decent power to get around town and was very quiet. On the range front, I was able to get around 10 to 12 miles per charge. As for the charging port I mentioned earlier, that allows the Prius Plug-In to charge in 1.5 hours when plugged into a 240V charger or 3 hours when plugged into a 120V outlet). For other situations such as the freeway, I left the vehicle in the hybrid mode. This highlights a couple problems with the Prius. First it takes a few seconds longer for it to get up to speed. Second is the amount the noise that comes up when you decide that more power is needed. It sounded like a weed-whacker was being thrashed under the hood. As for fuel economy, I got around 51 MPG for the week. On the ride and handling front, the Prius Plug-In is much the same as the standard Prius; providing a comfortable, albeit noisy ride.

    2014 Toyota Prius Plug In Advance 1

    So while I liked the Prius Plug-In, there is a big problem; price. A base Prius Plug-In will set you back $29,990 which seems somewhat reasonable. My tester which was the Advance model and came to an as-tested price of $38,907 with options. No that is not a misprint. Now the Prius Plug-In does qualify for a few tax incentives which helps offset the price somewhat. But for around the same money, you could get into a Chevrolet Volt. You do lose some practicality, but gain more in EV range.

    So the Prius Plug-In is a vehicle I like, but the pricetag makes it one I would pass on.'

    Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius Plug-In, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Toyota

    Model: Prius Plug-In

    Trim: Advance

    Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive (1.8L DOHC 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder, 60 kW Electric Motor)

    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT

    Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 98 @ 5,200, Electric Motor - 80 @ N/A, Total Output - 134

    Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 4,000, Electric Motor - 153 @ 0

    Fuel Economy: 95 MPGe, 50 MPG

    Curb Weight: 3,216 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Tsutsumi, Japan

    Base Price: $34,905

    As Tested Price: $38,907 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    Technology Package - $2,610

    Illuminated Door Sill - $279.00

    Carpeted Floor Mats & Trunk Mat - $225.00

    Cargo Net - $49.00

    First Aid Kit - $29.00

    Next: 2014 Lexus CT 200h F-Sport


    The Lexus CT 200h F-Sport is an intriguing idea. A luxury compact hatchback that is fuel efficient and sporty. So while the idea seems ok in theory, how does it work in the real world?

    2014 Lexus CT 200h F Sport 4

    The CT 200h in my eyes happens to be black sheep in Lexus family mostly because of how it looks. A five-door hatchback with a long front end and a new spindle grille which you either love or hate it. Around back is a flat rear tailgate which I think makes the CT a bit ungainly to look at. A set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels and F-Sport badging on the front fenders which come as part of the F-Sport package finish off the look. Inside is a nicely trimmed interior with supportive leather seats and handsome trim. The layout of dashboard is easy to understand and controls are in easy reach for the driver and passenger. The optional Lexus Inform infotainment system has been updated to look a bit fresher and improve user experience. However, the Lexus Remote Touch controller makes using the system a frustrating experience as it seems to be really sensitive. On the plus side, the CT 200h is spacious for back seat passengers and cargo.

    Power comes from Lexus Hybrid Drive which pairs a 1.8L four-cylinder and 60 kW electric motor to produce a total output of 134 horsepower. This is paired up to a CVT. Now most reviews of the CT 200h say its painfully slow, but I care to disagree. Despite a curb weight of 3,130 pounds, I found the powertrain to be adequate as it took a few ticks longer for the CT to get up to speed than other comparable models. I should warn that if you decide to slam the pedal to floor, the engine and CVT will make a horrific noise that will make you think twice of doing that. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2014 CT 200h at 43 City/40 Highway/42 Combined. I saw an average of 39 MPG.

    2014 Lexus CT 200h F Sport 7

    Now this particular CT 200h was equipped with the F-Sport package which adds a sport tuned suspension and that’s about it. Compared to other Lexus models equipped with F-Sport package, I felt the CT F-Sport was somewhat lacking as the suspension was the only real mechanical change to it. Maybe there was some limitations to it being a hybrid, but I think there is room for improvement. The revised suspension means there is a noticeable difference in how the CT handles. Body roll and lean is decreased somewhat when compared to the standard CT. Steering is decent with good weight, but those hoping for an improvement in feel will be disappointed. For day to day driving, the CT 200h F-Sport is a bit more stiff than the standard CT, but not to the point where you’ll be crying uncle.

    So for the most part, the CT 200h F-Sport succeeds in its mission of providing a fun to drive luxury hatchback that is also ok on fuel. I would like to like to see Lexus do some more with the F-Sport package such as adding more sport goodies to the drivetrain and suspension. Maybe that’s in store for the next-generation.

    Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the CT 200h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Lexus

    Model: CT 200h

    Trim: F-Sport

    Engine: Lexus Hybrid Drive(1.8L DOHC 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder, 60 kW Electric Motor)

    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT

    Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 98 @ 5,200, Electric Motor - 80 @ N/A, Total Output - 134

    Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 4,000, Electric Motor - 153 @ 0

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 43/40/42

    Curb Weight: 3,130 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan

    Base Price: $32,050

    As Tested Price: $39,030 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    Navigation System - $3,490

    F-Sport w/NuLuxe Interior - $1,180

    F-Sport Premium Package - $900.00

    Intuitive Park Assist - $500.00

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    The Lexus CT 200h F-Sport looks pretty exciting, but as we see it falls shorts of the other options in terms of fuel economy. For me the Prius Plug-in takes the win by a large margin, it is both elegant and powerful enough, while being extremely low on fuel consumption and very eco-friendly.

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    I personally love the mileage that the prius gets! Being eco-friendly is just an added bonus. I've always thought that they had a different look to them. Not nearly as sporty or attractive as the Lexus, but for the right person, it's a good fit.

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      All Gain With No MPG Pain 
      Three new powertrains will be available on the new 2018 Camry: They include a new 3.5-liter V6 with D-4S Fuel Injection and an all-new 2.5-liter inline-4 gasoline engine, which comes paired to a new 8-speed Direct-Shift automatic transmission (8AT), and a next-generation Toyota Hybrid System (THS II).
      To match the chassis’ increased handling and performance capability, Toyota engineers have developed the TNGA-inspired all-new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Dynamic Force Engine to make the most of the platform’s enhanced designs, packaging and rigidity. This new generation engine focuses on higher torque, higher power and lower fuel consumption in total use range. This is accomplished by achieving rapid combustion due to higher tumble air flow. With its long-stroke and high compression ratio, multi-hole direct fuel injectors, variable cooling system and the latest version of Toyota’s Variable Valve-Timing-intelligent Electric (VVT-iE), this high-output powerplant takes the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine to a new level with world-leading thermal efficiency of 40 percent. Along with enhanced performance characteristics, the new engine is also expected to be extremely fuel efficient, and is anticipated to achieve best-in-class fuel economy. It comes mated to the newly developed Direct Shift-8AT transmission that provides direct-lock up from gears two through eight to eliminate power loss from the torque converter, executing shifts like a high-performance automated manual gearbox.
      The new hybrid system has also been engineered to provide the ideal balance of energy efficiency with superior power output to maximize driving performance and enjoyment. The next-generation Toyota Hybrid System has been engineered to work in concert with the new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Dynamic Force Engine setup offering significantly more driving excitement than before. The hybrid’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) features a new Sport Mode setting that allows the driver to execute smooth yet quick “gear” shifts of the simulated 6-speed sequential shift transmission. The SE grade adds paddle shifters for increased fun and a more sporting driving experience. The Sport Mode setting also improves acceleration and feel thanks to an electric power boost from the hybrid system. Furthermore, to help enhance the vehicle’s handling capability, the hybrid system’s battery pack has moved from the trunk to beneath the rear seat for a noticeably enriched handling feel, thanks to the vehicle’s much improved lower center of gravity—yet another benefit of the TNGA platform.
      In addition to its enhanced handling and driving performance, the hybrid version of the new Camry is anticipated to achieve best-in-class fuel economy ratings, with Prius-like city/highway driving efficiency.
       
      A New Experience Focused on Vastly Superior Driving Dynamics
      At the foundation of the Camry’s sporty handling and enhanced ride quality is its high-strength body/platform structure. Through the increased use of ultra-high-tensile steel and the application of a new molding technology it delivers enhanced structural rigidity.
      Further aiding performance is an innovative new double wishbone rear suspension system that imbues the chassis with responsive handling and precise steering control while simultaneously delivering ride quality on par with premium luxury vehicles. A new four-point engine mounting system adds to the vehicle’s civil road manners as it greatly reduces unwanted noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) from permeating into the passenger compartment.
      The biggest challenge for the Camry engineering team was to figure out how to convey the driving dynamics of a soul-stirring sedan.  Driving dynamics were always at the forefront of the engineering philosophy for the new Camry.  They wanted a new Camry in which the driver will be highly impressed with the handling capability and composure of the new design.  So much so, that drivers will notice the dramatic improvements within the first few seconds of driving.
       
      Toyota Safety That Makes Sense
      Among the many safety features on the 2018 Camry is standard Toyota Safety Sense™ P (TSS-P). This multi-feature advanced active safety suite bundles cutting edge active safety technologies including Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA); and Automatic High Beams (AHB). Select models will also come with standard Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).
       
      All 2018 Camry’s have 10 standard airbags and Toyota’s Star Safety System™, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Anti-lock Braking System, and Smart Stop Technology®. All Camry’s also come equipped with a standard backup camera.
       
      Ever Better Entune™ 3.0 Multimedia For Everyone
      Camry drivers will be the first to enjoy enhanced connectivity and entertainment through the new Toyota Entune™ 3.0 multimedia system.  The new 2018 Camry will feature Entune 3.0 on all models, offering an enhanced set of connected vehicle technologies.  
      The Entune 3.0 system will feature navigation and App Suite Connect for everyone.  All Camry four-cylinder and hybrid models will come standard with the Connected Navigation Scout GPS Link with Moving Maps.  Camry V6 models will offer the new Dynamic Navigation system, providing improved map accuracy.  The wireless map updates provide over-the-air map downloads of recently added roads and point-of-interest not contained in the existing head unit map.  
      Entune 3.0 delivers several new technologies including available Remote Connect, which provides remote start and door unlock capability, vehicle status notifications, a guest driver monitor, and vehicle finder.  Keeping up with your vehicle’s health status has never been easier.  Available Service Connect will provide up-to-date vehicle information on fuel level, maintenance alerts, and more.  Entune 3.0 will also offer available WiFi Connect, allowing up to five mobile devices to connect using 4G LTE.
      The new 2018 Camry will also offer a JBL premium audio system that features new advancements in sound quality.  Sound enhancements include Sound Staging, which positions speakers directly in front of the listener to help emulate a live concert venue; Low Frequency Sounds, made possible by an added 10.1-inch subwoofer; Clari-Fi, a technology that “un-compresses” music to help restore an audio track’s dynamic range; and nine speakers that are specifically tuned to the Camry’s cabin dimensions and materials.  

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